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April 29, 2005



OK, so what's the NRO's the Corner's excuse?


And what is their agenda (Al-Sharq being their)?


For what it's worth, I spoke with a friend at Asharq al-Awsat. I was told that only the magazines are moving to Dubai, and the paper is staying in London. Folks did lose their jobs -- partly for political reasons -- but overall the paper is now being led by some ambitious younger folks who are trying to shake things up. Not sure if it's good or bad, but Abdel Rahman al-Rashed is a hard act to follow in any event.

the aardvark

Thanks, Jon - I've been meaning to make some phone calls but I'm too swamped to ever find the time. Al Sharq al Awsat actually ran an editorial a few weeks ago - I can't remember if it was signed by Hamid or unsigned - denying that they were moving to Dubai, which at the time came out of the blue since I hadn't actually seen any published reports that they were.


I believe this faithful Aardvark reader was the complainer in question. The comment was calculated as a little tantrum to be left without reponse, but here I feel compelled to elaborate. What prompted it wasn't so much the nature of commentary on Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, as its contrast with the unfailingly positive coverage of Al-Jazeera. I mean, where would we be if every fishy report or objectionable commentary on al-Jazeera were to be pointed out and scrutinized for bias?

I do appreciate the need to counteract the common misapprehensions of Arab media. What I find intriguing -- and the following is meant in the spirit of musings rather than criticism -- is the fine line that exists between redressing perception imbalances on the one hand, especially those of foreign cultures and associated with certain stances and affiliations at home, and, on the other hand, taking sides. At what point in the public space does one seem to or is in fact taking the side of al-Jazeera against al-Arabiya and al-Sharq al-Awsat, or the side of moderate Islamists against Arab liberals, or, say, the side of Iraqi insurgents against their Iraqi opponents (some of these conflicts being more imaginary than others)?

I happen to be probably more sensitive to these questions than most Aardvarkians. It is with a good deal of astonishment and shudder that I periodically come across old commentary where I notice some brilliant and admirable personalities of the (primarily European) left effectively take the side of Soviet party cadre against folks like my parents and much of the Russian intelligensia, including I would imagine someone like me.

the aardvark

Michael - fair enough, and very interesting questions for all to ponder. I guess on my part I take it as given that the English-language blogosphere and wider public sphere are full to overflowing with criticisms of al-Jazeera and moderate Islamists (I would leave Iraqi insurgents out of it, since I've never had a good word to say about them), whereas informed alternative views are few and far between. Anyone who wants to hear what's terrible about al-Jazeera or Yusuf al Qaradawi can find it from a thousand sources. I try to be balanced in my own coverage, but I admit that I do rely on that division of labor when I'm choosing what to spend my time writing about.

On Qaradawi, say, I've said a dozen times that I don't actually like the guy much myself, but that I get upset when people attack him for the wrong reasons - i.e. pillorying him over something that he didn't actually say, or attributing a theology to him which is close to the opposite of what he actually preaches. I don't want to defend him, I just want people to get him right and then debate his merits accurately. If the goal is just to destroy him, which I think it is for many people, then such pleasantries as getting him right might not matter, I suppose... but I don't see that as a positive approach.


Writing a comment on a blog, I don't mean to take the medium or myself too seriously, but pundit blogging is after all not unlike an operetta version of scholarly debate. So let me say that I'm reminded of another quesion I find intriguing. Namely, how well does division of labor really work? It's a venerable tradition, of course. Just one I personally have reservations about. Theory tells us that it should result in some kind of dialectical synthesis thingie. In practice maybe people like to gang up on each other just a bit too much.

Take Said's Orientalism for a famous example -- a brilliant corrective to the mountains of work he writes about, with reasonable division of labor, given the sheer volume assymetry. But how many people get a synthesis out of it? (I don't know, actually. Maybe someone in the appropriate academic field can tell me.)

Myself, when I don't have time to browse Arabic press (which is most days), I just go to check up on the Aardvark. Even if I couldn't understand Arabic, I think I'd still be able to make a clear decision about credibility and interest. Why would I waste my time on 500 flaky fist-shaking blogs? So, although there's nothing I can disagree with in the body of your reply, I still wonder, what impression would I then have about the subject matter?

Anyway, these are my musings for tonight.

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