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February 24, 2006


John Burgess

Good analysis, but I'm not sure about "fanning the flames." By early February, the story became real news, not just a ripple in some pond. The papers had to cover it.

The Saudi tabloid Shams not only covered the story, but also republished the cartoons, which led to the paper's being closed three weeks later. Maybe, maybe, that was fanning the flames.

You neglected to mention SMS/text messaging as an imporant medium in this sort of thing. While I was in the KSA in late January, some Saudi bloggers I was meeting with were receiving SMS calling for boycotting Danish goods while we were conversing. That was also the medium of choice--at least by the young--for stories like the Mecca fire that killed the schoolgirls and 2003 calls for boycotting American goods. I was told that schoolyards were turning into "flash mobs" on the subject.

Quo Vadis

I give the Syrians some credit for giving this story traction. It seems odd that the violence started first in more secular Syria and Lebanon. The Syrians had been taking a lot of heat for their alleged role in the Hariri assassination and that story seems dead now.

Dr Victorino de la Vega

“The real driving force behind the protests came from sub-public forms of communication - internet forums, email, mosques, cassette sermons, pamphlets and other forms circulating beneath the surface of the mass media…it's better to have such issues openly debated on mass media like satellite television, where multiple perspectives thrash it out no matter how uncomfortable, rather than relegating them to sub-public sites where like-minded extremists congregate.” [AA]

Dunno dude…Whether in Amerikka or Ayrabistan, “free press” died long time ago, and most mainstream media groups are now affiliated with (often undemocratic) governments and/or private companies with sizeable government-related business.

By switching to their PC and phone keyboards, the “subpublic” types are simply shifting political debate to a (relatively) free media locum, far from the reach of Karen Hughes and the Saudi Ministry of Information.

Nur al-Cubicle

Clearly word-of-mouth is the propagation factor in the cartoon crisis. It's all happening off the front page.


The lag time between the event of publishing the cartoons and the response, coupled with the appearrance of Danish flags in remote corners of distant countries makes the whole thing look pretty contrived.


Thanks Abu Aardvark for the good post, I wonder though, if a similar analysis of the western media's coverage of the issue is available somewhere.

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