As someone who works (albeit part-time as a Navy Reservist) in the Middle East & one who studies political messages on blogs, I can’t resist pointing to Middle Eastern scholar Marc Lynch‘s new article “Blogging in the new Arab public” in Arab Media & Society. I found the link on his blog, when he was mentioning the new journal.
In the article, he asks:
Do blogs represent a revolutionary new tool for Arab political mobilization? Can they break the filter of state-controlled media and give both non-Arabs and Arabs themselves direct access to real Arab voices? Can they provide the foundations for a new Arab public sphere?
Want the answer? Read the article yourself – it is very easy to read. As one of my friends would say, “It is in English” (as opposed to overly schoarly academic-eze).
He makes this point, relevant to anyone interested in monitoring blogs for PR or keeping track of a public’s pulse:
While blogs clearly do not represent wider public opinion, they still do offer the interpretations of potentially insightful individuals and, collectively, can at least offer insights into the views of young, educated, well-off Arabs.
This ability to mass communicate, usurping the state information ministries, will create tension:
As blogs gain political relevance, bloggers will attract the attention of the repressive state security services. [ …] Some countries, such as Bahrain, have insisted (with only partial success) that bloggers register under their real names.
And this leads me to Bahrain, the center of my knowledge on the Arab world. I’ve spoken with local Bahraini bloggers & watched how state pressure has been applied (& openly blogged about) in the blogs there.
The most notable thing happening in Bahrain blogs, in my opinion, is based on what Luke Schleusener’s article in this same issue focuses on: activism through blogs. Schleusener’s From blog to street: The Bahraini public sphere in transition hits on this very well.
Marc admits on his blog that much has evolved in Arab blogging since he wrote the aritcle, but this entire issue of the journal is worth a read for anyone interested in blogs, the Middle East or evolutions in society.