Anatomy of an Arab Political Blogger

You would think that the definition of an Arab political blogger was simply the sum of its parts; someone who keeps a blog, hails from the Arab world and is more than willing to express a political opinion. Yet as the Arab blogosphere slowly took shape in the past couple of years, each part slowly took a life of its own, for

…to be an Arab political blogger was to speak for all Arabs one and the same, a sense of solidarity building, a community growing

…to be an Arab political blogger was to look at politics in its minute details and at the broader perspective, tearing apart cliché notions and daring to look ahead at what could become

…to be an Arab political blogger was to write the sketches of the change we wanted to see in our world, anxious to play a part in making it happen.

A being whose existence consisted of a subtle balance between the real and virtual world came into being. A being whose air was corrupted by oppression and cruelty, yet managed to find a crevice through which to breathe some of the freedom it longed for. A being who saw the tears and injustice, yet also saw the light at the end of the tunnel no matter how blurred. A being that felt the power of the virtual world, as real as it was virtual, and was able to envision its clout beyond the screen for the greater good. A being that heard the suffering and felt it a duty to get others to hear the same. A being who smelled the danger of the recklessness of honesty, yet believed in no other way to get to the truth. A being who enjoyed the taste of freedom even from within the confines of prison walls.

Here was a group of people that had been brought up in chains yet articulated freedom with unmistakable precision. Warriors of the future who chose their bullets with each word they wrote, aimed at a target who ignored that war could also be fought with a mind and not just raw might. Voices that brought many other voices together, with humor, wit and emotion, whose voice could no longer be drowned by those of money, of power, of might. A world which was heterogeneous in its ideas, its hopes and dreams, yet homogeneous in its authenticity and unafraid of its consequences.

The Arab political blogosphere is older than the Arab Revolution. But it almost seemed as if it were itself a battleground in the making, for when fists started punching the air and feet stomped and shook the ground, the keyboards roared, and things would never be the same again.

Were they and are they still too honest and too presumptuous in claiming to speak for those who have no voice? Maybe. Were they and are they still rash, too idealistic in pretending not to care about tomorrow, putting themselves and loved ones at risk for what they think is right? Maybe. Were they and are they still too critical, too bashing without having to answer to anyone nor provide a way to carry out what they call for? Maybe. Yet, why would we need them if they were too cautious, risk averse, complacent and too realistic?

This subtle balance, more of a delicate dance between the virtual and real, the daring and the cautious, the representative of the whole and the descriptive of the personal, the peaceful and the violent will always prevail. As those who made the revolution (including many bloggers themselves) with their blood and tears go back to their normal lives, someone will remain to see the revolution through. A revolution only begins with the toppling of the existing order. The end is the culmination of the establishment of a changed order with a clear vision for a new order. The bloggers, the eagle-eyed writers and poets of the revolution, have already taken the challenge and will see it through.

From Morocco to Bahrain, from the famous, the anonymous, the subtle and the outspoken, each has left his/her mark on the blogosphere, a mark that cannot, if ever, be erased. They are too many to mention, whose contributions are too memorable to forget, their sacrifices too valuable to go in vain. To them, a salute is in order, admiring your courage, taking pride in your faith, and wishing freedom to those whose words seemed as deadly to those in power as the bullets they used to kill the innocent.

I became an Arab political blogger by mistake, as the wave of change swept my feet off the ground, turned me upside down and opened my eyes to what I thought may never happen in my life time. I finally felt something I could relate to with people only kilometers away[1] and also felt a need to voice my exuberance, describe my anger, and convey my hopes and dreams. I have humbly become a part of this blogosphere, whose credibility has also become my own, their honesty mine to protect, their responsibility mine to follow through.

And I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring, and what my heart will skip a beat at next…


[1] Also see Arab Nationalism?

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2 Responses to Anatomy of an Arab Political Blogger

  1. To further highlight the power of social media, here’s a succinct overview of the “weapons of the digital age” as characterized by my former professor Alan Rosenblatt (http://bigthink.com/ideas/41705). It is true that these weapons, in the hands of the have-nots, have the potential to alter the political balance in the U.S. and the world. The fact that money more often than ideals rules politics itself is seldom exclusive to a single region in the world or political ideology.

    Yet, when we look beyond the U.S., recent experience in the Arab world has shown us that social media gave a voice not only to the poor, but more importantly to those refusing to get sucked into the corrupt world of local politics, whether rich or poor. Refusing to get involved in a world that infused political fatigue and deep apathy unto an entire generation, which settled for security and stability instead of freedom and human rights. Social media enabled the young and the not so young to refuse to be labeled as supporters of any political party (mainly personality cults) or followers of a feudal political leader and have their take at expressing their ideas and engaging in social and political activism, or of any sort for that matter, that was of no interest to the traditional and shallow political class.

    Arab online activism is older than the recent and ongoing Arab Revolutions, yet these revolutions certainly brought all the activity to center stage. Bloggers and activists opened a new war front in cyberspace against decaying regimes, and when the former decided to block access, creative ways were found to circumvent the obstacles. As is sometimes the case, using these digital weapons isn’t undertaken without risks. From Morocco to Bahrain, many Arab online activists and bloggers have been jailed and released, some are still in detention (while the blogosphere keeps them in their blogs and tweets so they are not forgotten), while others are still on the run to this day.

    As Rosenblatt and I describe, political change in the digital age “will come from connecting online and offline social networks,” or will consist of “a delicate dance between the virtual and real.” What I see here in Lebanon and the Arab world are the young, being active and genuine political commentators, social and political activists, trying to bring change, as prominent Lebanese blogger Imad Bazzi puts it, “1 KB at a time.” And in this change, I truly have faith in…

  2. Nice article. Keep up the good work!

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