Posts from May 2003

Virtual Wien

Virtual Wien
: I can’t be at BlogTalk but I can sure read about it. Dave Weinberger has a list of BlogTalk blogs. Heiko Hebig has posts from the scene and pictures aplenty. Der Schockwellenreiter postet (is that the Denglish form of the verb?) auf Deutsch. PapaScott survived the drive. Hoder wowed the crowd with the vitality of Iranian blogs (and by the way, anybody have design work for him?). Martin Roell posted reviews of his talk (he’ll also be at the upcoming Boston weblog conference). Lilia Efimova blogs aplenty. Maria Milonis told the group about weblogs in Poland (where, interestingly, 60 percent are women), reports Oliver Wrede (who has more photos). Here’s live blogging in English und auf Deutsch. More from Azeem Azhar. And Dan Gillmor’s busy.

bloggingthis.jpg: All this needs Project Lafayette to bring it together in one place.

: Martin Roell:

Favourite Quote: “The majority of bloggers feel better after having posted.” Der ganze Saal lacht.

The whole room laughed.

: And here’s the T-shirt they should all be wearing, courtesy of Dienstraum. In fact, all of us should wear them all the time. I sat next to someone the other night who heard me whine when the words “off the record” were used. “You bloggers,” she said, “I have to watch out for you.” Right.

Salam Pax redux

Salam Pax redux
:

I will confess to being a bit coy about what I think of the articles about Salam Pax and about Salam Pax himself now. I didn’t want to get caught up in the detective game of who-knows-what-when-where-how-why. But because there’s now a discussion on the issues in my comments, I need to say what I think:

David Warren and Bryan Preston have used the evidence at hand to paint a convincing picture of Salam Pax’s life that is probably accurate. He clearly is a child of privilege — and in Saddam’s Iraq, privilege and its source present an imposing moral problem. His grandfather, father, and other relatives are apparently connected with Saddam and the Ba’athists. Salam lived with more resources and less fear than other Iraqis. He is cheeky now and was even before the war. He associates himself now with antiwar or anti-American groups and snipes at us on his weblog.

I don’t quibble with any of that. What I do quibble with in Warren’s and Preston’s pieces — but really more in all the weblog chatter about them — are the conclusions people are coming to about Salam Pax without knowing his full circumstances or his full views and certainly without knowing the man. And by that, I mean conclusions pro or con.

I still value Salam Pax’s weblog before — and after — the war. I view it in the context of the times and circumstances and now, the man. But I’m still glad to have it.

Put it this way: If, in World War II, you’d had the chance to read the contemporary diaries of a son of, say, Albert Speer — without knowing who he was — would you have read them? Of course. Would they likely have been fascinating and informative even in view of the time and circumstances and relations? Yes. Would he have had a viewpoint? Naturally. Would we have to take everything he says with a grain of salt the size of Utah? We’d be fools not to. But we would read it and even learn from it.

I do not discard the value of Salam Pax’s weblog because of his circumstances. I might discard them if I knew he were a war criminal and pathological liar but I certainly don’t know that. I do know he is a witness. Preston argues that he’s an unreliable witness. But some people in my comments point out, quite rightly, that a witness is not necessarily a journalist. This witness brings with him a viewpoint and baggage aplenty. But most any witness in that time and place would do the same. A weblog from a Shiite or a Kurd or an Iranian revolutionary would have just as much baggage. It’s a proper argument, I think, to say that now that the war is over, Salam Pax should reveal his circumstances so we better understand his viewpoint but because he is gay in a Muslim country, that would appear to give him cause for continued anonymity. Still, if I met him, I’d press him to come out in more than one way.

Nonetheless, we need to get used to the idea of getting information from contemporary witnesses who have a viewpoint. Thanks to weblogs (and moblogs and audblogs and vlogs and all our new tools for publishing and communication) we are likely to have more witnesses to big events — not just reporters — telling us what’s happening from the scene. And that is wonderful. All we have to do is know how to judge what they are saying in the context of their times and circumstances. I think that’s what Warren and Preston are really trying to say: Take this witness with a grain of salt and we still don’t know how big a grain because we don’t really know him.

I’ll take this one step further: This is precisely why I have been pushing to get more weblogs out of Iraq, so we get more witnesses with more points of view (and yes, more baggage). It is only through the airing of all this, at long last, that we will be able to get anywhere near the truth.

Why us?

Why us?
: Norway asks why it was singled out in a screed from bin Laden’s boy.

Cannibals v. pygmies

Cannibals v. pygmies
: When first I saw this headline in the Times of London, I thought it could not be real: “Pygmies beg UN for aid to save them from Congo cannibals

But it is all too real and tragic:

Salam Pax, analyzed again

Salam Pax, analyzed again
: Bryan Preston of Junkyard Blog dissects Baghdad blogger Salam Pax for the National Review Online. He covers pretty much the same turf David Warren did a week ago. They both conclude that Salam Pax is a privileged son of Ba’athist power in Iraq. But then they both go one step too far judging the man and his motives before knowing fully his stance and his role. Not saying that’s right, not saying that’s wrong, only saying that’s premature. Preston concludes:

As a supposed insider, his opinions carry weight with his numerous readers in a way that official Pentagon briefings or U.S. press reports do not. They shouldn’t, because those opinions still flow from his old elite ways, and from a lifetime of steep indoctrination in party thinking. He is interested in reworking the truth about the Baath party both to assuage his own guilt and to get himself a leg up in the chaotic new Iraq. But that doesn’t make him an official agent of influence. It just makes him a quirky, iconoclastic Iraqi whose life of irresponsible leisure has come to an abrupt end. His anti-American spin reflects an unconscionable irresponsibility and an effort to save himself, and truth just gets in the way of that. Thus, he is an untrustworthy witness to history.

: Update: Bryan Preston has more to say in my comments.

Worse than spam

Worse than spam
: Somebody I know just bounced my email to him with one of those “spam protectors” that forces me to click on something to prove I’m OK before I can send email.

Confidential to you-know-who-you-are: Nope. Not doing it. Pain in the butt. I’m not going to encourage getting scores of bounced messages like that from everyone I do know. I’m not going encourage my email being blocked and delayed. Nope. Not doing it. I tried to tell you something useful. But now you won’t know what it was.

Old fool

Old fool
: Molly Ivins:

Much as I hate to interrupt what is apparently a deeply felt triumphalism on the American right, now that it’s over, does anyone see any reason for our having invaded Iraq?

I realize that’s what we all kept trying to figure out before the invasion, but don’t you think it should at least be visible in hindsight? Good thing we won the war, because the peace sure looks like a quagmire.

If I had the energy, I’d pull out the fisking knife and start chopping. But I don’t and this is just too patently stupid to be worth the effort. You want a reason, Molly? Try staring into a few mass graves, for a start.

Out on top

Out on top
: Gen. Tommy Franks is retiring.