Recently, The Jerusalem Fund in Washington DC held a symposium on ‘Blogging Out the Conflict‘ with Jerome Slater (of jeromeslater.com), Adam Horowitz (of mondoweiss.net), M.J. Rosenberg (of politicalcorrection.org) and Stephen Walt (of foreignpolicy.com). The entire video of the event can be found here at the Jerusalem Fund‘s website (the contributors names link to youtube videos as well), though I would like to comment on a few things that were said.
First off, and this was mentioned by both Horowitz and Walt, the use of blogs to report on the Middle East is completely changing the discourse around the globe. Hearing first hand accounts from people living in the occupied territories are making people open their eyes to what is actually happening here. There is always people like Thomas Friedman of the NYTimes who often writes about the conflict, but does so from the ‘Ramallah Bubble.’ He might understand a little of the suffering, but rarely does he talk about the situations in Qalqilya or Hebron or anywhere in the Jordan Valley. Blogs are a way of bypassing the traditionally misinformed or biased reporting in national news outlets – democratizing information. In this way, blog represent almost a grassroots movement for change in the (particularly American) discourse.
Secondly, blogs are a way to reach a younger generation. Rosenberg spoke quite lucidly about the changing opinions of, particularly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Younger generations, he said, no longer buy into the concept that Israel is righteous and good simply because it is righteous and good and ‘because of the Holocaust [Rosenberg’s words.]’
[tweetmeme] Rosenberg said, “the main change will come through demographics…the trending is going in our direction.” Blogging is a major part of that change. Most of the speakers had little faith that the blogosphere could change actual policies; rather, the optimism was that they could convince someone who, someday, could.
Thirdly. simply a quotation from Rosenberg, which I enjoyed. Rosenberg highlighted the power of lobbies in Congress all lobbies, not just the Israeli lobby (understandably, Walt lingered on this topic) and spoke about how change could come about:
it’s all about money, and its all about re-election 99.9% of the members of Congress care about nothing except getting reelected. There are hardly any heroes up there of any kind. Maybe there’s a few, but some of your favorite members of congress…you think that they’re brave, but they are only brave when it won’t cost them 10 cents.
Finally, the reason why I blog is clearly different than Rosenberg, Walt, Slater or Horowitz. Each of those men have substantial followers (Walt’s record was 200,000 hits in a month; mine is, well, slightly less) and have significant impact on the national dialog. On the other hand, acknowledging my impact on the national dialog would be incredibly generous. I write mainly for two reasons. One, I belong to the dorkier side of the population who enjoys such an activity. And secondly, there are people I know who have at least considered a new point of view after talking to me or reading my blog (that number, again, is quite limited). So I write in case someone does look.
I’ll end this post by paraphrasing a joke by Jerome Slater: There is a governor who is taking a tour of parts of his state and is in one of the least inhabited areas. Walking around he hears a noise in the bush and sees a man who is completely naked, except for a beautiful top hat and exquisite dress shoes. The governor asks, “Why, sir, are you naked?” To which the man responds “well no one ever comes around these parts.” The governor, slightly confused, asks “well, then, why the shoes and hat.” Logically, the man answers “we’ll you never know.”
Photo from Savage Chickens