SEMINAR MEMBERS RESPOND
On AbuKhalil and Drezner
April 9, 2009
Both of these blogs were new to me. Part of the question I had in mind when reading the blogs themselves and, more particularly, the reviews each blogger wrote for the seminar, is whether I would likely return to either one in the future. Based on what I have seen thus far, although both AbuKhalil and Drezner are both highly knowledgeable about their respective fields, not so much. Of the two, Angry Arab News Service was the most useful insofar as it did act as a source of focused information of daily news events regarding the Middle East. As AbuKhalil indicates, his site provides coverage that is largely absent in mainstream Western journalism. So I can imagine checking his site about a specific incident to gain more coverage. Drezner’s site struck me as mostly self-promotional, guiding readers toward longer pieces he has written or works by like-minded colleagues. The shortcoming for me was that neither site provides much beyond polemics. There was just too little room for the kind of dialogue that gets beyond the point of predictability of tone and response.
That said, I did appreciate what AbuKhalil wrote about the “art or task of blogging,” especially his reflection on blogs as a “therapeutic self-reflection and reflection” which allow him “to express some of the frustration and anger against what I read: in journalism and in scholarship.” In this respect, what he said reminded me of Foucault’s discussions of the ancient Greek practice of the art of the self in which such daily writings “enable individuals to question their own conduct, to watch over and give shape to it, and to shape themselves as ethical subjects” (Use of Pleasure 13). But, in practice on the blog itself, I did not see much self-reflection and reflection of the sort that a dialogue might prompt. There was little space for the kinds of questions about already held views that could prompt reflection beyond what readers could anticipate as a reaction.
It may simply be my own lack of blog familiarity, but I couldn’t really find a comments section on Angry Arab (not counting the postings sent by others). This was puzzling, because on Feb. 26, 2008, AbuKhalil posted the following on his site:
Dear readers and jerks: I have no rules to speak of for the comments section. I have insisted on not censoring comments as awful and offensive as they have been (from people on opposite sides as both sides have racists and bigots in their midsts unfortunately). But I have asked that people 1) observe the laws here in the US which prohibit death threats or calls for murder or violence; 2) that they don't use other people's names; 3) that they don't out other people who choose to write under other names--that is their right; 4) that they try as much possible to reduce the level vile expressions. It being clearly understood that the comments don't speak for me and don't represent this site or its owner. I write my opinions under my own name.
Posted by As'ad at 1:41 PM
These are sensible requests, but I am not sure at this point where the comments were to be found. That he has fans is clear from the comments on the post on our site.
A lack of real dialogue (with self and others) was even more pronounced in Drezner’s review and on his site. Perhaps in keeping with his stated pride in his own narcissism, there seemed to be no room for any kind of self-reflection or self-questioning of already formed opinion. This was disappointing, given the commendable third way he suggests as a purpose of blogging, with “public intellectuals/blogs as critics.” He rightly focused on the value of “networks that cross the disciplinary and hierarchical strictures of academe” and on the importance of critique. But his criticism of most of the Angry Arab posts (other than their shared dislike of Christopher Hitchens) seemed to me to apply as much to his own expected and partisan takes on various topics, albeit in a more conventional academic tone.