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Holidays in blogging hell

By Philip Gomes - posted Thursday, 18 September 2008

In The Blogging Revolution Antony Loewenstein takes us on a personal journey through some of the more difficult places in the world to blog. Iran, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and China.

It’s a timely book on the importance and necessity of blogging and the open web given recent un-informed opinions by writers like Christian Kerr.

The book is also important in that it more thoroughly expands on ideas expressed in David Burchell’s clumsy opinion piece in The Australian in July of this year where he attempted to contrast the “pseudo-expertise and vituperation” of Western bloggers with their counterparts in the less democratic corners of the world; using Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez as an example.


The most impressive thing about Sanchez is her complete disregard for the bad habits of Western bloggers. She refuses to engage in histrionics, vainglory, pseudo-knowledge or personal posturing. Instead she trades in the gentler arts of allegory and satire.

Sanchez is also mentioned in The Blogging Revolution and Burchell is right. She does not engage in the histrionics of so many Western bloggers (mea culpa) but then again our personal circumstances are different to those who live in repressive states.

Are critics like Burchell and Kerr right? Are non-Western bloggers really better than their western counterparts? Are they less vituperative and undergraduate in their opinion? Does living in an information poor society mean that their views can be nothing more than that of a pseudo-expert? What do non-Western bloggers sound like? The Blogging Revolution gives us a peek behind the government filters.

Throughout the book Loewenstein introduces us to writers like Caesar, an Iraqi blogger he met in Damascus.

Reading his story, we find that Caesar’s father was an officer in Saddam’s army who fought the Americans in the 1991 Gulf War, but as Caesar states, “my father wasn’t fighting for Saddam, he was fighting for his country” - that kind of distinction comes up repeatedly in different contexts throughout the book.

We also hear that Caesar was a bought man when it came to supporting the American invasion and had even worked for them as a translator for a time before fearing for his life as a collaborator. This soon saw him and his family leave for the relatively safer confines of Syria.


From Caesar’s and many Iraqi’s perspective, who wouldn’t want to see Saddam overthrown? All media was under state control there was no real ability to openly express your frustrations and views on your society or even to write about that girl you liked.

Similar to many Western bloggers, Caesar writes about issues of both a personal and political nature, his blog covers sexual politics as much as political events, in fact his blog is titled “In Iraq, sex is like snow”.

Is this vituperation and an undergraduate tone, Iraqi style?

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First published in Larvatus Prodeo on September 14, 2008.

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About the Author

Philip Gomes is a digital citizen based in Sydney.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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