Joining the Dots

CiF Editor Brian Whitaker appears to need some help when it comes to joining the dots. In his recent article on the subject of the financial malaise in Dubai he points out the importance of a free press.

“If you want free markets for investors, you have to have free media, too. Markets are based on differences of opinion about the value of things. If they are to operate as intended, they need access to information. Differing opinions have to be expressed – and challenged – until eventually some kind of equilibrium is reached.
This requires a degree of openness and transparency that many in Dubai (and Arab societies more generally) find hard to accept.
There are genuine cultural differences here, between the rough and tumble of the western media – where questioning the performance of presidents and prime ministers is the routine business of journalists – and the idea that when things go wrong, fingers should not be pointed directly by naming names, or that it is unpatriotic to suggest the economy might be going down the pan.”

Now, one does have to wonder how Mr. Whitaker manages to overcome the cognitive dissonance required to make the above statements on the one hand and yet to preside over a forum which makes a point of deleting pro-Israeli comments on the other. In fact, there were those who attempted to point this out to him in real time, but apparently to no avail.

9 Dec 2009, 7:44PM
Although the reality is that I agree with the sentiments expressed in this article, I must point out how amusing it is to see a senior staff member of this particular site complaining about banning and deletions.
As some have asked – where is AKUS?

10 Dec 2009, 3:40AM
So what publications/blogs when linked on Cif get one deleted?

As readers will probably remember, help has been offered to Mr. Whitaker in the past in a similar vein but the offer was not taken up.
Could it be that this former Middle East Editor of the Guardian and writer of books on the subject of the Arab World  thinks that there is a difference between freedom of the printed media and the electronic? Apparently not; a few weeks ago Mr. Whitaker wrote an article commending the efforts of bloggers, amongst others, in bringing about change in Middle East regimes. In that article he expressed the following opinion:

“The third group driving change are the bloggers. A recent survey found 35,000 people blogging in Arabic, plus countless others who use Facebook, Twitter, etc, to communicate over the internet. There has been much debate about the extent to which this is reshaping public discourse and undermining censorship, but that is not really the main significance of blogging and the internet in the Middle East. The traditional “ideal” of an Arab society is one that is strictly ordered, where everyone knows their place and nobody speaks out of turn. Basically, you do what is required of you and no more. You keep your head down, don’t make waves and let those who supposedly know better get on with running things.
The point about bloggers is that they want none of that. They are engaged, they are alive, and they’ll speak out of turn as much as they like. Put all these elements together and you can see how, sooner or later, the edifice could start to crumble.”

How very strange then that Mr. Whitaker does not seem to feel the same admiration for the bloggers on his own site who try to ‘speak out of turn’ and go against the Guardian’s grain. If he does not begin to join the dots pretty soon, Mr. Whitaker is in danger of becoming as anachronistic as the figurehead Sheikhs he slates for their lack of understanding of the importance of the freedom of the media. And of course the consequence of that would be that the Guardian’s finances would continue to look as attractive as those of Dubai.

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