08 Sep 2008
If ever there was a blogger who should have been born blogging, it would be Abu Aardvark. Prolific would be an understatement; his blog is a universe unto itself. This is a web log that sprawls across half a decade, documenting political developments from Kirbala to Cairo through each of those five turbulent years with a fine toothcomb. To the new visitor, it may seem dense. But to the regular these pages are rich and fertile pastures, where curious minds can graze for hours on end.
Abu Aardvark may be academic in tone (after all the man behind the mask is indeed an academic), but you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be documenting the fascinating developments inside Iraq, Jordan and Egypt when the mainstream reporters have gone home. Take for example, his abundant writings on the Iraqi Awakenings, with attendant warnings to the Bush administration in Washington; or what about his microscopic attention to the Kurdish dismay at Iraq’s controversial provincial election law; or his near obsessive reporting of developments within the region’s Muslim Brotherhood.
But that’s not to say that this Abu is aloof – far from it, he is dug in deep, sourcing reporters, analysts and commentators from the region as casually as you or I might eat an ice cream. That ease he shows with the media makes sense when you think he’s written books on the media in the Middle East. He certainly has some words for America’s Broadcasting Board of Governors and its baby project in the Middle East – the Al Hurra television channel – which Aardvark dismissively labeled “a white elephant” and “an expensive irrelevance” . But this is certainly not America bashing. There are real principles of free speech, open media, and pluralism here, which apply equally to Egypt’s proposed media laws as much as America’s “propaganda” channel in the region.
And another really great thing about Abu Aardvark is the comments. They’re vibrant, relevant, and interesting – so you get some really concerted and frank debate. And to cap it all, Abu Aardvark has guest writers come in and take center stage, before he wades in and offers his own opinion. It’s certainly not just a one man show; rather a bustling coffee shop where the chairman keeps folks turning up. And without it, our understanding of the Middle East and its politics would be much the poorer. Thanks be to Marc Lynch.