08 May 2011

Hello World

There are several million blogs out there.

Why start another one?

Or to put it differently, does the world need another vanity project?

No, it doesn't. But this is not a vanity project. Not entirely. It has more to do with the profound malaise one feels when confronted with the way reality is being reconstructed and disseminated.

In fact, it is more or less the same frustration that compelled the first wave of left wing bloggers to write about "stuff." As most people know, at the turn of the new century, i.e. roughly 2001, many American liberals were so utterly alienated by the previous "Hunting of the President" and the media's joyful participation in that blood sport, so angry that Al Gore was ridiculed into conceding an election he had won, so frustrated that Iraq war was gleefully sold to a gullible public, they began to write about how they viewed those events. It was almost as if they wanted to prove to themselves and to people who think alike that they were not crazy and the alternate reality discourses that were being disseminated by the corporate media were, in fact, not real.

Terms like "reality-based community" or "up-is-downism" originated from that rebellion. And well-known liberal bloggers like Atrios, Josh Marshall and digby began blogging as a result of that pervasive frustration.

Initially, their main focus was corporate media. As the name of a famous blog of that period indicates, they obsessively dissected lies, half-truths and blatant biases. Like post-modernity to modernity, they defined their discourse in juxtaposition to the mainstream narrative.

With Iraq war underway and dismayed by the mainstream media's (MSM) subdued reaction to the realization that the weapons of mass destruction were indeed tools of distraction used by the Bush administration to get them to sell a dubious war, liberal bloggers began to distance themselves from their initial media focus. Instead they set out to create an alternate discourse. Daily Kos was first out of the gate with diaries from hundreds of contributors covering everything under the political sun; TPM began a genuine journalistic endeavor, employing reporters and routinely scooping traditional media outlets; sites like FireDogLake, a tiny two-women effort at the outset, turned into genuine portals (before Huffington Post) and early sites like Salon.com transformed themselves into powerful online salons in the original French sense of the term.

Despite their effort to distance themselves from the MSM discourse, these liberal bloggers (and the new portals they created) remained anchored in American politics. A trouble spot in the world would get a link to one of the few bloggers covering the rest of the globe but by and large the agenda remained an American one. More problematically, many of the sites covering "foreign affairs" were not in line with the idea of creating an alternate discourse. With a few exception like TomDispatch and Juan Cole, they tended to be cautiously  conservative and dull academic sites dealing with, well, foreign affairs.

When it comes to US politics I have been happy to be a consumer of news. I made the transition to online sources early on and have been getting my "facts" from a variety of outlets. They include some traditional media, such as the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, Le Monde and McClatchy papers. I balanced their mostly factual narrative with the progressive perspectives offered by a number of blogs, such as Eschaton, TPM, Hullabaloo, Glenn Greenwald, Baloon Juice, TomDispatch and Juan Cole.

Despite reading this relatively broad array of sources, lately I found myself unsatisfied with the way they cover world events. Traditional media tend to be too close to government sources and as such their information is heavily skewed towards the official narrative. The so called "Arab Spring" and the wholehearted acceptance of a very simplistic explanation of these events was my Al Gore moment. I am quite familiar with some important trouble spots in the world -notably the Middle East- and I was really disappointed how no one seemed to "see" what I thought was almost a self-evident big picture.

It is quite possible that the reason I "see" what I see is some sort of intellectual overreach, perhaps even stupidity.  But my goal is not o uncover hidden "conspiracies" that I learned about through signals to my aluminum foil headgear. I just want to present a contrarian "what if this was the case..." thesis regarding under covered issues. If nothing else, I hope what I write will make people think and question the mainstream orthodoxy.

I stated at the outset that this is not entirely a vanity project. There are two reasons why some might view this endeavor as a vanity project. One is the fact that, despite my haughty desire to cover world events and trouble spots, knowing myself, I know that I will often veer from the sublime to the ridiculous and vent about silly daily stuff.

Secondly, I doubt that people will discover this blog and I am quite sure that my readership will hover between zero and ten, of which seven will likely be Google bots. However, despite this near certainty, I wanted to write about "stuff".  If for nothing else, for the possibility to be able to say sometime down the line "you know, I suggested that possibility several months before anyone else and here is my proof."

So, in that sense, you could say that this is a vanity project.

Before sending this out to the world, I checked the news and found out that Usama bin Laden has been found in a compound in Pakistan and killed.

And the operation was tweeted to the world by a lonesome Pakistani IT consultant who ran to that corner of the world to get away from trouble and chaos.

If this not a good omen for this kind of Sisyphean undertaking, I don't know what is.

Hello world, indeed.


Update: I wrote this right after bin Laden was terminated with extreme prejudice. But within a few days I realized the title I chose for this blog, i.e. "The Progressive Contrarian" was already taken, even though it was last used in 2008. I reversed the title right away and moved everything to this new place.  If anything I am more of a progressive than contrarian so it suits me fine.

This is the reason posting date and current events timing do not jive.

1 comment:

  1. I think you'll find that the original "Progressive Contrarian" (http://progcontra.blogspot.com) is back blogging again. Mainly on climate change.