Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Arab Street - A Media Fantasy

RealClearPolitics led me to this piece by Christopher Hitchens in Slate. He makes a number of points, but chief among them is that the entire concept of "The Arab Street" of which we heard no end in 2002 and 2003 seems to be a myth imploded.

A letter of mine published in the Weekly Standard back in 2002 discussing the media's obsession with and fear of upsetting the Arab Street said in pertinent part:
...it is not a "street." It’s much more like a back alley, in that there are only two things that are respected there—hard currency and crushing force. Once Saddam falls and the mullahs of Iran are picked off, and perhaps even the House of Saud and the Assads of Syria, the world will be a much, much safer place.
The thing which the MSM respected most turned out to be a complete fiction. The hand wringing over riots, factionalism (like, say, between Republicans and Democrats?), Sharia-only governments, anti-western ideas in general and anti-American attitudes in particular, and lastly, an explosion of global terror came to naught. Imagine that, the MSM wrong on all counts. What troubles me more are the logical assumptions upon which the whole notion of the "Arab Street" was based.

To argue as they did, that the Arabs as a unit would rise up against our invasion of Iraq and our presence in the Middle East, forming only unfriendly and unstable governments, one would have to believe that Arabs like murderous dictators. In the same token, one would have to believe that Arabs don't like freedom, or being able to elect their own leaders from among themselves. Likewise, it would have to be assumed that they are only capable of organizing theocracies (presumably because they have strongly held religious convictions--always a negative for the MSM) and that they prefer a medieval existence to a modernized nation. It presumes that Arabs by and large agree with Islamic terrorists and terrorism, given the implication that the people's outrage would naturally find its outlet in acts of brigandage and murder. Lastly, you have to believe that the personal is the political for them, meaning that they would rather hate the U.S., commit acts of terror and resist our influence than simply have a job, raise a family, and enjoy the life they have.

These are people not too different from ourselves. They value similar things, they have similar desires, and they just want to enjoy life in peace. But somehow the media can't be contented with that, and so drew a division that did not exist in reality.

And so I wonder, is the MSM now happy that they were proven wrong, or would they have rather been correct? It's so very hard to tell with them.

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