FROM THE ARCHIVES: TalkLeft: Iraqi Election Blog Coverage (Jake Savage)

September 13, 2005

Around the time of the Iraqi elections, several on the left decided to scoff at the concept of democracy and the idea that it could flourish in the Middle East, a method of thinking that continues to this day. Of course, the democratic process in Iraq is not perfect, but I am saddened by those who look hungrily for any indication that it is failing so that they can blame Bush and feel vindicated for their opposition to the war. The following post is one example from January of how  easy it is to fall into the idea that your own personal echo chamber is reality-based, while your opponents are all stooges for some nefarious interests. Plus,  I think this post features my most updates ever.

Originally posted on Jake Savage on 1/28/05:

TalkLeft comments on Iraqi blogs:

Many are skeptical the Iraqi elections are a sign of positive reform. The most insightful blog on the war in Iraq is Informed Comment by Professor Juan Cole.

Two Iraqi blogs I read are:

Otherwise, there’s pretty slim pickings if you’re looking for blogs
that don’t sound like they are receiving an honorarium from the Bush
Administration.

I often like reading TalkLeft’s analysis of crime-related stories,
but I think this post is pretty weak. Here’s the basic argument being
made: those on the left should only read Iraqi blogs with which they
already agree; any Iraqi blog that has a positive perspective on the
U.S. or the future of Iraq should be discounted. Why should it be
discounted? Because it holds opinions similar to those of the Bush
Administration and therefore must be wrong. This sounds like a great
way to perpetuate your thinking without having to confront any scary
dissenting opinions. Way to go!

I also think the statement that
"many are skeptical" is not much of an argument (if indeed it is meant
to be an argument rather than a throwaway introduction to the real
topic). Why should it matter what "many" think? Doesn’t this imply that
at least "some" think the other way? Why should we believe one group
over the other? Incidentally, here is a list of the skeptical "many"
from the linked article:

– Gaza City resident Hassan Sarhan
Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Lebanon’s most senior Shiite cleric
the MF Dnes newspaper in the Czech Republic
The Independent (columnist Rupert Cornwell)
Olivier Baudry (a "passer-by" on the streets of Paris who says, "It’s a
very good thing, but at the same time I
don’t think it’s possible to export democracy from one country to
another like that.")
a commentary in the German Sueddeutsche Zeitung

For
those keeping track, the opinion of "many" on which we should base our
own skepticism of the Iraqi elections is derived from comments made by
one Palestinian; one Lebanese cleric; one newspaper each from the UK,
the Czech Republic, and Germany; and a passer-by in France. Points to
the Associated Press for making the effort to search all these
countries to find people skeptical of the elections, but I tend to
think they would have a stronger argument if they had bothered to
include the thoughts of even one Iraqi citizen.

Regardless, I’m sure TalkLeft merely
meant this post to be a suggestion to read some recommended blogs, so I
will suggest the same. Please read the Iraqi blogs to which TalkLeft
links (
Raed in the Middle and Riverbend), and while you’re at it, go to Healing Iraq
(suggested by a commenter to TalkLeft’s post) and peruse some of the
blogs listed on the right. I like some of what I’ve read from Iraq the Model and the Mesopotamian
(which, strangely, seems to have an extra "s" in its url but not in the
title), but you may find several others you like.  If you don’t like a
blog, don’t read it, but please do try to get some variety.

UPDATE: Another great source of info is Friends of Democracy.
UPDATE2: More skepticism
from TalkLeft. It must be tough to always look at a particular issue
through a fatalistic and negative lens. This post reminds me  of Eeyore
or Dolorous Edd (points for anyone who gets the latter reference).
UPDATE3: Chris Muir points out something interesting about one of the people quoted in the AP article.
UPDATE4: TalkLeft posts more links
to Iraqi blogs, and this time at least one doesn’t necessarily present
an anti-US view. This leads me to believe that my charitable view of
the original post as an attempt to provide useful information was
correct.
UPDATE5 (hopefully the last one): Powerline chimes in on the AP story and its preferred sources for opinions.
UPDATE6
(ok, I lied, but this has a bearing): Talkleft has a slightly snide
post that suggests people read middle eastern sources in addition to
US-based writers in order to "get both sides". Good suggestion, but the
fact that she doesn’t include a link to anyone who might have a
positive position kind of undercuts the point.

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