Global Voices: Deconstructing the Stereotypes

I remember when back on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was sitting in front of my TV screen, watching in sheer horror the images of the Twin Towers burning and then collapsing in a cloud of dust and death. I was in Casablanca, Morocco. At the time I was finishing my medical studies writing a memoir, which, as the sole professional activity I had, allowed me plenty of time to socialize and spend whole evenings with friends in different cafés of the city, mostly gossiping and talking politics. But that particular evening was special. We gathered as usual at Café Al Khayma, on Ghandi street. That night I saw how reason can be so rapidly swept away even from the most liberal minds, when the rhetoric, fueled by shocking images, supports a stereotyping propaganda. An additional shock was added to the horror of the attacks themselves: there was no more universal values, no more shared humanity… it was US and THEM. And you can imagine the feeling of emptiness and sorrow in one’s heart when you have no idea what comes next, and when you feel that the world has, by tacit common agreement, decided to enter into an era of hate and darkness.

I knew there were people out there still clinging to reason. But where to find them?

Watching mainstream media wasn’t going to help. Misinformation, disinformation, twisted realities, misconceptions, diatribes, bias… it’s all there. In an era when most media outlets are getting more and more concentrated, serving state or private interests, truth gets lost in the mayhem of violence and stereotypes.

You then realize that to get the news and deconstruct the stigmatizing and polarizing speech (from all sides) and get to know other peoples better, you’ve got to go out there and seek the information, strive for it and get it from and by real people. Doing it in the real world is the better way I can imagine, but it takes time, may cost a lot and is not always feasible.

There you realize how much Internet is a blessing. Back at the time (2001) the net, although having the potential to bring people together, and although some patterns of social media were starting to emerge, wasn’t ordered enough to offer the alternative. But then blogging was invented and bits of news from personal points of view started submerging the web. But then the question remains: how to read through this mass of information? What is reliable?

Global Voices (GV) offered me a convincing answer. The founding idea was both simple and brilliant (at least as I understand it): tell the story of ordinary people, by ordinary people. The organization is celebrating it’s fifth anniversary this year, and since it started, it has helped convey the voices of many bloggers of different background, from every corner of the planet, covering regions and events seldom considered newsworthy by traditional news outlets. Since I joined GV back in April 2009, my life has literally transformed. Beyond the fact that I have become addicted (happily) to social media activity, and beyond the fact that it has helped me meet wonderful people, it also helped me somehow find inner peace, in the sense that it offered me the proof that people are so the same!

There are so many stories out there, posted on GV (this year alone), that help illustrate that fact. Take the story posted by prolific Diego Casaes on violence against women in Brazil for example, or Onnik Krikorian’s coverage of bloggers’ harassment in Azerbaijan.

Blogospheres and social media at large covered by Global Voices are wonderful realities to study and follow. Indeed, I think they are the most important and exciting ongoing human sociological phenomena since… I don’t know… the invention of the telephone? These are personal stories from around the world, shared opinions, sorrows, and joys debunking the most vicious arguments that kept people apart based on their cultural, religious, skin color or ethnic differences. People are literally recording a corpus of contemporary human history, not by experts, nor by any other intermediaries: news and history written by the people for other people.

4 thoughts on “Global Voices: Deconstructing the Stereotypes

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Global Voices: Deconstructing the Stereotypes « the Mirror | المرآة --

  2. During the Zionists’ assault on Gaza, GVO called the assault “operation cast lead”, refused to call what happened a “genocide” or “massacre”. how’s that deconstructing stereotypes, or rather, how’s that not a mainstream, or propaganda? was the GV different from the BBC, FOX or CNN a the time? Nop, they weren’t.
    I think the GV, as mainstream media and press, don’t challenge the logic of the media but rather enforce it.
    The media is all about words, Hisham, if you can’t come up with your own, you’re basically enforcing the very system you think you’re trying to change.
    The GV is not going anywhere with this strategy, and it’s no way an alternative outlet to me.

  3. Well, let’s not take GV for what it is not. It is written by volunteer authors, mostly bloggers, who do express themselves freely on their personal blogs and who try to quote and link to other bloggers who do also express themselves freely on their own platforms, and you do find on GV opinions that the BBC wouldn’t dare publish. Let’s not miss the point: GV must stick to certain editorial rules that had allowed it so far to gain respect and be considered reliable. It is not enforcing corporate media logic for the simple reason that it isn’t part of that world. It’s a different breed of media outlets: independent and user generated.

    Now let’s for the sake of the argument Razan, take the problem opposite wise and let’s stick to the specific example of the Gaza massacre, and try to figure out how far the exercise of covering an aggression, would deliver as far as providing the information and conveying personal accounts are concerned.

    “A Genocide in Gaza,” the title would read (without the brackets of course). And the report, as I imagine it should, would go through countless testimonies of real Gazans suffering from real crimes. “This is genocide… this is a crime,” would comment the reporter (again without the brackets) adding to testimonies from bloggers she/he is giving voice to. There will be innumerable accounts of horrifying experiences, and the whole post would go through the same line mentioning anecdotally cherry picked moronic excerpts from blogs supposed to represent the opposite side only cited to show how the other is vile and racist. But the story would end there. To whom you, as a reporter, will you be preaching? To the converted who knows already what you’re talking about? To the moronic Zionist/racist who made his mind on what pesky little Palestinians deserve? What about the voices of the mass in between? The unheard opinions of millions caught in this polarizing rhetoric of black and white?

    And maybe most importantly Razan, what about the “naive” reader who came across your post accidentally and who maybe will prefer looking elsewhere where a final judgment is not given to him in advance (no matter how fair the judgement is -Genocide in this case is indeed the right diagnosis) or whether the reporter is pleading a just cause or not. Now don’t get me wrong Razan, I take it as a highly valuable principle to be always biased in favor of the weak, the poor and the oppressed. But that’s me. That’s the blogger, not the reporter. And let’s not forget what a reporter’s role is (a GV author in this case): he transmits information; he’s an intermediary, he is not supposed to step up to the plate and start loading the message with biased views, whether the bias is justified or not.

    Again, don’t get me wrong: we ought, as individuals, to take sides and be biased but from the moment a reporter gets on board his own work, he risks killing the message and the truth. It is just not his job.

    So you might say: Genocide on GV would be a mere statement of the obvious. It’s calling a spade, a spade. What’s the whole fuss about then? I would say, I do believe it is a slow genocide and ethnic cleansing happening at the moment in Palestine. You do believe it is. But I don’t want a reporter or a journalist to tell me that. I want a court of justice to say so. I want my government to say so. As for the reporter, the journalist, the news organization, I just want them to stick to their job, give me the facts, show me the whole spectrum of opinions out there, and let me decide what is or what isn’t a genocide. The more invisible the reporter is, the better.

    I’m not talking about political correctness here. If I had to write that post, I wouldn’t put Genocide without brackets, because It’s not my personal platform and also for all the aforementioned reasons.

    No one can really be completely objective or dispassionate. We are all creatures of dreams, sorrows emotions and passions. But by making this extra step when writing for GV and trying to steer those tensions, I had the feeling I was serving the truth and debunking the stereotypes. That’s my experience with GV.

    I’m very grateful Razan you challenged me on that point and please don’t make it your last visit my dear.

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