Friday, 12 June 2009

Jordan's Electronic Media: Free Speech or Tool for National Schism

I've been reading the ongoing duels between those who call for a "Jordan for Jordanians", and those who oppose that theory based on their understanding of the Jordanian national identity, and it all seems normal considering these conversations were always made, albeit behind closed doors or in lowered voices.

My problem isn't with the arguments themselves, as it's a healthy phenomenon, when made in good faith, which is also relative, depending on who's judging, but I tend to see a pattern of facilitation and ease of access, from Jordan's electronic media, for these quarrels to be hosted on their platforms, followed by another facilitation of commenting, to a degree we're not used to, considering the relatively low freedom of speech threshold on those same websites, where the word "نعتذر" is the most popular "substitute" comment.

I'm wondering why these quarrels are allowed to be published on what are considered Jordan's mainstream electronic media, namely ammoun and rum, both have published Nahid Hattar's latest intellectual excursion, as well as his earlier mental trips, and both allowed all sorts of colorful comments to be published, including those which carry explicit or implicit ethnic slurs. One has so far published a reply to Hattar's latest article, and again the comments were allowed, and took the shape of attacking the writer -regardless of whether one agrees with him or not- by attacking his background, taking him -and us all- back to September 1970's events, and preparing us -subconsciously- to a similar classification, that might lead to worse, if it's not stopped, what's interesting though, is that Hattar's reply to the comments made on his article on ammoun, was disallowed from comments itself; A schizophrenic exercise of the freedom to "reply".

I'm baffled by these websites and I'm questioning their innocence and that of their editors -or those behind them- in their fully aware intent of feeding tensions between Jordanians, I'm also baffled by the total paralysis of the onetime strong grip of official censorship. I know we're well into the 21st century, and that censorship is a trace of the distant past -or so we're told-, but being selective in what to censor, and what to allow, whether by accident or by choice, is something that needs to be addressed by those who are in charge, in the government, in the -so called- parliament, and in the media, online and off, certainly when it comes to the publication and/or circulation of material that abuses the right of expression and enervates national unity.

Jordan has always been targeted in its national unity through doomsday scenarios of transfer and a substitute homeland, we all know it has, and we're contributing in that direction by facilitating the dismantling of the backbone of Jordan -its society- by allowing these quarrels to go on and grow to become more hostile and lethal. We're all Jordanians, it makes no difference who was where when, we're all Jordanians now, no Jordanian is a number or a statistic, no Jordanian has more -or less- rights than another, and no Jordanian is Temporary.

Any reform has to begin with addressing national identity first, once and for all, those who oppose the diversity of the Jordanian national identity, have to accept it; or choose another one that feeds their chauvinistic ambitions, and those who don't accept the Jordanian national identity to be their primary, also have to accept it; or choose another one, and that choice is available and possible, courtesy of the PNA. We're a people that has become one family, in the literal meaning of the word, even if some among us try to exercise their "ethnic purity" in the Nazi fashion, we're not "ethnically pure", none of us is, and our purity lies in our diversity, that's how Jordan was created, and that's how it should stay, for the sake of our children; All of them.

Update: it seems that I spoke too soon, as both articles in ammoun were removed, the one in rum is still there though, the quarrels remain, and the aim behind publishing the articles in the first place, was achieved.


  1. While I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with the premise that anyone should be censored. Nahid is a racist, we all know that, but that doesn't mean he should be stripped from his right to free speech.

  2. Muhannad: I'm not advocating censorship of the media, but rather trying to understand how we've got a healthy censorship machine, when it comes to creative works like books or films or plays, and then it disapears when it comes to stuff like this.

    I'm not calling for silencing people like Hattar, but these views were given quite an elevated space to be expressed on those two particular platforms, despite the fact that he already has his own platform, and as i've mentioned in the post, what's interesting is that once people began answering his views in "counter articles", and exercising their own right to free speech, they were attacked for doing so by comments and believe it or not, one of the editors of ammon in a "counter-counter article", before having all articles removed for good.

    My point is that, free speech is everyone's right, but we can't censor people and punish them if they write something that "damages" our relationship with a foreign country, even if that country is Israel, and then allow other people to play a divisive role within our own society.

  3. I think it is their own way of getting their message to the king..While many don't agree with what Nahid, Basil, and the rest of the Chorus advocate for you can't deny that thier views are widely accepted among east jordanian especially those who are coopted in one way or another..For example the army, the police, governmental jobs, etc are only ways of paying of east jordanians to buy their loyalty to the throne..What you see is only a warnning from those who are benefiting from the status quo to the decision maker..They Got the message just like they got it before..

    I wouldn't describe it as shism but as Schizophrenia that was facilitated by our own version of the affirmative action..

  4. What message is that? either take more care of us or we'll inflame the Jordanian/Palestinian issue?

    I actually think that nahid's sudden recurrence isn't accidental, and I don't think that his own aim was to send the message on behalf of benefiting east bankers; as his own motives might and probably are the opposite, although I might agree with the premise of pressure from those who agree with him as described above.

    Basil's role, on the other hand, lacked the professionalism of a journalist, when he defended nahid's views and attacked talab by stating historical precedence of people's existance in Jordan, even before the establishment of the Emirate, which takes us back to the idea of who was where when, an irrelevant point.

    I actually believe that the timing and the persistence of nahid's articles on almost a weekly basis comes from outside Jordan, maybe inspired by Syria to engage the Jordanian government in an internal distraction to make it pay back for some Jordanian position that didn't go down well with the Syrians, in the regional, or maybe international arena, but that's just a theory.

  5. Nahid's Allegiance to Syria and the Baath party is undesputable..His communist beliefs are also beyond obvious. I've heared many stories about Nahid..But the conclusion that I came to after reading for him for almost 2 years that He "fears" for the christian minority in Jordan and their demminshing numbers..So he is a combination of a Right wing racist, Hard core christian, Communist, and a Baathist..He suffers from an identity crisis and uses the Jo/Pal "issue" as a proxy for his mental problems..

    The king caved in on many issues before, after pressure from who we usualy term as the "old Guard" with the help of our "media" and the hords of "journalists". On many issues the king was going in the right direction but then he either stopped or went in the exact opposite direction.The latest of those was the constitutional monarchy "debate" along with the regions fiasco..

  6. It's interesting how this identity crisis he suffers from plays well into the interest of a significant number of Jordanians, without having to cross paths with the original aim he intended, what's weird though, is that he's able to play on the east bank "cord" in his explicit threat of the Palestinian "presence" in Jordan with all the psycological warfare and neopolitique fashioned terms he uses to charm people into believing his high brow intellectualism.

    The new guard also abused their close proximity to the king, and his dismissal of some couldn't simply be explained as caving in to pressure, as he's more than capable of protecting, as he did before, people who've been attacked in the public opinion, and those too, had their own hords of loyal journalsits and media outlets, so the problem isn't with the old or the new guards, it all goes down to the abuse of power by whomever is in power, old guard or new.

    And the media in Jordan, especially the new emerging electronic type, always has an interest, as it either gains financially, or in political support, not to mention an interest in its own popularity, as we've seen in the past day or so, in terms of the number of visits made to read who wrote what, and who replied.