The Rise of Political Blogs

I was telling a friend of mine about the candidate in the parliamentary elections recently held in Kuwait who was caught trying to bribe a voter, when my friend asked me: “Why are you so interested in Kuwaiti elections? Why do you even care?” I did not know what to say. I knew the answers to his questions, but I did not seem to be able to bring them out.

I was impressed by Kuwaitis, especially the youth: how smart, active, and politically savvy they are. I was also impressed by the way they used blogs to express their views, organize their movement, rally for change and reform, and protest against corruption. I was so impressed I wanted to be a part of what was going on there, and that’s probably why I was so interested in Kuwait’s elections.

I was not the only one. Other fewllow bloggers have expressed similar views. Abdullah Al Dammak, a newcomer to the local blogosphere, says he envied Kuwaitis, but was amazed by, and admired what they did. “Our youth are completely ignorant of politics,” he wrote. “Even the young leaders are politically ignorant, especially university students, and more particularly the Islamists.”

Abdullah asks many questions, good ones actually, and one of them is what are the reasons behind such political illiteracy? I think there are many reasons; including, but not limited to, education, the way parents raise their children, and some government policies. There are more details to be added here, and probably there are other reasons, but that’s another post.

However, not everyone have the same enthusiasm to be involved in politics. Ahmad Al Swailem, a reporter for the daily Al Riyadh, says that, over the years, he has gotten bored with politics and has become sick of it. Then the internet has come, and he was happy because it provided him with a wide range of content, unlike what is available in newspapers and TV, where politics is the dominant topic. “But unfortunately, politics has started to dominate the internet, too, in the past two years,” he said, including blogs.

“Funny, humorous blogs that are informative and entertaining in the same time has started to diminish in the past six months,” Al Swailem added, comparing this to the rise of political blogs.

But I’m afraid I have to disagree, especially when we talk about the Saudi blogosphere, where we still lack real political blogs. I occasionally blog on politics here, I don’t consider Saudi Jeans a political blog. I write about too many things of interest to me, but I’m almost sure that none of my readers come here to read political analysis. What I mean by political blog are those which are mainly focused on politics. Sahat Al Safah and Manalaa.net are two good examples.

The future looks blurry and uncertain for Saudi political blogs: Are we going to witness a rise of Saudi political blogs, how many of them there will be, how are they going to be introduced, what can they offer, and what role can they play in a country where public participation in the process of making decision is very limited if nonexistent? These are all questions that need to be answered. We maybe able to put some expectations, but such expectaions may also prove to be useless as blogging as a medium do not evolve and proliferate under some known set of rules. Only time will tell.

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14 thoughts on “The Rise of Political Blogs

  1. I can think of just a hand full of Kuwaiti blogs that are strictly political the rest just talk about it like we always done.

    I believe it is cultural, we have our diwaniyas and those are open bastions of free speech and with an elected government since the 60s. It is where people discussed what is going on and their opinions.

    Yet we do it naturally as we would discuss about some new restaurant that just opened up.

    I see political blogs evolve slowly from a blogosphere. People would talk about their daily lives and then slowly start focusing on the politics that affect them and it just grows from there.

    Saudi Arabia will reach this stage as long as people are able to talk about their daily lives.

  2. I myself have no interest in politics. It’s just a polluted territory where everything’s vague and you can never be 100% assured that what you believe in is right, unless you’re unrealistic.
    I try to distance myself away from anything political as much as possible. It’s a headache to me and heartache when we see all the victims of politics.
    Yet I do encourage freedom of speech and I do hope that our generation will be more open-minded than the past generations and will be able to talk their minds without fearing the consequences.

  3. it’s good to see that you’ve been unblocked.

    i also agree with nibaq, kuwaities are almost encouraged to voice their opinions in most social contexts, be it dowaneyaat for men or “chaai il’9a7a” for the ladies, etc.

    even in school, the first thing a student does is get swept away and involved with university political groups. it would only be natural for this interest in voicing and asserting of opinions to carry on into the kuwaiti blogosphere

  4. Nibaq: You are right that Kuwait have political traditions that we here in Saudi Arabia lack, but I hope internet and blogs would change this.

    Mochness: Whether we like it or not, politics affect our lives in a way or another. It is completely natural that some people do not care about politics and do not like to get involved in it, but I think we must find a ground to encourage those interested in politics to participate in order to push changes in our country.

  5. Ahmed,it is THE reason I got involved in blogging. Not just because I wanted to write about politics, but it is the perfect forum to discuss issues with other people by way of the comments. I found that quite a few political bloggers are very well versed, not just in politics but philosophy and science and other areas. The personality of the blogger makes for an interesting blog as well. Plus, the links you find that bloggers provide to back up their opinions are very educational. So much information is out there that doesn’t make it into the mainstream media, either by design or different focus. Even though the number can easily be shifted dramatically, only a few months ago the Wall Street Journal had an article on blogs saying that only 6% of all of them were political. Can you imagine the number that are not (not the percentage I mean, the actual number). Still, with the current Israel/Lebanon conflict, there has been a surge in new political blogs and reporting on it in already existing blogs.
    When you think that mainstream media does pay attention to people’s blogs as a gauge of what’s going on in society, I do think that in KSA it is getting more exposure. With some real political reforms will come increased education as you mentioned which will translate in greater participation on and off line..
    don’t be embarrassed about being questioned re. your interest..it is actually quite normal. You look outwards when a lot of people (which is the world over not just where you are) are plain not interested in anything but their own lives. You’d be the one who’d be working for positive changes, they are the ones who would benefit and then most likely complain it isn’t good enough!lol
    Ingrid

  6. This is brilliant Ahmad…

    Im relatively new to blogging, but as a Palestinian, I’ve recently the power of blogging to make our voice heared by the world and to correct the picture that’s depicted by the controlled biased. We, Palestinian bloggers (im still new) are trying to give a better media.

    Im also impressid by sa7at Al safa..brilliant Kuwaiti work! :)

  7. Political blogs will come into existence when we have political momentum and citizen participation. As long as we have mock-institutions of no real decision-making value, we would not need any political blogs.

  8. i used to live in saudi arabia for some time

    i think that saudi do not speak of politic is because some are scared
    i got used to hearing stories of people who disapear and thrown in the rub al kali , also not to mention the education that you raise people not to question anything , i’m not sure if you studied in a government school but the books clearly talk about not questining your leader if he didn’t break any god rule

    الحاكميه و علاقه الحاكم بالمحكوم فى كتاب التوحيد

  9. I said education is one the reasons behind this. Our textbooks are filled with crap like that, which teaches our kids that democracy is evil, and that whatever the rulers does is correct.

  10. Mochness’ comment brought something up that I have thought about. Many people think that one’s politics is a matter of “belief” — but it is not, it not a religion. It is more akin to sociology or psychology. You study it because you are interested in human nature and human relations on a grand scale.

    “True” politics (and grandted, there are not a terribly log of good examples around in the world these days) is not about taking sides and debating until one side or another wins an argument. It is about finding solutions to community and national and international issues, which is why compromise — which is essential to a functioning political process — is so maddening to people who need certainty etc.

    Politics is also not “really” about history, though all politics is informed by history.

    My advise to any young person thinking about politics (Saudi or otherwise) is to just pay attention to what is going on — and remember that it is a good thing not to be certain about anything!

    In the end, the political systems and climates we live in are only as good as the people who are actually contributing to them.

  11. u can say what u want these days and thanx for the internet.. I believe that everyone has the right to express his point of view on things that is important for him and his future… or in other words things that touches his life.. like govermental rules… or the situatio in schools…

  12. at least there’s some real politics you can discuss. there’s nothing much in the UAE apart from Guccis, Diors and Palm Island.

  13. Greetings from another kingdom, that of Denmark. I am happy to be able to read this site in English, but I just wanted to ask you: is Saudi political blogging not usually conducted in Arabic? How come you are so fluent in English, and why do you choose to debate in that language?

  14. Greetings from Indonesia too. Although Indonesia not a Kingdom, but i want to post my comment about Saudi political limitation. As my view on saudi political system, of course its system doesn’t support the way of democracy. The Policy is on the wise of the King. But you may know that Rasulullah did a democracy in planning the war strategy. So, based on the sunnah, actually there’s nothing wrong about implementing democracy system. As long as the system used for the good aims.
    By the way, i think that you know the concept about tawashi bil haq? every moslem has the same right to told the others about the truth or where’s wrong. In democracy, people have a right to told the government about something’s wrong and their aspiration.
    CMIIW, thanks

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