October 05, 2006

Dispatches from the Front Now in Print

The first project Doubleday editor Adam Bellow and I worked on together is finished. (The second will take a lot longer.) I told you the project isn’t a book. And it isn’t. But we are releasing something in print. Three things, actually. Pamphlets!

The first is a collection of essays written by me, here on the blog and elsewhere, filed from Lebanon and Israel before and during the war.

Pamphlet 1.gif

Included is an article about my personal experience with Hezbollah that first appeared in the LA Weekly. But this is not the same version. It’s the Director’s Cut -- longer, more detailed, better written, and more damning of Hezbollah than the shorter version you may have already read. The remaining pieces are published more or less as they originally appeared, but they are all collected in one place for the first time.

The second pamphlet is a collection of essays written by Lebanese and Israeli bloggers during the latest round of hostilities. This is the best of the Lebanese blogosphere and the best of the Israeli blogosphere at a time when each group of writers mattered more than ever before.

Pamphlet 2.gif

I didn’t write this one. I edited it. And rather than summarize and explain what I hoped to accomplish, I’ll publish the short introduction.

- - -


by Michael J. Totten

Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon may be the most-blogged war in history.

Until now the most-blogged war was the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Thousands of self-styled “war bloggers” in the United States covered, if that is the word, the conflict from a distance. A handful of Iraqis started their own blogs in English. But blogosphere coverage of the Iraq war was overwhelmingly American and overwhelmingly written by people who were thousands of miles away from the fighting.

This time it’s different.

Israel and Lebanon are both sophisticated and well-educated countries. Each already had a large pre-existing national blogosphere of its own. Israeli bloggers and Lebanese bloggers were, for the most part, already aware of each other. Many had developed a friendly sort of rapport before hostilities broke out. Then civilians in both countries were swept up in the fighting, were traumatized, were wounded, were killed. This war wasn’t being fought far off in a distant land they could only dream of ever seeing. It was fought in their very own neighborhoods.

Foreign correspondent Michael Yon was once asked why he files combat dispatches from Iraq written in the first-person. He said everything in the Middle East is first-person. He’s right. And that’s especially true when you’re being shot at.

This pamphlet is a selection of short personal essays from the Lebanese and Israeli blogospheres that tell the story of a war one person at a time. Everything is personal. Everyone is biased. Many of these pieces are shot through with fear, depression, and rage. War does that to people. They don’t say it’s hell for no reason.

There are small glimmers of beauty and hope in these pages, too. Lebanese and Israelis still talked to each other throughout the war. Sometimes the talk was even civil and friendly. Not everyone surrenders to hatred during war, even in the Middle East.

Most of all what I wanted to capture here is the human dimension. Most Lebanese and Israelis have never met a single person from the other country. Yet they have more in common with each other than most of them know. I know because I have been to both countries, and I lived for a while in Lebanon. Israel and Lebanon are beautiful and intoxicating places, in my opinion the two best countries by far in the Middle East.

Some of the people on each side of the line who are featured here are my friends. A few of them met each other online, in the blogosphere, before this got started. A smaller number kept lines of communication open even while rockets and bombs exploded in their cities. They meet again in this collection. I sincerely hope – and I know at least some of them feel the same way – that they can one day meet in the real world, in more peaceful and less “interesting” times.

Michael J. Totten
Portland, Oregon

- - -

The third pamphlet is a collection of speeches and writings by Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, edited by Stephen Schwartz.

Pamphlet 3.gif

You can buy one for four dollars or the whole set for ten dollars. Please help support us! No one else is publishing the best of the blogosphere in print, and it’s about time somebody did.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 5, 2006 05:45 PM


I just ordered the whole set. I'm a big fan of your blog and I am happy to support your new project. I love the name and the graphics. Mazel tov!

Posted by: Fern R at October 5, 2006 09:39 PM

You are a progressive rascal there Totten.

these summaries are not only worthwhile for the those of us in the, as yet, small world of the political blogosphere, they are also the ideal handout to everyone*s out of touch friends and neighbours.

These could be purchased by the bundle as a supplement for our halls of political learning. = TG

Posted by: TG at October 5, 2006 10:07 PM

Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon may be the most-blogged war in history.

I would have said:

Israel’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon is the most-blogged war in history, so far.

I have no doubt that this is part of a trend.

Posted by: Yafawi at October 6, 2006 12:33 AM

Looks great. Amazon however does not yet have them (although the pamphlets are listed).


Time to be patient, I suppose :o)

Posted by: Aram at October 6, 2006 02:27 AM

How great is that? Leave it to you to break new ground. Now let me figure out how to order them...

Posted by: Jane at October 6, 2006 05:22 AM

I'm grateful that you had the initiative and the backing to do this. And they ship to the UK too! I rather think I'm going to order these during the week. A couple of my friends could do with reading them, for the sake of balance.

Posted by: Lizzie at October 6, 2006 06:28 AM

When does the book tour start? Ya gonna go on Regis? Oprah? :)
Really, I couldn't be more proud of you!

Posted by: lindsey at October 6, 2006 08:56 AM

Jane said ..
How great is that? Leave it to you to break new ground. Now let me figure out how to order them..

I shall send a $10 or $15 cheque or BMO to:

Oops; I notice the Oregon PO Box is no longer handy, so there may be distributor agreement reasons for that.

So, not to step on toes, I*ll leave it to Michael .. = TG

Posted by: TG at October 6, 2006 10:35 AM


Congrats on the release of your pamphlets. What a great surprise that was for me!! Needless to say, I will be ordering those as soon as they're available on Amazon. Should make for great reading!

Keep up the good work!


Posted by: Bad Vilbel at October 6, 2006 10:52 AM

Be-hatzlecha and Mabrouk...

Posted by: Louis-Noel Harfouche at October 6, 2006 11:06 AM

I just ordered the complete set. My experience with surface shipping tells me it should arrive by the time the Tel Aviv - Beirut maglev gets completed, though.

Posted by: Bruno Mota at October 6, 2006 01:05 PM

sukkot sammeach to all my israeli friends, in the hope that we will one day be able to celebrate together.

Posted by: leilaahmad at October 6, 2006 07:22 PM

Great to see this out! I just ordered the complete set.

I noticed there was a section of the buying form that said "Coupons." Do contributors get discounts, or can we buy in bulk to send to all of our friends?

Posted by: Charles Malik at October 6, 2006 07:55 PM

Congratulations! I'm in publishing, and I have felt for several years now that the next big thing in print media will be pamphlet-size publications that convey the words of people who do not ordinarily think of themselves as writers. Many people who are extremely knowledgeable about things the rest of us desperately need to know about do not realize that their words can stand quite well on their own merits and that a good editor could get their stories, thoughts, and essays into publishable condition very easily. Nor does it surprise me that Michael Totten is the author/editor who would see this potential first given his success with his earthquake-causing independent journalism venture. Whenever I read your blog stories, their contrast with the MSM reports on the same subjects is striking. I keep thinking that the problem with the mainstream media is that they have not put any money, any real money that is, into their good reporters in the last few years. I imagine the mainstream media is suffering currently under the weight of unprecedented pensions and very high salaries of reporters they hired forty years ago, and it has left the media strapped for cash with which to invest in new and promising reporters. So the media leans inordinately on the wire houses rather than investing in their own reporters. In addition, when the older "pros" do travel, they cling from hotel to hotel and don't get out to meet the local people very much. A writer for the Atlantic Monthly whose work I used to read frequently, Robert Kaplan, once remarked in an article about Afghanistan that the story there was much more interesting and in need of being told than the story unfolding at the same time in the Middle East but that Iraq and Iran got better coverage because the hotels in Baghdad were better. This is not the way of Michael Totten: He takes us into a bomb shelter. Thank you. A fan.

Posted by: mjnugent at October 6, 2006 08:03 PM

I imagine the mainstream media is suffering currently under the weight of unprecedented pensions and very high salaries of reporters they hired forty years ago, and it has left the media strapped for cash with which to invest in new and promising reporters.

This is sooooooo true. I've been meaning to write about this for a while, actually.

The only reason I was able to break into foreign journalism at all is because I had start-up cash from the high tech industry. Hardly anyone can do it anymore unless they are rich, have a mini nest egg like me, or are willing to starve.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at October 6, 2006 10:24 PM

Mr. Totten,
I was one of those who sent you a few dollars to help fund your trip. Well spent. I've now also ordered the full set.
Thank you for your efforts.

Posted by: Alear at October 7, 2006 11:41 AM

Why can't we maximize the comments window? It's really annoying having it permanently minimized.

Posted by: Tom Hagen at October 7, 2006 06:02 PM

I'm a reporter too, and I'm looking to get into public relations because the future seems so bleak in my field. I was covering the Governor of Wisconsin during a stump speech a few weeks ago; not exactly a nobody, yet I was earning $11.25/hour at the time (I was recently given a raise to $11.70). Think of how little an amount of money that is, and for a job that takes a certain level of skill no less. That's just pathetic. I can't make a living. How long do I have to keep "paying my dues?" I love my job, but I need to be able to make a living and save for the future. I can't do that now. There is almost no opportunity in my city, either. It's with a heavy heart that I feel compelled to look for a career in a different field.

Posted by: semite1973 at October 7, 2006 06:06 PM

Pamphlets are a great publishing strategy to go with. Especially on this topic.

Posted by: Kate at October 7, 2006 11:57 PM

"The best of the blogs" in print form is something that I have been yearning for. Some of the best writing and analysis on the War on Terror (or whatever we're calling it these days) has been in electronic form, but unless this data is continuously backed up it risks vanishing in the long run. We have Gutenberg Bibles, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Egyptian hyroglyhics because they have a physical form, but electrons don't. I mean, just try reading an old term paper that you wrote back in 1988 with Word Perfect 4.2. First of all, the storage medium is probably a 5 inch floppy disk that doesn't even fit in computers any more, and even if you get the file onto your computer you still need specialized software to read it. Will this software be be available in another 25 years? 100 years?

I have a theory that future historians will find almost nothing from this period because everything is made of plastic, which eventually decomposes into goo, and most of our writing is going electronic. Putting this material into print form is great for today, but it's also a gift for future generations.

Posted by: american in europe at October 9, 2006 03:50 AM

Congrats, Michael - you're doing holy work, mate. Here's a Raccoon hoping you'll inspire people to speak real truth to real power (all too many are speaking lies to power eunuchs).

Will buy as soon as I have enough money to spend 10$ :)

Posted by: The Raccoon at October 9, 2006 06:20 AM


I ordered the entire set and put a post up about it on my site including links to order. I have started sending out notices to other bloggers (I started with Instapundit, though he probably already knows, but hey it can't hurt.)

Posted by: Lance Paddock at October 9, 2006 08:04 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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