October 29, 2006

No Foreign Press

Glenn Reynolds argues that there is no “foreign press” per se anymore. “It's all on the same Internet,” he says.

Harold Ford (D-Tenn) made a gaffe about the “threat” of Australia developing nuclear weapons. American newspapers didn't cover it much. But Australia's did. And Americans can read Australian newspapers now.

This reminds me of something I learned last time I went to Iraqi Kurdistan, as a consultant not a journalist. A friend on the Council of Ministers told me one of my blog essays, Iraq Without a Gun, was translated into Kurdish and published in Erbil's daily newspaper. This was news to me. (The concept of intellectual copyright has not made its way to the Middle East yet.)

In that essay I mentioned the lying cheating bastard Mr. Araz who picked me up from the airport. His company wanted to charge me 350 dollars a day for a driver and translator, about twice the going rate. And to make sure I hired a driver every day he told me it was dangerous to go anywhere by myself.

It isn't dangerous in the Kurdish autonomous region. More people are killed from violence in Oregon, where the crime rate is low, than in Northern Iraq. But Mr. Araz played up it up for all it was worth, hoping I would pay extortionist rates to stay safe. (Needless to say, he did not get the job and I was not kidnapped or killed.)

I had no idea when I wrote that piece that it would be translated into Kurdish and published in Mr. Araz's hometown. I had no idea I would instrumental in ruining him, that I would publicly “shame” him in his conservative Muslim society that prides itself on hospitality and friendship with Americans. But that's exactly what I learned had happened.

It's all one Internet now. Even offline dead-tree newspapers in Iraq are plugged into it. I wrote Iraq Without a Gun as a foreign dispatch. Little did I know I was also, briefly, a local correspondent as well.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 29, 2006 11:06 AM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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