How would one know whether where is Raed is really a blog by an Iraqi in Iraq? (Imagine the Kaycee Nicole hoax only rather than the protagonist being “killed” by cancer it’s by war.) And how much does it matter whether it’s real or isn’t? Probably this has been discussed all over but I’ve been writing too much to have the stamina to hunt for the full deal. (via Liz)

12 thoughts on “Iraqi blogger?

  1. Liz

    I’ve replied to this on my original entry. 🙂

  2. Christian

    I see that your bloggtroll is still here. Have u tried the old trick with sunlight. 🙂

  3. Liz

    I’m hoping that Christian is referring to Cassandra’s post in a previous message, rather than to me!

  4. pericat

    From where I sit, at my desk with paper scraps slipping out of the cubbies and candle stubs next to the stuffed loon with the squeezebox call inside and a glowing monitor fighting all the clutter for focus, and winning, Salam is as real as Jill Walker.

  5. Jill

    Oh, clearly, my reality is just as much at stake as any other blogger’s is! Except to the people who’ve met me in person, I suppose, but even they mostly have to trust me when I say “I’m Jill”.

    And Liz, in a comment to her original post on this, writes rather eloquently about how it perhaps doesn’t matter whether Salam is “real”. Let’s say he isn’t: it’s still a point of view that’s perhaps better expressed in this way than more abstractly. It makes me think of the literature of the Romans till the Renaissance, more or less, when personification of an idea or a virtue was a standard technique. So you’d have a story or play about Charity, Chastity and Greed, for instance.

    If Salam’s real (which I’d like to think because I do have a delight in details and knowing) I don’t suppose he’ll be blogging much longer. If the net from Iraq’s not already cut off surely it will be very soon.

  6. pericat

    For that matter, my own reality is just as suspect! 🙂 I just thought it was interesting that people question Salam’s existence while apparently accepting that of other bloggers at face value, and mulling over the various possible reasons that might prompt such a reaction.

    One might be that Iraq and Iraqis have been for some time described in the abstract, with a soundbite or quote here and there from an anonymous face that swims into view for a moment and then disappears in the wrap-up. Salam has a name, a unique and engaging style of writing, and is most decidedly himself, not a ‘token spokesman’ for any group. He’s rather jarringly human.

    So far as his being able to continue blogging, I’m hoping for the best.

  7. Liz

    Don’t assume I’m not questioning *your* existence, as well. 🙂

    In general, I tend to be skeptical about e-mail presences. But blogs are much harder to “fake,” I think. Trying to maintain a daily illusion, particularly in a content-rich blog like Jill’s (or mine, or Torill’s, or most of those that I read) would be very difficult.

    And in most of the “blogcircles” in which I travel, there are sufficient face-to-face opportunities among participants that it becomes clear over time that these are real people. They go to conferences, they talk on the phone, they take pictures at parties, etc, etc. Over time, you can triangulate all that data into a pretty reliable picture of the person.

    With Salam, however, all of those “friend of a friend” connections evaporate–nobody I know actually *knows* him, nobody I know is likely to meet him. His blog has the potential to shape the way many people view the upcoming conflict through personalizing the view of Iraqis. So there are more questions, and more reasons to want answers to those questions.

  8. pericat

    Exactly so! (btw, he’s still blogging)

    On the, um, manufactured identity front, I understand that Dr Pepper/Sprite are attempting that very thing. I think the site is called ‘ragingcow’ or something. I honestly can’t think what they expect to get out of it.

  9. Jill

    Pericat, your suggestion that it’s the “abstract” way in which we think of Iraqis that makes us question the reality of that particular blog is really interesting. Yes! I don’t know any Iraqis personally – well, actually, I do a little, a boy in my daughter’s class is from Iraqi Kurdistan, and Aurora (my daughter) and I visited his family. His mother was lovely, though she hardly spoke any Norwegian or English. Her kids and a friend who’d been here for longer spoke very well, though, and translated. They served sweet, milky tea in glass cups and salted sunflower seeds which they had the most wonderful knack of depeeling *elegantly* as they ate them. The seeds were delicious (the same feel as peanuts only even nicer) but I was so clumsy at peeling them! The women said they hated Saddam and wanted him gone, but they were sceptical to the idea of a war, and they were frightened for their relatives still in northern Iraq. The ten year old son, who was charming and talkative, scared me when after a while he started talking about guns, those soft guns that are illegal in most countries, that look exactly like real guns. The boy was crazy about these guns. I was amazed, because he’d struck me as so ordinary and nice until he started his gun-talk. While playing with one of the guns his best friend had shot him by mistake, hitting him right beside the eye (and he showed me the scar). An old man had come and told them off but that was nonsense, the boy said, he’d hardly been hurt and they were just playing! The bragging increased into talking about how his dad was going to give him an even better soft gun that could shoot right through a car window, and then the sweet soft smiling women started telling me about a friend’s teenaged son who’d aimed a softgun at a plain clothed police officer and had to be extracted from jail by his father. The smiles while telling me about this amazed me, and the kids were sitting on the floor watching Cartoon Network on a huge wide-screen television.

    They’d only been in Norway for three years. Just imagine being ten, and when you were seven, you escaped with your family, who were presumably persecuted for their ethnicity, from what’s basically a war zone. No wonder he’s got a gun fixation. I think Aurora’s classmate’s lucky he’s only six.

    Apart from that, Iraqis are very abstract to me, yes. And I don’t bother doubting the existence of bloggers I recognise as “like me”. Plus what Liz says about the networks of content and connections and so on would make faking it hard to do in the long term.

    Torill, btw, points out that “Salam Pax” would appear to mean something like “welcome peace” in a kind of mixed up Arabic Latin. So it seems unlikely that Salam’s using his real name. Which doesn’t necessarily make what he writes “unreal”.

  10. pericat

    There’s something about television that abstracts people, so that the people one knows from personal interaction don’t quite mesh with images on the screen, even when it’s truly the same people. There’s a fellow I know from the local canoe club who works as a rather high-profile attorney and is regularly interviewed in passing. The connection between ‘Dan with a mike in his face’ and ‘Dan the instructor who made me dump in a very cold lake so someone else could practise a rescue’ is blurred, out of joint. I think it might almost take an act of will to connect your friend in her calm living room, with sunflower seeds and fresh tea, and the images on TV of other Iraqis and Kurds, since we rarely see them unless there’s some kind of crisis.

    Pseudonyms are so prevalent online that I don’t think Salam’s use of one can have anything to do with the original wondering.

    (What is a ‘soft gun’? I don’t know that one. Is it like a plastic gun?)

  11. Jill

    I think a soft gun is plastic, and I know it’s supposed to be harmless, the bullets won’t go through your skin (like “luftpistol” which I don’t know the English for, sorry). They’re illegal most places because they look exactly like real guns which can be pretty dangerous – pointing a soft gun at a police officer is likely to get you shot. At least this is how I’ve understood the soft gun thing.

    Interesting about the abstraction. Perhaps that’s why her son’s gun stories shocked me so – they don’t fit with most of my soft sofa and sweet tea experiences.

  12. mamamusings

    authenticity and the baghdad blogger
    Paul Boutin does some investigative digging, and comes to the conclusion that Salam Pax’s Dear Raed blog is probably for

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