September 16, 2008

Anatomy of a Political Dissident

by Melissa the Marinade Maker

Through the mere click of a button, ___ could face a 10-year imprisonment, jeopardize his entire family, or be sentenced to a tortuous death. Yet, ___ does it nonetheless. It’s posted, accessible to millions, and now ___ is susceptible to whatever may lie ahead. This is the anatomy of a political dissident blogger; one willing to sacrifice both life and limb so that a few hundred words may be enshrined on the world wide web — sometimes only until the government intercepts the highly critical, even incendiary post. Why would any human being be willing to make such a sacrifice for a few paragraphs? Clearly anonymous postings inhibit both fame and fortune. The lure must come from the ability to connect with the new community of global citizens, disseminate ideologies and concerns that otherwise would go neglected and provide an insider’s perspective untarnished from profit incentive and mainstream media influence. Through a Western lens, the significance of this blogging phenomena may seem trivial, yet for a populace riddled with warfare, political instability, and government corruption, these blogs may serve as the only means of public outcry. This is the human voice in its rawest form.

Political dissent has evolved to incorporate the revolutionary phenomenon of blogging. Thousands of political dissidents take to the streets, not through mass protests and violent demonstrations, but through daily, weekly or even monthly blog posts. While globalized mass communication allows such blogs to be accessible to virtually all of mankind, authoritative governments are catching on to the new trend. Countries such as (surprise, surprise) China, Vietnam, Tunisia, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Egypt are intercepting the blogs and often arresting and/or torturing dissident bloggers for months, even years. Through the use of filtering, forum censorship, cyber-policing and government agencies, bloggers are being apprehended. For the past five years, roughly 65 bloggers have been arrested for reasons spanning from posting satirical comments about political figures to revealing how Iran's president is guarded by some high-priced and high-pedigree dogs.

Although mainstream media continue to be primary sources of credible news, due to their longevity in existence and wide range audience (among other factors,) grassroots journalism of which blogging is a part has revolutionized mass communication. The Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents, published by Reports Without Borders in September 2005, points out that with the lack of profit motive in political dissident bloggers allows for an unmediated first-hand perspective which the outside world can contemplate and become engaged. Issues which governments work diligently to conceal ought to become transparent and bloggers have the capability and the resource for bringing the limelight to the incessant struggles of the world’s people. Alas, this is where the new global community of conscientious citizens must step in. I am not advocating that citizens take to their pitchforks and demand government reform; rather I advocate reading blogs and expressing support for the justifiable concerns of political dissident bloggers. Find a blog that captivates you, and read it. Research for yourself and find the truth behind the words; some blogs may exaggerate, others may be less concerned with political outcry. Regardless, get out of your comfort zone and read. What do YOU have to lose?

(The graphic collage shows material from dissident Egyptian bloggers and is from the blog Global Voices.)

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1 comment:

Dan Sweeney said...

Excellent job starting off the blog with a strong message. These political dissident bloggers risk so much to spread their outcires for justice. I applaud their efforts committed to have the truth heard. Oppressive regimes can change, but it starts with the truth of government procedures and policies spread to the masses. These bloggers help change their authoritarian states into free states. Political Dissident bloggers are technological rebels and patriots.