Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

A month in a virtual-peace-community – part 1

Posted by worriedlebanese on 16/09/2008

Dear blogosphere,

It wasn’t really work that kept me off this blog, but my growing involvement elsewhere in cyberspace. Over a year ago, I joined a virtual-community committed to peace in the Middle East. For months I was a regular, but this summer, things slipped out of control. I spend over two hours a day reading and responding to postings and comments. It was eating up almost of my spare time, to what avail? This is what I asked myself yesterday when I decided to wean myself off it. 

It was time to check the balance sheet. What was I getting out of this virtual-peace-community? Was it of benefit for me to stay on?

Well, it was interesting to see that the “Peacemakers” on the site are deeply divided among different lines:

– the first line is linguistic: the site is mostly in English, so those who master the language are likely to dominate the discussions (i.e. English native speakers and people with a high academic background). The site tried to encourage postings in Hebrew and Arabic, but it didn’t work,

– the second line is ideological: on one side you have the pro-zionist (adamant defenders of Israel) and on the other the anti-zionists (they’re mostly anti-zionist Israeli or diaspora jews). Each group has his cyber-soldiers who shoot at anyone that doesn’t belong to their camp.

– the third line is on the level of arguments and experience in “peacemaking”: some arguments are journalistic, others are academic, some were highly ideological, others were technical… Some were informed, others not at all… The same subjects were treated ad nauseam… the same arguments repeated incessantly… Copy/Pasting from other cites used extensively by some in their postings and comments… 

What a challenge it was to make such a diverse audience interact with each other peacefully! Anger is palpable in most discussions and cyber-soldiers are very efficient in hijacking discussions (though their number is limited: never more than 10 out of 1000 member).

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