Never thought I’d see myself explaining this, especially in 2010: but the Internet does not work in the same way that a static, printed piece of paper does. It does not come with the same carefully premeditated phrasing, nor the “professionalism” of a journalist who has been drilled with laws and rules for years and years. The Internet is more like a conversation in a coffee shop, where a person brings up a topic in a gathering and people react instantly, and often, honestly. The main difference is that with the technology available online, these reactions that would have otherwise drifted off into the air are saved evermore.
With that said…
I’m sure you cannot argue that we Arabs are absolutely unable to have a proper debate without resorting to uncivilized discussions, attitudes, and often fights. That applies both in the real-world and the digital world. A major part of the problem, I believe, is that we really have never been taught to debate like civilized human beings.
We are not used to sharing our opinions and we are not used to being opposed. We are not used to accepting that different people can have different ideas, and there’s no way in hell that we will soon ever come to terms with the fact that it’s actually okay to disagree.
It’s as if self-expression aside from romanticized bull-crap and unnecessary snide remarks by strangers on the streets are the only two forms of self-expression that are a part of our culture. Good self-expression practices, on the other hand, are completely alien to us. We have been taught that speaking our honest opinion is wrong, whether in our schools (don’t argue with your teachers), our family life (Heaven forbid you tell your really annoying aunt that her idea is really STUPID), and our nonexistent political life (that basically circles around nominating cousins to the parliament).
Actually, wait, as far as our culture is concerned, speaking out is much worse than boiling live puppies.
Naturally, as it is also a part of our culture to be very kind and hospitable to those we know and very rude and inhospitable to those we don’t (driving on the streets is the best example), the Internet, with its anonymous safety, has been the perfect tool to test the waters of self-expression, for many of our people. Just like you would expect, many of this “water testing” has been savage, with the various online “news agencies” testifying to how self-expression in our part of the world is more useful for hate speech, judgementalism, and the spread of stupidity.
But really, what can we expect? Elevating a mentality takes decades in terms of time, and worse, it takes great education curricula, which we do not have. It takes patience, it takes planning, it takes hand-holding.
Of course, the easy way out of the hate-fiasco circus is to apply the same self-expression-is-the-worst-thing-you-can-do mentality to the Internet as well (with a magic button that shuts people up). Ta da. Problem solved.
Is that the ideal scenario though? It is 2010, and our mentality and intellect as people has been going backwards in time, rather than forward. A step must be taken sometime soon to teach us about the beauty of the cultured part of our culture, to teach us that if we want something, WE ASK FOR IT, and to teach us to be civilized when it comes to ideas.
Outdated laws won’t teach us, it will probably make us worse – make us less civilized, more angry, and probably scare away the civilized world (Google is currently about to quit China due to censorship issues, is that we want to do with our progressive Internet entrepreneurialism?).
Well, that’s all I have to say I guess, but here’s a link to what my fellow Jordanian netizens are saying about it:
A Sad Day for the Internet in Jordan: A Gag Order. Bam Bam’s World.
A Tweet, Facebook, or a Blog Comment or Even an SMS Can Get You To Prison in Jordan. Arab Crunch.
On Jordan’s Court Decision to Control Websites. Websessed.
In Defense of Freedom of Speech and the Internet. Urdun Mubdi3.
Websites and Publication Law. 7iber.
One Step Forward Six Steps Back. MommaBean.
On Jordan Censoring The Internet. The Black Iris.
Voices in my head: I want my freedom back!. At a Place.
On the New Publication Law: Big Brother is Watching You. Cinnamon Zone.
Last Famous Words from Jordan. GYonis.
Makan.قصة تعاونيّة مستوحاة من إخضاع المواقع الإلكترونية لقانون المطبوعات والنشر الاردني
Infinite Reflections: Why Internet Censorship in Jordan is Bad for Business. Sami Shalabi.
Keeping Jordan’s web open and free. 360 East.
Parliament Asking for Passwords. Osma Al Romoh.
Well, let me know if you wrote about this so I can add your link. La Sharafa Fil Jarimah has a list of media entities that also covered the news.