Democratic Talk: Reflections from Places Looking for Change [Week 7]

According to Barber the purpose of democratic talk is to create citizens who can think as a public (1984), I would like to shed light in this article on one part of the world which is the Middle East, which has been going through turmoil in the past five years. I will have to argue that a critical factor for this eruption is the lack of a Democratic Talk in some of these countries. What has come to be known as the Arab Spring has started in many Arab countries out of struggle for free speech. There were instances where people were jailed for expressing their simplest thoughts about what’s going on in their countries, so this urge for free expression has erupted. But why did it erupt all of the sudden, or was it really sudden or an accumulation of suppressed thoughts and aspirations to participate in political talk. I think the latter is more valid. There are some examples of initiatives that took place showing people’s eagerness to express their opinions such as bloggers in Tunisia who started “7ell blog” or “start blogging” which a web page and Facebook page were also set up to further propagate their messages, another forms of expression took place in Libya for instance where Rappers started rapping against the Gaddafi regime. However, according to Allen Fountain Al-Jazeera channel comes out to be the most distinctly Alternative view in the Middle East (2007).

A crucial element that can allow people to be involved in political participation is to learn “How”, where Barber’s conception of democratic talk is supported by media theorists who link civic education to active participation in public deliberation and debate (Abramson, Arterton and Orren 1988; Entman 1989), from this we can see how imperative it is to integrate active participation in civic education which is a factor that is more often neglected.

Throughout the years many projects has evolved to allow people to participate and voice out their concerns and work to amend their social reality some of them has started very modestly with tapes being circulated, however, today many took a further step to be online like Labor beat, Alternative Views and there is Paper Tiger Television. I have to somehow argue that in some places more than other, alternative media has positioned itself as a reliable and trust worthy source of information perhaps starting a new episode of them replacing the more dominant main stream media. People are hungry for getting different views of news, reliance on state television has drastically weakened. So, it become important for people who are making news through alternative media to establish more strategic and organize their operation and make them more tolerant to external forces so as not to be swept away by the first crisis but still serve the causes they started for.