I'm currently following the FaceBook comments of a colleague and friend who is a specialist in Egypt and who has family in Egypt as well. She has been able to synthesize all the information out there as well as add some insider information from her own knowledge as well as that of her husband who is an Egyptian human rights lawyer and film maker. It has been very informative. But here's the rub... .
Recently, this link was offered: A Guide on How Not to Say Stupid Stuff About Egypt.
Both informative as well as extremely offensive, the post lays out some truly important items about Egypt. Unfortunately, the title really says it all: unless you know what specialists in Egypt know, you are stupid. This has me thinking about the blogosphere - my own and certainly many of the ones that I follow - and the tone that people take when reporting on the misconceptions of Latin America in general. How often to blogs on Latin America manage to do what the author of Stupid Stuff About Egypt does and simultaneously rebuke Americans for not knowing all there is to know about the situation as well as showing interest and trying to learn more about the situation.
For example, I am concerned about the results of the popular uprising because (from a Latin American historical perspective) we have seen dozens of popular movements end in pseudo-democracy and/or military rule while under the gaze of the Washington Consensus. What will come next? I am also excited to see Al Jazeera grab a wider following. They have always managed to have a fairly interesting perspective on Latin America, and I would hope that this would introduce them to American markets in a more aggressive manner. Why should those less familiar with Al Jazeera get rebuked for saying they are excited to see it get more play in the US (according to the blogger, commenting on the success of AJ in covering the protests is stupid). Come on, what is that blogger going to ask me about Hugo Chavez or violence in Mexico?
Do bloggers on Latin America cross this line as well? Do we enter into the land of preachy, pedantic, priggish little shrews that decry ignorance while rebuking the kinds of beginner questions that open the door for us to teach the "truth" about our region? Maybe this is a good, long look in the mirror that we can get from lifting our heads up from out of our little niches (as Prof. McNeill warned us all to do) and understanding that we all need a broader knowledge about the world, and that we have more of a duty to cut back on the elitist, preachy, smug language that drives people from the classrooms - all it does is reveal who the real dunce is.
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