I am almost certain that a bad or selective memory is a gateway to ignorance and that ignorance is something that I am literally afraid of.

I have recently noticed that I am becoming very forgetful despite my 31 years of age and that is not good on so many levels including relationships, the professional level and most importantly the intellectual level.

Therefore I have decided to write small briefs about the books I read and like. Mainly to try and preserve my memory and as a secondary benefit I would tell people about the books. I know there are many social media networks dedicated to readers like Goodreads.com, Shelfari.com or even the arabic website Abjjad.com but the problem is I really don’t feel like having one more profile on one more social network or website (the bad memory is not helping with passwords either!!!)

So Hello Everybody and welcome to the first brief of a book on my blog… conveniently the title of the book is:Hello Everybody!

The book is a narrative about the experience of the writer Joris Luyendijk, a Dutch journalist, as a Middle East correspondent for a number of dutch newspapers, radios and television channels between 1998 and 2003. It walks us through the writers own personal discovery of how distorted journalism is in the world in general and how much worse that distortion is when it comes to the Arab World (apparently Palestine is a whole different game!!).

News is determined by news agencies not correspondents or reporters, they also determine the importance of the events and hence the general direction of the media. Journalists and correspondents on the ground are mere “scorers” i.e they are there to say that they are there when an event happens to imply that they have a knowledge that a far away observer does not. The writer contends that due to the nature of the regimes in the Arab World as dictatorships the fact that the correspondent is geographically close to the event offers little advantage due to the lack of transparency, the fear factor and ignorance so imbedded in our societies and the correspondents own lack of courage to admit the absence of solid verifiable information.

The events the writer had the opportunity to cover during his stint in the region included major events such as the bombing of the Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical in Sudan, the siege on Iraq including Operation Desert Fox (1998), the death of Hafez al-Assad, the liberation of the south of Lebanon and 9-11. What the writer faced in his daily work in addition to all these events served to highlight in the writer’s mind, and later in his book one major thought:
“Good journalism in the Arab World is a contradiction in terms”

Rightly, the writer explains this further by writing a simplistic yet witty analogy: “When I went to Cairo as a correspondent, journalistic practice seemed like a set of tools you could unpack and use all over the world. But dictatorships and democracies weren’t two cars of different makes. If democracy is a car, a dictatorship is a cow or a horse. the man who turns up with a screwdriver or a soldering iron is powerless”.

The writer did not feel that he had a wrong set of tools when he moved from Egypt to Lebanon and Palestine at the start of the Second Intifada. There media was not only a tool that told the story or the event, there media was a stage on which the war was being fought. In Palestine it was a media war and Palestinians were losing.

Instead of conveying the truth of the Intifada as a struggle against the occupation the media was professionally manipulated by the israeli side using the gap available in journalism (News agency domination) to feed the media the story about a war between two sides, and our pride as arabs prevented us from playing victim and our incompetence and the nature of the structure of the Palestinian Authority as a dictatorship put the Palestinians played directly into the hands of the enemy.

In his final days as a correspondent in the Middle East Mr. Luyendijk covered the American war on Iraq. Once again he faced a skewed ability by the different parties to deal with the media much like the israeli – Palestinian case this too was managed as an Us versus Them, Good versus Bad. Only this time Hollywood was running the show and Al-Sahhaf was on the other side.

In terms of offering a solution to the problems posed in the book the writer has not done much but the courage to say that he was part of the problem and the honestly with which he has done it compensated for the shortfall in my opinion. The book is very well written and the writer was also able to draw a few smiles on my face even if most of them were born out of a bittersweet joke that cruelly reflects our sad reality. The book is also balanced on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and takes a view tolerant to the existence of the zionist entity a view I do not agree with (nothing against jews though being in Palestine). Despite that I would highly recommend the book as it represents a good account of the skewed perspective with which we are bombarded in the media.