Jordanian Bloggers & Unsexy Politics

Has it been talked to death? Well I am resurrecting the discussion because it merits some further considerations. And it’s my blog and I’ll blog if I want to.

A recent study on Jordanian newspapers showed that there is in fact a lack of local political news coverage. This comes out to be 24 per cent of the newspapers’ space devoted to local political news. Whereas regional politics received the highest amount of coverage at 39 per cent, followed by international politics at 37 per cent.

In other words, we are more interested in what’s happening in Palestine and Iraq as opposed to our own backyard.

Or perhaps what’s happening there is actually more interesting than what’s happening in our own backyard. Now usually when an event occurs we as human beings begin our political rantings and there’s no doubt that in the past 2 weeks since the bombings in Amman, many Jordanians have been on a political high and it’s evident from the many blogs at Jordan Planet. You could probably see something similar to that when Iraq was invaded back in 2003 had enough Jordanian bloggers been around then.

While there are many reasons which have been discussed and debated by everyone, and I believe everyone’s opinion played a role; an element in the overall environment, but I think there is a noticable culprit at hand. In a Jordan Planet meet up in June I said out loud that most Jordanians do not have a political opinion to begin with, and so like a student who hasn’t studied the night before, they sit in the back and hope the teacher doesn’t call on them. I was only scratching the surface back then I suppose.

This genuine disinterest comes from the fact that politics has become truly unsexy in Jordan. Yes, it’s true. Our politics is dominated by constant change in governments, the lack of noticable reforms, and more of the same old same old. It’s almost like the Bold and the Beautiful (which I don’t watch) where you can tune in 5 years from now and practically pick up where you left off without missing a beat. Predictable. Does anyone remember when Lebanese took to the streets and protested the Harriri assassination less than a year ago? Beautiful young women with long wavy blonde hair, fresh from Beurit salons. It was sexy, the world paid attention, we paid attention. We practically ignored the other Lebanese (shiites) who protested or Egyptian protests a few weeks later and even when Kuwaiti women protested their right to vote (which they got by the way). But the Lebanese were youthful, energetic and sexy.

And not to say that Lebanese politics is superior because that high has died down, but it marketed itself very well back in March of 2005, and sex sells. Jordanian politics is not sexy in the sense that we don’t have that energy. Why? Perhaps it’s like a rerun on tv, you’re only willing to watch the episode so many times before you’ve memorised every line and you turn it off.

Perhaps we need sexier elements…another terrorist attack? an assassination? a conspiracy gone public? a war? maybe more low key like a popular strike? a sit-in? something with flare, something with pizzazz, something that reeks of a strong political aroma.

While other bloggers in other Arab countries (Bahrain for one) have bloggers being threatened and even jailed. While some Arab countries block sites and restrict Internet access and freedom of information. While these bloggers belong to nations which have far less interesting things going on in their political world. We should not waste this oppertunity.

The point, or rather the answer to the eternal and maddening neo-shakespearean question of "to talk or not to talk" as Lina once asked, is that we are a rare generation folks. We are at a point in history when two things are happening, the majority of our population is under 30 years old, the other old people are about to all die, the country is on an IV of reform that will result in a new atmosphere in Jordan, effecting none other than us and our children. So I guess it’s on us to make things "sexy" before we get old and artheritis renders us unable to type (or they invent something better than the Internet which none us can understand and have to have our children explain it to us in vain).

And while everyone has their own thing going on at their own blog and I truly respect that diversity and falvour, don’t see politics as something not worth talking about. You don’t need political credentials to talk politics (unless you’re going to say something really absurd, then you need at least a bachlors degree), but the reality of it is if it’s effecting you, if it’s effecting other people in your society, blog it. If you think no one knows about it, spread the word (I promise to trackback). If you just want to vent or rant about it, do so. It’s on us.

On the right is the opposition in Lebanon and on the left, the one in Jordan


  • As usual, very interesting post.
    Iâ??d like to note, that as you already know, there are many reasons why Jordanâ??s local politics has ended up to be that un-sexy, despite the fact that Jordan is in the middle of a region full of events, conflicts and political development.
    Personally I believe the main reason is that we grew up having our families and teachers focusing on the ugly side of politics, making us fear its consequences, and making us all see it un-sexy, till most of us lost interest in it.
    But things started to change with freedom of expression improving in Jordan â??compared to other Arab countries- and Jordanians paying more attention to their neighbouring countries. So when we saw the Lebanese protests for example, most of us were like: ok, politics isnâ??t as boring and ugly as we thought it was!
    Not because of the looks of the Lebanese protestors, although they played a big role 😉 but because we realized that â??as you mentioned- it doesnâ??t need certificates or special characteristics to be a constructive member of society, and you donâ??t have to wage war or use violence to get your voice heard and to peacefully contribute to the development of your countryâ?¦
    With all that young people got back their interest in politics and are now being more active in political debate, which I find really impressive!
    I mean compare the last explosions with any other â??somehow equal- event that took place 4 or 5 years ago, youâ??ll notice the big difference in the reaction of the people. They were more ignorant, more fearful, and more marginalized… now theyâ??re the core of the country, and their opinion is making a difference.

    Finally, you said a wonderful thing that I want to stress out:
    â??While other bloggers in other Arab countries have bloggers being threatened and even jailed. While some Arab countries block sites and restrict Internet access and freedom of information. While these bloggers belong to nations which have far less interesting things going on in their political world. We should not waste this opportunityâ?.
    I for one have missed â??and Iâ??m still missing- many chances to take part in/share very important events just because I saw what happened to others who dared speak up!

  • I think you guys are making a big deal of the “Lebanese protests”. It wasn’t the protests themselves really that caught the news it was the assassination of Al Hariri. Al Hariri was a very influential person in Lebanon and the Middle East, he was very well known, he was I will even say the King Hussein of Lebannon. Think back to when King Hussein Allah yer7amo died. It was really big news, and there was a huge public funeral that was broadcasted on national TV and was reported by almost every TV station in the World with great attention. Now imagine what it would have been if King Hussein Allah yer7amo had been assassinated.

    Another thing is, Lebannon has significantly more political charge than Jordan. So you have to expect it to draw more attention. Internal conflicts combined with an ongoing conflict with Israel and another one with Syria. We in Jordan are living mostly in peace with others.

    I’ll tell you what really killed politics in Jordan, it’s the never ending changes in government that somebody on a web forum today likened to the music chairs game where the same group of people run around chairs until the music stops and they all have to sit down. It’s the same group of people, but everytime they’re in different seats, and someone is gone.

    New governments are usually the biggest source of news in countries. In Jordan, tomorrow’s new government is yesterday’s news.

    I don’t call it political unsexiness in Jordan, I call it political emptiness or blindness. There’s really nothing substantial to talk about other than giving your overall feel of the country. Is it good or is it bad? People are not in on what’s being cooked up in Jordan’s political kitchen most of the time. They don’t know the details because nobody reports them, and if anybody tries to report on details I have the feeling that they are automatically shunned by whateverr government official it is that they speak to, regardless of whether that individual was indeed in the position to make the call or not. I think this is what they call transperancy, and we don’t have it in Jordan.

    The last point I wanna make is, I think Jordanians are very politically opinionated, it’s just that they are afraid to really go out and express their opinions. It’s very simple, and you and I can tell people not to be afraid to speak all we want, but they’re not just gonna take our word for it. And unfortunately, our record of uphelding the freedom of speech in Jordan doesn’t help either.

    I think this is a problem where the first step has to be taken by the governing entity, not the governed press.

  • IT is definately a good point you have raised Naseem.

    As a former journalist, I tell you that in newsrooms, the term “local” politics does not exist. In all newsrooms in Jordan, there’s the international office which consists of translators and editors of wire news, the sports office, the economy office which in most cases is only promoting and highlighting economic development by journalists with barely any economy education, and the home news office, which is usually covering local issues that sometimes would touch on local politics, or scratch on its surface.

    The media has a big role in building any country’s political movement, however, in Jordan we only have one private daily newspaper, that is Al-Ghad, and its editor in chief is well government backed. So, despite that we have laws and regulations that supposedly safeguard freedom of the press, in practical means, our mainstream media is under tight control and journalists learn how to self-censor themselves before they learn how to write a story.

  • Hamzeh, when i was talking about Jordanian political opinions at the time I was refering to something which i think is important and that is the origin of “their” opinion. I have talked politics with friends for years and years in Amman and there is no fear I can say that much. Compare at least to a time when if you were part of something political you had to meet up in a desolate hill with friends keeping watch, and still have to whisper. The government doesnt work like that anymore. So that fear is over rated and it’s really really dying out. When i first came to Jordan taxi drivers would say the most obscure things to try an end a conversation you were trying to start about politics whereas now, every taxi driver is on a rant.

    lastly, what you refered to as constant change is in part what i was talking about; it contributes to an unsexy political culture. its repetitive, mundane, like a silly toy a child grows weary of after 5 minutes. it’s not engaging enough.

    however like i was trying to point out here we are at an interesting point in jordan’s political lifeline and to not blog about it would be like missing out on a big event that only happens once every few hundred years. like halley’s comet or something.

  • Interesting points there..i understand where you are going with this. If i may add a few pointers. I think that the reason why local politics is so lame and boring lies in the fact that for the past 20 to 30 years we have been hearing the same names over and over again.. it seems to be ever since i was born till this day i hear the same people running the government being in pm. ministers, etc.. and making it worst they get ousted and are back on the scene again..come on its just too much…Its not a matter of reshuffling the govt. but rather changing it as a whole..we need new faces fresh idea and young people modern open minded and catering to the futre children of jordan. A good example being awadallah a fresh charasmatic person full of life but his idea contradicted with others and so bam we was out..other inlude the health minister and education minister..
    maybe having more women in the govt would freshen the scene up..women tend to be more creative and fun and maybe can spice things up

    as per the new pm..whats with that we dont need a millitary to implement social and poltical reform..there is nothing social about the millitary everything is plain and straightforward its 1+1+ and poliitcal reform has no equation its not a science but rather a study of the people, their needs, their aspirations and thats what the govt. should be all about, about the people..


  • Nas, good post!
    Besides all of what you have mentioned, people have grown up in fear of saying their opinion!
    They are afraid from Mukhabarat! Of course this was a result of the unfortunate events of the seventies…
    It seems that Jordanians have reached an agreement that you stay quiet and mind your own buisness and let them run the country the way they want!! Nasnas,students here are afraid to argue things with a Prof. they are afraid to tell him/her that they can’t hear them, they’ll tell you that s/he might fail them if they correct something they say!!
    It’s fear….poeple are not naive or careless…they are just afraid! And they are being used to be shout at!!
    There was this time when I was reneweing my military service thing, I approached the officer and told him to repeat what he has said, he started shouting telling me to go back to my seat..everyone’s was staring with a smirk on their faces… well I replied back to him and asked why he has to yell I didn’t do anything wrong! Actually afterwards he was nicer and let me go fast 😀
    It goes the same for all stuff! “la tedakhal bel seyaseh Habeebi, khaleek sakit!”

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