If Buzzfeed’s Tom Gara is to be believed, there’s reason to fear that Huffington Post’s new Arabic site is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Particularly disturbing (to some readers) is that a site generally known for being progressive, would provide space for the criticism of selfie culture, “a mainstay of the Huffington Post’s English-language sites”.
Unlike Gara, I have no problem with conservative Islamists or anyone else taking issue with selfie culture. Frankly, the idea that it needs defending seems to me quite perverse — especially when it results in arguments like the following.
Casey Miller, for instance, values selfies because she thinks they help maintain “intimate friendship” with long-distance friends without the “commitment of Skype.” (Those, I guess, would be the friendships one hopes to sustain without having to sacrifice time. Why spend 10 minutes talking, instead of 10 seconds taking and sending a selfie?)
Research — and common sense — does however suggest that selfies offer weak bonds. As Time reported in 2013:
“Increased frequency of sharing photographs of the self, regardless of the type of target sharing the photographs, is related to a decrease in intimacy,” concludes the joint study conducted by the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh, and Heriot-Watt University. In other words, people who constantly share photos of themselves generally tend to have more shallow personal relationships.
As Galen Guengerich astutely observes, “the selfie chronicles a counter-Copernican revolution.”
Nicholas Sabloff, the Huffington Post’s executive international editor, sidestepping this particular debate on mobile device-shaped culture, told BuzzFeed News that regarding the anti-selfie post written by an Algerian columnist, “The views on the blog do not reflect HuffPost’s global editorial viewpoint, nor the viewpoint of our HuffPost Arabi editors.”
But that didn’t stop Buzzfeed disingenuously claiming in its headline that Arabi “takes a stand” against selfies.
Gara seems to be especially suspicious of Arabi’s editor-in-chief, Anas Fouda, who previously worked for Al Jazeera and its rival, Al Arabiya.
In signing up with the Huffington Post, he appears to have taken inspiration for the Arabic site from founder Arianna Huffington herself.
The first time the two met and discussed the concept of Huffington Post Arabi, “she spoke to me of the wisdom that is in our region, a region that was once the cradle of civilization and religion,” Fouda wrote in his editor’s note marking the launch of Huffington Post Arabi.
That note, like much of the content on the new site, then took an unexpected twist. “I in turn believe in the positivity of looking for a way out,” he wrote, “and that the inherent wisdom that stems from our history and religious heritage are necessary weapons in this time of #WorldWar3.”
This time of #WorldWar3?
Wow, an “unexpected twist” — but only for those who neglected to read the opening of Fouda’s piece. Which is to say, rather than taking an unexpected twist, his commentary came full circle and ended where it began:
It took several years before people started to realize that Europe’s war of 1914 to 1918 was both big and influential enough to be worthy of being called a “World War.” So they gave it that grand name, and added “First” two decades later when they fought a second war that was not any less vicious or influential.
People fight wars first and come up with names that suit their grandeur and influence later. Years from now, historians will look at what happened in our region and perhaps won’t find a more appropriate name than #WorldWar3, especially since the world will never return to what it once was.
In this region, half of the world is fighting a proxy war against the other half. America, Russia, Israel, international military alliances, old monarchies and dictatorships are all fighting here to preserve or expand their areas of influence. At the same time, armed sectarian, religious, or ethnic groups — ones that have no face other than that of rage — fight to abolish all that is old, to create a new map, and perhaps a new world order.
When newly appointed at Buzzfeed after leaving the Wall Street Journal, Gara said in an interview:
if you’re running a news organization on the assumption people are dumb and deserve to be fed trash, not only are you kind of evil, but you’re missing out on the much bigger opportunity of assuming people want to read great stuff and know what’s really going on in the world.
Arianna Huffington offers Gara the excuse that his post might be a reflection of the August news slump.
That might be true, but equally so, this seems to me like a case of dishing out trash on the assumption that people are dumb.