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The Web Reacts

Anita Bora | March 22, 2003 20:14 IST

How the Internet is responding to the US-Iraq conflict

While most news sites carried extensive reports of the US invasion of Iraq, it was this first-hand account that caught the attention of many online readers.

The Web Reacts"The bombing could come and go in waves, nothing too heavy and not yet comparable to what was going on in 91. All radio and TV stations are still on and while the air raid began the Iraqi TV was showing patriotic songs and didn't even bother to inform viewers that we are under attack."

It continues:"At the moment they are re-airing yesterday's interview with the minister of interior affairs. The sounds of the anti-aircraft artillery is still louder than the booms and bangs which means that they are still far from where we live, but the images we saw on Al Arabia news channel showed a building burning near one of my aunt's house..."

Rise of the personal voice

Under the pseudonym of Salam Pax, this lone Iraqi blogger from within Baghdad city, keeps the world updated with his first hand accounts of the war. In case you're wondering his credibility, a technology writer and blogger has already taken some effort to establish his existence.

"I am elated and worried," writes Kanan Makiya, a leading Iraqi dissident and intellectual, in a 'War Diary' for TNR Online
. Makhiya, is the author of the Democratic Principles Working Group report for the State Department's Future of Iraq Project, and has spent the last 25 years working towards this moment, but expresses apprehension about Iraq's uncertain political future.

The personal voice is stronger during this war than ever before making the Web a multidimensional experience. While most online sites prepare for heavy traffic, surfers are turning to Web logs, discussion forums and personal sites for an added perspective.

Journalist Web logs

-- Dispatches from the Middle East
-- CNN's On the Scene
-- Gideon's Journey in Kuwait
-- Television Week's War Journals
-- CS Monitor's Assignment Kuwait
-- New Observer's Iraq Journal
-- MSN's Kaus Files

In what is a relatively new practice that started with this war, most news sites have 'embedded' reporters (placed in and posting from action locations in and around Iraq) giving readers a behind-the-scene look through personal diaries and journals.

Slate.com's Nate Thayer in Kuwait posts: "An oil refinery on the banks of the River Tigris blew up, throwing up huge flames that have since turned to pillars of smoke. The oil refinery, which looks destroyed, is about 1 kilometer from the hotel where I'm staying." Reporter Dana Kaye and photojournalist Mark Martin are filing reports for NewsChannel5.com about life in Kuwait with the 101st troups.

Aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Seattle Post-Intelligence reporter M.L. Lyke and photographer Grant M. Haller are among a group of journalists embedded with U.S. forces. They will get a first-hand look at daily life aboard a U.S. Navy ship.

Over at BBC News, reporters stationed in different regions, including Qatar, Kuwait, Washington, Brussels, Baghdad are logging in their personal comments. Gavin Hewitt, from the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border wrote yesterday, "I can hear black hawk helicopters with no lights on are overhead heading into Iraq. The sounds of missiles are increasing. A large number of helicopters are now heading overhead into Iraq. The initial stages of the invasion of Iraq are taking place right now."

Many sites have separate Web logs dedicated to the war. MSNBC's log carries updates on who's writing what about the, while its World Reax blog captures the global mood.

Personal Web logs

-- Kolkota Libertarian
-- Command Post
-- No War Blog
-- Agonist
-- War Blogging

Glenn Reynolds, a veteran blogger posts his thoughts on MSNBC: "Anyone who reads this page knows that I think war against Iraq is necessary, and that we've probably waited longer than we should have to get started. I also think that the anti-war movement has let itself be blinded by its hatred of President Bush, in ways that have cost it credibility and moral standing."

Another well-known personality and journalist from the blog world, Andrew Sullivan, defends Bush's decision in his daily column, saying: "I can't think of any recent war that tried so hard for so long to give peace a chance. This isn't so much a "rush to war" as some have bizarrely called it. It's been an endless, painstaking, nail-biting crawl."

Kevin Sites, a CNN correspondent, has set up his personal site and keeps readers updated with photo and audio posts from the front line. This is an independent effort to cover the war from a personal perspective and Sites has funded it with the help of his readers.

There's Lt Smash, (writing under a pseudonym) a reserve officer in the United States Military, who has been recalled to active duty and deployed overseas, transmitting his personal account of the war 'Live from the Sandbox'. His current post is a tad sarcastic: "Saddam fired a couple of those Scuds that he doesn't have at me this afternoon. He missed." St Stryker gives an account of the refugees who are now pouring into Jordan's desert region.

On the other side, army wives write about their estrangement as their husbands go to war. The personal stories of women gives you a feel of what they are going through.

While not on the front line, Jeff Jarvis, blogging for NJ.com posts breaking news. Warblogs maintained by Christopher Allbritton, George Paine, Sean-Paul Kelley and Mike Hudack is designed to give you a birds-eye view of the conflict.

University of Chicago's political science professor Charles Lipson says in this article that he went online to get a deeper perspective of the war and runs his own site collecting links and articles for his students.

If you want the best, Forbes.com has ranked the top 5 war blogs: Dailykos, Back-to-Iraq, Tacitus, Where is Raed and Vodkapundit.

The common man speaks out

One big advantage of the online medium is giving the ordinary man on the street to voice his opinion. On Slashdot, this post declaring the 'Strike on Iraq' has already attracted over 3000 comments, at the time of writing. On March 19, soon after the strike, another post on Metafilter declaring the start of the war, immediately attracted over 300 comments.

On Kuro5hin.org readers are animatedly discussing posts like 'A week is long in politics' and this post on how the 'Prime Minister breaks pledge to British public'.

Message boards have also been flooded with outburst from readers. A sample.

-- "The invasion of Iraq is unwarranted and against the international law. Iraq is only a mosquito when compared to America."

Mainstream media coverage

"Radio had World War II. Television had Vietnam. Cable TV had the Gulf War. Now, the Internet may have the U.S. war with Iraq," states Jon Swartz of USA Today in this article about the Web's preparation to cover the war.

CNN
, USA Today, Foxnews, ABCNews, MSNBC, Washington Post, BBC Online are all good sources for breaking news, in-depth perspective, columns, on-the-scene reports, live feeds, multimedia features, maps and interactive features. Guardian's Web log is also a portal that aggregates the day's top headlines.

More Coverage

-- Rediff.com
-- CS Monitor
-- NPR 
-- NT Times 
-- Chicago Tribune

Cyberjournalist has a great collection of links and a Web log. Online Journalism and Online Journalism Review have lots of tips for journalists and media people covering the war.

This article on Media Guardian correctly predicted that the Net will play a key role in this war, but also warns that one should tread very carefully and remember that "truth is the first casualty of war". In these days of email, the reader is warned to remember a lesser-known quotation from Mark Twain: "A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."


Activists rally for peace

In times of war, it is also peace activists whose voice resounds the loudest. The Iraqi peace team and Electronic Iraq have started diaries on the war, based on a humanitarian and anti-war theme.

Peaceblogs.org is trying to gather support by making connections between bloggers who oppose the impending war against Iraq. As of March 20, it received nearly 200 blogs from 17 countries in the site's first 60 hours, declares the home page.

The Instead of War Coalition is making its presence felt online by spreading the word about its peace efforts.

And then there's the offbeat

The Iraq Body Count is a human security project to establish an independent public database of civilian deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military actions by the USA and its allies. The current count stands at 16, after a US helicopter crashed in Kuwait while ferrying troops.

If you want a break from the grim news, visit Maddox, who asks: ‘Who would make a better President, Bush or a box of Tic-Tacs?' and goes on to point out why the latter might make a better choice.

The French not extending support to the US also had some extreme reactions. 'Boycott French products' says this site  accusing: "We all know France doesn't want the US and its allies to force Iraq to disarm and we think it's a disgrace."

"We don't want it anymore," says this site about the famous Statue of Liberty. They are currently campaigning to send it back to France!

And they are not alone. "We believe that the French Government has effectively betrayed the safety of the United States of America by refusing to accept the fact that Saddam Hussein is a danger to every freedom-loving nation and by blocking any UN resolution to oust Saddam from power," declares the patriots behind 'Send Back Liberty'.

And, finally, on a lighter vein; funny images, jokes and cartoons of the two most talked about men in the world right now - Saddam Hussein and George Bush.



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