The recent spate of negative media coverage on Dubai has been an interesting phenomenon to watch on so many levels. Firstly, it has served to polarise opinion in the city itself and people have come together in a surprising and, as far as I can see from friends, colleagues and the like, strongly consensual reaction. The pro-Dubai lobby consists of cynical, snarky and critical journalists, bloggers and Middle Mirdif in general – people who last year queued up to whinge, moan, complain and generally put the boot in wherever possible. I might be accused of being in that company.
A second interesting result has been the way in which those new converts to the Cause That Is Dubai have reacted to the articles. They’ve been commenting on them. A few short years (months, even) ago, they’d only have had the opportunity of writing a strongly worded Letter to the Editor, which would quite likely have been ‘spiked’ by the ‘Reader’s Editor’ – in fact one particularly splenetic Dubai blog is subtitled ‘Because my letters to the editor never get published’*!
Nowadays newspapers have woken up to the Internet and have started to post articles up with a facility for reader comment and feedback. Two** of the worst anti-Dubai rants have run recently in The Guardian, the now infamous Germaine Greer ‘Bus ride’ piece and the more recent, and no less uninformed, Simon Jenkins ‘Ozymandias’ piece which combined ignorance and pretension in a quite charming way. And both have seen their ‘comments’ sections closed after a tide of angry riposte from people that knew a lot more about Dubai than the writers in question. The Guardian has even been forced (I can tell you, most ungracefully) to correct a couple of the more glaring howlers in the Greer piece.
This is important. The Guardian is now arguably little different to Wikipedia – the process of two-way communication and egalitarianism that the Internet is increasingly empowering is starting to change newspapers and the way we consume them – it’s become self-correcting. This doesn’t stop the print edition from carrying the rubbish uncorrected. But nobody’s reading that anymore anyway, are they?
This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named ‘A Moment with McNabb’ columns in Campaign Middle East magazine.
* The Real Nick has changed the subtitle of his blog since this article was printed, just to mess me up.
** This was also printed pre-Johann Hari and pre the excellent Chris Saul’s parody of Hari’s piece, which I do commend to you most heartily.