Bloggers on anti-American protests in Iraq.

Bloggers on anti-American protests in Iraq.

Bloggers on anti-American protests in Iraq.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
April 9 2007 5:47 PM

March for Muqtada

Bloggers are alarmed by peaceful anti-American protests in Iraq, appalled that Mexican drug cartels are using YouTube, and pondering if they need a code of ethics.

March for Muqtada: More than 10,000 (overwhelmingly Shiite) Iraqis marked the fourth anniversary of Saddam's ouster by peacefully taking to the streets of Najaf and Kufa, demanding an end to the occupation. The protesters hoisted Iraqi flags and banners emblazoned with slogans such as "No to the occupation." Cleric Muqtada Sadr, who has not been seen in public for months, called the protest but did not appear himself. Most bloggers are all doom and gloom regarding the protests, despite the fact that they were peaceful.

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At Mother Jones' MoJo Blog, Jonathan Stein worries about what the protest could mean: "[T]he Sunnis stayed away from what was essentially a massive target practice opportunity. Possible reasons: (1) al-Sadr cut some kind of deal, (2) the one thing that brings Iraqis together is hating Americans, or (3) both. Couple this new sense of cooperation with the fact that al-Sadr, who is possibly the most powerful man in Iraq, has called on Iraqis to cease attacking one another to instead focus on killing Americans, and we've got an even more hostile environment in which American forces must operate. Who thought that was even possible?"

Political science prof Steven Taylor of Poliblogger finds Sadr's message a harbinger of the surge's failure. "If the Shi'ite militias, which allegedly have been peaceful of late, decide to launch attacks on the 'occupiers' then I don't see how anyone can claim that the policy has been efficacious at all—as the basic idea was to pacify Baghdad and specifically to reign in, if not wholly disband the militia groups. Further, if Sadr is willing to launch attacks now, then it raises serious questions about any kind of near-term political solution."

The conservative at Paxalles accuses Sadr of biting "the hand that liberated him," writing, "Sadr, who owes his own liberation, as well as that of Shia, to the U.S. forces, seems content to play behind the scenes and stoke up violence himself rather than work toward peace." With Sadr's latest actions bringing another round of calls for his head around the blogosphere, John at military-focused blog OPFOR wonders who—or what—would replace Sadr if he were taken out: "Hey I'm sure it's written somewhere that the simplest solutions are the most effective solutions. Just hate for it to be one of those hydra scenarios, where one head gets lopped off and another three grow in its place. Y'know?"

Others find some small token of hope in the protests. A post at progressive group blog MetaDC revels in the fact the protest was peaceful. "Their country has been occupied for four years with no benefits to the average citizen and no end in sight, yet these rallies have so far been peaceful. I suppose that's something to admire." Conservative Gateway Pundit is underwhelmed by the number showing up for the protests: "It looks like the original estimates of over 3 million protesters fell well short of the mark. The protest today was far below those expectations even with Al-Sadr's lackeys bringing busloads from Sadr City. ... The worst part of it, though, was that Al-Sadr himself was a no-show!"

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Read more about the peaceful protests in Iraq.

Vaquero balladist, interrupted: The Washington Post reports that Mexican drug cartels are slogging it out on YouTube. One singer, Valentín Elizalde, was gunned down after his "drug trafficker's ballad" hit the video-sharing site. (Watch Elizalde's video here.) Efforts from Mexican law enforcement to catch the parties posting evidence of their gory crimes on the Web have been largely unsuccessful.

At ASilent Cacophony, "libertarian-liberal" D.K. is incensed by this violent trend: "It's absolutely appalling, and Mexican law enforcement authorities to this point have been powerless to stop the practice, or to exploit information they might gain through cyber-sleuthing. As a student of Latin American history and culture, I have never been able to wrap my head around the atrocities that have occurred on a large scale in my lifetime in various and many parts of Latin America in the name of public service." At Postpolitical, New Mexican Lee analyzes the bloody phenomenon: "Having the photographs of your bullet-riddled body on the Web is seen as the ultimate humiliation for proud cocaine vaqueros and the videos have the effect of throwing gasoline on a fire, leading to retribution hits over website postings."

At The Raw Feed, Californian tech blogger Mike Elgan wonders what, if anything, YouTube's parent company, Google, should do. "They're posting threats to their enemies, murders, videos of victims, 'recruitment' propaganda and even songs that brag about violent exploits. What's Google's responsibility here?" he asks.

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Read more about Mexican drug cartels and YouTube.

Webtiquette? Inspired by a want of cyber-courtesy, Internet giants Tim O'Reilly and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales are recommending a so-called "blogger code of ethics" in hopes that the blogosphere will become friendlier and more accountable. Bloggers aren't quite speechless.

"What do you think of this code? The trouble with a speech code is ... well, I hate speech codes! But aside from that general principle, what I foresee is endless argument about the meaning of the terms in the rules and how the rules apply. These discussions will be tedious and full of self-serving assertions," opines heavyweight law blogger Ann Althouse.

Conservative Andrew Sullivan has some words for the would-be ethicists: "Sorry, Tim, but 'managed civil dialogue' may be better in your enlightened eyes than, er, free speech, but it sure isn't freer. You can choose or not choose to have comments sections; you can already monitor such sections, if you so choose. But the blogosphere is about freedom—not codes of conduct on sites for free exchange of views."

Read more about the proposed ethics code.

Sonia Smith is an associate editor at Texas Monthly.