Last night the UN finally announced an agreed text for a ceasefire in Lebanon. It is a complex issue, and the language of the debate is getting rather repetitive, so a BBC-listener-Guardian-reader like me might want to know more from perspectives nearer the events, and blogs might seem to be the way to find out. My search for new perspectives made me think about two issues:
1) how does one find news from somewhere in the blogosphere?
2) how do blogs mark, in their language, the somewhere that they are from?
Getting the news: My first discovery was that if one wants pictures and figures and an overview, the events themselves are probably better covered by what bloggers call the ‘mainstream media’, newspapers and broadcast news services. Blogs provided important sources after the Southeast Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the Mumbai bombings (see my posting) but apparently they do not provide much new information on the situation in Lebanon (see a comment on YouTube at WNYC's On the Media). What they do provide are perspectives, interpretations, speculation, and invective from people involved in the events. Maybe these outpourings are just what those of us who have a fixed view on the events need, but they make for uncomfortable and not always illuminating reading.
I started by searching Technorati with "Lebanon" and "Beirut" as tags. Oddly, what one gets then are a lot of Americans, mostly rightwing, holding forth on the place of these events in their larger global picture. That wasn’t what I was looking for. So I looked for blogs that put Lebanon or
I probably could have saved myself a lot of this trouble if I had gone first to Global Voices Online. It offers notes by regional blogger-editors who follow what they call ‘bridge blogs’ reporting on their countries to the wider world. Their summaries point out various interesting blogs I would have missed in a search of tags. (And they do give some information on who these editors are). It led me, for instance, to
Placing blogs: Let’s look at some posts where the bloggers refer to the immediate place (and with it, the immediate time). The sense of place may be given subtly, not just by place names and descriptions, but by definite references. In the examples I can find, they usually use this immediacy to justify some wider assertion.
The first post (16 July 2006) on Live from an Israeli Bunker (signals of location in italics)
So Where We Are
I'd rather not say where we are exactly but its close to where the rockets hit haifa today.
I woke up a few minutes before 9 in the morning and looked out the window for some reason, then the siren started.
So I got dressed, went stright into my brothers room and picked him up and moved away from outside walls.
We heard the bombs go off in the distance and turned on the TV.
After a few minutes we headed down into the bunker and this is where I am right now. With a laptop and a very faint but so far adequte wifi signal.
I thought this blog is a good idea, I'll be taking notes and posting whenever possible. Perhaps this will get picked up by the media, perhaps not. But hopefully it will give an idea of how its like to the people who read it.
First, there is the reminder that topographical information can be of military importance – so he doesn’t want to say just where he is. But he starts with a link to a wider event, already known to us, that frames his account of his day. Then he uses a lot of definite noun phrases (‘the window’) to place us in a world of already known specifics. Having established that, he moves down into the bunker, so we have two places, the world of normal life and the bunker, ‘where I am, with just enough signal to post a message. The ‘right now’ is a kind of deictic (pointing) reference in time that goes with these references to place, giving a sense of immediacy. That image, of a young man in a bunker with a laptop, marks the theme of the blog. Later posts occasionally remind those of us who live in safer surroundings of the dangers and disruptions and routines of life under the threat of rockets. But most of the later posts are the kinds of repetitions of justifications and comments on media bias that are regularly posted around the world. The initial scene in the bunker serves as an entitlement to say these things.
A recent post on The Beirut Spring (Friday 4 August 2006):
[photo of a television screen labeled LBC, with image of people in rubble]
The bombing targeted two bridges in Maameltein, one in Batroon and one in Halet.
I actually used 3 of those bridges when I took my fiancé to Jounieh yesterday. I could have been killed like that family that was in a car and fell in the hole formed in the Batroun bridge.
Land access to
For the record, those bridges link the Sunni North to the
This proves the point that
As in Example 1, the ‘just now’ signals the immediacy. Then there is a strategic alternation of perspective. Sentences 1, 3, and 6 could be taken from any news agency report; they are from a global perspective. Sentences 2, 4, and 5 give his experience of these places: he went there just yesterday, he was with his fiancé (emphasising the vulnerability), and he imagines himself in the situation in a photo with which we are assumed to be familiar (‘that family’). The two sentences beginning ‘For the record’ gives information that is presumably shared by other people who know
The latest post in
Today I woke up at 6:15 AM, israeli warplanes expressed their feud by targeting four pillars in the power transformer station. Before this, the power used to be available between 4 and 6 hours per day. Now, people have zero hours per day, unless they have a power generator for their home/shop/neighborhood.
Why did the IDF decide to target a power transformer station in Saida after 5 hours from declaring the UN resolution, I have no idea. I tried to figure out why would it target a power station in the 32nd day of the war, but I couldn't figure it out. The only explanation is that the IDF want to cause more destruction to the civilian infrastructure, it wants just revenge from the innocent civilians.
With the lack of electric power, I will not be able to blog or email as I used to. I am limited by the few hours of electricity that the power generator provides for the neighborhood. (Remember we have a fuel crisis so they cannot turn on the power generator for longer hours.)
In the meantime, if you want to be updated about war, I encourage you to check my personalized list of Blogs about Israeli War on Lebanon.
As in the first two examples, the posting begins by signalling its immediacy, ‘today . . . 6:15 AM’. The use of the definite article in ‘the power transformer station’ signals that it is a local, known entity; that is then rephrased for readers outside as ‘a power transformer station in Saida’. He then moves to more general conclusions, a metonymy, this event stands for many actions in the war. Finally, we go back to the immediacy of the posting, like the Israeli getting Wi-Fi signal in the bunker. But in this case, the event reported stops the blog.
Finally we could look at the words I have italicised from The Language Guy, a very interesting blog by the linguist Michael Geis, Professor Emeritus at
The most significant change between past "dust ups" between
What stuck in my throat here was the sentence, ‘Americans will recognize the situation’. I did a Google Blog search on the phrase ‘Americans will recognize” (Professor Geis’s blog is the third entry) and found that it is usually modified, ‘most Americans will recognize’ or even ‘true Americans will recognize’. Does this unmodified use say that Americans share a view of events in distant countries by virtue of being Americans? The verb recognize implies that the view they share is what is really there. (If I say ‘I recognized John’ you will think it was indeed John). I would question the view of