Internet sites provide 'opposition' views
By Anick Jesdanun
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Had Charles Lipson relied solely on mainstream U.S. news outlets to follow Iraq-related developments, he might have concluded the debate over Turkey's support was all about money.

Lipson said he heard plenty on the aid package Turkey wanted for hosting 62,000 U.S. troops, a deployment the Turkish parliament ultimately rejected last weekend.

But for a better understanding of what Turks were thinking, he had to go to the affected region -- online -- where he found more on fears among Turks that independence for Kurds in northern Iraq could inspire their own Kurdish minority to rebel.

Lipson is among a growing number of Americans taking advantage of the Internet's ability to offer myriad perspectives -- through newspaper Web sites and nontraditional sources like e-mail discussion groups and personal Web diaries.

The University of Chicago political science professor even runs his own site, collecting links and articles for his students to browse.

"The site is not meant in any way as a criticism of major U.S. resources, but merely a recognition that some important news and distinct perspectives come from other resources," he said.

People living elsewhere, likewise, have greater access to information beyond their national media.

The online resources on the Iraq crisis range in focus and depth, and a few even originate from within Iraq. AntiWar.com has volunteers around the world assigned to cull specific publications and submit the best links for inclusion.

During a recent monthlong visit as a peace activist, Ben Granby used his online journal -- called a blog, short for Web log -- to tell the world about everyday Iraqis.

"Most Americans, the only thing they hear about Iraq is this one particular person, the president," he said. "Most people don't have a clue about what life is like there."

Another site, ElectronicIraq.net, launched last month, is relying on activists on the ground to submit photos and written dispatches.

While the mainstream media may have plenty on what government and military officials are saying, the site hopes to explore the humanitarian side, said co-founder Nigel Parry.

"There's basically a lot of folks looking for a more nuanced and contextualized analysis than 'Showdown with Iraq' and commentators saying, 'Let's bomb them to the Stone Age,"' said Janine Jackson, program director for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog group.

James Lewis, director of technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, uses U.S. news outlets for what French and German leaders are saying in opposing U.S. intervention in Iraq. But to learn what their opposition parties and everyday people are saying, Lewis turns to European sites.

Diana Squire, a marketing director at Indiana University, uses blogs to follow criticisms and support of what's reported elsewhere.

Web sites and blogs with names like NoWarBlog.org aren't exactly unbiased, yet they often link to write-ups from the other side -- if only to dismiss them.

And although what's said online isn't always true, Lewis said checking some of those sites can be helpful.

"It's fun to look at the Jihad Web sites," he said. "The beliefs that these people have ... are so extreme, so abnormal, it makes you wonder what you can do to get the message to them better."

The people taking advantage of Internet resources appear primarily to be scholars, activists and information junkies.

"I'm not sure the average person watching 'The Bachelorette" and not caring about the news is going to be saying, 'Let me check out the blogs,"' said Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University professor of online journalism.

Nonetheless, the GulfWire e-mail newsletter, which features articles and commentary from U.S. and foreign media, has seen greater interest from "average folks" since the Sept. 11 attacks, said editor-in-chief Patrick Ryan.

There had been similar use of the Internet for information during recent U.S. military campaigns, with sites like WorldNetDaily getting regular firsthand accounts as bombs dropped on Serbian homes in 1999.

The Pentagon is promising greater media access to the battlefield this time through "embedded reporters" from major news organizations traveling with the troops.

Although some critics wonder how much independence those reporters will really have, they believe true control of information will be nearly impossible.

With the ease of forwarding e-mail, for instance, a soldier's e-mail message meant for a few friends might circulate among a much wider audience.

And Web site operators expect to hear directly from soldiers and civilians.

"Iraq doesn't quite have the Internet penetration that even Serbia has," said Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive of WorldNetDaily. "But with 15,000 to 25,000 Iraqis who are on the Internet, I wouldn't be surprised."

ONLINE

Lipson's site: www.charleslipson.com/News-Mideast.htm

Granby's site: www.devo.com/mideastlog

GulfWire: www.arabialink.com/GulfWire

Stars and Stripes: http://www.estripes.com/