Internet sites provide 'opposition' views
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
"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
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
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
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
And Web site operators expect to hear directly from soldiers and
"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
Lipson's site: www.charleslipson.com/News-Mideast.htm
Granby's site: www.devo.com/mideastlog
Stars and Stripes: http://www.estripes.com/