LIRA: A devalued Internet.

by Ghassan Karam

Creative destruction is the phrase popularized by Joseph Schumpeter, the great economist, who used it to describe the creative power of capitalism and the free markets.  Love it or hate it, capitalism thrives of uncertainty and adversity by letting the animal spirits loose in order to challenge the status quo and keep all actors on their toes, so to speak.

There is no room for complacency and tradition under this dynamic system that is anchored on revolutionary change. Note what has happened to old fashioned wired phones, traditional travel agents, neighbourhood financial brokers and traditional print media just to name a few major industries that have been transformed by the internet.

The new digital age of telecommunication has shrunk the world and transformed the role of print journalism. Anyone who has access to the internet and a cheap computer can become at least a pamphleteer if not a small scale journalist. It does not take much to start a blog, make a daily or even hourly post in which one can share his/her thoughts with the world. This is good. It empowers the poor, the disinherited and the exploited by giving them access denied them by their exploiters and rigid rulers.

Those who are in control do not welcome change. Why should they? Change can only diminish their power and control. Obviously the ones who hate change the most are those that do not trust the common wisdom of the masses, those that are not willing to adapt to new realities. Fortunately, those that refuse to change will be swept under the rubble of their own edifice so that a freer and a more productive environment can rise.

In trade and international relations the new reality is that of integration and the phrase that captured that reality the best is that of Thomas Friedman: It’s a flat world. You either adopt the new rules of the game or you will be swept aside. This is what happened in home wired phones, wireless telephony has changed practically every aspect of life and the same has happened to all forms of media. Traditional media has had to change its old established habits or risk being overtaken by the new trends of e magazines, social media and blogs.

Lebanon unfortunately is showing signs of arterial calcification especially in its response to the inevitable changes being witnessed in the electronic media. One can argue that the Lebanese structure of traditional journalism is sort of unique in the world. It is not unique due to its diversity, as some like to claim, but it is unique to the lack of major independent media outlets. Most of the TV stations, major dailies and a lot of radio in addition to major commercial blogs are in essence mouth pieces to established political parties. One will be hard pressed to find objective coverage of any issue in Lebanon. Each media organ will report through the prism of its political party, which by the way, is bound to increase divisiveness among the Lebanese since each group will get its daily quota of biased information from its “leaders”. Then all of a sudden this monopoly is shaken by the internet. Low and behold, regular citizens find that they can express their points of view and even start discussions many other dissatisfied citizens. All of this for free.

Of course none of the established political parties supports this new challenger since its success comes only at the expense of the traditional powers. So what to do? Find a roundabout way of protecting the old inefficient and anachronistic monopolies by pretending that what is required is an orderly internet market where the established power will write the rules in order to suppress freedom of expression and maintain its control on what to disseminate and how to disseminate it.

That, in a nut shell, is what Minister of Information Daouk, is asking for in his misguided proposal ;Lebanese Internet Regulation Act, LIRA. It is simply an amateurish effort at stopping progress, trying to maintain power in the hands of officialdom to muzzle the ability to publish and critique and to pretend that the law is needed in order to protect freedom. That is an oxymoron isn’t it? The Minister is either anxious to submit a proposal for a statute that is not needed but  only because he is under pressure to justify his salary or he is very misinformed about what is the e media and how it operates. Freedom cannot thrive in infertile soil.

Please note that his Excellency met on Friday with representatives of the major Lebanese e blogs, Tayyar, LF, Kataeb and Lebanonfiles in order to arrive at an agreement that is satisfactory to all the above. Not a single one of these, with the possible exception of Lebanonfiles, is an independent voice. May I even suggest that the Minister and all of these “traditional” voices have an interest in suppressing any new challenges to their hegemony? They are afraid of the individual blogs, the truly independent, and the real pamphleteers. That is what they are after and that is what they wish to suppress. It’s a pity when a government fears the real voices of its masses, those that have maybe 50,000 page views a year. What a shame.

  • 5thDrawer

    Amazing, eh? 😉 People can even see  things news never before reported, because it was so mundane. Now anyone can have the 15 minutes of fame … several times a month if they like riding bikes off a ramp and beating their balls off with crashed landings. Nothing fake there. 🙂
    Sometimes, the internet even works in Tripoli. 😉

  • 5thDrawer

    Amazing, eh? 😉 People can even see  things news never before reported, because it was so mundane. Now anyone can have the 15 minutes of fame … several times a month if they like riding bikes off a ramp and beating their balls off with crashed landings. Nothing fake there. 🙂
    Sometimes, the internet even works in Tripoli. 😉

  • 5thDrawer

    Amazing, eh? 😉 People can even see  things news never before reported, because it was so mundane. Now anyone can have the 15 minutes of fame … several times a month if they like riding bikes off a ramp and beating their balls off with crashed landings. Nothing fake there. 🙂
    Sometimes, the internet even works in Tripoli. 😉

  • 5thDrawer

    Well Gassan … I have a feeling everyone is just about ‘blogged out’ here. Even the one-liners are getting sparse. 😉
    But I think there is some feeling among many of us that we have stated our opinions, laid our philosophies out in many ways on several topics, and hopefully enlightened a few … but we become tired of repeating ourselves. Especially when nothing seems to change.
    And our thoughts disappear into the ether when a server needs to clear space.
    One thing we note about this electronic forum is it’s speed in disseminating information. Some brains can’t take it in fast enough, or become confused by the collection which is also too much. While some is irrelevant too, many have something to contribute to the process of the ‘thoughts’. Some just hate to read and understand what is actually being said.
    There are problems, once again with human nature.
    We think if it’s important and we said it, and got it out fast, then it should be acted upon just as quickly. There is also the idea – especially in younger brains – that the whole world took notice. Both being ludicrous conclusions to make.
    The literacy of people of the age that invented the computer came from written words in books. When you consider that 25% or so of only one country (Egypt) can’t read or write, how many are in the same boat in this world?
    And then, consider that perhaps only 25% of the world’s literate population actually have a computer, a generous(?) 15% of those really know how to use it, and perhaps 10% of those care about stating an opinion on anything beyond the price of groceries or gas. Where ARE the masses?
    Well … perhaps those masses are mostly the twits twittering little nothings of substance.
    The advent of the ‘pads’ – even to read books from – is not going to help us in this. How many really want to carry the damn thing around all day hoping someone will tell them something significant or send a love-note? And that is surely not most of the people over 30 – they are supposed to be busy working or raising the next generation.
    Far better, I think, to have a book on a shelf to reference, to ponder, to turn back a page or three to refresh and have continuity of thought from. I see the internet as a wonderful thing, indeed, but only one tool to be used properly.
    I fear for a ‘next generation’ even less competent to be doing this – or to understand what it is they vote for.

    • Ghassan Karam

      5thDrawer,
                    Thanks for a thoughtful response about the internet its potential ramifications and whether these changes are for the better.
                    Obviously each of these issues is important and has been discussed at length in all sorts of media. This was not my intention in the above short piece. To me the reaction of the Lebanese authorities regarding a new “medium” that is threatening to upset their control is to be expected. Unfortunetely their natural reaction of favouring that which they know is shortsighted and will fail just as it has failed in all countries that have tried it. Yes it is true that 1 out of 7 in the world is illiterate ; 1 billion individuals; but that is not the fault of the internet. Actually the cluster of innovations of the 1980’s which gave us the cell phone and the internet in addition to personal computing has empowered many of those that were marginalized , has revolutionized the way business is conducted the world over, has shrunk the world, and is revolutionizing education. Those that fear change do so at their peril. Events and developments will pass them by and often they become irrelevant.
                   One thing is certain, whether we like it or not, the pace of change has accelerated and will continue to do so. Actually scientists tell us that scientific discoveries and scientific knowledge is changing at an exponential rate and that we are currently at the elbow of the J curve. This simply means that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Each of these innovations and changes is taking place in an environment that is free, unencumbered and that enjoys a latest and the best of the developments of the internet. One thing is not debatable: technological determinism.

      BTW, I happen to agree with you that the feel of a physical book and the ability to just highlight phrases, write in the margins… is superior to an e book but then which would you rather do travel with a single volume or have access to 3500 of then through a tablet or e reader?:-) If you ask the youth then you will find out that the majority vote for e books. College bookstores are increasingly selling e text books and professors are making all their lectures available to internet users. Their are courses being offered for free by Stanford and others to as many as 55000 students at a clip online. That is an awesome development.

       

      • Prophettttt

        Ghassan,
        It’s a breath of a fresh air to discuss a subject that does not relate, directly, to Lebanese hopeless politics, extremists, dictators, killing, violence, and all the miseries that come with them.
        As always, great article Ghassan, and not much I can add, except for couple of thoughts, and personal experiences.
        The Internet is the most important development in the history of human communication since the invention of landline telephone. It became the go –to the point for the world when it came to exchanging and getting information.
        It is been said that knowledge is power, and no doubt, the internet has become the greatest tool in the history of humanity, except for religion and its institutions which seems to ,yet, to be extremely powerful and effective.
        Authorities, governments, and their institutions will continue to pass laws which will allow them to maintain some control on the way people access and exchange information through the net. Most countries, including Lebanon are trying to catch up with the speed of which technology is being developed. No matter what any government does, they can’t catch up.
        Gone are the days where a ministry of information or an intelligence department can control what people can read or watch. Good example, Jordanian authorities recently forced a Jordanian Newspaper to remove an article from the online version of that paper, criticizing the king. By the time it succeeded, Two million people had read it already.
        What is worth noting is how authorities, when they fail to suppress information, are using the net, in the same way citizens are using it, by creating their own information or disinformation outlets on the Net.
        Things that I miss are; grabbing that Newspaper early on a Sunday morning, waiting for my prescription magazine to arrive in the mail, and holding a hard copy book more often. Not to feel guilty, I still take my young girls (the older one has switched to the e-book already, lol) to the book store every couple of weeks, and I’m glad their school still requires them to read hard copies.

        • Ghassan Karam

          Prohettttt
                       I share your assesment in general. It is not easy for many of those that have been brought up using a certain gadget to move ahead and adopt a completely different one. Such migrations take time but history shows that once the new method becomes established then no one wishes to go back to the old procedure. Very few of those who live in developed countries miss standing in line at a DMV office in order to renew their drivers license or standing in line at a bank in order to cash a check not to mention the ability to invest from wherever they happen to be and to place an order whenever they feel like it. Medical records are neat and accurate and there is no need to have anything besides a dumb terminal since practically anything can be stored in the cloud. All of this and more within the past thirty years. Newspapers and magazines have to adapt if they are to be relevant and many have folded. Blogs have revolutionized the way we get our news and the way we share information. The world has become more democratic and change will continue at a break neck speed. If it ain’t broke dont fix it. I am not aware of any significant issues that have been brought about by the emedia that require government interference in Lebanon. 

          • 5thDrawer

            Seems I started this ’round … 😉 And I don’t like to say anything negative when it is a wonderful development in the tech stuff. But … did you ever try to get your auto-deposited money out of a bank when the electricity went out?

          • Ghassan Karam

            5thDrawer,of technical solutions since there are problems that do not lend themselves to technical solutions; they are purely behavioural.
                 In civilized societies electricity is never out!!!! Have you ever tried to go to a bank teller when electricity is out?

          • 5thDrawer

            Yes Ghassan … the drawers are auto-locked too. But I don’t think they could count the money without the machines anyway … hehehhe … some grocery stores are the same. 🙂
            Really, however, they don’t trust that they could actually write down transactions done while the electricity was out, and enter the numbers later without the human errors. Too much like ‘the old days’. Tsk. Not mentioning the labour costs, of course.

        • 5thDrawer

          Libraries can be VERY relaxing places. There’s something about settling into a chair surrounded by the thoughts of millions.

          • Prophettttt

            My own experiences with libraries are not to be shared on this forum,lol.
            But I used to enjoy bookstores,and had spent many hours  of my life getting lost  there.Bookstores,and especially old ones, were one of my hiding places,and I do miss that.I have read  many books at bookstores;Books , which I could not afford to buy at the time.Good memories,5th.

          • 5thDrawer

            You’re Welcome 😉

      • 5thDrawer

        Yah Ghassan .. I know … and I’ve been a computer junkie since the days of having to write my own programmes in basic. But I had to learn that from a book.
        Interestingly, I was just chatting with someone about the lack of basic math skills of university students …. can’t function without a device in their hands. Something about the cubic volume of cement needed ….
        And yah … I date myself having said that …. hahahahahaa

        • Ghassan Karam

          5thDrawer,
                        It is true that students do not know the multiplication tables anylonger but was it that important to know it by rote? Currently many of the 15 years old can do rather sophisticated things with their scientific TI 85’s and its HP counterpart from graphic functions to calculating some simple regressions.

        • 5thDrawer

          Well in my thinking, yes important. At certain ages, some things should be taught to activate a mind. And simple math – like spelling – which increases vocabulary and pronunciation when done by rote – can best be implanted by practice. The friend was talking about a simple home project – a sidewalk – and his expensively educated son apparently couldn’t figure out how to begin working on the problem without the calculator. But that might have been because he didn’t major in banking … 😉  I think basic algebra is handy to just KNOW too.
          Every-day simple all your life-through things don’t need calculus or a brainiac5 in hand. If you can’t figure out how much paint a room needs in your head, I think we have a problem. One day the electricity could go out, and the batteries only last so long. Or the fuel gauge dies on your car (electronics in vehicles have this curious propensity) and you are on a trip. You know the car milage ability having figured that out before. Do you now search desperately for the expensive mechanic, or fill it up then carry on while noting the miles? Did you really need the calculator for that?? Sad …
          (remind self to look into price of oil-pressure sensor this year – getting tired of the beep after some months)
          In future, I imagine the first beep from the car-computer will have people parking and walking – unless they can get a quick answer on the iPad. 🙂
          But speaking of quick, I know I can do some things faster in my head than my son can punch the buttons … when he can find the calculator that is. I worry for the grandchildren.
          Unless you can assure me the electricity will flow forever everywhere …. 😉

    • Ghassan Karam

      5thDrawer,
                    Thanks for a thoughtful response about the internet its potential ramifications and whether these changes are for the better.
                    Obviously each of these issues is important and has been discussed at length in all sorts of media. This was not my intention in the above short piece. To me the reaction of the Lebanese authorities regarding a new “medium” that is threatening to upset their control is to be expected. Unfortunetely their natural reaction of favouring that which they know is shortsighted and will fail just as it has failed in all countries that have tried it. Yes it is true that 1 out of 7 in the world is illiterate ; 1 billion individuals; but that is not the fault of the internet. Actually the cluster of innovations of the 1980’s which gave us the cell phone and the internet in addition to personal computing has empowered many of those that were marginalized , has revolutionized the way business is conducted the world over, has shrunk the world, and is revolutionizing education. Those that fear change do so at their peril. Events and developments will pass them by and often they become irrelevant.
                   One thing is certain, whether we like it or not, the pace of change has accelerated and will continue to do so. Actually scientists tell us that scientific discoveries and scientific knowledge is changing at an exponential rate and that we are currently at the elbow of the J curve. This simply means that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Each of these innovations and changes is taking place in an environment that is free, unencumbered and that enjoys a latest and the best of the developments of the internet. One thing is not debatable: technological determinism.

      BTW, I happen to agree with you that the feel of a physical book and the ability to just highlight phrases, write in the margins… is superior to an e book but then which would you rather do travel with a single volume or have access to 3500 of then through a tablet or e reader?:-) If you ask the youth then you will find out that the majority vote for e books. College bookstores are increasingly selling e text books and professors are making all their lectures available to internet users. Their are courses being offered for free by Stanford and others to as many as 55000 students at a clip online. That is an awesome development.

       

      • 5thDrawer

        Yah Ghassan .. I know … and I’ve been a computer junkie since the days of having to write my own programmes in basic. But I had to learn that from a book.
        Interestingly, I was just chatting with someone about the lack of basic math skills of university students …. can’t function without a device in their hands. Something about the cubic volume of cement needed ….
        And yah … I date myself having said that …. hahahahahaa

        • Ghassan Karam

          5thDrawer,
                        It is true that students do not know the multiplication tables anylonger but was it that important to know it by rote? Currently many of the 15 years old can do rather sophisticated things with their scientific TI 85’s and its HP counterpart from graphic functions to calculating some simple regressions.

        • 5thDrawer

          Well in my thinking, yes important. At certain ages, some things should be taught to activate a mind. And simple math – like spelling – which increases vocabulary and pronunciation when done by rote – can best be implanted by practice. The friend was talking about a simple home project – a sidewalk – and his expensively educated son apparently couldn’t figure out how to begin working on the problem without the calculator. But that might have been because he didn’t major in banking … 😉  I think basic algebra is handy to just KNOW too.
          Every-day simple all your life-through things don’t need calculus or a brainiac5 in hand. If you can’t figure out how much paint a room needs in your head, I think we have a problem. One day the electricity could go out, and the batteries only last so long. Or the fuel gauge dies on your car (electronics in vehicles have this curious propensity) and you are on a trip. You know the car milage ability having figured that out before. Do you now search desperately for the expensive mechanic, or fill it up then carry on while noting the miles? Did you really need the calculator for that?? Sad …
          (remind self to look into price of oil-pressure sensor this year – getting tired of the beep after some months)
          In future, I imagine the first beep from the car-computer will have people parking and walking – unless they can get a quick answer on the iPad. 🙂
          But speaking of quick, I know I can do some things faster in my head than my son can punch the buttons … when he can find the calculator that is. I worry for the grandchildren.
          Unless you can assure me the electricity will flow forever everywhere …. 😉

  • 5thDrawer

    Well Gassan … I have a feeling everyone is just about ‘blogged out’ here. Even the one-liners are getting sparse. 😉
    But I think there is some feeling among many of us that we have stated our opinions, laid our philosophies out in many ways on several topics, and hopefully enlightened a few … but we become tired of repeating ourselves. Especially when nothing seems to change.
    And our thoughts disappear into the ether when a server needs to clear space.
    One thing we note about this electronic forum is it’s speed in disseminating information. Some brains can’t take it in fast enough, or become confused by the collection which is also too much. While some is irrelevant too, many have something to contribute to the process of the ‘thoughts’. Some just hate to read and understand what is actually being said.
    There are problems, once again with human nature.
    We think if it’s important and we said it, and got it out fast, then it should be acted upon just as quickly. There is also the idea – especially in younger brains – that the whole world took notice. Both being ludicrous conclusions to make.
    The literacy of people of the age that invented the computer came from written words in books. When you consider that 25% or so of only one country (Egypt) can’t read or write, how many are in the same boat in this world?
    And then, consider that perhaps only 25% of the world’s literate population actually have a computer, a generous(?) 15% of those really know how to use it, and perhaps 10% of those care about stating an opinion on anything beyond the price of groceries or gas. Where ARE the masses?
    Well … perhaps those masses are mostly the twits twittering little nothings of substance.
    The advent of the ‘pads’ – even to read books from – is not going to help us in this. How many really want to carry the damn thing around all day hoping someone will tell them something significant or send a love-note? And that is surely not most of the people over 30 – they are supposed to be busy working or raising the next generation.
    Far better, I think, to have a book on a shelf to reference, to ponder, to turn back a page or three to refresh and have continuity of thought from. I see the internet as a wonderful thing, indeed, but only one tool to be used properly.
    I fear for a ‘next generation’ even less competent to be doing this – or to understand what it is they vote for.

    • 5thDrawer,
                    Thanks for a thoughtful response about the internet its potential ramifications and whether these changes are for the better.
                    Obviously each of these issues is important and has been discussed at length in all sorts of media. This was not my intention in the above short piece. To me the reaction of the Lebanese authorities regarding a new “medium” that is threatening to upset their control is to be expected. Unfortunetely their natural reaction of favouring that which they know is shortsighted and will fail just as it has failed in all countries that have tried it. Yes it is true that 1 out of 7 in the world is illiterate ; 1 billion individuals; but that is not the fault of the internet. Actually the cluster of innovations of the 1980’s which gave us the cell phone and the internet in addition to personal computing has empowered many of those that were marginalized , has revolutionized the way business is conducted the world over, has shrunk the world, and is revolutionizing education. Those that fear change do so at their peril. Events and developments will pass them by and often they become irrelevant.
                   One thing is certain, whether we like it or not, the pace of change has accelerated and will continue to do so. Actually scientists tell us that scientific discoveries and scientific knowledge is changing at an exponential rate and that we are currently at the elbow of the J curve. This simply means that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Each of these innovations and changes is taking place in an environment that is free, unencumbered and that enjoys a latest and the best of the developments of the internet. One thing is not debatable: technological determinism.

      BTW, I happen to agree with you that the feel of a physical book and the ability to just highlight phrases, write in the margins… is superior to an e book but then which would you rather do travel with a single volume or have access to 3500 of then through a tablet or e reader?:-) If you ask the youth then you will find out that the majority vote for e books. College bookstores are increasingly selling e text books and professors are making all their lectures available to internet users. Their are courses being offered for free by Stanford and others to as many as 55000 students at a clip online. That is an awesome development.

       

      • 5thDrawer

        Yah Ghassan .. I know … and I’ve been a computer junkie since the days of having to write my own programmes in basic. But I had to learn that from a book.
        Interestingly, I was just chatting with someone about the lack of basic math skills of university students …. can’t function without a device in their hands. Something about the cubic volume of cement needed ….

        • 5thDrawer,
                        It is true that students do not know the multiplication tables anylonger but was it that important to know it by rote? Currently many of the 15 years old can do rather sophisticated things with their scientific TI 85’s and its HP counterpart from graphic functions to calculating some simple regressions.

        • 5thDrawer

          Well in my thinking, yes important. At certain ages, some things should be taught to activate a mind. And simple math – like spelling – which increases vocabulary and pronunciation when done by rote – can best be implanted by practice. The friend was talking about a simple home project – a sidewalk – and his expensively educated son apparently couldn’t figure out how to begin working on the problem without the calculator. But that might have been because he didn’t major in banking … 😉  I think basic algebra is handy to just KNOW too.
          Every-day simple all your life-through things don’t need calculus or a brainiac5 in hand. If you can’t figure out how much paint a room needs in your head, I think we have a problem. One day the electricity could go out, and the batteries only last so long. Or the fuel gauge dies on your car (electronics in vehicles have this curious propensity) and you are on a trip. You know the car milage ability having figured that out before. Do you now search desperately for the expensive mechanic, or fill it up then carry on while noting the miles? Did you really need the calculator for that?? Sad …
          (remind self to look into price of oil-pressure sensor this year – getting tired of the beep after some months)
          In future, I imagine the first beep from the car-computer will have people parking and walking – unless they can get a quick answer on the iPad. 🙂
          But speaking of quick, I know I can do some things faster in my head than my son can punch the buttons … when he can find the calculator that is. I worry for the grandchildren.
          Unless you can assure me the electricity will flow forever everywhere …. 😉

  • Hannibal

    Ghassan,
    Bravo!
    I have been waiting for this article… and as an IT professional I have nothing to add.
    I have three questions:
    1. This Internet repression that the Lebanese Government is planning to sink its teeth into needs technical prowess if at all it is going to be effectively enforced. Even with the sophistication of China in this field, the Chinese Government is having a problem plugging all external doors and filtering all contents… Their Internet police is at 50,000 plus technologists. How on Earth is the Lebanese Government going to implement their digital reforms (said sarcastically)?
    2. Do you believe the U.S. should put a serious technology embargo on countries that suppress freedom of speech? Like preventing a company like CISCO from selling routers that can provide firewalling? and what are the ramifications of such a move?
    3. If you are familiar with LIRA… Does the document give the power to the government to let’s say block a web site hosted abroad?

  • Ghassan,
    Bravo!
    I have been waiting for this article… and as an IT professional I have nothing to add.
    I have three questions:
    1. This Internet repression that the Lebanese Government is planning to sink its teeth into needs technical prowess if at all it is going to be effectively enforced. Even with the sophistication of China in this field, the Chinese Government is having a problem plugging all external doors and filtering all contents… Their Internet police is at 50,000 plus technologists. How on Earth is the Lebanese Government going to implement their digital reforms (said sarcastically)?
    2. Do you believe the U.S. should put a serious technology embargo on countries that suppress freedom of speech? Like preventing a company like CISCO from selling routers that can provide firewalling? and what are the ramifications of such a move?
    3. If you are familiar with LIRA… Does the document give the power to the government to let’s say block a web site hosted abroad?

    • Hannibal, (1) It is clear to me that the Lebanese government has acted again amateurishly.  I would argue that Lebanon cannot hope to atract investments, develop a modern competitive sector and yet clamp down on free flow of information even if it can be done, which obviously they cannot do. Lebanon cannot afford to be portrayed as being hostile to the free flow of data and so they should not even try. As you have already mentioned, even China with all its technical expertise and yet they cannot control micro blogs.

      (2) My personal view is that the UN should set up an organ that will slap immediate embargoes on countries that violate the basic principles of the UDHR. I think that will be more effective than asking the US to do that unilaterally. Having said that, I do not think that the UN is about to set up such an agency and so I would like to see the US adopt a foreign policy that is guided by Human Rights, just like what Jimmy Carter tried to do. It will not be perfect  but will be better than not having such a policy.

      (3) I have read LIRA many times and one of my objections is the aura of amateurishness about the proposal. The author seems to have written a very general set of regulations that do not serve any purpose and has not dealt with the issue of what will happen to those registered abroad. The regulations do not even make a distinction regarding size of audience; that is why I mentioned the 50,000 page views.
      I doubt whether they have either the funds or the expertise to block blogs that originate outside the country. They must be told, if they do not already know this, that it is not productive to fight emerging technology especially when the regulations appear to serve no purpose whatsoever.

  • Prophettttt

    Ghassan,
    It’s a breath of a fresh air to discuss a subject that does not relate, directly, to Lebanese hopeless politics, extremists, dictators, killing, violence, and all the miseries that come with them.
    As always, great article Ghassan, and not much I can add, except for couple of thoughts, and personal experiences.
    The Internet is the most important development in the history of human communication since the invention of landline telephone. It became the go –to the point for the world when it came to exchanging and getting information.
    It is been said that knowledge is power, and no doubt, the internet has become the greatest tool in the history of humanity, except for religion and its institutions which seems to ,yet, to be extremely powerful and effective.
    Authorities, governments, and their institutions will continue to pass laws which will allow them to maintain some control on the way people access and exchange information through the net. Most countries, including Lebanon are trying to catch up with the speed of which technology is being developed. No matter what any government does, they can’t catch up.
    Gone are the days where a ministry of information or an intelligence department can control what people can read or watch. Good example, Jordanian authorities recently forced a Jordanian Newspaper to remove an article from the online version of that paper, criticizing the king. By the time it succeeded, Two million people had read it already.
    What is worth noting is how authorities, when they fail to suppress information, are using the net, in the same way citizens are using it, by creating their own information or disinformation outlets on the Net.
    Things that I miss are; grabbing that Newspaper early on a Sunday morning, waiting for my prescription magazine to arrive in the mail, and holding a hard copy book more often. Not to feel guilty, I still take my young girls (the older one has switched to the e-book already, lol) to the book store every couple of weeks, and I’m glad their school still requires them to read hard copies.

    • Ghassan Karam

      Prohettttt
                   I share your assesment in general. It is not easy for many of those that have been brought up using a certain gadget to move ahead and adopt a completely different one. Such migrations take time but history shows that once the new method becomes established then no one wishes to go back to the old procedure. Very few of those who live in developed countries miss standing in line at a DMV office in order to renew their drivers license or standing in line at a bank in order to cash a check not to mention the ability to invest from wherever they happen to be and to place an order whenever they feel like it. Medical records are neat and accurate and there is no need to have anything besides a dumb terminal since practically anything can be stored in the cloud. All of this and more within the past thirty years. Newspapers and magazines have to adapt if they are to be relevant and many have folded. Blogs have revolutionized the way we get our news and the way we share information. The world has become more democratic and change will continue at a break neck speed. If it ain’t broke dont fix it. I am not aware of any significant issues that have been brought about by the emedia that require government interference in Lebanon. 

      • 5thDrawer

        Seems I started this ’round … 😉 And I don’t like to say anything negative when it is a wonderful development in the tech stuff. But … did you ever try to get your auto-deposited money out of a bank when the electricity went out?

        • Ghassan Karam

          5thDrawer,of technical solutions since there are problems that do not lend themselves to technical solutions; they are purely behavioural.
               In civilized societies electricity is never out!!!! Have you ever tried to go to a bank teller when electricity is out?

        • 5thDrawer

          Yes Ghassan … the drawers are auto-locked too. But I don’t think they could count the money without the machines anyway … hehehhe … some grocery stores are the same. 🙂
          Really, however, they don’t trust that they could actually write down transactions done while the electricity was out, and enter the numbers later without the human errors. Too much like ‘the old days’. Tsk. Not mentioning the labour costs, of course.

    • 5thDrawer

      Libraries can be VERY relaxing places. There’s something about settling into a chair surrounded by the thoughts of millions.

      • Prophettttt

        My own experiences with libraries are not to be shared on this forum,lol.
        But I used to enjoy bookstores,and had spent many hours  of my life getting lost  there.Bookstores,and especially old ones, were one of my hiding places,and I do miss that.I have read  many books at bookstores;Books , which I could not afford to buy at the time.Good memories,5th.

        • 5thDrawer

          You’re Welcome 😉

  • Prophettttt

    Ghassan,
    It’s a breath of a fresh air to discuss a subject that does not relate, directly, to Lebanese hopeless politics, extremists, dictators, killing, violence, and all the miseries that come with them.
    As always, great article Ghassan, and not much I can add, except for couple of thoughts, and personal experiences.
    The Internet is the most important development in the history of human communication since the invention of landline telephone. It became the go –to the point for world when it came to exchanging and getting information.
    It is been said that knowledge is power, and no doubt, the internet has become the greatest tool in the history of humanity, except for religion and its institutions which seems to ,yet, to be extremely powerful and effective.
    Authorities, governments, and their institutions will continue to pass laws which will allow them to maintain some control on the way people access and exchange information through the net. Most countries, including Lebanon are trying to catch up with the speed of which technology is being developed. No matter what any government does, they can’t catch up.
    Gone are the days where a ministry of information or an intelligence department can control what people can read or watch. Good example, Jordanian authorities recently forced a Jordanian Newspaper to remove an article from the online version of that paper, criticizing the king. By the time it succeeded, Two million people had read it already.
    What is worth noting is how authorities, when they fail to suppress information, are using the net, in the same way citizens are using it, by creating their own information or disinformation outlets on the Net.
    Things that I miss are; grabbing that Newspaper early on a Sunday morning, waiting for my prescription magazine to arrive in the mail, and holding a hard copy book more often. Not to feel guilty, I still take my young girls (the older one has switched to the e-book already, lol) to the book store every couple of weeks, and I’m glad their school still requires them to read hard copies.

    • Prohettttt
                   I share your assesment in general. It is not easy for many of those that have been brought up using a certain gadget to move ahead and adopt a completely different one. Such migrations take time but history shows that once the new method becomes established then no one wishes to go back to the old procedure. Very few of those who live in developed countries miss standing in line at a DMV office in order to renew their drivers license or standing in line at a bank in order to cash a check not to mention the ability to invest from wherever they happen to be and to place an order whenever they feel like it. Medical records are neat and accurate and there is no need to have anything besides a dumb terminal since practically anything can be stored in the cloud. All of this and more within the past thirty years. Newspapers and magazines have to adapt if they are to be relevant and many have folded. Blogs have revolutionized the way we get our news and the way we share information. The world has become more democratic and change will continue at a break neck speed. If it ain’t broke dont fix it. I am not aware of any significant issues that have been brought about by the emedia that require government interference in Lebanon. 

      • 5thDrawer

        Seems I started this ’round … 😉 And I don’t like to say anything negative when it is a wonderful development in the tech stuff. But … did you ever try to get your auto-deposited money out of a bank when the electricity went out?

        • 5thDrawer,of technical solutions since there are problems that do not lend themselves to technical solutions; they are purely behavioural.
               In civilized societies electricity is never out!!!! Have you ever tried to go to a bank teller when electricity is out?

        • 5thDrawer

          Yes Ghassan … the drawers are auto-locked too. But I don’t think they could count the money without the machines anyway … hehehhe … some grocery stores are the same. 🙂

    • 5thDrawer

      Libraries can be VERY relaxing places. There’s something about settling into a chair surrounded by the thoughts of millions.

      • Prophettttt

        My own experiences with libraries are not to be shared on this forum,lol.
        But I used to enjoy bookstores,and had spent many hours  of my life getting lost  there.Bookstores,and especially old ones, were one of my hiding places,and I do miss that.I have read  many books at bookstores;Books , which I could not afford to buy at the time.Good memories,5th.

        • 5thDrawer

          You’re Welcome 😉

  • Fauzia45

    I agree for all those who do not accept change ¨will be swept away ¨,and will not survive for long!. As Darwin said,¨It is not the strongest of the species that survive but the most responsive to change¨.

    • 5thDrawer

      True Fauzia. But I note we can’t change much faster than the dinosaurs could … in fact, there’s still some of those in governments, but fewer all the time. 🙂

      • Fauzia45

        Yes it will take some time but eventually this few will go for they will not be able to adapt to this changing environment!

  • Fauzia45

    I agree for all those who do not accept change ¨will be swept away ¨,and will not survive for long!. As Darwin said,¨It is not the strongest of the species that survive but the most responsive to change¨.

    • 5thDrawer

      True Fauzia. But I note we can’t change much faster than the dinosaurs could … in fact, there’s still some of those in governments, but fewer all the time. 🙂

      • Fauzia45

        Yes it will take some time but eventually this few will go for they will not be able to adapt to this changing environment!

    • Fauzia,
                Traditional economies/societies resist change and end up in paying a high price for it. A simple example that comes to mind is that of yougurt. Many of the Middle Eastewrn socities have been used to the old method of making yogurt that we never ever thought of modernizing it and bringing up to the 21st century. What was the result? Well, France , the US and others have dominated this field that is worth 10’s of billions of dollars and that provides employments to 100’s of thousands of people world wide. A better example might be Humus, the US has fallen in love with humus and possibly babghanouj and tabouli. As a result they have created a modern industry to produce it that is < I understand, in the billions of dollars. The future belongs to the creative.

  • Sebouh80

    Let me point out that the term “creative destruction” was originally a Marxist economic theory and it is linked to the accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism.
    In the earlier work Marx, however, the idea of creative destruction or annihilation implies not only that capitalism destroys and reconfigures previous economic orders, but also that it must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth( whether through war, dereliction, or regular and periodic economic crisis) in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth.
    In Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942) the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter adopted and popularized this theory of economic innovation. He developed the concept out of careful reading of Marx’s thought ( to which the whole of Part 1 of the book is devoted), arguing that in part 2 that the creative forces unleashed by capitalism would eventually lead to its demise as a system. Despite this, the term subsequently gained popularity within neoliberal or free-market ideologues as a description of processes such as downsizing in order to increase the efficiency and dynamism of a company. The original Marxian usage, however, been maintained in the work of influential social scientists such as David Harvey, Marshal Berman, and Manuel Castells.
    Finally, Mr.Karam, You correctly mentioned in your closing article that Lebanese e blogs, Tayyar, LF, Kataeb are all part of the traditional voices that have strong interest in preserving the status quo.

  • Sebouh80

    Let me point out that the term “creative destruction” was originally a Marxist economic theory and it is linked to the accumulation and annihilation of wealth under capitalism.
    In the earlier work Marx, however, the idea of creative destruction or annihilation implies not only that capitalism destroys and reconfigures previous economic orders, but also that it must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth( whether through war, dereliction, or regular and periodic economic crisis) in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth.
    In Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942) the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter adopted and popularized this theory of economic innovation. He developed the concept out of careful reading of Marx’s thought ( to which the whole of Part 1 of the book is devoted), arguing that in part 2 that the creative forces unleashed by capitalism would eventually lead to its demise as a system. Despite this, the term subsequently gained popularity within neoliberal or free-market ideologues as a description of processes such as downsizing in order to increase the efficiency and dynamism of a company. The original Marxian usage, however, been maintained in the work of influential social scientists such as David Harvey, Marshal Berman, and Manuel Castells.
    Finally, Mr.Karam, You correctly mentioned in your closing article that Lebanese e blogs, Tayyar, LF, Kataeb are all part of the traditional voices that have strong interest in preserving the status quo.

    • Sebouh,
                  Clatton Christensen is another name that is strongly associated to the idea that often many of us become conservatives because we get used to an old way of doing things. He modified the Marxian/ Schuputerian phrase by calling it  “disruptive technology”. The internet is one of the most, maybe even the most disrutive that has come in a long time.