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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Looking at the bright side of Dubai

The story 'The Dark Side of Dubai' apparently wasn't the parody I had hoped it to be, however, while I was disappointed to see The Independent (a paper I have written for before - on Dubai) print such an appalling piece, I'm pleased to see that in an effort to provide some balance they have printed Emirati columnist Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi's 'If you think Dubai is bad, just look at your own country' (although Dubai of course is not a country, it's a city-state or emirate). Also see the reprint of the story at The Huffington Post just to read the articulate comment from SAS. You might also want to read Al Qassemi's piece 'Looking at the bright side of Dubai' in Arabian Business. The British government's response to Hari's piece, the BBC's recent Panorama story on Dubai, and a slew of other stories, is also interesting - read 'UK Government distances itself from Dubai criticism', the result of a Foreign Office-organized press conference in Dubai, which has appeared in a number of publications. It will be fascinating to see if the debate continues in the media, especially the news media. We all know media organizations have agendas. Editors carefully weigh up whether and how to run with stories. Essays like Hari's don't slip in accidentally. So it will be interesting to see if and how this discourse impacts the travel media where advertising plays a powerful and pivotal role. Airlines like Emirates and Etihad spend huge dollars on advertising.


Sandy O'Sullivan said...

This nearly redeems The Independent. More than the poor reporting, it was the first thing that sprang to mind for me too... the ridiculous irony of a UK paper popping up with this kind of rhetoric.

Thanks so much for posting this, and providing the commentary. I've felt so out of the whole discussion and this is just a lovely summary of what has been a really mean-spirited discussion.


Lara Dunston said...

Thanks, Sandy, but sadly The Independent then went and published this:

I was in two minds about posting the link. RupertNeal's comment seems to be the only sensible one so far.

Seabee said...

I have to disagree with you about Sultan's response to Hari's articles. In Arabian Business he got it right but the 'Dark Side Of Britain' was the worst possible way to respond.

As I said in my blog post on it, he had the opportunity to point out the inaccuracies and the fact that the people Hari presented as the norm were in fact the tiny majority. Instead he descended to the same level as Hari. It's also given Hari the opportunity to say 'I must have been right because he couldn't refute my claims'

Erica said...

How come you were disappointed by the piece in The Independent? It was appalling for sure, but I assumed they shared nothing else but the truth.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Seabee

Had Hari have written a more intelligent, balanced, objective, better researched, and better thought-out piece, I would hope that Sultan might have responded in a more considered manner.

But Hari's article was just a convoluted attack on Dubai from a writer who says in the article he hates Dubai - by admitting that and by not providing balance and objectivity, he's abandoning the key principles of journalism, so therefore the article only deserves the response it got in my opinion.

Hari's was a very long piece - he was given an extraordinary amount of space, far more than most writers - and he blew it. But then that's the kind of writer he is - he's not an investigative reporter. Look at his body of work. He's a shit-stirrer essentially, provocative for the sake of being provocative - it's all about generating hits, that's all.

I would love to see a writer like Robert Fisk tackle the same issues.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Erica

One of the problems is that it was not just 'the truth'. There were several factual and historical inaccuracies, which demonstrates that he didn't do his research. It therefore leads me to doubt other areas of research. A writer who is lax in one area is generally lax in others too.

He is also presenting just 'one truth' - that of the people who hate Dubai and who have had unfortunate experiences in Dubai. I know of thousands of people who do not have these experiences and who love Dubai, but why doesn't he talk to any of us? Many of my friends have lived there for 5, 10, 15 and 25 years even - they absolutely love it - if they didn't, they would have left long ago. The foreign population of Dubai is over 80% - do you think all of those people hate the place? If they did, then why don't they leave? The case he presents is just that of a percentage of the population so it is not the complete truth. It's a distorted perspective.

And as Sultan tries to point out... anyone could go to any city and find a bunch of people who hate it and present their opinions only to make the case that everyone hates that particular place. What's the point? Obviously Hari has his own agenda.

Fly Brother said...

Here's an article on Dubai from today's 'The Economist' that appears to be both realistic and positive:

Lara Dunston said...

Thanks for the link - it's good to see a balanced, well-researched, and thoughtful piece of journalism. That article tells it like it is - a very different take to the Hari piece, isn't it? Thanks!