One of the most talked-about tools of the Arab Awakening is, somewhat ironically, Twitter.
Many have heralded its ubiquity as a force behind growing democratization in the Middle East.
But according to one prominent commentator in the region, its rancorous and unbridled verbal conflict shows “the virus of ignorance still exists.”
Writing in the opinion pages of Asharq Al-Awsat, Hussein Shobokshi argues that the way in which many Arabs have learned to use the social networking tool varies dramatically from that of their counterparts in the developed world.
Shobokshi hosts a weekly current affairs program on the TV network Al Arabiya. In 1995, he was chosen as one of the “Global Leaders for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum.
“In the Arab domain”, Shobokshi says, “Twitter discussions and tweets can take on a more unpleasant form; full of suspicion, accusations of treason, and sentiments of concern and insult. Consequently, various social ills are brought to the surface; from abhorrent sectarianism to racial hatred, blind fanaticism to glaring ignorance, all clearly reflecting the existing political, social and cultural reality.”
He asserts that governments seem quite comfortable with Twitter, because it provides a useful platform from which people can vent.