Taking a break

BEIRUT — Hello everyone. Long time, eh? Sorry for the radio silence, but I really had to step away from the blog for a while. Emotionally, it was too much to do one’s best to cover the war here fairly while still maintaining a sense of truth, only to be flayed by people who accuse me of shilling for Hezbollah. Khalas, enough.
One thing I’ve learned from this war is that when it comes to Israeli-Arab relations, most people don’t want the truth: they want words that conform to their preconceived notions. I.e., that Israel is a aggressive, colonial construct with designs on the Litani’s water, or that Hezbollah is full of bloodthirsty savages who don’t deserve to live.
Neither or these caricatures is, of course, accurate. But subtlety doesn’t seem to have much place in the blogosphere anymore, where you get the most attention and the most hits by putting out whatever half-assed opinion one can muster. You only have to shout loudly enough and play to whatever audience you want to get the attention. Blogging these days seems to resemble bad vaudeville rather than thoughtful commentary.
I never wanted that from blogs. I had a vision of blogs standing alongside the so-called _mainstream media_ and being the garnish of a well-balanced media diet, as I said in a lot of radio interviews. I never thought of blogs as a replacement or actively hostile to the Big Guys. Considering my background, that would be ridiculous. I’m a journalist. I’m a proud mainstream media journalist. My background is with the Associated Press, the New York Daily News and TIME Magazine. I’m very proud to be associated with such publications now and in the past and I’m proud of the work they’ve done, with or without my contribution.
But now, it seems the blogosphere has become more concerned with “gotcha” politics and “fact checking your ass,” mantras by armchair photo analysts who have no clue about what happens in a war or how photographs are made and distributed. They just want to score points in what seems to be, at best, a debating club rather than real life and death situations. Congratulations, your team won. Yay. People are still dead, you know. It’s happened in Iraq and it’s happened here, and I don’t really feel like being part of that culture any more.
That said, I’m also proud of the work done on this blog, even in this war, despite some commentators saying I know nothing of Israel or that I only wrote what my “minders” let me. (For the record, there was never any “minder” from Hezbollah that I saw, and certainly not attached to me. Any reticence I exhibited was based on my my own judgment of the situation.)
Which brings up one of the frustrating things about reporting here — or anywhere in the Middle East, for that matter: knowing things but being unable to say them openly. Somethings have to be kept back for security reasons or you don’t want people to know you’ve been to places that would get you in hot water. The Israelis, for example, don’t much like seeing a passport with a lot of stamps from Arab states in it. They’ll hassle you. Hezbollah, likewise, probably wouldn’t look too kindly on a reporter who’d openly been to Israel.
This was a major obstacle in this war for me, but I’d hoped that my reputation and past record — which has been one of honesty, fairness and, yes, accuracy — would have carried me through. That was not the case, however, and a bunch of angry pro-Israel readers who didn’t know my work accused me of saying things that I didn’t know to be true. _This is not accurate on their part._ When I say something on this blog, it’s backed up by reporting. I may not always be able to openly source it — the rules of protecting sources or myself don’t change simply because the work is online — but I know what I’m talking about. Readers can accept that or not; I really don’t care any more.
Which is why I took a break. I got tired of defending myself to anklebiters who frankly had no idea what they were talking about. I got tired of going out every day, risking the life of my driver, translator and myself, only to be told I can’t do anything put parrot Hezbollah propaganda. It was insulting and it pissed me off. To all you people who think you could do better in a war zone, bring it on.
This will be the last entry on B2I Edition du Liban for a while. I’m working on a novel now and I want to focus on that and my other, professional work. I’m also going to focus on rebuilding a life here and taking care of the people I love. Something’s got to give and the blog — or what’s left of it — is it. I have realized that life is short.
To everyone who wrote asking if I was OK, thank you for your concern. It means a lot. But farewell, for now.

One Comment on “Taking a break”

  1. Chris Allbritton takes a break, tired of clueless critics

    This about sounds like my take on blogs c. 2004-2006: [S]ubtlety doesn’t seem to have much place in the blogosphere anymore, where you get the most attention and the most hits by putting out whatever half-assed opinion one can muster….