Friday, April 10, 2009

Catching people's interest

It's fascinating which stories catch people's attention.

The latest example is Johann Hari's piece in The Independent - another in the increasing number of articles called 'dark side of Dubai'. Not only is Johann's article being quoted or reprinted around the world, the blogosphere is buzzing with it too.

I commented on the article on Tuesday and the traffic to 'Life in Dubai' has trebled, the majority of the additional visitors arriving at that posting.

Not since my piece on Andy and the Redundancy Porsche has one of my postings attracted so much interest.

Yesterday the New York Times Freakanomics column reported on and linked to The Independent's article, and they also link to 'Life in Dubai' saying: "It’s the dark side of Dubai, though at least one Dubai-based blogger thinks the piece is overkill."

It's obviously attracted their readers' interest because several hundred of them so far have hit the link to come here. A random check tells me they're from all over the world - throughout the US and Europe, from Canada, across Asia, the sub-Continent, even Dubai.

(Welcome NYT readers, I read your paper every day so it's nice to have you here too).

I'm also getting more visitors than usual arriving onto that posting from sites such as Dubizzle, where it's also attracting many more comments than my other posts.

From Los Angeles, Xeni Jardin posts Johann's article on on BoingBoing, which is also attracting a lot of comments, and an anonymous commenter says "Another counterpoint to this article:" followed by a link to my posting. Visitors are starting to arrive from that too.

Blogging from Norway, Paul Chaffey talks about and links to the article. He also links to my post about it and, again, that's attracting visitors.

I suppose the activity reflects a number of things. The interest there is in Dubai all around the world. The fascination people have with bad news stories. The popularity of the current bash-Dubai bandwagon. The tall poppy syndrome.

As a passing thought, I'm pleased that commentators are not only linking to the original story but are also linking to pages which are critical of it, such as mine in which I wrote about the pre-determined bias of the article and its sloppy journalism.

Whatever the story, we need to be aware of both sides of it. With that thought you may be interested in other sides of the story relating to Johann's article, and to the equally well-reported BBC Panorama programme on construction labour camps.

Sultan Al Qassimi says his words were "taken out of context and butchered" in the article. That he was wearing a 'Ralph Lauren shirt' was a figment of the writer's imagination he says, a small detail but it does suggest embellishment for effect.

You can read his response in here, in Arabian Business.

I'd also be interested to hear from friends of the Canadian Karen who according to the first section of the article has been living in her Range Rover in a car park for several months. Or from these people or their friends: 'All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars'.

It would be nice to verify the claims, to find out the full story, establish the truth.

Then there was the BBC programme about the way workers are treated by Arabtec, one of our larger construction companies. The CEO has also been in Arabian Business disputing the allegations. That rebuttal you can read here.

Your reaction may well be 'well he would say that wouldn't he'. So who do you believe? I suppose the truth may be somewhere in the middle, as it so often is.


CG said...

I have not encountered anybody sleeping in cars.
In fact, everyone I know says the same.

Weird or what?

Seabee said...

Same here CG, yet Johann 'found' one in a hotel car park.

Likewise at the airport - I've seen many people sleeping there, but they're not 'maxed out expats', they're people waiting for flights, as you get at airports around the world. Can you imagine the security forces allowing people to live at the airport?

And living in the dunes? I've seen people camping at weekends, and having picnics, but living in the desert?

One World Travels said...

Yes, the camping in the dunes part was definitely fishy. I really would like to see anyone mad enough to try that without any bare necessities to fall back on!

- Casey Andrews

Megan Knight said...

Johann Hari is an extremely well-respected journalist: one of the best foreign correspondents around. The Independent is a highly reputable newspaper - more so than the Times or Guardian when it comes to balance and foreign coverage. I have absolute faith that every word and fact in Hari's articles was checked, verified and is true, down to the make of shirt people were wearing.

Not all journalists are the kind of useless hacks and PR-pushers employed by the likes of Emirates Toady and the Gulf News.

Seabee said...

Megan: I have absolute faith that every word and fact in Hari's articles was checked, verified and is true.

Your faith is touching but totally misplaced I'm afraid.

Examples of blatant untruths:

"The wide, smiling face of Sheikh Mohammed Рthe absolute ruler of Dubai Рbeams down on his creation. His image is displayed on every other building"..."He dominates the Manhattan-manqu̩ skyline, beaming out from row after row of glass pyramids and hotels"

The very beginning of the article. A lie. Sheikh Mohammed's image is on very few buildings in the entire city.

In the 'Tumbleweed' section (we have no tumbleweed here):

"The British quit, exhausted, just as oil was being discovered, and the sheikhs who suddenly found themselves in charge faced a remarkable Sheikh Maktoum decided to use the revenues..."Factual eror - it was Sheikh Rashid, Sh. Maktoum's father who was Ruler at the time.

In the highly questionable 'Karen' section:

"All over the city, there are maxed-out expats sleeping secretly in the sand-dunes or the airport or in their cars."Simply not true. People sleep at the airport, as they do in airports all over the world, because they're in transit and waiting for their flight. Security would not allow people to live at the airport. People picnic and camp in the desert, they do not live there. There are not even any Beduin living in the desert.

In the Mall section:

"Every road has at least four lanes"As anyone who's been to Dubai knows, this is a lie.

And then of course there are the numbers which don't add up. For example: "Daniel was sentenced to six months' imprisonment...I have to last nine months until he's out, somehow."

This, and much more, demonstrates that: "every word and fact in Hari's articles was checked, verified and is true" is not the case.

If you're interested to read a line-by-line critique of the original article I recommend that you go here.There's a brilliant parody, too, demonstrating the bias and inaccuracies of Hari's article,