Image by George via FlickrTo be perfectly honest, I'd rather have nothing to say about this at all, but I don't see how I can let it pass by now that it's been resolved, to most people's minds, appropriately.
The blog at www.al-emarati.com posted a hateful piece a few days back, based on the Mangalore plane crash. you can hear more about it in this podcast of the Dubai Today radio show yesterday, which I co-host every Tuesday. Jessica Swann and I talked to Samurai Sam, the shadowy figure behind the ever-central UAE Community Blog about the very issues raised by that venomous little blog. The whole issue raised an interesting ethical conundrum - how bad does it have to be before even people like myself and Sam, who believe passionately in free speech, agree that it's bad enough to be blocked?
I'm told that the al-emarati blog, although it looked as if it hosted several bloggers, was all the work of one man, a person who many bloggers will know as A Blessing in Tragedy. Sure enough, it certainly seemed that way stylistically, veering between interesting comment and bilious ranting. You'd start to worry about the stability of someone capable of that range in commentary rather than fiction.
There was a sizeable group of people calling for the Mangalore post to be blocked by the UAE regulator, the TRA. Although I appreciated people's strength of feeling (you'll just have to believe me when I tell you it was a truly horrible outpouring), I and others felt that blocking is not the solution to stuff that you don't agree with. Tellingly, the regulator's guidelines for blocking do not include incitement to race-hate. And I'm not sure how qualified we are, in the absence of a definition in law, to call that. If it doesn't actually break a law, blocking content is purely an emotional reaction and sets a dangerous precedent for obliterating opinion that we don't agree with - but that is vitally important for open debate.
However, it's been taken out of our wishy-washy pinko liberal hands. The blog has been deleted and now returns a 404 error. The URL had previously displayed the etisalat and du blocking messages, which rather made my heart sink. But now it's a 404. Whether that is because its author finally realised that he'd gone too far, or because Google had invoked US laws governing race-hate, we may never know.
But yes, I am very glad it's gone.