HAHA! Just discovered an 80s Jordanian pop band that sings in English and is called Hot Ice. Hani Jordan, one of the best youtube old video archivists brings us this gem from the 80s, taken from a French TV show, of a music clip for one of the band’s songs called you’ll never guess what, “Never After”! Even the video is shot in pretty old vintage Amman. AND IT ALL SOUNDS EXACTLY AS AWESOME AS YOU THINK! I WILL CHERISH THIS INTERNET GIFT FOREVER.
Originially published here: https://medium.com/@tarakiyee/online-privacy-is-a-corporate-invention-61a893436a8b
There is nothing private about the way we use the Internet. The act of posting something online without encryption is no different from shouting it on a crowded square. The concept of online privacy is purely a corporate invention, a way of normalizing the current practices, and is no way related to the concept of privacy, the act or ability of individuals or groups to express themselves and information about themselves selectively.
When we connect to the Internet, we connect to a vast network of devices that take our data and routes it as we wish, with no guarantees to privacy or secrecy. Social networking websites, and on a wider scale, all data-mining corporations, operate on a higher level of abstraction, providing us with the service of transporting our personal information and sharing it with others in the manner we wish, with a promise of secrecy as holders of this information. In fact, most of the services these corporations provide cannot function without this weird notion of virtual privacy, they need to be a third party that unnecessarily has access to said information.
The invention of online privacy, a pact of secrecy between the network and the user, facilitates these services, but as the corporation doesn’t only see the one user and their interactions, but the interactions of all of its users, it gains an interesting quality. This data becomes “mine-able” and suddenly gains great value. We trade the exclusive use of our data in this sense to these networks in exchange for the promise of secrecy.
This exclusivity satisfies one of the necessary conditions for this data to become a commodity for the corporation, a valuable raw material in a way. If it didn’t exist, then the value of this data is reduced to an ever decreasing function of storage plus bandwidth costs. This virtual “privacy” becomes a really important concept for the corporation to protect, as it becomes a business interest. The otherwise innocuous act of copying data becomes “stealing” because even though it’s “our data” only they have an exclusive right to use it.
When Facebook bought Whatsapp with 16 billion of its shares, we were angry, they bought 16 billion worth of our data with 16 billion more. Let’s stop defending online privacy and start advocating actual privacy practices on the Internet. The Internet is a public network and should always remain as such, if you want to transport information on that network privately, then you should use encryption, the network would provide you with secrecy only out of moral obligation, and anyone with in an interest in your data can only be stopped by encryption.
In conclusion, we can have privacy and use the internet, by using the proper kinds of encryption and not using data mining websites owned by corporations. We can develop and explore new paradigms in social networking, such as decentralization, that allow us to do what we do now but without having to sacrifice our privacy. Sure we might miss the targeted ads, and, well, the socially targeted ads… actually we probably won’t miss a thing.
A common adage in the region is that the Palestinians have been forgotten, especially in the post-Arab Spring world with Syria up in arms, and Egypt having a new revolution every couple of days. While there are legitimate tragedies happening all over the world, and they all deserve attention, a Palestinian film maker by the name of Dalia Abuzeid has decided to document the trials of a particular group of people that have suffered from decades of marginalization that still goes on today, in a place close to where I call home. In Jordan, there are 24,000 refugees from Gaza that live in a camp that’s just under a kilometer square big, 40 kilometers away from Amman. Refugees from Gaza. Gaza refugees are only given a fraction of the rights other refugees in Jordan enjoy. The restrictions have a debilitating effect on the quality of life in the camp, the unemployment rate in the camp is 43%, and 64% of the camp refugees live on less than $2 a day.
I’ll leave you to watch the introduction to the film project.
The director Dalia says on the page that she intends for the film project to have a direct impact on life in the camp, for the better. If you want to help, I want to direct you to the film project page on zoomal. The project is missing about $4300 dollars for it to be funded, if you can help that would be great. If almost 200 people contribute 20 dollars, they would meet their goal. Wouldn’t you pay that little to remember a great cause and support a great project?
The day the incredibly repressive ban on online news outlets was implemented in Jordan, as I was driving back home, I was listening to a radio interview with the head of the Press and Publications department. A ridiculously asinine comment by him triggered a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I knew starting then that this law is here to stay. In the next couple of weeks I tried to dismiss this feeling as a single instance of pessimism, but an entire month, and two public debates later, I’m sure that this is the first time I have a fairly accurate assessment on the situation of freedoms in Jordan. I’m no longer depressed, I’m angry, and I’m not going to be nice. If you’re looking for the kind of constructive debate, and indecisive pragmatism, you won’t find any here. This is purely a personal rant and should be treated as such.
This law is here to stay, and here’s why. The government is full of asinine and repressive officials. The head of the press and publications law is an example. They view freedom of speech as a personal freedom, something you do within your own personal sphere. They see no place for it in public discourse, and they still believe they can control that. For them, press should only have two point of views, one that carries the official government line, and one that carries the official government view of what opposition should say. Anything that deviates from these two poles is chaos. I have never seen another country that views press and journalists as a utility, comparing them to taxi drivers and doctors. Of course you need a government licence to operate as a journalist, otherwise everybody and their mother in law will start saying what they think about the country.
Then come the people who are responsible for ensuring such an infringement should never occur, our esteemed members of the Parliament. Lets not forget that they passed this law as part of their own personal vendetta against some of these websites, that continually attack them, when they deserve it and when they don’t. And since the parliament is really unpopular for many reasons, people tend to believe anything these websites say. Rather than work on gaining the trust of the people, by doing their jobs as elected officials, they would rather abuse their powers and repress the voices that come out against them. This is the parliament that couldn’t convene for the past two days and many more, because not enough parliamentarians bothered to attend. Counting on them to re-appeal the law is just equally foolish. Lets not forget that our current prime minister was one of the most vocal voices of opposition against this law when he was an MP, but he managed to do a flip worthy of an Olympic gold medal.
Which brings me to the community of people who are standing against this law, including myself. We’re stupid to believe the government when it said it won’t implement this law, or when it said it will implement it in good faith. I warned others but failed to take heed of my own warning when I said we should prepare for this ban. We were also stupid when we believed they wouldn’t censor blogs, but failed to realize that our government doesn’t know what blogs are. When I’m wearing my civil society hat or my Internet freedom activist hat, I tend to be as toothless as a new born. We’re few, and we’re outnumbered and we’re fighting an incredibly unpopular cause. Because other than a few respectable journalistic institutions that took a brave stand against this law, the rest of the ‘respectable’ institutions either capitulated to the government’s will, or are seedy yellow press that will never be popular for their dirty tactics. Let me be clear that my personal opinion on these websites doesn’t mean that they deserve any less freedom than anybody else, but it’s a really difficult cause to sell, because this country at large is incredibly good at justifying repression.
I’m really tired of continuing this charade of pretending that this law is a case of eroding freedoms. Freedom of the internet in Jordan was never a guaranteed thing, and the only reason it took 18 years for the government to finally censor the Internet is purely a byproduct of the fact that the repressive elements in our society and government are lazy, inefficient, and most of the times, stupid. The enemies of the free Internet in Jordan have finally showed their faces, and they are many, and they run this entire establishment. While I still believe in his majesty the King’s commitment towards reforming Jordan into a democracy, I sometimes wonder why these repressive elements continue to be sponsored and entrusted with a task that they are fundamentally against. I’ve honestly reached a point where I’m starting to question whether it’s all worth it to try and be part of this system, my commitment to Jordan isn’t a commitment to it’s sand or it stones, it stems from my believe in the values of our constitution, and if this constitution is reduced to just ink on paper, I am left with no choice but to seek another country that gives a damn about freedoms and democracy.
Oh, and if someone from the Press and Publications department is reading this, this is an example of a website that should be blocked under the law. But it isn’t, because you’re a bunch of inefficient and stupid censors.
On the third day of Al Balad Music Festival (f, t), I was lucky to attend two concerts by Tamer Abu Ghazaleh and Maryam Saleh. In it’s third iteration now, Al Balad Music festival started in 2009, as an effort to present independent musical acts from the Arab world to the Jordanian audience. The festival venue is the renovated Odeon in Amman, a ancient Roman theater. What was interesting about the concert venue is the incredible acoustics, where the sound would be blaring inside the theater, but barely audible once you step out the door, which speaks volumes about the architecture skills of the ancient Romans.
The first act for the day was Tamer Abu Ghazaleh, with his unique brand of Arabic Alternative music. As a vocalist, he shows amazing dexterity in shifting through various accents, tones and styles to deliver a remarkable variety of songs that he has composed, but written by a plethora of Arab literary icons, most notably the famous Arab poet Najeeb Al Suroor. Tamer echoes a forgotten voice of Arab music that was buried by decades of extremism and gentrification.
However, the main dynamic in the performance was the constant struggle between Tamer’s oriental instruments, his Oud and Buzzok, and the classical rock instruments, the bass, drums, and keyboards, all manned by accomplished musicians in their own rights. While the rest of the band would play together in harmony, even laughing and giving each other glances on stage, Tamer would stand alone with his chest out, holding his Oud unconventionally like a punk rocker would, vying to carve his own music out of the noise of rock. It’s a refreshing brand of Oriental fusion, unlike the norm where the Oud or Buzzok would bow for a mere complementary role. It’s in this dynamic of dissonance and the rebellious lyrics that the band was able to manifest the complex post-Arab Spring gestalt, making Tamer Abu Ghazaleh a live act that’s not to be missed.
The highlight of the show was the performance of the song “Breaking News”, the one in the music video below.
Follow my blog for the next part, where I review the amazing Maryam Saleh’s concert.
Today Jordan’s private TV channel Ro’ya decided to cancel hate cleric Amjad Qourshah’s show that was scheduled this Ramadan, after overwhelming public pressure. People’s objections varied between being against his sectarian calls for violence, referring to Arab Idol fans for celebrating Mohammad Assaf’s victory as heretics, and because of his attacks against pro-regime loyalists, and what they perceive as attacks against the Kingdom’s army and security forces. His recent public outbursts on his Facebook page all contributed to his fall out of popularity in the country, just a year ago he was being touted as a shining beacon of moderate Islam in the country, and his shows on TV and Youtube were very popular, especially among the youth segments.
It didn’t take long for Qourshah to respond, with another classic outburst on his Facebook page. He started off with congratulating the “Zionists” and “Lucifer” for winning this round, conceding that he has lost a large segment of Arab youth to their evil schemes. He then went on on a longer rant, mostly about Arab Idol, claiming that Palestinians have sold 65 years of misery for one night of debauchery in celebrating Mohammad Assaf’s victory. He also said that this is the same kind of brainwashing Christians in Andalusia did, eventually leading to the slaughter of Muslims there like sheep. To further prove his point, he also highlighted the Ottoman annexation Constantinople, as an example of when we “broke the will of the enemy”. He finished his rant saying that God’s victory is coming, and that we have to be prepared when it happens, and the only way to be prepared is to read the Quran and for women to be pious.
I did my best to translate the rant while preserving the right amount of crazy in it. I’m not sure how well Christian Jordanians will take to being described as the enemy. I’m relieved that his TV show got cancelled, but this is a lecturer at Jordan’s biggest university, and he still has a lot of support in Jordan, as of this moment his rant amassed 3000 likes in less than 3 hours. I think we need to apply more public pressure so that a man like this can longer poison the minds of our youth with his hate speech.
A local video production by ShooFeeTV brought out the ire of many parliamentarians in Jordan. The video heavily criticizes the performance of the Parliament in the recent years in a National-Geographic-esque mockumentary. MP Rula Alhroub, a former actress and media personality, heavily criticized the video, and demanded that the Parliament must contact YouTube to remove the video, because allowing such videos would make the parliament lost it’s prestige and lessen it’s social standing.
On the other hand, MP Dr. Mustafa Alhamarneh gave a rare ferocious defense of freedom of speech, saying that creatives have a right to produce content and express themselves freely. He reminded MP Alhroub that her request would be considered media censorship and that we should help and support creative youth rather than oppress and censor them. To my personal surprise, the parliament ended up taking MP Dr. Alhamarneh’s suggestion and decided against asking YouTube to stop broadcasting the video.
Kudos to Dr. Alhamarneh for being a champion of free speech, I feel much better knowing someone like him is under the dome. Here is a link to the video: