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jeudi 28 juillet 2011

Talking to "El General"

Foreign Policy has an interview with Hamada Ben Amor where he provides an interesting viewpoint on the Tunisian Revolution. Known as El General, he was arrested and interrogated in the days leading up to Ben Ali's departure.

The entire interview is interesting, but the key is the idea that people define themselves in multiple ways. He says: "I'm just a Tunisian citizen. I'm Muslim. I'm an African from a poor country. I'm proud of my heritage. I'm 21. I travel but I mostly stay in Sfax. My family is here. My parents have regular jobs; my mom owns a book store and my dad works at the local hospital. My girlfriend -- I call her my wife -- she's here."

This is important because it's very easy talking about people involved in current political events to essentialize them and stick them into neat categories that don't reflect reality. And it's even more important to have a good grip on reality because bad information leads to even worse decisions. Luckily, the internet provides a platform to access multiple sources of information, as well as allowing voices like El General's, to be heard.

None of this means that everything out there is true, or even that having access to multiple viewpoints can break a pundit out of tunnel vision. For a humorous take on confirmation bias, consult Sarah Carr's send-up of Thomas Friedman. She demonstrates exactly why relying on Western experts to "explain" other countries is a problem.