A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, October 19, 2009

King Mohammed VI and the "Streisand Effect"

There's an Internet phenomenon that even has its own Wikipedia entry: "The Streisand Effect." The Wikipedia article explains it as:
The Streisand effect is an Internet phenomenon where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be publicized widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no censorship had been attempted. Examples of such attempts include censoring a photograph, a number, a file, or a website (for example via a cease-and-desist letter). Instead of being suppressed, the information receives extensive publicity, often being widely mirrored across the Internet, or distributed on file-sharing networks.
We seem to have a classic case in Morocco. The government has shut down a weekly publication and jailed its editor for publishing an article about the King's health. I had never heard of the publication in question, or any recent rumors about the King's health, but now everybody from Reporters without Borders to the Committee to Protect Journalists to probably everybody else is criticizing the crackdown on the publication, and I find myself (as you doubtless will) wondering what's wrong with the King's health.

Yes, I get the whole concept of lèse majesté, that you just aren't supposed to talk about Kings (there was an earlier case where a paper was prosecuted for actually running a complimentary article that was considered to intrude on the King's privacy). But closing a publication and jailing the editor makes those of us outside the Kingdom more curious about the King's health. And since as far as a reasonable amount of Googling tells me, it's just that he's got a rotavirus, I don't get the big deal. I've had that. Is royal diarrhea the big offense, or is there something else going on here? See, you made me wonder. And I would never have heard this rumor if you hadn't cracked down on an editor.

Now, of course, those of you who follow this stuff may be aware that the King, back when he was Crown Prince, got some unfortunate European tabloid coverage that created some scandal, but I have no intention of resurrecting that. I'm just noting that if you don't want people speculating, stop shooting the messenger. More people are talking about his health right now than if the article had simply been ignored.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The dramas of the Moroccan court never cease to amaze, if not amuse.