Sunday, January 17, 2010

Forgotten Country

With the escalation of violence linked to Al Qaeda operations in Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, many Americans have forgotten about recent war zones for U.S. troops, but their governments do have web presences, and yesterday's New York Times had two stories about governments with suspect human rights and civil liberties records either making a show of participating in Western-style deliberatory democracy or seeming to subverting it.

"Recasting Serbia’s Image, Starting With a Fresh Face" tells the story of the young Foreign Minister who seems to represent the country's recent desire for reconciliation with the United States and the world community and its wish to join the European Union, even if the country still is attempting to block the independence of Kosovo.

The style of thel English version of the official government website of Serbia is not only significantly different from the pages in the nation's native languages, but it also shows a progressive face to the world with a icon in the browser window. International sports events, charts showing the economics of globalization, and appeals that make the case for Serbia joining the European Union are all attention-getting elements of the page. However, the English front page also includes a link to a page called "Kosovo is Serbia," which shows links to pathos-oriented and fear-inspiring pages about "Albanian terrorism and organized crime" and the "March pogrom 2004."

At the same time, the NYT tells us that Iraq is backsliding on its democratic promises by barring many Sunni candidates. Not knowing Arabic, the visual rhetoric of the official page for the Iraqi cabinet is hard to read. (The page for Iraqi president Talabani provides links alongside the CNN logo.)

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