In most cases it would be a ‘D’, but nothing better than a ‘C’. This is the grade I give two articles written by David Kenner and another by Josh Rogin in ‘Foreign Policy.’ They both came to Bahrain to attend the 8th IISS Regional Security Summit (Manama Dialogue), which ran from 7 to 9 December, just few days ago.
What are my reasons for giving such a low grade to two articles published in Foreign Policy, a renowned global magazine of politics and economics? Is it because they simply wrote something bad about my country? Or is it because they simply wrote about something that I don’t necessarily agree with? The answer is neither.
There are many publications online and in print that discusses important political and economic topics, with each revealing to different audiences. Some publications already know their readership base, which entails them to ensure they remain attractive to their set of readers by publishing ‘readable’ articles. In each publication, they may add some outcast articles in increase their readership base or at least attempt to do so. These types of publications have a lot to juggle before committing to publish any article, mainly not to scare their loyal readers away. This method of satisfying your fans tends to take the genuine characteristics away, and to me it is tasteless.
Other more serious publications focus on content and quality articles in order to be more revealing to better quality audience or to be referenced in conferences and academic settings. This type of publication may be read by few today, but remain on vibrator mode for a long time, perhaps forever. These publications are more like what ‘Think Tanks’ produce in one page due to researching hundreds of them, which also carries a genuine character and an attitude more explained in ‘I write the truth, and I don’t care who reads it, as long as I have uncovered it.’
Foreign Policy magazine is not a newspaper, not Huffington Post, but looks more like a ‘Think Tank’. The articles it publishes usually are thorough and researched well, as well as written by well-informed authors. Unlike Huffington Post, where once I have met a journalist who majored in ‘Catholic Religion’ and ended up an “expert” in Middle Eastern Affairs within a couple of months of his graduation. Foreign Policy is different.
I myself have been a regular reader for Foreign Policy for a long time now. I’ve seen many quality articles, used them in both during my studies and while teaching International Relations at a local university here. Mainly because the difference between a quality article and a poor article is in the evidence the author uses to support his conclusion. There are many readers like myself who easily are able to notice if an author have already committed himself to a title and a conclusion, and then goes about searching for the evidence that would support his already chosen conclusion. This is exactly what both Josh Rogin and David Kenner have done in Foreign Policy.
As for Rogin’s “Kim Kardashian’s Bahrain milkshake diplomacy leaves a bad taste”, the article references a Taxi driver who clearly has extremely biased views, encouraging his son to do God knows what and be shot by police with a Shot Gun, then complaining about the pellets on his body. In Bahrain, we know what extremists do, they throw cocktail-made bombs on police, block roads with burning tires, or projectile sharpened metal rods on policeman. Referencing a supporter of these acts who somehow also complains about the U.S. not being on the side of these people is nothing short of disappointing to Foreign Policy magazine.
Here are two of the comments below the article:
“FP has gone the yellow journalism route ever since it was acquired by the Washington Post Co. in the late 2008.”
“For a magazine that focuses on “Foreign Policy” this is an incredibly lackluster and subpar article.”
The second article by David Kenner, a newbie in this field but lived in Lebanon for a couple of years, is titled “A Tale of Two Cities.” This article is a notch better than Rogin’s, but remains under par as well. If you live in Bahrain, you’d know where ideological extremists live, where die hard Hezbollah fans are. Just like any action-searching journalist, Kenner dove directly into these areas, in search for front-seated action. While Rogin went to Kardashian’s milkshakes to write about their bad taste, Kenner went to Sitra to falsely claim that ‘Anti-regime demonstrations are officially banned in Bahrain’ without stating that the ban is in fact to ‘all demonstrations’ after hundreds of policemen fell victims to orchestrated violence.
Here are two comments on this article:
“I would like to see just one report where someone interviews a policeman, always the same story being written in Bahrain”
“This ‘other side’ is quite heard. It is the other half that is often ignored and unheard, as the CP pointed out.”
All in all, these two articles would fit quite well in The Daily Beast or Washington Times, but not at all in prestigious Foreign Policy. The two authors went to Manama Dialogue and I expected some high-grade political analysis and forecasts about where this region is expected to go in the midst of Nuclear Proliferation and Domestic Arab Spring. I cannot hide the fact about how disappointed I am with Foreign Policy, wasting resources to produce shady and soon to be forgotten articles. As an academic in the field of Foreign Policy, I always strive to see progress, and this mishap unfortunately was two steps back.
You are so right — why couldn’t Rogin have just written about Ms Kardashian and those lovely milk shakes? It is so unprofessional of him not to see that this is the real Bahrain.
I think he should concentrate next time on writing about serious issues like triathlons.