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Where is Salam?
April 19, 2003 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Where is Raed Salam Pax? Writing under the pseudonym 'Salam Pax' (words meaning 'peace', in both Arabic and Latin), a Baghdad resident provided a personal point of view on what was going on. However, the blog hasn't been updated since March 24th. Has the worst happened?
posted by robzster1977 (29 comments total)

 
There's still no phone service in many parts of Baghdad. Considering the relatively light civilian casualties, it's more likely that Salam Pax just doesn't have access. Just doing the maths here, even if only 10% of Baghdadis (pop. 4.8 million) don't have phone service anymore and we use the very worst estimate of casualties, he is about 250 times more likely to have lost his phone line than have been killed. So, it's not impossible, but there's a much more likely explanation for his silence.
posted by Bletch at 6:40 AM on April 19, 2003


IIRC all Iraqi Internet connectivity was through the Ministry of Information. This was bombed repeatedly and I suspect like all government buildings in Iraq what was left of it has been stripped bare by looters.
posted by vbfg at 6:52 AM on April 19, 2003


*pictures jubilant liberated iraqi pushing oxcart full of cisco routers*
posted by quonsar at 6:55 AM on April 19, 2003


Of course, there is also the Den Beste speculation...
posted by billsaysthis at 8:14 AM on April 19, 2003


I've received communication from two people who say they know Salam Pax and they ask that he not be found and that his privacy be respected. -- Jeff Jarvis; one of the two is probably Diane, who apparently herself had blog/life intersection difficulties and has gone offline again.

Meanwhile, Den Beste has a theory of his own, though others gave him information that undermines it. Also, a Command Post thread with many different opinions. My own is that by March 24 the regime had other things to worry about, and that's also the same point at which the internet service was disconnected from the outside (i.e. the Coalition found a way to get it shut off or otherwise broke it).

I would also put his death in a military unit due to conscription higher than being a civilian casualty or targeted by the regime.
posted by dhartung at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2003


Raed Rokan Al-Anbuge is Salem Pax.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:33 AM on April 19, 2003


Salam Pax is Kacyee Nicole.
posted by Ljubljana at 9:10 AM on April 19, 2003


dhartung, I have seen no news that Iraqis were conscripted - or, indeed, that the majority of the Iraqi Army even saw combat - during the short ground campaign. As long as the phone lines stay down there's no need to invoke more complex explanations than "Salam can't access the Internet". There also seems to be pretty good evidence that the blog is genuine (Salam previously sent someone mail from Iraq).
posted by Bletch at 9:26 AM on April 19, 2003


I am Professor Fate!
posted by planetkyoto at 9:30 AM on April 19, 2003


Sorry, that wasn't particularly relevant. It is so easy to be cynical, postmodern "everything's a sham, make sure you've sarcastically dismissed it all" way.
I sincerely hope that Salam emerges and takes his rightful place as a weblog chronicler of the reconstruction, reconciliation, whatever happens from here.
posted by planetkyoto at 9:38 AM on April 19, 2003


(Salam previously sent someone mail from Iraq).

Correction: Salam previoulsly sent someone mail from Iraq-based public proxies. They were open proxy servers that anyone who knew of their existence could have also used to relay mail. It's mentioned in the linked article on Paul Boutin's site that he could log on and relay mail through it.

Again, I think he's probably for real, and probably alive but without connection, but the same things that keep him anonymous and alive in a repressive regime also happen to allow a person to fake the whole thing.

Speaking as the devil's advocate, there are several things that could possibly have happened/be happening here:

1. if he was faking it from an apartment in Ohio, he wouldn't post again until he could get to another proxy server in iraq.
2. if he or someone else gave out information about his whereabouts, he could have been found by the Iraqi gov't and killed.
3. His net service is gone, so he just can't post anymore and is safe and sound in Iraq.
4. He was the high profile person arrested on the 25th in NY.

Numbers 2 and 4 seem highly unlikely to me. There was a full ground campaign going and I doubt if taking one blogger kid out was much of a priority during the war. It also seems unlikely that someone from Iraq that was also named Raed would be the guy. It's just a coincidence of the name and the date of arrest.

Numbers 1 and 3 seem more likely, though I really, really hope it's number 3. I would love to hear about the regime change through the eyes of someone directly affected by it all, instead of from second-hand reports by journalists. Will Salam's life be better from here on out. What will true democracy be like in everyday life there? I'm dying to know what the person has to say, if they're alive and well, and just without net connectivity.

I haven't been following this with a fine toothed comb, but I'm curious what people are referring to when they claim that someone gave out too much information on Salam, as I must have missed that (den beste says "a monumental fuckup by one blogger" could have led to his death).
posted by mathowie at 9:40 AM on April 19, 2003


mathowie, I mean Salam sent someone actual real paper mail from Iraq and everything. Now, there isn't a picture of the letter or anything like that, but the lady in question, who seems to be well known in the weblog community, seems convinced despite initial skepticism. Now, if Salam were a fake, a postcode and stamp forgery on mail rules out all but a very well-financed propaganda operation here. I don't see how someone in an Ohio apartment could possibly pull that off. And if (tinfoil hat time) the Mossad or the CIA or MI5 or Iraqi Intelligence were behind it, why? Salam didn't say anything that would promote any of their motives in Iraq. He didn't talk about how life under Saddam was an unending misery and how he longed for American liberation. And he didn't praise Saddam either. Saying that Salam is "probably for real" seems to understate the evidence for his veracity, if anything. There's much more evidence that he's real than that there are WMD's in Iraq or that bin Laden was behind 9-11, for a start. :-)
posted by Bletch at 10:03 AM on April 19, 2003


this morning on npr, they reported that there still is no electricity in baghdad. that seems a fairly reasonable starting point for explaining lack of internet access.

only a blogger could think a blogger could do things that get someone killed. oh yeah, obviously the internet intelligence wing of a crumbling 3rd-world dictatorship (under real-life attack from real-life laser-guided bombs) was listening in . . . where does this longing for WarGames-like intrigue come from?
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:20 AM on April 19, 2003


where does this longing for WarGames-like intrigue come from?

It begins with self-importance, and it ends with self-obsession.
posted by dhoyt at 10:54 AM on April 19, 2003


[comment consisting entirely of baseless speculation]
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:58 AM on April 19, 2003


Salam Pax is Steven Den Beste. He's just creating a get-out.
posted by riviera at 12:31 PM on April 19, 2003


i've always regarded sdb as more of a shut-in.
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:47 PM on April 19, 2003


Where is Kyser Soze?
posted by stbalbach at 1:58 PM on April 19, 2003


SDB writes "After what can only be thought of as a monumental fuckup by one blogger (and no, I don't care to go into details, and don't write and ask) a certain site stopped being updated, and there was serious fear that its author had become one of the last victims of Iraq's secret police and was probably dead."

Anyone know what the "monumental fuckup" was?
posted by trharlan at 2:14 PM on April 19, 2003


The Village Voice knows:
Monday, March 24, was also the day that The New Yorker published a Talk of the Town piece offering many more details about the Baghdad Blogger than had previously seen print. Diane was the main interview source for the story, which focused on the friendship of two secret bloggers. The piece's author, Daniel Zalewski, a senior editor at the magazine, chose to include a full dossier of personal details about Salam's life and history, including the contents of an email Salam had sent Diane headed "Things I Shouldn't Tell You." This included facts about his family background, upbringing and education, social class, his job, his religious beliefs and his personal life—which won't be repeated here.
posted by xiffix at 7:11 PM on April 19, 2003


Huh. That's what I get for letting the New Yorker pile up unread. I bet I just threw that issue out with this week's recycling, too.
posted by padraigin at 10:21 PM on April 19, 2003


Before we go investing all kinds of emotions into this alleged Iraq blogger and his possible state of life why don't we take a trip down memory lane and try and forge some perspective on all of this:

Is it possible that Kaycee did not exist (BTW, the best. metafilter. thread. ever.):
sure, it might not be real. does it really matter?
posted by moz at 10:15 PM PST on May 18


[gotta love how people respect truth and skepticism. Oh, and it turned out cynically manipulating the emotions of lots of people really does matter. Who woulda' thought? -dgaicun]


It seems much too elaborate to be faked. . .It doesn't seem possible.
posted by mathowie at 11:19 PM PST on May 18


STOP! STOP!! STOP!!!

this is deplorable. it's making me sick to my stomach!...as far as i am concerned, all the cynics can go to hell.
posted by bwg at 11:30 PM PST on May 18


Was she real to you? Did her story touch your heart? Isn't that what matters?...Reality is subjective anyway.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:59 AM PST on May 19


[AHHHHHH *bangs head against wall* *jumps off cliff*]


There is no amount of physical tangible evidence which would ever satisfy the doubts of some cynics. They would be as blind to it as they are to the light from Kaycee's heart which streamed through each of her journal entries.
posted by coldmarble at 7:07 AM PST on May 19


...I'm 99.9% sure this is not a hoax at all (like I'm 99.9% sure that gravity pulls things down towards earth).
posted by mathowie at 2:07 PM PST on May 19


[whew! jumping off that cliff wasn't as bad as it could have been]


...this thread is a convention of ghouls...BWG says she existed. Halcyon says she existed.
That's good enough for me.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 4:31 PM PST on May 19


[good enough for me, time to start shouting down the nay-sayers. ]


don't any of you have anything better to do then this. Hoax or not people are greiving. Leave them be.
posted by freethinker1 at 7:40 PM PST on May 19


[yep - look at the name again and cry]


Even if someone here manages to prove Kaycee was a hoax, you've gained nothing positive so I say again.. the fascinating and disturbing thing is what causes some people to disregard anything positive and search only for negatives? Personally I think this world is negative enough. Not only will I continue to look for the positive, I will firmly embrace it when I find it. Hoax or no hoax.
posted by justlisa at 8:39 PM PST on May 19


[skepticism is a_bad_thing. like, stop being so negative, man.]


Whether you believe Kaycee is real or not (and I do; I corresponded with her, and loved her), absolutely *no one* can deny that she brought a great amount of hope and inspiration to many, *many* people. As far as I'm concerned, the least I can give her in return for that is the benefit of any doubt.
posted by Noah at 8:39 PM PST on May 19


[yeah, and even if it turns out that saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction it doesn't change the threat those weapons were to us. Really noah, what the hell were you thinking with that gem?]


why do we have so much trouble trusting? ...maybe we should take the blinding light we have so strongly focused on being doubtful/judgmental/jealous/nitpicky about everyone else's lives and turn it a little more inward, look at what these thoughts say about ourselves...
posted by queenkelly at 9:40 PM PST on May 19


[stop with all your negative doubting and accept me, david koresh, as your personal savior]


Let me say this much:

If I believe in Kaycee's existance and am proven wrong, who have I hurt? Only myself.

On the other hand, if I don't believe in Kaycee's existance (and make comments about it) and am proven wrong, who have I hurt? Many, many people who are mourning for a wonderful young lady.
posted by Redgie at 11:13 PM PST on May 19


[skepticism is the source of hurt, not the lies skepticism looks to uncover. Interesting world view some people have.]


insensitive buffoons...Next time I see "My [grandma/friend/livestock] just passed away..." on one of your sites, expect an email from me demanding you prove it. Then we'll see how *you* feel.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:35 PM PST on May 19


[gotta love the irony inherent in the insult "insensitive buffoons"]


This all angers me...I hate this, quit making up consipracies in your heads. There are no Black Helicopters flying around...This makes me sick to my stomach...My love goes out to Kaycee's soul, her Mother, and all those who never doubt in the Sunshine that is Kaycee.
posted by Chazio at 11:50 PM PST on May 19


[skeptics are not only worthy of contempt, they are also mentally insane. ]


Look, we have testimony from reliable witnesses who loved this girl, and talked to this girl and her mother. That's far more than enough evidence for me.
posted by brownpau at 12:18 AM PST on May 20


[far more]


This whole thread deeply sickens me... I'd hate to see someone miss out because no one stood up long enough to say. Yes, There is a Kaycee Nicole. The thread started by asking if it was possible... that means it's open to both sides... There's not a single action in your everyday life that someone couldn't provide evidence to say it's an unlikely occurrence

Kaycee... You're forever in my sunshine.
posted by IndianaSweetie at 3:09 AM PST on May 20


Some people are saying Kaycee was a hoax. Now this seems more impossible to me than walking outside right now, at 10.21pm and seeing the sun shining. Never once have I doubted Kaycee's authenticity. Why? Because nothing that beautiful can ever be bad.
posted by PunkVixen at 6:06 AM PST on May 20


[first gravity, now the end of night itself!]


This thread is not odd or cruel in intent. It is a true community trying to come to terms with an event that touched many of us. The media that joins us together does not permit us to use our senses to assure ourselves when we are in doubt. The denial stage is a normal part of grief, which the crux of this thread is an outward form.
posted by vanderwal at 7:17 AM PST on May 20


[doubt is actually just one phase of a routine mental illness]


[and finally, the most infuriating post of them all. Now remember, this is after the hoax has been exposed:] But I believe the topic was "Did Kaycee really exist"?
Despite it all... my answer is still yes.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 12:51 PM PST on May 20
Now there were far more problems with the thinking in that thread than the almost cult-like credulity expressed by so many of the posters. For one is how people invest all their feelings regarding an issue (disease/war/etc.) into a single represenative person. I'm happy to report that a couple of people did show an amazing amount of rational behavior through that whole KC embarrassment. rushmc, for one. gsh for two.

I'm not saying salam is necessarilly another hoax, I'm just saying the standards should be higher before much of 3/10ths of a damn is invested in him beyond the value of the information he provides as a news source, which is, let's be frank, not. very. much.

Also, doesn't it strike anyone as convienient the value salam plays in drawing in the anti-war left (i.e. metafilter) to the "human" side of the "saddam must go" argument. Look at how gushy eveybody here has been every time the guy comes up. Think about when he appeared. Ok, now think about his visible campaign for "democracy for Iraq". Now consider his best friend online: a right-wing war blogger.

None of this proves anything, but perhaps it leaves comfortable room for the seeds of doubt. Maybe we should require higher standards of proof for things which have sway over our emotions (as the quotes above demonstrate), and therefore our opinions.
posted by dgaicun at 3:18 AM on April 20, 2003


People will believe what they want to believe. MetaFilter is largely left-wing, largely anti-war, so naturally people here seize on the idea that he was some sort of pro-war plant. Command Post, on the other hand, mostly saw him (contemptuously) as an anti-war plant whose followers were mostly peaceniks seizing at a human voice from Iraq.

To me, this tells much about MetaFilter and Command Post, and very little about Salam.
posted by dhartung at 11:35 AM on April 20, 2003


It begins with self-importance, and it ends with self-obsession.

Salaam Pax's weblog has been covered in nearly every major media outlet in the world, and on the news wires that feed stories to most of the rest of the outlets. Thinking that a paranoid regime could ignore all of those press mentions collectively is just putting your head in the sand.

For those who haven't realized it yet, weblogs *do* get noticed, and not just by other weblogger nobodies.
posted by anildash at 2:24 PM on April 20, 2003


Actually, I was never quite sure if Salam Pax was with us or not. Ergo, he must have been against us! Perhaps he was arrested by the US forces as a terrorist!
posted by drstrangelove at 6:36 PM on April 20, 2003


People will believe what they want to believe. MetaFilter is largely left-wing, largely anti-war, so naturally people here seize on the idea that he was some sort of pro-war plant.

Actually, "Metafilter" did no such thing as seize upon that idea. It wasn't even a belief, it was but one hypothetical I raised as an individual to demonstrate a point. And I might remind you that I support the war (in part, with many exceptions) and read Diana, so cut that bull. The point wasn't Salam was a plant, (or even that he's more likely a plant) it was that caution and doubt don't necessarilly equal paranoia, and are mostly virtues, especially during war-time. None of that was related to politics but to skepticism, which I was championing as a war-time (and all around life-time) necessity. If MetaFilter leaned Right I would have adjusted the hypothetical accordingly.


...Stay tuned next month when a blog by a lovable 13 year old girl in Syria appears and captures the heart of the blogosphere as she expresses the pain of living under a horrible autocratic tyranny and exchanges Emails with her American pal Emporer Misha I.
posted by dgaicun at 7:56 PM on April 20, 2003


listen. if a blogger killed him, then metafilter killed him. if the bbc and everyone else got their story from the New Yorker, the New Yorker probably got their tip from this blue home.

how many hits a day does this place get? how many was it getting in february and march? especially on iraqfilter stuff?

how many of us first found salam through that 2nd page link in february (I believe) or in other discussions later?

if I were working for the new yorker (or any other cultural-geek oriented journal) I would check mefi constantly for interesting leads on things to feature.
posted by jann at 10:48 PM on April 20, 2003


Don't be ridiculous, jann. MeFi didn't post all those details about him, the New Yorker did. Even if the New Yorker found about about him via MeFi, which is only a guess, so what? You might as well say his mother killed him by giving birth to him, which was the necessary condition for all of this. That may be an interesting philosophical position, but it's kind of irrelevant here.
posted by languagehat at 4:56 AM on April 21, 2003


From deep within America, the Iraqi information officer notices that at long last The New Yorker (alt. "BBC") has revealed the hidden identity of Salaam Pax! At last! All Baghdad has been waiting for the capture of this infidel and all agents abroad have been busily combing all sorts of off-media to capture Iraqi Public Enemy #1. The IO rushes to his telephone to contact InfoHQ.

InfoHQ, after numerous rings: uh, hello?
IO: Yes! Hello! I've been trying to get through to you all morning!
InfoHQ: Well, we really are quite {boom}...really are quite busy right now.
IO: I'm aware of that, but I wanted to tell you...
InfoHQ: {boom!}
IO: What's that?
InfoHQ: A Tomahawk, I think. Either that or a laser-guided. What were you saying? I've got to fix up my secretary, she's bleeding from her temple.
IO: Yeah, well, I've found this blogger...

Anybody stop to think that maybe with his personal world raining down about him, Salaam Pax perhaps has other things to do with his time than blog? Survive, perhaps?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:43 PM on April 21, 2003


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