Coming Soon: NGM in Arabic

Rumor has it that NGM will soon launch another local language edition — this one in Arabic.

We imagine that will mean more cheetah stories in National Geographic, and fewer articles such as Architect of Freedom: Thomas Jefferson (NGM, February 1976).

Why? Because the Magazine’s editorial content must satisfy all our international partners, who no doubt share our love of the planet, though they all clearly don’t not all share our love of freedom.

Put another way: The Arabic-speaking world…

… is not known as a citadel of freedom and democracy:

In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Article 6 of the Basic Law says: “
Citizens are to pay allegiance to the King in accordance with the holy Koran and the tradition of the Prophet, in submission and obedience, in times of ease and difficulty, fortune and adversity.”

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

That lack of freedom may be a good fit for a Society whose mission is “to inspire people to care about the planet.” But in this new post-national [Geographic] Society, Thomas Jefferson’s patriotism and political ideals — celebrated in that 1976 NGM story — have sadly become far too parochial.

 

"The constitutional freedom of religion is the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights." --Thomas Jefferson

Our take-away: This devolution — from National to International Geographic Society — is ultimately a bum deal for us all.

__________
Image credits
≡  Map of Arabic-speaking countries via Wikipedia
≡  Map of Freedom 2009 via Freedom House
≡  King Abdullah via The Arab American News
Thomas Jefferson via eTrish

  • I take issue with your claim that “they ALL clearly don’t share our love of freedom.” While it is true that many states in the Middle-East and Africa are controlled by hardline governments with different ideas about Freedom, Openness and Respect than the West, it is dangerous to generalize. Not only are some states more conservative than others (you have conveniently picked Saudi Arabia, which is more culturally conservative than even Iran, but certainly gets less media coverage) but “International partners” should not be thought of solely as governments, but as people. I am surprised to read this post, because I know that you of all people are very careful with words and value both their meaning and audience very highly. If what you are trying to say is that Muslims or Arab-speaking peoples don’t value freedom, I must strongly disagree with you. The Koran teaches love, peace and freedom in many places (as well as more aggressive messages that can also be found in other religious texts). There will always be extremists and there will always be those who allow themselves to deviate from the those principles of love and freedom. However to say that they “ALL” do not share our love of freedom is going a bit far. What about a Muslim who has moved to the U.S. to create a new life, but speaks primarily Arabic and reads NGM in his or her native language? Does that Arabic-speaker not value freedom? I don’t think we can generalize about religions and certainly not about languages! At least you could say “they don’t all clearly share our love of freedom.” Also, I’d guess that most of the Arabic speakers who would read NGM in Arabic would be politically and culturally moderate at the least…. it’s not exactly Al Jazeera.

    I hope you can clarify your intended meaning, because what I think you’re saying is somewhat vague and potentially misleading……

    ~your annoying nephew

    • First of all, I love your new website. Annoying nephews haven’t really found an online home, a place to gather and pester their uncles, so I think your new niche site should draw a big crowd. 🙂

      Second, and more seriously, you raise good points. And you’re right — I may have been careless in the way I constructed the sentence you highlighted. I didn’t mean to suggest that English-speaking people love freedom, and that everyone else doesn’t. And I didn’t mean to suggest that everyone who speaks Arabic is hostile to democracy. (A crazy idea.) See my correction in green, above.

      But I did mean to say that democracy has had a tough time taking root in the part of the world where Arabic is the primary language. And while I put a spotlight on Saudi Arabia, other countries in the region could have provided a similar point of contrast: Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and the Sudan pop to mind.

      Re: people in Iowa who want to read NGM in Arabic — more power to them. But the new market that’s opening is primarily in the Middle East and North Africa, not the Midwest.

      My main point is that the world is full of interesting differences. Back in the day, National Geographic focused on those differences. Here, Thomas Jefferson is a hero, and we have a monument to him in Washington to prove it; whereas in Riyadh, TJ’s ideas about, say, religious liberty, don’t get much traction. Or: In some parts of the world, women walk around bare-breasted; in Montreal, they tend to cover up, and not simply because it gets so cold. Differences are interesting. Differences matter.

      As National Geographic evolves into an international media company, the Magazine’s editors will be less likely to focus on those differences. Some brave soul might pitch a story about Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Freedom — but the Editor will surely be thinking: I wonder how popular this story will be with our partners in Beijing? As a result, he’ll pick stories that focus on the greatest common denominator — the planet. Please know I’m a big believer in the planet. I’m a regular planet hugger. But the Magazine is called National Geographic, not International Geographic. Nations. Made up of people. Who share important similarities — but who are also different in ways we should always remember. Which, of course, is why there are so many different nations in the first place.

      — your annoying uncle

  • I take issue with your claim that “they ALL clearly don’t share our love of freedom.” While it is true that many states in the Middle-East and Africa are controlled by hardline governments with different ideas about Freedom, Openness and Respect than the West, it is dangerous to generalize. Not only are some states more conservative than others (you have conveniently picked Saudi Arabia, which is more culturally conservative than even Iran, but certainly gets less media coverage) but “International partners” should not be thought of solely as governments, but as people. I am surprised to read this post, because I know that you of all people are very careful with words and value both their meaning and audience very highly. If what you are trying to say is that Muslims or Arab-speaking peoples don’t value freedom, I must strongly disagree with you. The Koran teaches love, peace and freedom in many places (as well as more aggressive messages that can also be found in other religious texts). There will always be extremists and there will always be those who allow themselves to deviate from the those principles of love and freedom. However to say that they “ALL” do not share our love of freedom is going a bit far. What about a Muslim who has moved to the U.S. to create a new life, but speaks primarily Arabic and reads NGM in his or her native language? Does that Arabic-speaker not value freedom? I don’t think we can generalize about religions and certainly not about languages! At least you could say “they don’t all clearly share our love of freedom.” Also, I’d guess that most of the Arabic speakers who would read NGM in Arabic would be politically and culturally moderate at the least…. it’s not exactly Al Jazeera.

    I hope you can clarify your intended meaning, because what I think you’re saying is somewhat vague and potentially misleading……

    ~your annoying nephew

    • First of all, I love your new website. Annoying nephews haven’t really found an online home, a place to gather and pester their uncles, so I think your new niche site should draw a big crowd. 🙂

      Second, and more seriously, you raise good points. And you’re right — I may have been careless in the way I constructed the sentence you highlighted. I didn’t mean to suggest that English-speaking people love freedom, and that everyone else doesn’t. And I didn’t mean to suggest that everyone who speaks Arabic is hostile to democracy. (A crazy idea.) See my correction in green, above.

      But I did mean to say that democracy has had a tough time taking root in the part of the world where Arabic is the primary language. And while I put a spotlight on Saudi Arabia, other countries in the region could have provided a similar point of contrast: Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and the Sudan pop to mind.

      Re: people in Iowa who want to read NGM in Arabic — more power to them. But the new market that’s opening is primarily in the Middle East and North Africa, not the Midwest.

      My main point is that the world is full of interesting differences. Back in the day, National Geographic focused on those differences. Here, Thomas Jefferson is a hero, and we have a monument to him in Washington to prove it; whereas in Riyadh, TJ’s ideas about, say, religious liberty, don’t get much traction. Or: In some parts of the world, women walk around bare-breasted; in Montreal, they tend to cover up, and not simply because it gets so cold. Differences are interesting. Differences matter.

      As National Geographic evolves into an international media company, the Magazine’s editors will be less likely to focus on those differences. Some brave soul might pitch a story about Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Freedom — but the Editor will surely be thinking: I wonder how popular this story will be with our partners in Beijing? As a result, he’ll pick stories that focus on the greatest common denominator — the planet. Please know I’m a big believer in the planet. I’m a regular planet hugger. But the Magazine is called National Geographic, not International Geographic. Nations. Made up of people. Who share important similarities — but who are also different in ways we should always remember. Which, of course, is why there are so many different nations in the first place.

      — your annoying uncle

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