May 28, 2003
MarkBernstein.org
 
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Salam Pax Is Real

In the past months, many weblogs have pondered Iraqi blogger Salam Pax. Is he real? A fiction? Paul Boutin summed up the evidence  last month:

Speculation continues that Dear Raed , the weblog of a young man in Baghdad who posts under the name Salam Pax, is a hoax, perhaps even a disinformation campaign by the CIA or Mossad. A month after Computerworld published a story quoting a "terrorist" who turned out to be one of their former writers pranking them, it would be foolish not to wonder.

An interview with Salam Pax by Mark Stephen Meadows, to appear in Tekka this week, appears to close the book on the question. Salam Pax is real.

So, we know that Meadows met someone in Baghdad who said he was Salam, and who has access to Salam's weblog. This doesn't completely preclude some off-the-wall scenarios -- perhaps Salam flew to Baghdad for this interview, having posted his weblog from Wisconsin through an Iraqi intermediary? But what would be the point?

As I've written previously, we worry about the authenticity of weblogs more than we ought. Kaycee Nicole was true, although she was a fiction. Isabella (new URL) revealed an important lesson about thrillers that the interactive fiction community had overlooked. Salam reminds us that people can be who they say they are -- that, sometimes, things are pretty much what they seem.

Of course, we still have all the questions about reality that face any reader. When Salam offers an opinion, or I do, is this precisely what he believes? Of course not. We write things we believe, we write things we want to believe, we write things we ought to believe even though we cannot believe them. We write about who we were, not who we are; we write about who we wish he had been and what we wish we'd thought to say. Isn't that more true, in the end, than a recording?