LEAKS, HACKS, AND SCANDALS: ARAB CULTURE IN THE DIGITAL AGE by Tarek El-Ariss

This book considers the concept of a leak as a “wild text.” It’s one that the leaker cannot govern once it’s out. That which is leaked may be misread or ripped apart or pieced together haphazardly. Still, the leaker, like any author, sacrifices themselves in order for the information to exist in the public sphere. Upon it’s release, uncertain barriers are also created between the leaked information, the leaker, and the reader. At once, the leaking subject (think of peeing, menstruating, etc.) cannot hold it in, the leaked text cannot be controlled, and the readers simply cannot look away.

Tarek El-Ariss looks at things like short stories and novels, Twitter accounts, CD-roms (re: Chelsea Manning) to understand the power of digital leaks, particularly through the lens of Arabian morality. El-Ariss points out that a lot of leaked information only serves as concrete data for stuff people basically already know, like a Twitter account revealing upperclass gossip or an activist live-tweeting their abusive arrest or government secrets uploaded onto WikiLeaks. Still, there’s power in making a scene. It can go either way too in the world of online activism. One kind of leak might challenge the elite by circulating a banned book while another might suppress a woman’s fictional voice by getting her and her book banned. Either way, exposed narratives have material effects that ultimately unveil anxiety surrounding public discipline.

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