This paper analyzes the opinions, arguments, and topics in the writings of a diverse group of Arab intellectuals contributed to the Al Jazeera website during the period preceding the Arab uprisings of 2011. The intellectuals addressed prevalent social, economic and political problems in the Arab world and responded to dichotomies such as democracy versus authoritarianism, the Arab world versus the West, and revivalist versus moderate interpretations of Islam. Based on a Critical Discourse Analysis approach (Fairclough & Wodak, 1997; Reisigl & Wodak, 2009), a corpus of 57 articles published between 2008 and 2010 was compiled. The analysis shows that four topics underpinned these writings and provided a programmatic agenda for change. Lamenting the abysmal conditions in the Arab world, criticizing Western hegemony over the region, calling for democracy, and advocating a moderate form of Islam loomed large in their writings. This paper emphasizes the disruptive and transformative power of online media through which these reformist writers acted as drivers of change seeking reform and change in the Arab world.
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