Friday, June 24, 2011
The “Humor” Drama In Lebanon
By Zuheir Kseibati
It is a legitimate dream for Lebanese Information Minister Walid al-Daouk to call for the establishment of a “media city in Lebanon,” similar to the one hosted in Dubai. And far away from any favoritism or comparisons, the minister might have been encouraged by the permanent political spring in Lebanon, the vitality of the chronic conflicts between each loyalist team and each opposition team since the country’s independence, the interaction of ideas and the clashes between the forces, parties and movements which provide a perfect environment for dynamic media.
However, the minister, who is spreading false optimism in regard to the “protected freedoms” in Lebanon – and all journalists hope he is right in this optimism – might fall in the trap of contradictions. As for the falseness, it is due to the complaints presented by dozens of journalists and employees in the audiovisual media ever since they became the hostages of forced classifications and accusations of affiliation with political powers, whenever the battle rages between two political teams or the camps of confrontation especially since 2005.
The core of the contradiction lies between these hidden freedoms – since everyone is in agreement over the principle of “with me or against me” - and the call of the minister on the media institutions to exercise self-censorship at the peak of the division, the challenges and the actions of those denying the spirit of revenge but are exercising it quite skillfully.
The information minister might be asked whether or not the task of these institutions is to exercise censorship over the leaders of forces and movements who say at night what cannot be erased the next day except in Lebanon. What counts is the intention and the extent of the opponent’s sense of “humor,” even if this humor were to carry an eradication inclination. What matters in the democratic game in this small country is that there is no permanent ally or permanent rival, just like it is the case in any political situation. But everything is allowed, as long as the goal is a strong republic. In the meantime, some leaders are allowed to threaten the opponents and accuse them of theft, banditry, monopolization and the triggering of strife. Despite all that, they complain about the decadence of the political rhetoric in times of decadence.
The self-censorship saying pushes us to imagine a role for the journalists in Lebanon as mediators between the bad-tempered and the fierce-tongued, as firemen extinguishing the fires of spite and vengeance and doctors to a patient with a hopeless case – as long as the lies are prevailing and some skilful politicians have almost convinced the Lebanese that they are the demons and that those leading them are volunteering and conceding as a favor to them and their rights.
Either with me or against me. This is a predicament that is renewed in Lebanon whenever it is on the threshold of a transformation or an attempt by some to jump over the misleading facts of the victories that never lasted for any team on the domestic scene or for any side abroad. All that has happened - despite its bloody costs - is disregarded by those who engage along the regional friction line at times, who believe that the fate of American influence in the world will be determined in Lebanon, or who are preparing to eliminate any oppositionist or rival by threatening him while the authority is praising the integrity of the judiciary.
Yet, why does the opponent not have a sense of “humor”? All that has happened in Lebanon since the launching of the term of a government accused of being the product of the confiscation of the real majority, calls for nothing but celebrations and joy (!), despite the rise of poverty and unemployment with the sponsorship of the bad-tempered leaders promising to carry out purification – mobilizing chests to protect clean pockets and deceiving minds with verbal abstinence from maliciousness.
Some in Lebanon may reject the “humor” since a lot of blood is being spilt in the Arab spring, at least out of sympathy for the martyrs in the region. As for the threats in this case, they are a mere attempt to restore consideration outside the planet and volcanoes of this spring.
And while the other camp – i.e. the March 14 forces – ought to recognize its poor luck as it is receiving stabs in the chest following the stabs in the back, no one is disputing its right to stage peaceful opposition in the face of “the government of Syria and Hezbollah.” But until when will this opposition continue, especially if the spring’s winds were to change course and if the extension of the stay of the American forces in Iraq were to require a new deal between Washington and Tehran?
Obama’s America needs its military presence in Iraq so that it is not caught off guard by the new facts in the stage of the Arab uprisings. As for Tehran, it is unable to relinquish the Syrian ally.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 23/06/2011