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Emotional media and a Lebanon we no longer recognise Open in fullscreen

Layal Haddad

Emotional media and a Lebanon we no longer recognise

Lebanese army soldiers in Tripoli [AFP]

Date of publication: 4 August, 2014

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Unquestioning support for the military is turning the country into a battleground for sectarian violence.

It is not normal for Samar Abu Khalil to wear a Lebanese army uniform when she presents the news. It is not normal to distrust every journalist that demanded civilians were protected during the Battle of Arsal, between the Lebanese army and the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) in early August 2014. And no, the sectarian discourse calling for the “destruction” of Arsal is not normal either.

 

The love shown to the army when it goes into battle expressed through traditional media outlets and social media has gone too far. Anyone daring to question the Battle of Arsal or YouTube videos of Syrian children being killed there is accused of colluding with the Islamic State group or the Nusra Front.

 

    Media coverage does not allow us to see the issue rationally, only emotionally

This was also seen during the 2008 firefight in Nahr al-Bared, the Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, and again in Sidon in 2013. Criticising the army is seen to be a “red line” that should not be crossed, because it is the last institution to represent a united Lebanese state.

 

More importantly, the madness has now reached such an extent that a television presenter reads the news wearing army uniform. Nothing could be worse for the army’s image, apart from the songs played on local television channels to accompany coverage of soldiers in battle.

 

Media control

 

What is happening on Lebanon’s eastern borders could be more dangerous than we all think. We only hear what those controlling the media want us to hear. Social media is now full of images of IS fighters’ corpses. We only know what we see. How did this start? How will it end? How did we get to this point? What about the timing of the clashes?

 

Those controlling the media forbid us from asking these questions. Media coverage does not allow us to see the issue rationally, only emotionally. They show us footage of soldiers playing with their children followed by images of their corpses wrapped in Lebanese flags. Emotive music plays in the background mothers and wives wail in grief, and close-ups of the eyes of children who have become the “sons of martyrs” overnight.

 

Amid all this grief and madness, strange things have started to happen. Ali Barakat – who can be categorised either as an artist or an inciter of sectarianism – produced a disastrous song he insisted on calling an anthem, which appeals to Hizballah to “seize control of Arsal”; the United States embassy in Lebanon made a video celebrating the army; and the Lebanese artist Heba Tougi also produced a music video supporting the military.

 

“Lebanon should thank God that so far that it has stayed out of the inferno surrounding it, but sadly from now on it will be part of it”, said Faisal Qassem, a British-Syrian television personality.

 

Social media is filled with sectarian hatred and racism, including threats to kill the Shia and Christians, and to turn “Lebanon into another Mosul” and “Arsal into an unpopulated desert”.

 

Soon the battle between the Lebanese army and the Islamic State group will be over, and with it the ridiculous media show. But for now, we continue to be consumed by the death surrounding us in Arsal, Syria, Gaza and Mosul. We shall sink until we hit the bottom, although our countries are already unrecognisable.

 

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Al Araby Al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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