By Joseph El-Khoury
May Chidiac crowned herself the ultimate drama queen last Monday in a country where drama queens, and they are mostly of the male sex, dominate the political and media horizon. Her impromptu resignation speech at the end of her weekly debate show on LBC made me cringe in my seat. It was intimate, personal, raw; incoherent...basically it made for painful watching. The speculations are rife over May’s true intentions, and many have extended the cynical analysis to predict that her performance was a platform to launch her political career with the upcoming elections or a less radical move to the relaunched MTV (for Murr TV) in March. The new station is likely to be better anchored in the March 14th camp, unlike LBC which has been living a state of schizophrenic schism for many months. Obviously May had to invoke Jesus and a number of foreign and local saints to justify her behaviour. For those who have had any contact on a personal level with May Chidiac, it will be no secret that her personal views are those of the traditional Christian Right that dominated the landscape in the ‘Christian Ghetto’ of the 1980s. Her allegiance to the Samir Geagea of the ‘Lebanese Resistance’ era is unshakable. As the war ended the LBC and her staff underwent an intensely challenging ‘rehabilitation’ to allow them to function in this reunited Lebanon, where others had opinions that sounded repulsive and worthy of sniper fire only a few years earlier. The LBC was under pressure to succeed because they were by far the best placed, technically and professionally, to dominate the televised landscape in the post civil war era. They succeeded at a high cost, principally because of the astute maneuvring of Pierre Daher and the circumstances that surrounded the demise of the Lebanese Forces in the 1990s. May Chidiac’s public but skin deep conversion to the values of this multifaith/multiideological Lebanon served her image as a presenter well until the Cedar revolution. It did not resist the flames that engulfed her car on the 25th September 2005, the result of a bomb planted by professionals that remain unidentified nearly 4 years later. I will not linger on the psychological impact that such event can have on the life of any individual, even less on that of a successful reasonably attractive lady in the prime of her life. Reactions to trauma are difficult to gage form a distance, without falling in the trap of cheap psychobabble. However a reassessement of priorities and attitudes, however temporary, is to be expected, especially when the physical injuries act a s a permanent reminder of the event.
May Chidiac chose to use her scars and her recovery to advance her cause, and she was encouraged in this by her political sponsors, who also incidentally contributed to her medical bills. The climax came when, pointing at herself with her index finger she reiterated that she was a ‘living martyr’. The problem with this concept is that, while dead martyrs are generally placed on a pedestal, their qualities highlighted and their weaknesses ignored, it is partly out of the respect extended to every deceased. This is because the dead are unable to take or give criticism. May’s public performance proves that the living version still enjoys this function. As others who belong to this category (Marwan Hamade, Elias El Murr) will tell you, the ‘privileged’ status of having survived an assassination attempt cannot be abused in a country where blood is cheap and martyrs count in the tens of thousands since 1975. The harsh reminder came from the usual suspects, the masters of sarcasms at the Al-Akhbar newspaper in the pen of Mr Pierre Abi Saab. In his enthusiasm to chastise May Chidiac’s psychodramatic performance he neglected to mention that the blood of sacrifice has been waved unashamedly at the masses and in the face of opposition for many years. Ironically it is elements within his camp that have long been promoting psychodrama as a political tool, and that ‘Living martyr’ was the name of a Hezbollah operation against Israel in 1994, incidentally the subject of an upcoming movie directed by the Syrian Najda Anzour. From 2005, The Hariri media machine did not hesitate to recycle martyrdom, aggressively and visually instilling guilt in the hearts and minds of the population. The ‘Truth’ (Hakika) placards spread across Beirut are still a witness to their tactics. In my opinion, May’s public display of distress was unprofessional and of bad taste but she was only applying the lessons from years of experience debating our political leaders