Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Liberal illusions of March 14th

Joseph El-Khoury

In preparation for their planned show of force on their birthday, or at least the day before, the 14th March camp in Lebanon ( self-defined as liberal, pro-western and patriotic) have launched an all guns blazing online campaign heavily reliant on social media.This is mostly done through the blog page  ayyawatan (what type of homeland?) which prominently feature posters allegedly comparing a Hezbollah dominated state to the one of the Hariri led alliance.!/ayyawatan?closeTheater=1

So far so good! ...until further scrutiny reveals that the latter vision is strongly inspired by the perspective of the traditional Chrsitian Right. (To be understood the one that fought the civil under the banner of the now defunct Lebanese Front). This is not particularly surpising as the communication team at the heart of this campaign is likely to include Kataeb or Lebanese Forces affiliated individuals. But portraying 'their Lebanon' as a fully westernised Middle Class paradise where blue eyed children spend their weekend skiing just smacks of complete lack of sensitivity. How is it not a PR disaster after a 15 years civil war was fought over the country's identity and affiliation with the Arab world. This approach is also a major rebuff to recent calls from within the movement to appeal directly to the Shiite power base.

One particular poster that has mysteriously disappeared showed side to side a distressed elderly veiled lady hugging a crying child and another younger casually dressed model hugging her similing progeny. It caused outcry from a number of circles, which might explain its withdrawal.

Still, some of the ones in use are only slightly less offensive in my opinion. I wonder at what point the Hariri communication machine will understand that playing the dichotomy card (Good vs.Evil, Life vs. Death, Ugly vs.Beautiful, Poor vs.Prosperous) can only alienate a substantive section of the population across the sectrarian divide, that  have neither experienced nor aspire to the 'Switzerland of the Middle East'.


Mustapha said...

All the examples you have here do not support your point.

The fact that there's a stylistic similarity doesn't make today's campaign a descendant of the previous chauvinistic ones.

Today's campaign is about a contrast between war and peace, militarism vs development and advancement. It is not about Veiled people vs blue-eyed ones.

I find it odd that you rushed as a result of such a tenuous link to categorize the entire endeavor as an "illusion of liberalism"..

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear...
Well said Joseph.

I believe that the failure is in the proper understanding of the term Liberalism!

But Alas, Ironically, I am sure, a large number of the creative team of such campaigns believe that George Bush, the creator of the term “Axis of Evil”, as the modern father of Liberalism.

Nabih S.

Arab Democracy said...

I was meaning to respond to the 3 comments postes but the first one seems to have been deleted.

The point made by the commentator is that dochotomy is essential to susccesful political campaigns. Fair enough that the March 14th camp are focused on their own supporters but is the cost of alienating moderate Shiaas worthwile. If you dont believe that this is one effect of this campaign I suggest you survey anyone from a Shiaa background.

Mustapha. Campaigns are about style and imagery. The Lebanese Shiias are very sensitive to the traditional image of them as poor backward uneducated villagers. Does this campaign do anything to acknowledge these sensitivities? You say these example dont prove my point. I ask you: How many Lebanese identify with skiing? How amny Lebanese children look like those in the pictures? How many actually feel included in the Beirut central district regeneration? Why not use veiled smiling women contributing to society to contrast with the ones in tears?

Dont fool yourself that the old chauvinistic ideas have not permeated some sections of the march 14th camp.

Neither the choices of images neither the resources were lacking. Even if the intention isnt there this campaign will do as much to damage the relation between communities as the rethoric used the other camp.

i fail to see the strategy in it


Anonymous said...

....except that all recent socio-demographic studies show that Shiites in Lebanon are actually (in average) richer than their fellow Lebanese counterparts.
The concept of the "ma7roumin" developed by Imam Moussa Sader during the 70's is still used, but really not

Most "luxury" home purchases in "Christian neighborhoods" (including ski resort Faraya), is conducted by Shiites (for example, 60% of sales in affluent Christian Baabda area are by Shiite families)

And don't get me wrong, this is VERY good news (getting more affluent is part of the liberal system Lebanese aim for so much)

BTW: birth rate studies seem to show how much all the communities act more like each other (an indication of close levels in the social index ladder)
Birth rate in 1994 was: 3.9 children/woman (largely driven by Shiites)
Birth rate in 2009 (if true, based on a UN report): 1.9
(which means that if this rate stabilize over many years, the Lebanese population will stop growing)

PS: stop deleting my comments :)

Arab Democracy said...

I agree JB but perception and self-perception are often more important then reality.

I didnt delete your comment. I think the Blogger platform found it offensive :)