Even in Lebanon, Online Negative PR is Starting To Bite

While mainstream media is busy criticizing Mr. Saad Hariri’s “Amateurism” for engaging with his supporters on Twitter, here’s a little story that reminds everyone why we should take such things a bit more seriously.

A few days ago, an average Lebanese guy took a picture in a movie theater in Beirut. He blogged about it, and three days later, the Washington Post is calling the Lebanese embassy in Washington and asking for an explanation.

Playing smarty pants with existing laws and exercising discretion on whether or not they’re enforced is silly. Bad laws should go away for good and idiotic censorship should stop once and for all.

You never know when a camera is around the corner and your embarrassment becomes a global sensation.

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  • http://www.jareedah.org Ramzi

    I think this case showed irresponsibility from all parties. We don’t need to debate about the stupidity or the authorities in Lebanon as this is a given by now. But we should stress on the fact that the way the original post was written took the case in a very wrong direction, stating that the director’s name was covered because he is a jew, which is not the case.

    But why blaming a blogger if an established journal picks it up and play on the same tone? Maybe because being a citizen in the country requires some more responsibility?

    I do hope its a lesson learned. Lets at least in such issues work for the best of the country and its benefit and reputation, as people, regardless of the stupidity of the authorities.

    * Saying so, I do NOT mean it was wrong to talk about it on a blog, but I’m pointing out that it was talked about in a wrong misleading way.

    • Mustapha

      You make a solid point, and fairness and balance are indeed desirable. But at the heart of the new world order (in which an online scandal can ruin careers and companies) is an insight: It doesn’t matter if what was said was unfair and taken out of context (Many Youtube scandals start with things taken out of context).

      This is why you try to do your best to limit your exposure. This is why for instance, public figures and celebrities are advised to be always well behaved in public, even if they are taunted and provoked.

      Lebanon can start by stopping the ridiculous circus of banning wildly popular cds/books/artists and then back pedaling like crazy after the damage is done..

      • CopyCat

        As an aside here, why do you think it’s a big deal if we were scandalized in the West or not? This is hardly an issue, Mus. We should be ashamed of more important things which affect our daily lives, rather than whether someone put some scotch tape over Spielberg’s name or not, and we should change these laws not because some white people might think badly of us, but because they are laws that damage us. Consider the citizenship law that doesn’t give kids born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers passports. Or civil marriage. Or capital punishment. Or lack of civil rights for foreign workers and Palestinians. Or the sectarian laws. Or Or Or….

  • CopyCat

    I agree with Ramzi. I mean Jewish people are very successful in Hollywood and one may say that they are over-represented in this industry for historical-social reasons (no shame in that). This means that so many Jewish directors’ and actors’ films make it into Lebanon, so the ban was not because of that naturally. But then Schindler’s List was banned (And was Munich?) – both Spielberg’s by the way – even though Schindler’s List is up there with my favorite films of all time. I am a firm supporter of the boycott of Israel, as is in the BDS movement and the boycott of artists who perform in Israel, but nonetheless I am against censorship. Boycotting should be a personal decision where the laws are not violated and stupid laws should be changed. For example, Arab Israelis must be allowed into Lebanon without discrimination (an obvious case of a stupid law). Where do we draw the line then? Well, I think there are cases where it is obvious (A company that does business with illegal settlements in Palestine, for example, should be categorically boycotted). There are cases where it is ambiguous (like the case of artists who perform in Israel, in which case they should not be banned by law, but the people committed to BDS and have interest in solidarity with Palestine should boycott them as a personal choice and have the freedom to campaign for that). in Spielberg’s case, it is the second category. i.e. his films should never be banned or censored, but people may have the grounds to boycott his films).

  • Bronxman

    That censorship is wrong in a country claiming to be democratic, is a given. That censorship has an effect that the censors may not have counted on, is a reason that the method is not even effective. I figure that a lot more people now know Spielberg’s name than would have been the case without the covering of his name on a non political movie. Thinking about it, the movie itself got a lot of free publicity – and business.

  • _kaled

    Mustapha, you state a key proposition: “We should take such things more seriously”

    My interpretation of that, and a personal conviction as well: as a blogger, one should preferably exercise all aspects of fact double- (and triple-) checking prior to publishing ‘amateur’ posts.

    You, for example, reference your sources. You link back to other posts, in addition to indicating where you state an opinion, quote or factual evidence.

    I believe the blogsphere is suffering heavily from an abundance of so-called “citizen reporters”
    Not an argument of freedom of speech or infringement of said freedom, rather a point to make: when you type and publish a statement online, your words are as powerful as any printed or broadcasted publication.
    I think any and all bloggers owe it to all their readers to indicate whether they are stating factual evidence or merely a personal opinion. The difference implies a huge impact.

    “I guess that we shouldn’t..” is a an amateur statement that is both murky and un-indicative of where the OP is sourcing his information.

    It reminds me child-like implications and finger pointing.