❊ Using Sex to Sell the Syrian Revolution ?

Apparently, President Assad has been exchanging flirtatious emails with a mysterious woman who sent him a semi-naked picture of herself (picture). This could very well be true. It could indeed be what was actually happening, and not some clumsy smear effort to divide and conquer’s Assad’s picture-perfect family and his united front with his wife. But could this be part of a larger trend?

Is it just me or have you also noticed that the media is talking a lot about rape in Syria lately? This increased sexualization of the coverage of the revolution could be the result of the dictator in Damascus issuing high commands to his soldiers to rape in the name of patriotism, but could it also be the result of something else?

What if the propaganda barrons (on both sides) have realized that people have a limited capacity for watching explosions and dead children on prime time TV? Could it be that Arab Idol is becoming a better proposition for evening family entertainment than watching wailing mothers explaining how half their families starved to death and the other half was killed in an explosion?

What if the sexing up of the coverage was a desperate, last-ditch effort to recapture the attention of people who are shutting Syria out of their minds?

How One Syrian Slipped Videos Past The Airport's Custom Officers

The Toronto Star:

A few hours before leaving his home in Syria to begin a new life in Canada, Mostafa picked up a kitchen knife and began cutting into his left arm near the elbow. [...] Without telling anyone his plan, Mostafa transferred the videos from his iPhone to a Nokia micro memory card that was smaller than his finger nail. He slipped the memory card under the skin of his arm, covered it with a large bandage, and drove with his parents to the airport in Damascus.

Watch the videos here..

The Anatomy of Syrian Revolution YouTube Videos

Qifa Nabki noticed what resembles a common format in those revolution Youtube Videos:

They’re typically shot on a camera phone by a young Syrian male who begins by announcing the date and place of the video. We see scenes of bullet-scarred buildings, maybe a dead body. Sometimes, the videos are filmed during a battle scene: little puffs of concrete dust drift gently to the ground from a building or mosque that is allegedly under attack by machine-gun wielding troops or rebels. The violence is usually telegraphed: its perpetrators are invisible snipers or artillery commanders, improvised explosive devices and insurgents. We see the effects, hardly ever the crimes themselves.

As Elias noticed, the door is wide open for cynicism. To me what I find most baffling is the complete lack of good quality videos (with some notable exceptions). I understand why many videos are produced using mobile phones, but you can also get really good quality videos using some point-and-shoot cameras that are on sale everywhere, cheap and as easy to hide as phones. Even bandwidth is not an excuse because many Syrians are crossing to neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. Is it possible that not a single good quality amateur video has slipped out?

Sometimes I feel that TV stations are intentionally lowering the quality of the videos to make them more “authentic” and “dramatic”.

Lebanese Hospitality

We’re the beacon of the oppressed. The house on the hill. We welcome the persecuted with open arms. As long as they don’t overstay their welcome of course:

The Phalange Party called on the government on Monday to carefully follow up on the flow of Syrian refugees into Lebanon, warning of a “new form of naturalization” facing the country.

Filed under crass insensitivity and terrible timing..

De-Facto Dissociation?

The critics of PM Mikati’s policy of dissociation are loud and relentless (this blog included). MTV has even dedicated a TV feature to a quote by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”.

But as I watched yesterday’s demos, I couldn’t help but notice that even March 14 is somewhat complicit in dissociation. Yesterday’s turnout in the rival demonstrations was exclusive to Salafis and Baathist. The demonstrators were not joined by other mainstream anti-Syrian (Future Movement) and pro-Syrian (Hezbollah) parties. It was as if there was an agreement behind the scene between the FM and Hezbollah not to show up. Why? Because that would contribute to social unrest in Lebanon and nobody wants that.

I don’t know about you, but avoiding an anti-Assad demonstration to prevent civil strife sounds like textbook dissociation to me.

As an aside, yesterday’s exercise in controlled democracy –where extreme marginal parties were given a space to let off steam without affecting the system or the balance of power in any way– is a testimony to the sophistication of the political game in Lebanon and its ability to manage tension.

❊ The Future Movement Needs More Than Distancing Itself from The Salafis. It Needs To Stand Up To Them

– A Threat? –

The Lebanese Salafis are feeling confident. They are emboldened by the rise of Islamists in the Arab world and by the void in Lebanese Sunni politics that Mr. Saad Hariri has left behind.

They are making a play for power. They are coming up with charismatic leaders, organizing demonstrations and are getting louder than ever. Today’s demonstration is their first in Beirut, and they are getting a sympathetic ear in March 14 media because they are expressing the people’s anger against the monstrous Syrian regime.

The good news is that they’re not about to dominate Lebanese Sunni politics any time soon. They don’t own media conglomerates and they are far from Lebanese mainstream public opinion. But they can cause great harm to the Future Movement (FM), a movement which until recently was the de-facto umbrella movement for most Sunni parties in Lebanon.

The FM likes to sell itself as the voice of Sunni moderation, an image that is diametrically opposed to that of the Salafis. And yet whenever the Salafis show up in public events, The March 8 propaganda machine manages to portray them as an extension of Hariri’s embattled political empire.

This is bad because it’s scaring Christians and other minorities who are sitting on the fence and watching how Islamists in the Arab world (and Nigeria) are massacring Christians and driving them away. And yet the FM, beholden to the Saudis who also support the Salafis, can’t pull off anything more than issuing weak statements to distance themselves from the hardliners.

In the past, the FM got away with cozying up to the Islamists, but in today’s world this is complete folly. Future TV and Almustaqbal newspaper should keep featuring moderate Muslims lambasting the medieval thinking of the Salafists, their antiquated treatment of women, their penchant for violence and their deeply intolerant beliefs. The salafis should be constantly attacked, ridiculed, made fun of until any association with them becomes an embarrassment to any average Lebanese Muslim.

Also: Lebanon’s Suspended Sunnis.