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Lebanon’s terrorist chic 27, April 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Lebanon.
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There is an excellent post at semi-expert about the fetishisation of aspects of the Lebanese-Hezbullah discourse in the Western media. The well-written article roams from the ‘terror-tourism” of less than adventurous non-experts of the Middle East who get whisked around Beirut which results in “the usual enormously shallow analysis” to other themes of this pornographic writing genre such as a bizarre fascination with clothing, bars and (the more understandable fascination with) elections. The author persuasively identifies several sources for these penchants.

There are guns and strange bearded men, and both will grab an editor back home and a writer eager to show off his access to a closed world that is vaguely menacing. There is the legitimate fact that Hizbullah plays a definable role in Lebanon, so that it makes no sense not to cover the party. However, when was the last time a journalist sold a story on the inherent pluralism in Lebanese sectarianism? Once you’ve woken the editor up and told him that this defines Lebanon more accurately than Hizbullah does, he’ll still choose the riveting clarity of a Hizbullah peg.

Leave aside that Hizbullah is not so terribly closed an institution. It is in fact very easy to gain access to Hizbullah, it’s leadership, functions, and neighborhoods of influence. Hence some of the journalistic stuff struttin’. Beirut still holds the reputation as being the space of civil war and kidnappings by those strange and bearded men. And to have been there marks one as having gained some kind of arcane insight into the netherworld.

Regarding women’s clothing:

Another thing that grabs editors is prattle about women’s attire – of all types. This one fom a recent edition of Der Spiegle is an especially egregious and voyeuristic example of the genre. For God’s sake “Damascene perversion”? and “Palestinian women have the wildest taste”?

Juan Cole: Many Shiite young women are every bit as chic and oriented toward Paris fashion as their Maronite Catholic peers

Hitchens: Women with head covering were few; women with face covering were nowhere to be seen. Designer jeans were the predominant fashion theme.

Miller: Beirut is at least two cities—the modern capital with its chic designer shops, expensive bars, raucous nightclubs, and billboards advertizing [sic] breast augmentations and tattoo removals, and…Hezbollah’s southern suburbs…patrolled by the Party of God’s own traffic police and security forces. No breasts or even hairdos are on display here.

On bars and elections:

In all of this, the talk of those bearded men, and those scantily clad women, as well as the preoccupation with the amount of alcohol consumed in the Arab world (a new addition to the genre here about a return to the drinking and whoring ways of the days of Saddam), seems framed in such a way as to offer the hope to consumers of the major Western news outlets that those people over there are not so bad, even if they are somewhat quaintly odd, so long as they seem willing to adopt some of our ways. Never mind that those ways when placed into a Western context are condemned. The piece about drinking and other vices practiced in Baghdad discusses men gathering round a cockfighting pit and speaks with apparent approval of a relative renaissance of the oldest trade. And of course your reporter cannot pass up the opportunity to describe the clothing:

“She dresses in a head-to-toe, skin-tight black chador, and she is adorned with several pounds of solid gold bracelets, pendants, necklaces, earrings and rings, her response to the financial crisis.The female workers in the nightclub wore rather less clothing, but nothing that would be considered risqué on a street in Europe”

Here are a few links to the types of articles that the author has in his sights.

x x x x

I highly recommend you read the article in its entirety. Excellent stuff.

Hat Tip: the ever-excellent Arabic Media Shack