Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Moral Superiority, Sectarianism and Conspiracy theory: Al-Akhbar newspaper




Al-Akhbar newspaper brings the worst of Lebanese politics to the fore, as illustrated in the transformation of leftist politics into the cheapest form of sectarianism. In other words, it combines the defects of leftist analysis (conspiracy theory, bitterness, moral superiority) with the worst form of sectarianism.
A glance at today edition illustrates this point. The front-page article, by the editor-in-chief, exemplifies the bitter Marxist use of sociological analysis, attempting to portray all its enemies as opportunistic politicians whose political discourses can be mapped directly on their cheap attempts to survive politically. This trick, widely used in leftist circles, avoids having to engage with their discourse or to consider these politicians as having a different perspective. The moral superiority of the author, combined with the sociological analysis of his targets, transform these latter in the condensation of evil. The editor-in-chief would definitely not want us to apply this mode of reasoning on himself; this trick works in one direction. It is too bad because an as-credible narrative can be made, starting from the early career of this author to finish with his glorious following of Gebran Bassil. The narrative could be weaved around the attempts of the author to find a political role to himself, attempts continuously failing until the divine alliance gave him a role as the mouthpiece of this understanding. Of course, the conclusion of such narrative is that we do not really have to engage with his writings, since he is only in it for his personal political gains.
Moving to the inside pages, we find the illustration of this divine understanding when a very cheap form of sectarianism meets the resistance discourse. The specialist in Christian affairs in this newspaper has been following very closely, almost religiously, the trend of sectarian employment in the government and is shocked to discover that there are more Muslims than Christians. Of course, forgetting his alliance with the Hezbollah, whose latest war is one of the main drives of the renewal of Christian emigration, and the demographic change for the last 50 years, the author, in charge of the section ‘Christian sectarianism’, find the fault in the Sunni community, and the continuation of the Hariri policies, which as we all know and any decent conspiracy theorists would approve, was just aiming at controlling the lands in Kesrewan and Jbeil.
Continuing our trip, we bump into the transformation of leftism into a blind form of respect of tradition. The author, happy of his religious baggage, comments on the latest statement by the Pope. His secularism is conveniently brushed aside when he wholeheartedly supports the calls for apology, after his reading of the pope text. Where did all the secularism go and why do we have to cater for the ugliest part of religion is a question left unanswered. Leftists in Lebanon have always had a binary understanding of religion: either a lie or an unbridgeable gap. Everything in between is usually discarded. There is no place for nuances when one starts from this height of moral superiority.
As for the front page, the main story according to the newspaper is how PM Siniora is trying to block the help to the inhabitants of the south. According to their conspiracy theory, PM Siniora is currently punishing the inhabitants of the south by blocking the billions of aid, which are supposed to get to them, continuing the policy of collective punishment started by the Israelis. One would ask how did his policy of giving 30,000$ per house fits into this story? But these are just details. He is evil, and if he is not he is incompetent, and if he is not, he is a traitor, and if he is not, he is a sectarian bastard, and if he is not… In other words, he just needs to go.
Looking at this newspaper, one wonders how can these various perspectives coalesce into a political project. Actually, there is no political project. The only aim of this paper is to topple the government, and to realize this divine goal, all the tactics are permitted starting with the most potent, sectarianism. The main message of today’s edition is simple: the Sunnis dominate the Christians and starve the Shiites. Christianity, on the other hand, hates Islam as the Pope indicated. There is no possibility of sectarian understanding. Conveniently for the authors, the parliamentary majority is the quintessence of this sectarian evil. As for the non-sectarian components of this majority, well according to the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief, they are only in it for the money, and they are incompetent at it on top. In other words, the only credible policy of this newspaper is to ignite a sectarian civil war to topple the government, the only conjuncture that could give them a role to play.

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