Joseph Samaha is a gifted columnist. His arguments are well-put and are always analytical of the current affairs. His latest argument, however, is somehow flawed. In today’s column in Al-Akhbar, he sounded like a typical ‘regime propagandist’ - not different from writers in neighbouring Damascus or in Cairo or those in party-owned media. He constructed a one-sided argument in defence of former army general Michel Aoun.
Samaha was commenting on Aoun’s undelivered but broadcasted speech in yesterday’s Free Patriotic Movement rally that was cancelled due to weather conditions. He rightly described the speech as ‘typical of the middle class Christians’. The speech, as analysed by Samaha, raised issues of interest to the ‘middle class’ such as the values of ‘democracy, sovereignty, human rights, gender equality, citizenship, human and just society, solidarity with unprivileged groups, rule of law, good governance, …. economic development, fighting monopoly, privatisation, and taxation’; values that the columnist described as typical of ‘modern’ and ‘modernising’ classes.
Then Samaha starts mixing-up.
When posing the obvious rhetoric question of ‘where is the originality of the issues that Aoun has raised?’, Samaha gives his rubber stamp without a blink of eye that Aoun is genuine about what he says while others are not. Although Aoun has merely touched on how he envisages the ways to achieve these raised issues.
The obvious example was in the area of economic development, where Aoun was simplistic and general when said that: ‘The main criterion for establishing economic justice is equality and balance between obligations and opportunities among all of our people. We can achieve this by re-writing our tax laws, by austerity in public spending, and by revisiting the meaning of balanced development throughout all areas of the country.’
‘This economy’s main priority should be the support of institutions which promote social solidarity, especially those which deal with health, retirement, and the protection of the Lebanese peoples’ assets from any kind of threat or abuse’.
Then Samaha continues and justifies the ‘sectarianism’ of Aoun and his movement as not ‘bad as the word implies’. His sectarianism, according to the secular Samaha, is justified as a reaction of the foul-play of others.
In 968 words, Samaha made several mistakes. His major failing was in his moral judgement on three main issues:
- The neo-liberal economic model of Aoun is a sign of modernity but that of 14 March coalition is harmful.
- The democracy of a former army general is definitely good but that of others including those in a coalition of political movements is flawed
- The sectarianism of Michel Aoun is benign but that of Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblat and Samir Jaejae is carcinogenic.
While commentators should not be apolitical; there is a thin line between sound arguments and spin-doctoring. Samaha is moving towards the latter.