Creating disgust based on projected cultural and class differences

In a couple of years, the history of the recent ‘upheaval’ years of this country that came to be known as Lebanon, will mainly be remembered through this dark spot that is the history of the Mustaqbal movement. It will probably be the first and (hopefully) last Sunni chauvinistic movement in the history of the Middle East. I wonder to what extent will the Mustaqbal party succeed in producing a somewhat nationalist Lebanese discourse, given the pan-arabist antecedent of Sunni Lebanese movements. If it does it will be built on the hatred of the Syrian people and other sects (in Lebanon) affiliated with it. The politics of Lebanese-Syrian relations may change with the changing wind of interest and influence, but the worldviews and understandings of the Lebanese followers may well stay chauvinistic with or without a rapprochement. The days where most Lebanese thought they were either Syrians, or simply not very different from Syrians (and others in the region) are very much gone.

Now I’ve looked a long time to get a picture of this because for some reason they quickly removed that particular ad from all of Beirut’s billboard. I had to wait until I went to the Bekaa yesterday in order to capture some pictures of remaining billboards in the Dahr el baydar area.

This picture is part of the desperate campaign to mark the territory of what was dubbed the Cedar revolution. The objective here is simple: Do you want these ugly and dirty dudes to come back in our opulent backyards? Please, think a bit about this image. It is not a picture of the Syrian president, it is not one of any decision maker in Syria or even the picture of some murderous act the Syrian could have committed, but simply poor simple soldiers who look, well, “Syrian”. And the slogan says it all: “Come down so that they don’t come back”. Yes, this is the only reason why people should come down, because those ugly bastards you see in this picture could come back. Of course here, one can clearly see, beyond the works of the party, the actual efforts and morbid talent of advertising agencies professionalism in playing on people’s most obscure emotions, if not creating them and nurturing them. They excel at the task of crystallizing the idea that feeling of disgust must be associated with something you can now point out that is called “Syrian”. Certain extreme types nationalism (the fascistic trend of Europe for example) start out like that.

On another billboard ad, there is a picture of the 14th of March rally in martyr square and the following slogan: The field (al sa7at) is ours, and the martyrs are ours (al sa7at sa7atouna, wal shouhada2, shouhada2ouna). Horrible possessive exclusionary types of slogans. I think I don’t need to comment here, and that’s without mentioning how desperate this campaign looked, as I decided to only focus on the formation of differentiation based on feelings of superiority.


7 Replies to “Creating disgust based on projected cultural and class differences”

  1. Focusing on negative emotions and associations work better and quicker to rally people than focusing on positive emotions. Take the example of the animal. I have a ten year old dog whos breed is categorised as one of the top ten most intelligent based on intelligence tests for dogs. When I took my dog who was a six week old puppy I hired a trainer whose training focused only on building a good relationship between the beast and the humans (my son was seven at the time and I couldn’t afford problems with the dog). He trained the dog only with rewards, never punishment, only positive learning. he gave me the choice. He said ‘if you want to train your dog quickly, you put a shocker around his neck but you will have to hire another trainer. My training takes more time but it builds a good relationship between the dog and the humans he lives with.’

    Publicity and communication specialists, like commercial advertising specialists build their message on the beast part in us, the part that doesn’t think but only does associations like in animal intelligence. And it works with these people who aren’t endowed with critical thinking or who are afraid or who are going through economic hardship and instability. It is powerful.
    Against this we have to build solidarities everywhere, solidarity replaces well critical thinking because you cannot ask anyone to develop critical thinking in order to avoid perverse political messages…

    And here is as beautiful story that happened to me while visiting Syria during the 2005 summer. Our visit was part of a wider visit to Lebanon and Cyprus. I was touring the region and my family, husband and chiuldren were discovering these countries, including lebanon, for the first time. While we were in Damascus, we went to visit the Mosque. My daughter and I entered to borrow an Abaya to cover ourselves. Usually tourists pay for the Abaya, and everuthing you pay has two prices, a local price and a tourist price. The man at the door saw clearly that I was Arab and he adressed me in Arabic and asked me from where I come and I said hesitantly ‘Lebanon’ and so he said : ‘welcome our sister’ and he refused to take a tourist price from me. This was a time when tension was building between Syria and Lebanon and when trucks coming into Syria from Lebanon made a 5 km stretch at the Syrian Lebanese border.

  2. So you think that the Sunni that’s coming from the poor neighborhoods of Tripoli will feel ‘chauvinistic’ based on cultural and class differences? I find that hard to believe.
    Your argument is extremely biased.
    As for Sophia’s comment, in this picture, you have Syrian soldiers, not Syrian citizens. The anger that this picture generates is toward the army of occupation, the political regime behind it. If your story shows that Syrian people are really nice -as opposed to the arrogant, ‘chauvinistic’ Lebanese, you obviously never had to deal with a Syrian soldier at a checkpoint in your city. This guy will definitely not give you anything for free. You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t ask you for something that you own in exchange for letting you pass without humiliating you by calling you all sorts of names. And don’t you dare argue or defend yourself, because then you’ll find yourself in the worst prison in human history (Mazzeh- I hope one day it will became a touristic destination like Khayyam or Villa Grimaldi)
    And as for ‘the commercial advertising specialists, who build their message on the beast part in us’, I’m sure Hizbullah hired the best when he published those gruesome pictures of dismanteled body parts form Israeli soldiers. That was a positive message indeed.
    And just in case you don’t know, I can tell you thousands of stories of noble Israeli youth and organizations, collecting the harvest for the Palestenian people, I know others who were simply ran over by an Israeli bulldozer trying to stand up for their neighbors cause. I think what I’m trying to say here is that when you hate the Syrians or the Israelis, you hate their political regimes, their armies but not the people.

  3. Your use of the cliche “This guy” of the so-called “Syrian checkpoint prototype” makes you unworthy of a reasonable answer.
    THIS is Hegemony, as Bech talks of it two posts earlier.
    You, Mr/Mrs, are now part of the problem, unlike Bech’s speech, however Biased he may seem. There is a line, in logic, which obviously you cant see, and which makes all the difference between someone “on the path” of producing knowledge and someone merely talking, in the most “ordinary” way. You are of the second kind.
    A critique of your speech is the only answer one could give you…

  4. I think it’s worthy to note that even though Anonymous’ post seemed somehow aggressive towards “this guy” in the Syrian army, nonetheless you always like to take the small simple mistake in a whole idea and completely destroy people’s arguments when they don’t agree with you : they (anonymous and not me for once) were pointing out that whatever there is in those ads is not directed towards the Syrian people but the Syrian soldier. And I don’t know exactly where you lived in the 80’s – 90’s but the presence of Syrian soldiers was not joyful for most of the Lebanese people.
    You, however, or bech, don’t seem to have a problem generalizing about Israelis, israeli soldiers and even for some of our common ‘relations’, about jews in general. I don’t like al mustaqbal of course or their ads, but quit the bs and let people express their differences without treating them as morons or as racists, because you are acting exactly as the people you should be criticizing.


  5. Sophia, I felt like commenting on ur post because I found it really interesting. I think the comparison with your dog about quick versus long term solutions was excellent, but I also really liked the comment you made about solidarity / critical thinking (and short term / long term correlation ?). I hadn’t thought things through before, and to me it seemed foolishly obvious – very naive – that solidarity would entice/ provoke/ critical thinking (if someone shows an attitude different from the prejudice you have, you reconsider your positions and grow) but that’s not true in majority of the cases. It’s still mostly feelings. It’s a little “le passionel” versus “la raison”. Very interesting to try to look at current and past events from this angle. Alliances during the war and after, etc.
    Makes me wonder what will stay of the current events in a couple of years in people’s minds. Today, Nasrallah and Aoun have a very rational alliance that may end sooner or later, but also the alliances between hariri/ geagea/ joumblat. I think I know now why I don’t trust the second : it’s very rational and I think many of the people that follow them know that so i’m not sure there is or will be any solidarity “feeling” between their people afterwards. I feel that Nasrallah’s and Aoun’s alliance is much more intelligent in that way. it has and probably have created some human awareness (maybe solidarity) between Aoun’s and Nasrallah’s respective people, maybe even if their alliance comes to an end. Also makes me think that this must be some kind of strategic axis of communication from the people who deal with it all on top, to make it sustainable .. Or not ?
    Anyways, enough blabla on my behalf. Many thanks for the post.


  6. Not relevant here but here anyway :

    “Critiqué par les autorités iraniennes pour sa description de la Révolution islamique, le film d’animation franco-iranien Persépolis n’a pas été autorisé à sortir sur les écrans libanais, provoquant de vives critiques dans le pays.

    Une source gouvernementale, s’exprimant sous le couvert de l’anonymat, a expliqué à l’AFP que le film avait déplu au chef de la sûreté, un proche du Hezbollah, qui décide de la censure des films. Le ministre de la culture, Tarek Mitri, a déclaré de son côté qu’il n’y avait “aucune raison justifiant la censure du film” et qu’il a demandé au ministère de l’intérieur de faire lever cette interdiction.

    Persépolis, prix du jury (ex aequo) au Festival de Cannes 2007 et nommé aux Oscars 2008, est tiré de la bande dessinée éponyme de la Franco-Iranienne Marjane Satrapi. Le film, qu’elle a co-réalisé avec Vincent Paronnaud, montre la répression sous le régime du chah mais aussi le musèlement social, et les arrestations et exécutions qui suivirent la Révolution islamique menée par l’ayatollah Khomeiny. Le film a été condamné par le gouvernement du président iranien, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, comme “islamophobe” et “anti-iranien”, mais une version censurée a toutefois été diffusée à quelques reprises dans le pays.”

    article from the french newspaper Lemonde…

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