When Saad Hariri first went on Twitter, many were hoping he’d use the platform productively to enhance his political career, which has been sitting on the back burner for the past few months as he globe-trotted his away around everywhere except Lebanon.
But a series of mistakes, the last two of which are only a few of days apart, have gotten many – myself included – to wonder whether it was really wise for Mr. Hariri to join the social networking platform.
In January, Hariri said good morning to an Israeli government spokesperson. Either he didn’t know who that person is or he knew and still said good morning, which in both cases is worrying: the former because it shows a certain political ignorance; the latter because it would open a Pandora’s box that Lebanon is obviously not ready for.
On May 10th, Hariri got into a useless Twitter debacle with a brainwashed pro-FPM twitter user who has been constantly barraging him. The aim of the anti-Hariri person was clear: to provoke the former prime minister. Hariri caved in. However, instead of replying in a way that a former prime minster should, Hariri’s reply was straight out of a teenager’s handbook. Of course, Tayyar.org were more than happy to flaunt this around, useless as they may be as a news-website.
On May 13th, soon after the Tripoli events erupted, a Twitter user had the following conversation with Saad Hariri:
Not only is Mr. Hariri’s argument non-sensical, but it’s also offensive to every single Lebanese who has been killed or assassinated before his father and after him. I wrote on February 14th about how the memory of that day is being milked into nothingness. This only supports my idea.
Does Rafic Hariri’s murder have anything to do with the events taking place in Tripoli? Absolutely not. Is it honorable to bring in Rafic Hariri’s memory – regardless of what you thought of him – into this debate? Of course not. Does it make up a remotely acceptable argument or reply? Definitely not.
I know many people who are disappointed by the way Hariri is handling things on the ground and more tangibly on Twitter. This only serves to reinforce that. Some have even said they’ve lost their respect for the man. While I haven’t reached that extent yet, Saad Hariri is getting dangerously close. Whenever he pretends as if Rafic Hariri is the only person to be assassinated in Lebanon, I boil on the inside. I think about the many people who have died before him, starting with presidents to students, and the many journalists and politicians that died after him, leading up to the many that lost their lives in various Tripoli-related events, culminating in today’s turmoils. Then I ask myself: if a politician thinks the blood of his father is more precious than the collective of lives that have been lost in the same fight his father died for, how can I trust such a politician to run my country? How can I trust him to keep a level-head, even if it’s just a twitter conversation?
I believe Mr. Hariri’s stay outside the country has gotten very out of sync with Lebanon and it shows on Twitter not only through his replies but through his stances. Tripoli is a city where Hariri has many voters, most of whom he will need in a year to win, and he is supporting the people who are wrecking the city just to free up one man. By not condemning the salafists, the head of the moderate Sunni party in Lebanon is supporting them. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.
Perhaps Hariri should hire a PR team to run his social media presence. It would save both himself and his supporters some trouble by doing what other Lebanese politicians do. However, if he insits he wants to keep his interaction with the people going he needs to learn to double check any response he sends out on various levels: political correctness, appropriateness and most importantly whether it befits someone of his status.