Why #ThankBassil Backfired

Yesterday night, Nicolas Sehanoui decided to take his twitter presence and use it in support of another minister in his now-defunct cabinet. The minister he decided to support was Gebran Bassil, one of the FPM’s more polarizing figures. Mr. Sehanoui figured that tweeting some of Bassil’s “achievements” in the ministry of energy and water with the hashtag #ThankBassil would get people talking.

Well, people got talking alright. But it wasn’t good at all. Instead of the hashtag turning into something positive to light Gebran Bassil’s future electoral days, no pun, it became a space for people across the twitter spectrum to express their true sentiment regarding the minister. Saying those sentiments weren’t nice would be an understatement: people are still making fun of that hashtag today, almost 24 hours later.

Many FPM supporters cannot fathom how people can’t get past their prejudice agains this man and look at his achievements. But the reasons for that are actually quite simple. Let me try to list them:

1) Gebran Bassil is simply unlikeable. This is common knowledge among Batrounis, even those in the FPM circle. Many of the level-headed FPMers I’ve spoken to admit that any other “choice” for a battle-candidate in the region would get more votes. Why’s that? Because Gebran Bassil isn’t held in the best regards among those in the FPM, despite what they try to show, and he is not liked enough to get the votes of those who are politically “independent” in the region. Case in point? He lost twice. Another case in point? Even in Michel Aoun’s Christian hayday, he barely managed to get a majority in the caza. Nicolas Sehanoui, for instance, shares Gebran Bassil’s views. But he is likeable enough to get me to maybe consider voting for him. I don’t vote in Achrafieh so there’s that.

2) What is the source of said-achievements? It’s easy to categorize everyone on Twitter as a blind supporter of political parties here and there. Many actually are. But you know what’s also interesting about Twitter? It’s a space for many Lebanese who are fed up to express that sentiment. I am one of those people. I have no problem acknowledging when someone has done a good job. What I have a hard time doing, however, is to believe rhetoric that comes from political sources that have an agenda behind each word they blurt out: every number, every syllable, every point.

3) Have you seen some of those “achievements?” One example that comes to mind is the oil achievement. Am I supposed to be grateful and eternally thankful to Gebran Bassil that Lebanon has oil, something which many of us have known for years and years now? For reference, digging sites were set up in my Batrouni hometown in the 1970s for that matter. Or how about all those dams whose projects have been around since 1960? Are all the achievements non-sensical? Perhaps not. But I don’t trust any Lebanese politician enough to give them blind thumps up.

4) Why should I be thankful to anyone again? I’ve said it before in this article (link) but I don’t want to ever be thankful to any politician whatsoever for doing what they are theoretically required to do, regardless of how well they do their job. If I see tangible improvement in a certain area, which I’m not seeing with Bassil so far, I point it out. If them doing their job is absolutely horrendous, Gaby Layoun comes to mind, then I’ll point it out as well. It is our duty as aware Lebanese people not to get carried away with political hype, especially if it comes pre-electorally, and be critical of what we hear and what politicians do. But never, ever, be eternally grateful for something someone should be doing regardless of what his or her predecessors did. Meaning: when I start practicing medicine, please don’t be eternally grateful for me curing you when you are paying me to do it.

5) Does it even make sense for politicians of the same political party to start thanking each other for their accomplishments on social media? What’s next, have Gaby Layoun thank Minister Sehanoui next week and have minister Bassil thank Layoun the week after that? How is ministerial twitter love-fest remotely acceptable?

6) If you’re from Batroun, you’d know that Gebran Bassil is being paraded around these days almost everywhere. Thank you Gebran Bassil posters are literally everywhere across my region (pictures). Why’s that? Because the man is going around the country, to every single place his ministry has started a project, to make sure the project gets affixed to his name forever. Why is he doing that in the first place? Because he knows he won’t be going back to the ministry next time and he doesn’t want his “achievements” to be affixed to anyone else’s name. Two questions can be asked here: Did he take “accomplishments” from previous ministers? And isn’t #thankbassil another extension of the media frenzy?

7) Last but not least, if you’re from Batroun as well, you’d remember a little book that was also distributed across the region in 2009 ahead of the parliamentary elections to list Gebran Bassil’s achievements. Sounds familiar, right? Well, that little book was not only trashed, it was torn apart by criticism because it was so bloated and full of achievements that were not simply true. That little book was one of the reasons Gebran Bassil lost the elections in 2009. If you’re not from Batroun, now you know.

I met Gebran Bassil a while back at my hometown’s local church hall as he paid his respect to a deceased relative. He is very good friends with my aunt who was his classmates all through school days. He was more receptive to me than I was to him. He even joked that I wasn’t “apparently with them.” I laughed as he tapped me on the shoulder to tell me it’s okay.

For the record, I don’t think he’s a bad man. On the contrary, he seemed quite friendly and I wouldn’t mind having a chit-chat with him sometimes away from all the townspeople who couldn’t wait to touch his holy suit. We might end up at each other’s throat but that’s fine.

However, I do think he is a grating politician. Is he corrupt? Perhaps he is. I can tell you about the old houses being traded around Batroun or  the aquifer water well permits being handed out to people as easy as saying A. But he is definitely not the worst and most corrupt of politicians to roam this country. Batroun has better examples to give to that. Kolestone, anyone?

It all boils down to what Twitter user @MWNader said yesterday: You can buy ministries but you cannot buy chemistry.

Refer to Fouad Sanioura for further details.

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18 thoughts on “Why #ThankBassil Backfired

  1. I like it when u Elie discuss politics
    I just have to wonder , Where you ever involved in politics ?
    Did u even get nominated ? Oh right I remember back in 2008 even your beloved LF party refused to nominate u at AUB. So when you talk abt ” likeable” . Practice what you preach.
    People describe you as fat , ugly and insecure. So stop hiding behind ur little laptop and pretend to be a likeable person just because u run a pathetic blog. And get over Bassil , we don’t need another Mohamad Qabbani.

    Reply
    • Well “Red”,
      Nice name allow me to say (very erotic), and beautiful comment. But let me tell you that ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ people are apparently people with brains and utter consistency. Also, being ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ has nothing to do with your mental abilities. I know a lot of ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ geniuses like Alfred Hitchcock to name a few (do you know him? no? I thought so). Anyway, Red. Apparently you’re a hot person with a an amazing body full of muscles (if you’re a male) or curves (if you’re a female), but you’re not mentally capable to even write down your ideas (“where you”? seriously?) and I’m pretty sure you’re a very ‘secure’ person because you’re using your real name.

      Dear Red, some assholes might have described Elie as ugly, but other people (people with degrees, fancy stuff) have nominated this ‘pathetic’ blog as the best blog of the year and guess what? People are voting!

      If you and your people aren’t able to run a ‘pathetic’ blog, or write a good sentence…do you seriously think your comment will be taken seriously? I won’t comment on the LF part, because apparently you have no idea about how elections happen in universities. So do a little research :))

      Please people, have some manners. No one is forcing you to read this blog, ok?

      Anyway, fuck you 🙂

      Bye.

      Reply
    • Not looking at the personal insults, how horrible is your English dude? Are you sure you passed your Eng 101 course at AUB with atrocity after atrocity that make you feel empowered behind a name that isn’t really yours?

      The difference between you and I, Red, is that fat ugly and insecure me is secure enough to broadcast my fat ugly opinion for everyone to read, affixed to my name, without giving a shit.

      The difference between you and I, Red, is an entire IQ digit. In case this isn’t clear enough for you: yours is only made up of two.

      The difference between you and I, Red, is that I, in my ugliness and insecurity, actually allowed you to even voice your pathetic opinion on this pathetic blog, which you keep on reading apparently. Or only when it comes to Bassil.

      Why do I let you comment here again? Oh yeah, because I’m fat and ugly and insecure. It doesn’t even matter if I’m likeable because we both know your ass would have been kicked by yours truly if I ran for elections at AUB, which I never seriously did.

      Sincerely,
      The ugly insecure fat kid with the pathetic blog.

      PS: Gebran Bassil says hi.

      PPS: I won’t tolerate any comments on my blog that are insulting to me or any of my other readers. Anyone who decides they want to comment on this with such gems won’t have their comment approved.

      Reply
    • I think calling you a retard is offensive to all people who were born with mental disabilities and didn’t acquire them along the way.

      Reply
  2. I definitely disagree with what Red wrote since he attacked the personal, and this is unacceptable by any mean.
    Regarding this article, I understand that you have remarks on FPM and especially on Gebran Bassil, but please can you write next time on Sanioura who you mentioned in this article…I think you can write thousands of articles regarding his corruption and antipathetic personality.

    Reply
  3. Insecurity is attacking the person instead of an idea. Great post Elie, gives insight to a matter that I think only people of Batroun can tackle this way.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s working. Oh and awesome blog 🙂

    Reply
  4. -those projects which he is doing are long term ones, ALL Lebanese people will benefit for a long time water and electricity, its not like fixing some roads in a certain region
    -just look at those projects it will save millions instead of depending on one source there will be gas, oil, and renewable energy, why anyone before him didnt think of that ? MAYBE on paper but didnt start some
    -since 2001 only one dam has been built and it supposed to be a 10 year project launching 10 dams,he already launched 2 dams in 1 month
    -powerboats should have been arrived in 1994 this means that we NEEDED those boats and power stations NEEDED maintenance back then, so nobody should say that when bassil came everything got worse
    – you are absolutely right of course we should not thank him for that its his duty to do so

    Reply
  5. Well you found a little typo and it made your day.
    The difference between you and I, is that I comment on the content which is more important.
    “if I ran for elections at AUB, which I never seriously did.” Please tell us y u didn’t ? And be honest abt it.
    So u r a finalist for the SMA, well so is Bassil . You should learn a thing or 2 from him abt engaging with ur readers. You don’t seem to handle negative feedback in a good way. Well I am sorry if i offended you , I was quoting and good for u that I only quoted this part.

    “PPS: I won’t tolerate any comments on my blog that are insulting to me or any of my other readers.”
    really . So your boy ismail “fuck you” is not insulting to your readers. I suggest that you change that PPS to reflect your real opinion abt insults.

    I don’t think bassil is waiting for a thank you from anyone. I don’t think he will win in Batroun. You know better it is impossible for any FPMer to win there.
    But
    “Am I supposed to be grateful and eternally thankful to Gebran Bassil that Lebanon has oil”
    He didn’t discover oil. We have been hearing abt it for decades as you said . Well I wonder who made it a reality. On April 18, the 52 companies that applied for the 1st licensing round will be shortlisted and
    and 2 weeks later, the tender will be launched. Exploration will start in 2015 . And Yes i #ThankBassil for that.

    Good Luck with the SMA. I will be there and i really hope you win.

    Reply
  6. @Elie:
    The only reason this blog discussed this minister and not someone else is because of the twitter incident, hence title. I’m pretty sure volumes can be written about other people as well, writing this post does not support nor negate your point.

    @Red
    I was looking for some healthy comments about the entry but I really need to address your comment first, since not replying to such comments is what got our country to its situation.

    First, concerning Elie’s alleged AUB SRC nomination, I was relatively close to what happened, and given the privacy of the issue and the people involved, would be happy to discuss with you on a different platform.
    Second, concerning the likeable, some people have it, other people don’t. You’re not born with it however, it’s your actions and standpoints that define it. And likeable is also relative to the crowd, I might be very likeable to a small audience but unlikeable to a larger, more heterogenous one, so the comparison is relatively flawed.
    Third, your personal attack has been fully discussed so I won’t go over it.
    Fourth, give me one reason why to get over Bassil. Given the fact that this blog discusses actions and not people per se, why not continue to discuss them?

    Fifth, SMAs are not related to electoral popularity and achievements but to online presence, let’s keep that line visible.
    Sixth, concerning oil issues, please check with several executive magazine articles about the matter discussing how yes no one discovered it (just like every good potential in the country) but the debatable issue is how well you take advantage of it, and this is where the debate is. Bringing contractors and digging the wells is not the only criteria (just check the status of so many projects with contractors already on board).

    I really hope this steers the conversation to a healthier level.

    And Elie Good Luck with the SMA. I will be there(not) and i really hope you win.

    Reply
  7. Dear Elie,
    First, thanks for the mention on your post. In my #ThankBassil tweets I was trying to understand why a minister (or any person) with so many ‘achievements’ still can’t win a parliamentary election… why?!
    I’m not a psychiatrist but one of the assumptions (I called it the chemistry assumption) I though that -sometimes- whatever we do of good things to the people they will never be satisfied. In contrary, the more we give them.. the more they want.

    So which factor is more important in our EMOTIONAL society: Achievements or Personal Character? Obviously (and unfortunately)- the Personal Character is dominating in our society, and this is what’s keeping us behind [in my opinion].

    -Why the Lebanese in general and the Batrounies in specific still vote emotionally and not rationally? (with all my respect to their choices)
    -Why, for example, a (corrupted) person with less competence and/or ‘achievements’ can run an election and win it? is it just because of his family name? Is this a sign of progression? is this fair? #iWonder
    -When the Lebanese will start voting based on action plans and not based on personal level? I think a good politician (away from the personal level) is a good executor for a good action plan- regardless whether it is bassil or anyone else.

    Back to Bassil’s case: regardless of his personal character, he did a good job. But whatever… he will not win an election in Batroun. Bingo! 1+1≠2. Where’s the logic in that? ls it the Chemistry effect? Is it that strong and it can even blind people? I don’t know- this is what I tried to understand.

    Regardless of my political opinion, I hope ‘rationality’ is stronger than ‘chemistry’.

    Back to your post, I agree that there’s no need for all this #thankBassil campaign and as I said in different tweet “Sometimes- the ‘low profile’ strategy is more useful” and the good work itself does not need such big marketing (nor Clementine). Also the FPM must learn that it is not nice to force the Lebanese to LOVE Bassil. Khalas they must get over it. No need for such huge billboards. Seriously too much love is really not good.
    One more point, I think the FPM with all these ‘achievements’ is providing to the public too much information and material which had exposed it to lot of criticism. Too much light is not always good. However, others while being officially away and by not doing anything, no one is talking about them!! #ridiculous

    Finally- and since I don’t like the tasteless/odorless people I want to say that on the personal level I don’t ‘like’ Bassil; he has so many mistakes (yes- he’s human); but on the other hand he did so many achievements that others could not do (Bravo)… and if I had the chance to vote for him.. I’ll take the risk and vote “Yes”.

    Thanks for giving me this space.
    Peace-
    Nader

    Reply

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