I used to get invited to some exclusive events often. Emails would come in asking me to attend something here or another thing there. Being in the North most of the time, I often declined. But I went sometimes. They call this your blogging golden years – when you start getting noticed. I would be lying if I said I didn’t like it.
The other side of the invitation coin is an inherent request to blog about the event, the product, the location, etc. We, as bloggers, tend to do it out of courtesy. While attending the events at hand, I personally hear a lot of criticism that somehow never makes it to the blogposts circulating online. But I wouldn’t take that. I never felt I owed anyone because of an invitation but I owed it to myself first and foremost and to my readers, whoever they may be, second to be absolutely honest. I re-draft for the sake of diplomacy and to make the criticism more subtle sometimes. But my criticism is always there. People always call me the opposition front. It may be annoying sometimes, I give you that. But it is what it is. The invites have since reached a standstill.
I am not a blog for scoops. If you want your “it” news of the day, this is probably not the place you look. Many of you probably read “A Separate State of Mind” because you had a nice day and wanted someone to piss you off with his constant nagging. It’s not Lebanon until you go to bed infuriated. Others probably go by here because they like my opinions. Either way, thank you for reading.
I don’t see how bloggers getting invited to such events can really make it or break it so I don’t mind at all not getting invited to exclusive events if it means I’m free-er to say whatever I want. But I do mind some companies and firms expressing annoyance that I did not gush over them like a preteen fangirling over Justin Bieber especially when some events are obviously subpar or the product being given has obvious shortcomings.
It’s not only about companies and events. It goes beyond it to many other aspects as well.
I criticized the SMA award both before the show and after. I believe both of my posts were not scathing. They were balanced and could fall in under constructive criticism. That didn’t stop people from calling me a sore loser because I didn’t win or dramatic because I was making a big deal out of things or a disgrace for the Lebanese online community. Subtweets about yours truly nagging about the SMAs were retweeted by non-other than members of the award ceremony’s jury. Social media professionalism, much? What do I know, I guess.
No one really cares, as another example, when I harshly criticize an American movie. However, when movies such as My Last Valentine in Beirut get a scathing review (link) because of how horrible they are, I get flooded with questions that revolve around: Why don’t you support Lebanese cinema? Why are you this harsh? Why are you this nerdy? Why don’t you understand the cinematic masterpiece that this work is?
Or it could be when some blogger criticizes a well known designer (link) and instead of addressing the points being raised, regardless of whether you agree or not, those bloggers are automatically considered posers, sore losers with zero credibility who haven’t worked a day in their lives, etc.
It could even be about politics and common life aspects. If you criticize party A, partisans of party B suddenly adore you while those of party A bash your brains out. When the wheels turn and you criticize party B, those same partisans that were adoring you for a while suddenly hate you. You’re either with us or against us. It’s either always right or always wrong. No one can stray from the path drawn for them. I am political. I don’t hide my political leanings. But my criticism goes both ways. Except for those who only read one-way.
The stakes can also be higher and transcend blogging, social media, movie reviews and some takes on local politics. When some of our politicians criticize certain aspects of society or some companies, they suddenly find themselves dragged to court for defamation. An example that comes to mind is Charbel Nahas who led a campaign against Spinneys’ CEO who was oppressing his working force. If this had happened in more developed countries, a scandal would have ensued. Not here, obviously.
On the other hand, you have entities such as Warner Bros. and Roadster Diner which take criticism, however scathing it might be, and turn it into an opportunity to improve. For instance, Warner Bros got hammered for a delay in the screening of Argo. They apologized and turned it around in other screenings. Roadster Diner get inundated with displeased customers daily and still they handle it extremely professionally.
Lebanon, it turns out, is a no-criticism allowed zone. Because giving an opinion that may not be favorable about absolutely anything always renders you a hater who lacks professionalism and who simply cannot understand. Dream on if you believe your opinion might help to improve things. There are certainly ways to be critical and get your message across. But even the lightest of methods ruffle some feathers here. So until a time when constructive criticism does the job it’s supposed to do, here’s to all the unprofessional losers like us.