MTV Has The Audacity To Claim They’re The Reason Lebanon Had Compassion For Istanbul’s Victims

I take pride in the fact that as individuals on Social Media, we got one of Lebanon’s most watched TV stations to worry so much about its reputation that it tried to discredit us at least three times since Monday.

The first round was during Monday’s episode of Menna w Jerr, when Dolly Ghanem said:

“Social media is what makes a big deal out of nothing. I’m from the war generation and covered worse things than this. but we’ve never been under this much scrutiny. Those criticizing the media as chasing scoops and ratings, yes that guy, isn’t he waiting and seeing how many have shared his words? Isn’t he also running behind scoops and shares?”

I guess Mrs. Ghanem’s annoyance that her lot is being scrutinized by social media is enough proof for us that we’re on the right track. If this scrutiny is going to force them to do their job better, puts them in their place, forces them to try to attack our reputation to preserve theirs, and fail in doing so, then we’re triumphant.

Watch the video here:

The second round of replies came yesterday when they said they chose their right to remain silent against such attacks, but still posted an entire article about the matter (link).

In that article, they compared the campaign they’ve been victims of as nothing more than an orchestrated effort by those who hate their freedom. They also reminded us of the fact that, once upon a time, they were closed down by Syrian-Lebanese authorities because they were very free. Yes, because that has anything to do with the criticism hurled at them, and all other TV stations today, from almost everyone.

You’d think they have the decency, as a supposedly respected institution, to take a moment of self-reflection and see what went wrong, but no that’s not even close to being the case. Instead of listening to the massive outrage at the way they’re handling things, they keep digging a hole for themselves.

And they’re not even done digging that hole yet.

A few minutes ago, MTV posted their second article since deciding to remain silent about the criticism they’ve received. In that article, accompanied by a picture of someone in Elias’ family member weeping, they decry that:

“Those messing around on social media have relaxed by now and stopped preaching…. If it weren’t for us, the media they’re criticizing, Lebanese people wouldn’t have felt this compassion to the victims of Istanbul’s attacks.”

Yes, they had the audacity to say they’re the reason we felt sorry and horrified that other Lebanese had been brutally killed, in cold blood, at the hand of a terrorist, away from home, on a night that should have been one of the best nights of their lives.

There’s despicable, and then there’s this whole other level of deplorable. No, MTV. You are not the reason we felt compassion to Elias, Rita and Haykal. We did because we are human, because we, too, have lost people and know the weight of such losses. We did because death touches us all. We did because they’re our friends, our family members. We did, in spite of you turning their death into a reality TV show.

It doesn’t end there. They try to justify the coverage they did at Elias Wardini’s house by saying that the reporter had forgotten she was a journalist at the family’s home and felt like she was a family member sharing in their grief, and that the quality of live broadcast goes back to the decisions of the station’s administration.

This kind of emotional, sensational rhetoric about a reporter suddenly becoming a family member and forgetting all her professionalism is senseless and the epitome of unprofessionalism. That’s like me saying to the family of a patient I just lost: oh, sorry I couldn’t do the best job that I could. I suddenly forgot I’m a doctor and decided to become a part of your family instead.

It doesn’t end there. They say that: “We were all affected by the tragedy that we wanted the people to mourn with the family, so we could all grieve together. It’s okay if the viewer is touched and cries for the death of his fellow citizens.”

Well, at least they admit it now. So let’s put it bluntly: NO. It’s not okay for you to use the family’s mourning to get the viewer to cry. NO, it’s not okay for you to assume you have to show me their tears for me to need to grieve. NO, it’s not okay for you to assume the role of a stage manager in my emotions and in my life ordering me to cry or laugh.

Moreover, your station’s administration deciding to show Elias’ sister receiving the news of his death, or Rita’s father weeping for his child, or even filming live from the plane carrying the victims home, filming them being taken to hospitals and their homes is the core of the problem.

But things are more rotten than this.

A couple of days ago, I was asked by a very respectable journalist who was not aware I had criticized MTV to give a statement for a news report about Razmi el Kadi. So I did. In about 15 seconds I said: “I’m not aware of whether there’s any legal basis to arrest Mr. El Kadi or not, but his words are not acceptable. There’s a sanctity to death, especially that of your countrymen, to be respected. The location of their death has no bearing on this issue when they’re this innocent.”

Soon after the report aired, a couple of MTV producers decided to subtweet me, calling me a hypocrite, to which I naturally replied that when you do a bad job, you will be called out on it. Someone, however, was way too offended by the fact I was, in 15 seconds, on MTV’s airspace, that they raised the issue with that administration.

Soon enough, the report in question was pulled off YouTube. A few hours later, it was aired on their midnight use re-edited to remove my parts from it. Keep in mind that the issue in question had nothing to do with their coverage, but was of a totally different matter altogether.

I don’t care in the least that my part was removed. But it’s a whole other level of unprofessional when some individuals who work in TV cannot take criticism and when a TV station refuses to host those who’ve criticized it. I mean, just delete yourself.

How childish can you get not only to be upset that you hosted someone who criticized you, but to make the effort – double the work – to re-edit the report and silence them from it? But it’s okay. I must have expected better ideals from a media that wants to advertise itself, in its own words, as “a victim of it being too free.”

But I digress.

MTV, when our Minister of Information Melhem Riachi questions, live on your air, when he questioned the point of you live covering an injured being taken to a hospital, of your coverage from the airplane carrying the victims, of your coverage at the victims’ houses, how can you even try to defend yourself?

MTV, it’s time for you to re-assess yourself. Take a deep look in whatever mirror you have and admit that you’re messing up majorly. Stop digging that hole. It’s too embarrassing.

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Lebanon: A No-Criticism Allowed Zone?

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.

Now Lebanon Censored… By Saad Hariri

Beirut Spring has just reported that a Now Lebanon article criticizing Saad Hariri and praising Najib Mikati has been pulled offline by the website. You can check out a screenshot of the article here.

If you’re interested in reading it, here’s a transcript (via Qifa Nabki):

The Baby and the Bathwater

If we are to believe a report in al-Joumhouria newspaper on Monday, French President François Hollande and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah, in a meeting also attended by former Lebanese PM and Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, will not back current Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati if a new government is formed.

Do the Lebanese not have a say in any of this? We should worry at the carefree way in which Lebanon’s future is always being decided by outside actors, no matter who they are. The region is already polarized between the Sunni and Shiite communities in a dangerous standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Such horse-trading will only serve to entrench further the sense that foreign powers control Lebanon’s destiny and that each side of the political divide is justified in having its regional backer.

Another worrying aspect was the presence of Hariri, a man who must surely concede that his role in Lebanese political life must now be confined to the margins of Sunni politics. He is living in LaLa Land if he still feels that the Lebanese public would welcome him back with open arms and see him as their salvation. In fact, it would be scandalous if he stood for parliament in the next general elections, let alone offer himself as a candidate for the premiership. (Ditto Nayla Tueni and the rest of the absentee MPs who, by their negligence, have done their best to snuff out the flame that was March 14 and insult the intelligence of the voters who sent them to Najmeh Square).

For it is not enough to simply oppose March 8’s fiendish agenda and make all the right noises about democracy, independence, sovereignty and the sanctity of the state. March 14 members must also take seriously their roles as public servants. The recent deterioration of infrastructure and the apparent collapse of law and order during August have woken up the public to the fact that if they want a functioning, safe, peaceful and prosperous country, and if they want laws enacted, it will not happen if the people they elect to achieve these ends are nowhere to be seen.

Which brings us back to the issue of Miqati and his suitability for the premiership. When he accepted to lead the Hezbollah-dominated government in the spring of 2011, many saw him as an opportunist who would trade what was left of Lebanon’s integrity for a place in the history books.

In reality and with hindsight, he has not done a terrible job. He has advanced the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (despite the Syrian dream of killing the process altogether) and spoken out against Syrian violations of Lebanese territorial integrity.Given the fact that he has had to work with a cabinet of which Hezbollah and its obstructionist allies in the FPM are a part, he has made a decent fist of holding things together.

Hollande and the rest of the international community are right to condemn the current government, which has set new standards in uselessness, but we should avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. With the exception of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Miqati is arguably the best candidate we have to lead this country in troubled times.In the meantime, the Lebanese must fight to wrestle their destiny from the hands of those who see Lebanon as a strategic asset instead of a sovereign nation, and all our MPs, without exception, should show up for work.

Saad Hariri, it seems, cannot take criticism. Especially when it’s coupled with praise to his political adversary, which is beyond disgraceful. It seems that Saad Hariri is so worried about his political tenure, all the way from his Parisian lala land (be careful of the cold dear MP, I heard it’s quite chilly this time of year) that he pulled his strings all the way to Lebanon in order to pull the article off a website in which he has influence.

The fact that Saad Hariri cannot take criticism is beyond worrying. It’s also very childish. It’s akin to one of those impertinent children who run to their mothers whenever those “bad kids” on the playground don’t let them play. And this type of behavior is certainly not acceptable from the proclaimed political leader of one of Lebanon’s main parties.

The sad thing though is that this doesn’t only apply to Saad Hariri. Each and every Lebanese politician is off limits by some platform or the other – and what remains, at the end of the day, is an electorate who’s limited by the narrow political opinion it gets from websites that are censored by the politicians it thinks are the best of the best.

And they all run to their mothers crying. They seem to be missing one key element though: good luck silencing the internet.

Update:

The article is back up (here) with the following disclaimer:

Disclaimer: NOW Lebanon has intentionally removed this article from the site. It was not removed because of censorship, but rather because of the lack of proper arguments. We would like to repeat, again, that NOW is not owned, in whole or in part, by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, nor any other political party or figure.

Yeah, right. Such “justifications” are an insult to Now Lebanon’s reader’s intelligence.