Why MTV’s “Banana Song” To Increase Culture In Lebanon Is A Big Failure

The only banana picture worth sharing

The only banana picture worth sharing

I was asked last week why I didn’t address the “banana song” that everyone was talking about. My answer was simple: it was something I didn’t feel should be propagated. Any kind of publicity is publicity, and I wasn’t going to be yet another blog exposing it to more people, not that it needed my help in doing so. Blog clicks and views be damned.

Yesterday, MTV announced that the whole thing was a marketing ploy orchestrated in collaboration with Impact BBDO to highlight how easily Lebanese fall for such flashy headlines and brainless news content instead of pursuing “culture.”

Certainly, the cause behind the mortifying song is noble, and kudos to those behind it for managing something that got almost everyone talking, even if it were to bash or criticize or to share it among friends for finding it hilarious.

But having everyone talk about it doesn’t mean the purpose of the campaign was successful. The campaign’s goal, to boost culture among the Lebanese populace, feels empty and hollow. I mean, isn’t MTV one of the leading Lebanese TV stations promoting lack of culture and decadence?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. How about 14 pictures about the content that MTV has been advertising on its channels for the past 4 days?

I don’t know about you but news about selfies and skin products don’t qualify as propagating culture in my book.

MTV’s lack of “culture propagation” also extends to their shows: when has Adel Karam hosted an artist on his show that promotes culture? His most successful episode was with Haifa Wehbe.

What was MTV’s attempt at keeping you glued to your TV sets on a Saturday night? Maya Diab in barely-there clothing singing karaoke.

How did MTV try to sell Dancing With The Stars in its first season? By using May Hariri.

Of course, MTV isn’t alone in this practice of culture-lacking Lebanese media approach. Here are some screenshots thanks to LBCI, OTV and Al-Jadeed:

Isn’t it ironic that the same TV station wanting to fight decadence has been actively promoting it for months and years based on the rule that “الجمهور عايز كده?”

Do they even know that people massively clicking on a link isn’t indicative of its quality and that people tuning into a TV show doesn’t mean that said TV show is of decent quality?

Does MTV also think that the people who shared the video and who are targeted by the campaign would suddenly wake up and find themselves needing to pursue some Picasso instead of a Miss Lebanon selfie and some Beethoven instead of Haifa, especially that there’s absolutely no Lebanese TV stations that serves such a level of “culture” to begin with, in a country where such a thing isn’t remotely primed in the first place?

The Lebanese population is being actively dumbed down by TV stations who then come sweeping in with a marketing ploy to show us that we easily fall prey to gimmicks, while doing absolutely nothing about the problem in the first place. Don’t ridicule people with a silly “music” video when your TV station makes absolutely no effort at advocating for the campaign you’re supposedly championing.

If you want to fight decadence and promote culture, then do it, don’t preach it. Offer some culture to your viewers that isn’t gimmicky. Educate them. Give them news articles that would stimulate their minds, that don’t start with a  “بالصور ” or ” بالفيديو ” headline.

Don’t expose the music of the highest bidder when there’s so much better pieces floating around the Lebanese scene but without the needed money to give them airtime. Don’t give acting roles to models when there are countless theatre students in the country who can’t make a living.

If you want to promote culture, don’t shy away from investigative journalism that could highlight and maybe change a lot of what’s happening in this country just because a politician owns shares in your establishment. How many issues has MTV and other Lebanese TV stations forcefully ignored because they’re not “catchy” enough, because they deem aren’t newsworthy enough, because they want to kill them upon arrival for a reason or another? How can you promote culture if you’re deciding what is cultural and what isn’t?

The simplest analogy to this whole issue that I can think of is the following: MTV promoting culture is akin to Al Manar promoting secularism or Tele Lumiere promoting atheism. In other words, it’s bullshit. In a week or so, when people get over bananas, MTV will go back to what it does best and it will all be “بالصور ” or ” بالفيديو .”

 

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Can We Get Over MTV’s “Digital” Drugs?

binaural beats mtv digital drugs

Because there’s absolutely nothing newsworthy reporting in Lebanon. Because everything is peachy, happy go lucky, the birds are chirping, the economy is booming, the tourists are coming in droves. Because our news services, notably MTV, have so much air time and so little things to report about, they decide to come up with absolute horseshit to get the Lebanese public into yet another state of panic.

The latest fad: Jdid, jdid… MTV…. Digital drugs.

I saw the headlines a couple of days ago. It sounded exactly like those Upworthy Facebook links you never bother to check. I didn’t click. Then the news kept on growing, and people kept on talking, and parents kept on panicking and I’m sure the news service that “uncovered” such an abomination is proud of itself for leading the viral mania.
A quick google search shows you that such a topic has existed since 2012, but never gained traction. I wonder why that could be.

I figured 7 years of medical school, including heavy duty courses in addiction that cover substances ranging from caffeine to hardcore drugs, including psychiatry clerkships where my colleagues and I never encountered such addicts, were not enough. I’ve seen alcoholics. I’ve seen heroin addicts. I’ve seen people who smoke marijuana by the kilos. But I had never, ever, seen someone addicted to something digital, in the cloud, to an MP3 file.

So I decided to learn, because that’s what science and medicine are: an ever-evolving field where stagnation even if with immense knowledge means you fall behind quite easily, so I hit up my favorite scientific databases. How nerdy.

I tried all different combinations of “binaural beats” and “hallucination.” No results.

I tried “binaural beats,” and “addiction.” Zilch.

But here’s what binaural beats do:

  • They were discovered in 1893, which makes them ancient, and are commonly used in meditation practices.
  • They consist of two tones at slightly different frequencies (get on your high school physics stat), presented separately to the left and right ears, and are perceived by the listener as a single tone. The end result is a perceptual phenomenon known as the binaural auditory beat (get on your high school philosophy perception notes pronto).
  • Scientific research on them has shown that they can affect psychomotor performance and mood, but nothing exists yet on their hallucinogenic effect.
  • There are plenty of things out there that could cause sensations of relief, elation, happiness, affect a person’s psychomotor performance and whatnot. Your favorite songs can make you feel happy. Making love to your partner can affect your mood. Eating chocolate can relieve stress. Practicing yoga has been shown to have tangible effects on the brain.

    There are also plenty of things that haven’t been banned that can cause hallucinations. Many medications that we give at hospitals have such a thing as their side effect. If you lock someone in a room alone for a period of time, they will end up having hallucinations. All of us also get hallucinations around sleeping time. Those are called hypnagogic or hypnopompic. Perhaps they’d want to ban those too?

    What’s also been proven is the existence of a placebo effect. If you give someone a substance and tell them it should do X and Y to them, many will report having felt X and Y occurring. That substance might as well be sugar, and they wouldn’t know. Placebo studies are crucial to the introduction of any new medications to the market. They are required to assess whether that new entity you want to sell is better than what’s already out there, or better than the non-medicated form. It also means that there could be a component to those “subjective” binaural beats reports of “having their mind blown away” that doesn’t scientifically exist.

    Kudos to MTV for bypassing years and years of possible scientific research to come to conclusions that are years ahead of any possible credible scientific paper on the matter. Kudos to those experts as well, flaunting all their expertise at us, good on them for being such professionals at what they do.

    Science Journal? Meh. Nature? That’s even worse. No, MTV is the new leading reference for scientists and doctors everywhere. Now please, educate me more.

    Ladies and gentlemen, this is nothing more than what happens, every other year, when a Lebanese TV station decides to re-address satanism and its association with heavy metal. You get “experts” saying that they’ve “proven” that listen to heavy metal music causes a person to deviate from holy religious norms and worship the devils. Those people will then engage in coital activities at cemeteries and commit blasphemy against churches and mosques or whatever. Of course, it’s more often than not pure and utter shit. But people panic anyway, because that’s what media feeds upon.

    I’m not saying binaural beats should be ignored, but who the hell is MTV to decide they should be banned when scientists haven’t studied them yet or have come up to conclusions on their merits, on their hallucinogenic effects, on their effects on brain matter?

    You know MTV, instead of covering such unfounded things like this, and using your power to lend credibility to scientifically unfounded crap, why don’t you give more airtime to other facets of addiction in Lebanon that are more abundant and much, much more accessible and much more scientifically proven to mess people up? Or why don’t you give more airtime to Lebanese areas that exist beyond your “live love Lebanon, let’s bring the tourists over” mantra? Trust me, that’s where the real problems in this country lie.

    Dear MTV, Here’s What Insults Christianity

    Lebanon + nurse + halloween + ban

    PS: The Cross isn’t sold with this

    I didn’t want to address anything related to that nun costume. It was culturally demeaning to even consider that nylon thing as something worthy of a discussion, which the country decided to have over the past few days.

    Lebanese Christian victimhood takes front and center once again. Sometimes, the reason for the panic may be fathomable. Other times, such as this time, it’s completely silly to make a fuss out of it. I wasn’t going to say anything until I read this exquisite piece by MTV Lebanon about the outfits (here). I also did a good amount of research to check if the sexy nun outfit wasn’t some slutty Mexican folklore. You never know!

    So dear MTV and the many Lebanese Christians who believe in what MTV said, please look at what really insults Christianity.

    It’s a bigger insult to Christianity when you put a shroud of holiness around priests and nuns and monks who have done nothing to you in any way whatsoever except belong to the religion you believe in.

    It’s a bigger insult to Christianity when you protect those people of the cloak beyond any form of doubt, despite it not making sense, because you believe they are of a higher moral order, because you believe they are above sins when Pope Francis shattered stereotypes by acknowledging that he was a man of sin.

    It’s a bigger insult to Christianity to take insult to every single thing that infringes upon anything that is related in any way to the religion especially when the insult doesn’t even touch upon the Holy convictions championed by that religion. What would you have done had the outfit been a slutty virgin Mary? Now that is something I might fathom being upset about – but are we seriously getting insulted by a downright stereotypical outfit of a nun?

    It’s an insult to Christianity that we keep going backwards as a society while everyone else goes forward. It’s an insult to Christianity that while the religion, with its new head, tries to find some footings in the 21st century, Lebanese Christians are firmly set in keeping it in the dark ages: what we don’t like even if hating it is way out there, the country doesn’t get. It’s as simple as that.

    It’s an insult to my intellect, dear MTV, to assume that a Halloween outfit is of the same insult caliber as the desecration of Churches and Holy monuments in Syria and Egypt. It’s also an insult to my intellect to read a piece written in that impeccably constructed language. Was it translated from Arabic using Google? Anyway, seeing as my intellect resides in the body of a Christian person on paper, I must also consider this as an insult to Christianity because the logic might hold somehow.

    Lebanese Christians, I beseech you (always wanted to use that word) to wake up and realize the following: You are entitled to believe in whatever you. You even have the right to take offense when your Holy figures are ridiculed and whatnot. And sometimes I’ll stand with you if the stance was worth it.  But being insulted by a Halloween costume is taking it too far.

    MTV, you didn’t handle the priest scandal well. Why are you doing the same mistake again?

    How Can I Get Credible News in Lebanon?

    Q: How do you know a person’s political/sectarian/whatever affiliation?

    A: Just look at the news they read/watch/get exposed to.

    With near 12 hour shifts at the hospital, I’m having less and less time to be exposed to all different news sources in order to get the gist of what’s happening in this country. For a while, this didn’t bother me. I figured the less I know about current politics, the better. My parents were also happy I wasn’t going to get myself in trouble.

    The sentiment didn’t last long. You just can’t logically remain disconnected from what’s happening here. Many Lebanese people are in the same boat: they don’t have time to read different sources and settle for one.

    It was either I settle for the rhetoric that I enjoyed the most and made me sleep better at night, like a lot of people out there, or I simply don’t. I chose the latter. So I subscribed to a bunch of news services that sent me daily bulletins. Some send these bulletins several times per day as an agglomeration of articles from different sources. It eventually became a habit of mine to click on the flashy headlines, read the first few sentences and try to guess the source. I have an accuracy rate north of 95%. Move over Layla Abdul Latif. Is that how it’s supposed to be?

    The other day, a friend of mine sent me something he figured I should write about: a former MP cutting down parts of the Cedar forest for his son’s wedding. I scanned through the article and then checked the source. It was Al-Akhbar, a newspaper that had that very same day turned a “scoop” they got of Samir and Sethrida Geagea allegedly divorcing into one of the worst articles I have ever read.  I immediately dismissed the news. I wasn’t going to touch that with a ten foot pole. The following day, the news turned out to be true because it was reported with pictures by several other sources.

    Our news services rehash news in different ways when it’s a slow day and they’re bored. On August 4th, MTV reported on a “quarrel” in Tripoli during a public iftar at Al-Nour roundabout using the same material they used in a report from March 12th of that same year.

    When it comes to  Tripoli, our news reporting was as horrible as it goes as well. When the fights were new, they were all over them. Then they got bored – and they figured everyone else should be bored as well. So they stopped reporting. Despite nights during which 1000s of mortar shells were dropped on the city, our media remained silent.  My friends had thought the worst thing happening in the country at that time was the electoral law debate. And, in the off-chance that they actually report something, they make it sound like the city is the Lebanese brand of Kandahar, in its own mood of civil war.

    On April 1st, MTV ran with some news that was their take on April Fools. Other news services in the country didn’t bother double-checking and simply jumped on the story. As their attempt to save face later on, they said they contacted several entities in order to double check and whatnot. Odds are they didn’t. But who cares? There’s no accountability when it comes to our news anyway.

    How does MTV report oil prices going up? “Gebran Bassil has raised oil prices.” How do they report them going down? “Oil prices have gone down.”

    How does OTV report the same thing? “Oil prices have gone up; Gebran Bassil has brought oil prices down.”

    How does Future TV refer the Syrian regime? “Shabbi7at el Assad.

    How does Al-Manar address the Free Syrian Army? They are eaters of hearts, brains and other body parts.

    How does a newspaper like Al-Diyar still exist? I don’t know.

    How can I get the news without doubting every single sentence that I read? How can I get the non-editorialized and sensationalized version of all the pieces that should inform me about what’s happening in this country? How can I get news intros that are not written in an Arabic language whose words hold twenty five different meanings in each letter?

    I can’t.

    The Cost of Running An Ad on Lebanese TV During A Lebanese Politician’s Interview

    MTV hosted Michel Aoun on Walid Abboud’s show “Bi Mawdou3iya” yesterday and he discussed the current debacle in the country regarding the electoral law and whatnot.

    So because we live in extremely sensitive times, Lebanon’s main political foe for Michel Aoun is, naturally, going to seek out airtime as well. Samir Geagea will be on “Bi Mawdou3iya” as well tomorrow, all to MTV’s delight.

    This isn’t about what both politicians want to discuss (or not discuss). It’s not about their propositions and constant tug-of-war leading nowhere. In order to announce the episode, I stumbled on the picture that follows.
    The most interesting part of the picture to me was the cost to run an ad on MTV during Samir Geagea’s show. Two 30 second ads can cost you up to $5000.

    20130521-122129.jpg

    Every single second of commercial break is probably sold by now. This is how much audience our politicians bring in. Too bad there’s absolutely no tangible and efficient measures that are brought with them and the income they bring to the TV stations they appear on.

    MTV, OTV & LBC’s Sunday Programming: The Graduation Ceremony of the American University of Dubai

    Graduation ceremonies are horrible. My AUB 2010 ceremony felt endless. Names upon names got called out as we sat there sweating like pigs under the June sun. I’d never do it again. But Lebanon’s TV stations felt it was a good idea to air a graduation ceremony all Sunday afternoon.

    Except there was nothing Lebanese about the graduation. AUD, I had no idea you mattered to MTV, LBC & OTV this much. Let’s label this one big fat failure of TV programming. I don’t care what’s the reason behind those three TV stations airing the American University of Dubai’s graduation. There is no reason that can make this remotely acceptable – not when Lebanese universities have countless graduations every year which go unnoticed, unaired and, well, irrelevant. Not that graduation ceremonies should air on live TV anyway.

    How empty is the Sunday afternoon slot on Lebanese TV exactly?

    I bet those students of AUD feel nice to be appreciated. By Lebanese TV stations. Lebanese students, on the other hand, are not classy enough. Not even those who pay thousands of dollars to attend Lebanon’s brand of Ivy League campuses, let alone those whose university is – lowers voice into a barely audible whisper – free.

    Update: Apparently this is the FIFTH year they air this. Hopefully it’s the last as well.

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    MTV’s Side of the Firing of Joe Maalouf

    A friend of mine just sent the following screenshots my way of Jihad el Murr’s explanation of why MTV decided to fire Enta Horr’s Joe Maalouf (link), following the controversial episode during which he criticized Dekawne’s mayor Shakhtoura. I have decided to publish the screenshots because they offer a viable, albeit possibly incomplete alternative, of what happened. And, for the sake of at least trying to sound professional, here they are:

    Joe Maalouf MTV - 5

     

    Joe Maalouf MTV - 4

     

    Joe Maalouf MTV - 3

     

    Joe Maalouf MTV - 2

    Joe Maalouf MTV - 1

    Much of the above makes sense to me for many reasons, most of which revolve around the notion that it was pretty difficult to believe MTV was always okay with what Maalouf was doing on his TV show. Perhaps they didn’t mind him going on a crusade against the politicians ruining Lebanon’s mountains with their quarries but, regardless of what I or anyone might think of the TV station, I believe they had a problem with many of what of the things Maalouf did on the show, such as naming the victims of the Ayntoura school molestation last year, among many other. 

    I don’t like Joe Maalouf nor his brand of reporting that borders on the sensationalism. But given newly surfacing information that MTV had given him many heads up about the direction they want his show to go through, who can we blame?

    I believe the answer goes both ways.

    Joe Maalouf, as an employee at MTV, should have stuck with what they were asking of him. After all, this is what employees do. They weren’t asking him not to say his opinion but to present the other side of his opinion as well, which is quite fair.

    MTV, on the other hand, should have at least waited until the end of the show’s current season in order for them to do what they want. The timing of firing Maalouf is the key element that led to the outrage at hand. For all of us, the way this appears to be is the following: major Lebanese TV station silencing a comparably irrelevant person because of his opinion regarding a person who’s politically affiliated with their board of directors. And given information that surfaced around the time of the news that Joe Maalouf was fired, Shakhtoura being a Murr-affiliate definitely played a role.

    Perhaps the true reason why MTV fired Joe Maalouf is an accumulation of little kinks here and there that broke the chain with him going on a rampage against someone they like being the straw that broke the camel’s back, which is an unacceptable reason for the camel’s back to break in my opinion. However, if they wanted this not to turn into a Lebanese mini-scandal, they could have at least waited and canceled the show very silently in a few months. They can trust me on this: few people would have minded because many  remember all the horrific mistakes Maalouf did on his show.

    Joe Maalouf or no Joe Maalouf, I hope MTV at leasts decides to hire someone else to fill in Mr. Maalouf’s place in a show that is similar thematically. There are plenty of more professional journalists out there who are waiting on their major break and plenty of facets in our life as Lebanese that need highlighting. It’s a shame an opportunity to light on some injustices in society goes to waste because of a possibly incompetent employee and a politically charged board of directors.