The Lebanese were not the only ones who woke up one day last week to the smoke of burning tires and piles of ruins that surrounded homes and blocked roads, preventing society from going about its daily routine. The scenes of that black day that turned violent were broadcast continuously from the morning via satellite television channels with the escalation of civil violence that transformed into complete chaos. The pictures that were shown that day demonstrated that this was the beginning of the descent. On that day, matters were confusing for those who were following the pictures of masked youths setting tires alight, blocking roads and throwing rocks as it the images began to resemble Gaza or Iraq.
The whole world witnessed how leaders who are raised above the human level in their own minds, and how others raise slogans of patriotism, have enticed their sectarian-laden crowds into behaving like gangs and highway bandits. After the deterioration process began last week, a friend of mine living in the Gulf region called me and launched into her condemning of the Lebanese media and the way in which it covered the events of the restrictive strike, the burning of tires and the confrontations that took place the following days. My friend was surprised at what she called the “media of the districts” and how each media tool would attack its opponent, far from any professionalism, and would deal with the events from a political standpoint without any regard for the rules of professionalism. The biggest surprise to her was that the deaths of two protestors and the injuries of tens more were soon forgotten and failed to deter the zealous mobilization that the Lebanese television screens have drifted towards in the same way as political leaders.
It is not the first time that Lebanese divisions have been portrayed through Lebanese media as the past few months have witnessed more than one incident of division and hiding behind political stands to which media institutions belong. However, it seems that deepening of the fracture and its emergence as a matter of daily debate has transformed it into a normal issue. The Lebanese witness their politicians making accusations, their fellow countrymen beating one another, throwing rocks at each other and exchanging verbal abuse through the news broadcasts and the media and this no longer provokes caution or condemnation in the way it should.
As my friend vented her anger, I watched the images of the clashes between students of the American University of Beirut and how they had spread onto the inner streets of the capital. I heard that the Lebanese who had studied at the same university and perhaps even attended the same lectures were exchanging the most offensive insults on the television screens as well as the physical violence that they afflicted upon one another.
The Lebanese left the streets and returned to their homes and sat and watched the scenes of young men throwing rocks at one another in the streets from which they had just emerged.
The youths are fighting each other on the streets and the media is fighting in its own way.
It is one of those moments in which reason has no value or significance. It seems that the light of reason is switched off in Lebanon today.