A satirical Lebanese show that poked fun at Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah last week angered many Lebanese people, so they blocked some roads in protest. This is not the first time such a manifestation of popular anger has occurred. It has happened before, when Nasrallah was mocked in 2006. Back then, following protests and riots, satirical shows avoided tackling Nasrallah and instead just imitated other Hezbollah figures. It has become generally accepted that Nasrallah is a religious figure, the mocking of whom is unacceptable.
This was before the Arab Spring and before satire found itself a braver path where its material became religious men, politicians and leaders. Such satire was depicted via graffiti, TV sketches or the Internet, which may become the only arena for such satire after the relapse that targeted the most prominent Arab satirist, Bassem Youssef.
Satire in Lebanon is submissive to the calculations of politics and the media. The formula of tackling Nasrallah lies at the core of this division. The point of tackling him is not rooted in the arts. Satirical shows in Lebanon tend to imitate public figures and bring up sex in a vulgar manner, a lot more than they actually present an idea or a contradiction that eventually makes you laugh.
The incident against Nasrallah did not involve insulting rhetoric. Indeed, the segment’s director has often voiced his admiration for Nasrallah. Therefore, the protests against the segment were tantamount to placing Nasrallah in a “godly” category—a category in which the party supporters think Nasrallah must remain. Hezbollah used this term to describe the results of the July 2006 war, and it became a slogan used to describe everything the party does. Even Hezbollah’s participation in the fighting alongside the Assad regime was described as such.
Hezbollah, which is dragging its supporters and Lebanon towards a suicidal war in Syria, is a party that hates satire, because the latter deprives one of the aura which surrounds all stances based on dogma or intellectual stagnation or prejudice. Satire immunizes us against worshiping people, and this doesn’t harmonize with all efforts aiming to sanctify Nasrallah.
However, the space for free satire has not yet opened up in Lebanon. It is therefore unsurprising that parties that reject satire resort to violence out of fear that their legend may erode as a result of a satirical sketch.