Activists on social networking websites in Lebanon have re-posted a video that was first released several years ago, showing a number of men and women receiving successive slaps to the face without moving a muscle. The video concludes with the number of victims of war in Lebanon - which has surpassed 200,000 - and the word “enough”.
The video clip went viral after the events that Lebanon witnessed recently, accompanied by calls for protests, banners being raised and online forums attempting to incite activism rejecting violence and the renewed slide towards war, and this is a voice that has not found any space in the traditional media.
However, the attempts to rationalize what happened in Lebanon - coupled with the uncertainty of the online activists regarding how best to avoid falling back into the abyss - seemed disjointed and ultimately only had a limited impact, compared to another current that was also strongly active on social networking websites.
In addition to activists fearing a new war gathering pace in Lebanon, confused about what could be done to avoid this, and aware that any move could provoke volatile anger on the streets, there were other pages on Facebook and Twitter attracting thousands of ideological and irrational zealots, who believe that the only solution to the perceived threats is armed confrontation.
This time, those attracted by this scaremongering discourse were from the mainstream Sunni current, for whom the recent events in north Lebanon and Beirut provided the spark that ignited something that has been building up in their consciences for years.
What has been said by the local Lebanese media could – at times – be described as blatant in its hostility and sectarianism, but this time the “digital media” has been far worse. Social networking websites have devoted pages of their coverage of the recent events in Lebanon to hostile, political and sectarian audio, video and commentary. It seems than in the online domain, Sunni discourse is being militarized.
Now we might even see a response from a militant entity such as Hezbollah, which in turn would prompt the general body of Lebanese Shiites towards militarization. We must deal with the reality that we are now facing dangerous attempts in Lebanon to militarize Sunni discourse, and we have already seen the militarization of the street in some areas of the north, not to mention Beirut. If one was to set himself the task of addressing Hezbollah’s weapons, its role in undermining the state, and in transforming Lebanon into a tool in the hand of foreign parties stretching from Iran to Syria, this task becomes clearer when focusing less on Hezbollah’s weapons and more on the absurd Lebanese scene itself, not to mention the tendency towards rivalry and competition.
This is exactly what has been reflected not only in the street, but also in cyberspace.
Something fundamental must change in Lebanon.
Although the weakening of the state was carried out by Hezbollah and the Syrian and Iranian regimes, we in Lebanon all contributed by fostering it in the street, in our conversations, and in our virtual worlds.
The slaps that can be heard in the activists’ video should be enough to alert anybody to danger, but it seems that in Lebanon and the surrounding area there are those who have been rendered so numb that the slap no longer means anything to them.
The writer is a prominent columnist. The article was published in Asharq al- Awsat on May. 25, 2012