Some of you might have seen the reportage “The Hajj” on CNN International. During this focus on the Hajj, a reportage by Anthony Mills in Lebanon has been aired repeatedly, focusing on what Lebanese youth think about religion and its relation to politics. The interviewees are mainly AUB and LAU students sitting in De Prague, what Mills calls a favorite place were “Lebanon’s intellectuals” hang out (of course this is seriously worrisome if those who were interviewed are dubbed the high status of “intellectual”). A couple things I wanted to point out are the accumulated spectacularization that media loves to display; instances which always stand out, but are never associated with exaggerated reporting.
The first and most striking scenario was while one of the interviewees were talking, the camera quickly scans the cafe and focuses on a couple whose mouths meet, after which, the camera immediately returns to the student talking. It is tempting to say that the scene is reminiscent of The New York Times article, “Where the Boys Are, at least for Now, the Girls Pounce.” The article exaggerated Beirut’s liberal spirit towards sexuality and sexual expression.
The second issue worth mentioning that Mills barely touched upon was the social class that frequents de Prague. Although he calls the cafe “trendy,” the average viewer would probably take the views of the students to represent all of Lebanese society. However, the fact that one of the students wore a Burberry collared shirt is only proof of how elitist this viewpoint actually is. If I really wanted to know what the youth of Lebanon thought, I would have taken my CNN camera and gone to universities like AUB, USJ, and the Lebanese University to get a more comprehensive understanding. Perhaps this is why Mills found it appropriate to label the cafe as an intellectual hangout: to give the opinions of these students perhaps more credibility than they would ordinarily deserve. The only positive aspect associated with targeting the elite youth is that those who spoke, in particular, AUB Student Karim Banna, had a very good English and did not look “typically Arab.” Such an image helps deconstruct the more problematic and unrepresentative depiction of Arab Muslims in the media today.
Hope everyone had a pleasant New Year. Let’s hope 2007 yields a brighter and safer Lebanon.