Terrorism in Istanbul, Discord in Beirut
When are the Innocent Guilty?
Rather than coming together to mourn the deaths of three Lebanese victims who were killed in the terror attack in Istanbul on New Year, Lebanese social media activists made their deaths appear negotiable. Members of Lebanese TV and press – particularly social media – have engaged in starkly divisive discourses, politicizing the death of the terror victims. Fierce exchanges between different ideological groups have led some religious extremists to celebrate, either blatantly or inadvertently, the pain suffered by the victims’ families, sharing the killer’s joy in his crime rather than condemning it as terrorism. Engaging in semantics, debates focused on whether the lost lives should be regarded as martyrs or victims, and subsequently this controversy figured prominently in the conflictive discourse with anti-Turkish government activists wanting to claim them as martyrs, while their opponents deemed them innocent victims. Transforming this and other private moments of grief into media spectacles, news stations and journalists capitalized on their voyeuristic coverage to the general detriment of the public, inflaming religious tensions and discord. Religious or sectarian undertones have continued to color Lebanese reactions to the tragedy. Even the extremists among Lebanese Shiites, whose unfriendly sentiments towards Turkey should have guaranteed their sympathy for the Reina Nightclub victims, have instead regarded them with disfavor due to their participation in behaviors such as drinking, dancing, and singing, behaviors considered inappropriate by strict Islamists, whether Sunni or Shiite. Faced with economic crises, Lebanese TV stations attempt to rescue themselves by violating any acceptable professional standards just to win rating wars. Given their current predicaments, members across a broad spectrum of the Lebanese media have indulged in below-standard coverage, focusing on scooping each other with complete disregard of the human and ethical consequences of their editorial decisions. (These are edited excerpts from Elie Chalala’s feature essay “Terrorism in Istanbul, Discord in Beirut -- When are the Innocent Guilty?”, scheduled to appear in the forthcoming Al Jadid, Vol. 21, No. 72, 2017).
Photo Credits: On the left, relatives of Elias Wardini, a Lebanese victim (photo from Seattle Pi). On the right, a former employee of the Reina nightclub, photograph by Huseyin Aldemir from CBC news.