The illusion of breaking news in Lebanon
Lebanon is bombarded with news on a daily basis. And, with the recent changes in how we consume information, this flow resembles a whirlwind in the middle of a desert. Each news item seems to be of the utmost importance. All Lebanese screens and apps are news-driven. The consumption of news is continuous and dominates daily life. From forwarded unknown audios to sarcastic analysis on TikTok or clips from a talk show — all of these items are shared as though they signal yet another cataclysmic change.
However, when the dust settles, this news is nothing but a single drop of water in the Mediterranean Sea. There is an inverse correlation between the volume of news and the real change that is taking place in the country. Even in horrific terror attacks, the fundamentals stay the same simply because the criminals go unpunished or even come out stronger.
I often repeat that I am amazed by the number and length of talk shows that repeat the same analysis on local TV channels. This has been going on for decades. It resembles a Turkish drama series where the hero is left in the exact same situation at the end of every episode. Yet housewives still cannot get enough of this repeated plot. Likewise, the Lebanese, wherever they live, have become addicted to the flow of news. In the TV series, the hero miraculously gets out of his impossible situation at the very beginning of the next episode. But the cliffhanger in Lebanon’s political life seems to be written by the enemies of the country rather than anyone else. And the Lebanese audience is left hoping and wishing for better.
The news cycle has become a distraction from the fundamentals of the country, which is that Lebanon is under the total control of Hezbollah. The Iranian proxy has taken over everything. I, like everyone else, try to make sense of it. But there is no use in trying to analyze this continuous news flow. One only needs to try and think: What does Iran want from Hezbollah and what can Hezbollah do to achieve it? This gives us the entire plot of the drama Lebanon is going through. The most revealing segments of Lebanese political events might even be the cooking demonstrations or old shows that run on pro-Hezbollah channels at a time of a major live event. They tell the true story: There is no need for live news. This is a rerun.
News has hence become a daily illusion and a search for a thread of hope. Hope that this WhatsApp is the beginning of real change: A change that will bring Lebanon back to today’s world; back on track to compete economically on the regional scene and achieve a full recovery and renewed prosperity.
There is an inverse correlation between the volume of news and the real change that is taking place in the country.
Khaled Abou Zahr
This is why, as soon as people see or hear the newsflashes they desire, they dare hope for change. However, such news is only an illusion. There is no change possible for Hezbollah. This proxy only extracts from Lebanon and gives nothing back — not even the so-called deterrence it claims it offers against outside aggression. This is also how Hezbollah defines the upcoming parliamentary elections. It simply does not care about them because whoever wins will be forced to comply with its orders. No matter the results, Hezbollah will humiliate and make the task of any new prime minister impossible. It will decide when to open and when to close the institutions. And all it cares about is successfully doing its bit within the Iranian plan.
The same technique of news bombardment is applied to every international mediation. Hezbollah and its political gang always throw so many details in the face of foreign mediators that they become lost in this whirlwind. How to balance ethnicity, religion, inclusiveness and minorities? While they revive the orientalist conscience of the Western powers, they leave international mediators thinking there is nothing they can do except enjoy the good company and tasty food. In fact, the ugly truth stares them straight in the eyes as soon as they arrive at the airport: There is no future for Lebanon with Hezbollah.
I suspect everyone knows it, yet everyone pretends it is not true and, hence, the news cycle becomes the perfect distraction to forget this harsh reality. However, there is a single fact that says everything is not lost: Hezbollah is an artificial power. Just as it uses the asymmetry in news delivery to confuse the Lebanese people, it benefits from an asymmetry in the region that will eventually end. The unfolding of this end will indeed be newsworthy, but no one can predict when it will happen.
• Khaled Abou Zahr is chief executive of Eurabia, a media and tech company, and editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.