Lebanon: Chronicles of revolution in times of a pandemic

From Lundi Matin #241, 04/05/2020

Since October 17, 2019, Lebanon has been living at the rhythm of an uprising targeting both the political class and a moribund economic regime. As elsewhere, the spread of the virus and the health emergency measures first put an end to the contestation. On March 21, Megaphone media released a video titled “Tripoli: Expect to Meet Us After the Corona.” The extreme deterioration of the economic situation and the total lack of resources encountered by a large number of inhabitants following confinement have finally advanced this prognosis. Despite a quarantine in effect until the 10th of May, movements are taking to the streets, and once again targeting banks that are crystallising discontent. And again, the city of Tripoli has occupied a unique place, and this since the beginning of the uprising. On April 27, the army, which is actively involved in the repression, killed a young man, Fawaz Fouad Samman, whose death only increased popular anger.

Media virulence and repression of repression

Joseph Salloum, April 29, 2020 (1)

LBI: Death of a youth from his injuries following the events in Tripoli … Several injured among civilians and the military.
Al-Jadid: # Army: 54 soldiers injured during the road reopening operation and the arrests of 13 individuals.
Al-Nahar: Army: 54 soldiers injured during the road reopening operation and the arrests of 13 individuals.
OTV: Young boy dies as a result of yesterday night’s events in #Tripoli.
MTV: Clashes last night in Tripoli

This is how the Lebanese media reported yesterday’s protest movements in Tripoli, in which Fawaz Fouad [Samman] died as a martyr under army bullets. Just a few minutes of live footage, followed by a media blackout to allow the security forces to quell the protests that took place in several regions of Lebanon, from Tripoli to Saida, passing through the Bekaa.

The media join forces with the banks and the gangs in power, as is their habit, to justify the repression against the inhabitants and to adopt a virulent tone against them, to the point of inciting their killing, in the way that they present the protests taking place in Tripoli. The latter are thus only qualified as “confrontations” with the army and the security forces, reproducing as it is the story of the regime and the security apparatus in the morning news, after a lack of coverage the day before. So the refrain that Fawwazz died of his wounds, without mentioning who shot him, as the news channels report today, is a distortion of the truth and a trivialisation of the murder. As for the qualifications of the protests that took place in terms of “war” or confrontation, they help to justify the repression of these protests, as well as their demonisation.

The traditional Lebanese media excel in police work, the same media which, since their creation, have been the megaphone of the ruling clique. If their role had already appeared in the open with the beginning of the uprising on October 17, this time, it appears even more clearly with the containment measures imposed by the Lebanese government in response to the spread of the new version of the Corona virus.

Because the deadly attacks and the repression that Tripoli is experiencing are not detached from the virulence that the media has deployed since the beginning of the spread of the virus, and the police practices that they implement against the population.

This violence is but the accumulation of this animosity which was initiated by the news broadcasters designating people as “brainless”, and the reports focusing on the way in which the inhabitants violated the containment measures in the poorer neighbourhoods. The media missed no opportunity not only to castigate them, but also called for their punishment, and accompanied the raids by security forces in these areas after the beginning of the containment plan, and broadcast these interventions live, with the aim of ensuring that all citizens are locked up in their homes.

The media have become surveillance apparatuses, controlling residents in their places of everyday life, such as in food supply centers and shops. All the while invading the privacy of people by entering their homes, always to ensure that they comply with state security measures.

The reporters have transformed themselves into police officers, who ensure that everyone submits to the containment measures, stopping people who do not wear masks, including during demonstrations where people shout to express their anger towards the economic situation and the repression they suffer.

Thus, from the moment that the protests and the destruction of bank windows began again, speeches about the confrontations, the infiltrators and the unrest rose with fierce vehemence in the media because the banks, which contribute to the financing of the media, see their image whitewashed by the same when the need arises and their window fronts are shattered.

Not only does this media justify the assassination of people and the use of violence against them, but at the same time they do not hesitate to use them to whitewash their own image. Since the beginning of the spread of the virus, the media have jumped on this opportunity in order to rebuild their reputation. So every day a group from a news program arrives in some poor area to bring an aid package, covered with the logo of the program, an area where the same inhabitants live who barely a few days before suffered the repression of the security forces and that of the media. The news team enters the home of one of the poor families, exploiting their situation, filming the crying children, and does not leave until they have made sure that the family does not take one step out of their house.

The sated asshole

Souhaib Ayoub, April 22, 2020 (2)

“Who is the other sated asshole to tell me that hunger has only to wait?” – A protester, al-Nour square [Tripoli], April 18, 2020

“Stop playing beggars [to the state], come back down to earth.” – A protester, al-Nour square, April 20, 2020

“The revolution is underway and we will smash you.” – Tripoli resident speaking to politicians, al-Nour square, April 20, 2020

Return to the bloody version of the revolution for the people of Tripoli …

It is the same one that the authorities knew how to play on at moments, and to stigmatise at others. Early in the morning they took possession of its platform and disfigured it with their security apparatuses and their intelligence agents.(3) And now with revolution number 2, they use all their direct and indirect means to frighten its inhabitants: by arms, by lining up armored vehicles all around the place, through the abject media, through a clever ass who tells his jokes, or by ready-made stereotypes about the poor of the city and its inhabitants. The very ones who contravene all the conveniences of hunger and those of pandemic times. And this as if the revolution were the origin not only of all the problems, responsible for the hunger of today, as well as that of yesterday and that of tomorrow, but also almost as if it were the very cause of the virus.

This return from Tripoli also makes another voice heard. This one comes out of the empty bellies and stomachs that neither slogans, aid, food rations and emergency plans cannot fill. And of course patience is of no help in the face of it. Hunger is not disbelieving(4), hunger is a dog and the daughter of a dog. She has fierce fangs. And she is going to go out to poke out the eyes of politicians and devour them. So what can the authorities expect in this period? Are local politicians and their advisers short-sighted enough to be truly convinced that a little tranquilising social assistance is sufficient to get people back in their homes?

We are facing a revolution of hunger and of the hungry. We saw it with our own eyes. A woman brandishes a loaf of bread and cries out her hunger in a town which has closed its bread ovens and whose streets are surrounded by military convoys in application of measures linked to the Corona.

Hunger is the virus of the city, which will emerge from the depths of old markets and forgotten dead ends towards the carcasses of politicians, the bourgeoisie and the oligarchy, to creep into their mouths and their houses. And nothing can stop this crowd if they go out.

What the protesters at al-Nour square expressed, and which the authorities tried to erase all traces and symbols of, is the exact opposite of what the government of Hassan Diab and the men of Mohammed Fahmi expected [the first being the Prime Minister and the Second Minister of the Interior, both in office since January 2020]. The language of intimidation and police terror, the atrocities, and the few tranquilisers meted out by the city government of Tripoli, by local associations and the crumbs of certain big fish, will do nothing. Hunger will leave no one alone. The hungry are not going to die between their four concrete walls or on their balconies, and they are not going to throw themselves from the roofs dotted with steel antennas. The hungry will descend into the square, as we have witnessed for the last few days. Even if it is closed by dividing walls. They will jump up and scream. And do not say that there are monsters in this city. There are no monsters, except that class which works night and day to repress the poor, to whom sooner or later the middle class children will join. They too will be hungry shortly. They have no other choice but to rise up and gather in the spaces that are ultimately theirs, and from whence they came.

The hungry poor and the soon to be hungry children of the middle classes will find themselves together. Perhaps at the end of the Rue de la Liberté leading to the place al-Nour, unless they go down together from the place al-Koura, from the direction of the Roxy cafe or go up by Rue du boulevard or Rue al-Maarad. They will meet and in front of them will be those who starve them, just as much as the one who applauds when they are starved: sated assholes.

The same asshole who saw the revolution more as a kind of sloganism (al-shi‘ârâtiyya). Who wants a revolution accompanied by caviar and a hookah, without having particularly to fight. Nothing but a few repetitive, imprecise formulas revolving around everyday life in the city, while singing: Lebanon will be back.

No, Lebanon will not be back if it does not rise up. Revolution number 1, the one we knew with its folklore, its laughter and its dances, is dead. We are facing a revolution of the hungry, of those who will see grown up exhausted adults, but who do not lack courage, in the face of all the sated assholes.

  1. The original article is here, at megaphone.news.
  2. The original article is here at megaphone.news.
  3. Referring to the occupation of Place al-Nour, the center of the protests since October 17, 2019
  4. In reference to a famous song by Ziad Rahbani which notably says, in essence, “The disbeliever is not me, it is hunger”

The Guardian (07/05/2020): We fear hunger, not coronavirus: Lebanon protesters return …

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