Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Rami G. Khoury analyzes Future TV
Mr. Khoury’s article suggests that “activist” media, in particular Future TV and An-Nahar, helped “compel the Syrian army to withdraw from Lebanon last April, to arrest and indict top Lebanese security officers, to elect to Parliament a majority, and to create a climate where the United Nations initiated an international investigation into the Hariri murder.”
A “thematic analysis” of Future’s coverage, he wrote, showed that their coverage passed through “several successive intriguing stages.”
At first the broadcasts "nationalized grief," highlighting the trauma impacting the entire country, showing the crime as being directed against all Lebanese, not just a family or party. Then it "personalized the loss," making every viewer share the impact of the act and the loss. After that it built up a dynamic between "the personal and the political," promoting individuals to translate their personal grief into political action. And finally it "mobilized the masses to march," resulting in a million or more people in the streets on March 14.Khoury concludes that other Arab media companies will "embark on this same path, moving from expressing political sentiments to mobilizing for political change.”
Titled “From Future Television, a lesson in mobilization”, this article is a lesson in media illiteracy.
I am not discounting Future TV’s role in calling for mass mobilization, but an objective study of the results this alleged activism produced will reveal that Lebanese media has not set foot outside the box of those who pump the cash. It has some democratic qualities, sure, but the extent of the political message was determined from the start, and so were the intended objectives, which were revolutionary by accident rather than intention. Whatever Future TV did, it’s what it didn’t do that will count in the long run. Just look at what’s happening today, and the continued shift in the direction of the coverage. There is no model here to follow. If anything, there is an absence of method.
Let me clarify something for Mr Khoury. Nobody at Future Television or any Lebanese media for that matter has the demonstrated intellectual ability to organize productions around controlling ideas, especially not ones intended to change the “tendency of many Arabs to be politically subdued and laid-back”. The apparent thematic progression was less a progression than a punctuated equilibrium of the sort controlled by the moods of the politicians who own the stations, and dictated by fast political developments. In other words, there was no set evolutionary or activist agenda to mobilize citizens for patriotic purposes. Future TV’s activism was accidental, and it never rose to the level of responsible journalism.
A real media analyst would look at Future TV and An-Nahar and still see cases of poor journalism and general lack of ethics. While they allow for more freedom of expression than most other Arab outlets, that by itself is not enough, and it doesn’t make them any more professional. It also does not make them less “Arab” in their excessive use of sensationalist techniques and unsourced claims.
The Arab world already uses the media to achieve political objectives. What we need is media to liberate the minds of people and encourage them to think outside the box. Forget revolutions. Encourage freethinking.
In fact, if you compare Future TV’s coverage in 1996 during Israel's Grapes of Wrath operation to their coverage in 2005, you’ll find the same elements of sensationalism and manipulation present. The real questions aren’t being asked, and politicians are not being properly interviewed, nor their motives and answers contextualized. At the end, and despite the short-lived satisfaction from such coverage, the Lebanese citizens pay because their media made them even more susceptible to manipulation by transient heroes and opportunistic politicians. Had Future TV and other stations asked the right questions instead of marketing political alliances, the Lebanese public would have been more informed and yes, more politically active.
If on the other hand, Mr. Khoury is objecting to the media for influencing events then he is wrong. What is the purepose of the media in the final analysis? Isn't it to inform , clearify and thus helpset the record straight?
The media is a tool to inform and if it accomplishes its task correctly then it can move mountains. Media campaigns can help shield misdeeds for a while but in the final analysis if the facts do not support a media campaign then it would fall flat on its face,Give pewople enough credit to distinguish between truth and doublespeak.
Cuz he's bland and dull and a perpetuator of the harmful cliches that have led the Arab world to catastrophe.
And to top it, he thinks he is "change".
And yes, wlecome back Mustapha.