Highway billboard in North Lebanon

Here’s an excerpt of my Media Uncovered column in Bold Magazine this month:

By Habib Battah

Amid the gun violence gripping Lebanon, the region–and much of the world lately– it may be somewhat disturbing to come across a large billboard recently posted along Lebanon’s highways featuring a close-up image of a rifle trigger. Below it, on a white backdrop reads in Arabic: “The people demand the downfall of the crimes.”

Modeled on the chant used to unseat entrenched dictatorships across the Middle East, the phrase is a familiar one. Yet this billboard is sponsored by The Lebanese Forces, one of the most entrenched parties in Lebanese politics and formerly one of the country’s most powerful militias, peaking during the bloodiest days of the civil war.

All irony aside, the Lebanese Forces billboard and its graphic message will be clear to those that have followed the party’s more recent political rhetoric, namely its frequent attacks on what it deems ‘the weaponized’ parties, i.e. its rival Hezbollah.

Without entering into a debate over which parties in Lebanon have a right to bear arms–with caches believed to be held by all the major militias-turned-political-parties– the idea that weapons exist only physically belies the well honed-media warfare tactics deployed by both Hezbollah and its rivals.

Dubai TV interview with Samir Geagea

Days after the trigger billboard went up, an even larger print of the same image was plastered on the walls behind Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea as he gave in an interview to Dubai TV. Throughout the whopping one hour and 30 minutes of airtime, the party’s propaganda wallpaper filled every camera angle. This was also the case weeks earlier when Geagea gave an interview to local broadcaster MTV, which ran for nearly two hours. If the party’s logo was not ubiquitous enough by the end, the camera actually slowly zooms into the logo during the credits of the show which is actually called “Bil Mawdiyeh,” or  “Objectively speaking.”  

MTV interview with Samir Geagea

By creating an elaborate in-home studio and syncing its signage with an outdoor billboard campaign, Geagea is perhaps the most sophisticated among Lebanese lords in using the media to deliver self-promotional messages. But he is far from alone.

Continue reading this piece at Bold Magazine.

*Special thanks to Christine Lindner for sending the top photo and helping inspire this post.

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