It’s that time of month again. What’s wrong with those crazy Lebanese? Time magazine tells all in another lifeless, encyclopedic entry.

And why wouldn’t they. Lebanon–all of it– should be explained in a single article because it’s just a small country anyway. Poor Lebanese though. According to Time, even their own politicians don’t understand the system!
What a hopeless mess, the correspondent must be thinking. 
But I wonder. What if the United States wasn’t the world’s dominant power and thus newspapers asked journalists for 1,000 word summaries of everything and anything that determines political power in America? 
Because who is going to win the next election, what role does the military and religion play, what role do corporations and lobbyists play, what about identity politics and race, what about history and education and economic disparity? And what’s the deal with pork-barrel spending, gerrymandering and campaign finance reform –do congressmen understand the system, do citizens understand the system–do they even vote, do they even care?
How would citizens of some other dominant country, ‘diagnose’ this American condition in 1,000 words or less? 
Like so many that have come before it, this Time piece attempts to ‘explain’ Lebanon in one all-encompasing frame. But is this even a frame? Are these even news stories? Or are they ‘dispatches from the field’– cliff-notes for understanding the natives?
Even then, how accurate are said notes? The author rightly criticizes antiquated laws which force people to vote in their ancestral municipality, a topic worthy of lengthy discussion with a number of dimensions to explore. But there’s no time for that. This chapter in Byzantium needs to end soon and be wrapped up with a zinger line–something that brings us back to the ‘big picture’ of Lebanon’s overall failure and apathy complex, like…. 
For those Lebanese who have left their ancestral villages, there is seldom any reason to… (vote). Why waste time voting for a representative who will have no actual bearing on daily concerns… All that is left is to vote along sectarian lines.”

But what basis underlies this statement: ‘Seldom do Lebanese have a reason to vote in their village?’ Is this backed by figures? How then does the author explain the plane loads of Lebanese who cross oceans and continents to return in time for elections?
I know! They are driven by their infantile ‘sectarian’ minds. Duh. 
When will these Lebanese grow up already and embark upon more civilized pursuits such as launching wars on other countries for people like Exxon, Chevron, Halliburton and Lockheed Martin?  


I’m too harsh, some of you might be thinking, this journalist was just doing her job, she or Time never claimed to know ‘everything’ about Lebanese politics.

Well here’s how the story was tweeted:

Everything you ever wanted to know about how elections (don’t) work in Lebanon, and via @timeworld
— Aryn Baker (@arynebaker) April 10, 2013

  1. Are you seriously trying to defend the Lebanese system in this post?… And, for the record I never voted and never will because it really makes no difference… And yes we are a small insignificant country, and if it wasn’t for our proximity to Israel we would not matter to anyone anywhere least of all our erstwhile colonial master… Yes, no one loves us, we are just the weird long lost cousin the world community has to tolerate popping up every now and again (and secretly wish we’d remained lost) in the middle of international affairs, an over sensetive collection of waring sects with fragile egos who have to be soothed every now and again with patronizing reassurances. I wish I never came back to discover this bitter reality, the memory of my country I had as a young man was far more beautiful.

  2. This post is not about the political system, it’s about how it is covered, which is integral to reform.

    I think diligent reporting can go a long way toward informing voting patterns and keeping the leadership accountable. This remains a real challenge in Lebanon where both the local and Western coverage often focuses on the surface drama between elites rather than on specific policies, decisions and institutions.

    Lebanon is and can be as significant as anywhere else. But we’ll need a lot more reporting to negotiate the challenges ahead and I hope more journalists like yourself will stick around to be part of that.

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