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Why Hezbollah is scared of satire

Satire in Lebanon is submissive to the calculations of politics and the media

Diana Moukalled

Published: Updated:

A satirical Lebanese show that poked fun at Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah last week angered many Lebanese people, so they blocked some roads in protest. This manifestation of such popular anger did not occur for the first time. It happened before, when Nasrallah was mocked in 2006. Back then, following protests and riots, satirical shows avoided tackling Nasrallah and just imitated other Hezbollah figures. It was thus generally accepted that Nasrallah is a religious figure the mocking of whom is unacceptable.

This was before the Arab Spring and before satire found itself a braver path where its material became religious men, politicians and leaders. Such satire was depicted via graffiti, TV sketches or the Internet which may become the only arena for such satire after the relapse that targeted the most prominent Arab satirist, Bassem Youssef.

Hezbollah, which is dragging its supporters and Lebanon towards a suicidal war in Syria, is a party that hates satire

Diana Moukalled

Satire in Lebanon is submissive to the calculations of politics and the media. The formula of tackling Nasrallah lies in the core of this division. The point of tackling him is not rooted in the arts. Satirical shows in Lebanon tend to imitate figures and bring up sex in a vulgar manner a lot more than they actually present an idea or a contradiction that eventually makes you laugh.

The incident against Nasrallah wasn’t of an insulting rhetoric, and the segment’s director has often voiced his admiration of Nasrallah. Protests against the segment were tantamount to placing Nasrallah in a “godly” category - a category which the party supporters think Nasrallah must remain in. Hezbollah used this term (godly) to describe the results of the July 2006 war, and it thus became a slogan used to describe everything the party does. Even Hezbollah’s participation in the fighting alongside the Assad regime was described as such.

Hezbollah, which is dragging its supporters and Lebanon towards a suicidal war in Syria, is a party that hates satire because the latter deprives one of the aura which surrounds all stances based on dogma or intellectual stagnation or prejudice. Satire immunizes us against worshipping people and this doesn’t harmonize with all efforts aiming to sanctify Nasrallah.

However, the space for free satire has not yet opened up in Lebanon. It’s thus not surprising that parties which reject satire resort to violence out of fear that their legend may erode as a result of a satirical sketch.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 19, 2013.

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Diana Moukalled is the Web Editor at the Lebanon-based Future Television and was the Production & Programming Manager with at the channel. Previously, she worked there as Editor in Chief, Producer and Presenter of “Bilayan al Mujaradah,” a documentary that covers hot zones in the Arab world and elsewhere, News and war correspondent and Local news correspondent. She currently writes a regular column in Asharq al-Awsat. She also wrote for Al-Hayat Newspaper and Al-Wasat Magazine, besides producing news bulletins and documentaries for Reuters TV. She can be found on Twitter: @dianamoukalled.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.