As I type this, an Armageddon-shaped black cloud of smoke hangs over Beirut, caused by a massive blaze that has been raging unabated for over an hour now.
The source is unknown but pictures have been all over Twitter and Facebook. This one from @monasaliba:
Some tweeps have speculated it could be burning plastics from a landfill. Others fear it could spread to a tank field of giant oil drums only hundreds of meters away.
So what about Lebanon’s mainstream media?
As I watch the fire burn out my window– and the entire sky fill with toxic black– here’s what is on local TV news:
LBC has a dubbed soap opera, presumably Turkish:
Al Jadeed has a re-run of of an ancient 1990s Lebanese comedy skit:
NBN has a European art exhibit that allows people to lick walls:
OTV has a scary woman with a pink wig reading stories to your children:
Hezbollah’s Al Manar has a cartoon with a sinister Israeli solider cooking a chicken. Note blue star of David on chef’s cap:
Hariri’s Future TV News has a dubbed documentary about the baroque churches of Budapest:
(By the way Future News pitches itself as a “24 hour” all-news station. No wonder it’s last in the ratings.)
And MTV Lebanon is broadcasting a LIVE show of cool kids on couches talking about nothing:
Among the topics now being discussed: a hamburger in the US known as a “triple-bypass”:
“Can you imagine,” an adolescent host exclaimed with incredulity:
Surprisingly MTV had just done a major documentary on pollution, so one would have expected some sort of coverage of this massive black cloud over the city. What chemicals were burning at the giant waste dump? Where is the regulation? Is there any regulation of such landfills? Should there be??
But rather than getting experts on air to talk about the fire, Lebanese television seems to follow the same blind eye policy of the country’s fire departments who don’t think garbage fires are a big deal, as a found out last month.
With no help from the mainstream media, at least we have Twitter and some concerned citizens to let us know what’s going on in this country. If not report the news, at least they can confirm the crazy things we see out our windows.
UPDATE: Evening news
Now that thick smog over Beirut has faded into the invisibility of night, I turned to the evening news for some answers. Unfortunately they were few and far between as most stations buried the inferno story deep into their newscasts, if they even covered it at all.
Switching between MTV, Al Jadeed and LBC (the so-called independent stations) I was only able to catch LBC’s fleeting report:
Despite plenty of teasers of smoldering fire footage above, the actual report only lasted about 20 seconds. It was just a “read” i.e. no reporter was on the scene and the anchor provided some vague commentary with no indication of who, what, why, etc.
To be fair it was a busy news day with an explosion in Damascus and a reported arms shipment confiscated at the port of Beirut. But neither of these stories took up that much time either. So where did the newscast go? To the ruling regime of course!
Sure we didn’t learn much about today’s fire, but we were exposed to a host of other important things worth sending a camera crew out to cover. Such as:
Geagea had company:
Berri had company:
Mikati went to Belgium:
Aoun went to Church: (yes that is a priest holding the microphone)