Branding a revolution

It’s been barely 24 hours since the assassination of the Lebanese intelligence chief Wissam Hassan, and the political wheels are already in full gear.

There have been speeches tonight in downtown Beirut calling for the resignation of prime minister and tents being set up for a sleep-in, which organizers promise will not end until their demands are met (see top right image above).

Politicians opposed to Prime Minister Najib Mikati are calling for a massive turnout for Hassan’s funeral tomorrow, and tonight, the media is playing its role in getting the word out.

Future Television has begun filming one of its talk shows in the tomb of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, seeking to draw his supporters in by creating a visual link between Hariri’s killing and that of Hassan:

Future TV has even created a Hassan graphic with the date of tomorrow’s funeral: 

Meanwhile other stations have been filming nightly talk shows from Martyr’s square where only a few hundred party loyalists have gathered. These crowds are relatively minuscule compared to the hundreds of thousands of Lebanese that have gathered in downtown Beirut in years past, but in filming live from the area, television stations are building momentum for tomorrow’s event by treating the small crowds as a major news story.

On MTV, the scene is carefully framed with the anchor standing in front of the two tents that have been erected earlier this afternoon (see first photo in this post), which pales in comparison to the hundreds of tents set up by Hezbollah and its allies during their occupation of downtown in 2006. Yet the tight shot does not allow viewers to actually count the tents.

Neither does the wide angle, which shows a relatively small crowd of a few dozen, mainly young men holding party flags:

Similarly Al Jadeed also filmed its evening talk show tonight from Martyr’s Square, but again wide shots revealed almost no one gathered for an event that can barely justify– in terms of newsworthiness– the cost of such an outdoor broadcast.

On the other hand, LBC has chosen to film its show in studio tonight. But like the other channels, the guests are familiar faces, with very partisan affiliations, making very familiar, heated arguments.

The same was true for OTV, which is supportive of the government and thus brought out pro-government figures that Lebanese have seen on televisions for years if not decades.

Clearly all this advertisement about tomorrow’s rally from anti-government channels may have an impact on some viewers. But at the same time, many have grown tired of being spoon-fed polarizing and often sect-specific views from entrenched party figures. If tomorrow’s rally does not draw the huge crowds it is promising, this could be a small but significant blow to the traditional Lebanese political order, which finds itself under increasing pressure amid the changes going on in the region.  

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