Tags Posts tagged with "Billboards"

Billboards

Even if independent candidates don’t win big on election day, they are already having an impact on Lebanese political culture. They have introduced new styles of campaigning that come as a sharp contrast to how politics is commonly practiced in Lebanon.

While establishment politicians deploy their usual tactics: blanketing the streets with their faces:

Photo: Ali Harb/ Middle East Eye 

Spending hundreds of millions of dollars on canvases that say nothing and will be thrown in the garbage:

But also colonizing public spaces and causing traffic jams:

وصول الرئيس سعد الحريري الى قهوة دوغان – طريق الجديدة

Posted by Saad Hariri on Friday, May 4, 2018

 

Throwing lavish events for their supporters:

Posted by LF photos on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Giving out free flags and hats:

Posted by OTV on Saturday, April 28, 2018

 

Free food:

Balloons:

And even a Hezbollah orchestra, literally singing for your support:

Independents, meanwhile are taking the race to some unusual places. But places that are not unfamiliar to most Lebanese, who are not living in a party atmosphere.

The Madaniyya party, for example, held a press conference at a giant trash dump to call attention to the incumbent parties’ failure to deal with Lebanon’s waste crisis that is endangering public health.

Rather than adding more pollution to the mix, the Kollouna Watanti party created virtual posters on Facebook, photoshopping over the politicians faces with a deeper message: “When you see their advertisements, remember their accomplishments.”

فقط للتذكير أنّ اعلاناتهم ووعودهم الانتخابية التي تملأ طرقاتنا.. كان الاجدى ان تستخدم بتكاليفها الباهظة ليخبرونا عن انجازاتهم لا تكرار وعودهم التي لم تتحقق طوال تسعة سنوات..

Posted by ‎كلنا وطني‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

Meanwhile the Kelna Beirut list decided to cover some of the faces with reflective sheets, bringing the campaign focus back to the voters and away from the leaders’ self promotion.

إنتو بيروت، كلنا بيروت

إنتو بيروت.#كلنا_بيروت

Posted by ‎Kelna Beirut – كلنا بيروت‎ on Tuesday, May 1, 2018

 

The Beirut list, LiBalladi, also introduced something that shouldn’t be new: debates between candidates

Curiously, establishment candidates cancelled their appearance at the last minute for unclear reasons.

Independents are also using their new platforms to raise important questions not often tackled by the media.

Here, candidate Ali Darwish unpacks the danger to Lebanon’s water resources that may result from the recent loans taken out by the Lebanese government as part of the “Cedre” package:

موقف علي درويش من مؤتمر سيدر للاستدانة!#كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎Ali Darwish علي درويش‎ on Monday, April 30, 2018

 

Another party asks how well do you know your MPs? Do they ever come around when elections are over?

مين بتعرف من نواب بيروت الحاليين ؟#عصام_برغوت #بصوتك_يستمر_العطاء #لبنان_حرزان#تعليم #فرص_عمل #صحة #بيئة #انتخابات_٢٠١٨

Posted by ‎Issam Barghout – عصام برغوت‎ on Saturday, April 21, 2018

 

Finally, a LiBaladi commercial reminds voters that politicians have failed to address rampant pollution along the country’s beaches, the lack of safe public spaces for children to play and dangerous, overburdened roads with no public transportation:

شو عاملين ب6 أيار؟

Let's all get up and vote for hope on May 6!ما تطولوا النومة كتير، أجلوا مشوار البحر والجبل، وتعوا نصوت للتغيير ب6 أيار#شو_عاملين_ب6_أيار؟ #صوتي_لبلدي #كلنا_وطني

Posted by ‎LiBaladi – لبلدي‎ on Thursday, May 3, 2018

 

Now what is interesting is also how mainstream parties have reacted to independent campaigns. While some like Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea dismissed independents, others have somehow taken up some activist causes of recent years.

Here, Nicholas Sehnaoui, a former minister and senior leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, includes the Fouad Boutros Park in his list of projects, a plan proposed by heritage activists five years ago.

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!

هيك بتصير بيروت الاولى!تعرّفوا على برنامجي الانتخابي عبر: http://program.nicolas-sehnaoui.org

Posted by Nicolas Sehnaoui on Monday, April 23, 2018

 

Other candidates, such as Nadim Gemayel, have also begun speaking about the need for a right to the city, public spaces and sustainability, brought up extensively by new parties from previous elections such as Beirut Madinati.

Gemayel spoke recently to Facebook page El 3ama, which illustrates an important campaigning media change: politicians are now talking to alternative websites, when in the past, political communication strictly took place on party-run or affiliated channels. Interviews like this one let us see the candidates in a less controlled environment, catching them off guard at times and thus revealing more than they may have wanted to say:

Live NG El-3ama

Posted by Nadim Gemayel on Tuesday, April 10, 2018

 

Mainstream media outlets like LBC also seem keen on capturing a broader youth audience, with shows like Lawen Waslin, which is a bit like Carpool Karaoke with politicians. In this interview, former minister and political veteran Wiam Wahab takes activist positions on the destruction of Lebanon’s coast by private resorts. But then also in an awkward moment reveals that “women should not act like men.”

Major Lebanese TV channels are also reportedly charging guests up to $250,000 per appearance, keeping primetime a commodity mainly limited to the country’s business and political elites.

We saw a similar trend of activists differentiating themselves from mainstream political practices during Beirut’s municipal elections in 2016, where ruling party candidates also mimicked activist rhetorics. (You can read more about that in this previous post.)

Could this influence continue to strengthen in future elections?

During an episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, this week, I spoke with independent candidates and was struck by all the organizing work that has gone into their campaigns, with some creating nationwide alliances for the first time. Activist causes helped bring these individuals together to build wider networks and stronger platforms, competing in municipal elections, union elections and now parliamentary elections.

You can watch the full episode here:

Independent candidates are realizing that politics is a long term game, that takes years of organizing, alliance-building and election strategizing. But they are advancing quickly and their influence is already being felt. The mere fact that politics is taking place outside the established party system, that people now have alternative ways of expressing themselves and being heard is a feat on its own.

The number of candidates running this year (1,000) is an exponential increase on previous years, particularly when it comes to over 100 women candidates, including an unprecedented all-female election slate:

Posted by 10452 on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

 

Suddenly establishment parties are also featuring a number of women on their lists. Was this also a reaction to gender rights activism over recent years?

In their campaign posters, establishment parties project an air of confidence. This billboard simply says: “Beirut, don’t worry.”

But maybe Beirut should worry. The country is facing an environmental disaster, a public services disaster, a refugee crisis on a globally unprecedented scale, just to name a few.  Even if activists do not win, they are forming stronger coalitions of dissent to challenge those in power.

The political parties are still very entrenched and well resourced- after all, they have been building themselves up for decades. But their media and messaging is increasingly undermined and outdated. With so many new online media outlets, they can no longer monopolize public debates and hide uncomfortable issues from public view. With so many people interested in politics for the first time (partly due to the party’s failures) competition and oversight is growing and politicians cannot rely on old tactics as much as they once did.

In this changing political environment, it is the old guard that should be worried or at least less comfortable, and that could be a good thing for everyone.

If you still haven’t made up your mind, there are many resources out there such as Mist3ideen and Megaphone that have put together some extensive research on the candidates and the voting process.

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There has been much fanfare about the removal of political signs and posters from Beirut, as part of a reported reconciliation deal between the parties/militias/old men that run this country. I have to admit, I was surprised to see the decades-old Amal mural painted over on Spears Street.

The Daily Star reported that Hezbollah had even removed posters of martyrs in Saida, though advertisements for the party’s museum remain up.

But what the Star didn’t report is that as posters came down for some groups, a massive billboard campaign went up commemorating the life of slain prime minister Rafik Hariri. The billboards promoted a political rally for his party that would be held on the day of his assassination last week.

The billboards are literally ubiquitous across the city. From downtown:

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To Hamra:

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The highways:

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The northern suburbs:

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Multiple images on the same panel:

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Even three billboards on one street:

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I wonder if this campaign was excluded from the reconciliation deal and why.

Look out for my column next month in Bold Magazine for more on Beirut’s history with political posters, how the latest crackdown compares to previous removal campaigns and what is often left out of the process.

 

2

Lebanese president Michel Sleiman left office today, but his presidency will linger a while longer in billboards erected across the highway.

The sign above literally reads: “You entered big and you leave big.”

Yet technically speaking Sleiman leaves office much like his predecessor did six years ago: with no successor and a presidential void.

So what is the “big” reference here and how will Sleiman be remembered? Will it be for his tweet calling for civil marriage or his criticism and very public disagreements with Lebanon’s most powerful force, Hezbollah? Or will it be his de-facto pardon of indie rock star who was arrested for mentioning his name in a song? Meanwhile other tweeps and journalists still face criminal charges for insulting him.

So what legacies do these billboards commemorate and who paid for them anyway?

No name is attached to the canvas, but interestingly the same stretch of highway near the Nahr El Mawt/City Mall area was also plastered in Sleiman praise when he came to office in 2008 and again during in 2013, a year before he left office. Could it be the same secret admirer?

Sleiman propaganda on the same pedestrian bridge in 2008. See previous post.

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    Because with Israeli jets overhead, sporadic explosions around town and the slaughter of hundreds every week a few miles away in Syria–all Lebanon really needs right now is some gratuitous Arnold Schwarzenegger gun violence.

    Lining both sides of the coastal highway…

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      In Lebanon, everything seems to be marketable, even potential sainthood. This wall ad is positioned along one of downtown Beirut’s busiest intersections. It follows last week’s beatification ceremony for Father Joseph Haddad, also known as Abouna Yaccoub. It is not clear what the relationship is between the Lebanese Canadian Bank (logo pictured left) and the bearded saint in waiting. Both appear to be enjoying the spotlight though.

      The bank, like most in Lebanon, has performed exceedingly well and according to press reports, is now building a new headquarters on one of the most expensive plots in the city (the giant wall ad actually covers the perimeter of the construction site).


      Father Yaccoub has also seen his stock grow recently. In the last two weeks his pictures have been plastered everywhere in Christian parts of the city, draping scores of billboards, bridges and even entire apartment buildings. The speed and budget of the campaign for the little known priest has rivaled that of the one created last month to promote the country’s new President, Michel Sleiman.

      The streets of Beirut don’t discriminate. Whether priest, president or bank, all are welcome for the right price.

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      A new air of optimism prevails in Lebanon today. And as is often the case after a Lebanese war (there have been about half a dozen over the past 50 years) the country is buzzing with excitement and carrying on with life as usual. The streets, recently crowded with political propaganda, have suddenly been switched back to mercantile mode:


      Many of these ads replace giant posters of the new President, Michel Sleiman who had ordered his pictures taken down last week. The hope was that other politicians whose faces continue to dot the streets would make similar calls. Local advertisers, on the other hand, still see flag waving as an excellent marketing strategy.

      Everyone seems to be catching the buzz, including the national brewery, Almaza:


      The cell phone company, MTC Touch:


      And Persil, a leading clothing detergent brand:


      These massive ads are expensive high quality prints. Some cost tens of thousands of dollars to produce and install. But money seems to be no object for some firms.

      Heeding the president’s request, an advertising group known as THG almost instantly replaced this 10 story Sleiman poster it sponsored last month:

      With this equally sized spot on the same building:

      Wealth and creativity abound in Lebanon but I wonder how, and if, nation-building–which the country sorely lacks–can ever be made as lucrative as self-promotion.

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        For some reason, the term ‘overkill’ has not worked its way into the Lebanese vocabulary. When a new leader arrives on the scene, logic goes that he must be celebrated ad nauseam. Today’s leader au jour is army commander Michel Sleiman, as seen about a thousand times this morning on my commute from Mount Lebanon to Beirut. It included:

        Sleiman in uniform.


        Sleiman in a suit.


        Sleiman on the bridges.

        Sleiman, Sleiman…


        Sleiman, Sleiman.

        Two Sleiman’s are better than one?


        Or three?


        Even gas stations caught the buzz.



        So who had all the time and money to put up this glossy abundance of signage? The municipalities of greater Beirut apparently.


        Filling crater-like pot holes that dot the country’s roads or putting up street lamps to illuminate the dark and dangerous highways at night is clearly a second priority for these men in yellow trucks. It’s far more important, it seems, to celebrate a leader who has barely made a single public policy speech and whose politics thus remain a complete mystery to most Lebanese.

        I’m not saying he is a bad choice. Sleiman is credited with keeping the Army united as the country’s politicians toyed with civil war. He is the ‘consensus’ candidate, loved by all, at least for now.

        But his candidacy raises an inherent problem with Lebanese political culture. It is too often based on idolatry rather than issues, limited to stern looks or smiling faces over concrete policies and proposals. To succeed in Lebanese politics is to create a personality cult based on mythological strength rather than identifiable achievements.

          1

          This spray painted wall says a lot about what many Lebanese think of the poster/billboard war that is taking over this country’s streets. For those unaware, “Haifa” is Lebanon’s most celebrated sex symbol. She’s a sort of a local Brittney Spears, only older. The wall actually faces a mosque in the Ain Mrese neighborhood, which is better known for posters championing the Amal party of Parliament speaker, Nabih Berri.

          Many Lebanese are fed up with the political struggle that has seen this city’s streets turned into a visual battlefield. Almost everywhere you look, giant apartment buildings are covered with the faces of pro-American politicians or those allied with Syria and Iran. While working on a recent piece for CBC Radio, I spoke to dozens of pedestrians across the capital and in south Lebanon with another reporter. We found that most people were utterly disgusted by the campaigns. Several said they should be replaced with pop stars or the lingerie models that are already ubiquitous in parts of the city.

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            The Arab world is more divided than ever today and this can be illustrated through a very unscientific and simplistic survey of driving around town and then coming home to watch some mind-numbing television.

            The poster above was recently hung up along Lebanon’s ever-politicized airport highway, which is often used to champion political parties and leaders associated the anti-government opposition (i.e. welcome to ‘our‘ country, and make no mistake about who’s really in charge here). This latest chapter in the poster war sees a bloodthirsty Condeleezza gnawing on a baby with the caption: “America is the mother of terrorism.” As as part of the gory Beirut welcoming campaign, she is joined by dozens of airport highway billboards promising to avenge “the blood” of assassinated Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyeh. By contrast, when I get at home and switch on the set, I am confronted with this image of a video DJ on Kuwait’s Al Rai TV.

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              The balcony is a central part of Lebanese life. People have lunch on them, play backgammon on them, enjoy a morning round of coffee and cigarettes out on them and, of course, hang wet clothes to dry on them. But one shrewd Lebanese company known as Exotica has seized the opportunity to turn this fine institution into a new cause for road accidents. The massive rooftop billboard pictured above–about two stories in height–towers over the country’s main coastal highway in the Jal El Dib suburb of Beirut. The unregulated nature of the ad industry–and every other industry in Lebanon for that matter–makes this colorful strip a crowded, Las Vegas style amalgamation of glitz and kitsch. Exotica, a major nursery, faces plenty of competition from giant nearby billboards selling Calvin Klein, Givenchy and even Penolpe Cruz whose outstretched body is plastered across an entire Jal El Dib apartment building as part of the campaign for her new clothing line at Spanish retailer Mango. But Exotica decided to stand out by going local, alluding to another prominent Lebanese institution: cleavage and breast implants, both of which are on the rise. How this connection will help boost plant sales this spring appears to have been a secondary concern.