Today's Blogs

Beirut Fights Back

Lebanese bloggers take to their TypePads in a mixture of anger and thoughtful analysis about yesterday’s assassination of Pierre Gemayel. Meanwhile, America mourns the passing of legendary auteur Robert Altman.

Beirut fights back: Today’s outpouring of grief in Lebanon over the assassination of Phalangist industry minister Pierre Gemayel was met with an equal display of anguish and commentary in cyberspace. Lebanese bloggers were charting up-to-the-minute developments in their country just as word came that a joint Lebanese-U.N. tribunal has been approved to investigate the 2005 slaying of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The government in Beirut now teeters on the brink of collapse, Hezbollah angles to gain politically, and all eyes are on Syria as the instigator—once again—of Lebanon’s misery and chaos.

At FaiLaSooF Says, Failasoof, a med student living in Beirut, captures the feeling on the ground this morning: “When you walk down in Beirut streets, you can see the tension everywhere. Wherever you look, you can see army men with their suits and guns, watching and trying their best to maintain a minimum level of security. … [E]very now and then you see small group of people in their cars with their speakers, asking people to be there at Martyrs square tomorrow, condemning the brutal assassination, and demanding a ONE-MAN stand in the face of terrorism.”

Given that Lebanon’s government is said to be just one slain minister away from becoming completely impotent and falling under the authority of Hezbollah, Doha at The Lebanese Bloggers suggests “that perhaps the Ministers and Prime Minister should just stay put in the Grand Serail until they pass the tribunal resolution on Saturday. If they just sleep over this week, the country will probably be somewhat saved from another Minister taking the path of Pierre’s.” He then adds: “Little did I know that sources are saying that PM Seniora is in fact contemplating the idea of asking the Ministers to sleep over at the Grand Serail until Monday of next week. I guess we’re all thinking the same thing…”

According to Lebanese news service Naharnet, fellow minister of state Michel Pharaon’s office was sprayed with gunfire just after Gemayel’s murder. “[G]iven that the targeted ministers are Christians,” notes native Beiruti and Near Eastern studies scholar Anton Efendi at Across the Bay, “it would be consistent with the same tactic the Syrians adopted after they killed Hariri when they targeted exclusively Christian figures and Christian areas. The hope is to spark sectarian clashes that would send the country into a vacuum, which is why Amin Gemayel and Walid Jumblat have urged restraint. An additional benefit for the Syrians and Iranians and Hezbollah would be the killing of UNR 1701 and the UNIFIL deployment in southern Lebanon.”

Al Jazeera may be trying to win Western hearts and minds with its new English language channel, but some Lebanese are sick of the broadcast’s paranoid and tendentious spin. Mustapha at The Beirut Spring fumes: “When it comes to covering Lebanon, Aljazeera is scandalously biased. It pairs national figures with hired conspiracy theorists … and gives their opinions similar weight. It focuses its interviews on Syrian denials and people with the laughable question: ‘Who benefits from the killings?’… As long as the killer is Arab, Aljazeera thinks its okay. Just ask Qatar, Aljazeera’s patron, who has been relentlessly trying to stifle the International tribunal in the security council to save Bashar’s behind.”

Considering that his country’s “unresolved” assassinations—from Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt to Bachir Gemayel to Rafik Hariri—”Blacksmith Jade” at Blacksmiths of Lebanon finds it ironic that “Lebanon’s ‘resolved’ assassinations have largely been attributed to other Lebanese groups. … In contrast, in the assassinations, kidnappings and attempted assassinations in which suspicions have been turned to Damascus, the Lebanese have found themselves trapped in a web of lack of evidence, ambiguity and mistrust. Investigations which started with loud words and grand intentions soon dwindled down to mere whispers and rumors on the street.” “Blacksmith Jade” also posts an item that reads as if lifted out of the Stalinist Field Manual.

Read more Lebanese bloggers’ reactions to the Gemayel assassination.

Altman, R.I.P. Director Robert Altman died Tuesday of cancer at the age of 81. Part of the ‘70s wave of eccentric but powerful filmmakers, he leaves behind him such an impressive body of work—Nashville, M*A*S*H—that a lot of the chatter today seems almost pre-designed to mention the duds.

Brett Cox at The Mumpsimus writes: “Of course, anyone who loves Altman also has to admit that he was capable of making atrociously bad movies like Beyond Therapy. That’s part of what is so fascinating about his work – the same commitment to experiment that led him to moments of genius also produced truly failed experiments. … [H]e fully committed himself to the process of filmmaking, and he let his interests range farther than any other director I can think of.”

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice gets in his dislikes first: “Although I found The Player and especially Short Cuts vastly overrated, and some of his work mediocre, M*A*S*H remains a powerful anti-war statement, as well as the basis for a fantastic TV show, Gosford Park is an exceptional reworking of Renoir’s classic The Rules of the Game, and Nashville. … Perhaps no better film has ever been made about America.”

Read more obits of Altman. Slate’s Dana Stevens remembers Altman.