What makes for a good news item in the western media? Muslims who lack a sense of humor. For the news wire reports covering last night's riots in Beirut, a journalist's work was made very easy. He or she could apparently just take reports from last February's protests against the Danish cartoons, and supplement "cartoon" with "comedy", "the Prophet Mohammed" with "Hassan Nasrallah", and "the Danish embassy" with "the road leading to the airport". In fact, that was my favorite detail: "the guerrilla group's loyalists blocked a main road leading to Lebanon's sole international airport." Doesn't that scare the bejeezus out of you? They made it impossible for people to flee the country! Nevermind that "the road that leads to the airport" also leads to everything south of downtown Beirut, including were most of the protesters live, and that the roadblock was right at the beginning of Bechara al Khoury motorway, a good 10 kilometers from the airport itself.
Leave out the fact that the producer of the comedy show, whose humor was lost on all those crazy Shia ( who only ever wear black to demonstrate their humorlessness,) is a rightwing Christian, who recently made a short film that was largely condemned as a call to arms for Christians and an incitement to sectarian violence. The film ("So that the Martyr doesn't die") was widely and purposely distributed for free in Muslim neighborhoods, so that-- in case this wasn't a real call to arms for Christians-- at least Muslims might take it as such. Nice guy, this Charbel Khalil.
Secondly, the comic skit made fun of Nasrallah for going on and on about how Hezbollah liberated the country from the Israelis; let's not forget that they also liberated their communities from the Christian rightwing Israeli proxy SLA army that terrorized and tortured those same humorless Shia.
I'm not excusing any violence or property damage that ensued. I myself was in a long line of cars stuck on the highway where rioters were smashing cars, and was forced to turn around and drive down the highway in the wrong direction to get away, and I also saw the burning tires on the "road that leads to the only airport". But every time there's a reason to be upset with teenage boys going on a rampage, the media's portrayal and ridiculing and blatant disregard for the background facts overshadows this.
What was strange about the rioting was that Hezbollah supporters are usually incredibly disciplined, at organized protests they practice impecable crowd control, and are generally respectful of public property; at least compared to the Hariri teenage riot squads that chase and terrorize street cleaners, stick their stupid stickers all over statues and coopt public space by hitching plastic tents. And this protest was not called for by Hezbollah; in fact, Nasrallah and other party members told people to go home, even begged them. This was a powerful spontaneous outpouring of anger over a very real political issue, namely Hezbollah's right to keep its arms to defend the country, and not principled humorlessness over the mocking of a religious figure. Just for the record.