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  • prequel

    "Top blog/Renato Obeid's World/Today's pick: This rambling weblog is worth reading not so much for its satirical posts but more for its insight into the minutiae of life in Lebanon, including the etiquette of road accidents and how to hire a taxi.” -Jane Perrone, The Guardian

    Sunday, October 16, 2005  
    The region is awash with rumor, speculation and conspiracy theories about the death, reportedly by suicide, of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan last Wednesday and its relation, if any, to the preliminary Mehlis report*, to be released next week, on the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and possible Syrian involvement.One thing’s for certain, whether Mr. Kanaan killed himself or was killed, there definitely was Syrian involvement in this one.

    *The U.N. investigation, led by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis

    Middle Eastern society is very uniform and mainstream, right down to conspiracy theories, which aren’t espoused by a minority on the fringes as they are in other societies, but are views adopted by the mainstream majority.
    The polar opposite of conventional conspiracy theories and a contradiction in terms.
    A conspiracy theory by its very nature cannot be mainstream.
    That must be the very definition of an Arab – someone from the Middle East who believes in conspiracy theories.
    This, of course, doesn’t include Jews because they are often the alleged conspirators.
    According to my own definition, I must be an Arab then – Anthony used to call me Capitan Conspiracy but dismissing as quacks people who know the truth is itself a conspiracy.
    Hours after Mr. Kanaan’s death had been announced, the one conspiracy theory spread across the nation – he had been assassinated with three bullets (a la Abu Nidal’s “suicide” in Baghdad in 2002).
    It’s the same with speculation about an upcoming event, e.g. Presidential Election (or lack thereof). Almost all of the population, from taxi drivers to ambassadors, postulates the same prediction and, taken individually, manage to sound so original and credible about it.
    I’ve adopted a strategy of betting against the famous “Arab street” which is a one-way street where almost everyone has the same opinion, belief, philosophy, etc
    That is, whatever the masses believe will happen, will not happen, because nobody can predict what the future will bring, especially in such noninclusive societies.
    Also, the future is full of surprises and, by very definition, a surprise cannot be something that everybody knows is going to happen.
    I often go as far as to bet on the opposite.
    E.g. when everybody was predicting that President Lahoud would not get an extension of his mandate last year, on the strength of that and the fact that Lahoud was perfect at doing whatever it was the powers that be wanted him to be doing (that is doing nothing), I predicted that he would indeed get an extension which he did.

    Lebanese love to talk and to be talked to.
    There are hours and hours of political talk shows on television that go on forever.
    Would that that meant a genuine interest in politics but it doesn’t – it’ more like base curiosity and more of an interest in the arcane Byzantine minutiae of the game of politics rather than a genuine interest in politics itself.
    Also, a lot of Lebanese will watch whatever is put in front of them as long as they’re watching something.Which explains why ten-year- olds will quite happily watch a four-hour-long (no snappy sound bites here, just mega bites - what to do Lebanese television editors do all day? certainly not edit) interview with the Speaker of Parliament that their parents are watching.

    5:00 pm

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