Mapping Fallacies

This is a letter I wrote to the editors of Now Lebanon in response to their feature titled "Mapping alliances: Where the Arab states stand on Lebanon and Syria":
However, much to my disappointment, it seems that they do not welcome criticism. So I though I'd share my thoughts here:

In discussing Syria, you mention that 'Since the so-called Cedar Revolution of Spring 2005,... Syrian intelligence operatives are believed to have been responsible for the assassination of as many as eight leading anti-Syrian Lebanese figures.' Your use of the passive voice can be quite misleading to the audience, in a sense that it utters what strikes the uninformed reader as the only theory there is, and as objective, in a sense that it is not contaminated by physicality ('this person' or, better, 'I' think this). I think that a minimum of objectivity needs to be payed ode to by stating that there is another theory stating that these assassinations have been conducted by the Israeli intelligence upon American request.

Mind you, I seriously doubt - then again - that you are the least bit concerned with objectivity if you say '[g]eographically, it [as in Saudi Arabia] might also be considered the father of the moderate Arab axis, extending through the Gulf and across most of North Arica - in contrast to the more confrontational Syrian and Iranian axis.' I do not understand by what virtue it is that you deem Saudi Arabia a moderate country; if by lifestyle and internal policy, it is oppressive, unsecular (to say the least), and undemocratic (again, to say the least). If by foreign policy, it is clearly biased to the American axis, and its system is sustained by the US government. It is terribly dangerous to try to equate the 'American' with the 'moderate' and, worse still, I fear that this is exactly what you know you are doing. This applies to the ease with which you described Egypt and Jordan as 'moderate' as well.

What I am most concerned about, though, is your legend and the way you labelled its two extremities as 'Pro-Syria' and 'Pro-Lebanon'. Again, you are making use of a seemingly objective medium as the map in a propaganda all too obviously biased to what is 14th March and not, mind you, to what you called 'Pro-Lebanon'. The current conflict is one between two parties inside Lebanon (March 8th and March 14th), those in turn representing forces outside of Lebanon (the American axis, imperialist and capitalist, and the Iranian axis, anti-imperialist and unsecular), and is by no virtue a conflict between a single unified entity called 'Lebanon' and another called 'Syria'. Again, it is at best simplistic and at worse hypocritical (as in biased but pretending to be objective) to try to equate the 8th March party (yes, a full-fledged Lebanese party, at least as full-fledged Lebanese as the 14th March party) with any country outside of Lebanon (Syria). Likewise, claiming that the 14th March party represents 'Lebanon' denies the latter from almost half of its population (I do not wish to get into the number game now, that is not the least bit my point) or, put worse, disregards the voice of almost half the Lebanese in what pretends to be a democratic system.



At Monday, November 05, 2007 6:34:00 PM, Blogger BOB said...

frankly i m too tired to offer a full discussion, but it was very interesting reading your take on being objective and all that nice talk and then you use "unsecular" to describe Iran!!!!

Unsecular??? try to lessen th eimpact are you, of an ugly but true word THEOCRACY!!!!

the rest i think needs further time and energy, maybe tomorow...

At Tuesday, November 06, 2007 2:59:00 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said...

Do you really want to bother Bob?

This blog was dying before the war of summer 2006.

It was then given the coup-de-grace by the two Hezbo groupies/editors who have since dropped out.

And now the last few gasps: a pompous inane lecture on fallacies, a 2-line political commentary derived from the wisdom of a lame comedian, Beirut book capital 2009 (if there's a country)....from a blog with 56 contributors???

Good night Irene.

At Thursday, November 08, 2007 7:00:00 PM, Blogger pot.of.tea said...

bob, how easy could it be for you to drool over anything related to Iran?

It did not occur to you that my use of the word 'capitalist' was just another euphemism in talking about the US. But we do not want to think about the US now, do we? How good can we be in thinking critically when it comes to Iran and that alone (oh, I forgot, and Syria).

We all are happy and settled with the fact that Iran is a theocracy, get over it. Think further than that; think that Saudi Arabia is even more 'unsecular' than Iran, but is fully supported by the US. Think of what that begins to utter.

Oh and mind you, I do not claim to be objective, but those people behind that map do. I am not appalled by someone giving out her opinion; I am appalled by someone trying to fool me and not even doing a good job at it.

At Sunday, November 11, 2007 10:13:00 PM, Blogger Jester said...

I have a piece I'd like to contribute from my blog.


- theCourtFool

At Monday, November 12, 2007 7:29:00 PM, Blogger mario said...


I would like to point out an error with your article that stood out to me

You mention that the Iranian axis of influence is 'anti-imperialist'.

What you need to be aware of is that 'Imperialism' is not exclusive to the US. Iranian ambitions for the wider middle east, and indeed its foreign policy are imperialistic. Hizbollah is a living product of Iranian imperialism and their internal domestic politics within Lebanon are knowingly submissive to Iranian imperialist ambition.

At Wednesday, November 14, 2007 3:39:00 PM, Blogger pot.of.tea said...

I love how this is working. I post a comment on how the current division in Lebanon is not an external one and must not be taken as such, and the one time I mention Iran the whole thing turns into a discussion on Iran and the Hezbos, as joseywales gracefully put it.

mario, I definitely agree that describing the Iranian axis as 'anti-imperialist' is wrong; let's first agree that what I mean by imperialism (yes, to oversimplify things terribly) is expansion, be that potential, as in the case of Iran, or realised, as in the case of the US, and I guess that no country would ever be anti-imperialist. Let's not naturalise things, but at least to discuss things from a historical perspective, the greatest (or most pronounced) anti-imperialist project, namely the Soviet Union, failed horribly, not because it no longer exists now, but because it itself turned into an empire (ask an ex-Yugoslavian or a Pole on that).

It seems that any country with enough magnitude (not geographical; think UK) would eventually turn into an empire, or at least want to, the way Iran probably does, and it seems that I cannot allow myself to use the term 'anti-imperialism' with the ease I did, namely because anti-imperialism is a naive, utopian word.

And mind you, let's remember that we are talking about the 'Iranian axis' here, not Iran. I would say that that merely includes Iran, Northern Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, and somehow China and Russia.

In talking about what I called 'the Iranian axis' I think it would be safe to describe it, not as 'anti-imperialist' (for the reasons discussed above), but rather as anti-hegemonic; in a sense that this axis refuses American hegemony on the world, not because it is a nice and cute axis, but because it in turn wants that hegemony.

As for Hizboullah.

I did not post this entry to discuss Hizboullah, and I do not wish to turn this discussion into one about Hizboullah. I merely urge you to think outside the box; outside Lebanon, and beyond what we are taught to think first thing when we say stuff such as 'imperialist' and 'Iran' and 'secular'."

At Thursday, November 15, 2007 1:34:00 PM, Blogger BOB said...

pot of tea

plz i always said this and i ll say it again leave me and what u drool or do not drool over out of the discussion

discuss the ideas and the argument NOT the author...

next who talked about the US and KSA? i was talking about what u said on Iran. Or maybe everytime iran is mentioned we need to bring up KSA, US france and so on????

Nevertheless u want talk abotu KSA lets: it is a theocracy, not a unsecular country.

now awaiting your answer about iran... and thinking out of the box...

PS: wwhen you say iran is anti hegomonic it is kind of ironic when they themselves are try to spread their hegemony over the middle east.

PS: i will use your lines, to epxlain again that i was not discussing the US or KSA but Iran just exchange the word hezbollah in this paragraph with KSa and USA "I did not post this entry to discuss Hizboullah, and I do not wish to turn this discussion into one about Hizboullah."

At Friday, November 16, 2007 9:41:00 AM, Blogger pot.of.tea said...

bob, as a matter of fact, what I am discussing is indeed the author. My ideas my argument is the author, and when I discuss drooling that is exactly my point; that conditioning which we are subject to to perceive words as directly linked to physical phenomena (such as democracy to the US, for example, or terrorism to Islam); something which we should be careful should never happen, because if the definition turned into the example, we jeopardise language as a construct serving critical thinking.

I apologise though for me using the word 'drooling' specifically; analysing the author (as in stripping oneself of the pretense of purity of 'objective' or erudite analysis) is not an excuse for lack of politesse, such as using animal imagery (me) and capital letters coupled with exclamation marks (you).

As for who talked about the US and KSA, it is I, author of this piece currently under public scrutiny, who talked about them. Discussing Iran is something that interests you more, I can see, but I do not see how that adds anything to my faculties; those are already saturated with critical thinking about Iran being despotic, a theocracy, and having expansionary plans. What we simply always do is turn the blind eye to the fact that the US has already 'expanded' into two countries in the 21st century and supports a theocracy, and then you find people who still have the nerves to call that theocracy 'moderate', without having the minimum decency to admit all of that as being a mere opinion.

Do you understand why I am harping on the American story?

Post scriptum; it was interesting to read 'wwhen you say iran is anti hegomonic it is kind of ironic when they themselves are try to spread their hegemony over the middle east', because while typing 'in a sense that this axis refuses American hegemony on the world, not because it is a nice and cute axis, but because it in turn wants that hegemony.' I thought my point was clear, and it seems that it was not.

At Saturday, November 24, 2007 1:13:00 PM, Blogger Mc Vickers said...

Nice blog. I am very worry about the future of lebanon. A post in my blog expalin it: http://elbaluartedeoccidente.blogspot.com/2007/11/lbano-al-borde-del-abismo.html
Good luck
I am praying for all of you.
Luis. Spain - UK

At Monday, November 26, 2007 6:24:00 PM, Blogger BOB said...

pot of tea

the thing is i prefer to argue ideas and arguments rather than the author and who and why he thinks the way he does...

Moreover, you are welcomed to speak about the US and KSA and explain how despotic you believe they are...

how ever the author was speaking about iran so if you feel the need ot argue about the US then go ahead do but that would be outside the author argument...

anyways, lately in any blog comments i ve noticed that ppl tend to go each one on a different tangent and the main argument is lost. this is why i try to focus things and keep the discussions on one limited subject.

i would love to read a detailed post by you on the USA and its "worse" side in the region. same goes to KSA and what ever country you feel like it. but what kinda bug me is that the moment someone speaks of Iran and Syria ppl feel the need to criticize the US or KSA ( and vice versa) keep the issue clean and simple and clearer

anyways it is always nice and interesting too have a mature discussion that does not end in a round of insults :)

At Friday, December 07, 2007 3:27:00 PM, Blogger M Junaid Khan said...

Hmmm! Bob! Pot of tea(coffee isnt that bad either) *smile*
I am from Pakistan and all i know about Lebanon is from secondary sources. I have a slight idea about their politics and am really looking forward to know more. I saw the arguments (or what ever you may call it) of both bob and pot of tea and found them really interesting but i slightly got biased towards pot of tea for i agreed with his arguments more then that of Bob.
Anyways, i think the purpose of his blog was very simple and it did convey his message. Its an all together different story to bring in Hezballah, Iran or KSA or even for that matter USA(seems no place in world where they arent involved).

At Wednesday, March 26, 2008 7:56:00 AM, Blogger Jauzi said...

lebanese... great!

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