February 14, 2006
Cartoons & Protest: Context, Hariri's Commemoration as a Benchmark
A brief comment if I may, on the cartoon controversy and benchmarking - in the context of the over-heated characterisations of the Islamic world and the protests against the Danish cartoons.
Among the items that have most annoyed me has been the lazy characterisations that had protests of mere hundreds or a handful of thousands as reflecting 'mass Muslim anger.' Mere hundreds is not mass anger.
I'd like to take Lebanon and the Rafiq Hariri Memorial demo as a benchmark for real mass movement: as one can gather from The Washington Post and better from the image with al Hayat's coverage, even allowing for large Xian and Druze participation, more than a few hundred Lebanese turned out.
I would hazard the opinion that one has a benchmark for what really is bringing people out, and what is not.
It strikes me that again and again, the largest demos one sees are not the ones supporting the radicals in the region. However, the radicals are good at turning out their troops more often, smashing things to get attention and generally bleating rather loudly claiming to speak on behalf of all. The squeeky wheel, as it were.
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before somebody malicious does it, let me bring up the example of the mass demos that hizbullah brought out in lebanon. similarly, in gaza/westbank it is the islamists who can mobilize the masses, much more so than fatah. ditto for iran. and in all three cases the vast majority of demonstrators are NOT coerced to do so.
in a country like syria (but also egypt & all the other dictatorships) it is hard to find out whether participation in a demonstration is voluntary or not. and we also don't know how many people WOULD've assembled on midan al-tahrir (downtown cairo) to protest the "danish cartoons" if the laughing cow ("la vache qui rit", from that french cheese brand -> the local nickname for husni mubarak) had not given orders that everything to be calm.
Posted by: raf* at February 15, 2006 04:51 AM
But. The Hizbollah demos were a much different thing (and besides which, were peaceful) in a context where sectarian identification was as much of a point of issue as identification with a particular Islamist politics.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at February 15, 2006 02:14 PM
Real mass movement?? As in supporting tribal elites??? How nice.
Posted by: Freedom at February 15, 2006 03:03 PM
Well, I grant the corrections, even the snide one.
At the same time, benchmarking like against like is important. Regardless of the somewhat peculiar character of demos in the area it is helpful and I think fair to compare the meager turnout of one to the mass turnout of another.
Above all in characterising the level of interest and engagement.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 15, 2006 03:29 PM
Interesting timeline for the Cartoon controversy.
Posted by: Anonymous at February 16, 2006 03:19 AM
Got it, as well as your other comment. Saw the WP arty before. Aiming for week end round up.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at February 16, 2006 03:58 AM