Update: (See below for insight on the source of the original billboards)
Those of you living in Lebanon have probably seen the strange billboards cropping up all over the place, picturing flags of various Middle Eastern countries with the title: al-arqaam ablagh min al-kalaam (more or less, “numbers speak louder than words”). Diamond had a post about the billboards several days ago in which she expressed her puzzlement about the message of the billboards, and about the fact that they don’t contain a statement of ownership or credit; each one is signed simply, “The Lebanese”.
Quoting Diamond: “The flags represent Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, and Bahrain. Jordan is not included, and neither is Syria. Next to each flag is a dollar amount, running from $734 million by KSA to $3 million for Bahrain, and a description of what the money was used for: housing units, development, and aid work.”
In the comment section of the post, somebody claimed credit for the campaign. It seems that it was the work of some kind of advertising agency, and the goal of the billboards was to draw attention to the millions of dollars given by certain [M14-friendly] Arab countries to the Higher Relief Commission following the 2006 War. The commenter writes:
“Glad that our campaign triggered your interest even if you found it “vague” although it wasn’t our intent:)
A3mal Al Ighathat and all the numbers you see and the countries mentioned in the ad, refer to the countries who sent their donations to the Higher Relief COmmission following the Israeli invasion back in June 06 and all the destructions that followed and subsequent money that went to the construction.
Hope we clarified the ad.”
Now, a campaign like this was bound to raise the hackles of March 8th’s equally media-savvy Aounists, for whom the Higher Relief Commission — one of the four large national funds used for (allegedly politically-motivated) reconstruction and tainted by accusations of corruption (like the Nabih Berri-controlled Council of the South) — is just another front for Cedar Revolution-ism. And it didn’t take long for those cheeky Aounists to mastermind their own campaign, now making the email rounds:
All of the images have the same priceless slogan at the bottom (“numbers speak louder than words”). There are a couple more images that I haven’t bothered posting with titles like “19 years of subordination and corruption”, “42% of the young have emigrated”, and “39% of the Lebanese elected the parliamentary majority”, but the pièce de résistance is the final image:
Who says Lebanon is not ready for party politics?
Update: Curious as to whether the Arqam/Kalam ads were designed by Saatchi & Saatchi (the alleged source of March 14’s advertising according to opposition critics, as discussed most recently in this article in al-Akhbar), I put in a call to S&S’s offices in Beirut, where nobody answered. I then tried calling the offices of Quantum, an agency with ties to M14 and the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation (and S&S too, of course), and the gentleman I spoke to explained to me that while Quantum was indeed responsible for the March 14 electoral campaign advertising, it had nothing to do with the flag billboards. Those, he said, were produced directly by the Higher Relief Commission. Furthermore, he denied that Saatchi & Saatchi had anything to do with any of this (which may suggest that M14’s media wing is trying to insulate the global brand from local politics… probably a smart move).