Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Lebanese Political Talk Show Rumbles: A Tentative Top Five

As regular readers will attest, I’m something of a Lebanese political talk show junkie. Shows like Kalam al-Nas, Bi-Mawdu`iyyeh, al-Fasad, and others, in my view, do a much better job of derailing politicians off their talking points than most of their counterparts in the West.

In a country where the print media is largely ignored and has a marginal influence on  politics, getting your message across on these weekly TV programs is a vital piece of every political party’s strategy. As a result, what one usually gets  is a very lively debate between two politicians from rival parties.

Occasionally, it gets ugly. The clips below are some of my favorite rumbles from the past few years, in no particular order.

1. Mustapha Alloush and Fa’iz Shukur (Bi-Mawdu`iyyeh, November 14, 2011): This clip from today’s show reveals the head of Lebanon’s Baath Party getting physical with Mustapha Alloush, a prominent member of Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement. (What is it with the tempers on these Baath officials? This clip brings to mind the harassment of a pharmacist by Mustapha al-Qawwas, the head of the Baath party in Saida, which was caught on tape a few months ago…)

2. `Uqab Saqr and Hassan Ya`qub (Kalam al-Nas, May 19, 2009): There’s plenty of shouting earlier in this segment, but the key bit is when Saqr calmly corrects Ya`qub’s own erroneous correction of Nicholas Fattoush’s quotation of a Qur’anic verse. Wonky? Sure. But it riled Ya`qub up enough that he (allegedly) threatened to kill Saqr after the show.

3. Ibrahim Kan`aan and Mosbah al-Ahdab (Kalam al-Nas, December 2006): This is a great showdown between two of the most vocal spokesmen of the FPM and March 14, respectively. It takes place not long after Hizbullah walked out of the Saniora cabinet in 2006. Tensions were running very high in the country, and it shows here. Marcel Ghanem has to end the show early to prevent fists from flying.

4. Rafiq Nasrallah vs. Carlos Edde (Kalam al-Nas, May 17, 2008): I don’t know whose bright idea it was to send Carlos Edde against Rafiq Nasrallah just ten days after the events of May 7 2008. Edde grew up abroad and pokes fun at his own linguistic inabilities while Nasrallah is a rhetorical master… No real sparring here but a smack down nonetheless. This is the kind of performance that gets the pro-resistance advocates’ hearts pumping.

5. `Uqab Saqr vs. Omar Bakri (Kalam al-Nas, May 5 2011): I could do a Top Ten of clips devoted only to Saqr — his mastery of this form at such a young age is truly bewildering — but this one is among the recent best. He debates the famous Islamist Omar Bakri shortly after Osama Bin Laden’s death, on the question of whether or not Bin Laden should be regarded as a Muslim hero.

Readers are encouraged to contribute links to their favorite smack downs in the comment section.
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55 thoughts on “Lebanese Political Talk Show Rumbles: A Tentative Top Five

  1. Wow!! …and I was just about to post that clip on the site! Amazing, progressive and in complete control of the vulgarities…Proud to be a Baath idiot who worships another country’s brutal dictator…Yet he is a Lebanese?

    Posted by danny | November 14, 2011, 7:33 pm
  2. How sad there is no eng/fr subs I whish I could understand what it is aid .. on all these videos ..

    Posted by Ekios | November 14, 2011, 7:54 pm
  3. Here’s a good one…Though they are not in the studio together…

    Posted by danny | November 14, 2011, 8:11 pm
  4. Thanks Danny. I totally forgot that one. A classic. Brilliant stuff.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 14, 2011, 8:18 pm
  5. and you have to see what the dear (not) prime minister had to say about it 🙂

    Posted by TRELLA | November 14, 2011, 9:24 pm
  6. Danny,
    I have not seen this one before. When did this take place and why didn’t they pull the plug on him? How could he have survived this episode? It would be real interesting to get the considered opinion of a sociologist and a psychiatrist about why individuals behave this way.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | November 14, 2011, 9:37 pm
  7. Gus,

    In Lebanon where you have the clAoun talking about ta7t el zennar & all kinds of gross crap and people look up to him as a leader…You can have people like Kanaan who scream & yell and lose their cool and yet the “feudal” (there QN) system allows them to be called Mr. Minister etc… Who was going to hold him accountable? On the contrary they went after the poor woman with all kinds of insinuations and crap.

    Finally it seems that he had switched his medications with the village idiot by mistake. 😛

    Posted by danny | November 14, 2011, 10:41 pm
  8. … do a much better job of derailing politicians off their talking points than most of their counterparts in the West.

    ??? you say it almost as though its a positive 🙂

    Maybe all this is a reminder that the Arab landmass is destined for perpetual failure.

    On a positive note, I really like Uqab Saqr.

    Posted by Gabriel | November 15, 2011, 12:11 am
  9. Ekios:

    (Re; first clip… because it really is very very funny)

    … after some non-sense

    Baath Guy: I wish you heard Assad’s speech

    Other Guy: I heard the speech

    Baath Guy: So what did you hear in the speech?

    Other Guy: I heard it, but I don’t believe him

    Baath Guy: Who don’t you believe

    Other Guy: Bashar

    Baath Guy: You don’t believe Bashar [Side note: his look is priceless]

    Other Guy: No.. I don’t believe him

    Baath Guy: Why? Who are you to not believe him.

    Other Guy: Chill

    Baath Guy: Shame on you for saying you don’t believe Bashar!

    Other Guy: I don’t believe him because he is a liar

    Baath Guy: You are a liar and your master is a liar

    Other Guy: Listen, an incompetent Intelligence agent shouldn’t speak to me in this tone

    Baath Guy: I’m an incompetent Intelligence agent?! My Shoes has more honor than you!

    Other Guy: Eat Shit. Shut your mouth

    Indeed. This is the conversation between two people who refer to themselves as “Doctor”, which I assume is an indication that they have some postgraduate degrees in… well I’m not sure what!

    Posted by Gabriel | November 15, 2011, 12:21 am
  10. Thx a lot Gabriel !!! 🙂

    Posted by Ekios | November 15, 2011, 3:11 am
  11. this is yet another night .both guests have erred, but to be fair, why is it so unfamiliar to say about a foreign president like Bashar el Assad that he cannot be trusted or call him a liar. if it was for someone other than Zouhair Chouker, the representative of the Baath party in lebanon, it would not have gone this way

    Posted by Rudy Sassine | November 15, 2011, 3:21 am
  12. Guess what, people will be voting for the same idiots come next elections !

    Posted by marillionlb | November 15, 2011, 4:58 am
  13. How about Ibrahim Kanaan’s ramble on ‘Al Fasad’ on June 12, 2009?

    Posted by Z. H. | November 15, 2011, 6:46 am
  14. Ziad,

    Danny posted it above.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 15, 2011, 7:09 am
  15. @Gabriel, I cant attest to Mr Fa’iz Shukur but Mustapha Alloush is a medical Doctor, I interviewed him in his clinic. Politics aside, he came across as very pleasant, friendly and open person. Am sure he’ll be annoyed with his handling of this situation.

    Posted by Drew | November 15, 2011, 11:54 am
  16. Yes Mustapha Alloush is a medical doctor and judo Master Black Belt! He was the coach at AUB. Shukur was lucky not to end up with few broken bones.

    Posted by IHTDA | November 15, 2011, 1:29 pm
  17. The only thing that Mr.Allouch did wrong was to stoop to Shukrs level.
    Again I reiterate the Syrian lackeys in Lebanon have major psychological issues with tarnishing the reputation of their master. As if , the whole edifice of their existence is under threat once their master is shamed. I dont think Freud neither Jung can explain this phenomena.

    Posted by Maverick | November 15, 2011, 6:09 pm
  18. BTW it made the news today across media in Australia.

    Posted by Maverick | November 15, 2011, 6:16 pm
  19. I wish Walid Abboud would have let Alloush kick his ass!! Alloush is a black belt.

    Posted by Wael | November 15, 2011, 7:04 pm
  20. Yeah. And you guys wonder (QN) why I have very little hope for our country….

    What a shameful display.

    And putting aside the ridiculous levels to which these so-called politicians sink. Think about the simple lack of logic in the Baa’th guy’s comments and what he got riled up.
    I mean, it’s one thing to get riled because you were attacked or whatever, and even then one should not stoop to such levels.
    But he got his swastika panties in a twist between somebody dared not believe the speech of Bashar? Seriously?
    And you wonder why I call our system feudal? It’s this mentality that these “lords” (no better words) do not even rely on logic and rational thinking in their rationales. It harkens back to the obscurantism of the middle ages in Europe, where it was taboo to question the church, or your lord, even if your eyes told you otherwise.
    Maybe I’m not conveying this in the best language, and we’re all getting a good laugh at the live tv antics.
    But again, to me, this is yet another perfect example that goes to the very heart of the matter (regardless of political leanings, and issues at hand) of the very mentality of the Lebanese and where they stand compared to what Europeans grew to call the age of enlightenment.
    When I watch or read the Lebanese media these days, more often than not, the words that come to mind are “obscurantism”, “feudal”, “medieval supersititons” and the such. Believe it or not.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 15, 2011, 7:33 pm
  21. I just watched it again with english translation, for those who didn’t catch the arabic version.
    Pretty hilarious…

    But again, I can’t get over the fact that the guy’s answer to “I don’t believe him” is “Who are you not to believe him?”
    The implications of that reaction just mindboggle.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 15, 2011, 7:38 pm
  22. BV@21

    I’ve been thinking of an appropriate english translation to: “Who are you not to believe him”.

    I’m hard pressed to find one. It just seems to work a lot better in the Arab tongue.

    Posted by Gabriel | November 16, 2011, 1:07 am
  23. This begins warming up from min 22 …

    Posted by rm | November 16, 2011, 1:30 am
  24. Gaby…

    How about :”Who do you think you are?” frames it better?

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2011, 7:35 am
  25. …Actually this guy worships Assad and anyone who questions Assad’s words is a heretic…In that mind frame it makes more sense.

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2011, 8:14 am
  26. And it made page 21 of Northern Ireland’s lead newspaper…oh dear

    Posted by Drew | November 16, 2011, 8:14 am
  27. One of your best posts ever 🙂 Obviously not speaking Arabic makes it tougher to follow these videos, but to steal a quote from the British comedy “Peep Show”, ‘ You know what it means by the way it makes you feel!’

    Posted by Todd | November 16, 2011, 8:39 am
  28. Danny:

    Normally this expression “Who do you think you are” or “Who are you…” expresses something personal. A response to a personal attack/doubt.

    Like… who are you to tell me what I can or can’t do.

    I was thinking of an expression in the english tongue that somehow uses the idea to ask “Who do you think you are… to have an opinion”. It seems so ludicrous in that language. But somehow, strangely, it rolls rather nicely in the Arab tongue.

    Posted by Gabriel | November 16, 2011, 1:25 pm
  29. Gabriel, you’re correct.

    That actually is a great illustration of the huge disconnect in mentality between our world (in the Arab world, that is) and the ‘modern civilized world’. Something that makes perfect sense in our arabic language sounds so ridiculous in english (or any other language) “Who do you think you are to have an opinion?”
    Coupled with what Danny said above with “worship” and “heretic”.
    Again, over and over, these words keep coming up which are typically used to described obscurantist, ignorant medieval times in the rest of the world.

    What’s that tell you about where we are…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 16, 2011, 2:16 pm
  30. @28…You are right.
    @30….Should I??? Naaah. I’ll let QN have a poke at it. 😛

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2011, 2:49 pm
  31. ooops @ BV.29

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2011, 2:49 pm
  32. I’d like to add – and this comment may get a bit pedagogical so feel free to stop reading – that this notion of “who are you?” brings to mind something else (that plays right into the feudal mentality).
    There is a sense of one having to be SOMEONE to be allowed to speak or have an opinion.
    One’s ability, nay right, to express oneself, seems to be directly tied with one’s being “someone” (which typically means being from a powerful family or clan, or whatnot, in the feudal sense) in this Lebanese mentality of ours.

    The reason such an expression seems so ridiculous in other languages is probably a statement to the fact that there is no rationale or logic to tying one’s right to speak with one’s “status”.

    In short, the only acceptable comeback to “who are you?” in our society seems to be “I am the son of so and so”.
    Something that would be laughed at in the West. One’s credentials may be questioned in the course of a debate when it comes to technical knowledge, say “What qualifies you to speak about medical matters?” may be asked of a witness in a court of law. But no one would ever ask “Who are you?” in the way we seem to be so used to in our dark world.

    /Rant over.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 16, 2011, 2:56 pm
  33. BV



    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 16, 2011, 3:17 pm
  34. How you doing QN? 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 16, 2011, 3:43 pm
  35. I’m fine. Just grateful that I don’t live in a dark world, and that I speak a language that is enlightened and civilized. Thank God for that. (Whoops, that’s my medieval, feudal past speaking…)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 16, 2011, 3:49 pm
  36. hehehehe. Come now. A bit of humor to brighten up a Wednesday afternoon never hurt anyone.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 16, 2011, 5:04 pm
  37. Jokes aside, I think BV’s comments re:32 resonates a certain truth.
    That this kind of language use derives from attitudes relating to masculinity, subservience to a master, honour,and class structures. Dare I say, it has fuedal elements. Think: the Japanese Samurai commiting suicide rather than being captured or dishonouring his master.

    So for those who dont have any connections or Wasta with the ruling clan or leader, are not enttled to utter the kings name . This is the attitude behind Fayez chukors ” who the hell are you to speak about our leader”. This attitude is common across Baath regime loyalists who threaten to break anyones neck that dares speak out or raise their heads. The Lebanese have attested to these attitudes during Syrias mandate and we have seen it via youtube on many occassions with Baath officials and Syrian lackeys in Lebanon.

    Posted by Maverick | November 16, 2011, 6:06 pm
  38. Well since we are having fun; I found this clip which somehow shows Lebanese politicians are not alone in their stupidity… However no one takes the cake in lewdness and swearing as did our heroes on MTV.

    Posted by danny | November 16, 2011, 6:07 pm
  39. @37, Maverick

    Yup. I tend to agree. There is a nugget of truth in all this.
    Although i have to note that this mentality is not by any means limited to the Baath followers (as you seem to imply). It tends to be pretty pervasive in Lebanon as a whole (and i don’t mean just in politics).
    It seems to be taken for granted that a “regular Joe”‘ opinions, beliefs, rights, etc are worth far less than those of “the chosen” (definition of which varies based on whoever happens to be involved). And the “who the hell are you to talk about X/ criticize X / voice a contrary opinion to X” mentality is quite noticeable to me when I contrast my interactions in Lebanon to my interactions in the USA or Western Europe (those are the only places I’ve been, so I can’t speak for Asia or South America…)

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 16, 2011, 6:16 pm
  40. I mean no attack on this or that tongue. Just an observation.

    Culture/values does affect language and how people express. And whether or not I am an esteemed member of some cultured/civilized group, I have to say that I found the expression “Who are you not to believe Assad” to be quite funny, as opposed to offensive, which I suppose should be the natural reaction. The bravado was lyrical and poetic, not distasteful as one may think it ought to have been.

    Posted by Gabriel | November 16, 2011, 7:48 pm
  41. “Why, who are you?” is a well used modern Hebrew expression also. I would analyze it as: Why would I care what a nothing like you thinks? It is often accompanied with a hand gesture which consists of turning the palm of the hand from face down to face up.

    I don’t recall ever seeing it being used on a political show.

    Posted by AIG | November 16, 2011, 9:11 pm
  42. To be fair, the debate between Shukur and Alloush seems to be the exception to the rule. Shukur does represent the idiotic and feodal mind as described by BV but many of the other debates do indeed reflect a healthy public sphere. Rational but heated positions, full of passion may be as QN says healthy political debates. Check the uniquely representative debates of political positions and reasoned and supported arguments by Rafic Nasrallah or Saleh Mashnouq, for example. Interesting that the Lebanese media does preserve some sense of investigative analyses and does present opposing but supported positions on numerous occasions. That beats the dialogue of the blinds of people like Glen Beck or Rush Limbaugh that offer monologues, or the ridiculously named debates on O’Reilly or Fox & CO.

    Posted by Parrhesia | November 16, 2011, 9:14 pm
  43. Ya 3aib el shoom 3alaykon …Y’all forgot the classic Lebanese “mesh 3aref 7alak ma3 meen 3am te7keh wlah? ”

    Posted by Vulcan | November 16, 2011, 9:28 pm
  44. I commented once in QN on the “who are you” phenomena

    I experience this all the time when I ask people not to smoke in campus. When I arrived to Lebanon I used to respond “I am so and so…” Now I reply that it does not matter who I am and it is campus policy to smoke only in designated areas. Please note that I have been told “who are you” by eminent professors.

    Posted by rm | November 17, 2011, 7:31 am
  45. BV, QN, rm

    Very important question “who are you?” in our sick culture.

    A good answer by Alloush would have been “I am a regular citizen, and I don’t believe Assad, who the hell are you and do you believe everything he says?”

    Once in a Leb embassy abroad, I walked in requesting some service and some flunky asked me the more subtle ” who would you be?” in an oily gentle way (“Min b’tkoun?” as opposed to “min enta?”). The subtext being “who do you know?”, so we can decide whether to lick your boots or to treat you like frigging dirt.

    I raised my voice slightly, so as to be heard by everyone in the room and said: I am an average citizen, is it nevertheless possible to get service?

    The look on his embarrassed face was priceless, and he said: “yes, yes of course, this way”. And that’s probably because we were in a “civilized” western country, God knows what wouId have happened if we were home.

    Posted by OldHand | November 17, 2011, 11:39 am
  46. Good story, Oldhand.

    It is quite interesting to me that language can reflect culture – albeit not surprising, really.
    Just interesting observations.

    Parhesia…Don’t even get me started on those buffoons like Beck and Limbaugh. Those are, themselves, signs of what ails the western civilization (the US in particular).
    Just cause we have our own maladies in Lebanon doesn’t mean they don’t have their own in the West… 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | November 17, 2011, 2:36 pm
  47. Are you talking to me? Are YOU talking to ME ?!!

    Posted by R2D2 | November 17, 2011, 2:57 pm
  48. اعتبر سليمان خلال افتتاح مجمع الـCNAM ان مشكلات الجيل الشاب نفسها في كل لبنان، توجه للشباب قائلا “وحدكم قادرون على تجاوز الصعاب، ازيلوا الحواجز الوهمية اطردوا شياطين الجهل والتفرقة ليبقى لبنان مصانا مهابا”، مؤكدا ان ثروة لبنان بطاقاته الشبابية خولته لعب دور رائد في العالم العربي والدولي”.

    How inspiring and relevant now!!! I’m sure the crowd went crazy.

    Posted by IHTDA | November 17, 2011, 4:16 pm
  49. Alpha Male Syndrome….thats what it is. A desperate desire to be ” someone” known and respected. Shame that its not about intellectual prowess or strength of character in the Levant that qualifies an Alpha Male. Rather, its the moustachioed broad shouldered Masculine man who dictates to everyone around him.
    Thankfully, the old order is disappearing and they know it.

    Posted by Maverick | November 17, 2011, 7:19 pm
  50. A slightly different interpretation

    Also, Hassan Yaqub from the other clip you posted really butchered that Quranic ayaat. Here’s how it actually is:

    يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ إِن جَآءَكُمْ فَاسِقُۢ بِنَبَإٍ فَتَبَيَّنُوٓاْ أَن تُصِيبُواْ قَوْمَۢا بِجَهَـٰلَةٍ فَتُصْبِحُواْ عَلَىٰ مَا فَعَلْتُمْ نَـٰدِمِينَ

    Posted by Naseem Mitrah | November 19, 2011, 8:25 am
  51. Naseem, that’s hysterical.

    And I think Saqr got the aya right…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | November 19, 2011, 8:38 am
  52. I am always proud to be 100% lebanese born and raised i left the country 23 years ago because i could not take it any more from sadness and depression to see or hear some of my family member got shot by sniper. Or friend got shot by some other group because he or she not supporting this party, i have no ideas what the new generation from guys going after all these politicians especially when i see them and the talk show they keep lien and they have bad temper no democracy of speech everything always violence what ashamed of those educated people what can example that lets start front off the wife and their kids than family member and neighborhood are you really do you whant to follow a leader he beleive violence only no freedomhem#

    Posted by khalil | April 29, 2012, 4:05 am


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