TCS Daily

"Beacon" of Hate

By Shawn Macomber - December 21, 2004 12:00 AM

For all their bluster about simply wanting to remain separate from the Decadent West in general and the Great Satan in particular, the folks over at Hezbollah seem fairly miffed that the State Department has added the satellite television channel al-Manar to its Terrorist Exclusion List, essentially relegating the station's pro-terrorist, anti-Semitic programming to the ash heap of television history. The decision came only a few days after France cut the station's broadcasts in the European Union, ending three weeks of the most vile, racist propaganda disseminated publicly in Europe since the 1930s, including on-air "news reports" that Israel was purposefully spreading AIDS throughout Muslim countries.

Nevertheless, while most Americans likely have little if any interest in whether or not CNN or Fox News is being beamed into Lebanon, Hezbollah seems to have taken a keen interest in what is available in American homes.

"After its actions against the station, the US is the last country in the world that can call itself a democracy," Hezbollah's deputy general secretary, Sheik Naim Kassam, railed at a Beirut rally. "As to America, it has bestowed on Al-Manar a medal by calling for its broadcasts to be banned. America...cannot tolerate a televised news item, program or opinion. This is proof of Al-Manar's strong logic."

For those unfamiliar with al-Manar (or "The Beacon") this charge, even considering its depraved source, might seem to carry a bit of weight. After all, how can a free society ban a television news station, no matter what the slant may be? The truth is, however, al-Manar is the communications wing of an organization that routinely promises to rain death and destruction down onto America and her allies.

"It's entirely logical that if we view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which it is, that their propaganda activities through this television station should be barred," State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said. "It's not a question of freedom of speech. It's a question of incitement of violence."

Actually, considering that the Iranian/Syrian funded channel has been beaming into American homes since 2000, one almost wonders why our government has not acted sooner.

"Today, as the region fills up with hundreds of thousands of American troops, our slogan was and will remain 'Death to America,'" a Hezbollah official warned during a broadcast earlier this year.

So what does a terrorist television station's programming guide look like? Well, the station offers just about everything the discerning Jihadist could ever want. A popular weekly program, "Sincere Men," for example, glorifies the lives and times of recent suicide bombers. Sermons on the Zionist/American conspiracy by well-known Hamas and Hezbollah figures are broadcast ad infiniteum, as are videos of terrorist marches. A new documentary series, "Terrorists," promises to expose "crimes perpetrated by the Zionist enemy against Arabs and Moslems since the usurpation of Palestine" and "recalls the Zionist massacres, and brutal practices that took place on this date of the year." Before Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the station aired attacks against Israeli soldiers live and broadcast threats against the Jewish state in Hebrew.

It's not all so dark and violent, though: The popular game show, "The Mission," allows the home viewing audience to cheer on contestants as they "recapture" land stolen by the Jews. For every correct answer a contestant answers about the American-Zionist conspiracy, he or she (Oh, who are we kidding here? He!) moves that much closer on a giant map to Jerusalem. In between singing the praises of suicide bombers and denunciations of Jews, the show's host manages to get in some of the standard game show chit-chat. The first contestant to reach 60 points stands atop the holy city and receives a check for $3,000 while the Hezbollah anthem plays in the background -- "Jerusalem is ours and we are coming to it."

The al-Jazeera network, recently lionized as the sole unbiased organization fighting American lies in the provocative film, The Control Room, has dismissed protests against al-Manar as based on "perceived anti-Semitic content." But how's this for perception? Al-Manar was the first station to air the rumor -- persistent to this day in fundamentalist circles -- that 4,000 Jews failed to report to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, thereby suspiciously avoiding the terror attacks, which were perpetrated not by Osama bin Laden, but the "Jews, Israel, and Mossad," of course.

One wonders what business it is of Hezbollah's whether the station is on the air or not in America. After all, both station president Mohammed Haidar and Hezbollah leadership have denied any link whatsoever between the two. However, Avi Jorisch of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, author of an exhaustive study of al-Manar, Beacon of Hatred, uncovered interesting information suggesting that the State Department was on the ball this time.

Jorisch quotes al-Manar's chairman, Nayef Krayem, describing the relationship between Hezbollah as fairly cozy: "They breathe life into one another. Each provides the other with inspiration. Hezbollah uses al-Manar to express its stands and its views, etc. Al-Manar in turn receives political support for its continuation." Jorisch also met an al-Manar employee who explained that the station helps members of the public who are "on the way to committing what you in the West call a suicide mission. It is meant to be the first step on the process of a freedom fighter operation."

Still, al-Manar is hardly a victory for radical Islam. It is an act of desperation, a death knell. It may appeal in the short term to people living in terrible situations under brutal authoritarian regimes, but in the long-term, if we in the West can see them, then they can see us. And does anyone really believe this dowdy, nihilistic programming will win out against Hollywood, Bollywood, and reality TV? Religious fanatics, whatever their stripe, lash out at our popular culture not because they are secure and strong but because they are weak and frightened.

Al-Manar admits as much. "Despite its huge burden on every Lebanese, the occupation was not the one and only concern," the station's website reads. "Lebanese TV channels have been overwhelmed by a trend of movies and programs that can only be described as immoral...Numerous TV channels have been broadcasting programs that would decay one's ethics and provoke his or her instincts, instigating violence and identifying with western living patterns which are quite remote from our Islamic and Eastern values and culture."

As the world becomes an ever-smaller place, Western music and movies will prove more effective weapons in spreading ideas about freedom and democracy. Ideas, it's worth noting, are the basis of democratic regimes, not parliaments, congresses, and the other mechanisms of state. Without tolerance and a belief in equal rights for all, you may as well forget it. The strong will rise to the top and impose themselves on the weak. The detritus of our popular culture will change more "hearts and minds" than precision guided bombs because they contain an inherent sense of individualism and freedom. Even the most crass reality show can serve as a window to a world where life is not so cheap.

Those ideas are not exclusive to America, and they are certainly more powerful than the stilted, hokey presentation of al-Manar. The battle against violent fundamentalism has not been won, but it has, thanks to modern technology, been joined. We are on the edge of the battlefield, and al-Manar believes it has raised a beacon of victory. It is up to us to take heart, and see it for what it is: A white flag.

The author is a TCS contributor.


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