Lebanese political figures have become notorious for taking their rather unseemly catfights to Twitter and Facebook, leading some to wonder whether tweeting their spats is the only thing keeping these pillars of the Lebanese community from literally being at each other’s throats. Former Prime Minister and leader of the March 14 coalition, Saad Hariri, is by far the most egregious offender, using Twitter as a platform for his many grievances against the ruling Hezbollah-backed March 8 bloc. Hariri waxes philosophical in this July tweet:
“I hope the Holy month will bring all closer to the values of brotherhood and tolerance. An occasion for some to go back to their conscience.”
Hariri, who used to tweet so frequently that the AFP actually wrote a story about it last year, has been noticeably quiet lately following some cringe-worthy virtual gaffes. In January, he cheerfully tweeted “Good morning” to the Israeli minister of defense, prompting widespread outrage, since Lebanon is still technically at war with Israel. As if that weren’t bad enough, Hariri displayed some markedly undignified behavior when let himself be baited by one of his followers in May. A few samples:
Another noteworthy virtual brawl took place in April, when the head of the Free Patriotic movement, Michel Aoun, held a question-and-answer session on his Facebook page. While answering one of the questions, Aoun insulted Lebanese President, Michel Sleiman, by saying that the leader of Lebanon should command a parliamentary bloc instead of “begging at the door of some ministers.” Sleiman responded by tweeting that “At least a consensual president does not beg for the presidency. On the contrary, everyone asks him to accept the post of president.”
According to Think Media Labs, a Lebanese social media marketing agency, July was quite an active month for the many Lebanese politicians who frequent Twitter. Minister of Energy Gebran Bassil was the most prolific tweeter, with 226 tweets, while member of the pro-Western March 14 alliance Antoine Haddad was the most responsive to his followers.
Perhaps Twitter, by providing Lebanese politicians with a platform to get snarky, is the only thing standing in the way of another civil war. Who needs to start shooting when you can run your mouth instead?