I grew up with al Manar always on the TV in my house, and to this day Anti-Israeli and Anti-Saudi and pro-Resistance songs reach my ears, my changing positions made me gradually reject al Manar and almost everything behind the channel. To me it’s only a channel of propaganda, brain-washing the pro Hezbollah followers to stand with the intervention in Syria, which I passionately oppose.
The ban against al Manar by first Arabsat and recently the Egyptian-based Nilesat is of course a political ban, another step in the growing tensions between Hezbollah and the governments of the Gulf. It’s the ban of Hezbollah propaganda from other propagandists in the region.
Despite being a direct propagandist, Al Manar should be able to broadcast in the “Arab world”, even if the channel isn’t completely harmless in my point of view, because it pushes you to support Assad (despite all his documented war crimes and his bloody repression against the people of Syria) and thus dehumanizing the struggle in Syria.
Al Manar ban makes you question censorship itself. Censorship is always about politics and power when you receive it or give it. This interpretation may seem simplistic, but if you have the ability to censor, then you have either institutions under your hand to help you ban your enemy, or you have to ability to wield forceful and violent direct power against the institutions, such as physical attacks against newspapers and TV stations that some people don’t agree with.
And isn’t self-censorship also about power? The power of your context to control you without even telling you, by sending you signals to stop you? And I don’t want to enter the structural model of Freud.
I won’t judge censorship and label it to be “good or bad”. But I believe censorship should be wielded when some media become too dangerous, and I always think about the Rwandan genocide here and the example of the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) (English: “Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television”). The Radio played a significant role in growing the hatred against the Tutsi, and a study by the Harvard university found out that the radio incited murder against 9,9% of the murders against the Tutsi! That doesn’t mean that the ban of the radio would have prevented the genocide, or even the 9,9% of the genocide. But shouldn’t dangerous stations and TV’s be stopped? Shouldn’t one try to stop a person shouting that we should kill all of X, Y and Z? Would that be censorship? Or just common sense?
If al Manar employees were directly shouting to kill a whole people X, Y, and Z, then I would happy to see it banned, and even shut down. You could argue that they already do so with “Al mawt li Isra2il” and “Al mawt li Amreeka”, death to Israel and America. But the TV broadcasting it, and the hundreds of thousands of people shouting it every year, are saying Israel not “Israelis” and America, not “Americans”. One must understand why so many people voice that in Lebanon, and the world.
The question then is what do you do with the channels and newspapers, consciously directing hatred and blame against a certain people? (I can think of Fox News here). You fight them with your thoughts, protests, pressure. You don’t want to help the illusion that these people are alienated by effectively and directly alienating them with censorship. The victimization that will occur will only help them. One should fight not to censor these kind of channels, like al-Manar and most of the Lebanese channels really, but to render them as objects of pariah. Those will eventually disappear in isolation, and shut themselves down. You do that with alternative media, voices that will not educate and patronize the “others” but that will produce valuable debates, questions and information.
The whole idea can be summarized as such: to fight shit, produce non shit. (Or at least try).