Friday, December 29, 2006

Totten is back from Lebanon -- Updated

December 21

Michael J. Totten has returned from a short "under the radar" trip to Hezbollah country in Lebanon. I'm looking forward to his report(s). If events of the last four years have done nothing else they have enabled a handful of able journalists to report what has happened up close and personal. Too many, sadly, have been killed in the process. Every time someone like Totten drops from view for a week or two there is real reason to fear for his safety.

...I went to Hezbollah’s southern “capital” of Bint Jbail, and also to their blasted-apart command and control center in the dahiyeh, the suburb south of Beirut. I’m on their “list,” so to speak, and it was both easier and safer to work without announcing my presence and giving them the chance to run interference.

I felt slightly ridiculous, like I was being too paranoid – the odds that Hezbollah would actually hurt me were miniscule. They haven’t committed any violence toward Westerners for many years. But they could have broken or confiscated my equipment and kicked me out of their area. Fortunately they did neither.

Guest blogger Abu Kais cross-posted to Totten's blog during his absence. Yesterday he posted this video pointing to the fractured political scene in Lebanon. It raises a question: When will the cedars of Lebanon become a single forest?

Added December 29

Totten's report reflects his customary excellence. It is much too long for any snips to do it justice, so go to the link for his on the spot pictures and narrative. It's worth your time.

He is having a lot of trouble with trolls in the comments thread, however, and dealing with it much more patiently than I would.

...don’t take the comments section too seriously. I have a bit of a troll infestation, a gift from the self-described Angry Arab who attacks me in part because of my race. A link from his site is a comments section destroyer.

Please don’t get the wrong idea. The axe-grinding reactionaries in the comments do not even remotely represent the people of Lebanon. They represent the readers of Angry Arab. (The name says it all.)

I don’t think the professor (yes, he’s a professor) realizes what a spectacularly bad job he’s doing of public relations for his country. I should not have to clean up his mess on behalf of his countrymen, but here I am doing it. You will really have to excuse his fans. Please. Lebanon is far kinder, more tolerant, and more intelligent than they are. I am sorry for having to say this.

I rather doubt that when I post interviews with Lebanese who were used as human shields in July, and with an Iranian-educated Shia cleric from the dahiyeh who staunchly opposes Hezbollah that he'll feel like linking me anymore.

If you would like to see what Totten and some other bloggers look like, take a look at the pictures Judith Weiss posted. Anyone who thinks blogging is not journalism needs to pay closer attention. These are the movers and shakers of our time.

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