Perspectives Middle East & North Africa #7: Rumours
Anyone who has been affected by rumours is familiar with their unhallowed dynamics, and the serious consequences they can entail. Rumours fulfil social functions. They serve as a medium through which unfulfilled hopes or unspecific fears can be voiced. They bond and drive a wedge between people and population groups at the same time. They can destroy reputations, credibility and even lives.
In this issue, Hiba Haidar shares her memories of a day in 1975, a day on which a rumour changed her life. Journalist and documentary filmmaker Christina Foerch Saab reports on interviews conducted with combatants from different factions in the Lebanese Civil War, which focus on the role rumours play in psychological warfare. Haid Haid explains how rumours about the Syrian presidential elections persuaded Syrians in Lebanon to vote - even those who viewed the elections as illegitimate. Syrian authors Mohammad Dibo, and Dima Wannous describe how the past and present political climates in Syria have shaped the development of, and belief in rumours. The Syrian intellectual Yassin Al Haj Saleh shares his experiences of how rumours of their imminent release haunted political prisoners and their family members.
Moroccan journalist Salaheddine Lezaimi analyses how rumours about the Moroccan monarchs and their ongoing role in the fraught relationship between the press and the palace were exploited by various political factions, and his fellow countryman Omar Brouksy addresses the anthropology of rumour. Rumours do not only assume a role in high politics, but also have an effect on local affairs. In this context, Susanne Baaklini reveals how disinformation impedes the campaigns of civil society organisations in the struggle over public space in Beirut.
Regardless of how adverse the circumstances, nobody is helplessly exposed to the dissemination of rumours. While most people view the internet as the main cause for the more and more rapid dissemination of rumours, it simultaneously is the internet that allows for their swift exposure as myths. In an interview with Noor Baalbaki, Jad Melki, Professor at the American University of Beirut, describes how annual summer schools on ‘Media Literacy’ instruct students and journalists in critical thinking. Lastly, the organisation Dawlaty, in cooperation with hbs, held an initial workshop on ‘Rumour Control’ – a learning process for everyone involved, and continued in further workshops on the same topic. This Perspectives issue is illustrated by Mazen Kerbaj.
Table of contents
- Editorial, 1
- Hiba Haidar: Get the Hell out of Here - They Are Coming to Kill Us, 2
- Christina Foerch Saab: Psychological Warfare: Rumours in the Times of the Lebenaese Civil War, 4
- Haid Haid: The Syrian President is Being Made in Lebanon? Rumours and the Syrian Presidential Election in Lebanon, 9
- Mohammed Dibo: Regime Strategy and Opposition Tactics: Rumour in Syria, 14
- Dima Wannous: The Iconoclasts: How Syrian Citizens Brought a God Back Down to Earth, 22
- Yassin Al Haj Saleh: One Aspect of the History of Political Rumour in Syria, 26
- Salaheddine Lemaizi: Morocco: The Monarch and Rumours, 32
- Omar Brouksy: The Anthropology of Rumour, 37
- Suzanne Baaklini: How Vagueness of Information Became a Tool for Controlling Public Spaces in Lebanon, 40
- Noor Baalbaki: Critical Thinking, Down to a T, 46
- Dawlaty: A Sisyphean Task: Rumour Control, 50