Hope or Hezbollah?

By Christopher Harper

For nearly a decade, I lived and traveled into Beirut—a time that molded me into a journalist.

In Beirut, you worked hard and played hard. Almost every day, journalists went into a dangerous city, where many thousands of people died, and almost every night, they retired to the bar at the Commodore Hotel.

My wife Elizabeth and I arrived in Beirut in 1979, where we lived for two years. After that, we spent many days back in Lebanon during a variety of news stories, including the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. We returned in 2011 during the Arab uprising to see Beirut had risen from the ashes, with restaurants and businesses booming from an economic resurgence.

Although we both loved the city and made friends with whom we remained close for many years, recent events did not surprise us.

Lebanon has existed for decades without a government. When it had a good leader like Rafic Harari, a businessman and prime minister, he ended up dead in 2005 as the victim of assassination. Ironically, last week’s explosion occurred just as a United Nations tribunal was set to determine the guilt or innocence of those suspected of killing Harari. See https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-tribunal-hariri-idUSKCN2512IC

For the past year, Lebanese have been protesting the current government for its corruption and inability to deal with day-to-day issues, such as garbage collection. As an example, my former colleague can only received $500 a month from his ABC News and government pensions because the government has placed severe restrictions on the country’s banking system.

Although the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, is a Christian—as delineated in the country’s constitution–he is beholden to Hezbollah, the Shia militia, for his power. He remains in power despite the resignation of the prime minister and the cabinet.

Hezbollah has links to Iran and Hamas and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. Hezbollah was behind the 1983 attack against the U.S. Marines that left more than 200 dead and the hijacking of TWA 847 in 1985 that left a U.S. sailor dead. The group has a vast militia, which rivals the country’s army, and has engaged in a variety of battles with Israel.

More important for Lebanon, Hezbollah helped create a corrupt and negligent political system that created the lack of enforcement at the port and allowed the storage of 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate.

Moreover, a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies asserts that Hezbollah siphons off billions of dollars from around the world. Money is laundered through Lebanon, allowing Hezbollah to function as a kind of parallel state, one with its financial and social services. See https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2020/08/04/crisis-in-lebanon/

When my wife and I lived in Lebanon, the country embraced the song “I’ll Will Survive” as it national anthem. The resignation of the government may be a step toward survival, but Hezbollah still has a choke hold on the country. No survival will occur until the organization no longer holds significant power in Lebanon.

Alison Young Has 50K followers on Youtube, Music Industry’s Harvey Weinsteins Hardest Hit

Last week Stacy McCain noted a young lady named Alison Young doing a Buddy Holly Song on youtube and marveled how the technology allows her follow her dream (and build a large following of 50k youtube followers (aprox 49.3 k more than mine without the following hassle and expense:

Back in 1957, Buddy Holly had to travel to Clovis, New Mexico, to record in Norman Petty‘s studio, where “Everyday” was recorded as the B-side of “Peggy Sue.” You couldn’t just program a synthesizer (or use an Omnichord) for your backup track, either. You had to have an actual band to accompany you, or else pay studio musicians at union scale. Because the equipment needed for recording — what Marx would call “the means of production” — was so expensive, getting access to studio time usually required the support of a manager or a record company. Young musicians would generally spend years playing bar gigs and such before they could hope to get a shot at a recording contract. By the time the Beatles signed with EMI in 1962, they had been together five years, played every dance hall in northern England and done four stints as a house band in bars in Hamburg, Germany.

What the advent of cheap high-quality recording technology has done is to topple the barriers between musical talent and the audience. You don’t need a manager or an agent, you don’t need a record company, a studio, a producer, a contract — no lawyers, no paperwork, nothing — to be able to record a song, produce a video and upload it to YouTube where, potentially, you could become an instant superstar.

This is cause for celebration as it allows the audience access to potential articles that they might never hear. There is however one other aspect of this technological revolution that Stacy is missing and it’s a significant one. This young lady has gained a modicum of fame (and hopefully a small living) without having to subject herself to what would have been called in Hollywood the “casting couch”

Imagine if Miss Young was coming up in the 50-90’s. Imagine the groups of executives, agents, studio folks who were all empowered by their ability to give access , equipment or introductions necessary to give you a shot at the audience she now commands. How many might have demanded a less than honorable price for said access?

Think of how many names, big names, paid Harvey Weinstein’s price, or Bill Cosby’s price or Matt Lauer’s price or the prices of the hundreds if not thousands of other Weinstein, Cosby or Lauer wannabees of a lower level that if they couldn’t get you to the top of the ladder demanded their fee to get to the next rung?

Because of this technology Alison and many like her is able to bypass everyone one of those Weinstein wannabees and just make her music. In fact if she proves popular enough they might have to come to HER rather than vice versa.

This is an actual victory for the right of a woman to make the most of her life based on her talents outside of the bed and the real joy of it is thanks to the ability to produce this on her own she will not only avoid being their prey but might be able to happily produce her music without every knowing such people even exist.

What a blessing.