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Friday, November 24, 2006

Andrew Butters is incompetent

Speaking of articles that are repuslive and a waste of paper:

Andrew Butters is incompetent.

Case in point: "Beirut buries a dream" published in Time Magazine on November 24th, 2006. This is what I wrote them in response:

I thought I should let you know that your coverage of Sheikh Pierre Gemayel's burial is inspiring nothing but contempt among Lebanese who attended or watched coverage from abroad. Does the Time even send people on the field, or does it just look at the pictures and make up a story? The title of the piece alone is the complete antithesis of the event, which in reality breathed new life into the Beirut Spring, as we were all aware of even as we made our farewells. Nobody, not even the bereaved father who kicked off the rebirth himself, would describe this day as "Lebanon burying a dream".

Furthermore, the article comes across as positively drooling over the prospect of a new civil war. Did Mr Butters look closely at the crowd and at the signs promising "war no more"? We already know he completely overlooked the fact most of them made positive statements about Lebanon and loving life, because "carrying catchy anti-Syrian slogans" served his slant better. Did he even listen to the contents of the speeches? Or was he too busy fantasizing over the exoticism of the Lebanese mosaic of sects gathered in the same sacred place to grieve together? That must be something new to him indeed, because his writing doesn't betray any real understanding of social dynamics – at least, no more than a tourist would pick up in passing.

By the way, this took place Thursday, not Friday; the liturgy is not in Assyrian, it is in Syriac; Pierre Amine Gemayel never led the Phalanges, his GRANDFATHER, Pierre Gemayel first of the name, did. So much for intelligent reporting.

Shame on you and on Mr Butters for such a slanted and shallow piece of misinformation, and for such low journalistic standards.

So let's revise the facts a little. Andrew Butters has been in Beirut for 3 years, and he comes up with a piece like this. A piece that shows:

- In 3 years he has not learned a word of Arabic, because obviously he couldn't read a single one of the signs in the language (and did not ask a single person what they said).

- He does not speak to the locals to understand what's going on, and did not wait or ask for a translation of the speeches before sending off his article, making it something a clueless tourist could have written. His writing is, at best, a form of neo-orientalism, far less interested in informing the readers than in painting an exotic picture to them.

- After 3 years in Lebanon and presuming to write about sociopolitics he doesn't know there are 2 distinct Pierre Gemayel, one of which passed away in 1984.

- After 3 years in Lebanon and presuming to write about religious sects he doesn't know Maronite liturgy is in Syriac, which also shows that when he is ignorant about something, he simply makes assumptions to fill the gaps. "Arcane Assyrian"? Iraq is on the other side of Syria.

- He makes whatever generalisations will give his articles a dramatic edge ("carrying catchy anti-Syrian slogans") and even makes up facts ( "not a single Shia bandanna in sight", doubtlessly due to the combined fact he doesn't speak Arabic, did not speak to anyone present, and never even stepped among the protesters).

- In sum, he's either incredibly naive/ignorant, and should be removed until he has gained enough real knowledge to be allowed to write, or he's of such dishonesty to his readers, presenting them with his own fantasy of a place where he lives not for the sake of journalistic investigation but for the thrill of being here, that he simply should be barred from writing. Pop journalists and tourists have no business covering serious events, and we have more important things to worry about than how western publications are misrepresenting us again.

More of Butters' writings, no less colonial and un-knowledgeable, can be found on his website: www.andrewbutters.com

Comments on "Andrew Butters is incompetent"


Blogger Leila said ... (10:01 PM) : 

Joumana, thanks for pointing out all of this. I would never have noticed, because I DON'T READ TIME MAGAZINE. It's a perfectly silly piece of copy and provides no news or analysis of interest.

It's really important that you made this critique, because many in America do read Time. God knows if they'll listen and try to get it right (have you thought of e-mailing Juan Cole about it, by the way?) but I think it's important that you talk back to the machine.

Love your other website - I sent you an email about it. This blog is new and perfectly delicious. May we meet in Lebaa one day soon, surrounded by peace and flowers...


Blogger Joumana said ... (11:24 PM) : 

Leila, you do well not to read it... This is mostly for the benefit of those who do read it – I want to make sure this shows up for anyone who googles this idiot's name...
I'm just a contributor to this blog and shame to say, this is only my second post to it.
Right now the future looks rather bleak I'm afraid :(


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