Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thug Life

I'm watching black smoke pour from the roof of a building. It's nothing more than burnt fuel coming from a generator, but if you were standing on the ground in front of the building, you could be deceived into thinking the building was on fire. Today is the 12-3pm block of power outage, and the streets of Hamra reek of diesel. A strange quietude pervades the neighborhood, and a few shops have even closed, all because of the actions of a few thugs early this morning across Beirut.

The didn't DO anything except stand around in bunches on the streets, but their purpose was clear: intimidation. The Lebanese people were standing directly in front of that building, and thinking it was on fire, rapidly spread rumors which caused parents to pull their children from schools, businesses to close, and various news outlets to erroneously report that myriads of soldiers had been dispatched across the city to quell demonstrations.

I walked into my usual coffee shop around 8am this morning and the employee asked me if I had heard the news about the fighting taking place. He was clearly nervous. A few other employees were huddled in a corner around a laptop. All I had with me was my Blackberry, and since there aren't really any good mobile sites for Lebanon breaking news in English (when I am agitated it becomes difficult for me to read Arabic), I went to Twitter.

After about ten minutes I was convinced tanks were rolling through downtown Beirut. But by the time I had even heard about it, in reality the crowds had already dispersed.

The law-abiding Lebanese people don't deserve to be bullied like this.

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