Trash Journalists and Accidental Politicians: Stay off Jackie's Back

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Jackie Chamoun reacts after the women's slalom first run at the World Ski Championships on February 14, 2009 in Val d'Isere, French Alps. (Photo: AFP-Jacques Demarthon)

By: Pierre Abisaab

Published Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This is what was missing in Lebanon, the land of milk and incense, rival communities, crumbling institutions, and degraded human dignity. This is what we needed in between two bombings, in the midst of the government's tragicomedy, security and economic nightmares, and bleak future. Someone dug up old nude pictures of a skier in the mountains of Faraya, took them out of context, created a "scandal," and threw it like a bone to public opinion.

All of that happened because the semi-nude skier is the Lebanese short slalom champion Jackie Chamoun, who is currently representing her country at the Winter Olympics in Russia. The pictures, which are humorous rather than erotic, are taken from a private video, according to the person in question. They were taken for a popular type of calendar, showing athletes skiing in this unusual manner.

So what are the pictures doing here and there? What is the purpose of showing them? The video could be shocking to a segment of the Lebanese public opinion, but it is not intended for them. They would not have seen it if not for a harmful hand that leaked it outside its private sphere. There is also another segment of public opinion that considers the issue to be normal and natural.

Where is the scandal mentioned in the headline of Al-Jadeed television's website , which broke the story? The exotic photoshoot is several months old, according to NBC's website , or even years old, according to a statement published by the olympic champion on her Facebook page . But what does it have to do with the athlete's performance, who is getting ready for the challenge in Sochi?

Yesterday, the earth trembled under the feet of the Lebanese. No citizen was left safe from being concerned about these pictures. A Lebanese champion is skiing, naked, except for a fig leaf. The fractured Lebanese Republic is hanging on to Jackie's breasts. A journalist was transformed into a preacher, calling for the protection of "what remains of Lebanon's reputation in international sporting events." Some feminists threw a stone at her, rejecting the commodification of women's bodies. The minister of youth and sports ordered immediate investigations "to protect Lebanon's reputation."

Excuse me? Lebanon's reputation?

The National Olympic Committee denounced the issue and called on "responsible authorities to act and consider the statement by the olympic committee as a notification." The idle elite found a new scapegoat in Jackie, buying her chastity and soothing their conscience. It was a reminder of the Nicole Ballan story during the happy times of Hariri.

Jackie had no option but to apologize on her page for a wrong she did not commit. "Lebanon is a conservative country and this picture does not reflect our culture," she wrote. Without doubt, she heard this from Tony Khalife.

But where do people get this idea? The non-conservative current in Lebanon transcends the sects, regions, and political trenches. If the electoral laws in Lebanon were fair, it would have a bigger bloc in parliament than the Future Movement.

But fortunately, Al-Jadeed television's evening newscast stood by Jackie Chamoun and brought things back to order.

Just like that, an olympic champion was caught in the crossfire, because a diligent journalist looked for a scoop in the trash bin, the intellectual source, which is difficult to avoid in Beirut. Instead of publishing the news of the nude athlete calendar as an amusing story, it was turned into a national question.

This happened in a schizophrenic country whose post-war philosophy was built on the cabaret culture, a country whose prime minister met a takfiri terrorist suspect as a national hero, and the republic remained on its feet. But today it trembles, like Moliere's Tartuffe, in front of the naked breasts of an olympic champion in freezing Faraya.

Pierre Abisaab is Vice-Editor of Al-Akhbar. Follow Pierre Abisaab on Twitter .

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.


There is a simpler explanation, as Occam would say.
Lebanon's problem, the article's list of its woes notwithstanding, is that its elite has been bought off by the West. That explains the Taef Accord's 50-50 Parliamentary-seat-allocation between Christians and Muslims, the West's support of it, and Lebanon's acquiescence in that state-suicidal situation.
What happens when someone gets bought off by foreign money, glamour, and violence? They lose their way. They're neither here nor there. They don't know what they're doing.
Most Lebanese see enough Westernization to understand this phenomenon.
NB The seducer in this case is the West, that group of nations set up or dominated historically by Germanic tribes. I'm sure a similar thing happens in China every time the Mongols invade. Pearl Buck, the daughter of US missionaries who grew up in China, said that China dealt with these invasions by entombing the dynasties in luxury. Maybe Lebanon should start saving up money to build some luxury tombs.

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