The new supremo of the Arab League kept his promise, the first he was to make, and has chopped off the head of Libyan television, so to speak, by blocking any further Libyan government satellite television broadcast by the middle east and Africa’s most watched network, Arabsat.
By the time I arrived home for lunch on Tuesday, May 17, and my thrice daily dose of Al Jammahariya TV, all five Libyan government satellite channels had gone dark.
No more splinted, bandaged, and sewn back together Libyan children clutching Muammar Gaddafi’s picture with one cast-encased arm while the other is raised in that signature Libyan clenched fist salute.
No more images of blood splattered bed sheets in pediatric wards where victims of previous bombings were shredded by flying glass blown in on them from NATO bombs next door.
No more scenes of Muammar Gaddafi driving through the smoke shrouded streets of Tripoli standing in the open sunroof of a SUV, almost daring NATO to do its worst.
And no more press conferences with Libyan Imams standing side by side with their Christian brethren, raging at the world for allowing the NATO crusaders to slaughter men of peace who had gathered to try and end the bloodshed of Libyan against Libyan.
I can’t say I was surprised when the ax dropped, for I had been wondering for months now that those that only know “rule by force” in the Arab world didn’t realize how much damage they were inflicting on themselves by allowing their subjects to see what the USA and NATO’s wrath had wrought on a long peaceful Arab people in North Africa.
Arab Awakening? No, the revolution in the third world is Arabsat via satellite dishes popping up like mushrooms all over Africa, south Asia and the Middle East. With hundreds of channels to choose from, including the likes of Al Manar of Hezbollah, Al Jammahariya from Libya, and of course, the unchallenged elephant on the airwaves, Al Jazeera, broadcasting from the home of an absolute monarch, the Emir of Qatar.
Twitter, Facebook, and the internet in general has little meaning to those Egyptians from the poorest of the most desperately poor neighborhoods of Cairo who were the first to pour into Tahir Square in protest against the hated Mubarak regime. When one cannot afford to buy your daily bread or sugar for your morning tea, life quickly becomes unendurable, and those of enough means to own a laptop find fertile ground for their Facebook-based protests. And even if the internet and cell phone service is cut, somewhere in even the most squalid slums and shantytowns, there will be a satellite dish and a television screen showing the exploding anger of those like themselves who have nothing left to lose.
Arab street or Arab sheep? Satellite news channels can inform or disinform. One must only see how the Libyan rebels hit the big time to see how dangerous the propaganda arms of hereditary rulers can be, especially when their message falls on ears only too eager for change, any change, no matter the disastrous consequences for themselves and their neighbors.
Still, there is something about seeing with one’s own eyes and hearing with one’s own ears that allows one to try to best judge what is and what isn’t true. After a lifetime of strictly controlled propaganda, we finally have a choice, maybe limited, but a choice of what propaganda we would try and digest. An important part of that choice is gone, now that Libyan TV is off the satellite airwaves.
So farewell to the battle cries of the foes of the NATO crusaders, the voice of Libya for Libyans, one might say, axed by the new Prince of the Arab League. I for one, will miss you.