The New Regressive Leftist Media
This book is the first comprehensive research conducted on the pan-Arab TV station al-Mayadeen – an important representative of the post-2011 generation of Arab satellite news media. Likewise, it is an investigation of a growing political trend and ideological discourse in the Arab world, which the book identifies as The New Regressive Left. The book sheds light on overlooked parts of the Arab population, which neither identified with the vision of the young activists initiating the uprisings, nor with the ambition of the growing Islamist tendency that followed. Rather it voices a grouping of Shia Muslims, religious minorities, parts of the Arab Left, secular cultural producers, and supports of the resistance movements brought together by their shared fear of the future.
Drawing on a wide variety of programmes from the station’s first four years and on interviews with staff members, the book captures how a TV station can play a role in the production of ideology through e.g. its composition of programmes, collaborations, events, iconization of cultural figures, choice of aesthetics, as well as through its recycling of cultural heritage and already existing ideological concepts. Overall, four ideological core concepts emerges, namely: the support of the resistance, the rejection of Sunni Islamism, the acceptance of authoritarianism, and the challenging of neoliberalism. Taking seriously a media outlet such as al-Mayadeen and the worldview driving an ideological discourse such as The New Regressive Left seems more acute than ever if we want to grasp the developments in a post-2011 Arab world.
5. Re-launching Iltizam through Leftist Cultural Figures: The Case of the Cultural Talk Show Bayt al-Qasid
In this chapter, I use the weekly cultural talk show Bayt al-Qasid as a case study for an investigation of how al-Mayadeen legitimises ideological values through the promotion of cultural figures and intellectual voices, which, in different ways, embody the concept of iltizam [commitment]. Through an analysis of selected episodes of the talk show1 and drawing on interviews with people working on the show, I examine how the notion of iltizam is interpreted and used by al-Mayadeen, and how the station tries to monopolise the concept. I argue that al-Mayadeen uses its re-launch of the notion of iltizam as a strategy for legitimising its political stance in regards to accepting authoritarian rule. By hosting renowned multazim [committed] Arab cultural figures, al-Mayadeen not only benefits from the reputation of the guests (ethos), but also adds an intellectual aspect to the ideology in the making. Thus, I argue that the program is one of the main pillars of al-Mayadeen’s activities, as it constitutes the intellectual “spine” of the station and provides the logos, in the shape of intellectual backing, for its worldview.
On 18 November 2014, Zahi Wehbe hosted the two sisters Rihan and Faia Younan on his show. Around a month earlier, the sisters had been unknown to the general public, but their short art performance, “To Our Countries” (or in Arabic Li Biladi [To My Countries]), published on YouTube had turned them into a media phenomenon.2 The aesthetic of the video is minimalistic: the two sisters stand alone...
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