Catching Boners: The Cost of Banning 6 Porn Sites in Lebanon

9 September 2014 | 13:47

Source: Angie Nassar

  • Angie Nassar
  • Source: Angie Nassar
  • Last update: 9 September 2014 | 13:47

Child sex abuse is a terrible evil that we should devote countless resources and strategies to tackling, but the issue raised by the Telecom Ministry's decision to ban six porn sites this past week after a Lebanese man was arrested by Interpol in the UK for molesting a child, is tied to much wider implications than access to lurid material online and "protecting" our children from it*. This is an issue that expounds on the continued abuse of power by a government which indiscriminately enforces the law, and has demonstrated time and again a reckless disregard for its citizen's rights, liberties and basic human needs.

These are the same people – part of an elite plutocracy which runs the country – who, despite clear and repeated objections from citizens, have given the ok to bulldoze through a residential neighborhood and pave over 10,000 square meters of gardens to make way for a four-lane highway. These are the same people who have proven so daft at managing the water crisis, many residents are forced to pay private water companies to get it. These are the same people who have no qualms about selling off Beirut's last public beach to make a quick buck.

These are the same people who cannot build an infrastructure to ensure every citizen has access to electricity all the time, and as much of it as they need. It's 2014. The civil war ended nearly a quarter century ago, and yet government after government has refused to address the fundamental problems that hinder the proper functioning of this society.

These are the same people who – in a move entirely against the fabric of the constitution – have re-elected themselves to parliament, and are now considering extending it for a second term. I can think of no graver signal of the political leadership's reckless disregard for its own laws than this.
The porn ban issue is being spun as a means to protect children from unsavory sexual content, but it's clear the ministry is merely acting under the guise of wanting to combat and monitor an issue officials have absolutely no interest in actually pursuing. If the government truly cared about the well-being of the vulnerable members of Lebanese society, it would embark on a concerted campaign to educate the Lebanese, children especially, about sex abuse. Instead of issuing a blanket decision to ban sites deemed morally indecent, it should give individuals and parents the tools and education to use the web with personal discretion and safety. In Lebanon, a child's safety is too often compromised to protect the family's pride. Sex (whether forced or mutual) is taboo; a private matter weaved into the constructs of a family's honor and reputation, something not to be discussed in public.

In a laughable example of the state's sub-standard understanding of technology, it was leaked that the request to ban the six sites was offered up in the form of a fax. It's clear policymakers don't even really know how the Internet works – they're just simply swinging blows in the dark. Aren't most kids smart enough to circumvent firewalls anyway?

But an even more problematic question is this: should the government have a blank check to block any website it deems inappropriate? Countries that devote time to blocking the content its citizens can access on the Internet – countries like China and North Korea – are bastions of oppressive rule. We've seen the abuse of policies like this, by governments big and small. We've seen Internet blackouts in Syria, and other blackouts during the so-called Arab Spring protests. How is this any different? The government should not have the right to limit what we can and cannot see on the Internet.

Policies should protect the people, not serve as platforms of convenience for the elites and their corporate backers. Policies should be based on far-reaching and comprehensive study, instead of being doled out as superficial solutions to ease the concerns of whatever plump money-handler of the moment is aggravated. It has become egregiously clear the government only enforces rules and regulations that benefit its own interests and those of its partners, the wealthy elite, who hold a financial stake in the success of whatever policies the state wants to enact. This perfectly describes what Ogero, the government-owned operator of Lebanon's mobile network, is: a corporate entity with booming profits and dismal customer satisfaction ratings that nonetheless gets to determine Internet capacity and how much citizens should pay for it.
So here's what it all comes down to: Lebanon is trapped in a vicious cycle of false cultures founded and maintained by the plutocracy. The greatest false culture of them all is the need for sectarian equality in every facet of our lives. We are duped into worrying about superficial concerns like whether the Christians are threatened by Muslims or whether Sunnis are threatened by Shiite, or whether the Druze are threatened by both instead of whether or not every citizen (and refugee) has access to basic human needs like electricity, shelter, water, food, clothing and an education.

It is a perverted social system of implanted values that have grown from seeds fed by corrupt individuals who live and thrive off the docile, obedient masses.

If the safety (real and imagined) of Lebanon was once and for all sorted, the elite would be forced to deal with the real threat that surrounds us: poverty – of an economic, political and moral nature. If the issues that serve an immediate threat to the country's livelihood were magically resolved once and for all, do you think the leaders would simply turn their focus to bettering the state? Absolutely not. New problems will always arise to further convolute the real issues at hand. If we are always being threatened by forces, either from within or outside the country, the government has an excuse to delay progress on bettering it. The people of this country have been brainwashed into believing the status quo isn't that bad and are happy to go about regurgitating the opinions provided to them by their respective sectarian affiliation's media arm, because they truly believe their leaders are doing everything they can to help them survive. It's the elite, though, who are surviving – year after year after year.

Instead of sitting around trying to police whether or not boys are getting a boner off salacious images on the web, we should be pushing for real change: the kind of change that bans the government's monopoly over our collective future.

 

Angie Nassar is currently executive editor at Beirut.com. She previously worked as a journalist and blogger at the Arabic-English news website NOW Lebanon from 2009 to June 2012. Before that, she was a news producer for WROC Channel 8 in Rochester, New York.
Angie loves writing about everything from culture to politics, pop culture and women's rights. She also enjoys playing video games and making Belgian Waffles. She is a published author on the subject of music in Lebanon. @angienassar

 

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