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Between 1920 and 2000, Lebanon’s national currency changed both in shape and form over six times, the last being during the post-civil war era of the 1990s. But despite their eventful chronicle, the country’s banknotes preserved the same oriental ornamentation and theme of cultural tourism. It was not until the 1990s, with the end of the civil war and the advent of a new non-feudal leadership, that the iconic character of the Lebanese pound changed completely. This paper explores the currency change using semiotic analysis developed by Barthes and Baudrillard in order to compare the currency designs of the 1960s and the 1990s. It proposes that the postwar replacement of national currency reflects, among other things, a conscious effort on the part of the new Lebanese leadership to change Lebanon’s national identity and slowly deemphasize sectarian tensions in the collective memory of its people. To achieve this objective, the postwar government resorted to postmodern banknotes, almost void of social and political meaning. However, as this paper argues, the effort to overcome the divisive issues of the war was attempted solely at the level of the simulacra. The new Lebanon—as reflected in the new currency—is void of history, sectarian tensions and divisive issues; it only exists on the banknotes.

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication

Abstract

As part of their 'War on Terror', Washington policy makers launched a massive public diplomacy campaign hoping to 'gain Muslim hearts and minds.' Their efforts, including the production of advertisements and documentaries, culminated with the inauguration of Al-Hurra, a commercial-free satellite station broadcasting in Arabic. Despite the substantial amount of money poured into it, Al-Hurra's success was strongly questioned among media scholars and US policy experts. And yet, Al-Hurra has generated very little academic research testing its effectiveness as an instrument of public diplomacy. This article reports the results of a survey administered in seven Lebanese universities to assess the performance of Al-Hurra among the country's college students. More specifically, it examines Al-Hurra's viewership, credibility, and trustworthiness in comparison to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. The paper also tests the relation between Al-Hurra's viewership and audience attitude toward the United States. Findings show that Al-Hurra's viewership is considerably lower than Al-Jazeera's and Al-Arabiya's. Its credibility is also lower than that of its two Arab counterparts. Finally, Al-Hurra viewership did not predict a positive attitude toward the USA. The study raises questions about public diplomacy tools in general and Al-Hurra in particular.

In: Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication