Maktab al ta7rir fi khabarin jadid....
What happened yesterday exceeded my wildest expectations, and frankly I am thinking of charging myself some money (me as the client, and me as the advertiser). Yesterday's "camapign" which doomed Beirut/NTSC and announced its move to @beirutntsc was a spoof. A hoax... And I am astounded how come the lid was not blown earlier. I must emphasize that I had no intention of creating a handle on twitter by the name of @beirutntsc giving people early access to the joke (assuming that by finding an empty link people would understand that there's something fishy going on) but a friend had a genius idea of actually creating it in order to stop anyone else from doing so (and NO, I don't know what the password is!).
Yet, I gave you all the clues: the Guardian campaign I referred to was their 2009 April Fool's joke which was specifically done to mock the ability of anyone to tell a full-fledged journalistic story in just 140 characters (by the way, having been immersed in the literary environment for so long, for me a "character" is a person in a novel, so 140 characters make a full book of about 190 pages in length).
The original idea was for me to pretend I am sick of blogging because everyone else was advancing such avant-guard theories of socio-anthropologico-linguistic nature (bummer! I teach these things at university so I should know!) about why blogging is so depasse (along with shoes with spikes - that too apparently is depasse) that frankly, no one was looking deep enough to face certain facts such as:
1 - We grew older and there's little infusion of new blood (there is but not as fresh or idealistic as the "original scene" we started from). Having started the blog in 2007, any new addition was sending waves among us - "did you hear of this "Beirut Drive By"? It's such a funny blog". And on we went to look for Drive By and all that... This naivete cannot be duplicated again several years down the line.
2 - At this stage, some people have little to contribute: Maintaining a blog is almost a full time job, hunting for material, making sure it fits your original narrative, know how to tie things up in one bundle, etc....
3 - Blogs became the jumping board towards other lucrative careers, which made the original product a footnote in the grand marketing scheme. Sure, everyone has the right to capitalize on their notoriety, but if the blog has outdone its stay, why not delete it and consider it a "youth folly". Unfortunately, the title itself "blogger", just like "undertaker" or "stylist" or "tai chi instructor", gives an edge which is a conversation opener that sets you apart at any dinner party (still, shoot the damn thing if it outstays its original life!).
4 - Let's face it, we made a huge Faustian bargain, we sold our soul for salmon canapes and flutes of bubbly. We became strange bedfellows with PR agencies and advertising multinationals. We got invited here and there - to places that normally would require the mere mortals weeks of earlier bookings and fat wallets as well. And somewhere along the line we capitulated to the glitz and glamour. We became the establishment. We could no longer claim we were "dissidents" or "punks" or "anti-system". We went full-fledged and joined it.
5 - The advent of competitiveness made narcissists out of all of us. Little by little, what was a bon enfant ambiance turned sour: when Plus961 posted some photos from my blog unknowingly (because they were freely circulating on the net uncredited) the matter was settled by comments interposed and mutual respect, nowadays, any small friction becomes worthy of a reality show enttiled "The Real Housewives of Bloggerwille".
So for all of these reasons and more, I pulled the stunt which took place yesterday. The results were truly beyond anything I imagined, because the conversation went all out in the open about who we are and where we stand and where we might be heading. I am indebted to all those "early adopters" (OK, that's an inside joke!) who recognized the prank but still played along adding oil to the fire and spreading the news.
And to all of you who added me on @beirutntsc... I have a better web address for you to follow: Beirut/NTSC ... It is still here, "POPtimism, POPaganda, POP culture from Beirut by Tarek Chemaly". My hair may be seriously graying but I can still pull stunt on the best of you....