A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, February 13, 2014

After Sports Minister's Remarks, Lebanese Social Media Spring to Defense of Jackie Chamoun

The age of social media makes it harder for government officials to escape ridicule when they act stupidly. I already noted a couple of days ago that the fuss over pictures of Lebanese Olympic skier Jackie Chamoun was being blown out of proportion in the Lebanese press; then Caretaker Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami chimed in, saying the photos would damage Lebanon's international image and saying he had telephoned the International Olympic Committee to ask for an investigation.

Comments on social media were quick to note that there have been a number of deadly car bombings lately in Lebanon as well as a couple of recent wife murders that went unpunished, and that maybe some cheesecake pictures of an attractive athlete weren't really the biggest threat to the country's reputation. And that "Caretaker" in Karami's title stems from the fact that Lebanon has gone without a government for ten months now; but then, as Qifa Nabki noted recently, it's also been the case for two and a half out of the last four years.
As for Chamoun herself, she apologized on her Facebook page, noting that the photos were old, that the actual calendar photos were not that revealing, and that the video of the "making of" the calendar was not supposed to be made public.  She said:
 I just want to make it clear to everyone who commented, shared the photos that appeared on the net in Lebanon yesterday. Yes I did photos for an Austrian ski calendar with other professional athletes 3 years ago. The photos of the photoshoot are not like the actual images that are now circulating on the net. The video and photos that you are now seeing are part of the making off, the preparation, it wasn’t supposed to go public. Anyways, I want to apologize to all of you, I know that Lebanon is a conservative country and this is not the image that reflects our culture. I fully understand if you want to criticise this.
Now that I’m at the Olympic Games, these photos that I never saw before are being shared. It is sad. All I can ask to each of you who saw this, is to stop spreading it, it will really help me focusing on what is really important now: my trainings and race.
In fact, not only did the comments on her post appear to be mostly favorable,  but Lebanese took to social media with a #StripforJackie campaign, posting pictures of themselves discreetly covered by strategically placed protest signs; bloggers also sprang to her defense, and Lebanon Now editorialized with these words and photo, in an editorial entitled "Boobs over Bullets; Gold over Graft":
Jackie Chamoun, one of two alpine skiers representing Lebanon at the Sochi Olympics, has come under fire for exposing herself (or part of herself) in a photo shoot a few years ago. In turn, her critics have come under fire for targeting “boobs instead of bombs.” Meanwhile, the Lebanese Minister of Youth and Sports has called upon Lebanese Olympic officials to investigate matters to uphold Lebanon’s reputation. (Incidentally, as many others have pointed out, that reputation would be a lot nicer without the cartels, bombings, killings, kidnappings, gun running, drug smuggling, corruption, poor roads, lack of power, inconsistent water supply, and declining quality of hummus.)
Lebanon Now Website
Furthermore, some Lebanese commercial products also joined in the #StripforJackie protest on their websites and social media pages, including Almaza beer, posing without its label:

Roughly, "don't take my clothes off."

The whole "scandal" isn't a scandal and henceforth I think we should respect Ms. Chamoun's request and let her concentrate on the ski slopes. And I hope all the humor has put Mr. Karami's indignation in proper perspective.

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