...For Hezbollah, the ruins of this once-bustling neighborhood have become a tourist attraction--and an invaluable propaganda tool.
Hezbollah began offering tours of Haret Hreik during the war, assembling every morning at eleven o'clock. I went on the first of these excursions on July 20, along with the bulk of the international press corps--about 100 correspondents, from well-known TV anchors to grubby freelancers. Longtime Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Naboulsi showed up with his entourage and delivered a running patter of outrage. "On a daily basis, they come here and turn buildings into rubble, as you see," he shouted, in his frantic, high-pitched voice. "This is where we live! If the Israelis dare to confront us face to face, let them do it on the border, not come with jet fighters from high above in the sky, and just hit civilian targets!" He strode off into the wreckage, still shouting, and we scrambled to keep up.
Every once in a while, as we marched through the rubble, a man (never a woman) would pop out of a destroyed building to shout with carefully rehearsed rage. All of these appearances were orchestrated by Hezbollah for our benefit.
This was during the war. The media saw everything described here but purposefully ignored the theatrical aspects and dutifully photographed and quoted the actors as if they were real victims. With a few exceptions, no one in the media mentioned the staging, and even today they downplay it - because they perceive that they are reporting the Greater Truth, fake but accurate, and the consumers of the media back home are too unsophisticated to understand that the reporters are allowed to tilt the news towards their own preconceived ends.