Michael Totten

An Open Letter to Hezbollah

Dear Hussein Naboulsi,
I know you’re still monitoring my Web site. At least you kept monitoring me long after the two of us stopped talking — if “talking” is the right word. One of my colleagues said you told him I’m blacklisted because of what I wrote about you in the LA Weekly. You won’t give me quotes anymore. You won’t give him quotes anymore either because he’s tainted by his association with me.
What do you people expect? It’s one thing when you trot out your impotent Death to America slogans. It’s another thing altogether when you threaten and bully us personally. I’m not a wire agency reporter. When you talk to me you’re on the record. When you say “We know who you are, we read everything you write, and we know where you live,” you’re on the record. Of course I’m going to quote you. If you don’t want to look like an asshole in print, don’t act like an asshole in life.
Some journalists may cave under that kind of pressure. I almost did myself until my Lebanese friends — who know you much better than I ever will — reminded me that you guys like to puff up your chests to make yourselves look bigger and scarier than you actually are.
It kills me how the job title printed on the business card you gave me says “Media Relations.” Whoever says Hezbollah has no sense of humor doesn’t know you like I do. You’re a real card, Hussein. A regular bucket o’ laughs.
I’ll admit it feels a bit slimy knowing that I’m under Internet surveillance by a group listed by the United States government as a terrorist organization. It’s nothing, though, compared to the palpable paranoia on the streets of Hezbollah-occupied Lebanon. You guys really need to calm down. Breathe. Take up yoga or Pilates or something. The CIA, the Mossad, and the Lebanese army pretty much know what you’re up to all the time as it is. Learn to accept the things you cannot change. Don’t stir up too much trouble at any one time and you should be fine, anyway.
Let me give you some personal advice, Hussein. Maybe we can be on the same page for a change. Get out of the “suburbs” and go hang out in Beirut once in a while. Don’t tell people who you work for. Just strike up conversations in restaurants, coffeeshops, and bars. Lebanese are friendly, so that’s easy. Ask Sunni, Christians, and Druze what they think of Hezbollah. Listen to what they have to say. Remember that you have to live with these people. I suppose you could turn your guns on them. We all know you can beat the Lebanese military in a one-on-one fight. Who knows, though? There’s always a chance the Israeli Defense Forces might intervene against you on Lebanon’s behalf. How much would that suck?
You’re not doing so well in the PR department these days. And you can’t entirely blame people like me who work for the “Zionist” media. The fact that you take orders from a hostile foreign dictatorship, the very same regime that assassinates Lebanon’s elected officials and journalists, makes you look, well, a bit on the treasonous side.
Anyhoo, I don’t live in Lebanon anymore. I’m back at my house in the United States now. You won’t see my face, my camera, or my notepad down in Haret Hreik any time soon. It’s time to remove me from your daily routine. There are other journalists who need to be hassled.
You’re a one-man bad press generator, Hussein. If I were your boss, I would fire you.
Michael J. Totten
United States of America