Popular Culture as a Political Barometer: Lebanese-Syrian Relations and Superstar
On the evening of Monday, August 11, 2003, two spontaneous riots erupted in Beirut. They occurred around the same time and were triggered by the same event. About an hour earlier, Future TV had announced voting results after the semi-final of its flagship program, Superstar, the Arabic version of Pop Idol (UK) or American Idol (US). The first riot erupted at the Beirut Hall, a concert venue where the Superstar finale had just concluded. Several people passed out, including one the mothers of two semi-finalists and the third semi-finalist herself who lost consciousness after learning she had moved on to the finale. The second riot unfolded when fans of the ousted semi-finalist gathered spontaneously in front of Future Television studios to protest the decision. What gave these riots their passion and poignancy was the fact that the Lebanese contestant Melhem Zein was eliminated while the Syrian candidate Rowayda Attiyeh was elevated to the finale.