The Opinion of the Arab Street

The latest episode of the satirical news programme Tashweesh Wadih (“Clear Confusion”) on Ro’ya (about which I wrote a bit more extensively earlier this year) by necessity featured an extended comment on Israel’s most recent attacks on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The presenter, Muath al-Bzour, dealt with the issue with some gravity, but in proper Tashweesh fashion the scene was then taken over by the Israeli-mocking character figure Shalot – turned on its head and made comedic by Shalot’s erratic behavior and non-sequitur responses despite Bzour’s best “attempts” to keep the tone serious.

And then there is this next bit, where a Tashweesh correspondent goes to ask “the Arab street” why it did not respond to the al-Aqsa attacks more strongly. (Snapshot below; the segment runs from cca. 5:20 onward in the YouTube video.)

thearabstreet

The correspondent lowers the microphone to the road surface, in order to interview “the street” quite literally. His nasal tone and slow, strained, overly formal language mimics the stiff demeanor of Jordanian (and other Arabic-language) TV correspondents. A question follows – “What action will you take in response to these attacks on the al-Aqsa Mosque?” – but the street is silent, which leads the correspondent to comment “we have not come at an appropriate time to learn the opinion of the Arab Street.”

Taking idiomatic language literally is, of course, one of the most elementary techniques of comedy. But at another level, this particular sketch is also a brilliant spoof of an idiom that is used all too often in soundbite-friendly media contexts – to the extent it’s become all but empty of meaning. Sociopolitical shorthand, in other words, that is as meaningless and uninformative as, indeed, shooting questions at a stretch of empty Jordanian asphalt.

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The Opinion of the Arab Street

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