In a startling display of political strength, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese followers of the Syrian-backed group Hezbollah converged on Beirut on Tuesday to express their gratitude to Syria and angrily denounce the U.S. and Israel.

The demonstration dwarfed a series of anti-Syria rallies it was designed to counter and provided a sobering illustration of Lebanon’s religious and political rivalries. After weeks of mounting pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the outpouring of Lebanese support is likely to strengthen his hand as he weighs international calls to withdraw thousands of troops from Lebanon. ~Chicago Tribune

The Tribune correspondent, Evan Osnos, referred to the Hizbullah rally as a “startling display,” and it was this rather odd phrase that caught my attention as I was looking over the story. There is nothing startling about the ability of Hizbullah to mobilise and organise large numbers of people (it is, after all, a large political and paramilitary organisation), and there is also nothing startling about massed crowds of people denouncing U.S. interventionism, least of all in the Near East. If Mr. Osnos was startled, as many Western observers may well have been, it is because he and the others have been taking their own propaganda about Lebanon far too seriously. The startling thing is that correspondents who are supposed to be the eyes and ears of the public here are more gullible and prone to accept a conventional interpretation simply because it vindicates their biases. But some of these observers really seem to have convinced themselves momentarily that they were witnessing something akin to the 1989-91 wave of independence movements in the communist bloc and that “the Lebanese people” were on the march. Well, now quite a few of them are marching, but to the entirely wrong tune from the perspective of the jingoists and meddlers. What if the War Party anounced a democratic revolution and no one came? We are beginning to see what it looks like.