22.6.11

Western Coverage Of Syria: Active Denial, Highly Partisan Narratives And Orientalist Cliches

Angry Arab, who is against the Syrian regime, posted on the massive pro-Assad demonstrations in Syria yesterday the following:

But it is obvious that the pro-regime demonstrations were not covered.  Can one deny that those pro-Syrian regime demonstrations are far bigger than the protests that have been promoted from Youtube by Syrian Muslim Brotherhood opposition, and which headlines coverage of Syria.  Comrade Bassam said it best here:  "When genuine, the rallies Tuesday demonstrated sentiments that had “less to do with support for Bashar and more to do with not wanting to descend into the unknown,” said Bassam S. Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University. “There’s a lot of orchestrating going on, but it’s not all orchestration.”"  What is it difficult for people in the Western press and academic to express opinions and offer explanations and analysis that don't fully conform with the Orientations of Western governments? That is what Chomsky called "manufacturing consent." 

Indeed, and to my knowledge, the massive pro-regime demsontrations were mainly not covered by the western press, except by Anthony Shadid for the New York Times, and when covered by the Arab language press, they were protrayed as yet another manifestation of regime brutality against protesters, since seven anti-regime protesters apparently died from pro-regime actions, or as orchestrations, as if the anti-regime protests were not orchestrated...

Al-Manar TV showed images and footage of the pro-Assad protests and they were massive, no anti-regime protests have actually reached that number, not even half the number. We had also little coverage of Assad's third speech by the western press and blogs specialising in Syria, except for the Turkish press who welcomed the speech as the manifestation of a real change agenda. Blogs that are widely read on Syria had near to nothing on the last two events, Assad's third speech and pro-regime demonstrations, while serving us minutiae writings of famous 'trusted friends' (an army of MacMasters if you ask me) living in Syria on Syria's sectarian fabric and sectarian dynamics, exuding the misunderstandings, pretentions and fabrications of the orientalist tradition at its worse. Someone should explain to me why Syria, above any other country in the middle east, provokes the orientalist imagination. The MacMaster story was a pure concoction of orientalist cliches, despite its author claiming the contrary. Maybe because, more than any pother country in the ME, Syria is difficult to understand for outsiders and even for those westerners who pretend to be insiders.

This boils down to a truth nobody is ready to accept: western blogs and MSM are mostly adopting the line of their governments' narratives on a very complex matter without any serious questioning of the motives behind them. Nothing really to counter the Syrian regime propaganda other than badly imitating it. A strategy that is backfiring...

UPDATE: French TV commentator: 'those large protests were actually not in support of Assad'

UPDATE: Saudi owned news coverage of Syria

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28 comments:

William Scott Scherk said...

I enjoy reading your entries on this blog, even when I do not agree with your assessments -- you bring a very strong perspective on events. If you were yourself Syrian, I would say your perspective is essential -- and that a compromise between your perspective and the perspective of Assad/regime opponents is the only way out of further bloodshed and hatred.

Given that, I wish and hope you will try to extend your analyses to understanding the one section of the opposition/reformists with whom you have sympathy.

In the president's speech at Damascus University, he mentions three segments of the forces/interests against the present situation: the legitimate demands (some from demonstrators, some from folks who don't go to the street); the 'outlaws and wanted individuals'; 'those who have extremist and takfiri ideology'.

I believe you are very sympathetic to the first group and their demands/requests. Though the president did not go into detail, it is likely that these forces are the ones he hopes to engage in the formal national dialogue to come.

I miss your spirited comments on Syrian Comment -- it seemed to me (perhaps quite wrongly) that you are in sympathy with the first element at SC.

I would like to see some interchanges between you and this first group, and I believe there are members of the first group who could and would have a useful and productive dialoque with you. Please do not keep yourself apart from those kinds of dialogue if you can help it.

I do not know if I am welcome here on your blog, and will not intrude on your space if I am not.

Best wishes for you and yours -- may your hopes for a peaceful, independent and democratic Syria be met!

Sophia said...

William,

You are most welcome here. You caught my post while I was doing some minor editing.

"I believe you are very sympathetic to the first group and their demands/requests. Though the president did not go into detail, it is likely that these forces are the ones he hopes to engage in the formal national dialogue to come."

Yes and thank you for portraying fairly my position. I appreciate fairness. Actually my husband took a picture of me while I was watching Assad's speech and you can see the worry on my face. I think the stakes are high and while I am not Syrian, I am one of those Lebanese who consider that the two countries are like simaese twins. Syria's fall into chaos means a lot of problems for Lebanese.

The first group of the opposition was mentioned by Assad and I believe these are the people who are participating and will be participating in the national dialogue and as Assad engages with more of them on concrete measures, as I hope, we will be seeing more details about this group.

"I would like to see some interchanges between you and this first group, and I believe there are members of the first group who could and would have a useful and productive dialoque with you. Please do not keep yourself apart from those kinds of dialogue if you can help it."

This group is welcome here. I am not commenting on Syria Comment anymore. I hate to be deceived and it is my opinion that there is a lot of deception going on there. Any deception is a false premise to any dialogue and I cannot engage in any dialogue based on false premises.

HS said...

Nearly everybody in Syria ( including the president and the government ) is sympathetic to reforms .
Some of the young secular people on social media may be benevolent and looks sympathetic ( and naive ) too.
The main problem is that nobody ( except Erdogan ) wants the return of the MBs in Syrian politics.
As long that the "secular" reformists
- don't exclude any alliance with the MBs ( if it is still possible ) and
- accept that the unlicensed demonstrations stop to be replaced by peaceful "national dialogue" ,
there will be unfortunately no progress in Syria.
I always found strange that the activists announced the very inflated number of dead people ( always anti regime protesters not policemen ) on social media as the only proof that their "revolution" was justified and winning.

Syrian Commando said...

I want to second W.S.S.'s comment, your perspective is essential.

I honestly can't care much about the western academics anymore, for precisely the reasons you have stated. I did not have the right words, just a gut feeling, so this particular piece is very useful to me.

Sophia said...

HS, SC (and William again),

My perspective is better presented here and not in the comment sectin of other blogs where there is no dialogue going on but only deception and propaganda.

Susan Dirgham said...

Dear Sophia,
Great to read your blog. Sorry I can't find you on 'Syria Comment' any more, but I must admit I tend to avoid going there these days; the highlighted articles on it can leave a nasty taste in my mouth. However, the comments and reports from people in Syria (or Lebanon :) )who are inclusive and fair are always good to read.

My husband is Syrian and he is very insistent that he is 'Syrian'. As far as his religion is concerned, that is a matter between God and him, as he will tell anyone. It is sad and worrying to read so much these days about Syria by reporters or commentators which focuses on sects. Political issues are national issues.

Thanks again for your blog.

Kind regards,

Susan

Sophia said...

Dear Susan,

Your husband is right. Sect can only be an identity of exclusion and not one of tolerance while we wish to live together in the ME and not only among people from our own sect. I remember being young and angry at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war when they were shooting people on militia checkpoints based on the sect written on the ID card. Lebanon has supressed this policy of registering the religion on the ID card only recently.

More than 30 years after the start of the Lebanese civil war we are faced with the same poison, this time in Syria. I hope that the people who are stirring sectarian sentiments won't succeed.

I agree with you that there are many links and informations posted by commentators from Syria on Syria Comment and I still read them but I do not wish to comment there anymore. Whenever I have useful information, I will publish it on this blog. It is much easier for me this way. Thank you for your input here.
Best regards,

Sophia

HS said...

Dear Sophia,
The western coverage should be completed by the "Al Jazeera" coverage which matters more in Syria and is the source of other's coverage.
The "show more" section of this page
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJVzMnRUbrI
lists some links worth pursuing.

I am not surprised by the NY Times bias but I am still wondering to what happened to the "independent" and respected Guardian.

HS said...

The Facebook Battleground
http://www.dc4mf.org/en/content/facebook-battleground#.TgMzmcPZtbA.twitter

new law on political parties
http://sana.sy/eng/21/2011/06/22/353881.htm


The draft law stressed the need for establishing a party away from any religious or tribal bases, gender or racial discrimination. The party formations, leadership and work should be according to a democratic basis, in addition to avoiding any public or secret, military or semi-military formations and not using violence or threatening of using it.

Sophia said...

Dear HS,

Thanks for the links. When the time will come to reform the constitution, I would make any incitment to sectarian violence a crime and enchrine the secular nature of the state in the constitution. Many european countries have such laws.

Sophia

Sophia said...

I never had a facebook account and will never have one. I Have a Twiotter account that serves only as a repertoire of links to my blog.

I have been blogging since 2006 and I have seen that people on the web tend to be much more docile and compliant developping a sheep mentality for fear of being ostracised because your ostracisation becomes public. There are also tactics to make people compliant, most of them are manipulative. And there is deceit.

The best way is to get your information from as many sources as possible and confront critically this information.

Zuckerberg can brag about the role of facebook in the Arab spring but his assertions are based only on opinions and on the fact that young people are connected. I read for example that young Egyptians went in Cairo's neighbourhoods street by street to see if they were able to rally other parts of the population. There was some role for social media but the fact that all layers of the Egyptian society were represented refutes Zukerberg's allegations. Some cite the cumulative effect of the deterioration of the economic situation and the realisation of Arabs that their rulers are cowards who prostern themselves daily to USrael (as revealed by Wikileaks), are also behind the Arab spring.

Facebook is infantilising adults, spying on them, bidding on their personal data, and stereotyping their relationships.

And I agree with what the author you linked to writes:
"Through the way social media operate, by aggregating people with the same values and the same opinions, they end up reinforcing differences rather than building bridges. As a result, social media can create obstacles when it comes to negotiating solutions and finding common ground between different opinions."

HS said...

Dear Sophia

Here is an example of use of Twitter by media
https://twitter.com/#!/arwaCNN
---------------
U.S. ambassador to #Syria Robert Ford visiting Syrian/Turkey border to check on status of refugees as Syria closes border.
20 Juin
very interested 2 hear/find out what US ambassador 2 #syria is going to see/hear after visit 2 north syria border w/turkey
20 Juin


My question :
Where is the article from Arwa Damon relating the US ambassador's visit to Jisr al-Shugur ?

-------------
CNN has officially been granted access to #syria. am in damascus...off to meet govt minder who accompanies us on all shoots
Il y a 5 heures

we asked to be taken on friday (tomorrow) to the areas where the demo's usually happen...let see if request is granted. #syria
Il y a 58 minutes

-----------
CNN is planning a special live report on spontaneous ,unorganized , unlicensed , unexpected , unpredictable "peaceful protest" .

Or should the Syrian government also organize the gathering of people complete with helicopters and tanks .

HS said...

Dear Sophia

Sometimes you can find a diamond in
http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=10437&cp=all#comment-257779

The MBs in 1980

The first one to be assassinated in Aleppo was in 1976, Dr. Yousef al-Yousef. He was an optometrist that was known for giving free treatment to the poor. Why was he assassinated?
When one of my father’s influential Sunni friends, Waleed al-Milqi, spoke out against the MB’s practices, he was killed, too. Why? After assassinating their victims, the MB sent people to the funerals to identify new targets for killing among the crowds attending. Why?
The MB killed tens of young military cadets in Aleppo. Why?
The MB blew up a civilian passenger train after leaving Jisr al-Shugour train station. Why?
The MB blew up tens of civilian passenger buses all over Syria. In one of the bloodiest days, along the Tartous-Homs-Damascus highway, 12 civilian buses, loaded with passengers, were blown up, all in one day.

The free media

It may be easy to ignore a global media conspiracy against Syria when you are living in Europe, but you can’t ignore it when you are living in al-Midan in Damascus and al-Jazeera is telling you there are 10,000 people outside your window, but when you go to check, you find there is no one.

HS said...

Dear Sophia

Here a follow up on the use of Twitter by media ( see my message above )
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/06/23/syria-it-feels-as-if-syria-is-two-countries-with-two-different-realities/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
A biased selection of twitters from CNN's Arwa Damon is reused by a "activist bloggger"
http://globalvoicesonline.org/author/amira-al-hussaini/
As I did not understand where Arwa Damon has seen in Damascus a " tales of two Syria " , I have to wait the report
http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/06/23/tsr.damon.syria.damascus.cnn?iref=allsearch
to understand that she reports about the 5 millions in Damascus Syrians and the 50 Syrians at the Turkish border.

Note that she stays in Damascus but she never went at the Turkish border near Jisr al-Shugur.

HS said...

Long temoignage d'un Syrien en Syrie

http://www.michelcollon.info/Temoignage-Ce-qui-se-passe-en.html?lang=fr

HS said...

Speaking in an interview with EUobserver, Baer, a senior CIA field officer in Lebanon and Syria in the 1980s and 1990s and a writer on international security affairs, said :

"We have reports that Wahhabists [radical Sunni Islamists], who are not necessarily controlled by any state, are coming into Syria from Iraq and from Saudi Arabia to create chaos. Inside Syria, there are snipers shooting at demonstrators who are not controlled by Al-Assad but by the deep state, and other snipers who are shooting at both demonstrators and police,"

"The EU has reacted like [former US president] Bush did in 2001 and 2003, in black and white terms, but life is more grey," he noted, referring to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

http://euobserver.com/9/32544

Sophia said...

HS,

What is described in your last comment is the traditional prelude to a civil war situation. The task of the Syrian army will be to rid the country from chaos and it is well prepared for this since their past presence in Lebanon during the civil war there is a useful training to this kind of circumstances. Suppose we could have had an army in Lebanon in 1976 who would have been able to defeat those who were preparing the terrain for a civil war, we would all have cheered the army. I think the regime has no choice. It must be understood everywhere that the country faces a very grave situation, not peaceful protests on the street. But western countries listen only to what they want to hear. Only three months into the Lybian rebellion we learn that the story publicised by teh rebellion that Ghaddafi hired mercenenaries to kill his own people is false but it wa believed anyway.

Preparing the terrain for a civil war is a classical scheme of those who have a non negociated and non negotiable agenda for their country so they threaten with civil war, and it is exactly what happened in lebanon where Christian militia, from the beginnig, wanted to partition Lebanon and their own piece of it where they could rule unhindered upon a homogenous and docile community terrorised by fear of their own and fear of the enemy. But other Lebanese wouldn't split the country, so they basically contributed to create a civil war situation and the demise of the state.

We have the same thing here. Syrians who want the fall of the regime are threatening other Syrians, who want gradual reforms, with civil war. You could easily see this in the article 'The fall of the house of Assad' by Robin Yassin Kassab. I posted an anlysis of his article previously on this blog.

Jad said...

Sophia,
Excellent analyzes of HS linked article.
It is as you describe it;
-One part doesn't want to do anything but destroying the country
-second part doesn't want to destroy anything, they want to do reform and save the country
I also wish that the Syrian army learned something from the horrible civil war in Lebanon to avoid such scenario in Syria.
What I'm not sure about is the Syrian army itself, if it still remember the experience of dealing with Lebanon or it did forget it since the last 5-7 years of the Syrian presence in Lebanon wasn't wise.
Good analyses on qunfuz mishmash article about nothing.

Sophia said...

Jad,

"What I'm not sure about is the Syrian army itself, if it still remember the experience of dealing with Lebanon or it did forget it since the last 5-7 years of the Syrian presence in Lebanon wasn't wise."

Right. But although this experience might have been lost at the level of individual soldiers, it might not be at the level of command.

Susan Dirgham said...

In regard to the article in the euobserver, the writer suggests that the Christian community in Lebanon is united in its political views and allegiances. That is the assertion we always get in reports in Australia, but my Lebanese Australian friends tell me this is not the case at all, but it reads well because it simplifies things. For example, many Maronite Christians support Michel Aoun, who is strongly against interference from outside in the affairs of Lebanon. The ties that France has with Saad Hariri and Kaddam, who are not Christians, are apparently very strong. Is there any truth to that? If there is, this would suggest that French concerns are with money (it doesn't matter whose it is?), and the bigger regional and global picture and how that all relates to their perceived interests. Like, the US, Britain and Germany I assume France is strong enough to have a say in shaping "the regional and global picture" (I wonder who in France perceives what the country's interests are.)

I am grateful for that link to the comment in Syria Comment. It is always good to read an analysis from someone who knows and cares. I am tired of slogans and divisiveness.

Cheers,

Susan

Sophia said...

Susan,

As a Lebanese Christian who was in Lebanon just recently, in Janurary, I can tell that Lebanese christians are with Aoun. Very few are with Gea'gea and Hariri, only the super rich. In my little village who fought with the christian militia during the civil war, people spend their day with the hezbollah TV.

The divide is no longer between Muslims and Christians in Lebanon. It is between the haves (very few) and the have not (the majority).

Hariri bought downtown Beirut for nearly nothing at a moment when Lebanese were vulnerable and broke, just at the end of the civil war, and transformed it into a fancy area for the super rich where they can spend their money and where the rest of the population works in the service sector. The rest of beirut still has to be reconstructed, and revitalised.

Lebanese don't like Hariri Co and when Aoun said recently 'good riddance' to Saad Hariri being in Europe apparently afraid to return to Lebanon, he echoed the sentiment of the great majority of Lebanese!

Besides, I laughed when I read in the article that the EU want to protect Christians! Their recent policies in the region are very detrimental to Chritians. Protecting a community was always a pretext to foreign presence in the region. Sectarianism is the product of colonialism and still is an argument for neocolonialism.

The 'Protecting the christians' part of the author analysis casts a shadow on the entire credibility of the author.

HS said...

Dear Sophia
You said
"Besides, I laughed when I read in the article that the EU want to protect Christians! Their recent policies in the region are very detrimental to Chritians."

Concerning France , a composite lobby of " very affluent , Lebanese , christian , anti regime Syrian " french residents is very effective on the actual government (and "media" and "intellectual" ) circles .
The last visible example in this election year :
Amin Maalouf was elected at the Académie française on 23 June 2011, on (ex Levy's Strauss ) seat 29 .
Unfortunately , this " Christian-Lebanese" lobby is not very aware of the realities on the ground in Syria ( and Lebanon )
This results in actions which are
not very wise and most likely detrimental to the goals this "Christian-Lebanese " lobby pretends to pursue actively.

HS said...

Dear Sophia ,

To carry on the western coverage ,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/arrests-for-graffiti-were-the-spark-of-syrias-revolt-but-the-fuse-had-been-burning-for-years/2011/06/23/AG4YoUhH_story_1.html
said
""
an old Sunni woman in his town of Banias who he said was paying four times more for electricity than an Alawite family
""
Any journalist could find out that in fact in Syria the price of electricity depends on your consumption and on not your religion.
If your bill is more than 4000 SP, the price is doubled.

In your own words
The "Electricity" part of the author's article casts a shadow on the entire credibility of the author and his "activist" sources.

Susan Dirgham said...

Dear Sophia (and HS),
Thanks so much for providing this insight into Lebanon.

Most of the coverage we get here in Australia of Lebanese politics and the wider region from Australian reporters posted there is so biased toward that elite supported by Europe and the US. They almost invariably ignore the support Christian Lebanese give Hezbollah. I just assume it is because they are socializing with the elite and because they play safe so provide their editors with the standard narrative. Do you want to add anything to this?

Thanks!
Susan

HS said...

Dear Susan
Quite frankly , I think that only certain Syrian government officials understand the Lebanese political alliances as they have long been archiving their relations with all these noisy Lebanese politicians. ( politiciens in french )

As I am not one of them and since there is no Syrian Wikileaks (yet), I will not elaborate ;-).

Anonymous said...

The activist lobby is using this hashtag on twitter:
#Sy11

and check this guy @mapsgal

Sophia said...

Dear Susan,

There is definitely a Lebanese Christian lobby in Europe and especially in France because France always pretended to protect Lebanese Christians. However, the majority of Lebanese Christians are now behind Aoun and Hezbollah.

As for Amin Maalouf elected at the French academy, I think the academy is maybe trying to politicise its choice like the Nobel academy but Maalouf is not political himself. He is a good story teller but, in all honesty, he does not deserve the Levi Strauss chair. But he is not the only one to be so undeserving at the Academy.

I was just telling my husband this morning how ironic France want to protect Christians in Lebanon while Syrian and lebanese Christians are in their majority now behind Assad and Hezbollah!

But I mean foreign powers don't need our approval to protect us. And the fact that they are protecting us do not make us accomplices of what they do in our name. Look at what happened in Iraq, they went to protect Iraqis from Saddam and they broke the whole country...

HS said...

About @mapsgal
Sometimes these "Twitter activists" are tweeting and retweeting without checking by brain ( if any ).

This time , it is a video of the Syrian TV ;-)

dnnen DamascusNewsNetwork
par mapsgal
#Syria http://tinyurl.com/69evres June, 24th │Damascus│ Tens of thousands gathered in "Bab Touma" to raise the biggest picture of president


The final link is:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSf6a2oUxJA&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL

 
Since March 29th 2006