“Syria opposition in dire straits” … the counter-narrative
AFP quickly wraps up the latest from Syria:
Already weakened by political infighting, Syria’s opposition has been dealt another blow by the posting online of videos purporting to show rebel fighters committing atrocities, analysts say.
And on the back foot due to army advances on the ground, the opposition is also under international pressure to enter into dialogue with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
Videos posted online that showed a rebel mutilating a soldier’s corpse, and of a jihadist summarily executing 11 Assad supporters “will undermine the opposition’s narrative of an uprising against a dictator”, said Swedish expert on Syria, Aron Lund.
Oh yeah, our mainstream propaganda’s precious narrative. Don’t speak too soon Aron, the narrative lives, at least in the U.S., in ways like this courtesy of Angry Arab (links in original and I always modify AA’s crappy grammar):
Syrian rebels eating internal organs: Guardian versus the New York Times
Look how the Guardian reports it: “‘Anti-Assad fighter appears to eat internal organ of dead government soldier in horrific video’: “The figure in the video cuts the heart and liver out of the body and uses sectarian language to insult Alawites [Assad’s minority sect]. At the end of the video [the man] is filmed putting the corpse’s heart into his mouth, as if he is taking a bite out of it.”
And now look at how Syrian “revolution” groupie Anne Barnard [of the New York Times] reports it, and notice the title is about Syrian regime crime: “One rebel commander recently filmed himself cutting out an organ of a dead pro-government fighter, biting it and promising the same fate to Alawites, members of Mr. Assad’s Shiite Muslim sect.”
AA doesn’t clarify that this first reference, to an atrocity recorded proudly by its perpetrator on video, is buried in the second sentence (the first sentence is propaganda accusing the Syrian army of being anti-Islamic) of the fourth paragraph of a ‘story’ whose first three paragraphs transcribe evidence-free atrocity accusations against the Syrian government. Angry Arab sums up Western ‘reporting’
on the incident:
That face of Syrian “revolutionaries”: munching on body organs
Did you notice how defensive Western media are about that video? I note these reactions:
1) The New York Times as usual buries the story under a different story about crimes of the regime.
2) Many news media reported that the guy is really upset because he saw crimes by the Syrian regime.
3) Some media actually quibbled with the facts: that he did not really eat the heart of the man but ate parts of the lung.
4) Many news media opted to totally ignore the story.
5) Many media put the story in the context of war crimes in Syria where the regime is solely responsible.
6) Some media focused on the man, saying that he really is not representative.
So, I disagree with the sense that imperial propaganda’s narrative no longer reigns supreme, though it is surely shaken in the _immediate_ aftermath of the grisly body parts eating video. The real hope, though, is for an ever-rapider decline in the credibility and viewership of that propaganda and that media. The imperial media takes hit after hit but its careerism requires that it not abandon its narrative no matter how foolish, so it suffers the consequences. And those are good consequences for anyone who wants a public better-informed, or at least less disinformed by capitalist and imperial greed.
The real news alternatives — more accurate and more fun — are out there just waiting to be better organized and delivered. Here are some very recent Syria accounts from what might be, in a sane and democratic media, a counter-narrative at least on an equal footing with the imperial one:
May 18: Vote Reflects Shift in Syrian Public Opinion (Franklin Lamb: “Opinion in Damascus and surrounding areas visited this past week, confirms this observer’s experience the past five months of a sharp and fairly rapid shift in opinion that now strongly favors letting the Syrian people themselves decide, without outside interference, whether the Assad regime will stay, and indeed, whether, the Baathist party will continue to represent majority opinion, not through wanton violence but rather via next June’s election.”)
May 17: The main opposition National Coalition now has to decide whether to take part in an international conference called by Moscow and Washington to push for a political solution … The [group], which insists that Assad’s departure is a key condition for a political solution, will decide in an Istanbul meeting on May 23 whether it will take part in the international conference.
May 15: Syria: Civilians Come Under Fire From Rebels (“The demonstrators were predominantly Syrian Palestinians, many from the Yarmouk district of Damascus who had fled when it was taken over by opposition forces eight months ago. Some screamed at us: ‘Please tell the world the truth! We don’t want the fighters here, we want the army to kill them!”)
May 14: Syrian Rebels Face Increasing Criticism For Human Rights Violations – Analysis (by IRIN, “the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.”)
May 14: In Cairo, desperate Egyptian men search in vain for Syrian brides (“Men across the region are now seeking Syrian brides. In Turkey and Jordan, where refugee camps pepper the landscape, the desperation of the Syrians is far easier to spot as rich Persian Gulf men scour the camps to buy brides living in tents. Rape, child brides and temporary marriages are prevalent.”)
Photo from Zachary Baumgartner licensed under Creative Commons