Monday, December 19, 2016
Elite Media Blames You and Me for Syria
The mainstream media is angry at us, the American public.
It's not just righteous indignation from elite international reporters, who have a tendency to swagger through assorted geopolitical crises like vagabond proclaimers of lost virtues. Ivory tower academics, and sanctimonious employees at humanitarian relief agencies, are also mad at you and me.
They're trying hard to refrain from pinning the fall of Aleppo on president Barak Obama. Since, after all, the media has unilaterally decided that Syrian's president Bashar al-Assad should have been overthrown.
Did those Western war correspondents hold some sort of meeting a while back, in which they determined that rebels fighting Assad somehow merited their favor? Otherwise, how could it be explained that just about everybody within the sociopolitically liberal mainstream media seems appalled that Assad reclaimed Aleppo from rebel hands last week? Indeed, Western big media outlets have been seething against Western electorates across the globe who apparently sat at home and did nothing to prevent a key collapse within the rebel opposition.
As if you and I are complicit in Syria's six-year-long bloodbath, and cruel facilitators of what one United Nations official calls "the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era."
Consider a headline from yesterday's New York Times as a representative sample of the media's ire: "Assad's Lesson From Aleppo: Force Works, With Few Consequences."
"It is not the first victory that Mr. Assad has secured with overwhelming force in the Syrian conflict. But his subjugation of eastern Aleppo has echoed across the Middle East and beyond, rattling alliances, proving the effectiveness of violence and highlighting the reluctance of many countries, perhaps most notably the United States, to get involved."
This particular article in the Times bitterly sums up much of the elitist angst that has been smoldering just below the surface in many reports from war correspondents who think those of us consuming their sobering descriptions of Syria's atrocities simply don't care.
"Analysts have begun to add Aleppo to the list of places where humans have failed to stop tragedies committed against other humans, as in Grozny, Rwanda and Srebrenica," we're told.
"Because of smartphones and the Internet," lectures the Times, "the Syrian conflict has arguably been better documented than any armed conflict in history. But that has still failed to bring about accountability."
An expert in the prosecution of war crimes is quoted. “Aleppo is now the symbol of how far we have retrenched,” scolds that expert. “It is part of a worldwide move away from a global village. Countries are turning back into themselves.”
Bad, bad world citizens. Here we've been, we who are the wise and learned elite media, trying to get you Western peasants to force your leaders and armies to engage in Syria's awful civil war for six years, and all you've done is vote for silly backwards notions like Brexit and Trump.
Read enough of these articles from Syria's front lines, and this is the impression you get from smug reporters who presume their vantage point provides them an accurate assessment of what they think they see unfolding in front of them.
And yes, to a certain extent, we Westerners back home are weary of war news from the Middle East. It's confusing to us, and incessantly bleak. If we can't get the gist of it from a few sound bites, most of us simply aren't going to get all riled up over what people half a world away from us are getting all riled up over.
Sometimes, isn't another country's war another country's war?
Besides, it's not as if the mainstream media has been a trustworthy resource for all that led up to Syria's current conflict. Who believes the mainstream media has played a nonpartisan role in the gathering of information during this war? And who trusts the mainstream media to be objective as victors emerge and battles wind down?
It's no secret that big media, along with many international political and humanitarian groups, make a point of minimizing the religious angles of Muslim-centric strife. Sometimes this is a strategy on their part so their staffers can simply survive within conflict zones, but mostly it's an intentional campaign to de-stigmatize Islam in the minds of Westerners who already perceive the religion with deep skepticism, if not outright suspicion.
With Syria's civil war, however, to remove religion as a component in the crisis removes most of the storyline.
And it's a dizzying storyline, thanks in large part to that religious component. There isn't just Islam. There isn't just radical Islam. There is Sunni, Shi'a and Kharijite, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i, Hanbali, Ẓāhirī, Qarmatian, Ismaili, Fatimid, Nizari Ismaili, Musta’li Ismaili, Hafizi, Taiyabi Ismaili, Imamiyyah-Ja'fari-Usuli, Alevi, Zaydi, Ibadi, Alawite, Druze, and Taiyabi. Then there are the Kurds, the Islamic State, the YPG ("People's Protection Units"), the PFLP ("Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine"), Jabhat al-Nusra, Hezbollah, Ahrar al-Sham, the FSA ("Free Syria Army"), and reportedly dozens more religiously-motivated militias.
Indeed, the list of players in Syria's current war quickly proved to be far more complex than any media outlet could simplistically categorize. Most mainstreamers took a default position of opposition against Assad, ostensibly since he's a dictator, but it soon became apparent that the rebels weren't just fighting for freedom from Assad's rule. Most rebels want to enact even more draconian religious-based laws than Assad's, which would further deprive Syrians of basic types of freedoms Western journalists value, but the media couldn't hammer that inconvenient truth into their progressive narrative.
After Russia and Iran vested themselves in Syria's war, it seemed as though the mainstreamers were thoroughly flummoxed over who the good guys were, or the bad guys.
Then there's the whole sovereign nation thing, and the validity of any rogue players who try to overthrow established governments, whether in Syria or elsewhere. Here in the West, frankly, we taxpayers are tired of being blamed for meddling in regime changes. We can't seem to pick the "right" side, or win anything anymore; not just militarily, but politically, and socially. And a lot of that blame over these failures gets levied - rightly or wrongly - by the same international elites that now blame us for allowing Syria to unravel.
Indeed, speaking of sovereignty, the world's major defenders of conventional liberty - the United States and Britain - still haven't finished licking our wounds from our ill-advised foray into Iraq concocted by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. And voters in both Britain and the United States remain reluctant to send soldiers off to another war in the Middle East because it's now obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt that we really don't understand what's going on over there. Not just us ordinary voters, but even the tenured civil servants within our intelligence communities, and our big-talking politicians. It's as if we have a different way of processing information within our Western mindsets than many folks do in the Middle East.
We want peace, because peace is how society can flourish. However, many folks in the Middle East mostly seem to want to settle old scores. We bargain to achieve shared objectives, they prevaricate. We generally tend to value human life, they generally tend to value emotions. We build, they bomb. We use smartphones to sell consumer products, they use smartphones to recruit for jihad.
Mainstream media operatives jeer at our oversimplifications and stereotypes, but theirs are just as blatant. Assad isn't the only bad guy in this civil war; in fact, there aren't any good guys that the mainstreamers have been able to identify and idolize. So they've tried to manipulate public opinion by telling us about the kids being crushed by falling apartment buildings. They photograph the Boy From Aleppo in the back of an ambulance, and for a moment, the world recoils, shocked at the loss of innocence.
But even President Obama has stood off to the side, after winning a Nobel Peace Prize before completing his first year in the Oval Office! Nobody on Capitol Hill from any party was ever able to compose a compelling political narrative for why Syria's conflict was anything more than a vicious skirmish between hell-bound Islamists. And all of those refugees turning tail and running the other way - if this was truly a civil war, why weren't they picking sides and staying to fight for what they believed in?
Much has been made about the West's begrudging acceptance of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Yet while a discernible amount of the vitriol displayed against those refugees has been simple ethnocentrism, the rest of it has been uncomfortably legitimate. After all, who would come and help us if we had a civil war in America? In Germany? In Sweden? And why are grown men not staying to fight for their viewpoint?
Over the years, some reporters have acknowledged that many able-bodied people remained in Syria not because they couldn't afford to flee, but because they support some rebel faction, or Assad. So all these other refugees are people who don't support anybody? How does that work? And if they don't support anybody, how do so many get out of the country alive?
The whole thing just doesn't make any sense to us. And it obviously hasn't made sense to the mainstream media reporters who have walked the streets in war-torn cities like Aleppo. Sure, they've seen human savagery that is repulsive to them, but they apparently can't analyze it well either. They sure haven't been able to package it up and send it back to America and England in easily-digestible bites for the rest of us. But they also haven't taken the time to objectively parse out the intricacies of the situation that help make it so complex.
Some non-mainstream news outlets have tried doing so. But in-depth analysis of Syria's quagmire is a undesirable product for advertisers to pay for.
So, then, are we Westerners to be blamed because we need to have international news stories like Syria's civil war broken down in elementary particles? Are we too busy, spoiled, stupid, or immature to appreciate the many facets of this conflict?
Or has the mainstream media run full-tilt into a wall it cannot scale? We've already seen how many mainstreamers really don't understand evangelical Christianity, at least as far as their ability to analyze us in the wake of Donald Trump's election victory is concerned. Maybe the mainstream media really doesn't understand Islam either? Or, at least, radical Islam?
And just what, exactly, do all of these vaunted journalists think the United States could have done? We don't even know how many sides were fighting against each other. How would we have picked a group to win? To win what? How do we determine the Assad regime would be worse than any of the other players vying to replace his leadership?
Throwing photos onto social media of kids dying and old women crying doesn't tell us who's right and who's wrong. Lamenting the plight of millions of homeless Syrians and refugees doesn't tell us whether those folks supported the fighters we should support - or shouldn't support. Simply observing chaos unfolding in front of you and yelling at the rest of us to do something doesn't give you the right to complain when we don't know what to do.
It's been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Yet how many Americans are genuinely ambivalent over Syria's crisis? Besides, sometimes, can't doing something just to do something actually make a situation worse? If you don't know what to do, refraining from involvement can be a good thing.
Perhaps what mainstream journalism has realized involves not just the frustrating dependence most Americans have on sound-bite information these days. Perhaps mainstream journalism is also realizing that since it's sold its legitimacy to political correctness, it's not an accurate purveyor of news any more. And the general public has caught on.
Not that popular opinion should determine what's newsworthy or accurate. The truth should determine that, and sometimes, truth and popular opinion are not the same thing.
But at least when it comes to Syria's bloody war, and whatever brutal scar it has inflicted on the history of humanity, some things will defy our best intentions.
Don't blame the public if you can't convince us otherwise.