Two real must-reads from two very dear friends who care a lot about Syria. And I don’t say ‘must read’ lightly. You need these two pieces in your life.
First, Jillian York looks at how activists are feeding the mainstream media with the story (it’s something The Listening Post has looked at many times over the past year – if you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out their podcasts from the past two months especially).
What concerns me is that the media–whose job it is to report facts, objectively*–is not only pushing a certain narrative, but also ignoring certain truths: the non-civilian casualty toll, for example (this one in particular bothers me when I think about all of my friends that did or almost did their compulsory Syrian military service).
What bothers me most, however, is the sheer certainty with which both sides attempt to make their points. The New Yorker in the screenshot above, for example, is so sure that “one side is for life, the other for death.” I’m not so sure. I’m certain that the regime is killing civilians (if you’re going to argue with me on that, just go away), but I’m not sure that there aren’t bad actors amongst the legitimate opposition. I can’t be sure…especially not when the media isn’t doing their job.
Of course, one of the reasons that journalists have to rely on activist reports is that for much of the past year, reporters have been banned from entering Syria. One man who has reported from inside is Stephen Starr. This fine journalist has lived in Damascus since 2007 and – unlike many of his peers who were flown in from London and New York – knows the country intimately well and speaks Arabic. He left last week, and we are all a lot poorer for it.
How many other journalists picked up on the rich-poor gap that was surely one of the key factors behind the spread of this revolution:
In Damascus, at least, laptops flourished in Western-style cafes. The $4 coffee arrived in 2010, and then iPhones and Cinnabon bakeries. Syria’s rapid modernization spurred massive migration to urban centers, while in the countryside to the northeast, hundreds of thousands of farmers fled starvation from a devastating drought. They drove taxis at night and lived in Harasta, Qaboun, and Madamia, satellite towns of Damascus where rent was cheap — and that are now centers of protest.
Now that Starr is out of Syria, that others (who may not want to be named) have had to leave too, now that we can never again read a dispatch from Anthony Shadid, and now that the regime appears to be targetting journalists in Homs, the reports of activists will become louder and louder.