Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mr "Fake News"

There are a lot of things that rile me about Bashar al Assad, but none more than his manner when speaking to members of the press. In a recent interview with Michael Isikoff, from Yahoo News, he sat like a well behaved school boy, ready to respond to all the questions he was given. In what could have been a curveball, Isikoff called Assad's bluff when he was asked, "Do you have a picture?" Isikoff did. When he saw the picture, he asked Isikoff if he knew who those people in the picture were, if he knew where it was taken, and whether it had been photoshopped. He had the temerity to chide the interviewer for not "verifying" a picture before presenting it in front of an audience, and that kind of sums up Assad's approach to all interviews. It's clear that he's coached, that he's been drilled endlessly on how to answer all the difficult questions, that he's done his 'homework'. And he does so with all the clinical precision of his supposed training as an ophthalmologist. He uses the latest buzzword, "fake news" in one of his answers, and sidesteps completely the fact that there, in his hand, he was holding a picture showing the handiwork of the regime his father bequeathed to him. In his hand he saw his own countrymen, other Syrians, innocent people, who had been rounded up and processed in the industrial torture and murder machine that works in the shadows, away from mobile footage and, unlike ISIS, doesn't need flashy production values. There is no audience for the handiwork done in Assad's prisons. There are only numbers and quotas, as we saw in the recent Amnesty report stating that over thirteen thousand Syrians had been murdered in the regime's prisons since 2011.

This is the 'new' type of politics that is being unleashed on the world. It's the same old politics we saw in the dirtiest days and nights of the Cold War, but with an additional twist. It is packaged slickly for a consumerist society that can have everything it wants except freedom. This is the technocratic, dictatorial nightmare world of the Putins, of the "Chinese Way" that Assad once admired, the tech-savvy world of the Iranian Ayatollah's who can ruthlessly crush a protest movement and match it point for point on internet savvy and tech know-how. In this cowardly new world, politics is theatre, even more so than anything the most corrupt and inept Western democracy could ever come up with. There are play-actors for every role, from President to opposition figure or intellectual. Everybody can act their role perfectly. The only thing wrong with all of this is that none of it is real. Assad is not a real president. Syria does not have real elections. There is no real army, no real police, not even a real education system. It is a country of cardboard cut-outs that set the background scenery for an even bigger national myth of greatness and resistance to anti-imperialism. In this backwards, clumsy and childish impersonation of a functioning country, a tall lanky man sits atop a pyramid of violence, murder and lies, and tells the world that everything is fine, and that the problem isn't with him, but with it.

1 comment:

Gerri Dow said...


Great article, keep writing my friend!