Editor’s Note: The author of this article claims – as so many have in the West, that there is a ‘media ban’ in Syria, a statement which reinforces the popular idea that the Syrian regime is repressive and anti-democratic. The truth of the matter is something wholy different however. Many networks, including Russia Today (RT), were able to film and report in Syria during the alleged ‘media ban’. The real story is here is that the MSM networks like the BBC and CNN were using misrepresented Youtube/cell phone images of a so-called uprising in Homs, Syria as “proof” that the regime in Syria (as they did in Libya before) was ‘gunning down’ innocent protesters. Patrick Cockburn subtly alludes to this point, but does not actually address the fact that many raw video has been used by the BBC and others in pushing the Wests’ war and regime change propaganda. Read more on Western MSM disinfo of events in Syria here.
January 17, 2012
“Rumour” used to have a bad reputation. In Shakespeare’s plays it is assumed that “rumours” mean artful lies and the spreading of detailed but false accounts of victory and defeat. No journalist could credibly tell of massacre, torture and mass arrests, citing “strong rumours” as the sole evidence for the story. Editors at whatever newspaper, television or radio station the reporter worked on would shake their heads in disbelief at such a vague and dubious source and almost certainly refuse to run it.
But suppose that our journalist takes out the word “rumour” and substitutes “YouTube” or “blogger” as the source. Then, going by recent experience, editors will nod it through, possibly commending their man or woman for judicious use of the internet. The BBC and other television stations happily run nightly pictures of mayhem from Syria, grandly disclaiming responsibility for their authenticity. These disclaimers are intoned so often that they now have as much impact on viewers as warnings that a news report may contain flash photography. People understandably believe that if the BBC and other channels were not convinced of the truth of YouTube pictures they would not be using them as their main source of information on Syria.
YouTube pictures may have played a positive role in the uprisings of the Arab Spring, but the international media is largely mute about how easy it is to manipulate them. Pictured from the right angle, a small demonstration can be made to look like a gathering of tens of thousands. Shootings in one street in one town can be used to manufacture “evidence” of shooting in a dozen towns. Demonstrations need not be genuine events luckily captured on mobile phone cameras by concerned citizens; frequently the only reason for the protest is to provide material for YouTube. Television companies are not going to reject or underline the stage management of film that is free, dramatic, up to date – and which they could not match with regular correspondents and film crews even if they spent a lot of money.
In the print press, bloggers get an equally easy ride, even though there is no proof that they know anything about what is going on. Hence the ease with which a male American student in Scotland was able to pretend to be a persecuted lesbian in Damascus. Since the Iraq war, even the most intensely partisan bloggers have been presented as sources of objective information. Tarnished though they may now be, they still have a certain cachet and credibility.
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