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Syria and the Media

The October 13 BBC headline read: Clashes in Syria leave 19 dead – rights activists.

That gives the impression that the brutal Syrian army killed 19 Syrian demonstrators.

Not quite.

The story continues:

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 people died when government troops attacked the northern town of Banash.

In the southern town of Haara, armed men killed at least nine soldiers.

That’s nine Syrian government soldiers.  According to Syrian government reports, 1100 Syrian government forces have been killed since the uprising began.

Anti-government violence by armed groups is one of the inconvenient truths about the Syrian uprising.

Democracy activists don’t want to admit it; sympathetic media outlets don’t want to report it.

Now that the issue is becoming unavoidable, the new tactic is to excuse it as the response of incensed deserters, while deploring the “slide toward civil war.”

Not so.

The issue of “armed gangs” has been there from the beginning.

It took a willful abdication of journalistic responsibility to suppress it—and to continue to misrepresent it in order to evade responsibility for the simple-minded (and single-minded) pro-democracy media cheerleading  that characterized most reporting on Syria.

Now that the non-violent anti-government  protests are sputtering into futility, center stage is taken by the advocates of violent struggle.

For the West and Sunni states to breathe more life into the anti-Assad movement, violence has to be portrayed as inevitable, principled response, not escalating provocation seeking to obscure the failure of a political movement.

I expect the media to cover the issue of anti-government violence with same dishonest, guilty evasiveness it has displayed in the past.

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Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

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