The role of 'new media' in Syria
The history of media refuses to break its golden rule. At every historical juncture, the birth of new media seems to coincide with a brutal war.
The birth of the newspaper coincides with the US Revolutionary War of 1775 and the French Revolution of 1789. The radio, which played a role in World War I, became the hero of World War II. Even television, busily being invented between the two wars, is viewed as one of the US’ most effective weapons in the Cold War. Then came the satellite channels, heroes of the first Gulf War in 1991, which was broadcast live on CNN.
Though demonized for paving the way for war-time misinformation and propaganda, as soon as a new kind of media is born, there are always promises that democracy and fairness will be realized with this new medium.
The story today does not seem very different with New Media. But is it any different?
Much was written at the onset of the Arab Spring about social networking sites and their role in making revolutions. But the optimistic tone did not last long. The media war against the former Libyan regime was but a simple exercise compared to the situation in Syria.
In Syria, it is primarily a media war. Away from the policies of Arab satellite channels, we are starting to read dozens of articles about the real situation on the ground in Syria. News and counter-news; media blackouts and fabrications. Just as the war on Iraq was sold under the pretext of weapons of mass destruction, the same formula has been replicated in Syria.
Reviewing the volume of fabricated news over the past two years, one couldn’t miss the magnitude of disinformation on both sides. However, it is still not the most noteworthy media transformation in Syria today. It gets much worse.
In December 2012, Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote in The Independent about a film shared on YouTube, showing the slaughter of civilians, including a child, at the hands of Free Syrian Army soldiers.
“I have not met a Syrian in Damascus who has not seen it,” he wrote. “It is having great influence on how Syrians judge their future, but the mainstream media outside Syria has scarcely mentioned it. Some may be repulsed by its casual savagery, but more probably it is not shown because it contradicts so much of what foreign leaders and reporters claim is happening here.”
These slaughters and humiliations were spread and shared by Syrian fighters across all media. They acted and played the role of eyewitnesses. They died in some films and survived the others. They terrorized citizens and demolished all those dreams about the interactive role of ordinary citizens.
Social networking sites failed in their pioneering role in the Arab Spring, which quickly turned into a bloodbath.
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