Friday, 17 August 2012

An exchange on Syria and Media Lens

An exchange with Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (co-editor of Pulse) at the Media Lens Facebook page:

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

[To Media Lens]

You'll have to summon all your creativity to spin this one. Perhaps it'd be easier if you simply apologized. I'm sure you'll agree that blaming the victims was a pretty despicable thing to do.

[Link follows to BBC report: Houla massacre: UN blames Syria troops and militia ]

John Hilley:

Spin what? The UN published its latest report and Media Lens posted the BBC's linked piece on the commission's findings. What needed spinning, and why would ML seek to do so?

Apologise for what? If you care to read ML's various alerts and associated pieces it's perfectly clear that their primary criticism is aimed at media reports which, without any verified evidence, had blamed Assad and Syrian militia forces for this atrocity. They discuss, quite reasonably, how the cautious preliminary findings of the UN were wilfully ignored or misrepresented by most media outlets.  

The central point of such work is to illustrate how, notably on the key issue of war, the establishment/liberal media fall into line when dealing with 'our' official enemies and how, in this case, false media presentation of Houla was being used to hype the case for Western intervention.

Please also show me where ML have ever stated any support for the Assad regime. All their writings on this issue consistently indicate the opposite. 

Blaming the victims? The actual victims here are the dead souls of Houla. And there are many more of them in this tragic conflict, victims of atrocities committed by both sides. If you're implying that the rebel fighting forces, rather than the dead of Houla, are the victims being 'blamed' by ML, please specify.

And if you do mean this, please explain how that particular campaign of violence, cynically driven by US/Nato and religio-Gulf zealots, in any way serves a progressive outcome for the Syrian people or, indeed, the memories of those killed at Houla.        

Despicable? Please be more careful with your language.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

Yes, there was no 'verified evidence' except on camera testimonies of survivors. But those are mere facts, they don't carry the solid heft of gut and ideology. You are no doubt a genius -- and certainly not a hypocrite. I am sure you also condemn 'both sides' for violence in all comparable situations -- say in Gaza. As you imply, the question of proportion is irrelevant. Context too doesn't matter. There are only victims and no perpetrators. Even those who slit the throats of children, we must ignore. Isn't that exactly what we do when the Israeli airforce bombs a Palestinian home? We blame 'both sides' for violence and refuse to condemn. Why, it'd make us hypocrites at best and antisemites at worst if we condemned collective punishment carried out by Israelis and found excuses for it when done by someone else.

Because we are given to reasonable scepticism, we must not condemn anyone for suggesting that those who were killed (remember all Sunnis are 'militants') were indeed the perpetrators, and those who did the killing (an Alawite militia) the victims. All of that is excusable because there is a 'campaign of violence' -- cynical of course -- directed at a regime which was only minding its own business before the children of Der'aa manipulated its soldiers into opening fire and then deviously positioned themselves in the firing line -- just to make Bashar al Assad look bad. What reasons did the Syrians have for demanding rights or self-determination had they not been manipulated by 'US/Nato and religio-Gulf zealots'. Sounds just like the Palestinians of Gaza, manipulated by Iran into thinking there is something wrong with military occupation.

John Hilley,you have restored my faith in humanity: today I've realized how little there is that separates Israeli hasbaraniks from some pro-palestine activists. Neither have use for principle and both are equally impervious to reason -- and, most importantly, they are all united by a common language. For the partisan, its all about affiliation, not justice or human rights.

John Hilley:

With respect, please stay with the actual issues rather than facetious comment, notably the puerile 'hasbaranik equivalence'.

For the purposes of clarity:

1. In the Palestinian situation, there's a clear aggressor and an occupied, subjected people. There are no 'two sides' here, a power narrative which permits the convenience of saying 'each side is equally to blame'. Israel is the principal perpetrator, Palestinians the primary victims.

2. The Palestinians have every right to resist their occupiers. I don't condemn or condone the reality of Palestinian armed resistance. I understand why it happens. Being asked to condemn Palestinian violence is to accept the dominant narrative. The radical position, the one that searches for a truly just solution, is to say: "we can talk about the symptoms or we can talk about the actual causes."

3. While understandable, Palestinian counter-violence takes the Palestinian cause nowhere useful. Again, that's not condemnation of such violence - as required by the dominant narrative. It's both a strategic and moral view of its ineffectiveness. The greatest advance being made for the Palestinian cause is peaceful activism and BDS-based resistance.

4. In more general terms, little of positive, lasting good ever comes from violence. Look no further than the zionist state itself, which can never be at peace given the bloodshed it's founded on.

5. The conflict in Syria is different in important ways from Palestine-Israel. It's not an occupation. It's a civil war, one in which a significant part of the population either still support Assad or see the alarming vacuum that's opening up as self-interested, external forces call the shots.  In the Syrian situation there are contending aggressors. Firstly, Assad against his own people. Secondly, the Western-Nato-Israeli axis allied with Saudi and other Gulf forces. Having witnessed the latter alignment's zero-sum 'solution' for Libya, Assad understands perfectly what's at stake. Assad is a criminal tyrant. But, as Galloway reminds us, it's vital to understand the agenda of the bigger criminal tyrants trying to oust him 
Which, nullifying any prospect of a peaceful negotiation, makes the Syrian people double victims caught up in the violence perpetrated by those dual aggressors. 

6. As Galloway correctly says, the Syrian people have every right to resist Assad and his oppressive regime. But the resort to Western-Saudi-aligned violence has utterly compromised the basis of any progressive revolution.  As Galloway asks: do you really believe the West/Nato, Saudi and Israel are working for the same thing as suffering Syrians? As with Libya, any outcome will now be largely determined by those interests. Leftists who can't comprehend or blindly refuse to see that stark truth are also, by default, serving the interests of those external forces.    

7. So, yes, it's about affiliation, the disastrous affiliation to parties with no interest in seeing the delivery of real justice and human rights. Supporting the Syrian people means opposing the dark manoeuvrings of 'our' elites in order to help prevent further bloodshed - and limit the West's related aggressions in the region, most immediately against Iran.

9. It also means helping to expose the slavish, contorted media output that, as with support for all other Western warmongering, is serving that aggressor agenda. 

10. On which vital note, you haven't responded to my main comments about your spurious charges against Media Lens. 

[Please excuse numbering error.]

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:

"In the Palestinian situation, there's a clear aggressor and an occupied, subjected people." Right. And there is no clear aggressor in Syria, no subjected people? Yes, Israeli Hasbaraniks don't see clear aggressors and subjected people in Israel-Palestine either.

This conversation is over.
On 16 August, the Pulse site published an article entitled What happened in Houla in which it referred to: "Stalinist outfits like Media Lens".

At some point on 17 August the word "Stalinist" was replaced with "reactionary".

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