Monday, 13 May 2013

The West's Syria 'conundrum' - BBC's problem-posing deception

How is the case for Western 'intervention' in Syria being presented and normalised by an 'impartial' BBC? 

From headline news to 'expert analysis', the BBC filters a reportage which, through routine exposure and viewer osmosis, is priming the public, once again, to think the unthinkable about 'military options' and 'bombing solutions'.

Following dutiful BBC protocol, and having to avoid open statements of support, it works, more pervasively, as a deeply-intimated language of leading words and signifiers all framed around a 'problem-posing' narrative which casts leaders like Obama and Cameron as 'well-intentioned players' trying to get their 'honest heads' around the 'limited options' of what can be done about Syria.

Here's some extracted examples of the 'conundrum' format from the BBC's North America correspondent Mark Mardell (comments italicised):
But Syria is the hard case. Both Europe and the US are slowly inching towards arming the rebels. But that commonplace phrase disguises the fact that the "arms" will be well short of anything the rebels actually want to finish this protracted business.

For Mardell, "hard case" is about the West finding ways of effecting its policies rather than exposing the West's own dark involvement or considering solutions that might benefit the Syrian people. It's also about finding ways of finalising the rebels' "protracted business" rather than ways of ending the killing.

For months now, the noises from Western capitals have vacillated between the cry "Something must be done!" and the forlorn reply "But what?"

No suggestion here that those cries could ever be mendacious or warmongering in content and tone. For Mardell, "the cry" from Western capitals is always benign, even when it's 'vacillating' or 'forlorn'.

One rather lame answer is the idea of a peace conference dangled by Russia.

And, of course, it must be "lame" if it's "dangled", like some slyly poisoned apple, by those in non-Western capitals.

But there's not much diplomatic chatter about the proposal, which seems more like a passing thought than a hard plan. I get the impression that the US and Europe will go along with what they privately regard as a bit of a charade only because they have no better ideas.

Perhaps the lack of chatter concerns a Western disinclination towards anything that doesn't ultimately involve the removal of Assad. No passing thought from Mardell on that possibility. Also, imagine Mardell using such prose to describe Israel's 'peace process' as a "bit of a charade", one that the US and Europe not only go along with "because they have no better ideas", but actively promote in order to stifle any real ideas that, in undermining Israel, would actually resolve the problem.

Which brings us back to "arming the rebels" and allied concepts like a no-fly zone.

Yes, the ever-returning possibilities of armed 'solutions', where things like 'no fly zones' assume all the benevolent overtones of "allied concepts" rather than strategic war-fuelling control. Why not 'bring us back' to ultimately-needed possible peace concepts, however difficult, of protracted talk and negotiation?

Enthusiasts insist it isn't that difficult - find the right sort of rebels and give them the weapons they need. But as one insider put it to me: "What if we give the minority we trust the good stuff and five miles down the road they run into a road block and Islamist nutters take it off them? How does that help?"

Again, the terrible 'weight of Western responsibility', the 'White Man's Burden'. Or, as Mardell intimates, the 'intractable problem' of how best to realise 'our wise and moral intervention'. The BBC doesn't actually have to endorse the "enthusiasts" or the 'wary doubters'. It's enough that their correspondents pitch the issue in this agenda-setting way.

No-one has any particularly good answers to this conundrum. We'll see today if the two leaders can come up with anything that squares the circle.

Yes, like Israel-Palestine, it's just another difficult "conundrum" for the West. As with the West's dark part in that 'endless conflict', nothing here about its cynical manoeuvrings in Syria's destruction. And, as ever, the enduring 'trust in ours': let's just watch and hope that 'our' leaders can find something in their reputable policy arsenals to square the circle.

It's not just the loaded words, the establishment-serving intimations, the service journalism, it's also the base intellectual poverty of Mardell's 'analysis'.

Here, by way of an antidote, is Patrick Cockburn's informed assessment of Western, notably British, deceptions in Syria and the region, past and present: History lesson the West refuses to learn.


Unknown said...

Thanks John, excellent analysis. I read that 'article' earlier today and you've managed to express exactly how I felt about it, albeit with less swearing.

John Hilley said...

Thanks David. Yes, sometimes BBC output can have that effect.

Maybe it should come with a health warning!;-)

Go well,

Anonymous said...

I can hear the sound of an axe grinding.

BBC-bashing never goes out of favour. As for Syria, I guess we just sit back, put our conscience at ease and watch what happens - it's not exactly on our doorstep, after all, is it?

John Hilley said...

"I can hear the sound of an axe grinding. BBC-bashing never goes out of favour."

How profound. How very sage. Any actual arguments?

Why 'axe grinding'? Isn't it fair to expose those in our state media speaking so relentlessly, so approvingly, so deferentially in the service of power?

And why 'BBC bashing', as though it's this passive, 'nice-bloke-next-door' entity just going about its innocent business?

Do you ever stop to ponder the actual propaganda function of the BBC, both in its system-supporting language and in its self-cultivated image of 'neutral, balanced' informer?

As for Syria, no, we most hopefully don't sit back and watch as our calculating governments plot and manoeuvre for another Iraq or Libya-type slaughter.

Your urgings, presumably, are the same 'Nato solutions' proposed by Cameron and Obama, the 'more guns' agenda covered so 'impartially' by Mardell.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine aren't exactly on our doorsteps either, but, dutifully amplified by the BBC, the West has pursued and supported murderous policies there, violence and spin that millions have actively rejected.

Should we just sit back, consciences eased, and watch as Downing Street and the BBC conjure and excuse more such military 'answers' for Syria? Or do we, at least, say something to challenge what's coming out of those war-promoting buildings? They're not exactly far from our own doorsteps, after all, are they?