New Internationalist

The Left must support the Syrian uprising!

The UN is hardly perfect. But it’s sometimes all we have, in terms of a worldwide vehicle for international diplomacy and for governments to make clear what they believe in, what they will stand for, and what they will not stand for; and so it is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of the UN states in the General Assembly, as well as in the Security Council, backing resolutions that make quite clear the world’s horror at what Assad and his minions are doing in Syria.

It’s sad, contrariwise, to see some on the ‘Left’ and in the ‘Peace Movement’ backing the stance of the ultra-authoritarian regimes in Moscow and Beijing, against the vast majority of world opinion, and effectively going soft on Bashar Assad’s murderous, corrupt and fascistic ‘government’ in Syria.

I’m referring, for instance, to the latest output from Medialens. They have failed to offer any solidarity to the heroic uprising that is the Arab Spring, while subtly trying to minimize the sense that there is a humanitarian catastrophe in Syria being perpetuated by the Assad junta, including playing down the casualty figures in Syria (except for those casualty figures being caused by the Free Syrian Army).

In Part 2 of their article, Medialens’s main sources on Syria consist of articles by Robert Dreyfuss and Aisling Byrne.

At one point in the Dreyfuss article, which Medialens cites favourably, he says:

‘Let me add that I agree 100 per cent with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister: “There are some in the West who have given evaluations of the vote on Syria in the United Nations Security Council that sound, I would say, indecent and perhaps on the verge of hysterical.”’

So Medialens, via Dreyfuss, lines up beside the quasi-totalitarian rulers of Russia (which has (not) incidentally an unbelievably dismal state of media freedom) against the brave revolutionaries of the Arab Spring in Syria. People like Medialens and those they cite are doing a brilliant job of discrediting ‘the Left’ and anti-imperialism.

The really crucial moment in Dreyfuss’s article is where he says that the casualty figures in Syria are ‘wildly exaggerated’. The figures for individual nights of bombing may be. But the overall figures are likely to be a serious underestimate, because of the very high number of ‘disappeared’; and because the UN has effectively given up trying to count, due to the dire state of communications in Syria – a country where the government is torturing, assaulting and murdering so many of its own people.

Byrne, meanwhile, alleges that claims of casualties caused in Syria are as dubious as claims of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam’s Iraq. This is gob-smacking, and an incredible insult to the families of the many thousands tortured, disappeared and executed in Syria. Byrne uses the difficulty of getting 100 per cent reliable information out of Syria – a difficulty caused by the Syrian ‘government’ itself! – as an excuse for not believing that anything like the horror story that is emerging clearly from Syria is really happening. She also cites and horribly over-interprets a dubious ‘poll’ (in any case: how would one reliably poll people in a police-state where the internet is constantly spied upon?) that purported to show that a majority of Syrians still support Assad, as further ‘evidence’.

So Byrne and Dreyfuss are informing MediaLens’s ‘critique’ of the Western media on Syria. This is what leads them to make remarks like the following on alleged Western media bias in reporting on Syria: that the casualty estimates there are only worth anything if we trust ‘unsubstantiated reports from ‘activists’ in Syria. Notice the scare-quoting of the word ‘activist’. MediaLens clearly hope to imply that these brave people demonstrating and struggling against systematic brutalization at the hands of torture and heavy weapons are in fact… what? Completely biased? Even ‘terrorists’? (As Assad claims.)

As for the word ‘unsubstantiated’: is MediaLens insisting that one should not believe the Syrian people, and should trust Assad’s government instead? Or is MediaLens, like Byrne, simply tacitly using the fact that the Assad ‘government’ bans all journalists not embedded with the ‘government’ as an excuse for thinking that NO reports of casualties in Syria should be believed?

Whatever MediaLens had in mind when writing these words, their effect is clear: to lessen the credibility of the Syrian revolution, and tacitly to increase the credibility of Assad’s black propaganda. This, apparently, is what being in favour of ‘peace’ or being on ‘the Left’ has come to: a mission to discredit the heroes of the Arab Spring in Syria and to offer succour to those (Putin, totalitarian China, and above all the war-criminal regime of Bashar Assad) who are responsible for killing and torturing them.

Sloppy sourcing and dogmatic prejudice are contributing to suffocating the authentic revolution in Syria. I am not referring to the corporate media; I am referring to those on the Left who ought to know better.

The simple fact that the Syrian regime will not allow the media in (except on utterly compromised terms) ought to impress us all deeply and make those genuinely interested in a better media landscape support the Syrian revolution. But MediaLens and their fellow-travellers do not seem to care about this. They are not moved by the pitiful lack of freedom of the press permitted in Syria.

We ought to be internationalists. We ought to be with the Arab Spring. We ought to unmask the lies of Assad, not belittle the desperate efforts of those he is trying to crush to get the truth out of Syria.

Dr Rupert Read is Reader in the UEA School of Philosophy, Chair of the Green House thinktank, and East of England Green Party Co-ordinator.

[An earlier version of this article first appeared on Open Democracy]

Comments on The Left must support the Syrian uprising!

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  1. #1 raymond 23 Feb 12

    The veto by Russia and China was correct and worthy of applause. Libya showed that you can't give the warmongering NATO countries even an inch or they'll just take a mile, and countless lives, in their endless ’regime change’ projects. If they are going to engage in mass murder for regime change, they should be made to do so in full criminal view with no UN figleaf for their aggression. Hopefully the veto signals that the world has learned a lesson from the criminal Libya regime change campaign.

  2. #2 coventrian 23 Feb 12

    If you go to the MediaLens website you will find that Read has monstrously distorted what they, Byrne and Dreyfuss have written. New Internationalist should be ashamed for allowing him a further platform for his smears.

  3. #3 medialensresponse 23 Feb 12

    Rupert Read has published another serious and baseless smear against us, this time on the New Internationalist website. He writes:

    'At one point in the Dreyfuss article, which Medialens cites favourably, he says:
    ’Let me add that I agree 100 per cent with Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister: There are some in the West who have given evaluations of the vote on Syria in the United Nations Security Council that sound, I would say, indecent and perhaps on the verge of hysterical.’'

    'So Medialens, via Dreyfuss, lines up beside the quasi-totalitarian rulers of Russia (which has (not) incidentally an unbelievably dismal state of media freedom) against the brave revolutionaries of the Arab Spring in Syria. People like Medialens and those they cite are doing a brilliant job of discrediting ’the Left’ and anti-imperialism.'

    We cited a single comment from Dreyfuss's article in The Nation - on media reporting of the death toll in Syria - to which we linked:

    'The killings in Syria are ugly, but no doubt wildly exaggerated. Nearly all, repeat all, of the information about the violence in Syria is coming from a handful of exiled Syrian opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various Western powers. Did 200 people really die in Homs this past weekend, conveniently just on the eve of the UNSC debate [on the resolution]? Who knows?
    The only source for the fishy information, though ubiquitously quoted in the New York Times, the wire services, the network news and elsewhere, are the suspect Syrian opposition groups, who have axes galore to grind.'
    (http://www.thenation.com/blog/166096/united-states-should-stay-out-syria)

    What kind of journalism is it that uses words on a separate issue that we did not write, and did not cite, as the basis for the repugnant accusation that 'Media Lens... lines up beside the quasi-totalitarian rulers of Russia' and is thus 'doing a brilliant job of discrediting ’the Left’ and anti-imperialism'?

    Media Lens never 'lines up beside' the Russian, or any other, tyranny, as we recently explained here:
    http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=3285

    The rest of Read's article is at a similar level of honesty. He claims:

    'Byrne, meanwhile, alleges that claims of casualties caused in Syria are as dubious as claims of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq. This is gob-smacking, and an incredible insult to the families of the many thousands tortured, disappeared and executed in Syria.'

    Again, we didn't write this this or quote Byrne on it. As with Dreyfuss, we cited a single paragraph from Byrne's article in the Asia Times. But anyway, when we check the article, we find this is all that Byrne wrote on the subject:

    'Hiding behind the rubric - ’we are not able to verify these statistics’ - the lack of integrity in reporting by the Western mainstream media has been starkly apparent since the onset of events in Syria. A decade after the Iraq war, it would seem that no lessons from 2003 - from the demonization of Saddam Hussein and his purported weapons of mass destruction - have been learnt.'
    (http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NA05Ak03.html)

    Nowhere does Byrne allege that 'claims of casualties caused in Syria are as dubious as claims of weapons of mass destruction in Saddam's Iraq'. The very different point is that journalists are yet again swallowing the US-UK government-approved version of events in Syria without serious challenge.

    We could go on...

  4. #4 Simon Hayward 23 Feb 12

    Note that elsewhere Mr Read denounces those that have expressed doubts about military intervention as ’dictator lovers’ (twitter) a smear worthy of Tony Blair. It appears that Mr Read is angling for a similar role as TB has in the Labour Party, within the Green Party.

  5. #5 greenglow 23 Feb 12

    Read's criticisms appear to be based on his own rather curious reading of some sources quoted by Medialens. I am shocked that Read, a fairly prominent figure in the Green Party, holds views that are more or less identical to the Tories or the Labour party when it comes to war. Awful.

  6. #6 Kimon Daltas 23 Feb 12

    It is hard to understand what Dr Read is trying to achieve here. I urge anyone reading this to actually go to the original Medialens articles that he refers to, because they really are peferctly reasonable - if they were saying what Dr Read claims, then his anger would possibly be justified, but they don't!

    To talk about 'dogmatic prejudice' while forcing everything into black and white, and having to completely misrepresent arguments in order to manage it, seems a tad rich.

  7. #7 Tony Shenton 23 Feb 12

    Media Lens have examined coverage of atrocities committed by 'us' and compared it to coverage of atrocities carried by those who have been designated official enemies.

    When the corporate media report that the the Syrian regime is slaughtering innocent civilians, a quote from an unnamed dissident suffices as evidence. Paradoxically, when it is claimed that 'we' are responsible for mass slaughter, even the most credible evidence that has been published in one of the world's leading scientific journals will be vehemently attacked by the Guardian and Independent. Can Read provide evidence that shows that this is not the case?

  8. #8 chir0n 23 Feb 12

    I would urge anyone reading this piece to take the time to actually read the medialens alerts or Syria for themselves.

  9. #9 John Leach 23 Feb 12

    ’is MediaLens insisting that one should not believe the Syrian people, and should trust Assad’s government instead?’

    Medialens are showing that one should be sceptical of the mainstream media. Their bias towards western power is clear to anyone willing to take a close look. I don't know why Rupert Read thinks this situation is suddenly the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  10. #10 Ged Travers 23 Feb 12

    I'm confused by this article. Mr Read urges `The Left` to support the Syrian uprising yet demonstrates no detailed knowledge of the political forces that are lined up against each other there. He causes further confusion by not specifically stating to whom his diatribe is directed beyond some fuzzy notion of what we might understand by `The Left` a broad term at best but Read renders it positively opaque.

  11. #11 Dave 23 Feb 12

    The Syrian uprising has ample support from the British government and so doesn't need support from the Left. Unless of course you don't wish to see any meaningful opposition to ruthless imperial power, once again being employed to ensnare a sovereign nation into the western debt-based capital machine.

    It should come as no surprise that the UK is already in breach of international law with regards to Syria. With its not-so-covert intervention, under the umbrella of the same ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) mantra which justified the murder of over 100,000 innocent Libyans, the UK government is happy once again to flout United Nations resolutions while claiming to be offering humanitarian assistance.

    UNGA Resolution 2625 states:
    No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements are in violation of international law.

    This is the Libya 2.0 remix, once again starring civilians bombed into democracy and this time featuring Turkey; in the absence of the mission-creep-inducing UN security council resolution authorising a no-fly-zone (which Russia and China were always going to veto this time around) those kind Turks have stepped in to fan the flames of civil war by allowing commandos from French intelligence and the British MI6 to setup military bases in Hatay in southern Turkey to train the Free Syrian Army in urban guerilla warfare techniques. These include bombing heavily populated areas and random sniper fire to cause maximum confusion amongst the population.

    The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is mostly made up of mercenaries, with a few disgruntled locals and some Syrian army deserters (Assad regime still has over 60% support of the population). With the blessing of the Libyan Transitional Nation Council chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, over 1600 highly motivated troops, fresh from the rape, torture and murder carried out during the toppling of the Gaddafi regime, have been sent to fight alongside the FSA. Others include Qatari regulars (on leave and out of uniform) as well as ‘private contractors’ from NATO countries including some of those recently seen in Iraq. A huge contingent of mercenaries is drawn from Reflex Responses (R2), the outfit cobbled together last year by Eric Prince, CEO of Blackwater now Xe (Xe was recently sold to the biggest multinational engaged in the ‘science of death’, Monsanto) to fight in Libya. There’s no rest for the wicked!

    The cover story for the Turkish command centre (and a similar base setup in Tripoli, northern Lebanon) is to engineer ''humanitarian corridors'' to Syria.

    According to Pepe Escabar “... these ''humanitarians'' come from NATO members US, Canada and France, and [Gulf Cooperation Council] GCC members Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, their cover is that they're only innocent ''monitors'', and not part of NATO. Needless to say these humanitarians consist of ground, naval, air force and engineering specialists. Their mission: infiltrate northern Syria, especially Idlib, Rastan, Homs, but most of all the big prize, Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, with at least 2.5 million people, the majority of which are Sunni and Kurdish.”

    British MI6 operatives and UKSF (SAS/SBS) personnel have reportedly been training the rebels in urban warfare as well as supplying them with arms and equipment. US CIA operatives and Special Forces are believed to be providing communications assistance to the rebels.

  12. #12 Ajit 23 Feb 12

    All you have to do is to read both Medialens and Rupert Read's articles. His misreading of medialens arguments are so transparent.

  13. #13 Peter Jenner 23 Feb 12

    This article exhibits an appalling mixture of hysteria and naivety. Unfortunately, the situation is more complex than good 'Arab Spring' revolutionaries versus wicked tyranny (and it is a wicked tyranny, of course, just to be clear). The make up of opposition to the regime is not clear and is likely to include a variety of forces with very different agendas. Some of these will include secular democrats, which 'the Left'(whatever that is) should support. Some will have Islamicist agendas and/or sectarian agendas. Others doubtless will be content to act as proxies for Western interests.

    The author shows no understanding of the wider geopolitical context. The West wants regime change as part of its ongoing agenda to extend its power in the Middle East with next stop obviously being Iran. It will use whatever means at its disposal for this end. The important factor is not whether a new regime is democratic but whether it is compliant with western interests.

    Russia and China are very well aware of this agenda - a new version of the great game - which is why they opposed the UN resolution.

    We have seen the results of western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Bad situations made worse and corpses piled up in the hundreds of thousands. There is no reason to think that 'intervention' in Syria would create a better outcome. Power elites in Washington and London care as little about the ordinary Syrian as those in Beijing and Moscow. Of course, ordinary citizens do care and can be easily manipulated by propagandists in the media to support actions that ultimately further the agenda of those elite interests rather than those of ordinary people.

    All Medialens are doing is to try to point this out. This does not imply support for tyranny or a lining up with 'quasi-totalitarian rulers'. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise and is a total misrepresentation of ML's position.

    It is sad to think that a leading member of the Green Party can be so easily duped. Or perhaps it is part of an attempt to make the Greens seem more mainstream and narrower in focus within the 'accepted' parameters exhibited by the 'three main parties'. Dr Read is rightly concerned about the lack of democracy in other parts of the world. Perhaps he could address the 'democratic deficit' in his own country.

  14. #14 Peter Jenner 23 Feb 12

    I notice that there has been a distinct lack of support for Dr Read. Perhaps Comical Ollie (Oliver Kamm) can be persuaded to drop by. Or maybe he's already in Syria with the 'rebels' and all the other wannabee Orwell's.

  15. #16 paul 23 Feb 12

    Hi Rupert,

    Your position on Syria is fraudulent. As it turns out HOMS is infested with foreigners. Sarkozy is going through diplomatic channels to get a contingent of French soldiers released!

    In this respect medialens needs no defending.

  16. #17 PAUL 23 Feb 12

    Hi Rupert.

    Gosh you remind of Juan Cole on Libya. Perhaps you guys should get together for a good bruhaha?

    Your position on Syria is fraudulent. As it turns out HOMS is infested with foreigners. Sarkozy is going through diplomatic channels to get a contingent of French soldiers released!

    In this respect medialens needs no defending.

  17. #18 Rupert Read 23 Feb 12

    ’Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.’

    Thanks, everyone!

    Rationality and respect in the usual fashion typical of MediaLensistas.

    Most of the comments attacking me here have already been replied to by me or others in the comments below http://www.opendemocracy.net/rupert-read/syria-my-enemy%E2%80%99s-enemy-is-not-my-friend . So no need to engage with them here.

    One that is particularly annoying is the claim that I support military intervention in Syria. I would be extremely grateful if it could be pointed out to me where in this article I support such intervention. . .
    The UN resolutions which MediaLens take such pleasure in having been vetoed by those beacons of democracy Russia and China (though supported by most of the world's countries) do not call for military intervention. And yet, for supporting those resolutions, I am pilloried.

    The level of quality of most of the comments attacking me here is nicely demonstrated by the commenter who calls me a Monbiot clone - and thinks that that is a terrible insult or put-down. It shows how far up the Khyber of Leftist sectarianism most of these comments are.

    For now, I will add just this. You people make my case for me. Your level of disconnect with reality, your level of lack of support for the Arab Spring, your level of denial concerning what is taking place in Homs and in many places across Syria, is exactly what I was writing about.

    Nice work. QED.

    Why dont you try reading or watching Marie Colvin's final reports from Homs before she was killed in a massive assault by Assad's butchers, if you want to get some picture of what it is you are in denial about? But I suppose you don't need to do that: given that she wrote for the corporate media, she can simply be ignored (or perhaps pilloried)...

  18. #19 Rupert Read 23 Feb 12

    As for Medialens's own reply to me here: It is very common practice for MediaLens in their alerts to question the reliability of sources by looking at the totality of what those sources say in their relevant articles. I have done exactly that: I showed, primarily by analysing the very articles that MediaLens quoted from, how Dreyfuss and Byrne are unreliable, prejudicial/prejudiced sources. I am still waiting for MediaLens to acknowledge that (or to acknowledge the same about Chossudovsky).
    So: Medialens's attack on me as 'dishonest' is of course itself dishonest. I was applying one of their standard tropes to their own article / their own source. They fall their own test. End of.

  19. #20 Rupert Read 23 Feb 12

    One interesting question is this: Why is MediaLens's reply to me here so much more unpleasant and rhetorically-dubious than the measured reply they gave the earlier [fuller] version of my critique (http://www.opendemocracy.net/rupert-read/syria-my-enemy%E2%80%99s-enemy-is-not-my-friend) ? The two pieces were essentially the same, the piece here on the NI site just slightly updated and significantly shortened. So: why the different treatment of me across the two? Why the new dodgy accusations, this time around?
    Here is a hypothesis: MediaLens seemed to take much pride, at the end of that earlier reply to me, from the fact that their alerts criticising the UN had been published on the New Internationalist website, whereas I was 'only' writing on Open Democracy. Well, now my piece has been published by NI too. So their pride is wounded. And they realise that I'm not just going to shrink like a violet and go away.

  20. #21 Christopher 23 Feb 12

    Rupert's replies here managed to raise a deep chuckle in me, so at least I can thank him for that after a long day.

    I would assume that most people reading this will already have read @medialens' texts; please do this if you haven't.

    I see Rupert as deliberately misrepresenting and obfuscating the points @medialens makes. But then I don't need to convince anybody of this, as even a casual reading of @medialens' articles makes that patently clear.

    I had two comments of mine deleted on the opendemocracy.net article Rupert wrote, when I suggested that this obfuscation of his may be motivated by his evident mainstream political ambitions. I see others here have also made the same point and their comments have yet to be deleted.

    Although Rupert does not explicitly say he supports military intervention, he does say that those who are ’genuinely interested in a better media landscape’ should ’support the Syrian revolution’. Given the corporate media reports of the militarisation of the Syrian revolution, then it could well be said that Rupert +already+ supports it.

  21. #22 Parallax 23 Feb 12

    Rupert,

    Has it perhaps occurred to you that the current spate of violence in Syria is precisely what the US wants - from an imperial point of view? Consider, if you will, the following collection of Wikileaks cables proving active US support for the Syrian opposition movement:

    'The US is looking for tools rather than partners':
    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2006/02/06DAMASCUS760.html#

    Strategic civil society funding (incl. building fake Human Rights Network:
    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/01/07DAMASCUS26.html#
    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/03/07DAMASCUS231.html#
    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/06/09DAMASCUS433.html#

    'The USG has little recent experience dealing with the SARG on issues of substance. From our vantage point, however, we see several elements key to a successful approach:

    'Writing the script: In re-engaging with the SARG, the trick would be to not get caught up in Bashar's technical scenario but to choreograph a sequence of events that would require the SARG to make significant policy choices, of increasing importance, at each step of the way.

    A balance would have to be struck between keeping the SARG in there active mode and forcing it into a shell of obstructionism.'

    http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/01/09DAMASCUS82.html#

    See also this cable in the Washington Post
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/us-secretly-backed-syrian-opposition-groups-cables-released-by-wikileaks-show/2011/04/14/AF1p9hwD_story.html

    It seems to me - and I am by no means at Middle East expert - that these sources indicate a sustained campaign on the part of the US to overthrow the Assad government. Now, as you know, this type of covert activity, intended to destabilise a sovereign state, is explicitly against international law; yet, thanks to Wikileaks, we know that the US has been engaging in just such activity. Might it not therefore be possible to envisage a scenario in which some members of the Syrian opposition are being controlled by western agencies / governments? And if so, what type of game plan might this suggest? Before screaming that this is 'mere conspiracy!' please look at how the US funded the Contras, Taliban and other terrorist element in order to achieve their aims.

    I also notice that you say nothing about the constitutional reforms that the Assad government has offered to the opposing side; reforms which have been rejected at every step of the way. Yet surely it is only by investing in some form of negotiated settlement that peace will become a real possibility? Surely it is better to engage in talks of this type without preconditions than taking up arms? I appreciate that many people in Syria do want to live in a more egalitarian society; but I cannot see how this can be achieved without deep engagement in the political system. We wouldn't advise London rioters, also disaffected by the current government, to overthrow it in a bloody war - would we? It therefore seems acceptable to consider the Russian and Chinese position - which advocates restraint and peaceful talks - over a UN resolution which calls for sanctions and immediate regime change (which, given Assad's large support base, would lead to an increase in bloodshed).

    Finally, you don't appear to realise that ML's position - vis a vis the recent UN resolution against Syria - is the same position taken up by Seumus Milne and other left-leaning intellectuals. Is there any reason why you are attacking Media Lens and not them? Surely Media Lens, who has an infinitely smaller following than, say, the Guardian, poses much less of a threat to mainstream opinion than a Milne? So please do explain, if you can, why Media Lens has been singled out in particular.

    P.S. The scepticism to the current UN resolution shown by ML actually makes a lot of sense to me. Why? Because UNSC1973 was destroyed root and branch by NATO forces in a desperate and bloody rush for oil, market liberalisation, and gold. The wording effectively gave NATO the right to do whatever it liked to Libya - and it took advantage of its shoddy wording, make no mistake. Thanks to this fact, LIbya is a complete basket case. Thousands of people have been killed, millions have been displaced, and entire towns have been levelled by bombs and gang violence. The situation is desperate, with racial cleansing a common feature of Libyan society. Understanding this, I think it is incumbent on all intellectuals to do what they can to prevent yet further western expansionism in the middle east. If the UK, France and others would only ask the opposition to engage in talks, I am sure that, over time - and just as in Northern Ireland - a peaceful solution can be found.

  22. #23 SFlynn 23 Feb 12

    Hi Rupert,
    You write-
    ’At one point in the Dreyfuss article, which Medialens cites favourably, he says:

    ‘Let me add that I agree 100 per cent with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister: “There are some in the West who have given evaluations of the vote on Syria in the United Nations Security Council that sound, I would say, indecent and perhaps on the verge of hysterical.”’

    So Medialens, via Dreyfuss, lines up beside the quasi-totalitarian rulers of Russia (which has (not) incidentally an unbelievably dismal state of media freedom) against the brave revolutionaries of the Arab Spring in Syria. People like Medialens and those they cite are doing a brilliant job of discrediting ‘the Left’ and anti-imperialism.’


    I think it is a distortion to say that Medialens, via Dreyfuss, 'lines up beside the quasi-totalitarian rulers of Russia' against the 'brave revolutionaries' on the basis of the evidence you provided.

    Dreyfuss commented that he 100% agrees with the Russian fm who said some reactions to the vote in the West were indecent and perhaps hysterical. You can disagree with that but it would be a bit of a leap to say that Dreyfuss is lining up behind Russia against the brave revolutionaries in Syria.

    Medialens quoted the following passage from Dreyfuss-
    ’The killings in Syria are ugly, but no doubt wildly exaggerated. Nearly all, repeat all, of the information about the violence in Syria is coming from a handful of exiled Syrian opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various Western powers. Did 200 people really die in Homs this past weekend, conveniently just on the eve of the UNSC debate [on the resolution]? Who knows? The only source for the fishy information, though ubiquitously quoted in the New York Times, the wire services, the network news and elsewhere, are the suspect Syrian opposition groups, who have axes galore to grind’.

    This clearly elucidates their point that the mainstream media are basing their reports on information supplied by exiled Syrian opposition groups, which may or may not be accurate. And this contributes towards their argument that the mainstream media apply different burdens of proof depending on the subject. A double-standard. (By the way, Dreyfuss suggests ’Nearly all, repeat all, of the information about the violence in Syria is coming from a handful of exiled Syrian opposition groups backed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and various Western powers.’ He is not commenting on the brave revolutionaries themselves is he? Is it true that nearly all of the information being supplied is from the type of groups he refers to?

    To suggest that via this quote, Medialens are lining up alongside Russia against brave revolutionaries is highly misleading. Yes Russia opposed the UN resolution and Medialens have expressed concerns about a resolution being passed. But they have elaborated on this point and it is obvious that Medialens do not support Russia or Assad as opposed to brave revolutionaries. They have concerns for what might happen to the people of Syria should a resolution be passed based on what happened in Libya (and many other examples) and the possible motivations of Western intervention. Their focus appears to be on the double-standards that are applied in the media and the distortions of truth that occur. You can disagree with them, obviously, but to suggest that by quoting that passage of Dreyfuss is to line up beside Russia against brave revolutionaries is, well, ludicrous and does not address the focus of their argument.

    But you know this already I imagine.
    Hope you do not find this post disrespectful.

  23. #24 Kimon Daltas 23 Feb 12

    It is true that some of the comments have been a little, ahem, fruity, but I can understand that people can get a little upset by what you write, Dr Read.

    You, rightly to my mind, complain that it is not appropriate to accuse you of supporting military intervention; similarly, many people here who have read and broadly agreed with points made on the recent Media Lens alerts, will feel that you are castigating them for opinions they *do not* hold. They are angry at having their opinions misrepresented, not disagreed with!

    What seems sad to me is that you, George Monbiot and us MediaLensistas (if you insist...) all share a deep concern for loss of life. We all despise brutal and tyrannical regimes. We all support grass-roots activism, and we all saw the Arab Spring with great optimism. I'm pretty sure that's true for everyone here.

    Is it so heinous to voice concern that a US invasion is on the cards, and that a UN resolution would be used to pave the way, like in Libya?

    Is it so unreasonable to point out the disparity in mass media reporting on civilian deaths in Syria compared to, say, Iraq, where it's us doing the killing? (Remember, this is coming from Media Lens, which is about media analysis. Not a soi-disant mouthpiece for 'the left', whatever that is.)

    None of this is backing-the-stance, lining-up-beside or going-soft, effectively, actually, in word, or in deed.

    It's concerned analysis. And it stems from the same gut instinct that lead you to the Green Party rather than BAE Systems.

  24. #25 John_ 25 Feb 12

    Both you and MediaLens are both very silly for getting dragged into this. The long term future of Syria depends on the west not persistently exploiting and maintaining the the inequalities of power that exist between the West and 'developing' nations. Until we stop using our power to exploit other countries, supporting security council resolutions that could lead to war, even if this might have short term utilitarian gains, just further entrenches neoliberal discourses. Stop being naive. Support the Syria uprising, but don't allow the debate to be led by the UN.

  25. #26 Rupert Read 27 Feb 12

    So, no apology at all for the impolite, aggressive and abusive tone with which I have been handled in these comments. Quelle surprise.

  26. #27 Rupert Read 27 Feb 12

    Thanks Kimon and John_ for your thoughtful remarks. A pleasant contrast to the extremely unpleasant flak that most of the previous comments consisted in.
    John, I don't necessarily disagree with you. But the point is that any discussion of the UN - and it is not an unimportant body in these matters - should be responsible. ML's was not.
    For the problem with your remark, Kimon, is this: There just is no comparison between the UN SC and GA Resolutions on Libya and on Syria. The Libya resolution called for ’all necessary measures’ - the strongest possible wording on UN-backed military intervention. The Syria resolutions were only calling on the Assad govt to stop killing its own people, and calling for various diplmatic etc. measures. They had no military aspect at all.
    They were chalk and cheese.

  27. #28 New Internationalist 27 Feb 12

    We would remind our readers that personal attacks against our writers are not acceptable. The above comments have been moderated and this piece is now closed for comment.

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