“Look up”, la vidéo qui voudrait que la génération Y rentre un peu dans le rang

12 May

Salut Gary,

j’ai eu l’occasion de voir en entier ta vidéo (comme 32 millions de personnes) grâce à un de mes faux « friends » qui l’a partagé sur son « wall » afin qu’il apparaisse sur mon « newsfeed »

C’était dur, vraiment dur, surtout la musique qu’on croirait sorti d’une pub pour un groupe d’alcooliques anonymes. Cela dit cela m’a quand même inspiré, je me demande si je peux atteindre les 32 millions de vues si je mets la même musique sur une vidéo de chats… à tester.

« Oh le vilain jaloux, il est pas content parce que Gary lui, son message il a eu 32 millions de vues. » Evidemment que je suis jaloux, si seulement mon message pouvait atteindre 32 millions de personnes… et les critiques, grands dieux les critiques «  un des plus importants messages adressé à la génération y »… En vérité c’est surtout cette critique qui m’irrite. Car ton message, Gary, n’est pas vraiment neuf. Il est vieux, très vieux même et il fait partie d’un système réactionnaire qui vise à écraser l’esprit de la génération Y (ou appelles la comme tu veux).

C’est la raison pour laquelle ta vidéo a eu 32 millions de like, est diffusé en masse sur les réseaux sociaux et commenté par centaines de milliers de smileys. Le paradoxe ultime : ton message est « look up » et la première chose que font les gens qui voient cette vidéo c’est de look down vers leurs claviers pour aller la partager sur les réseaux sociaux.

 

“We are a generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people”

” Smartphones and dumb people ” d’accord, mais où est il prouvé qu’on serait moins stupide sans smartphones ? Pour la première fois dans l’histoire depuis l’invention du Trivial Pursuit, n’importe qui avec la 3G peut répondre à n’importe quelle question et les grands timides (dont je suis) peuvent eux aussi enfin retrouver leur chemin dans la jungle urbaine grâce au GPS.

C’est pas tant qu’on est stupide c’est surtout qu’on est pratique, plus besoin de passer une heure à tourner en rond pour trouver son chemin mais hop, en deux secondes 10 on se retrouve là où on voulait aller. La plupart du temps, lorsqu’on cherche son chemin c’est souvent pour aller à un endroit qu’on ne connaît pas donc découvrir et rencontrer des gens (des vrais amis). Paradoxalement (mais tu n’y avait pas pensé) grâce à mon smartphone je sors tout de suite de chez moi sans plus prendre 1 heure à la maison à étudier le plan papier pour me repérer.

Si tu veux vraiment taper dans la touriste tu peux aller zoner près des grands monuments essayer de repérer les deux nenettes perdues qui hoche bêtement la tête entre leur écran et le nom de la rue qu’elles essayent de lire et là hop, tu va les aborder.

Après quand tu es une fille, rester le nez dans ton smartphone peut aussi éviter pas mal de mauvaise rencontre ou de situation pas très chouette. Du genre quand tu as le malheur d’être en été en minijupe devant un groupe de caillera l’idée c’est pas trop « look up » mais plutôt « merci mon smartphone de m’éviter d’avoir à répondre à ces connards que non je vais pas les sucer ».

Quand tu regardes un peu le site paye ta shnek tu te dis que le smartphone même éteint a du quand même sauver des vies.

Bref ton conseil « look up » c’est pas toujours génial, d’ailleurs 32 millions de personnes déjà ont été voir ta vidéo et l’ont partagé plutôt que de « look up » c’est déjà un indicateur. Toi même tu n’y crois pas trop, je veux dire, tu parles tout seul à une caméra c’est triste un peu. Et, comble de l’hypocrisie, tu attends la fin de la vidéo pour dire aux gens d’éteindre leur écran et de sortir. Tu serais vraiment burné tu aurais commencé par ça, là ca fait un peu « ouais sortez le nez de vos écrans mais faites-moi du like quand même, c’est mon métier, vidéaste, faut bien bouffer. »

 

Et un message bien réac venu du fond des ages

Le problème comme je disais donc et le sujet de cette lettre qui sera liké par mes 4 ou 5 véritables amis, c’est qu’avec le conseil stupide vient un message réactionnaire qui vise à détruire un peu l’esprit rebelle de cette génération Y qui continue de résister encore et toujours aux codes et aux catégories.

Y parce que « why » pourquoi. C’est pas vraiment qu’on demande tout le temps pourquoi ceci ou cela et que le why est devenu une forme de contestation et de remise en cause du système par toute une génération. C’est aussi que nos aînés (pas tous, certains seulement) se demandent à notre sujet « why » pourquoi ces jeunes qui ont l’ai si stupides et si facilement manipulable continuent de ne pas se laisser avoir et refusent de rentrer dans ces petits codes dont a besoin toute bonne société réac.

Ce qui m’a mis la puce (électronique) à l’oreille (bionique) c’est quand tu conseilles de lâcher facebook ou candy crush et d’être productif. « Be productive », celle-là on nous la fait souvent. Les parents te la font, ton boss te la fait, pardon, pas ton boss mais ton « directeur de stage » qui t’exploite sans te payer et qui trouve scandaleux que tu sois sur facebook avec tes potes plutôt que sur la page facebook de la boite à faire du like aux nouveaux produits qui doivent toucher les jeunes.

Bref, le coup de « being productive macht frei » on nous le fait un peu souvent et ça vient en général du haut de la pyramide (le premier qui me fait une réflexion sur cette phrase je lui fais recopier 100 fois « je dois sortir de chez moi et look up au lieu de troller les points godwin »).

 

Ah l’amour au XIXeme siècle…

L’autre vision insupportable c’est celle de l’amour. Mai 68 et la libération sexuelle c’est de la merde, l’avenir de l’homme c’est la famille pour tous. Tu rencontres une personne, tu lui sors une bague avec un gros caillou, tu t’installe avec elle pour partager le même pieu pendant les 60 prochaines années de ta vie productive et tu attends que la lumière de ton monde ce soit des gamins qui font la même chose. Voilà un bel idéal pour la génération Y, qu’elle rentre enfin dans le rang. Qu’elle arrête un peu ces errances de fuck friend, speed dating, divorce, carrière au lieu des gosses, coups d’un soir, walk of shame ou toutes ces petites choses un peu grise que la morale réac réprouve.

Ces petites choses toutes en couleur en fait pour nous les Y qui font que l’amour est plein de surprise, de vécu, d’expériences, de douleur et de bonheur incertain, de découvertes, de rencontres, de petites cases relationnelles qu’on passe notre vie à foutre en l’air et toutes ces nouvelles formes de relation qu’on invente. On se cherche, on se trouve, on se chauffe, on couche, on met des capotes, parfois on oublie, on joue, on se marie pour divorcer, on fait des relations à distance, on coche la case « it’s complicated » sur Facebook parce que le but c’est de vivre, pas d’être vieux le plus vite possible.

 

Et les enfants, ils étaient si heureux dans les pubs kinder

Quant à l’enfance idyllique où on courait joyeusement dans les prés c’est aussi un peu du délire pour une écrasante majorité des gamins de la planète et ça m’étonnerait, Gary, que quand ta fille va te donner le choix entre un Ipad ou un poney pour son anniversaire, tu choisisses de vivre dans la paille et le crottin pour 15 ans de ta vie…

La télé et mario bros, Zelda et Mégaman 2 ont été des grandes étapes fondatrices et je remercierais jamais assez bip bip et le coyote et minus et cortex (que j’ai totalement et illégalement téléchargé sur internet récemment) de toute l’éducation qu’ils ont pu m’offrir et des valeurs que j’ai faites mienne grâce à eux : l’ambition, l’obstination même face à l’échec, la valeur d’un plan bien étudié, la possibilité de foirage total de ce plan face aux circonstances imprévues… La télé m’a éduqué car la télé m’a donné un pouvoir : le pouvoir de zapper.

Zapper est un pouvoir que ne connaissent pas nos parents. C’est un pouvoir extrême, avec toute une série de sous fonctions : réduire le son, changer de chaîne, avance rapide… Zapper demande un minimum de concentration mais permet à nos cerveaux d’effectuer un opportun dédoublement de la réalité dès lors qu’elle nous apparaîtra comme ennuyeuse. L’on pourra ainsi, selon les souhaits, zapper un état, une personne, une situation… il ne s’agit pas simplement de ne pas porter attention en mettant le nez dans son smartphone, c’est plus fort que cela.

L’on peut d’instinct savoir quand interviendra la coupure pub, pourquoi le méchant en voulait à la jolie fille et lequel des deux noirs qui fait des mauvaises blagues va se faire bouffer par le croco. Car qui dit zapper dit inévitablement revenir sur la chaîne qu’on souhaitait zapper au départ. Il est donc important de savoir où on en est dans le dédoublement des réalités. Une fonction, cependant, nous est inaccessible : le off. Jamais de off, ça ne se fait pas. On ne off pas quelqu’un, on le zappe. Par définition, celui qui off perd le pouvoir de zapper. C’est là toute notre puissance : nous savons que le off n’existe pas. Nous savons que nous ne pourrons jamais que zapper et que le off n’est qu’un leurre.

 

La réalité, en vrai c’est chiant parfois

La réalité, Gary est souvent d’un ennui mortel et le smartphone là encore nous permet de zapper. Un trajet en bus ça n’a pas forcément grand intérêt. une réunion de bureau qui sert à rien car on répète ce qu’on a déjà dit la semaine d’avant ca peut vite devenir mortel. un mauvais rencard où on a rien d’autre à faire que de se regarder dans le blanc des yeux en se creusant la tête de savoir lequel du « il fait beau aujourd’hui » ou de « tu fais quoi dans la vie » va réussir à sauver 20 secondes de conversation, c’est à mourir. Et ça se zappe. Et l’on sait aussi que ca ne se off pas.

Ni le smartphone, ni la chiante réalité ne peuvent se zapper. Et toute notre génération sait déjà cela. Toi même Gary, tu le sais, c’est pour cela que tu attends la fin de la vidéo pour nous dire de off, sachant pertinemment que ton message aura l’effet d’un rêve irréalisable, un idéal impossible qu’à défaut d’atteindre on ira partager sur facebook.

Ta vidéo nous touche car elle nous rappelle cet idéal de vie d’une pub Kinder ou Nutella de notre enfance : famille parfaite, sourires ultra bright et parents hétérosexuels aimant distribuant à leurs enfants blonds des bons produits Danone qu’ils aient toute la journée l’énergie de courir dans les champs de blé.

C’est pour ça qu’on la partage plutôt que d’obéir, pour conjurer dans une sublimation virtuelle, cette relique d’idéal commercial inscrite dans les tréfonds de notre inconscient par une armée de publicitaires, de commentateurs ou de donneurs de leçons sur la jeunesse qui ne se comporte pas comme il faudrait. Partager cette vidéo en mettant un like c’est déjà la zapper, s’en débarrasser en la refilant au voisin.

Maintenant, évidemment, le conseil à toi Gary (et à toi lecteur qui a eu le courage de lire ce post jusqu’au bout) : do not look up. Zappe, zappe tout de suite sur un truc intéressant, une des infinies perles que l’internet peut offrir.

En voilà une, c’est cadeau

DEBUNKED: Syrian rebels admit to AP reporter they mishandled the chemical weapons given by Saudi Arabia

3 Sep

EDIT (on 21/09/2013) : We recieved from Dale Gavlak the following statement:

Mint Press News incorrectly used my byline for an article it published on August 29, 2013 alleging chemical weapons usage by Syrian rebels referenced in your story. Despite my repeated requests, made directly and through legal counsel, they have not been willing to issue a retraction stating that I was not the author. Yahya Ababneh is the sole reporter and author of the Mint Press News piece. To date, Mint Press News has refused to act professionally or honestly in regards to disclosing the actual authorship and sources for this story.

I did not travel to Syria, have any discussions with Syrian rebels, or do any other reporting on which the article is based. The article is not based on my personal observations and should not be given credence based on my journalistic reputation. Also, it is false and misleading to attribute comments made in the story as if they were my own statements.

I would appreciate your removing all references to me from your story.

Dale Gavlak

We asked Dale to give us more information about the story behind this article and why MintPress used Gavlak’s name. Here is the article as it was firstly published on september 3 2013

The Case :

Rebels admit to AP reporter they used chemical weapon. These weapons where given to them by Saudi Intelligence Chief Bandar bin Sultan. Rebels did not knew how to use them and they mishandled them, this is what happened in Ghouta.
Here is the original MintPress article

The Lie :

First the obvious lie : Dale Gavlak is not AP correspondant. Gavlak has been on a few stories (here is the list : these are much less controversial) but in this case, Gavlak works for Mintpress, a young info website close to Occupy Wall Street movement.

Gavlak has, via twitter, tried to specified that the article was not an AP Story. But of course, it was the AP initials that interested conspirationists and pro-Assad websites : Infowars called AP and asked them if Dale Gavlak had worked for them. AP said yes and now Infowars can say it is confirmed Dale Gavlak works for AP.

Gavlak also works for the Time of Israel. Although it is not a crime, Gavlak is a « time of Israel » reporter as much as an AP reporter but somehow, that part of Gavlak’s CV does not appear on infowars or other conspirationists and anti-imperiaists websites.

The second obvious lie is the disclaimer in the very end of the article that reads :

Some information in this article could not be independently verified. Mint Press News will continue to provide further information and updates.

At the very least, this one should be the first paragraph of the article. It is also impossible in the article to know which information has not been verified and which one is confirmed.

Mintpress has, after a day of controversy over its article, added another disclaimer, in the beginning of the article:

Clarification: Dale Gavlak assisted in the research and writing process of this article, but was not on the ground in Syria. Reporter Yahya Ababneh, with whom the report was written in collaboration, was the correspondent on the ground in Ghouta who spoke directly with the rebels, their family members, victims of the chemical weapons attacks and local residents. Gavlak is a MintPress News Middle East correspondent who has been freelancing for the AP as a Amman, Jordan correspondent for nearly a decade. This report is not an Associated Press article; rather it is exclusive to MintPress News.

This second disclaimer makes the article weaker than the original version. The heart of the story (rebels claiming to mishandle chemical weapons) has not been brought by Gavlak (with the trusted AP credentials) but by Yahya Ababneh who was no one before this big scoop.

Weak testimonies and sources :

The info itself relies on a few very weak testimonies, here is the full list :

- Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.
- Ghouta townspeople said
- A female fighter named ‘K.’
- A well-known rebel leader in Ghouta named ‘J’
- More than a dozen rebels interviewed (who reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.)
- Rebels interviewed

In the article, it is specified that interviews were conducted « with people in Damascus and Ghouta ». Please know you can not access Damascus without a visa from the regime. Someone claiming to have interviewed people from « Damascus and Ghouta » has a good chance to have been in contact with propaganda agents from the regime, probably going in Ghouta in a guided tour, « randomly » meeting « rebels » who would rush into journalists to explain how they are paid by Saudi and how they work for Al Quaeda. In any case, it is not specified how Yahya accessed Ghouta : from Damascus with a regime visa or from a rebel zone, hiding among them for several month ? The « interview with people in Damascus » hints toward the first solution.

Apart from the testimonies, the article relies on other articles to strengthen the idea of a Saudi involvement.

First, an article from business insiders written by Geoffrey Ingersoll. Please note that Ingersoll is a Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran and writes things like “The UK Was Totally Justified Detaining Greenwald’s Partner
Ingersoll article for its part relies on a daily telegraph article which relies entirely on an As Safir article (Lebanese 8 march – pro-Assad – newspaper). As Safir details a secret meeting between Putin and Bin Sultan (Saudi Intelligence Chief). On this occasion, Bin Sultan would have threaten Putin of Chechen terrorist attacks if Russia refuses to comply to Saudi demands on Syria.

As Safir is usually not a bad newspaper but here, they appear to be too good (here is the article): they are somehow able to get the exact quotes from a top secret meeting between Bandar Bin Sultan, chief of Saudi Intelligence and Russian President Wladimir Putin. The info in itself, Bandar Bin Sultan manipulating Chechen terrorists is surprising. It is the first time such a claim appears. More likely, and more well documented : the Russian secret services are infiltrating and manipulating Chechen terrorists since 30 years now.

Still, quoting Ingersoll, Gavlak puts in the article the exact quotes of a top secret meeting between the two most secretive person on the planet, obtained by a pro-Assad Lebanese newspaper and confirming a Saudi plot to manipulate Chechen terrorists in Russia…

The second piece Mintpress article is using is a WSJ piece about Bandar Bin Sultan (here is the WSJ article). The WSJ piece counts for almost 20% of the Mintpress article (1537 signs out of 7533) However, Dale Gavlak and Yahya forgot one quote from the WSJ article

The Saudi plan is to steadily strengthen carefully selected groups of rebel fighters not in the radical Islamist camp, with the goal of someday seeing them in control in Damascus

This quote is important because it completely destroys all the argument in mintpress article saying Saudi gave Chemical Weapons to Al Quaeda.

Already debunked :

For the rest of Dale Gavlak article, Brown Moses (who runs an extremely well documented blog about weapons used in Syria) already tried to debunk the info. He asks 4 experts to examine the claims made by mintpress. Here are the conclusions he found. To sum up :
Saudis (who does not have any known CW program) would not be stupid enough to get caught with chemical weapon trying to give them to rebels
If they were stupid enough to do it they would at least have trained the rebels properly to use them.
Even if all the above were true the scale of the attack is too large to have been carried out by rebels.

There is another hint in the article that leads toward a Syrian Mukhabarat propaganda. Syrian Mukhabarat are obsessed with prince Bandar Bin Sultan. In the end of March 2011, Syrian regime newspapers ran out a story about the « Bin Sultan plan to destabilise Syria and create Chaos inside the country ». The title itself is a bit too much but regime newpapers simply copy pasted the « plan » which looks so perfectly detailed that it becomes impossible to believe. (Here is the Bin Sultan plan)

In the Mintpress article, references to Bin Sultan are overwhelming. 15 times his name is mentioned. The case could be credible if it had stayed on a geopolitical level, simply saying « Saudi Arabia » as vague geopolitical enemy who plots against Syria. But the Bin Sultan obsession goes too far to be credible. One of the last sentence of the article is

Rebels interviewed said Prince Bandar is referred to as “al-Habib” or ‘the lover’ by al-Qaida militants fighting in Syria.

Gavlak is supposed to have been co-writer to the article. Gavlak is also deeply obsessed with Al Quaeda (here is an article from Gavlak where Al Quaeda is linked to everything that happens in the Middle-East). Anyone claiming to have the slightest knowledge of the middle east would know no Al Quaeda militant would ever refer to the chief of saudi intelligence as « Al Habib ».

Eventually, the article concludes on a weakness, quoting Peter Osborne from the Daily Telegraph.
Osborne argument relies on Del Ponte « conclusions » that the rebels were responsible for last may chemical attack. We debunked this story on a previous post and Gavlak AP should have done the very same.

The Truth :

The « info » went viral on conspirationists and pro-Assad websites and also on antiwar websites which are the reading target of mintpress.
Mintpress is a small website with a good focus on Middle East. After posting this article their website went down because of too much traffic.

DEBUNKED: the UN says syrian rebels are responsible for sarin gas attack

2 Sep

This post is the 2nd of our series where we will try to debunk lies and propaganda found on the Internet and the media in recent days. Many are coming from pro-Assad, extreme right and conspirationist networks and they found their ways into honest or naive anti-war activists. We are paying a severe price of Bush’s and Blair lies about Irak and pro-Assad propaganda is using that to infiltrate media and social networks with false rumors and half truth arguments. We will try to debunk them the best we can.

The case :

The UN says that the rebels are responsible for sarin gas attack.

The Lie :

No UN body or commission ever came to that conclusion. The propaganda is using an interview Carla del Ponte, member of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not the special UN body sent to investigate chemical attacks) made last may.

Del Ponte’s comments are used without date so as to induce that del Ponte is commenting last august chemical attack that happened in damascus suburbs, Ghouta. The idea is that no one is going to read the article (and check the date) but the title and the link will go viral under the title « UN says rebels are responsible for chemical attack ». In the end, it will lead people to believe rebels are responsible for Al Ghouta chemical attack that happened in august.

Anyone who reads the date or the article can see this allegation relies on the comments Del Ponte had last may.

Here is an article that went viral on social networks. It is serious article but it was usually posted without the date so if you do not follow the link and read the article you may end up thinking it is a recent news about al Ghouta chemical attack.

Here is another article written on august 27 but also entirely relying on the comments del Ponte had last may. Again if no one reads it, it appears as if del Ponte’s comments were made last week.

Eventually, for French readers, here is a op-ed from Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (who ran for presidential elections) who also relies on del Ponte’s comments. Dupont-Aignant is a moderate center right political leader

The conclusions of the UN investigators that were officialised last may by Carla del Ponte revealed that Syrian opposition did use chemical weapons on Khan al-Aassal.

The Truth :

Del Ponte made a personal comment during an interview to RSI on may 6 2013. (here the story on BBC)

She said “According to their report of last week, which I have seen, there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”

Although she is a member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (which is not specifically investigating Chemical Weapons) her comments were not an official conclusion. The official reaction to Del Ponte comments from the commission can be found here

The statement reads :

Geneva, 6 May 2013 — The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic wishes to clarify that it has not reached conclusive findings as to the use of chemical weapons in Syria by any parties to the conflict. As a result, the Commission is not in a position to further comment on the allegations at this time.

The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic did issue a report with its findings and conclusions. The report can be found here (in pdf) 

The official conclusion (supported by del Ponte) is :

« There are reasonable grounds to believe that chemical agents have been used as weapons. The precise agents, delivery systems or perpetrators could not be identified. »

The report also says, on the matter of chemical weapons, that

Conclusive findings – particularly in the absence of a large-scale attack – may be reached only after testing samples taken directly from victims or the site of the alleged attack. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that the Panel of Experts, led by Professor Sellström and assembled under the Secretary General’s Mechanism for Investigation of Alleged Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons, is granted full access to Syria.

This official recommendation, issued by the very commission where del Ponte is a member, was made on june 4 2013, two and a half month before Assad agrees to let Sellström into Syria.

DEBUNKED: John Kerry using a 2003 Iraq picture to promote intervention in Syria

1 Sep

This post will be the first of a new series where we will try to debunk lies and propaganda found on the Internet and the media in recent days. Many are coming from pro-Assad, extreme right and conspirationist networks and they found their ways into honest or naive anti-war activists. We are paying a severe price of Bush’s and Blair lies about Irak and pro-Assad propaganda is using that to infiltrate media and social networks with false rumors and half truth arguments. We wil try to debunk them the best we can.

The Case:

This picture went viral on social networks copy-pasted with the following text :

Marco di Lauro 2003 Iraq photograph

IMPORTANT TO KNOW !

So, Secretary of State John Kerry referenced this photograph when making his speech today, trying to drive home how awful the Syrian chemical attack was as he tried to convince us why we should go to war. One problem. The picture isn’t even from Syria. It’s from Iraq in 2003. The photographer, Marco di Lauro, said he nearly “fell off his chair” when he saw it was being used to promote a war in Syria. It’s getting pretty disturbing to see how far our politicians, both Republican and Democrat, are willing to go to drum up support for a war nobody wants.

The Lie :

John Kerry never mentioned this photograph or used it or showed it in his speech. Here are the transcripts of his speech. The only approaching comment could be this one :

We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood. Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home, we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.

This does not specifically refers to this photograph and could refer to any picture that has circulated on the social networks.

You can also watch the speech on Youtube and see he does not show the video.

The truth :

This picture was used by the BBC to illustrate a story about Al Houla massacre in 2012 with the title “Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows”. On this occasion, the Telegraph ran a story and interviewed Marco di Lauro who said he « nearly fell of his chair » when he saw his picture on the BBC website. Di Lauro comments were made in may 2012, about 16 month before John Kerry speech.

Here is the Telegraph article

The BBC acknowledged the mistake and apologised for it in May 2012, here is the Social Media Editor’s blogpost

The Grey Ideology: BBC Paul Danahar on Syria

10 May

Paul Danahar is a good journalist. He is the responsible for the BBC middle east bureau and the BBC is a very good media. He goes on the field, talk to people and check his facts. So why is that he produces some desperate meaningless pessimistic cliché about Syrian Crisis ?

Syria’s protracted conflict shows no sign of abating

The reason is one word : ideology.
The problem is that this word can mean plenty of things and it is also quite impossible to identify what ideology we re speaking about because this ideology never really had any name.

Orientalism (oh please, not again)

The closest we got is Edward Said’s Orientalism. Orientalism plays a great part but it is not the only one. Orientalism allows one to take a fact and make it a generality about the middle east.

This one is a good example :

All across the country, every day, there are brutal events, none of which in itself is big enough to warrant the attention of international or local media, but each of which breaks another strand of this country’s fragile weave of sects and religions.

Orientalism also helps one to loose absolutely every sense of history. Middle-East, Arabs, Islam, they all become unbreakable rocks, intellectual fortress impossible to conquer or to understand. It is there, always have been and it explains things. No history, no evolution, no dates, only a « thing » that has always been there and will ever be and that the « western » mind will never be able to grasp.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia hates Shia Iran, so it is using the war in Syria to try and weaken it.
The Saudi interest in the conflict dates back 1,300 years to the split within Islam. That is where its ambitions over the outcome of the civil war begin and end.

What is more likely ? That Paul Danahar does not know Saudi Arabia was not created 1300 years ago or that his orientalism let him think Sunni-Shia divide always has been and always will be the best possible explanation to understand the Arab mind?

Orientalism creates an Arab mind outside of the “western” mind that we can not understand so why bother? We just have to use the prepared set of orientalist clichés that can explain anything: sectarian war, religion, Islam, terrorism, bad treatment of women, geopolitical game about oil and “imperialism”, shia vs sunnis. It does not make any sense but it looks like it does and this is good enough.

To Danahar’s defence, making sense is not that easy against Orientalism and one has to break Orientalism before even starting to think of making sense. We can not get angry over Danahar for falling into Orientalism as it is a cultural hegemony and it is not Danahar’s job to break this particular monster.

The grey ideology

But there is another ideology that runs deeply in Danahar’s piece and this one is much more dangerous : it is the grey ideology. Danahar thinks that in Syria there is no black and white but « Things are grey » and that explains what’s what. And this is the kind of non sense you get with the grey ideology:

The situation in Syria is complicated. If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it.

Get confused so you will understand…

The grey ideology is probably the most subversive we got in our days. It runs deeply in some journalists, not all of them but some. Danahar is not the only one but he pushes it so far that it is possible for us to analyse it (and this is why we chose Danahar’s work to analyse and comment)

Grey is (and can only be) a mix of black and white. There is no good, which helps the pessimists, but there is also no evil which drives the mind to loose sense of everything. Human mind has to understand things with this prism. You can go for Yin and Yang but Yin and Yang is not grey. Grey itself, the very perfect grey mixing the exact same amount of black and white, does not exist.

Human actions and reactions have a meaning. They are ethical and any human being has a sense of right and wrong, even Assad perfectly knows the difference so why is that Danahar’s reader is denied this basic right? Things are never grey because grey does not make any sense.

Arabs fighting Arabs, Shia versus Sunnis, massacres by « both sides », innocent children dying : saying that is not reporting, it is not journalism. Journalism has to make sense, journalism is telling people the facts and the “telling” is maybe even more important than the “facts”. In Danahr’s piece, there is no sense. No story, and, for that reason, no real facts. Who ? When ? Where ? All that disappears in vague and grey sentences.

The climax is reached with the use of the expression MWG or Men With Guns to describe what other calls the « rebels ».

Firstly, the FSA – that you have been hearing so much about – does not exist.
A better title would be MWG, or men with guns, because having guns and firing them in the same direction is the only thing that unites them.

The expression is so meaningless that Danahar can even reduce it to an acronym : three letters placed together we do not really know why.

And why would be a good question to ask and a good answer for Danahar’s journalism to find? Why do people unite to fire in the same direction? Is there no meaning here? Love, one say, is when two people look together in the same direction so what is MWG firing in the same direction? Is there no sense? No goal at all? Danahar is getting here exactly what is happening in Syria: people united in a common goal, firing in the same direction: this explains everything and it is one of the most accurate description of what a violent revolution is about. Still, Danahar chooses to render this explanation totally meaningless by using MWG.

When the meaning has been so completely obliterated, the only choice is to ask God for an answer :

When will the Syria crisis end? God knows.
God knows because this crisis is increasingly not about freedom but about religion.

Anyone sees where is the journalism here? please raise your hands.

And who is Danahar to oppose freedom and religion? If you are ready to go back to thousands years ago you can see Jesus destroyed the Roman empire with non-violence, Moses freed his people from slavery, Muhammad rebelled against Mekka aristocracy and his “rebellion” became a civilisation. And the very “sunni/shia” divide that seems so essential today began as a revolution against Ummayyad empire.

Freedom and religion can not be placed on the same level or opposed to one another. Freedom makes sense, religion does not.  It is freedom that can explain why people unite to fire in the same direction, religion can’t and I dare you to tell me you have to read the Kuran to understand Al Quaeda.

Totalitarian propaganda

Danahar is also confused on another thing and this is why he thinks Syrian “crisis” is very complex and why he wants us to understand that we can not understand Syria.

Danahar addresses the regime propaganda thinking in terms of “self fulfilling prophecy” and that “some of what the government says is true”. This is why he can get so confused and ends up thinking like this:

So I think we could have probably said in the beginning most of what the government said wasn’t true and most of what the opposition said was true. And now I think we have to say most of what the government says may not be true but some of it now probably is, and most of what the opposition said in the past was true, but some of it now probably isn’t.

Danahar interviewed by Bob Garfield: The evolving propaganda war in Syria

The key here is that Syrian “government” is a totalitarian regime and what he says is totalitarian propaganda. Here, to understand what totalitarian propaganda is, we have to read Hannah Arendt and we wish Danahar is going to read it again soon.

Totalitarian propaganda is not a simple lie and actually, it is not a lie at all: everything Assad says is true. Not just some, everything. Totalitarianism has the power to change reality according to what its propaganda says. When we listen to Assad’s speeches or read SANA news agency, it is simply wrong to try to see what is true and what is lie. What Assad says, what SANA reads is not reality as we know, it is the reality they plan to create. Arendt uses the image of a potential murderer to explain: it is absurd to ask a potential murderer if his next victim is dead or not. He just have to go there, kill his victim and bring you back the proof that his victim is dead.

Assad propaganda is the same thing. When he says he is fighting terrorism it means he is planning to create terrorism. When he says he is fighting salafis he is planning to release all salafis from his prisons. When he says the insurrection is Al Quaeda it means all the jihadis he helped sending in Iraq will cross back the border helped by the Mukhabarat. When he says this is Sunnis against Shias he plans to send Shia militias to massacre Sunni villages. And when he says he is protecting minorities he plans not sending militias in minority areas and will not fire a single shot against a demonstration in a Christian or Druze area. “Syria crisis could destabilise the whole region” = I am going to destabilise the whole region and shelling on Lebanese and Turkish border. “Syrian crisis is spreading to Lebanon” = I am going to blow up the chief of Lebanese intelligence in the middle of Beirut.

Everything Assad says is true. Read it like that and it become much less complicated to understand.

Very old standards

The second key thing is that, if the rebels are also fighting a propaganda war. And there is a big difference: rebels are not a totalitarian state and they do not have the power to change reality according to the propaganda. This means you can not apply the same rule or fact checking to “both sides”: one is going to always give you absolute proof, the other will not.

The problem that we’ve got is in the beginning, because we saw the conflict completely in black and white, good guy/bad guy terms. We’re having to do a bit of a hand brake turn and say, hang on, we, we tend to be a little bit more – sophisticated and maybe cynical when it comes to information that we get from people that are not people that we know. And we’re just reapplying the old standard we should have always applied on all the information we get out of Syria now.

Danahar interviewed by Bob Garfield: The evolving propaganda war in Syria

Go on and apply the “old standards” on the information you got from the rebels it will always be half lie at best. Then, apply the exact same old standards on the information you get from the regime it will always be complete and absolute truth, verified and with ground proofs.

The very idea of applying the “old standard” is completely wrong. Revolution will not be televised (sorry BBC, sorry Al Jazeera), Twitter, bloggers and Google and Youtube have learned how to bypass the old standard as for any totalitarian propaganda who knows exactly what to do and how to manipulate the “old standard”.

Reality in Syria is what you want to see. If you want to see a Revolution, there is a revolution, if you want to see terrorism, there is terrorism, if you want to see black and white there is black and white, if you want to see a big geopolitical game that supersedes human being then you got it. And if you want to see grey, then it will be grey. This is what revolution is about: shaping the reality according to a dream and this is why it opposes totalitarianism that is shaping reality according to propaganda.

In Syria, things are that simple. And this is where Paul Danahar is lost and thinks grey will help him. But grey is not journalism. Things are black or white and objectivity has to pick a side. This is not a European election campaign where you give 5 minutes to the left and five minutes to the right. Revolution will not let you in the grey because it will force you to think and to make sense. Now more than ever, the very job of journalism in Syria is to make sense of what is happening.

A couple of things that do not change in the Middle East

7 May

Because these last couple of days we heard a lot of big brilliant generalities about the Middle East, we wanted to add some of our own.

  • There is no « regional war »

Politicians and leaders in the Middle East are extremely brave in their speeches but really not in their actions. When there is a conflict or a tension or a war, everyone wants to take advantage of it but no one wants to be hit. So what happens is that : leaders and powers agree to fix their problems or tensions on a specific location. They will help this country to become the putrid point and will fill it with every shit they got so the problem don’t backfire. You can try them and spread two world wars in the Middle East, it will still hardly become regional.

Palestinian « problem » never spilled over the whole region. It was “fixed” in Jordan then in Lebanon. Lebanese civil war never spilled out to the whole region, rather the whole region spilled in the Lebanese civil war. Syria and Israel carefully fed the Lebanese civil war for a decade. Iran Islamic revolution never spilled out neither. It was carefully fixed on the Iran-Iraq border and also carefully nourished by everyone for eight years. When the US invaded Iraq, they were not met with Arabic hordes but rather by a civil war everyone around was happy to help. When Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006 to destroy Hezbollah, Iran or Syria (the indestructible and holly “shia axis”) barely blinked. Currently, all the « problems » of the Middle East are being fixed in Syria. Every neighboring country will fill Syria with its own shit and power game. But the key here is that Syria « crisis » will never become regional “crisis”. It is the regional crisis that wants to overthrow the revolution in Syria. Everyone will do whatever they can so Syria becomes a horrible nightmare for the next decade but this nightmare will stay located in Syria and killing only Syrians. Did you ever wonder why civil wars are called civil wars? Basically it is because they stay in one country. No one wants to fight a regional war but the whole region is dying to use Syria as a battlefield.

This rule is to help journalists dealing with the myth “Syrian crisis could extend to Lebanon”. It will not. What happens is that Lebanon shitty sectarian politics is extending to Syria. Syria “crisis” will not harm the “fragile sectarian balance” of Lebanon because this balance does not exist. What exists in Lebanon is the rule of the rich against the poor, the mafia against the people and never-dying nepotistic leaders hiding their interests behind sectarian rhetoric.
The number of Syrian refugees is a problem not because the country is small but because the society is deeply racist and eager to blame refugees or “foreign influence” for all problems. Crime is rising but this may be related to the lack of government and security (or any basic social service) in the country.

Truth is, when there is indeed a regional movement like the Arab Revolution, everyone agrees it has to be stopped, countered, killed, butchered, and divided into shia-sunni.

  • Israel leaders have no strategic thinking

Israel leaders have no strategic thinking and never really had any. At first, they were thinking that they were a foreign corpse in a hostile Arab region and, because Arabs only understand the stick, they would have to use the stick. So every time they are afraid, they hit an Arab something with a big stick, just so the other Arabs learn the lesson : Israel does not like to be afraid. After the time, the use of the stick extended. It was not when leaders were afraid anymore but also when they were lost, bothered, bored, running an election campaign or did not know what else to do.

Syria is Israel neighboring country. Syria experiences a revolution and a counter-revolution at a scale no one predicted. Israel leaders are incapable of picturing themselves with the very concept of freedom in an Arab country. All they can think of is Assad dictator (bad) or Islamic theocracy (worse) and they have no idea what to do. But they know they have to do something. If they do not hit an Arab agitation with a big stick, Israeli citizens are going to ask for their own right: housing, education, health and public services, complain about corruption. They may even ask for peace… If Israeli leaders stop feeding the people with existential threats and “right to security” they may face the horrible prospect of actually building a country. A dire prospect indeed. And this is why they hit. Why they draw red lines that where not there before, why they prepare for war and why they keep themselves and their people afraid.

What they think now is hard to tell for that reason. Do not be surprise if the next air strike happens to be against the rebellion so the stick has some sort of balance. When two kids are fighting you punish them both…

  • Assad does not retaliate against Israel

Assad (father or son) never has and Assad probably never will. He will do a lot of barking though. Information minister immediately said that Israeli attack “opens up to all possibilities”, including of course, the possibility of not doing anything at all.
Truth is, Assad is currently too busy with his ethnic cleansing to retaliate against an enemy he never dared to attack before. Assad does not care about Israel, he wants to wipe Syria out of the globe because he knows he is lost and he would not tolerate that Syria survives after him. Assad will massacre some children, call them terrorist and explain these terrorists are supported by Israel so here was the retaliation.

  • No matter how hard they tried, no one ever managed to create a sectarian state in the Middle East

And God knows they tried. They all got somehow convinced that harmonious sectarian zones had to be the best for the Middle East. So the French tried (and failed) to create an Alawi state. They also tried and failed to create a Druze state. They tried (and succeeded) in creating Lebanon, a Maronite state that later became the most multisectarian state in the middle east. That of course, after the inevitable civil war. British thought it would be a good idea to allow a Jewish state in Palestine. This is now called Israel and people there start to realise a “Jewish state” means apartheid with barbed-wires, nukes, and homophobic ultra-orthodox zealots demanding theocracy. And this is not to mention the Kurdistan, French and British always promised but were never able to deliver.

So the rule in the middle east is that no sectarian state has ever been or will ever be possible. But the other rule pertaining to the first one is that no matter how obvious is the predicted failure, analysts will always keep thinking harmonious sectarian zones are the best solution for the Middle East. When the US invaded Iraq they created three sectarian zones. It ended up in a bloody sectarian civil war. It was a proof that these people can’t live together and Middle East needs more harmonious sectarian zones.

Now analysts and commentators are pretty sure Assad is planning to (re)create an Alawi state on Syrian coast in case he looses his capital city. The recent massacre in Banyas indicates Assad is following this idea with a good head-start on the ethnic cleansing. Thank you all experts and analyst who helped fill Assad’s head with the idea that an Alawi state might work. What that proves is also that Assad is the rightful heir of colonialism.

Assad’s best quotes

3 Mar

President Bachar al Assad gave an interview to Sunday Times sunday 3rd march 2013. One can try to read the full transcript released on SANA website, the official Syrian news agency. We selected the best quotes so the genius of the man can appear in its fullness

You cannot make a plan that is based on dialogue with somebody who does not believe in dialogue.

A normal life

The other aspect of the dialogue is that it opens the door for militants to surrender their weapons and we have granted many amnesties to facilitate this. (…) some have surrendered their weapons and they live now their normal life.

If you want to talk about the opposition, there is another misconception in the West. They put all the entities even if they are not homogeneous in one basket – as if everything against the government is opposition.

This one is a bit hard to understand without the context of Assad’s policy. See, Assad has at his disposal some “opposition” who are ready to dialogue with him and to keep him in power. He also released djihadists from his prison so they can infiltrate the opposition together with Mukhabarat and Shabihas and make them look like genuine terrorists. This is how Assad can actually implies that everyone against the government are not opposition and every “opposition” is not necessarily against the government.

We can engage in dialogue with the opposition but we cannot engage in dialogue with terrorists

Opposition groups should be loyal and patriotic to Syria

It’s called democracy

The events of 11th of September were not committed by lethal aids. It was the application of non-lethal technology and training which caused the atrocities.

Clearly Assad is not aware that 9/11 was an elaborated plan created by the CIA to invade Iraq (although US invaded Afghanistan instead)

What is beyond hypocrisy is when you talk about freedom of expression and ban Syrian TV channels from the European broadcasting satellites;

Would they broadcast “Homeland”?

Beyond hypocrisy is when you talk about democracy and your closest allies are the worst autocratic regimes in the world that belong to the medieval centuries. This is hypocrisy!

(Or speaking about secular Syria when you are allied with Islamic Iran and Hizbullah party of God)

Having legitimate needs does not make your weapons legitimate.

Hopefully Assad is not going to say that in a meeting with Hizbullah leaders.

As with any other sovereign state, we will not negotiate with terrorists.

(Sarkozy may have said that… or was it Bruce Willis?)

Sunday Times: Critics say real and genuine negotiations may be the cause of your downfall and that of your government or regime, and that you know this, hence you offer practically impossible scenarios for dialogue and negotiations?

President Assad: Actually, I don’t know this, I know the opposite. To be logical and realistic, if this is the case, then these foes, adversaries or opponents should push for the dialogue because in their view it will bring my downfall.

One has to admit this one is pretty good. Some killers do have logic

Friendship:

We have friends and we discuss our issues with friends, we listen to their advice but at the end it is our decision as Syrians to think or to make what’s good for our country.

Only Syrian people can tell the President: stay or leave, come or go. I am just saying this clearly in order not to waste the time of others to know where to focus.

The problem with this government is that their shallow and immature rhetoric only highlight this tradition of bullying and hegemony. (…) This government is acting in a naïve, confused and unrealistic manner. If they want to play a role, they have to change this; they have to act in a more reasonable and responsible way, till then we do not expect from an arsonist to be a firefighter!

(Assad was here speaking about the British government)

Since day one in this crisis nearly two years ago, we have said we are ready for dialogue; nothing has changed. We have a very consistent position towards the dialogue.

Actually this is kind of true: Assad is calling for dialogue since 2001, looking for someone to dialogue with since that date

When you have a product that fails in the market, they withdraw the product, change the name, change the packing and they rerelease it again – but it is still faulty.

Assad is giving a lecture to 1st year business school students (or he is drafting a new constitution)

When you talk about thousands of victims, we see thousands of families who have lost loved ones and who unfortunately will grieve for many years to come. Nobody can feel this pain more than us.

We cannot talk about the numbers without their names. People who are killed have names.

And people who have names are killed (Mukhabarat laughing)

Milk Shake

President Assad: why did they die? Where and how were they killed? Who killed them? Armed gangs, terrorist groups, criminals, kidnappers, the army, who?

Sunday Times: It is a mix.

I’m not in the blame business

Terrorists are.

I have a constitutional responsibility to keep Syria and her people safe from terrorists and radical groups

Actually, he does not as no such thing appear in the 2012 Syrian constitution.

You have to worry about the Middle East because we are the last bastion of secularism in the region.

Lol

We were the first in the region to deal with such terrorists who have been assuming the mantle of Islam. We have consistently been warning of this, especially in the last decade during the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. The West is only reacting to the situation not acting. We need to act by dealing with the ideology first. A war on terror without dealing with the ideology will lead you nowhere and will only make things worse.

Assad tried to warn but Bush would not listen

I am sure they know what I mean

Sunday Times: What is your message to Israel following its air strikes on Syria? Will you retaliate? How will you respond to any future attacks by Israel especially that Israel has said that we will do it again if it has to?

President Assad: Every time Syria did retaliate, but in its own way, not tit for tat. We retaliated in our own way and only the Israelis know what we mean.

Sunday Times: Can you expand?

President Assad: Yes. Retaliation does not mean missile for missile or bullet for bullet. Our own way does not have to be announced; only the Israelis will know what I mean.

Sunday Times: Can you tell us how?

President Assad: We do not announce that.

Maybe I know him

Sunday Times: I met a seven year old boy in Jordan.

President Assad: A Syrian boy? 

Sunday Times: A Syrian boy who had lost an arm and a leg to a missile strike in Herak. Five children in his family had been killed in that explosion. As a father, what can you say to that little boy? Why have so many innocent civilians died in air strikes, army shelling and sometimes, I quote, ‘Shabiha shootings?’

President Assad: What is his name?

Sunday Times: I have his name…I will bring it to you later.

As a father of young children, I know the meaning of having a child harmed by something very simple.

Assad clearely cares for his children, just like his father

Whenever you have conflicts, you have these painful stories that affect any society.

War is such a horrible thing

So instead of worrying about yourself and your family, you should be worried about every citizen and every family in your country. So it’s a mutual relationship.

It’s a relationship, it’s mutual… it’s a mutual relationship!

We have never, and will never, discuss our armaments with anyone. What the world should worry about is chemical materials reaching the hands of terrorists. Video material has already been broadcast showing toxic material being tried on animals with threats to the Syrian people that they will die in the same way. We have shared this material with other countries.

Israeli style

Sunday Times: I know you are not saying whether [the chemical weapons] are safe or not. There is concern if they are safe or no one can get to them.

President Assad: This is constructive ambiguity.

Political answering

Do not expect a politician to only say yes or no in the absolute meaning.

The man with a plan

We have a plan and whoever wants to deal with us, can deal with us through our plan. This is very clear in order not to waste time.

Decision making

In Syria, we took two decisions. The first is to make dialogue; the second is to fight terrorism.

Placing the Nation above the family

Sunday Times: How shaken you were you by the bomb that killed some of your most senior generals last summer, including your brother-in-law?

President Assad: You mentioned my brother-in-law but it is not a family affair. When high-ranking officials are being assassinated it is a national affair.

President Assad: There was the case of the British journalist who managed to escape.

Sunday Times: Alex Thompson?

President Assad: Yes. He was lead into a death trap by the terrorists in order to accuse the Syrian Army of his death.

Thanks Alex for the propaganda material. (Alex is already familiar with this blog as we analysed his story before: Alex Thomson claims he was trapped by Syrian rebels: an ideology that is named negationism)

That’s why it is important to enter countries legally, to have a visa. This was not the case for Marie Colvin. We don’t know why and it’s not clear.

Informed sources say she did not like the visa colour

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