A summary of how media labels like “Al Qa’eda — extremism — jihadist — Islamist — Iran” are leading to distorted and even false “news” about the Syrian conflict:
1. “The Insurgents Who Executes Soldiers” — A prominent New York Times article last week, which turned the April 2012 execution of seven Syrian troops by a small faction into a recent demonstration that “Brutality of Syrian Rebels Posing Dilemma in West”
2. “Takeover of A Christian Town” — A New York Times article this week which, contradicting its own evidence, portrays “extreme Islamists” moving into the ancient Christian town of Maaloula and threatening all the residents.
3. “The Iranians Directing Syria’s Fight” — The case, covered extensively in EA this week, of Al Jazeera English turning raw footage into an exaggerated story of “Iran’s Fighters on Syrian Soil”.
[Note: Since filming this on Wednesday, we have gone through the footage — and other important material in detail — to establish that there were Iranian officers training pro-Assad militiamen in Aleppo Province, although there is no evidence that the Iranians are involved in large operations or that there are Iranian troops on the battlefield.]
In the search for headlines, key media outlets have reduced this conflict to one of different evils. There’s the evil Assad regime, with Iran supporting it, and there are the evil extremist Jihadists, some of whom are linked to Al Qa’eda.
It is a caricature which gets us no closer to understanding what is going on, much less what we should do about it.