Syria, a small Middle Eastern country but a country that is likely mentioned almost on every news channel, almost everyday. And if you reside in a country like the UK or US, you will probably find yourself embroiled in news articles about the war in Syria against President Assad and ISIL. Most people living in a country like the UK and US will tell you that the holy objective of the west is to remove the terrorist group ISIL and the mass murderer Assad and replace it with a democratic government. And that will be the consensus across the entire world unless you are from Russia or Iran. And I agree that there are probably terrorist groups in Syria and Assad is likely to be no saint. But could there be more to the story?
One of the things that I do often is watch videos on Youtube and I stumbled across a video (link below this article) which made me question could there be another side to the conflict? And is Assad truly the madman that every single recent article I find unanimously agree upon? To satisfy my curiosity, I dug a little deeper and found to my surprise that it was around 2011 when things took a turn dramatically.
The progression from liberal doctor to cruel dictator
Syria was propelled into public limelight in the West with the emergence of ISIL and increased international attention towards the Syrian civil war. From then onwards, Assad was increasingly seen as a corrupt mass murderer, killing innocent civilians left right and centre. But it is surprising that beforehand, Assad was seen as a liberal, a humble doctor who had lived in London for several years and even married a British woman. He talked about neo-liberal ideas and Capitalist policies to modernise Syria. And no questions were raised when he won 97% in a referendum confirming his presidency both in 2000 and 2007.
Things had slowly soured between Syria and the US in 2003 when he vocally opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq and the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. But still articles about his humble personality and his great difference to Gaddafi were still appearing. But slowly, interviews with him phased off and the only source of information we seem to have about him is through analyzing his actions in the Syrian War. We hear about Assad dropping chemical weapons, committing atrocious crimes in the areas which he controls, and we hear about the good that the US backed rebel government is doing. And it is consistent. But rarely do we see interviews with the man himself, his side of the story. What justifications he makes for the crimes which we believe he had committed? Surely it is equally important to hear his voice? After all, any criminal under most judicial systems have the right to defend themselves to the jury before a verdict can be made. Yet we hardly ever have this when prominent political leaders fall into ruin. Should it not be important in countries that are involved in the conflict like the US and the UK for the public to be aware if problems are solved and not created?
Whether it is Syria, Russia, the Philippines or China, all these countries have one thing in common, they are led by dictators according to democracies in the West. One common topic that keeps coming up time and again is that their leaders are accusing the US and its allies of an “external conspiracy of sorts” leading to increased tension and condemnation on these countries from the rest of the world. Also both Putin and Duterte have accused the west of supporting and utilizing terrorists to interfere with their politics (they argue its because terrorists appear in numbers and suddenly have an arsenal of modern and powerful weaponry when a country openly defies the US and its allies arguing that it cannot be a coincidence. Examples: Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIL in Syria, Libya and Phillipines. However Nigeria, a strong ally of the US also has the Boko Haram so I leave it for you to decide for yourselves on the subject).
It could be a ploy that it was made up by someone and then the rest of these “shunned” countries followed suit to try and gain sympathy from the general public. But could there be a grain of truth in their words? Instead of dismissing these words as disgruntled discourse from a disgraced dictator, should we not advocate for the inspection of “facts” which are displayed to us by mainstream media?
Possible Western censorship?
We often become skeptical of things that are occurring at home or if things sound too good to be true, yet when we hear worldwide condemnation, when we hear about suppression of human rights by a particular political leader or the mass massacre of a particular vulnerable population, we rarely hesitate to question the validity of the perpetrator the media suggests. And this is the case for almost every conflict which has been condemned by the UN or the US. Although there was opposition to the Iraq invasion, many believed at the time there was a justified reason until recent reports from investigations suggested it was not as morally ethical as it was suggested and more about oil fields. Yet mainstream media only stressed on Gaddafi and his violations to human rights. When every source of information you find have an unanimous voice, should you not question the validity of the source before coming to a conclusion?
But if we think about what is left unsaid, such as the many countries where there are violations of human rights and suffering. Yet there is little intervention by other countries. One example is Honduras which is gripped in wars by cartels, yet little has been done to solve its problems. In fact a scarce amount of information is mentioned in the mainstream media, despite the crimes committed there. Instead we intervene and or condemn countries where there could be a potential economical or political benefit, and especially in countries who are not allies of the US and the West.
Websites like Wikileaks and people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowdon help us to find out about the information that mainstream media is not saying. Even sites like youtube and tumblr where there is free access to sources of information from news outlets from other countries allow us to find out about other opinions and perspectives. Unfortunately, even with such good resources on the internet, the way the technology works prevents us from accessing this unless we actively go about doing so.
All of us have a particular roadmap on the internet which sophisticated algorithms developed by companies like facebook, youtube and google utilise so that we can get the best possible experience on the internet. This could mean recommending sites which are similar to the websites we visit, therefore further justifying opinions we have developed from visiting websites which are similar in content instead of directing us to sites which may contrast from sites we visited. To the reader, reading information which justifies the same opinion over and over again would make us feel as if there is an unanimous opinion on the subject, whereas this may not be the case except we are not accessing this content unless we actively search for it yourselves instead of clicking on recommendations made by the system.
Perhaps this is one of the possible dangers of technology. In a library, information is classified according to subject and you may find books of the same subject but with different content close to the book you are searching for. But algorithms developed by tech giants often classify information according to its content or source. An example which I find often is if you click on a video from a particular channel with a liberal view, you are likely to get a stream of video recommendations from that same channel or similar channels. However, with technology constantly developing, perhaps new algorithms can be developed in future allowing broader access to information with differing viewpoints and perspectives.