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September 13, 2013

Why All the Syrian Execution Imagery in the Major Media Lately? (GRAPHIC)

The NYT. Paris Match. Now, Time. In the past week or so, unusually savage imagery from Syria has appeared in the traditional news media, each organization going out of its way to stress the acts and degree of violence as suddenly vital and newsworthy. If its a trend, which is too soon to say, perhaps it’s a positive thing. Perhaps it’s a recognition, on the part of Western media, about how highly selective it has been about how much to display and how much to sanitize.

It’s a lot more instructive, however, to consider patterns like this on a case-by-case basis. Is it curious, for example, why the military would censor every and any image of a wounded US soldier, the media colluding with the blackout, while at the same time, after a supposed terrorist attack on an American marathon race, domestic media would be scrambling to outdo each another to disseminate the most bloody images of mangle limbs? And then, would there be any reason why the images of the public massacre of pro-Morsi demonstrators by the Egyptian police a couple weeks back would earn only cursory display while the media seems so eager, these Syrian photos in hand, to open an artery?

Specifically, one has to ask how the emergence of these images just in the past week coincide with the political debate – especially the domestic resistance to Obama’s proposal for military intervention in Syria. As part of that inquiry, one must consider the political sway of the images themselves. Most notably and unusually, the pictures fail to isolate the heinous actions of one side faction over the other. (The article at TIME is speculative about the identity and allegiance of the perpetrators.)

You know how common it is to make up an excuse to get yourself out of something, right?

If I had to explain it, I would say that these images represent the inclination, on the part of the West, to paint every faction in Syria with a broad bloody brush. How better to extricate ourselves, and somehow undo that stumble over the red line, by casting a pox on all of their houses. In the evoking (and ratcheting up) of the visual horror, what we’re seeing is less an anomaly or even a new locus in media disclosure than one of the oldest Western tactics in the book — the evocation of “the other.”  ’Certainly Mr. President, how logical can it be to intervene if they’re all just barbarians (or, hopelessly infiltrated by them).’ Simply, the sight of blood so heinously dripping from the hands (and throats) of people we were this close to helping allows us to suddenly wash ours.



Witness to a Syrian Execution: “I Saw a Scene of Utter Cruelty” – story and slideshow ( TIME)

(UPDATE 12 pm PST: The post previously suggested that the Paris Match photo shows a pro-Assad group. Reviewing the Google translation, it appears they are rebels. As a result, one sentence was removed from the post. …It might also be that the same freelancer was the source of the Paris Match and the TIME photos, though the setting, dress and other details are clearly different. The larger point, however, has to do with the sudden impetus for these major news outlets to publish such graphic execution imagery and what this savage framing of the situation in Syria suggests from a political and a media standpoint.)

(slide 1: TIME Lightbox graphic warning screen. photo 1: SIPA. photo 2: Agence LeJournal/SIPA via TIME. caption 2: A young Syrian man is executed by ant-regime rebels in the town of Keferghan, near Aleppo, on August 31, 2013 photo 3: Unidentified. Screen shot from video obtained by The New York Times.)

  • bks3bks

    This is the reality. All that crap about “freedom fighters” was the myth.


    • Ameet

      I think they’re just exacting vengeance in the most base human way at this point. These people spectating and executing are all emotionally involved, as they have probably already had someone they know and loved already killed by these soldiers. To them, it doesn’t matter whether this particular soldier was personally responsible, or actually killed anyone, he is a part of what they want to end. It’s a truly horrendous civil war.

  • Jay

    My French isn’t very good, but I think the Paris Match photo also depicts rebels decapitating someone they suspect of being pro-regime, not the other way around.

    • Michael Shaw

      Thanks for the correction. We added an update to account for the difference. Overall though, I believe it’s the fact multiple news organizations have posted such savage imagery that is the issue and that the “broad brush” point still applies.

  • Wolfenberry

    If I had to join in the Syrian civil war, as Obama wants us to do, I would assist the Assad side, not the “rebel” side. Assad would be fully justified in retaliating against the US in the case of intervention.

    • Ameet

      Its a lose/lose situation for the US whichever faction it backs, so striking against chemical weapons is about the only useful thing they can do here. This civil war seems to be long in the making, and either the Syrians resolve it themselves or be torn apart and be consumed by their neighbours. There is no strong organised leadership on the rebel side, either, so there is no effective way to negotiate peace anyway for the time being.

      I’m pretty sure most Syrians don’t want an extreme Islamic state any more than an authoritarian one, as they seem quite liberal otherwise, so hopefully a third candidate will make him or herself known and survive the war before it’s too late.

  • Pingback: BagNews looks at recent graphic execution images from Syria | dvafoto

  • jonst

    I think you got it 100% dead wrong…no attempt at a pun. I think these efforts is for the ‘low hanging fruit’ to rush into the R2P camp shouting that ilk’s meme; (we’ve got to do SOMETHING to stop this!!!). The “we” is always figurative of course, it not they, nor their kids, who will be actually doing the something in question. It never is…these days.

  • G

    Fucking animals

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  • Ameet

    I find it interesting that these images all show atrocities by the rebels, and nothing of the monstrous brutality of the regime – women and children killed indiscriminately, poison gas attacks, etc, in a civil war where ASSAD FIRED THE FIRST SHOTS. So the question I have, is what do these publications gain by ostracizing the FSA to the western public?

  • Scarabus

    As a response to the discussion here, I created a post for my own blog. Lots of pictures.

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  • Kookie

    This is what we are fighting to avoid in our country.

  • SamuelAlexander1

    I’m struggling to understand how you could mistake the Jihadists and bandits in the Paris Match photo for government soldiers.

    The contrast could hardly be more obvious.

  • Michael Shaw

    Sympathizers, not soldiers.

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