In the email leaks that were first published by the British “Guardian” newspaper, and then became a daily source of material for Arab and international media outlets, a lot of advice and strong interest – on the part of the Syrian President and his inner circle of advisories and media consultants – focused on the media and the need to internationally convey the image which the regime is seeking to depict. The email messages revealed the regime’s calls for a counter-campaign to refute the news circulated by TV reports about the daily massacres being committed, aiming to entrench the idea that what is happening in Syria is nothing more than a war waged by the regime against armed gangs, and linking the Syrian revolutionaries to extremists and terrorists.
The Syrian President himself spoke of this by publicly, saying “they may be stronger in space, but we are stronger on the ground” in reference to satellite television [space], and expressing his desire to be stronger in “space” as well.
A constant message has been repeated by the regime on several occasions, coinciding with the rhetoric about terrorists and armed gangs that has been circulated since the beginning of the crisis. The essence of the message is that there are satellite television channels and media outlets outside the Syrian authority’s control that are inciting unrest, even fabricating news, reports, demonstrations and protests, or at the very least, magnifying them with the aim of overthrowing the regime.
In other words, what the regime means is that a “biased media” has created a virtual revolution and is promoting it on satellite channels and the internet. The world has become engrossed by these virtual occurrences, which the regime claims to have no foundation on the ground. The regime goes on to claim that countries and organizations have begun to mobilize and mount pressure accordingly. The regime believes that a counter-media campaign is now required to tell the truth, but in accordance with al-Assad’s view-point. Simply put, according to the Syrian regime, the root cause for what is happening in the country is armed gangs and a biased media.
If this all is true, then what about the children who were tortured Daraa; the spark that caused the revolution to erupt? What about the bloody repressive campaigns, the bombardment of towns and the murder of at least 8,000 people, the destruction that befell entire districts in Homs, in addition to the arbitrary detentions and torture? The regime thinks this all should be buried under the carpet. Its consultants and advisors – who are amateurs, as anyone can tell from the leaks – simply believe that the regime must change its media image, an image that portrays it every day with its hands stained in blood.
The truth, which many people may be unaware of, is that the media, despite its importance, cannot create a revolution, nor can it prompt people to take to streets to demand freedom and face bullets and death. Rather, what creates a revolution is injustice, feelings of despair, the impossibility of achieving a peaceful and democratic change, and the lack of a visible horizon for a better future, in the only Arab republic that has ever bequeathed power.
The media does not create a revolution, nor does it have the potential to do so. However, the media can perform a significant role in conveying the facts and reporting what is happening on the ground. The advancement of its tools and techniques, as we can see now, has made any attempt to conceal the truth almost impossible. The popular media, or the citizen media, has played a significant role through the use of mobile phones and the internet to allow the world to see the truth of what is happening on the ground. Courageous Western journalists, some of whom lost their lives as a price for their bravery, managed to penetrate the siege and send accurate reports about the massacres being committed in Baba Amr. Indeed, the regime’s advisors could also have been courageous if they advised their leader to read these reports and change his repressive and blood-thirsty policy, and keep his army and thugs away from his own people. In any case, history testifies that such tactics have little success when it comes to quelling revolutionaries.
It is clear that the time for advice has passed. The email leaks reflect a state of denial in the same manner as they also reflect the disunity of the regime itself. The leaks are part of a series of which we can expect more, as there are many people who want to jump off the sinking ship.