Sunday, August 21, 2011

Assad Not Worried

President Bashar al-Assad is not worried about the escalating situation in his country. He told a couple of presenters that he can deal with the unrest that has swept his country, in a carefully staged and executed performance that was promoted as a “TV Interview” and broadcast on Syrian National TV.

In his latest appearance the President tried to look un-phased by the crisis surrounding his country since March. He dismissed western calls for him to step down saying that he wasn’t appointed by the west to heed their calls. The question that should have followed but didn’t is, “How about your own people in the streets asking you to step down?”

In a normal interview this question would have been a natural follow up but on the Syrian TV showcase, this was a deliberate omission that translated as an “insult to the souls of those who died since March and their families,” as one of the commentators on an Arab TV station reacted.

The president spoke in extremely vague terms of reform, elections, political parties and so many other topics that mean little to the crisis at hand. He only scratched the surface of the real problems his regime faces at this historic time for the Middle East region in general and Syria in particular. He dismissed western calls for his departure, he downplayed friendly nations calls for restraint, and he threatened the United Nation Security Council saying, “Any action against Syria will have huge consequences that they can never tolerate.”

This latest “interview” is nothing but a piece of propaganda addressed mainly to an internal audience to give the impression that the Assad regime is still in control of Syria. It’s an attempt to demoralize the population that has been braving the violence, the tanks and missiles to bring change to their country. It is hard to believe that this old fashioned 20th Century propaganda will have its intended effect on people who already know how to broadcast their own messages and make their voices heard to the world through the internet and its social networking sites.

To see President Assad in meetings and tours ahead of the so-called interview is not any different from what we saw on Iraqi TV up until the fall of Saddam Hussein or on Egypt TV up until Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. It is the traditional Arab way of glorifying “the leader” - whoever that may be - as expressed by government-owned Arab media outlets.

This technique worked for decades in giving the impression it’s business as usual. What Mr. Assad seems unaware of is that the world has moved on to a new century where these tactics do not work anymore.

Audiences are much smarter and much more demanding nowadays. They ask for verification of information and they demand that leaders be held accountable. They know the difference between free flow of information and directed media.

They also know that when a regime cracks down on independent reporting and freedom of speech, it is a sign of weakness and worry, no matter how many times the leader or his regime repeat that he or she is not worried.


Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Oussama said...

Well, he should be worried. We are witnessing the end of the Qaddafi regime in Libya and the near end of Saleh's rule in Yemen. Notwithstanding what Syria thinks of world opinion the regime cannot continue killing and suppressing its own people indefinitely and getting away with it. I guess the lack of a viable replacement is what gives Assad comfort that he can slide by, but then this is Syria a country known for its coup d'etats, who knows maybe he should be worried about his inner circle, of someone taking over and breaking this cycle of violence. Wishful thinking and dreaming I suppose.

August 22, 2011 at 11:37 PM  

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