After Charlie Hebdo Attacks

Assad’s Disinformation Machine in High Gear to Exploit a Terrorist Moment
Elie Chalala

The latest mumanah (anti-Western alliance of "leftist"-Baathist-Hezbollah supporters) media has been on a new mission: to redeem the bankrupt argument of its masters by exploiting a terrorist moment and sabotaging a counter argument to the rise of radical Islamists in Syria. This new “operation” does not challenge or poke holes in the pro-Syrian revolution argument. Rather, it inundates the media battlefield with a cacophony of feeble-minded voices explaining how the Charlie Hebdo attacks took place only for the purpose of muddling the field of criticisms of the French government. Since France also has its critics among the supporters of the Syrian revolution, Assad’s disinformation machine mixed together facts and criticisms of and about France in order to confuse regional and world public opinion. This helps them to gain credibility and larger audiences, while distracting attention from sober analysis of the rise of extremists in Syria. There is a name for this in the literature of political propaganda: deceit and misinformation.

The nature of today’s media enables the Assad's disinformation machines to deliberately sow uncertainty and confusion concerning the French policy in the Middle East. While this misinformation machine claims that France has supplied radical Islamists with arms and training, the non-Islamist Syrian opposition claims that France failed to deliver on its promises to militarily aid the anti-Assad forces (The French did, however, provide some humanitarian assistance and diplomatic assistance in support of the Syrian people). For most observers these are not two credible claims to be reconciled. The facts of the case are purely material: France did not supply military aid and training to any of the opposition groups, particularly the Islamists to return and bite the hand by which they were fed. The Syrian moderates--who have the facts on their side--would have welcomed military aid from France had it been provided, which it was not.

The mumanah or the rejectionists have flooded the media market with opinion-based analysis, as have the anti-Assad groups. The Assad disinformation machine, however, buries its head in the sand, refusing to face the fact that Assad’s brutality, more than any ideology, has been the most effective recruiter for the Islamic state and other jihadist groups. Those who lost homes, parents, and children do not need a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam to join jihad.

Ironically, even when the rejectionists shed crocodile tears over the victims of Charlie Hebdo and create hypocritical shows of emotion, they simultaneously couple these displays with lectures aimed at the French through their lordly Lebanese disinformation machines. These lectures follow the familiar pattern of demonizing the victim, either stating “You brought it on yourself or thus deserve it,” or smugly administering a “We told you so and you did not listen!”  Since these “revolutionary” experts bear neither the hallmarks of professionalism nor a minimal level of human decency,they end up almost bordering on revenge with an adrenaline rush of getting even with a dying “colonial” power!

Unquestionably, the supporters of the Syrian revolution remain unhappy with France and other Western powers, with the intensity of this unhappiness varying from one group to the other. Their reservations about the French policy concern the belief that terrorists would not have been able to reach Paris had France and the Western powers aided the revolution while moderate and secular forces dominated it. This view has gained the support and has been embraced by many observers, and if the world community did not act upon it, it is because of the nature of world politics which is largely dictated by interests rather than sound arguments.

In short, the discordant voices in Lebanese newspapers and on TV demonstrate the many contradictions inherent in this cynical campaign. Those who shed crocodile tears over the victims join those armed with vengeful attitudes toward the French, claiming they have reaped what they have sown. Regardless, the modus operandi of this misinformation machine is to do whatever it deems necessary to rehabilitate the Assad regime in the world’s eyes. To this end, some of its top guns have already offered their “advice” to the French, urging them to work together with Assad to combat terrorism.

This essay appears in Al Jadid, Vol. 19, No. 68

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