During the final stages of the fighting in Aleppo, Twitter’s care-more-than-thou caucus was out in full force, blasting people who questioned the claims of the opposition parroted by the MSM. How gross, how crass, to quibble about numbers when people are dying. Like that one famous Trump fan says, How could you be so heartless? What does it matter whether 250,000 or fifty-thousand people were trapped in East Aleppo? What does it matter if government forces actually raped women and slaughtered children? They committed atrocities; that’s what matters. Assad’s forces are committing summary executions –- the UN (sort of) confirmed it –- and you’re going to whine about people using Holocaust analogies? Doctors Without Borders –- I mean Doctors Without Borders! –- is calling it a humanitarian crisis and you have the audacity to ask for evidence for particular claims?
Such rhetoric appeals to the less informed, as sophistry tends to. If someone like Shawn King, who cares deeply about police violence, likens Aleppo to the Shoah, what’s a caring person to do but Retweet?
Propaganda, however, has the power not merely to shade the truth but to obliterate it. It can make black gray but it can also make black white. As Orwell (I know, I know) said: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Since the beginning of the war, imperialist pundits, journalists, activists, and government officials in the United States, Europe, and Gulf States have constructed a narrative not merely inaccurate but directly at odds with the facts. With their propaganda, a reactionary armed opposition became moderate, and an unpopular armed opposition became popular. The Free Syrian Army, which collaborated with ISIS, became its staunchest enemy. Assad, not Team USA, became primarily responsible for the ISIS. The Syrian government, which had retained significant support, became an object of hatred for all Syrians. Al Qaeda became acceptable allies for revolutionaries, and even revolutionaries themselves. More recently, the Obama administration, an Assad enemy, became an Assad ally, and the war on Syria waged by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United States became simply nonexistent.
These aren’t exaggerations or overstatements. These are lies that rewrite the ethical equation.