[Marxism] The Real Me and the Hypothetical Syrian Revolution - Part 1

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 22 06:21:35 MST 2012


The Real Me and the Hypothetical Syrian Revolution - Part 1
Feb 21 2012 by Amal Hanano

The Syrian revolution undeniably belongs to the street. It’s rooted in 
the public realm where masses of physical bodies occupy the squares and 
real voices fill the air with defiance against the brutality of a 
relentless regime. The virtual realm of the revolution is a strong, 
second line of defense. Communities of online activists in Syria 
tirelessly spread the voices and events from the street as far and wide 
as possible, while the activists outside Syria continue the ripple 
effect, transferring what is happening inside Syria across the world.

Supporters of the regime like to demeaningly describe the Syrian 
revolution as iftiraadiyyeh, hypothetical, “a virtual revolution,” 
fueled by outside forces far from Syrian streets (thus, Syrian 
interests). They mark the protesters as traitors falling prey to a 
“universal conspiracy” against Syria’s sovereignty. These accusations 
start with the head of the regime himself, Bashar al-Assad, as he 
declared in his last speech: “At the beginning of the crisis, it was not 
easy to explain what happened. Emotional reactions and the absence of 
rationality were surpassing the facts. But now, the fog has lifted, and 
it is no longer possible for the regional and international parties 
which wanted to destabilize Syria to forge the facts and the events. Now 
the masks have fallen off the faces of those parties, and we have become 
more capable of deconstructing the virtual environment which they have 
created to push Syrians towards illusion and then make them fall. That 
virtual environment was created to lead to a psychological and moral 
defeat which would eventually lead to the actual defeat.”

During the early months of the uprising, the president called dissidents 
“conspiracies” and protesters “armed gangs.” In his last speech he 
claimed if real protesters really existed, he would have joined them, 
“This is not a revolution. Can a revolutionary work for the enemy – a 
revolutionary and a traitor at the same time? This is impossible. Can 
revolutionaries be without honor, moral values or religious principles? 
Had we had real revolutionaries, in the sense we know, you and I and the 
whole people would have moved with them. This is a fact.”

These sentiments have been repeated by people inside Syria and out, 
Syrians and not, who consider the thousands of “unable to verify” videos 
documenting Assad’s atrocities as mfabrakeh, fabricated. They say the 
clips exaggerate the number of people actually protesting, while the 
pro-regime demonstrations are deceptively reduced or not declared as 
massive as they really were, or not covered at all by the biased Arab 
and international media. The YouTube clips are described as “pictures” 
by some journalists like Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn. “Pictures,” a 
carefully chosen, archaic term that alludes slyly to the reel not the 
real; directed, acted, cinematic. Were they not real even when these 
videos were made in front of the Arab League monitors? Were they not 
real even when filmed by independent journalists who have finally 
entered Syria (albeit on extremely short visas and even shorter 
government-controlled leashes)?

Recently, debates have been occupied trying to understand the nature of 
the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Does this army exist or is the FSA “a fax 
machine in Turkey”? Maybe the pundits have not seen the wide-spread 
protests on the Fridays christened, “We support the Free Syrian Army”, 
and “The Free Syrian Army Protects Us.” Rania Abuzaid’s excellent report 
explains the nuanced composition of the FSA. While it is true the FSA is 
separated into various groups defending different parts of the country 
and lacks a traditional central command, the thousands of men who fight 
and die every day in its name make it very real.

The president explains these discrepancies in reports emerging from 
Syria, “However, all the media fabrications, and the whole political and 
media campaign against Syria, were built on that phase of forging and 
distortion; and there is a difference between distorting the truth then 
giving it credibility as being presented from the inside of Syria, on 
the one hand, and distorting the truth from the outside of Syria where 
less credibility tends to be given to such misrepresentation. That is 
why we took a decision not to close the door to all media networks, but 
to be selective in the access given to them in order to control the 
quality of the information or the falsification which goes beyond the 
borders.” So the regime decided to be selective about who was allowed 
access to Syria, to combat the masses’ fabrications and control the 
message. Is that the definition of propaganda?

One of those “selective” moments is the now infamous Barbara Walters’ 
interview. Assad was apparently shocked at how poorly he was portrayed 
in the interview, declaring the fabrication so convincing, he almost 
believed it himself. But recently, while activists combed through the 
hacked email accounts of government officials, they uncovered an email 
by Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari’s daughter, 
Sheherazad. She prepped the president for the interview by studying, in 
her mind, the typical American viewer, “It is hugely important and worth 
mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crisis 
because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ The American 
psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are 
‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’” (Her “quotes.”) Staging and 
gaging for American likability, American sentiments, and American 
sympathy. Later, in his speech to supporters, Assad spins the 
unflattering interview into an American media conspiracy.

The president, joined by his small but growing public relations army of 
Arab and Western journalists/supporters and backed by “most Syrians” 
according to Jonathan Steele, would like you to believe the following 
scenario: In Syria, a minuscule number of mythical (yet 
sectarian/extremist/Salafi/violent) protesters repeat make-believe 
chants supporting (and protected by) a fictional army, while being 
filmed by faux cameras, made into fabricated films, to be tweeted by 
virtual activists, and watched by millions of fake people on their 
conspiratorial Arabic satellite channels and consumed by a biased 
Western media engaged in the “propaganda” war, in order to cover the 
“real” Syrian crisis in, as Cockburn says, “a fog of disinformation 
pumped through the internet.”

And why should the world believe Assad’s scenario over the people’s 
reality? Because, according to the Syrian regime, the country faces a 
universal conspiracy designed to validate foreign intervention which 
will destabilize the region, strengthen Israel, weaken Iran, declare 
Qatar a regional superpower, and push Syria into a civil war fueled by 
“inherent” sectarianism that the Assad regime has protected its citizens 
from for the past forty-two years.

For some, the “conspiracy” also threatens to kill what is called the 
last vestige of Arab “resistance.” Resistance against what? Most Syrians 
would say the Assad regime has never resisted anything but the Syrian 
people’s aspirations. (But most Syrians never understood or appreciated 
their country’s all-important “regional” political role. They were too 
busy enduring Assad & son’s domestic policies.) The Syrians on the 
street (the ones who matter) even chant: “Ya Bashar, you coward, go send 
your troops to the Golan.” No one in Syria or the Golan is holding their 
breath. Some people will disagree with blindly disregarding the Assad 
regime’s regional and international accomplishments, as a result of its 
historic stances of resistance. Those people should ask the families of 
the over 7,000 murdered Syrians if their loved ones’ deaths were worth 
this so-called resistance. They should ask Palestinians as well (also 
the ones who matter): What has the Syrian regime done for you lately? 
(“Lately,” is loosely defined here, but let us just say in the last 
fifty years.) They would probably answer: a lot; of damage. Critic Subhi 
Hadidi lists some of the damage, “As for the Palestinians, well, the 
regime did quite the opposite: It sided against the Palestinians, as 
well as the 'national movement’ led by Kamal Jumblatt in the Lebanese 
civil war; it was involved in the 1976 Tal al-Zaater siege and massacre 
. . . it participated in the 1983 siege and shelling of Palestinian 
camps in Tripoli, Lebanon.” Poet and former political prisoner Faraj 
Bayraqdar says those who still defend the regime’s self-declared role of 
resistance, “are inflicted with ideological blindness.” He adds, “Those 
people don’t know the difference between resistance and desisting, 
between rhetoric and reality.”

The regime uses this mix of recycled ideological propaganda and media 
manipulations to confront the mass accumulation of evidence of their 
atrocities that have spread across the world. The regime continues to 
insist it’s fighting armed gangs while using real weapons pouring in 
from Russia on real ships to kill unarmed civilians and defected 
soldiers. After months of skeptics asking, “Just who are these ‘armed 
gangs’?”, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem ended a press conference in 
November with clips of the “armed gangs” in action. It was later 
discovered that those clips were filmed in Lebanon in 2010. In other 
words, mfabrakeh. When he was confronted in December, Muallem defended 
himself (beginning at minute 57:00) saying the clips were “correct in 
all their content, but they weren’t directed in a good way, only.” 
Directed? Like “pictures”? How real of him. He added, “If we wanted to 
expose the truth, the ugly images of what the terrorist groups are 
doing, I believe many of you will faint.” (Thank you, Walid Muallem for 
sparing us the truth.) When the mysterious yet conveniently-timed 
explosion rocked the Midan area in Damascus last month, state television 
channel, SANA, was on location ready to broadcast live coverage of the 
“surprise” bombing. They were so efficient that they captured on film, a 
man holding a Syrian TV mic planting white plastic bags near the pools 
of blood. Even the presenter was shocked into silence as she narrated 
the scene. Another case of bad direction. They should have called 
Jaafari Jr. to handle it.

Patrick Cockburn accuses the revolutionary forces of “engaging in black 
propaganda,” constructing a “fake” revolution using the regime’s tools 
of manipulation, while the old-school regime has become incompetent and 
sloppy. Assad has an explanation for those “mistakes” (in a 15,000 word 
speech, you can expect to find an explanation for anything): “In our 
quest to dismantle that virtual environment and to ensure the importance 
of the internal situation in confronting any external interference, we 
took the initiative to talk transparently on having a default here and a 
defect or delay there in some areas.” Maybe it’s a case of the students 
becoming more masterful than the master. Or maybe, it’s a case of one 
side being real and the other finally exposed as fake.

Syrian supporters of the regime know very well what it feels like to 
play pretend. It’s apparent in the new, popular chant, “We will be your 
shabbiha forever, ya Assad.” For decades, Syrians chanted “We sacrifice 
our souls and our blood for you, ya Assad.” I never thought I would feel 
nostalgic for that chant, but I am. As insincere it as it was, it meant 
that we were willing to sacrifice what we were, as we were, our souls 
and blood, for the leader. This new chant viciously takes subserviency 
to another level. It expresses the willingness of the people to become 
something criminal—the despised, ruthless thugs for the regime. To 
become something they are not.

Between treacherous chants and pseudonymous identities, Syria has become 
a web of deception, woven by necessity by both sides for protection 
against the entrenched regime. But Syrians have been unaccounted for as 
individuals for decades. Long ago, our features were erased in a sea of 
empty faces that mirrored only one face. We became a pixilated canvas 
that created a collage of the leader’s image. Our voices formed one 
unified mouth only capable of expressing (fake) declarations of love and 
devotion. We never really mattered to the regime, and so, we forgot to 
matter to ourselves. Today, the Syrian people not only fight every day 
for their survival, but to prove that they matter. They resist to prove 
they exist.

In a recent article by Robert Fisk, he referred to Syria as a symbol. 
For decades, Syria indeed was reduced to a symbol, sometimes of Arab 
unity, other times of confrontational and heroic resistance. Hafez 
al-Assad represented revolution, as we used to chant during mandatory 
demonstrations, “Hafez. Assad. Symbol of the Arab revolution.” For the 
last eleven months, the regime has proved everyday that they are far 
from being a symbol of revolution. Or a symbol of unity, or Arabism, or 
anti-imperialism, or even resistance. They have been an emblem of 
nothing but tyranny and oppression.

To conceal the reality of what they really are, the Assad regime 
fabricates every kind of conspiracy possible: political conspiracy, 
media conspiracy, military conspiracy, an Arab conspiracy, a Western 
conspiracy, an imperialist conspiracy, an economic conspiracy, a 
sectarian conspiracy. And according to Jaafari Sr., Syria now faces a 
Google conspiracy. Every conspiracy is legitimate except the one 
conspiracy the Syrian people have endured for four decades: the 
illegitimate rule of the Assad dynasty. The regime would rather erase 
every citizen’s existence than admit they are the universal conspiracy 
that plagues Syria.

For such a virtual, hypothetical, fictitious, mythical, conspiracy-based 
revolution, its heavy weight is tangible with real blood, real corpses, 
real tears, real intimidation, real scars of real torture dug into real 

The Syrian people, like their revolution, are not hypothetical, 
mythical, or fictitious, they are real. They are not a symbol of 
revolution, they are revolution. But as Elias Khoury says, "In their 
struggle and in their resistance, waging their orphan revolution, the 
Syrian people are alone." And it is wearing them out.

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