Saturday, 27 August 2011

Media Games

This morning, I woke at 4.30am and very foolishly reached habitually for my iPhone so I could check twitter for the latest news before going back to sleep.

I was jerked awake by what I read- helicopters circling Damascus, armed vehicles escorting the President and his family to the airport, the Revolutionary flag being raised over the Syrian State TV building, bloody clashes between loyalists and revolutionaries. It was almost like I had awoken into a nightmare.

In a frenzy of fear and agitation, I trawled the web for some more reliable references to the 'fall of Damascus' but was unable to find anything on any mainstream media site including al-Jazeera.

I continued to follow the increasingly alarming messages on twitter until I judged it a reasonable time to call Damascus and start screeching down the phone....scenarios of my friends and loved ones being strung up, dragged out of their beds an beaten flooded my mind but I knew I was simply scaring myself. N answered my call, sleep very evident in his voice, wondering why I was calling so early and I explained what I had been reading, he laughed and assured me all was well but would call me later when he'd found out more.

When he hung up, I was able to go back to sleep for a while but was still plagued with nightmares.

Later, I switched on al-Jazeera to see reports on what was 'happening' on Damascus- albeit they were not as sensationalist as those reports I'd seen on twitter but disturbing enough to cause family and friends from all over the world to call N to find out if all was well. He later called me and confirmed all was quiet- even in the supposed epicenter of Kafr Souseh.

But that led me to ask: who would be circulating such alarming and utterly untrue reports? What is the aim?

It would seem that the forces of the Arab Spring have employed the use of the media (particularly social media) to promote the cause and also to spread what can only be called propaganda- when Syrians claim that their president is beating a retreat to the airport or Libyans announce that they captured Saif el Islam Gaddafi and family then this represents a kind of propaganda which actually we are not strangers to- take the reports from the front in the 1967 Arab Israeli war which promised the Egyptian people that advances were being made and victory at hand. In Europe one only need look to the first and second world wars to see both the Allies and the Germans used false reporting via radio to boost morale.

Perhaps we are naive to assume that just because we live in a more technologically advanced age, where news can be transmitted instantly and media organizations have set 'standards' that people will report objectively an not use the media for their own purposes.

Unfortunately, due to increased technology and multiplied media resources it is invariably hard for the individual to sift through all the information we are bombarded with minute by minute but it is also hard for media professionals to decide on which 'eyewitness' reports to believe and which to discount- and therein lies the problem.

- and so we conquer our fear

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