Over the last 24-hours there’s been a renewed media storm over Syria – prompted by a horrific story of atrocities in the town of Houla. Very gruesome images of dead children have been offered to the media, which has lapped them up and used them again and again on our screens and in our newspapers.
The UN observers in Syria, so far, have declined to draw definite conclusions about who’s responsible for this terrible massacre. But unsurprisingly, western media has been less circumspect. There’s a deafening chorus of howls complaining ‘The World’ isn’t doing anything, while President Assad gets away with murdering his own people – again!
Kristyan Benedict tweets about the Houla massacre; Amnesty UK's Campaigns Manager already knows who's guilty - and tells us all!
I’ve no doubt some of the Twitter users tweeting and re-tweeting this type of sentiment on the #Houla hashtag are genuine in their concern. Yet remarkably few people ever seem to pause and ask themselves the obvious question – why on earth would the Syrian Government want to kill Syrian children? And even if for some reason they did – why would they do so in a way more or less guaranteed to attract international condemnation and renewed calls for intervention?
In other words, ‘cui bono‘?
Who really benefits from this atrocity – and who doesn’t? Surely the insurgents and their foreign backers benefit.. and the Syrian Government most certainly does not! Given that recent bomb atrocities in Damascus have been blamed – almost universally – on extremist opponents of the Assad Government, isn’t it at least plausible they’re also behind this latest horror?
Yet just as mainstream media doesn’t want to give that line of inquiry much encouragement, major ‘human rights’ NGOs like Amnesty have also rushed to judgement. Their weekend tweeps have been hammering away, sneering at the Assad Government and spinning the incident as grounds for outside “intervention”… just like they did last year over Libya.
BBC Story 'Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows' - Version 1
Every now again again the mass media is so dishonest it gets caught out. The BBC came a cropper only a few hours ago – but there’s been no acknowledgement and I suspect BBC staff would like their ‘mistake’ flushed rapidly down the Memory Hole.
To make it a tad harder for them, this post tells the story for posterity. The information on which it’s based comes from a pro-Syrian tweeter called Hey Joud, whom I’ve found to be well informed and savvy.
A few hours ago the BBC posted a story on its website (Middle East section) entitled Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows. The latest update is given as 04.40 GMT. It has some rather unremarkable graphics – a photo of a UN observer witnessing bodies in sheets and a map showing the location of Houla, near Homs.
However, a friend of Joud’s was smart enough to take a screenshot of an earlier version of this story. Then he/she did some homework – and discovered the dramatic image which it featured prominently was in fact a photo from Iraq dating from several years ago (according to the associated image data, May 2003). It’s featured as image no 52 on this webpage. The accompanying text makes it clear the bodies had been removed from a mass grave.
Hey Joud tweeted about this discovery. That’s how I became aware of it:
@BBCWorld propaganda:http://imageshack.us/photo/my-image … showing a pic of bodies from Iraq claiming it’s the? #HoulaMassacre? ? #Syria? http://shineyourlight-shineyourlight.blogspot.ca/2012/01/9-nike-years-of-war-in-iraq.htmleyourlight-shineyourlight.blogspot.ca/2012/01/9-nike… …
By the time I went to check the same BBC’s story online for myself, the photo from Iraq was no longer there. At any rate, it doesn’t appear now on the equivalent BBC webpage, viewed from here in Australia.
BBC Story 'Syria massacre in Houla condemned as outrage grows' - Version 2
I’d guess the most likely explanation is that the original (highly deceptive) photo was taken from BBC archives, used in this article for its high dramatic impact – then quickly replaced when the BBC became aware someone had spotted the deception. If that’s not what actually happened, perhaps the BBC would care to correct me?
This is not the first time I’ve reported on image fakery with regard to Syria. The western media’s sustained attack on that beleaguered nation has now been underway for more than a year. A comprehensive account of all its deceptions and misreporting over that period would fill many volumes.
No-one ever seems to be held accountable for the gross breaches of journalistic ethics that do come to light. Jobs in organisations like Reuters and the BBC must be relaxing. Unlike humble bloggers out here in the ‘real world’, these folk don’t need to bother about truth and accuracy. If they ever do get busted by a wary public, their butt is always well-protected.
George Orwell’s book 1984 is often viewed as a parody of totalitarian states such as Soviet Russia, even though the tale was actually set in England.
I think there’s another possibility. In the early 1940s, Orwell spent a year devising war propaganda for the BBC. Working at the Beeb was probably all the inspiration he needed to write the most famous dystopia of his century..