Images are a powerful tool in the hands of propagandists. A picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. If a powerful image can be manipulated to tell a tale even if false, it can persuade more viscerally than can a thousand reasoned arguments.
So it is with the tragic photograph making the mainstream media rounds yesterday of a lone Syrian child drowned on a Turkish shore. Reams of articles can be written about the current refugee crisis but particularly in the US they will go relatively unnoticed by those not directly affected. There may be some video clips on the nightly news but overall the story — and particularly the context — will go unexplained.
But the powerful image of a dead child, abandoned by the world on the capricious sway of the tide, is putty in the hands of propagandists.
And proponents of the four-year US policy of Syrian destabilization and regime change are lining up to make their case that the current refuge crisis — now swamping Europe with Syrians desperate for something approaching a normal life — is one hundred percent the fault of both Syrian president Assad and the western non-interventionists who objected to plans in 2013 for the US and UK to begin bombing Syria.
Writing in the International Business Times, the appropriately named James Bloodworth asserted that:
The escalating refugee crisis is rightly blamed on the cruel indifference shown to the plight of the world’s most vulnerable people by certain European governments, including our own. But let us remember how many of those who are today mawkishly lamenting the sight of dead children were whooping and hollering in 2013 when parliament voted to appease the brutal dictator from whom some of these unfortunate souls are fleeing.
Of course this is a grotesque lie meant to abuse this little dead boy one final time to make a case for a US/UK attack on the country his family, in desperation, left behind.
But the boy’s family did not leave in 2010. Or 2009. Or 2008. Not even 2011 or 2012. They did not flee Bashar Assad’s Syria. They fled a Syria on the verge of being over-run by the US-backed radical jihadists who have turned Syria into another Libya.
These Syrians did not flee Assad’s domestic policy as much as they fled US and UK foreign policy.
How does this disgusting propaganda work? A single, sorrowful image of a dead three year old boy is used to show the evils of Assad and of those in the west who oppose a direct attack on Syria. But what about the scores of children murdered by the US-led coalition bombing Syria on a daily basis?
Why don’t Americans and Brits see equally heart-wrenching pictures of children killed or injured by their own governments’ bombs? Because their governments are doing their best to hide the evidence. It doesn’t go with the storyline of the US and its allies as liberators of Syria. To put it bluntly, these dead children don’t count.
As a recent article found:
…credible reports of civilian casualties that have been flagged internally and passed to Centcom appear to receive only ‘minimal’ follow-up. ‘They don’t want to admit it,’ the official said, requesting anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. ‘It’s against their interest to admit there were civilian casualties in any strikes, and that’s why the burden of proof is quite high.’
One dead child is being used by western propaganda to enrage an ill-informed and propagandized population into demanding that their governments “do something” about the horrible situation in Syria. But what they do not understand is that for the past four years their governments have been “doing something” in Syria. That is the problem.