The BBC’s interview program Hardtalk has what is by far the industry’s most skillful research team. I am constantly amazed at the depth and knowledge of the questions presented by the show’s very capable hosts to the politicians, heads of state, and business,media and sports personalities that have appeared over the years on the program. Indeed, at times I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of the more ill-prepared guests on the show, while they flustered and strained to come up with adequate responses to the piercing questions posed to them. This is not a program for anyone looking for a Piers Morgan-like fluff and feel-good half hour.
While it is always a pleasure to watch well informed and skillful hosts skewering ill-prepared politicians, it is a rare treat to watch an episode where the guest is as well prepared, knowledgeable and every bit the expert as Hardtalk’s team of researchers. Such was the joy of watching the episode where the amazingly well-informed Dr Brooke Magnanti was interviewed by the equally well prepared Katya Adler.
This was by far one of the best handled half-hour interviews I’ve ever had the privilege of watching, especially considering the controversial subject matter, prostitution. I consider it a must-watch 30 minutes of television for anyone whose job involves talking with the media. It is a text book example of a well-prepared, skillful and knowledgeable expert defending a point of view that would be challenging under the best of circumstances.
Until recently, supporters of the Assad regime focused their media efforts on portraying their favorite dictator as a “bulwark” against American hegemony,Israeli ambitions, Islamist extremism and a stabilizing force in an inherently unstable region (phew, Superman didn’t have as many super-human challenges).
However, the favored narrative of the “anti-imperial” Left and “Hate-America-at-all-Costs” Arab camp has become all but impossible to maintain in the face of the Syrian regime’s increasingly barbaric oppression of the country; massacres in Houla and Daraya, an airforce dropping barrels of TNT on civilian areas, an army shelling bread lines, documented widespread and systematic torture and abuse of children, and a monthly death rate for civilians that exceeds the worst days of the Iraq war. And the “axis of resistance” myth doesn’t stand up too well when one considers that Assad has shelled every single neighbouring country with the exception of Israel itself.
And so regime supporters have had little choice but to shift their narrative; sure, Assad is bad,but his opponents are just as nasty or even worse. It’s also a favorite line for isolationists who advocate the West leaving the Syrian people to their bloody fate (the disgraceful Daniel Pipes being just one example).
And yet, when the actions and record of both sides in the Syrian conflict are studied in a balanced and impartial way, the inevitable conclusion is that, far from being just as bloody and barbaric as the Assad regime, the Free Syrian Army has infact proven itself to be the most moral armed group, in the history of Arab armed groups.
Groundbreaking Poll on the Syrian Opposition – Final Stake in the Heart of the Leftist Conspiracy Theories
A recent survey by the International Republican Institute which polled over 1000 Syrian opposition members seems to decisively put to rest the myth promoted by the Assad regime’s supporters, that opponents of the regime are motivated by narrow sectarian and hardline Islamist considerations. The ground breaking poll, which was discussed at length in the Washington Post, provides an invaluable insight into the views of those working to overthrow the four decade rule of the Assad family, and serves as a decisive and final nail in the coffin of all the “anti-imperial” Leftist conspiracy theories, which for months were claiming that the Syrian opposition were Saudi-CIA-Wahabi funded fanatics hell bent on imposing Zionist-CIA-Wahabi hegemony on Syria.
What immediately stands out from the results of the survey is the huge variety and breadth of opinions and positions that exist within the opposition. Were this a survey of pro-regime supporters, doubtless the magical number “99.9999%” would have come up on every single position and question.
It is hard to imagine a more useful article that opposition activists could Tweet or publicize than this survey. It provides the clearest idea yet of who the Syrian opposition is, and what they believe in.
It is interesting to see the different and contrasting approaches the world’s media took to covering and discussing the recent demonstrations in the Islamic world, protesting against the *cough* film “The Innocence of Muslims” (the very making of which set the art of film-making back 50 years). Chinese protesters who during the same timespan, smashed up and burned down Japanese businesses and brutally assaulted Japanese nationals, can’t have been happy that their cause was overshadowed by coverage of the few thousand Muslim protesters in a handful of Islamic countries.
The “anti-imperial” Left are a highly selective bunch of people. Selective in what atrocities outrage them. Selective in the events they choose to recall. Selective in which war criminals to get worked up over, and which ones to defend as beacons of freedom against “American hegemony”.
These days, the Left have become synonymous with the word “hypocrisy”, and no one exemplifies that camp’s complete and utter lack of integrity more than the pseudo-intellectual Lebanese Marxist who fled to the USA in 1983, Ass’ad Abu Khalil aka Angry Arab, who in just one day managed to spew more hypocrisy and self-contradiction, than a normal person could manage in a week. If hypocrisy was a power source, Angry Arab could generate enough of it to solve all of the planet’s energy problems.
It is interesting to observe the ever shifting talking points of the Assad regime’s “anti-imperial” Leftist friends. No longer able to claim with a straight face anymore that the son of the equally murderous Hafiz Assad is a “reformer” who just needs time to implement said “reforms”, the Left’s tone has now shifted remarkably; yes, Assad is a murderous tyrant, but his opponents are Saudi-funded and inspired Salafi maniacs who are even worse, and whose triumph in Syria would spell the demise of Western civilization as we know it.
Nobody exemplifies this trend of thinking better than the fear-monger- at-large, the Indian freelance writer Kapil Komireddi. I had previously written a blog post regarding the numerous inaccuracies and falsehoods in an article of his in the New York Times (a blog post which earned me an infantile insult from Kapil Komireddi on Twitter). Kapil Komireddi is at it again, this time peddling his fear mongering in Ha’aretz, in an article entitled “Rebels with an Anti-Semetic Cause”. In his article, Kapil Komireddi isn’t content with just mis characterizing the Syrian revolutionaries as blood-thirsty savages who dream of murdering Jews; nope, apparently a Kapil Komireddi article isn’t complete if the author doesn’t indulge his infantile chauvinism against Saudi Arabia.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of two of the United Kingdom’s most famous pop-culture creations; the James Bond films, and the sci-fi series Doctor Who. Both have survived and thrived through five decades of changing cultural tastes. The programs have stood the ultimate test of any institution; to outlast the life-time or active involvement of its founders or any principal individual.
Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks. Apparently, a series of movies about a fictional British spy and a show about an alien time/space traveler, are more durable than the political party that has ruled Syria for the exact same amount of time that those two entities have been in existence. The first James Bond movie came out in 1962, Doctor Who first aired in 1963, and the Baathists seized power in Syria on 8th March,1963 (a date drilled into the head of every single Syrian school child). And yet there’s no question whatsoever which institutions are stronger.