I consider manipulation as the most homicidal weapon in our time. The reason why I think so is: There are few people in the world that are in favor of the continuance of wars. How could the warlords still start these wars against the will of the majority? The answer is simple: With manipulation they can!
During the Syrian crisis years, I could observe and define many suspicious media behaviors and tactics which were used to distract the crowds from what was really going on or what should have been done.
Telling the crowds what they want to hear, not what is really going on
This sort of manipulation could be inherent to the media. The media does not necessarily practice such manipulation deliberately or consciously. It just responds to how people interact and react and what they would like to hear. The crowds are interested in listening to facts which back their view or their ideas about life and the world.
The western audience, for instance, would like to believe that Middle Eastern nations are, finally, rebelling for their freedom. This came from their paradigms surrounding a historical development and their own view of life. They project their own history on current events and recall events like the French Revolution and the World War harbingers. The intellectual Syrians wanted to hear only this exact story. They ignored any other facts. The Salafists in Syria and in the Arab Gulf countries would like to hear a completely different story. They preferred to see the revolution as a rise of Sunni Islam against the Alawite or secularity. Each party found a media which responded to their wish and repeated the story that fitted their liking. The truth of what was going on was not important for any party.
But how much does it really matter to know the real reason and trigger of wars?
The importance of knowing “why the war starts” lies in the fact of “unless we knew the reason for the war, we wouldn’t be able to finish it.”
All mankind has tried to stop wars but it has resulted to be useless…
War-lords can let the media explain the reasons for wars by telling unlimited stories about the Sunni-Shia conflict, Dictatorship-Freedom conflict, Kurdish-Arabic conflict, and Turkish- Russian conflict. They also could talk about conflict over gas and oil, profit conflict between the Russian axis and NATO, competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, between Capitalism and Socialism, or drought and desertification, Star Wars, Harry Potter, whatever… These reasons have existed for ages. I don’t deny here the fact that they are there. I just claim that they didn’t cause a war until “war-lords” used them to launch wars all over the world according to their own demand and profits. The media entertains its audience with what they would like to hear, while the war-lords complete the process by profiting from these wars and adding fuel to the fire. The point is: none of these reasons CREATED the war, the real creators and their motives hide somewhere out of this landscape and are rarely mentioned.
The media tends to talk about persons or events: Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, 9/11, Deraa’s children, Tunisian policewoman, etc. while the real reason(s) for the war are somewhere else… The wars in our age represent the ultimate edition of organized crime, and it is not about men or events. Even if Assad dies the next morning (or his whole family, Putin or Erdogan), the war or crisis won’t end because it is not about them…
But even this illusion and misunderstanding doesn’t come spontaneously… In the Syrian war (for instance), thousands of sponsored social media groups and accounts, video channels, news agencies, and figures were devoted to keeping eyes on “persons” or events… focusing their eyes on some clan, sect, or party, while spreading news implying that these symbols were in their last days… By using this technique (among others), the Syrians (all fighting parties) have lived 8 years (so far) expecting that the end of the war will happen soon, while the country has been destroyed and gradually disappears!
'We Can't Solve Problems by Using the Same Kind of Thinking We Used When We Created Them'
Overwhelming the crowds with irrelevant details and narrative
This kind of manipulation is used almost all the time in our media, in the tabloids as well as more reputable sources. It distracts its audience with names, personal behaviors and minor details.
We have to realize that we live in the age of international poles and axes. History can’t be decided solely focusing on the views of individual people or groups of people. Countries are now connected to each other and the superpowers won’t allow personal behaviors and views to threaten their interests or to risk the world order on which they worked. Some media tries to convince us otherwise by telling us unlimited irrelevant stories.
Some media tends to explain international events based on people such as Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and so on. Other media explain huge events based on single events, while the real triggers of the events on the international stage lie somewhere else. Noam Chomsky explained this idea by saying once:
“Trump's role is to ensure that the media and public attention are always concentrated on him. So every time you turn on a television set: Trump, open the front page of the newspaper : Trump, you open the front page of the newspaper: Trump. He's a conman, basically a showman and in order to maintain public attention you have to do something crazy, otherwise nobody's going to pay attention to you. If you do normal things you'll be way back somewhere. So every day there's one insane thing after another and then you know the media, he makes a crazy lie, you know, he had the biggest crowd in history or something, then the media looks at it and says “No, that isn’t the biggest crowed”, but meanwhile he's on to something else and then you go to that one and while this show is going on in public, in the background the wrecking crew is working. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnel; the guys in the cabinet who write his executive orders, what they are doing is systematically dismantling every aspect of government that works for the benefit of the population, this goes from workers’ rights, to pollution of the environment, rules for protecting consumers, I mean anything you can think of is being dismantled and all efforts are being devoted, almost with fanaticism, to enrich and empower their actual constituency, which is super wealth and corporate power.”[i]
The Pepsi VS Coca-Cola trap
In this trap the media serve their audience two options as if there is no third one. It raises endless disputes in which people try day and night to prove which choice is better. “Who is the liar, the Western or Russian media?” “Is NATO good or the Putin-Assad-Iran axes”? “Should we destroy Iraq, or close our eyes and turn our back leaving the Iraqi tyranny to kill whoever he wants?”
As if the rejection of one option necessarily implies acceptance of the other.
This trap played a homicidal role in the Syrian crisis. Many intellectuals, thinkers and even academic scientists fell in this trap. A wide range of the western audience found themselves in a pre-taken attitude and biased to Assad’s side. They refused to believe any reports about the Assad regime’s crimes against millions of civilians. Assad’s media and its allies, mainly the Russian, Iranian and their public relations arms made great use of this trap and profited from it until its last edge. After the Iraq war, the global mood was against any similar war. The media uncovered a lot of manipulation used by the western media to justify the war against Iraq and the Saddam Hussein regime. In the Syrian crisis this meant that the crowds automatically adopted the attitude of defending Assad and tending to hear only good things about him. This enabled Assad’s regime to go in brutality to the most severe edge. The crimes which were committed by Assad’s regime could exceed what the Nazi regime did in World War II.
However, but we need in each incident sort of answer, correct?
There are always unlimited possibilities and answers. Nevertheless the media distracts the crowds from seeing any third answer or even posing a third question.
In a world that we would hope for, it is not acceptable to leave a tyranny to slave or kill its nation. I have a complete disregard towards what “legal experts” wrote in the constitution of the UN Security Council.
The alternative option is not necessarily delegating to one or two entities like the CIA or the British military complex to destroy a nation without any responsibility.
The presidents and directors who dictated the invasion of Iraq or the operations in Syria were not investigated. The victims of this behavior in each case are in the millions.
The role of Social Media in the Syrian crisis
The entities which sponsored TV channels, newspapers and other propaganda tools were of course aware of the modern tools like social media.
The social media platforms were used heavily during the Syrian crisis. The Arab spring might not arise without these platforms, mainly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The role that the social media platforms played was not completely or necessarily part of a “conspiracy”.
Here is an example that illustrates why it is difficult to decide if the events happen naturally or as a part of a conspiracy, and what we should do towards that.
Platforms like Facebook or even the online stores are responsive. This means that they observe the behavior of the consumer and respond in the future accordingly.
When a customer buys a political book from Amazon, it is expected that Amazon would suggest them other political books in future.
The same can be said for Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and so on…
It is understood that the platforms adopt such quality. The commercial logic implies that.
However, this responsive quality is responsible for polarizing the communities and nations in a very dangerous way.
Imagine that 2 neighbors use social media for couple of hours every day or buy their stuff online. One of them might like, perhaps accidentally, a few funny images of cats or they might have bought a few books about gardening. The other meanwhile “liked” or “shared” a few posts about dogs or might have bought some science fiction books. Here is what will happen afterwards. The book stores and social media will show each of them thousands of similar material according to each one’s behavior. It will not take more than a few months until these two neighbors become strangers. Each one wouldn’t be aware of what the other is talking about or in which planet they live.
It is difficult to claim here that it is a “conspiracy”. However, mankind should be aware of this danger and deal with it as if it were a homicidal conspiracy.
This can split nations, create wars, and isolate families and inhabitants.
Some organizations could make out of this point unlimited wars and conflicts. All they need is a budget and to be free from values or ethics.
Besides the normal accounts which belong to individuals there were the sponsored ones. These accounts played a big role in shaping the collective minds and leading them in specific directions.
Some of these accounts behave in suspicious way. It is clear and easy to recognize that they were created systematically and used all the platforms’ possibilities as if their creators were trained to do that in a professional way. Part of this job was discovered later. Others declared their activity as a part of solidarity.It is completely understood that the security services wouldn’t spare using artificial intelligence and social media to observe the crowds and spread targeted ideas. Before the social media revolution, these services used other techniques like Radio, word of mouth propaganda and rumors to achieve the same goals.
[i] Prescribed from Noam Chomsky interview,