No, I am not obsessed with Christie Blatchford: I swear! It's just that it so happened as I was busy with my Czech blog since summer, that she is the focus of my writing here back-to-back. Something caught my eye in her writing on Friday, and I think I need to make a few points.
We live in parallel universes. It seems more and more self-evident. The amount of irreducible moral values that we share has shrunk to almost nothing; critical thought has been has been banished out of almost any discourse; to demand balanced view of anything in the social or political sphere, you may as well admit that you are "in the other camp". This is because we operate increasingly in a binary world of white against black, and most people (starting with generation X-ers, but even more so with the millenials) no longer process the world based on what they digest by scavenging information from various sources, but simply plugging into ONE virtual reality that obsesses with a selection of real and imaginary outrages against THEM and THOSE who declare themselves believers in that virtual reality out of sense of kinship. No dissent is allowed. If you have doubts about the basic tenets of the belief system you are an agent of EVIL, or at best you are still in denial.
There is no way you can convince the batshit crazy feminist troopers on campus that there is no world-wide male conspiracy against women or a culture of rape that every dick knows and lies about. There is no way one can reason with them and increasingly no way one can reason with the academia administrators who - if not in sympathy - are plainly intimidated by them. No way the famous Rolling Stone campus false rape accusation (there was a number of less-publicized similar cases before) would convince any of the troopers of the need to tone down the inane rhetoric if not to spend their creativity and energy in more useful social projects.
Similarly, you cannot convince anti-Putin fanatics to drop their idiotic narrative in which he is a murderer of domestic political opponents, invader and oppressor of foreign countries, and a commander in chief of a grand army of hackers. There is always the insane pitch that will sooner or later arrive in any of these virtual reality information channels. In the campus statistical follies, it has arrived with the conviction that one in four women on campus has been sexually violated. On the other front, this past week we learned that Putin was "personally" involved in the hacks. It could not have been otherwise; no-one in Russia could have ordered the hacks but Putin. But what is this saying? People who don't know anything about Russia - let alone about Putin's Russia - automatically assume that this axiom must hold even though it should obvious to any modestly smart intelligence officer that someone high up might have (just might have) want to protect the boss and order the hacks to curry favours because he knew (or thought he knew) that Putin would be pleased with that sort of activity. It also would give him a way out - it's called "plausible deniability". That is a possibility, right? But by the pedestrian logic deployed here, it must have Nicholas who ordered the assassination of Rasputin. No-one in Russia, the theory goes, would have had the nerve to take bake cakes with potassium cyanide at the court without the express permission of the Tsar. Would he ? Vozmozhno? But interestingly this childish assertion about Putin masterminding anything nefarious in Russia, has become a blood sport. Kovtun and Lugovoy, the murderers of the former KGB agent Litvinenko in London in 2006 likely had had a clearance from Putin, Lord Owen concluded in a pathetic inquiry into the death of the émigré. This of course opens the door for someone like Terence McKenna to claim there is no doubt Putin did it, and that he did it cover his tracks in the murder of Politkovskaya which Litvinenko alleged. Our journalistic standards at work.
With Christie Blatchford, it astonishes me to learn that she is willing to lap up much of the mainstream media garbage that one reads about Syria in general and Aleppo in particular. It is very clear that she has no alternative source of information about the place and what is going on in there.
She excuses herself at the start of her National Post piece (Aleppo Needs Us, 16/12/2016) saying she is "certainly no foreign policy wonk".
That's Christian of you, Christie! But what do you think you have to contribute here other than repeating the revolting and insane lies, which equate the bad things wrought by Assad (and his friend Putin) to the monstrosities of people who massacre and terrorize civilians on grand scale. Isn't the narrative that you and the Western media propagate the very guarantee of more death, destruction and misery, that Syria's people presently suffer? Did you do some sanity check on some of the things you allege the government side does? Like "chemical weapons" ? You know that the evil Assad gave those up three years ago? Don't you ? (You evidently missed the Seymour Hersh's piece that no major outlet would initially publish in the U.S.) At any rate, you should know, that the only undisputed use of chemical weapons in the five-year war came from the rebel side. Very few people would argue with this on the basis of facts. As for barrel bombs, well it's a brutal weapon and it was used by Assad, although I am still missing evidence that it was used "on civilian population" indiscriminately. I am pretty sure that the Syrian dictator would be less generous in providing warning that hell is going to rain down on houses with people in them than the Israeli's were in Gaza. But that the use of barrel bombs seems to have been limited to places (like the vicinity of Damascus or Homs) from which rockets were fired on civilian areas under government control. Now, if you went as far as listening to Assad himself talking about his tactics in trying to dislodge the fanatics from heavily populated areas toward open spaces, you might have learned something. The Evil Man has actually won a great deal of popularity in Syria as a "protector" and in the internal dislocations over 80% of the displaced population migrates to the government-controlled areas. Now if you asked , "how much relief do these people (over four million of them) get from the UN" you would be asking the right question. But you are not asking that. Actually you are not asking anything (like Robert Fisk is, e.g.) You come to lecture, and lecture about something you personally have no background in, either as a first-hand experience or in absorbing some credible in-depth information on the conflict. I am talking about judicious weighing of the alternatives, not the phoney ceasefires, peace proposals which by now everyone knows are just a smoke screen for the continued license to wage war on Syria. Boris Johnson has no solution for Syria. After he said that Russia could be guilty of war crimes in Syria, someone retorted that only "an idiot" would see the two sides of the conflict in terms of moral equivalence. And there are only two sides! The non-jihadi militants have never been a factor in the fighting! Now what about the sudden surge of ISIS in eastern Syria after the Iraqis and the allies opened up a corridor for thousands of fighters to escape through, and the sudden reversal of Obama in signing an arms waiver for the rebels? Any connection there, you think?
So I would forget about getting rid of Assad! It's not anyone's call to make but the Syrians'. If one wants to help one should diversify a bit one's reading and seeing: try Eva Bartlett or Vanessa Beeley. Too bad that in the English-speaking world I have not found a writer like Tereza Spencerova who sends dispatches to the Czech weekly Literary News. She has a great sense of what is going on on the ground and a way to make the landscape speak out in a way that is both believable and touching without melodrama. Here is an interesting excerpt from one of her blogs (translated from Czech):
"I had the opportunity to visit one of the improvised refugee camps a few kilometers from Aleppo, on the grounds of a former textile factory. There was a flood of women covered in black; some had their faces covered as well, except eyes. The eyes were empty. No mourning, no celebrating. One man from the Red Crescent tried to convince them over a bullhorn from a warehouse ramp that it is not against Allah's will to allow their children to be vaccinated against all manner of diseases. Al-Qaeda forbade this as a conspiracy of the West to uproot Islam. In the meantime their men fought over unleavened bread Syrian soldiers were distributing from trucks. It was a view of human beings who have no idea what is going on around them, or what will be, humans with a single desire to survive the present, which in the shock from any radically new situation is, well, an automatic reflex.
I tried to find out - in vain it turned out - if people from East Aleppo were more inclined to practice a very conservative form of Islam before the war or if they accepted the new ways as a part of their "Stockholm syndrome" from their captors, al-Qaeda. In any case, it was a horrific scene. In the middle of (relatively) cosmopolitan and civilized Syria, suddenly materializes a scene from Middle Ages - a Kandahar.
But the West does not care about these people any more - they were of interest only when they were under Russian or Syrian bombardments, and until anyone knew who they were. Now, when they are out - in the daylight, so to speak - no one can pretend they represent the masses struggling for democracy in Syria, and hence the Western humanitarian and other organizations lost their interest...but is anyone surprised?"