Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What the CIA learned from Trotsky

Good news, sort of, from Syria: at least one person is not in danger.

For a while now, the BBC's line on Syria has been - ambivalent. About a month ago, I heard a very interesting 'From Our Own Correspondent' slot about how the government's brutal repression of protestors wasn't quite as one-sided as most news made it out to be. Long story short: there was plausible evidence that the unarmed protesters were, in fact, fighting back quite violently, and (at the time of that report) more than 50 Syrian security force personnel had been killed.

As compared with several hundred civilian casualties, that may not sound like all that many - but it does suggest that the Syrian government may have a genuine terrorist problem on its hands. Not that the Syrian government is justified, but there is a case to answer

He also pointed out how effective the Syrian opposition had been at taking videos and leaking them onto the internet - a process that takes organisation and planning on an impressive scale. We have solid evidence that the rebels have access to readily concealable cameras, in numbers large enough for many to be present at a single event; and to internationally-operable satellite phone SIM cards. These are, I'm reliably informed, not things that you can just walk into any Vodafone shop in Syria and buy for yourself.

Now, it's easy to characterise the BBC's Mid-East reporting as biased (and here is one self-appointed media watchdog doing just that). But it's not clear why such bias should inspire it to take sides in the Syrian business, nor why there were no comparable doubts expressed about Egypt or Tunisia or Libya.

I'm reminded of the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine. At the time, I was lucky enough to count among my friends both an American (whose wife had worked in Ukraine) and a Russian. The American regaled me with stories of vote-rigging by the Ukrainian government, while the Russian told me about the Americans who gave out free smartphones and orange shirts to favoured political groups. It was an interesting time.

Now there's this report, which shows that at least one of the causes célèbres of the anti-Syrian-government lobby is a deliberate, systematic fake, created by - an American.

Of course, it's possible that these Americans are all just private citizens exercising their rights to free speech, using money provided by anonymous private-sector donors. And it's possible that "Just Journalism" is a nonpartisan group of citizens with a love of Pure Truth and no financial connection to any government. And it's possible that I'm a brain in a jar.