Imagine this: you are a well-known TV correspondent and you now have a rare occasion to interview one of the main troublemakers in one of the world’s most turbulent and troubled regions, so, what would you do? What would you ask him about? Well, I don’t know about you, but Diane Sawyer of ABC News (Video, Text) thought it will be a rather wonderful and congenial idea to give this man a platform from which to attack her country’s democratically elected administration, while ignoring the man’s and his regime’s record in oppressing his own population, dabbling in neighboring countries, and exporting chaos and terror, that is, in being one of the region’s the main domino players for decades. So, there were no questions about the Hariri Investigation, or the situation in Lebanon, or connection to Iran, the sham referendum that brought him to power, the shame referendum that is designed to keep him in power, and about the fact that many insurgency leaders in Iraq are roaming around free in Damascus and talking to foreign journalists and operating their insurgency TV from Syria, not to mention the continuing crackdown against democracy and human rights advocated in the country. After all who cares about these issues, right? Because what inquiring minds really want to know is what’s on this fucking murderous moron’s iPod.
For if it is by any chance Shania Twain and Faith Hill, well then, gee whiz, the man must really be good and wholesome like the milk from grandma’s farm ya all. And we can just to talk to him. After all, he is “the son of the legendary Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, who negotiated with five American presidents” you know, which is offered as a sign of prestige somehow, rather than a mark of eternal shame. But then, we Syrians, although we look more modern and secular than most other Arabs (except the Lebanese and Tunisians), are still products of the East to Diane Sawyer, it seems, and, as such, we do somehow expect our leaders to lord over us for a long time, and we just looove it when we they do.
The fact that we have a Republican system rather than a monarchical one is not seen as an indication of our desire for a responsible government and a peaceful and regular transition of power. Naah, it’s just an accident of history, a little curiosity, like having Faith Hill on you ipod, or riding a bus in London when you are the son of a Middle Eastern dic-fucking-tator. iPleaaaase. If the interview was intentionally designed to make this “Basher” of our democratic aspirations look good it would not have done a better job. This was not simply a nice performance by our national thug, who had obviously rehearsed every response this time around and paid more deference to why his hired media goons had told him, this was a seriously poor, unprofessional and moronic performance by the ABC team who set this up, or should we just put sole blame on ABC’s own Dame Edna for this? And so our village idiot ended up sounding like a statesman, did he? Well, how else should a man sound when he is allowed to make such claims as “We are the main player,” in reference to helping stabilize the situation in Iraq without being challenged on it, and “What good is democracy if you are dead?” without actually being reminded that he had done his best from the very beginning to ensure that death rather than democracy should prevail in Iraq, and he is on the fucking public record on this. Sure his regime’s survival was at stake.
But, you know what?, he is a fucking maniacal dictator, his fears in this regard, albeit natural, are not legitimate. People often confuse the natural and legitimate in this case. The Assads’ reactions are often natural, but always illegitimate. The way they took over and (mis)managed the affairs of the state should stigmatize them for life.
And the least that representatives of the democratic media can do when they get the occasion to interview such figures is to bear this simple imperative in mind and to press them on it. You don’t get to interview a dictator only to give him a free pass on all the criminal things that he habitually commits. You don’t give him an easy time of it, just because you happen to hate your own democratically elected president, one who is about to be democratically replaced soon, unlike the dictator you are interviewing, or because you find the opposition unconvincing perhaps. Because as a representative of the free media, it is indeed freedom that should be on your mind, and freedom is the agenda that you should be ultimately serving here, and no other consideration should be allowed to weigh in and dilute the issue. Because when representatives of the free media allow for the dilution of critical issues, what chance does freedom, truth and justice have?
But then again, who cares about all this? What do you have on your iPod? iPray do tell.