Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Covering the Syrian vote in Lebanon: Anne Barnard builds a theory on the basis of a phrase uttered by one Syrian in a language that

I knew that Western correspondents in Beirut would spin the massive voting by Syrian in Lebanon.  And I knew that they all have that last refugee of lazy and incompetent Western reporters: to reproduce the propaganda spin of the local side that is sponsored by Western governments.  That usually does the job.  I thought I would visit Anne Barnard on Twitter to see how she was spinning the situation and here is a sample:

 Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT
"could be obligation, pressure, could be "we had to come." not clear what he meant. then he said "it's our duty."
"some yes some no. Pressure could be in people's minds or subtle and deniable. Some very enthusiastic, others less."
"and many are clearly acting of their own accord, while for others feeling of coercion might be subtle not overt."
"But another friend in beirut said her Syrian manicurists believed in the threats and felt they had to go vote /6"
"Did these ppl overinterpret what they were told out of own fears or was threat explicit? Hard to say, but telling either way. /4"

Now notice how she strains to provide her friends among the Syrian "rebels" and their supporters with explanation to undermine the significance of the show of force by Syrian voters in Lebanon.  And who in the right mind would really believe that Syrians in Lebanon could be intimidated into supporting one side or another when: 1) Lebanon is deeply divided and any Syrian could easily find a side to sponsor; 2) when Syrians in Lebanon have been so free to place bombs and to go fight in Syria on this side or another over the last two years; 3) how on earth could anyone force a Syrian in Lebanon to go and vote? How does that work?  Now I know that methods of documentation by Ms. Barnard are rather comical (along the lines I heard from a "friend" or "a Syrian" I spoke to, etc) but I also know that she stumbled on a phrase uttered BY ONE SYRIAN in Lebanon that she spoke to through an interpreter.   My informants in Lebanon (you have no idea how many I have), tell me that her Syrian interpreter is a vocal supporter of the Fee Syrian Army.  So what was the phrase in question? She heard one Syrian tell her (through an interpreter) that "jina bil-quwweh", which Ms. Barnard took to means were came here forced or compelled while it most likely means we "came against all odds".   But most importantly: who can look at the enthusiastic crowd today in Lebanon and think: they were brought against their will or that they were intimidated to come? How dumb is that, really?