« The Tripod: CAMERA Links in Three Languages -- August 25-26 | Main | Norwegian FM Calls for Palestinian Concessions »

August 27, 2013

Syrian Chemical Weapons Use and the Impact of Media Coverage

Aftermath of Iraqi Chemical Weapons Attack on Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988 that killed up to 5000 civilians

Recent statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry portend a forceful American response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.

It is worth noting that this is not the first, nor anywhere near the most significant alleged use of chemical weapons in the Middle East, or even by the Syrian regime. As CAMERA previously described, the use of chemical weapons by Arab regimes goes back to the 1960s with the Egyptian intervention into the civil war in Yemen. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in Iraq and current Syrian President Bashir Assad's father allegedly used them against rebellious citizens of Hama in 1982.

Back then coverage of the use of these weapons was limited. Today, with cellphone cameras and Twitter, images of the immediate after-effects of a chemical weapons attack have flooded the Internet. The ability of the media to magnify or diminish conflict is once again evident.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict offers a classic example of disproportionate media amplification of a conflict. As CAMERA has documented, the media's fixation over many years on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fed the illusion that it was at the core of the region's instability. This exaggerated media attention pressured government officials to prioritize activities addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Media attention on the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons is certainly warranted, but the outcry and call for action again demonstrates the influence the media has in shaping our views on the relative importance of conflicts and in motivating action.

Posted by SS at August 27, 2013 11:17 AM


Why the lack of glasnost about the continual talks. They should be stopped as well. War should always wait.

Posted by: Mitchell Nusbaum at August 28, 2013 06:10 AM

Iraq used massive amounts of chemical weapons in their war with Iran as well.

Russia used large amounts in Afghanistan as well

Posted by: Gee at August 28, 2013 10:30 AM

Guidelines for posting

This is a moderated blog. We will not post comments that include racism, bigotry, threats, or factually inaccurate material.

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)