New Frontiers In Propaganda

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Megan Garber investigates the Assad family’s Instagram presence:

The account gives Syrians and non-Syrians alike a supposed little insight into the supposed little sitcom that is The Assads – that quirky family-next-door, comprised of people who are wacky and relatable in equal measure. The Instagrams attempt to humanize Syria’s first family, to place them in a familiar context – which is also to say, if you’ve been following the news out of Syria, a totally unfamiliar context. A context that is unfamiliar because it is untrue. It’s not, of course, that there’s no joy to be found in Syria, despite all the conflict and chaos in the country; it’s that syrianpresidency, with every implication of business-as-usual, commits a sin of informational omission. Which is all to say that this particular Instagram feed does what most Instagram feeds tend to do: It offers a carefully crafted performance of daily banalities. With the difference here being that most Instagram feeds, and most of their mundanities, do not belong to dictators.

Marin Cogan notes that the Syrian mass-murderer is hardly being creative:

Assad is the latest in what one news site has called “the dictators of Instagram.” Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has famously used the social-networking site as a platform to project his very Russian style of masculinity (photo montages of the impossibly barrel-chested despot weight-lifting and posing with wolves and wildcats.) The minions of Ayatollah Khamenei have posted several close-ups of Iran’s septuagenarian Supreme Leader on his photo-sharing page.

Unsurprisingly, the Instagram presence of Bashar’s beautiful wife Asma has increased recently:

The Daily Mail, based in Great Britain where Asma al-Assad was born to affluent Sunni Muslim Syrian expats, and where she met her husband when he was an optometry student, called the Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 3.30.48 AMphotos a “sickening propaganda tool.”  The paper blasted her as “a stooge in this shameless PR exercise,” a woman who “seems is all too willing to try and mask the horrific atrocities being carried out by her husband’s forces.” Unlike other news sites, which ran the Instagram photos as stand-alone image, the Daily Mail paired each with a picture of Syrian carnage. …

The first lady’s family of Sunnis come from Homs, Syria’s third-largest city, which has been largely destroyed by Assad forces, Tabler said. But because she married into her husband’s ruling Alawite family and is the mother of their three children, “she is not about to break ranks. If she did, that would be great.”

But fortunately Instagram doesn’t shield the photos from criticism. Regarding the photo seen right:

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