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Friday, August 5, 2011

Syria Murders 2,000: Why Do Governments Always Get a Free Pass From The Media?

Since the Syrian anti-government protests started in March 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton estimates that 2,000 civilians have been murdered by the Syrian government. This week, the violence has intensified with at least 150 dead since Sunday. Here's a description of what's going on:

"Gunmen in plainclothes are randomly shooting people in the streets of the besieged Syrian city of Hama and families are burying their loved ones in gardens at home for fear of being killed themselves if they venture out to cemeteries, a resident says."

Such is the kind of horror Syrians are facing right now, the level of terror, the magnitude of bloodshed-- and there is no way the news media is covering this story this week with the same level of attention that they focused on the Norway attack in July.

What are the differences between the two? More are being killed in Syria than died in Norway if we're doing news by the numbers. The killing in Syria is sustained, ongoing, and systematic if our criterion is understanding emerging trends and / or round-the-clock updates on a story as it continues to unfold.

The killer in Norway was a crazy psycho, but the killers in Syria are the very people whose job it is to protect and serve Syrians if we're going by the outrage and disbelief factor. By any sane, objective criteria this should be the number one headline for the week like the Norway attacks were when they occurred, but it isn't.

So what's the only difference left? What makes this so much less newsworthy? The pattern of reporting is easy to see once you're aware of it. The Norway attacks were committed by a private individual and the Syrian massacres are being carried out by an official government. Individuals are always scarier than governments in establishment media reporting. Always.

Any crimes committed by individuals must be trumpeted far and wide to ram into your brain that individuals are dangerous, scary, and threatening. Horrors committed by collective groups, especially governments, will-- all other things being equal-- receive less media attention and less outrage.

Even though it is an irrefutable matter of record that governments have committed the worst horrors and shed the most blood on the grandest scale of anybody in human history, the establishment media will always spin the news in favor of governments.

The media response to escalating violence in Syria is only one more instance of a pattern you will now notice again and again.

Wes Messamore,
Editor in Chief, THL
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