On television, BBC and especially Channel 4 coverage of Syria has also tended to defer to explanations of the war that implicate Syrian government responsibility for atrocities, even where there is uncertainty about authorship. This is no surprise. When your reporting is reliant on information and video coming out of opposition-controlled areas, bias is more or less inevitable. In an era of austerity, meanwhile, the British state has been pouring millions of pounds into the creation of propaganda for Arabic media in support of the so-called 'moderate rebels'.
In light of all this, we should cautiously welcome dissenting views. While they certainly have their own blindspots, reporters such as Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk of The Independent have at least provided a valuable mainstream counterweight to Western media reporting. Other critical commentators, however, are less defensible. Consider this oddly chirpy philippic from 'independent' journalist and sometime RT contributor Rania Khalek:
This kind of 'omission bias' - some would use less polite phrases - is widespread in the rancorous public discourse about Syria. Broad swaths of the 'anti-war' left, from the respectable end of the spectrum (Pilger, Medialens) through to the Internet's wilder 'anti-establishment' crowd (Global Research, 21st Century Wire and other 'anti-globalists') promote a simplistic, US/Israel-focused 'anti-imperialism' and ignore the military aggression of Syria, Russia and Iran. While these commentators quite rightly deplore the biases of the 'corporate media' coming out of Washington and London, they themselves often receive encouragement and financial remuneration from the enemies of the West. To put it cynically, there are careers, reputations and big bucks to be made on both sides of the war of words over Syria.
And it's hard to escape the gravitational pull exerted by both camps. After writing a short article recently about the biased Western reporting of the Syrian war, I myself was accused by one or two people of pro-Assad bias. I don't accept this. My article made it clear that my focus was on the inadequacy of Western - US and British - reporting. Such a focus is not unreasonable: after all, I live in the West and my article was written primarily for Westerners who mostly watch and listen to Western news media. The main enemy, to quote Karl Liebknecht, is at home and, as Brendan Behan once quipped, 'the first duty of a writer is to let down his own country'. Nevertheless, I also unequivocally stated in my article my utter contempt for the actions of Assad and Putin, which can only be described as murderous. It is one thing to condemn the record of Western involvement in Syria. It is quite another to soft-pedal Syrian and Russian violence on the 'campist' grounds that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'. Moreover, the disaster that is unfolding in Syria will not be ameliorated by any of the conflict's warring factions, who have all helped to drown the social uprising of 2011 in blood. A plague on all their houses.
And since no 'side' in the Syrian war should be given any quarter, we should be highly sceptical of all commentary about Syria, whether it emanates from The Guardian, the BBC and liberal journalists and academics such as George Monbiot and Rupert Read, or from RT, Press TV and one-sided alt-media 'anti-imperialists' like Rania Khalek, Patrick Henningsen and Vanessa Beeley. It's not that all of these individuals are necessarily lying (although some of them might be); it's that all of them are telling only one side of the story of the war, channeling the political agendas of one or another geopolitical bloc. In my view, only non-aligned commentators can tell the truth about Syria, an inter-imperialist proxy war which serves as primary evidence that capitalism has outlived its usefulness and is now dragging humanity into barbarism.