So, What Do You Have On Your iPod?

Imagine this: you are a well-known TV correspondent and you now have a rare occasion to interview one of the main troublemakers in one of the world’s most turbulent and troubled regions, so, what would you do? What would you ask him about? Well, I don’t know about you, but Diane Sawyer of ABC News (Video, Text) thought it will be a rather wonderful and congenial idea to give this man a platform from which to attack her country’s democratically elected administration, while ignoring the man’s and his regime’s record in oppressing his own population, dabbling in neighboring countries, and exporting chaos and terror, that is, in being one of the region’s the main domino players for decades. So, there were no questions about the Hariri Investigation, or the situation in Lebanon, or connection to Iran, the sham referendum that brought him to power, the shame referendum that is designed to keep him in power, and about the fact that many insurgency leaders in Iraq are roaming around free in Damascus and talking to foreign journalists and operating their insurgency TV from Syria, not to mention the continuing crackdown against democracy and human rights advocated in the country. After all who cares about these issues, right? Because what inquiring minds really want to know is what’s on this fucking murderous moron’s iPod.

For if it is by any chance Shania Twain and Faith Hill, well then, gee whiz, the man must really be good and wholesome like the milk from grandma’s farm ya all. And we can just to talk to him. After all, he is “the son of the legendary Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad, who negotiated with five American presidents” you know, which is offered as a sign of prestige somehow, rather than a mark of eternal shame. But then, we Syrians, although we look more modern and secular than most other Arabs (except the Lebanese and Tunisians), are still products of the East to Diane Sawyer, it seems, and, as such, we do somehow expect our leaders to lord over us for a long time, and we just looove it when we they do.

The fact that we have a Republican system rather than a monarchical one is not seen as an indication of our desire for a responsible government and a peaceful and regular transition of power. Naah, it’s just an accident of history, a little curiosity, like having Faith Hill on you ipod, or riding a bus in London when you are the son of a Middle Eastern dic-fucking-tator. iPleaaaase. If the interview was intentionally designed to make this “Basher” of our democratic aspirations look good it would not have done a better job. This was not simply a nice performance by our national thug, who had obviously rehearsed every response this time around and paid more deference to why his hired media goons had told him, this was a seriously poor, unprofessional and moronic performance by the ABC team who set this up, or should we just put sole blame on ABC’s own Dame Edna for this? And so our village idiot ended up sounding like a statesman, did he? Well, how else should a man sound when he is allowed to make such claims as “We are the main player,” in reference to helping stabilize the situation in Iraq without being challenged on it, and “What good is democracy if you are dead?” without actually being reminded that he had done his best from the very beginning to ensure that death rather than democracy should prevail in Iraq, and he is on the fucking public record on this. Sure his regime’s survival was at stake.

But, you know what?, he is a fucking maniacal dictator, his fears in this regard, albeit natural, are not legitimate. People often confuse the natural and legitimate in this case. The Assads’ reactions are often natural, but always illegitimate. The way they took over and (mis)managed the affairs of the state should stigmatize them for life. 

And the least that representatives of the democratic media can do when they get the occasion to interview such figures is to bear this simple imperative in mind and to press them on it. You don’t get to interview a dictator only to give him a free pass on all the criminal things that he habitually commits. You don’t give him an easy time of it, just because you happen to hate your own democratically elected president, one who is about to be democratically replaced soon, unlike the dictator you are interviewing, or because you find the opposition unconvincing perhaps. Because as a representative of the free media, it is indeed freedom that should be on your mind, and freedom is the agenda that you should be ultimately serving here, and no other consideration should be allowed to weigh in and dilute the issue. Because when representatives of the free media allow for the dilution of critical issues, what chance does freedom, truth and justice have?

But then again, who cares about all this? What do you have on your iPod? iPray do tell.

24 thoughts on “So, What Do You Have On Your iPod?

  1. بكل صراحة بشار الاسد غير مؤهل اطلاقا لرئاسة دولة. هذا هو الواقع ويجب عليه وعلى من حوله او يدعمه ان ينظروا الى هذه المقابلة التي اظهرته على حقيقته بالكامل.

  2. This is how corporate media works, and this is how American media functions. The intention determines the nature and character of the interview. Bashar al-Assad, by all means, appeared as a quiet, friendly, and lovably dorky character who listens to country music and admires such luminaries of the West as Jesus and George H W Bush. This interview should not be thought of in the context of Syrian politics, in which, clearly, it is a sham. Every Syrian may be insulted as commenters above suggested, but the interview was not intended for a Syrian audience. Instead, think about it in the context of American politics, where indeed, a democratically elected president, is continuing forward with a highly unpopular foreign policy, and everybody is afraid that the madman will move on to another country next. In short, this interview is clearly aimed at derailing the Bush administration’s characterization of Syria and sabotaging any plans it may have of escalating tensions with it. Legitimate or not, this is what happens when your country is stuck in an endless war that everybody believes is only going to get worse. Diane Sawyer may have been interviewing a dictator, but it wasn’t her dictator, and she sure as hell would rather know about his iPod than know that the neighbor’s kids might end up dead in one of Bush’s battlefield one day.This is why nobody can look to the US, or any other country for that matter, as the guarantor of democracy. Ultimately, naturally, and quite legitimately, Americans are more interested in their own well-being than in the well-being of people half-way across the world. I think we can safely say that, barring escalation from countries in the Middle East, non-clandestine American military entanglement in the region is on hold for a good number of years, thank goodness. No more American messiah.Maybe now the people on the ground in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt, can finally start picking up the pieces from this horrible trainwreck.

  3. Well said Yaman, but the problem here is that by promoting someone like Bashar, you will end up hurting our cause for change as well. Americans are never neutral, they either support the status quo with all their might, or they seek to change with all the messianic zeal in the world. So, you either get the Assads as pure evil line, or the Assads as necessary guarantors of stability, we are screwed in both cases. Moreover, and no matter how much we wish to make the change purely on our own terms, it never happens this way, we always need external support. It does not have to come from the US government though, but it will no come with its tacit approval one way or another. Americans, European, and now Russians and Chinese, and all the powers that be, will continue to dabble in our affairs, so long as we have oil and they have power. The way forward is labyrinthine and the calculations involved are intricate as everybody has a stake in the outcome. I should have waited for part II of the interview coming out tomorrow. Diane might try to be less tactful then, albeit I doubt it. Or she might go about it in such a round about way as to nullify the effect. But, we’ll see in a few hours, I guess.

  4. This interview was awful. He was talked about his iPod and the latest American movie he saw. Diane Sawer was talking to him like he is mental. I couldn’t believe that even in the discussion of politics, he still sounded so stupid. Iam sorry to say that. God bless Syria.

  5. سوير: هل هناك شخصية موجودة في العالم حالياً الآن تعجبك؟ أي قائد أو دبلوماسي؟الأسد: ربما بوش الأب، leek shou hada ya bashar walla eib hik takoul.

  6. Ammar, I understand your position. There is a middle ground that could have been followed here, had she taken the trouble to do it. Unfortunately, this middle ground is more appropriately reserved for thorough and extensive academic papers, not 5 minute television segments.But, even more pragmatically, there is no “middle ground” political movement in power. There are the hard-core Bush supporters, and the hard-core Bush opponents. At this point this translates to “anti-every-Bush-policy” and “pro-every-Bush-policy.” That is, it’s very unlikely that any attempt to mesh elements of a peace agenda with elements of a pressuring-the-Syrian-regime-to-liberalize agenda will be successful in the current climate in the US. Anything said about the situation will either support further hostility against Syria (let’s also be aware that the current hostility is not based on displeasure with failures to liberalize, but on displeasure with Syrian foreign policy–so for us we should not confuse American hostility with having intended goals or even actual effects in tandem with those who would like to see democratic reforms), or support more positive relations. In either case, the issue of human rights and civil rights is a secondary one not likely to take the center stage. I suppose most people should understand that there is a way to pressure the Syrian government to liberalize politically without also going to war against it. Hopefully this is the position that most people support as well. But, as far as I can tell, this middle position has not found its way into discourse regarding relations with Syria, and people tend to sway to the extremes. Neither of those extremes is positive for people who are interested in constructive change.

  7. Let’s not agonise too much over this. Assad’s advisors are becoming more media savvy (at least as far as the generally shallow American media catering for the generally disinterested ill-informed and easly-led populace. He is essentially saying (rather sweetly): “look at me I am a loveable nomal, modern and misunderstood human being and all Syrians are like me, because I represent them! Why does your President persist in labelling Syria as a rogue nation and supporter of terrorism?”Bush is on his way out, so Assad is trying to make it easier for a future Democrat administration to do business with him. From our point of view, as Syrians, nothing changes. He is battling for the survival of his regime and we are still fighting for our democratic rights. I therefore agree with the points of principle that Ammar makes, although Yaman also provides a good perspective by looking at things from the US media side.

  8. في بلد تدعي فيها الحكومة انها سائرة باتجاه الآصلآح والديموقراطية يتم تعديل الدستور و هو من المفترض أن يكون موثوقة وفاق من الشعب لمصلحة الشعب, بفرض القوانين وهذا ليس فقط غير دستوري و غير شرعي, بل أيضا دليل على نهج ديكتاتوري لن يتغير بالمضمون ولكنه سيأخذ الآن قاعدة دستورية, أقرب الى الملكية, لاستمراره في الحكم.

  9. This was posted at syria-news.com that sawyer should have drilled him on:محمد حبش لسيريانيوز :قانون بتعديل المادة الثامنة في الدستور وبطريقة ترشيح رئيس الجمهورية قريباًقال د. محمد حبش عضو مجلس الشعب ورئيس مركز الدراسات الإسلامية “إنه من المتوقع أن يصدر الرئيس بشار الأسد عقب اجراء الانتخابات التشريعية والبلدية المقررين في شهر آذار المقبل مشروع قانون بتعديل المادة الثامنة في الدستور ، التي تنص على ان حزب البعث العربي الاشتركي هو القائد للدولة والمجتمع في سورية وكذلك المادة 84 المتعلقة بطريقة ترشيح رئيس الجمهورية والتي تتم حالياً عن طريق ترشيح القيادة القطرية للحزب في سورية قبل المصادقة في مجلس الشعب تمهيدا لإجراء استفتاء جماهيري عليه “.ولم يرجح حبش في اتصال مع سيريانيوز أي تعديل “قبل إنجاز الاستحقاقين التشريعي والبلدي” ، مضيفا “ونحن سندفع بقوة بعد ذلك نحو تطبيق الاصلاحات السياسية الحقيقية خاصة وان سورية خرجت من دائرة الضغوط اضافة ان الوضع الداخلي متين وقوي ولا يوجد أي مبرر لمزيد من تأجيل البدء به وعن الصيغ المقترحة لتعديل هذه المادة قال حبش “نحن لانطالب باكثر من تنفيذ القرارات التي إتخذها مؤتمر حزب البعث العربي الاشتراكي العاشر والتي نصت على إقرار قانون جديد للاحزاب في سورية ومعالجة موضوع الجنسية للمواطنين الاكراد السوريين وعلى معالجة موضوع قانون الطوارىء وهذا الكلام ليس سرياً بل تم اقراره من قبل ذلك المؤتمر ونعلم أنه تم تجميد الموضوع بعدما إشتدت الضغوط الاخيرة على سورية ولكن الوضع الان مختلف كما ذكرت بعد أن خرجت سورية من دائرة التوتر والضغوط خاصة والوضع الداخلي قوي ومتين لمثل هذه الاستحقاقات” .Syrians for Democratic Republic

  10. you are my god. I only read to the middle of the article and I will continue, but I could not help it not to post a comment while I’m having the pleasure of my life. I hope I will read about his moron laughter.

  11. Everything about this interview bothered me, starting with the word: Excellency.What is it with the Asads? It’s like they were put on earth just to have free passes and free rides.I have yet to see ONE interview of him that actually takes on the REAL issues. I have yet to see ONE world leader, SAY IT AS IT IS to the media when it comes to Syria.After H. Asad died, we were all hoping for a SMALL change to come from this “young doctor”. It turns out he’s not only as bad as his dad, but he’s even less tactful.Its becoming evident (to me at least) now more then ever, that Israel REALLY doesn’t want to see the Asads go. The U.S. however, is either undecided on how they want to remove them, or hoping that things will just take care of themselves once Iran is hit. The pessimist in me says they will survive this “democracy” wave, and just take on another shape or form, kind of like a snake does. The optimist in me thinks that the U.S. is done making deals with this regime. Let’s hope it’s the later, for the sake of Syria, Lebanon, & Iraq.

  12. I have the following 2 notes: It is when Diane Sawyer asked him about PM Hariri famous meeting when he told him that he would break Lebanon over his head. If you look closely at Bashar’s eyes during his reply. He was blinking his eyes continuously which is a clear indication that he is lying. Please go over the interview and check it out. Have you noticed when he said in his own voice that the death of Bassel has changed the course of events that brought him to this position and that it was not meant to be that he will be his father successor. What kind of democracy is this? This is an insult for all Syrians as if they are just cows and only the Assads are good enough to lead Syria and all other 18 Millions are not good enough. I see this declaration exactly as officially changing the name to “Kingdom of Syria Alassad”. This prove what I always say that the only criteria Bashar has that entitle him to be the president of Syria is that he happen to be the elder brother of the late Bassel. This is an admission in his own voice. What do you think? Is that what Syria deserves? I feel sorry for Syria

  13. قال بشار الاسد انه سيكون ديموقراطية في سورية ولكن ديموقراطية كما يراها هو وليست كما يراها الغرب لدي سؤال هل يوجد تعاريف للديموقراطية او تعريف واحد

  14. I search the world Democracy: In EnglishDemocracy (literally “rule by the people”, from the Greek demos, “people,” and kratos, “rule”[1]) is a form of government. Today, the term democracy is often used to refer to liberal democracy,[2] but there is no necessity that democracies be liberal (i.e. respectful of individual liberty and property) and in some cases may be illiberal democracies. There are many other varieties and the methods used to govern differ. While the term democracy is typically used in the context of a political state, the principles are also applicable to other bodies such as intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, grassroot organizations, labor unions, industry trade groups, professional bodies, and learned societies.hIn Arabicالديمقراطية كلمة مشتقة من الكلمة اليونانية Δήμος أو Demos وتعني عامة الناس ، و النصف الثاني Κρατία أو kratia وتعني حكم، Democratia حكم عامة الناس، الديمقراطية بمفهومها العام هي العملية السلمية لتداول السلطة بين الافراد أو الجماعات، التي تؤدي إلى إيجاد نظام اجتماعي مميز يؤمن به ويسير عليه المجتمع ككل على شكل أخلاقيات اجتماعية. يمكن إستخدام مصطلح الديمقراطية بمعنى ضيق لوصف دولة- قومية أو بمعنى أوسع لوصف مجتمع حر. والديمقراطية كشكل من أشكال الحكم هي حكم الشعب لنفسه بصورة جماعية، وعادة ما يكون ذلك عبر حكم الاغلبية عن طريق نظام للتصويت و التمثيل النيابي. و لكن بالحديث عن المجتمع الحر فإن الديمقراطية تعني حكم الشعب لنفسه بصورة منفردة من خلال حق الملكية الخاصة و الحقوق و الواجبات المدنية (الحريات و المسؤوليات الفردية) وهو ما يعني توسيع مفهوم توزيع السلطات من القمة إلى الأفراد المواطنين. والسيادة بالفعل في المجتمع الحر هي للشعب و منه تنتقل إلى الحكومة وليس العكس.In FrenchDans son sens originel (dans la cité-État d’Athènes du Ve siècle av. J.-C.), la démocratie (du grec ancien dèmokratia, « souveraineté du peuple », de dèmos, « peuple » et kratos, « puissance », « souveraineté ») est un système politique ou, fondamentalement, une organisation sociale où le peuple, ou un organe élu par lui, détient la souveraineté.

  15. فيا بشار الديموقراطية هي مفهوم متعارف عليه في جميع الدول وجميع اللغات

  16. Ammar after reading the comment onSyria comment by Joshua Landis and reading the comment on Alarabiya.net I came to a conclusion that most Syrian in USA are either stupid or coward. But Syrian outside USA are more knowledge of what Bashar is doing for Syria.Shame on every person that he think that’s OK for Bashar to bring Syria to that situation.

  17. LOL Ammar you made me laugh !That Bashar is a bufoon! And i can guarantee you that since he has a I pod it is every ones democratic right in Syria to have the opportunity to own one ( unless they are playing seditious anti bath slogans and songs on them of course) , but just wait they might be used by the mukhabarat to test what really the average syrian is thinking, damn better not demand that then)That Damn Dianne Sawyer always proving to be cutesy! I wonder if Bashar had been interviewd by hard talk the Interview Questions would have went like this ( please allow and forgive my literary freedom)Question: Bashar do you believe that you rule by the will of the people?Question: Why do you keep so many political prisoners?Question: Why does your intelligence services promote terror abroad and at home?Question: Why did the Syrian constitution get ameneded in fifteen minutes to allow you to rule?Question: Wy does Syria have the lowest GDP in the Arab world?Question: Why does your family and associates control the economy at the expense of the ordinary citizen?Question: Did you really kill you brother Basel and Rafik Harriri?At this point Bashar answers a question and tells the interviewer that every Syrian will get a free I pod.Feeling content with his rule he feels content and scratches his armpits and gets a lice out of his hair! Damn that was a pr run, and i mistook tha monkey fro the real bashar! ( note in backround, they take away the dummy and seat the real Bashar , that was a trial run )They bring in Dianne sawyer, wel go with this interview. Damn only in Syria, but we will all get free I podsregardsfrom Australia

  18. Souri, I think you are being a bit too harsh on my fellow American Syrians, I don’t think they are cowards, I think they are afraid, frustrated and cynical – they simply don’t believe that their words and actions can actually make a difference. Anonymous 12:02, thank you for the democracy definition, drives the point home. Anonymous Australia, welcome.

  19. The woman is living in an agenda-driven, anti-Bush fantasyland. No one in the US but the fellow inhabitants of her Pauline Kael bubble — and, unfortunately, clueless TV viewers who don’t know anything about anything — takes her seriously.

  20. OH MY GOD, did she ask if he would support Hillary Clinton for President? Was I dreaming when I read that?For the love of all that is holy and precious. I just can’t believe the nerve. I must have woken up in Wonderland.

  21. “… Diane Sawyer … thought it will be a rather wonderful … to attack her country’s democratically elected administration, while ignoring the man’s and his regime’s record in oppressing his own population …”I think this is a very important point to make. I have noticed this phenomenon myself. I think there is a tendency for the opposition (in the United States) to occasionally downplay the seriousness of such things like (yes, yes, I know) 9-11 in their efforts to expose and malign the administration’s transgressions.I think this is a very dangerous thing to do. If the way we (in the public and media) articulate our dissatisfaction with the establishment is by doing fluff pieces on its enemies, I’d say we have a serious problem on our hands.I feel that, say, softening our opinion of Saddam’s tenure in Iraq does nothing to rectify Bush & Co’s negligence in that country (and subsequent quagmire). This brings to mind something you wrote earlier in a post about the Pope’s supposed slander or Islam and the subsequent effigy-burning that followed. In my view, both responses point to an unwillingness or inability to articulate critical and/or constructive/productive responses.

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