White House propaganda

instagram.com/syrianpresidency

instagram.com/syrianpresidency

When Bashar al-Assad joined Instagram last week, US media waged an intifada lambasting the embattled Syrian president for his “propaganda” effort.

“Instagram becomes latest propaganda tool for Syria’s embattled president,” read the headline in the Washington Post.

“This Is What It Looks Like When A Brutal Dictator Starts Using Instagram,” said BuzzFeed.

“Syrian President Assad’s Desperate Instagram Feed,” wrote the Daily Beast.

“Syrian president recruits Instagram in ongoing propaganda war,” said The Verge.

“Bashar Assad’s Instagram Is Every Bit The Propaganda You’d Expect From The Syrian President’s Social Media Minions,” said the always elaborate Huffington Post.

instagram.com/petesouza

instagram.com/petesouza

Around that same time White House photographer Pete Souza, a former photojournalist with Chicago newspapers hired by the president in 2009, also joined Instagram.

Here’s how some of those headlines read:

“White House photographer debuts Instagram account,” said the Washington Post.

“White House Photographer Joins Instagram And It’s Amazing,” said BuzzFeed.

“Turning Politics to Art: WH Photog Launches Instagram Account,” said Time magazine, which was lucky to land an interview with Souza soon after.

But Time didn’t ask the former news photographer how he feels now that he’s surrendered all independence and is getting paid to disseminate images of the president that the US government wants us to see. Instead Souza was asked about Bo, the White House dog.

“The Instagrams of Bo are excellent – how is he as a subject?”

Followed by this hard-hitting question:

“Are you going to do any selfies?”

There’s a very simple explanation for why we’re not going to see Obama signing his secret weekly kill lists or operating drones over civilian areas in Pakistan, just as we’re not going to see images of Assad  shelling homes in Aleppo or the underground detention centers where opposition activists are held. Both men (and their respective staffs) control what is allowed to be published on these social media platforms.

I don’t disagree that Assad’s Instagram account is propaganda, it clearly is. But let’s not kid ourselves that Obama’s account is anything different. So why aren’t US media calling it that?

Why the US doesn't want "to be seen as meddling"

BBC:

Mr Obama said he believed Iranian voices should be heard, although he added that he did not want to be seen to be “meddling”. “It is not productive, given the history of US and Iranian relations to be seen as meddling in Iranian elections,” he said. “But when I see violence directed at peaceful protesters, when I see peaceful dissent being suppressed… it is of concern to me and it is of concern to the American people.”

What is the history of “US and Iranian relations?” Below is a Democracy Now program addressing this issue in 2003 on the 50th anniversary of the US/British led coup that overthrew Mohammed Mossadeq, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran.




Obama in Cairo

I wish I had time to comment on this, but instead I will post this article by a friend in Egypt that appeared in today’s New York Times.

image: matthew cassel

image: matthew cassel

On NYT’s site
On Hossam’s blog (without having to login)

(Btw, I don’t think Hossam came up with the title used in the NYT.)

Right Time, Wrong Place by Hossam El-Hamalawy

THE bridge I take to work in central Cairo was painted overnight. On the roads, colored concrete blocks were installed in turns where car accidents happen daily. Main streets in the neighboring city of Giza are suddenly blossoming with flowers. Street lamps are polished, and they are actually working. This could mean only one thing: our country is receiving an “important” foreign visitor.

President Obama should not have decided to come to Egypt. The visit is a clear endorsement of President Hosni Mubarak, the ailing 81-year-old dictator who has ruled with martial law, secret police and torture chambers. No words that Mr. Obama will say can change this perception that Americans are supporting a dictator with their more than $1 billion in annual aid.

The Western press is clearly excited about Mr. Obama’s “significant” choice of Egypt, and his destination, Cairo University, which the news media seem to consider a symbol of enlightenment, secularism and freedom.

The truth is that for years, Cairo University students have been demonstrating against the rising cost of education, demanding the university subsidize expensive text books, only to be rebuked by the authorities, who claim no funds are available. Yet the university somehow managed to find the money to polish up the building dome that will shine above Mr. Obama’s head when he delivers his address.

As for the other host of the president’s visit, Al Azhar University, one of its students, Kareem Amer, is languishing in prison after university officials reported his “infidel, un-Islamic” views to the government, earning him a four-year sentence in 2007. In advance of the visit, Egyptian security forces have rounded up hundreds of foreign students at Al Azhar.

We do want allies in the West, but not from inside the White House. Our real allies are the human rights groups and unions that will pressure the Obama administration to sever all ties to the Mubarak dictatorship. Their visits to Egypt are more meaningful, even if unlike Mr. Obama, they do not get a lavish reception.

Sudanese hip hop in Cairo

A young Sudanese rap group called Blackshine. Here a couple of their members pose for a photo after a performance backstage.

It shocked me to see these young Sudanese rappers performing in their Obama t-shirts (the group is about four or five members, some not pictured). What does Obama mean for Sudan or Egypt or anywhere else? Do people really know? I don’t really know, but I am pessimistic that there will be a noticeable change around the world when Bush hands over the keys to the White House to Obama next month. What people everywhere do seem to understand is that what the US does affects everywhere in our world, and it is certainly nice to see Bush replaced by a man with a history much different than his predecessors.