Syria’s Chemical Weapons, The Media’s Role In Thwarting Assad
If current news reports are accurate, Syria’s beleaguered dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has given the orders to arm a variety of weapons with the lethal nerve agent sarin. Is the media leveraging its power to inform public opinion of the real possibilities of massive deaths in Syria if Assad moves forward with his plan? So far, the answer is a qualified, tepid, maybe.
As of Thursday morning, the home pages of most major news organizations were headlining possible breakthroughs in fiscal cliff negotiations, Princess Kate’s bout with intense morning sickness or Apple’s plans to build Macs in the United States. From ABC News to CNN to MSNBC, few editors were choosing Syria or sarin for lead stories. Not that Syrian crisis stories weren’t there at all; they were just buried beneath domestic news and entertainment fluff. The Huffington Post, for example, did feature Assad’s threat on their World page, but their front page headline was all fiscal cliff.
According to this morning’s Washington Post, the United States and Russia are probably the only two nations with sufficient leverage and military might capable of thwarting Assad’s plans—but that effort will require both nations to work in concert, and quickly, to convince the Syrian dictator not to use chemical weapons.
CBS News gave good page placement to Margaret Brennan and Tucker Reals’ story on Hillary Clinton and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov’s latest meeting in Dublin, bringing a tighter focus attention on the eleventh-hour crisis ticking away in Syria.
Russia has been protective of Assad so far, but its loyalty to the Syrian regime appears to be dwindling. A full-court press by the media, suited up in protective gear and prepared to document Russia’s fingerprints on the chemical weapons triggers, may well finally force Russia to abandon Assad and begin the process of dismantling what The New Yorker calls the Syrian sarin threat.
Move the stories above the fold, place them on every home page and lead every news blog with this grave danger. By keeping the pressure on—fueled by hard-hitting stories and persuasive pictures—when diplomacy fails, as it might, the power of the press may well save the day, and the lives of countless innocents.
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