It is virtually obligatory that when one reads a U.S. mainstream media report on the situation in Syria, one will find a statement such as this:
State media blamed “terrorists,” its standard term for armed rebels.
So the Assad regime merely calls the armed rebels “terrorists”, but they aren’t terrorists really. This is what is considered objective journalism. They’re just doing their job and faithfully presenting the Syrian government’s view without taking sides. Right?
Well, no, not really. Not at all. For proof, a simple thought experiment: Imagine if every time the U.S. media reported on insurgent activities in Afghanistan or Iraq, they included a statement like, “U.S. officials blamed the attack on ‘terrorists’, the government’s standard label for insurgents.”
This would obviously be unthinkable.
The media has no problem at all calling terrorism (or even legitimate attacks against military targets) “terrorism” when it is committed by official enemies. But when committed by official allies in the name of overthrowing an official enemy, then it is reduced to merely a claim that “terrorism” has occurred made by the obviously biased sources inside the regime itself.
This particular instance of this obligatory rhetorical construct is especially remarkable because of the context in which it occurs. It’s from a November 7 Los Angeles Times article titled “Syria rebels appear to be shifting strategy in Damascus“. What does that mean? Well, here are excerpts from the article to explain:
Syria’s armed opposition … appears to be responding with a revamped strategy that runs through some of the capital’s most explosive sectarian and ethnic fault lines.
A pair of bombings this week struck districts that are strongholds of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect….
The recent violence in Damascus includes a string of targeted killings and assassinations of prominent figures associated with the government….
The new rebel strategy appears to … conducting something closer to guerrilla-style strikes, including powerful car bombings that have caused civilian casualties….
Car bombs and sectarian-tinged attacks appear to many outsiders as the domain of extremists, not democracy-seeking revolutionaries….
Also on Wednesday, rebel mortar shells fell in the capital’s Mazzeh Jabal 86 district, killing three people and leaving six hospitalized….
The mortar attack came two days after a car bomb exploded in a crowded square in the same district, killing 11 people and injuring dozens ….
Along with bombings, targeted killings of government figures and supporters also appear to be on the upswing in the capital.
On Wednesday, the state news agency reported that “an armed terrorist group” assassinated a judge, Abad Nadweh, using an explosive attached to his car.
The judge’s killing came a day after the brother of the speaker of the pro-Assad parliament was shot to death in his car in Damascus as he headed to work, according to official accounts.
Last weekend, rebels in Damascus abducted and executed a well-known Palestinian Syrian television actor, Mohamed Rafeh. Rebels accused Rafeh of being a government informant and enforcer. Friends and family say the actor was killed in retribution for his outspoken support of Assad.
So, what the title means by saying that the rebels are “shifting strategy” is that they are increasingly resorting to acts of terrorism, including car bombings, sectarian attacks, assassinations of civil servants, and murder of other civilians. But since these acts of terrorism are being committed by armed rebels backed by the United States, the media will not call them acts of “terrorism”. The most it will do is to attribute that description to Syrian government officials. Never mind that the description is accurate. To point out the fact that U.S.-backed rebels are committing acts of terrorism on an ever-increasing scale would be heretical, a blasphemy against the state religion, and perhaps a career-ending move for any undisciplined journalist who tried to get such a direct acknowledgment past his editors.