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Monday, June 11, 2012

'He speaks English and his wife is hot'

In case you're wondering why the Western media fawn all over the likes of the Assads.
Fawning treatment of world leaders — particularly attractive Western-educated ones — is nothing new. But the Assads have been especially determined to burnish their image, and hired experts to do so. The family paid the Washington public relations firm Brown Lloyd James $5,000 a month to act as a liaison between Vogue and the first lady, according to the firm.

This web of politics and public relations ensnared Barbara Walters recently. After she conducted an aggressive interview with Mr. Assad on ABC News in December, she offered to provide recommendations for Sheherazad Jaafari, the president’s press aide and the daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, who was applying for a job at CNN and admission to Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Ms. Walters issued a statement on Tuesday expressing regret for her actions, which she called “a conflict.”

Ms. Jaafari, 22, who has been accepted by Columbia, had worked as an intern at Brown Lloyd James. Last year, she expressed her feelings about the Assad family in an e-mail to Mike Holtzman, a partner at the firm who, according to his online profile, advised the Clinton administration on trade issues and worked in the State Department during the Bush administration.

“I have always told you — this man is loved by his people,” Ms. Jaafari wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by the British newspaper The Guardian. Mr. Holtzman replied: “I’m proud of you. Wish I were there to help.” Mr. Holtzman did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

The Assads were in many ways ripe for celebrity treatment by the news media. The president, who was trained as an ophthalmologist, received part of his education in Britain, where he met his wife, a Briton of Syrian descent who grew up in London and worked as an investment banker in New York.

Andrew Tabler, a Syrian expert with the Institute for Middle Eastern Studies in Washington who once worked for a charity sponsored by Mrs. Assad, summed up the appeal the Assads had for some news outlets: “He speaks English, and his wife is hot.”
If that's the case, why do rulers like the Assad's and the Jordanian royal family and the 'Palestinians' get better coverage than Israel. After all, our Prime Minister speaks English.... Well, there's more to it than that.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said this kind of interview is highly sought after. “In a strange way, political leaders, presidents and prime ministers who are highly repressive and restrictive are good ‘gets’ for these types of interviews, precisely because there’s no fair media coverage in their countries,” he said.
You mean if we targeted journalists (Syria has killed 13 in the last 15 months) we would get better coverage? Or at least Bibi could get a fawning interview with Barbara Walters? Okay, she didn't see it as fawning.
Ms. Walters’ interview, broadcast in December, made worldwide news, with Mr. Assad issuing claims that he was not responsible for the Syrian military and that people were not being killed by his government.

Ms. Walters said, “I went to Syria and conducted what was a very tough and strong interview that President Assad did not like.”
Really? Let's watch a bit of that interview. Let's go to the videotape.

Tough? Let's look at how the Syrians saw that interview.
In his interview with Walters, Assad denied that Syrian citizens were being killed. “We don’t kill our people. No government in the world kills its people, unless it’s led by a crazy person,” Assad told Walters.

A week before the interview, Sheherazad Jaafari, who works as a press attaché at the Syrian mission to the United Nations in New York, sent a long email to former Al Jazeera journalist Luna Chebel, who now works in Assad’s bureau. Jaafari, who helped set up the interview with Walters, is also the daughter of the Syrian ambassador to the UN, Dr. Bashar Jaafari.

The younger Jaafari wrote: “It is hugely important and worth mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ It’s worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings.”

Jaafari also recommended that Assad say: “Syria doesn’t have a policy to torture people, unlike the USA, where there are courses and schools that specialize in teaching policemen and officers how to torture.”

She continued: “It would be worth mentioning how your personality has been attacked and praised in the last decade according to the media. At one point H.E. was viewed as a hero and in other times H.E. was the ‘bad guy’. Americans love these kinds of things get convinced by it.”

Jaafari also stressed that Facebook and YouTube are important to “the American mindset”.
And you know what? Jaafari's right. The American - and European - media want to humanize non-western leaders. They have a need, a craving to feel that non-western leaders are 'like us' because otherwise, they cannot relate to them, and if they cannot relate to them, they feel that they have failed. So they seek leaders who like one who 'speaks English and his wife is hot' and try to convince themselves that they are 'just like us.' By definition, regardless of who Israel's leader is and how 'hot' his (or her) spouse is, we will never get that treatment because we are considered western and that sort of leadership is taken for granted. The Western media has nothing to report on leaders like North Korea's Kim Jong-un, and would much rather pay attention to the likes of Bashar al-Assad or Jordan's Abdullah, both of whom speak fluent English and have attractive spouses.

Can this be changed? I'm not sure it can (unless you are going to ban the families of dictators from Western universities - a thought especially in light of what happened with Walters and Jaafari). But look at the picture below. Whom would you like to interview? Whom would you least like to interview?

The one in black is Ahmadinejad's wife. The other two are the wives of Lebanese President Michel Suleiman and Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri. Guess who is more likely to get positive media coverage (okay, none of the husbands are fluent English speakers).

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At 5:03 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

Fluent in English is one thing. But it's an open secret that neither Assad nor his wife are fluent in ARABIC. He, spending most of his adult life in England and she, English born and still a British subject who never so much as flew to Syria till the mid to late 1990's.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Captain.H said...

Actually, the other two ladies are quite attractive, and, what a pleasant surprise, dressed like normal human females too.


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