Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 1, 2013

Anti-War Protests and the Media Stage. (Or: Assad Gets Around)

Assad hand sign TunisTunis

When you look at photos of demonstrations, how much do you take them at face value? Do you ever look at them a little more closely, for example, and wonder how organized or spontaneous they are or consider what went into them and by whom?

Assad protest hand sign Rome ReutersRome

When you look at these images, how much do you consider how a modern protest is now a media stage, the composition of a scene offering the ability and potential to permeate an international news cycle?

Sprinkled among the anti-war protests in various parts of the world on Thursday and Friday was a decided presence of Syrians, Syrian immigrants and pro-Syrian government supporters. Maybe the citizens, in each case, downloaded and printed the same circular disk of Bashar al-Assad off the internet and then attached it to a stick.

As Assad Reuters anti war rallyTimes Square

At the same time, we know simply from the regime’s use of Instagram and the other social media platforms; the infamous Vogue article feature Asma and the family; and so many other Western forays (1, 2, 3) how systematically and tactically the regime uses Western exposure. Grassroot support is one thing, sympathizers waving Syrian flags and home made signs. As I said, these discs might be accessible at the click of a button, but the uniformity and the geography makes me appreciate how much al-Assad gets around.

photos via Reuters slideshow: “Anti-airstrike protests

(photo 1: Reuters/Stringer caption: Protesters hold signs and images of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a demonstration against the possibility of a U.S. military strike against the Syrian government, in Tunis, August 30, 2013. photo 2: Max Rossi/Reuters caption: A Syrian supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad holds up his image during an anti-war rally in downtown Rome, August 30, 2013. photo 3: Adrees Latif/Reuters caption: Local activists and Syrian-American supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hold up his image during an anti-war rally in front of a U.S. Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square, August 29, 2013.)

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