Why Does Syria Make White Guys Do Stupid Things?

First there was the Gay Girl Blogger of Damascus who turne
d out to be a white American male graduate student with too much time on his hands and an uncanny ability to fool a lot of people.

Now, it’s two “citizen journalists” who’ve taken a road trip to Syria, drawing on their extensive cultural understanding of the Middle East acquired through the Occupy movement in the US.  Huh?

Look guys, Syria already has activists and citizen journalists.  Who are Syrian. Who live there. Who are at terrible risk.  So, please pay attention to the real hereos of Syria like blogger Razan Ghazzawi and her compatriots at  the Syrian Center for Media and Free Expression and stop feeding these sideshows.


4 thoughts on “Why Does Syria Make White Guys Do Stupid Things?

  1. Yayks, this sums up the enterprise ” “I’ve almost felt invincible and thought, ‘Screw it, go live stream from Syria,'” he explained. Over the course of two weeks, he laid out preparations to do just that.”

    Certainly no one can deny a person the right to pick up a camera and put himself in harm’s way. Is this the double-edged sword of citizen journalism? As always the line of demarcation around journalism is murky. This type of Wild West stuff is not helpful, but I guess it is inevitable.

    Look at the Mike Daisey debacle, the “virological” news appeal of the iPad-gate sounded too good to pass up. The fact-checking was done beforehand, the story didn’t add up, and it still made it onto the radio. Then came the mea culpa, sort of… It is ironic, a theatrical dramatization gets mistaken for news — a convergence of the so-called reality and the spectacle.

  2. It’s only going to get worse. I remember reading about an American teenager living in Cairo on a study abroad program who got a notion to try to go to Libya and report on the revolution. She was trying to crowd-fund the project and was getting *positive* feedback and people online were talking up the need to give her backing. I don’t believe she even spoke Arabic. Libya was very, very dangerous and savvy journalists were killed, kidnapped, etc. There was also a Canadian woman who up and decided Somalia was the place to be and hey, why not go as a reporter? I believe she ended up kidnapped or something. I suppose the definitions need to be reconsidered: Citizen journalism is about reporting on a place where you are a citizen. User generated content is about grabbing a video of a tsunami when you are on vacation. ???

  3. That’s a good definition.

    In the above examples I believe people were compeled to go to dangerous places more by the desire to gain attention than by the compulsion to bring the truth to the masses.

    The lack of preparation, cultural awareness, clear understanding of the danger, all point to the “hey look at me” impulse as the chief cause for attempting something like that without the backing of a major media organization or any journalistic training.

    There are interesting parallels between the viral behavior of new media and biological pathogens.

    If a certain critical concentration has been reached within a population, the rate of “infection” becomes exponential. But if the concentration does not reach a critical level, the pathogen (message) is quickly absorbed by the population.

    In order to reproduce, a virus has to integrate itself into the DNA structure of a cell. Then the virus forces the cell to produce more copies of itself. Similarly, to “go viral” a message must enter the host’s consciousness, integrate itself within a system of beliefs, values, ideas and then be passed on to others, who in all likelihood share at least some attributes in common with the original host. If the message does not resonate with the host, it dies.

    Mutation is another common trait of viruses. Similarly, viral messages take on different forms as they spread, as for example the recent Kony campaign. Initially the message spread quickly through the social media with positive feedback, however a few days later came the backlash, still viral but now negative.

    Lastly, viruses are an inseparable part of evolution — they exist wherever there is a concentration of people. So given the nature of the social networks, the interaction between viral messages/media and the digital presence of people will continue.

    I find the subject of epidemiology fascinating 🙂


  4. I think the integration within the host system — or the likeness of the message creator to the receiving host — is indeed key. There was a study that showed how Canadian citizen journalists went to Palestine and were taken seriously by Canadian mainstream news outlets – almost feted – while the locals who were actually living through the crisis were pretty much ignored. We trust the people most like us. You should talk to Alyssa Curran — I think she may be looking at this issue of how news goes viral — but it doesn’t involve any test tubes.

    I’m going with the conspiracy theorists on Kony – it wasn’t a real viral message – it had some help from entities that would benefit from a pro-invasion message. 🙂

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