A war that has divided opinion in Europe, especially since Russia’s involvement, has had a different effect in America where most people don’t know what to make of it
Has media coverage of the Syrian Civil War become background noise for the American people?
From an American perspective, the Syrian crisis is a confusing one. And from what I can tell, there’s a distinct level of detachment between the American people and the conflict that is unfolding overseas.
If you turn on the news in the States, you’ll hear politicians debating the issue on MSNBC or Fox, you’ll hear about suspicious Russian airstrikes and the arming of Syrian rebels, you’ll hear about the terrorism that has invaded the country from within, but if you ask an average American about the war in Syria, they probably won’t have much to tell you.
I tried reaching out to friends and family back home in the States, asking them for their opinions on the matter. I asked them what the news had to say, politicians, professors. I inquired about what they saw and how it made them feel and each and every one of them had the same answer—they didn’t know.
Of course there are those who are heavily invested in the conflict. There’s many an American that could spend hours debating the issue. But these are the people who seek out the information that helps shape their opinion on the matter, giving it depth and credibility. On the whole, however, the average American’s perspective on the fighting in Syria is relatively nonexistent.
Now, that’s not to say that there is a lack of care or compassion for the people suffering through this violent conflict, but rather, a lack of knowledge and understanding about it as a whole.
Media coverage has been one-dimensional. American political opinions are widely divided. Honestly, most people just don’t know what the hell is going on in Syria—myself, included.
Before moving to London, I had very little stake in the fight. Maybe it’s because of a lack of media coverage. Maybe it’s because of a lack of understanding. Or maybe it’s because in America, the average person doesn’t worry about what happens beyond our borders.
And considering the problems we’re facing in our country today—police brutality, racial prejudice, and increased rates of widespread gun violence—it’s easy to see why so few people are getting engaged in foreign affairs.
But that’s not to say that, that’s right.
If there’s one thing that immediately struck me upon turning on the news in my London flat, it was the importance placed on this fight in Syria—on the different factions involved, both within the country and without and on Russia’s involvement, and the effect it has had on the people who just want to live peacefully within the country’s borders.
When we hear about the war in Syria, we hear about ISIS. We hear about how they are starving their citizens. We hear about how they are killing people without mercy and in the most brutal of ways. We hear about how we must help the rebels fight for democracy.
But the lack of depth in the American coverage of this war is astounding.
Coverage is five minutes’ worth of video and horrified political discussion in an hour-long news broadcast. It’s an evening debate that begins on the topic of the civil war in Syria, but ends in an Islamophobic discussion about ISIS and Muslim extremists. It’s a subtle, but ever-present, line of questioning that implies that all who live in the Middle East are would-be terrorists.
And now that Russia has stepped in, the media rhetoric is changing-up the story once more—news coverage that is more concerned with how Russia’s involvement makes America look rather than the real crisis at hand.
It’s sad to say that I, myself, find it hard to give my own perspective on the topic. I’ve been out of the loop too long. Maybe even successfully pacified by the American media that has, for months, convinced me that the fight was too far away to impact my day-to-day life while also trying to establish a rhetoric of racial and religious prejudice to keep me mildly suspicious of the Middle East at all turns.
Though I try to stay informed, the bias that permeates American media is hard to look past and it continues to keep many people in the dark; unfortunately, the majority seem more than happy to leave it that way.