Excerpted from Haaretz: The U.S. State Department on Wednesday denounced Syrian President Bashar Assad’s new Instagram account, saying that it was “nothing but a despicable PR stunt.”
“It’s repulsive that the Assad regime would use this to gloss over the brutality and suffering it’s causing,” said State Department spokeswoman Maria Harf.
The photos on Instagram, the photo-sharing social media network, show Assad and his wife Asma visiting hospitals, waving at jubilant crowds and talking with Syrian citizens.
People who want to know what’s really happening in Syria should “look at unfiltered photos of what’s actually happening on the ground,” Harf said.
The photos on Instagram are not indicative of the “horrific situation on the ground that he’s causing for his own people,” she added. Keep reading
Excerpted from Haaretz: In one of the episodes of the fifth season of the American TV sitcom “30 Rock,” the deceased North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il (played by Korean American comedienne Margaret Cho) is depicted reading the weather forecast on his country’s propaganda channel. “The weather in North Korea is very good. Everything is sunny all the time, always. Good time, beach party,” says Kim.
Syrian President Bashar Assad may not be a fan of “30 Rock,” but he unintentionally paid homage to that joke last month when he decided to join the online photo-sharing and social media network Instagram under the handle “Syrianpresidency” with the goal of presenting “another face” of the country and himself.
The reality depicted on the Syrian ruler’s Instagram account is one of a loving and beloved leader, adored by his nation. Syria has no battlefields drenched in blood, attacks on civilians, or bodies of dead children lying in the street. Anyone trying to learn about what is going on in Syria from Assad’s Instagram account would conclude that the situation there “is sunny all the time, always.”
Assad’s Instagram account had 35,174 followers at the time of writing. It was conveniently launched the same week that the death toll in Syria’s civil war broke past the 100,000 mark. However, alongside comments from users of the sort of “We love you,” and “May Allah bless you” – some from users in countries like Turkey and Russia – most of the comments point out that the pictures on the account are far from being faithful to the reality on the ground.
“You are a sick man,” wrote one on a photograph of Assad sitting at his desk. “This entire account is sick,” wrote another. To a photograph of Assad’s wife Asma handing out a toy to a shy and smiling Syrian girl, people responded by labeling her “Satan’s wife,” and “pure evil.”
The Instagram account is just one part of the social media blitz the Syrian leader began almost a month ago in an effort to rehabilitate his image in Syria and elsewhere. He also opened a Twitter account (boasting 8,700 followers) and launched a YouTube channel.
But in the meantime, it appears that the social media campaign is not working for Bashar. Neither it does for Asma, for that matter, who is drawing a considerable amount of fire from users.
Over the years, Asma, 38, has played a central role in “selling” Bashar as a different type of ruler – more Western and progressive – since he came to power following the death of his father, Hafez Assad, in the year 2000. Keep reading