The battle for Aleppo is coming to a close and we can hope that the slaughter that has resulted from rebels and terrorists fighting the Syrian military and Russian Air Force is drawing to a conclusion as well.  When I was in Syria last month, I remember being ushered into a large conference room for an interview between the Syrian foreign minister and a few dozen journalists.  After taking his seat, the foreign minister asked us a question, “Why the hysteria about Aleppo?”

I didn’t find the interview to be particularly helpful as the foreign minister gave many vague non-answers.  He also couldn’t recall a single mistake that the Syrian government had made during the course of the war but he had his side of the story, he had his narrative locked in.  This should have come as no surprise to the journalists sitting at the table as regime preservation is the main focus of any government.  Just like a politician running for office, they will say what they have in order to be elected, and then say whatever they have to in order to be re-elected.  It isn’t about ideals or truth, it is about the dynamics of power but as citizens we keep believing that our leaders are noble.  It is what we want to believe.  We love the lie.

The foreign minister was right about one thing, there was, and is, a hysteria about Aleppo.  The problem is that while we expect the regime to have a narrative, we don’t expect the media to have a narrative.  Ideally, we would like the press to present us with facts and analysis, then we can arrive at our own conclusions.  Instead, the press entered into several competing narratives which exist in a echo chamber devoid of hard facts and figures.  This recent interview on Democracy Now exemplifies the competing narratives:

Within the American media there are several camps when it comes to Aleppo.  People like Kenneth Roth and Samantha Power represent the international do-gooder faction.  They are not bad people, and can do some terrific work on human rights, but are also idealists without realistic solutions.  A more insidious faction is the think tank fellows and journalists who have become outright Al Qaeda apologists, something I never thought I would see in America in 2016.  Stephen Cohen, who appears in the Democracy Now interview, appears to be one of the rare realists who takes a more pragmatic view.  Furthermore, he is honest in saying that he does not have all the facts and concedes that he is not some kind of oracle of truth.

Instead of reporting facts, the media has succumbed to narratives.  These narratives are very enticing to journalists as this is how they are taught to write in universities, and continue to be encouraged to do so when they move into the work force.  Narratives capture the thoughts and ideas of human beings.  As people, we love stories.  Advertisers know this and take full advantage.  This article follows a narrative format with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

However, war does not unfold like a Disney feature film in which there are heroes and villains.  Unfortunately, soldiers do not fight with honor at all times.  The above mentioned politicians sell their citizens on policies which support their agenda, but not necessarily that of their country.  Narrative journalism fails in the battle for Aleppo.  Some of those covering the conflict are hapless participants in this echo chamber.  Others are willing participants in the crafting of a lie.

Take for instance these recent clips out of Aleppo in which civilians tell us that they love freedom and don’t understand why no one helps them before saying their final goodbyes: