Ten Point Scale of Assadism (By Kester Ratcliff).
[Posted by Lara Keller 17/9/18] Blog Table Of Contents
[From web page by Kester Ratcliff, Original Source = https://archive.fo/VQXiq]
What it means to identify someone as an ‘Assadist’.
This is a progressive list of relatively less committed gradually through to the most committed Assadist statements. People who only repeat points 1–4 are more likely to be recoverable than people who are assert 4–9. Point 10 is where they clearly cross a legal line from nonfactual and morally repugnant to a criminal act of incitement of a crime against humanity (explained below).
- ‘There are no good guys left- there was a civilian uprising in 2011, but there are only Islamist jihadis now.’ (this claim debunked here)
- ‘It’s Assad or the Islamist extremists. The Assad regime is secular and the protector of minorities.’ (debunking)
- ‘Assad is the legitimate President of Syria, and the Russian and Iranian forces were invited by him so their intervention is legitimate, but any other foreign intervention to limit mass atrocities is illegitimate.’
- ‘There was no genuine civilian uprising or revolution, it was a foreign regime change conspiracy. Assad is resisting imperialism.’ (videos)
- ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime’s atrocity crimes are not real but are exaggerated or fictitiously created by Western propaganda.’
- Victim blaming — ‘the Syrian revolutionaries and political opposition, civilians and combatants, are to blame for rebelling against legitimate authority and they are ‘terrorists’ for rejecting the government.’
- ‘The Assadi-Iranian-Hezbollah-Russian regime has not used CWs’ / ‘if they did it was justified’ (the latter is almost exclusively found in Assadist domestic propaganda in Arabic, see examples).
- ‘Al Qaeda and ISIS are supported or controlled by the West / by Israel.’
- ‘The White Helmets are fake humanitarian aid workers and are associated with / are terrorists.’
- ‘The White Helmets are legitimate military targets and should be attacked.’
The distinction between points 9 and 10 is abetment vs. incitement of a crime against humanity. Most Assadists say point 9, very few go as far as 10, but almost all associate themselves with one who does say 10, Vanessa Beeley.
Recently, Bashar al-Assad has also publicly announced in RT that the regime targets the White Helmets as “terrorists” — I think this is military targeting following propaganda, rather than propaganda following military targeting.
In listing these 151(171?) people as Assadists, I am not saying that they are all equivalent. It is not a 0/1 binary, it is a scalar variable. Especially for the milder cases, who might otherwise legitimately complain about being lumped together, I have tried to specify where I think they are on my 1–10 scale. But I think people who only repeat the milder points on the scale of Assadism and frequently associate with the more overt or extreme Assadists play an important role in mainstreaming and legitimising the more extreme people.
Common features (roots?) of all varieties of Assadism.
In my opinion the following four features are common to all varieties of international Assadism, from the far right to far left (the meaning of the distinction ‘right’/ ‘left’ breaks down when it is applied to Assadists).
Objectification (Naussbaum, 1995, p.257) of an imagined ‘Other’ group of people, reduced to blocs, moved by the hands of imagined more powerful agents, which are typically more like the self. Such imagination of other people is both expressed and transmitted in linguistic framing metaphors such as ‘chess’ or ‘international players’, i.e. game metaphorical framing of counter-revolutionary and genocidal mass atrocities, in which people are imaginatively reduced to ‘remote-controlled pawns’ (Maher Arar’s term). The form and perhaps the origin of this objectification is the Western-centricism that even when it is anti-Western still renders the Oriental, Arabs and Muslims, as imaginary objects rather than as persons with agency. [LK: The denial of effective agency by powerful external countries is the principal reason for the survival of the illegitimate brutal Assad dictatorship.]
Extract on Western-Centrism (“The Syrian Cause and Anti-Imperialism”):
2. Islamophobia / Anti-Muslim prejudice.
International Assadists, as much as I have seen, all share the trait of negative stereotyping of Muslims, or even all brown skinned people, as “jihadis” or “Islamist terrorists”. This is the most prominent common feature of all varieties of international Assadism; in some cases it’s more subtle, but I think it’s always there at least implicitly. Some of the far right Assadists call all brown skinned refugees and other migrants ‘jihadis’ (even Eritrean Christians), yet they are willingly blind to the Shia regimes and militias allied with the Russian regime and international fascist groups. In my observations, hardly anyone who says ‘Islamist’ is clear what even they mean by it; in most uses, it’s a label projected onto people just to demonise them.
The function of such stereotyping, and why it occurs so commonly in populist nationalist groups, is to create an imagined, idealised enemy group to negatively identify themselves against, and to lay the guilt of the internal differences, rivalry and conflicts of their populist nationalist community, which they ideologically presume must be united, onto a scapegoat group to be sacrificed, to take away the guilt of their community’s differences (Girard, 2001).
Leftist Assadists also identify ‘jihadis’ by signs such as — exclaiming ‘God is greater!’ (“Allahu akbar”), showing the one finger gesture of tawhid — testifying to the one-ness of God, having a beard while brown, or having a sticker of the Shahada on a vehicle’s rear windscreen (this was one of Vanessa Beeley’s ‘proofs’ that ‘the White Helmets are Al-Qaeda’), which of course are just signs of being Muslim, not at all particular to extremists or terrorists. I have never seen anyone who was interested negatively in ‘Islamists’ ever even attempt to define exactly what they mean by ‘Islamism’, since the term is more useful to them kept vague. [LK: Secularism inconsistently applied is a feature of far-left mindset]
Example of Islamophobia on Twitter (DR+MW have 1000s of followers):
3. Phobia of “mainstream media” and “experts”.
Assadists as far as I have seen commonly share the Populist strategy of cultivating distrust of the home society’s specialists and institutions, and rejection of ‘mainstream media’ (some Assadists literally call the mainstream media ‘lügenpresse’, echoing Hitler), accompanied by a willing credulity about the sources which are delegitimising the institutions of the home society and an unwillingness to consider whether those criticising are really more trustworthy or are actually even worse.
[LK: Interesting their target is the only serious mainstream left-wing newspaper in the UK.]
Attacking the credibility of democratic institutions and specialists also creates an echo chamber — a group who distrust all outsiders, who only believe what members of their own echo chamber tell them, and who collectively attack any source of information that threatens their group identity. The Populist strategy can almost be defined as the process of generating an echo chamber.
Populism and echo chamber generating tactics (including ‘audience segmentation’) and conspiracism are inherently inter-related, because conspiracy theories’ main effect is to persuade the audience to reallocate trust and political authority away from the home society’s institutional specialists and to the new populist leaders (and their geopolitical backers), so almost all populists frequently use conspiracy theories in their legitimation narratives.
As C Thi Nguyen says, it is as difficult to leave or to recover people from a political echo chamber as to leave or to recover people from a religious cult — Escape the echo chamber: First you don’t hear other views, then you can’t trust them, then your personal information network entraps you just like a cult.
‘Solidarity’ in Assadist ideology is imagined to mean solidarity with States, not people. Far right and left Assadists (even those who self-identify as anarchists) share an authoritarian and Statist attitude to political relationships — politics is what States do, not the collective decisions and actions of people. When they say ‘Syria’ they invariably mean the Assad regime, not the Syrian people. The only Syrians represented personally in international Assadist narratives are regime spokespersons, or subjected to implicit threats by their Mukhabarat minders to say only what they know is expected. It would be suicidal to say anything unexpected to someone on one of the regime-minded tours without being completely certain that they would not reveal any identifying information which could lead the Mukhabarat to find out who said it. Leila al-Shami develops these points fully in this article — The ‘anti-imperialism’ of idiots.
The Anti-Israel theme is frequent but not fully common, as far as I have seen. There are some otherwise seemingly centre-right public figures who are, at least – as a stance they must perform for their own political gain – pro-Israel. [LK: All serious anti-Assadists also appear to be anti-Zionists, but not of the rabid anti-Israel sense]
How or why people become useful idiots for violent tyrannical regimes is an hard and intriguing question I’ve struggled with for years. I assume that the difference between a useful idiot and an agent is a slippery scale, not a dichotomy. I think James Bloodworth has done a good and concise job of trying to understand how different types of useful idiots develop, here — Six types of ‘useful idiot’: The Seeker, Uptopian, Power Worshipper, Relativist, Stability-Fetishist and Nostalgist.