The Progressive Civil War Over Syria And Assad Exposes an Astonishing Lack Of Intellectual Curiosity by Some on The American Left
Truth and politics are often mutually exclusive concepts when dealing with the progressive American Left. This unfortunate fact is being driven home in spades in an ongoing spat between two lefty online personalities.
Anyone following Aaron Maté (149K followers on Twitter); The Young Turks (TYT, with 440K followers as an institution, and as many followers each tracking the activity of co-hosts Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian); the comedian Jimmy Dore (274K followers); or any number of other Twitter personalities whose online paths have crossed with any of the above; knows these left-leaning social media stars have been engaged in a vicious feud. Full disclosure, I have appeared on both Maté’s podcast, Pushback, as well as The Young Turks radio show. At issue is Syria and, more pointedly, the contention by both Uygur and Kasparian that Maté is shilling for President Bashar Assad.
A tale of two narratives
The sheer drama and vitriol which has emerged as a result of this feud has been entertaining for those who get a kick out of leftwing internecine warfare. Maté’s use of Jimmy Dore’s popular online program The Jimmy Dore Show as a platform for promoting his arguments has torn the scab off old wounds created when Dore left The Young Turks and struck out on his own, appears to underpin at least some of Uygur and Kasparian’s anti-Maté invective. However, more interesting is the fact that, as Maté pointed out in a recent interview with The Hill, the progressive wing of the American Left has hit a brick wall over the issue of Syria. Criticism of Assad has run up against the lies used to sustain US military hegemony in the Middle East.
“I think,” Maté noted, “that that meltdown reflects just like a general hostility they [The Young Turks] have towards people who are upholding actual progressive values and upholding actual journalism standards.” While the smear campaign waged by Uygur and Kasparian has been as unconscionable as it has been factually wrong, the fact that there is controversy among the progressive wing of the American political Left should not surprise anyone.As Maté observed, “[t]he reason why they slandered me at that time is because I was in Syria and Syria is a, you know, touchy subject for many people on the Left. It has been divisive.”
Syria is a touchy subject, especially for progressives who primarily focus on notions of human rights and democratic values. Maté has come under attack for taking a contrarian stance on two of the most hot-button issues surrounding Assad: allegations of chemical weapons use, and the suppression of political free will through the conduct of elections designed to keep the reins of political power in Syria firmly in his hands. (It should be pointed out that Maté is joined by other outstanding progressive journalists, including Eva Bartlett, Vanessa Beeley, Rania Khalek, and many others whose informative work predates Maté’s on the issue of Syria.)
Chemical weapons, denial and disproval
If there is a case to be made that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own population, it has not yet been made by anyone. The most widely cited incident in terms of casualties (i.e., the primary discriminator for any argument seeking to label Assad a “mass murderer”) is that which occurred in the early morning hours of August 21, 2013, in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. While the number of casualties involved remains unclear (estimates range from 281 to 1,729 people killed, with the higher figure largely agreed to be problematic), what is not up for dispute is the fact that, as the official UN report into the incident concluded, there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Sarin gas was used in the Ghouta incident.
While the UN was precluded by mandate from allocating responsibility for the attack, the US government
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