When I did a post-doc in Israel back in academic year 2001-2002, the Palestinian terror and bombing campaign was at its height. Hordes of Western journalists circulated through Israel on their way to the West Bank and Gaza. Having coffee with a producer at the time, I was surprised to learn it was common practice among major American networks and their European counterparts to pay PLO and Hamas “fixers” for access. The implication was that if the payment was not made, not only would meetings not be granted, but the crews’ safety might be endangered. News agencies never acknowledged they had paid terrorists and fixers in the subsequent news reports.
Journalists have long expressed self-righteous indignation if confronted with the fact that many Arab states and terrorist groups consider them useful idiots, easy to dupe, and tools for propaganda projection. Leaked Syrian e-mails should put a rest to such protests, however.
Here’s the advice Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s media adviser gave him before Assad’s interview with Barbara Walters:
“It is hugely important and worth mentioning that ‘mistakes’ have been done in the beginning of the crises because we did not have a well-organized ‘police force.’ American psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are ‘mistakes’ done and now we are ‘fixing it.’ It’s worth mentioning also what is happening now in Wall Street and the way the demonstrations are been [sic] suppressed by policemen, police dogs and beatings.”
The Syrian briefing paper is certainly worth reading, as is the Syrian regime’s willingness to use the supposed cultural sensitivity of American progressives to shield Syria against American accusations of Syrian atrocities.