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How The Intercept Smears Syria By Mistranslating An Assad Speech

Published: September 9, 2017
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Source: Moon of Alabama

There have long been attempts in the anti-Syrian media to claim alignment of the socialist and anti-sectarian Syrian government with western fascist and religious supremacist elements. The latest in this propaganda genre is the just published Intercept piece Why White Nationalists Love Bashar al-Assad.

The Intercept is a rather dubious news outlet founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. It most recent remarkable moment was its betrayal of a NSA whistle-blower who fatuously had trusted The Intercept to act professionally:

The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

As we noted back in June when the above incident happened:

The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some are highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. [...] Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing.

The new Intercept piece published yesterday insinuates that the Syrian government under President Bashar Assad is liked by white supremacists because it somehow is itself fascist. Here is how the outlet announced the piece:


full tweet

The screed, written by one Mariam Elba, has a rather crude thesis. Its core is solely based on a false translation of a speech Bashar Assad held on August 20:

It shouldn’t be surprising that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has become an idol among white nationalists in the United States.
...
Assad’s authoritarianism uses the same buzzwords as the far-right to describe the society he’s trying to build in his own country — a pure, monolithic society of devotees to his own power.
...
As the chaos of Charlottesville and its aftermath was unfolding, Assad addressed a group of diplomats in Damascus about the ongoing war in Syria. “We lost many of our youth and infrastructure,” he said, “but we gained a healthier and more homogenous society.”

Whereas white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity, for Assad it means a society free of any kind of political dissent, excluding any Syrian living outside the territory his regime controls. Anyone who does not fit Assad’s specific definition of what it means to be Syrian is up for execution.

The assertions in that last quoted paragraph are obviously baloney.

1. It is not the aim of "white nationalists aim to create a healthy and homogeneous society through racial purity". Those people want "their kind" to rule absolutely while all "other" people are to be their slaves. They are (sectarian) racists. The society the white supremacists want would neither be "healthy" nor "homogeneous".

2. The Syrian government has not excluded anyone. Indeed the Syrian government continued to pay its employees, like teachers, even when those sided with and worked under its enemies. Where possible it continued to supply all its citizens in enemy held areas. The Syrian government did not and does not execute anyone for merely having or voicing an opinion. It even reconciles with ten-thousands of "rebels" who once fought against it. None of these get executed.

The assertions made by the Intercept writer are unfounded. Moreover they are based on a false translation. Assad never called for a "more homogeneous society" as it is interpreted in the piece. See these remarks by knowledgeable Syrians and Arabic speakers made shortly after Assad's speech and before that Intercept screed was written:

EHSANI2‏ @EHSANI22 - 7:05 PM - 21 Aug 2017

1-Of the 53-minute important speech by #Assad yesterday nothing seemed more important for Opp than a single word he uttered - "Homogeneous"

2-Many in Opp pounced are presumably pointing to this as confirmation that Assad is equating a more homogenous society as being less Sunni

3-Reading transcript of his speech in more detail rather than pouncing on a word though seems to give a different interpretation.
...
10-What #Assad presumably meant is that when the whole society agrees on one identity that is less sectarian, it becomes more "homogenous"

11-Homogenous as opposed to co-existence is a more durable state that can allow society to survive future wars and struggles.

Moreover - the speech was held in Arabic. Assad never said "homogenous" as it is understood in the English language:

Sophia‏ @les_politiques - 1:48 AM - 22 Aug 2017

1/ 'Homogenous' is a poor translation for 'moutajaness'.

2/ 'Tajannouss' means existence of similarities. But existence of similarities (resemblances) doesn't logically imply homogeneity. (Pics 1, 2 of lexicon entry)

3/ 'Jeness' (category) is subdivided into 'espèces' (kinds). (Arabic-French translation by Kazimirski.)

4 /It is clear that the similarities #Assad mentioned are attitudes toward sectarianism in Syrian society...

5/ In the sense that the war has purged sectarianism from Syrian society therefore making it coalesce as one category against sectarianism.

While the white supremacists in the U.S. and elsewhere want a society where one race (and its dominant religion) rules supreme, the Syrian president called for the opposite. A society that is non-racist and non-sectarian. The homogeneous aspect of that envisioned society is its common rejection of racism and sectarianism. Assad essentially called for "e pluribus unum", the opposite of what white supremacists want to achieve.

The radical (willful?) misinterpretation of Assad's speech in the Intercept is in line with other propagandist claptrap in U.S. media. It is highly opinionated nonsense  based on the factually false translation and interpretation of a speech, which expressed the opposite of what the Intercept author asserts.

The publishing of the piece confirms again that the Intercept is in not the leftish-progressive outlet that some had expected it to be.

---
Added:
Caitlin Johnstone adds to the criticism of the Intercept piece: ‘The Intercept’ Tries To Conflate Opposition To US Syria Intervention With Neo-Nazism.

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