During the 1970s and 80s the BBC and the British government framed the Irish Republican Army and the Troubles in Northern Ireland in such a way that it became almost impossible for the British public to see militant republicans as anything other than monsters. Once they and their struggle were effectively dehumanised, no history or level of understanding was required; they could be neutralised as though they were dangerous beasts – to rapt applause from a relieved population.
Earlier this year the US’ Federal Bureau of Investigation shared information with MI5 identifying Abedi as a member of a militant Islamist group based in Manchester, and that it had intelligence suggesting that this Manchester network was plotting an attack in the United Kingdom. Yet regardless of this intelligence the British government failed to act adequately to protect the public.
We have been led to believe that the Syrian conflict was the result of the Assad government’s crackdown on an “Arab Spring” pro-democracy movement starting in late January 2011, resulting in factions within the protest movement taking up an armed struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. This reading of events has been challenged by senior figures even in the United States’ own political establishment.
Since March 2011 Syria has grown to become the definitive conflict of our generation. By the time details of this apparent extension of the Arab Spring reached our television sets in the West it had already become an impenetrable tangle of propaganda and counter-propaganda. It was quite clearly packaged for our consumption as a popular uprising.