Has the Syrian civil war fallen victim to media fatigue?

posted at 7:01 pm on May 18, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Hey, do you remember that civil war story from Syria? Not that many people do these days, at least judging by the headlines we see each week in the American media. But it’s not over.. not by a long shot. Just this weekend we saw another sign that Bashar Assad’s strategy of waiting it out and outlasting international attention might be paying dividends when he said that he wasn’t going to be stepping down any time soon.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a newspaper interview Saturday he won’t step down and will instead “face the storm,” raising new doubts about a U.S-Russian effort to get Assad and his opponents to negotiate an end to the country’s civil war.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, meanwhile, a powerful explosion went off in the Ruken al-Deen neighborhood, killing three people and wounding five, Syrian state TV reported. It said the blast was caused by a car bomb and that experts are dismantling other explosives in the area.

You have to dig around for stories like that, though. If you spent any morning or prime time watching cable news over the past week, this story was an afterthought at best. So what happened to a controversial situation which was once 24/7 fodder for the news machine? At Outside the Beltway, Dr. James Joyner points us to a piece by Jay Ulfelder which posits that the media is simply tired of reporting on it.

The reason GDELT’s count of violent events has diverged from other measures of the intensity of the violence in Syria in recent months is probably something called “media fatigue.” Data sets of political events generally depend on news sources to spot events of interest, and it turns out that news coverage of large-scale political violence follows a predictable arc. As Deborah Gerner and Phil Schrodt describe in a paper from the late 1990s, press coverage of a sustained and intense conflicts is often high when hostilities first break out but then declines steadily thereafter. That decline can happen because editors and readers get bored, burned out, or distracted.

Joyner’s take:

As Dave Schuler noted recently in a comment thread on a completely different topic, bloggers experience the same phenomenon. After a while, we get tired of covering a story that moves slowly but is otherwise “same old, same old.” The civil war in Syria has been dragging on for two years now and is horrifically bloody. For most of us, though, that fact has become almost background noise; it’s status quo, not news.

I’m not sure about this. I suppose “media fatigue” is one way of putting it, but it doesn’t really seem to capture the heart of it. It’s more like a case of a media with the attention span of a fruit fly combined with a desire for stories that fit the general theme that they would like to convey. Granted, the recent news cycle hasn’t been great for the traditional media, what with all the scandal stories running around Obama’s White House, but Syria was never really a good story for them either.

When things aren’t going well, I think there’s a natural desire to “pivot” from the downward trending news. When you combine that with the admittedly long, grinding news cycle coming out of Syria, there’s probably a natural inclination to shove it toward the back page. And yet… the war drags on.


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I’m more worried about the dictators in the IRS than I am of the dictators in the ME right now.

Punchenko on May 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Okay..
I will post..
Never heard of this war…
/

Electrongod on May 18, 2013 at 7:09 PM

I never understood why we were supposed to care in the first place – We’ve got our own problems.

Pork-Chop on May 18, 2013 at 7:11 PM

It isn’t a good story for them, and the fact that Assad keeps stepping over line after line Obama’s warned him not to cross feeds into the other best-case narrative right now with Benghazi, the IRS and the AP scandals that the president is a beta male with no control over his own domestic or foreign policy, and could be intimidated by a mean-looking Girl Scout, let alone a Syrian dictator.

Better not to play up the story, thereby giving Obama a chance to ignore it, than push it, remind people of Obama’s warnings, and force him into another foreign policy blunder that could then remind more people of the foreign policy disaster on 9/11/12.

jon1979 on May 18, 2013 at 7:14 PM

I am hoping that Assad wins so there won’t be a slaughter of Christians in Syria.

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Let them kill each other. And lets not talk to them. And lets not send them anymore money.

thgrant on May 18, 2013 at 7:16 PM

Who cares….?
Are we supposed to rescue them only to see them murder our soldiers afterwards?
Who cares what muslims do to other muslims?

NeoKong on May 18, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Data sets of political events generally depend on news sources to spot events of interest, and it turns out that news coverage of large-scale political violence follows a predictable arc. As Deborah Gerner and Phil Schrodt describe in a paper from the late 1990s, press coverage of a sustained and intense conflicts is often high when hostilities first break out but then declines steadily thereafter.

Like coverage of the Apollo program.

It’s more like a case of a media with the attention span of a fruit fly combined with a desire for stories that fit the general theme that they would like to convey.

We said we didn’t want to go to war in Syria. We said it pretty emphatically. We said “no” for every reason they gave us, even the loaded words like “massacre.” We heard “massacre” and kept shaking our heads no anyway.

No real sense beating a war drum when people refuse to get in line.

Axe on May 18, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Feb 6, 2012: “But in Christian homes around the country the prevailing sentiment is one of relief rather than delight — they link the survival of the Assad regime to their own.

“Thank god for Russia. Without Russia we are doomed,” said a Christian woman from Damascus recently.”

Who would have ever thought that atheist Russia would be the protector of Christians and Christian America would be on the side of those who would kill them?

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Imo for the free world generally and the US in particular, this medieval Islamic savage fatigue.

we’ve burned our hands on the stove too many times in the last decade or more on behalf of people who more or less want Christians around the world dead or subjugated and could care less that we have tried to help them (however imperfectly and poorly) get out of a 10th century mindset.

So I think for perfectly valid reasons, few folks in the free West have the energy to much care anymore who wins a fight to the death between head-chopping Islamic nutters in limos and business suits vs. Islamic head-choppers in Toyotas and track suits.

Sacramento on May 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Who would have ever thought that atheist Russia would be the protector of Christians and Christian America would be on the side of those who would kill them?

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

The Christian thing is a problem. I’m not sure we can insist we aren’t a Christian nation and then turn around and identify with Christians as a nation. If you see what I mean. Just talking.

Getting out of hand, too:

Christianity Facing ‘Catastrophic Collapse’ in Britain

Axe on May 18, 2013 at 7:27 PM

Who would have ever thought that atheist Russia would be the protector of Christians and Christian America would be on the side of those who would kill them?

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

I know, right?

thebrokenrattle on May 18, 2013 at 7:28 PM

The victory of one side or the other isn’t a compelling national interest.

Curtiss on May 18, 2013 at 7:29 PM

get out of a 10th 7th century mindset.

Sacramento on May 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

.

Cleombrotus on May 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM

The media may have figured out that we don’t care what happens in Syria. They can all kill each other for all we care. As long as they are killing each other, they are leaving Israel alone.

john1schn on May 18, 2013 at 7:32 PM

get out of a 10th 7th century mindset.

Sacramento on May 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

.

Cleombrotus on May 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM

They just might be in the 10th century in another 100 centuries.

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM

Hey, do you remember that civil war story from Syria? Not that many people do these days, at least judging by the headlines we see each week in the American media

Most folks lose interest in another country’s civil war when one is being waged on them right here at home. Just sayin’

VegasRick on May 18, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Every intervention we have done in an Islamic country has been a dismal failure. Enough. I don’t care about the Syrian war. We can’t win no matter what we do. Once we step in we will be the invaders. We have no friends there.

echosyst on May 18, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Hey, do you remember that civil war story from Syria Afghanistan? Not that many people do these days, at least judging by the headlines we see each week in the American media

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 18, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Are they only doing it to attract our attention? Why should the blessed Shia and the freedom fightin’ Sunnis care about what we think? Who are we to interfere with the will of Allah? May the beloved of Allah win.

BL@KBIRD on May 18, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Are they only doing it to attract our attention? Why should the blessed Shia and the freedom fightin’ Sunnis care about what we think? Who are we to interfere with the will of Allah? May the beloved of Allah win.

BL@KBIRD on May 18, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Why are all the protest signs in Arab speaking nations in English?

الله على مربوطة

davidk on May 18, 2013 at 8:12 PM

Who would have ever thought that atheist Russia would be the protector of Christians and Christian America would be on the side of those who would kill them?

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

That would be me on Election Day 2008, when I realized that my fellow citizens had elected a Crypto-Muslim traitor to be our President.

To me, it was as though we had thrown FDR (despite his shortcomings) out and elected Adolph Hitler as our President.

To think of all the young men and women serving this nation since Inauguration Day 2009 that have given their lives for the protection of Liberty in this land…

(Read between the lines here)

Barack Obama is truly the Devil incarnate walking the face of the Earth. We and our children will suffer grievously for generations to come because of him.

turfmann on May 18, 2013 at 8:13 PM

English to arabic of “Allah get screwed” = الله على مربوطة

arabic to English of “الله على مربوطة” = Allah the tied.

davidk on May 18, 2013 at 8:17 PM

English to arabic of “Allah get screwed” = الله على مربوطة

arabic to English of “الله على مربوطة” = Allah the tied.

davidk on May 18, 2013 at 8:17 PM

Fascinating. :)

Axe on May 18, 2013 at 8:22 PM

*But, don’t stand next to me for a few days.

Axe on May 18, 2013 at 8:23 PM

اللعنة على الله

john1schn on May 18, 2013 at 8:25 PM

They need a good side. Well in Syria there are no good sides. In Egypt the “good” Muslim Brotherhood where better at keeping their mask of good that the Free Syrian Army could never dream of as they are Al Qaeda and would kill anyone that they do not approve of even fellow members.

tjexcite on May 18, 2013 at 8:31 PM

The MSM seem to tire of wars in this region much faster than they do elsewhere.

Just yesterday, I saw an official USAF press release describing U.S. FRT support for Armee de l’Air ops over Mali in support of French and British peacekeepers there. Meaning, combat ops are ongoing as a consequence of the Northern Malian insurgency, which has been going on for over a year, and which has roots in the Libyan-backed Mali “insurgency” of almost two decades ago. (When “freedom fighters” can call in airstrikes from Libyan Tu-22 Blinder jet bombers, it’s sort of hard to call it an “insurgency” without the “”- or with a straight face.)

In the Sudan, the Muslim government in Khartoum had been killing Christian and animist tribes in the southern half of the country for over a decade. So far, none of the “concerned” types at the Georgetown cocktail parties seem to have noticed. (I’d have thought they’d have been screaming to high heaven- at least about the animists.)

The Iran/Iraq War (1980-88) dropped off the media’s radar screens about the time it turned into 1914-18 style trench warfare, two years in. The media didn’t notice it again until Iran-Contra was exposed.

They stopped caring about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979-89) long before the Soviets pulled out. I think the only lesson anyone learned there was the one the British, and we, have learned; that being, only a damned fool invades Afghanistan with conventional forces. If you must go in, either leave it to the spec-ops boys, or just f’ing nuke the place, but do not send in conventional heavy forces. It’s not good territory for anything much more “high tech” than a man on horseback.

And oh yes, there’s Yemen, UBL’s home turf. They’ve had so many wars in the last century that Wiki needs a disambiguation page for them;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemen_War

At least two are still ongoing. Anybody seen that on MSNBC?

Maybe the problem is that Muslims busily killing everyone from Christians to… other Muslims just conflicts with the whole “Religion of Peace” meme’. It’s sort of hard to maintain that sort of illusion when the “peaceful” types are busy re-enacting Stalingrad all over the place. With live ammo.

Face it. Islam is a tribalist culture. Tribalist cultures fight unending wars that are really little more than clan feuds writ large. It’s Somalia on a continental scale.

That’s why I’m surprised it’s taken this long for the media to lose interest in Syria. Of course, the fact that their Messiah may have been trying to relive Iran-Contra there might be an impetus, too. Can’t have the peons’ finding out about that, now, can we?

I mean, they might start thinking Reagan had a point or two on his side, or something. Since The One is Never Wrong, and all that.

Better to just ignore the whole thing, really.

/if I need a sarc tag for that

clear ether

eon

eon on May 18, 2013 at 8:42 PM

Who would have ever thought that atheist Russia would be the protector of Christians and Christian America would be on the side of those who would kill them?

VorDaj on May 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Protecting the Christians, for Russia, is just an unimportant side-effect of protecting Assad.
And it’s the “We-Hate-Christians” part of America that seems to be supporting the killers.

AesopFan on May 18, 2013 at 8:52 PM

The Syrian civil war has fallen “victim” (strange word to use) to the American people no longer giving a sh!t about barbaric savage Muslims killing each other.

What have we gotten for all of the blood we have shed and treasure we have expended rescuing and protecting some Muslims from other murderous barbaric Muslims, from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Libya?

They hate us at least as much as they ever did and blame us for all of their problems.

May as well let them kill each other and then deal with whoever “wins”. Dealing with them however necessary to assure they cannot export their savagery and barbarism to the US. That means our primary interest is in keeping WMDs out of the hands of people who would use them against the US.

To date, we have seen no indication Assad might use them against the US. We can’t say that about many of the Islamist “rebels” trying to overthrow him.

farsighted on May 18, 2013 at 9:33 PM

Yeah, well, if covering meant unearthing another destroyed Obama narrative like “weeks, not months” or “game changers” and “red lines”, and you are part of the MSM, you’re probably not real keen on reminding people of this issue. Failed US foreign policy in this area effects two people, Obama and Hillary.

BKeyser on May 18, 2013 at 9:49 PM

Hate to be maudlin but a good muslim is a dead muslim.

Mr. Curly on May 18, 2013 at 10:25 PM

I’m tired of it because I hope they both lose.

In this corner, we have a dictator oppressing his people…

And in the other corner, a new upstart Al Qaeda looking for a base of operations for massive terrorist attacks…

Yeah, I’m rooting for neither, and a long costly battle for everyone.

Sorry for the civilians living in the middle; but I don’t see how getting involved to try to end the war faster by backing either side benefits anything but tyranny and psychopathic lunatics.

gekkobear on May 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM

If you go to LiveLeak the war in Syria is front page everyday.
There are literally hundreds of homemade videos from the conflict on that site.
So while the MSM may not be covering it, it has not disappeared from the attention of the “internet community”

CallousDisregard on May 19, 2013 at 12:13 AM

Islam just sucks.

People are tired of its murderous lunacies.

profitsbeard on May 19, 2013 at 1:49 AM

davidk on May 18, 2013 at 8:17 PM

I didn’t realize you were literate in Arabic.

DarkCurrent on May 19, 2013 at 3:56 AM

OT: The trick to using Google Translate or similar tools for languages you don’t know is be familiar with at least two languages that aren’t closely related.

Step 1: Translate the source string from language you know into the unknown target language.

Step 2: Translate the result from Step 1 into another language you do know (that isn’t closely related to the source language).

If the result of Step 2 is what you intended, chances are the result in the unknown language is close to what you want.

Otherwise you’re likely to get nonsense.

DarkCurrent on May 19, 2013 at 4:02 AM

It’ll either have a brutal secular dictatorship or a brutal theocracy.

Both are bad.

Yakko77 on May 19, 2013 at 7:48 AM

We’ve got to learn as a country that many things that happen around the world are just none of our freakin’ business. The Syrian Civil War is one of them.

Unless a situation directly involves our national interests, stay the hell out of it. Amen.

AngusMc on May 19, 2013 at 9:45 AM

BO would like attention to stay focused there. It would be a great distraction if media was breathlessly covering the final days of handing power over to the latest flavor of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The problem is BO also has run guns through Libya into Syria to support the “rebels”, who are in reality radical Islamists bent on inflaming the entire middle east. Too much attention and eventually someone will publish the pieces. The warnings to BO from Russia through Turkey, the warehouse complex at the CIA annex in Benghazi, the shipping logs showing what went where and when.

What’s tougher: swallowing immense pride and letting the press drag out domestic evils, or having the press investigate an administration purposefully arming enemies that have vowed our destruction?

MarkT on May 19, 2013 at 9:48 AM

We should treat Syria like the “Warfare Special Olympics.” Everyone loses; there are no winners.

I would like to see that.

Mojave Mark on May 19, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Has the Syrian civil war fallen victim to media fatigue?

Wasn’t Assad supposed to have been deposed before last Christmas according to the LSM?

I can’t get over how the LSM calls these Al-Qaeda terrorists “activists”. Shameful.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 19, 2013 at 11:55 AM

From what I’ve read, it appears that Syria has basically fractured into 3 or so pieces. The central and coastal areas controlled by Assad, the South controlled by Hezbollah and Northeast controlled by Kurds. The situation remains at a bloody stalemate. One big concern, is the spread of fractional war into Jordan and elsewhere.

MJBrutus on May 19, 2013 at 4:11 PM