According to a wide range of Alt-Media outlets and pundits, Operation Olive Branch has been nothing but defeat followed by defeat for President Erdogan’s FSA proxy forces…until now.
The FSA’s victory in Afrin exposed Alt-Media’s fake news about Syria in such a startlingly direct way that the outlets and individuals which previously peddled inaccurate narratives about Operation Olive Branch might never be believed again by their audiences.
Up until President Erdogan’s proxy army finally surrounded the Kurdish-controlled town a few days ago, the prevailing Alt-Media storyline about Ankara’s latest Syrian adventure was one of defeat followed by defeat, with a stream of fake news hitting social media on an hourly basis about how Turkey had apparently walked into its own Vietnamese-like quagmire.
This “defeat porn”, to crudely describe it, played to the fantasies of its audience by telling them exactly what they wanted to hear, and it was therefore instantly reshared all across the internet with fellow “enthusiasts” who were “orgasmic” at the thought that Turkey had fallen into a trap.
Never mind that this was entirely imagined from the get-go and that even the most inexperienced“armchair general” should have been able to see that the FSA was trying to surround Afrin before making its final move, taking caution to limit civilian casualties after the YPG essentially took entire towns hostage and used their citizens as human shields.
Had the Turks been as “barbarous” as they were presented, Operation Olive Branch could have been over in two weeks, not two months.
Almost everything coming out of Alt-Media, especially Mideast-based (non-Turkish) outlets and individuals was a lie, meaning that it was actual “propaganda”, or as the US military calls it nowadays, “military information support operations” (MISO).
The reason why this narrative was unquestionably accepted by many and the “inconvenient facts” ignored until the very last minute is because this initiative was done in support of what its practitioners and audience believed to be “Damascus’ interests”.
That, however, doesn’t meant that it was “state-directed”, even if some of the outlets and individuals gave off the appearance of being “close” to the state or acting on its behalf.
What the audience should come to terms with is that all sides in a conflict regularly practice “information warfare” by disseminating “propaganda” and engaging in MISO, and it doesn’t matter whether they’re the “good guys”, “bad guys”, “your side”, or the “other side” — this is simply a universally acknowledged fact that’s been known for millennia.
Anyone asserting anything to the contrary is actually partaking in the exact same type of disinformation that’s being discussed in this analysis.
Therefore, no value judgement should be ascribed to something as ubiquitous in warfare as this, but the point being made is that attention should nevertheless be drawn to Alt-Media’s fake news about Afrin in order to explain what went so terribly wrong and why.
Instead of taking a more careful and nuanced approach, most Alt-Media outlets and figures jumped the gun by indulging in their and their audiences’ fantasies of a Turkish defeat, apparently following the axiom that a lie becomes the truth if enough people believe it.
That may be correct for some things, but not for military realities, especially when the targeted audience of the said lie isn’t in any position whatsoever to alter the course of events because they’re not even present in the discussed battlespace.
Alt-Media, being full of many “well-intended” people, thought that it was “doing the right thing” by inventing outright falsehoods in support of what they believed to be “their side’s” (Damascus’) interests, though they were so overzealous in their mission that they apparently never took the time to ponder just how much they’d be discrediting Syria if events didn’t develop like they wanted.
There was also another factor at play as well, and that was the Alt-Media Community’s tendency to fall for groupthink and the thuggish enforcement thereof, which translates in this case to aggressive Takfiri-like accusations of “betraying the cause” if someone points out something obvious such as the FSA’s steady progress against the Amero-Zionist YPG “federalist” Kurds.
For as “enlightened” as the Alt-Media Community publicly portrays itself as being, there’s surprisingly little tolerance for straying from the “party line” (e.g. “the SAA is on the verge of total victory”) no matter how unbelievable it may be in certain instances such as Afrin.
About that, there was also a lot of fake news being spread over the past month or so about how the SAA supposedly deployed to Afrin in order to protect the Kurdish “rebels”, which fortuitously turned out to be false because it would have dangerously brought Damascus’ forces into Turkey’s crosshairs just like the Kurds and their US-“Israeli” backers were planning.
Syria did, however, dispatch pro-government militia to the region and passively allowed the most dogmatic and politically extreme Kurds east of the Euphrates to transit through the liberated territories en route to Afrin, the latter move of which explains why the YPG didn’t acquiesce to Damascus’ demands for a full disarmament in exchange for officially coming to their “rescue”.
In hindsight, given the Turks’ and their FSA proxy allies’ fighting efficiency as evidenced by the true reality on the ground in Afrin (which wasn’t reflected at all in most of the Alt-Media’s fake news), it was a “blessing” of sorts that this happened because otherwise the SAA would have probably entered into direct clashes with Ankara’s armed forces.
Despite the related fake news that was spread about how Russia was reportedly “conspiring against Turkey” this entire time, Moscow would never militarily intervene between the FSA and SAA, and Damascus’ silent understanding of this fact explains why President Assad defied most of Alt-Media’s speculative anticipation and declined to “stand up” to President Erdogan.
All things considered, there’s really no other way to describe the “well-intended” “pro-Syrian” Alt-Media’s MISO than the utter failure that it was, since the participants inadvertently discredited themselves and their “cause” by sloppily lying about almost every single thing that they could in their desperation to build the ideal alternative reality (Alt-Reality) that they desired.
Looking back on it, the more mature position to have taken would have been a measured one that accepted the “unwelcome reality” that was unfolding and creatively shaped narratives in response, instead of doing the reverse in introducing narratives and then inventing “facts” (rather than “cherry picking” them because there really weren’t any in support of their claims to begin with) that advanced their storyline.
Another lesson to be learned is that certain Alt-Media “powerhouses” and their supporters (who sometimes function as “trolls”) shouldn’t have bullied their peers or spread malicious innuendo about them just because they chose to analyze what indisputably turned out to have been the objective reality of the situation all along.
This unfriendly behavior was a dead giveaway that they were pushing an agenda and not partaking in analysis, which further eroded the community’s hard-earned reputation by making it look more and more like the Mainstream Media that it pretends to be separate from.
Regrettably, the FSA’s victory in Afrin dealt a major blow to Alt-Media because it exposed the shallow falsehoods that most of its members were peddling the whole time, but the “saving grace” in all of this is that not everyone fell for it or was intimidated into repeating the “party line”, and that means that it’s possible for the community to bounce back and regain its rightful credibility with time.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.