Syria´s War of Images: Fake Photos and Underlying Intentions

from Jason Koonce*

You know that an event has crossed over from 'we live in a cruel world' to a real tragedy that needs our attention when the fake, staged photos start popping up. When a photo that at first seems unreal, is taken for genuine, then exposed as a fake, and even still declared to be 'art'. You know that the event has taken on all of humanity when we cannot even tell reality from fantasy anymore. The 'situation', the 'war', the atrocities being carried out in Syria demand our immediate attention. We cannot ignore it anymore.

Reports from Syria are usually accompanied by images of destroyed infrastructure, of poignant moments such as the image of a baby covered in dust and ash being rescued (or not). Often we hear about political posturing by the Russian-backed Assad, the splintered opposition forces that are partially backed by the west, and even expatriot Syrian's themselves give us their words. There is a lot of talk about the humanitarian cost in Syria regarding schools and families and children. Still, these are usually sandwiched in-between chemical weapons being shipped out of the country, or arms and support being brought to the country to continue the killing and destruction.

Still, of the many images that caught our attention I'm thinking that this image says a lot about where our priorities and attention need to be.

A boy sleeping in between the unmarked graves of his mother and father. The image is allegedly a fake. Yes a fake that has gone 'viral' and likely most of the people who have seen it will take it as the saddest thing that they have ever seen. It will evoke feelings, inflame passions, compel some to take up arms, and others to help bring an end to the bloodletting. The fact is that it may not even have been produced in Syria, let alone have anything to do with the actual conflict. The point is that so many could look at it and believe it as truth.

We need to do more. There are so many conflicts going on in the world, why not start with Syria?! After all, if you are reading this blog post, it must mean that you care about what we care about. We care about Syria because over 120,000 people have perished in this conflict. There have been millions upon millions that no longer sleep in their own beds, or live in their own homes. Refugee camps (which no one ever has confused with summer camp), and life's basics like food, water, plumbing and electricity being harder and harder to get a hold of for Syrians.

Frankly I need to do more. This was the first thing I thought when I saw that picture. Then I looked around and saw this picture, which is also a fake:

That's different though. It wasn't staged, but somehow it still evokes some of the same emotions as the first, more lifelike image. It is merely a drawing by a teen refugee who has the 'privilege' of attending an art class. Yes it is art. There are probably more talented students, with better materials who are more intelligent and who also have the same 'credibility' as a Syrian refugee. This is the image that got out though. It may be an actual depiction of events witnessed by a child. If this is what he is compelled to put on paper, imagine what lies in his heart and his memory.

Two fake photo's. The old, overused cliché says 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and these images of the conflict whether real or fake say so much more. What stands out to me is that children are the themes here. What do these 'fake' images say to you?

Or does this make you feel better?  

*Jason Koonce, Baujahr 197x aus Cleveland/Ohio (USA). Kam vor über zehn Jahren nach Deutschland und lebt im Osten der Republik jenseits der Demarkationsline zwischen Armut und weniger großer Armut.
Er schreibt, singt und rappt u.a. auf seinem eigenen Label Crazy Like A Fox Records

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