A few glimpses of the human cost of Syrian war


Our own Bryan Caskey brings our attention to some stunning pictures (maybe not as technically arresting as the Ukraine ones from the other day, but the content and framing make up for it) in The Daily Mail, with these comments:

Not sure if you’ve seen this or not: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2568251/UN-calls-Syrian-warring-sides-allow-aid-flow.html


Normally, I’m kind of down on journalists, but in this instance, a photographer has truly done the “picture is worth a thousand words” thing with the first photo. I’m not making a political point. I just thought this photograph was extremely evocative of the scale of human suffering in Syria.


So this is one of those times that I’m giving journalists some praise. Since you’re a journalist (or at least a former one) I thought that you would appreciate it.

I hope all concerned consider my showing you the image above to fall within the realm of Fair Use (seeing as how I can’t afford to pay for it). There would seem little point in this post if I didn’t at least show you that. I urge you to go to the site itself and see all of the pictures, and if you are so inclined, to subscribe to the Mail and give your custom to their advertisers.

Congratulations to the photographers involved, whom the Mail, unfortunately, does not name. Especially the one who shot the image above, which is the most dramatic (the cutline: “Residents of Syria’s besieged Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp, south of Damascus, crowding a destroyed street during a food distribution led by the UN agency”). We whose comfortable behinds stay in more convenient parts of the world depend on those who go there and do good work to tell us what the rest of the world is like.

As for Bryan’s illiberal asides regarding journalists (I wouldn’t know he was down on us if he hadn’t mentioned it), you’d think a lawyer would be wary of casting aspersions at entire professions (right, Juan?). But we like him anyway.

20 thoughts on “A few glimpses of the human cost of Syrian war

  1. Bryan Caskey

    As always, a tip o’ the cap to you for linking me. I think you’re fine on fair use, since you’re providing the link back to the Daily Mail. As far as I’m aware, that’s usually enough to demonstrate credit.

    As far as my general feeling about journalists, here’s where I’m coming from. I occasionally open the newspaper (or it’s digital equivalent) to an article on a subject I know well. For instance, firearms or a specific area of the law.

    I read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the piece is so wrong it actually presents the story backwards — reversing cause and effect — or just having fundamental facts wrong that would be easy to learn. (the second one is especially prevalent with firearms).

    In any case, I read with exasperation (or amusement) the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to another piece. Now I’m wondering why I’m reading the rest of the newspaper as if it was somehow more accurate about another issue (tax policy or economics) than the baloney I just read on the previous page.

      1. Doug Ross

        I know nothing about guns but my guess is that it has something to do with the 18 bullets versus the “11 more than legal” statement.

        Don’t need a gold subscription. My aluminum one is more than sufficient. 🙂

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, the thing that jumped out at me was the 28mm part. That would be a small artillery piece, not a handgun. You know that crew-served (anti-aircraft?) cannon that the Germans used to rip several Americans to shreds in the last combat scene of “Saving Private Ryan”? That was only 20 mm, I believe.

            I also sort of doubted the armor-piercing part, but I suppose that could be possible.

          2. Brad Warthen Post author

            Yay, me!

            Think about it, people… sort of the upper limit for a handgun — and this is ridiculously huge — is a .50 cal. That’s a round with a half-inch diameter.

            28 mm is more than an inch.

          3. Mark Stewart

            I thought more about the idea of a spouse pointing a gun, let alone loaded, at his/her partner. Even the complete lack of sense in handling a gun in such a emotionally charged situation as a domestic disagreement…

            Which facts are of more import here? The actions themselves or the reporting of the minor details? My perception of the thrust of the reporting was not swayed by the confusion between caliber and millimeters, btw.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There are three areas in which, in my experience, journalists have a tendency to make mistakes*, or to pass on mistakes without catching them (which is probably more common):

      1. Guns. They are a mystery to most journalists, so they just try to quote others accurately on the subject, knowing so little themselves. But the screaming errors — “the bullets from the shotgun,” for instance — keep coming.

      2. The military. During my career, relatively few of my colleagues had served (which makes them like me; the only difference being that I have a lifelong interest in the topic).

      3. Religion. To too many journalists, the only issues arising from religion have to do with controversies over sexual matters. You would think, reading newspapers, that those topics are the only things you’d ever hear about in a church. (This is related to the widespread worship by journos of the Conflict Paradigm, which infests their coverage of almost everything, especially politics.)

      * Oh, and when I say “mistakes,” I don’t mean typos. I mean the kinds of mistakes that show the journalist’s utter lack of understanding of the subject…

      1. susanincola

        I’d add financial news, even if it’s a financial reporter a lot of the time. My profession involves details of how loans are sold to investors, and they got the issues wrong more times than not during the mortgage crisis. (It is complicated, so I was not surprised, but they often took a little bit of information and ran with it in ways that made no sense).

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well… that might be because the collapse of 2008 was such a huge story that it got written about by a lot of non-financial reporters.

          During my career, I’ve seen a lot of reporters develop expertise in business and finance. Far more than I’ve seen take the time to become expert in those other areas I mention….

  2. Doug Ross

    And the photo begs the question “What can the American government do about it?”

    Because doing the right thing would likely make one of our allies unhappy. So we won’t do the right thing, we’ll do the political thing… which is more about perception than results.

    I’ll have to side with Brad on the lawyers versus journalists topic. Lawyers do more to make simple things complex while journalists occasionally mess things up by taking a simple view of something that is more complex.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      “Lawyers do more to make simple things complex while journalists occasionally mess things up by taking a simple view of something that is more complex.”

      I would agree with that. 🙂

  3. Bart

    Can anyone imagine for one moment a scene like the one shown taking place in America? But, then I suppose the people of Syria never imagined it could happen to them until it did.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Yes, it happened fairly widely around 150 years ago in the area bounded by Richmond, Memphis, New Orleans and Savannah…

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