Statistics in the Information War
An Instructive Example from Hama, 1982
Date Written: 23/12/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20233
Examines the manipulation of information in the case of the 'Hama massacre' of 1982 to advance the US's regime change policies regarding Syria.
How many times have we been told that Syrian President at the time, Hafez al-Assad, systematically killed between 20,000 and 40,000 Muslim Brotherhood members in Hama? A simple search on Google yields numerous articles in Western mainstream media about the current war in Syria that recall the events in Hama in 1982 and reiterate these estimates. News outfits, such as Qatar-based al-Jazeera favor the higher and more sensational Muslim Brotherhood estimates of 40,000 killed. Middle East Watch, the predecessor to Human Rights Watch, also cited these statistics, calling the period in the late 1970s to 1982 as "the great repression" in a 1991 report, "Syria Unmasked: The Suppression of Human Rights by the Assad Regime."
As part of its tactics to unseat the government, "Simultaneously, a sophisticated worldwide propaganda campaign was to be launched supporting the rebellion and emphasizing its victories and the wholesale desertion of army units to the rebel side. Press releases were to be made in Europe and the US, while propaganda broadcasts against Syria were to be carried by the Phalange-controlled Voice of Lebanon and the Iraqi-controlled Voice of Arab Syria." (p. 4) Themes included human rights abuses and atrocities as well as the isolation of Assad in Syria and the Arab world themes that are very much in line with the prevailing mainstream oppositional narrative.