The civil war in Syria, going on now for two and a half years and costing 100,000 lives, has been captured in graphic detail on YouTube. We’ve covered the video output of this violent struggle before, including the recent alleged chemical attacks by the Syrian armed forces.
The videos introduce a question that the latest seems to ask explicitly: What does YouTube bring to, or detract from, warfare in general?
As Brian Anderson notes in his Motherboard article on the above video, the way it was cut and the effects used create “a vignette paced and stylized for the express purpose of cutting above the noise, as a way to get the attention of outsiders presumably far, far from harm's way, to whom the whole bloody awful mess might have been lost on, until now, on account of so much of the video out of Syria simply being too janky, too raw.”
But toward what end, and what is the intended effect of such weird Arab-pop music video violence? Is it a recruiting video or a warning?
The enthusiastic character in the lower right hand corner of the frame seems to indicate that it is a pro-rebel video, but the horrendous pings and sparks as the automatic weapons fire catches the Syrian Army tank turret seems to counterpoint that. The logo and song lyrics perhaps make it clear for an Arab-speaking audience. For a non-Arab speaking public, it is a real objective correlative for the fog of war.
The fact that it is not a vehicle for an obvious and unequivocal message underscores the problems with capturing a war on YouTube. Anyone can do it and, with the democratization of the tools of production, everyone does, including the conflicted and confused.
Well, maybe the mess war makes of our perceptions is in fact adequately captured in the Syrian war’s video output. This one certainly leaves one anxious. It is not simply heartbreaking. It’s not stirring. It is just distressing. For all the filming and editing skills of the maker, you have to doubt that was the desired response.