The Underwhelming Coverage of Trump’s Syria Attack

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Church Attacked. Refugee Fighting Increases. Chemical Weapons Used in Syria. Our eyes just glaze over the headlines we see day after day. I didn’t even have to look up the ones above to reproduce them. Two Egyptian churches were bombed on Palm Sunday, killing at least 43. Five dead after violence in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. At least 72 were killed from the chemical attack that set off a shift in American foreign policy and rising global tensions. Do we care?

I looked up an article about the fighting in Lebanon. It was 123 words. I looked up another article, because surely a different source would’ve elaborated, or maybe would have even said what started the clash. It was 123 words — a reproduction of the original article published by Associated Press. Just for reference, the Los Angeles Times recently wrote a 377-word article about the length of Melania Trump’s dress. Something as seemingly insignificant as a word count is indicative of a widespread and detrimental attitude that the media holds. It implies that consumers are more interested in reading about the length of a dress than rising tensions in a refugee camp. And the media is right. We’ve become so desensitized to the violence and horrific atrocities that occur daily that they’re hardly even worth covering anymore.

In light of the recent United States missile attack on Syria, most headlines focus more on Trump’s shift in policy than the long-term effect of US intervention in Syria and its neighboring countries. Trump’s actions are less surprising when contextualized.

In 1975, a civil war broke out in Lebanon in what was initially a conflict between the Maronite Christians and the Palestinians. However, it soon grew into an international issue as Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia and especially Syria used their military forces to assert their own regional agendas. The war raged for years and produced further terror as Hezbollah, the Syrian/Iranian puppet that took over the nation during “peacetime.” Trump’s plan to weaken the Assad regime also serves to weaken the hold of Hezbollah, classified by the US State Department as a terrorist organization, over Lebanon (and hopefully the world) and increase tension among various religious groups. While the attack was more symbolic than strategic, the message was clear. Syria will have a similar fate to Lebanon and become the battleground of foreign interests. But we can’t forget what Melania was wearing.

It is unclear what the future holds for the Syrian people and the Middle East in general. Trump’s actions have drawn bipartisan and international praise from countries like Great Britain and Turkey, but it is the media’s responsibility to focus on the implications of his actions, not feed the obsession with his approval ratings. His actions could prove to be a very good decisions, but with subpar coverage, it is difficult to understand the nuances and effects an action like this could have on such a turbulent region.

Caitlin Antonios is a literary journalism and English double major. She can be reached at cfantoni@uci.edu.

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