By Jan Oberg
May 11, 2018
The violence in Syria has occupied the world since it broke out in 2011. The underlying conflicts and various explanations are still lost in the heated debate about the violence and who is to blame – both of which are much easier than understanding this hugely complex conflict formation in a longer time and space perspective.
Teachers in international politics, activists and journalists would do wise in trying to find pedagogical examples of just how differently the same problem can actually be perceived.
This edition of BBC’s “Hard Talk” could be used in classrooms – for a better understanding of why we still don’t understand much of the underlying issues in the case of Syria.
This – indeed hard – discussion is between two men who both have knowledge, passion and self-esteem. They are also both arguing well their viewpoints – which are about as different as can be due to their different situations, vantage points and psychological/professional perceptions.
The program can also be used as an object for the analysis of rhetoric, ways of arguing and backing up assertions and positions. Both are very expressive and engaged. Do they speak – and listen – well to each other?
And what is the structural power relations between the two men?
If you are a Westerner with the usual positive view of the old media giant, BBC, what position – at the outset – is the interviewed Syrian man in in terms of relative power? Are the debating parties in a symmetric or asymmetric relationship and how do they handle their respective positions?
Is it only two men or is it an institution that assumes itself to be right and prove so through talking with a person who is presented as a representative of what the BBC has explained to the world is the embodiment of evil?
In other words, what is the setting and the relative power positions? And does it influence the debate that one is seen in the studio and the camera is positioned there while the other appears on a screen?
Both are accusing the other. How well does it go – and do they also listen and try to find common ground?
On which points do you learn something new? What arguments do you think hold water and are backed up most credibly? Who breaks off whom and who listens best?
Thanks to the video technology we can now watch and listen, stop and go back, repeat and listen again. If we take the time needed, we can actually analyze things in depth at our computer and not just judge fast and superficially.
All for you to analyze. And then judge what you think about this and Syria on the basis of analysis and reflection.