As I have mentioned many times, your GetReligionistas have never figured out what to do with material published at The Daily Beast.
For the most part, it is a liberal publication that focuses on a pushy, but often interesting, brand of openly slanted, advocacy journalism of the old (and returning) European Model. That's fine and I'll keep reading. However, that is not the kind of hard-news work that we like to focus on here at this blog, unless we are pointing religion-news consumers toward a relevant "think piece."
However, the Beast has also been known to produce features -- especially international news -- that are 99.9 percent basic news. If there is advocacy there, it's because these editors are choosing to cover these stories and others are not. To me, that raises just as many questions about the pros in all of those newsrooms that are ignoring these news events.
Take, for example, the horrible news that the Daily Beast published under this double-decker headline:
U.S.-Backed ‘Moderate’ Rebels Behead a Child Near Aleppo
It’s the kind of stomach-wrenching brutality you’d associate with ISIS. Except this time, it’s American-armed rebels who are cutting off a boy’s head
No, I don't want to click on video URLs that have anything whatsoever to do with this story. I apologize for needing to run the relatively tame screen-grab image that I did, at the top of the post.
However, once again I want to say -- especially since this glimpse into hell has a strong American hook -- that it's amazing that this story is only running at the Beast and in some publications on the other side of the Atlantic, where editors and/or readers seem to have more interest in global news.
At the center of this story is a so-called "moderate" Syrian opposition group. "Moderate" means they oppose the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, so American leaders have helped support them in the past. Now, readers learn:
The footage surfaced ... of members of Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki and a captured child in Handarat, near Aleppo. The young boy, who appears to be prepubescent, is then executed on the back of a pickup truck.
The gruesome videotaped murder of a child drew outrage on social media and the promise of an inquiry from the group’s leadership, which has previously received U.S.-made weapons and American funding. The group no longer gets such backing. But it’s also renewed questions about which rebels the American government has supported in Syria’s ongoing civil war. ...
There are two clips from the unsavory events. One shows five militants surrounding the boy. In the second, one of them stands over him on the truck and cuts the boy’s head off with a dull knife. ...
This story does include some solid material that helps readers understand the ties between this group and the American government. It even touches on one of the greatest mysteries in the Aleppo region, one that is of particular interest to me as an Eastern Orthodox Christian. Hold that thought.
However, I was left with one urgent question about the Beast story: Why was this child executed?
Was he or his family part of the much-hated, by Sunni and Shia Muslims, Alawite religious sect? If so, that fact alone -- since Assad is part of that religious minority -- might endanger the life of a grown-up. But a child? Was he, perhaps, accused of petty theft? Was he a Christian?
There are print references elsewhere (no, I did not watch the videos), suggesting that his father was a supporter of Assad. If so, why is the child being killed?
The Beast report -- to strong in so many ways -- never addresses this "Why" factor in the traditional Who, What, When, Where, Why and How formula for hard-news journalism. Why, indeed? Did I miss something?
The focus in this story, as I said, is on this "moderate" group's history of support from the United States government, as recently as 2014 and maybe later. Some readers, like me, would take special interest in this reference:
An Amnesty International report about human-rights abuses found that Zenka was responsible for torture and forced confessions in Aleppo, where it is based. One media activist who reports on government abuses told Amnesty International that he could hear the sounds of people being tortured while being held by the brigade, though he couldn’t see it happening because of a blindfold. ...
More troubling are allegations in the report that the Zenki movement kidnapped Syrian Orthodox bishops on a humanitarian mission and handed them over the the Nusra Front.
This is one of the few times I have seen that link reported. If you are interested in that story -- alas, the hastag #bringbackourbishops never caught on with social-media activists -- then click here for my recent Universal syndicate column on that subject at the time of Orthodox Holy Week. Here is a key piece of background:
The goal, three years ago, was for Metropolitan Paul Yazigi of the Antiochian Orthodox Church and Metropolitan Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church to help negotiate the release of two priests who had been kidnapped weeks earlier. Then, west of Aleppo, a pack of unidentified armed men attacked. ...
The bishops simply vanished. According to a new World Council of Arameans report: "No one has ever claimed responsibility for the abduction, neither has there been a clear sign of life of the bishops since April 22, 2013." Later reports were "all based on unverified rumors, hearsay and false reports which often contradicted each other."
This kidnapping never inspired global news coverage.
The fact that an Amnesty International report included material about this incident would ordinarily be news -- if more journalists and, yes, their readers, cared about the subject.
So this Daily Beast story is much appreciated, even if its contents are so hellish and horrible. It is possible that American Christians, and other supporters of human rights, would want to know about this murder of a child. After all, these rebels may, for all we know, still be fighting with arms funded by U.S. taxpayers.