On December 15, 2016, Lebanese-American pseudo-intellectual, Nassim Taleb, published a graph on Medium.com that supposedly offered a “more rigorous way to look at the [Syrian] conflict.”
Organized into two columns, the graph compares President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime to the Syrian opposition, and concludes that the government is better than the “moderate rebels” in every possible sense.
Through his graph, Taleb claims that, while the Assad regime is autocratic, it is at least “nominally democratic,” and certainly “far, far, far [better than the] greater cancer of Salafism or Islamofascism,” which he attributes to the rebels. He insists the regime only “hits” civilians, while the rebels deliberately “target” them. Taleb even goes as far as to laud the government for its “favorable” treatment of minorities and extension of “full rights” to women, which he contrasts with a Syrian opposition that “beheads” minorities and forces women into “submission.”
The one category of comparison Taleb conveniently fails to mention, however, is the war’s death toll and the regime’s responsibility for these high numbers. By some accounts, nearly half a million people have died since the uprising began in 2011. As various credible sources have shown, Assad and his allies are indisputably responsible for the largest portion of this death and destruction.
Taleb’s musings are neither intellectually honest, nor novel, but instead rehash every trope from the regime’s official playbook to substantiate the idea that Assad is ultimately the lesser evil in Syria. In relying on trite language like “Islamofascism,” Taleb finds common ground with figures like former U.S. President George W. Bush and the notorious New Atheist and supporter of the Iraq war, Christopher Hitchens. He also lends credence to the Orientalist view of the Muslim Beast, whose hypothetical propensity for violence apparently outweighs the palpable barbarity of a regime that is identifiably “secular.”
At a time when Eastern Aleppo is being decimated and cleansed by the Assad regime and its allies, it is unfortunate that Taleb thinks it is more important to criticize the opposition rather than call for solidarity with innocent civilians being brutally mowed down. In this failure, Taleb is joined by countless other pro-Assad propagandists who have spent the last few days questioning the veracity of “farewell messages” emerging from the victims of bombardment in East Aleppo, instead of speaking out in their defense.
Taleb’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are generally littered with posts sympathetic to, and reflective of, the regime’s narrative, making his latest Medium post more of the same. But, his betrayal of the besieged and disenfranchised Syrian people is not a small matter. And history will not forget it.