May 8, 2014

Why Let The Facts Get In The Way of A Good Conspiracy Theory? The Simpsons-Syria Conspiracy Explained

The video of an Egyptian TV host using a Simpsons episode from 2001 to explain to Egyptian viewers that external actors instigated the war in Syria has received tens of thousands of views on the MEMRI YouTube channel. Many websites have written about it, including the New York Times, the Blaze, the Foreign Policy blog, and others. All of them make good points about the ridiculous accusation that the programmers behind the Simpsons predicted the uprising and war in Syria a decade before.
Of course, there is so much evidence out there that shows that the war against Assad's regime was planned beforehand by Washington, Israel, and NATO. To prove this reality the Egyptian host should've read out loud the planning papers of PNAC and public statements made by leading Neocon figures rather than broadcast a French-dubbed version of a Simpsons episode from 2001 that shows Bart Simpson and the crew dropping bombs on Iraq, not Syria. I was ignorant of this Simpsons episode and forgetful of the similarities of the flags of Saddam's Iraq and Assad's Syria, so I instinctively and wrongly defended the logic of the Egyptian host's reasoning, but after reading Robert Mackey's post on 'The Lede' it's clear just how stupid, embarrassing, and juvenile this accusation really is.

This is not even a conspiracy theory, it's just plain ignorance of both the Simpsons episode, and the common roots of the Syrian and Iraqi flags. These mistakes tend to happen when one takes the conspiracy worldview too far, and sees too much into things that are simply not there. Since the basic premise that the war in Syria is largely foreign driven is undoubtedly true it's easy to pick at anything that may bolster this narrative. But, in this case, it was simply foolish and absurd to connect a 2001 Simpsons episode to what's going on in Syria today. The Simpsons is good, wholesome entertainment and it should not be tainted with the twisted foreign policy of the U.S. government, or the grand ambitions of the Neocons who have plotted Syria's destruction since the end of the Soviet Union.

Mackey writes about the history and origin of the Syrian flag:
The first flaw in the theory is the fact that the Syrian opposition did not invent a new flag out of whole cloth in 2011, but simply adopted the old green, white and black tricolor used by Syria for most of three decades beginning in 1932. That flag was replaced by a red, white and black tricolor following a military coup in 1963 that eventually brought Mr. Assad’s father to power.

As an Egyptian, Ms. Badawy could perhaps have been confused by the fact that the Syrian government currently uses a flag identical to the one flown from 1958 to 1961, when the nation shared a flag with Egypt as part of the United Arab Republic. 

Still, her apparent belief that the flag pictured in the “Simpsons” episode did not exist until 2011 is simply false. (That said, the Arab people of the Middle East have some reason to suspect that there might be “foreign fingers” behind their flags, given that both Syria and Egypt use designs and colors derived from the Flag of the Arab Revolt, which was created by the British diplomat Mark Sykes during World War I.)

Had she paid closer attention to the cartoon, the anchor might also have found evidence that the “Simpsons” animators were more likely to have been thinking of Iraq than Syria when they pictured a United States attack in 2001.