Things are heating up in Syria.
The civil war in that country may have just received its biggest (sexiest) PR stunt yet.
If reports of gross human rights abuses, torture, civilian deaths, and secret police haven’t swayed you to the plight of Syrians, then, dammit, maybe this chiseled jaw and coiffed hairline will: he is Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier, and he is out to win your heart (and democracy!).
The civil war in Syria may be the biggest foreign policy issue of the day. Coming on the bookends of the Arab Spring, the situation in Syria first simmered in March 2011. At the time, the Syrian government had deployed military forces to quell various uprising around the country, in response to mass protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Syria at the time could go down two roads: leaders in the countries could decide to let the protests ride out sans military intervention (i.e. what happened in Tunisia and Egypt) or crush protests with brute force (i.e. what happened in Bahrain and Libya). Syria, of course, took the latter approach.
Over the last year, several cities have been besieged by government forces, and soldiers were reportedly ordered to open fire on civilians. According to witnesses, soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians were summarily executed. In reaction, civilians and army defectors began forming fighting units, and unified under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. The Syrian government characterizes the insurgency as "armed terrorist groups."
Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier is the new sexy face of the Free Syrian Army.
The man — an unidentified soldier who has been dubbed by American social media site Reddit as a Syrian rebel — holds an RPG and wears an Italian soccer jersey. He walks casually up a Middle Eastern street, with other young men scurrying behind him.
As Foreign Policy explains: “With his nonchalant stride, close-cropped dark hair, chiseled chin, and steely-eyed intensity, this freedom fighter's sculpted physique gives us some ideas about the guns of the Syrian opposition.”
Those guns maybe the biggest weapon of mass destruction imaginable: social media.
The Egypt revolution credits Facebook and Twitter as the weight that tilted the situation away from the government and into the opposition’s favor.
This meme could tilt the situation in Syria.
Yeah, you read that right. A meme will change Syria.
Meme’s have become the new face of social media; countless memes clog Facebook newsfeeds and are shared by millions every day. Newly anointed Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan became the most recent viral sensation. “Paul Ryan Gosling” stormed the web, giving the stale VP candidate’s image a fresh look in the eyes of young people.
However, as PolicyMic social media expert Alex Marin explains, memes are unpredictable. Since they are mostly user-generated, as opposed to broadcast by television or other form of traditional media, their message is much harder to control (that’s why social media sometimes can be such a headache for Public Relations professionals).
Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier seems to have market appeal and a message that wins over young people.
Political rhetoric on Syria in the United States has been relatively subdued. While media coverage of the Syrian civil war has been extensive, there has been relatively little grassroots political effort to get the U.S. involved in the conflict. This lackluster drive comes in comparison to the Kony 2012 wave that swept America earlier this year, lashing against African Warlord Joseph Kony and the use of child soldiers in central Africa.
Syria has had no Kony moment.
And still it simmers. According to various sources, including the United Nations, up to 21,050 – 28,795 people have been killed, of which about half were civilians, but also including 10,800 armed combatants consisting of both the Syrian army and rebel forces
The Arab League, United States, European Union, GCC states, and other countries have condemned the use of violence against the protesters. China and Russia have opposed attempts to agree to a UN resolution condemning Assad's actions, and advised against sanctions.
Lets be honest, though: the U.S. has kindda remained on the sidelines here. The public hasn't done it's part to pressure the government to do more (intervention, diplomacy, or otherwise).
Enter Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier, walking straight into your heart.
His jaw line and steel gaze can change everything. This is the viral social media push which has marked so many Arab Spring protests. The messaging is simple, but powerful. The rallying cry is customizable, but always heroic. The delivery is more fluid than any diplomatic envoy. A meme can change everything.
Stand with Ridiculously Photogenic Syrian Soldier. Help Syria find peace and end war. Help this man drop his weapons and finally find love in the country he is so passionately defending.
A meme can save Syria.