It’s hardly news that compassion fatigue, like outrage fatigue, is epidemic these days. Throughout Syria’s civil war, Syrian state media has tried to discredit child videographers in opposition strongholds and the photographs bearing bloodied bodies from Ghouta’s bombed-out buildings, claiming the suffering is staged. Crisis acting is not a new concept perpetuated only by conspiracy theorists in America.
Such attacks on truth continue to betray unspeakable inhumanity. But the bigger threat to decency now may come from our own normalizing indifference to these images. Once upon a time, Syria was a beautiful, cultured country. Today it is a shambles, and many of us have turned away.
At one time, images from Syria galvanized our attention. A couple of years ago, drone footage of the Mashhad area in Aleppo went viral. A neighborhood of apartments and homes where people had recently cooked, prayed, made love and gone to school became indistinguishable from Berlin, 1945, or Grozny, 2000. Neighborhoods incubate hope, I wrote back then. That’s what strongmen like Mr. Assad, who turn their armies on their own people, are trying to extinguish.
But now, Ghouta looks like Aleppo. Photographs of fractured silhouettes of bombed-out buildings blend together. This leveling is Mr. Assad’s triumph.