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Erasure as Disinformation: Visual and Textual Messaging in the Syrianpresidency Instagram Account
Since its launch in July 2013, Syrianpresidency, the “official” Instagram account of the Syrian presidency, has served as an important aspect of the Assad regime’s digital public diplomacy, reaching internal, diaspora, and external audiences through its imagery and primarily Arabic-language text. This paper surveys and analyzes the visual and textual content of a sampling of Instagram posts from January 2016 through December 2021, covering five years since the Syrian military first began decisively retaking territory from ISIS’ control. It argues that by deploying a combination of what Lisa Wedeen has termed “as-if” politics and what Zainab Saleh has described (for Iraq) as a politics of erasure, the Assad regime works to engage in a different kind of disinformation. In addition to spreading misleading or false information on other platforms, on Instagram and similar social media sites, it works to silence accurate information, trying to replace it with an array of visual and textual interventions that aim to literally change the global narrative about Syria under the Assads.
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