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  You are in: Home > Middle East Studies > Asad in Search of Legitimacy  

Asad in Search of Legitimacy
Message and Rhetoric in the Syrian Press under Hafiz and Bashar

Mordechai Kedar

Author text to follow


The Syrian regime, ruled by the Ba’th socialist party and headed by presidents from the ’Alawi minority, faces problems of legitimacy vis-à-vis its people, which it tackles through powerful security organizations and the state media. The government media machine exists to express the regime’s viewpoint in both local and external spheres, and to promote acceptance of the legitimacy of Asad’s presidency and government. The media also attempts to mobilize the masses to act in the service of the state by disseminating information which reflects Asad’s position on current issues. The organs of the regime – army, party, security services, national and local authorities – are proclaimed as acting by order of the president. While personal commitment to the legitimacy of Hafiz al-Asad is the principal “article of faith”, this message is supported by complementary messages – Asad being true to the Moslem faith; Asad as historic leader; Asad as the focus of identity of all Syrian citizens; the “crimes” of the Moslem Brotherhood, etc. – and vociferous political discourse.

A unique feature of the book is the quotation of newspaper sources in their original Arabic, and their English translation


1 Information, Propaganda, and the Role of the Mass Media in Syria

2 Nation, Society, State and President

3 The Islamic Element

4 History: Myths and Battles

5 The World Outside Syria

6 Psychological Elements

7 The Syrian Media under Bashr


“The book compellingly explores the interaction between rhetoric and totalitarianism and, simultaneously, examines the role and workings of the state press in Syria, arguing that an active, vociferous political press is a pivotal element of the political sustenance of the regime…By offering a penetrating glance into the world of the Syrian journalist, the author reveals the rules of “correct writing” as imposed by the regime and examines the cognitive underpinnings that sustain the governmental machinery… Kedar’s study is indeed an invaluable contribution to the study of Middle Eastern political discourse and the role of media and press in contemporary Arab politics.” Digest of Middle East Studies

“Mordechai Kedar’s Asad in Search of Legitimacy is an outstandingly rich study of the way the Syrian Ba‘th regime under Hafiz al-Asad used the Syrian media and other official information services in his search for legitimacy. By means of juxtaposing the original Arabic with its English translation, this book offers us a guide to understanding the official messages conveyed by the media in Syria under Asad, and reveals what the Syrian information services perceived as Hafiz al-Asad’s and his regime’s weak points, which they tried to cover up or explain away.

The book’s contribution is not limited to regime-media relations. This is an insightful and powerful account of some major components of Syrian politics under Hafiz al-Asad such as regime and public opinion, the Syrian regime’s self image, political discourse, rhetoric and ideology in modern Syria. The author makes an important contribution to our understanding of Syrian modern history. This comprehensive study, based on a wealth of primary Arabic sources and written by an authority in Arabic language studies, should become a model for the analytic and systematic treatment of official rhetoric and regime-media/public relations in authoritarian regimes.” Eyal Zisser, Head of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University

“With Asad in Search of Legitimacy, Dr. Kedar tackles an issue of sociopolitical significance in modern Arab and Middle Eastern history. Using records of Syrian media under Asad’s regime, Dr. Kedar rewrites a more accurate history of Syria between 1970 and 2000 – a period that includes the ’73 War, the first strategic Arab embargo on oil, the first visit of an Arab leader to Israel in ’77, the signing of the Camp David agreement of ’78, the signing of the Peace Accord of ’79, the signing of the Oslo Accord of ’93, and the signing of the Wade Arabia Accord of ’94. In this treasure of a book, which includes the original Arabic language used, together with its translation, the author provides a unique documentation and analysis of the Middle East as seen through the eyes of the Syrian media.

Dr. Kedar successfully conveys a true and panoramic picture of Arabian dictatorship. Dictatorship is expertly studied in Asad in Search of Legitimacy – from its causes, to its intricate mechanisms, to its impact on peace, progress, and modernity in the Middle East. By exposing truth and meaning behind media slogans, the author provides an indispensable documentary and commentary on Modern Middle Eastern history.” Shaker Nabulsi, Head of the Arab-American Academic Association, Denver, Colorado

“This book, based on a systematic mining of the Syrian press, provides a thorough review of regime discourse. Particularly valuable is that it allows the press to speak for itself in extensive excerpts, some usefully reproduced in Arabic script. .. The book is most successful in its attempt to show how the regime attempts to construct identity in such a way as to legitimate itself.” Middle East Journal

“Mordechai Kedar’s detailed and insightful study of the state controlled media under the past and present Asad regimes provides an accessible analysis of how Syrian governments have manipulated the media in their struggle for legitimacy in a religiously diverse country. Kedar’s analysis is a useful contribution to the literature and an accessible source for both post-graduates and scholars working on the region.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
320 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
May 2005
  Illustrated:   No
Hardback Price:
£55.00 / $79.50

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