George, Tony, Jacques, אהוד and بشار

Nidal al-Mughrabi, writing for Reuters, reported today on the expanding conflict over a captured Israeli soldier.
Israel also turned up the heat on Syria, sending warplanes low over one of President Bashar al-Assad's palaces to warn him against backing militants who kidnapped the soldier, the Israeli army said. Bashar was there at the time, Israeli media said.
However, later in the article it refers to the Syrian President as "Assad".

Generally speaking, media use surnames when pertaining to heads of state. The most notable exception in recent memory is former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein al-Majd al-Tikriti, whom the media, both Arabic and English, regularly identified as "Saddam". Although this was arguably as much the result of his own self-imposed personality cult as anyone's outside attempt to de-legitimize the man. I do recall occasional attempts to professionalize this matter, reading the NY Times refer to "Mr. Hussein", which never seemed to fit.

Likewise in Syria, but to a much lesser extent, there exists a certain familiarity with the President, expressed by references to "Dr. Bashar", for example.

But with respect to today's piece, I find it highly unlikely that Reuters would ever publish an article discussing the inhabitants of Presidential residences in the US, UK, France, or Israel referring to George, Tony, Jacques, or Ehud.


Fares said...

where is the arab brain:adding logic into the Arab/Israeli conflict and arab leaders

Zenobia of the East and West said...

I am assuming that you meant to say that later in the article they referred to the Syrian president as "BASHAR"... (not "Assad").

It drives me crazy when i see that use of the first name for a leader. Even in the case of "Saddam"...it pissed me off. I just think it is a blatant attempt to infantilize the person and turn them into a characture.
Very annoying.

Obviously when the syrians do it to their own leader....as an expression of affection, I think this is a different activity..going on. Still a manipulation of the feelings of the public (creating familiarity), but for a different purpose.

George Ajjan said...

yes, I thought saying "Bashar was home at the time" was sloppy on the part of Reuters and probably not in line with their style code.

As for using a first name as an expression of affection for a leader, well I know Republicans that refer to President Bush as "George", so this is not just an Arab thing.

An Egyptian friend was just last week telling me that many used to call Gamal Abd al-Nasser "Jimmy"!

However, I would argue that Saddam Hussein HIMSELF created a personal cult of sorts that was branded "Saddam". Even amongst Arabs of his generation, Saddam was not a common name.

pefapefapc said...

Asia is different.

What about Chairman Mao?

Hu Jintao? He is called "Hu" in newspaper articles.

Anonymous said...

Not all of Asia. They use some other, not-so-flattering names for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.