If you happen to invade another country, take the media as your first prisoner. Capturing a TV station and transmitter is the first step in controlling the message. That used to be the first lesson of Conquest 101, but not anymore. How can you master the land when everyone has a camera phone?
The folks taping the Syrian Civil War are making their own propaganda in a loose-knit guerrilla fight against the Syrian military. This is an effective show of force from people who may have more cameras and laptops than rifles and bullets. Their homemade media is eagerly consumed by professional outlets. (A great example is the latest episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, where an Egyptian youth with wireless turns into an instant reporter during political upheaval in Cairo.)
One of my favorite college professors once gave me a piece of valuable wisdom: Information is only as important as how it is perceived. To the Syrian rebels, the video of a single burning tank is worth a hundred casualties. By releasing the footage of charred armor and shattered choppers, they gain instant points to sympathizers in the Middle East and abroad. Granted, the fight against modern weapons and trained soldiers is daunting and horrible. But the opposing force is hard-pressed to stop video and images from escaping its borders.
In this day and age, a column of tanks means little to YouTube.