Banksy's spoof video of Syrian rebels gets panned by a Middle East satirist

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is "The World". The mysterious and anonymous visual artist "Banksy" posted a video on his website yesterday. You can see it at It's spoofing any number of videos made by Syrian rebels to show off their exploits. In this one there's a cluster of rebels using a handheld missile launcher to shoot down a government Warplane. They hit it and it crashes near them. But then it turns out it's not a plane. It's the Disney cartoon elephant Dumbo. His nearly lifeless body lies crumpled at the rebels' feet. A boy walks over to Dumbo, watches him die, and then goes over to one of the rebels and kicks him. What does it mean? I don't know, so I asked London-based Lebanese architect Karl Sharro for his take. He's not just an architect. Karl Sharro is also a satirist known by the name of his very popular blog "Karl reMarks". It's a compendium of jokes, onion-like news stories, cartoons, and imagined conversations between Middle East leaders. And let's just say Karl reMarks is not impressed by Banksy's latest video.

Karl Sharro: A lot of people were scratching their head yesterday and it's been a bit controversial in the Twitter sphere. And I think I found it completely absurd. I must admit I've never really found any depth to Banksy's work. If it's about promoting a message of peace, I think he's taking a complex message, Boy George's complex message "War war is stupid" and try to oversimplify it. And then we have him like this [??] into context, he evidently doesn't understand enough about and people are trying to read some kind of subtle kind of anti-war message in there and I don't there is because a number of details are wrong about it, but also it seems to be, I describe him as this sort of cultural tourist who can judge about different situations by virtue of his privilege I guess as an internationally renowned artist. People are saying, "Is it about Syria? Is it about war in general?" It's not clear, but obviously the context uses at least sound that's borrowed from a Syrian video.

Werman: Right.

Sharro: A lot of people were saying, "Are you critical of this because you support the Syrian uprising?" and I was like, "No, no, that's not really what's happening over here." I've been trying for over two years to come up with subtle ways of doing satire, and here kind of these cultural tourists who come and drop in and kind of make it all so simplistically and shallowly. And I think I'm more offended as a satirist rather than someone from that part of the world at the shallowness of the message and the production of something that gets an international recognition just because it's a brand after all.

Werman: I mean Banksy, whoever he is, has positioned himself on the left typically with his art. Do you think this video kinda echoes how the left is struggling to find a position on Syria?

Sharro: Absolutely. I think that's a really great question. But not only that, I think it also shows the general disorientation of the left. And I count myself definitely among the ranks of the left and we're struggle to defend principles that traditionally the left represented such as not instrumentalizing art or reducing it to the level of propaganda and I find a lot of the time this is what Banksy and the likes of Banksy, they reduce the complexity of art to an easily digestible image. And then the situation becomes more complex because the left cannot really come up with a coherent line on Syria and then to treat it with this level of shallowness I think completely exposes that. "Yeah, what's going on around there in Syria? Hey, let's do something kind of without any depth or thought to it and that's enough." But that's not really enough.

Werman: That was Lebanese satirist Karl reMarks who blogs under the same name. We couldn't reach Banksy for comment because, well, he's anonymous and doesn't want to be found.