While a lot of attention has been paid to the role of social media in the Arab Spring uprisings that began in late 2010, less attention has been paid to the way in which apps like Instagram have allowed individual soldiers to represent — and promote — their experiences of war.
Surprisingly, though Chechclearr’s account has an incendiary name (it refers to a viral beheading video that purports to have been filmed in Chechnya), its photographs range from bloody, to mundane, to sentimental, and seem engineered to present a personal glimpse into one soldier’s life at war — replete with cat photos.
Editor's note: Since this story was published, Chechclearr seems to have deleted his Instagram account, making his photos unavailable. We've replaced a few photos where possible.
There are also videos of the fatalities that result.
(That’s Al-Assad’s father and fellow Syrian autocrat Hafez Al-Assad getting stepped on.)
The report can be found here.
"Both loved by the Mujahideen."
Overall, Chechclearr’s photos highlight how much war’s representation in the media has changed over the past half century. In the 1960s, the Vietnam War heralded a new era of photography and television news documentation, allowing people around the world to witness the front lines of combat in a way they never had before. Depictions of gore, human tragedy, and the young soldiers mired in conflict fueled popular outrage against that war, and accelerated America's withdrawal.
While governments have since moved to control journalists’ access to combat zones, the advent of digital cameras and social media has, for better or worse, made photography from war zones even more readily available. As Syrian state propaganda and civilian videos circulate online, Syrian rebel soldiers like Chechclearr are no longer simply tasked with fighting an enemy on a battlefield, but with conducting a public relations campaign for their cause.
To that end, when he’s not firing guns or taking pictures with his Galaxy Note 3, Chechclearr can also be found on Kik and ask.fm.