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“Saving Syria’s Children”: Response to the HuffPo

Corrections and clarifications to “Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria”

Saving Syria’s Children: Did The BBC Lie? from Robert Stuart on Vimeo.

By Robert Stuart | OffGuardian | May 13, 2019

News and opinion website The Huffington Post has written about my campaign to crowdfund a documentary about the 2013 BBC Panorama programme Saving Syria’s Children.

Keith Allen Thinks The BBC May Have Faked ‘Apocalyptic’ Attack In Syria was published on May 4th 2019. Some notes in response follow.

Stuart says he has spent nearly six years compiling “a mountain of evidence” that shows the BBC’s footage was “faked”. He claims the national broadcaster worked “cheek by jowl with Isis” to produce the Panorama documentary, which was broadcast in September 2013.

Evidence that sequences in Saving Syria’s Children were fabricated is set out on my blog. Readers are free to make their own topographical analogies.

During the programme’s making BBC Panorama reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway were embedded with then ISIS partner group Ahrar al-Sham – a group described elsewhere by the BBC as “hard-line Islamist”. Less than three weeks earlier Ahrar al-Sham, ISIS and other groups together killed over 190 civilians, including women, children and elderly men, and kidnapped over 200 mostly women and children.

In the programme’s climactic scenes of the aftermath of an alleged incendiary attack the BBC crew filmed at close quarters an ambulance prominently bearing the ISIS emblem and its militarily attired occupants, at least one of whom was armed.

In an interview with TalkRadio on Friday, Stuart claimed “the only source of [this attack] is the BBC”. However, the strike was also reported by NBC News who interviewed doctors who described the “apocalyptic” attack in detail, documented in painstaking detail by the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDCS), and confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

The NBC News article cited features an interview with a single volunteer doctor named “Roula”. This is clearly Dr Rola Hallam. Dr Hallam and Dr Saleyha Ahsan were being followed by the BBC Panorama team of reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway as they visited hospitals run by the UK charity Hand in Hand for Syria. As such Hallam was central to the BBC reports in question and cannot be considered an independent commentator. [1] [2] [3] [4]

The Violations Documentation Centre in Syria report cited gives the time of the alleged attack as follows:

On 26 Aug 2013, at 02:00 pm, the Syrian air forces shelled ‘Iqraa’ Institution in Orm Al Kubra in Aleppo, which had been under the Free Army’s control for several months then.

The VDCS report also quotes Mustapha Haid, “Head of ‘Doulati Organization/My State Organization’”:

At 3 in the afternoon, On 26 Aug 2013, I was in Al Atareb City and I heard rumours about a ‘chemical attack’ on Orm Al Kubra and that tens of casualties were brought to Al Atareb Hospital.

However the BBC has categorically stated in complaints correspondence that:

The attack happened on the 26th of August at around 5.30pm at the end of the school day.[5]

The VDCS report quotes a second witness, Issa Obeid, “Head of Nursing Department in Al Atareb Hospital”, who provides a first-hand account of his actions at Atareb Hospital:

We washed the casualties with water and serums after taking off their clothes. We used ‘Florasline’ liniment on the burnt areas and provided the casualties with fluids and some of them were given tranquilizers like Morphine.

However on 26 August 2013 Issa (or Iessa) Obied would appear not to have been present at Atareb but to have been attending a battle first aid training course in Antakia, Turkey. [6]

Iessa Obied has been photographed posing with an arsenal of weaponry including assault rifles, an anti-aircraft gun and a shoulder-launched surface-to-air missile. [7] [8]

The Huffington Post reports that the strike was “confirmed by Human Rights Watch”. However Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director of HRW’s Arms Division, stated in a contemporary (August 2013) article that Human Rights Watch has “not investigated this incident“. [9]

HuffPost UK asked a team of ex-military and medical professionals who teach hostile environment training to view the full Panorama footage to comment on its authenticity.

Questions about Hostile Environment Awareness Training, the company cited by the Huffington Post, are raised by journalist Kit Klarenberg. “With the predictability of Chinese water torture, York’s once again written a propagandistic ad hominem hatchet job on an independent researcher, in this case @cerumol. Leaving aside his puerile insults, the ‘experts’ he apparently consulted are worthy of close investigation…”

They described it as “legitimate” and “consistent with chemical exposure”, adding the select footage in Stuart and Allen’s promotional video had been “cleverly” edited in a way to manipulate the viewer.

The BBC has been at pains to assert “that this was an attack using an incendiary device, rather than a chemical weapon.”

As noted on my blog a GMC registered doctor with burns experience has concluded that the scenes of alleged incendiary bomb victims arriving at Atareb Hospital in Saving Syria’s Children were “an act”. Further sceptical comment by medical professionals, including former UK and US military personnel, plus observations by lay people with experience of burns victims, is collated here. [10]

None of the BBC footage used in the crowdfunding video has been altered in any way, save for basic editing techniques such as freeze frame and fade.

Stuart also takes issue with the fact the documentary makers – reporter Ian Pannell and cameraman Darren Conway – worked alongside the armed Islamist groups that controlled the Aleppo region where Atarib is situated.

When required, all major media organisations negotiate access with whoever controls the area in question. Numerous journalists have risked their lives to report on what is happening inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, Hamas-controlled Gaza or Boko Haram-controlled Nigeria, for example.

It is clearly in the public interest for BBC audiences to be made aware that a portion of their license fee revenue has apparently been paid to a jihadist group co-founded by “one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers”.

The BBC rebutted the claims made by Stuart and Allen in a statement to HuffPost UK, saying there is “absolutely no evidence that any part of the programme was fabricated”.

It added: “Any such suggestion is offensive to the victims, medics and reporters.”

This statement was published on Facebook by BBC Panorama editor Rachel Jupp over two years ago in response to challenges made by film, television and radio producer Victor Lewis-Smith.

An RT report based on Stuart’s work was found to be in breach of Ofcom broadcasting rules and described as “materially misleading”.

Some important caveats in Ofcom’s finding against the RT programme in question have been noted by OffGuardian :

To be clear, according to OfCom’s own description of its remit, in the dispute between RT and the BBC, OfCom did not look into the BBC’s accuracy or credibility. Nor did OfCom investigate whether RT’s allegations of fakery were true or false. In fact the Broadcast Bulletin makes it clear OfCom ruled in favour of the BBC based solely on two things:

A) a finding that RT had broken “Rule 7 of the Code”, which requires a broadcaster to allow sufficient right of reply to anyone accused.

B) a finding that RT had infringed “Rule 2.2 of the Code” which requires a broadcaster not to present facts in a way likely to “mislead the viewer” – based on the fact RT had referred to Robert Stuart’s ongoing investigation into the BBC’s Panorama program as a “massive public investigation”, when OfCom thought the size of his investigation did not merit such an epithet.

Anyone can visit Robert Stuart’s website and decide for themselves if his investigation can fairly be described as “massive”, but the extent to which OfCom’s findings are themselves factual inaccuracies I’ll leave for others to explore. The most significant point here is that OfCom has specifically not cleared the BBC of suspicion of wrongdoing, and is not claiming to have done so.

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

BuzzFeed CEO Has History of Writing Fake News About Political, Business Rivals

Sputnik – 24.01.2019

In the years before founding BuzzFeed, CEO Jonah Peretti masqueraded as political opponents or business rivals, creating fake websites and spreading false statements and emails pretending to be them in order to defame them, one of his victims told Sputnik Wednesday.

Peretti, whose news outlet has recently gotten into hot water after publishing and sticking with a story refuted by the Office of the Special Counsel, also has a history of knowingly spreading false information about others.

John Lott, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a specialist on civilian use of firearms, told Sputnik Wednesday that Peretti impersonated him in 2003 in the interests of whipping up support for a hotly debated gun control law.

At the time, Peretti was the director of the R&D lab at Eyebeam, a New York-based not-for-profit art and technology center.

Peretti adopted the identity of Lott, who authored the book “More Guns, Less Crime,” purporting to have had a change of heart and sending out emails urging recipients that he’d had a change of heart and to oppose the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act,” which lawmakers intended to use to protect gun makers from lawsuits. A website Peretti created, AskJohnLott.org, carried the same message, Lott explained in a Tuesday op-ed on Fox News.

“[Peretti] set up a website using my picture and appearing to be from me, and as I described in the op-ed, he sent out emails that appeared to be from me and he emailed back and forth with people trying to convince them he was me,” Lott told Sputnik.

Peretti began receiving hundreds of angry phone calls after the faux email sender began advising recipients how to get around gun control laws. He wrote that he contacted the fake email address after being alerted to it and its messages by James K. Glassman, a former Washington Post columnist, who later served as US Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy.

“I talked to [Peretti] on the phone a couple times when we finally figured out who had done it,” Lott said. “I mean, he had registered the domain name in my name and used my address in setting it up, so it took some effort. But when we finally discovered who it was — because I had emailed back to the askJohnLott.org email address and he wouldn’t respond to that — but when we finally figured out who it was, I had a few discussions with him.”

Lott said that only when he lawyered up did Peretti make any effort to indicate that the page wasn’t real, and then made a half-hearted attempt to call his identity fraud parody. “He only put down that it was a parody account after it was discovered, after I brought the lawsuit. But before I brought the lawsuit, he just wasn’t willing to do anything.”

However, Lott pressed forward with the suit, telling Sputnik, “you can’t take somebody’s identity and try to use it for your own advantage.” He included MBA student Jeff Goldblatt in the suit, another of Peretti’s victims who had suffered a similar kind of harassment and identity theft.

Lott wrote on Fox that Peretti set up a fake website and email to impersonate Goldblatt, too, after the latter set up a dating service called “Rejection Hotline” at around the time Peretti set up a similar service of his own. Lott said Peretti’s sister and co-founder of their service, called “Rejection Line,” went so far as to interview Goldblatt while posing as a real New York-based reporter and then using that information to create fake content that “contained multiple lies about me and portrayed me as an arrogant jerk who was bragging about how I stole the idea of the New York City Rejection Line,” he told Lott.

“I guess [Peretti] just thought he was competing against somebody and rather than doing the normal competition, he thought that somehow it was justifiable,” Lott told Sputnik. “I never really asked him why he would do these things, I just kind of assumed he knew that it was wrong and, you know, I tried to argue with him about it, but until I brought the suit I wasn’t able to get anywhere with him, and even then he tried to fight a little bit.”

“He basically pleaded poverty when I was suing him,” Lott said, noting that today Peretti is worth $200 million. “He had wealthy financial backers at the time and he kind of used the threat, or tried to use the threat, of having the wealthy financial backers go and cover his legal costs. It didn’t deter me from continuing the suit and forcing him to settle. I mean… it would have been costly to go to court, obviously, but I was glad we were able to settle,” which they did in 2005 for an undisclosed amount, including a formal apology to both Lott and Goldblatt.

That same year, Peretti co-founded the Huffington Post and the following year he co-founded BuzzFeed.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , | Leave a comment

Douma: Part 2 – ‘It Just Doesn’t Ring True’

Media Lens | April 26, 2018

Jonathan Freedland’s ‘committed denialists and conspiracists’, and Paul Mason’s victims of Putin’s ‘global strategy’ clutching at ‘false flag theories’, presumably include Lord West, former First Sea Lord and Chief of Defence Intelligence. In an interview with the BBC, West commented:

President Assad is in the process of winning this civil war. And he was about to take over and occupy Douma, all that area. He’d had a long, long, hard slog, slowly capturing that whole area of the city. And then, just before he goes in and takes it all over, apparently he decides to have a chemical attack. It just doesn’t ring true.

It seems extraordinary, because clearly he would know that there’s likely to be a response from the allies – what benefit is there for his military? Most of the rebel fighters, this disparate group of Islamists, had withdrawn; there were a few women and children left around. What benefit was there militarily in doing what he did? I find that extraordinary. Whereas we know that, in the past, some of the Islamic groups have used chemicals [see here], and of course there would be huge benefit in them labelling an attack as coming from Assad, because they would guess, quite rightly, that there’d be a response from the US, as there was last time, and possibly from the UK and France…

We do know that the reports that came from there were from the White Helmets – who, let’s face it, are not neutrals [see here]; you know, they’re very much on the side of the disparate groups who are fighting Assad – and also the World Health Organisation doctors who are there. And again, those doctors are embedded in amongst the groups – doing fantastic work, I know – but they’re not neutral. And I am just a little bit concerned, because as we now move to the next phase of this war, if I were advising some of the Islamist groups – many of whom are worse than Daish – I would say: “Look, we’ve got to wait until there’s another attack by Assad’s forces – particularly if they have a helicopter overhead, or something like that, and they’re dropping barrel bombs – and we must set off some chlorine because we’ll get the next attack from the allies….” And it is the only way they’ve got, actually, of stopping the inevitable victory of Assad.

Another senior military figure, Major General Jonathan Shaw, former commander of British forces in Iraq (his responsibilities have included chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear policy), was shut down by a Sky News journalist 30 seconds after he started saying the wrong thing:

The debate that seems to be missing from this… was what possible motive might have triggered Syria to launch a chemical attack at this time in this place? You know, the Syrians are winning… Don’t take my word for it. Take the American military’s word. General Vergel [sic – Votel], the head of Centcom – he said to Congress the other day, “Assad has won this war, and we need to face that”.

Then you’ve got last week the statement by Trump – or tweet by Trump – that America has finished with ISIL and we were going to pull out soon, very soon.

And then suddenly you get this…

At which point Shaw’s sound was cut and the interview terminated. Peter Hitchens asked:

Can anyone tell me what was so urgent on Sky News, which made it necessary to cut this distinguished general off in mid-sentence?

Sky News gave their version of events here, claiming they had to take an ad break.

Also taking a more cautious view than Tisdall, Freedland, Rawnsley, Lucas, Mendoza, Monbiot, Mason and the Guardian editors (see Part 1), is James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, the US Secretary of Defence, who said:

I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence.

Only ‘looking’ for actual evidence?

As each day goes by — as you know, it is a non-persistent gas — so it becomes more and more difficult to confirm it.

The evidence clearly, then, had not yet been found and the claims had not yet been confirmed.

Peter Ford, former British ambassador to Syria, voiced scepticism:

The Americans have failed to produce any evidence beyond what they call newspaper reports and social media, whereas Western journalists who have been in Douma [see below] and produced testimony from witnesses – from medics with names so they can be checked – to the effect that the Syrian version is correct.

Before Trump’s latest attack, Scott Ritter, former chief UN weapons inspector in Iraq, made the point that mattered:

The bottom line, however, is that the United States is threatening to go to war in Syria over allegations of chemical weapons usage for which no factual evidence has been provided. This act is occurring even as the possibility remains that verifiable forensic investigations would, at a minimum, confirm the presence of chemical weapons…

Even a BBC journalist managed some short-lived scepticism. Riam Dalati tweeted:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption.

Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

‘#Douma #ChemicalAttack #EasternGhouta’

The tweet was quickly deleted.

Craig Murray wrote:

For the FCO, I lived and worked in several actual dictatorships. The open bias of their media presenters and the tone of their propaganda operations was – always – less hysterical than the current output of the BBC. The facade is not crumbling, it’s tumbling.

Robert Fisk – Hypoxia, Not Gas

Veteran Middle East journalist Robert Fisk visited Douma and reported his findings in the Independent. He spoke to a senior doctor who works in the clinic where victims of the alleged chemical attack had been brought for treatment. Dr Rahaibani told Fisk what had happened that night:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.’

Not gas poisoning? Why was this not immediately headline news in the ‘mainstream’ press and on BBC News? In fact, almost throughout the ‘MSM’, it was quietly buried. The glaring exception was an article in The Times with the pejorative headline:

Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk’s failure to find signs of gas attack

The piece suggested that there were big question marks over Fisk’s record:

Fisk is no stranger to controversy.

A list of Fisk’s ‘controversies’ followed. There was no mention that, among many accolades, the Arabic-speaking Fisk has won Amnesty International press awards three times, the Foreign Reporter of the Year award seven times and the Journalist of the Year award twice.

In an article published by openDemocracy, Philip Hammond, professor of media and communications at London South Bank University, observed that:

In seeking to close down such dissident thought, Times journalists are acting, not as neutral defenders of truth, but as partisan advocates for a particular understanding of the war.

A Guardian article by diplomatic editor Patrick Wintour and world affairs editor Julian Borger commented of Douma:

A group of reporters, many favoured by Moscow, were taken to the site on Monday. They either reported that no weapon attack had occurred or that the victims had been misled by the White Helmets civilian defence force into mistaking a choking effect caused by dust clouds for a chemical attack.’

Not only was Fisk not mentioned by name, he was lumped in with reporters ‘favoured by Moscow’. Jonathan Cook’s observation said it all:

They managed the difficult task of denigrating his account while ignoring the fact that he was ever there.

In The Intercept, columnist Mehdi Hasan wrote an impassioned open letter addressed to ‘those of you on the anti-war far left who have a soft spot for the dictator in Damascus: Have you lost your minds? Or have you no shame?’ The piece began:

Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists,

Sorry to interrupt: I know you’re very busy right now trying to convince yourselves, and the rest of us, that your hero couldn’t possibly have used chemical weapons to kill up to 70 people in rebel-held Douma on April 7. Maybe Robert Fisk’s mysterious doctor has it right — and maybe the hundreds of survivors and eyewitnesses to the attack are all “crisis actors.”

So, Fisk’s evidence with its ‘mysterious doctor’ was clearly worthless, something shameless ‘apologists’ were using to try and convince themselves of an absurdity. Hasan named no other names, but readers could guess from the many smear pieces in The Times, Huffington Post, on the BBC, and spread by the likes of Oliver Kamm, George Monbiot and Alan Mendoza.

Hasan portrayed Assad as a satanic figure while the US and its allies – countries that have sent 15,000 high-tech anti-tank missiles, as well as billions of dollars of other weapons and training to fighters in Syria – are mere ‘meddlers’. The jihadists are ‘rebels’ (a generally noble term), not fanatical invaders from Libya and Iraq. Hasan referenced biased sources including Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch, Martin Chulov of the Guardian, and the White Helmets.

The Intercept’s co-editor, Glenn Greenwald, defended the piece:

There is a meaningful debate to be had on Syria and, as I’ve said before, most media outlets (including us) have been quite one-sided about it. That said, Mehdi’s article, well-documented though it was, didn’t name anyone who guilty of loving Assad so I’m not sure who is offended

We replied:

Mehdi’s article, well-documented though it was, didn’t name anyone. That’s the problem. Hasan’s article arrives in the context of a cross-spectrum, name-and-shame smear campaign making similar points

We linked to three high-profile examples from the BBC, The Times and Huffington Post.

Political analyst Ian Sinclair declared Hasan’s article a ‘Necessary and important piece’.

It certainly wasn’t ‘necessary’ to damn Assad yet again – the world’s corporate media have been packed with news and comment pieces doing exactly that for years. As for the need to expose left ‘apologists’ – as we have seen, corporate media are currently mounting a fierce campaign targeting leftist university academics, apparently with the intention of getting them fired.

The question of importance is less clear-cut. The piece will, of course, have no effect whatsoever on Assad, whom Western ‘apologists’ on ‘the anti-war far left’ would be powerless to influence even if they came round to Hasan’s view. On the other hand, as a purported ‘leftist’, Hasan’s piece is important as ammunition for foreign policy warmongers, neocons and others. Thus, Jonathan Freedland tweeted:

Strong piece from @mehdirhasan

George Monbiot:

To all those who have been trying to persuade me that the Assad government is simply maintaining order, please read this excellent article by @mehdirhasan #Syria’

Oliver Kamm of The Times:

Is this atrocity denial really necessary?” Well said by Mehdi on the extraordinary, scandalous spectacle of people purporting to be anti-imperialists while denying the crimes of Assad.

Hasan, of course, knew his article would receive this kind of favourable attention, and he has form in reaching out to this audience. In 2010, whilst senior political editor at the New Statesman, he wrote a letter offering his services to Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre:

I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values. I believe the Mail has a vitally important role to play in the national debate, and I admire your relentless focus on the need for integrity and morality in public life, and your outspoken defence of faith, and Christian culture, in the face of attacks from militant atheists and secularists. I also believe… that I could be a fresh and passionate, not to mention polemical and contrarian, voice on the comment and feature pages of your award-winning newspaper.

For the record, I am not a Labour tribalist and am often ultra-critical of the left – especially on social and moral issues, where my fellow leftists and liberals have lost touch with their own traditions and with the great British public… I could therefore write pieces for the Mail critical of Labour and the left, from “inside” Labour and the left (as the senior political editor at the New Statesman).

Because, as we all know, being ‘ultra-critical’ of the left ‘from “inside” Labour and the left’ – for example, asking ‘the anti-war far left who have a soft spot for the dictator in Damascus: Have you lost your minds? Or have you no shame?’ – carries enormous weight.

In his piece for The Intercept, Hasan commented:

And, look, we can argue over whether or not to support… regime change in Damascus (I don’t).

And yet, in 2013, he wrote:

I want Assad gone and I believe him to be a brutal and corrupt dictator.

Hasan’s angry mockery of doubters on Douma is ironic indeed, given his own record on Libya. At a crucial time in March 2011, with NATO jets bombing Gaddafi’s troops, Hasan commented:

The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.

The reality, as we saw in Part 1, is that the claim was ‘not supported by the available evidence’.

Fisk’s account, irrationally scorned by Hasan, was backed by on-the-ground testimony from reporter Pearson Sharp from One America News Network:

Not one of the people that I spoke to in that neighbourhood said that they had seen anything, or heard anything, about a chemical attack on that day… they didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.

As far as we could tell, there was nothing on the flagship BBC News at Six and Ten about any of this testimony from doctors and residents claiming that there was no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma on April 7.

It is shocking that the BBC ignored evidence supplied from Syria by Fisk – one of Britain’s finest journalists – when it has cited hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times evidence supplied by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is run by a clothes shop owner in Coventry who supports regime change in Syria.

On BBC News at Ten on April 15, presenter Mishal Husain, Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and political editor Laura Kuenssberg discussed the missile strikes on Syria and the political fallout here at home. There was no mention that the strikes had taken place just as OPCW inspectors had arrived in Damascus. Nor was there any discussion of expert opinion from international lawyers contradicting the government’s assertion that the attacks were legal. A group of international law experts warned:

We are practitioners and professors of international law. Under international law, military strikes by the United States of America and its allies against the Syrian Arab Republic, unless conducted in self-defense or with United Nations Security Council approval, are illegal and constitute acts of aggression.

Meanwhile, the BBC joined the McCarthyite witch-hunt against anyone challenging the official narrative. In a piece titled, ‘Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories’, an anonymous BBC journalist commented:

Despite the uncertainty about what happened in Douma, a cluster of influential social media activists is certain that it knows what occurred.

Of course, the irony is that an incomparably bigger and better funded ‘cluster of influential’ state-corporate media has been vociferously claiming certainty about what is happening in Syria; not least 100% conviction of Assad’s guilt for a string of chemical weapon attacks.

We have no idea who was responsible for the event in Douma – we don’t know even if there was a chemical weapons attack. Our point is not that credible, sceptical voices are right, but that they should be heard.

On April 12, novelist Malcolm Pryce sent us this poignant tweet:

I remember in the run-up to the Iraq War a friend I had known all my life suddenly said to me, “We must do something about this monster in Iraq.” I said, “When did you first think that?” He answered honestly, “A month ago”.’

This is the power of the corporate media to shape the public mind it is supposed to serve.

But to achieve this effect, it must present a black and white view of the world – ‘we’ are ‘good’, ‘they’ are ‘bad’; ‘we’ are ‘certain’, ‘they’ are morally bewildered ‘apologists’. When reality threatens to get in the way, when there is no choice, an increasingly extreme ‘mainstream’ will resort to deception in plain sight.

Read Part One here.

April 26, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Never Let Anyone Call You Crazy For Doubting Establishment War Narratives

By Caitlyn Johnstone | April 25, 2018

There has still been no retraction or correction of The Guardian‘s demonstrably false and completely indefensible claim that two normal antiwar Twitter accounts were controlled not by real people but by bot programs based in Russia.

This is the sort of environment that has been created by the ongoing Russia panic that is plaguing the western world: one wherein mainstream news outlets can openly lie about dissenting voices and antiwar activists, refuse to retract or apologize for those lies, and suffer no consequences.

And yet they still have the gall to paint anyone who expresses doubt about the narratives they advance about Russia and Syria as crazy, kooky conspiracy theorists. Google the words “conspiracy” and “Syria” right now and you’ll come up with countless editorials with headlines like “Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories,” “Disinformation and Conspiracy Trolling in the Wake of the Syrian Chemical Attack,” and “SYRIA GAS ATTACK CONSPIRACY THEORIES FUELED BY TUCKER CARLSON AND FAR-RIGHT FRINGE.”

They’re using the highly stigmatized label “conspiracy theories” to paint healthy, normal skepticism of a notoriously untrustworthy power establishment as mentally unsound paranoia.

The other day I wrote an article about the shocking number of blatant attack editorials the mass media machine has been churning out on anyone who questions the establishment Syria narrative, and that output has not slowed down since. Warmongering empire loyalists like senior Huffington Post editor Chris York have been hard at work making sure the output of McCarthyite smear pieces remains on rapid fire, accusing anyone advocating skepticism of the same establishment which lied us into Iraq and Libya of being a tinfoil hat-wearing nut job.

This fits an established pattern which we have discussed previously, wherein proponents of US-led military intervention accuse those who question their narratives of being mentally unsound. There is a word for the tactic of convincing someone that they are crazy in order to manipulate and control them, and that word is gaslighting. It is a textbook abuse tactic, and it isn’t okay.

It isn’t okay for these war whore pundits to bully and deceive us so that we will feel unsure of the basis for our skepticism and consent to the longstanding western agenda of regime change in Syria. It isn’t okay for them to try to make people unsure of their mental health in order to pave the way toward public consent for broader bombing campaigns and no-fly zones in a sovereign nation under assault by western-backed jihadists. Never let anyone bully you into thinking that you are the strange, weird outlier for suspecting that a western empire who has sponsored actual, literal terrorist factions in Syria might lie about Iraq’s next-door neighbor like they lied about Iraq.

Doubting the official narrative being advanced by mainstream media is the sanest thing in the world. The US-centralized power establishment has an extensive and well-documented history of using liespropaganda and false flags to manufacture public support for preexisting war agendas, so it is perfectly sane to express concern about the legitimacy of the stories we’re being told about Douma, the Skripal case, Russian hacking allegations etc. We’ve already got The Guardian lying unapologetically straight to our face right now about Russian bots while not one single mainstream editorial opposed the British, French and American bombing of Syria earlier this month, so it’s obviously very sane to think the mainstream media may be advancing the interests of this war like they do every other.

Intense, rigorous skepticism is the only sane response to these narratives we’re being pummeled with day in and day out, and they’re trying to make us believe that the exact opposite is true.

Ian Shilling, one of the two Twitter account owners falsely labeled a Russian bot by The Guardian, appeared on Sky News a few days ago to defend himself and debunk the claims made about him. It was a truly brilliant appearance, and despite the open hostility showed him by the two Murdoch muppets hosting the show he was able not just to defend himself but to use the space to attack the warmongering neoconservative agendas being advanced by the UK government. As a representative of the many many regular flesh-and-blood humans on Twitter who are routinely dismissed as “Russian bots” simply for questioning establishment narratives, Ian knocked it out of the park and then some. He not only proved his humanity, he proved his sanity.

With the benefit of hindsight and not having been the one in the crosshairs, however, there was one part I thought could be handled a little differently. At one point in the interview, Shilling was articulating exactly why it would make no sense for Assad to have used chemical weapons in Douma as he is accused of having done, and one of the Sky News hosts demanded to know “Well if not, who then?”

Shilling provided the entirely reasonable speculation that it would have been the terrorists occupying the area who had every incentive to stage such an attack, but in my opinion it isn’t necessary to even go that far. The burden of proof is on the party making the claim; it isn’t up to us to flesh out a positive narrative about what happened using the limited information and resources afforded to bloggers and tweeters, it’s up to the massive western power establishment to provide the kind of proof of their accusations that is required in a post-Iraq invasion world. This plainly has not happened.

You see this sneaky attempt to shift the burden of proof among empire loyalists all the time when debating such topics. A couple of months ago I wrote about how in a debate with Real News‘ Aaron Maté, John Feffer of Lobelog used the tactic of arguing that his belief in the still-unproven Russian hacking accusations arises from the absence of a better “counter-narrative” about what happened, the implication being that we should take the US intelligence community at their word unless presented with a more compelling case for what happened from somewhere else. We also saw it in the BBC’s recent interview of Lord West, whose skepticism of the establishment Douma narrative was met with protestations that he didn’t have any solid proof of anything else having happened than what we’ve been told by the western war machine.

Don’t let them shift the burden of proof like that. We can point out, in the case of Douma for example, that the area was crawling with known terrorists who had every incentive to stage such an attack and gain the benefit of the western empire’s air force bombing their sworn enemy over a crossed “red line”, but we should also point out that it isn’t our job to come up with a positive counter-narrative about what happened. The burden of proof is on the accuser, so it’s their job to present us with a very solid collection of evidence that the alleged chemical attack could only have been perpetrated by the Assad government. Until then, our position that these people lied to us about Libya and Iraq and have a longstanding agenda of regime change in Syria is sufficient to declare decisive victory in any debate.

Don’t let them shift the burden of proof, and don’t let them gaslight you. You have truth on your side, and their side has a whole, whole lot of work to do before they have enough substantial evidence to even debate you rationally. They use these deceitful tactics because they are losing the debate, and because war is very profitable and advantageous for a few very powerful individuals. That’s all that’s happening here.

April 26, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

What Are “Assad Apologists”? Are They Like Those “Saddam Apologists” Of 2002?

By Caitlin Johnstone | Rogue Journalist | April 20, 2018

Isn’t it fascinating how western journalists are suddenly rallying to attack the dangerous awful and horrifying epidemic of “Assad apologists” just as the western empire ramps up its longstanding regime change agenda against the Syrian government? Kinda sorta exactly the same way they began spontaneously warning the world about “Saddam apologists” around the time of the Iraq invasion?

The increasingly pro-establishment Intercept has published an article titled “Dear Bashar al-Assad Apologists: Your Hero Is a War Criminal Even If He Didn’t Gas Syrians,” condemning unnamed opponents of western interventionism in Syria for not being sufficiently condemnatory of Bashar al-Assad in their antiwar discourse.

Last week The Times published an article titled “Apologists for Assad working in British universities,” frantically informing the public that “top academics” are circulating information that runs counter to the official Syria narrative, followed this week by a Huffington Post article attacking those same academics in the same way. Yesterday, the BBC ran an article titled “Syria war: the online activists pushing conspiracy theories,” warning its readers about “pro-Syrian government” internet posts.

I first encountered the word “apologetics” as a young Catholic girl in a parochial school, where the term was introduced to me as the religious practice of defending Church doctrine using discourse and argumentation. I did not become familiar with the related secular term “apologia” until much later, which is defined as “a work written as an explanation or justification of one’s motives, convictions, or acts.”

It wasn’t a term I ever made use of or encountered much in day to day life until I started writing extensively about the dangerous warmongering behaviors I was seeing in my country’s allies last year, when all of a sudden it became a part of my daily life. For me, I was just trying to help prevent the western empire from decimating yet another Middle Eastern country in yet another war based on lies and avoid dangerous escalations that could lead to nuclear holocaust, but to countless strangers on the internet I am an “Assad apologist” and a “Putin apologist.”

People have been calling me these things every single day for well over a year now. The internet is weird, man.

And surprise surprise, now that the war drum is beating louder than ever for Syrian blood, the phrase “Assad apologists” is enjoying a massive uptick.

The argument as I understand it is that people like Professors Tim Hayward and Piers Robinson, the subjects of the aforementioned Times and Huffpo articles, are not protesting the latest warmongering agenda of a multinational power establishment with an extensive history of decimating Middle Eastern countries, but are in fact going out of their way to justify Bashar al-Assad’s motives, convictions, and acts. Not because they oppose death and destruction like normal human beings, but because they are just positively head-over-heels gaga over some random Middle Eastern leader for some reason.

And that’s always how these arguments go. By pointing out that the US-centralized empire has been plotting regime change in Syria literally for generations, I’m not opposing dangerous regime change interventionism, I’m defending a dictator. By noting that the western empire has an extensive history of using lies, propaganda and false flags to manufacture support for military aggression, I’m not stating a well-documented and frequently admitted fact, I’m performing apologia on behalf of a despotic regime.

It can’t possibly be because I am aware that the neoconservatives who have been braying for this attack for years are always completely wrong about everything. It can’t possibly be because the US-centralized war machine has had a well-established pattern for many years of demolishing countries based on lies and false pretenses of humanitarianism only to leave in their wake a humanitarian disaster, which they then blame on “mistakes” made by whoever happened to be in charge at the time. It can’t possibly be because US-led military interventionism in modern times is literally never helpful, literally never accomplishes what its proponents claim it will accomplish, and is literally always extremely profitable for its most vocal advocates.

Nope, it’s got to be because I fell in love with a gangly Syrian president whom I’d never even thought about before the neocons set their crosshairs on him, and I only oppose the next imminent military catastrophe because I agree so much with his policies and behavior.

Even more annoying than the honest regime change proponents are people like Mehdi Hasan, author of the aforementioned Intercept piece, who claim to oppose US regime change but find themselves tone policing the antiwar left instead. The world is full of problems, the greatest arguably being a third world war and potential nuclear confrontation between Russia and America ensuing from US interventionism in Syria, but men like Hasan choose to focus their creative energy on making sure the antiwar left mitigates its speech sufficiently and prefaces every antiwar argument with “Assad is a bloodthirsty evil dictator, but”.

Like that’s what the world desperately needs right now: for the antiwar left to be even more mitigated in its speech than it already is. For us to slam on the brakes of our antiwar surge to check one another to make sure we’re all being explicitly anti-Assad enough.

These writers never make it clear exactly why it’s so important for everyone in the antiwar movement to be checked and scrutinized for excessive enthusiasm about the Syrian government. Are they worried they’ll go and join the Syrian Arab Army? That they’ll install Assad as president of the United States? How is sympathy toward the Syrian government a threat to anything other than the manufacturing of support for more escalations in US-led interventionism?

We don’t need equivocation and tone policing right now. What we need is a loud and unequivocal NO to western military interventionism in the country immediately adjacent to the one we raped fifteen years ago.

We’ve been here before. Here’s an article from 2001 titled “Saddam Hussein’s American Apologist”. Here’s one from 2002 titled “Saddam’s apologists”. Here’s another from 2003 titled “After Saddam’s Capture: Will His Apologists Now Recant?” Here’s yet another from 2003 titled “Armchair generals, or Saddam’s leftwing allies.” Here’s one from 2005 titled “Parliament’s damning report about Saddam apologist George Galloway.” This was an extremely common smear against opponents of the Iraq invasion, who were of course later proven to have been 100 percent correct in every way.

Iraq is as relevant as relevant gets to this debate, and anyone who claims otherwise is only doing so because they know Iraq is devastating to their Syria arguments. They’re pulling the same damn tricks in the same damn way, in some cases with the same damn people. These “We must stop the Assad apologists!” op-eds are coming out with increasing frequency and urgency because they are losing control of the Syria narrative and they are running out of tricks. Don’t let their authoritative way of speaking fool you; they are not nearly as confident as they pretend to be.

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April 21, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

WikiLeaks exposes liberal group’s efforts to thwart climate writings of CU’s Roger Pielke Jr.

By Sarah Kuta | Daily Camera | October 26, 2016

A University of Colorado professor who’s been criticized for his writings about climate change has been caught up in WikiLeaks’ dump of emails involving John Podesta, campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton.

Roger Pielke Jr., who has been a faculty member on the Boulder campus since 2001, was the subject of a July 2014 email about an essay he wrote on climate change for the website FiveThirtyEight.

Pielke writes a regular column about sports governance for the Daily Camera.

The email was sent by Judd Legum, the editor of ThinkProgress, a site that’s part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, which was founded by Podesta in 2003.

In his email to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, Legum described how he believed Climate Progress, the environmental arm of ThinkProgress, got Pielke to stop writing about climate change for FiveThirtyEight.

“I think it’s fair say that, without Climate Progress, Pielke would still be writing on climate change for 538,” Legum wrote.

Legum did not respond to interview requests on Wednesday.

The email was one of tens of thousands of messages from Podesta’s hacked Gmail account released by WikiLeaks this month.

The group took issue with Pielke’s piece titled “Disasters Cost More Than Ever —- But Not Because of Climate Change,” in which he questioned the link between rising natural disaster costs and climate change.

Pielke argued that the cost of disasters is increasing because the world is getting wealthier, not because there are more — or more intense — floods, droughts, hurricanes or tornadoes.

“We’re seeing ever-larger losses simply because we had more to lose — when an earthquake or flood occurs, more stuff gets damaged,” he wrote.

Pielke, who has written extensively about climate-change economics, is a polarizing figure among climate change scientists and activists.

Pielke refutes claims that he’s a climate-change skeptic or denier, pointing to his public support for a carbon tax. He says that many of the arguments he presents are supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nevertheless, shortly after Pielke’s FiveThirtyEight piece was published, ThinkProgress wrote a story quoting climate scientists who said Pielke’s claims were misleading. FiveThirtyEight published a rebuttal to Pielke’s piece.

The criticism of Pielke’s piece continued, with stories about Pielke and FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver appearing in Salon, Slate and the Huffington Post.

“Silver is still backing the wrong horse, and the sooner he dumps Pielke, the better,” David Auerbach wrote for Slate.

Shortly thereafter, Pielke stopped writing for FiveThirtyEight. In the email released by WikiLeaks, Legum gave ThinkProgress credit for that.

“I don’t think there is another site on the internet having this kind of impact on the climate debate,” Legum wrote of FiveThirtyEight.

A year later, Pielke was the target of an investigation led by a Democratic congressman into whether he had received funding for his work at CU from fossil fuel companies.

In response, CU President Bruce Benson wrote that the university “did not discover any information indicating that Pielke’s funding sources influenced his research,” adding that Pielke confirmed that he received no funding from the oil and gas industry.

Pielke has more or less stopped writing about climate change. Since then, he’s focused his efforts on sports governance and is now the director of CU’s Sports Governance Center.

“They were ultimately successful in removing an academic from working on a topic,” Pielke said, adding that there’s “nothing like a political witch hunt to help you focus on career priorities.”

When he read the leaked email last week, Pielke said he wasn’t surprised by its contents.

“It spells out in black and white … that there was an organized, politically motivated campaign to damage my career and reputation, based on a perception that my academic research was thought to be inconvenient,” he said.

CU board shows support for faculty, students’ academic freedom

By Sarah Kuta | Daily Camera | November 10, 2016

The University of Colorado’s Board of Regents reaffirmed its support for academic freedom on Thursday in light of recently released emails that showed that a liberal group targeted CU Boulder Professor Roger Pielke Jr. for his writings on climate change.

At a regular meeting in Denver, the regents passed a resolution 9-0 to send the message that “faculty and students must have complete freedom to study, to learn, to do research and to communicate the results of these pursuits to others.”

The principles of academic freedom are codified in regent laws, which govern the university. The board was restating its commitment to those principles on Thursday.

Though he was not mentioned in the resolution, Pielke was the motivating factor behind it, according to its author, Regent John Carson, a Republican from Highlands Ranch.

Pielke was the subject of a 2014 email sent by the editor of ThinkProgress, a website that’s part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the advocacy arm of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress.

In Judd Legum’s email to billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, Legum described how he believed the website got Pielke to stop writing about climate change for the data-focused news website FiveThirtyEight.

The email was part of an October WikiLeaks dump of emails involving John Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress and the chairman for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Pielke and others described the email as evidence that there was a “politically motivated campaign” to damage his career and reputation. Ultimately, he stopped writing about climate change and now directs CU’s new Center for Sports Governance.

Carson said he felt that type of conduct was unacceptable and that he thought the board should show all CU faculty and researchers that it stands behind them.

“I want to go on record making clear that I don’t think this type of conduct is appropriate and we’re going to defend our faculty and we’re going to go on record, when we find out about these types of things, opposing it,” Carson said.

Pielke wrote for FiveThirtyEight that “human-caused climate change is both real and important,” but came under fire for an essay the website published in which he argued that rising natural disaster costs were not linked to climate change.

Reporters at ThinkProgress asked several climate scientists to weigh in on Pielke’s claims and published stories in which those scientists said Pielke’s claims were misleading. By Pielke’s count, the website has published more than 160 critical articles about him.

Legum, the ThinkProgress editor, said there was no organized campaign to damage Pielke’s career. Rather, the website was trying to report accurate information about climate change.

“There was inaccurate information being presented in his writing … We called a number of climate scientists and asked them about the claims he was making in this piece,” Legum told the Daily Camera last month. “They said that there were a lot of really inaccurate or misleading things, and we reported on that.”

Pielke was also the target of a 2015 investigation led by a Democratic congressman into whether he had received funding for his work at CU from fossil fuel companies.

In response, CU President Bruce Benson wrote that the university “did not discover any information indicating that Pielke’s funding sources influenced his research,” adding that Pielke confirmed that he received no funding from the oil and gas industry. […]

Though he did not attend the meeting, Pielke wrote in an email to the Daily Camera that he felt supported by the leaders of the university.

He said the bipartisan-backed resolution sent a strong message “to my faculty peers who may question whether it is worth participating in important debates of the day — that CU has their back.”

Sarah Kuta: 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta

November 20, 2016 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More Media B.S. — OMG, Trump Company Legally Rented Office Space to Iranian Bank!

By Peter Van Buren | We Meant Well | October 3, 2016

Once again a story that Trump did nothing illegal is somehow front page news. His crime this time? Continuing to legally rent out office space to a bank already in a building he bought 18 years ago.

So the big news is that Donald Trump’s real estate organization rented space to an Iranian bank later linked to Iran’s nuclear program.

Bank Melli, one of Iran’s largest state-controlled banks, was already a tenant in 1998 when Trump purchased the General Motors Building, above, in Manhattan, but he kept them on for another five years, until 2003.

Quick summary:

— There is no evidence and it is highly unlikely that Trump himself knew every one of the hundreds of tenants in a building he bought in 1998. In fact, the building occupies a full city block, with 1,774,000 net leasable square feet (the bank rented 8,000 square feet.)

— U.S. security authorities allowed Bank Melli to legally operate offices in the U.S., so renting to them is not a story.

— Bank Melli was prohibited from conducting bank transactions in the U.S., and did not conduct transactions, but kept an office in New York in hopes sanctions might one day be eased.

— Bank Melli operated fully in the open. The U.S. Department of the Treasury could have shut them down at any time, or sanctioned Trump for dealing with them if it wished. It did not.

— The bank itself (not Trump) was only sanctioned by Treasury in 2007, four years after it left Trump’s building. However, the Huffington Post helpfully notes (emphasis added) “[Unnamed] Experts told the Center for Public Integrity that the bank likely supported proliferation activity and Iran’s military years before the Treasury Department publicly condemned the bank,” something the owners of the rental building presumably should have been aware of somehow.

— The Center for Public Integrity reveals on its website that the Bank Melli “as being controlled by the Iranian government” since 1999. Actually in its own publically available history, the Bank notes it served as the nation’s central bank, issuing currency, from 1931.

While the media is enjoying this story, it ignores the broader picture. Despite sanctions and trade embargoes, over the past decade the United States government allowed American companies to do billions of dollars in business with Iran and other countries blacklisted as state sponsors of terrorism.

At the request of companies from Kraft Food and Pepsi to some of the nation’s largest banks, the Treasury Department across multiple administrations granted some 10,000 licenses for deals involving sanctioned countries.

The media is so full of sh*t on these stories their eyes are brown.

October 4, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Media Backing Clinton Exploits Orlando Shooting for Passive Holocaust Denial

By Robert Barsocchini | Empire Slayer | June 16, 2016

Within hours of the mass shooting in Orlando, the corporate media backing neoconservative favorite Hillary Clinton began, almost unanimously, to exploit the opportunity to passively promote holocaust and genocide denial.

Outlets including the NY Times, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, Newsweek, USA Today, and so on, all referred to the Orlando massacre unequivocally as the worst shooting and/or worst act of gun violence in US history. (CBS News, at the time it was accessed for this piece, was running a large “I’m With Her” ad for Hillary Clinton at the top of its page.) A useful comparison to the corporate assessment might be to imagine if a German civilian gassed a group of people to death and the German press reported it as the worst gassing in German history. After the Paris shooting, the Western press likewise reported that as the worst shooting in recent Parisian history, despite that the Parisian police not long ago massacred some 300 peaceful marchers protesting the French dictatorship in Algeria and dumped their bodies in the river that runs through the city (more info in previous piece).

Native News Online quickly pointed out that the corporate media was almost completely whitewashing “mass killings of American Indians in its reporting” on Orlando. It gave two well-known (as far as these go) examples of worse gun-violence and mass-shootings: some 300 Native men, women, and children, were massacred at Wounded Knee, and 70 to 180 were massacred at Sand Creek.

One commenter on the Native News piece shared that she “wrote to every single news outlet yesterday from the New York Times, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, and Salon to CNN, NBC, and the BBC. I have yet to receive a reply from any of them with the exception of the Oregonian, who changed its language immediately. They also informed me that the Associated Press has just begun to change its language. I’m hoping the Guardian and BBC begin to do the same too.”

Another commenter on the Native News piece gave a short list of some acts of gun-violence, mass-shootings, or mass killings perpetrated in US history, by US forces:

1864 – 300 Yana in California
1863 – 280 Shoshone in Idaho
1861 – 240 Wilakis in California
1860 – 250 Wiyot in California
1859 – 150 Yuki in California
1853 – 450 Tolowa in California
1852 – 150 Wintu in California
1851 – 300 Wintu in California
1850 – 100 Pomo in California
1840 – 140 Comanches in Colorado
1833 – 150 Kiowa in Oklahoma
1813 – 200 Creek in Alabama
1813 – 200 Creek in Alabama
1782 – 100 Lanape in Pennsylvania
1730 – 500 Fox in Illinois
1713 – 1000 Tuscarora in North Carolina
1712 – 1000 Fox in Michigan
1712 – 300 Tuscarora in North Carolina
1704 – 1000 Apalachee killed & 2000 sold into slavery in North Carolina
1676 – 100 Algonquian and Nipmuc in Massachusetts.
1676 – 100 Occaneechi in Virginia
1675 – 340 Narragansett in Rhode Island
1644 – 500 Lanape in New York
1640 – 129 Massapeag in New York
1637 – 700 Pequot in Connecticut
1623 – 200 Powhatan & Pamunkey in Virginia with “poison wine”

Professor David E. Stannard describes one such massacre, wherein US forces weakened a Delaware group of Native men, women, children, and elders through starvation, convinced them it would be in their best interest to disarm, then tied them up and exterminated them and mutilated their dead bodies. Stannard notes that such massacres by US forces “were so numerous and routine that recording them eventually becomes numbing”. (American Holocaust, pp. 125/6)

A couple of corporate news outlets used somewhat more precise language to describe the Orlando massacre, editorializing (while again presenting it as fact) that it was the ‘worst shooting in modern US history’.

However, this still leaves unstated the writer’s opinion of what constitutes ‘modern’. The wounded knee massacre took place in 1898, and the Black Wall Street massacre, for example, in which 55-400 people were murdered and a wealthy black community in Oklahoma ethnically cleansed, took place in 1921. (More examples.)

And, of course, the US has massacred millions of people, many of them with rifles and other types of guns, but also in far worse ways, outside the territory it officially claims, and continues to do so. Obama recently massacred almost a hundred people at one time with what could be viewed as an AR-15 on steroids. Is any of this part of ‘modern US history’? Why or why not? The qualifications are unstated and thus subjective. The vague language from the neoliberal, government-linked corporate outlets may lead readers to believe that all of US history is included in their ‘factual’ statements, and that the US has never massacred more than fifty people anywhere.

In some cases, this impression will have been intentional on the part of the oligarch mouthpiece outlets, which have an interest in fostering a benevolent image of the US to help elites further capture global markets . In others, it will have been a result of conveniently self-aggrandizing ignorance on behalf of the writers and editors – an ignorance that makes an important contribution to their job security.

As some of them partially or belatedly demonstrated, all of the corporate outlets could have easily avoided any holocaust/genocide-denial by calling the shooting the worst by a single civilian on US territory in at least the last thirty years, or any number of other obvious, simple, direct phrasings, which are supposed to be integral to journalism, anyway.

But as John Ralston Saul points out, the neoliberal/neoconservative ideology relies on the ‘whitewashing of memory’. That doesn’t always work, though, especially on survivors of US and Western genocides, which is why, as Ralston Saul further notes, the West and its proxies are behind most of the global murders of writers, who may try to expose facts and evidence that interfere with the West’s historical whitewashing.

Since the Orlando massacre, both Clinton and Trump have called for further escalation of Western aggression in the Middle East.

Robert Barsocchini is an internationally published author who focuses on force dynamics, national and global, and also writes professionally for the film industry. Updates on Twitter.

June 17, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Disappearance of Hillary Clinton’s Healthcare Platform

Single+Payee

By Benjamin Day | Common Dreams | March 30, 2016

What would happen if the media lifted the curtain on Clinton’s healthcare platform and introduced any level of scrutiny to her proposed improvements on the Affordable Care Act?

In an extraordinary magic trick, performed on a national scale, Hillary Clinton’s healthcare platform has been disappeared. While policy analysts, news anchors, and columnists have been engaged in an intense debate over Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” proposal, Clinton’s incremental alternative has escaped almost all scrutiny – even among those who say they prefer it.

Combining the election-season writings of our most prolific, liberal-leaning columnists at the New York Times, Huffington Post, Vox, Mother Jones, Politico, The American Prospect, etc. you’ll find dozens of articles critiquing Sanders’s single-payer plan. None have mentioned a single Clinton healthcare proposal as a point of comparison – merely that she supports a philosphy of incremental reform.

Take Paul Krugman, a high-profile advocate of Clinton’s approach to healthcare reform. Krugman has published two op-eds in the New York Times and five additional blog posts arguing that “[progressives] should seek incremental change on health care… and focus their main efforts on other issues – that is… Bernie Sanders is wrong about this and Hillary Clinton is right.” In all seven pieces, Krugman focuses exclusively on Sanders’s single-payer proposal and fails to mention even a single Clinton policy.

The disappearance of the Clinton healthcare platform has even been carried out by pollsters. The Kaiser Health Tracking Survey included a bizarre question in its February 2016 poll, which was widely cited in the press. Respondents were asked to pick one of four possible directions for the future of U.S. healthcare. Among the choices were “The U.S. should establish guaranteed universal coverage through a single government plan” and “Lawmakers should build on the existing health care law to improve affordability and access to care.” Thirty-three percent of Democrats chose the single-payer option, while fifty-four percent chose the incremental option. The questions were clearly intended as stand-ins for the Sanders and Clinton healthcare proposals, but note that the single-payer option is a policy, whereas the incremental option mentions no actual policies, but asks respondents whether they support the (universally desirable) outcomes of improving affordability and access.

What would happen if the media lifted the curtain on Clinton’s healthcare platform and introduced any level of scrutiny to her proposed improvements on the Affordable Care Act? They would find two categories of Clinton proposals: some that are so vague they’re difficult to evaluate, and other more concrete plans that follow in the footsteps of one of Congress’s most practiced healthcare incrementalists: Senator Bernie Sanders.

For example, one of Clinton’s clearest incremental proposals is to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s poorly named “cadillac tax” on health plans with high premiums. She announced this proposal on September 29, drawing the ire of White House spokespeople. The move, however, followed in the footsteps of a Senate bill to repeal the Cadillac tax introduced by Bernie Sanders and seven Democratic Senators just a few days previously on September 24. Clinton’s position was correctly seen by reporters as necessary if she didn’t want to lose labor union support to Sanders.

“Because Clinton’s healthcare platform has received zero public scrutiny, she has had the luxury of floating other policy ideas in broad outlines, too vague to evaluate.”Many of Clinton’s well-defined healthcare proposals are rolled into a package of prescription drug reforms, which she released on September 22, 2015. They bear a striking resemblance to the Sanders prescription drug plan announced on September 1, filed as legislation on September 10. Both would legalize importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where costs for identical drugs are much lower due to Canada’s single-payer healthcare system. Sanders was a pioneer of importation, and in 1999 started driving busloads of American patients who couldn’t afford breast cancer drugs across the Canadian border. Both candidates call for empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices – even Donald Trump jumped on board in January. Both would ban “pay-for-delay” deals between brand-name and generic drug makers, and increase prescription drug rebates for Medicaid and/or Medicare.

Because Clinton’s healthcare platform has received zero public scrutiny, she has had the luxury of floating other policy ideas in broad outlines, too vague to evaluate. Take the proposal to expand the use of Accountable Care Organizations. How? According to Clinton’s December policy brief: “In the coming months, [Clinton] will provide full detail on her plans for delivery system reforms that drive down costs.” With the primaries drawing to a close, no such details have been released. The same could be said of another proposal to “create a fallback process” to review insurance premium rate hikes in states that don’t already review rates. There has been no explanation of how such a plan would work, or whether it would require new legislation.

This is the double standard at work in almost all national coverage of Clinton and Sanders on healthcare reform: Clinton has been taken at her word that her incremental plans will be politically feasible, succeed in improving affordability and access to care, and are not shared by her opponent. Sanders on the other hand received intense public pressure to release details of his single-payer healthcare proposal, and when he did the proposal was subject to an avalanche of public analysis and scrutiny.

This double standard is all the more remarkable because single-payer healthcare is an established policy, practiced in one form or another in almost every developed nation in the world. Incremental reforms that work within the market-based healthcare system of the U.S. are far more uncertain, and deserve greater scrutiny. They are easier to enact but dramatically more likely to fall short of their goals. This is because incremental reforms in the United States usually focus on expanding access to care, without significant cost controls, in order to avoid opposition from the healthcare industry. The resulting policies are often unsustainable; make little headway against national trends of rising costs and eroding access; or simply move costs around (e.g. from premiums to deductibles and co-payments, or vice versa).

Previous national trends in incremental healthcare reform – from managed care through pharmacy benefit management, chronic disease management, narrow networks, and beyond – have often created lucrative new industries, but had dubious impacts on underlying healthcare costs or access to care. Most of Clinton’s healthcare platform falls exactly into these danger zones, and should be received with a critical eye.

The national discussion of single-payer healthcare reform is long overdue. However, when the full range of national media outlets force one candidate to run on real policies, while allowing another to run on values and aspirations, we aren’t having a real discussion of systemic vs. incremental reform, we are merely aiding the corrosion of informed democracy.

Benjamin Day is the Executive Director of Healthcare-NOW.

April 2, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sanctifying Malala: The Nobel Prize and Moral Alibis

By Binoy Kampmark | Dissident Voice | October 11, 2014

Drones Kill So Malala Can Live.
Sign at a vigil, Pakistan, noted in The Nation, October 10, 2014

There were two recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize this year – the rather less known Kailish Satyarthi and near celebrity cherished Malala Yousafzai. In awarding the prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee deftly ignored the perceived frontrunner, Pope Francis. Il Papa will have to wait his turn.

Those getting it will always be marred by the contradictions any peace prize suggests. The greatest of all remains the fact that the dynamite guru – Alfred Nobel himself – did as much for the cause of war as he decided his profits would supposedly do for peace. Peace was a sentimental afterthought. Many winners of the prize have since kept this legacy alive: that of war maker turned peace maker; a fair share of hypocrisy, with a good share of feigned sincerity.

Satyarthi doesn’t seem to suffer those problems. He made his name targeting the persistent use of child-labour in India. In the business of freeing slaves, it is hard not to admire efforts that saw the freeing of over 80,000 children from a state of servitude.

In contrast, the photogenic seventeen-year old Pakistani, Malala Yousafzai, is both the prop of an agenda, and the cause of a program. In 2012, she received life threatening wounds to the head from the Taliban for her stance on girls’ education in the SWAT valley. In suffering those injuries, she gave a problem a face and voice. She is also the perfect poster girl for Western middle-class anxieties, one which Zeynep Tufekci has described as “finding a young woman we admire that we all want to take home as if to put on a shelf to adore.”

What of, argues historian Sarah Waheed, the Malalas you do not see? They are very much the victims of a dysfunctional relationship between Pakistan and the United States, one that is all too brutally characterised by the continued use of drone strikes and bundles of US aid. “Unlike Malala Yousafzai… Madonna did not dedicate a song to them, nor has Angelina Jolie spoken out on their behalf.” They are the faceless ones, the sort that celebrities so conspicuously resist. Malala, on the other end, is ideological candy for the morally outraged in Hollywood and beyond. She did, after all, survive.

The congratulatory tone is invariably gushing, and the Malala cheer squad is both heavily staffed and noisy with inspirational snippets. Dominique Mosbergen, writing in The Huffington Post, gives eight reasons why Malala “is an inspiration to us all.”  What are some of them? Bravery, for one. Another: tremendous compassion. Importantly, Malala has to be seen as a universal figure, rather than one with particular aptitude in dealing with problems of education in her own country. “Malala advocates for young women everywhere.”

Malala may well strike fear into the gun men of the Taliban. She may well terrify, in her own specific way, the theocrats who stand guard over jaundiced traditions and archaic law. “Armed men run scared of an unarmed girl.” But something else is at work in what seems to be a form of witting, and unwitting deification. It ignores, for instance, that she is being perceived in some quarters of her country as a symbol of Western sponsored interference. (This takes the form, most blatantly, in the charge that she is a product of the CIA doll factory.)

Malala, in what is becoming something of a sanctification project, risks falling into the role of a moral cipher for a range of other causes in a global battle that is both political and cultural. She is a moral reminder, but also an alibi for actions taken under the cover of improvement. She has become a politicised Shirley Temple, a child politician of the developing world. Her life under Taliban rule – which she no longer experiences by virtue of her move to Britain – is becoming the cudgel to use, be it in her statements against the Taliban, or her general pronouncements on the BBC reflecting on those harrowing experiences under their rule.

This is the tragedy of politics and morality – at a certain point, manipulation is unavoidable, be it through its own self-justifying propaganda, or basic sloganeering. The public relations watchers have quickly noted the “important binary” of selecting “a Pakistani Muslim” and “an Indian Hindu”. “Their joint selection,” argues Elias Groll in Foreign Policy, “is an obvious nod towards the ongoing efforts to bring a peaceful end to Pakistan and India’s long-standing conflict with one another”.

Weapons get sharpened in the name of what perceived justice is – even some of Pakistan’s liberal elite have allied their interests with US drone strikes aimed for a higher good. The funding institutes get busy. The think tank circuits issue invitations. A drooling press corps, and a hyperventilating blogosphere, finds in Malala another child crusader. Her quotes are tweeted like a bestselling manual of self-help instructions – “12 powerful and inspiring quotes”. Editor of the Pakistan Observer, Tariq Khattak, sees the crudest form of branding at work. In his words to the BBC Newshour, Malala’s “father is a good salesman, that’s it. And the daughter has also become a salesgirl. And they are dancing on the tunes of the West.”

There is the other side of the peace and education crusade. It is the political mettle that is coming to the fore, a cool yet discerning sense that she is becoming a figure in the folds of a contradictory history. Malala, over time, has matured into a moving advertiser of causes, even telling CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that she intends leading Pakistan. “Through politics, I believe I can serve my whole country.”

That maturity, however, is in an ever problematic dance with Malala the emblem – one that European and American voices can use in their cultural causes against other states even as villages get struck by the lethal work of drones. Sainthood and martyrdom tend to be poor tools for measuring actual change.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: bkampmark@gmail.com.

October 12, 2014 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Cultures of hate

Israelis, not Palestinians, Excel at Vengeance

By Jonathan Cook | Dissident Voice | July 9, 2014

Shock and anger have engulfed Israeli and Palestinian societies since they learned last week of the barbarous murder of children from their communities. Hours after three Israeli teenagers’ bodies were located, long after their abduction, a Palestinian youth, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped, beaten and burned to death, apparently as revenge.

These horrifying events should serve as a lesson in the obscene futility of vengeance. As a relative of one of the murdered children observed: “There is no difference between blood and blood.”

Sadly, that was not the message implicit in much of last week’s coverage. On social media, a juxtaposition of pictures from the same day’s New York Times showed how easy it is to forget not only that our blood is the same but that grief is too.

A headline about Israelis’ “heartbreak” was illustrated movingly by the families of the three Israeli teenagers huddled together, overwhelmed by their loss. A report on the killing of 16-year-old Abu Khdeir, on the other hand, was accompanied by an image of masked youths throwing stones.

These contrasting depictions of mourning were entirely misleading. True, Palestinian youngsters have been violently protesting in Jerusalem and communities in Israel since Abu Khdeir was buried. But so have groups of Israeli Jews. They have rampaged through Jerusalem and parts of Israel, calling out “Death to the Arabs” and attacking anyone who looks Palestinian.

Nonetheless, Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, a US Jewish organisation that claims to fight bigotry, was peddling an equally divisive message. In the Huffington Post he wrote of a Palestinian “culture of hatred”.

According to Foxman, Palestinian and Israeli societies are fundamentally different. Palestinian discontent is “fanned and incited into hatred by a widespread, unfettered support for violence against Jews and Israel”.

He was echoing a sentiment common in Israel, and famously voiced in the late 1960s by the then prime minister, Golda Meir. She suggested that even harder than forgiving the Arab enemy for killing Israel’s sons would be “to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons”.

In a bout of similar self-righteousness, many Israelis berate Palestinian parents for putting their children in danger’s way by allowing them to throw stones at Israeli security forces. The implication is that Palestinians – as a result of either culture or religion – value life less than Israelis.

Strangely, Israelis rarely question the implication of the decision taken by one in 10 of their number to live in illegal colonies on stolen Palestinian land. The settlers choose to put themselves and their children on the front lines too, even though they have far more choices than Palestinians about where to live.

In fact, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can claim to be above a culture of hate. As long as Israel’s belligerent occupation continues, their lives together in one small patch of the Middle East will continue to be predicated on bouts of violent confrontation.

But that does not mean Israeli and Palestinian culpability is equal. The reality is that Israelis, unlike Palestinians, have a sovereign state that represents them and protects them with a strong army.

Last week, the Israeli army announced that it had arrested several soldiers who posted online photographs of themselves vowing revenge against “Arabs” – part of a flood of calls for vengeance on ¬Hebrew social media. The arrests played well with Israel’s image as a country that enforces the rule of law, but they concealed deeper truths.

The first is that the Israelis thirsting for reprisals are simply echoing their politicians and religious leaders whose statements for vengeance surpassed even the ugly grandstanding of Hamas, which had praised the Israeli teenagers’ abduction.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the way, citing a famous line of Hebrew poetry: “The devil himself has not yet created vengeance for the blood of a small child.” His economics minister, Naftali Bennett, urged Israel to “go mad”, while a former legislator vowed that Israel would turn Ramadan into a “month of darkness”. An influential and supposedly moderate rabbi hoped for “an army of avengers”.

Last week, left wing Israelis rallied in Tel Aviv to castigate the Netanyahu government for “incitement to violence”. But even this underestimated the problem.

Israeli leaders’ threats are not simply stoking an ugly mood on the street. The huge muscle of the Israeli security apparatus is flexing at their behest too. That was given graphic illustration in video footage of armed police in Jerusalem relentlessly kicking and punching a child – a 15-year-old American relative of Abu Khdeir – as he lay cuffed and helpless on the ground.

The cabinet is plotting a more subtle revenge. It plans to build new settlements – violence against Palestinian life on the little slivers of territory left to them – specifically to honour the three teenagers. Guarded by the army, settlers have already set up a new encampment in the West Bank.

The army, meanwhile, launched a series of strikes on Gaza, culminating in a new large-scale attack dubbed Operation Protective Edge. It has also revived a policy of demolishing the homes of relatives of Palestinian terror suspects. Backed by the courts, soldiers blew up the family homes of two men it accused of being behind the teenagers’ abduction.

As Human Rights Watch warned, Israel’s recent actions – mass arrests; armed raids; the killing of Palestinians, including minors; lockdowns of cities, house demolitions; and air strikes – amounted to “collective punishment”, international law’s euphemism for revenge, against Palestinians.

In the face of the enduring violence of Israel’s occupation, and the licence it provides soldiers to humiliate and oppress, ordinary Palestinians have a stark choice: to submit or resist. Ordinary Israelis, on the other hand, do not need to seek revenge on their own account. The Israeli state, military and courts are there every day doing it for them.

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Me, I’m a Liberal!

By Kevin Carson | Center for a Stateless Society | November 18, 2013

obamas-daddy1Nothing like starting out your day with a laugh — and today I have Matthew Lynch (“12 Reasons Why Obama is One of the Greatest Presidents Ever,” Huffington Post, November 15) to thank for it.

About half of Lynch’s points boil down to, “Obama is for x, because he makes speeches talking about x all the time.” He starts out with the best one of all:

“Unlike the many presidents who preceded him, he cares about what is best for the greater good. He truly does represent The People. His actions have always been motivated by a sincere desire to do what is best for the majority, even if it meant losing ground with the wealthy, influential or powerful minority.”

Um, yeah. That’s why he adopted a Republican “universal healthcare” proposal to require everybody to buy private health insurance — and give taxpayer money to the ones who can’t afford it. That should be popular with “The People,” all right — at least those who own stock in insurance companies. That’s why he quietly promised the drug companies he wouldn’t use Medicare’s bargaining power to negotiate lower drug prices. That’s why Joe Biden conducts copyright enforcement policy out of Disney’s corporate headquarters and the administration backs draconian copyright legislation dictated in secret by proprietary content industries.

Among my favorite other howlers:

“2. He is for civil rights. He has consistently spoken on behalf of the disenfranchised, the underdog and the most controversial members of society …”

Yeah, I know he said a lot of stuff about gay marriage and ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But he refused to actually stop prosecuting gays in the military before the law was repealed, or to put enforcement on the back burner, even when he was fully capable of using his executive authority to do so.

And notice Lynch doesn’t say “civil liberties.” Obama said a lot of stuff about them, too — back in 2008. Since then he’s expanded unconstitutional wiretapping, run interference for the telecoms that help out with it and given amnesty to people who systematically ordered and engaged in torture. Holding war criminals accountable would be “divisive,” you see. He owes the late Nuremberg defendants an apology — they were only following orders, too.

4. Healthcare. I think we already covered that.

“5. He is for the middle class. Here are just a few of the comments made by President Barack Obama in recent months …”

A lot of presidents were for a lot of stuff, if you stick to reading their collected speeches. In practice, Obama’s farm policies are written by ADM and Monsanto, and the office of Secretary of the Treasury is permanently reserved for Goldman-Sachs alumni, just as under his predecessors.

Obama’s actual economic policy is classic Hamiltonianism: Responding to technologies of abundance that reduce the need for capital and labor by using Rube Goldberg mechanisms to artificially prop up the demand for those inputs — even if it means giving people tax breaks for throwing stuff away and replacing it. The stomach-churning irony is that most of the same greenwashed Whole Foods liberals who applaud this also condemn planned obsolescence and the Military-Industrial Complex, which were designed to accomplish exactly the same result. The proper approach to technologies of abundance is to make sure their benefits are fully internalized by workers and consumers, by ceasing to enforce monopolies, artificial scarcities and rents of all kind. If it takes only fifteen hours of labor a week to produce our standard of living, it should only take fifteen hours of labor to enjoy that standard of living. But that would annoy Obama’s Big Business friends.

My favorite, though, is this:

“10. He is for peace. Let us never forget that Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 …”

Yeah, he uses that Peace Prize as a paperweight to hold down his drone kill list. Obama didn’t end the war in Afghanistan — he  transformed it into a remote-control video game war in which wedding parties can be massacred at the push of a button. And of course, Lynch can’t resist throwing in a mention of the Zero Dark Thirty crap about killing Bin Laden.

I can’t help picturing someone fifty years ago breathlessly gushing “I love JFK because he’s the Peace President” — while ignoring the Bay of Pigs, the Diem assassination and Green Berets in Vietnam.

Lynch’s points, edited for substance, are basically on the same level as a guy in a bar decked out in Full Cleveland thirty years ago saying “I feel comfortable with Reagan.”  Obama’s the Reagan of moderate center-left NPR liberals who shop at Whole Foods. If you’re satisfied with the image of peace and social justice, while government in substance continues to serve the same powerful interests, keep right on voting — that’s what it’ll get you.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment