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The Guardian/Sky News Team Up to Promote Fake News About Fake News

TruePublica | April 27, 2018

This story should make all our readers pretty angry. It’s about how the government picked on two Twitter accounts to help prove the story that automated Putin-bots are wrecking the Skripal/Novichok/Douma gas attack story, about how the Guardian newspaper is helping with this narrative and how Sky News then attack British citizens as Assad apologists and Russian sympathisers for questioning this narrative. They are all linked and it’s all rather pathetic to witness. It goes like this:

On the 19th of April, The Guardian (International Edition) published an article making the assertion that two Twitter accounts were Russian propaganda operations or as they like to put it ‘trolls and bots’ to unleash disinformation on to social media in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning.

The article is written by a rather unsuspecting and maybe, let’s be charitable here, naive Heather Stewart, who went along with the government operative who fed this nonsense to her in the first place. Either that or she and The Guardian is deliberately distributing stories that are fake.

Stewart says “according to fresh Whitehall analysis – Government sources said experts had uncovered an increase of up to 4,000% in the spread of propaganda from Russia-based accounts since the attack,– many of which were identifiable as automated bots. But civil servants identified a sharp increase in the flow of fake news after the Salisbury poisoning, which continued in the run-up to the airstrikes on Syria.

One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period from 7 April, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. It focused on claims that the chemical weapons attack on Douma had been falsified, using the hashtag #falseflag. Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period.”

The article went on to promote how “Theresa May highlighted the cyber-threat from Russia in her Mansion House speech earlier this year, telling the Kremlin: “I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

But there’s a problem with this.

The owners of both these Twitter accounts quickly stepped forward and on video too, remonstrating in no uncertain terms that they were, indeed are, in fact, real humans – and weren’t even Russian. They have defended themselves to prove they are definitely not software programs.

The Guardian should have taken this story down – its fake news, but they haven’t.

Ian of @Ian56789 even went on national TV, Sky News to be precise and he was quite definitely miffed about being called an automated Russian bot. How miffed – “Government lies are very transparent and very easy to see and anyone who applies a smattering of critical thinking can see that the government story completely collapses,” says Ian.

Ian’s bio reads: “Advocate of Common Sense & Bill of Rights. Stock Mkt trader. Politics Analyst. Disseminating info. Calling out disinfo in the media. Stay curious!”

Sky News didn’t do their homework when it came to interviewing Ian. Ian took centre stage, went into peak livid mode and lambasted the government citing a Sky News report that confirmed Assad was no nutter and wouldn’t have brought this upon himself just at the point of winning the war. 7 minutes and 37 seconds later, Ian had reeled out more facts and figures about the Syrian war than anyone at Sky News.

The Sky News presenter then went on the attack and got Defence Correspondent Alistair Bunkell to snarl the accusation that @Ian56789 was being anti-British. What is interesting here is that SkyNews then confirmed it was the British government who had pinpointed Ian’s account as a fake ‘Putin-bot’.

Ian went ashen, was beside himself and was in no way going to let some spotty nosed so-called expert representing the lying spies from the establishment get one over on him. Bunkell consistently interrupted our Ian and then brought up a tweet from 2012 – that is one tweet from the 157,000 tweets our Ian has spurted out since 2011.

Ian, clearly suffering from a bit of high blood pressure by now has turned red and is still consistently being attacked and interrupted by both SkyNews presenters.

Ian is rediculously forced to confirm he is not Russian or connected to Russian spies and proudly states “I am an ordinary British citizen” Our Ian has been sharpening the knives and pulls out sabre number one – “my research is based on credible journalists – now, there aren’t any of them on Sky News.” @Ian56789 is locked and loaded, out comes sabre number two – “the only people, journalists that is, that knows whats going on and reporting honestly are Peter Hitchins and Tucker Carlson in the US.”

Sky News presenters now on the back-foot interrupt our Ian again and then try to put the seed of doubt in his story by asking if there was any possibility that Russian propagandists had seeped into his tweet fan base, that frankly, to everyone’s surprise, Ian included, has now suddenly risen to 37,500. Ian whips out his sabre once again, wipes the mainstream media blood still dripping off its deadly edges and goes for one final fatal blow – “What does it mean by being pro-British – does it mean being interested in the 60 million British people or the interests of the clique in the UK government, the cabinet – who are doing things for their own personal benefit and the benefit of their cronies. Theresa May’s husband runs a large hedge fund who has profited heavily from bombing Syria – I speak on behalf on 59.9 million people – I do  not speak for the UK government who do not work for the British people“.

@Ian56789 – THREE, Sky News presenters NIL.

Sky News ends the interview whilst our Ian continues to complain about Theresa May – before he’s turned off and they switch to the all-important news that a foreigner called – Arsène Wenger has retired from a game called football somewhere in the capital.

What is evident here is that the government have clearly, mistakenly, tried to create a cover story for their disastrous Skripal story as the pretext for bombing Syria. Yet again, they had not done their homework.

The Guardian article was published on the 19th, was called out as 100 percent wrong the following day and 8 days later is still being promoted. It’s fake news.

Then, national television attempts to discredit a member of the general public – who is not a trained professional, who is put up as bait to be discredited in the eyes of the general public, family and friends.

Well done Ian. Not afraid to stand up for himself and his beliefs as a British citizen, not afraid that his own government and the mainstream media would attack him live on air in front of millions – and not afraid to air his critical views.

There aren’t enough people like Ian.

These are the false claims of The Guardian Newspaper, the false claims of the government and false claims of Sky News – shame on them. The only one thing that one can say in Sky News’ defence is that they aired it at all. But then again, it was live, they weren’t expecting Ian, because they too, had not done their homework.

Watch fearless Ian56789 take a stand. It might not be pretty but it is real.

April 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , | 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

Douma: Part 1 – Deception In Plain Sight

Media Lens | April 25, 2018

UK corporate media are under a curious kind of military occupation. Almost all print and broadcast media now employ a number of reporters and commentators who are relentless and determined warmongers. Despite the long, unarguable history of US-UK lying on war, and the catastrophic results, these journalists instantly confirm the veracity of atrocity claims made against Official Enemies, while having little or nothing to say about the proven crimes of the US, UK, Israel and their allies. They shriek with a level of moral outrage from which their own government is forever spared. They laud even the most obviously biased, tinpot sources blaming the ‘Enemy’, while dismissing out of hand the best scientific researchers, investigative journalists and academic sceptics who disagree.

Anyone who challenges this strange bias is branded a ‘denier’, ‘pro-Saddam’, ‘pro-Gaddafi, ‘pro-Assad’. Above all, one robotically repeated word is generated again and again: ‘Apologist… Apologist… Apologist’.

Claims of a chemical weapons attack on Douma, Syria on April 7, offered yet another textbook example of this reflexive warmongering. Remarkably, the alleged attack came just days after US president Donald Trump had declared of Syria:

I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.

The ‘mainstream’ responded as one, with instant certainty, exactly as they had in response to atrocity and other casus belli claims in Houla, Ghouta, Khan Sheikhoun and many other cases in Iraq (1990), Iraq (1998), Iraq (2002-2003), Libya and Kosovo.

Once again, the Guardian editors were sure: there was no question of a repetition of the fake justifications for war to secure non-existent Iraqi WMDs, or to prevent a fictional Libyan massacre in Benghazi. Instead, this was ‘a chemical gas attack, orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, that left dead children foaming at the mouth’.

Simon Tisdall, the Guardian’s assistant editor, had clearly decided that enough was enough:

It’s time for Britain and its allies to take concerted, sustained military action to curb Bashar al-Assad’s ability to murder Syria’s citizens at will.

This sounded like more than another cruise missile strike. But presumably Tisdall meant something cautious and restrained to avoid the terrifying risk of nuclear confrontation with Russia:

It means destroying Assad’s combat planes, bombers, helicopters and ground facilities from the air. It means challenging Assad’s and Russia’s control of Syrian airspace. It means taking out Iranian military bases and batteries in Syria if they are used to prosecute the war.

But surely after Iraq – when UN weapons inspectors under Hans Blix were prevented from completing the work that would have shown that Saddam Hussein possessed no WMD – ‘we’ should wait for the intergovernmental Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inspectors to investigate. After all, as journalist Peter Oborne noted of Trump’s air raids:

When the bombing started the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was actually in Damascus and preparing to travel to the area where the alleged chemical attacks took place.

Oborne added:

Had we wanted independent verification on this occasion in Syria surely we ourselves would have demanded the OPCW send a mission to Douma. Yet we conspicuously omitted to ask for it.

Tisdall was having none of it:

Calls to wait for yet another UN investigation amount to irresponsible obfuscation. Only the Syrian regime and its Russian backers have the assets and the motivation to launch such merciless attacks on civilian targets. Or did all those writhing children imagine the gas?

The idea that only Assad and the Russians had ‘the motivation’ to launch a gas attack simply defied all common sense. And, as we will see, it was not certain that children had been filmed ‘writhing’ under gas attack. Tisdall’s pro-war position was supported by just 22% of British people.

Equally gung-ho, the oligarch-owned Evening Standard, edited by veteran newspaperman and politically impartial former Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, headlined this plea on the front page:

HIT SYRIA WITHOUT A VOTE, MAY URGED

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, formerly the paper’s comment editor, also poured scorn on the need for further evidence:

Besides, how much evidence do we need?… To all but the most committed denialists and conspiracists, Assad’s guilt is clear.

Freedland could argue that the case for blaming Assad was clear, if he liked, but he absolutely could not argue that disagreeing was a sign of denialist delusion.

Time and again, we encounter these jaw-dropping efforts to browbeat the reader with fake certainty and selective moral outrage. In his piece, Freedland linked to the widely broadcast social media video footage from a hospital in Douma, which showed that Assad was guilty of ‘inflicting a death so painful the footage is unbearable to watch’. But when we actually click Freedland’s link and watch the video, we do not see anyone dying, let alone in agony, and the video is not, in fact, unbearable to watch. Like Tisdall’s claim on motivation, Freedland was simply declaring that black is white.

But many people are so intimidated by this cocktail of certainty and indignation – by the fear that they will be shamed as ‘denialists’ and ‘apologists’ – that they doubt the evidence of their own eyes. In ‘mainstream’ journalism, expressions of moral outrage are offered as evidence of a fiery conviction burning within. In reality, the shrieks are mostly hot air.

In the Observer, Andrew Rawnsley also deceived in plain sight by blaming the Syrian catastrophe on Western inaction:

Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing.

However terrible media reporting on the 2003 Iraq war, commentators did at least recognise that the US and Britain were involved. We wrote to Rawnsley, asking how he could possibly not know about the CIA’s billion dollar per annum campaign to train and arm fighters, or about the 15,000 high-tech, US anti-tank missiles sent to Syrian ‘rebels’ via Saudi Arabia.

Rawnsley ignored us, as ever.

Just three days after the alleged attack, the Guardian’s George Monbiot was asked about Douma:

Don’t you smell a set up here though? Craig Murray doesn’t think Assad did it.

Monbiot replied:

Then he’s a fool.

Craig Murray responded rather more graciously:

I continue to attract attacks from the “respectable” corporate and state media. I shared a platform with Monbiot once, and liked him. They plainly find the spirit of intellectual inquiry to be a personal affront.

Monbiot tweeted back:

I’m sorry Craig but, while you have done excellent work on some issues, your efforts to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes, despite the weight of evidence, are foolish in the extreme.

The idea that Murray’s effort has been ‘to exonerate Russia and Syria of a long list of crimes’ is again so completely false, so obviously not what Murray has been doing. But it fits perfectly with the corporate media theme of Cold War-style browbeating: anyone challenging the case for US-UK policy on Syria is an ‘apologist’ for ‘the enemy’.

If Britain was facing imminent invasion across the channel from some malignant superpower, or was on the brink of nuclear annihilation, the term ‘apologist’ might have some merit as an emotive term attacking free speech – understandable in the circumstances. But Syria is not at war with Britain; it offers no threat whatsoever. If challenging evidence of Assad’s responsibility is ‘apologism’, then why can we not describe people accepting that evidence as ‘Trump apologists’, or ‘May apologists’, or ‘Jaysh al-Islam apologists’? The term really means little more than, ‘I disagree with you’ – a much more reasonable formulation.

As Jonathan Cook has previously commented:

Monbiot has repeatedly denied that he wants a military attack on Syria. But if he then weakly accepts whatever narratives are crafted by those who do – and refuses to subject them to any meaningful scrutiny – he is decisively helping to promote such an attack.

Why Are These Academics Allowed?

The cynical, apologetic absurdity of questioning the official narrative has been a theme across the corporate media. In a Sky News discussion, Piers Robinson of Sheffield University urged caution in blaming the Syrian government in the absence of verifiable evidence. In a remarkable response, Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society, screeched at him:

Who do you think did it? Was it your mother who did it?

Again, exact truth reversal – given the lack of credible, verified evidence, it was absurd to declare Robinson’s scepticism absurd.
Mendoza later linked to an article attacking Robinson, and asked:

Why are UK universities allowing such “academics” – and I use the term advisedly because they are not adhering to any recognised standard when promoting material with no credible sourcing, and often with no citation at all – to work in their institutions?

In 2011, Mendoza wrote in The Times of Nato’s ‘intervention’ in Libya:

The action in Libya is a sign that the world has overcome the false lessons [sic] of Iraq or of “realism” in foreign policy.

The UN had ‘endorsed military action to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding’.

In fact, the unfolding ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ was fake news; Mendoza’s mother needed no alibi. A September 9, 2016 report on the war from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons commented:

Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence….

The Times launched a shameful, front-page attack on Robinson and other academics who are not willing to accept US-UK government claims on trust. The Times cited Professor Scott Lucas of Birmingham University:

Clearly we can all disagree about the war in Syria, but to deny an event like a chemical attack even occurred, by claiming they were “staged”, is to fall into an Orwellian world.

In similar vein, in a second Guardian comment piece on Douma, Jonathan Freedland lamented: ‘we are now in an era when the argument is no longer over our response to events, but the very existence of those events’. Echoing Soviet propaganda under Stalin, Freedland warned that this was indicative of an intellectual and moral sickness:

These are symptoms of a post-truth disease that’s come to be known as “tribal epistemology”, in which the truth or falsity of a statement depends on whether the person making it is deemed one of us or one of them.

And this was, once again, truth reversal – given recent history in Iraq and Libya, it was Lucas and Freedland who were falling into an Orwellian fantasy world. Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens made the obvious point:

Given the folly of the British government over Iraq and Libya, and its undoubted misleading of the public over Iraq, it is perfectly reasonable to suspect it of doing the same thing again. Some of us also do not forget the blatant lying over Suez, and indeed the Gulf of Tonkin.

Hitchens clearly shares our concern at media performance, particularly that of the Guardian, commenting:

Has Invasion of the Bodysnatchers been re-enacted at Guardian HQ? Whatever the dear old thing’s faults it was never a Pentagon patsy until recently. Rumours of relaunch as The Warmonger’s Gazette, free toy soldier with every issue.

Hitchens questioned Guardian certainty on Douma:

But if facts are sacred, how can the Guardian be so sure, given that it is relying on a report from one correspondent 70 miles away, and another one 900 miles away.. and some anonymous quotes from people whose stories it has no way of checking?

He added:

The behaviour of The Guardian is very strange & illustrates just what a deep, poorly-understood change in our politics took place during the Blair years. We now have the curious spectacle of the liberal warmonger, banging his or her jingo fist on the table, demanding airstrikes.

Indeed, in discussing the prospects for ‘intervention’ in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff, former political editor of the Observer, described the 2013 vote that prevented Britain from bombing Syria in August 2013 as ‘that shameful night in 2013’. Shameful? After previous ‘interventions’ had completely wrecked Iraq and Libya on false pretexts, and after the US regime had been told the evidence was no ‘slam dunk’ by military advisers?

In the New Statesman, Paul Mason offered a typically nonsensical argument, linking to the anti-Assad website, Bellingcat:

Despite the availability of public sources showing it is likely that a regime Mi-8 helicopter dropped a gas container onto a specific building, there are well-meaning people prepared to share the opinion that this was a “false flag”, staged by jihadis, to pull the West into the war. The fact that so many people are prepared to clutch at false flag theories is, for Western democracies, a sign of how effective Vladimir Putin’s global strategy has been.

Thus, echoing Freedland’s reference to ‘denialists and conspiracists’, sceptics can only be idiot victims of Putin’s propaganda. US media analyst Adam Johnson of FAIR accurately described Mason’s piece as a ‘mess’, adding:

I love this thing where nominal leftists run the propaganda ball for bombing a country 99 yards then stop at the one yard and insist they don’t support scoring goals, that they in fact oppose war.

Surprisingly, the Bellingcat website, which publishes the findings of ‘citizen journalist’ investigations, appears to be taken seriously by some very high-profile progressives.

In the Independent, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas also mentioned the Syrian army ‘Mi-8’ helicopters. Why? Because she had read the same Bellingcat blog as Mason, to which she linked:

From the evidence we’ve seen so far it appears that the latest chemical attack was likely by Mi-8 helicopters, probably from the forces of Syria’s murderous President Assad.

On Democracy Now!, journalist Glenn Greenwald said of Douma:

I think that it’s—the evidence is quite overwhelming that the perpetrators of this chemical weapons attack, as well as previous ones, is the Assad government…

This was an astonishing comment. After receiving fierce challenges (not from us), Greenwald partially retracted, tweeting:

It’s live TV. Something [sic – sometimes] you say things less than ideally. I think the most likely perpetrator of this attack is Syrian Govt.

We wrote to Greenwald asking what had persuaded him of Assad’s ‘likely’ responsibility for Douma. (Twitter, April 10, direct message)

The first piece of evidence he sent us (April 12) was the Bellingcat blog mentioning Syrian government helicopters cited by Mason and Lucas. Greenwald also sent us a report from Reuters, as well as a piece from 2017, obviously prior to the alleged Douma event.

This was thin evidence indeed for the claim made. In our discussion with him, Greenwald then completely retracted his claim (Twitter, April 12, direct message) that there was evidence of Syrian government involvement in the alleged attack. Yes, it’s true that people ‘say things less than ideally’ on TV, but to move from ‘quite overwhelming’ to ‘likely’, to declaring mistaken the claim that there is evidence of Assad involvement, was bizarre.

Political analyst Ben Norton noted on Twitter:

Reminder that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is funded by the US government and is a notorious vehicle for US soft power.

Norton added:

It acts like an unofficial NATO propagandist, obsessively focusing on Western enemies.

And:

Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, which is funded by NATO, US, Saudi, UAE, etc.

And:

According to Meedan, which helps fund Bellingcat — along with the US government-funded NED — Bellingcat also works with the group Syrian Archive, which is funded by the German government, to jointly produce pro-opposition “research”.

And:

The board of the directors for Meedan, which funds Bellingcat, includes Muna AbuSulayman—who led the Saudi oligarch’s Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation—and Wael Fakharany—who was the regional director of Google in Egypt & North Africa (US gov. contractor Google also funds Bellingcat)

And:

Bellingcat—which gets money from the US gov-funded NED and fixates obsessively on Western enemies—claims to be nonpartisan and impartial, committed to exposing all sides, but a website search shows it hasn’t published anything on Yemen since February 2017.

Although Bellingcat is widely referenced by corporate journalists, we are unaware of any ‘mainstream’ outlet that has seriously investigated the significance of these issues for the organisation’s credibility as a source of impartial information. As we will see in Part 2, corporate journalism is very much more interested in challenging the credibility of journalists and academics holding power to account.

April 25, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

Index on Disgrace

By Craig Murray | April 22, 2018

The second half of my life has been a continual process of disillusionment with the institutions I used to respect. I suppose it started with the FCO, where I went from being Britain’s youngest ambassador to being sacked for opposing the use of intelligence from torture, at the same time having an insider view of the knowing lies about Iraqi WMD being used as a pretext for invasion and resource grab.

I still had some residual respect for the BBC, which respect disappeared during the Scottish independence referendum where BBC propaganda and disregard for the truth were truly shameless. My love of the universities was severely tested during my period as Rector of Dundee University, when I saw how far the corporate model had turned them from academic communities developing people and pursuing knowledge, to relentless churners out of unconsidered graduates and financially profitable research, with nearly all sense of community gone. My respect for charities vanished when I discovered Save the Children was paying its chief executive £370,000 and had become a haven for New Labour politicos on huge salaries, which was why it was so involved in pushing a pro-war narrative in Syria. When Justin Forsyth and Brendan Cox – both massively salaried employees who came into Save the Children from the revolving door of Gordon Brown’s office – were outed over sexual predation, that seemed a natural result of “charities” being headed by rich party hacks rather than by simple people trying to do good. As for respect for parliament, well the massive troughing expenses scandal and all those protected paedophiles…

It has become difficult to hang on to respect for any institution, and that is unsettling.

Which brings me to last week’s annual awards from Index on Censorship. The winners of the awards – from Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras and Egypt – all seem worthy enough, and there is even some departure from the neo-con narrative in recognising a human rights problem in Egypt.

But the Chairman of Index on Censorship is, incredibly, Rupert Murdoch lead hack David Aaronovitch, and he presided over the awards, in the very week in which the newspaper for which he writes produced this appalling attack on freedom of expression:

Inside there was a further two page attack on named academics who have the temerity to ask for evidence of government claims over Syria, including distinguished Professors Tim Hayward, Paul McKeigue and Piers Robinson. The Times also attacked named journalists and bloggers and, to top it off, finished with a column alleging collusion between Scottish nationalists and the Russian state.

That the Chairman of “Index on Censorship” is associated with this kind of attack on freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of research is sadly unsurprising. The guest list of the Index ceremony had a distinct right wing tinge including A C Grayling and Sara Khan, as well as a good smattering of the BBC, which was also represented on the judging panel. The irony of the state broadcaster being part of a panel on freedom of expression is plainly lost.

I realised something was very wrong with Index on Censorship when I contacted them over a decade ago, when Jack Straw attempted to ban the publication of my book Murder in Samarkand, after it had passed successfully through the exhaustive FCO clearance process over a time-consuming year. I tried to interest them again when my second book The Catholic Orangemen of Togo was dropped by my publisher following libel threats from mercenary commander Tim Spicer of Aegis/Executive Outcomes/Sandline. On both occasions I was told that then Chief Executive of Index, John Kampfner, did not regard these attempted book bannings as incidents of censorship. Presumably because they weren’t somewhere like Cuba or Zimbabwe…

The truly appalling Times attack on academics was part of a coordinated and government-led campaign to delegitimise anybody doubting the official narrative on Salisbury and Syria. The BBC weighed in with this horrible effort:

The government then issued a ridiculous press release branding decent people as “Russian bots” just for opposing British policy in Syria. In a piece of McCarthyism so macabre I cannot believe this is really happening, an apparently pleasant and normal man called Ian was grilled live on Murdoch’s Sky News, having been named by his own government as a Russian bot.

The Guardian uncritically published the government’s accusations in full, and astonishingly seemed proud that it had made no attempt to investigate their veracity but had merely published what the government wished them to publish:

The Guardian naturally was just as reliable as the BBC in driving home the message that anybody who doubted the government’s word on Syria was a flat-earth denier of the truth:

Mr Freedland is of course a perfect representation of an interesting fact. Those who are most active in telling us that we must attack Syria, and that anybody who questions the government’s pretexts is insane or evil, are precisely the same individuals who supported the war in Iraq and attacked those who doubted the existence of Iraqi WMD. Indeed these people – Jonathan Freedland, David Aaronovitch, Oliver Kamm, Alan Mendoza, Andrew Rawnsley, John Rentoul, Nick Cohen – are the leaders of the tiny, insignificant number of people who still believe that the invasion of Iraq was both justified and beneficial in its result.

Yet these people of proven terrible judgement, they and others of their media class, are the arbiters who are allowed to dictate the terms of what is and what is not an acceptable public utterance on the situation in Syria.

When Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the opposition, one of two things had to happen. Either the Overton window had to shift to allow for the reflection of views held by the leader of the official opposition and his myriad supporters, or the leader of the opposition had to be castigated and humiliated as an unreasonable lunatic. Corbyn’s rational scepticism on British involvement in the conflict in Syria is a key moment in this process. Despite the fact Corbyn’s scepticism is supported by a wide swathe of diplomatic and military opinion within the UK, it has to be portrayed as fringe, extreme and irrational.

We thus have the extraordinary spectacle of a coordinated government and media onslaught on anybody who doubts their entirely fact free narratives. Those who were demonstrably completely wrong over Iraq are held up as infallible, and given full control of all state and corporate media platforms, where they deride those who were right over Iraq as crackpots and Russian bots.

Meanwhile public trust in the state and corporate media hits new lows, which is the happy part of this story.

Support Craig Murray’s continued writing.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Media Support US Violence Against Syria, but Long for More

By Gregory Shupak | FAIR | April 20, 2018

Corporate media outlets were glad that the US, France and Britain bombed Syria in violation of international law (FAIR.org, 4/18/18), but lamented what they see as a dearth of US violence in the country.

In The Atlantic (4/14/18), Thanassis Cambanis described the war crime as “undoubtedly a good thing,” and called for “sustained attention and investment, of diplomatic, economic and military resources”—though the latter rubbed up against his assessment in the same paragraph that “a major regional war will only make things worse.” Moreover, he described “the most realistic possibility” for the US and its partners in Syria as “an incomplete and possibly destabilizing policy of confrontation [and] containment. But a reckoning can’t be deferred forever.”

This “reckoning” was his somewhat oblique way of referring to a war pitting the US and its allies against the Syrian government and its allies, the very “wider regional war” he just warned against. In Cambanis’ view, “confrontations” between nuclear-armed America and nuclear-armed Russia are “inevitable,” which implies that there is no sense in trying to avoid such potentially apocalyptic scenarios.

A Washington Post editorial (4/14/18) said that “Mr. Trump was right to order the strikes.” The paper was glad that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and President Donald Trump “properly left open the possibility of further action.” The Post’s rationale for continuing to attack Syria was that “the challenge to vital US interests in Syria is far from over,” and that Trump was therefore wrong “to call Friday’s operation a ‘Mission Accomplished.’” These “interests” include ensuring that Iran does not “obtain the land corridor it seeks across Syria.” (Cambanis, similarly, described as “justified” US efforts to “contain Syria and its allies.”)

The paper was concerned because Trump says that he’d like to subcontract US activities in Syria to US regional partners like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Egypt. None of these states, the Post fretted, “are capable of working with local forces [in Syria] to stabilize and hold the large stretch of [Syrian] territory now under de facto US control east of the Euphrates River.”

The editorial failed to note that this territory amounts to “about one-third of the country, including most of the oil wealth” (New York Times, 3/8/18) and “much of Syria’s best agricultural land” (Syria Comment, 1/15/18). The legitimacy of “de facto US control” over Syrian territory and some of its most valuable resources is apparently beyond question, as is the US’s alleged right to determine which governments are allowed to be friendly with each other: The Iranian “land corridor” refers to the Iranian government having warm relations with the governments of Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, something the Post appears to regard as a grave danger.

The editorial says that the US and its allies sought to “minimize the risk of a direct military confrontation with Russia or Iran” and that this was “prudent,” but that “if Russia takes retaliatory action, including in cyberspace, the United States must be ready to respond.” According to this view, projecting US power in Syria is so essential that no form of opposition to US violence in Syria can be brooked, the concern for prudence having vanished.

The Post contended that the US must demand “an acceptable political settlement brokered by the United Nations”—“acceptable” signifying “the departure” of the Syrian government. Functionally, this means keeping the war going: Saying that negotiations should take place but that the only “acceptable” outcome is the dissolution of the Syrian government amounts to the same thing as saying that no negotiations should take place, particularly now that the Syrian government is working from a position of strength and unlikely to agree to its own surrender as a pre-condition for talks.

Andrew Rawnsley, writing in the Guardian (4/15/18), supported US violence in Syria by attacking its critics. He said that those who oppose the Anglo-American-French airstrikes on Syria out of “indifference” to Syria’s plight have the “sole merit of being candid,” unlike those who are

less honest . . . the self-proclaimed peace-lovers. Mainly to be found on the hand-wringing left, they are too busy looking in the mirror admiring their own halos to face the moral challenges posed by a situation like Syria.

Luckily Rawnsley has the requisite courage to meet “the moral challenges” and advocate more war: He says that the West should have “impos[ed] no-fly zones” early in the war in Syria, a policy that would have entailed attacking Syria’s air forces, an act of war by any definition. No-fly zones over Iraq and Libya ultimately led to regime change in both countries, with hideous results for their people.

Rawnsley’s complaint that the West applied “no meaningful pressure” to “bring [the Syrian government to the negotiating table” is wildly misleading; the Western powers in fact applied “meaningful pressure” to prevent negotiations.

Rawnsley also legitimized US violence against Syria by expunging the damage it has inflicted. He trotted out the well-worn lie that the West “stood by” and “fail[ed] to act” in Syria, a canard that FAIR has repeatedly de-bunked (e.g., 9/20/15, 4/7/17, 3/7/18). He characterized the West’s approach to seven years of war in Syria as “years of unmasterly inactivity,” having their hands “wedged firmly under their bottoms,” an “impotent posture,” “failures to act,” making the “grav[e] decision not to act,” “inaction,” “non-interventionist” and as “inaction” a second time. Yet the CIA’s effort to oust the Syrian government has been one of the costliest covert-action programs in the agency’s history; has built ten military bases in the country, with two more on the way; and has killed thousands of Syrian civilians in a bombing campaign ostensibly aimed at ISIS (Jacobin, 4/18/18).

“Non-interventionists,” Rawnsley concludes his article, “the horrors of Syria are on you.” Yet there is no shortage of horrors that are on the interventionists. Sanctions imposed by the US and its allies have punished the Syrian population (9/28/16). These states are implicated in sectarian violence that anti-government armed groups have carried out against minorities (Electronic Intifada, 3/16/17). The US bombed a mosque in Aleppo, Syria, in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, killing almost 40 people (Independent, 4/18/17), and America used toxic depleted uranium against ISIS-held territory in Syria (Foreign Policy, 2/14/17): It would be rather difficult to claim that these horrors were caused by “non-interventionists.”

Cambanis, moreover, exclusively listed Syria, Iran and Russia among those governments who “have serially transgressed the laws of war” and “gotten away with murder” in Syria, but the atrocities attributable to the US and its allies surely constitute “serially transgress[ing] the laws of war” and having “gotten away with murder.”

The Syrian government and its partners are also responsible for a substantial share of carnage in the war, but Rawnsley’s accusation that “non-interventionists” are to blame for Syria’s bloodshed is completely untenable. His argument that Western states have inflicted insufficient harm on Syrians amounts to war propaganda.

And he’s far from the only media figure about whom this can be said.

Gregory Shupak teaches media studies at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto.

April 21, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Guardian, “Russian bots” and the dehumanisation of dissent

By Kit | OffGuardian | April 20, 2018

Heather Stewart, The Guardian’s chief stenographer political editor, has copied and pasted a press release written a new article all about “Russian bots”. The trouble is she doesn’t seem to know what either of these words actually means.

The article – headlined “Russia spread fake news via Twitter bots after Salisbury poisoning – analysis” – is a direct lie from the outset, as it offers absolutely no “analysis”.

Instead she does this:

Russia used trolls and bots to unleash disinformation on to social media in the wake of the Salisbury poisoning, according to fresh Whitehall analysis. Government sources said experts had uncovered an increase of up to 4,000% in the spread of propaganda from Russia-based accounts since the attack,– many of which were identifiable as automated bots.

She simply directly quotes Whitehall via anonymous “sources”. Does she interrogate the veracity of these claims? No. Does she offer evidence to support them? Of course not. Does she question the agenda behind them? I doubt she even remembers how.

Ctrl-C, ctrl-V. It must be true the government says so.

This is modern media in a nutshell. This new take on the meaning of “journalism” has hurt the world in general and press in the specific. Refusal to abide by its rules has pushed important voices out of the mainstream – the careers of many decent people of principle – John Pilger and Seymour Hersh for example – are forced out into alternate sources.

Kowtowing to the government line has its own cost though – the unquestioning acceptance of government authority has a price – and very often it’s looking incredibly foolish.

Heather seems happy to pay this price.

She cites only two examples of “Russian bots” in her article, a revelation tainted only by the fact that neither of them are Russian and neither of them are bots.

Now, before we refute the specifics Ms Stewart’s bizarre claims, let’s take a look at the definition of a bot, from wikipedia:

An Internet Bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone.

Simply put – bots are automated, internet based software programs that do simple repetitive tasks faster and more efficiently than humans. It’s not a difficult concept.

Spamming ads? Bots.
Automatic likes/retweets? Bots.
Writing tweets that reflect complex political realities? NOT bots.

Heather clearly doesn’t know exactly what a “bot” is, and perhaps even worse, can’t even be bothered to do some incredibly easy research to familiarise herself with the term. The government says so, so it must be true. Copy. Paste.

So, who are these non-bots, you ask? Well… apparently there’s millions of them, but Heather only mentions two:

One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period from 7 April, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. It focused on claims that the chemical weapons attack on Douma had been falsified, using the hashtag #falseflag. Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period.

Now, anybody who follows alt-news sites on twitter – or who pays attention to the Syria situation – is probably more than familiar with these two names.

Ian56789 is not a bot. Anybody who follows him can see that. Is he Russian? There’s nothing to indicate that, he claims to be a Brit living in the US, and his English is perfect. Take a look at this completely randomly chosen tweet as an example:

There is nothing whatsoever to indicate he is “Russian”… except his opinions. Still, his account was suspended, because saying the wrong things has you branded an enemy in the land of the free. Thankfully he has since been reinstated.

However that pales in comparison to the absurdity of listing Partisangirl as a “Russian bot”. Partisangirl – or Maram Susli – is a real person. There can be no disagreement on that front. She gives interviews, she makes videos, there are hundreds of photographs of her. Only slightly less ridiculous than the idea she’s a “bot”, is the idea she’s “Russian”. She’s a Syrian-Australian woman. She has a Syrian name, and a Syrian flag in her bio and talks – almost exclusively – about Syria.

Disregarding these established facts is bizarre, dishonest and incredibly insulting.

So why label these people “Russian” – when they’re probably not – and “bots”, when that’s patently absurd? Is it simply ignorance? Perhaps.

But in this age of focus groups and media relations and public image, words and language are carefully chosen. Is it not more likely that this is a buzz-phrase selected to make a point? It at once dehumanizes dissent and makes breaking the consensus a partisan act, rather than a rational one.

An angry citizen is awake, alert and thinking. Much, MUCH more of a threat than a “Russian bot”. A being with no humanity, no objectivity, who is aligned with our “enemy”. It’s the othering of unacceptable opinions. It’s simple, dishonest, and dangerous.

… and people like Heather do it without a second thought. Copy, paste, repeat.

It must be right, the government says so.

In that way it is the ultimate irony, people who have thrown away their individuality and sacrificed their analytical mind to the government backed “truth”, labelling those who disagree as “bots”. There’s only one party in this situation who “performs simple repetitive tasks” to order, there’s only one group of people who automatically believe their programming and follow it without question. There’s only one automaton here.

If anyone is a “bot”… it’s them, not us.

April 20, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

The Guardian Distorts Nicaragua’s Indio Maiz Fire

teleSUR | April 14, 2018

Under the headline ‘Nicaragua fires: aid from Costa Rica rejected as blaze destroys rainforest,’ the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has published another politically skewed report smearing Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. This time, the pretext is a devastating forest fire affecting the peripheral buffer zone of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve. Falsely alleging that Nicaragua has rejected the offer of help from Costa Rica, the Guardian report uses the standard NATO propaganda attack recipe, blending false reports from hostile opposition media and anti-government NGOs.

The article argues that Nicaragua’s government has been negligent in protecting the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve; has not sought international help, and has deliberately facilitated invasion of the reserve by impoverished rural families seeking land.

Reality completely contradicts the report’s main assertions. The Guardian refers to a statement by the Costa Rican government saying that a unit of Costa Rican firefighters was turned away, but the Guardian report offers neither a link to the alleged statement nor any quote from it.

Here’s the Costa Rican fire service spokesman on the matter: “We are fully ready to cooperate in any other incident. From what we can see, this incident has already been controlled by the army. We were at the border and had to return. We see no problem. In the moment (we offered to help) Nicaragua they didn’t have the personnel to fight the fire; thankfully, over the last few hours, it now has the personnel to deal with this emergency and they are engaged in controlling and extinguishing the fire.”

In fact, the decision not to use the help offered by Costa Rica was taken jointly by the chiefs of the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican fire services during a meeting in Managua on April 8, when they agreed that “the realistic possibilities of controlling the fire by the firefighting services of Nicaragua and Costa Rica were limited due to the characteristics of the fire and that the effective means to control and extinguish the fire is from the air.” In any case, access to the area of the fire was impractical overland, with access being possible almost exclusively by air or sea along the region’s Caribbean coast.

Nicaragua’s Vice-President Rosario Murillo said on April 9, in relation to coordination with the director of operations of the Costa Rican Fire Fighting Service: “We have been in meetings with him all weekend, looking precisely at what is being done, the difficulty of reaching the place… There, where the fire has broken out, it’s impossible to reach with trucks or pick-ups. What’s really needed, urgently, are airplanes equipped with all the technical means to fight forest fires.”

Murillo also explained on April 10 that the Sandinista government led by President Daniel Ortega had “coordinated with Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Mexico, the Russian Federation, the air forces of each one of these countries, requesting air resources to fight the fires.” Currently, helicopters from Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador are helping control and extinguish the fire, contradicting the impression given by the Guardian’s report that the government had not sought international help.

The Nicaraguan government has also coordinated support from U.S. authorities, with a specialist team sent from USAID’s Office of Disaster Assistance and the U.S. Forestry Service. The team leader arrived in Nicaragua on April 10. The Guardian’s April 11 report includes none of this information, which contradicts the impression that report gives by citing environmentalists calling on the government to seek international support, as if it had not already done so a week before the Guardian’s report was published.

The report quotes criticism from well-known Nicaraguan environmentalist Jaime Incer Barquero. Now in his 80s, Incer Barquero has made distinguished contributions to environmental conservation in Nicaragua. However, his pronouncements on the fire in the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve demonstrate ignorance of the measures taken by the Nicaraguan government to control the fire. The Guardian report also quotes a representative of the Fundacion Rio NGO, who noted ‘relations between the countries have not been the best’ due to a long-running border dispute. But as Costa Rica’s cooperation with Nicaragua makes clear, diplomatic relations take a back seat in the context of a major regional ecological threat like the Indio Maiz forest fire.

The Fundacion Rio NGO has solicited funds supposedly to support community authorities and firefighters in the Indio Maiz area, a function well beyond the organization’s statutory objectives. It has now been warned by the Nicaraguan government not to solicit funds for purposes it was not established to carry out: functions which are the government’s responsibility and which the government is fulfilling. The self-serving propaganda of this kind of environmentalist NGO is no doubt the basis for the Guardian’s allegation that “the fires are believed to have been started by illegal homesteaders, who were attempting to clear land for planting crops.”

In fact, the fires began in a marshland area completely unsuitable for agricultural activity, either arable farming or pasture for cattle. One of Nicaragua’s leading environmental scientists, Efrain Acuña, has dismissed the accusation that the area was set on fire so as to facilitate arable or cattle farming: “The soils in this zone do not lend themselves to those activities, among other reasons because the acidity is high, the fertility percentages for grazing are very low and so the nutritional value for cattle is insufficient.”

The Guardian quotes Gabriel Jaime of Fundacion Rio as saying that the government has encouraged rural workers and their families to encroach on land belonging mainly to the Indigenous Rama people, but gives no context to that allegation. Jaime’s solution is “removing people and telling them ‘You can’t live in a protected area.”’ Jaime also criticizes the government’s provision of health and education services in the area, as if these did not benefit the local Indigenous population. This is another example of a neocolonial NGO patronizing local Indigenous people who own their land and have a strong say in how it is used.

The same false neocolonial argument has been used to misrepresent the potential displacement of Indigenous people should Nicaragua’s interoceanic canal go ahead. The canal company HKND and the Nicaraguan authorities consulted with local Indigenous people who agreed terms for the canal’s construction across their land, but that fact has been systematically omitted or misrepresented by environmentalists in the same way as the complex issue of migration by rural workers families to areas of the Caribbean coast has been.

Western NGOs and the local organizations they fund around the world undermine the role and functions of sovereign national governments. That is why Western corporations finance them. It is also why foreign news coverage by Western corporate media systematically distorts and misrepresents the reality of events around the world. The Guardian report on the Indio Maiz forest fire categorically demonstrates that fact one more time.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

21stCenturyWire restores service after sustained DDoS attack

Dear Readers,

Glad to have you back. Firstly, we would like to apologise for being offline most of last week. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to get back online.

On Tuesday April 10th, 2018 at approximately 2pm EST, 21stCenturyWire.com sustained a heavy Denial of Service (DDoS) cyber attack and were only able to restore our systems yesterday afternoon.

We were not the only ones. Other leading alternative news websites were also hit at this exact time, including South Front, Hands Off Syria (Australia-based antiwar organisation), Fort-Russ, Syria News and others – each covering the situation in Syria closely and truthfully.

Based on the number of page requests or ‘bots’ that were hitting us each hour, this seemed similar to what happened to Craig Murray’s blog two weeks prior. In addition to the online attacks on alternative media outlets, Facebook was blocking similar content on their platform – including South Front, until they appealed and were eventually reinstated.

Based on these facts, we believe that it’s not “highly likely” but 100% certain that the party(s) attacking us and other similar platforms did so on behalf of a state actor – and in the interests of prosecuting another illegal war by way of deception based on a false pretext.

The entire false case for this latest US, UK and French missile strike relied on spurious claims made by US-funded ‘opposition’ group called the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), and more importantly – by videos produced and uploaded by the White Helmets, a pseudo NGO funded mainly by the UK government, as well as millions from US and EU member states, and who operate exclusively in terror-held areas of Syria. Their raison d’etre is precisely what took place this week – to manufacture and fabricate a case for western military intervention in Syria.

On this basis, we believe that it was no coincidence that this website, 21stCenturyWire.com, was attacked in part because we happen to house the largest White Helmets research archive on the web, thanks to the hard work of our associate editor Vanessa Beeley currently reporting from on the ground in Syria – bravely working to tell the truth not only about this week’s events, but also about the last seven years of the West’s dirty war on Syria.

In 2015, we blew open the White Helmets story and proceeded to keep digging through their rubble of lies to get a true picture of what this western construct was all about. Many mainstream bodies were not happy about our coverage, including a supposed ‘free press’ organisation, Reporters Without Borders who tried to block Vanessa’s testimony at the Swiss Press Club this past fall.

The establishment’s campaign continued, with defamatory and sloppy hit-pieces by leading mainstream media publications like the The Guardian and Rupert Murdoch’s The Times and various other media outlets – all designed to harass, intimidate and silence us, or anyone who dares to challenge the official western corporate narrative on the White Helmets and Syria.

This week the world saw the White Helmets in all their glory – serving the necessary propaganda to create a false pretext for another regime change war in the Middle East. What we are witnessing here is truly a criminal enterprise, made possible by western governments, their Gulf and NATO allies and their loyal battalions of proxy militants and terrorists, paid for by our public money and oil profits from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others. And they have resources to prosecute war on many fronts including the information sphere, where they wage their war on truth from the fortified ivory towers of the mainstream media and the Silicon Valley, and in the cyber sphere through various government programs attempting to mute, shut down and censor in the name of ‘national security’ or worse, claiming that they are somehow ‘combating fake news’ by suppressing the truth. And yet, despite all this, we found their Achilles heel, hiding in plain sight.

For those of you who stepped-in to help us this week – thank you very much. Without your support we might still be offline right now. Those of you who know us and have been kind enough to support us and our work our this last year – we really appreciate your help. Thanks also to our technical experts and IT contractors who worked hard on our behalf this week, with a lot time, effort and money spent. As we’re a small and independent operation, our resources are limited and we’ll need your continued help and support going forward.

I think this week shows more than anything how a small, independent and dedicated group of people, supported by an even bigger group of wonderful individuals – can make a difference.

Now back to work.

Regards,

Patrick Henningsen
Editor and Founder
21st Century Wire

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

UK military action in Syria met with enthusiasm by liberal hawks, but ‘dissenters’ remain skeptical

RT | April 10, 2018

The ratcheting up of warlike rhetoric from the UK government has been increasingly welcomed by interventionists in the media establishment. Though the prospect of military action in Syria looks likely, dissenting voices remain.

Since UK Prime Minister Theresa May refused to rule out military action in Syria as a response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, a formerly rebel-held suburb of Damascus, there has been a fervent hawkish clamor from the usual suspects across the media establishment.

Guardian journalist Simon Tisdall has written an op-ed piece titled, ‘After Douma, the west’s response to Syria’s regime must be military,’ in which he calls for military action to proceed before an OPCW investigation into the incident.

According to Tisdall, the culprits behind the supposed chemical attack are obvious: the Syrian government and its ally, Russia. “Calls to wait for yet another UN investigation amount to irresponsible obfuscation. Only the Syrian regime and its Russian backers have the assets and the motivation to launch such merciless attacks on civilian targets.”

In a reaction that wouldn’t be out of place in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War, Tisdall concludes: “Allied military intervention, better late than never, is necessary to avoid future atrocities, [and] spare innocent lives.”

In turn, right-wing UK broadsheet the Telegraph pleads for the UK not to be left on the periphery if the US and France decide to take military action in Syria. Its editorial concludes: “If America and France are to act, Mrs May needs to ensure that the UK is not left on the sidelines unwilling to join in the punitive action she has rightly identified as necessary.”

Political commentators on Twitter such as Mark Curtis are not so convinced military intervention is the solution to the Syrian conflict: “Maybe Iran should strike Tel Aviv to halt atrocities in Gaza? Moscow to strike Riyadh to stop Saudi atrocities in Yemen? How about Jordan striking Ankara to stop atrocities in Afrin?”

The Mail Online’s Peter Hitchens – in a blog article titled ‘The Guns of April : Are we in a pre-War era, right now?’ – suggests that those such as himself who oppose military action are seen as betraying their country in favor of foreign, enemy powers. Hitchens writes: “This is an invariable symptom of a country whose elite is bent on war.”

Simon Jenkins, a colleague of Tisdall’s at the Guardian, shares the view that Assad is responsible for chemical weapons violations in his own country. However, he insists bombing Syria is not the solution, saying: “For the moment, western military intervention is utterly pointless. We must kick the habit of trying to rule the world.” This, perhaps, is a nod to Britain’s colonial past that some in government want to resurrect to help reassert itself on the global stage.

In Jenkins’ concluding remarks, he highlights the hypocrisy of nations such as the US when it comes to the laws of war: “The laws of war are enveloped in hypocrisy, largely because they are written by the winners. The US has still not signed the convention against delayed-action cluster bombs, one of the most immoral weapons ever devised.”

The drumbeat of war is increasingly being sounded among the political and media hawks. The question is, will this translate into something more tangible? The ‘dissenters’ will be hoping it does not.

April 10, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

How the Ex-Spy Case is Transforming UK Media Into Orwellian ‘Ministry of Truth’

Sputnik – April 5, 2018

The admission by scientists from the Porton Down defense lab that that they could not actually verify the source of the nerve agent used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter has not stopped British media from blaming Russia for the affair, or calling on London to take an even tougher stance against the Russians.

Unnamed ‘security sources’ have told The Times that they may have pinpointed the location of the “covert Russian laboratory” which allegedly created the chemical agent used to poison the Skripals.

According to the newspaper, government ministers and security officials “were able to identify the source using scientific analysis and intelligence” soon after the attack. “We knew pretty much by the time of the first Cobra [the emergency coordination briefing] that it was overwhelmingly likely to come from Russia,” a Whitehall source said.

The Times’ source insisted that the security services have a “high degree of confidence” regarding the location where the chemical was produced, but admitted they were not 100% certain.

Screenshot of The Times’ story.

Not to be outdone, The Sun ran a similar story, claiming that a lab run by Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence service in the Moscow district of Yasenevo was the “likely” creator of the poison. The tabloid paraphrased unnamed ‘security sources’, who told the newspaper that the Russian lab is “one of a handful of labs in the world that produces the nerve agent.”

Screengrab of The Sun article.

No Proof Needed

The pair of stories comes 48 hours after Porton Down Defense Science & Technology Laboratory chief Gary Aitkenhead’s admission that the military could not definitively conclude that the nerve agent believed used in the Skripal case was of Russian origin.

The new media efforts to implicate Russia, using unnamed sources and terms such as “likely” and “high degree of confidence” is reminiscent of the kind of language used by the British government in the days and weeks following the poisoning. However, following Tuesday’s revelation by Mr. Aitkenhead, the government and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in particular have been reeling from their attempts to definitively claim Russian involvement in the Skripal case.

Some outlets, including The Independent, decided to meet Aitkenhead’s revelations with a stiff upper lip, insisting that Russia’s efforts in the Skripal case, including its “ever more reasonable-sounding but insincere offers” to help in the investigation, don’t change “the overwhelming probability that the novichok nerve agent originated in Russia…” It is simply “inconceivable that anyone other than the Russians” could organize such a plot, according to the newspaper.

As for Russia’s demand that London actually prove its allegations, The Independent suggests that “a legal standard of proof is not required,” adding that the kind of proof asked for by Moscow is “impossible to achieve.” The paper even accuses Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and others of ‘buying into’ the arguments presented by the Russians.

The Independent’s ‘bold’ editorial amid the revelation that Porton Down scientists couldn’t prove the poison’s origin.

Ministry of Truth

Also, even as the case against Russia over the Salisbury poisoning slowly falls apart, some UK and other Western media continue an effort to further poison Russia-Western relations, insisting that Russia is surely responsible for the attack, and criticizing their governments for not being tough enough on Moscow.

Bloomberg, for example, has run an editorial arguing that while the recent expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats from dozens of Western countries is all well and good, “it’s too mild” to put real pressure on Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.Rather, the business news agency says, the West should band together to turn up the heat to “counter the domestic propaganda that Putin has used to increase his popularity and build anti-Western sentiment. Reaching out to Russians in big cities and neighboring countries, where dissent exists and could be encouraged, the US and its allies should make clear that the cause of their complaints is Putin and his helpers, not Russia at large.”

Screenshot of the Bloomberg piece.

Commenting on the Bloomberg piece, Rossiya Segodnya politics contributor Viktor Marakhovsky quipped that the logic of the story was just brilliant: “When Russia appeals to the citizens of Western countries with criticism toward their authorities, this is propaganda and an attempt to assert influence. But when it’s the other way around, this is a fight against internal propaganda and bringing the truth to Russia,” he wrote.

The Guardian issued its own editorial, recommending paying more attention to the ‘home front’ to arrange a nationwide informational manhunt of ‘Putin’s trolls’.

Complaining about The Guardian’s comments section being “infected” by “Russian trolls,” the editorial says that while not all offending accounts or hashtags may be Russian-made, “its sentiments chime sufficiently with the trolls’ aim for them to boost it.”

Screengrab of The Guardian editorial.

In other words, Marakhovsky commented, these non-Russian accounts are de facto “enemies because they think and write the wrong thing.” In this way, the journalist noted, the newspaper is effectively calling on Western media “to assume the functions of the Ministry of Truth – to identify both Russian trolls and those who have been infected by their propaganda… and explain to them why their views are wrong, because they happen to agree with the opinion of the Russian foe.”

Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized in Salisbury, southern England on March 4 following a chemical attack thought to involve the A-234 nerve agent. Sergei remains in critical condition; his daughter has regained consciousness and is making a recovery. London almost immediately accused Moscow for the attack, and initiated a series of measures directed against Russia, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. Many of the UK’s allies have followed suit. Moscow has rejected London’s accusations, saying claims of Russian involvement are entirely unsubstantiated.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Bolivia’s TIPNIS Dispute

Example of How Liberal-Left Alternative Media Becomes a Conveyor Belt for US Regime Change Propaganda

By Stansfield Smith | Dissident Voice | April 4, 2018

As has become a standard operating procedure, an array of Western environmental NGOs, advocates of indigenous rights and liberal-left alternative media cover up the US role in attempts to overturn the anti-imperialist and anti-neoliberal governments of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Evo Morales in Bolivia.

This NACLA article is a recent excellent example of many. Bolivia’s TIPNIS (Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Secure) dispute arose over the Evo Morales government’s project to complete a road through the park, opposed by some indigenous and environmental groups.

As is NACLA modus operandi, the article says not one word about US and right-wing funding and coordination with the indigenous and environmental groups behind the TIPNIS anti-highway protests. (This does not delegitimize the protests, but it does deliberately mislead people about the issues involved).

In doing so, these kinds of articles cover up US interventionist regime change plans, be that their intention or not.

NACLA is not alone in what is in fact apologetics for US interventionism. Include the Guardian, UpsideDownWorld, Amazon Watch, so-called “Marxist” Jeffery Webber (and here), Jacobin, ROAR, Intercontinentalcry, Avaaz, In These Times, in a short list of examples. We can add to this simply by picking up any articles about the protests in Bolivia’s TIPNIS (or oil drilling in Ecuador’s Yasuni during Rafael Correa’s presidency) and see what they say about US funding of protests, if they even mention it.

This is not simply an oversight, it is a cover-up.

What this Liberal Left Media Covers Up

On the issue of the TIPNIS highway, we find on numerous liberal-left alternative media and environmental websites claiming to defend the indigenous concealing that:

(a) The leading indigenous group of the TIPNIS 2011-2012 protests was being funded by USAID. The Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Bolivian East (CIDOB) had no qualms about working with USAID — it boasted on its website that it received training programs from USAID. CIDOB president Adolfo Chavez, thanked the “information and training acquired via different programs financed by external collaborators, in this case USAID”.

(b) The 2011 TIPNIS march was coordinated with the US Embassy, specifically Eliseo Abelo. His phone conversations with the march leaders – some even made right before the march set out — were intercepted by the Bolivian counter-espionage agency and made public.

(c) “The TIPNIS marchers were openly supported by right wing Santa Cruz agrobusiness interests and their main political representatives, the Santa Cruz governorship and Santa Cruz Civic Committee.In June 2011 indigenous deputies and right wing parties in the Santa Cruz departmental council formed an alliance against the MAS (Movement for Socialism, Evo Morales’s party). CIDOB then received a $3.5 million grant by the governorship for development projects in its communities.

Over a year after the TIPNIS protests, one of the protest leaders announced he was joining a right-wing, anti-Evo Morales political party.

(d) The protest leaders of the TIPNIS march supported REDD (Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The Avaaz petition (below) criticizing Evo Morales for his claimed anti-environmental actions also covered this up. As far back as 2009 “CIDOB leaders were participating there in a USAID-promoted workshop to talk up the imperialist-sponsored REDD project they were pursuing together with USAID-funded NGOs.”

REDD was a Western “environmental” program seeking to privatize forests by converting them into “carbon offsets” that allow Western corporations to continue polluting. That REDD would give Western NGOs and these indigenous groups funds for monitoring forests in their areas.

(e)These liberal-left alternative media and environmental NGOs falsely presented the TIPNIS conflict as one between indigenous/environmentalist groups against the Evo Morales government (e.g. the TIPNIS highway was “a project universally[!] condemned by local indigenous tribes and urban populations alike”). Fred Fuentes pointed out that more than 350 Bolivian organizations, including indigenous organizations and communities, even within TIPNIS, supported the proposed highway.

CONISUR (Consejo de Indígenas del Sur), consisting of a number of indigenous and peasant communities within TIPNIS, backed by Bolivia’s three largest national indigenous campesino organizations, organized a march to support of the road. They argued that the highway is essential to integrating Bolivia’s Amazonia with the rest of the country, as well as providing local communities with access to basic services and markets.

The overwhelming majority of people in the West who know about the TIPNIS protests, or the Yasuni protests in Ecuador, where a similar division between indigenous groups took place, never learned either from the liberal-left media or the corporate media, that indigenous groups marched in support of the highway or in support of oil drilling.

Therefore, this liberal-left media is not actually defending “the indigenous.” They are choosing sides within indigenous ranks, choosing the side that is funded and influenced by the US government.

(f) The TIPNIS conflict is falsely presented as Evo Morales wanting to build a highway through the TIPNIS wilderness (“cutting it in half” as they dramatically claim). There are in fact two roads that exist there now, which will be paved and connected to each other. Nor was it wilderness: 20,000 settlers lived there by 2010.

(g) Anti-highway march leaders actually defended industrial-scale logging within TIPNIS. Two logging companies operated 70,000 hectares within the national park and have signed 20-year contracts with local communities.

(h) They often fail to note that the TIPNIS marchers, when they reached La Paz, sought to instigate violence, demanding Evo Morales removal. Their plot was blocked by mobilization of local indigenous supporters of Evo’s government.

If we do not read Fred Fuentes in Green Left Weekly, we don’t find most of this information. Now, it is true that some of the media articles did mention that there were also TIPNIS protests and marches demanding the highway be built. Some do mention USAID, but phrase it as “Evo Morales claimed that those protesting his highway received USAID funding.”

Avaaz Petition Attacking Evo Morales over TIPNIS

The TIPNIS campaign, which became a tool in the US regime change strategy, was taken up in a petition by Avaaz. It included 61 signing groups. Only two from Bolivia! US signers included Amazon Watch, Biofuelwatch, Democracy Center, Food and Water Watch, Global Exchange, NACLA, Rainforest Action Network.  Whether they knew it, whether they wanted to know it, they signed on to a false account of the TIPNIS conflict, placed the blame on the Bolivian government, target of US regime change, and hid the role of the US.

US collaborators in Bolivia and Ecuador are painted as defenders of free expression, defenders of nature, defenders of the indigenous. The US government’s “talking points” against the progressive ALBA bloc countries have worked their way into liberal-left alternative media, which echo the attacks on these governments by organizations there receiving US funds. That does not mean Amazon Watch, Upside Down World or NACLA are themselves funded by the US government – if it somehow exculpates them that they do this work for free. Even worse, much of this propaganda against Evo and Correa appears only in the liberal-left alternative press, what we consider our press.

The USAID budget for Latin America is said to be $750 million, but estimates show that the funding may total twice that. Maria Augusta Calle of Ecuador’s National Assembly, said in 2015 the US Congress allocated $2 billion to destabilize targeted Latin American countries.

This information, how much money it is, what organizations in the different countries receive it, how it is spent, ought to be a central focus of any liberal-left alternative media purporting to stand up for the oppressed peoples of the Americas.

Yet, as Fuentes points out:  “Overwhelmingly, solidarity activists uncritically supported the anti-highway march. Many argued that only social movements — not governments — can guarantee the success of [Bolivia’s] process of change…. with most articles written by solidarity activists, they] downplay the role of United States imperialism…. Others went further, denying any connection between the protesters and US imperialism.”

Why do they let themselves become conveyer belts for US regime change propaganda?

Why did this liberal-left media and NGOs let themselves become conveyor belts for US propaganda for regime change, legitimizing this US campaign to smear the Evo Morales government?

Some of it lies in the liberalish refusal to admit that all international issues can only be understood in the context of the role and the actions of the US Empire. As if conflicts related to countries the US deems hostile to its interests can be understood without taking the US role into account. Some liberal-left writers and groups do understand this, just as they do understand they may risk their positions and funding by looking too closely into it.

It seems easier to not see the role the Empire plays and simply present a liberal-left “critique” of the pluses and minuses of some progressive government targeted by the US. That is how these alternative media sources end up actually advocating for indigenous groups and environmental NGOs which are US and corporate funded. They even criticize countries for defending national sovereignty by shutting down these non-governmental organizations, what Bolivian Vice-President Linera exposes as “foreign government financed organizations” operating in their countries.

Some of it lies in the widely held anti-authoritarian feeling in the US that social movements “from below” are inherently good and that the government/the state is inherently bad. The reporting can be informative on social movements in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia where the people struggle against state repression. But when these social movements in Ecuador or Bolivia were able to win elections and gain hold of some real state power, reporting soon becomes hostile and misleading. “Support social movements when they struggle against governmental power; oppose them once they win government power,” they seem to say. Their reporting slides into disinformation, undermining our solidarity with other struggles, and covering up US regime change efforts. Upside Down World is an excellent example of this.

Some of it lies in what many who call themselves “left” still have not come to terms with: their own arrogant white attitude they share with Western colonizers and present day ruling elites: we know better than you what is good for you, we are the best interpreters and defenders of your socialism, your democracy, your human rights. They repeatedly critique real or imagined failures of progressive Third World governments – targets of the US.

Genuine solidarity with the peoples of the Third World means basing yourself in opposition to the Empire’s interference and exposing how it attempts to undermine movements seeking to break free from Western domination.

Some of it lies in deep-rooted white racist paternalism in their romanticizing the indigenous as some “noble savage” living at one with nature in some Garden of Eden. Providing these people with schools, health clinics, modern conveniences as we have, is somehow felt not to be in their best interests.

A serious analysis of a Third World country must begin with the role the West has played. To not point out imperialism’s historic and continuing exploitive role is simply dishonest, it is apologetics, it shows a basic lack of human feeling for the peoples of the Third World.

A function of corporate media is to conceal Western pillaging of Third World countries, to cheerlead efforts to restore neocolonial-neoliberal governments to power. However, for liberal-left media and organizations to do likewise, even if halfway, is nothing other than supporting imperialist interference.

Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, is a long time Latin America solidarity activist, and presently puts out the AFGJ Venezuela Weekly. He is also the Senior Research Fellow at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

April 5, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment