The New York Times’ latest endorsement of Hillary Clinton is, as any reasonable person might assume, and to use Hillary’s favorite new word, deplorable. In the interest of discharging the irritation engendered by reading it, I’ll just briefly highlight some of the Gray Lady’s more outrageous assertions.
First, though, I’d like to applaud them for a rather novel, albeit entirely incoherent, bit of duplicity. Acknowledging in their euphemistic way that Hillary Clinton has achieved nothing of any significance while serving in government (“Mrs. Clinton’s work has been defined more by incremental successes than by moments of transformative change”), the editors contend that this ought to be counted as one of her strengths, for “[i]t shows a determined leader intent on creating opportunity for struggling Americans at a time of economic upheaval and on ensuring that the United States remains a force for good in an often brutal world.”
It’s a total non-sequitur, but at least they tried something wild. It’s sort of like what Robert De Niro’s character in Wag the Dog, Conrad Brean, does when he’s confronted by an intelligence official who says there’s no evidence of a war in Albania.
“Our spy satellites show no secret terrorists training camps in the Albanian hinterland, the border patrol, the FBI, the RCMP report no—repeat, no—untoward activity along our picturesque Canadian border,” the official (William H. Macy) says very sternly. “The Albanian government is screaming its defense; the world is listening. There is no war.”
Brean’s response is a masterclass in obfuscation. After being told again that the spy satellites show no war, he says the following:
“Then what good are they if they show no war? … What good are they if they show nothing? What are they, useless? Are they just broke? If there’s no threat then where are you? Let me go you one more: If there’s no threat what good are you?”
He succeeds in confusing the official into submission, making for one of the film’s funniest scenes. But that’s a film. This is real life, and one would need a very black sense of humor indeed to find the Times‘ doublespeak amusing.
One notes that they managed to squeeze the doctrine of American Exceptionalism—according to which every person we incinerate more or less had it coming to them—into their Breanian logic, taking for granted that the U.S. is a “force for good in an often brutal world.” Yes, such a brutal world; and what would its inhabitants do without the philanthropic United States military? Die of brutality, presumably.
Moving on. As a prime example of Hillary Clinton’s lifelong “record of service to children, women and families,” the Times cites her announcement in 1995 that “women’s rights are human rights”—”one of her boldest acts as first lady.” One wonders whether the good editors have gotten around to interviewing the children, women and families living in Honduras and Libya, whose idyllic circumstances bear the mark of HRC’s world-famous “pragmatism.”
(As I’ve written elsewhere, the idea that Hillary Clinton is a champion of women’s rights is one of the most preposterous, and pernicious, lies being peddled this campaign.)
Hillary’s “unusual capacity to reach across the aisle” (not so mysterious considering her right-wing fanaticism on issues of war and capitalist depredation) is what makes the Times confident that she’ll, you know, get things done as president. She’s even “earned the respect of [warmongering psychos] like John McCain with her determination to master intricate military matters.” And who wouldn’t want respect from those quarters? Such an honor!
The only “black mark” on Hillary’s record as a senator, according to the Times, is her vote in favor of Bush’s criminal war on Iraq (“but, to her credit, she has explained her thinking rather than trying to rewrite that history”—i.e. no big deal). In other words, the Times agrees with her votes in favor of the invasion of Afghanistan, the Patriot Act and the Wall Street bailout. No surprise there.
Which brings us to the Rodham woman’s tenure in the State Department, where “her achievements are substantial.” Among them: leading “efforts to strengthen sanctions against [the people of] Iran” (who, lest you forget, she’s prepared to “totally obliterate”), and helping to “negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas” in 2012, after the IDF had managed to kill over 100 Palestinian civilians in only a week. Needless to say, Hillary didn’t lead efforts to impose any sanctions on Israel.
Next, and this is interesting, Hillary is lauded by the Times for her support of the TPP, “an important trade counterweight to China and a key component of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.”
Of course, Hillary has since come out in opposition to the TPP, which only the most gullible of observers believe is sincere. Indeed, after acknowledging that her “reversal on that pact has confused some of her supporters,” the Times emphasizes that Hillary’s “underlying commitment to bolstering trade along with workers’ rights is not in doubt.” So there you have it: the New York Times, in its endorsement of Hillary Clinton, has called bullshit on her current anti-TPP stance. Remember this the next time a Clintonoid tries to use her TPP about face as an example of her progressivism. Remember it also the next time one of your Democrat friends argues that the New York Times is not a purveyor of neoliberal propaganda.
These are Hillary Clinton’s “substantial” achievements as secretary of state, the ones that are supposed to offset the fact that “she bears a share of the responsibility for the Obama administration’s foreign-policy failings, notably in Libya.” Funny how the dissolution of Libyan statehood—a major crime spearheaded by Hillary herself—is worthy only of casual reference. I suppose it’s better than total omission, which is the treatment given to Hillary’s successful efforts to undermine democracy in Honduras, as well as her pro-jihadist policy in Syria.
The Times editorial board proceeds to sum up its own ideology with the following:
“Mrs. Clinton has shown herself to be a realist who believes America cannot simply withdraw behind oceans and walls, but must engage confidently in the world to protect its interests and be true to its values, which include helping others escape poverty and oppression.”
In other words, the rest of the world can rest assured that relief from American imperialism, and all its gory consequences, is nowhere in sight—not if the New York Times has anything to say about it.
Secretary of State John Kerry has engaged in another rush to judgment blaming the Russians for an attack on a United Nations relief convoy in Syria before any thorough investigation could be conducted and thus prejudicing whatever might follow, as he did with the Syrian sarin case in 2013 and the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.
Eager to go on the propaganda offensive – especially after a U.S. military airstrike last Saturday killed scores of Syrian soldiers who were battling the Islamic State in eastern Syria – Kerry pounced on an initial report that the attack on the convoy on Monday was an airstrike and then insisted that the Russians must have been responsible because one of their jets was supposedly in the area.
But the United Nations – and I’m told CIA analysts – have not ruled out the possibility that the convoy was instead hit by a surface-to-surface missile. On Friday, a source briefed by U.S. intelligence said one fear is that the jihadist group, Ahrar al-Sham, which has fought alongside Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front but is deemed to be part of the “moderate” opposition, may have used a U.S.-supplied TOW missile in the attack.
Ahrar al-Sham, like some other jihadist groups seeking to overthrow the Syrian government, has objected to limited cease-fires arranged by the Russians and the Americans, which still allowed attacks on its ally, the recently rebranded Nusra Front. Ahrar al-Sham thus had a motive for destroying the aid convoy, an act which indeed has upended efforts to negotiate an end to the five-year-old conflict and led to bloody new attacks inside the embattled city of Aleppo on Friday.
Another possibility was that a Syrian government warplane was targeting a rebel artillery piece traveling alongside the convoy and struck the convoy by accident. But the assignment of blame required additional investigation, as other international officials acknowledged.
On Tuesday, a day before Kerry’s outburst, the U.N. revised its initial statement citing an airstrike, with Jens Laerke, a humanitarian affairs representative for the U.N., saying: “We are not in a position to determine whether these were in fact airstrikes. We are in a position to say that the convoy was attacked.” He called the earlier reference to an airstrike a drafting error.
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, Kerry made his high-profile denunciation of the Russians at the U.N. Security Council, the same venue where Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003 presented a false case against Iraq for possessing hidden stockpiles of WMD. In fiery comments, Kerry accused Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov of living “in a parallel universe” in denying Russian responsibility.
“The eyewitnesses will tell you what happened,” Kerry said. “The place turned into hell and fighter jets were in the sky.”
Yet, the two points don’t necessarily connect. Just because there are jets in the sky doesn’t mean they fired the rocket that struck the convoy. They might have, but to determine that – and if so, who was flying the jet that fired the missile – requires more thorough study.
Kerry also sought to excuse the U.S. airstrike near Deir ez-Zor last Saturday that killed some 62 Syrian soldiers, saying: “We did it, a terrible accident. And within moments of it happening, we acknowledged it. … But I got to tell you, people running around with guns on the ground, from the air, is a very different thing from trucks in a convoy with big U.N. markings all over them.”
But what Kerry ignored was the fact that the United States has no legal authority to be conducting military operations inside Syria, attacks supposedly targeting the terrorist Islamic State but lacking the approval of the Syrian government. In other words, under international law, any such U.S. attacks are acts of aggression and thus war crimes.
The mainstream U.S. news media, however, has little regard for international law, at least when the U.S. government is violating it, nor particular care for factual details. Despite the U.N.’s uncertainty about what struck the convoy, The New York Times continued to report the airstrike as a flat fact.
On Thursday, the Times wrote, “a convoy of trucks taking aid to the besieged of Aleppo was destroyed in a deadly airstrike.” Strangely, later in the article, the Times does note that “the United Nations has not confirmed what struck its trucks.”
A History of Prejudgment
Kerry also has a history of jumping ahead of a story and then going silent when further information is developed.
On Aug. 30, 2013, Kerry gave a thunderous speech virtually declaring war on Syria for supposedly launching a sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, that killed hundreds of people. On Aug. 31, however, President Obama pulled the rug out from under Kerry by shelving plans for a retaliatory bombing campaign, in part, because U.S. and British intelligence analysts expressed doubts that the Syrian government was responsible.
Later, evidence built up supporting a counter thesis that the sarin attack was launched by Syrian rebels trying to draw the U.S. military into the conflict on their side. In other words, Kerry almost put the U.S. government in position of aiding Al Qaeda or the Islamic State overrunning Damascus under dubious if not false pretenses. [See Consortiunews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria Sarin Case.”]
But U.N. investigators have remained under intense pressure to give the U.S. government something so it can keep alive the theme of Syria’s government using chemical weapons, even after Syria agreed to surrender all its chemical weapons in 2013. The U.N. did so in late August in blaming the Syrian government for two thinly evidenced cases of jerry-rigged chlorine bombs, after brushing aside witness testimony that rebels were staging such attacks for propaganda purposes.
Regarding the sarin case, the U.S. government never formally recanted Kerry’s rush to judgment allowing the conventional wisdom inside Official Washington (and its compliant mainstream media) to remain that Obama failed to enforce his “red line” against use of chemical weapons.
Kerry was at it again just three days after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, insisting that the U.S. government had radar and other conclusive evidence showing exactly where the missile was fired and making clear that Russian-backed rebels were responsible with the Russians also at fault for giving the rebels the anti-aircraft weapon.
However, after CIA and other Western intelligence analysts had more time to review what actually happened – and found that only Ukrainian government forces had anti-aircraft missiles in the area capable of shooting down a plane at 33,000 feet – the U.S. government went silent, refusing to make public its evidence but keeping alive the impression that the Russians were at fault.
With the U.S. government keeping its key evidence secret, the Dutch-led investigations into the crash have floundered. Last October, the Dutch Safety Board could only put the likely missile firing position within a 320-square-kilometer area including land held by both the rebels and the government. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Ever Curiouser MH-17 Case.”]
On Sept. 28, a Dutch-led-but-Ukrainian-dominated Joint Investigation Committee (JIT) is scheduled to release a report that is supposed to finally say where the missile was fired, more than two years after the tragedy. Given the influence of Ukraine’s SBU intelligence service over JIT, the likelihood is that the report will try to keep alive the impression that the ethnic Russian rebels were responsible.
A source who’s been following the investigation said the Dutch have resisted the outright falsification of the findings because many of the 298 victims were Dutch citizens and the victims’ families have been pressing for all sides – the United States, Ukraine and Russia – to supply whatever evidence they can. But the Western demands for propaganda to support the New Cold War with Russia are strong.
Syria has become another battlefield in that information war with tragic events being used as propaganda clubs by the various sides to beat one another, rather than moments for careful review of the evidence and assessment of accountability.
Part of this propaganda overload results from the U.S. government and various Western non-governmental organizations funding and training activists in the art of using social media for propaganda purposes. While these activists report on some real events, they also slant their coverage to advance their agenda of “regime change” in Syria.
The problem is compounded because the Western mainstream media has taken up Syrian “regime change” as a beloved cause rather than a topic for objective reporting. The New York Times and other major news outlets rely credulously on anti-government activists, such as the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, for information about what’s happening on the ground with statements from the Syrian or Russian governments treated with open disdain.
The larger tragedy of exploiting these human tragedies for propaganda purposes – whether the sarin attack, the MH-17 shoot-down or now the convoy bombing – is that these deaths of innocents become just excuses to inflict more deaths and ultimately to push the world closer to a new world war.
It seems like all I do these days is skim through the “about” pages of an endless list of NGOs with countless varieties of the same name, looking for the same half-a-dozen funds, endowments, organisations, slogans, mottos and buzzwords that always appear. It’s got to the point where it’s simply a matter of ticking off the items on a shopping list.
The National Endowment for Democracy… check.
The International Monetary Fund… check.
George Soros… check.
It’s always the same. It has come to the point where, if the “Our Partners” section of an organization with a vaguely benign-sounding name, along the lines of Middle East Fund for Democracy and Liberty or somethingorother, DIDN’T contain a reference to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation or the World Bank… I just wouldn’t be able to contain my shock.
Checking up on the sources and organisations behind this opinion piece on the Guardian yesterday morning (September 23rd) did not shock me, in the least.
Enough is enough. It’s time to protect aid workers
Before insisting, in the subhead:
Attacks on those who respond to global emergencies must be stopped – and the perpetrators must be held accountable
The article, written by Patricia McIlreavy, is long on generals but short on specifics. Long on problems, but short on solutions. It doesn’t discuss the war in Syria, except in the most simplistic terms. It doesn’t lay blame for any “attacks” at the feet of anyone specific, it just condemns attacks in general. The gaping maw of the unsaid echoes into infinity. Its final paragraph:
There comes a time when enough is enough, when even the most altruistic among us become angry. That time is now. World leaders must recognise and respect those who rush in to help when all others turn away, and provide humanitarians the protection they need and deserve.
Stop the attacks, and hold accountable those who seek to harm us. The time for talk is over.
It’s perfectly clear what she means, she just can’t actually say it. When she talks about “altruism” becoming anger, when she says the time for talk is over, she is talking about war. She is proposing that UN “peacekeepers” or NATO troops or a “coalition of the willing” or any and all of the above march into Syria and “protect” NGO employees…by attacking the Syrian government, and almost certainly coming into conflict with the Russian military.
But who is this author making this argument and what is the organisation she represents? What is the section of the Guardian which showcases such articles? And what is the foundation that “sponsored” this material in the Guardian ?
Let us tackle these one at a time.
1. The Author’s Foundation
The author, the Guardian tells us, is Patricia McIlreavy, the vice-president of Humanitarian Policy and Practice at InterAction.
“What is InterAction?”, you ask?
InterAction is an alliance organization in Washington, D.C. of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Our 180-plus members work around the world. What unites us is a commitment to working with the world’s poor and vulnerable, and a belief that we can make the world a more peaceful, just and prosperous place – together.
InterAction serves as a convener, thought leader and voice of our community. Because we want real, long-term change, we work smarter: We mobilize our members to think and act collectively, because we know more is possible that way. We also know that how we get there matters. So we set high standards. We insist on respecting human dignity. We work in partnerships.
Doesn’t that sound nice? Working in partnerships, protecting the vulnerable, human dignity. That’s all good stuff, right? Shame on you for thinking it’s nothing but empty marketing and PR sloganeering.
I mean, just because the author of the article used to work at USAID, and just because their CEO worked for the Obama and Clinton administrations and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and just because their President used to work for the World Bank and also worked for the Obama administration… wait a minute…
2. The Section
The Guardian’s “Global development professionals network” was first launched in 2012. It is subsidiary to their “Global Development website”, which was launched a year earlier. Their purpose, to quote their own description, is to provide:
A space for NGOs, aid workers and development professionals to share knowledge and expertise
It is, to read between the words of that sentence, a space for the Guardian to publish opinion pieces and press releases from US and UK government-backed NGOs, whilst taking no direct editorial responsibility for this blatant issuing of propaganda. It is much the same as the New East Network in this regard.
In case you were wondering where they get their funding for this:
Like the main Guardian global development website, the professional network is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as by a range of sponsors.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is on the list of predictable names I referenced at the beginning of this article. Wherever there is creepy Orwellian propaganda pushing for odd social controls in the name of “justice” (be it common core education, or remote control contraception) you will find Bill and Melinda Gates. The foundation is also, of course, a corrupt tax dodge.
Now, you might be worried about the impartiality of a newspaper that is part-funded by the richest man that has ever existed, and other (unnamed) “sponsors”, but don’t be concerned because:
All our journalism remains independent of sponsorship and follows GNM’s published editorial code.
Any content produced by, or in partnership with our funding partners, will be clearly labelled.
So that’s alright then.
3. The Sponsor
Here we come to the worst part. The part that, only two years ago, would have shocked me. The article was apparently “supported by” a private corporation: Crown Agents, who describe themselves thus:
We are an international development company that partners with governments, aid agencies, NGOs and companies in nearly 100 countries. Taking on clients’ fundamental challenges, we make lasting change to the systems and organisations that are vital for people’s well-being and prosperity.
We bring an agile and resourceful approach to complex development issues.
Which, when translated from neo-liberal BS language into actual English, means they act as a bridgehead in allowing corporations to move into third world countries and make a fortune by buying up public assets from corrupt or incompetent governments. Take a look at their latest projects for proof. When they’re not helping the Americans privatize Pakistan’s state assets, they’re “facilitating” Ukraine’s joining of the WTO. Interestingly they also enjoyed a very large contract for “rebuilding” peace in Libya.
They are all over the so-called developing world, “boosting revenues”, “fighting corruption” and “reforming financial practices”. They do all this in cooperation with their partners at the US government, the UK government and certain (unnamed) “private foundations.”
To be very clear about this – Crown Agents is NOT an NGO. They are not a charity, or an aid organisation, or a barely-there disguise of some alphabet agency. They are a private business, they make money, they are FOR PROFIT.
The same company which made money off the aftermath of the Libyan war, is now sponsoring an article calling for war in Syria. It is an undeclared agenda, a classic conflict of interest, and totally disgusting. That it takes place in a supposedly “liberal paper”, with supposedly “progressive values”, in the name of charity and humanitarianism, is the height of modern hypocrisy.
The Guardian is selling space in their paper to for-profit companies, who publish pro-war opinion pieces, trying to incite public support for a war that will make them money.
That would have been shocking once upon a time.
Time’s up, so-called Professor Wadhams.
It is now exactly four years ago that you forecast the demise of Arctic sea ice this summer:
One of the world’s leading ice experts has predicted the final collapse of Arctic sea ice in summer months within four years.
In what he calls a “global disaster” now unfolding in northern latitudes as the sea area that freezes and melts each year shrinks to its lowest extent ever recorded, Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University calls for “urgent” consideration of new ideas to reduce global temperatures.
In an email to the Guardian he says: “Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades’ time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward.”
So, what does the Arctic actually look like now?
Of course, this was not the first time you made a fool of yourself, was it? At various times in the last few years, you have issued many predictions of ice free Arctics by 2013, and then 2015.
Even as recently as June this year, you were still forecasting:
“The Arctic is on track to be free of sea ice this year or next for the first time in more than 100,000 years”
Be honest. You are not actually very good at your job, are you?
Media coverage of world affairs mostly focuses on Ottawa/Washington’s perspective. While the dominant media is blatant in its subservience to Canadian/Western power, even independent media is often afraid to challenge the foreign policy status quo.
A recent Canadaland podcast simultaneously highlighted anti-Palestinian media bias and the fear liberal journalists’ face in discussing one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. The media watchdog’s discussion of the Green Party’s recent resolutions supporting Palestinian rights started strong with Canadaland publisher Jesse Brown laying out three “facts”:
- In an editorial titled “[Elizabeth] May must renounce anti-Israel resolutions” the Vancouver Sun (reposted on the Ottawa Citizen and Calgary Herald websites) called Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) “an anti-Israel group that uses the fig leaf of Jewishness to lend support to Iran, deny the Holocaust, participate in anti-Semitic Al-Quds protests, encourage terrorism against Israelis and promulgate lies about Israel’s history, society and policies.” When IJV sent a letter threatening libel action Postmedia removed the editorial from its websites.
- A B’nai B’rith article described left-wing news outlet Rabble.ca as a “racist, white supremacist and antisemitic website”, which they erased after a media inquiry.
- Not one of a “couple dozen” reports examined about the Green Party resolution calling for “the use of divestment, boycott and sanctions (BDS) that are targeted to those sectors of Israel’s economy and society which profit from the ongoing occupation of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]” quoted a supporter of the successful motion.
Instead of seriously considering these “facts”, one Canadaland panellist partially justified suppressing Green Party voices favouring the BDS resolution and opposed talking about pro-Zionist media coverage because it contributes to stereotypes of Jewish control over the media. Diverting further from his “facts”, Brown bemoaned anti-Semitism and how Israel/Palestine debates rarely lead to agreement while another panellist mocked people from small towns who express an opinion on the subject. Aired on dozens of community radio stations across the country, the episode ended with a comment about how people shouldn’t protest those killed by Israel if they don’t take a position on the conflict between “North and South Sudan”.
(“North Sudan”, of course, doesn’t exist. And the ongoing war in that region is between two political/ethnic groups within South Sudan, which gained independence five years ago. But, even if they’d gotten their Sudan facts right, the statement is akin to saying Canadaland shouldn’t discuss major advertiser Enbridge pressuring the Vancouver Province to remove a cartoon critical of its Northern Gateway pipeline project because the show didn’t say anything about Tata Motors removing ads from the Times of India over their auto reporting.)
After detailing stark anti-Palestinian media bias, the Canadaland panellists cowered in the face of the “facts” presented. They failed to discuss whether the examples cited reflect a broader pattern (they do), what impact this has on Canadians’ perceptions of Palestinians (it is damaging) or explain the source of the bias.
One wonders if this reflects the panellists’ anti-Semitism, as if they fear talking about coverage of Israel will reveal a “Jewish conspiracy” to shape the news. But, there is no ethnic/religious conspiracy, rather a powerful propaganda system “hiding in plain sight”. While Canadian media bias on Palestine is glaring, that’s largely owing to the depths of grassroots activism on the issue, rather than dynamics particular to the subject. In fact, Canadian media bias on all aspects of this country’s foreign policy is shocking.
While there are particularities, coverage of Israel/Palestine fits the dominant media’s broad bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Canada’s international mining industry. The main explanation for the biased coverage is a small number of mega corporations own most of Canada’s media and these firms are integrated with the broader elite and depend on other large corporations for advertising revenue. Media outlets also rely on US wire services and powerful institutions for most of their international coverage and these same institutions have the power to punish media that upset them.
Discussing the structural forces driving media bias and how they interact with the Canadian establishment’s long history of support for Zionism/Israel is a lot for a radio segment. But, the Canadaland panelists could have at least explored some notable developments/dynamics driving anti-Palestinian coverage.
After buying a dozen dailies in 2000 Izzy Asper pushed the CanWest newspaper chain to adopt extremist pro-Israel positions. When Montréal Gazette publisher Michael Goldbloom suddenly resigned in 2001 the Globe and Mail reported “sources at The Gazette confirmed yesterday that senior editors at the paper were told earlier that month to run a strongly worded, pro-Israel editorial on a Saturday op-ed page”, which was written by the head office in Winnipeg and was accompanied by a no rebuttal order. The CanWest editorial demanded Ottawa support Israel even as Israeli government ministers called for the assassination of PLO head Yasser Arafat after 15 Israelis were killed. “Canada must recognize the incredible restraint shown by the Israeli government under the circumstances. … Howsoever the Israeli government chooses to respond to this barbaric atrocity should have the unequivocal support of the Canadian government without the usual hand-wringing criticism about ‘excessive force.’ Nothing is excessive in the face of an enemy sworn to your annihilation.”
In 2004 the CanWest head office was caught directing papers to edit Reuters stories to denigrate Palestinians. “The message that was passed down to the copy desk was to change ‘militant’ to ‘terrorist’ when talking about armed Palestinians,” Charles Shannon, a Montréal Gazette copy editor, told The Nation. “One definite edict that came down was that there should be no criticism of Israel.”
(One Reuters story was changed from “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has been involved in a four-year-old revolt against Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank” to “the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a terrorist group that has been involved in a four-year-old campaign of violence against Israel.”)
While Aspers’ interventions were crass, they elicited limited response since anti-Palestinianism pervades the political and media establishments. Both a reflection of this bias and propelling it forward, leading media figures have various links to Israeli nationalist organizations. In 2014 the president of Postmedia, which controls most of English Canada’s daily newspaper circulation, was chairman of the Calgary Gala of the Jewish National Fund, which discriminates against non-Jewish Israelis in its land-use policies. Paul Godfrey is not the first influential media figure fêted by the explicitly racist organization. In 2007 Ottawa Citizen publisher Jim Orban was honorary chair of JNF Ottawa’s annual Gala while prominent CBC commentators Rex Murphy and Rick Mercer, as well as US journalists Barbra Walters and Bret Stephens, have spoken at recent JNF events.
The Ottawa Citizen has sponsored a number of the racist institution’s galas. The paper has also covered JNF events in which the Citizen is listed as a ‘Proud Supporter’. In what may indicate a formal financial relationship the JNF promoted their 2013 Ottawa Gala in the Citizen, including running an advertisement the day after the event. According to the Israeli press, the JNF has entered financial agreements with numerous media outlets, including a recent 1.5 million shekels ($500,000) accord with Israel’s Channel 10 to run 14 news reports about its work.
Prominent media figures often speak at pro-Israel events. In 2015 editor-in-chief of The Walrus Jonathan Kay and Postmedia columnist Terry Glavin spoke on a panel with Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Fogel at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington DC. Conversely, Palestinian solidarity groups rarely have the resources to pay for high profile journalists and most leading media figures fear associating with their struggle.
While Israeli nationalist organizations prefer to draw influential media figures close, they also have the capacity to punish those challenging their worldview. Honest Reporting Canada organizes Israel apologist ‘flack’. The registered charity monitors the media and engages its supporters to respond to news outlets that fail to toe its extreme Israeli nationalist line. If pursued consistently this type of ‘flack’ drives editors and journalists to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.
In my forthcoming book A Propaganda System: How the Canadian government, media, corporations and academia sell war and exploitation I detail numerous instances of media owners interceding in international affairs coverage, as well as institutions drawing in influential newspeople and organizing ‘flack’ campaigns. But, there are two unique elements shaping Palestine/Israel coverage.
As a partially ethno/religious conflict the greater number of Jews than Palestinians (or Arabs) in positions of influence within the Canadian media does exacerbate the overarching one-sidedness. In a backdoor way Canadaland’s Jesse Brown highlighted this point when he describes Israeli family members influencing his opinion on the topic.
Another dynamic engendering anti-Palestinianism in the media is Israeli nationalist groups’ capacity to accuse Canadians’ standing up for a people facing the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism of being motivated by a widely discredited prejudice. At the heart of the ideological system, journalists are particularly fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” and the smear puts social justice activists on the defensive.
When a “couple dozen” articles fail to quote a single proponent of a Green resolution pressing Israel to relinquish illegally occupied land it suggests systemic media bias. Canadaland’s inability to contextualize this anti-Palestinianism reveals a media watchdog subservient to the dominant foreign-policy framework about Israel.
And a sign of how bad coverage is of all foreign affairs.
Yves Engler is the author of Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation.
Manipulation of public perception has risen to a new level with the emergence of powerful social media. Facebook, Twitter and Google are multibillion dollar corporate giants hugely influencing public understanding. Social media campaigns include paid ‘boosting’ of Facebook posts, paid promotion of Tweets, and biased results from search engines. Marketing and advertising companies use social media to promote their clients. U.S. foreign policy managers hire these companies to influence public perception to support U.S. foreign policy goals. For example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made sure that Twitter was primed for street protests in Iran following the 2009 election. She insured that Twitter was ready to spread and manage news of protests following the election and strange killing of a young woman. (p 423, Hard Choices hardback).
The results of media manipulation can be seen in the widespread misunderstanding of the conflict in Syria. One element of propaganda around Syria is the demonization of the Syrian government and leadership. Influenced by the mainstream and much alternative media, most in the West do not know that Bashar al Assad is popular with most Syrians. There were three contestants in the Syrian presidential election of June 2014. Turnout was 73% of the registered voters, with 88% voting for Assad. In Beirut, the streets were clogged with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees marching through the city to vote at the Syrian Embassy. Hundreds of Syrian citizens from the USA and other western countries flew to Syria to vote because Syrian Embassies in Washington and other western capitals were shut down. While John Kerry was condemning the Syrian election as a “farce” before it had even happened, a marketing company known as The Syria Campaign waged a campaign to block knowledge of the Syrian election. Along with demonizing President Assad, they launched a campaign which led to Facebook censoring information about the Syrian election.
The Syria Campaign was created by a larger company named “Purpose”. According to their own website they “incubated” The Syria Campaign.
The major achievement of The Syria Campaign has been the branding and promotion of the “White Helmets”. The “White Helmets”, also known as “Syria Civil Defense”, began with a British military contractor, James LeMesurier, giving some rescue training to Syrians in Turkey. Funding was provided by the US and UK. They appropriated the name from a real Syria Civil Defense.
The “White Helmets” are marketed in the West as civilian volunteers doing rescue work. On 22 September 2016 it was announced that the Right Livelihood Award, the so called “Alternative Nobel Prize”, is being given to the US/UK created White Helmets “for their outstanding bravery, compassion and humanitarian engagement in rescuing civilians from the destruction of the Syrian civil war.”
The Right Livelihood organizers may come to regret their selection of the White Helmets because the group is not who they claim to be. In fact, the White Helmets are largely a propaganda tool promoting western intervention against Syria. Unlike a legitimate rescue organization such as the Red Cross or Red Crescent, the “White Helmets” only work in areas controlled by the armed opposition. As shown in this video, the White Helmets pick up the bodies of individuals executed by the terrorists, they claim to be unarmed but are not, and they falsely claim to be neutral. Many of the videos from AlQaeda/terrorist dominated areas of Syria have the “White Helmets” logo because the White Helmets work in alliance with them. This primarily is a media marketing tool to raise public support for continuing the support to the armed opposition as well as the demonization of the Syrian government.
The Rights Livelihood press release says the White Helmets “remain outspoken in calling for an end to hostilities in the country.” That is false. The White Helmets actively call for US/NATO intervention through a “No Fly Zone” which would begin with attacks and destruction of anti-aircraft positions. Taking over the skies above another country is an act of war as confirmed by US General Dempsey. The White Helmets have never criticized or called for the end of funding to extremist organizations including Nusra/AlQaeda. On the contrary, White Helmets is generally embedded with this organization which is defined as “terrorist” by even the USA. That is likely why the head of the White Helmets, Raed Saleh, was denied entry to the USA.
The foreign and marketing company origins of the White Helmets was exposed over one and a half years ago. Since then, Vanessa Beeley has revealed the organization in more depth in articles such as “Who Are the White Helmets?” and “War by Way of Deception“.
Despite these exposes, understanding of the White Helmets is limited. Many liberal and progressive people have uncritically accepted the propaganda and misinformation around Syria. Much of the progressive media has effectively blocked or censored critical examinations amid a flood of propaganda about “barrel bombs” dropped by the ‘brutal dictator” and his “regime”.
In the last week, Netflix started showing a 40 minute documentary movie about the “White Helmets”. It is actually a promotion video. A substantial portion of it takes place in Turkey where we see trainees in hotel rooms making impassioned phone calls to inquire about their family in Syria. The “family values” theme is evident throughout. It’s a good marketing angle, especially effective with females. The political message of the video is also clear: after a bombing attack “It’s the Russians …. they say they are fighting ISIS but they are targeting civilians”. The movie includes video previously promoted by the White Helmets such as the “Miracle Baby” rescue. It’s debatable whether this incident is real or staged. The video includes self promoting proclamations such as “You are real heroes”. While no doubt there are some real rescues in the midst of war, many of the videos purporting to show the heroes at work have an unrealistic and contrived look to them as revealed here.
“Alternative media” in the West has sadly echoed mainstream media regarding the Syria conflict. The result is that many progressive individuals and groups are confused or worse. For example, the activist group CodePink recently issued a media release promoting the Netflix White Helmets propaganda video.
The White Helmets video is produced by Grain Media and Violet Films/Ultra-Violet Consulting. The latter advertises itself as a marketing corporation specializing in social media management, grant writing, crowd building and campaign implementation. The only question is who paid them to produce this video.
There is growing resistance to this manipulation and deception. In response to a petition to give the Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets, there is a counter petition at Change.org. The Right Livelihood Awards have just been announced and there will soon be a petition demanding retraction of the award to the White Helmets.
The story of the White Helmets is principally a “feel good” hoax to manipulate public perception about the conflict in Syria and continue the drive for “regime change”. That’s why big money was paid to “Purpose” to “incubate” The Syria Campaign to brand and promote the White Helmets using Facebook, Twitter, etc. That’s why big money was paid to create a self-promotional documentary. The judges at Rights Livelihood were probably influenced by the documentary since critical examination of facts around Syria is so rare. It’s a sad commentary on the media. As Stephen Kinzer recently said,
“Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.”
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A top European Union lawyer says Hamas should be dropped from the bloc’s blacklist, citing lack of concrete evidence showing the involvement of the Palestinian resistance movement in alleged terrorist activities.
Eleanor Sharpston, an advocate general at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), urged on Thursday the removal of both Hamas and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Sri Lankan rebel group, from the EU terror list.
The EU “cannot rely on facts and evidence found in press articles and information from the internet, rather than in decisions of competent authorities, to support a decision to maintain a listing,” Sharpston said.
In 2001, the EU adopted regulations to combat terrorism. Under the rules, the bloc imposed travel bans and asset freezes against Hamas and the LTTE.
In 2014, however, the General Court of the European Union, the second-highest court in the bloc, ordered both Hamas and the LTTE to be struck off the bloc’s terror list in two separate decisions. The court said the EU had based its decision, regarding the blacklist of the groups, on publicly available information rather than on any finding by a competent authority.
The Council of the EU, representing the governments of member states, in turn appealed the court ruling.
Elsewhere in her remarks, the top EU lawyer called on the ECJ to reject the appeal.
Given that “some of the reasons advanced could not justify the decision to maintain the listing of LTTE and Hamas,” the General Court was correct to dismiss the EU appeal when it could find no other sufficient reasons for their listing, Sharpston said.
Accordingly, the ECJ “should annul the measures maintaining Hamas and LTTE on the EU list of terrorist organizations on procedural grounds,” she added.
Hamas has ruled the impoverished and the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip since 2006, when it scored a landslide victory in legislative polls.
Putin Derangement Syndrome is the imperialist gift that keeps on giving. It was created in the American war party laboratory because Vladimir Putin made it clear he would not be the next target for regime change. That logic of self-preservation is problematic when dealing with the United States. The act of protecting a nation’s sovereign rights has placed many a world leader in America’s cross hairs.
Of course Putin fought back when the American-allied government of Georgia attacked the South Ossetia region in 2008. When the United States overthrew the Ukrainian president in 2014 Putin reacted by annexing Crimea, where a Russian naval base was in need of protection from United States and NATO adventurism.
Putin has been a useful foil ever since and the corporate media happily carry Barack Obama’s water whenever he wants to evoke the bogeyman image in pursuit of his ulterior motives. Putin has been accused of murdering a London based Russian exile who was in fact targeted by oligarchs, shooting down an airliner over Ukraine even though there is no proof of Russian involvement and now scheming to rig the upcoming presidential election.
It would all be amusing if it weren’t so dangerous. Only the reviled Donald Trump asked a simple and reasonable question about United States/Russian relations: Why must the two countries be enemies? A much needed reconsideration of foreign policy orthodoxy has gone unaddressed because facts don’t suit the imperialist cause beloved by both sides of the duopoly.
Now the full court press of Putin-bashing is serving another purpose: assuring victory for Hillary Clinton. Her surrogates are eagerly using Russophobia to demonize Putin and Trump, lest voters take a look at her dismal record and dubious activities. When emails from the Democratic National Committee proved that party’s allegiance to Hillary’s candidacy and not the needs of the of rank and file, Putin was accused of hacking. Suddenly, words like “Russian digital fingerprints” appeared in the media and were readily accepted as being valid. The New York Times, Washington Post, MSNBC and their cohorts went into overdrive mode, making sure that the substance of the revelations was ignored. They repeated the fable of a Romanian hacker who suddenly became Russian and not just any Russian but one in Putin’s employ.
Julian Assange and Wikileaks have also been targeted in order to protect the Clinton candidacy from unknown shoes dropping. Only Russia benefits when western secrets are revealed, at least according to hyperventilation from the New York Times. Joy Ann Reid at MSNBC is so eager to please that she forgets the Soviet Union collapsed 25 years ago and ranted endlessly on twitter about “communist Russia.” Even the National Geographic channel has strayed from nature photography to present an hour long anti-Putin screed.
The press hysteria gives credence to every official lie. Despite the double talk of “isolating Putin” the Obama administration is in fact talking to Russian government representatives on a regular basis. The high school clique at the G8 group of nations may have kicked Russia out of their cool kids clubhouse, but Putin and Obama always end up talking when they are in the same place. The world is fortunate to have at least one leader who does his job despite being constantly insulted by an erratic and violent country. In a sane nation the fact of Putin’s relevance would silence foolish posturing.
The risks of American obstruction and pursuit of hegemony are already evident. It was bad enough that the United States killed Syrian soldiers as part of that ongoing regime change effort. Obama’s United Nations ambassador Samantha Power then went into full attack mode which made America’s culpability obvious. She offended her Russian counterpart, calling his demand for a Security Council meeting a stunt. She shrieked that Russia was to blame for its ally being the victim of American aggression. Without a hint of irony the New York Times then complained that the Russians and Syrians used the incident for propaganda purposes.
Despite nonsense about the media “normalizing” Donald Trump, it is the awful Barack Obama and his even worse would be successor who are being given a pass. Endless war has been normalized. Revival of the cold war has been normalized. The corporate media behaving like an arm of the government is normalized. Vladimir Putin is being used to normalize imperialism and to get Hillary in the oval office. Two birds dead with one stone.
The real loser is democracy, or rather what is left of it. Hillary’s campaign and its big tent of the ruling elites exposes the true nature of American politics. The Russians aren’t even in the same league.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
The new corporate-funded African-American History museum in Washington, D.C., built on the former site of Camp Democracy and all sorts of protests and festivals, is getting a great deal of purely positive press before its doors have opened.
This press and the museum’s own website suggest that the museum covers slavery, Jim Crow, racism, sports, and entertainment, but doesn’t step out of the mold set by the Smithsonian when it celebrated the Enola Gay or began letting war profiteers fund and shape the exhibits in the Air and Space Museum or in the American History Museum, which has gone out of its way to glorify war.
The New York Times informs us about the new museum: “Above ground, the museum departs from the chronological narrative to examine African-American achievements in fields like music, art, sports and the military. Visitors can tour these brighter third-floor and fourth-floor themed Culture and Community galleries without venturing into the harsher history sections below.”
Get it? War is part of a well-rounded liberal life alongside music and sports, unlike those “harsh” bits of history. The new museum’s website promotes “Military” as a category of exhibit item. Click it and you’ll find 162 things including smiling portraits of soldiers in uniforms, medals, letters, hats, binoculars, propaganda posters, etc. If you search the site for “Peace” you find one photo of an unidentified man wearing a peace sign necklace and one photo of unidentified men holding up a giant peace sign.
We know that Marin Luther King Jr. is to be found in the new museum, but we don’t know if he’s the corporate-approved Martin Luther King Jr. who opposed racism but never noticed war. We know that Muhammad Ali shows up in the sports section along with his head-gear and gloves. We don’t know if his reasons for refusing the Vietnam War draft are included.
African Americans have been a major part of resistance to war, especially from the Korean War through the nomination of Barack Obama for president. Some of this history is told by Kimberley Phillips who will be speaking in Washington, D.C., as the museum opens, but speaking at a conference at American University called No War 2016.
Does the Smithsonian touch on African-American resistance to wars on Africa or the growth of Africom? Also speaking at No War 2016 will be Maurice Carney of Friends of the Congo. Is the story his group tells in the film Crisis in the Congo told by the Smithsonian? Also speaking on a panel on racism and war at No War 2016 will be Bill Fletcher Jr. and Darakshan Raja. Where is their wisdom at the Smithsonian? Where is any history of the ties between a racist foreign policy and domestic racism? What is the relationship between racism and war propaganda? I wouldn’t enter the new museum holding your breath until you find that exhibit.
What public service is being offered by a museum that celebrates the Tuskeegee Airmen but thus far has given no public indication that it will explore the significance of the Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment? Bombing foreigners who engage in human experimentation makes a better story than just bombing foreigners while engaging in human experimentation. The story can be told with the flaws of segregation, later remedied or in the process of quickly being repaired. There is value in that story. It’s not without its merits. But it is fundamentally false and may just get us all killed.
Abby Ohlheiser, Accessory after the Fact [source: Washington Post ]
Number 2 : Abby Ohlheiser, the Washington Post, and Facebook, for “Facebook’s trending topics promoted an article ‘truthering’ the Sept. 11 attacks”
ON the 15th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, experts are sensationally claiming it is impossible that the towers were brought down by planes.
Instead, leading engineers believe the Twin Towers may have collapsed due to a “controlled demolition” – something it is claimed there is video evidence to support.
They disagree with the investigation done by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that was launched in August 2002.
Video evidence – which was made by people with a similar theory – has been posted online and seeks to offer proof.
Seriously? This is Abby Ohlheiser?
No, sorry. This is Rachel O’Donoghue, writing for UK readers in the Daily Star, under the headline:
[source: Daily Star ]
Rachel O’Donoghue needs a good copy editor; I’ve fixed her spelling errors, but I haven’t changed any of her words. She continues:
That six-year analysis of what caused the collapse also looked at the lesser known World Trade Centre 7 building, a third building that sat right next to the towers and fell at 5.20pm on the afternoon of September 11 – more than six hours after the two skyscrapers tumbled to the ground.
Its conclusion was that the “WTC Towers and WTC 7 [were] the only known cases of total structural collapse in high-rise buildings where fires played a significant role.”
The fires were apparently sparked by jet fuel that caused huge fires to engulf the upper floors after American Airlines Flights 11 and 175 smashed into the structures in a series of coordinated attacks on the morning of September 11, 2001.
But since the NIST investigation concluded, it has been pointed out that buildings like the World Trade Centre were specifically designed to withstand a fire and huge impacts like a plane hitting them.
What does this have to do with Abby Ohlheiser? Therein lies an interesting tale…
As you may know, Facebook has built its success on a foundation of really good ideas, and one of those ideas was to give their users an easy way to “feel the pulse” of the Internet, so to speak.
The idea is: With a bit of research, one could answer questions such as: What subjects are people talking about? and What are they reading?
The answers to these questions could be used to create a list of links, and that list could appear on the user’s sidebar, under the heading “Trending Topics.”
It was a fantastic idea, and they hired some people to do it, and it worked out great! But there was a problem.
The problem was not in making the list but in keeping it up to date. That was difficult and expensive and required a large staff working more or less continuously, and wasn’t this the sort of thing that could be done by software?
Well, of course it could. But they didn’t have the software, so the software had to be developed, and now it’s ready, or at least it’s ready enough to be deployed. So Facebook has replaced the people who used to maintain “Trending Topics” with a computer program.
Presumably because this software has only recently been developed, it’s still a little bit naive, so to speak.
That is to say, it was probably written to do what it was supposed to do. Stories like this come up frequently, and they illustrate both the strength and the weakness of doing things by computer. A computer does what it’s told: quickly, cheaply, precisely, and reliably. If it does the wrong thing, it usually means it was following the wrong instructions. And there’s the rub. A computer is “smart enough” to follow instructions, but it’s not smart enough to know when its instructions are wrong!
You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) at how often newly developed software is perceived as “faulty” because it was designed according to specifications which did not accurately reflect the needs of the people who had commissioned it. This has happened so often to me personally that I have come to expect it.
In the current instance, the case of Facebook’s “Trending Topics,” the programmers apparently designed the code to search and sort, building its lists according to the criteria I described above, and giving no attention to certain “hidden assumptions” which human editors take for granted.
In particular, the software didn’t know that the facts of 9/11 must be suppressed.
Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece appeared on Tuesday, September 6, and within a few days it attracted so much attention that Facebook’s software noticed it. But the software failed to perceive that the headline, September 11: The footage that ‘proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers’ could potentially be politically volatile.
Needless to say, this is an error that no human editor would ever make, but the software was just too dumb to pick up on the implications of the headline, or to read the article and find out what it said. And nobody was supervising it. The software was “flying solo.”
And it came to pass that early on Friday, September 9, Facebook users found “September 11th Anniversary” on their sidebar, and if they hovered over the topic, they saw this:
click to enlarge [source: Facebook via Abby Ohlheiser]
If they clicked on it, they saw this:
click to enlarge [source: Facebook via Abby Ohlheiser]
And if they clicked on this, they could read Rachel O’Donoghue!
When Abby Ohlheiser found out, she was most unimpressed. As she wrote:
Facebook users looking for more context on why the Sept. 11 terrorist attack anniversary was trending on the platform on Friday were, for a time, directed to a tabloid article claiming that “experts” had footage that “proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers.”
The Daily Star piece promoted by Facebook repeats a lot of common claims from 9/11 “trutherism,” a conspiracy theory based on an idea (unsupported by any actual evidence) that the World Trade Center must have collapsed in 2001 because of a “controlled demolition” and not from the damage caused by the airliner crashes.
This photo shows material being ejected from the South Tower, well below the impact zone and before the collapse of the building. It is prima facie evidence of explosives and therefore must be suppressed. [source: Daily Star ]
Is this correct? Well, no!
Unfortunately for Abby Ohlheiser, the Daily Star piece by Rachel O’Donoghue documents “actual evidence” of explosives in the towers, the existence of which Abby Ohlheiser flatly denies!
Engineers Steven Jones, Robert Korol, Anthony Szamboti and Ted Walter are part of the growing community of experts who say evidence indicates the towers were brought down in a controlled demolition.
They wrote a paper for Europhysics News highlighting four important pieces of evidence pointing to this conclusion.
– Fires are not normally hot enough to heat a massive steel structure enough for it to collapse
– The majority of high rise buildings have sprinkler systems that prevent a fire from getting hot enough to heat steel to a critical level
– Skyscrapers are protected using flame-proof materials
– And they are designed so that if compromised, they do not collapse.
They go on to point out that the towers were actually designed to stay standing in the event of seismic activity, such as earthquakes, and incredibly high winds.
Abby Ohlheiser tells us what happened when she found out Facebook was linking to this article:
Shortly after The Intersect [i.e. Abby Ohlheiser] reached out to Facebook for a comment on the matter, the article disappeared from Facebook’s page for the topic. The lead article switched to a local news piece about a photograph showing beams of light bouncing off One World Trade Center.
“We’re aware a hoax article showed up there,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday, “and as a temporary step to resolving this we’ve removed the topic.”
The misstep comes weeks after the company removed the human editors who used to describe and curate the site’s trending topics, leaving the task of providing context for those topics to an algorithmically selected article from another site. As this most recent example illustrates, the algorithms haven’t always been up to the task.
“Algorithm” is a fancy name for a set of instructions. And one question which suggests itself is: Have the algorithms really failed in their task?
I can’t help thinking the answer depends on how the task is defined. If the task is to promote the topics that the greatest number of people want to read about, and the articles that the greatest number of people are reading, that’s one thing. If the task is to prefer relatively safe topics and politically acceptable articles, even if fewer people are reading them … well, that’s different.
And I humbly suggest that this difference was the cause of Abby Ohlheiser’s discomfort.
In an alternate universe where we had a free press and free social media, “trending” would mean “trending,” just as “topic” means “topic.” The most popular article under each topic would appear on the sidebar. And if people started learning about facts that the supporters of an absurd and murderous story wanted to suppress, that would be just too bad for them.
In such a universe, when Abby Ohlheiser “reached out” for a comment, the Facebook spokeswoman would say, “We are in the business of facilitating — not impeding — connections between our users and the rest of the world. We will not bow to pressure from politicians, nor from journalists, nor from anybody else. And you will just have to grow up and accept the fact that ‘trending’ means ‘trending,’ which is not always the same as ‘trending and pleasing to you.’ We thank you for your understanding, and we hope that in the future you will not waste any more of your time on similar complaints.”
But of course we live in the real universe, so Facebook declared Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece a “hoax” and removed the link.
Later, according the the spokeswoman, Facebook removed the whole “September 11th Anniversary” topic, which, as you can see in the screenshot preserved by Abby Ohlheiser, was at the time the most popular topic on the list by far, leading an NFL player who had not stood during the national anthem the previous evening by a margin of 340K to 28K.
This photo, which allegedly shows the beginning of a gravity-driven collapse, looks more like a volcano erupting, and therefore must be suppressed. [source: Daily Star ]
Hoax? What hoax? The official story is a hoax!
As Rachel O’Donoghue notes:
John Skilling, the chief structural engineer of the World Trade Centre, even admitted in 1993 – eight years before the disaster – they were made to specifically withstand the force of a jet hitting them.
In an interview with the Seattle Times he said: “Our analysis indicated the biggest problem would be the fact that all the fuel (from the airplane) would dump into the building. There would be a horrendous fire. A lot of people would be killed [but] the building structure would still be there.”
He then commented that in his view, the only thing that could bring them down would be explosives of some sort.
Eyewitness accounts describing the aftermath of the attacks supports the theory explosives were planted inside the towers.
Shortly after the planes hit, numerous interviews were recorded in which people who had been inside the World Trade Centre said that when they ran down from the upper floors they found the lobby had been completely destroyed.
Some also described finding people who had not been upstairs with “their faces blown off”.
Eyewitnesses who describe the lobby as completely destroyed, and statements about people who had “their faces blown off” despite not having been upstairs, pose a grave danger to Abby Ohlheiser and her contention that the “conspiracy theory” is “unsupported by any actual evidence” and threaten Facebook’s assertion that Rachel Donoghue’s article is a hoax.
But all these bits of suppressed evidence certainly corroborate the story Bob McIlvaine tells about his son Bobby.
Had Abby Ohlheiser not made such a big stink about Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece, I probably would not have seen it, and I wouldn’t be able to share the details with you here. But this is Abby Ohlheiser’s game, apparently — monitoring other “reporters” and complaining if they happen to cross one of her invisible lines.
Fortunately, if she can bend them to her will, she’s not content to let the matter rest. She uses her platform to tell everyone what has happened, even if it means bringing attention to the very thing she is trying to suppress.
On September 9, Facebook users were given the false impression that the “Topic” “September 11th Anniversary” was “Trending” because of these photos. Thanks to Abby Ohlheiser, we now know how and why this happened. [source: ABC 7 NY dot Com]
So, even if we stipulate that Abby Ohlheiser prevented a very large number of people from reading Rachel O’Donoghue’s piece, she still qualifies as a fail in my book for two reasons.
First, she gave the world a screenshot showing Rachel O’Donoghue’s headline and the name of her paper, so that everyone could see what had been published and where to find it. Now all her readers — and both of mine — know all about it.
Second, she has shown us very clearly how easily Facebook can be manipulated into suppressing vital evidence in a case of mass murder, and who she is and what she wants, and the same about the Washington Post, and the same about Facebook — which may be important if anyone is still in doubt.
Had Facebook not turned tail and fled, its users would have found it easier to maintain the illusion that they have a free press and free social media. But they might have learned a thing or two as well, and no doubt here lies the perceived danger.
Certainly Facebook’s part in this story proves one thing: Even if you can’t please everybody, you can certainly displease everybody. Those who aren’t angry at Facebook for linking to Rachel O’Donoghue are angry at Facebook for taking down the link and calling the truth a “hoax”. Or at least they should be.
Had Rachel O’Donoghue not mentioned her source, I might not have found the article she was writing about.
It’s from Europhysics News, it was written by Steven Jones, Robert Korol, Anthony Szamboti and Ted Walter. It’s called “15 Years Later: On The Physics Of High-Rise Building Collapses,” and it includes:
– a short explanation of why steel-framed buildings don’t normally collapse, even after long hot fires,
– a short history of building demolition techniques, including the most modern ones,
– an overview of the reasons why they believe the towers were destroyed by modern demolition techniques and not by fires,
– a review of the official investigations, showing how far they were willing to deviate from the normal logical and physical constraints, and how little scrutiny their conclusions can bear, and
– a summary of the eyewitness evidence concerning explosives in the buildings, concluding this way:
Some 156 witnesses, including 135 first responders, have been documented as saying that they saw, heard, and/or felt explosions prior to and/or during the collapses. That the Twin Towers were brought down with explosives appears to have been the initial prevailing view among most first responders. “I thought it was exploding, actually,” said John Coyle, a fire marshal. “Everyone I think at that point still thought these things were blown up”.
When John Coyle says, “Everyone I think at that point still thought these things were blown up,” the words “at that point” and “still” indicate the power of the propaganda machine behind the official story. Even though they lived through it, many of the first responders became convinced in the aftermath that their perceptions of the day’s events had been wrong!
And yet! Popular support for 9/11 Truth endures, even after 15 years of relentless and powerful propaganda, partially because so many people know about the evidence that the perpetrators and their accessories after the fact are trying to suppress.
We can see what they’re trying to do. We can figure out why. And we’re not going away anytime soon.
Sorry, Abby! You lose! And so does your sad excuse for a newspaper.
Sorry, Washington Post ! If you don’t tell the truth about something important soon, I may quit letting you use my initials!
Sorry, Facebook, You lose, too! Everyone can see where you stand and why. “Oh, my!”
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present: three pathetic losers on the wrong side of a bloody red line marked “mass murder for profit!”
As I’ve been saying:
The facts must be suppressed, and the people who are trying to gather and disseminate those facts must be suppressed, and that is the one and only thing that matters to these people. And why? Why would you hide the crime unless you were trying to protect the criminals?
Pro rebels demonstration at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin two years after the chemical attacks on the Damascus suburbs
Three long and terrible years have now passed since the staging of a Sarin attack in the Eastern suburbs of Damascus. These years have cost the lives of twice as many Syrians as had been killed in the preceding two and a half years of this unnecessary war against the Syrian state.
Yet it needn’t have been like this. Following the apparent chemical weapons attack on the Opposition-held suburb of Ghouta in the early hours of August 21st 2013 – for which the Syrian government was immediately held responsible by Western leaders and media – a ‘punitive’ military strike was proposed by the White House. This was averted, at the very last minute, by Russia’s proposal for the UN-supervised destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks, or so it seemed.
Writing in a seminal article published by the London Review of Books that December, veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that sections of the US intelligence community had also advised the White House to call off the strike, because of serious doubts about who was actually responsible for the Sarin attack.
But Hersh’s article – ‘Whose Sarin?’ – was comprehensively ignored by the Western media and even, it must be said, in the letters pages of the journal which had been brave enough to publish it. By comparison, his revelations were championed in the media of Syria and her allies, as well as by Syria’s supporters in the West, who had never given the slightest credibility to claims the Syrian government had launched Sarin-filled missiles ‘at its own people’. Such an idea, in the straightforward words of Russia’s President Putin, was ‘utter nonsense’.
And yet this idea persists, and continues to poison the minds of so many in the West who might otherwise have put an end to the illicit and covert war against the Syrian state and its people. Not only does the ‘original lie’ about the Ghouta attack get restated by self-described ‘supporters of the Syrian People’, but the facile idea of the ‘regime’ using chemical weapons has been reborn. Even before all the sarin and mustard gas stocks were destroyed, there were warnings that Chlorine might be used instead; now ‘chlorine filled barrel bombs’ have become a preferred method of killing people the government doesn’t like, according to Opposition activists. For the multiple NGOs, media and Western audience who condone the insurgency it matters not that these claims are vacuous and mendacious.
The focus of ‘Whose Sarin?’ was mostly on how much US intelligence knew about the abilities of terrorist groups in Syria – Al Nusra/Al Qaeda and ‘AQI’, later to become ‘ISIS’ – to manufacture Sarin, and the consequent doubts about Syrian government responsibility for the Ghouta attack. While Hersh noted the observations of missile experts Lloyd and Postol that cast real doubts on the origins of the suspect Sarin-loaded missiles, he didn’t offer an opinion on the lack of an ‘a priori’ case against the Assad government; I think it must be restated now.
Following claims that Sarin had been used in a missile strike in the village of Khan al Assal, near Aleppo in March 2013, attributed to Al Nusra by a Russian investigation team, the Syrian government had been demanding a UN investigation of this incident. Although the UN representative Carla del Ponte agreed with the Russian conclusion, the US took the word of the Syrian opposition that the government was responsible, despite those targeted and killed in the strike being government supporters. Not until the 19th of August did a UN team arrive in Damascus to investigate the Khan al Assal strike, as well as opposition claims of two other smaller Sarin attacks.
But before the UN team could arrange their visit to Khan al Assal, the Ghouta attack occurred, as evidenced by videos released and spread through social media. What actually happened there, and in the suburb of Moadamiya where claims of a Sarin-loaded missile were not substantiated in the UN investigation, remains in doubt. Quite startlingly the declarations of outrage from President Obama and John Kerry that 1430 innocent civilians had been gassed were supported by zero evidence; not one single autopsy showing death from Sarin was carried out, as the UN team confined its investigation to a mere 36 supposed victims who survived the attack. Even the evidence from those victims was inconclusive, though that was hardly surprising given these ‘victims’ were supplied by ‘activists’ in Moadamiya, where no Sarin contamination was found.
Notwithstanding this lack of real evidence for a Sarin attack, regardless of the culprit, and the rapid emergence of doubts on the authenticity of the crucial video evidence, a fact that even disturbed some Western commentators was the absence of any rationale for such a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian government side. Not only had the Syrian Army made recent gains in driving back the insurgency, and was working hard on reconciliation in divided communities, but the government quite clearly had a lot to lose by launching such a criminal and militarily useless attack. To choose to launch such an attack, ostensibly against innocent civilians, right under the noses of the UN chemical weapons investigators just after their arrival next-door to the crime scene would have been more than stupid – it was simply incomprehensible!
Perhaps it was at this point that the two sides of the narrative on the Syrian war parted company. No-one whose survival now depended on the Syrian Arab Army and its allies could believe the talk from the West – of ‘humanitarian intervention’, and of ‘moderate rebels’ wanting a secular democracy. And when the support of Syrians for their Army and President was put to the test in the elections of May 2014 the great majority of them offered it enthusiastically. Conversely in the Western sphere of influence, in the countries supporting the insurgency directly and indirectly, and amongst Syrian refugees in those countries, the case was closed against President Assad and the Syrian army. Even though the military strike had been called off, this was on the condition Syria’s chemical weapons stocks were destroyed – an action that clearly assumed the Syrian government had used Sarin and must be prevented from doing so again.
Although the evident plan in some quarters to prosecute an illegitimate war on Syria with direct military intervention using the attack as a pretext was foiled, the success of the Ghouta ‘false flag’ operation was clear in a different respect – as a demonstration that the Western public could now be made to believe almost anything, however implausible, with emotive manipulation. Both before and since the Ghouta operation, opposition videos showing children killed and injured by ‘Assad’s bombs’ have been very skilfully employed to conceal the truth of these vile attacks on humanity. Nowhere was this more the case than with the Ghouta Sarin attack videos.
While most of the bodies pictured in those videos were shown wrapped in white cloth and unidentified, many dead children were pictured as they died in their variety of ordinary clothes, and were soon identified. Some two weeks earlier, one of the most brutal and barbaric attacks by ‘rebel’ forces had been launched against some Alawite villages near Lattakia, with hundreds massacred but also over a hundred women and children kidnapped. Their fate was unknown until relatives recognised some of those children in the videos of ‘Sarin victims’, even though these videos were released 16 days later and 200 kilometres away in Damascus. In subsequent close analysis of the videos it was then observed that some of the same children appeared in videos released in different suburbs, in different positions and surroundings.
The unspeakable barbarity of the ‘rebels’, who all came together to take part in the massacre and then so callously made ‘snuff videos’ to use as a propaganda weapon, should cause us to reflect on how the reporting of these atrocities went virtually unnoticed by our ‘humanitarian’ agencies, and remained uncondemned by the UN. The apparent condoning of this sectarian attack on rural Alawite communities – which was seen by some as a payback for the Syrian Army’s liberation of Al Qusair two months earlier – has unpleasant echoes in the reaction of those same agencies to recent events in Aleppo. Before considering these events, and the renewed threat of a catastrophic war, there is another story to be told for which Seymour Hersh’s further investigations provide a lead.
Having established ‘whose Sarin’ was used in Ghouta – and more recent investigations confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that the Sarin was not from Syrian government stocks – the question that must now be answered is ‘whose Rebels?’. It has been no secret for some time that Opposition forces in Syria are being supplied with ammunition and weapons from neighbouring countries, and that ‘jihadis’ from many countries have been flowing over Syria’s borders to join the fight. The Orwellian ‘Friends of Syria’ countries – the Western and Gulf states supporting the Syrian Opposition against the Syrian state – have long maintained that this support for the insurgency is being assisted and paid for by individuals over whom states have little control. While they might allow that some governments – Turkey for instance – are ‘not doing enough’ to stop the flow of fighters and arms across their borders, no Western leaders or mainstream media organisations will admit to the truth of direct state support for the insurgency.
The reality of this barely covert and illicit support from foreign governments for all the armed groups fighting in Syria is however like the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’, and the inability to see it barely comprehensible. It is as if the whole Western populace has been subject to a feat of mass hypnosis by their corporate media, who have themselves become witless facilitators of their governments’ agendas. The official ‘narrative’ of the ‘Civil War in Syria’ has now become self-sustaining, with the same false memes pervading every part of the Western media echo-chamber.
Yet ask anyone outside this chamber – and particularly the 17 million Syrians who have remained in and support their country – and they will tell you all we need to know about the ‘elephant’. They have long realised that – at its simplest – there is no ‘civil war’ in Syria, having its origins in an authentic sectarian uprising against an oppressive and brutal ‘Alawite’ government. The conflict is rather seen as a war on Syria being waged by a proxy army of ruthless ‘takfiris’, against which all actions of the Syrian Arab Army are considered legitimate self-defence of Syria and its people. Some Syrians may consider that the war was not like this from the start, but now accept the reality of foreign sponsorship of the insurgency and fully support the government and army’s fight against it.
Within days of the first protest rallies in Dera’a on the border with Jordan however, it became abundantly clear to the government that arms and fighters had infiltrated Syria’s borders, with assistance from foreign agencies and with the express intention of fomenting a ‘popular uprising’. The role played by Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, the state broadcasters for the key Arab states seeking the overthrow of the Assad government, in ‘spreading false news’ and thereby inciting rebellion, was fundamental in this operation. While the better informed and educated populations in the cities and in areas historically supportive of the government were sceptical of Al Jazeera’s reports and soon recognised their bias and fabrications, those in poorer rural areas readily accepted the false accusations against the government and army. What might have been peaceful protests, with legitimate demands that the government initially sought to address, rapidly descended into a spiral of violence. This was not as portrayed in the West, as a result of a ‘brutal crackdown’ by the security forces, but because of the reaction of those forces to lethal fire from ‘agents provocateurs’ amongst the protestors or hidden in nearby buildings. Adding insult to injury, soldiers who were killed by these snipers were reported by opposition fighters as having been shot ‘for failing to fire on protestors’, or for attempted desertion. These false assertions, relayed to the Western media by local and foreign ‘activists’, laid the basis for the ‘information war’ against Syria.
Building on this narrative that the Syrian army, under the command of Bashar al Assad, was determined to stamp out the protests by any means, including by committing massacres of innocent and unarmed civilians, the ‘Free Syrian Army’ was contrived as a self-defence force for ‘the Syrian people’. Thanks to the developing links between Al Jazeera and some Western media organisations the completely false narrative of ‘the Syrian Popular Revolution’ took root in the western mind. This movement was assisted by the formation of the ‘Syrian National Council’ from the expat Syrian community in France, the US and UK. The SNC was strongly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, ejected from Syria in 1982 by Bashar al Assad’s father Hafez, following the Brotherhood’s earlier violent attempts to undermine the central government. While the political significance of this group was not lost on the Syrian government or amongst Syrians, given that both Qatar – the home of Al Jazeera – and Turkey also had strong allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood, the connection was dismissed or ignored by the ‘Friends of Syria’ and their subject populations. Astoundingly, following meetings with western leaders, this self-elected group of people, most of whom hadn’t set foot in Syria for thirty years, were pronounced as ‘the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people’ by their Western ‘friends’, and proposed as the government-in-waiting once Bashar al Assad was removed.
More astounding even than this was the acceptance by almost all NGOs, the UN, commentators and general public of this self-evident fiction. I shouldn’t even have to explain why people who have been through no conceivably democratic process of selection by any small fraction of ‘the Syrian people’, who don’t reside in Syria, and who seek the overthrow of Syria’s legitimate government cannot be legitimate representatives of anyone – other than the foreign states on whose behalf they are evidently acting. That the ‘Friends of Syria’ consider them so tells us just which foreign states these are.
While the SNC was always presented as a political group, and with only a tenuous connection to ‘Opposition’ fighters in Syria, this may be seen as one of the ways its ‘supporting powers’ concealed their own direct support for the armed insurgency. The years of rhetoric about a ‘peace process’, and vacuous debate over whether Assad could play a role in an interim government, gave false legitimacy to the role of the US in particular in its contribution to the Syrian conflict. Despite the wide acknowledgement of the false claims used by the US in its war against Iraq, the similar role it had played in fomenting and supporting the violent war on Syria went unnoticed, even amongst the most vocal left-wing opponents of US policies and ‘foreign interventions’.
Many mainstream commentators repeatedly represent the US role in the Syrian war as one of ‘reluctance to become involved’, while supporters of the armed insurgency both within and without Syria frequently complain about the ‘US failure’ to help the ‘rebels’, both militarily and politically. This call for intervention is echoed by influential NGOs such as Amnesty International and Medecins Sans Frontieres and charities such as Save the Children, as well as the UN and UNHRC.
Faced with the reality, of significant covert military assistance to the Syrian insurgency by the CIA, as discussed in detail by Seymour Hersh in two later articles published by the LRB, we have a difficult choice. Either these NGOs who are helping the opposition forces in Syria are ignorant of the direct US military support for armed groups conducting daily attacks on Syrian civilians and soldiers, or they condone this support. Clearly it is preferable to believe that these respected humanitarian agencies, who claim to be apolitical and oppose all violence against unarmed civilians, are ignorant of the extent and criminality of US and other foreign military support for the violent extremists and mercenaries who increasingly dominate the opposition forces in Syria.
Perhaps they did not read, or chose to dismiss the unchallengeable evidence for a ‘Rat line’ of both weapons and fighters from Libya through Turkey into Syria, facilitated since 2012 by the CIA and the Turkish Intelligence organisation MIT, as discussed in April 2014 by Seymour Hersh. (LRB, ‘Obama, Erdogan and the Syrian Rebels’). Hersh reiterates and further elaborates on the operation of the CIA’s rat line in his most recent article discussing intelligence sharing between the US and Syria (Military to Military, LRB January 7th 2016), noting the state department’s support for the operation, and apparent carelessness about the final destination of the weapons or the true nature of the ‘rebels’ they were arming. During this period the CIA was also running a training program for opposition fighters in Jordan who then joined jihadist forces fighting the Syrian army up to Damascus. Credible reports put the number of mercenaries so trained and armed at around 10,000 over several years.
While both these covert and illegal US operations were quite visible to those who looked, the false narrative about US reluctance to arm the ‘rebel’ forces remains dominant, sustained by periodic statements from the White House. Following constant calls from sections of Congress and pressure groups, the US finally ‘agreed’ to set up a ‘train and assist program’, selecting suitable ‘moderate’ Syrians for this force, not to fight ‘Assad’s Army’ but Islamic State. Much was made of the failure of this programme and the rapid defeat of its first recruits by Al Nusra. In fact it was a significant success for the White House in concealing the reality of its massive contribution to the violent military campaign to change Syria’s government. Considering the number of innocent Syrians who have been killed by US weapons, used by US trained mercenaries and foreign fighters, it was a truly criminal deception.
This deception continued until late last year, when Russia’s intervention in support of the Syrian army finally brought ‘the Rats’ out into the daylight. The US could no longer hide the armed groups it was supporting within the main Opposition-held area in the north-west as the Syrian army backed by Russian air power advanced towards Aleppo; it was forced to reveal their identity and location, and appeal to the Russians to avoid bombing these US-approved ‘moderate rebels’. No-one thought to point out that if these ‘vetted’ groups were there to fight Islamic State, they seemed to be in the wrong place, at least according to their sponsors. The US had complained since the start of the Russian air-campaign that Russia was targeting the ‘moderate rebels’ – claiming there was no IS presence around Aleppo.
But this left another problem for the US covert operation – Syria’s Al Qaeda. The dominant presence of this group around Aleppo, which has been holding Aleppo under siege for years while subjecting the government-supporting population to constant terrorist attacks, makes it the prime target for the Syrian forces and Russian air-strikes. Unable to deny that the ‘Al Nusra front’ did dominate the armed groups in East Aleppo, or persuade Russia not to target the terrorist group for fear it might kill ‘moderate rebels’ the West is vocally supporting, the US came up with another idea, claiming Al Nusra had cut ties with Al Qaeda and would henceforth be known as ‘Jabhat Fatah al Sham’. Even though this was so transparently disingenuous – and statements from the new ‘Foreign Media Relations Director’ of ‘Fatah al Sham’ confirmed the group’s continuing extremist Islamist agenda – the name-changing ruse worked.
Following a long-awaited campaign to liberate Aleppo from Al Nusra’s siege by the Syrian army, assisted by Iranian and Lebanese forces and the Russian air force, and the breaking of their resupply route from Turkey, an estimated force of 10,000 armed militants launched a huge counter attack on West Aleppo (at the end of July). Quite astonishingly the assistance of Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers in making this a ‘successful’ assault was acknowledged and even welcomed by Western media, who took their cue from aid agencies and others supporting the ‘besieged rebels’ in their hold-out in East Aleppo. One of the most influential of these ‘aid’ agencies is the ‘Syrian Civil Defence’ or White Helmets, whose logo can be seen on many videos showing people being rescued from buildings allegedly destroyed by Syrian or Russian bombs. While the White Helmets’ origins with MI6 are not hidden, – origins which should cast serious doubt both on their reports and their actual activities – Western media agencies have managed to ignore them.
Indeed one wonders now whether the White Helmets’ evident support for Al Nusra would any longer serve to disqualify it as a recipient of the West’s charitable and political assistance. If Al Qaeda’s suicide bombers can now be viewed as ‘good suicide bombers’ for helping the cause, then presumably the White Helmets would also be praised for their supporting role.
Yet it is only a supporting role. Taking advantage of the ceasefire and ‘humanitarian pause’ in the Syrian campaign forced on it by the West, huge new stocks of US weapons and vehicles paid for by local allies were shipped in across the Turkish border to resupply ‘rebel forces’. For the first time these included MANPADS, enabling Syrian or Russian planes to be shot down.
Perhaps now we should consider the disdain and disgust amongst Syrians, not just for those who kill their brave and loyal soldiers, but for those amongst us who would celebrate the brutal deaths of their loved ones and protectors. Consider the particular degree of wrath reserved for ‘terrorists’ who dare to kill just one of our soldiers on our own soil, or for those who seek to justify or even explain such brutality as a response to our own murderous campaigns in their homelands.
Having established, beyond a shadow of doubt, that neither the Syrian government nor any of its agents was responsible for the deaths of civilians from Sarin poisoning in Ghouta three years ago, it follows that all subsequent action taken directly or indirectly against Syria has been illegitimate. It also follows that responsibility for the deaths and injury of tens of thousands of innocent Syrian civilians and as many loyal Syrian soldiers and defence forces at the hands of violent sectarian extremists and mercenaries since August 2013, lies with those who have – in full knowledge of the truth – developed and maintained the fraudulent supporting narrative of the ‘Syrian civil war’ in the Western sphere.
How did it come to this – a situation where the truth of the ‘dirty war on Syria’ is completely concealed from those whose governments are conducting it, while being known to all those who are the victims of it in Syria? How can our comprehension of the motives and methods of our own governments be so lacking that they can literally get away with murder, while claiming the moral high ground and pretending sympathy with their victims?
But do we also share some responsibility for these crimes against humanity, for our gullibility in believing only the stories told by one party to the conflict, while rejecting those of the actual victims of the war – the Syrian people and their defence forces?
After several years of arming and supporting Syrian rebel groups that often collaborated with Al Qaeda’s Nusra terror affiliate, the United States launched an illegal invasion of Syria two years ago with airstrikes supposedly aimed at Al Qaeda’s Islamic State spin-off, but on Saturday that air war killed scores of Syrian soldiers and aided an Islamic State victory.
Yet, the major American news outlets treat this extraordinary set of circumstances as barely newsworthy, operating with an imperial hubris that holds any U.S. invasion or subversion of another country as simply, ho-hum, the way things are supposed to work.
On Monday, The Washington Post dismissed the devastating airstrike at Deir al-Zour killing at least 62 Syrian soldiers as one of several “mishaps” that had occurred over the past week and jeopardized a limited ceasefire, arranged between Russia and the Obama administration.
But the fact that the U.S. and several allies have been routinely violating Syrian sovereign airspace to carry out attacks was not even an issue, nor is it a scandal that the U.S. military and CIA have been arming and training Syrian rebels. In the world of Official Washington, the United States has the right to intervene anywhere, anytime, for whatever reason it chooses.
President Barack Obama has even publicly talked about authorizing military strikes in seven different countries, including Syria, and yet he is deemed “weak” for not invading more countries, at least more decisively.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has vowed to engage in a larger invasion of Syria, albeit wrapping the aggression in pretty words like “safe zone” and “no-fly zone,” but it would mean bombing and killing more Syrian soldiers.
As Secretary of State, Clinton used similar language to justify invading Libya and implementing a “regime change” that killed the nation’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, and unleashed five years of violent political chaos.
If you were living in a truly democratic country with a truly professional news media, you would think that this evolution of the United States into a rogue superpower violating pretty much every international law and treaty of the post-World War II era would be a regular topic of debate and criticism.
Those crimes include horrendous acts against people, such as torture and other violations of the Geneva Conventions, as well as acts of aggression, which the Nuremberg Tribunals deemed “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Justifying ‘Regime Change’
Yet, instead of insisting on accountability for American leaders who have committed these crimes, the mainstream U.S. news media spreads pro-war propaganda against any nation or leader that refuses to bend to America’s imperial demands. In other words, the U.S. news media creates the rationalizations and arranges the public acquiescence for U.S. invasions and subversions of other countries.
In particular, The New York Times now reeks of propaganda, especially aimed at two of the current targets, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin. With all pretenses of professionalism cast aside, the Times has descended into the status of a crude propaganda organ.
On Sunday, the Times described Assad’s visit to a town recently regained from the rebels this way: “Assad Smiles as Syria Burns, His Grip and Impunity Secure.” That was the headline. The article began:
“On the day after his 51st birthday, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, took a victory lap through the dusty streets of a destroyed and empty rebel town that his forces had starved into submission.
“Smiling, with his shirt open at the collar, he led officials in dark suits past deserted shops and bombed-out buildings before telling a reporter that — despite a cease-fire announced by the United States and Russia — he was committed ‘to taking back all areas from the terrorists.’ When he says terrorists, he means all who oppose him.”
The story by Ben Hubbard continues in that vein, although oddly the accompanying photograph doesn’t show Assad smiling but rather assessing the scene with a rather grim visage.
But let’s unpack the propaganda elements of this front-page story, which is clearly intended to paint Assad as a sadistic monster, rather than a leader fighting a foreign-funded-and-armed rebel movement that includes radical jihadists, including powerful groups linked to Al Qaeda and others forces operating under the banner of the brutal Islamic State.
The reader is supposed to recoil at Assad who “smiles as Syria burns” and who is rejoicing over his “impunity.” Then, there’s the apparent suggestion that his trip to Daraya was part of his birthday celebration so he could take “a victory lap” while “smiling, with his shirt open at the collar,” although why his collar is relevant is hard to understand. Next, there is the argumentative claim that when Assad refers to “terrorists” that “he means all who oppose him.”
As much as the U.S. news media likes to pride itself on its “objectivity,” it is hard to see how this article meets any such standard, especially when the Times takes a far different posture when explaining, excusing or ignoring U.S. forces slaughtering countless civilians in multiple countries for decades and at a rapid clip over the past 15 years. If anyone operates with “impunity,” it has been the leadership of the U.S. government.
On Sunday, the Times also asserted as flat fact the dubious charge against Assad that he has “hit civilians with gas attacks” when the most notorious case – the sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013 – appears now to have been carried out by rebels trying to trick the United States into intervening more directly on their side.
A recent United Nations report blaming Syrian forces for two later attacks involving chlorine was based on slim evidence and produced under great political pressure to reach that conclusion – while ignoring the absence of any logical reason for the Syrian forces to have used such an ineffective weapon and brushing aside testimony about rebels staging other gas attacks.
More often than not, U.N. officials bend to the will of the American superpower, failing to challenge any of the U.S.-sponsored invasions over recent decades, including something as blatantly illegal as the Iraq War. After all, for an aspiring U.N. bureaucrat, it’s clear which side his career bread is buttered.
We find ourselves in a world in which propaganda has come to dominate the foreign policy debates and – despite the belated admissions of lies used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya – the U.S. media insists on labeling anyone who questions the latest round of propaganda as a “fill-in-the-blank apologist.”
So, Americans who want to maintain their mainstream status shy away from contesting what the U.S. government and its complicit media assert, despite their proven track record of deceit. This is not just a case of being fooled once; it is being fooled over and over with a seemingly endless willingness to accept dubious assertion after dubious assertion.
In the same Sunday edition which carried the creepy portrayal about Assad, the Times’ Neil MacFarquhar pre-disparaged Russia’s parliamentary elections because the Russian people were showing little support for the Times’ beloved “liberals,” the political descendants of the Russians who collaborated with the U.S.-driven “shock therapy” of the 1990s, a policy that impoverished a vast number of Russians and drastically reduced life expectancy.
Why those Russian “liberals” have such limited support from the populace is a dark mystery to the mainstream U.S. news media, which also can’t figure out why Putin is popular for significantly reversing the “shock therapy” policies and restoring Russian life expectancy to its previous levels. No, it can’t be that Putin delivered for the Russian people; the only answer must be Putin’s “totalitarianism.”
The New York Times and Washington Post have been particularly outraged over Russia’s crackdown on “grassroots” organizations that are funded by the U.S. government or by billionaire financial speculator George Soros, who has publicly urged the overthrow of Putin. So has Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funnels U.S. government cash to political and media operations abroad.
The Post has decried a Russian legal requirement that political entities taking money from foreign sources must register as “foreign agents” and complains that such a designation discredits these organizations. What the Post doesn’t tell its readers is that the Russian law is modeled after the American “Foreign Agent Registration Act,” which likewise requires people trying to influence policy in favor of a foreign sponsor to register with the Justice Department.
Nor do the Times and Post acknowledge the long history of the U.S. government funding foreign groups, either overtly or covertly, to destabilize targeted regimes. These U.S.-financed groups often do act as “fifth columnists” spreading propaganda designed to undermine the credibility of the leaders, whether that’s Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 or Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.
That’s not to say that these targeted leaders were or are perfect. They are often far from it. But the essence of propaganda is to apply selective outrage and exaggeration to the leader that is marked for removal. Similar treatment does not apply to U.S.-favored leaders.
The pattern of the Times and Post is also to engage in ridicule when someone in a targeted country actually perceives what is going on. The correct perception is then dismissed as some sort of paranoid conspiracy theory.
Take, for example, the Times’ MacFarquhar describing a pamphlet and speeches from Nikolai Merkushkin, the governor of Russian region of Samara, that MacFarquhar says “cast the blame for Russia’s economic woes not on economic mismanagement or Western sanctions after the annexation of Crimea but on a plot by President Obama and the C.I.A. to undermine Russia.”
The Times article continues: “Opposition candidates are a fifth column on the payroll of the State Department and part of the scheme, the pamphlet said, along with the collapse in oil prices and the emergence of the Islamic State. Mr. Putin is on the case, not least by rebuilding the military, the pamphlet said, noting that ‘our country forces others to take it seriously and this is something that American politicians don’t like very much.’”
Yet, despite the Times’ mocking tone, the pamphlet’s perceptions are largely accurate. There can be little doubt that the U.S. government through funding of anti-Putin groups inside Russia and organizing punishing sanctions against Russia, is trying to make the Russian economy scream, destabilize the Russian government and encourage a “regime change” in Moscow.
Further, President Obama has personally bristled at Russia’s attempts to reassert itself as an important world player, demeaning the former Cold War superpower as only a “regional power.” The U.S. government has even tread on that “regional” status by helping to orchestrate the 2014 putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s elected President Yanukovych on Russia’s border.
After quickly calling the coup regime “legitimate,” the U.S. government supported attempts to crush resistance in the south and east which were Yanukovych’s political strongholds. Crimea’s overwhelming decision to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia was deemed by The New York Times a Russian “invasion” although the Russian troops that helped protect Crimea’s referendum were already inside Crimea as part of the Sevastopol basing agreement.
The U.S.-backed Kiev regime’s attempt to annihilate resistance from ethnic Russians in the east – through what was called an “Anti-Terrorism Operation” that has slaughtered thousands of eastern Ukrainians – also had American backing. Russian assistance to these rebels is described in the mainstream U.S. media as Russian “aggression.”
Oddly, U.S. news outlets find nothing objectionable about the U.S. government launching military strikes in countries halfway around the world, including the recent massacre of scores of Syrian soldiers, but are outraged that Russia provided military help to ethnic Russians being faced with annihilation on Russia’s border.
Because of the Ukraine crisis, Hillary Clinton likened Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler.
Seeing No Coup
For its part, The New York Times concluded that there had been no coup in Ukraine – by ignoring the evidence that there was one, including an intercepted pre-coup telephone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who should be made the new leaders of Ukraine.
The evidence of a coup was so clear that George Friedman, founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, said in an interview that the overthrow of Yanukovych “really was the most blatant coup in history.” But the Times put protecting the legitimacy of the post-coup regime ahead of its journalistic responsibilities to its readers, as it has done repeatedly regarding Ukraine.
Another stunning case of double standards has been the mainstream U.S. media’s apoplexy about alleged Russian hacking into emails of prominent Americans and then making them public. These blame-Russia articles have failed to present any solid evidence that the Russians were responsible and also fail to note that the United States leads the world in using electronic means to vacuum up personal secrets about foreign leaders as well as average citizens.
In a number of cases, these secrets appear to have been used to blackmail foreign leaders to get them to comply with U.S. demands, such as the case in 2002-03 of the George W. Bush administration spying on diplomats on the U.N. Security Council to coerce their votes on authorizing the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a ploy that failed.
U.S. intelligence also tapped the cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose cooperation on Ukraine and other issues of the New Cold War is important to Washington. And then there’s the massive collection of data about virtually everybody on the planet, including U.S. citizens, over the past 15 years during the “war on terror.”
Earlier this year, the mainstream U.S. news media congratulated itself over its use of hacked private business data from a Panama-based law firm, material that was said to implicate Putin in some shady business dealings even though his name never showed up in the documents. No one in the mainstream media protested that leak or questioned who did the hacking.
Such mainstream media bias is pervasive. In the case of Sunday’s Russian elections, the Times seems determined to maintain the fiction that the Russian people don’t really support Putin, despite consistent opinion polls showing him with some 80 percent approval.
In the Times’ version of reality, Putin’s popularity must be some kind of trick, a case of totalitarian repression of the Russian people, which would be fixed if only the U.S.-backed “liberals” were allowed to keep getting money from NED and Soros without having to divulge where the funds were coming from.
The fact that Russians, like Americans, will rally around their national leader when they perceive the country to be under assault – think, George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks – is another reality that the Times can’t tolerate. No, the explanation must be mind control.
The troubling reality is that the Times, Post and other leading American news outlets have glibly applied one set of standards on “enemies” and another on the U.S. government. The Times may charge that Bashar al-Assad has “impunity” for his abuses, but what about the multitude of U.S. leaders – and, yes, journalists – who have their hands covered in the blood of Iraqis, Libyans, Afghans, Yemenis, Syrians, Somalis and other nationalities. Where is their accountability?
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).