The CIA, Trump and Unverified News
London — Morning breakfast news on the BBC’s Radio Four on Friday was a delightful affair filled with discussions on Russia (when do we not talk about that busy, stirring Bear these days?), Donald Trump, dossiers and the intelligence fraternity. Did it even matter that various sources have been unverified, subject matter lumped together in cumbersome conversations on fake news, sexual frolics and the like?
Discussants on the Beeb who kept listeners company over coffee included former, recently confessed spook Frederick Forsyth, for years the go-to creator of the spy narrative, and the official intelligence historian Sir Christopher Andrew.
For Forsyth, the allegations outlined by former British spy Christopher Steele that Trump found himself in prancing company with Russian hookers, dubious real estate deals targeted as bribes and a treasonous coordination with the Russian intelligence services to defeat Hillary Clinton, beggared belief. Trump was hardly that much of a buffoon, surely.
On Wednesday night, the US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., issued a statement in the aftermath of a conversation with Trump on the Steele dossier, suggesting that the agencies had “not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable.” Naturally, despite any claims about authenticity, the report had been circulated within the deepest recesses of spook central. Clapper would never want to deny his own officials the pleasure of that smut.
The New York Times conceded that much of the story remained “out of reach – most critically the basis question of how much, if anything, in the dossier is true.” You would think that this point was most salient, rendering any other discussion empty and flatulent.
Nonetheless, the paper would go on to assert that it was “possible to piece together a rough narrative of what led to the current crisis, including lingering questions about the ties binding Mr. Trump and his team to Russia.”
With the US presidential inauguration fast approaching, the press jackals have been swarming. The tid bits offered by the Steele report are themselves shrouded, stemming from September 2015 when an anti-Trump Republican donor (naturally, we do not know the name) commissioned Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research firm stacked by former journalists turned information hit-men, to do some digging. The mission was simple: find as much debilitating dirt as possible and sink the Trump ship.
Steele, considered at one point one of Britain’s foremost Russian experts within MI6, was considered ideal for the job of funneling information to Glenn Simpson at Fusion GPS. The themes of those memos were stock standard: the old compromising (kompromat) material, with sex being central; and the hacking of the Democratic National Committee with discussion by Trump officials with Russian entities.
Trump has not done himself any favours, preferring to throw meagre carrion at the press corps, and hope that it miraculously dissipates. His polemical advisors would have been best served to tell him to shut it. News is not interesting. Allegations have become the gold dust of political debate.
This latest battle of spite and indignation reveals that internally, there is a war between claims and institutions within the United States. The intelligence community finds itself unsheathing its weapons. Trump has duly responded.
The point being missed here is the possibility that the servants of the elected commander-in-chief may actually be subverting the Republic, for all Trump’s sullen, and childish authoritarianism. Sources garnered from the very foundry of deception have assumed an aura of reliability. The argument about fake news has been turned inside out.
While care should be taken in packaging the entire US intelligence community into a neat box of anti-Trump enthusiasts, a good number of former officials were very keen that Hillary Clinton take over the reins in the White House. Views were expressed throughout the election cycle: Trump had to be defeated at all costs.
Once it became clear that Trump was gaining electoral momentum at nerve racking pace, it was important to side with the Clinton electoral team on a revived Cold War mantra: the Russians were doing terrible things, with Trump operating in the shadow of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
For former CIA and NSA director under George W. Bush, Gen. Michael Hayden, Trump was “the useful fool, some naïf, manipulated by Moscow, secretly held in contempt, but whose blind support is happily accepted and exploited.”
Former CIA Director Michael J. Morell also took a step that can only be regarded as singular and institutionally troubling: coming out from the shadows to pick his preferred candidate while denigrating another.
In August, he bored readers with his resume in an opinion piece for the New York Times. (“In my 40 years of voting, I have pulled the lever for candidates of both parties.”) He expressed a solemn view that Trump was “not only unqualified for the job, but he may well pose a threat to our national security.” Russia’s Putin “had recruited Mr. Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”
The Fourth Estate used to be the solemn interrogating power of the parliamentary galleries. Being unelected, it was given, as an accident of history, a certain influence. Like all power, it can be misdirected, even ill-informed. The questioners can become vessels and conduits.
Over time, that same estate has withered, becoming a faint echo of investigation and fact checking. Even in notionally democratic states, it can be co-opted. As Glenn Greenwald has argued, the most useful tool of the deep state has been the US media, “much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials.”
Leakers are punished; facts are not cross-checked. The hack now floats in an ether of speculation, fed by the unverifiable, and pampered by the intelligence official. The battles now seemingly are not over narratives of veracity but narratives of invention. Power, it would seem, to the creative in this new Republic of trouble that is the United States.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and can be reached at: email@example.com.
This one was doing the rounds yesterday.
From the BBC:
Migrating birds are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier as global temperatures rise, a study has found.
Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures, according to the research by Edinburgh University.
The study looked at hundreds of species across five continents.
It is hoped it will help scientists predict how different species may respond to future environmental change.
Reaching their summer breeding grounds at the wrong time – even by a few days – may cause birds to miss out on maximum availability of vital resources such as food and nesting places.
Late arrival to breeding grounds may, in turn, affect the timing of offspring hatching and their chances of survival.
Long-distance migrants, which are shown to be less responsive to rising temperatures, may suffer most as other birds gain advantage by arriving at breeding grounds ahead of them.
Flowering and breeding
Takuji Usui, of Edinburgh University’s school of biological sciences, said: “Many plant and animal species are altering the timing of activities associated with the start of spring, such as flowering and breeding.
“Now we have detailed insights into how the timing of migration is changing and how this change varies across species.
“These insights may help us predict how well migratory birds keep up with changing conditions on their breeding grounds.”
The study examined how various species, which take flight in response to cues such as changing seasonal temperatures and food availability, have altered their behaviour over time and with increasing temperatures.
The researchers examined records of migrating bird species dating back almost 300 years.
The study drew upon records from amateur enthusiasts and scientists, including notes from 19th-century American naturalist Henry David Thoreau.
Species that migrate huge distances – such as the swallow and pied flycatcher – and those with shorter migrations – such as the lapwing and pied wagtail – were included in the research.
The study, published in Journal of Animal Ecology, was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council.
So, let’s get this straight.
One day earlier for each degree of global warming. That means birds are migrating a whole day earlier than during the 19thC.
And we are supposed to be concerned about this?
In fact, given the inter-annual variability, I simply do not believe that these results have any statistical significance whatsoever. The error margins must dwarf the results.
But here’s the thing. Birds have been adapting to changing climate for millennia. It is not the climate that forces them to do anything. Quite the reverse in fact. Birds will adopt the strategy that is most beneficial for them.
The longer they can stay at their summer breeding grounds, the better it is for them, as it allows more time for them to raise their chicks.
The project was funded by the NERC. Isn’t it time we stopped wasting taxpayers’ money on such rubbish?
Hashtag #lasttweet began to appear in Twitter frequently after government troops engaged the final phase of Aleppo’s liberation in recent weeks.
Bana al-Abed, an alleged seven-year resident of the largest city in Syria, was the first who created an Internet hysterical fit designed to discredit the process of recapturing Aleppo. Her Twitter account was registered in September, 2016, amid intensified fighting in Aleppo. There are many details of the horrors of war on her page. And the girl blames not the terrorists but the Syrian government and its allies. Tweets are actively retweeted and not only by the Syrian opposition, but also by the mainstream Western media. For example, The Washington Post called Bana the Syrian Anne Frank (who wrote a diary in Nazi-occupied Netherlands).
At the same time, no one draws attention to the strange nuances. First, tweets appear very often. It seems that the little girl posts the information about the situation in the city 24/7. Aleppo is a city of constant fighting, with no constant energy source and water supply, and there is often lack of food and medicine. The more so, no one can easily access the Internet and cellular network due to damaged infrastructure. Second, her account looks perfect it terms of English language. Third, celebs, Western journalists and popular opposition bloggers contribute to the viral dissemination of Bana’s posts. It took just three hours to collect more than 3,700 likes and more than 5,000 retweets after the publication of one of the first tweets of Bana. According to Social Rank website, the request “Who was your first follower?” shows the first subscriber of Bana was an Al-Jazeera journalist Abdul Aziz Ahmed.
Social Rank website shows the results of the request
Moreover, J.K. Rowling promised to send the girl a Harry Potter book and by doing so the writer made a very good ad and emphasized the problem of Bana. Despite the fact that Syria has always been at a high level of literacy of the population (more than 90 percent in fact), Aleppo has been involved in the civil war for four years. At the same time we are forced to believe that the seven-year-old child has such a good command of a foreign language that she is ready to read a book of several hundred pages in the original language.
Speaking of the language it should be noted that a Syrian activist Maytham Al Ashkar who is originally from Al-Zahraa in northern Syria, currently in Beirut, but often travelling to Damascus and Aleppo contacted the 7-year-old Twitter star, Bana Alabed, on November 27, offering to evacuate her family from eastern Aleppo. After a month, someone who identified herself as Bana’s mother responded. When he got contacted by Bana’s account, he started to chat in Arabic since they are all Syrians and Arabic is their mother tongue. However, it was obvious that the person behind the account preferred English as a language of communication.
The more so, according to the media, Bana’s mother studied law. This means that she has studied the Syrian curriculum for 12 years, which is all in Arabic, plus 4 years at university, where all the subjects are taught in Arabic
The girl and her mother didn’t arrange the possibility of evacuation which could be provided by the journalist. So, Maytham Al Ashkar decided that the girl is just a face, a tool used by the British intelligence. (British – because of the strong relationship between the Bana’s account and the White Helmets funded and sponsored by the UK)
Twitter conversation between Maytham Al Ashkar and al-Abed’s account
It should be noted that Bana not only writes these tweets but also her mother Fatima al-Abed who is a teacher at a local school. It is she who helps her daughter to write so grammatically correct. Nevertheless, all this raises a number of questions: who is really writing on behalf of Bana and where from? There are a number of other controversial issues. Inside Syria Media Center will try to investigate the Bana project.
On November 27, Bana reported that her home had been destroyed after the shelling. The house is allegedly located in Joured Awaad quarter in the eastern part of Aleppo. Meanwhile, about 20 shellings performed by the anti-government forces were registered in the provinces of Aleppo on November 26. The armed groups of the Syrian Free Army fired multiple launch rocket systems against Bayada and Salah al-Din quarters of the Aleppo city. In addition, terrorists of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and ISIS fired multiple launch rocket systems, tube artillery, mortars and small arms several times against Shurfa inhabited area, Binyamin, Dahiya al-Assad, Jamaiyah Fahat, Amri, Ashrafiyah, Art Sabah, Akyul, 1070, Hai Zahraa Awwad, Kastello trade center, al-Assad military academy, area of the former military school, and Higma school in the Aleppo city.
At the same time, the activity of the government troops was concentrated in the area to the south of the city of Hanano. So, the question arises: why does the girl insist on her house being fired upon and ruined while none of the parties opened fire near her house.
It is also unclear why the walls and the furniture in Bana’s room are not affected by the attacks, and always look new, despite the fact that the girl is constantly complaining that she frequently has to move into a new house. Moreover, the curtains on her photos are always tightly closed and the girl is always clean dressed.
On November 22, Bana published a video which showed her walking down the street in a terrorist-controlled district. Very few people are seen in the area. Getting into the shot, some of the occasional pedestrians are trying to get out of sight. They don’t really care for a little girl being shot. At 0.59, a head appears from a corner and immediately disappears. This looks really suspicious. The high quality of the footage, professional editing, and a tripod (the video is really smooth) – all these prove that the video was staged.
Bana’s tweets are written in English and the girl keeps alleging that Bashar al-Assad “kills children, bombs schools, shells neighborhoods and hurts Aleppo’s residents”. She constantly accuses the Syrian AF of aggressive actions. The little girl’s account is politically straight with messages including popular hashtags. However, in her interview to BBC, Fatima al-Abed stressed that Bana’s twitter wasn’t a propaganda campaign and wasn’t linked to terrorists.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of photos not connected to Bana. For instance, the photos of children allegedly killed in the airstrike at an Idlib school. It’s unknown how the footage got into the hands of Bana’s parents, and why the family doesn’t want to leave east Aleppo for government-controlled areas.
Everything becomes clear when you see the Facebook page of Ghassan, the girl’s father, with lots of his friends tied to various radical groups fighting in Syria.
Omar al-Amd, a Jabhat al-Nusra sniper, one of Bana father’s friends
Besides, some media reported that Bana’s tweets are written by the popular Syrian opposition blogger Abdel Kafi al-Hamdo (https://twitter.com/Mr_Alhamdo). Creating his account in October, 2016, a teacher and an activist gained as much as 17,000 followers.
The propaganda pouring from Bana’s Twitter was mentioned at a high political level. In his interview to the Danish channel TV2, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stressed that the terrorists and their allies promoted Bana’s tweets.
The Hollywood-stylish Bana’s “death” should also be mentioned. First, the girl’s Twitter became inactive just after the government offensive on east Aleppo started. But soon BBC reported that the girl and her mother were alive and that they had come to a safe place. The account was restored and a new Tweet appeared: “Under attack. Nowhere to go, every minute feels like death. Pray for us. Goodbye – Fatemah”.
The ban provoked mass hysteria in the social media, the hashtag #whereisBana quickly became trending. At the same time, Bana’s fake accounts started to post messages about her “death”, which were allegedly written by her mother.
As of today, it should be noted that the project is still active. “Last tweets” have been repeatedly appearing. Probably, the world will witness other news from Bana, whose messages remind us of the story of “Aleppo’s last hospital”.
Till now Bana remains a mystery. The city is completely under government control but no proof of Bana and her mother’s existence has emerged. It is possible that the girl left Aleppo for Idlib alongside the most radical militants (as pointed out by a NBC report) or headed to Turkey in the company of other armed groups. The latter suggestion is supported by the call for help directed at Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that Bana published on Twitter.
Locating Bana and showing that she is safe and can start a new, more quiet life, should be of utmost interest for the Syrian authorities. On the other hand, the rumors could be disproved by finding the flat in the eastern quarter of Joured Awwad and proving that exploiting children’s death is nothing but another propaganda plot of the Western media, and that the Bana project is closed.
After a day of claiming up to 82 civilians were “shot on the spot” by Syrian forces battling to retake the northern city of Aleppo from armed terrorists who have occupied it since invading the city in 2012, no evidence or even the source of the claim has surfaced.
According to the BBC, the UN Human Rights office in Geneva received reports of the incident.
Despite Western journalists having been on the ground in Aleppo, along with UN staff, the reports were actually received in Geneva from unnamed sources alleged to be in Aleppo, not acquired – or verified – on the ground by either the Western media or UN staff.
The BBC, in its article, “Aleppo battle: UN says civilians shot on the spot,” would admit (emphasis added):
“Yesterday evening, we received further deeply disturbing reports that numerous bodies were lying on the streets,” Mr Colville added, while admitting it was hard to verify the reports.
It should be noted that the BBC left the accusation on their website for hours before eventually adding that the reports were both unverified, and acquired by “sources,” not by UN staff firsthand in Aleppo.
The purpose of this was to maximize the initial impact of the shocking, easily “re-tweeted” headline without being burdened with providing evidence. Once the headline went “viral,” the BBC eventually filled in the details – which had they been included in the initial report – would have significantly blunted the impact of the headline.
With talk of “fake news” reaching hysterical levels, the BBC in collaboration with the UN itself prove that organizations and institutions of the West have long held a monopoly on generating “fake news” and leveraging it not just to manipulate politics and public perception, but to perpetuate war and the destruction of human life.
Other Lies Exposed
A day after the Western media’s coverage of Aleppo reached a fevered pitch, and with the fighting effectively over, other lies repeated ad nauseam just a day ago are now surfacing as obvious, malicious fabrications.
CNN in a report titled, “Estimated 100,000 civilians trapped in Aleppo,” admits that the supposed “rebels” only hold, “a few streets, a few blocks, maybe a neighborhood,” admits that it is “very difficult to verify any of these reports,” and repeatedly uses the term “might be” in reference to the supposed 100,000 civilians the Western media and the UN claim are still in “eastern Aleppo.”
Of course, with evacuations underway now, it is clear there were nowhere near 100,000 civilians left in the remaining territory occupied by armed militants, revealing yesterday’s news coverage of just the latest in a long line of politically motivated performances carried out by an otherwise unjournalistic Western media.
Patrick Cockburn in a UK Independent article titled, “This is why everything you’ve read about the wars in Syria and Iraq could be wrong,” attempts to offer a conciliatory explanation as to why the Western media’s coverage has been so divergent from reality.
It is too dangerous for journalists to operate in rebel-held areas of Aleppo and Mosul. But there is a tremendous hunger for news from the Middle East, so the temptation is for the media give credence to information they get second hand.
He also states:
Unsurprisingly, foreign journalists covering developments in east Aleppo and rebel-held areas of Syria overwhelmingly do so from Lebanon or Turkey. A number of intrepid correspondents who tried to do eyewitness reporting from rebel-held areas swiftly found themselves tipped into the boots of cars or otherwise incarcerated.
Experience shows that foreign reporters are quite right not to trust their lives even to the most moderate of the armed opposition inside Syria. But, strangely enough, the same media organisations continue to put their trust in the veracity of information coming out of areas under the control of these same potential kidnappers and hostage takers. They would probably defend themselves by saying they rely on non-partisan activists, but all the evidence is that these can only operate in east Aleppo under license from the al-Qaeda-type groups.
Cockburn also notes that much of the overt bias and poor reporting coming from across the Western media is politically motivated. When the light of reality began showing through in reports from journalists, experts, and diplomats, leadership in Western capitals intentionally ignored it, fixated only on regime change.
And while the Western media itself has attempted to use its inability to report from on the ground as an excuse for repeating verified lies told to them by their “sources” in Syria, it should be noted that an equal or greater number of pro-government bloggers have been covering the conflict since 2011 as well, only to be intentionally ignored, even attacked by the Western media.
This goes far in explaining why the Western media finds itself eagerly defending militants who by all accounts are dominated by Jabhat Al Nusra, a US State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization and repeating their propaganda no matter how absurd.
Those across the West listening to this coverage would be led to believe that the hospital to population ratio in eastern Aleppo was nearly 1:1, that every inhabitant of eastern Aleppo was either a doctor, a woman, or a child, and that the remaining neighborhood amid the battle for the city housed a population larger than the entire city of Idlib, the defacto terrorist capital of Jabhat Al Nusra in Syria.
It is important to expose these lies, because while the city of Aleppo has been fully liberated, Idlib, Al Raqqa, and now once again Palmyra remain battles yet to be fought.
The capacity of the West and its proxies to destroy peace and security for the people of Syria rests in their capacity to continue lying about the nature of Western involvement in Syria in the first place. Undermine this capacity, and undermine their ability to disrupt and destroy the future of Syrians any further.
If the western world cared for Syria as much as CNN and the BBC appear to, heaven would reign here on Earth. Every waking hour of every day the tears of British, American, and European media publishers cascade over us. Those “White Helmets”, the humanitarian saints, the word wielding White House spokespeople immerse us in their humanity. And their humanity is a sinful joke.
For nearly four years now I’ve watched this sardonic drama unfold. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate turns the dogs of war loose. Morals and ideals are upended like dancing bowling pins. Liars blame truthtellers for the chaos we see, and those of us who embrace a moderate stance get labeled as trolls, traitors, fakes or worse. Proven criminals and elitist warmongers roam everywhere, and somehow we’ve evolved to accept it all. Madness is the only word that comes close to describing American policy these days, but the most maddening thing is the hypocrisy and arrogance. BBC! Every time I see the letters under a headline I cringe.
According to CNN, the Syrian Army is executing the families of Free Syrian Army rebels. With western world leaders up in arms over so-called “Fake News”, the Cable News Network is sourcing an “activist” named Mohammad Basbous, and a suspect media network called the Aleppo Media Center. With its Twitter account suspended, its Facebook broadcasting clear jihadist propaganda, this writer wonders at how CNN even considered this source. The YouTube channel features videos from Aleppo with soundtrack elements reminiscent of the film The Last Samurai. Bleeding children filmed like method actors, distraught mothers whaling, the angelic White Helmets workers salvaging what they can, the AMC channel shows the Al Nusra side of things without apology. Embedded within this propaganda though, the reality of a lie is readily seen. Scant days before the Syrian Army takes over a neighborhood, brave captains of the rebel uprising proclaim one small victory after another in the face of demonic attacks by Assad and Russia. If the Syria coverage were seen in a carnival tent it would be more convincing.
Still some believe the battle for Aleppo, Palmyra, and all of Syria is somehow a noble quest for democracy! But who are these CNN and BBC sources really? On the AMC Facebook pages we find four people associated with the account. Yousef Seddik, Zein Al-Rifai, Hasan Kattan, and the aforementioned CNN source Mohammad Basbous. Maybe if we look at them one at a time we can discern how the most prolific media in the west validates them.
Yousef Seddik broadcasts White Helmets heroism via Twitter to his 329 followers. As an expert in social media I can glean much from this account established back in 2013. First follows are often telling of people not so aware of social media, and Seddik creating this account as a function of the AMC network is brutally clear. Among his initial Twitter pals we find none other than Rima Maktabi, who hosted for two years CNN‘s monthly program Inside the Middle East. She works for Saudi TV Al Arabiya. Seddik’s very first “follow” was in fact Zidane Zenglow, another Al Arabiya correspondent. I could go on but what’s more telling than who someone follows in social media, is who “is” following a subject. Saudis quoting the Koran and how paradise is won by the faithful are Seddik’s first admirers, along with Al Arabiya correspondents following back.
Zein Al-Rifai is the freelance photojournalist who works for AMC. He’s the man who films the dying, dead, destruction and riveting propaganda this network spews out. He follows people like the President of France and the US Secretary of State, along with Saudi ministers, the White Helmets, and first follows indicating his social media was always about the war versus Assad. One early Tweep tweets about all the factions coming together as one now that Aleppo has fallen. I could dig deeper, but let’s move on.
Hassan Kattan is from Aleppo according to his social profiles. This rebel sympathizer began his social media efforts by following France 24 and the Saudi TV stations, and Shaam News Network in Damascus. This AMC operative just tweeted “We want freedom, we want to topple Assad” 8 hours ago. Here is the rough translation of a Facebook posting by him from November 24th:
“I swear our hearts tired blessings of God
A lot of pressure and reality hurts.
We lost a lot in this period of our friendly and loved us.
Personally I hate moments of weakness and hate across her.
We still have great confidence that e revolution will win. If we live or we die and that if we meet our God will not be afraid to ask him about what we did with our lives and what we have provided to our cause.!
Finally, if you trace down the network of people behind these CNN and BBC “sources” you always arrive at a dark destination. On the surface of these people and their accounts we find the fake idealism embracing the dead and destroyed in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. Underneath, down the trail of collaborators and friends we find the AK 47s, the trenches and windows with snipers shooting at the real Syrian Army. There is no mistaking the “jihad” in the jihadist, in the revolutionary. I also find it ironic that Syria expert Vanessa Beeley talking with recently rescued citizens from East Aleppo revealed these White Helmet rescuers as phantoms, ghosts no trapped civilians there ever heard tell of.
Looking at the Twitter feed of an Aleppo named Fares Shehabi I find more credible news from freed Aleppo citizens. But CNN did not interview this Syrian official, unless I miss my guess. Shehabi, one of the most respected business and political figures in Syria, will probably end up being prime minister or president one day, so it’s puzzling nobody but Sputnik is talking with him since Reuters mentioned him in 2012.
On a final note, there is a common thread that runs through these “sources” histories. A man named Wadah Khanfar appears frequently. The President of Al Sharq Forum today was once the Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network. His presence in the social networks and media surrounding the AMC people brings to mind the scandal when WikiLeaks documents revealed Khanfar once unduly influencing Al Jazeera’s news coverage of the War in Iraq at the behest of U.S. embassy officials in Qatar. He subsequently resigned, but his role with elitists at the now notorious International Crisis Group as one of the Board of Trustees, is telling for me.
Khanfar is tweeting about executions to his 2.1 million followers too. Next I will follow the breadcrumbs from Aleppo to Kurdistan and the US interests there, as well as how the Davos elites tie in.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe.
Two organisations emerged losers after the Scottish 2014 independence referendum. YES Scotland won praise after narrowly failing to overturn a thirty point deficit. The other loser was the BBC. The British State broadcaster sacrificed its reputation in return for a narrow win for the No campaign. London Calling captures the descent of the BBC during Scotland’s historic referendum period. A two year orgy of spin, deceit, manipulation and corruption has been packaged into a powerful seventy minute documentary exposé. Thought you could trust the BBC? Prepare to be shocked.
DVD fundraiser link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lo…
The Oxford Dictionaries have named ‘post-truth’ as the word of the year. ‘Fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ politics have been blamed for both the Brexit vote in the UK and the victory of Donald Trump in America.
It seems the uneducated plebs are falling for ’fake news’ they read in ’new media’ and the lies of dreadful rabble-rousing populist politicians who are relying on people’s emotions, instead of ’objective facts,’ to get votes. It’s all terribly worrying and poses a dire threat to Western civilization as we know it.
Well, forgive me for laughing out loud. For this establishment ‘fake news’/’post-truth politics’ concern is the funniest thing I’ve come across in politics since Lord Jenkins of Hillhead, the very grand Chancellor of the University of Oxford, repeatedly called distinguished Sheldonian guest Mikhail Gorbachev, “Mr. Brezhnev.”
Why is it so hilarious? Because the people and the outlets warning of the dangers of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ have been the biggest peddlers of ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ out there. It’s like receiving lectures on the immorality of bootlegging from Al Capone or being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Without a doubt the best, or rather the worst example of ‘fake news’ in the last 25 years or so, was the neocon lie that Iraq had WMDs in 2002/3. That wasn’t peddled by ‘obscure bloggers’ and ‘new media,’ but by mainstream Western politicians, from ‘mainstream’ political parties, establishment-approved ‘experts’ on the BBC/ITV/CNN, etc., and Op-ed columnists in ‘serious’ and ‘respectable’ media outlets.
There was absolutely no evidence that Saddam possessed WMDs. The story was complete and utter BS. Yet this fake news dominated the headlines for months in 2002/3 and led to an illegal invasion in which many people lost their lives. Unlike today’s manufactured ‘fake news’ hysteria the Iraq war was no joke. An entire country was destroyed.
And guess what? Those who pushed the ‘Iraq has WMDs line’ are now coming on television to express their concern over ‘fake news’!
John Hilley notes “The BBC even had Alastair Campbell (Tony Blair’s spin doctor), in the studio defending the term ‘post-truth’ as a way of exposing the ‘dangers’ of ‘fake news.'”
Campbell stated: “It’s acknowledging that politics, which has always been rough, has moved to a different phase where politicians who lie now appear to get rewarded for it.” (BBC2 Jeremy Vine Show, 16/11/2016).
What might Orwell have said about Campbell, master spinner and Blairite warmonger, sitting inside the BBC being rewarded for his thoughts on ‘post-truth and ‘fake news?’ Hilley asks.
Once again, I’m sure old George is spinning in his grave in Sutton Courtenay.
Then there’s that serial warmonger Bernard-Henri Levy. The Sunday Telegraph today told us in its headlines: ‘Leading French philosopher: Marine Le Pen may win election as people have lost interest in whether politicians tell the truth.’
Oh, the irony!
Because if the French people really have ‘lost interest in whether politicians tell the truth,’ Henri-Levy and his fellow liberal interventionist ‘regime changers’ have got a lot to do with it.
Think back to the war against Libya, which the ‘leading French philosopher’ lobbied hard for. To sell the war to the Western public, we were told that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit a ‘Srebrenica-style’ massacre in Benghazi. Media Lens noted the claims that were made at the time.
But again it was a load of ‘rollocks.’ Five years after Libya, like Iraq before it, had been destroyed by Western ‘interventionists,’ a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons declared: “the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence.”
It wasn’t the only claim made about Libya by Western politicians that was ‘not supported by the available evidence.’ In February 2011, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted that he had seen ‘information’ which suggested that Gaddafi was on his way to Venezuela. An unnamed ‘diplomat’ said that this was ‘credible information.’ But it wasn’t. It was the same old fake news that we get every time the Western elites are trying to achieve ‘regime change.’
In April 2011 we heard that the devilish Gaddafi (who had not, after all, fled to Caracas), was supplying his troops with Viagra “to encourage mass rape.”
“Gaddafi’s security forces and other groups in the region are trying to divide the people by using violence against women and rape as tools of war, and the United States condemns this in the strongest possible terms,” declared Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose supporters are now complaining about ‘post-truth politics.
Again, no evidence was put forward for the Viagra/mass rape claim and, surprise, surprise, none was ever found.
A clear pattern can be discerned. To get public support for its illegal regime change wars, the Western establishment energetically promotes a number of ‘fake news’ stories. These stories are usually reported unquestioningly in ‘respectable’ outlets and are regularly cited by neocon/liberal interventionist commentators as a reason for taking action against the target state. ‘Anonymous’ sources feature heavily in these stories, which like MI6’s ‘Operation Mass Appeal’ are often planted by the security services.
Meanwhile, people’s emotions are shamelessly played upon by the ‘something must be done’ brigade of ‘liberal’ laptop bombardiers, the same crowd, note well, who accuse ‘populist’ politicians of ignoring ‘objective facts’ and playing on people’s emotions.
The fake news continues while the regime change operation is ongoing. After its over, we’re all meant to forget about the false stories we were fed and focus on the next ’New Hitler’ who needs to be dealt with. In 2011, it was the despicable Gaddafi, now it’s the despicable Assad and the despicable Putin who we’re told: “have to be stopped.”
The term ‘post-truth’ politics implies there was a time when politics was truthful. I doubt if that ever was the case, but certainly in the last 25 years, thanks to the influence of neocons and ‘liberal interventionists’, the lies have been off the scale. Remember the Niger uranium forgeries? And Saddam’s horrific ‘People Shredder‘?
And before the Iraq war, we had the ‘humanitarian’ NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, where again fake news dominated. US Defense Secretary William Cohen claimed “about 100,000 military-aged” Kosovan Albanians were missing… “they may have been murdered.”
As John Pilger reminded us, “Kosovo, the site of a genocide that never was, is now a violent “free market” in drugs and prostitution.”
It wasn’t the only lurid claim that was made to sell the war. But again the ‘genocide’ and hundreds of thousands killed stories were false, as a UN court itself ruled in 2001.
Fake news also featured heavily in the neocon campaign to get Iran sanctioned for an entirely unproven nuclear weapons program. It’s dominated the coverage of recent events in Ukraine, with Russia’s non-existent ‘invasion of Ukraine’ routinely referred to as a fact. The conflict in Syria too has been marked by ‘fake news,’ and theories being reported as if they’re 100 percent proven. How many times have you read that “Assad gassed his own people” at Ghouta in 2013, even though we still don’t know for sure who carried out the attack?
If it’s ‘official enemies’ we’re talking about ‘fact-checking’ and citing sources isn’t all that important for those who pounce on a mere typo if it’s an anti-war writer who’s making a claim.
Now, the same people who have disseminated fake news for so long and who are still, even after Iraq and Libya, embedded in the West’s political and media establishments, are lashing out because they no longer control the narrative as they used to. The public is getting their news from a much wider variety of sources and voting for ‘populist,’ i.e., non-neocon/liberal interventionist-anointed candidates/parties at elections.
Instead of admitting that it’s their ’fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ which has caused people to switch off from establishment media and to stop voting for status quo candidates, the endless war lobby has the effrontery to accuse others of the things they have been guilty of.
Concern over ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’ from the West’s endless war propagandists?
It’s hard to think of a better example of what psychologists call ‘projection.’
Follow Neil Clark @NeilClark66
RT’s YouTube channels have surpassed 4 billion views, sustaining RT’s title as the world’s leading news network on YouTube, and widening its lead on mainstream media TV news channels such as CNN and the BBC.
The record-breaking number of views from across RT’s varied news channels including RT, RT Documentary and Ruptly TV, amount to three times the YouTube views that Euronews enjoys and more than seven times those of the BBC’s news channels combined.
“The future of media is inextricably linked to the internet. Once you fall behind in this field, it’s difficult to catch up. From the very beginning RT has focused on developing its digital platforms, and this has been the key to our success,” said RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan.
RT has been leading the way in YouTube news delivery since the platform became available in Russia in 2007.
At the time, RT was the first Russian TV channel to embrace the new media concept and by 2011, RT’s content had gained the recognition of YouTube and was awarded the most popular news video of the year.
The award marked the beginning of RT YouTube’s rise to international acclaim; the following year, 2012, the Pew Research Center named RT the top news producer on the platform. By 2013, RT had become the first news channel in the world to hit 1 billion views on YouTube.
“For many years now RT has been an unconditional leader on YouTube, the most popular video-hosting platform in the world. Four billion views is a new milestone, and we are aiming to raise the bar even further,” said Kirill Karnovich-Valua, RT’s Head of Online Projects.
Without doubt, 2016 has been RT’s best year to date. In April it received the People’s Choice award at the prestigious Webby Awards ahead of BBC News, ABC News, NBC Nightly News and the New York Times.
In September, RT took home seven Lovie Awards, the pan-European awards honoring online excellence. And RT finished the year on a high by solidifying its seat at the top with over 4 billion YouTube views.
Aside from its YouTube success, RT broadcasts in six languages, has more than 13 million Facebook fans, 6 million Twitter followers, and a live audience of millions around the globe.
White Helmets Phenom
Unknown to most people, the White Helmets brand was conceived and directed by a marketing company named “The Syria Campaign” based in New York. They have managed to fool millions of people. Walt Disney might have made a great movie about this: unarmed volunteers fearlessly rescuing survivors in the midst of war without regard to religion or politics. Like most other “true life” Disney movies, it is 10% reality, 90% fiction.
Due to its success, Western countries are dedicating ever larger amounts of funding. The White Helmets were the 17 October TIME magazine cover story. Nikolas Kristof at the NY Times has gushed over them for years. They recently won a 2016 Right Livelihood Award. Netflix has recently released a special ‘documentary’ movie about the White Helmets. With impeccable timing, the mainstream media acclaim reached a crescendo with both the UK Guardian and The Independent calling on the Nobel Committee to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the White Helmets.
It’s not just establishment that has gushed over the White Helmets. CODEPINK recommended the Netflix movie and DemocracyNow! ran a puff piece interview with the infomercial directors. The Intercept published an uncritical promotion of the White Helmets and their dubious leader. (CODEPINK received a lot of criticism and later issued a correction.)
The Reality Behind the White Helmet Image
In contrast with the uncritical promotion of the White Helmets, there have been some investigations of their reality during the past 1.5 years. This timeline shows the early investigations. In April 2015 Dissident Voice published an expose of their actual creation and purpose. Since then there have been an increasing number of articles and videos revealing what is behind the ‘feel good’ veneer. Vanessa Beeley has produced numerous articles including documentation of the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which was founded six decades ago. She initiated an online Change.org petition which gathered 3.3 thousand signatures to NOT GIVE THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE to the WHITE HELMETS. That was twice as many signatures as the petition to GIVE the Nobel Prize to them. Apparently that fact upset someone influential because Change.org removed the petition without explanation. Did it violate “community standards”? You can judge for yourself because the petition is shown here.
Another online petition, also at CHANGE.ORG, is still up and running. It calls on the Right Livelihood Foundation to RETRACT their award to the White Helmets. The petition includes ten reasons they do not deserve the prize and are not what they are presented to be. They stole the name Syria Civil Defense from the real Syrian organization. They appropriated the name “White Helmets” from the Argentinian rescue organization Cascos Blancos/White Helmets. They are not independent; they are funded by governments. They are not apolitical; they actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. They do not work across Syria; they ONLY work in areas controlled by the armed opposition, mostly Nusa/Al Qaeda. They are not unarmed; they sometimes do carry weapons and they also celebrate terrorist victories. They assist in terrorist executions.
In recent weeks, information about the true nature of the White Helmets has been spreading. Max Blumenthal has a two part expose at Alternet: “How the White Helmets became International Heroes while Pushing US Intervention and Regime Change in Syria” and “Inside the Shadowy PR Firm that’s Lobbying for Regime Change in Syria” Scott Ritter has written an article which critically looks at the White Helmets’ “lionization”. Internationally, the Israeli TV station I24 ran a special report with the title “White Helmets: Heroes or Hoax?”, giving equal coverage to supporters and critics. Even The National out of United Arab Emirates has documented the controversy around the White Helmets.
Franklin Lamb Lashes Out at White Helmet Critics
Some supporters of the White Helmets have lashed back. The British military contractor who initially set up the organization has accused his critics of being ‘proxies’ for the Syrian and Russian governments. And in recent days, Franklin Lamb leaped to the defense of the White Helmets with an article titled “Political Defamation Campaign targets Rescue Workers in Syria.”
Lamb’s critique is almost as misleading as the group he defends. It appears he has not read many of the serious criticisms and exposes of the White Helmets. He does not provide references or sources so that a reader can compare his description with what critics actually said.
Lamb accuses critics of waging a “malicious campaign” against the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the White Helmets. That is false. Here is what has been actually said: “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.” The online petition to RETRACT the Right Livelihood Award says “The NATO White Helmets actually undermine and detract from the work of authentic organizations such as the REAL Syria Civil Defense and Syrian Arab Red Crescent.”
Lamb echoes White Helmet propaganda by repeatedly referring to them as volunteers. But they are not. They are all paid — with the White Helmet media managers in Brooklyn New York, Gaziantep Turkey and Beirut Lebanon making sizable salaries. As to the on-the-ground ‘White Helmets’ based Nusra territory in Aleppo and Idlib, they are paid much more than full time Syrian soldiers for their part time real and staged rescue operations.
Lamb laments the fact that MSF (Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders) has been criticized. However, MSF has shown itself to be politically biased. The organization has no staff inside Syria yet continues to issue statements as if they had clear compelling evidence when it seems they do not. Recently MSF claimed that four hospitals in terrorist controlled sectors of East Aleppo had been bombed and two doctors injured. They do not identify the names or locations of the hospitals or the names of the doctors. The report is apparently based on hearsay.
Perhaps MSF does not identify the name or location of the hospitals because when they did report names and locations, such as with Al Quds Hospital in April 2016, it was found that their report was inconsistent and full of contradictions. MSF claimed “According to hospital staff on the ground, the hospital was destroyed by at least one airstrike which directly hit the building, reducing it to rubble.” Photographs from before and after the event showed this assertion to be untrue. The so called “Al Quds Hospital” was an unidentified largely vacant apartment building with sandbags at the ground floors. MSF’s bias is also shown by the fact they refuse to provide any services or support to the 90% of the Syrian population which is in government controlled areas. MSF has not responded to a previous open letter questioning their bias. Nor have they responded to invitations to visit government controlled Aleppo to evaluate the reality versus the claims of their allies in Nusra/Al Qaeda territory.
Lamb says “The White Helmets are being attacked with all sorts of unfounded accusations and conspiracy theories.” On the contrary, the evidence is overwhelming. White Helmets are funded by Western governments which want ‘regime change’. White Helmets pick up bodies after execution. White Helmets carry weapons and celebrate jihadi victories. White Helmets ONLY work in areas dominated by Nusra or an ally. White Helmets actively campaign for a No Fly Zone. These are not “conspiracy theories”; they are facts easily proven in the videos and articles about them.
Lamb says, “White Helmet rescuers are much like Syria’s population in general, including most of the 12 million refugees, who have come to abhor politics.” It is true that nearly all Syrians abhor the war that has been imposed on them. However, the vast majority of Syrians also hate the terrorists while most ‘White Helmets’ are allied with them. Lamb is also wrong on the refugee count. There are about 12 million internally displaced persons but the number of refugees is closer to 4 million. Two thirds of the internally displaced persons are living inside Syria in areas under government control.
The White Helmets were “branded” by a marketing company called The Syria Campaign which itself was “incubated” (their term) by a larger marketing company called Purpose. Along with managing the online and social media promotion of the White Helmets, the Syria Campaign has parallel efforts in support of “regime change” in Syria. One of these efforts has been to criticize United Nations and humanitarian relief organizations which supply aid to displaced persons living in areas protected by the Syrian government. This situation is documented in an editorial here where the author says: “The allegations made by the Syria Campaign and others were written by people who know nothing about the UN and how it must work.” Apparently unaware of the facts about The Syria Campaign, the outraged Franklin Lamb calls this “defamatory nonsense!”
Lamb echoes the White Helmet propaganda that they have saved “65,000 Syrian citizens, many being their neighbors, families and friends.” This is extreme exaggeration. The areas controlled by the terrorists have very few civilians living in them. A medical doctor visiting east Aleppo two years ago described it as a ‘ghost town’. When cat videos were popular on social media, the White Helmet video team produced their own fake cat video. It showed White Helmet members playing with stray cats in empty neighborhoods. They say, “The homeowners abandoned this district and its kittens.” Yes, most of the civilians abandoned it because the terrorists invaded it. In short, this number of rescues is an extreme exaggeration. The real number is probably just a few percent of that.
Lamb believes the critics of the White Helmets are ‘defaming” them. It’s almost laughable except it’s bitterly ironic. The REAL Syrian Civil Defense works on a shoestring budget with REAL volunteers without a video team accompanying and promoting them. Most in the West are unaware they even exist. The situation for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is a genuinely neutral and independent relief organization, is similar although they at least have a good website.
Lamb complains about “the massive use of pejorative language to smear rescue workers.” The reality, of course, is the precise opposite in the case of the “White Helmets.” There has been a flood of uncritical praise for this three year old organization created by the West and for goals of the West. On the contrary, they have not been sufficiently examined and exposed. Lamb’s heartfelt concern about the poor White Helmets being unfairly criticized is bizarre.
Franklin Lamb claims to have filed his article from Aleppo University Hospital. This is located in government protected Aleppo. Why does he make no reference to the victims of terrorist bombings, sniping and attacks who fill the Aleppo University Hospital? Why does he make no reference to the REAL Syrian Civil Defense which brought to the hospital many injured victims? In his closing, Franklin invites anyone interested to visit the White Helmets with him. Is he serious? Very few journalists or Western ‘observers’ have been in terrorist controlled Aleppo for years. Two of the last batch were James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, subsequently murdered by ISIS. Franklin needs to provide some evidence that he actually was in East Aleppo with the Nusra and the White Helmets. Otherwise one might question whether his conversations with White Helmet ‘volunteers’ were actually in Gaziantep Turkey.
The Controversy Continues
As the Syrian government and allies try to finally crush or expel the terrorists from Aleppo, the White Helmets have become a major tool in the West’s propaganda tool chest. The image of the White Helmets deflects attention from the sectarian violent and unpopular nature of Nusra and other armed opposition groups. This is used in parallel with accusations that Syrian and Russian attacks are primarily hitting civilians. Western media gives an image that there are only civilians and White Helmets under attack in east Aleppo; the terrorists have been whited out of the picture.
White Helmets have gone from being talked about to the ones doing the talking. News stories increasingly use White Helmet witnesses as their theme or source. One day CNN says a White Helmet aid center has been hit. Another day it is claimed that White Helmet individuals are being “hunted.” A White Helmet performs the role of journalist not first responder as he claims to be “eye witness” to Syrian barrel bombs destroying the humanitarian convoy and warehouse on September 19 in Orem al Kubra.
There are reasons to be suspicious. For example, in the case of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) convoy that was attacked in Orem al Kubra:
* This is the same town where the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” was filmed. A detailed investigation has shown that sequences in that BBC movie were largely if not entirely staged.
* This town is controlled by the infamous Nour al Din al Zinki terrorist group which recently filmed itself beheading a young Palestinian Syrian boy.
* It is illogical that Syrian or Russian planes would attack a SARC convoy. They could have stopped the convoy when it was in government held territory. The Syrian government works together with SARC. Why would they attack the convoy?
* The one to ‘benefit’ from the atrocity is the US Coalition and those supporting the regime change project. The attack took attention away from the US killing of 70+ Syrian soldiers on September 17 and facilitated the resumption of accusations against Syria and Russia. More contradictions and inconsistencies regarding the White Helmet witness are pointed out in this incisive analysis.
* The Russian and Syrian governments called for an independent investigation of the attack site but this has not been done, presumably because the terrorists controlling the area have not allowed it.
With massive publicity, there is now greatly increased public awareness of the three year old White Helmets. Ironically SARC, which works with neutrality, have been largely ignored. And the original 60+ year old Syrian Civil Defense continues to work with absolutely no recognition in the West.
Are the White Helmets heroes or a politically motivated hoax? The time to investigate is now. It does little good to uncover falsehoods and manipulations years later. This is especially true because the people who created and uncritically promoted previous hoaxes such as Nayirah and the Kuwaiti incubators, Curveball and the Iraqi WMD have gone without penalty or punishment despite the enormous cost in lives and resources. The White Helmets should be seriously investigated lest they be used to promote more war in Syria.
Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NatWest’s latest comments concerning its bizarre and unexplained decision to close all of RT’s UK accounts, claiming only “one of the suppliers” is affected and the move is under review, have caused some confusion in the British media.
Here are the facts:
On Tuesday, BBC posted an article citing NatWest, which said that “a letter had been sent to one of RT’s suppliers, not RT itself, and no accounts had been frozen.” The channel included RT’s comment on the story, but kept the headline saying that “NatWest denies shutting accounts of Russian TV channel.”
In reality, however, it is misleading to refer to Russia Today TV UK Ltd as one of RT’s suppliers, as RT is the brand name of a global network, and Russia Today TV UK Ltd it is the sole provider of all of RT’s operations in the UK, which includes servicing the salaries of the entire 60+ staff of the RT UK television channel.
As NatWest is Russia Today TV UK Ltd’s sole banking facility, the bank is, in fact, closing banking access to all of RT’s operations in the UK.
The actual situation, as it stands now, is described in the letter from NatWest published by RT, which says that all of Russia Today TV Ltd’s bank accounts will be canceled and closed by December 12, 2016. Moreover, the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group, of which NatWest is part, is refusing services to RT, according to the letter.
Following RT’s publication of NatWest’s letter, and the massive public backlash to the bank’s decision that followed, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) claimed it was “reviewing” the case, in contradiction to the text in the letter, which explicitly stated that the decision was “final” and that NatWest was “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.” The RBS also noted that RT’s bank accounts have not been frozen or closed – yet. A number of UK outlets reported this without mentioning the December deadline, while calling the source document “a redacted letter.”
The world once again finds itself hurtling to the brink of war, and once again the establishment mouthpiece puppet propaganda media is leading the charge. This time around their lies defy description. In the sick world of the would-be warmongers, child beheading terrorist scum are now the heroes. The blood of the innocents that spill from here on in covers the hands of the mainstream media propagandists.
SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=20107
National newspapers were ‘unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory’ in the Labour leadership election, Roy Greenslade noted in the Guardian, surprising no-one. Corbyn secured almost 62% of the 506,000 votes cast, up from the 59% share he won in 2015, ‘with virtually no press backing whatsoever’.
In reality, of course, Corbyn did not just lack press backing. He won in the face of more than one year of relentless corporate media campaigning to politically, ethically, professionally, psychologically and even sartorially discredit him. That Corbyn survived is impressive. That he won again, increased his vote-share, and took Labour Party membership from 200,000 to more than 500,000, is astonishing.
None of this moves journalists like the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who commented: ‘there’s been no big new idea or vision this week that Labour can suddenly rally round’.
Polly Toynbee explained: ‘I and many Guardian colleagues can’t just get behind Corbyn’. Why? ‘Because Corbyn and McDonnell, burdened by their history, will never ever earn the trust of enough voters to make any plans happen.’
Toynbee fails to recognise the nature and scale of the problem. In supporting Corbyn, the public is attempting to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics. This awesome task begins with the public waking up to the anti-democratic role of the corporate media in defending, of course, corporate-owned politics. So-called ‘mainstream media’ are primarily conduits for power rather than information; they are political enforcers, not political communicators. To the extent that the public understands this, change is possible.
Supported by non-corporate, web-based media activism, Corbyn has already smoked out these media to an extent that is without precedent. Many people can see that he is a reasonable, compassionate, decent individual generating immense grassroots support. And they can see that all ‘mainstream’ media oppose him. It could hardly be more obvious that the corporate media speak as a single biased, elitist voice.
The Benghazi Massacre – No Real Evidence
The smearing of Corbyn fits well with the similarly uniform propaganda campaign taking the ‘threat’ of Iraqi ‘WMD’ seriously in 2002 and 2003. Then, also, the entire corporate media system assailed the public with a long litany of fraudulent claims. And then there was Libya.
Coming so soon after the incomplete but still damning exposure of the Iraq deception – with the bloodbath still warm – the media’s deep conformity and wilful gullibility on the 2011 Libyan war left even jaundiced observers aghast. It was clear that we were faced with a pathological system of propaganda on Perpetual War autopilot.
The pathology has been starkly exposed by a September 9 report into the war from the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons. As with Iraq, this was no mere common-or-garden disaster; we are again discussing the destruction of an entire country. The report summarised:
The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.
The rationale for ‘intervention’, of course, was the alleged threat of a massacre by Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi. The report commented:
The evidence base: our assessment
Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… Gaddafi regime forces targeted male combatants in a civil war and did not indiscriminately attack civilians. More widely, Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year record of appalling human rights abuses did not include large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians. (Our emphasis)
Professor Joffé [Visiting Professor at King’s College London] told us that:
the rhetoric that was used was quite blood-curdling, but again there were past examples of the way in which Gaddafi would actually behave… The evidence is that he was well aware of the insecurity of parts of the country and of the unlikelihood that he could control them through sheer violence. Therefore, he would have been very careful in the actual response… the fear of the massacre of civilians was vastly overstated.’
Analyst and author Alison Pargeter agreed with Professor Joffé, concluding that there was no ‘real evidence at that time that Gaddafi was preparing to launch a massacre against his own civilians’. Related claims, that Gaddafi used African mercenaries, launched air strikes on civilians in Benghazi, and employed Viagra-fuelled mass rape as a weapon of war, were also invented.
These are astonishing comments. But according to the Lexis-Nexis media database, neither Professor Joffé nor Pargeter has been quoted by name in the press, with only the Express and Independent reporting that ‘available evidence’ had shown Gaddafi had no record of massacres; a different, less damning, point.
As disturbingly, the report noted:
We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya… It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime….
In other words, the UK government’s relentless insistence on the need to support freedom-loving rebels against a genocidal tyranny were invented ‘facts’ fixed around policy.
That the war was a crime is hardly in doubt. Lord Richards (Baron Richards of Herstmonceux), chief of the defence staff at the time of the conflict, told the BBC that Cameron asked him ‘how long it might take to depose, regime change, get rid of Gaddafi’. British historian Mark Curtis describes the significance:
Three weeks after Cameron assured parliament in March 2011 that the object of the intervention was not regime change, he signed a joint letter with President Obama and French President Sarkozy committing to “a future without Gaddafi”.
That these were policies were illegal is confirmed by Cameron himself. He told Parliament on 21 March 2011 that the UN resolution “explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi’s removal from power by military means”.
Cameron, then, like Blair, is a war criminal.
The ‘Moral Glow’ From a ‘Triumphant End’
The foreign affairs committee’s report is awesomely embarrassing for the disciplined murmuration of corporate journalists who promoted war.
At a crucial time in February and March 2011, the Guardian published a long list of news reports boosting government propaganda and opinion pieces advocating ‘intervention’ on the basis of the West’s supposed ‘responsibility to protect’, or ‘R2P’. Guardian columnist, later comment editor (2014-2016), Jonathan Freedland, wrote an article titled: ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’
Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, wrote: ‘the scale and nature of the Gaddafi regime’s actions have impelled the UN’s “responsibility to protect”.’
Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, wrote in the Guardian: ‘International law does not require the world to stand by and do nothing as civilians are massacred on the orders of Colonel Gaddafi…’
An Observer leader agreed: ‘The west can’t let Gaddafi destroy his people.’ And thus: ‘this particular tyranny will not be allowed to stand’.
No doubt with tongue firmly in Wodehousian cheek, as usual, Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph :
The cause is noble and right, and we are surely bound by our common humanity to help the people of Benghazi.
If Colonel Gaddafi is permitted to murder hundreds or thousands of his citizens from the air, and we stand by and let it happen, then our inaction will return to haunt us… We have a side here, let’s be on it. (Aaronovitch, ‘Go for a no-fly zone or regret it,’ The Times, February 24, 2011)
Later, a Guardian leader quietly celebrated:
But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week.
Simon Tisdall commented in the same newspaper: ‘The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.’
An Observer editorial declared: ‘An honourable intervention. A hopeful future.’
The BBC’s Nick Robinson observed that Downing Street ‘will see this, I’m sure, as a triumphant end’. (BBC, News at Six, October 20, 2011) Robinson appeared to channel Churchill:
Libya was David Cameron’s first war. Col. Gaddafi his first foe. Today, his first real taste of military victory.
The BBC’s chief political correspondent, Norman Smith, declared that Cameron ‘must surely feel vindicated’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011) In Washington, the BBC’s Ian Pannell surmised that Obama ‘is feeling that his foreign policy strategy has been vindicated – that his critics have been proven wrong’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011)
The BBC’s John Humphrys asked: ‘What apart from a sort of moral glow… have we got out of it?’ (BBC Radio 4 Today, October 21, 2011)
Andrew Grice, political editor of the Independent, declared that Cameron had ‘proved the doubters wrong.’ Bitterly ironic then, even more so now, Grice added: ‘By calling Libya right, Mr Cameron invites a neat contrast with Tony Blair.’
An editorial in the Telegraph argued that Gaddafi’s death ‘vindicates the swift action of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in halting the attack on Benghazi’. Telegraph columnist Matthew d’Ancona (now writing for the Guardian) agreed: ‘It is surely a matter for quiet national pride that an Arab Srebrenica was prevented by a coalition in which Britain played an important part…’
An Independent leader observed:
Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.
The Times, of course, joined the corporate herd in affirming that without ‘intervention’, there ‘would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica’. (Leading article, ‘Death of a dictator,’ The Times, October 21, 2011)
But even voices to the left of the ‘mainstream’ got Libya badly wrong. Most cringe-makingly, Professor Juan Cole declared:
The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres… If NATO needs me, I’m there.
Robert Fisk commented in the Independent that, had ‘Messrs Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama stopped short after they saved Benghazi’, disaster could have been avoided.
Ironically, in an article ostensibly challenging the warmongers’ hysterical claims, Mehdi Hasan wrote in the New Statesman:
The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.
Even Noam Chomsky observed:
The no-fly zone prevented a likely massacre… (Chomsky, ‘Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance,’ Hamish Hamilton e-book, 2012, p.372)
To his credit, then Guardian columnist Seumas Milne (now Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy) was more sceptical. He wrote in October 2011:
But there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000.
Media Reaction to the Report
The media reaction to the MPs’ demolition of their case for war made just five years earlier inevitably included some ugly evasions. A Guardian editorial commented of Libya:
It is easy in retrospect to lump it in with Iraq as a foreign folly…
It is indeed easy ‘to lump it in’, it is near-identical in key respects. But as a major war crime, not a ‘folly’.
… and there are important parallels – not least the failure to plan for stabilisation and reconstruction.
The preferred media focus being, as usual, so-called ‘mistakes’, lack of planning; rather than the fact that both wars were launched on outrageous lies, ended in the destruction of entire countries, and were driven by greed for resources. With impressive audacity, the Guardian preferred to cling to deceptions exposed by the very report under review:
But it is also important to note differences between a gratuitous, proactive invasion and a response to a direct threat to the citizens of Benghazi, triggered by the spontaneous uprising of the Libyan people. Memories of Srebrenica spurred on decision-makers. (Our emphasis)
In fact, propagandistic use of Srebrenica from sources like the Guardian ‘spurred on decision-makers’. The whole point of the MPs’ report is that it found no ‘real evidence‘ for a massacre in Benghazi. Similarly, the Guardian’s ‘spontaneous uprising’ is a debunked version of events peddled by government officials and media allies in 2011, despite the fact that there is ‘no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya’. In fact, the MPs’ report makes a nonsense of the Guardian’s claims for a humanitarian motive, noting:
On 2 April 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, adviser and unofficial intelligence analyst to the then United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reported this conversation with French intelligence officers to the Secretary of State:
According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:
a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,
b. Increase French influence in North Africa,
c. Improve his internal political situation in France,
d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,
e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.
The Guardian apologetic continued:
Perhaps most critically, western intervention – fronted by France and the UK, but powered by the US – came under a United Nations security council resolution for the protection of civilians, after the Arab League called for a no-fly zone.’
But this, again, is absurd because the resolution, UNSCR 1973, ‘neither explicitly authorised the deployment of ground forces nor addressed the questions of regime change’, as the MPs’ report noted. NATO had no more right to overthrow the Libyan government than the American and British governments had the right to invade Iraq.
In 2011, it was deeply disturbing to us that the barrage of political and media propaganda on Libya received far less challenge even than the earlier propaganda on Iraq. With Guardian and BBC ‘humanitarian interventionists’ leading the way, many people were misled on the need for ‘action’. In a House of Commons vote on March 21, 2011, 557 MPs voted for war with just 13 opposing. Two names stand out among the 13 opponents: Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.
Predictably, last month’s exposure of the great Libya war fraud has done nothing to prompt corporate journalists to rethink their case for war in Syria – arguments based on similar claims from similar sources promoting similar ‘humanitarian intervention’. Indeed, as this alert was being completed, the Guardian published an opinion piece by former Labour foreign secretary David Owen, calling for ‘a no-fly zone (NFZ), with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid’ in Syria, because: ‘The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.’
In February 2003, the Guardian published a piece by the same David Owen titled: ‘Wage war in Iraq for the sake of peace in the Middle East.’ In 2011, Owen published an article in the Telegraph, titled: ‘We have proved in Libya that intervention can still work.’ He had himself ‘called for… intervention’ that February.
The Perpetual War machine rolls on.
Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The second Media Lens book, Newspeak: In the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press.