this post also features on offguardian
In today’s Guardian a Spotlight piece by Olivia Solon – her profile calls her “a senior technology reporter for Guardian US in San Francisco” – carries the header, How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine, and opens with this:
The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.
I confess, I’m aware of but haven’t looked into claims of White Helmets working closely with al-Quaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra or other terrorist outfits. I do know the West has a record stretching back through Afghanistan in the eighties to Churchill’s peg on nose support for Saudi jihadists after the fall of the Ottomans. As one who deems Syria’s elected government – indeed, Syria’s secular state – target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign by Western interests which for reasons set out below aim to prime us for further regime change in the middle east, I object.
In a second paragraph worthy of the Daily Mail, Solon proudly tells us that:
The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).
We already know the Russian government is evil. It worms its way into right-thinking American brains, urging their owners in satanic whispers to vote the way they know they shouldn’t. It poisons dissidents, cheats at sport and has the bally cheek to bomb ISIL in Aleppo instead of watching Assad go the way of Gaddafi and Saddam while the good guys over the border bomb ISIL in Mosul.
(Pulling two demoniser narratives together delivers more than a BOGOF. When the Get Corbyn agenda merged with that of Friends of Israel over Shah-Livingstone, a multiplier effect arose from two powerful and mutually reinforcing myths. With such dog-whistle journalism, the piece practically writes itself.)
Only this morning, working on a long essay on the law of value, I wrote:
The slit-window view afforded by mainstream media is kept that way by billionaire owners, yes, but more by market forces. While the Independent has fled online, one driver of the Guardian’s rightward drift is rising transatlantic readership which, alongside falling sales and slow take-up of digital ad space, creates dependence on American advertisers – and greater dependence on subscriptions and donations from an American centreground well to the right of Britain’s.
A few paragraphs earlier I’d said:
Low as my expectations were, media coverage – liberal and some far left media included – of cold war on Russia and attempted regime change in Syria exceeded my worst fears. Bad as presumptions of Assad’s guilt are on such as sarin at Khan Sheikhoun, where evidential chain of custody relied on samples supplied by the terrorists running the crime scene, worse is media silence – deafening once we truly get this – on the West’s real motives. One is to open Syria’s statified economy to Wall Street predation in a pattern going back not just to Iraq and Libya but, with many stops along the way, the CIA backed coup in Chile 1973. Another looks to the bigger prize of regime change in Iran, restoring the pre 1979 status quo of unchallenged Western and Zionist dominance in the middle east. A third is to secure the West’s choice of oil pipeline into Europe, the world’s largest energy market; a fourth to lock out Russia and, less directly, China.
I don’t ask you to accept such claims as proven facts. I ask that you consider them, in whole or in part, as serious possibility – or take the time to say why not. The mere fact of a case to be heard is a damning indictment of media refusal to present any account of the West’s hostility to Assad beyond his being a Bad Egg. These lies of omission, unforgivable given Syria’s potential to escalate in ways Mrs Clinton’s no fly zones promised to bring closer, are fed to us not only by rightwing tabloids but by media which have forged, on matters where the stakes aren’t so high, reputations as guardians of truth and fair play; nemeses of unbridled authority.
Bearing all this in mind, I ask you to read Olivia Solon’s piece and ask yourself:
Does any part of it even consider the possibility of Western agendas along the lines sketched out above?
Are such agendas so manifestly absurd they needn’t be considered?
Does Solon tell us the White Helmets were formed by a British mercenary?
Does she tell us the White Helmets had $23 million from the US State Department – at the forefront of America’s regime change offensive – or ask how that sits with White Helmet claims of independence from government funding?
Does she ask why, after Aleppo was cleared of the terrorists, we’ve seen no vox pop footage of its citizens pouring out their gratitude for WH help in their hour of need?
How reliant is her piece on our long nurtured and barely conscious predisposition to believe that Western media tell us the truth, Russian media nothing but falsehood?
Has ‘conspiracy theory’ joined ‘fake news’, ‘mansplaining’ and ‘whataboutery’ as a way of dismissing arguments without the inconvenience of addressing their specifics?
No further questions, m’lud. Merry Christmas one and all.
Other sources? As usual I’m interested in the wider picture. Others engage better than I with the specifics. In that I’m like Solon herself. She offers no serious defence of White Helmets against detailed allegations, opting instead for character assassination of the accusers. If you disagree, do let me know where I’ve maligned her. Either way, look at sources like those below in terms of content, detail and evidential backing rather than rejecting them on the curiously unscientific ground of their not being mainstream sources.
- Thanks to Ron, commenting on the OffGuardian version of this post, for this “brilliant deconstruction then destruction of this mindless piece of pseudo-journalism”. Media critics will find the entire broadcast of interest but if you’re pushed for time, discussion of Solon’s piece starts at 09:05
- Here’s another analysis of Solon’s piece.
- And here, predating Solon’s attack, are closely argued and substantiated reasons for the claims against the White Helmets: