By Barbara McKenzie – 21st Century Wire – February 15, 2017February 15, 2017 ByIn response to the establishment media’s contrived ‘fake news’ crisis designed to marginalise independent and alternative media sources of news and analysis, 21WIRE is running its own #FakeNewsWeek awareness campaign, where each day our editorial team at 21st Century Wire will feature media critiques and analysis of mainstream corporate media coverage of current events – exposing the government and the mainstream media as the real purveyors of ‘fake news’ throughout modern history…Barbara McKenzie
21st Century WireNATO and its allies are waging an immoral and illegal war against Syria. Despite mainstream media denials, the fact remains that their proxies on the ground are criminal gangs with an extremist ideology, committing atrocities on a daily basis.The crimes against Syria by the hand of western governments and their agents, however, are totally ignored by institutions that support the West in its plan to effect regime change. The agenda stretches from Washington DC, to the US-led ‘Coalition’ governments, right through to the United Nations.Instead, the West has constructed a narrative of Russian and Syrian ‘war crimes’ which, although refutable at every level, is maintained and promoted by Western politicians, diplomats, UN officials, the corporate media, and social media trolls. The fake narrative is achieved through a comprehensive set of strategies:
MSM Fake News in Syria.
The following is a catalogue of fabricated or misleading stories disseminated by western media in Syria:The Haas school bombingOn 26 October 2016, news came of a lethal Russian or Syrian airstrike on a school in the village of Haas in Idlib province, northern Syria.UNICEF smartly issued a statement by Executive Director Anthony Lake, with an implication that the world is remiss in not taking action:NEW YORK/AMMAN, 26 October 2016 – “Twenty-two children and six teachers were reportedly murdered today when their school compound was repeatedly attacked in Idlib, Syria.“This is a tragedy. It is an outrage. And if deliberate, it is a war crime.“This latest atrocity may be the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.“Children lost forever to their families … teachers lost forever to their students … one more scar on Syria’s future.“When will the world’s revulsion at such barbarity be matched by insistence that this must stop?”Principal sources cited in the media are ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ commonly known as the White Helmets, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), and ‘locals’ or ‘activists’. Pictures are provided by either ‘activists’ or the Revolutionary Forces of Syria, an anti-government media outfit.The Guardian also cites ‘a doctor who […] asked that his name and the name of his medical facility not be used’. Both the BBC and the Independent quote UNICEF, presumably for its response rather than as a source, as UNICEF has no permanent presence in Idlib, let alone Haas.The Guardian added value to its article by quoting of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien’s previous report to the UN on the Wednesday (which refers to Aleppo, but not the Idlib school incident). Like Anthony Lake above, O’Brien suggests that some kind of action is called for.“O’Brien added that he was “incandescent with rage” over the security council’s passivity. “Peoples’ lives [have been] destroyed and Syria itself destroyed. And it is under our collective watch,” he said. “And it need not be like this – this is not inevitable; it is not an accident … Never has the phrase by poet Robert Burns, of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ been as apt. It can be stopped but you, the security council, have to choose to make it stop.”All the Western media quoted here assume that the attack actually happened. The Washington Post goes further, implying that civilians are deliberately targeted: ‘the seeming denial of targeting civilians in Haas suggests that more of them will die in this horrific conflict.’Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, responded to the reports, saying: “It’s horrible. I hope we were not involved. It’s the easiest thing for me to say no, but I’m a responsible person, so I need to see what my ministry of defence is going to say.”While the Russians maybe have been cautious in their initial response, others had no doubt at all. Politicians, diplomats, UN officials and human rights organisations were quick to condemn the attack. The Guardian quoted White House spokesman Josh Earnest:“We don’t know yet that it was the Assad regime or the Russians that carried out the airstrike, but we know it was one of the two.”French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Jean-Marc Ayrault, issued a statement condemning the bombing:“The Syrian regime and its supporters – far from implementing the announced truces – have stepped up their bombing campaign. These attacks constitute serious violations of international humanitarian law.”Gordon Brown, UN envoy for education and former British Prime Minster, at a formal press briefing, described the attack as a ‘descent into barbarism’, and a ‘war crime’, calling on the Security Council to refer ‘the worst assault on school children in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Brown pronounced himself eager to take up Russia’s suggestion of an investigation.Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General likewise called for an investigation. A statement from his office read:“The Secretary-General is appalled by reports of attacks that killed students and teachers in a school complex in Haas village, Idlib governorate, Syria on 26 October. If deliberate, this attack may amount to a war crime.The Secretary-General calls for immediate and impartial investigation of this and other similar attacks against civilians in Syria. If such horrific acts persist despite global outrage, it is largely because their authors, whether in corridors of power or in insurgent redoubts, do not fear justice. They must be proved wrong.”
There Was No Air Raid.
Even to the casual observer, the claim of an airstrike, based on the evidence provided to the media by the sources on the ground, looks ridiculous.The following picture, which was distributed widely, including by the Independent, does not suggest an airstrike, so much as someone attacking the wall with a hammer. The desks are upright and undamaged, and other pictures make it clear that the roof is quite intact.The video in the Reuters report, “Air strikes in Syria’s Idlib kill 26, mostly children: rescuers, monitor” contains very clear footage, which again does not fit with claims of an airstrike.The Russians promptly sent out a drone to take photos of the area said to be bombed in Haas, and also examined the supposedly incriminating evidence provided by photos in the media. They concluded that ‘the nature and the extent of the damage sustained by the school were not similar to the destruction caused by airstrikes’, noting that the school roof was undamaged, likewise the fence, nor was there was no sign of surrounding buildings being struck.In this video from RT, ex-Pentagon official Michael Mahloof points out that in an airstrike would have blown the buildings to smithereens, and certainly roofs destroyed.Others agreed with the Russians’ conclusions.Comments below the Independent report included the following:shameWADA_
Oh, another dose of fake info from pseudo-journalists. Actually this
fake was exposed pretty fast. Those ones who interested feel free to
check out photos made by russian UAV a day ago where clearly recorded
TOTAL absence of destructions characteristic for airstrikes – no
destructions of roofs of the buildings, no ANY craters which must be
left after airstrikes etc., plus analysis of photos taken from the
“place of the crime” by those journalists. Cheap fake, as it was with
“attack” on humanitarian convoy on 19 september. Oh, liars and slanderers…spalpeenuillean
What a huge steaming pile of propaganda. Latest reports on BBC and Al
Jazeera are now saying no children were killed. Also saying that the
school was hit by a ‘missile’, not a bomb. Local people interviewed on
AJ confirm that the school was used by terrorists as a command centre
and ammunition store.Although the evidence provided to the media by their sources proves, if anything, that there was no airstrike, not one of the corporate media outlets quoted here questioned the veracity of the story. It seems as if the media’s narrative took priority over factual reporting.
Claim: Russia and Assad ‘Target Hospitals’.
A number of people have written on the fraudulent and hypocritical nature of reporting on hospitals, including two excellent reports:“Aleppo Doctor Attacks Western Media for Bias, Censorship and Lies,” by Silvia Cattori“About Bias and Propaganda on Syria: Open Letter to MSF/Doctors without Borders,” by Rick SterlingThe claims of Russia targeting civilians and public buildings such as schools and hospitals – and deliberately, began soon after it entered the war in the fall of 2015, reaching a crescendo during the liberation of Aleppo in December 2016. Often the claims lack detail and are impossible to verify; sometimes the hospitals have names like ‘M10,’ and are unregistered, or are completely unknown to the people of Aleppo with some likely to be ‘rebel’ (terrorist) field hospitals or pop-up triage units. On the rare occasion that mainstream media reports offer any specifics, once again they turn out to be fake news.On October 20-21st, western media accused Russia of bombing hospitals in six municipalities in Syria. Russia investigated and found that in five towns there were no hospitals at all, while the sixth town, Sarmin, had a hospital that, contrary to reports of it destruction was quite intact.The fact of specific claims being debunked, or of ‘civilian hospitals’ being shown to be military facilities used by gazetted terrorist organisations, never halts the progress of the narrative, and despite the long list of misreporting and disinformation in this area of coverage, retractions are rarely, if ever reported by western media outlets after the fact.How Media, Politicians, NGOS and UN Deliberately Use Illegitimate Sources
.The lesson to be learned from this is not only that the media occasionally publish anti-Russian or anti-Assad stories which are incorrect, and then when the stories are exposed as fake forget to apologise. The crucial problem is that the media rely as a matter or course on discredited sources, or sources funded by the very same governments who are responsible for arming and finding the ‘rebel’ terrorist fighters attempting to destabilize and overthrow the government in Syria.Both the White Helmets and the SOHR were created by the British Foreign Office (and in the case of the White Helmets directly funded by the US State Dept and other NATO member states and Qatar ) for the express purpose of devising propaganda to the detriment of the Syrian government and of Russian operations in Syria. Their sole function is to discredit ‘Assad’ and Russia in order to fulfill the eternal hope of the FCO of gaining approval, either from the UN or the British public, for a Libya-style No-Fly Zone. In addition to this, their video material purporting to show ‘brutal atrocities from Assad and Russia’ are circulated through Gulf media and are effective recruitment propaganda for prospective jihadist fighters wanting to join the fight in Syria.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is based in Coventry, England. The man who runs it, Osama Suleiman, goes by the false pseudonym of Rami Abdulrahman, and was formerly imprisoned as a criminal in Syria before the war began in 2011, and is an unabashed supporter of the ‘revolution’ and has the flag of the ‘armed opposition’ prominent on the banner of the SOHR twitter account, @Regarding the White Helmets, the very name “Syrian Civil Defence” is a travesty, as it usurps the name of the legitimate REAL Syria Civil Defence. White Helmets are intertwined with terrorist gangs in regions like Aleppo and Idlib, and most notably with the ISIS-aligned Nour al-Din al-Zinki group. They have been filmed with groups waving terrorist flags, abusing prisoners, and taking part in terrorist operations. Even if there were truth in the fable that their primary function is humanitarian, to consider them as an “impartial source” is ridiculous.The antics of the White Helmets are often so obviously staged that it is hard to imagine that anyone would be taken in. Again, however, that is not the point. Even if they had better actors, even if the shoots looked less like glossy commercials and instead achieved the immediacy and conviction of, for example, like the real scenes shot by RT in the hospitals of Western Aleppo, the fact remains that they are heavily partial and should never be given the benefit of the doubt.Since the beginning of the Syrian War, the western media have exclusively used a bevy of ‘unnamed activists’ as their sources on the ground, activist meaning members of extremist groups aligned with al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) or ISIS, and journalists who have been based in the northern Syria and Turkey and who openly support the ideology of these Salafi and religious extremist groups (and are therefore acceptable to them). American Bilal Abdul Kareem, a born again takfiri, reported regularly for the BBC and CNN from Aleppo before liberation.During the liberation of Aleppo these journalists were portrayed by Al Jazeera , CNN and others, as ‘average people’ able to speak for the people of Aleppo, all dramatically filing their “last message” – presumably before the “brutal Assad regime” finally converged on them.
All these news sources are illegitimate, and known to be illegitimate, and thus all reports from these sources should be treated as fake news. It is dishonest and unprofessional for the media to rely on any of these sources.The corporate media and humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accept or seek out the fake news from these discredited sources, and publish and republish it without a qualm.The humanitarian fake news is then picked up and amplified by politicians, diplomats and United Nations officials, including the UN Secretary General himself.The inherent illegitimacy of sources like the White Helmets, and the examples of proven dishonesty and fakery, has done nothing to prevent them being used as evidence by media and politicians alike. On 25 September, TIME Magazine ignored all the evidence that there was no bombing of the UN humanitarian convoy, and reiterated the White Helmets story, and furthermore claimed that the White Helmets were being deliberately targeted by Russian and Syrian air power – and the media’s ‘source’? Once again, being the White Helmets.Atrocities by Western-backed Terrorists are Routinely Ignored or DownplayedThe reaction to the alleged bombing in Haas by media and spokespeople alike stands in sharp contrast to the response to the crimes of the insurgents. Terrorists have shelled schools in government areas throughout the conflict, with frightful consequences but these atrocities are reported only in passing, if at all, with little or no comment from human rights agencies and United Nations officials.On 28 October there was a genuine attack on a school in Haidaq al-Andalus.A Google search for the attack under the name of the school gives no hits from the corporate media, though they had all reported on the alleged bombing of the Haas school a couple of days earlier.
Eva Bartlett assesses the responses to attacks on Syrian schools in the piece, “UN covers up war crimes in Syria, citing U.S. backed Al-Qaeda propagandists,” as well as considering the evidence for the Haas school ‘bombing’. With reference to UNICEF’s response to the Haas bombing claims cited above, Bartlett observes:“With supreme audacity, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake further claimed that this “airstrike” may be “the deadliest attack on a school since the war began more than five years ago.”Perhaps Lake was otherwise distracted when on October 1, 2014, terrorists car and suicide bombed the Akrama Al-Makhzoumi School in Homs, killing at least 41 children by conservative estimates, or up to 48 children by other reports, along with women and other civilians.[…] no similar statement of condemnation and anguish for the children murdered at the Akrama school bombings can be found on UNICEF’s website, even prior to Lake.”When all else fails, the media construct their own fake news.Media distortion and fabrication is nothing new, and Syria is no exception.On 30 September 20 year old Mireille Hindoyan and her 12 year old brother Arman were killed by terrorist shelling of the Armenian quarter of western Aleppo. The story was largely ignored by the corporate media, but one who did pick it was the Independent, who created the impression that the children were the victims of Russian bombing:[The incident] came after medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said there had been a “bloodbath” in Aleppo amid a sustained assault on the city by pro-Assad forces backed by Russian warplanes.In September 2013 the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ and related BBC News reports claimed to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a school in Urm Al-Kubra, Aleppo. In his analysis, Fabrication in BBC Panorama ‘Saving Syria’s Children‘, independent media analyst Robert Stuart has shown that sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on 26 August 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of the attack were completely staged.
Deflectionpicture. The editing was sloppy …
Fake news demonising Syria and Russia is used to deflect attention from war crimes by NATO’s proxy agents on the ground, i.e. the terrorist groups, and also by NATO itself, both in general and in specific instances.
Deflection from NATO’s War Crimes
On September 17, 2016 NATO forces bombed Syrian troops who protect the city of Deir ez Zor, just prior to an attack by ISIS. The US claims that is was an accident. However, the Syrian government believe that NATO was consciously cooperating in a previously agreed plan. Over 60 troops died in the sustained air attack, with some reports suggesting over 80, and scores more were wounded. Even if this horrific attack on Syrian troops was a mistake, it can hardly be termed ‘friendly fire’, as the action of NATO military forces in Syria is illegal under international law.
The UN Humanitarian Convoy
NATO’s airstrike on Syrian troops, and the accompanying loss of life, was quickly forgotten when, just two days later, there were reports of a ‘Russia/Assad’ airstrike on a humanitarian convoy headed for Aleppo. The source for the story was members of the White Helmets.
- Selmo insists the attack was carried out by Russian bombers and ‘Assad’ helicopters dropping barrel bombs, while another White Helmet spokesman, Hussein Badawi, claims that missiles were launched from the ground.
- Selmo changed his story several times: after first claiming to be a kilometre away, he then decides he was having tea across the street. Helicopters dropped first 2 barrel bombs, then 4, then 8.
- The forensic evidence provided does not make sense, e.g. Selmo points to a small hole in the ground and claims it was made by a barrel bomb – barrel bombs leaves craters at least 25 feet wide and 10 feet deep.
‘The Last Hospital in Aleppo’
Purely on the basis of White Helmet evidence, there was a barrage of reports of ‘Assad/Russia’ taking out the last hospital in Aleppo, the last bloodbank, the last clown, and a ‘world-famous’ cat sanctuary. Southbank found 21 last hospitals alleged to have been bombed; here is summary from another source:
Barrel Bombs: Weapon of Mass Distraction
The term barrel bomb has become a politically charged trigger as part of the wider new western nomenclature for what they call Syria’s ‘civil war’. The intention is that barrel bombs should have the same resonance as cluster bombs, to suggest something particularly sinister and particularly powerful.
Soft Fake News
The goal is to create an assumption of extensive and relentless bombing by Russia of places where civilians, and especially children, congregate. In addition to specific claims of atrocities, the message is accompanied or followed by ‘soft fake news’, designed to reinforce, amplify and humanise the message.
Aleppo is liberated, the truth uncovered, but the narrative rolls on regardless
The liberation of eastern Aleppo, and the testimony of its residents, should have put paid to many of the myths about the Syrian war, not least the bogus claims about the White Helmets. However the fake narrative of ‘Assad/Russian’ war crimes continues – nothing is to be allowed to slow its progress, neither the exposure of fake claims and invalid sources, nor the new revelations coming out of Aleppo. Paul Mansfield comments in After the Liberation of Aleppo Comes the Psyops War, which looks at the allegations of crimes by Syrian and allied troops.
The tired and hungry residents of Aleppo are being provided with much-needed food, medical treatment, clothes and blankets and shelter in internally displaced persons camps. The images of this are unmistakable. Despite this we still hear from the western media that people are fleeing the fighting, that regime soldiers have taken over the devastated city, that people trapped inside East Aleppo have held out for four years of bombardment and siege and that far from being a battle of liberation this is a Russian and Syrian regime “onslaught.” The word liberation is nowhere to be found. A bit like the honesty and integrity of the mainstream fakerstan media.
We saw it in 2015, when Russia went further by joining the assault on the Syrian people, deploying its own troops and planes in a campaign that hit hospitals, schools, and the brave Syrian first-responders who were trying to dig innocent civilians out of the rubble. And with each transgression, not only were more innocent civilians killed, maimed, starved, and uprooted, but the rules that make all our nations more secure – including Russia – were eroded.
‘it is not a coincidence that the report never mentions the mined schools, the warehouses of ammunition and firing positions in closed hospitals, the militant warehouses stuffed with groceries, drugs and medical equipment, mass graves of civilians shot in the head: from children to the elderly’
This is what George Orwell meant
Western governments and their agents have used every dishonest stratagem they could think of, in order to create a fake narrative, so that public perception of the Syrian conflict is an inversion of reality.
- Shut down debate on the nature of its proxies on the ground, and of their criminal acts;
- Shut down debate on its own warmongering and its support for criminals who are anathema to the Syrian people;
- Shut down debate on the legitimacy of the position of the Syrian government and its allies, and their right to defend Syria; and above all
- Ensure that it is Syria and its allies who are portrayed as war criminals, rather than NATO, its allies and its agents.
Author Dr Barbara McKenzie is an independent researcher and special contributor to 21st Century Wire. Visit her research blog here.