Tag: Censorship by omission

How They Speak to Us

Image result for pics of tory politicians and their buzz words

The 1% who run this society, the capitalist ruling class, speak to the rest of us i.e. the general public, a majority of whom are working class, mainly through the media, that is via a series of intermediaries – politicians, TV producers and presenters, news readers, newspaper editors, journalists and so on. It is true that not all ‘politicians’ are establishment lackeys and not all journalists are careerist hacks, but most are and they set the tone. What we see and hear on the media is mainly what our rulers want us to see and hear.

Some people react to this by dismissing the mainstream media as ‘all lies’. This is indeed the case at some fundamental level but, of course, it is not literally true: newspapers and TV News contain much factually accurate information and we all know this. More important than the actual ‘lies’ they tell is what media fail to report or barely report and especially the way they report things, the subtle spin they build into their reporting to ensure that events and the world are seen from the point of view of the ruling class.

What follows are a few critical reflections on the language politicians and media use for this purpose. This is based mainly on current Irish practice but some of it will apply internationally

Populism.

One of the most important functions of the media is to discredit any opposition to the system. This is more important – for them – than actually trying to persuade people that all is well with the world. So long as people can be got to believe there is no viable alternative to the present set up i.e. capitalism, most people will accept it albeit reluctantly. To this end it is important to devise pejorative labels for political opponents of capitalism. Once upon a time the favourite label was ‘anarchist’. Thus, for example, Jim Larkin used to be described, in the papers of the time, as an ‘anarchist’. [This had nothing to do with Larkin’s beliefs but was probably because some actual anarchists had been doing armed robberies and throwing bombs elsewhere in Europe.] After the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik or Bolshie became, for a short while, the label of choice. Then, especially during the Cold War, it became Communist. Today it is ‘Populist’. Why?

Our rulers are aware that internationally the political establishment, which they like to think of as ‘the centre’ is losing ground both on its right and its left flank – to Trump and to Sanders, to Le Pen and to Melenchon, and in Ireland to Solidarity and People Before Profit and some left independents. They have decided to describe this phenomenon as ‘the rise of populism’ for two main reasons. First because it suggests that the far left, us, are some how the same as the far right, including the racist, fascist and Nazi right like Le Pen and Golden Dawn, when in fact they are opposites and profound enemies. The far left, especially the revolutionary left are far more strongly opposed to the far right than are ‘the centre’ and, as history has often shown, the establishment would prefer the victory of fascism to the victory of real socialism. Second because it suggests that articulating the anger of ordinary people at austerity  is ‘irresponsible’. Responsible politics, implication is, involves inflicting pain and suffering on people ‘for their own good’. Any one who suggests there may be an alternative to cutbacks and wage restraint is irresponsibly and dangerously raising the hopes and expectations of working class people.

While on the subject it is worth mentioning that this use of ‘populism’, borrowed from academia, is of recent origin – it has only become prevalent in the last few years – but is now almost universal and it is used usually without explanation and as if it were a politically neutral statement of fact. Was this planned somewhere? I don’t know but my guess is that probably was but it also relies on the intellectual laziness of so many journalists who once they hear a new buzz word simply repeat it so as to seem ‘in the know’

Extremists and moderates.

The use of the extremists versus moderates dichotomy is much older than ‘populism’ but serves similar functions. It is VERY politically loaded. Imagine there is a conflict – an election or a war – in Mongoliaabout which you know nothing at all. Then you hear on the news that it is between the extremist Xs and the moderate Ys. You now know immediately a) who ‘the West’ [US, NATO, EU etc] supports and b) who you are supposed to support. And these messages have been transmitted with having to tell you directly which might compromise the image of media ‘impartiality’.

This is not a question of logic. Was it better to be extremely opposed to Hitler or only moderately opposed to him? But it is a question of established usage and it works pretty effectively. To this we must add the way in which ‘extremist’ has now come to signify terrorist and probably Islamist terrorist. Again this is not a question of logic. Personally I am an ‘extreme’ leftist, certainly not a ‘moderate’, but I am also ‘extremely’ opposed to the use of terrorism (planting bombs etc) as a political strategy or tactic. But logic is not the point here – that is how it is used.

Recently the left has been countering this labelling by referring to the establishment as ‘the extreme centre’.

Radical

Another example of the insidious way in which the ruling class is able to manipulate language to serve its purposes is provided by the media’s use of the word ‘radical’. A radical used to refer to someone who advocated far reaching and progressive reform or social revolution. Of course, Conservatives and right wingers viewed radicals with contempt but the left claimed the term with pride. There was a great radical tradition stretching from the Levellers and the Diggers through to modern times. Tom Paine, William Blake, Michael Davitt, Sylvia Pankhurst, James Connolly, Countess Markiewicz, Mother Jones, Paul Robeson, Che Guevara, Aneurin Bevan, Arthur Scargill, Tony Benn were all ‘radicals’.  Eamonn McCann, Paul Foot and John Pilger are radical journalists. Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Julio Iglesias can all be described as ‘radical’ left.

But by systematically attaching the term to Islam or Islamic and using it in the context of terror attacks politicians and the media have done their best to pervert and tarnish the term. It is now common to hear of the production of guidelines to ‘spot signs of radicalism’  and programmes to ‘counter radicalisation’. ‘Moderate’ mosques and Muslim leaders are urged to ‘do more’ to combat ‘radicalism’. Of course it would have been possible simply to urge them to combat terrorism but using the terms ‘radicalism’ and ‘radicalisation’ creates – for our rulers – a very useful ambiguity and amalgam.

Jobs

When it comes to legitimating the system as a whole and the specific actions of government and businesses there is very little to compare with the mantra of ‘Jobs!’.

Propose increasing taxes on the rich or the corporations (Apple for example) and they will immediately scream about ‘Jobs!’ Propose closing down any heinous institution (e.g Direct Provision) or ending any horrible practice ( allowing the US to use Shannon for extraordinary rendition flights or bombing missions) and you will be met with the cry that this will cost jobs.  And in a sense it is true. If Auschwitz was operating in Connemara, or there was a poison gas factory in Cork closing them down would cost jobs.

But the slogan of ‘Jobs’ functions much more widely than just as an alibi for disreputable operations. Ask any billionaire how they justify their immense wealth and the chances are they will cite the jobs they have created for people. Indeed if it were the case, as the capitalists claim, that they somehow ‘create’ jobs and that without them nothing would be made or get done at all then capitalism would indeed have found its perfect justification as an everlasting system. Of course this is an absurd claim; jobs, as in work that needs doing and that human beings do, existed for tens of thousands of years before the first capitalist was ever thought of. But most of the time most people don’t think historically or in terms of thousands of years. Therefore, the fact that, in the immediate situation and for as long as people can remember, the capitalist as a class have, by virtue of their possession of the means of production, cornered the market in ‘jobs’, makes it appear plausible that they do actually ‘create’ work for people.

Another factor in our rulers’ emphasis on jobs is that it is precisely through employing the labour of working people – and paying them less than the value of the goods and services they produce – that capitalists make their profits. Thus focusing relentlessly on ‘jobs!’ enables the bosses to pass of the very means through which they line their pockets as an act of social benevolence.

We

The way this very simple little word is used is of crucial importance. When it is used in political discourse by the 1% and their media spokespersons it usually refers to the nation and its people as a whole. ‘We’ in Ireland do this or that; we, the Irish, tend to think such and such or should do the following. ‘We’ will be hit hard by Brexit but ‘we’ feel very close to the Americans and so on.

Sometimes ‘we’ refers to the actions of the Irish government, other times it used to create the impression that there is an Irish identity or character or set of views which ‘we’ all share. This is manifestly not the case in reality but speaking as if it were helps to reinforce the currently dominant attitude or views which are often the views of the dominant class, the 1%. Moreover, it tries to subsume those of us who don’t share the dominant view or else to erase our existence.

The same practice is also adopted in relation to other countries. It is common to hear that Germany or the Germans think something or have said or the French have taken a certain view when in fact what is being talked about is simply the views or actions of the German or French Government. This is particularly misleading and ideologically loaded given that most current governments – beginning with the Irish Government – are actually elected by quite small minorities of their national population.  For example, Trump, far from being elected by the American people as a whole, was actually only voted for by about 20% of the adult population.

Above all this persistent use of ‘we’ serves to mask what is by far the deepest the division in interests and attitudes in Ireland and in every other capitalist society –the division of class.

The public – taxpayers, customers and workers.

In so far as differences among the people or the public are acknowledged at all, social class, the most significant division, is barely mentioned. Much more frequently deployed are the terms ‘taxpayer’ and ‘customer’ and the way they are used is important.

Whenever there is a proposal involving state expenditure – for example on health, education, welfare or some other public good – the ‘taxpayer’ is sure to be invoked, or often ‘the hard pressed taxpayer’. Fair enough you might say in that it is a matter of fact that public expenditure must come out of taxes. But the way in which the tax payer is invoked suggests, almost always, that there is a special category of people who are ‘taxpayers’ as opposed to others who are not and who are particularly imposed upon. Hear mention of ‘the taxpayer’ and there immediately springs to mind a comfortable middle class manager with BMW and semi in Dublin 4 who bitterly resents how much of his hard earned income goes to bail out the indolent and feckless scroungers.

This is nonsense, of course. There is no special category of taxpayers. Every single citizen in Ireland pays taxes in one form or another. Even schoolchildren pay VAT on some of the things they buy. But logic and facts count for little here – its how the term is used that matters and it is used with the political effect of expressing the resentment of the middle classes.

‘Customers’ are another group of people who are very much approved of by business, politicians and the media – at least in words. Businesses always claim to be devoted to the welfare of their customers; you would almost think they were charities. ‘The customer is always right!’ they proclaim. Except, of course, a business that really operated on that principle would not last a day since ‘customers’ would be able to determine prices, if they paid at all.   Health service and transport managers want their patients and passengers to see themselves as ‘customers’ so as to spread the ‘business model’ of life to as many aspects of society as possible. Everything – health, education, personal relations, sex, love, water – should be about cash transactions, everything should be up for sale and this attitude to life should be infiltrated into our language and our consciousness as much as possible.

‘Customers’ really come into their own whenever there is a strike.  On thing you can be sure is that when there is a strike the media will approach the dispute from the standpoint of badly affected ‘customers’. If there is a strike by bus or train drivers the media will look for stranded commuters to interview, preferably ones missing vital appointments such as job interviews. If it is a nurses strike it will be patients whose operations or appointments are postponed; if it is teachers then the first port of call will be concerned parents worried about their child’s exams or education.  In this way the strike is always seen as a ‘bad thing’ and the striking workers are always presented as a, probably selfish, minority in contrast, not to their employers but to the public or community as a whole. In this way the report will invariably serve to undermine the strike and back up the position of the employers without ever having to say this explicitly (which would compromise the media’s image of neutrality).

In contrast to taxpayers and customers (or consumers) workers are invoked relatively little. When they do get a positive mention from establishment politicians it is usually in the form of ‘hard- working people and their families’. These phrases are always loaded. It is only workers who ‘work hard’ that are wanted or deserve to be represented [NB Leo Veradkar said this week he wanted ‘to represent people who get up early in the morning’] with the implication there a lots of lazy workers out there who don’t merit representation. There has always been a  theme in capitalist ideology of trying to divide the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving poor’ (George Bernard Shaw wrote about in Pygmalian) , the ‘respectable’ and the ‘unrespectable’ working class, and to set the former against the latter. And this is always done with a high moral tone. It is never mentioned, of course, that capitalists make more profits the harder they can get workers to worker.

Politics and Politicians

Most people don’t like politics or politicians. This is perfectly understandable given the way most politicians behave and much politics is discussed. But actually the establishment are quite happy for large numbers of people to be turned off politics and to be apathetic and through the media they endorse and encourage this state of affairs. One tactic used for these purposes is to promote the idea that any really important issue should be ‘above’ or ‘outside politics’. ‘This is not about politics, this is about human rights/justice/health/ethics/ fairness/economics/ people’s lives etc.’ Sport, religion, art, music, poetry,  are all areas we are told ‘politics’ should kept out of. But if politics is not about human rights/justice/health/ethics/ fairness/economics and the things that are really important in people’s lives, then it is an entirely frivolous activity – a kind of game being played out by small and strange group of people divided into various rival teams who compete for the sake of it.

In reality all the most basic matters of life and death, all the things that have the most vital effects on the lives of the mass of people – war, peace, wealth, poverty, health, housing, education etc – are the very stuff of politics. But if this is hidden from the  mass of people and politics is presented as just a game played by politicians, of interest only to a tiny minority, then this enables that tiny minority to get on with organising how these issues of life and death are handled without interference from ‘the people’.

Consciously or unconsciously this has a big influence on the way politics is discussed in the media. It leads to a quite disproportionate focus on the personalities of individual politicians and how they are currently performing in the game  – Veradkar v Coveney, May v Corbyn – at the expense of discussion of actual issues. And if ordinary people, people who are not professional politicians, try to assert themselves politically by any more effective means than ringing Joe Duffy, this is seen as very threatening indeed – ‘mob rule’ beckons!

I’ve been very clear about this

The professional establishment politicians have evidently been trained by their media and PR consultants to proclaim their own clarity on all possible occasions, and they do so with a vengeance. ‘I’ve been clear about this from the beginning’, ‘I want to say very clearly’, and ‘I am saying very clearly’ and so on ad nauseam: the trouble is these proclamations are immediately followed by statements and exclamations that are as clear as mud and go to any length to avoid answering the question they have been asked.

This combination of self proclaimed clarity and actual lack of clarity serves their purposes very well because, in fact they are more than happy for the mass of people not to understand an issue being debated. They know that if people feel that they cant understand an issue – that its ‘over their heads’ – this will make it easier for the elites to carry on getting away with things. Consequently politicians on talk shows and the like, faced with an awkward question, follow the rule: talk as long as possible without drawing breath and try to sound clever – throw in a few statistics and terms people don’t really understand. If people don’t know what you’re talking about it doesn’t matter, indeed it’s greatly preferable to them actually sussing what you are up to.

Transparency

Along with ‘being clear’ another favourite buzzword of both politicians and businesses is ‘transparency’. Everything is always supposed to be, or more likely is going to be, ‘going forward’, transparent. We even hear that An Garda Siochana is going to be transparent. Now, taken seriously this is just ridiculous. No police force, or government department or business can possibly really be ‘transparent’; it would mean having no proper security or confidentiality at all. But then it is isn’t meant to be taken seriously because, as with An Garda Siochana, it is used in connection with organisations and processes that are the extreme opposite of transparent.

People say to me

One of the favourite sayings of politicians is ‘I’ve been going round the country talking to people and what they say to me is …’ Presumably the politicians think this makes them sound in touch with the people but what is funny is that what these people say always seems to be exactly what the politician concerned wants to hear.

I remember Joan Burton using this device at the height of the water charges campaign. People were marching on the streets of Ireland in their hundreds of thousands from Letterkenny to Waterford shouting ‘No Way, We Wont Pay!’ and ‘From the River to the Sea, Irish Water will be Free!’. But according to Burton what people were saying to her was‘We want clarity and certainty’. What’s not clear and certain, you wonder, about, ‘Enda Kenny, Not a Penny!’?  And of course when Joan did actually interact with some real people they turned out to be saying something different altogether. No doubt Theresa May is currently claiming that people are telling her they want ‘strong and stable leadership’.

In reality politicians spend very little time ‘going round the country talking to people’ other than to their own committed supporters and ordinary people don’t talk in politicians’ campaign slogans. In other words these claims are just routine  lies. Actually they along with such terms and phrases, as ‘I want to be very clear’ and ‘the customer is always right’, are  repeated because they are familiar clichés which politicians and spokespersons think sound good and will help to pull the wool over people’s eyes.

They are, at bottom, an expression of deep contempt for the mass of people who they see as backward and ignorant and in need of standing up to – they call standing up to people ‘showing leadership’ and ‘courageous’. Which brings us back to where we started with ‘populism’. Politics is about a few serious moderate centre politicians together with a few serious moderate billionaires and corporations managing society on behalf of the rest of us, because they know best after all, and everything else is just spin to keep the masses happy. And anyone who thinks differently is probably one of those dangerous ‘populists’.

The above article was written by, and reproduced from the blog of socialist author and activist, John Molyneux (originally published on June 10, 2017).

I rely on the generosity of my readers. I don’t make any money from my work and I’m not funded. If you’ve enjoyed reading this or another posting, please consider making a donation, no matter how small. You can help continue my research and write independently..… Thanks!


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Cajoling the Herd

 Daniel Margrain

This herd of cattle was moved from the Shropshire Union Canal in Market Drayton

In 1938, in response to the alleged arrival to America of aliens from another planet, thousands of US citizens left their suburban homes in a state of panic and departed for the hills. An unsuspecting public did this because the authoritative and solemn tones of the radio announcer who imparted this ‘news’ was able to induce the requisite amount of fear in them.

It was only later that the people concerned had realized they had been duped. What was actually being broadcast was an adaptation of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds, and the announcer was none other than the renowned actor and film director, Orson Welles. The power of radio had convinced people to behave in an irrational manner in response to this ‘fake news’.

Almost eight decades after Welles made his fake radio broadcast, hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on Washington DC and many other cities across America and throughout the world. The stated aim of the protests was to demonstrate women’s rights in response to the revelation that Trump had boasted he had groped the genitals of a woman. But this soon morphed into a protest against Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States.

Censorship by omission

The issues the coverage of Trump’s alleged sexual assault raises is of course welcome. But the media coverage given to the incident which acted as the catalyst for the demonstrations also raises further questions in terms of what the media do and do not regard as a newsworthy story. Why, for example, hadn’t the media given equal coverage to the sexual depravities of Bill Clinton?

It should be noted that Hillary not only condoned Bill’s actions but has often slandered those who would dare speak out against them. The fact that the media have not managed to inculcate into the public consciousness the alleged crimes of Bill Clinton in the way they have in relation to Trump, almost certainly explains why, during Bill’s presidency and impeachment trial 20 years ago, no protests occurred.

So fake news is as much about the ability of the media to censor by omission as it is about the actual production of deliberately false information intended to deceive. In turn, it’s these distortions that provide the catalyst for the ideology of ‘post truth politics’ exemplified by the emergence of a discourse that appeals to emotion and where personal beliefs dominate. The media’s preoccupation with Trump’s seemingly sexist and misogynistic attitude to women intended to evoke an emotional response, was to be the starting point for what was to follow. The media’s anti-Trump agenda, in other words, had been cast.

Manichean logic & Red Baiting

The demonizing agenda was stepped-up a gear following the media’s relentless efforts to link Trump with Putin. With their application of Manichean logic, the intention of the political-media class is the deliberate conflation of media dissent with the notion that the dissenters uncritically support Russia and thus imply they are Trump apologists. In the establishment media’s eyes, the dissenters’ ‘crime’ is the acknowledgement that Trump’s stated aim to shift future US foreign policy from belligerence to cooperation with Russia, has validity.

The response of a corporate outlet like the Washington Post was to label anybody who proffers an alternative narrative to that pumped out by the mainstream as “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The writer, Chris Hedges, who is on a list of 200 alternative websites condemned by the paper, describes the Post’s report as an “updated form of Red-Baiting.He added:

“This attack signals an open war on the independent press. Those who do not spew the official line will be increasingly demonized in corporate echo chambers such as the Post or CNN as useful idiots or fifth columnists.”

I, myself, was subject to this kind of ‘fifth-columnist’ irrational Red-Baiting on twitter earlier yesterday (Tuesday January, 31). The following tweet, for example, was in response to my factual assertion that Russia was invited by Syria to intervene in the country as a direct response to the arming, training and funding of Salfist terrorists by the US, UK, Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments’:

: 4h4 hours ago

you sound like you might be a Trotskyist. Are you in the pay of a counter revolutionary organisation?

Paradox

As far as the political-media establishment is concerned, the Trump phenomenon represents a paradox, or as Charles Krauthammer put it, an “ideological realignment”. Trump’s non-conservative, idiosyncratic populism is the antithesis to the prevailing liberal political-media establishment orthodoxy, but is nevertheless welded to the capitalist order.

Under Obama, the media had it relatively easy because the nature of the mutual understanding between the two was understood. The snake oil salesman said the right things when required but was not particularly pro-active in policy terms unless it involved keeping the industrial-military complex ticking along by initiating wars.

Trump, on the other hand, not only says the wrong things, but has so far stuck to his word. This is very bad for the maintenance of the liberal consensus and a media elite that is used to having it’s snouts comfortably feeding from the gravy train trough on its own terms.

Public relations

This is not to suggest that the media is somehow separate from this state-corporate status quo. On the contrary, their role as public relations mediators for the state means they are intrinsic to the protection of corporate power against democratic forces. The unpredictability that arises from the ashes of Trump’s victory is akin to shaking one of those old children’s snow globe toys and waiting to see where the particles land. They have the potential to settle in a multitude of places. The strategies in response to the potential chaos unleashed by Trump, in other words, has the potential to take many forms, from that of the blinkered liberal to the revolutionary idealist and a multitude of possibilities in between.

Much to the undoubted relief of the political-media establishment, many of those who have been encouraged to take to the streets would appear to have been blinded by the media’s displacement activity which is essentially what their attacks on Trump are. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Clinton gang is pushing for war with Iran while the war criminal Jack Straw’s criticisms of Trump are clearly his attempts to steal the moral high ground. The kind of blinkered liberalism that focuses a disproportionate amount of criticism on Trump but ignores the underhand warmongering and war crimes of his opponents, is encapsulated by the following tweet:

Ashamed

To claim to feel more ashamed to be a citizen of a country represented by the actions of the latest in a long line of misogynistic presidents who followed through on a seven country visa ban policy mandate rather than the actions of his predecessor who attacked seven countries in eight years, is indicative of the propaganda power of the mass media.

The said media is currently facilitating an agenda by which the Trump ban is up for discussion, but prevents similar discussions in relation to restricting the ability of governments’ to wage wars. It is surely no coincidence that ‘feeling ashamed to be part of America for the first time in 32 years’ is related to the inability of the media to report on the numerous wars of aggression waged both overtly and covertly by successive US presidents.

The fact that the reason why Trump’s selective and temporary travel ban (not a Muslim Ban as reported) is considered to be an acceptable part of media discourse but the war machine championed by Obama and historically by numerous other presidents isn’t, is because critiques of the latter pose a potential threat to the underlying structure of media-state power.

L B C

I first heard about the ban on Maajid Nawaz’s L B C programme last Saturday morning (January 28). Unlike the other topics that have been featured on the show, a disproportionate amount of time was devoted to the Trump issue. The journalist Owen Jones who had just arrived in the UK from America was interviewed on the phone at some length by Nawaz and was given plenty of air time to promote the demonstration outside Downing Street that evening.

Meanwhile, a succession of callers phoned in to the programme, the vast majority of whom aired their disgust at the Trump policy. The calls were interspersed by a running commentary by Nawaz who repeatedly condemned Trump without referencing the fact that the seven country ban had already been put in place by Obama, or that the policy didn’t apply to British passport holding Muslim celebrities or politicians even though both were continually mentioned in a sensational way in order to illicit an emotional response from the listener.

Unlike Jones, Nawaz fell short of arguing for the banning of the planned state visit of Trump to the UK. Nevertheless, the tone throughout was one of hostility towards the visa ban policy and Trump himself. Throughout the show, Nawaz kept reminding his listeners about the growing number of signatures to the ‘Ban Trump’ on-line petition by providing them with a running commentary about the numbers who had signed up every few minutes. This was the standard approach taken throughout the media with all UK terrestrial TV news channels focusing their coverage on individuals at airports who were waiting for news of their loved ones that had been caught up in the confusion.

Meanwhile, it appeared to me that more coverage was devoted to the anti-Trump demonstrations throughout American and other cities than was given to the estimated 2 million people that thronged the streets of London protesting the decision of the UK government to go to war in Iraq. On Monday’s (January 30) the BBC Breakfast programme, a running total of signatures was displayed boldly on the screen as if it was money being raised for the Children In Need charity. All this passed for acceptable discourse in the corporate mass media.

Manipulating the public

It is an illustration of how corporations that now dominate much of the domestic and global economies recognize the need to manipulate the public through media propaganda by manufacturing their consent, largely achieved through coordinated mass campaigns of the kind described that combine sophisticated public relations techniques. These techniques involve the filtering out of all unwanted information by censoring it and amplifying all ‘useful’ information. The former explains why, for example, very few people remember the time when Theresa May as UK Home Secretary illegally deported 50,000 foreign students which consequently failed to generate the publicity required for a mass demonstration.

Although the issue is different, exactly the same principle can be applied to the lack of publicity the media have given to demonstrations against the government’s welfare reforms including cuts to disability benefits, reduced social care budgets and the introduction of the bedroom tax.

Make no mistake, the decision of Trump to ban people from seven majority Muslim countries on the false premise that it’s a security issue when those countries not on the banned list were the ones whose citizens were responsible for the attacks on 9-11, is illiberal, immoral and plain wrong.

But it is also wrong for the media to have perpetuated the myth that it was Trump who set the policy in motion and that his critics are somehow perturbed that he is fulfilling a pre-election democratic mandate. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that many people are actually shocked when politicians actually follow through on their campaign promises. In that sense, at least – for good or bad – Trump has put down a marker for elected leaders in the future to follow.

Conclusion

The media hype surrounding the reporting of Trump’s sexual assault allegations and particularly the travel ban is disproportionate and exaggerated. Where were the reports of NATO’s flattening of the Libyan town of Sirte that killed thousands of civilians and the changing of the law last year enabling the deportation from the UK of any refugee child?

Why are a series of war criminals and war apologists seen fit to be interviewed about their disparaging views on Trump and are allowed to pass comment unchallenged? Why were the public told that Western civilisation was under threat from Islamist terrorists from the same countries who the elites are now criticising Trump from wanted to put travel restrictions on? Could it be Trump is unknowingly exposing the lie to their own propaganda?

The fact that these questions are never asked of the powerful and that a mass of well-meaning liberal protesters uncritically fall into line like a herd of cattle, is a testament to the hold the media has on great swaths of the population.

COPYRIGHT

All original material created for this site is ©Daniel Margrain. Posts may be shared, provided full attribution is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else along with a link back to this site. Using any of my writing for a commercial purpose is not permitted without my express permission. Excerpts and links, including paraphrasing, may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Daniel Margrain and Road To Somewhere Else with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Unless otherwise credited, all content is the site author’s. The right of Daniel Margrain to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

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Who are the White Helmets & what is their role in Syria?

By Daniel Margrain

In my previous article, I highlighted how a strategy of Western fomented sectarian violence in Syria – through media lies and fabrications – is being used to create divisions and political instability, the objective of which is to justify ‘humanitarian intervention’ and eventual regime change in the country. It would appear that one of the key propaganda tools being utilized by the Western powers in order to achieve this objective is through an ostensibly humanitarian organization called the White Helmets.

Also known as ‘Syria Civil Defence’, the White Helmets were founded and trained under the supervision of ex-British military mercenary, James LeMesurier in Turkey in 2013. LeMesurier also has connections to organizations like Blackwater who are infamous for being death squad outreach assassins. Ubiquitous in the mainstream medias coverage of the aftermath of bomb damage in Aleppo, have been the images of ‘volunteers’ of the White Helmets rescuing young children trapped in the rubble of buildings allegedly bombed by the Syrian government and its Russian ally forces.

The group, who have some 2,900 members and claim complete neutrality, are said to operate as first responder, search and rescue teams in areas outside of Syrian government control. They are portrayed in the Western media as selfless individuals who rush into the face of danger and feted as being saviours of humanity. Western journalists and human rights groups frequently cite unverified casualty figures and other uncorroborated claims from the White Helmets and therefore take at face value the organization’s self-proclaimed assertions they are an unarmed, impartial and independent Non-Government Organization (NGO) whose sources of funding are not derived from any of the conflicting parties in Syria.

The group have produced a slick website in which they push for a No Fly Zone (euphemism for regime change) in Syria. In addition, their public relations campaigns include what is purported to be a short documentary film – which in reality amounts to a self-promotional advertisment – that was recently shown at a prestigious invitation-only Chatham House event in London. These factors would appear to belie the groups impartial and independent status.

Indeed, further investigations reveal that the White Helmets are anything but impartial and independent. As Max Blumenthal points out, the group was founded in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transitional Initiatives, an explicitly political wing of the agency that has funded efforts at political subversion in Cuba and Venezuela. USAID is the White Helmets’ principal funder, committing at least $23 million to the group since 2013. This money was part of $339.6 million budgeted by USAID for “supporting activities that pursue a peaceful transition to a democratic and stable Syria” – or establishing a parallel governing structure that could fill the power vacuum once Bashar Al-Assad was removed.

In addition, the White Helmets have received £22m from the UK rising to a probable £32m and £7m from Germany. Other substantial funds come from Holland and Japan. Conservative estimates suggest that some $100m dollars in total have been donated to the group.

 

Photographs of the White Helmets on the ground would appear to point to their involvement in acts of terrorist violence that need explaining. Blogger, Robert Stuart, inquired, “What explanations can there be for the preponderance of highly disturbing images and videos of White Helmets such as those below?”

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Stuart continues:

“Other instances depict uniformed White Helmets carrying weapons, attending the murder of a young man, giving the victory sign over a pile of dead Syrian soldiers and boasting about throwing the corpses of Syrian forces members “in the trash”.

Real Syria Civil Defence

Sixty years prior to the formation of the terrorist-enabler’s in Turkey, the real Syria Civil Defence Organization (SCDO) was established. Vanessa Beeley notes, this original Syria Civil Defence Organization work in both opposition and government held areas, unlike the White Helmets who operate solely in the former. The original ‘real’ SCDO is also recognized by the International Civil Defence Organization (ICDO) of which it was a founder member in 1972. Third, the ICDO is affiliated to the UN, WHO and the Red Cross among others. In other words, unlike the White Helmets, the SCDO is a fully certified and legitimate civil defence organization.

So why, one may ask, are the tens of millions that fund a fake civil defence organization not going to the SCDO who rescue people on a daily basis with no recognition from the Western media? Not only are they not gaining any external recognition, but not a single Western corporate media outlet has gone to visit the real SCDO to report on their activities in over five years of war.

One of the few people to have bucked this trend is British independent journalist, Vanessa Beeley who interviewed the group at their HQ in Damascus shortly before leaving the country last week. According to Beeley, the White Helmets are being used by the West to facilitate the eradication of the Syrian state institution, the real SCDO. Beeley says when the terrorists invaded in 2012 their aim was to usurp the real SCDO who presumably then went on to join forces with their newly formed White Helmet counterparts in Turkey at a later date.

Beeley goes on to say that crew members of the real SCDO in west Aleppo were threatened by the terrorists to help set up the White Helmets faction in Syria. The terrorists, under the guise of the White Helmets, proceeded to “steal SCDO ambulances as well as murdering real SCDO members and kidnapping others”, she said. Beeley continued, “These events were repeated throughout Syria.”

It’s clear then, that if Beeley’s account is to be believed, the White Helmets are at the very least a terrorist support group whose ultimate objective is the overthrow of the Assad government which ties in with the Wests regime change narrative. If, on the other hand, the Western government and corporate media meme that supports the claim that the group are volunteers, as opposed to terrorists or their facilitators is true, it begs the question as to where the estimated $100m donated to them has gone and what it is being used for?

Arms trade front

Concomitant to Beeley’s next assertion is where the answer to this apparent conundrum is likely to be found. Beeley claims that the White Helmets are “a front for the funding of the arms trade.” This claim would tend to augment her broader thesis given that these are the kinds of activities a terrorist group would benefit from. Given the White Helmets are principally a group allegedly trained in Turkey under the auspices of LeMesurier, and they arrive in Syria from that country in trucks, it would be reasonable to assume that their narrative of ‘humanitarianism’ provides a perfect foil for their activities and therefore acts as a conduit to the terrorist held areas through which weapons and equipment can be funneled.

With LeMesurier acting as the alleged kingpin in an operation that has its handle on at least tens of millions of dollars, it’s clear that the White Helmets are far from the kind of indigenous grass roots impartial humanitarian-based NGO depicted in the Western media. Rather, they are a huge organization more typical of a medium sized multinational company.

The public can expect that the media profile of the terrorist-enablers will be amplified exponentially in the coming weeks and months in view of the fact that the Syrian Arab Army and their allies are advancing through eastern Aleppo where they are “routing the US-NATO backed terrorists” that are occupying the area.

Since the 2012 invasion, 600,000 Syrian civilians have fled from eastern Aleppo to the western part of the city. According to the Aleppo Medical Association, around 200,000 currently remain in the terrorist-held east of the city. Approximately 25,000 of the 200,000 are terrorists and their families. The remaining 175,000 are effectively being held as human shields.

Exposing Western propaganda

The fact that 600,000 have escaped into government- controlled western Aleppo counters the US-UK media narrative that says Assad is targeting his own people. Why, in other words, would people under these circumstances go from ‘liberated’ eastern Aleppo into the realm of a ‘murderous tyrant’ in the west of the city? Ninety per cent of internally displaced people driven out of their towns and villages by terrorists – whether described as ‘rebels’, ‘moderates’ or the ‘opposition’ – have gone into government held areas for protection. Seven million Syrian civilians have fled to these areas.

There are three main hospitals in eastern Aleppo and all are occupied by the terrorists who are using the top floors of these hospitals as sniper towers. The Al-Quds hospital which according to mainstream media reports was destroyed in April has been ‘miraculously’ rebuilt in the last few months and is now once again being used as part of the propaganda offensive against the Assad government. The French media claimed the Assad government bombed two hospitals in Aleppo but used images from Gaza.

Meanwhile, the independent journalist, Eva Bartlett, claims “Aleppo currently has over 4,160 registered doctors but the corporate media and even some social media sites reproduce propaganda reports that refer to ‘the last doctor in Aleppo'”. US Colonel Steve Warren said, “It’s primarily al-Nusra [Al-Qaida] who holds [eastern] Aleppo”. This would imply that the US wants to protect an area that its own government says is occupied and under siege by Al-Qaida terrorists. As Bartlett puts it, in terms of the media, “there is no consistency, even in their lies.”

Censorship by omission

While the media has been amplifying the propaganda provided to them by the terrorist factions inside eastern Aleppo, as exemplified, for example, by their reporting of the September 18 attack on the aid convoy organized by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, mortars were being reined down on civilians in western Aleppo. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Grad missiles have been fired into the north of the city by Western-backed terrorists.

The media reported the attack on the aid convoy because the White Helmets, their Western government terrorist allies, implicated the Assad government and/or the Russian’s with the attack. However, neither the terrorist attacks in either the west nor the north of Aleppo outlined above, were mentioned in the media.

The dirty propaganda war on Syria is to a large extent underpinned by the kind of media censorship by omission described. But it is also being underpinned by the media’s uncritical glorification of the White Helmets which is why we appear to be witnessing this incredible rush among the media to embellish them with credibility.

The public ought to be concerned about what kind of a tool this organization will be in the hands of whoever will end up taking hold of the next US presidential reigns. But whether it’s Clinton or Trump at the helm, the objective of illegal regime change is already too far down the road for the U.S government with its loyal British servant at its side to change course. This ought not come as any surprise to students of international relations.

Historical pattern

As the historian Mark Curtis acknowledges, the use of terrorists by British governments to initiate illegal regime change follows an historical pattern. “British governments, both Labour and Conservative”, he says, in ‘Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam’, “have, in pursuing the so-called ‘national interest abroad, colluded for decades with radical Islamic forces, including terrorist organisations. They have connived with them, worked alongside them and sometimes trained and financed them, in order to promote specific foreign policy objectives.”

In terms of Syria, it is the White Helmets who will continue to assist the imperial powers in achieving their foreign policy objectives of illegal regime change in the country. Encouragingly, the Wests terrorist-enablers, missed out on being rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize that they had been nominated for. If they had won, not only would it have been an illustration of a world descending into ever greater madness than is hitherto the case, but it would also have given the terrorist group the legitimacy they crave in the eyes of the world.