Tag: medialens

The Real Syria Story

By Daniel Margrain

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Roth, and by extension Human Rights Watch, further discredits whatever vestiges of impartiality he and HRW might have had with inane tweets such as “Douma market killings show how Assad chooses to fight this war: deliberately against civilians,” (@KenRoth, Aug 16), an obviously biased, and utterly unsubstantiated allegation. Roth could have absolutely no knowledge of either the identities of the dead, or the Syrian government’s motives, when he released the tweet the same day as the attack. He reveals himself here to be little more than a lackey for imperialism, a war hawk masquerading as a human rights defender.” [citation from: The Douma Market Attack: a Fabricated Pretext for Intervention?]

Hand in Hand for Syria:

The UK Charity Commission’s website states that Hand in Hand for Syria exists for “the advancement of health or saving lives”.  Until July 2014 the Facebook banner of Hand in Hand’s co-founder and chairman Faddy Sahloul read “WE WILL BRING ASSAD TO JUSTICE; NO MATTER WHAT LIVES IT TAKES, NO MATTER HOW MUCH CATASTROPHE IT MAKES”.  The image was removed shortly after it was commented on publicly. Also on Hand in Hand’s executive team is Dr Rola Hallam, one of the two medics featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.

On 30 August 2013, the day after the BBC’s initial report on the alleged Aleppo incendiary bomb attack, Dr Hallam appeared on BBC’s Newsnight programme expressing her profound disappointment at parliament’s rejection of a military strike against Syria. Dr Hallam’s father is Dr. Mousa al-Kurdi.  According to a 2013 article by Dr Saleyha Ahsan – the other Hand in Hand for Syria volunteer medic featured in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ – Dr al-Kurdi is “involved politically with the Syrian National Council”.” [citation from: UK Charity Which Shares Syrian Opposition “Aims and Objectives” Benefits from Alan Kurdi Tragedy]

“The Syria Campaign”:

The Syria Campaign, begun in spring 2014, is managed by Anna Nolan, who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war. According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry. …One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014.

Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.” [citation from: Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]

White Helmets/”Syrian Civil Defence

This organization is highly publicized as civilian rescue workers in Syria but in reality is a project created by the UK and USA. Training of civilians in Turkey has been overseen by former British military officer and current contractor, James Le Mesurier. Promotion of the programme is done by “The Syria Campaign”supported by the foundation of billionaire Ayman Asfari. The White Helmets is clearly a public relations project…who work in areas of Aleppo and Idlib controlled by Nusra (al-Qaida). White Helmets primary function is propaganda. Their role is to demonize the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.

A White Helmet leader wrote a Washington Post editorial and are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, contact to the group is made by email through The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship. [citations from: About Those Chlorine Gas Attacks in SyriaSeven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone]. Also see: Who are the White Helmets and what is their role in Syria?

Mayday Rescue 

At the present time Mayday’s sole responsibility appears to be management of the ‘Syrian Civil Defense’ or White Helmets, a supposed first responder organisation staffed by ordinary Syrians, which are in fact an extension of the terrorist groups in Aleppo and Idlib. Their function is to cooperate with the Aleppo Media Center (AMC) in the production of material which shows the White Helmets both as heroes and legitimate authorities on the Syrian conflict on the ground, and the Syrian and Russian governments as war criminals, deliberately targeting hospitals, schools, bakeries, animal shelters etc.

To that end, Mayday is generously funded by the UK, US and other governments, with offices in Amsterdam, Turkey, Jordan and Dubai. As at March 2016 its operational headquarters in Istanbul employs 30 staff, located in the operational centres of Istanbul, South-East Turkey, and has an annual operating budget of US$35,000,000.

Founder James le Mesurier, according to Mayday, “has spent 20 years working in fragile states as a United Nations staff member, a consultant for private companies and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as a British Army Officer…Since 2012, James has been working on the Syria crisis where he started the Syrian White Helmets programme in March 2013. In 2014, he founded Mayday Rescue.” (Citation: Barbara McKenzie).

Incostrat

Incostrat was founded by Paul Tilley, who has a similar background to le Mesurier, with experience of both the army and the Foreign Office. His CV on LinkedIn reveals the following:

“2011-12 Director of Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) in the Ministry of Defence for the Middle East and North Africa.
2012-current. Developed and Project managed several multi-million dollar media and communications projects that are at the leading edge of UK and US foreign and security policy objectives in the Middle East.”

Both Incostrat and Mayday Rescue were formally founded in November 2014, according to the LinkedIn profiles of their respective founders, but le Mesurier and Tilley were doing development work 2013 or earlier. The White Helmets first officially appeared on the scene in April 2014, when the BBC assisted in the launching of the brand by producing a documentary on ‘Civil Defence’ in Aleppo, which coincided with the White Helmets appearance on social media.

Incostrat is described by Thierry Meyssen as “a communications company in the service of the jihadist groups. It designed logos, made video clips by portable telephone, and printed brochures for a hundred of these groups, thus giving the impression of a popular uprising against the Republic.”

Meyssen continues:

“Together with the SAS, [Incostrat] made a spectacle of the most important group, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam). Saudi Arabia supplied the tanks which were delivered from Jordan. Uniforms were made in Spain and distributed to the jihadists for an officer promotion ceremony. All this was choreographed and filmed by professionals in order to give the impression that the army was organised like regular forces and was capable of rivaling with the Syrian Arab Army. The idea was planted that this really was a civil war, and yet the images only showed a few hundred extras, most of whom were foreigners.”(Citation: Barbara McKenzie).

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

Founded in 2011, SOHR is a UK-based organisation that provides information on the Syrian conflicts to the world’s media. The “Observatory” is run from a terraced house in Coventry, England by Rami Abdulrahman, a three-term convicted criminal in Syria who left that country more than 10 years before the war started, and is openly opposed to the Syrian government.

The Observatory is almost certainly the brainchild of the Foreign Office:

“His funding comes from the European Union and “an unnamed European state,” most likely the UK as he has direct access to former Foreign Minister William Hague, who he has been documented meeting in person on multiple occasions at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. […] it was the British government that first relocated Abdul Rahman to Coventry, England after he fled Syria over a decade ago because of his anti-government activities.” Beau Christensen, Propaganda spin cycle: ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’ is funded by US and UK governments

Although the Observatory is manifestly biased, only showing the conflict from the perspective of the insurgents, and consistently showing the Syrian government in a bad light, the information provided is considered by the corporate media, the United Nations and trusted non-government organisations to be authoritative, and is widely quoted.

Clearly for real journalists, Abdulrahman is a useless, utterly compromised source of information who has every reason to twist reality to suit his admittedly politically-motivated agenda of overthrowing the Syrian government. However, for a propagandist, he is a goldmine. That is why despite the overt conflict of interests, the lack of credibility, the obvious disadvantage of being nearly 3,000 miles away from the alleged subject of his “observations,” the Western media still eagerly laps up his constant torrent of disinformation. (Tony Cartalucci, West’s Syrian Narrative Based on “Guy in British Apartment”) (Citation: Barbara McKenzie).

Media consolidation

Integrated within the almost seamless relationship that exists between the executive of government and the kinds of players outlined above, is an increasingly consolidated corporate media who share with the military and political establishments’ mutual economic interests which war helps facilitate. As author Ed Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the agenda:

“Who owns the media shapes what stories are covered and how they are written about”, he said, adding that, “the UK media has a very concentrated ownership structure, with six billionaires owning and/or having a majority of voting shares in most of the national newspapers.”

Democracy & the media.

By Daniel Margrain

Representative democracy is bad for parliamentary democracy because it implies the shifting of power from the elite towards the masses. People power has the potential to tear down the ivory towers of privilege that the rich construct for themselves which is why the establishment is fearful of such an eventuality. The extent to which a political system that functions to support the lifestyles and privileges of the elite ensconced within these towers is determined by the level of passivity and apathy of those on the outside.

Due to the UK’s appalling electoral system, a right wing government in the UK exercise absolute power with just 24.4 percent of those eligible to vote. The attitudes of many of the 38% who did not vote at all in the last general election towards the entire political class, was a combination of indifference, passivity and apoplexy.

Many others who were politically active and mobilized were nevertheless resigned to the fact that the deeply corrupt and flawed ‘winner takes all’ system does not give them a political voice within parliament. The end result of the combination of all these factors, is a system that’s corrupt and rotten to the core.

Although the government’s legality cannot be called into question, it’s legitimacy most certainly can. A government’s legitimacy rests on the popular consent of the governed. It’s clear that the Tories austerity measures that consist of deepening and widespread cuts will do far more harm to far more than the 24.4 per cent of the population that supported the government during the last election. To that extent, there are valid questions to be asked about what right the conservative government has to rule.

With Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity showing few signs of subsiding, we seem to be returning to the feelings of optimism and confidence of the kind witnessed during the 30 year post-war settlement period. Public mobilizations that question and demand more from the system, initiate a crisis in democracy for our unrepresentative leaders, establishment figures and their corporate mainstream echo chambers’ who don’t know quite how to react to the potential threat to their own distorted vision of democracy. This vision can accurately be defined as being reminiscent of the feudal system. As Noam Chomsky put it:

On the one hand, we have the King and Princes (the government). On the other, the commoners. The commoners may petition and the nobility must respond to maintain order… Real participation of “society” in government is nowhere discussed, nor can there be any question of democratic control of the basic economic institutions that determine the character of social life while dominating the state as well, by virtue of their overwhelming power.

Chomsky was actually referring to a 1975 Trilateral Commission report about the nature of American democracy by author Samuel Huntington, but he might as well of been discussing the UK political system of governance in 2015. Political ‘outsiders’ like Jeremy Corbyn and the newly appointed, Ken Livingstone, are regarded as a threat to the narrow careerist interests of not only the Blairite political elite within the Parliamentary Labout Party, but also the metropolitan London media elite of ‘insiders’ who sing to the Blairite-Tory tune.

As Medialens have suggested, this is reflected in an obvious media bias that favours the Red-Tory consensus outlook which can be gauged simply by comparing the tone and intensity of media attacks on both Corbyn and Livingstone against the more conciliatory and friendly approaches of those who don’t rock the metaphorical boat. Of all the preposterous apocalyptic media attacks and McCarthy-style guilt by association smears on Corbyn thus far, the piece titled Will a Corbyn victory be the end of Labour? by Rachel Sylvester in The Times on September 1, written during the build up to the Labour Party leadership election, surely takes the award for the most idiotic. Sylvester comments:

“Just as the Vikings and the Mayans brought about their own extinction by destroying the environment on which their cultures depended, so the Labour party is threatening its survival by abandoning electoral victory as a definition of success. If Labour chooses Jeremy Corbyn – a man who will never be elected prime minister – as leader next week, its end could be as brutal and sudden as those other once great tribes.”

One question arises from Sylvester’s piece. How can an attack by the mainstream media on an authentic voice of Labour values possibly be regarded as the ultimate threat to Labour values?

Sylvester’s smear was just the beginning of a widespread barrage of abuse that has come the way of the ‘outsiders’ since Corbyn’s historic election victory. The Telegraph’s November 18 edition went as far as to use the fascist language of Goebbels when referring to Corbyn’s long-standing ally. “Ken Livingstone is a hate-filled cockroach” was the headline. The latest smear from the Guardian, adding to their already long list, was their description of Corbyn as “like a good Marxist” who “is securing his revolution from within.”

Nick Cohen preposterously claimed that “Jeremy Corbyn is one of the most dishonest politicians you will see in your lifetime”, while the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s transparently biased interview with the labour leader was little more than a scornful attack on his stance on nuclear weapons. Her incredulous responses to his reasonable points, belies the BBC’s claim that it is impartial. Analysis by Medialens show how “mainstream media performance alternates between two distinct modes of reporting”. They point out that:

“the first, ‘fig leaf’, mode presents a view of the world that is overwhelmingly biased in favour of the powerful interests that control, own and support the media, and of which it is a part. Within this bias, room is made for powerful nods and gestures in the direction of honesty and balance.”

An example of this mode was Kuenssberg’s token gesture during the Corbyn interview in which she used the phrase “some voters may think…” which was clearly intended to give the impression of balance as a means of offsetting her aggressive line of questioning in response to Corbyn’s reasonable commitment to the spreading of international law that preceded it. The impression given is that we live in a free and open society where genuine dissent is tolerated.

Medialens continue:

“The second, ‘full propaganda’, mode involves straight forward, no holds barred bias. This is seen in time of war, on royal occasions, on the anniversary of great military victories, and at times when leaders pass away.

On these occasions, balance and impartiality are deemed unnecessary, disrespectful, unpatriotic, irresponsible, even treacherous…Mode 2 reporting, then, sets an essentially totalitarian standard against which public and journalists alike judge media performance…The most powerful weapons in support of mode 2 performance are patriotism and shame…”

Andrew Neil’s impassioned eulogy during the opening sequence of the BBCs flagship political discussion programme, This Week broadcast on November 19 is an example of the second, “full propaganda” mode. Neil’s linking of the nuclear power state to a succession of great French thinkers was his way of showing support for Hollande’s foray into bombing its former colony. Neil’s “inaccurate nonsense in the form of nice memorable words strung together with angry sad words” was critiqued in a brilliant piece of polemical writing by Frankie Boyle.

What both Boyle’s article and the Medialen’s analysis highlight, is that parliamentary democracy in the absence of a democratic media creates the illusion of popular consent while enhancing the power of the state and the privileged interests protected by it.

The battle for media control is akin to the analogy of the fight for territorial domination between two wolves. One is an evil wolf: anger, envy, sorrow, greed, self-pity, guilt, resentment, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is the good wolf: joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The one that wins is the one that is fed. Democracy is that way. The wolf that wins is the one we feed. And media provides the fodder.

Greenwashing And The Collective Corporate Opposition to Environmentalism

The greenwashing of products and lifestyles can be seen as an illustration of how corporate strategies attempt to pacify criticism of unethical corporate decision-making strategies. These strategies are intended to divert public attention away from unethical environmental practices and thus seek to legitimize decisions that would otherwise expose corporations to intense public scrutiny. The Transnational Resource and Action Centre, for instance, highlight how corporations continue to pay lip service to eliminating fossil fuel use whilst using renewable energy investments to give themselves a ‘clean and green’ image.

Has society become more environmentally-friendly and ethical over time or are the masses more susceptible to the public relations techniques adopted by big business whose actions undermine the science that informs the environmental cause? The fact that human actions have resulted in a planet that is warmer now than it has been in the last 100 years and that the public appear to be indifferent to the likely catastrophic consequences, would suggest that corporate greenwashing is indeed shaping public opinion away from the core mass consumerist and economic causes towards issues of displacement activity.

The following commentary involving an incident at a British shop, posted to the Neil Young Times by an anonymous writer, highlights the extent to which this greenwashing propaganda supports the above hypothesis:

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.” The old woman replied: “You’re right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day. Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

“We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

“Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

“Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

“We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country. We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world. We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

“Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint. “But isn’t it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?”