Tag: Up Close With the Rebels

Masters of war: How the corporate media deceive the public

By Daniel Margrain

Mainstream <b>Media</b> <b>Lies</b> About Charleston, Guns & Racism With ...

In September, 2016, UK Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, effectively announced that the British government had channeled £2.3 billion in support of propaganda campaigns in Syria of which charities and NGOs like Hand in Hand, the Syria Campaign and the funding of terrorist mercenary forces, are an integral part.

It has been noted that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), working with the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the Home Office and the Prime Minister’s Office, formed contracts companies for the express purpose of creating ‘targeted information’.

The means by which this is achieved is through the production of videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups. One of the most prominent of the groups allegedly overseen by the MoD, are the White Helmets, who Johnson named, and whose members are affiliated to Islamist terrorist groups.

The corporate mainstream media are failing in their duty to reveal what the true foreign policy objectives of Johnson and his government are in Syria and the wider middle east region, nor have elite corporate journalists critically evaluated their own integration within the state apparatus.

By acting as echo chambers for Western imperial power, the role of the said journalists when reporting on foreign affairs is akin to stenography. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

Then there has been the rush to judgement by Guardian and New York Times journalists in relation to the alleged April 4, 2017 sarin attack in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, and the media’s failure to follow-up on allegations made by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, that the CIA, with the support of M16, was responsible for ensuring the transportation of arms by Islamist groups from Libya to Syria.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and the fake The Caesar Torture Photos story,  illustrate the extent to which the media has attempted to disorientate the public. These examples of ‘news’ functioning as propaganda in the service of power in relation to Syria, however, represent the tip of a huge iceberg.

Independent researcher and investigative journalist, Vanessa Beeley, has meticulously documented numerous occasions where the BBC and Channel 4 News have relied solely on unsubstantiated and biased Syrian opposition ‘rebel’ sources for its reports, and where dissenters of the official narrative have been smeared and abused by Guardian journalists simply for asking ‘difficult’ questions.

Moreover, the heavy reliance on what were clearly fake reports by al-Jazeera and CNN,  intended to sway public opinion in support of foreign intervention in Syria, adds fuel to the fire of those who accuse the elite media of being nothing more than conduits for  state power when it comes to their reporting of foreign affairs that involves the interests of the imperialist nations and their proxies.

Recent reports of protests throughout Iran, which investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed stated were fomented by the U.S State Department, are the consequence of harsh U.S economic sanctions of the sort used against Iraq and Syria. But this kind of ’cause and effect’ analysis is totally absent from mainstream news reportage. In short, the inability of elite journalists to report critically on foreign affairs which have the potential to cast the empire in a bad light, is indicative of a democratic deficit.

This is reflected in the highly concentrated nature of media ownership. Writer Tom London points out that almost 48% of the combined print and online press is owned by just two billionaires – Rothermere and Murdoch – and 75.1% is owned by just six billionaires. These media barons have shared economic interests with the military and political establishment that perpetual war helps facilitate. The securing of these narrow interests are antithetical to the notion of a fair, free and open media.

Author Ed Jones points to other factors that are symptomatic of the lack of democracy at the heart of the media system. These include its domination by privately-educated white men, the politicisation of sources and the manipulation of the press by the intelligence services.

The billionaire media barons understand the importance, not only of spending huge amounts of money on advertising and public relations, but also of employing ‘liberal-left’ journalists whose apparent principal role is to function as ‘gate-keepers’ for established power. Indeed, what John Pilger referred to as “counterfeit journalism” in which “the surface of events is not disturbed”, is central to the ability of the media barons to engineer the public’s consent.

As Jones points out, it’s the billionaires who own the press that set the news agenda. The BBC, who are among the forefront of news agenda-setting media in the UK, play a particularly pernicious role in the propaganda process by amplifying it due to their reputation for alleged impartiality.

However, the central role of the British state broadcaster is to spread ‘British values’ to a global market in much the same way the U.S government spends hundreds of millions annually on outfits like RFE/RL in order to spread ‘American values’.

In other words, the default position of the British state broadcaster is their false sense of entitlement to report selectively on international affairs in order to protect perceived “British interests”. Thus, embedded journalism that ignores ‘our’ criminality is deemed to be acceptable based on the flawed premise that elected politicians serve the people, and that it is the task of the BBC to support, not undermine, democracy.

The founder of the BBC, Lord Reith, was more honest in his assessment of the structural bias of the media, the BBCs role within it, and its relationship to the elite political-media class: “[The establishment] know they can trust us not to be really impartial”, he said.

The recent willingness by the BBC to offer an uncritical platform to the head of the CIA is an example of the corporations dual function role as purveyor of state propaganda in which both Westminster and Washington benefit. Apparently, propaganda only becomes a “problem” when Russia’s state broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), are themselves accused of actively promoting it.

As historian Mark Curtis pointed out, the simple truth is elites do not believe the public has a right to know what is being done in their name. The questioning of prevailing narratives leads critics open to smears and abuse. In relation to Syria, Louis Allday posited that to express “even a mildly dissenting opinion … has seen many people ridiculed and attacked [by liberal-left journalists] … These attacks are rarely, if ever, reasoned critiques of opposing views”.

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Are the ‘liberal’ media betraying the people of the middle east?

By Daniel Margrain

 

Fake images about Aleppo circulate on social media

In this article I will argue that the corporate mainstream media uncritically promulgate regime change narratives in the middle east that coincide with the interests of Western imperial power whose latest goal is the removal of president Bashar- al-Assad from power. As with Iraq, this goal preceded the stated justifications which were retrofitted to an act of aggression.

In 2011, Time reporter, Rania Abouzeid, announced the March 4 and 5, “Day of Rage” against the Syrian president, which was intended as an invocation to the masses in Syria to rise up against their “brutal dictator”. However,  the planned action ended up a complete failure.

At this stage, the empire pinned its hopes on the fact that the culmination of eight years of crippling U.S-led economic sanctions would be sufficient enough a catalyst for mass protests against the Assad government. However, the said sanctions had the reverse affect. On the March 29, 2011, tens of thousands of Syrians gathered at Central Bank Square in Damascus in support of their president.

Nevertheless, the pro-government rally was inaccurately portrayed in the Western media as an anti-government demonstration. The Guardian, for instance, reported the rally, not as a celebration, but as a “military crackdown [by the state] against civilians.”

A year later, on March 27, 2012, president Assad accepted in good faith the six-point Annan peace plan which was ostensibly intended to secure a diplomatic solution to end the growing violence in the country that escalated on March 17, 2011 in the Syrian-Jordanian town of Daraa.

The mainstream media collectively failed in their duty to report the fact the imperial powers reneged on their obligations. To my knowledge, not a single prominent journalist brought to the public’s attention that the U.S and its allies broke their “crystal-cut commitment” to stop aiding rebel fighters which was an integral part of the agreement between the respective parties.

The jihadists continued to rain shells down on the cities of Hama and Homs despite Syria’s commitment that it would abide by the terms of the ceasefire on the condition that the West stop arming the rebels.

That the Western imperial powers have shown no intention of reaching a genuine peaceful outcome to the regional mess they instigated, has never been the preferred media narrative. In Iraq, for example, the evidence that NATO did everything they could to obstruct a peaceful resolution in the country is overwhelming but, to my knowledge, has not been reported as such.

The same can be said of Libya. According to the text of UNSCR 1973, the aim was to facilitate dialogue between the various factions in the country. But this was rendered absurd by the subsequent rejection by the West of proposals put forward by the African Union.

So why wasn’t this reported?

A rare voice of dissent was Seumas Milne who observed:

“If stopping the killing had been the real aim, NATO states would have backed a ceasefire and a negotiated settlement, rather than repeatedly vetoing both.”

This is not a theoretical point. NATO flatly rejected all ceasefire and peace proposals in Libya and demanded that Gaddafi “step down” in much the same way they demanded it of Assad in Syria. The motives of the imperial powers and their proxies in the middle east are characterized as benign. But this is an illusion.

The fomenting of war and chaos in Iraq and Libya by the U.S and its allies, from which spawned al-Qaida and ISIS, are the same forces that are tearing Syria and, at the time of writing, Iran apart. Recent reports of widespread protests throughout the latter are the consequence of U.S economic sanctions of the kind used against Iraq and Syria. As journalist Nafeez Ahmed reported, the said protests were fomented by the U.S State Department.

Iran is being punished for fighting Western-backed jihadists and standing in the way of US-Israeli hegemony in the region. But it’s unlikely the public would be able to reach this conclusion by reading the so-called progressive liberal press.

The BBC Panorama documentary, Saving Syria’s Children, Channel 4 News, Up Close With the Rebels and The Caesar Torture Photos represent far more overt attempts at disorientating the public. The former, in particular, is arguably the greatest single piece of state-sanctioned propaganda to have been produced anywhere in the world.

By repeating the propaganda of Western governments, the media have consistently acted as stenographers. Examples include the Telegraph’s reaction to the Houla massacre of May 25, 2012 which cast Syria into the ‘civil war’ of the Wests making, and the widespread misrepresentation of the UN report into the Ghouta chemical attack of August 21, 2013.

One day after the attack, a Guardian editorial claimed there was not “much doubt” who was to blame for the incident, as it simultaneously assailed its readers with commentary on the West’s “responsibility to protect”.

Journalist Jonathan Freedland’s reaction in the Guardian to the alleged chemical attack on April 4, 2017 in the Syrian town of Khan Seikhoun, was a virtual carbon copy of the papers reaction to Ghouta almost four years previously.

Freedland wrote a day after the incident:

“We almost certainly know who did it. Every sign points to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.”

What these ‘signs’ are were not specified in the article.

Freedland’s rush to judgement, was similarly adopted by George Monbiot. On Twitter (April 7, 2017) the writer claimed:

“We can be 99% sure the chemical weapons attack came from Syrian govt.”

Three days later, media analysts Media Lens challenged Monbiot by citing the views of two former UN weapons inspectors, both of whom contradicted Monbiot’s assertion. “What do you know that Hans Blix and Scott Ritter don’t know?”, inquired the analysts. Monbiot failed to reply.

Conclusion

Corporate mainstream journalism is predicated on sustaining the illusion that ‘progressive’ writers fundamentally challenge the status quo. The reality is, if journalists in highly influential positions really posed a threat to established power, they wouldn’t be in the positions they are in.

As Upton Sinclair famously remarked:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

Thus, highly paid corporate journalists are akin to gatekeepers. Their role is to manipulate public opinion in the service of power rather than to fundamentally challenge it.

One of the key signs of a healthy democracy is the extent to which both the state and corporate media encourage a genuine diversity of opinions and the conditions for alternative narratives to flourish. On both counts, the mainstream corporate media have failed not only the Syrian’s but the people of Iraq, Libya and Iran.

The inability of corporate journalists to report truthfully, is indicative of a structural and systematic media bias. Its highly concentrated nature has resulted in a sustained narrative of misinformation, deceptions and outright lies.

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