Fake news from the White Helmets returns

The so-called White Helmets” pretends to be a non-political aid organisation but in fact is a political construct.

In its on-the-ground activity, it acts as a disaster and relief civil defense organisation for Al Quaeda fighters in Syria. Its links with these terrorist groups were shown by their operations and bases connected with Al Nusra buildings in east Aleppo – and also by the fact it transferred out of Aleppo and into Idlib province together with the terrorist fighters when that city was liberated.

A genuine, neutral, civil defense organisation would have stayed in place.

But the White Helmets also plays an important role internationally in the propaganda campaign against Syria. It campaigned for a “no-flight” zone in Syria and continually promotes an anti-government message. It is often centrally involved in anti-Syria stories about the use of chemical weapons, the bombing of hospitals, etc. The videos they disseminate are often suspect – there have been several cases where they have been exposed at manufacturing false events.

I have written about the White Helmets previously – see these articles:

The above video is timely. With the current attempts by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies to liberate Idlib province and Gouta (near Damascus), the anti-Syria propaganda has again swung into action – and the White Helmets have again become more active in this propaganda.

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57 responses to “Fake news from the White Helmets returns

  1. I emailed the Syria Campaign and asked if the annual audit for the White Helmets was available online. I’ve managed to look at an annual report for the Red Cross, but there is absolutely nothing for the WHs
    Odd,I would have thought, when the donations from wealthy countries like the US and the EU run in to the millions.Why this lack of responsible accounting
    No reply of course. But would it be an idea to ask for the report from our firefighter who went to
    Turkey to train the White Helmets, as he would surely have been required to compile one

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  2. reenmacFrancesca, when you copy/paste text from one format and place it onto another, you get the odd non justified text which we can see in your comment. I wonder why we see this in your comment?

    I was curious about the White Helmets from my reading of this blog. I had no prior bias one way or the other. I took a look at FACT CHECK, a reliable source, and this is what I found:

    “Syrian Rescue Organization ‘The White Helmets’ Are Terrorists?
    ? UNPROVEN”

    “The group has come under suspicion from those who support Assad. The Russian-funded television station, RT (formerly Russia Today), regularly posts stories casting doubt on the motives of the group (the Russian government supports the Assad regime).

    “The rumors reappeared in April 2017, blaming the White Helmets directly for a deadly gas attack in Syria.

    “Whatever their motives may be, we found no credible evidence that the White Helmets are linked to terrorist organizations. The accusations seem to be levied at the group based on political motivations, not evidence.” https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/syrian-rescue-organization-the-white-helmets-are-terrorists/

    AND

    “Proof the White Helmets ‘Staged’ a Chemical Attack in Syria?
    X FALSE
    “photographs from a film set about a man staging a chemical attack are being used by conspiracy theorists (and Russian state media) as evidence that a chemical attack was actually staged.” https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/is-this-proof-white-helmets-staged-chemical-attack/

    POLITIFACT agrees:

    “So, was the chemical attack a hoax orchestrated to draw the United States into Syria’s civil war?

    “We found no credible evidence of it. ” http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/apr/07/unproven-online-theories-doubting-syrian-gas-attac/

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL accuses pro-Russian & Syrian media of using the White Helmets as part of a political information campaign:

    “Both the Syrian government and parts of Russian state-controlled media have been operating a long-running campaign questioning the authenticity of the White Helmets’ operations, including claiming that its rescue videos have been staged.” https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/syria-new-campaign-over-missing-member-white-helmets-shown-sinister-video

    “Amnesty International UK’s Syria Campaign Manager Kristyan Benedict said:

    “This sinister propaganda video (of a kidnapped White Helmet volunteer who was forced to confess on video) is a reminder of the ‘information war’ that the Syrian and Russian governments are operating alongside the physical horrors of their airstrikes and sieges in this dreadful conflict.

    “The White Helmets have acted heroically in places like Aleppo, saving countless lives during some of the most savage Syrian and Russian bombardments.” https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/syria-new-campaign-over-missing-member-white-helmets-shown-sinister-video

    I trust Politifact, Snopes Fact Check, and Amnesty International as sources and your readers should too. I hope I will not hear that these three sources are involved in a disinformation conspiracy, or are also working with the “head choppers” (which, by the way, is a phrase often used by Russian propaganda TV, RT, and, apparently, mindlessly parroted by followers of that network).

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  3. Where is the copy/paste in the comment you refer to ?

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  4. reenmac, I didn’t refer to a copy/paste. I questioned your non-justified margins, a phenomenon when text is copy/pasted from one format to another. For example:

    “No reply of course. But would it be an idea to ask for the report from our firefighter who went to
    Turkey to train the White Helmets . . . ”

    Now, these are two consecutive sentences which should flow seamlessly in meaning and in form. But it does not. There should not be a break between the words “to” and “Turkey.” This is what happens when you copy/paste something that has already been written . . and then post it onto another format.

    I simply asked, “I wonder why we see this in your comment?”

    I hope this answers your question.

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  5. Well it seems you could be my tutor on these matters
    I certainly don’t make any claims to being a smooth writer, your comments on copy/pasting and margins are new to me, but clearly you are expert on such things
    I wonder how that comes about?
    AAh, I see, the break in the sentence, …. thats caused by clumsy use of the keyboard.
    My suspicion of the White Helmets comes from journalists who have investigated their origins and current political/religious alliances, studies of photos published in social media, their lack of accreditation with the International civil defence organisation based in Switzerland, and their misleading claims about impartiality
    I prefer not to outsource my scepticism to bogus sites like Snopes and politicised branches of Amnesty

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David, to say you “trust Politifact, Snopes Fact Check, and Amnesty International as sources and your readers should too” is simply to admit to confirmation bias, to outsourcing your own ability to critically assess situations and to encourage others to stop thinking.

    I strongly urge people to beware of such sources, such unthinking “fact-checking.” I encourage people to think for themselves – look at the facts for themselves.

    Otherwise, we get the incredible situation of a number of OPCW national representatives who boycotted the recent session organised by the Russian and Syrian representatives where people from Douma gave their own testimonies about the “chemical incident.” This also reflects the way the UNSC ambassadors for the FUKUS regimes always walk out of SC meetings when the Syrian ambassador gives his reports.

    it is incredible to me that in their statement these OPCW national representatives crudely argue for blindly accepting the claims of the jihadi-aligned White Helmets and Syrian American Medical Society. They accept the lies that the video they promoted showed a chemical attack while rejecting the evidence of patients and doctors who were seen in the film! That is incredible bias.

    There is ample evidence that the White Helmets and SAMS are not objective sources of information or simple humanitarian workers. Even the fact that when areas like Aleppo and Ghouta were liberated these organisations got on the buses together wither their comrades in arms (the head choppers) and moved to Idlib.

    Come on people – start thinking for yourselves. Don’t be taken in by those who wish to do that thinking for yoiu and ask you to undergo self-censorship.

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  7. The apparent break in continuity is an annoying problem with wordpress.com. It infuriates me and whenever it happens I search for the code causing it but cannot find it.

    The more general problem of large breaks occurs when pdf documents are copied and pasted. This can be overcome by pasting as unformatted text.

    I find the best way to check copypasta is to do a google search on the suspect text – this will often show the sources of the pasted text – and also often reveals that such text is copy/pasted by many people. It’s a common trick with anti-fluoride people – copypasta of copypasta of copypasta . . .

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  8. Regarding the copy/paste:

    The reason I believe reenmac’s text was copy/pasted from a text using another format is because this has happened to me also. The way I overcome the awkward appearance that occurs is to go through the text, place the cursor at the beginning of the second line of the break, backspace (which will conjoin the two words), and then apply a space between the words. It’s a little time-consuming, but it improves the appearance of the text.

    Moreover, when I do copy/paste from another source, I try to provide a link or some other documentation indicating these are not my own words, and whose they are.

    What I find so odd about reenmac’s comment is that it is written in the First Person, implying these are reenmac’s own words. Why would you copy/paste your own words? Why not just write it on the format provided?

    I don’t know, maybe it was written on an i-phone or a blackberry, or some weird gizmo where this phenomenon occurs. Maybe the Enter key was inadvertently struck a few times — It just struck me as very odd.

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  9. The reason it is written in the first person ,David, is because generally when I am describing an action I have taken, I refer to myself in the first person.
    How about you?
    Why don’t you try writing to the Syria Campaign yourself, on the link they provide, for an annual audit for the White Helmets
    The small bit of text you find so suspicious refers to the fact that our NZ govt donated $100,000 of taxpayers money and paid for a firefighter to conduct a WH workshop in Turkey
    We’ve had absolutely no feedback from that
    I’d like a little bit of accountability there.

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  10. Regarding the White Helmets and looking at sources reporting about them:

    Ken, I had never heard about the White Helmets, and the controversies surrounding them, before reading your blog. So, at this stage of investigation I am doing a superficial over-view of the situation. I’m not looking at actual words written by these people (although I have), I am simply looking at the controversy – what is being said about them.

    Face it, unless you actually go to Syria and physically observe what these people (white helmets) are doing on the ground, to some degree you are relying on facts (or not) presented by other people who are reporting about them. Therefore, you must make a judgment call about the sources themselves.

    When I look at a source reporting on a controversy I ask myself two things: A.) Has the source done its homework? B.) Is the source biased, or relatively fair & balanced?

    In this thread I have relied on four sources to reach a conclusion. 1.) Open Parachute. 2.) Snopes Fact Check. 3.) Politifact, and 4.) Amnesty International

    1.) Open Parachute. Has OP done its homework? For what Open Parachute does, yes it has. You professionally present your sources with links that are easily verified, and you present your arguments at great length.

    Is Open Parachute a biased blog? Absolutely. For example, you have written countless essays on the conflict in Syria, but rarely, if ever at all, have you criticized the Assad regime. Nor could you find it in yourself that the Russian Air Force has created collateral damage (innocent human lives) with its air strikes. It is unrealistic to assume this has not occurred.

    You have written countless essays about Syria, and you rightly say, “Don’t be taken in by those who wish to do that thinking for you and ask you to undergo self-censorship.”

    You are critical of “self-censorship” and yet you are guilty of it. How do I know this? Because you, yourself, were unaware of a collection of damning photos that have achieved such global fame that they have been publicly exhibited at such prominent locations as The U.N. Headquarters in New York, the US Congress, The Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, the European Parliament in Brussels, the UK Houses of Parliament in London, the RHA Gallery in Dublin, and The Clinton School for Public Service to name a few.

    And yet, until three days ago you were unfamiliar them. You have yet to read a HRW Report documenting their validity. How is this possible?

    The problem with Open Parachute is that it relies on sources that only confirm its political biases. Anyone with an open mind who did a superficial, broad spectrum, search for information on the Syrian conflict would have, at some point, been made aware of the Caesar photos. Anyone who has written countless essays about Syria Should have been aware of them. But someone who only looks at pro-Assad/pro-Russian material would have never known of their existence.

    Open Parachute does its homework, but it is completely biased. It is so biased, in fact, that it often parrots catch-phrases which are commonly heard on Russian propaganda TV, RT. For example, Open Parachute didn’t coin the phrase “head-choppers.” (That’s a dead giveaway.)

    2.) Snopes Fact Check. Does Fact Check do its homework? Absolutely. “Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist who has written a number of books on urban legends and modern folklore, considered the site so comprehensive in 2004 that he decided not to launch one of his own to similarly discuss the accuracy or various legends and rumors” https://web.archive.org/web/20040812075515/http://www.nationalreview.com/seipp/seipp200407210830.asp

    Is Snopes biased? They don’t seem to be: “Do the Snopes.com articles reveal a political bias? We reviewed a sampling of their political offerings, including some on rumors about George W. Bush, Sarah Palin and Barack Obama, and we found them to be utterly poker-faced. David does say that the site receives more complaints that it is too liberal than that it is too conservative. Nevertheless, he says, “We apply the same debunking standards to both sides.” https://www.factcheck.org/2009/04/snopescom/

    And:
    “Fact-checking the fact-checkers: Snopes.com gets an ‘A’” https://www.networkworld.com/article/2235277/data-center/data-center-fact-checking-the-fact-checkers-snopes-com-gets-an-a.html

    3.) Politifact. Does Politifact do its homework? They seem to.

    For example, The Myth that Nazis used Fluoride. Politifact looked at such sources as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, checked with an expert in the German medical community, including Holocaust-era experimentation, contacted Christopher Bryson, who denied the myth while nonetheless mentioning Nazis “less than 10 times,” in his 2004 book. So they must have read the book. Politifact also contacted the authors of “The Fluoride Wars.”

    Finally, Politifact tracked down a self-published booklet entitled, “”Fluoridation: Mind Control of the Masses?” written by Ian E. Stephens, and in the booklet, “we meet government research worker Charles Eliot Perkins, who at the end of World War II purportedly learned from a big German chemical producer that it had developed a plan to fluoridate occupied countries.”

    And that’s where the myth likely originated. Yes. I would say Politifact does its homework. http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2011/oct/06/critics-water-fluoridation/truth-about-fluoride-doesnt-include-nazi-myth/

    Is Politifact biased? In this highly polarized political climate, it receives criticism of bias from conservatives & liberals alike. However, when one looks at Politifact’s “Lie of the year,” both liberal & conservative presidents have been named. In 2010 & 2013, Obamacare was the Lie of the year. In 2015, “Various statements by Donald J. Trump.”

    Several statements by Hillary Clinton have registered as “False” on the Truth-o-meter http://www.politifact.com/personalities/hillary-clinton/

    However, when compared to Donald Trump, Clinton has received only 2 “Pants on Fire” awards, compared to Trump receiving 80. http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/lists/people/comparing-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-truth-o-met/

    So Politifact goes both ways. It’s not biased, and it does its homework.

    4.) Amnesty International. Does Amnesty do its homework? It’s an irrelevant question because AI isn’t a fact-checking organization, news service, or even an opinion blog.

    More importantly, is it biased? I checked its report on the controversial country of Syria, its 2017-2018 Report. The report didn’t hold back. Everyone received criticism for killing civilians, including U.S. airstrikes, IS forces, the Syrian government, Russian airstrikes, Syrian airstrikes. Based on this report, I would say that AI is not biased against any one particular group.

    And, I stand corrected, Amnesty International appears to do its homework. https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/middle-east-and-north-africa/syria/report-syria/

    Conclusion: When I see a comment on an opinion blog, which gets an absolute FAIL for bias, warning people to beware of sources which show themselves at least attempting to be fair, I have to wonder why.

    This is your comment: “I strongly urge people to beware of such sources, such unthinking “fact-checking.” I encourage people to think for themselves – look at the facts for themselves.”

    On the issue of the Syrian White Helmets . . .

    Yes, do look at the facts themselves. On one hand we have an opinion-blog writer who sounds like a talking bird who has been left in a room with Russian propaganda TV playing all day, who repeats catch-phrases like “head choppers.” (He didn’t coin the phrase. Obviously, he heard it from somewhere and is repeating it like a parrot.) Yes, look at that, and then look at the people he is trying to warn you about, organizations which at least attempt a fair and balanced, unbiased approach, and who have done their homework.

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  11. reenmac, Here is a news article about the New Zealand firefighter who was sent to Turkey to help train the White Helmets Regarding the White Helmets and looking at sources reporting about them: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11736336

    Why don’t you contact the NZHerald about this story, ask them would do a follow-up about the firefighter, and ask about the money. It’s what they do.

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  12. David, you are of course welcome to your opinions on my blog – and I am mature enough to recognise the possible and probable motivations and biases underlying your opinion. However, the sensible thing for a mature person is to avoid my blog if it gives you such problems and you find the material so useless and biased.

    That is up to you.

    An aspect I never seem to get through to you is the importance of evidence. You rely on the conclusions of others – reject them if they don’t confirm your bias and cite them if they do. You never dig any deeper and consider the actual evidence used by the sources you cite, or consider evidence from alternative sources.

    The respectability of an organisation or source is meaningless – it is the evidence that counts.

    As a scientist, I find that approach naive and rather childish. I respect a lot of scientists but I never, never, accept their conclusions as facts simply because of that respect. I look at the evidence behind their conclusions. All good scientists operate this way (although I concede in writing up their work citations are often used in a mechanical way).

    It does not matter how much Ia respect a scientist – if I find flaws in their logic or evidence which do not support their conclusion I do not hesitate from drawing different conclusions. Scientists just love to show previously reported work is wrong – that is how we make progress. And how we win respect for ourselves.

    So I really do find reliance on “fact checking” sites or “humanitarian” organisations rather childish. What about considering the evidence used by those sites and organisations and other evidence you can find.

    It is shocking to me that you rely only on my posts (and you reject them) and “fact checking” sites or amnesty international for your conclusions about the White Helmets.

    If nothing else you should be up to date with the White Helmet’s videos regarding the alleged chemical incident in Douma and the evidecne from the patients and doctors present in the white helmets videos (presented at the OCW in The Hague and elsewhere). The conclusions from this evidecne are completely opposite and this gives you a chance to make a judgment about the reliability of the White Helmets.

    And there is plenty of other material around. You may not be aware of it but most of the information you probably access comes via the White Helmets, the SAMS and the media organisations in Idlib, Ghouta and Aleppo – all affiliated with the jihadis, terrorists, head choppers, etc.

    There is plenty of evidence showing the funding of these organisations by the USA, UK, NATO (and, unfortunately, NZ). There is plenty of evidence showing the links between all these organisations and groups like the Atlantic Council.

    You say:

    “Face it, unless you actually go to Syria and physically observe what these people (white helmets) are doing on the ground, to some degree you are relying on facts (or not) presented by other people who are reporting about them. Therefore, you must make a judgment call about the sources themselves.”

    And that is absolutely true. That is where critical thinking and intelligence (and consideration of real evidence) comes in.

    I, at least, have considered evidence coming from independent journalists like Vanessa Beeley who is often in Syria, is currently in Damascus and reporting from Douma. She visited Aleppo many times. She has reported on the links between the White Helmets and Al Nusra (often their buildings are alongside each other) and the way members of the White Helmets act as rescuers during part of their day but moonlight as terrorist fighters.

    She has also reported on the genuine Syrian Civil Defence – the body affiliated to the international organisation. The body whose name has been stolen by the White Helmets in the terrorist-controlled areas. The body whose equipment, vehicles, etc., has been stolen by this NATO financed White Helmets in the areas controlled by the head choppers.

    Her evidence is of infinitely more value than any of your “fact checking” sites. I avoid such excuses for non-thinking like the plague – on all matters. I am not impressed with their articles on fluoride – but then I probably have a deeper understanding of the science than their writers do. I would certainly not rely on them for scientific information – and more so I would not rely on them for political arbitrations.

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  13. David – you say of me:

    “On one hand we have an opinion-blog writer who sounds like a talking bird who has been left in a room with Russian propaganda TV playing all day, who repeats catch-phrases like “head choppers.” (He didn’t coin the phrase. Obviously, he heard it from somewhere and is repeating it like a parrot.)”

    My response:

  14. I hope you aren’t using the words “talking bird” and “parrot” in the way the anti-science trolls use it to attack me. If so, that is rather cheap 🙂
  15. No, I did not coin the word “head choppers” – at least I don’t think so. It is a term commonly used in social media when discussing terrorists who do literally chop off heads of their captives. You might find it offensive – it is meant to be. Like any other sensible person I am not upset that I sue offensive words to describe them -after all, this term pales beside the words they use to describe you and me.
  16. I am absolutely sure that I did not pick this term up from any of the mainstream sources I use. Al Jazeera most often uses the term “activists” or “the opposition” to describe their head chopper mates. Westen media tend to use words like “rebel” or “anti-regime forces.” RT-America (which I do occasionally watch) uses the term “militants.”
  17. I obviously do not watch the “Russian propaganda TV playing all day” that you do. Could you tell me the name of the channel and if you think it is available in NZ? I would try to watch it. I think the term “militant” is too mild (and offensive to many nationalities who use it as a positive term to describe political activists) and I like the idea of a mainstream media source using a more honest term. In many ways, I find RT-America too “respectable,” tame and American in style so would like something better and more honest. I just wish we had access to English language versions of some of the more lively Russian channels which appear to promote very lively debates where almost anything seems to go.

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