Tag Archives: Syria

Sources our mainstream media uses to promote their narrative about Syria

No, I haven’t gone to the dark side.

But I do find this video interesting. The interviewer is Bilal Abdul Kareem who claims to be from On the Ground News. He is one of the sources used extensively by the western Mainstream media in their reporting of the battle for Aleppo, and of Syrian war in general. He allies himself with the “terrorists”/”rebels” and obviously has strong ideological commitments to them.

The guy he is interviewing is the “rebel”/”terrorist” leader of the jihadists in east Aleppo before it was liberated – Abu Abd.

Of course, one must take with many grains of salt talk about “liberation”, “freedom” and sympathy for “human rights” from such people. But they certainly make no secret of the funding and other support they were getting from external patron countries – and their bitterness they didn’t get more – or more foreign mercenary fighters. The interview also makes clear what a shambles these groups were in, which gives credence to frequent reports of “rebel”/terrorist” groups in Syria regularly getting into internal armed conflicts.

Incidentally,  the western mainstream media did often use Bilal Abdul Kareem as a source in their reporting of the Aleppo battle (recall how they are always attributing their information to “activists”) and they still use him.  That media used his “last” video message from east Aleppo as the jihadists there surrendered. But they did not use all his material.

This is one video the mainstream media refused – showing how the jihadists in east Aleppo refused humanitarian and prevented it getting into their area. Just didn’t  fit with their narrative of blaming Syria and the Russian Federation for the inability of aid organisations to get humanitarian aid into the area.

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Fake news and the new fact-free reporting paradigm

Is it just me, or were the standards of evidence demanded of politicians better in the “old days?”

Yes, I am showing my age – but we have all heard of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, haven’t we? The world almost went to war. I was a student a the time and we did seriously discuss if there was any point in continuing our exam preparation. I do no recall anyone asking to be excused exams because of the real stress – how things have changed.

Whatever one thought of the USSR or the USA, or of the stationing of missiles in Cuba (a parallel to the stationing of US missiles near Soviet borders) we all knew that missile sites were being established. We knew that because the politicians produced the evidence – photographs from spy planes.

hith-cuban-missile-crisis

Cuban missile crisis – 1962. President Kennedy produced evidence from spy planes of the building of missile facilities in Cuba. He didn’t ask us to take out word for it – to rely simply on assurances. Yet that is what politicians do today.

We weren’t asked to take anyone’s word for that. We weren’t denied the evidence on security grounds and simply ordered to take political assurances.

Yes, how things have changed. We are no longer presented with evidence. We are simply asked to accept the words of politicians, to accept assurances from politicians. People are now even claiming that these assurances are in themselves evidence!Welcome to the worst of the “post-truth” world.

Welcome to the worst of the “post-truth” world.

MH17

Think about it. The US secretary of State assured us that US intelligence agencies had satellite evidence “proving” that the Malaysian Flight MH17 was shot down over east Ukraine by rebel militia (or was it by Russians?). But at no time was this evidence presented – all we got were assurances that it existed. This has got as far as the Joint Investigation Team handling possible criminal prosecutions resulting from this tragedy making similar assurances, based on behind the scenes assurances from the US. And still excusing themselves from presenting the actual evidence on “security grounds.”

This seems to political acceptable in the midst of today geopolitical information war – but I certainly hope no one thinks it would stand up in court (see But will it stand up in court?).

Syria

Recently we had the edifying spectacle of the Press spokesman for the US State Department claiming that Russia and Syria deliberately targets and bombs hospitals in east Aleppo – but refusing to provide the names or locations of the hospitals – on security grounds! The media was simply asked to accept political assurances, and to accept the assurances as somehow comprising “evidence.”

The main stream media did accept that – reporters who didn’t are considered a nuisance.

Now our media is telling us that there have been (or is that there will be) massacres of civilians in Aleppo because the “rebels”/”terrorists” have finally been defeated. Women and girls will be raped, men will “disappear,” civilians (women and children) are being shot by soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army. Yes, politicians at the UN may repeat these claims as “unverified reports” (to right they are unverified – they have come from the defeated jihadis themselves). So now our media headlines these reports as real claims being made by the UN.

For example, this headline “Syrian regime killed at least 82 Aleppo civilians in recent days: UN.” It’s from a Saudi news source but we get the same messages here. The only substance (or evidence) in this report is:

“The United Nations human rights office said it had received reports of “pro-regime forces killing at least 82 civilians including 11 women and 13 children in four different neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo.” The spokespeople usually described these reports as unverified

And yet these unverified “reports” get converted into facts for us so that we read

” Syrian pro-regime forces have carried out at least 82 execution-style killings of civilians in recent days, including women and children, the UN said Tuesday, citing credible reports from the ground.”

Or, even worse, ThinkProgress reports this in the words:

“Pro-Syrian government forces moved into east Aleppo and started wiping out the remains of the besieged city’s opposition Monday. The United Nations reported that the Syrian army and allied Iraqi militiamen entered homes and summarily executed 82 civilians, including women and children, in what it labelled a “complete meltdown of humanity.”

All this at a time Syrian and other news media in the region are presenting video evidence of the 100,000 civilians who have been evacuated. And these refugees are reporting how they were badly treated by the jihadis, shot if they attempted to escape, preventing access to food and medicines hoarded by the “rebels”/”terrorists and members of their families often beaten, imprisoned or killed.

Yet our media avoids such evidence, such videos, and gives us, instead, their own assurances that atrocities are occurring  or may be in the future based on “unverified reports” (from the defeated jihadis).

Or you get an incredible situation like this report showing an interview with a well-known jihadist supporter in east Aleppo while videos of citizens fleeing the jihadist-controlled areas, and being helped by Syrian Arab Army soldiers, runs in the background!

Moon of Alabama made these same points, in more detail, yesterday in the article MSM Create #Fakenews Storm as rebel Aleppo Vanishes. It is worth a read.

The US elections

Which brings me to the current fiasco which is the US presidential elections. Apparently, some people are unhappy about the result so they are promoting stories that the election was stolen. And what do you know – the country/person responsible is Russia/Putin.

We (or more correctly the US people) are being assured that there is “convincing” intelligence that the Russians are responsible for the leak of emails which put the democrats in a bad light. Apparently, some people actually believe this (especially if their electoral noses are still out of joint) and the Germans are now deciding to use the same excuse (see Russian hackers ‘threaten Germany 2017 election’, MPs warn).

But all this is just assurances. No physical evidence anywhere near comparable with president Kennedy’s photography of missile bases being prepared in Cuba. No. Just assurances – assurances that intelligence bodies have “convincing” information. (Although, some intelligence bodies find the information far from convincing.)

OK, that seems to be the new paradigm for our news media – accept assurances and don’t worry about the facts – don’t even bother asking for them. Worse, we seem to have a paradigm that treats such assurances as facts!

But it doesn’t stop there – it gets worse. At least as long as the long-suffering US voters are concerned. Those with their electoral noses out of joint are now pinning their hopes on the electoral college – which is the actual body which decides who is to be president. They are arguing that members of the electoral college should throw away their traditional reliance on the actual votes of the people and decide for themselves who should be president. Bugger the voters!

But, wait there is more. Those with the crooked electoral noses are now arguing that the electoral college should be given a special intelligence briefing before making up their minds. The Independent reports (see Electoral college members demand information on Russian relations before voting to make Donald Trump president):”

“Ten members of the electoral college have requested more information from intelligence officials on the relationship between President-elect Donald Trump and Russia. The electoral college addressed an open letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper prior to their 19 December vote that would finalise the election results.”

Apparently, that number has now swelled to more than 50 – see Over 50 Dem electors now demanding intelligence briefing.

I suppose the fact they are asking for a special secret briefing is a huge acknowledgment that the unverified reports from the media about Russian hacking are in themselves of no value. They really aren’t “convincing.”

But just think about it. The US people went to the polls and elected a president. (Yes, I know their electoral system stinks – but that is not the issue in the middle of an election. You use the existing rules). The voters had all the worthless assurances and political stories before they voted. The electoral college also had, has, the same stories, rumours and lies.

Just imagine the stink if the electoral outcome is overturned, that the electors choice is not chosen. All because of a “behind the scenes,” non-public “intelligence briefing.”

Just imagine if the electorate is going to be told that their vote actually counts for nothing – because “we have credible evidence” they were led astray. And the electorate is going to be asked to accept this story without any evidence – just assurances!

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Fake news, human suffering and the fight against terrorism

defeat

Some news sources are reporting the final defeat of ‘rebels”/Terrorists” in east Aleppo. Source: Qassioun News (see  Beleaguered opposition factions in Aleppo decided to get out of the city).

Our news media convinces me more and more each day that we really do live in a “post-truth” world, or at least in parallel universes where “truths” differ widely.

OK, perhaps the problem is this “new” phenomenon of “Fake News.” But that “fake news” is coming from the sources I am told I must trust. And what turns out to be the “unfake” news, or more realistic news, is coming from sources I am told I should not trust – that I should wear blinkers to avoid exposure to!

The liberation of east Aleppo

On the one hand, we have the (apparently) acknowledged fact that the “rebels”/”terrorists” in the major Syrian city of Aleppo are on the run. Neighbourhood after neighbourhood have been liberated in the last week. At the time I am writing this I am seeing reports on social media of the complete liberation of the eastern part of Aleppo which has been held by “rebels”/”terrorists” since 2012.

If we follow the “unapproved,” “non-official” news sources we see videos showing tens of thousands escaping from their hostage situation where they were used as human shields by terrorists. Welcoming and kissing the Syrian soldiers who liberated them – and receiving humanitarian aid – food, medicines, shelter, blankets, from the international Red Cross and Red Crescent, Syrian aid agencies (including Christian ones), the Russian Army and the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Already some liberated neighbourhoods have been demined and former residents are starting to return home.

So – in practice we are seeing a cessation of hostilities, a ceasefire, delivery of humanitarian aid, provision of medicines and medical services, and the beginning of the restoration of homes. All achieved by forces “on the ground,” and by negotiation between the various military and political groups. Negotiations between the Russians and the Turks, and between the Syrians and the “rebel”/”terrorist” groups. The UN and its agencies seem to be nowhere in sight around Aleppo. To me that is shocking.

The alternative universe

But the “approved” “official” news sources are still reporting the battle for Aleppo as a great tragedy instead of a great victory. Whose side are they on?  They continue to talk about the suffering of the citizens, the need for a ceasefire and for the delivery of humanitarian aid. They keep finding a “last hospital,” or “last school” claimed to have been bombed by Russian or Syrian forces. They condemn those unsupported events while ignoring or hardly commenting on the missile attacks on schools and hospitals in west Aleppo. They concentrate on  now meaningless UN Security Council resolutions calling for a ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian aid.

All crocodile tears and political posturing. What use are such resolutions when the forces on the ground are actually achieving cessation of hostilities over and ever larger proportion of the city and that the liberated civilians are (finally) getting humanitarian aid which the “rebels”/”terrorists” in charge had prevented (or hoarded for themselves) in the past?

If those vocal politicians and aid agencies were genuine now is the time for them to get stuck in – on the ground. Aid convoys can get through to the liberated areas and the camps or buildings housing escapees. The people are no longer being held as  human shields. In most areas there are no longer “rebels”/”terrorists” preventing access to humanitarian and medical aid personal and equipment.

Now is not the time for political posturing, childish walkouts and vindictive resolutions of the sort that seem to be common in the UN Security Council. Surely these just expose these countries, or their leaders, as inhumane political hypocrites. Their interests are the ongoing geopolitical struggle and its resulting information war – not suffering innocents.

blinkers

We are encouraged to wear blinkers – refuse to use alternative news sources, restrict our reading to only “approved” or “official” news media which are blatantly disseminating fake news. Image credit: Wearable Wedding Invitations.

And it is these hypocrites who have been pontificating about “false news,” attempting to close down access to alternative news sources or imposing blinkers on the public.

Surely, and hopefully,  the liberation of Aleppo is just another nail in the coffins of these hypocrites.?

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Sometimes I think the world has gone mad

fake-newsWell, at least that part of the world I live in. Or more specifically, the news media my part of the world is exposed to.

There have been big events in Syria in the last few days – specifically the liberation of parts of the city of Aleppo that has been held by “rebels”/”terrorists” for 4 years. In that time the civilians have been held captive and used as human shields by the militia. Those attempting to leave via the humanitarian corridors set up during the ceasefires this year have been shot at. Ambulances and buses waiting at the humanitarian corridors have remained largely empty with only a few families able to escape. People demonstrating about this, and the way the militia forces have hoarded food and medical supplies, have been shot at and the demonstration organisers killed. The “rebel”/”terrorist” groups have denied entry to humanitarian aid convoys.

Now, at last, video reports from Syrian reporters on the ground are showing thousands of civilians finally leaving. They are being helped by Syrian soldiers and they are clearly happy to be liberated. People are chanting, kissing the soldiers and reporters. and describing their suffering during the occupation.

The video below is an example.

Unfortunately, this good news does not seem to be getting into our mainstream media which is hardly covering the liberated citizens and their relief.

Al Jazeera still interviews its tame “activists” (polite term for the spokesperson of a militia group) to describe how bad things are and that the world must do something to save the people of Aleppo. It twists the obvious movement of civilians away from the arms of the “rebels”/”terrorists” with headlines like Fleeing Aleppo civilians forced back by gunfire and claim

“Dozens of civilians tried to flee rebel-held east Aleppo but were forced to retreat by gunfire, as the Syrian army and its allied militias on Wednesday pressed on with an offensive to recapture the whole city.”

What they don’t say is that the gunfire is coming from the “rebel”/”terrorists’ who are attempting to prevent the exodus.

France 24 attempts to create a picture of Syrians fleeing the Syrian army instead of the “rebels”/”terrorists.” It presents the headline  – Nearly 10,000 civilians flee east Aleppo amid regime offensive and claims

“Government forces retook six rebel-held districts of eastern Aleppo over the weekend, forcing nearly 10,000 civilians to flee as they pressed their offensive Sunday to retake Syria’s second city.”

And The Independent  produces similar coverage with their headline Russia claims Aleppo is being ‘liberated’ as more than 16,000 people flee city’s ‘slow descent into hell’, claiming:

“After four months of siege and a bombing campaign which has brought rebel-held east Aleppo to its knees, civilians are fleeing across the frontline in their thousands to escape President Bashar al-Assad’s attempts to crush the city’s rebels for good.”

Yet, strangely, these Syrian citizens are escaping from the “rebels”/”terrorists” – not the Syrian Army. In fact they are welcoming the army, blessing and kissing the soldiers.

The liberation of this part of Aleppo should be something to be happy about, not sad. The people now have access to the buses and ambulances denied them by the militia controlling the occupied areas. They now have access to humanitarian aid which has been waiting for them – and denied to them by the “rebel”/”terrorist” militia.

The “concern” and crocodile tears of the politicians

Contrast the relief and happiness on the faces of the Syrians who have been liberated in Aleppo with the “concern,” crocodile tears and indignation of politicians in France, the UK and the USA. Apparently, this liberation was the last thing they wanted. They are now calling for UN Security Council resolutions and sanctions to retaliate against the Syrian and Russian forces responsible for the liberation.

After months of hand-wringing over the problems of getting humanitarian aid to suffering civilians, they are condemning the very people bringing that aid to them. And after all the concern about the “last hospital in Aleppo” that the Russians or Syrians have bombed over twenty times this year they are confronted with the fact that it is the Russians, not the French, the UK or the USA which will provide mobile hospitals to the Syrians in the Aleppo region (see Putin orders mobile hospitals to be sent to residents of Aleppo, Syria).

Fake news

Even the mainstream media is talking about fake news these days – which is ironic considering they seem to be the main purveyors of fake news. This current example from Syria just reinforces the need for people to be more critical with the media. And to be prepared to look for themselves, find other news sources and check out what is being claimed.

As for Syria, and the liberation of the parts of that city held by terrorists, the news is out there – you just have to look for it yourself – our mainstream media probably won’t help you.

Here is another example showing how Syrians are fleeing from the terrorists, escaping with the help of Syrian soldiers – while being shot at by the very people our media seems to trust as news sources.

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White Helmets confirm authenticity of acted “rescue” video

wh-video

The acted White Helmets “rescue” video, the crew involved and the professional actor who was the “victim”

It really is a case of “reader beware” these days.  There is so much misinformation about – in the mainstream media as well as in alternative and social media – that the reader really has to avoid accepting things at face value.

I am strongly aware of this when I attempt to follow-up a lead from social media that looks interesting. The video I posted yesterday is an example (see Manufacturing news, and opinion, about Syria). I believe things like this get faked all the time. Searching through social media I even found suggestions the video was a “false flag” – prepared by supporters of Syria to discredit the White Helmets.

What convinced me the video was genuine was that my original source for the video was the web site of RFS – the antigovernment Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office – website. I was also convinced by the fact that on visiting that site several hours later the video had been removed, suggesting that it had been uploaded by mistake

I think I was right to conclude this was an enacted video that had been uploaded by mistake and had been removed to remove the evidence once the internet uproar about it had spread. Trouble was, though, the video had by then been saved to other servers.

Further confirmation

Today the RFS Media Office issued a statement that confirming this was a genuine – enacted – video produced by the White Helmets (see RFS Statement of Clarification and the image below).

They attempt to explain it, and its enactment, away by saying it had been prepared more or less as a publicity video for entry on the International Mannequin Challenge!

OK, any person or group is welcome to join in the latest social media craze. But a respectable “first responders” group? Where would such a group find time for this playing around in the midst of a brutal war?

How many similar first responder groups have entered this competition? I am sure the genuine Syrian Civil Defence Force  didn’t – they were too busy dealing with real emergencies and saving people endangered by the war. (The Syrian Civil Defence Force is the legitimate “first responder” force in Syria and is recognised by  the International Civil Defence Association. The White Helmets, who have usurped this name, are not).

At the very least this fiasco indicates the White Helmets has more to do with propaganda and publicity – with producing high-quality videos – than saving people. It helps explain why none of their videos show credible paramedic equipment or genuine recovery procedures – usually only kids who are miraculously saved injury-free (except for being covered in dust) from bombed buildings. Sometimes these children seem to be recovered multiple times as they occur in different videos, carried by different White Helmets men, being recovered from different buildings.

The other thing that rings alarm bells is that their Mannequin Challenge video (they have titled it “On the Edge of Death”) looks exactly the same (except for the stationary introduction) as all their other videos. Well lit, well produced, frantic rescuers – but no credible recovery or treatment equipment in sight. And I can’t help asking – what genuine first responders group only goes into action attended by a professional camera crew and lighting? Surely they are too busy doing their job – saving people.

The White Helmets and their “rebel”/”terrorist” friends in the Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office have obviously screwed up big time. Uploading this video only reinforced all the suspicions that this group is a propaganda arm for the “rebels”/”terrorists” and not  a genuine recovery group. It was too late to deny what had happened so they try to make the best of it in their statement (see below) and blame their fiasco on the Syrian Government:

“the regime used the video to distort facts and twist perceptions. As usual, the Syrian regime’s media workers took the video, abstracted of its background, and started spinning false stories about it to serve their own purposes and the purposes of Assad regime, that has been killing Syrians for nearly six years, accusing RFS media office of creating fabricated videos of rescue operations by civil defense teams.”

Wider concerns

It is one thing for groups to be involved in publicity and propaganda for participants in a brutal war and to pretend to be something they aren’t. But it is another thing, and this is what really concerns me, when people in authority and power take such groups and their propaganda seriously.

For example, Al Jazeera relies heavily on the White Helmets as a source for their news coverage of Syria – particularly Aleppo. White Helmets videos or often used and members of the group quoted for information. Beyond that I think Al Jazeera’s other most common source for new sin Syria are simply “activists.’ To me, that means participants in the war – “rebels”/”terrorists.”

My second example is closer to home – the New Zealand government (see White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?) The New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs are coughing up about $100,000 to provide training for White Helmet’s members. Not much money – but it gives respectability to a publicity and propaganda organisation while ignoring the real Syrian Civil Defense Forces.

Let’s hope this fiasco, which can longer be blamed as a “false flag” operation or misinformation promoted by the Syrian government and their allies, is another relatively large step towards the final discrediting of the White Helmets.
rfs-satement
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Manufacturing news, and opinion, about Syria

I originally posted this video from the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office) Channel – but after realising that they were a “rebel”/”terrorist” group and had probably posted it by mistake I instead used a version saved by Moon of Alabama. Sure enough, when I checked a few hours later RFS had removed the video. (* See Footnote below).

For a while now I have felt our mainstream media has presented a very biased picture of the war in Syria.

I have been particularly concerned about the way the  media relies on “activists” from areas held by “rebels”/”terrorists” – surely that is just an admission that the media is using propaganda provided by these very “rebels”/”terrorists” who are fighting this war.

Then there are non-governmental groups often cited as sources – as if the fact they are NGOs is somehow an indication they are reliable. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo Medical Centre,   the Aleppo Media Centre and the White Helmets are some examples.

A phoney White Helmets rescue?

All these NGOs are suspect – and especially the White Helmets which produced the above video. I have written about this group in White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?, Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White HelmetsVoluntary media censorship is ethically wrong and Dissecting pseudoscientific and political propaganda.

In the video above they appear to be doing what is called a Mannequin Challenge where people remain frozen in action like mannequins while a video is recorded. It’s the sort of thing one could do while recording a fictional enactment – but certainly not while recording an emergency rescue situation.

In the past, I have found the White Helmet rescues presented on our mainstream media very unconvincing. Almost always a child was being rescued, often from very deep in a pile of rubble, and the White Helmet rescuer would run with the child toward or way from the camera. The videos played on our sympathy for children – but the lack of real injuries (a little bit of blood – or tomato sauce – and dust) were not consistent with a real situation. The lack of proper rescue equipment and provision of aid to the “victims” was also suspicious.

So what we have here is apparently an enactment. The two White Helmets rescuers and the “victim” were set in place and remained still and silent while the mannequin challenge was filmed. Then “action!” The victim screams, the White Helmets leap up and what appears to be recorded background noise starts.

The White Helmets propaganda videos have been very effective. Full of action, playing on natural sympathy for children. But the organisation operates only in the “rebel”/”terrorist” areas. And our media very rarely shows any coverage of the children and other civilians killed, injured or rescued in the government areas. There are plenty of these incidents and they are being filmed. (The little girl below is a survivor of terrorist shelling of two primary schools in west Aleppo where at least 8 children were killed). It’s just that our media very rarely shows them.

Footnote

This photo from the filming session for the White Helmets video above has also appeared online. Furtherer evidence the video is fake?
wh

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Warriors, scouts, Trump’s election and your news media

The media, establishment figures, and seemingly many of Clinton’s supporters,  were surprised at Trump’s victory in the US presidential elections because they think like warriors instead of scouts.

Julia Galef described these different thinking processes in the video above – which I posted 6 months ago (see Are you really right?). Last week’s US presidential election result, the public uproar it resulted in – and my own feelings that the media coverage of the election had been biased for months – make this video even more applicable today.

Julia describes the two different mindsets required in fighting a war:

The  “Warrior mindset” – emotively based and fixated on success. Not interested in stopping to think about the real facts or rationally analyse the situation.

The “Scout mindset” – objective and rational, ready to consider the facts (in fact, searching them out) and logically consider possibilities.

Obviously both mindsets have their place in a war – one could not win if there were not highly motivated and emotionally determined warriors. Nor could one win if there were no scouts who could collect the facts, rationally analyse them and determine the best strategy or tactics.

The pollster’s “warrior mindset”

I think Clinton’s loss, and the subsequent surprise and uproar from her supporters comes from the dominance of a “Warrior mindset” in her campaign. Motivated reasoning, belief of one’s own propaganda – and belief that voters accepted that propaganda – especially the demonisation of the opponent. There seems to have been little place for the “Scout mindset.” Polling seemed driven by wishful thinking and not identification of weak areas where effort could be applied.

In contrast, Trump’s campaign polling seemed to have had more of the “Scout mindset.” Areas requiring attention were identified and resources applied to them. Looking back, I think Trump’s confident assertions about his victory were based on that good polling. And the laughter and disbelieving response from the Clinton camp (and media) was based only on wishful thinking – not good polling.

OK, that partisanship and wishful thinking, and the election result itself, are of little concern to me at this distance. I had no dog in that race. But the partisanship and “Warrior mindset” of the main stream media does concern me.

The media’s “warrior mindset.”

The US media, and the media of many other countries, seemed to have accepted the unfounded confidence and wishful thinking of the Clinton camp. It seemed to indulge in the demonisation and misrepresentation of Donald Trump – willing to laugh at anything he said that was at all buffoonish (while ignoring the often equally extreme comments from Clinton). The media, like the Clinton camp, was out of touch with the thinking of the person in the street and the problems they faced.

Hence the media surprise – and even some critical self-analysis (although how long will the lesson they claim to have learned last?).

But I see the same partisanship, motivated reasoning and outright ignoring or distortion of facts by the media in its treatment of many other world events. Just take the reporting of the war in Syria. So often our media relies on “rebel”/”terrorist” sources for their “facts.” Media sympathy with those “rebels”/”terrorists,” and media hostility to the legitimate Syrian government and its allies is all I have come to expect from most of the main stream media.

I am sometimes attacked for choosing to use a range of media sources for my information. For not restricting myself to the “approved” or “legitimate” media. But surely those critics should learn from their surprise at the US election result.

Today there is no such thing as an objective – let alone an “approved,” or “legitimate” – media. Just media that confirms one’s biases if you let it.

The sensible person must  use a range of news sources, recognising that each of them have their own biases and agendas, and do a bit of thinking for themselves.

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White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?

real-syrian-civil-defence

The real Syrian Civil Defence – and not a White Helmet in sight. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

Apparently, the White Helmets have duped the New Zealand Ministry’s of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs into coughing up about $100,000 – and tarnishing the country’s reputation in the process.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, and Internal Affairs Minister, Peter Dunne, announced the funding last Wednesday (see NZ training support for White Helmets in Syria). It is to be used to provide four-month training support by the NZ Fire Service to the White Helmets.

On the surface, this looks like a poorly considered knee-jerk response to a White Helmets request for funds. But the Ministers cannot have properly vetted the White Helmet organisation or its claims. Peter Dunne naively describes it as a “volunteer organisation which is doing remarkable work in badly damaged cities like Aleppo.” The ministers also seemed to have uncritically accepted claims made by the White Helmets that they have helped thousands of Syrians. They ignored completely information showing this is a partisan organisation, operating only in areas held by “terrorists”/”rebels,” often seen to be involved in “terrorist”/”rebel” celebrations (sometimes carrying Al Nusra flags) and with members who carry arms and have been identified as also belonging to militant armed groups.

[Note: Al Nusra is the Syrian franchise for Al Qaeda and is classified as a terrorist organisation by the UN. I am using the term “rebel”/”terrorist” to avoid the problems of differentiating between so-called “moderate rebels” and terrorists – hell, even the USA has been able to differentiate them. Currently, groups that have been called “moderate rebels” are fighting in the Army of Conquest – a coalition led by Al Nusra.]

The Ministers seem to have been taken in by the slick propaganda claims of this organisation. They have ignored the fact that White Helmet propaganda is always directed against the legitimate government of Syria and its allies, and it often used by mainstream media to give a distorted picture of this conflict.

Who are the White Helmets?

Well, first, they are not the legitimate Syrian Civil Defence organisation – as Mr Dunne seems to believe in his claim this funding is not a sign New Zealand was taking a side in the conflict. He said.

“We don’t have a view about whether they are politically aligned or not – they are the Syrian Civil Defence Association.”

Is he not aware that the White Helmets have simply dishonestly usurped that name?

The White helmets are not affiliated to, or recognised by, the International Civil Defence Association (ICDA),  nor is it connected to the Syrian Civil Defence Forces (the legitimate Syrian Civil Defence organisation) which have been a member of the ICDA since 1972.

As independent report Vanessa Beeley points out in her article The REAL Syria Civil Defence Exposes Fake ‘White Helmets’ as Terrorist-Linked Imposters:”

For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you call 113 inside Syria.  There is no public number for the White Helmets.  Why not? Why does this multi-million dollar US & NATO state-funded first responder ‘NGO,’ with state of the art equipment supplied by the US and the EU via Turkey, have no central number for civilians to call when the “bombs fall”?”

syria-civil-defence

West Aleppo REAL Syria Civil Defence unit (Photo: Vanessa Beeley August 15, 2016)

It’s worth reading Vanessa Beely’s reports and watching her interviews. She has visited Syria and talked with people from the real Syrian Civil Defence. And she explains why the White Helmets are usurpers and not a legitimate Syrian first responder organisation.

I have written about the White Helmets before – see Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White Helmets and provided a general overview. This video also provides an overview:

In summary, the White Helmets is not a Syrian organisation, it is an overseas NGO funded by governments like the UK and the USA. It operates only in areas held by the “rebels”/”terrorists”  and issues anti-government propaganda – often calling for the US to attack Syrian government forces. Uniformed White Helmets members have been seen in “rebel”/”terrorist” demonstrations, holding Al Nusra flags and participating in Jihadist chants. They run a slick propaganda department – rescues seem only to involve young children and camera teams are always there to record the “rescues.” Professional rescue people have commented that they seem to never use real rescue equipment such as spine splints. Some commentators have even suggested that some of the White Helmet propaganda videos are staged. Rescues are certainly managed with an eye to the camera.

What vetting did the NZ government carry out?

OK, its only about $100,000 dollars – small bickies. But in terms of New Zealand’s reputation and providing support for anti-government forces this is a huge problem. We will now be publicly aligned with the “rebel”/”terrorist’ side in the Syrian conflict. And this despite giving support to UN Security Council resolutions on Syria which always start with the clause:

“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic, . . . “

Yet the White Helmets in their propaganda, calls for attacks on Syrian government forces and restriction of its work to “rebel”/”terrorist’ areas is obviously working against “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Has the NZ government decided to align itself more publicly with the “rebel”/”terrorist” forces in Syria, or at least align itself more publicly against “the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic?”

Or is it just a matter of the government being duped by a slick propaganda campaign and possibly pressure from governments which are financing this anti-Syria organisation?

I sincerely hope that it is the later. But then that raises questions about the vetting procedure use by these ministries. Surely government ministries should carry out some sort of investigation before committing money and national reputation in such a controversial area.

What exactly was done to check out the White Helmets before this decision was made?

Perhaps it’s time for an Official information request?

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Voluntary media censorship is ethically wrong

Reporting the Syrian war has become very partisan. Some established media simply do not cover aspects of the war or limit their coverage to one side. The concerned person cannot, and should not, rely on a single media source to get reliable information.

I am not asserting there is organisational censorship – far from it. Just that censorship often operates by omission. For example, Al Jazeera never covers the facts of civilian deaths in western Aleppo because they have no reporters in that city. Whereas they closely cover (alleged) civilian deaths in the eastern part of the city held by “rebels”/”terrorists.” They seem to have reporters embedded in the “rebel”/”terrorist” militia – or simply uncritically pass on the information provided to them by “activists” involved in the fighting. Almost every night they seem to pass on video and reports from the “White Helmets” – a very suspect organisation with links to Al Qaeda.

But the video above provides another example of how voluntary media self-censorship works in the war.

The speaker is the Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Dr Bashar al-Ja’afari. I have written before about him, saying that he:

“impresses me with the clear and concise arguments he makes. It is a pity  he is not given the coverage on our mainstream media that his position should demand. He makes a lot more sense than the US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power.”

Now, I think I know why he gets no coverage. The media self-censors when it comes to his press conferences.

If you do not have time to watch the whole video fast forward to about 49 minutes and 30 secs. Here he describes what happens when he gives press conferences alongside Security Council meetings. Such press conferences are commonly given by the ambassadors to update media on the views and stance of government’s.

Bashar describes how  when his turn comes to speak to the accredited reporters – an audience of about 50 – 100 who have the opportunity to put questions to the speaker – 50% of the reporters get up and leave! I was aware that ambassadors from unfriendly countries (like USA, France, and the UK) do this – leave the security council meetings – when the Syrian Ambassador speaks. But the media!

As Dr al-Ja’afari says,  these reporters not only self-censor by omission when they leave – they cannot report the information they do not receive – they also self-censor by removing the obligation to report from such press conferences.

I think that is morally wrong and violates any reasonable concept of reporting ethics.

The speech is well worth watching through to the end. It is very informative and interesting. He explains the background the 9/11, describes the nature if secularism in Syria, and exposes some of the underhand methods used in the UN to cover up the UN commission’s report of the claims of weapons if mass destruction in Iraq. He also relates the story of how the issue of chemical weapons and their use in Syria was mishandled.

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“Humanitarian” intervention and war crimes

As far as I am concerned the people in the US can have their elections – I just wish weren’t being bombarded with the inane comments coming from the two main candidates.

I have absolutely no irons in that fire but must admit that every time I see the video clip above it gets up my nose. Clinton glorifying and making fun of a shocking incident in the Libyan war – the lynching of the president by rebel forces.

Now, Luis Moreno Ocampo, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court has said there are ‘serious suspicions’ that the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was a war crime (see Gaddafi death ‘may be a war crime’, says chief prosecutor at The Hague). He has written to the interim Libyan government on the issue and has said any involvement by the ICC will depend on their reaction. The ICC only steps in if national authorities are unwilling or unable to act.

What a pathetic choice facing US voters – either a buffoon or someone who glorifies war crimes.

But, more importantly, shouldn’t we have learned by now the anti-human consequences of “humanitarian” intervention – regime change – by the US and NATO?

Yet we seem to have governments – and US Presidential candidates – who seem willing to repeat the fiasco again in Syria.

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