Mainstream Fake News Kills
On the Brink of World War Three Over Misappropriated Chemical Attacks.
Call me old-fashioned, but facts do actually matter even if they're inconvenient and do not fit with your preferred narrative. Your enemy may be bad, but your enemy’s enemy may be even worse. That said, disinformation and emotive propaganda should concern us most when they come from the world’s best funded media operations. Yet many choose not to learn the lessons of verifiable recent history and instead prefer to give our leading state and corporate broadcasters the benefit of the doubt. After all, who would like to be accused of swallowing Putin’s propaganda?
However, now Russia Today plays a similar role in the West to the good old BBC World Service behind the Iron Curtain. Millions of citizens of Warsaw Pact countries turned to Western media outlets to learn the truth about their own ruling elites. Now more and more Westerners are turning to alternative news sources when they grow suspicious of a tiresomely predictable diet of agenda promotion and strategically timed media events that serve only to promote more war and greater erosion of national self-determination and democracy.
I have long ceased to watch conventional TV news, but I do monitor a wide range of online news. I no longer visit the BBC News site to find out what’s going on in the world (though I doubt they’d lie about incontrovertible events such as natural disasters or the weather ), but to analyse how it presents breaking news stories. The BBC is one of a select group of global media organisations who can actually set the agenda. If the BBC reports something, it becomes news. An Italian journalist once explained to me that Italy’s state broadcaster, RAI, just recycles BBC and CNN reports, hastily translated and adapted for an Italian audience. BBC reporters can add all the caveats they like to save their proverbial bacon should a claim prove unsubstantiated, but as soon as the BBC highlights an atrocity and attributes it to the enemy of the day, it has already served its propaganda purpose. Truth seekers can easily be dismissed as conspiracy nuts or Putin acolytes, but believe me the truth does matter. If only 1% of BBC news coverage were not just inaccurate or misleading, but mendacious, it would be a scandal. Authoritarian regimes have always used similar tactics. They do not normally have to resort to outright lies, they just embellish cherry-picked snippets of the truth to suit their narrative. Outright mendacity is an act of desperation, especially when alternative and more credible versions of events are available from rival sources.
I don’t have either time or resources to go into great detail about the recent chemical discharge in rebel-held Idlib, Syria. That lethal sarin or chlorine gas may have killed as many as 70 civilians in a war zone controlled by fanatical Islamic militias remains the only certainty. It’s perfectly possible that the Syrian government could have killed people by bombing rebel ammunition dumps. They US and its allies have long attributed all regretful civilian victims of their bombing missions to the common Islamic militia practice of hiding weapons and fighters in densely populated areas especially near schools and hospitals. As wrong as I believe recent US military interventions may have been, I do not believe they deliberately targeted innocent civilians, but merely considered them a price worth paying for a larger strategic prize, that should be avoided to win the battle over hearts and minds once they've asserted their control. If they wanted just to kill as many people as possible, imposing a complete trade embargo would be much more effective as few Middle East countries are self-sufficient in food. Indeed Syria, which still has thousands of square kilometres of fertile land, may be an exception in this regard. The country has managed to survive despite sanctions and foreign-funded militias. Before Tuesday’s attack, the Syrian Army was winning the ground war against Al Nusra and ISIS. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had even suggested that the people of Syria could determine the future role of President Bashar Al Assad, the latest apparent reincarnation of Hitler. The surest way President Assad could guarantee his downfall would be to commit a heinous war crime against innocent civilians before the world’s media. He must be surely well aware that the White Helmets will rush to the scene of any atrocity to transmit footage of civilian casualties to global media outlets keen to pounce on any excuse to derail the strategic victory of a Russian / Syrian / Iranian alliance against head-chopping Islamic militias. I this find it extremely hard to believe that a besieged leader of a small country in touch with the global media would authorise his own downfall, unless he were some kind of double agent prepared to commit mad and reckless acts that would end not only his own career, but reduce his country to a set of statelets controlled by illiberal fundamentalists and policed by foreign armies.
Conformists and Anticonformists
The emerging political landscape is even more confusing. When newly inaugurated President Trump tried to impose a temporary travel ban on globetrotters from seven mainly Muslim countries, the trendy left and Hollywood celebrities protested against this vile act of racism, although travel to the USA is a privilege, not a fundamental human right. When the same President bows to pressure from the Deep State and performs a 180º U-Turn on reconciliation with Russia over their joint efforts to combat ISIS and other Islamic extremists, the liberal media and Hollywood luvvies suddenly applaud the President’s courageous actions. The masses of uninformed Americans who get their news from the mainstream media have swallowed their propaganda. Liberals support airstrikes because Assad and Putin are Hitleresque rightwing demagogues. Trump-supporting rednecks support airstrikes because we have to support our armed forces against our enemies. Opponents of more airstrikes are inevitably those of us who instinctively distrust the establishment media. We thus have the spectacle of alt-right former Trump supporters clashing with black block anarchists at a protest against air strikes. Hang on a moment. Both groups believe more military adventurism will only trigger more internecine violence and engender more hatred and religious fundamentalism. Both groups loathe global corporations and superstates. Both groups oppose more surveillance and restrictions of basic civil liberties. So faced with a choice between opposing the world’s most powerful military machine and a bunch of European nationalists, the infamous black block decide the latter are the bigger problem despite their demographic demise and the emergence of China and India as the dominant centres of power in the 21st century.