featured, ISIS, Syria, United States

BBC, CNN, Guardian et al need to face the agenda they are being used to serve

by Catte


After the recent revelation that almost every major news site has been promoting unverified video and eye-witness testimony originating in some of the most extreme, violent and debauched terrorist elements currently operating in Syria, we have to ask – is there any longer even a minimum of verification or investigative process required before news agencies and publications endorse a breaking story?

In the case of that notorious “Omran rescue vid”, for example, AP broke the story, but of the three journalists credited, one was in Beirut, one in Geneva and one in Moscow.

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None of them were in Aleppo, or even in Syria. Given what’s now transpired about the discredited and even criminal nature of the source, we need to ask – how did they get word of this event and how did they verify it? Did AP talk to ordinary people on the spot, and directly interview the witnesses? Did they get this video direct from the terrorist-supporting “Aleppo Media Center”, or via an intermediary? Did they know about the terrorist-connections of both the AMC and the “photo-journalist” Mahmoud Raslan, and just not inform their readers, or did they genuinely not know who their sources were?

These are important questions because the mere fact an event is reported in the mainstream press is enough to give it a sense of unquestionable reality for most people. They assume the reporters telling the story have been their on the ground and seen things for themselves. Even sophisticated media analysts, well aware of bias and narrative-manipulation, will still tend to believe implicitly that the events being reported have been witnessed and verified by the ones doing the reporting. Yet we know this is increasingly not the case.

In the last ten or fifteen years the numbers of foreign correspondents employed by major newspapers and networks has dwindled.In the age of the internet they are considered unnecessary, and in a time of declining circulations, a luxury few major outlets can afford. Bureaus have been closed. There are fewer of them, covering wider catchment areas. The situation behind that AP report in which a correspondent in Lebanon or Switzerland ends up reporting on an event happening many hundreds of miles away is now very common. Shaun Walker filed most of his stories about the Anti-Terror Operation in Donbass from Kiev or Moscow, hundreds of miles from the scene, and this did not make him unique.

This increasing tendency toward distance-reporting means stories can give an impression of eye-witness immediacy they don’t merit. Walker in Moscow was no better able to verify or refute supposed events happening in Donbass than most of his readers. An AP reporter in Geneva or Beirut will simply know what he’s told about alleged events in Aleppo. His credibility is as good as his source’s credibility. The fact the story has AP’s imprimitur on it, which seems to give it a badge of authenticity, is completely misleading – almost amounting to a lie – if all we really have is a second or third hand account from some shadowy group or entity with undeclared agendas and zero credibility.

I may be wrong but I hazard to suggest those AP journos credited with the story had no clue who their sources were. They didn’t ask, didn’t see the need to find out. For all we know they didn’t even talk to the men directly but just received a transcript or a recording or a few quotes from a helpful intermediary or publicity agent somewhere.

What we are witnessing here is the result of – as so memorably phrased by our frequent contributor Eric Zuesse – “stenographic journalism”, the mere typing up of stories handed out by governments, NGOs etc, without any fact-checking or investigation. Without anyone noticing it’s become the New Normal.

In these dangerous times we have to face the fact that our press is no longer willing or, more importantly, able to speak truth to power. Rigour, scepticism, independent thought are no longer required parts of the journalist’s skill set, and they have been bred out of the species. Complacency, deference to authority and groupthink have taken their place. A journalist is now required to be an obedient stenographer, happy to witter interminable nonsense about identity politics and/or put his/her name to any kind of grotesque propaganda deemed necessary by the ones picking up the tab.

Even the award-winners and heavyweights are now “fearless critics” of western “enemies” alone. You win awards by applying scepticism or interrogation to “them” and never “us”. The evasion and bias is so complete it’s allowed a generation of readers to believe in the absolute moral superiority of “our” side, simply because they never get to read about our failures, our lies, our nefarious and questionable tactics.

This state of affairs would always be deplorable, but right now it’s desperately dangerous. While our press hand-wrings about imaginary levels of “sexual abuse” or worries about gender pronouns or campus safe zones, or writes pompous columns about imaginary “Russian aggression”, a world war is being semi-accidentally orchestrated by the most swivel-eyed of the lunatic clowns in Washington.

Just like the less mad elements of the political class, the media have enabled and encouraged these madmen over many years, because there was political capital and hegemonic benefits in stoking the notion of an ideological confrontation between the forces of good (“us”, of course) and evil (“them”, naturally). It was intended mostly as a front for the looting and political neutralising of resource-rich and uppity nations, and it’s proved a very successful system, enriched many of the 1%, subsumed freedom in the West under the perceived necessity to “protect” ourselves from “them.”

But the whirlwind has proved impossible to control, and the Washington political class is now riven in two. On the one hand the familiar gang of sane but cynical opportunists, which includes Obama and his closest allies, on the other a small group of well-placed and influential ideologues who really seem to believe in the truth of this crusade, or at least are too stupid to understand the pretence can go too far. And it’s the latter currently setting most of the agenda.

Rather than just posturing about confrontation to stoke military spending, justify foreign wars and get rich, these idiots are for real. The “war party”, as we can call it, psychopathic to the point of impairment, believes the propaganda, including the absurd notions of US invulnerability and a winnable nuclear war.

It really looks as if the usual safety-valves of caution or self-preservation don’t count for them. They want to crush their perceived enemies at any price, maybe they even believe in a righteous Armageddon. They are drunk on the idea of a defeated Russia, prone at their feet, themselves lords of the globe, raking in riches, exercising limitless power. They dream of Putin in the dock like Saddam or murdered and brutalised like Gaddafi. And they seem to think – really think – they can achieve it. And if achieving it means paying sadists to torture children, slaughtering millions in phoney humanitarian wars or driving the Russian federation into a corner from which there’s no escape but a nuclear holocaust, so what, right?

It’s becoming increasingly obvious they’ll do it, they really will, unless someone stops them. The media currently enabling them, assuming the normal checks and balances that have saved us in the past are still in place and that the war-with-Russia talk is just talk, need to absolutely realise the talk is no longer just talk. These Strangeloves and Jack D. Rippers mean what they say. Listen to Putin in his recent address to representatives of the western media. Have you ever heard words quite like this from a head of state before? His country is being pushed and threatened by the crazies who simply will not stop. Ever. He knows if they are not somehow called off, and soon, there will be a nuclear war, and he’s trying to tell the hypnotised journos, in barely coded language, to wake up before it’s too late.

The newest and most disgraceful revelation of across-the-board abdication by the media must be something they aren’t allowed to forget. They daily ignore the crimes of their own side and the horrors of the terrorist and US bombardment of western Aleppo, yet stepped up when asked to sell dodgy and unverified war-porn without even knowing what it was.

It tells us and them what they’ve become. They need to be made to face it for everyone’s sake. Individual journalists need to take responsibility for what is said in their name or by their outlets. They need to understand the real stakes here. They have to realise they are now routinely, on a daily basis, signing off on a war-propaganda campaign grown so extreme, so deluded it’s even alienating veteran intelligence professionals, has non-crazy highly respected political commentators in a state of horrified despair, and is even worrying writers at Foreign Policy

We have to ask them nicely, and repeatedly, if they can possibly start to deal with this quite soon, while there’s still time.


  1. For what it’s worth, in 1998 I was in Yerevan as a freelance journalist, researching a travel article on the oldest carpet in the world for what was Britain’s largest broadsheet. It was barely four years since the Azerbaijan Armenia war and six years after the country had voted for independence from the former USSR. Six years of conflict had left the nation’s economy tatters. All around me I heard stories of corruption in politics, local government, business, and the justice system. Even the church was tainted with drunken clerics extorting large amounts of cash to preside over funerals and weddings. I saw police officers openly counting cash they had extracted from drivers, One man told me that $2,000 would buy you a uniform, a gun and a patrol car, along with the freedom to prey on your fellow citizens. As long as your superior officer got his cut, that is. The presence of various mafias was palpable. They were free to do as they pleased. For the rest freedom came at a price.

    Hearing a lot of noise from my hotel room in Republic Square one day, I followed it to its source. A massive anti-government demonstration in Republic Square, being observed from the sidelines by small knots of sinister men in leather jackets, was just winding down. Making my way to the stage, I managed to get a short interview with the main organiser, a trades union leader. Back at my hotel I phoned Reuters with the story, all I got was the reply that their man in Moscow would cover it, despite telling them I was on the spot. One year later there was a shooting in parliament.

    The story I filed was more about the desperate plight of the Armenian people than the carpet. Needless to say it never got published.

  2. Secret Agent says

    They will never face reality and therefore never reveal the truth. The people at the MSM have literally mastered doublethink. Anyone who hasn’t is labeled a conspiracy nut and shown the door.

    Will there be a war? Probably not. All the bullshit and propaganda is for consumption by the masses. Your true masters have a better idea of what is going on. For example, that’s why they allowed Brexit.

    That being said, Obama has proven himself to be rather feckless and has let all the crazies off the leash, while allowing the realists like Chuck Hagel to die like dogs.

    I think the ruling Oligarchy has split into two factions, one that wants to double down on the insanity and has Hillary as their candidate, and one who see the Imperial project as having been a costly failure that must be abandoned while there is still hope.

    • Secret Agent says

      Relax everyone, the Imperial project has been abandoned. Here is its swan song :


      Porky was given this airtime in lieu of being given any more cash or weapons.

      The cost of the Ukraine project was just too high. It risked driving too many vassals off the reservation. There was to much risk and no reward. The Empire will redouble its efforts in Syria, though it’s not likely to prevail there either.

      I mean look at the allies Obama has chosen to work with: KSA, ISIS, AQ, Israel. Look who the Russians have on their side: Iran, Hizbollah, Syria, Iraq and now perhaps Turkey.

  3. Sav says

    The story of Ghina Ahmad Wahdi – Another child they claim was shot by a sniper – of course blamed on the Syrian government.

    Read all the original reports on this care of Amnesty International. They reference her UK based Aunty, Fadah Jassem. Amnesty write that that Mayada is beseiged by the Syrian government and also controlled by the Syrian government??? Absolutely no mention of the precious rebels.

    This young girl gets sent to a Damascus hospital under govt control eventually and is treated. The same government that these propagandists claim just like killing and torturing people for a laugh.

    Today we get an article claiming to be from some new Aunty of the girl that’s meant to be based in Madaya. It runs the usual anti-Syrian govt rhetoric and claims that only the Syrian govt or Hezbollah must have shot her. And how the Syrian government is using the people etc etc. The Aunt supposedly writing this piece of propaganda is given a pseudonym – why? We know the child’s name, we know the name of her supposed Aunt in the UK and yet she has to remain anonymous? It doesn’t make an ounce of sense.


    This is the original Al-Jazeera article: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/syrian-girl10-evacuated-surgery-shot-160814180328421.html

    Note the difference in stories too. In the AJ article and from Amnesty the girls were going to get medicine for their Mother. In the Guardian article they went to drink from a Spring.

    Fadah Jassem meanwhile starts a personal donation page to pay for her treatment which she promotes on the Guardian article eventhough the girl has already had an operation in a free govt hospital.

    If you investigate Jassem’s background she has previously worked for Al-Jazeera, ITV and Ch4 news.

    I made these points on the Guardian article and they were removed straight away. I got stuck on pre-mod. My next post was ‘You can stick your pre-mod up your arse’. Now I’ve had my account totally disabled.

    • Eric_B says

      Yes, sounds just as nonsensical as the mysterious suddenly appearing and suddenly dead brother of ‘Omran’.

      Everything from these ‘rebel’ sources is just a crock of shit.

    • Don’t suppose you made a screen cap of your comments before removal?

      We can’t urge people strongly enough that they should do this, and if the comment is removed send them to us for publication. Nothing better proves not only the level of censorship, but the subjects that need to be censored. It’s a very powerful tool.

  4. michaelk says

    Given the nature of modern warfare, where managing, controlling, editing the story about why we’re there, why we’re fighting, why some group we’re supporting are worth supporting, it’s of supreme important to actually be there on the ground as a journalist as see what’s happening rather than relying on somebody else’s version of the story, because that makes it so easy for the actors to pull the wool over the eyes of someone over on the other side of the world. Modern tech doesn’t stop people distorting the truth or lying. In fact one can argue it’s made it… easier, at least for the mainstream media and the politicians. Hasn’t it actually gotten easier to sell war to the western public since the attack on virtually defenceless Iraq, not harder? Where are the demonstrations today about our role in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, today people are complaining that we’re not doing enough.

    The central point is that the UK media are absolute matters at the art of propaganda, and the Americans aren’t far behind, so the chances of anything being ‘true’ about conflicts we’re involved in, is close to zero. In fact the default position should be that it’s more than likely that the truth about what’s happening is the exact opposite of what appears in our media, which is now totally onside with government war policy.

  5. michaelk says

    The world’s becoming a very, very, dangerous place indeed. So dangerous in fact that ‘liberals’ in our media prefer not to look at it, let alone think about where we’re going. We’ve been at war overseas for so long now, it’s become the new normal. Imperial crusades disguised as noble humanitarian interventions, because we care and want to help. Charmingly naive conceits given our history and arguments nineteenth century imperialists employed as well to justify their imperial grabs for makets, territory and resources.

    Today we move closer to a big war because Turkey is in turmoil along with many of their neighbours, why? It’s not just about oil, but something even more important control of the Eurasian land mass. If the Americans succeed in toppling Assad and creating an independent Kurdish state, which will be an American client state, this creates an important ally for them on the very edge of Eurasia. From there intervening in Central Asia and the Caspian region becomes far, far, easier to accomplish. This is why the Turks are suddenly so nervous about events in Syria. An independent Kurdish state will pull the entire east of Turkey into its orbit and lead to the destruction of the modern Turkish state. Once more the West will have succeeded in cutting off a big chunk of Turkey and cutting Turkey down to size, because Turkey is see as too big for Nato and too big for the EU.

    The West could then use the new Kurdish state to intervene in Russia’s soft underbelly, threaten Iran and at the same time control the new Silk Road economic zone that the Chinese are busy creating in order to break the American military encirclement of China by sea.

    So there’s an awful lot at stake here, and the conflict in Syria is part of a far wider, deeper and more important conflict that’s coming over the horizon. The war for who controls Eurasia. Will it be the Russians and the Chinese, who actually live there, or the Americans. It’s an epic struggle over the future of the US empire and the future of the world.

    This is why our media and the journalists cannot examine the real issues around the conflict in Syria and our attitudes towards Russia and China. Liberals hate talking about Power and the relations between states, outside of the ‘morality play’ because if one starts to looks at what’s going on it soon starts to resemble events in The Godfather rather than the democratic fairytale we’re all brought up to believe in.

    • Seamus Padraig says

      Unlike the liberals, michaelk, you are awake.

  6. petersimmons725097879 says

    Your central point [correct me if I’m wrong] is that journalists are not writing stories from the site the story references. But is this really essential in an age of instant news outlets across the internet along with many other sources of information similarly dispersed, cell phones included? One would have needed to have been there to witness and report on the Boer War, but with instant streaming across the world, I don’t think the same applies. I could write a story using sources far and wide, cross-checking and allowing for bias, and often do when I want to investigate an issue. I don’t think the grizzled war correspondent propping up the bar in a war zone is a current journalistic meme.
    I also thought the piece could have been edited to half the length, there was a lot of needless repetition. There is always need for an editor!

    • Jen says

      I for one think it’s certainly necessary that journalists can trust the people they talk to, and know that these people are who they say they are. The physically closer that journalists can be to their sources, the easier to verify their bona fides. And the informants often need to reassure themselves that the journalists they are in contact with are also genuine. Don’t forget too that some cultures place much more emphasis than Western cultures do on face-to-face contacts.

      One of the issues about the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is that it is a one-person operation based in Coventry in the UK. The fellow supposedly gets all his information from on-the-ground sources – but how do we know that his sources are genuine? SOHR could be using sources far and wide to create stories and narratives, cross-checking and (ahem) allowing for bias or exaggeration – but those sources could be dubious to begin with and SOHR would not know any more than the rest of us do, without actually being there.

    • Janey says

      If journalists are just reblogging stuff sent to them without verification they should say “some guy I don’t know sent me this but I haven’t checked to see if it’s real or if the video was made where he says it was made or if he is who he says he is.” No problem f that’s what they do. But if they present their stuff as if they were there and can verify it really happened then they’re kind of lying to us. And they could be getting sent pure propaganda staged videos and just not know it. The Omran video could have been filmed anywhere and if the news agencies aren’t verifying it they could be getting taken in as much as anyone.

    • Seamus Padraig says

      Obviously, the internet and electronic devices can be a real boon to reporting and communication–but they can also be used for propaganda. Most of us here just find it odd that, the more important the story is in the MSM, the less likely they are to have actual reporters live on the scene: Syria, Ukraine, Libya, for example. Growing up in the US, we expected that reporters would be live on the scene, as they were during the Vietnam War. But that custom seems to have died out.

      • Jen says

        That custom died out because the US government and the Pentagon did not like such live (and often highly critical) reporting. In more recent wars, the Pentagon requires journalists to be embedded with US troops and to receive all information from or through them or their senior officers.

        The Pentagon has also extended its reach into the film industry (Hollywood) and now expects to be consulted and to have final say over the production and making of war films. Ditto for the CIA which helps to explain garbage like Kathryn Bigelow’s films.

  7. flybow says

    Very good piece. This paragraph sums it up for me.
    What we are witnessing here is the result of – as so memorably phrased by our frequent contributor Eric Zuesse – “stenographic journalism”, the mere typing up of stories handed out by governments, NGOs etc, without any fact-checking or investigation. Without anyone noticing it’s become the New Normal.
    I am now banned from comment in the guardian, for bring up issues like this.

  8. One wonders what fantasy world the ‘indispensable people’ live in. Their present drive toward nuclear confrontation doesn’t seem to penetrate the thick armour of insouciance and hubris. ‘Indispensable people’ more like somnambulistic people. ICBMs cannot penetrate the US defensive ABMs. Americans can sleep in peace and watch the whole thing on TV. Here is a rather sobering assessment from another American source.

    The National Interest – March 2015 – Steven Pifer

    ”Defending the United States against a major Russian or Chinese ballistic missile attack is currently not feasible. A reliable and affordable defence that could protect America against a Russian ICBM and SLBM force that could launch some 1,500 ballistic missile warheads simply does not exist. While the Chinese force is much smaller, numbering several dozen ICBMs, it probably includes countermeasures that would seriously complicate disruption by missile defence systems.

    For the foreseeable future, offense wins the offense-defence relationship. Offensive ballistic missile technology is far more mature than that of missile defence, and cost considerations favour the offense. Adding fourteen more GMD interceptors by 2017 will require the Pentagon to spend about $1 billion. The Russians and Chinese can each add fourteen more warheads to their strategic offensive forces at considerably less cost. One reason that the Russians are building a replacement for their heavy SS-18 ICBM is to have a missile that can carry ten-fifteen warheads as a means of overwhelming a future American missile defence.

    It is also important to remember that the other side may not sit passively as the U.S. military develops missile defences. Other nuclear powers may choose to build up their strategic offensive forces in response, increasing the number of nuclear weapons targeted at the United States (China, in particular, comes to mind). Indeed, it was concern that the ABM systems of the 1960s would spark an uncontrollable strategic offensive arms race that led to negotiation of the 1972 ABM Treaty.

    None of this is to say that a future technological breakthrough might not produce a change in the offense-defence equation. Some new technology could be developed that would make defence against ballistic missiles far more lethal, cost-effective and attractive, tilting the equation to favour defence instead of offense. But that breakthrough does not appear to be on the horizon, at least not for the next fifteen-twenty years. And a key lesson of the past thirty-two years is that technology in the missile defence area often does not deliver on its potential—at least not as rapidly, or as inexpensively, as originally thought.”

    So it comes down to this choice. Peaceful coexistence or extinction. Even the Americans can’t be that stupid – I hope!

    Steven Pifer directs the Brookings Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative.

    • With all your hard slog here, Frankie, you need to open your mind a bit when it comes to nukes. google Larry King CNN ufos shut down missile silos in US, UK and USSR. They still monitor. They’ve zapped a launch or two. They’ve told us that any nuke war would ‘tear the fabric of space’ whatever that meant and also affect them. ufo? Am I a nutter off the meds? Nah just a Rtd Airline Training Capt with multiple ufo/ifo sightings. For the ‘they’ .. open The Pleiadian Mission by Randolph Winters based on http://www.theyfly.com. Sci fi? Who says? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EA0SBlY_sWo

  9. Jannik Lindquist says

    Did you see the video produced by the BBC where someone claimed to be a doctor reads a script he barely understands about Omran being the lucky one who got out alive? That video was not given to BBC. It was produced by the BBC. So it’s clearly worse than BBC just being manipulated. They are doing the manipulation themselves


    • Eric_B says

      It’s acknowledged by everyone including the BBC that during World War II the BBC acted as the propaganda arm of the British state.

      I wonder if the BBC has ever made any kind of affirmative statement that they have stopped doing that.

    • Jen says

      Let the BBC produce more such videos with crappy production values: the more that people see them, and see how badly staged they are, realise that the “victims” are merely actors and discover who is sponsoring the creators and producing the films, the more people will complain and reject the BBC – and refuse to pay the licence fees that the BBC relies on to survive.

      • flybow says

        Unfortunately Jen, the people swallow the narrative fed to them. I hope you are right though.

    • Yonatan says

      The video appears to have been pulled. Is there another link?

  10. michaelk says

    Well, I agree with what you’ve written. All of it. Has, I wonder, public opinion, ever stopped the drift to war, when a great power, or powers, were moving, seemingly inexorably towards it? The situation now reminds one of the years before the outbreak of WW1. Only today things are far worse because there’s no real and effective opposition to war in any western country. The opposition is there, but completely marginalised. This is linked to the ‘left’ and ‘liberals’ lurching massively to the right and becoming as pro-war as the traditional, establishment, nationalist, right. The ‘left’ and ‘liberals’ have basically been sold an elaborate ‘fairytale’ about ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’, a kind of international crusade for justice, that they can’t resist. Which is typified by something like the Guardian.

    In the public sphere the role of the media is to act like a morality church telling people what’s right or wrong to think and the journalists are like the clergy, preaching all the time from electronic pulpets it’s really hard to avoid.

    On a lighter note; lots of young people and students I come into contact with come from homes where there are no newspapers, because nobody buys them and they rarely watch the news. People are choosing to simply ignore a lot of what’s being presented as ‘news.’ ‘Reality TV’ is taking over, not just destroying the audiance for drama, but the news as well. The only newspapers they read are the free ones. Which means lots of the old-style ones are doomed and their days are probably numbered. There’s nothing to say the newspapers won’t go the way of the coalmines or the shipyards.

    What this means is that there are really big cultural changes going on. I’m just touching on them and sketching. In a society which has become so polarised economically, lots of other areas follow along. Like politics, which is becoming very polarised too, reflecting the polarisation in the rest of society.

    Putin and Russia have now been successfully demonized to an extraordinary degree. It reminds one, frighteningly, of the demonisation of Saddam and Gaddafi before we attacked their countries. It’s really that bad. Only, for obvious reasons Russia, isn’t Iraq or Libya, but the drift and momentum looks like we’re heading for war with Russia too, only this time there’ll be catastrophic results for us as well. The mass destruction and mass killing won’t be confined to Russia. The warparty is on a very deadly roll and it’s gonna be hard to stop, especially if Clinton’s elected, and, unfortunately, the media and journalists are the last people we can look to to save us.

    • Eric_B says

      The demonization of Russia and the abuse hurled at Putin daily by our media is not a good sign.

      This sort of sustained rhetoric against other countries leads only to one place if history is any guide, war.

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