Channel 4’s “Inside Idlib” – The Last Gasp of a Dying Campaign

Kit Knightly

Channel 4 just announced a new addition to their on-going “Iside Idlib” report: a 10-minute video which – they claim – is evidence of the Russian and Syrian governments committing a war crime.

The war-crime itself is said to be a “double-tap” airstrike, ie. An airstrike, waiting for the first responders to arrive, and then another airstrike. (The term actually originates from US drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan…I don’t know if C4 had any special reports about that.)

Watch the video, do you see evidence of a war crime?

Here’s what I saw:

  • Fairly quiet countryside.
  • Men in White Helmets running around some fig trees.
  • Men in White Helmets shouting in Arabic.
  • A dust cloud.
  • A damaged van/ambulance.
  • An injured man/a man pretending to injured/a dummy (You can never be sure with the WH).
  • More running and shouting.
  • One more dust cloud, much further away.
  • People in white helmets looking sad.

Here’s what I didn’t see:

  • Any Russian or Syrian planes.
  • Any Russian or Syrian military personnel.
  • Any Russian or Syrian military equipment.
  • Any evidence of the “first airstrike”.
  • Any bombs falling.
  • Any evidence of a war crime.

If this is really the best they have, then they have nothing. It is, frankly, embarrassing.

The Report

The written report that accompanies the video isn’t much better – it’s essentially just a Cliff Notes version of Jon Snow’s rather simpering commentary, but there’s some interesting language to deconstruct, and omissions to take note of.

An investigation by Channel 4 News has obtained evidence of possible war crimes in Syria

I just love this beginning part. So up itself, so pompous.

We KNOW there was no “investigation”, they didn’t dig this up or ferret it out – the people who made it want it to be on TV. That’s the reason they made it. Channel 4’s “investigation” was checking their email.

Either GCHQ directly dumped it into their inbox one morning, or some NGO proxy did it for them…either way, there was no “investigation”. At best – at best – there were some fact checks AFTER they got the video, just to make sure they weren’t going to make fools of themselves. (Spoiler alert: they did).

As a general rule, with Western mainstream media, when they say “an investigation has obtained” they honestly do mean “someone emailed this to us”. That goes double for bellingcat. That’s just how it works.

…with airstrikes that appear to deliberately target rescuers.

Er…no they don’t. There are five “airstrikes” in the video (according to them, I only saw 2 at most). Of these five, only one (allegedly) hit anywhere even vaguely near an ambulance. If the Syrian airforce have a miss-rate of 80% how on earth are they winning this war?

Footage caught on multiple cameras allegedly shows a so-called ‘double-tap’ operation in Idlib province

They keep coming back to this “multiple cameras” angle, I don’t know why. I think it might be a pre-emptive defence against accusations of fakery, maybe? Which would be pretty revealing in and of itself.

Oh, by the by, the “multiple cameras” are the go-pros and bodycams being worn by the White Helmets. I don’t know if they always wear them, or if they just wore them to that scene. Either way, it’s weird.

If they always wear them…well, they must be expensive, and given the White Helmets are just plucky little volunteers that’s a hell of an investment. (Also, if the white Helmets are always wearing portable cameras, you’d think – five years into their existence – they’d have some pretty solid evidence of war crimes in Syria by now. But apparently this is the best they’ve got. Funny that).

If they put them on for this event especially, well, that’s obviously fishy.

Evidence of this kind has rarely been seen before; a complete incident caught on multiple cameras.

…there they go with the multiple cameras thing again. It’s really nothing like as compelling as they seem to think it is.

Oh, and “evidence of this type” has been seen MANY times before.

I can’t tell you how many videos of dusty men screaming into walkie talkies I’ve seen. Each and every one labelled “daring rescue caught on camera” or “Syrian war crimes exposed”. This is no different. (In fact, it’s worse, because the field of fig trees is actually quite nice, compared with Indistinguishable Pile of Rubble #6).

It’s not a “complete incident” either, because even by their own admission we never saw the initial “strike”, supposing it actually happened.

But, if proven, the so-called “double-tap” tactic is a war crime.

Yes, and the Flat Earth theory if proven, would totally and irreversibly change our understanding of the universe.

“If proven” is a great phrase that way…it sounds serious, like it means something. It carries the implication of “and it will be soon”, but what it actually means – is that it’s not even close to being proven yet.

The war crime isn’t proven to have even happened, let alone to have been carried out by the Russian Syrian Air Force. And it won’t be proven, because the video has no evidence in it.

The footage is barely evidence, let alone proof. It could be recreated with 2 Go Pros, a barrel of dust and some discount fireworks.

White Helmets

Interestingly, though he’s obviously a man sincerely concerned about human rights and truth and all that good stuff, Mr Snow leaves out a fair amount of information about the White Helmets.

For example, he says that “Assad’s government considers [the White Helmets] enemy combatants.” But he doesn’t say what that’s the case.

Just to fill you all in, Assad’s government “considers the White Helmets enemy combatants” because they are directly funded by the American and British governments and because they regularly support – and even take part in – terrorist activities.

He says that “over 250” of the White Helmets have been killed, but doesn’t say that they claim to have a staff of over 3000 (paid) volunteers.

So, despite being just “carpenters and bakers”, and despite being constantly deployed to war-zones, and despite being the victims of the murderous Assad regime’s nefarious “double-tap” tactics….only 8% of them have been killed. In five years. Less than one per week.

Considering the sheer number of hospitals the Syrians and Russians are alleged to have bombed – well into triple figures by now – that’s actually remarkable. Almost impossible, you might say. Those white helmets must really work.

My favourite part is when Snow has to describe the trick of “smearing mud on the ambulances to hide the White Helmets logo”, without once pausing to question:

1) Where these plucky little ex-bakers managed to get all these modern ambulances customised with their own logo.
2) Why they don’t just stop painting the logo on in the first place.

Just reflect for a second – they have a logo.

How bonkers is that? They’re supposed to be a destitute resistance movement, helping the poor victims of Assad’s brutality. Volunteer bakers and carpenters and school teachers who just want to help…and someone, at some point, is supposed have said “Guys, we should get a logo done,”.

That’s insane.

Did the French Resistance get a logo designed and then tool around occupied Paris in vans with their name painted on the side?

It’s just so…Western. So focus group. So public relations. So modern. The logo has to exist because that’s the brand. They need the logo to help sell the message. It’s the only way they know how to work.

It’s been done to death, but the White Helmets – as the media paint them – just don’t make any sense. They are a narrative beyond ridiculous, that simply can’t exist in the real world, and watching media pundits earnestly describing the Looney Tunes madhouse they’re trying to sell us has become funny.


I honestly don’t know what the point of this exercise was. It says nothing new, it shows nothing new. It’s a news story from two years ago, warmed up and repackaged.

The public is well past the White Helmets’ schtick, we all know what they are by now. The White Helmets are what you get when you give Al Qaeda a makeover. The result of a Western PR agency tasked with rebranding the unrebrandable.

This fight is over, and our side won. I don’t know what C4, or whoever supplied them this video, were hoping to achieve, but I can tell you they won’t achieve it.

This is the best evidence they have, the best they’ve ever had, they say that themselves. And it’s nothing. The information war for Syria is over. The White Helmets’ PR push failed. Turns out Assad didn’t have to go after all.

It’s really time the UK media woke up to this fact.

At this point it’s just getting sad.


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