Prof. Anthony Hall
In responding to an attack on a media venue about which I care a lot, this Canadian from Alberta Canada is being pulled into the swamp. I find myself showering repeatedly to try to wash away the scum from the quagmire created by CNN and the Editorial Board of the Washington Post. These media operations have decided to band together as protagonists in a smear campaign aimed at discrediting American Herald Tribune.
AHT is a news site that I helped get off the ground beginning in 2015 when I agreed to become Editor in Chief of the small but exceptionally lively Internet publication. In wrongfully accusing AHT, CNN and Washington Post are adding to the scale of a wide constituency that is coming to the conclusion that these media operations are serial manufacturers of fake news.
In doing research into the antics of the two media ventures I came across the story of a well-publicized move by a member of the Tennessee Legislature to have CNN and Washington Post legally reprimanded. Representative Micah Van Huss formulated a resolution asserting “the State of Tennessee recognizes CNN and Washington Post as fake news and part of the media wing of the Democratic Party.” The text of Resolution 779 continues,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we condemn them [CNN and Washington Post] for denigrating our citizens and implying they are weak-minded followers instead of people exercising their rights that our veterans paid for with their blood.
I see something new in this formal enactment in a US Legislature of such severe animosity to mainstream media. New too is the decision to divide mainstream venues in the United States into partisan publicity networks closely connected to one of the two major political parties. These developments have ominous implications.
In prior times it seemed that a major function of mass communications in the USA was to create and marshal popular support for the invasions of foreign countries. These days the agenda has widened to include preparing the conceptual ground for civil war within the United States.
The promotion of the conditions for civil war are unfolding concurrently with a new stage of the campaign to pull the United States into war with Iran.
This agenda was advanced in the opening days of the 2020s when Donald Trump shocked the world by immediately claiming credit for the grotesque drone assassination in Baghdad of top officials in both the Iraqi and Iranian governments. The assassinations extended to members of the entourage travelling with them.
This graphic proof that US Commander In Chief, Donald Trump, had gone rogue was followed by perhaps the largest, most solemn, most public and most extended funeral I can remember. As the funeral procession went between eight cities in Iraq and Iran, there was a huge outpouring of heart-felt emotion as people turned out by the millions to commemorate the life and martyrdom of General Qassem Soleimani.
Soon after the funeral the Facebook Corporation provided one of the indicators that the US war machine was being revved up by dehumanizing the possible future targets of mass murder by the US Armed Forces. Those who follow the machinations of Facebook closely will understand the social media giant has been successfully recruited as an instrument of militarized propaganda for the Israeli and US governments.
The Facebook crew removed posts that in words or in pictures expressed grief for the loss of General Soleimani or expressed any sort of positive recognition of the values he embodied throughout his life.
In a world of many armed forces and many career soldiers, it seemed for a brief moment that a wide diversity of people on all sides of numerous military divisions could agree on something. Many individuals found in the persona of the departed Qassem Soleimani an embodiment of the universal qualities residing in martial dignity and steadfastness.
Facebook is setting very menacing precedents with its decision to censor the opinions of the great mass of humanity who laments the outcome of the Baghdad drone assassinations. In order to justify its actions the officers of Facebook invoked the pseudo-laws of the post-9/11 era. They argued that Facebook was acting in conformity with Donald Trump’s very political move to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.
As is now becoming clear, this designation amounted to a virtual Declaration of War on Iran. The “unprecedented” move to declare the armed forces of another country as terrorists came as part of Donald Trump’s obsequious effort to help Benjamin Netanyahu win re-election in Israel. The designation came days before the Israeli vote of April 2019. As he faced the Israeli electorate, Netanyahu sent out a tweet in Hebrew thanking Trump for “acceding to another one of my important requests.”
The Attack on AHT as Part of the Promotion of a US War with Iran
There can be no doubt about the underlying causes of the decision of CNN and Washington Post to put so much of their severely overstretched journalistic capital on the line in attempting to demonize American Herald Tribune.
Like Facebook’s decision to prohibit anything but Trump-supporting characterizations of General Soleimani’s life and death, the attacks on AHT are all about preparing the conceptual terrain for a US-Iran war. It is all about socializing the audiences of mainstream media to support raining death and destruction down on Iran’s 80 million people.
Here is how the Washington Post followed up on the original smear job introduced by the CNN’s notorious “disinformation reporter.”
CNN reported last month on American Herald Tribune, a self-professed “genuinely independent online media outlet” that cybersecurity experts have determined is part of a far-reaching Iranian influence campaign. The strategy is simple: create a network of inauthentic news sites, then enlist associated accounts on popular platforms to spread the stories not only here but also in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
American Herald Tribune’s modus operandi matches what we’ve already learned about online disinformation: Adversaries “launder” their campaigns through sympathetic citizens of target countries, or just citizens they offer money to — from authors on propagandistic or outright deceptive news sites to run-of-the-mill social media users. The byline on the KKK story, for instance, belongs to a man from Salem, Ore., who told CNN he believes the site is run by a man named Sam who lives in Brazil.
In my article, “Donie O’Sullivan and the ‘Garbage State’ of Media,” I discussed my visits to Iran since 2014 to take part in conferences including an academic event at the University of Tehran.
In those travels I developed friendships and collegial relations with some Iranian people including fellow academics. This experience is reflected in the wide range of AHT’s content created by correspondents coming from many perspectives and from many different lands all over the world.
I proudly affirm that AHT is opposed to any US-led war with Iran. For those seeking to avoid the scourge of war, the pursuit of peace obviously favors dialogue and exchange rather than animosity and sword-rattling. AHT intends to continue favoring dialogue and exchange.
None of these subjects are fairly or honestly addressed in the alarmist Washington Post smear piece. Rather the author representing the Washington Post’s Iranophobic Editorial Board rattles off jargon paraphrasing a deeply flawed study that provides no evidence whatsoever for the extravagant claims being irresponsibly asserted.
The basis for the Washington Post’s claim goes back to a glossy document put together in Milpitas California by an organization named Fire Eye. Fire Eye’s CEO is Kevin Mandia who cryptically describes his company’s specialty as the defense against “cyberattacks.”
The title of the Fire Eye report is Suspected Iranian Influence Operation: Leveraging Inauthentic News Sites and Social Media Aimed at U.S., U.K., Other Audiences. No specific individuals have permitted their names to appear as authors. Thus no one takes specific responsibility for the report’s contents, an understandable absence given the shoddy quality of the study.
There is absolutely no information given about the funders of the report. Why? What is there to hide? Did CNN or the Washington Post or a subsidiary company help fund the study? Did the Israeli or US government have a role? The question of the sponsorship of such an investigation is crucial to an assessment of its credibility. Everything points to the fact that there is apparently much about the origins and genesis of this mysterious study that is being kept under lock and key.
There is no clear explanation or justification of the methodology used. There are no specific references to other studies of a similar nature except for vague references to the Democratic Party’s hunt for Russian influences on US politics. There are no scholarly references nor is there a bibliography.
I did not see anywhere in the anonymously authored document a single reference to American Herald Tribune. Not one. Instead the report is organized as individual studies devoting a few pages including screen shots to several sites. These sites are Liberty Front Press, US Journal, Real Progressive Front, British Left, Critics Chronicle and Instituto Manquehue. Before doing research for this essay I had not heard of any of these sites. When I looked them up on Internet search engines, I found in several places adjacent to the named sites results linking to the Fire Eye document.
My biggest criticism concerning the supposed “research” done by CNN and Washington Post in preparing their respective smears, is that their reporters did not attempt to contact the Editor In Chief of AHT, namely me. Instead of doing due diligence in a case like this one, the protagonists of the smear campaign used a report that seemed to depend more on lawyers and weasel words than on any genuine analysis of the topic.
The very first sentence indicates, “Fire Eye has identified a suspected operation that appears to originate from Iran. (my italics). The unnamed authors report that they “assess with moderate confidence that this activity originates with Iran actors.” Why “moderate confidence”? What this qualification apparently means, is that “some possibility remains that this activity could originate from elsewhere [than Iran].”
I’m not really sure what the unnamed authors mean when they refer to “this activity.” What activity? Who do they mean when they refer to “Iran actors.” Is it the implication of the Fire Eye report than any Iranian person who publishes something on the Internet is doing something subversive? Are war obsessions already so advanced in the fervid imaginations of the authors of the Fire Eye, CNN and Washington Post pieces that they imagine that it is verboten for an Iranian to express himself or herself on the Internet?
So in the final analysis Fire Eye comes up with nothing that goes beyond the level of “suspicion.” My response to Fire Eye’s suspicion is to hold a mirror up to this group. If there is any party in this fiasco that falls under a cloud of deserved suspicion, it is the people at Fire Eye. This suspicion extends to those in mainstream media who report Fire Eyes “suspicions” as gospel fact. Such a failure of honest reporting, I should think, meets any reasonable criterion of fake news.
Following the Real Stories in the Face of Specious Attacks
The preoccupation of CNN and the Washington Post with stick handling for the discredited Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party and with advancing the Zionist agenda of war with Iran has had serious deleterious effects on the quality of their news reporting. At exactly the same time that the Washington Post was intent on drawing a specious connection linking American Herald Tribune to the Fire Eye report, it remained mum on a very significant breaking news that remains extremely germane to mounting US-Iranian tensions.
The Taliban in Afghanistan are reported by Iranian, Russian and Italian sources to have shot down a very advanced US Air Force jet containing highly sophisticated spy and communications features. The high-tech aircraft was a Bombardier/Northrop Grumman E-11-A whose still-smoldering burned-out hulk was filmed in Ghazni province in Afghanistan. Some reports indicate the CIA’s most prominent figure in the Middle East, Mike de Andrea, was among the casualties. Other reports indicate the Mike de Andrea had a lead hand in the drone strikes that dramatically advanced the agenda of a full-fledged Iran-US war in the opening days of the 2020s.
Yet another possibility is that such reports concerning de Andrea’s role in the assassination of General Soleimani have been introduced to divert attention away from other possible scenarios. Much depends on getting at the truth of what really happened in the hours, days and weeks leading up to the most destabilizing drone strike in history.
Whatever the reality of the situation, reporting on the episode called attention to the many hundreds of murders by drone conducted by de Andrea in the course of an exceptionally violent career of murder and torture conducted largely outside the parameters of international criminal law. Readers who would like to see how the American Herald Tribune is covering this fast-breaking story are encouraged to check out the essay of Dr. Philip Giraldi, a former high-ranking CIA official who publishes regularly in AHT.
We at AHT are proud to publish much of the cutting-edge and courageous journalism by Philip Giraldi, Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest. Dr. Giraldi stands at the front of a long list of contributors at all stages of their journalistic careers. The essays of writers hosted at AHT will definitely bring readers much closer to the truth than the blatant and laughable propaganda at CNN and the Washington Post.