This Week in The Guardian #4

Rounding out our first month, we have reformed terrorists, dangerous misinformation and Putin paying Nigerians to tweet celebrity gossip

Every week, on a Sunday, we like to highlight three or four stories that go full-Guardian, but don’t require an entire article of refutation.
We encourage reader-participation here, so if you come across something you feel should be included in the next edition either post a link below, or send us an e-mail.

Hounded by war, can Idlib’s desperate civilians outrun final assault?

Martin Chulov’s rambling, emotionally manipulative piece about refugees in Idlib looks, at first glance, to be your usual “touching story” clickbait. The kind of thing people share on Facebook alongside a crying emoji and a picture of a broken heart.

But buried in the text are some other things rather more malign.

For one, there are the repeated references to Turkey “backing rebels” and Turkish force’s “offensive”. The Turkish strikes against Syrian fighters, on Syrian soil, are practically applauded, despite being literally defined as war crimes by the UN. Every Turkish action in or against Syria is illegal, but that is never mentioned.

Worse even than this is the pathetic attempts to somehow rehabilitate Islamic extremist groups:

Elizabeth Tsurkov, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who has studied HTS extensively, said the group appeared to have transformed – long a demand of governments who endorsed the humanitarian demands of the millions trapped in Idlib, but were determined not to deal with jihadists. “They truly severed ties with al-Qaida,” said Tsurkov.

Truly appalling.

Orwellian Coronavirus Response

The coronavirus pandemic is “like a war”, according to Gabby Hinsliff, it’s going to totally reshape society, much as WWI and WWII did. It’s hard not to call this an over-reaction, considering – at the time of publication of that article – Covid19 had killed fewer than a dozen people nationwide. Nonetheless, we need to be prepared to change the way we work, the way we educate, the way we vote, change everything.

One thing that won’t change is The Guardian’s view on “misinformation”, and how dangerous it is. See: This article by Tom Philips, the head “fact-checking charity” Full Fact. Sharing incorrect information is dangerous. Only trust official sources. The usual spiel.

Putin’s Secret African Facebook Army

Apparently Russia is looking to “expand its influence” in Africa by paying a couple of dozen people in Nigeria and Ghana to tweet about celebrities.

How they spread insidious Kremlin content without ever mentioning Russia, or being at all political, remains a mystery:

Although the Facebook network posted a significant amount of content, it steered clear of explicitly political postings

So how do we know they were backed by the Russians? Because we just do, alright!

Although the article has two listed authors, it’s pretty obvious which wrote this paragraph:

There is compelling evidence that the Kremlin has sought to reboot KGB methods of propaganda and disinformation via anonymous posts on social media.

This is a Luke Harding special. If you’re not familiar enough to Harding’s prose style to recognise it immediately, well I envy you that, but the real clue is the “compelling evidence” which is neither supplied nor described.

In fact, no evidence whatsoever is supplied showing these accounts were a) Fake, b) Acting in bad faith, c) Paid by “the Russians”. It’s paranoid nonsense spreading a dangerous agenda, but hey you knew that as soon as you saw the by-line.

What we actually know is that Facebook and Twitter shut down some Ghanaian social media marketing company for tweeting about topical issues in a “divisive manner”. Which is actually pretty creepy.

NB. We completely missed this one, this is why our eagle-eyed readers are so important.

BONUS – Where are the Yellow Vests?

Our bonus this week takes the form of a challenge – a sort political scavenger hunt. There was a huge Gilets Jaunes protest in Paris yesterday, breaking the laws limiting “public gathering”. Our challenge to you is to scan the Guardian and find any evidence it took place.

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All told, a busy week for The Guardian, we didn’t even touch on how climate change is sexist, the internet is also sexist or how hard it is being single during a pandemic. Did we miss any others? Tell us about them in the comments below, and keep an eye out for articles that should go in the next issue.


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