2018 – The Year of Lying Dangerously

By David Macilwain
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Amongst the many things that may be said about 2018 in the echo-chambers of Western media, you can be sure that an admission of the lies that were told will not be one of them. Yet of all the things that characterize this year of fracture and dissonance, the litany of lies told by Western leaders and media stands out – a veritable juggernaut of mendacity about almost every aspect of the political and strategic battles fought against internal and external enemies over the last year.

These lies, from casual half-truths to carefully constructed false narratives, have been mostly told to and used against Western states’ own populations, to create popular support or submission to policies and actions chosen by those wielding power. But they have also been told extensively to deceive and manipulate foreign antagonists in current conflict zones – Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan.

Most disturbingly perhaps, lies have also been told to militaries and security forces by their own government leaders and intelligence agencies, and to a degree that is only now becoming apparent. The possibility that the most recent revelations on disinformation networks in Europe and the US could crack open the West’s “bodyguard of lies” makes 2018 what we might call the “Year of Lying Dangerously”.

Perhaps it’s a little personal tunnel vision that makes me focus on two of the most notable “lies” of 2018 – the Salisbury poisoning and the “Chemical attack” on Douma in Syria. But in one way or another, both of these –intimately connected – events have been central to so much else that has happened this year.

Whether it’s the “Iranian connection” – between the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran’s support for Syria against foreign-backed terrorists, joint Saudi-US-Israeli propaganda warfare over Yemen and Hezbollah – or the “Russian connection” – conflict over oil and gas markets, pipelines to Turkey and Germany, political and military support for Syria, information warfare with the US over Trump and the UK over “Novichok” – or simply the Tweets of Trump, – the Chemical Weapon disinformation war has been central to 2018.

It’s hard for those of us not seduced by the West’s Orwellian news machine to understand just how pervasively effective its mind-bending disinformation operations have become. The individuals and organizations leading these campaigns have evidently also been seduced by their own power to mislead millions, effected with a few mouse clicks or a single video clip.

And in their absolute disdain for their audience, they may be caught out pushing too far. Such was the case with the memorable “Mannequin Challenge” performed live on set by a couple of White Helmet actors. They got away with that crass self-promotion amongst social media followers, but for their opponents and victims seeing these NATO “heroes” playing at rescue-selfies was the last straw.

In fact, this over-honest self-revelation to their supporters became the start of efforts to expose the White Helmets as a criminal enterprise of the UK and US governments, whose members we now know to have been closely involved in some of the worst atrocities carried out by the foreign-backed terrorist groups with whom they worked.

The dreadful truth about the “Oscar-nominated” White Helmets began to emerge seriously in December 2016 following the liberation of East Aleppo, when independent journalists – Pierre le Corf, Vanessa Beeley and RT’s Lizzie Phelan and Murad Gazdiev amongst others – were able to see just where these “civil defense volunteers” had been operating; cheek by jowl with the chief terrorist groups holding the east of the city under siege.

Those researches have clearly continued in the two years since, establishing more solid incriminating evidence against the group, but this effort has evidently intensified in recent months following the joint UN-Israeli rescue operation of White Helmets and terrorist leaders from the Golan Heights in July, and their effective disbanding in most areas of Syria.

The results of these researches were presented by the director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, Maxim Grigoriev, at a special meeting at the UN HQ in New York just before Christmas. Grigoriev presented videos of interviews he himself conducted with former White Helmets members in Aleppo and Ghouta, along with the extensive findings on the true nature of the White Helmets’ activities, as revealed by Syrian citizens from “rebel-occupied” areas.

The UN meeting, made to a collection of journalists, included personal testimony from Vanessa Beeley, as well as direct and demanding presentations from Syria’s UN rep Bashar al Jaafari, and Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia. Independent journalist Eva Bartlett, who has also played a lead role in researching and exposing the White Helmets operation, has written already on the meeting, and particularly noting the complete failure of the Western corporate media to report it or attempt to answer the criticisms and claims made against the group.

Despite the presence of a CBS reporter, who asked a question about the threat from foreign extremists following the “US withdrawal from Syria”, media support for the White Helmets continues without a hiccup, with this horrific contribution from the Guardian’s Kareem Shaheen.

What Grigoriev presented was truly shocking, and categorical evidence that the White Helmets is a criminal organization and should be on the UN’s list of designated terrorist organizations – as stated clearly by Vassily Nebenzia. The video presentation lasts over an hour, but is really essential viewing; the atrocities carried out by the many members of the White Helmets, with the full knowledge and support of the UK and US governments, make their continued feting and lionizing by Western governments and media a crime against humanity.

Quite simply, these men are guilty of the most brutal and barbaric crimes against innocent people – women and children in particular – that we can possibly imagine. Unlike so many dreadful atrocities committed in the past – the Crusaders’ slaughter of Jerusalem’s population might spring to mind – these modern-day barbarians acted in cold blood, calculated and sadistic; even in their fake rescue operations –

A former White Helmet interviewed in Aleppo by Grigoriev describes how, in the filming of one such “rescue” following an alleged Syrian airstrike, bodies were brought from the morgue and wounded people brought from a nearby hospital just for the propaganda video. Children were also often used in these stunt-videos, as well as dummies, confirming the long-held suspicions of impartial analysts.

As has been observed before, including by myself, the treatment of children by White Helmets members in their propaganda videos actually constitutes serious child abuse or even torture – their filming of “treatment for gas exposure” in Douma hospital, or simple brutalisation – as with the use of Omran Daqneesh, turns instantly from humanitarian act to inhuman one when seen in its true light.

Omran Daqneesh, and Hassan Diab – the White Helmets’ Douma victim who went to the Hague to testify, were however reunited with their parents physically intact; they were the lucky ones. As Omar al Mustafa testified when interviewed by Maxim Grigoriev –

 “People evacuated by the White Helmets often did not come back alive. For example, a person receives a minor injury, is rescued, evacuated, and then brought back with their stomach cut open and with their internal organs missing. I heard that a little girl was injured. They took her to Turkey and brought her back in three days, dead and with no internal organs.”

Grigoriev heard similar stories from a great many people including White Helmets members, leading him to state that:

A large body of evidence allows for a clear conclusion that the White Helmets centres were a key element in the system of forced removal of human organs.

We need to just let that sink in a bit. The forced removal of human organs; from children “rescued” by our own countries’ mercenaries. And even if the likes of the Guardian and the NYT and CBS prefer to put this reality in the too hard basket, have no doubt that the White Helmets’ backup teams will be taking Russia’s evidence very seriously.

Seriously enough to consider cutting and running even? As Nebenzia says – “the sponsors share responsibility for their crimes.” And their liars’ luck might be about to run out; we can only hope!

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Chomsky’s Misinformation on Syria

By Stephen Lendman
Source

Noted academic, father of modern linguistics, political/anti-war activist Noam Chomsky disturbingly supported Hillary in 2016, saying “I don’t think there’s any other rational choice.”

At the time, I called it a disturbing statement by someone who knows better. Money-controlled duopoly power runs America, a one-party state with two extremist right wings.

They’re in lockstep on issues mattering most, including support for endless wars of aggression and corporate empowerment over the general welfare.

There’s nothing democratic about undemocratic Dems. There’s no “other rational choice” than rejecting both wings of one-party rule, tyranny masquerading as democracy they abhor, supporting revolutionary change by grassroots activism, taking to the streets, resisting tyranny – the choice between living free or exploited the way things are now.

Chomsky is wrong on Syria, claiming Putin “is trying to restore some degree of Russian power in the world, some degree of Russian authority. One extension of that and, in fact, the only one is the Russian position in Syria.”

Kremlin involvement in Syria is largely a Russian security issue, wanting the scourge of US-supported terrorism prevented from spreading to Russia’s heartland.

It’s not about propping up Assad. Putin’s responsibility is serving and protecting Russian interests, not those of Syria or any other countries.

Assad isn’t “a horrible war criminal,” as Chomsky falsely claimed. Nor are the “bulk of the atrocities (in the country) his responsibility,” adding:

“There’s no justifying Assad,” a deplorable statement about a leader, overwhelmingly supported by Syrians, involved for nearly eight years in combating US aggression and terrorists Washington created and supports. Chomsky failed to address all of the above.

Opposition forces are jihadists, cutthroat killers, imported from scores of countries – armed, funded, trained and directed by US special forces, CIA operatives, and their imperial counterparts.

They’re not moderate “rebels,” none of them, Chomsky adding “(t)he current situation is that Assad has pretty much won the war, like it or not.” 

“There was in the early stages a democratic secular, quite respectable opposition, but they were very quickly overwhelmed by the jihadi elements, supported from the outside” – the US and its imperial allies.

Democratic secular elements don’t use violence in pursuit of their aims – not in Syria or anywhere else. 

War was planned, orchestrated and launched by Washington, supported by NATO, Israel, the Saudis, UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey – using jihadists to wage dirty war. 

There was no popular uprising as falsely reported. From its onset, there’s been nothing civil about what’s going on – a US regime change plot, all of the above ignored by Chomsky, what’s most important about endless war in the country.

He shamefully claimed “it makes sense for the United States to maintain a presence (in Syria) which would deter an attack on the Kurdish areas” – failing to explain the US illegally occupies northern and southern parts of the country.

Kurds are threatened by Turkey, not Assad. Allying with him is their best defense, especially with Russian support if forthcoming.

Referring to legitimate Syrian governance as “the murderous Assad regime” is a disgraceful perversion of truth.

Tim Anderson’s book, titled “The Dirty War on Syria” is the definitive account of the conflict. Separately, he explained Obama’s dirty war, now Trump’s, as follows, saying:

“Washington and its allies try another ‘regime change’ in Syria. A fake ‘revolution’ uses Islamic gangs, during an ‘Arab Spring.’ The Western media constantly lie about this covert, dirty war.”

“A political reform movement is driven off the streets by Islamic violence. (The misnamed pro-Western) ‘Free Syrian Army’ slaughters minorities and government workers.”

“Saudi and Qatari backed Islamists carry out a series of massacres, falsely blaming them on the Syrian Army and President Assad.”

“Most of Syria’s opposition backs the state and army against terrorism. Washington calls a puppet exile group ‘the Syrian opposition.’ “

“Washington (using Saudis, Qatar, Turkey and Israel) backs all the armed Islamist groups, pretending some are ‘moderate rebels.’ “

“A resistance coalition rallies to Syria. Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq and Russia join the Syrian Army in destroying western backed terrorist groups.”

Anderson’s book explains all of the above and more in detail, why it’s essential reading to understand what’s going on – polar opposite media propaganda, notably Chomsky’s misinformation as well.

Syria, its people, and government are victims of US aggression. What’s most important to explain, Chomsky ignored.

From Fakery to Thievery? Masih Alinejad’s Too Basic Understanding of Freedom

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“To do whatever I want, because I can.” That could be the half-passable answer of a 5-year old child when asked what freedom is. Many sufferings in our world come precisely because of the alarming number of people who carry such flawed concept of human liberty well into their adulthood. When this idea is not refined through further education and an inquisitive spirit, a person can endure an entire life believing that deceiving, stealing and other corruptions of society are a sort of nature-given right, and that any obstacle to them necessarily implies “injustice or oppression.”

This can be said to be the story of Masih Alinejad who recently published a book narrating what she describes as her heroic struggle against such kind of “injustice or oppression,” not surprisingly by grabbing a copyrighted photograph as a book cover without actually paying for it.

Alinejad became an international internet celebrity back in 2014 when she launched “My Stealthy Freedom,” a Facebook page inviting Iranian women to post photos of themselves without a headscarf, closely followed by an allegedly spontaneous campaign heavily promoted by Western mainstream media garnering awarding it hundreds of thousands of likes. Although the vast majority of them came from Europe and the United States, she claims to be “a spokeswoman for voiceless women in Iran who can express themselves for the first time in more than 30 years.”

Last May, Alinejad published a memoir describing her journey from a pity village girl to an unofficial, New York-based spokeswoman for Iran’s women. Yes, all of them.

Alinejad’s campaign coexists with those of other Western women who advocate for the acceptance of topless and nudity in public places. Since the Iran factor is not involved in the latter, they rarely leave the marginality they inhabit with rare mass media attention and top-to-bottom engineered virality. And that’s precisely how Alinejad’s campaign is seen by a majority inside Iran. As false, bizarre and ridiculous. There is no internal physical social movement, no massive public protests have been recorded, and it may just barely make an appearance as a subject of private conversations.

The reason is that both Iranians and Westerners see their dress-codes as something normal in their own cultural environments. If someone argues that specific clothing is imposed on Iranian women, following the same logic, it is also imposed on Western women. Not only that, specific clothing is also imposed on Western men, and Iranian men who wear only long pants in public and unlike women don’t have dresses as an alternative choice. Miss Alinejad has never expressed any concern about men’s limited choices. Somehow only the stereotypes of “oppressed women” are useful for her.

Alinejad’s most common argument is that she’s not against the headscarf, but in favor of the right to choose. According to her, this freedom exists in the West, but not in Iran. Of course, this is correct only from a Western-centric perspective, but not among Iranians among whom being bare-headed in public is seen as impolite and offensive, just like nudity in the Western commonplace. Moreover, in Iran it is also associated to something pejorative (due to its practice among nomadic rural people), non-Iranian, and once imposed. No academic studies exist as to which dressing code is more beneficial to women or societies as a whole, and absolute freedom of choice, from nudity to masks, currently exists in few countries. Certainly, Iran is not among them, but neither are the United States, the United Kingdom, or France. Such examples do not bother Alinejad too much; she only speaks of Iran, and only about women.

Moreover, she suggests that only the Western dress-code is correct and represents freedom. As we all know from Hollywood movies, when two children find themselves on a desert island after the shipwreck, they naturally begin to speak English, cover their bodies in accordance to the Western dress-code, and prepare food consistent with the Western menu. There would be no Persian language, no Iranian headscarves, no Swazi nudity, no Chinese meals either, only “normal” i.e. Western norms. No matter how ridiculous this is, to hundreds of thousands of egotist Westerners on Alinejad’s page, it makes perfect sense and sound logic.

To prove that being bare-headed is actually normal and demanded, Alinejad often serves photographs and footages from before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, of a supposedly “free” Iran which offered freedom and choice. A brazen twisting of historical facts considering Iran was ruled at that time by a pro-American Pahlavi dictator who led an aggressive westernization campaign using massive violence, hundreds of assassinations, state-sanctioned torture and institutional discrimination. In spite of all their attempts, the proportion of women who adopted the Western dress-code was in permille, as well as limited to the capital and mostly foreign workers.

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The oppressive regime was finally overthrown by a popular revolution with the participation of millions of women in overt and covert political activism and who marched with headscarves and voted in the 1979 referendum for the Islamic Republic, i.e. free, democratic and anti-American Iran.

And here lies the real problem.

The pure intentions of Alinejad’s campaign raise more than one eyebrow when considering relevant information. After moving to the West, she married a staunch Pahlavi monarchist and worked as a correspondent for the U.S. government-funded media RFE/RL and VOA, undoubtedly of a propagandistic nature. The American-Iranian political relations and official Washington demonizing agendas are well-known, but there’s something more to say about Alinejad’s close associates. One year after starting her Facebook campaign, she received an award for “defending human rights, women’s freedom, and equality” from UN Watch. Speaking without euphemisms, Alinejad was financially sponsored by a pro-Israeli lobby group that has been leading a smear anti-Iranian campaign for many years.

According to Alinejad’s words, she got the idea to write a memoir book from Sheryl Sandberg, a billionaire and “philanthropist” who sponsored various pro-Israeli activist programs. This gives us a clear picture of the people who are trying to convince everyone that Iran, under a brutal dictatorship that kept a 75% of women illiterate was a feminist paradise that needs to be restored. People with scarce amounts of shame.

A poorly-understood concept of freedom

Yesterday, our staff stumbled with the Facebook post of a travel photographer complaining over the seemingly unlawful use of one of his photographs of the Iranian city of Isfahan, properly licensed in the Getty Images stock agency. The photograph appeared to have been stolen for the cover of Alinejad’s book “The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran” published by Little Brown and Company, a subsidiary of the Lagardère Publishing multinational media conglomerate headquartered in Paris. Vogel, the photographer, claims he hasn’t seen a penny from the use of his photograph for such a controversial and highly-publicized book and that neither Getty Images nor the book publisher have provided any explanations.

The likely theft of the creative content is far from speculative, considering Alinejad has a long-term habit of unauthorized grabbing of photographs from the private albums of Iranian citizens. There have been a number of such cases, targeting photos featuring unveiled Iranian women in rural areas or nature (where urban dress-code isn’t even in effect), usually taken without permission from photo-sharing networking services, and misrepresenting them on the Facebook page as “women protesting against the headscarf” along with shabby descriptions of “seeking freedom.”

After the objections, the posts are simply erased and Alinejad never publicly apologizes to anyone. The practice of privacy violation and theft perfectly reveals her concept of “fighting for freedom of choice.”

“The theft of photos is something I’ve experienced before,” shared Vogel with us. “But when your photo is stolen by someone so generously funded and who perverts the meaning of ‘freedom’ to the point of finding it justifiable to distribute child pornography online and offline, it just gives you the shivers,” referring to a recent controversy in which Masih Alinejad used the Instagram platform to share the graphic video of a couple of minors being raped in Iran by another person who felt freedom means “to do whatever I want, because I can.” What was she thinking? That it would be a good idea to use it to show Iran has no security because crime happens there. You know, unlike in…

Needless to say, Alinejad did not ask for permission of the victims or the families to share such highly sensitive content with the world wide web, enraging Iranian internauts. Instead of the usual procedure, in which social networking websites ban the account of a user sharing child abuse and pornography using their platforms, Alinejad’s post even got its share of media spotlight in the London-based channel Manoto, before she herself realized that trying to score some political points distributing child pornography might make her look bad with the hand that feeds her from Paris to New York.

Time’s Person of the Year Hypocrisy

By Stephen Lendman
Source

On Tuesday, Time magazine announced its annual Person of the Year Award, honoring what it called “Guardians…who have taken great risks in pursuit of greater truths.”

Time’s editors ignored the most highly deserving investigative, muckraking, truth-telling journalists of our time, focusing on major issues mattering most – polar opposite establishment reporting Time and other major Western media feature exclusively, suppressing what’s most important to report.

The late William Blum was excluded from consideration. His books, Empire Report, and other writings documented US high crimes throughout the post WW II period – hard truths Time and other establishment media suppress. 

Nor was WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange a candidate for person of the year. He’s a virtual prisoner inside Ecuador’s London embassy, unable to leave its confines for over six years, fearing arrest and extradition to the US for the crime of truth-telling journalism the way it’s supposed to be, taking an enormous risk “in pursuit of greater truths,” not risk enough for Time’s editors.

Two Reuters journalists were honored for running afoul of Myanmar’s despotic regime, sentenced to seven years imprisonment for allegedly revealing state secrets.

The suburban Washington-based Gazette Journal was honored for the killing of five of its staffers in a mass shooting last June. 

Former CNN bureau chief Maria Ressa was an honoree over her struggle to prevent Philippine President Duterte from shuttering her online Rappler news website.

Jamal Khashoggi was a posthumous honoree, a longtime Saudi insider/turned critic, a neocon/CIA-connected Washington Post columnist – recognized solely for the international turmoil over his murder, not for journalism the way it’s supposed to be.

In announcing this year’s award, Time’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said “(a)s we looked at the choices, it became clear that the manipulation and abuse of truth is really the common thread in so many of this year’s major stories ― from Russia to Riyadh to Silicon Valley.”

War on truth-telling journalism begins at home. Time magazine, along with other major print and electronic media, are part of the problem, operating as press agents for wealth, power and privilege.

Digital democracy is largely all that remains of journalism the way it’s supposed to be. Free and open societies are threatened. State-sponsored censorship is the new normal.

Fiction substitutes for vital facts in the mainstream, news carefully filtered, dissent marginalized. Supporting powerful interests substitutes for full and accurate reporting on issues mattering most.

Wars of aggression are called liberating ones. Social justice, human and civil rights are eroding for our own good. Patriotism means going along with government lawlessness – internally and abroad.

Journalist/author AJ Liebling once said “(t)he press is free only to those who one one.” Before the age of television, he warned that “(p)eople everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers (and magazines like Time) with news.”

Establishment print and electronic media support what demands condemnation – notably endless US-led wars of aggression, neoliberal harshness, and police state laws against nonbelievers.

Trump was Time’s runner-up for this year’s Person of the Year award. Russiagate witch hunt special council Robert Mueller was third.

Person of the Year, Nobel prizes, US Presidential Medal of Freedom awards, and other establishment ones most often honor the least deserving – ignoring the most worthy in societies worldwide.

The Largest Conspiracy Theory Peddlers Are MSM And The US State Department

By Caitlin Johnstone
Source

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The US State Department has issued a statement accusing the Syrian government of having carried out a false flag chemical weapons attack in northwestern Aleppo with the intent to blame it on the jihadist factions in the region, citing “credible info” that the public has not been permitted to see. Never mind the known fact that there are actual, literal Al Qaeda affiliateswho have admitted to using chemical weapons in Aleppo, and who are known to have used chemical weapons throughout Syria even by the State Department’s own admission: the Official Narrative is that only the Syrian government uses chemical weapons, so the chemical weapons usage must necessarily be a false flag staged by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Except they didn’t use the words “false flag”. Despite the accusation being the exact definition of the thing that a false flag attack is, you won’t see the US government using that term, nor will you ever see it used in this instance by any of the authorized mainstream narrative-framing institutions like CNN or Fox News. This is because the term “false flag” is reserved solely for mention when referring to crazy, kooky Kremlin propaganda, as in the insane, unhinged, tinfoil hat belief that terrorists in Syria might possibly have some kind of motive to stage a false flag chemical attack in order to get the US, UK and France to act as their air force in a retaliatory strike against the Syrian government. That kind of false flag would be completely inconceivable to any right-minded empire loyalist, and is forbidden to even think about.

At the same time we are seeing a push from the mass media to advance a narrative that the Yellow Vests protests in France are due to Russian influence, with Iraq-raping neocon Max Boot publishing a column today in the Washington Post that is based entirely around the talking point that two trending Russian topics on social media have been “giletsjaune” and “France,” and Bloomberg putting out an article blatantly titled “Pro-Russia Social Media Takes Aim at Macron as Yellow Vests Rage”. Their entire theory is that since there are people in Russia talking about a major event that everyone else in the world is also talking about, the protests against Macron’s unpopular centrist policies are therefore the result of a conspiracy seeded by Russia.

But you’ll never hear this theory about a Russian conspiracy referred to as a “conspiracy theory” by the mainstream press. The theory that Russian elites have conspired to infiltrate the highest levels of the US government has been given serious treatment at the top echelons of media and political influence, despite its lacking any discernible evidence whatsoever, but when they talk about these alleged conspiracies they always make a point of using the word “collusion” instead. There is no actual difference between the words collude and conspire when used in this way, but the former is used because a deliberate effort has been made to stigmatize the word “conspiracy” while the word “collude” remains effectively neutral in the public eye.

But the fact of the matter is that conspiracy theories have gone mainstream, and there is no legitimate reason to call the authorized, power-manufactured conspiracy theories by a different name than the grassroots narratives like those about 9/11 or the JFK assassination. Indeed, due to the nature of populist folk narratives there is a lot more publicly available evidence contradicting the official 9/11 and JFK assassination stories than there is for the establishment Russia conspiracy theories, because those narratives often boil down to nothing more than secretive intelligence agencies saying “This is true because we said so.” Since grassroots conspiracy theories are unable to rely on empty assertions from authority, they tend to be built upon information that is publicly available.

Some people get annoyed with me for using the term conspiracy theory at all, but I insist that the phrase is itself intrinsically neutral: a theory about a conspiracy. The problem is not the phrase, it is the stigma that has been attached to that phrase by establishment media and establishment politicians; shifting to a different phrase to describe theories about conspiracies would only ensure that that phrase becomes stigmatized in the exact same way by the same sort of campaign. This would only ensure the survival of the tactic of regurgitating a pre-stigmatized label in the war of ideas instead of advancing actual arguments. The fact of the matter is that powerful people do indeed conspire, those conspiracies do indeed need to be talked about, and the largest promulgators of conspiracy theories are not Infowars or RT, but mainstream media and the US State Department.

Those who dismiss an idea by calling it a “conspiracy theory” without providing further argumentation are simply admitting to you that they have no argument, and it is right to point this out when they do it, because something being a conspiracy theory doesn’t mean it’s not grounded in facts. Some conspiracy theories are good and are backed by solid evidence, some are stupid and are circulated for intellectually dishonest reasons. Once upon a time you would be called a conspiracy theorist for saying the west is arming terrorists in Syria or the DNC is conspiring to ensure the primary victory of Hillary Clinton; those things are now conspiracy facts, as history has vindicated the solid theories which predicted them. Other conspiracy theories are promulgated by dim-witted partisan loyalists for no other reason than dim-witted partisan loyalty, like the aforementioned Russiagate conspiracy theory, or the QAnon conspiracy theory which claims Donald Trump is leading a rebellion against the Deep State as cryptically reported by an anonymous user on 8chan.

Other conspiracy theories are subscribed to simply because they help people escape the cognitive dissonance of conflicting beliefs. For example, a strong believer in capitalism who sees the undeniable signs that a plutocratic class has control of their government, but who cannot accept that this plutocratic takeover was facilitated by a rampant capitalist system which ensures that the greediest sociopaths rise to the top, may avoid cognitive dissonance by explaining the existence of the corrupt dominator class with conspiracy theories about Jews or pedovore cults. A liberal who cannot accept that neoliberal empire loyalists like Macron have failed to “make centrism cool” as Max Boot predicted will avoid cognitive dissonance by explaining the failures of the Church of the Status Quo with conspiracy theories about Russian social media campaigns.

Conspiracy theories, in reality, are nothing more than people’s attempts to explain what is going on in their world. Why Trump got elected. Why things stay shitty despite our perfectly rational attempts to change them. Why voting doesn’t seem to make much difference in the actual behaviors of one’s government. Why we keep marching into stupid wars, Orwellian dystopia and climate collapse despite having every incentive not to. Why the wealthiest of the wealthy keep getting wealthier while everyone else gets poorer and poorer. Some attempts to explain these things will come from a well-informed and intellectually honest place, and some will come from a myopic and intellectually dishonest place. Their individual merits can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

And in my opinion the conspiracy theories coming from the world’s most powerful institutions are the most dishonest by far. I saw a recent post by the WikiLeaks Twitter account which referred to the corporate media as “the narrative business pretending to be in the news business,” which is in my opinion a perfect way to phrase it. The real currency of the world is not gold, nor is it bureaucratic fiat, nor even raw military force; it’s narrative control. The ability to control the stories people tell about what’s going on in their world means the ability to control how they think, how they vote, how they behave, and how they all agree money and power itself operates within our society. Since society is made of narrative, controlling the narrative is controlling that society.

Conspiracy theories are a way for those in power to manipulate the narrative without actually giving the public any hard facts and evidence, and the world’s most powerful institutions are increasingly relying on conspiracy theories because they don’t have facts and evidence on their side. And why would they? The same power establishment which deceived the world into destroying Iraq is obviously far too depraved to be able to justify its global hegemony with factual evidence. All they have is narrative control, and they’re starting to lose even that.

University of Sydney Unwilling to Tolerate Freedom of Political Expression

By Marwa Osma
Source

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Australian professor, Dr. Tim Anderson, was suspended from the University of Sydney after showing his students during a lecture a picture of an Israeli flag partially covered by a swastika accompanied by a text, which compared Israeli and Palestinian attacks and deaths.

Tim Anderson, a senior lecturer in the department of political economy, replied to the suspension saying the university has violated his right to “intellectual freedom”.

The decision by the University’s Provost Stephen Garton was without any doubt essentially motivated by Professor Anderson’s research and public statements on Syria, Iraq, and Palestine including Anderson’s carefully documented book entitled “The Dirty War on Syria”. In his book, Dr. Anderson reveals the “unspoken truth” through careful analysis concluding that the “war on terrorism” is fake and that the United States is a “state sponsor of terrorism” involved in a criminal undertaking.

The provost also reprimanded Anderson for sharing the same image online from his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts, and for making it available for download on the online learning platform Canvas. As per, he proposed that the professor’s employment be terminated.

Sydney University academics had a different opinion than that of the university’s provost though. By the afternoon of Friday, December 7, 30 academics, including several emeritus professors, had signed an open letter arguing that academic freedom was “meaningless if it is suspended when its exercise is deemed offensive.”

The university academics criticized the suspension of an academic who merely showed students material featuring the Nazi swastika imposed over Israel’s flag, saying it was a body blow to academic freedom.

It was not the first time that Dr. Tim Anderson’s solidarity with anti-imperialist states was causing controversy. Federal ministers also criticized Dr. Anderson for visiting Syria and North Korea, where he expressed solidarity with their incumbent leaders and operating governments. Amid a media barrage to try to drum up public support for US-led military attacks on Syria and North Korea, the corporate media launched an extraordinary vilification campaign against academics seeking to expose the lies behind the US cruise missile strike on Syria in the 1st week of April 2017.

When asked about the reasons behind the University of Sydney’s decision, Dr. Anderson implied that it was because of his criticism of the war propaganda in the western media including the lies that the corporate media has told at different times. There are also some Zionist lobbyists, who have also pushed to get him suspended, according to Dr. Anderson.

On his Facebook page, Dr. Tim Anderson wrote a text explaining that his suspension is the “culmination of a series of failed attempts by management to restrict” his public comments. Dr. Anderson then explained that these “petty and absurd” complaints have been ongoing for the last 18 months. Concluding that in his view, they represent an unusually aggressive regime of political censorship, in which no decent university should be involved.

What has been happening with Dr. Tim Anderson is clearly a witch-hunt and an open attack on basic democratic rights, above all free speech.

The clear logic of this suspension is that anyone who questions any aspect of the colonial states’ foreign and military policy is guilty of challenging the western mainstream narrative and should therefore be sacked.

However, academics like Dr. Tim Anderson have a responsibility to educate the public, especially in face of the constant misinformation from the West’s corporate and state media. Likewise, it is our duty as academics, journalists, and students to unconditionally defend his right, and the right of all academics, political activists, workers, and students, to oppose the drive to war and to exercise freedom of political expression whether we agree with their political views or not.

And as Dr. Anderson asked of us all in his Facebook post I ask you all again, examine the graphic below and decide for yourself whether or how this infographic might be ‘offensive’.

anderson11 5bb82

The West Slips Down Another Step

By Patrick Armstrong
Source

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There is much on the Internet these days about documents allegedly hacked by Anonymous; these documents belong to the “Integrity Initiative” and describe a multi-country effort, funded by London and Washington, to counter “Russian propaganda” and “fake news”. Since the initial story broke, a good deal of confusion has been laid down: Wikileaks is doubtful, and Anonymous itself is being evasive. On the other hand, Integrity Initiative doesn’t entirely deny.

But even if entirely false, they would be in that curious category of “fake but true”: Integrity Initiative does actually exist and here is its website. It is certainly engaged in anti-Russia propaganda. It publishes articles locking the barn door after the horses have escaped: yes, “Novichok” is terribly deadly but that doesn’t mean it will kill you. But, if it isn’t strong enough to kill you today, it may be strong enough to kill someone four months later. Its most memorable statement is surely this:

The Kremlin has invested more operational thought, intent and resource in disinformation, in Europe and elsewhere in the democratic world, than any other single player.

A statement that would stun anyone who’s ever been in a hotel and gone channel cruising: RT’s in there somewhere along with CNN, MSNBC, Fox, BBC, DW, France Télévisions, Rai and so on. A tiny voice in a bellowing crowd. But, after all, these are the people who tell us that Russia affected the US election with one FB message per 400 million others.

The Integrity Initiative is one of many. We had, and still have, the Legatum Institute which worried about “Russian disinformation” back in 2013, a pair of British thinktankers two years later also worried about “Russia’s information warfare in the UK“. Then it was time for “hybrid war“, a supposed Russian invention. The so-called intelligence assessment (of “all 17 agencies“, but actually a hand-picked group from only three, one of which only had “moderate confidence”) on Russian hacking devoted nearly half its space to a four-year old rant about RT!

Such an obsession with RT and Sputnik! How many eyeballs do they reach? Not that many by all evidence. We’re talking small – not 1/413,000,000th small – but small. A good deal less than the BBC alone. Amazing! But the West bravely marshals its feeble power against the colossus of RT and creates the British Army’s “77th Brigade” of Twitter commandos, the US has its soldiers at Fort Bragg trolling away, NATO’s Centre of Excellence in Tallinn pumps it out and now the Integrity Initiative extrudes copy. Even little Canada has got into the act. Then we have the so-called independent think tanks busy creating “objective” “impartial” “scholarly” expliqués of the Russian threat. Some of these are nothing but beards for the arms industry. An example is CEPA (“a tax-exempt, non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research institute”) supported by, inter alia, the US Mission to NATO, NATO Public Diplomacy Division, US Naval Postgraduate School, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Raytheon Company, European Defense Agency, Chevron Corporation, Bell Helicopter, Textron Systems and BAE Systems. Its “non-partisan” reports tell us Russia is sowing chaos, that we must defend the “Sulwaki Corridor”, Nord Stream is a bad idea and so on. You may not have noticed Moscow’s hand in Catalonian separatism, but they have. All very predictable and just the sort of thing a company making big weapons wants out there to buttress its sales pitch. Bearded guys in turbans and sandals with IEDs are not big business; Russians in tanks are. A rather curious idea of “non-partisan”.

But, despite this, we’re supposed to believe that RT and Sputnik have awesome powers and that one little tweet from a Russian bot has an overwhelming effect against which these “non-partisan” outfits have a tough struggle. An intelligent child can see the nonsense.

But enough sarcasm, this isn’t funny: it’s actually very serious. Apart from the dangers of building up war fever against a power that could obliterate the West, it’s a telling indication of the decline of the West. And so triumphant and so confident only two decades ago!

In the Cold War Moscow’s sin was that it was actively trying to overthrow us and send those of us it didn’t shoot to the GuLag. Today its crime is contumacy: it persistently refuses to accept the blame that the West puts on it.

But neither do many of us. So, if you, as I do, think that the Western version of the MH17 story is a bit fishy, doubt that Assad is dumb enough to do the one thing that would invite Western missiles, regard Whitehall’s Skripal story as laughably incoherent, doubt that Litvinenko could write a perfect English sentence, find it absurd to assume that Putin kills people by such easily noticed means, know that there were Russian troops in Crimea all along, notice that the White Helmets have received millions yet can only afford dust masks and flip flops, had heard of the Crimean Tatars before, notice that NATO has expanded up to Russia’s borders and not the other way around, know something about Ossetian-Georgian relations, know what the Ukrainian Constitution says about getting rid of presidents, remember Nuland’s telephone call, can remember all the people falsely demonised by the Western propaganda machine… If you dare to think those thoughts, these people will call you a victim of (or accomplice in) Russian disinformation and say you need re-education. Certainly they don’t want you to be heard.

Of course no one is calling for the end of freedom of speech, just a shutting down of “fake news”. Social media is doing its best to do so, advised by such “impartial” organisations, in the case of Facebook, as the Atlantic Council. Which is funded by, well, many of the same organisations as CEPA, but with more foreign governments and oil companies. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, United Technologies, Boeing: they’re not interested in funding a venue for people who question the Russian threat meme, are they?

Once upon a time truth was considered to be the best defence. In the Cold War there was little effort to silence Soviet propaganda. Anybody could listen to Radio Moscow, read Soviet newspapers or anything else. Most countries had a legal communist party working, under Moscow’s strict control, for a communist takeover and pumping out propaganda as hard as it could. Innumerable front groups pushed communist and Soviet policy under a variety of covers. We didn’t worry too much: truth was the best defence. But the USSR did worry and it spent enormous efforts jamming Western broadcasts. A child could figure it out: the side that’s blocking the other side is afraid of the truth, it’s afraid of dissent, it’s afraid of freedom.

Twenty years ago most Russians would have agreed that Pravda & Co were lying both about the USSR and about the West. But not any more: read what Margarita Simonyan, the head of the dreaded RT, says: “Лет пятьдесят – тайно и явно – мы хотели жить как вы, а больше не хотим” (“For fifty years, secretly and openly, we wanted to live like you, but not any longer“). Reflect on what produced this contemporary Russian bittersweet joke: “Pravda lied to us about the USSR, but it told the truth about the West”.

So, in the end, Russians didn’t “drink the Kool-aid”. Willing once to believe, they believe no more. And that is Russia’s sin. It’s not bolsheviks lusting for blood, with nooses in their hands, charging down Park Lane and Wall Street these days, it’s Russians stubbornly being Russian. And that is unforgivable to a West that has lost the confidence that its positions stand strong and unaided.

Which it has. Why else these attempts to manipulate public opinion and block disagreement? It is, in a word, Soviet behaviour. The side that’s mostly telling the truth isn’t afraid of the other side’s lies. Again, a child could figure it out.

What they are telling us (forget all that Magna Carta, freedom of speech and thought, European Values stuff they were boasting about a few years ago) is this:

We don’t trust you to make up your mind, so we’ll do it for you.

Accept, Believe, Repeat. It’s a big slip down the slope.

Remember the notion, popular at one time, that the Soviets and the West would converge? Well, maybe they did and just kept moving past each other. Soon we’ll be fully Soviet in our response to Big Brother: believe the opposite, read between the lines, notice what you’re not being told.

But the “Russia information war” pays good money for people who can say with a straight face: “Novichok is deadly except when it isn’t” or “Our intelligence agencies rely on Bellingcat to tell them what’s going on” or “Assad gasses civilians when he’s winning because he likes being bombed” or “Putin kills all his enemies except the ones who are telling you he does” or “the Panama Papers prove Putin’s corruption even though his name isn’t mentioned” or, indeed, “Russia swung the US election with a trivial number of social media posts”. Oh, and RT is rotting our minds. Even if no one you know has ever watched it.

They are paid to believe what they believe to be paid.

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