Syria // The sources of lies – Two examples of “serious people”~ 6 min

White Helmet member playing the violin amidst urban combat rubble.

Second part of a two part article about information manipulation at the source level. First part here.

By Duarte Guerreiro and Nguyen.

What makes a “serious” source

Since there were scarce numbers of Western reporters, who were the sources frequently quoted in the noble and unbiased Western corporate press? Where did the information commonly presented in news reports about the Syrian war come from? Let’s have a look at two of the main examples.

As we previously discussed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has been the main source on combat casualties figures, civilian casualties, the state of health of al-Nusra commanders and other jihadist groups, the use of “barrel bombs” and the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military. It usually falls short as a source about the atrocities committed by Islamic State or al-Nusra.

The pretentious name doesn’t hide the fact that this is a one man show by Rami Abdulrahman, acting as the only source for countless news reports and jihadist propaganda, active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from his base in Coventry, England.

Western reporters and pro-jihadist / anti-Assad media outlets describe Rami as always online and on the phone with his Syrian contacts, leaving even his family in second place. How can Rami pay for all those international calls his internet connection if he clearly isn’t working? Allegedly, he is the owner of two clothing shops, making enough profits to spend his entire waking time on the phone with his jihadist friends. But the reality is that as early as 2012, Rami received £195.000, courtesy of Great Britain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These payments were confirmed by the British government, as were the donation of phones, computers and office supplies. This financial assistance, along with the British government’s influence, allowed an unknown organization to become the major source of information for pro-Western and pro-jihadist news services.

Meanwhile, the Oscar winners for best fiction and make-believe documentary, the White Helmets, are probably the most outrageous story of pro-intervention propaganda. An alleged civil defense group, it coincidentally restricts its range of action to jihadist controlled areas. This includes Afrin, after it was invaded by the Turkish army and their jihadist allies.

Here we will open a parentheses to speak about the situation in Afrin – while the SOHR decided to report on the crimes of the Turkish army and affiliated jihadists, the White Helmets were unable to report a single Turkish crime – including the forceful displacement of about half of Afrin’s population.

They are also the second most used source about the Syrian government’s real and imaginary crimes, even as they avoid speaking out about the many crimes of the jihadist factions, including murder, torture, rape, sexual slavery, pedophilia, genocide, etc. This “pacifist” group was never shy about demanding more war, in the form of Syria’s invasion or bombing by Western forces.

The group’s creator is James Le Mesurier, a former member of the of the British Army and employee of a mercenary company headquartered in the United Arab Emirates. James resorted to the help of a Turkish civil defense group named AKUT for training, equipment and headquarters for his propaganda group. James would later receive a commendation and promotion from the British government for creating the White Helmets. The group also gets money and support from Western governments, Gulf monarchies, NGOs, corporations and celebrities. In 2017, the White Helmets had a budget of $26 million.

Their relationship with al-Nusra and friends went as far as celebrating their victories together, helping in the execution of prisoners and sharing the same members. Despite all this, they never suffered the accusation of fake news or of overstating their achievements, always counting on the support of Western corporate media. Their members have been repeatedly photographed rushing around with children in their arms, supposedly moments after a bombing took place. The similarity between these photos raised a few eyebrows.

When the White Helmets whined about a chemical weapons attack in Eastern Ghouta, the corporate media believed them. When witnesses and proof surfaced that refuted their version of events, the press claimed that it was a conspiracy theory. The simple fact that the White Helmets were rescuing victims of a chemical attack without any protective gear should be enough to raise questions about the group’s version of events. If the attacks were real the White Helmet members would never have left the location alive or without serious injuries and health problems.

Stranger still, on the 22nd of July, Israel’s army (IDF) entered Syria to rescue between 400 to 500 White Helmets members which were then delivered to the government of Jordan. This operation received help from the USA, Great Britain, Canada and France governments. These brave heroes will be relocated to Germany, Canada and Britain. Israel’s army isn’t also exactly known for its humanitarian principles and concerns – quite the opposite – which should make one wonder why they would provide help in such a situation.

Especially since until the 19th of July, the Daraa “rebel” zone was in the hands of al-Nusra affiliated groups and the Islamic State. On the 20th, only Islamic State remained, according to Syrian government sources. So, on the 22nd, the IDF entered a jihadist held area unopposed and without firing a single shot, gathered a couple hundred people and traveled to Jordan – once again without firing a shot, being ambushed or even getting into a simple argument. This is not the first time that the good relations between Israel and the jihadists are made public.

While thousands of refugees are prevented from entering the European Union, shamefully kept in concentration camps along its borders, this band of jihadists is given fast track political asylum. Even the Yazidi, which were victims of a known genocide at the hands of Islamic State, are being denied asylum by the British government. What is then their motivation in rescuing the White Helmets? To preserve future agents? To hide compromising information? It is now known, for example, that the jihadist forces are using NATO made weapons which were bought and offered by the Gulf monarchies, mainly Saudi Arabia.

Exposing the lies around these sources has consequences. Being called a Kremlin agent is a common one. After all, we all know that Russia is the cause of all the evils occurring in the EU and USA – particularly since they decided to intervene in Syria. Being called a conspiracy theorist is another trope. But censorship is also an option, as we have experienced with a previous news story regarding the White Helmets, which was removed by Facebook under the curious claim that it was spam.

The road to serious and respectable journalism is altogether different, and it involves accepting money from Western governments and corporations to spread nonsensical lies which will allow the biggest war machines ever seen to fall upon millions of innocent people so that some multi billionaire can enlarge his bank account by a few billion more through selling weapons to destroy, concrete to rebuild and stealing the Middle East’s oil as payment. Only then will you be a serious reporter, praised and cheered from the golden peaks of the New York Times and Washington Post, to the depressing pits of Expresso and Público.

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