Attacked By The Times

Today I find myself on the front page of The Times, as one of the members of the recently formed academic working group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.

Members of the working group have so far published just one item, a research note on the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury. Although still work in progress, the piece, Update to briefing note “Doubts about Novichoks” has been well-received by academics and serious commentators. It has been singled out by Cornell University’s Professor of Organic Chemistry, David B Collum, as the most definitive work on the novichok nerve agent scandal.

According to the Times, the group is “spreading pro-Assad disinformation”. In fact, the group is scrupulous in its analysis and presentation of information, which stands always open to correction, as any academic work in progress does. The group is not “pro-Assad”.

Speaking for myself, I am simply “pro-” getting at the truth. If I make a mistake, I always stand to be corrected and endeavour to learn from the correction. So, in response to criticism of one of my posts last year, for instance, I took it down and re-wrote it. Twitter is an area in which I am on a learning curve, since misunderstandings so easily arise when thoughts are compressed into a few words that are easily taken out of context. Certainly, now that my twitter feed has been brought to wider public attention, I do invite any reader to point out anything there that needs correcting.

Incidentally, I don’t think The Times article has been scrupulously fair on its front page when it refers to some claims I retweeted, because it fails to mention that they were being quoted as the reference for the following words of my own:

“Witness statements from civilians and officials in Ghouta raise very disturbing questions about the conduct of ‘rebel’ factions who had been in control. Questions also concern who and what has been supported by UK FCO.”

I have not claimed to verify the witness statements that prompted the questions, but since the witnesses are due a degree of respect, I believe, those questions arising from them can reasonably be aired, without prejudice to the question of their truth.

A question thoughtful readers will likely be asking is why The Times has gone the trouble it has to give such prominence to a small group of critical academics.

In the early hours of this morning, as I looked at the front page prepared by The Times, news was coming in of the military attack taking place in Syria. That attack – whose legality under international law, I believe, stands to be clarified – was “justified” on the basis of exactly the kind of claims that the academic working group is subjecting to critical assessment. Such claims have been questioned by many people, including senior British military figures. The fact that people who aim to provide support to the questioning are attacked in a major news outlet is itself a matter of concern.


Front page of The Times on the morning US and UK forces were bombing in Syria.

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48 Responses to Attacked By The Times

  1. The Times assert that you deleted a critical tweet about White Helmets, after they contacted you. Is this true?

    • timhayward says:

      Yes. The journalist said it could be interpreted as being about a victim of an attack, which was certainly not my intention, so I did what I always do in that kind of circumstance. Sometimes I also suggest to others that they should consider deleting a tweet, which often they agree to. Worth noting, though, is that this is usually something that occurs on the spot, when someone dashes something off rather quickly and someone else points it out. In this case, the journalist had trawled back through hundreds and hundreds of tweets to find one from 12 months ago that she felt she should challenge me about. (That is a bit too close to rummaging through a person’s bins for my taste, but is presumably the sort of thing she is paid to do.)

  2. bill says:

    congratulations Tim;this is like getting on Spitting Image and proves you are right over the target

  3. Tim Hoddy says:

    Vitally important work. It’s a sad state of affairs when we have to rely completely on academics to get out the message about evidence, reason and due process. Poor state of the media on our country.

  4. Tom says:

    Well done Tim, please keep up the good work for truth, not propaganda.

  5. “Apologists for May, Macron, Trump Working in Media” may have been the more accurate, hence preferable, headline. How long until the Times features a front page headline reading “We Apologize”, after the truth becomes revealed to the wider public in the United Kingdom, France, America and the world? Perhaps such a headline by the Times will coincide with Yulia Skripal’s (imminent?) 1st on-camera meeting, in person or via Skype, with her cousin Viktoria – or with anyone. Best wishes to all loyal to the vital truth.

  6. olegpoloff says:

    Sad times we live in.

  7. Loverat says:

    One thing I can say having read the articles here is that Tim Hayward always posts the research he bases his views and concerns on. He invites people to question and debate.

    That is quite different from The Times which has a set viewpoint/agenda and arranges the facts to suit this. Readers should be left in no doubt that accusing people who use their intelligence and research to debate as Assad apologists etc is journalism in the gutter.

    The truth and good always finally prevails over lies and evil. Sadly, the behaviour of the press over this last few weeks further reinforces my view they either wish to promote more mayhem and destruction abroad – or simply don’t have a clue. Or both. The mainstream media should be held equally responsible with governments for their misinformation and the violence/wars they promote.

    Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria is ample proof of repeated MSM complicity and failure..

    Three cheers for anyone who risks their career to speak the truth. Ony too often it’s the retired generals or politicians who have lied and waged war who finally come out and admit the real truth for their own selfish reasons. Too little too late to help anyone..

    Finally well done for getting on the front page!.

  8. JeremyT says:

    Trump’s got it right! Talking slime balls…Times is slimes… such nonsense… Sad!! X
    Epic Times headline fail on Sat 14/04/18 as failed missile breganza underwhelmes in significance. Back to sleep, Don, anticipating smart tweets in the morning, straight out of the vacuum that is your Presidency!

  9. Alex says:

    I dare say that if Mr Hayward, or any of us for that matter, had the time to troll through the Times corrections page it would become abundantly clear that Mr Hayward should be applauded for his paucity of errors.

  10. Loverat says:

    One further thought on this about the tone of the article and comparing this to a previous incident..

    I think it mentions a previous scandal which circulated on the internet called ‘PizzaGate’ a theory that top members of the Clinton circle were involved in a child abuse ring. There were several people posting evidence on this which was quite shocking to read. But I felt was at least a body of circumstantial evidence which perhaps was worthy of investigation.

    Anyway, for a while this was ignored by MSM until one day a person went into one of the establishments accused of being involved with a gun and was arrested. Pizzagate then started to be reported in terms of ‘wild consiracy theory causes someone to use a gun’. Then the BBC and other MSM reported on it – claiming as fact it was ‘disinformation’ and conspiracy theory – and claming as fact that the theory had been ‘debunked’ when I certainly saw no debunking. Then gradually the material was removed from the internet. Prior to this I don’t think I had seen MSM write articles in such a way. If I recall correctly I think this was where the term ‘fake news’ originated from.

    The similarities here are striking. The Times reports as fact articles are’disinformation’ and they use a form of attack against the author. Typically they try to pick on any minor points/mistakes (e.g tweets) to divert the reader away from the real discredit it. They make no attempt to address the points (because they can’t) except to just make sweeping statements the people are apologists for Assad I would imagine looking at the tone and writing the Times article in this way must have been authorised by someone at the very top. A sign someone is worried possibly??

  11. We don’t have to go too far back in history to discover the Times printing lies about Iraq’s possession of WMDs. Lies that are said to have led to the deaths of more than one million people, and still counting. Along with nearly all the corporate media, Murdoch’s rag sheets and TV stations bear a lot responsibility for that, yet not one Times journalist has the guts to stand up against the latest beating of the war drum. Putting names on a list like this is a brazen attempt at intimidation of truth-tellers reminiscent of WW2 fascism. It could even endanger the personal safety of the people included on the list. This is gutter journalism at its most cowardly and shameful, and shows just how swiftly democracy is breaking down all over the West. Instead of all the lies about bringing democracy to foreign nations, they should be stop taking it away back home.

  12. Dini says:

    Everybody who pays attention sees increaing censorship and smear campaigns against influential people, who have the guts to think and talk independently. Dr. Daniele Ganser just got a lot of it. I wonder it is reated to whatThierry Meyssan describes as ‘The NATO campaign against freedom of expression’

  13. A reader says:

    If anything, this is a sign that you are getting too close to the truth and expressing it too rationally for the comfort of the big media owners and backers.

    Those generally tarred as “conspiracy theorists” don’t present much of a threat to the mainstream narrative, especially since the more intelligent critical theories are drowned out by claims about lizard people and flat earth. The noise to signal ratio is high enough online that it can generally be relied upon to silence alternative voices. Appeals to ridicule discredit the rest, in case of any sifficiently subversive signal that does manage to break through in this information cacophony.

    However, when respected academics start presenting reasonable arguments to challenge big media’s protected narratives, that is less easy to dismiss and it hits a nerve. You have hit a nerve.

    Thank you.

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  15. louisproyect says:

    I think that it will be difficult for you to wriggle out of being associated with Mark Crispin Miller who was an authoritative figure 20 years ago or so but who has become rather laughable for his 9/11 conspiracy theorizing. Frankly, I think it is actually a good thing to be linked with him since it taints your overall project, which is just another variant on conspiracy-mongering. Professor Hayward, you really need to find time to read more Karl Marx and less Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, Seymour Hersh, et al. If you need advice on where to start, contact me at

    • timhayward says:

      Dear Louis, please be reassured that I have read vastly more Marx than any of the other writers you refer to. With very considerable – and continuing – profit. As for associations, I am sure there are people who can be associated with both you and me, for instance, so I don’t think pursuing that kind of thought takes anyone very far. Thanks for being polite.

  16. Hook sink and line says:

    Not being British and thus not familiar with The Times, I found the juxtaposition of “Trainers or Tiaras,” a huge picture of a “A Lady in Red” and a supposedly serious article about “Apologists for Assad working at British universities” on the first page of the The Times somewhat odd, to put it mildly. I thought it was satire at first, like something from e.g. The Onion.

    Curious as to the credentials of the journalists, I checked out the lead writer, Georgie Keate. I am not trying to shoot the messenger here but when writing about the Middle East, some previous knowledge about the subject would be quite helpful. Georgie Keate’s regular beat seems fairly domestic, with most of her credits being for articles like “Beer yoga brings heritage row to a head” and “Doritos to bring ‘lady friendly’ crisps to UK” and “Boris Johnson linked to mummy dug up at Basel church”. Not to mention “Nunzia Del Viscio ripped out boyfriend Marcello Palma’s testicle after he refused a threesome.” And I’m not making this up.
    One would have expected someone with more gravitas to be leading the attack against you if it was supposed to have been taken seriously. No one more qualified wanted to put their name on it?
    I’ve been thinking of writing you a note since I first found your site a week or so ago, just when I was depairing about the British media unquestioningly swallowing the UK govt line on Salisbury and Syria. It now seems the academics are among the few left who care or dare to ask any questions– academics from MIT through Cornell and Columbia to University of Edinburgh– joined by some former diplomats and a few odd bedfellows like Peter Hitchens at Daily Mail and Trump’s main man at Fox, Tucker Carlson.

    Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs interview on MSNBC is worth watching.

    You are in good company. Keep up the good work.

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  18. We look forward in anticipation for the upcoming debate between Louis Proyect and Mark Crispin Miller on the topic of 9/11. Of course, Louis Proyect would never agree to debating Mark Crispin Miller, but instead resorts to drive-by slander, because in a 9/11 debate with Mr. Miller he would end up destroyed.

  19. Know your enemy says:

    The Times have been a national disgrace ever since they outed Night Jack on the basis of pure spite. An odious and vile newspaper.

  20. Adrian Kent. says:

    I’ve finally read the Times article (which can be found at Louis Proyect’s blog for those who want to read it without a paywall at a (marginally) less problematic site (I only found it as I’d noticed he’d commented here and wanted to see what him and his Bellingcat chums were up to – click on his name in his (typically evidence-light) comment above and you can find it there).

    It was absolutely no surprise whatsoever to find that they address not a single one of your and your admirable colleague’s substantive claims on the basis of their content and appear to have (like the Guardian) employed someone just with the tech ability to search through a few timelines to knock it up rather than anyone with a particular reputation in the field to blemish (they get their guff and someone gets a front-page byline – everyones a winner).

    I hope that the responses from your respective institutions is suitably robust.

    Keep up the good work – the 43% against the bombing (even by YouGov) is indication that the message is getting through!

  21. Loverat says:

    There’s actually quite a bit of progress being made here. Yes, the higher profile people and experts are being sidelined. This as per the Iraq war.

    But MSM has provided a response which anyone of average intelligence (and researching) can see is not addressing the points of these articles and the working group. Plus if you look at the readers comments on all MSM pages (for some years now), there are a huge number of ordinary people saying similar things.

    So, its a case of encouraging these people under a possibly more simple message.

    I must admit, although I’m fairly intellligent I think it’s taken me years to get to the point I learned the West is destroying the MIddle East. And it takes me a while to be convinced about anything. So think about the attitude of the ordinary, busy person nowadays. Last weekend I was probably thinking it was the end of the world. In contrast others (less informed) did not give Syria a second thought..

    Most people are honest at heart but we need to think what can persuade Joe Average that him and his family were seriously put at risk last weekend and will be in the week’s ahead.

    I think possibly our message needs to be ‘dumbed down’. And we need to be imaginative when dealing with MSM.

    • Sharing Tim, all the way down under under. A place where our newest P.M ‘accepted’ rather than supported, what F.Uk.Us to all intents and purposes just did in bombing Syria ?
      Trade concerns can appear to be such a tedious barrier (sic) superficially at least, to both obvious skepticism as well as humanitarianism these days.
      Greatly appreciate your and others’ continuing diligence on this topic and of course Iran, likely to be villified next, if certain people continue in same vein.
      Our NZ #POGstreamMedia (PropagandaOpinionGossip) mostly full of bilious syndicated bunkum too these days

  22. Adrian Kent. says:

    Now that the MSM attacks are focussed on Robert Fisk and how he managed to get access to Douma prior to the OPCW being allowed in, I’ve had a look to see if any of the main attackers raised any doubts whatsoever about Kareen Shaheen of the Guardian’s (alleged) immediate, unfettered access to Khan Sheikhoun just a day or two after the alleged attack there.

    The OPC’s access there was, of course, ‘restricted’ by them being concerned about kidnap, torture and death at the hands of a bunch of murderous jihadis.

    So far I’ve drawn a blank – let me know if you come across any.

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    • timhayward says:

      Unfortunately, there is no space for comments on this citing article (unlike those of mine it refers to), and I just wanted to say that while Louis Proyect is more measured in it than he sometimes has been in comments over here, the piece nonetheless suffers from a similar problem, in my view. That is, he takes my position to be in more ways the antithesis of his than it in fact is, and then tends to focus his attacks on those ‘strawmen’ thereby created. However, he also speaks in the article of his memory of the McCarthy era, and I think right now his experience and insights into that would be of greater value to share with the rest of us.

      • Adrian Kent. says:

        Good points about Proyect and his remembrance of Marcarthyism – that we might currently be in a relatively early stage of it’s development does not appear to have occured to him in his dismissal of your use of the term.

        I ‘enjoyed’ a little diversion on his blog last week where he’d copied the Times articles. I pointed out that none of those pieces addressed any of your substantive claims – he replied with some Bellingcat and then proceeded to follow suit.

        He’s happy enough to chuck around accusations of 9/11 trooferness, grassyknollery and the like, but can’t seem to grasp that the most relevant conspiracies are those that brought us to the Iraq war and the destruction of Libya.

  25. GJF says:

    These days whenever the term ‘conspiracy theory’ is used to debunk, slander or ridicule I direct people to read Lance deHaven’s Smith excellant “Conspiracy Theory in America”. A well wrtten and sourced examination of the term and how the term appears in a CIA memo mistakenly declassified and found amongst documents in an unrelated FOI response.

    The memo was distributed worldwide to CIA personnel and associates in media in 1967. It outlined the strategy for countering any dissent that resulted from the imminent release of the Warren Commission report into the assassination of JFK. That report was famous for confirming the single gunman acting alone (a second person would’ve constituted a conspiracy) and a ‘magic bullet’ that performs acrobatics and hits both JFK and the Governor. One of the strategies outlined was to term critics or those offering criticism as radicals pushing wild conspiracy theories. That operation was so successful it’s endured.

    deHaven Smith looks well beyond the obvious weaponization of the term. He places this in the context of ‘state crimes against democracy’ (SCAD) and their cover up by state actors. Democracy, in pure form assumes transparency by Government, honesty and curiosity in media and a well informed voting public. The authors main premise is the weaponization of ‘conspiracy theory’ by Government or State actors is a corruption of democracy, potentially covering a SCAD.

    Certainly this book will ensure you view anyone using the term as a potential apologist for SCAD.

  26. Adrian Kent. says:

    Hi Tim,

    Do you have any examples at all of anyone trying to address your or Paul McKeigue’s actual content? Or anyone else in the group for that matter? The closest I’ve seen to anyone addressing anything at all is Christopher York’s Huffington Post piece – and that’s just something inconclusive about his use of Vanessa Beeley’s ‘real’ Syrian Civil Defence work.

    • timhayward says:

      Short answer, no, not really, not at the level of academic engagement. Paul gets some engagement with DDTea on chemistry, which seems to have content, and maybe with others.

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