How The Media Reveal Inconvenient Truth About Syria

The truth is sometimes revealed through words, but more often through deeds.

The Times and several other papers recently carried alarming stories about “Apologists for Assad” to be found in social media, in independent journalism, and even in universities. Passive consumers of corporate media communications may have taken the papers’ word for it and been perturbed. The more alert, however, will have taken this conspicuous flagging of certain journalists, tweeters and academics to be a strategic communication: “these are people you must not listen to and definitely not think of emulating!” 

The response from the critically aware has been spectacularly resistant – not least on Twitter, which, ironically, was the main source of the “evidence” used in the coordinated smear campaign. The fact of a campaign, and a coordinated one, appeared obvious. Perhaps a rush to launch the attacks all at once was due to an unexpectedly quick unravelling of the authorized narrative in Syria. As the Syrian Arab Army brought Douma back under government control, the liberated citizens were bringing horrendous stories about conditions of life under the UK-sponsored “moderate rebels”, speaking of terror, humiliation, deprivation, rape, murder and forced labour. These stories, if verified, would severely undermine the mainstream narrative. As would the discovery of exceedingly inconvenient facts relating to the alleged chemical attack that recently served as justification for the F-UK-US bombing raid.

So it is that those of us who strive to get a fair hearing for the inconvenient testimonies are branded “Apologists for Assad”.

Whoever devised the smear campaign perhaps underestimated the public’s instincts of fairness and its appetite for truth. They are also up against a strong streak of decency that runs even through parts of the establishment. Thus in the same week as the attacks on us we could also hear dissenting voices from sections of society that would be especially surprising hotbeds of “Assad Apologism” (whatever that even is). They include lords of the realm, generals and admirals of Her Majesty’s armed forces, United Kingdom ambassadors, Church of England clergy, Westminster politicians, academics from world-leading universities, and even celebrities on mainstream media (apparently including The Great British Bake Off).

The smear campaign also didn’t seem to have effective personnel for the job. The poor hacks who were dispatched to rummage through people’s old twitter feeds and contrive loose chains of supposedly incriminating association seem hardly to have had their hearts in it. Understandably, perhaps, given how far outside their sphere of competence it is to engage with the careful, detailed and often highly sophisticated presentations of serious independent investigators.

Then there was downright idiocy. Riding on the bandwagon of Russophobia is an opportunistic assortment of self-styled sleuths, deploying sometimes hilarious methods of “Russian bot” identification. This has led to the fingering of the now celebrated Ian Shilling, for instance, and the already greatly celebrated Syrian chemist in Australia who goes by the handle @Partisangirl.

Hilarity aside, the campaign has revealed how serious the situation is. To listen to Ian and Mimi is to learn what ideas get equated with Russian propaganda today. I find it chilling that to share such ideas is to be regarded as an enemy in an information war with Russia –  a war that even Lord West was publicly recommended to be mindful of by a BBC interviewer last week (who warns him about his loose talk here, from 04:30).

Such a mass mobilisation of controlled information should be no less worrying than the mobilisation of armed force. It is what generates the atmosphere of acquiescence required to get a military war going.

By coordinating their concerted smear campaign, those with centralised power over information have literally revealed what they don’t want revealed. Nobody reading their words will be much the wiser about the alleged problem of “Assad Apologists”, but anyone reflecting on the mere fact of this extraordinary campaign will know that they are pointing out with neon light the people who must not be listened to and certainly not emulated.

So anybody who likes to take the media’s word at face value will not want to click any of the links below. For everybody else, they constitute a collective declaration of solidarity with what we all hold dear.

[Personal thanks go the authors and speakers linked below, but also to those many people who have shown support, whether in public or in private, and including, of course, fellow members of the Syria, Propaganda and Media working group and international advisory board. Thank you all!]

Update 28 April 2018 – There are now 37 links below, so, when I get a chance, I shall aim to provide a review of them so people can read selectively on particular themes that have emerged. A noticeable development over this first fortnight is that whereas the earlier items tended to be fairly direct responses to the specific attacks on academics, the articles and interviews appearing later have tended to involve increasing reflection on wider issues too. (Meanwhile, also in the course of this fortnight, the initial media story of the Douma chemical attack pretty much unravelled, with alleged victims appearing with doctors at The Hague to testify to their good health and an absence of chemical weapons symptoms. The corporate media have now gone rather quiet about Douma, as they already had about the Skripals.)

Standing together

Christopher Black, ‘Operation Barbarossa II Update: The Battle Will be Everywhere’ (New Eastern Outlook, 27 April 2018)

Carrie Lavender, ‘War Propaganda Is Exposed When Pearson Sharp Goes to Syria & Tells the Truth’ (27 April 2018)

Hala Jaber, ‘The Orchestrated Smear Campaign Against Journalists Reporting on Syria’ (Faultlines, 26 April 2018)

C.J. Hopkins, ‘‘The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists’ (Counterpunch, 26 April 2018)

MediaLens, ‘Douma: Part 2 – ‘It Just Doesn’t Ring True’ (26 April 2018)

The Listening Post, ‘How the media covered the Syria strikes’ (Al Jazeera, 21 April 2018) 8 minute video report

John Wright and Tara McCormack, ‘McCarthyism in Our Time: Witchhunting the Witchhunters’, (25 April 2018) [30 mins radio recording]

MediaLens, ‘Douma: Part 1 – Deception In Plain Sight’ (25 April 2018)

Caitlin Johnstone, ‘Never Let Anyone Call You Crazy For Doubting Establishment War Narratives’ (25 April 2018)

Elijah J. Magnier, ‘Syrian Dirty War Backfires on International Media’ (25 April 2018); or, in French,  La sale guerre syrienne éclabousse les médias internationaux (25 April 2018)

Max Blumenthal, ‘Syria Controversy: Don’t Believe the Official Narrative’ (Truthdig, 23 April 2018)

Caitlin Johnstone, ‘MSM Is Frantically Attacking Dissenting Syria Narratives, And It Looks Really Bad’ (23 April 2018)

Mark GB Blog, ‘How did the media sink this low?’ (23 April)

[‘Massive mass media attacks on people who do not accept the official truth about Syria’] ‘Mahniti napadi masmedija na osobe koje ne prihvaćaju službenu istinu o Siriji’ (Balkan Express, 23 April 2018)

Craig Murray, ‘Index on Disgrace’ (22 April 2018)

‘The emergence of a Christian United Front against the war in Syria’, Voltaire Network (22 April 2018) [and the prior statement by Patriarchs since endorsed by Pope Francis]

Moon of Alabama, ‘The Media War On Truthful Reporting And Legitimate Opinions – A Documentary’ (21 April 2018)

Patrick Cockburn, ‘We should be sceptical of far-away governments who claim to know what is happening on the ground in Syria’ (The Independent, 20 April 2018)

Lissa Johnson, ‘SICK OF DYING (PART 2): Why The Skripal Poisoning, Foreign Interference Legislation And Legality Of US Interventions Are The Business Of Health Professionals’ (New Matilda, Australia, 20 April 2018)

Claire Connelly, ‘When the press attacks – the Times’ & BBC’s war on truth’, (Renegade Inc, 20 April 2018)

Caitlin Johnstone, ‘What Are “Assad Apologists”? Are They Like Those “Saddam Apologists” Of 2002?’ (Medium 20 April 2018)

Julie Hyland, ‘Murdoch’s Times witch-hunts academics for questioning UK government’s Syria lies’ (World Socialist Web Site, 19 April 2018)

Hala Jaber, ‘In my entire career, spanning more than three decades of professional journalism, I have never seen MSM resolve to such ugly smear campaigns…’ (Twitter thread, 19 April 2018)

Open Letter to The Times on Assad and Academic Freedom, (not published by The Times, signed by twenty academics unconnected to those attacked by The Times, 18 April 2018)

Phil Hammond, Syria: stop asking questions (OpenDemocracy 17 April 2018)

Academic Freedom? — ‘Syria Working Group’ Attacked By The Times (posted in Intel Today 16 April 2018)

Gavin Ashenden, ‘Syria, censorship and ‘The t/Times’ (14 April 2018)

Reference, links and discussion page, from ACLOS:

‘April 2018 attack on dissent’ (A Closer Look On Syria)

The academics respond in first person:

Tara McCormack, interviewed on BBC Newsnight (25 April 2018)

Tim Hayward, ‘Academic Freedom And Setting An Example’ (20 April 2018)

Tara McCormack, ‘Syria, The Times, and Free Speech‘, (Spiked, 19 April 2018)

‘”Assad Apologists”: media attacks academics over dissenting posts’, RT news video, with Tara MacCormack (18 April 2018)

Piers Robinson, ‘UK Academics Questioning Western Foreign Policy in Syria’ (Sputnik, 17 April 2018)

Piers Robinson, International mainstream media ‘failing’ audiences (Newstalk ZB, New Zealand – audio – 17 April 2018)

Piers Robinson, The smear attack on a small group of academics shows they have the government concerned (Sputnik – audio – 16 April 2018)

Louis Allday, Twitter thread (14 April 2018)

Tim Hayward, ‘Attacked by The Times’ (14 April 2018)


Nadiya Hussain, vilified for criticising Theresa May over air strikes on Syria

This entry was posted in disinformation, journalism, media, propaganda, Russia, UK Government, Uncategorized, war. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to How The Media Reveal Inconvenient Truth About Syria

  1. “Inconvenient Truth About Syria”?
    “You can’t understand the conflict without talking about natural gas
    By Maj. Rob Taylor
    Much of the media coverage suggests that the conflict in Syria is a civil war, in which the Alawite (Shia) Bashar al Assad regime is defending itself (and committing atrocities) against Sunni rebel factions (who are also committing atrocities). The real explanation is simpler: it is about money.
    In 2009, Qatar proposed to run a natural gas pipeline through Syria and Turkey to Europe. Instead, Assad forged a pact with Iraq and Iran to run a pipeline eastward, allowing those Shia-dominated countries access to the European natural gas market while denying access to Sunni Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The latter states, it appears, are now attempting to remove Assad so they can control Syria and run their own pipeline through Turkey.”

  2. Loverat says:


    I’ve been spending a bit of time lately thinking about the cause and escalation of this conflict. One phrase I picked up from someone in the mainstream media was it’s a ‘mini world war’. This is a fairly good description of the state of play now. Watch a clip of Carla Ortiz speaking to Jummy Dore – it is absolutely superb. I challenge anyone watching that to say they believe Syria is a civil war.- or that the UK and others have not funded war and terrorism on Syria.

    Her presentation clearly shows that the West and Middle East regional states have imposed mayhem and misery on the Syrian people. But their resiliance is inspirational. I remember the wars on Serbia and admired their courage but there is something very special about the people of Syria.

    The fact is MSM have been incorrectly portraying this as a civil war and reporting rubbish about Sunni v Alawite etc. The Syrian Arab Army (and population) is remarkably diverse. It just happens that the terrorists (many foreign) are mainly Sunni.

    As for the causes of the conflict, the pipeline one is near the top of the list but there are others. Looking at the number of states involved there are several causes in the mix and motives for escalation which have evolved. Among some – Assad’s independence from Western finance system (remember both he and Gaddafi were courted by Blair before turning on both). Oil rights another. The wish to disrupt co-operation between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (the so called Shia Cresent) -. a motive for Saudia Arabia, Qatar, Israel and others. Turkey very heavily involved and whose motives have changed over time as other states got involved. And also it’s seen as a move to contain Russian influence.

    And at the start there was some internal discontent, particulalrly economic but this seems to have been the opportunity to foregn states to create another arab spring scenario..

    Assad also presented an interesting analysis in a conference in Syria recently – that he believes the war has been waged to undermine the arab peoples sense of belonging to culture, history and remaining pan-Arabism. Especially targeting younger people in Syria and the region. He suggests that Gulf states in the region have run this idea that pan-Arabism and Syria’s system is closer to atheism than islamic faith. And this is why some muslims have gone down the route of religious extremism.

    The West’s government and mainstream media narrative on Syria is completely wrong, dishonest, reckless and criminal. The independent journalist and academic experts narrative is researched, right and credible – and I believe will prevail. Runnng a media campaign labelling academic experts ‘Assad apologists’ really does show they worried. .

    I’m hoping that we start getting more MSM journalists and politicians putting their self interest aside and do what they were employed to. Engage the brain, seek the truth and speak it.

    • Jen says:

      Link to The Jimmy Dore Show featuring Carla Ortiz talking about her recent trip to Syria and east Aleppo (and her discovery that the White Helmets’ HQ is right next door to Al Nusra’s HQ):

  3. Loverat says:

    I read RT while accepting it is a propaganda channel. But the same goes for the rest of the media. But you have to decide which one is closer to the truth. Have to say, RT at the moment considering the sheer aggression and frenzy in mainstream media. But to avoid the noiise read the independent stuff.

    This Times journalist seems to be slightly threatening in his tone? Seems a bit like early 1930s Germany to me?

    Oliver Kamm
    ‏Verified account @OliverKamm
    Apr 23

    I’ve never criticised someone merely for going on this fake news channel, as we all have to make our own decisions. But be aware of what it is. And if you want a career in journalism, that path will be definitively closed to you if you take a job with RT.
    I came across a quote today from George Orwell.

    “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

    Keep up the good work – looks like Oliver is worried and realises the new generation of academics, researchers and bloggers are a threat to his limited intellect.and cushy job.

    Sadly people like this are a threat to us all through their misinformation.

  4. Loverat says:

    One final thought – the event in Leeds soon might be a security issue.

    There were no problems in Frome but in London was different as we saw a live demonstration of Islamists disrupting the event. Also too many people in London milling ariound the floors..The London baptist church was not secure.

    I’d suggest in light of events security is tip top at Leeds..

    Seriously ,nowadays it’s not just Islamic terrorists trying to control the narrative but MSM and the intelligence services who fund Al Qeada.. You never know who your enemy is,

    So please keep safe in Leeds.

  5. robinmorritt says:

    My Twitter account was suspended yesterday, and again today.
    I’m just an old bloke living in Runcorn using my real identity. I have averaged 1 tweet per day and 0 retweets. I only have 11 followers.
    I do call out the BBC and others for blatant lies and propaganda on Syria.
    If they take exception to me, then who is safe?

    The following are the Twitter notifications I received:
    Your account has been locked.

    Robin Morritt 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
    What happened?
    Your account appears to have exhibited automated behavior that violates the Twitter Rules. To unlock your account, please complete the steps below and confirm that you are the valid account owner.
    What you can do:
    To unlock your account, you must do the following:
    Pass a Google reCAPTCHA challenge
    Verify your phone number
    When you tap ‘Start’, Google may collect and use information about you, your device, and browser. View Google’s Privacy Policy.
    Account unlocked.

    Robin Morritt 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿
    Your account is unlocked.
    To prevent future lockouts, please review the Twitter Rules and help us maintain a safe environment for everyone on Twitter.
    Continue to Twitter

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  8. Loverat says:


    Just an ‘old bloke’ from Runcorn. You must be a Russian bot. That fits the profile perfectly.
    Like Ian56.

    Mind you I think that old pensioner disguised his Russian accent on Sky news very well.

    Robin – you look like a kind of Rolling Stones/Pink Floyd type of old bloke. Am I right?

  9. Loverat says:

    Another thought

    I see a lot of posts on Twitter from academics, proper journalists and public who have been attacked this last weeks and talking of libel.

    Forget libel .- it’s a trap.Beliieve me, it takes years of time and effort. Get distracted by that and we lose our purpose, Stick to the truth and leave it at that.

  10. Roy Drew says:

    Next thing they will be rounding Ian up and chucking him in The Tower for the crime of speaking his mind- treason heresy – they will have to open the famous gate down on the river bank – they will have to widen it even to get all the other Ian’s through – they will probably have to get a bigger Tower and off with their internet connection .
    Could be worse you all might get transported to our sunburnt shores.
    Greetings and solidarity from NSW.

  11. timhayward says:

    Thanks! And you introduced a tempting thought!

  12. Loverat says:

    3h3 hours ago

    vanessa beeley Retweeted Carrie Lavender

    “That’s why MSM is doing damage control with a giant smear campaign targeting their indie media competition. We need to push back, hold them accountable, and expose their tricks. People’s lives depend on it. Maybe even our own. ” #Douma #EasternGhouta #Syria #WhiteHelmets

    Some great journalism going on here. The people driving this war need to be exposed. If they succeed there are several scenarios – in no particular order.

    1) Assad removed and a repeat of Iraq on top of 7 years of war. A vacuum for Islamic militants who are on the verge of defeat..
    2) Out of what I would say is 17 million people left in Syria – at least 10 million will leave. Few will want to live under Al Qeada – UK’s ‘moderate rebels’ of the ground. Many will head for Europe.
    3) Nuclear wipeout of us all (what the tweet above was possibly suggesting) But for the restraint of Russia recently we could all have been dead by now. This disturbing rhetoric by the West is getting worse. Someone needs to take out those most aggressive warmongers at the top – and the career politicians – and educate those taking the stupid pills..

    That’s where we are folks. On verge of nuclear war. The next time the White Helmets decide a fake attack (by the perpretators of 9/11) we and our families could all end up dead. Amazing 17 years ago they were our enemy but are now our friends. Time to wake up people – take 15 minutes to reflect on the history of Western regime change policy – look at the research here – and start asking your MPs questions.

    Strange in a democracy we’re peddling the lies akin to the Germany 1930s regime. But unbelievably this is where we are today.

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  14. Hook sink and line says:

    Maybe Republican US Senator Rand Paul is another Russian bot? Or just an Assad apologist…?

    For further proof, see Rand’s views on Yemen/ US arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2016.

    Fortunately, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer remembers to point out what really matters here: US jobs.

  15. Loverat says:

    The official narrative continues to unravel on Twitter.

    But is this enough to prevent a new potentially dangerous confllict affecting all of us?

    Honestly the best link I’ve read so far is Carla Ortiz. What a star. And ordinary folk like Ian56 gave Sky News a run for their money. The academic research underpinning this is the best.

    But Carla’s Intelligence, research, emotion and some light hearted moments made this presentation special..Anyone watching her would be convinced instantly.

    The best way to address a distorted narrative is all of the above – and possibly a pretty face. Play them at their own game as one ex ambassador to Syrua said about his attitude to the media and their warmongering..

    Keep up the good work!

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