;b]Israeli Attacks on Journalists Stifle Reporting on Gaza Horrors[/b]
CPJ (10/18/23) tallied 17 journalists killed in the first 11 days of the Gaza crisis—the same number as have been killed in Ukraine in the 20 months since the Russian invasion.
The Israeli communications minister’s attempt to shut down Al Jazeera’s bureau in Jerusalem—on the grounds that the Qatari news outlet is biased in favor of Hamas and is actively endangering Israeli troops (Reuters, 10/15/23)—should inspire some déjà vu. In the last war in Gaza, an Israeli air strike destroyed a Gaza building housing both Al Jazeera and Associated Press offices (AP, 5/15/21). And just months ago, Al Jazeera (5/18/23) reported that “the family of Shireen Abu Akleh,” a Palestinian-American AJ journalist killed by Israeli fire while on assignment, “has rebuked Israel for saying it is ‘sorry’ for the Al Jazeera reporter’s death without providing accountability or even acknowledging that its forces killed her.”
Since the launch of the network’s English service, Americans interested in Middle East news beyond what can be found in US broadcasting have often turned to Al Jazeera, and even more so as the BBC’s foreign service has declined (Guardian, 9/29/22).
But the ability of Al Jazeera and other Arab reporters to cover the assault on Gaza is jeopardized by the alarming number of newspeople Israel has killed since the crisis began. The Committee to Protect Journalists (10/18/23) has counted 13 Palestinian journalists killed by Israel in Gaza since the crisis began, with two more missing or detained. Three Israeli journalists were also killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack, with another taken prisoner.
A BBC News Arabic team “was stopped and assaulted last night by Israeli police,” the BBC (10/15/23) reported.
While the primary focus of this conflict is Gaza, journalists have wondered if a second northern front would open between Israel and the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, creating a multifaceted regional war (New York Times, 10/17/23; CNN, 10/17/23). Israeli fire in southern Lebanon injured Al Jazeera staffers, along with Agence France-Presse personnel, and killed a Reuters journalist (Reuters, 10/14/23). Lebanon has planned to file a complaint with the United Nations over the incident (TRT World, 10/14/23), calling the attack deliberate (Telegraph, 10/14/23).
Press advocates fear those numbers will rise, and it is all happening as the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens (UN News, 10/13/23).
The BBC (10/15/23) reported that its own journalists “were assaulted and held at gunpoint after they were stopped by police in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv,” and that they were “dragged from the vehicle—marked ‘TV’ in red tape—searched and pushed against a wall.”
In addition, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said in a statement that the Israeli military caused “severe damage to 48 centers of press institutions,” including “the Palestine and Watan towers, and other buildings that include media institutions,” including the AFP office. It said that the army had also “completely or partially demolished the homes of dozens of journalists.”
‘Terror attack against democracy’
“It is clear that there was a decision from occupying forces to prevent journalists from covering what was happening in the camp,” reporter Ali Al-Samoudi said in July after Israeli snipers killed three newspeople and destroyed TV equipment on the West Bank (International Federation of Journalists, 7/4/23).
War reporting always carries risk. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the deaths of media workers in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. Middle East conflicts have always been dangerous places for journalists; it’s hard to ignore high-profile deaths of journalists like Marie Colvin of London’s Sunday Times in Syria (CNN, 2/1/19), or freelance photographers Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington in Libya (Washington Post, 4/21/11). In that sense, the war in Gaza and a possible war in southern Lebanon are no exceptions.
But as FAIR (5/19/21) documented during the previous Israeli military operation against Gaza, Israel has a long history of targeting Palestinian journalists, as well as harassing foreign journalists and human rights activists entering the country. Over the summer, the International Federation of Journalists (7/4/23) reported that “several journalists have been directly targeted by Israeli snipers as they were reporting on Israel’s large-scale military operation in Jenin.”
Inside Israel, the situation for journalists is relatively safer, but the far-right government has—like authoritarian governments in Poland and Hungary—attacked journalists and the ability to critically cover institutions in power. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2019 accused the owners of Israel’s Channel 12 of committing a “terror attack against democracy” for reporting on the corruption charges against him (Times of Israel, 9/1/19).
In 2020, Netanyahu (Ha’aretz, 6/11/20) indicated that “Channel 13 journalist Raviv Drucker should be arrested and jailed” for airing “recordings of Netanyahu crony Shaul Elovich and his wife, which demonstrated how they sought to tilt news coverage in the prime minister’s favor.”
Galit Distel-Atbaryan, who recently resigned from her role as public diplomacy minister (Jerusalem Post, 10/14/23), reportedly said this summer that she wanted the “authority to deny press credentials to foreign journalists critical of Israel” (Ha’aretz, 8/30/23).
‘You better be saying good things’
An Israeli security officer threatens an Al-Araby reporter (Arab News, 10/15/23): “If you don’t report the truth, woe is you.”
The threat to journalism has only become more explicit as Israel’s assault on Gaza escalates. An Israeli security officer interrupted a live report by Ahmed Darawsha, correspondent for Qatar-based Al-Araby news (Arab News, 10/15/23):
What are you saying? I don’t care if you are live…. You better be saying good things. Understood? And all of these Hamas should be slaughtered. Am I clear? If you don’t report the truth, woe is you.
The officer then shouted at the camera: “Detestable! We’ll turn Gaza to dust. Dust, dust, dust.”
Israel’s siege of Gaza becomes more nightmarish as the days go on, and as that happens, the ability of journalists to document the horror becomes next to impossible. Palestinian journalist Sami Abu Salem told the International Federation of Journalists (10/12/23) about working in Gaza: “We have no internet service, there is a lack of electricity, no transportation, and even the streets are damaged. That’s why we cannot tell lots of stories—thousands of stories.”
Because audiences in the US and the Anglosphere depend on Al Jazeera, as well as local journalists in Israel and the Occupied Territories, to receive news from the region, these attacks do act as filters through which the truth is diluted. In many ways, Americans can see in real time how the powers that be attempt to control information coming out of the region.
Israel is caught lying time and again. And yet we never learn
By Jonathan Cook (Posted Oct 25, 2023)
Originally published: Jonathan Cook Blog on October 24, 2023 (more by Jonathan Cook Blog)
Middle East Eye – 23 October 2023
Western politicians and media act as if they are caught in a permanent spell, sympathetically indulging even the most wildly improbable denials from Israel that it has committed war crimes.
As Lenin famously observed:
A lie told often enough becomes the truth.
We can go further. It never matters how often Israel is caught out in a lie, because its next lie will be given the benefit of the doubt. Western media refuse to learn from the past.
The Israeli military has a long track record of compulsively concocting face-saving falsehoods—disinformation that vilifies the very Palestinian people it has oppressed for decades.
The latest example came a few days ago.
Israel vigorously kicked up dust to obscure its responsibility for hitting the al-Ahli Baptist hospital in Gaza City last Tuesday, killing many hundreds of Palestinians sheltering in its grounds. Faced with Israel’s relentless campaign of bombing, families had assumed they would be safest close to a Christian institution.
Drawing on previous experience, Israel rightly assumes that by the time the dust settles—and the truth emerges—the world will have moved on. The lie will stand.
Context stripped out
Israel’s job is made considerably easier by the media, whose coverage of Israeli atrocities can invariably be depended on to strip out relevant context.
As Israel began pummelling Gaza more than two weeks ago with thousands of high-explosive bombs, its leaders clarified exactly what their intent was.
Referring to the people of Gaza as “human animals”, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed to “eliminate everything”. An Israeli military official explained that the “emphasis is on damage, not accuracy”. Another said Gaza would be reduced to “a city of tents… There will be no buildings.”
Meanwhile, President Isaac Herzog accused the entire people of Gaza of being responsible for the Hamas attack, effectively denying every man, woman and child their civilian status and designating them all terrorists. He added:
We will break their backbone.
Israel has demanded that Palestinians leave the northern half of the tiny Gaza Strip, requiring them to ethnically cleanse themselves. It has indicated that the vacated area will be treated as a free-fire zone.
According to the United Nations, in less than two weeks, a quarter of Gaza’s homes have been turned to rubble, and 600,000 Palestinians left homeless.
To ensure Palestinians do as they are told, Israel has targeted the support structures and major institutions in northern Gaza that ordinary people depend on. Mosques, schools, United Nations compounds and hospitals have been hit.
In the days leading up to the attack on al-Ahli hospital, 23 other medical centres in northern Gaza received warnings to evacuate immediately. Dozens have been hit, according to the World Health Organisation.
Those threats were ignored because the hospitals are already overflowing with patients too injured from Israel’s bombardments to be moved, and because there are no facilities to treat them elsewhere.
Apparently angered by this defiance, Israel hit al-Ahli hospital with two shells three days before the larger strike. This is known by the Israeli military as its “knock on the roof” procedure: firing a small weapon at a building as advance warning to evacuate before a much bigger strike.
Israel had told us precisely what it was going to do. But when it then did it, Israel began its now familiar gaslighting operation. It denied it was the guilty party, accusing a Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, of the war crime instead.
It said a Palestinian rocket had misfired and fallen onto the hospital.
Israel’s claim was ridiculous. On a video of the actual strike, you can hear the loud whistling sound of an incoming, high-velocity missile or shell moments before it explodes. Palestinian groups in Gaza have only primitive rockets that lumber through the sky. If one fails, it tumbles at free-fall speed, not at near-supersonic velocity.
The casualty rate alone proved it had to be an Israeli missile. No Palestinian rocket has ever killed more than a handful of people, not hundreds as this one did.
But Israel was ready with a campaign of lies and disinformation.
Embarrassingly, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had issued a social media post celebrating Israel hitting a supposed “terrorist base” in the hospital. The post was hurriedly deleted.
Instead, Israel issued footage of a Palestinian rocket falling nearby. However, Israel had to pull the video, too, when journalists noticed the time stamp was 40 minutes after the explosion at Al-Ahli.
Next, Israel produced a laughably inept audio recording supposedly of two Hamas fighters chatting—in the wrong dialect—about whether they or their rivals in Islamic Jihad had fired the stray rocket.
Israel runs a “mistaravim” unit of Israelis who disguise themselves as Palestinians to operate undercover in Palestinian communities. It also famously operates networks of Palestinian collaborators whom it threatens or bribes. Faking an audio would be child’s play for Israel.
In any case, in the recording the pair cited a cemetery close to the hospital as the site of their supposed failed rocket launch. But that contradicted other Israeli military claims that the rocket had been fired from an entirely different location.
At the weekend, Forensic Architecture, a research team based at the University of London, issued their preliminary findings.
Analysis of the site showed, both from the pattern of damage caused by the strike and changes in the sound signature of the projectile as it moved through the air, that its trajectory was from Israel into Gaza, not out of Gaza. Other analysis indicated that the audio file of the two Hamas operatives talking had been manipulated.
Israel’s disinformation skills looked almost as amateur as its much-vaunted intelligence operations, which failed to spot months of planning by Hamas for its breakout on 7 October.
Seed of doubt
| Israeli army quietly admitted that it was responsible for killing the children | MR OnlineThe goal here, as ever, was not to produce evidence but to win the propaganda battle through misdirection, planting a seed of doubt that western politicians and media could then exploit to cloud the issue for their publics.
Instead of giving the victims proper attention, instead of finally galvanising anger over Israel’s wanton killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians in two weeks, the media’s reporting reverted to a predictable formula. It weighed claim and counter-claim over the hospital strike, it carried profiles about Islamic Jihad, and—most importantly for Israel—it adopted a wait-and-see, don’t-rush-to-judgment approach.
A moment that might have led to concerted diplomatic pressure on Israel to stop its rampage and negotiate a ceasefire dissolved into a round of bickering in which the hospital victims entirely disappeared from view.
By the time outside observers get into Gaza and carry out forensic tests, assuming they can, the story will be cold. No one will care, and Israel will not be held to account—morally, diplomatically or legally.
This is all too familiar to anyone who has followed decades of the media’s endlessly forgiving coverage, when it matters, of Israel’s occupation and illegal colonisation of the Palestinians’ historic homeland.
The fog that instantly enveloped the al-Ahli hospital story was a repeat—if on a far bigger scale—of what happened last summer when five Palestinian teenagers were killed in an air strike on Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp.
As with the hospital massacre, Israel immediately denied it was responsible, saying it had not carried out air strikes on Jabaliya at the time. It blamed Islamic Jihad for a rocket misfire.
“We have videos that prove beyond doubt that this is not an Israeli attack,” an Israeli official confidently asserted. Oded Bassuk, head of the army’s operations directorate, called the children’s deaths “a self-inflicted injury. We could see the rocket hit a Palestinian home.”
As with the hospital story, the military released video footage purporting to show the misfired rocket.
But it was all deceit. Later, when the story had moved on, the Israeli army quietly admitted that it was responsible for killing the children.
Boys on the beach
The murder of children by Israel is not an unusual occurrence. But it is also when Israel can be expected to concoct its biggest falsehoods—for the obvious reason that the killing of children is when the world briefly wakes up to Palestinian suffering before turning off again.
As with the hospital strike, a potentially pivotal moment arrived in 2014 during another of Israel’s repeated rampages in Gaza. A series of Israeli strikes killed four young boys from the Bakr family who were playing football on a beach.
At the time, Israel claimed that the children had been killed accidentally, because they strayed into a seafront “compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force (including naval commandos), and which was utilised exclusively by militants”.
Israel’s claim, which gained amplification in the media, was that the boys were collateral damage in a drone strike on Palestinian militants.
Unfortunately for Israel, this was easily disproved. Several western journalists, who in those days dared to venture into Gaza, witnessed the strike because the beach was next to their hotel. The idea that Hamas militants would locate themselves on a beach next to a hotel known for hosting western journalists was patently absurd from the off.
Those journalists confirmed that there were no militants in the area at the time, and that the boys should have been visible as children to the drone operators.
Reporters noted that the beach was regularly used by fishermen and families for bathing. An investigation of a small shipping container, which had been destroyed by an Israeli missile the day before, also failed to support Israel’s claim that military equipment was stored there.
A later investigation found that the drone operators had fired without taking care to distinguish between the children and militants.
None of that mattered. Israel’s massacre of the children was forgotten. With no pressure on it, Israel’s reliably supine supreme court ruled last year that no further investigation was necessary. Case closed.
Executed by sniper
Perhaps the best-known recent disinformation campaign by Israel occurred 18 months ago, over the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Her murder, while wearing a flak jacket emblazoned with “Press” during an Israeli invasion of the West Bank city of Jenin, caused a wave of international indignation.
It was a particularly high-stakes moment for Israel. The media took an unusual degree of interest because Abu Akhleh was a prominent journalist who had worked with many of those reporting on her killing. She also held American citizenship.
Again, Israel blamed Palestinians for the death of one of their own. They produced a video that purported to show an exchange of fire with Palestinian gunmen close to where Abu Akleh was standing when she was shot in the head.
But an investigation by Israel’s B’Tselem human rights group proved the video was taken in an entirely different area of Jenin.
Major US media carried out their own investigations showing Israel had lied. There was no gunfight near Abu Akleh’s location. The most likely explanation was that an Israeli sniper decided to execute her, aiming for the narrow area of exposed flesh between her helmet and flak jacket collar.
Belatedly, with the story refusing to go away, Israel admitted one of its soldiers was most likely responsible for her killing.
Israel doesn’t just actively lie when its army murders. One of its most cynical deceptions arrived in 2021 when it designated six respected Palestinian human rights and welfare groups in the West Bank as “terrorist organisations”.
It demanded that the European Union immediately stop funding them. Their offices were raided, with equipment confiscated and smashed, and their doors sealed. Staff were arrested.
Israel’s aim was obvious: to shut down organisations that provide support structures for ordinary Palestinians and advocate in international forums for the Palestinian cause by documenting Israeli crimes. That has been especially important when cash-strapped foreign media have been shutting down their own bureaux in the region.
The lie was so outrageous that even some usually receptive media outlets had trouble swallowing it. Many months later, leaks of a highly classified CIA report revealed that the Israeli accusations were entirely without foundation.
Culture of lying
The list of these deceptions and disinformation campaigns just goes on and on.
Look up the names Muhammad al-Durrah, Rachel Corrie, James Miller, Tom Hurndall, Iain Hook. Israel dissembled over all these high-profile murders carried out by its soldiers.
Even cursory research shows Israel lying about its use of cluster munitions in Lebanon in 2006, as well as its mass killing of civilians in the Lebanese village of Qana in the same war—exactly 20 years after it had earlier lied about its responsibility for killing more than 100 civilians in a United Nations compound in the same village.
Israel lied about its oversight of the mass killing of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon in 1982 by its Christian Phalangist allies.
None of this should surprise. The culture of lying has prevailed since before Israel’s creation in 1948. From its inception, the Zionist movement promoted the lie that Palestine was an empty land.
To perpetuate this foundational myth, Israel lied about its whole scale ethnic cleansing operations in 1948—one in the north was called Operation Broom—that forced out some 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and drove them into refugee camps. It falsely claimed they had been ordered to do so by neighbouring Arab states.
It hid archival evidence of massacres of Palestinian civilians carried out by its forces, such as at Tantura and Dawayimah, and smeared anyone who tried to draw attention to them.
Equally, it lied that it offered the refugees a chance to return.
And it destroyed hundreds of Palestinian villages to stop the refugees from coming back to their homes—and then sought to conceal these crimes by planting forests in their place.
Edifice of lies
Armies end up lying in times of war because inevitably they commit crimes they wish to conceal.
The difference with Israel is that its lies are integral to its decades-long existence as a state dispossessing and colonising another people’s homeland. It must mask its system of apartheid and the crimes that inhere in such regimes of privilege and subjugation.
Israel is at permanent war with the Palestinians and the wider region, so it must lie compulsively and continuously. Each lie builds on the earlier ones. Should one fall, the whole edifice risks crumbling.
Which is what makes untangling those lies such a difficult and thankless task.
Having to engage in protracted forensic battles against Israel and its many apologists to expose every single lie draws attention away from Israel’s even bigger deceptions. It obscures the context.
Fighting to hold Israel to account for killing hundreds at al-Ahli hospital comes at the price of shifting the focus away from the fact that Israel is actively carrying out an ethnic cleansing operation in Gaza and committing genocide against the Palestinian people there.
To struggle against one lie is to leave other lies—often lies of omission—free to worm their way into the public’s consciousness.
These difficulties are compounded by the media’s willingness to indulge and collude in Israel’s disinformation—as it has been doing since the creation of a self-declared Jewish state—because Israel is such an important strategic asset. As a reliable ally, it was intended to project western power into the oil-rich Middle East.
Those who seek to bring light to a subject immersed in so much darkness find themselves smeared as antisemites—as though solidarity with Palestinian suffering could only ever be motivated by hatred of Jews.
Which is why Israel can live with the bickering over who hit the al-Ahli hospital. Because the storm will soon pass, and the Palestinian victims will still be dead.
In Hours of Israel/Gaza Crisis Coverage, a Word You’ll Seldom Hear: ‘Ceasefire’
Since the October 7 Hamas attacks, and the subsequent, ongoing Israeli airstrikes, US TV news has offered extensive coverage of Israel and Gaza. But as casualties mount, most outlets have paid scant attention to the growing calls for a ceasefire.
UN human rights chief Volker Türk (UN News, 10/23/23): “The first step must be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, saving the lives of civilians through the delivery of prompt and effective humanitarian aid.”
After Hamas killed more than 1,400 people in Israel on October 7 and took some 200 hostages, Israeli bombing killed over 5,000 people in Gaza, as of October 22—including more than 1,400 children—and at least 23 journalists and 35 UN staff (UN News, 10/23/23). Ninety-five Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank as well, by both Israeli government forces and settlers. With Israel enacting a “complete siege” of Gaza, cutting off power, food, water and medical supplies, and nowhere for civilians to seek safety, a broad spectrum of critical voices have decried the humanitarian crisis and insisted on a ceasefire and an end to the siege.
Jewish-led protests in New York and other cities on October 13, and again in Washington, DC, on October 18, made a ceasefire their central message. Progressive lawmakers on October 16 introduced a House resolution “calling for an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire.” And a recent Data for Progress poll (10/20/23) found that 66% of likely US voters agree that “the US should call for a ceasefire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza.”
Internationally, the head of the UN, the UN human rights expert on Palestine, a growing list of scores of legal scholars, and hundreds of human rights groups—including Save the Children, Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders—have likewise spoken out for a ceasefire.
But the Biden administration has actively tried to suppress discussion of de-escalation. HuffPost reported on October 13 that an internal State Department memo instructed staff not to use the words “de-escalation/ceasefire,” “end to violence/bloodshed” and “restoring calm” in press materials on the Middle East.
At the UN Security Council, a Russian resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire was voted down last Tuesday by the US, Britain, France and Japan; a Brazilian resolution the next day seeking “humanitarian pauses” in the violence was vetoed by the US alone. (On October 24, however, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “humanitarian pauses must be considered” to bring help to Gaza civilians—ABC, 10/24/23.)
Broadcast nightly news
US television news outlets appear largely to be following the administration’s lead, minimizing any talk of ceasefire or de-escalation on the air. FAIR searched transcripts of the nightly news shows of the four major broadcast networks for one week (October 12–18) in the Nexis news database and Archive.org, and found that, even as the outlets devoted a great deal of time to the conflict, they rarely mentioned the idea of a ceasefire or de-escalation.
While ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS NewsHour aired a total of 105 segments primarily about Israel/Gaza and broader repercussions of the conflict, only eight segments included the word “ceasefire” or some form of the word “de-escalate.” (The word “de-escalate” never appeared without the word “ceasefire.”)
NBC and PBS aired three segments each with ceasefire mentions; CBS aired two, and ABC aired none.
The October 18 protest on Capitol Hill led by Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now demanding a ceasefire—a peaceful protest that ended with over 300 arrests—accounted for half of the mentions, briefly making the evening news that night on all the broadcast networks except ABC. (The protesters’ demand was mentioned in two segments on NBC.)
Diana Odeh, Gaza resident interviewed on the PBS NewsHour (10/12/23), was one of only two voices who called for a ceasefire on a nightly news show during the study period. (The other was also on the NewsHour—10/18/23.)
That was the only day CBS Evening News (10/18/23) mentioned a ceasefire or de-escalation, though correspondent Margaret Brennan also noted in that episode, in response to a question from anchor Norah O’Donnell referencing the protest, that Biden “refrained from calling a ceasefire. In fact, the US vetoed a UN resolution to that effect earlier today.” Brennan continued:
Given that there have now been 11 days of bombing of Gaza by Israel, with thousands killed, there is a perception in Arab countries that this looks like the US is treating Palestinian lives differently than Israeli lives.
Of course, one doesn’t have to live in an Arab country to see a double standard.
Only twice across all nightly news shows did viewers see anyone, guest or journalist, advocating for a ceasefire—both times on PBS NewsHour.
The NewsHour featured a phone interview with Gaza resident Diana Odeh (10/12/23), who described the dire situation on the ground and pleaded: “We need help. We don’t need money. We don’t need anything, but we need a ceasefire. People are getting worse and worse.”
A few days later, the NewsHour (10/18/23) brought on Marc Garlasco, a former Pentagon analyst currently serving as military advisor at PAX Protection of Civilians, who said: “You’re talking about 6,000 bombs in less than a week in Gaza, which is the size of Newark, New Jersey. It’s just incredibly dangerous to the population, and we need to have a ceasefire and get an end to this conflict as quickly as possible.”
Sunday shows and cable
Across the agenda-setting Sunday shows, which are largely aimed at an audience of DC insiders, the word “ceasefire” was entirely absent, except on CNN State of the Union (10/15/23)—but there, only in the context of reporting on a poll from earlier this year that found a strong majority of Gazans supporting the ceasefire that had previously been in place between Hamas and Israel.
Looking at the broader cable news coverage, where the 24-hour news cycle means much more coverage of the conflict, viewers were still unlikely to encounter any mention of the idea of a ceasefire. Using the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer, FAIR found that mentions of “cease” appeared in closed captioning on screen for an average of only 19.7 seconds per day on Fox, 11.1 seconds per day on CNN, and 9.2 seconds per day on MSNBC. (FAIR used the shortened form of the word to account for variations in hyphenation and compounding; some false positives are likely.)
Meanwhile, mentions of “Israel” did not differ substantially across networks, averaging 18–20 minutes per day. (Note that this is not the amount of time Israel was discussed, but the amount of time mentions of “Israel” appeared onscreen in closed captions.)
Fox mentioned a ceasefire roughly twice as often as either CNN or MSNBC, largely to ridicule those on the left who called for one, as with host Greg Gutfeld’s comment (10/18/23):
Enough with the ceasefire talk…. I mean, Jewish protesters calling for a ceasefire is like the typical leftist pleading not to arrest their mugger because he had a bad childhood.
Fox also frequently compared Jewish peace advocates unfavorably with January 6 rioters (Media Matters, 10/19/23).
Former Mossad official Rami Igra opposed a ceasefire on Anderson Cooper 360 (10/16/23) because “our obligation…is to go into the Gaza Strip and eradicate the Hamas.” He went on to note that “there’s 150,000 Hamas operatives in the Gaza Strip.”
CNN on a few occasions featured a guest advocating a ceasefire, such as Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the leader of the Palestinian National Initiative party. On Situation Room (10/17/23), Barghouti argued forcefully:
The only way out of this is to have immediate ceasefire, immediate supply of food, drinking water to people immediately in Gaza and then to have exchange of prisoners so that the Israeli prisoners can come back home safe to Israel.
On CNN‘s most-watched show, Anderson Cooper 360, the possibility of a ceasefire was mentioned in three segments during the study period—each time in an interview with a former military or intelligence official, none of whom supported the idea. For instance, with former Mossad agent Rami Igra on the show (10/16/23), Cooper asked about negotiating the release of hostages. Igra noted that Hamas had “twice already” said they were “willing to negotiate the release of the prisoners,” contingent upon a ceasefire and release of Palestinian prisoners. But Igra insisted Israel should not negotiate:
IGRA: Israel will do all it can in order to release these prisoners, and some of them will or maybe all of them will be released, but by force.
COOPER: That’s the only way.
IGRA: The only way to release prisoners in this kind of situation is force.
Meanwhile, the only time viewers of MSNBC‘s popular primetime show The Beat heard about the possibility of a ceasefire was when guest Elise Labott of Politico told host Ari Melber (10/12/23) that, for Israel, “this is not a ceasefire situation.” Melber responded:
If you said to someone in the United States, if ISIS or Al Qaeda or even a criminal group came into their home and murdered children or kidnapped children or burned babies, the next day you don’t typically hear rational individuals discuss a ceasefire or moving on. You discuss resorting to the criminal justice system or the war machine to respond.
Melber’s eagerness to lean on the “war machine” left his argument a muddle. Obviously, those calling for a ceasefire are not suggesting simply “moving on”—in fact, a “criminal justice system” response is more than compatible with a ceasefire, as you don’t try to bomb someone that you’re seeking to put on trial.
Netanyahu has been trying with limited success to equate Hamas with ISIS for many years now (Times of Israel, 8/27/14), and the Israeli government continues to try to paint Hamas’s tactics as so barbaric as to justify the mass killings by Israel. (See FAIR.org, 10/20/23.) But it’s passions, not reason, that allow individuals like Melber to gloss over the deaths of thousands of civilians—a child every 15 minutes, according to one widely circulated estimate—in their thirst for revenge.
With Israeli bombing intensifying and a ground invasion appearing imminent, US television news outlets’ refusal to give more than minimal airtime to the widespread calls for a ceasefire fails to reflect either US or global public opinion, and fuels the warmongering march to follow one horror with another.
US & NewsGuard Sued for 1st Amendment Violations, Defamation in NY Federal Court
Court Papers: Media ‘Watchdog’ Joined With US Intelligence to Suppress Foreign Policy Dissent
Federal Courthouse, Manhattan. (TJ Bickerton/Wikimedia Commons)
By Consortium News
The United States government and internet “watchdog” NewsGuard Technologies, Inc. were sued today in federal court in Manhattan for First Amendment violations and defamation by news organization Consortium for Independent Journalism, a nonprofit that publishes Consortium News.
Consortium News‘s court filing charges the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, an element of the Intelligence Community, with contracting with NewsGuard to identify, report and abridge the speech of American media organizations that dissent from U.S. official positions on foreign policy.
In the course of its contract with the Pentagon, NewsGuard is “acting jointly or in concert with the United States to coerce news organizations to alter viewpoints” as to Ukraine, Russia, and Syria, imposing a form of “censorship and repression of views” that differ or dissent from policies of the United States and its allies, the complaint says.
Watch the press conference announcing the lawsuit on Monday:
“The First Amendment rights of all American media are threatened by this arrangement with the Defense Department to defame and abridge the speech of U.S. media groups,” said Bruce Afran, Consortium News‘s attorney.
“When media groups are condemned by the government as ‘anti-U.S.’ and are accused of publishing ‘false content’ because they disagree with U.S. policies, the result is self-censorship and a destruction of the public debate intended by the First Amendment,” Afran said.
NewsGuard uses its software to tag targeted news sites, including all 20,000+ Consortium News articles an videos published since 1995, with warnings to “proceed with caution,” telling NewsGuard subscribers that Consortium News produces “disinformation,” “false content” and is an “anti-U.S.” media organization, even though NewsGuard only took issue with a total of six CN articles and none of its videos.
NewsGuard’s labeling of Consortium News as publishing “false content” is challenged in detail in the substantial complaint.
The suit comes at a time when many in Congress and elsewhere have charged the U.S. government with using private entities and internet platforms as proxies to suppress free speech in violation of the First Amendment.
The complaint seeks a permanent injunction declaring the joint program unconstitutional; barring the government and NewsGuard from continuing such practices and more than $13 million in damages for defamation and civil rights violations.
FBI coerces antiwar activist into leaving the internet for months, advancing liberal fascism’s crackdown
RAINER SHEA ☭
OCT 23, 2023
In a development that parallels the experience of Alexander Finnegan—the communist who became a target for the FBI’s “counter-terrorism” stalking efforts due to his countering the Ukraine narrative—another individual has been revealed as a victim of such unconstitutional state intimidation. The person behind a Twitter account called “Islam, America, Liberty” was recently asked about why they had vanished from the internet for almost half a year, and this was how the exchange went…
A: Weren’t you gone for a while?
They came to my house and shut me down
But now I’m back
When someone else later asked what had led up to them getting visited by the feds, the individual explained: “I fought back against the narrative (specifically their narrative on the Taliban and Hamas, my support for those groups got me branded as a potential domestic terrorist).” This was just like the rationale that Finnegan has said the feds used to justify classifying him as a threat: “I was portrayed as being ‘genocidal’ and ‘wishing for the rape and murder of Ukrainian women and children.’ These lies were used to have me placed on the Domestic Terrorist Watch List on 7/22/22.”
The pattern is apparent: when the feds seek to silence someone, they construct a narrative about that person being a terroristic agent of a U.S. adversary. It’s an escalation of what the indicted Uhuru members have been subjected to; whereas they’ve been accused of facilitating Russian election interference, Finnegan and this individual have been accused of a violent version of that.
In all of these cases, the vast majority of Americans would definitely not side with the feds if they were to learn about what the feds have done to the targets. Support for freedom of speech and assembly is an essentially universal value in this country, with the main source of opposition towards these liberties coming from those within the government. Because of this mismatch between the values of the people and the values of the state, the state has always needed to conceal the true extent of the activities which the three-letter agencies engage in; these agencies were in effect created as tools for our ruling class to get around the constraints of the constitution, allowing the state to wage war on dissent with impunity.
What’s been changing lately is the extent to which this contradiction has the potential to produce class conflict; the tension between the government and the people, between the U.S. intelligence agencies and the U.S. constitution, is getting severe enough that it could soon destabilize our society. The state’s power depends on a social contract, and when the people find out that the state has broken this contract, the people could unite in revolt.
This is the opportunity that we can find for revolutionary politics amid the intensifying crackdown of our liberal fascist state. If the people find that the way our government is acting isn’t compatible with democracy; nor even with the concept of republicanism; then communists like Finnegan and myself can find a massive point of unity with the broader elements of Americans. We can build a movement against the security state—as well as against war and “degrowth” austerity by extension—that gains momentum throughout the other elements of our society which are compatible with such a coalition.
That strategy of bringing together all who have an interest in defeating this iteration of fascism is, from a practical perspective, our only true hope for keeping democratic forces alive throughout the rest of the crackdown. Each day, there’s more of an urgency for communists to stop contributing to the petty divisions of leftist spaces, and help build a network with the others who the state seeks to destroy. The sole types of self-described anti-imperialists who I’m not interested in uniting with are the ones who reject the majority of the anti-imperialist movement, and by extension the majority of the people, due to a lack of seriousness. The only way to get these types on one’s side is by forsaking alliances with countless other people, which shows that it’s best to alienate yourself from these gatekeepers if they continue to insist you should exclusively engage with them.
The way we can overcome the national security state is by gaining the means to continue with our mass mobilization efforts, even if the repression gets extreme enough that we need to go underground; and that’s only possible on the basis of a united front against our ruling institutions. There are growing sections of our society that have been coming to revolutionary ideas when it comes to many of the most visible parts of the conflict between the people, and the highest levels of capital. The persecution of Julian Assange; the confirmation by WikiLeaks that our government lied about Syria; the Russiagate hoax and the censorship it’s facilitated; the Covid vaccine malpractice by big pharma that even U.S. government officials have recognized; the NATO funding of Ukrainian Nazis; these evils have led to tens of millions of Americans gaining a greater revolutionary consciousness.
Those among them who’ve come to Marxism can’t isolate ourselves from the others; if we do, the only “allies” we’ll be left with during the crackdown’s more intense next phases will be the left opportunists who want us to act as their lackeys. This is the vulnerable place the ruling elites hope for us to be in during the decisive moment of our class conflict. It’s why they’ve been cultivating a controlled opposition of left opportunism, letting leftist orgs like ANSWER remain safe from repression and thereby be comfortable with sabotaging Uhuru’s struggle. If we break from these elements of the left that want us to remain in the ditch when it comes to movement-building; and build a true coalition which extends beyond left-liberals; then we’ll gain a strategic advantage amid the state’s coming attempt to purge all illiberal forces.
The U.S. empire’s latest failing proxy war in Palestine has accelerated this process of escalating class conflict within the empire’s center. The state now has a greater incentive to do to all anti-imperialists what they did to Finnegan, and to the antiwar individual behind that account. Remember the basic protocols for avoiding federal sabotage: those being never say a word to the feds if they show up to your home without a warrant, and permanently delay talking to them by saying “I’d be glad to talk to you with my lawyer present” if they show up to your place of work. When the feds try to get around these obstacles, and fabricate more crimes supposedly committed by antiwar people, we’re going to need to already have the networks in place to continue our operations no matter what. We must make the preparations that will let us defeat the state, however much the state tries to suppress us.
Wikimedia Foundation CEO Katherine Maher (right) at a “Disinformation Forum” sponsored by the US government regime-change entity NDI and the NATO- and Gulf monarchy-backed Atlantic Council
U.S. regime change activist named Web Summit CEO after founder forced out for condemning Israeli ‘war crimes’
Originally published: The Grayzone on October 31, 2023 by Wyatt Reed (more by The Grayzone) | (Posted Nov 06, 2023)
Europe’s biggest tech conference, Web Summit, has appointed a veteran U.S. regime-change operative named Katherine Maher as its new CEO, just days after founder Paddy Cosgrave stepped down from the position following an industry-wide backlash to his suggestion that Israel forces have carried out “war crimes” in their ongoing assault of Gaza.
Cosgrave’s future at Web Summit had been in doubt since October 13, when he sparked pro-Israel outrage after tweeting that “war crimes are war crimes even when committed by allies.” Industrial and tech behemoths including Siemens, Intel, Amazon, Meta and Google subsequently declared that they wouldn’t be attending this year’s conference, which is slated to take place in Lisbon, Portugal from November 13 to 16.
In a statement published October 30, Web Summit’s new CEO, Katherine Maher, said that in recent weeks, the company’s “purpose was overshadowed by the personal comments of the event’s founder and former CEO, Paddy Cosgrave.” But she insisted that “today Web Summit is entering its next phase.”
If Maher’s recent corporate experience is any indication, that “next phase” will be decidedly less adversarial in its relationship with Western governments and tech juggernauts. A telegenic 40-year-old internet activist, Maher has occupied positions at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Atlantic Council, and the National Democratic Institute, a U.S. intelligence cutout.
As The Grayzone reported, she eventually rose to CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation and helped preside over the transformation of Wikipedia–once branded a “people’s encyclopedia”–into an information weapon wielded by the national security establishment.
New WebSummit CEO Katherine Maher seated next to former CIA director Michael Hayden during a Nobel Prize panel discussion
In 2017, Maher participated in a special event hosted by the U.S. State Department and entitled “Wikipedia in a Post-Fact World.”
She currently serves on the U.S. State Department’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board, and is the chair of the board of directors at the Signal Foundation, the U.S. government-funded outfit behind the encrypted messaging app Signal. Millions of dollars of the initial funding used to create the application were delivered via the Open Technology Fund, an offshoot of CIA-founded propaganda mill Radio Free Asia. According to her LinkedIn profile, Maher served on the board of Open Technology Fund until 2019 as well.
Maher is also a Young Global Leader at the Davos-based World Economic Forum, and a security fellow at the Truman National Security Project, which grooms Democratic Party political upstarts as pro-war hawks. The Truman project currently features Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and former CIA Director Leon Edward Panetta as Emeritus Members.
A prominent Tunisian activist named Slim Amamou, who briefly served as Secretary of State for Sport and Youth in the transitional Tunisian government, wrote in 2016 that “Katherine Maher is probably a CIA agent,” citing her numerous visits to Tunisia “under multiple affiliations” since 2011.
When Maher complained, “seriously, Slim? You’ve welcomed me in your home,” Amamou shot back:
you gave me the impression that you were not who you claimed to be back then.
A look at Maher’s Twitter history reveals that she also spent time in Libya in the immediate aftermath of NATO’s disastrous regime change war. While the U.S. government imported planeloads full of regime change activists like Maher to conduct “democracy training” and other frivolous activities, ISIS and Al Qaeda were busy taking over entire regions of the country.
The stage for Maher’s rise to CEO of WebSummit was set a year before the controversy of Cosgrave’s comments on Israel.
Back in November 2022, the conference scrapped planned addresses by the Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal and Aaron Mate following direct pressure from Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, who threatened to pull the plug on her own keynote address and publicly drag the conference if the offending speakers were not immediately disinvited.
Organizers quickly folded, but it seems the perceived slight was never forgotten. One of Maher’s first acts after assuming leadership over Web Summit was to ‘like’ a LinkedIn post by a company called Ukrainian Tech Ecosystem announcing that a “Ukrainian delegation” is now preparing “to visit Web Summit after its CEO announces resignation.”
There can’t be democracy and colonial war; one aspires to decency, the other to fascism. Meanwhile, once welcomed mavericks are heretics now in an underground of journalism amid a landscape of mendacious conformity.
Sen. McCarthy, center, confers with Roy Cohn, chief counsel for House Un-American Activities Committee, Aug. 23, 1953. (Los Angeles Times/UCLA Library/Wikimedia Commons)
By John Pilger
Special to Consortium News
Spartacus was a 1960 Hollywood film based on a book written secretly by the blacklisted novelist Howard Fast, and adapted by the screenplay writer Dalton Trumbo, one of the ‘Hollywood 10’ who were banned for their ‘un-American’ politics. It is a parable of resistance and heroism that speaks unreservedly to our own times.
Both writers were Communists and victims of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee, which, during the Cold War, destroyed the careers and often the lives of those principled and courageous enough to stand up to a homegrown fascism in America.
‘This is a sharp time, now, a precise time …’ wrote Arthur Miller in The Crucible, ‘We live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.’
There is one ‘precise’ provocateur now; it is clear to see for those who want to see it and foretell its actions. It is a gang of states led by the United States whose stated objective is ‘full spectrum dominance’. Russia is still the hated one, Red China the feared one.
From Washington and London, the virulence has no limit. Israel, the colonial anachronism and unleashed attack dog, is armed to the teeth and granted historical impunity so that ‘we’ the West ensure the blood and tears never dry in Palestine.
British MPs who dare call for a ceasefire in Gaza are banished, the iron door of two-party politics closed to them by a Labour leader who would withhold water and food from the children.
In McCarthy’s time, there were bolt holes of truth. Mavericks welcomed then are heretics now; an underground of journalism exists (such as this site) in a landscape of mendacious conformity. Dissenting journalists have been defenestrated from the “mainstream” (as the great editor David Bowman wrote); the media’s task is to invert the truth and support the illusions of democracy, including a “free press.”
Social Democracy has shrunk to the width of a cigarette paper that separates the principal policies of major parties. Their one subscription is to a capitalist cult, neoliberalism, and an imposed poverty described by a U.N. special rapporteur as “the immiseration of a significant part of the British population.”
War today is an unmoving shadow; “forever” imperial wars are designated normal. Iraq, the model, is destroyed at a cost of a million lives and three million dispossessed. The destroyer, Blair, is personally enriched and fawned over at his party’s conference as an electoral winner.
Blair and his moral counter, Julian Assange, live 14 miles apart, one in a Regency mansion, the other in a cell awaiting extradition to hell.
Julian Assange inside London’s harsh high-security Belmarsh Prison. (Taken covertly by an unknown fellow prisoner)
According to a Brown University study, since 9/11, almost six million men, women and children have been killed by America and its acolytes in the “Global War on Terror.” A monument is to be built in Washington in “celebration” of this mass murder; its committee is chaired by the former president, George W. Bush, Blair’s mentor. Afghanistan, where it started, was finally laid to waste when President Biden stole its national bank reserves.
There have been many Afghanistans. The forensic William Blum devoted himself to making sense of a state terrorism that seldom spoke its name and so requires repetition: In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most democracies. It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries. It has attempted to murder countless leaders.
Perhaps I hear some of you saying: that is enough. As the Final Solution of Gaza is broadcast live to millions, the small faces of its victims etched in bombed rubble, framed between TV commercials for cars and pizza, yes, that is surely enough. How profane is that word “enough”?
Afghanistan was where the West sent young men weighed down with the ritual of “warriors” to kill people and enjoy it. We know some of them enjoyed it from the evidence of Australian SAS sociopaths, including a photograph of them drinking from an Afghan man’s prosthetic.
Not one sociopath has been charged for this and crimes such as kicking a man over a cliff, gunning down children point-blank, slitting throats: none of it “in battle.” David McBride, a former Australian military lawyer who served twice in Afghanistan, was a ‘true believer’ in the system as moral and honourable. He also has an abiding belief in truth, and loyalty. He can define them as few can. This coming week he is in court in Canberra as an alleged criminal.
“An Australian whistleblower,” reports Kieran Pender, a senior lawyer at the Australian Human Rights Law Centre, “[will face] trial for blowing the whistle on horrendous wrongdoing. It is profoundly unjust that the first person on trial for war crimes in Afghanistan is the whistle blower and not an alleged war criminal.”
David McBride (Sydney Criminal Lawyers)
McBride can receive a sentence of up to 100 years for revealing the cover-up of the great crime of Afghanistan. He tried to exercise his legal right as a whistleblower under the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which the current attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, says “delivers on our promise to strengthen protections for public sector whistleblowers.”
Yet it is Dreyfus, a Labor minister, who signed off on the McBride trial following a punitive wait of four years and eight months since his arrest at Sydney airport: a wait that shredded his health and family.
Those who know David and know of the hideous injustice done to him fill his street in Bondi near the beach in Sydney to wave their encouragement to this good and decent man. To them, and me, he is a hero.
McBride was affronted by what he found in the files he was ordered to inspect. Here was evidence of crimes and their cover-up. He passed hundreds of secret documents to the the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and The Sydney Morning Herald. Police raided the ABC’s offices in Sydney while reporters and producers watched, shocked, as their computers were confiscated by the Federal Police.
Attorney-General Dreyfus, self-declared liberal reformer and friend of whistleblowers, has the singular power to stop the McBride trial. A Freedom of Information search of his actions in this direction reveals little, at most, an indifference.
You can’t run a fully-fledged democracy and a colonial war; one aspires to decency, the other is a form of fascism, regardless of its pretensions. Mark the killing fields of Gaza, bombed to dust by apartheid Israel. It is no coincidence that in rich, yet impoverished Britain an “inquiry” is currently being held into the gunning down by British SAS soldiers of 80 Afghans, all civilians, including a couple in bed.
The grotesque injustice meted out to David McBride is minted from the injustice consuming his compatriot, Julian Assange. Both are friends of mine. Whenever I see them, I am optimistic. ‘You cheer me,’ I tell Julian as he raises a defiant fist at the end of our visiting period. ‘You make me feel proud,’ I tell David at our favourite coffee shop in Sydney.
Their bravery has allowed many of us, who might despair, to understand the real meaning of a resistance we all share if we want to prevent the conquest of us, our conscience, our self respect, if we prefer freedom and decency to compliance and collusion. In this, we are all Spartacus.
Spartacus was the rebellious leader of Rome’s slaves in 71-73 B.C. There is a thrilling moment in the Kirk Douglas movie Spartacus when the Romans call on Spartacus’s men to identify their leader and so be pardoned. Instead hundreds of his comrades stand and raise their fists in solidarity and shout, ‘I am Spartacus!’ The rebellion is under way.
Julian and David are Spartacus. The Palestinians are Spartacus. People who fill the streets with flags and principle and solidarity are Spartacus. We are all Spartacus if we want to be.
Spreader of the Kremlin narrative
November 9, 19:29
The State Department scolds Oleg Yasinsky for spreading “wrong information” about Latin America.
It's finished. A faithful guardian of planetary democracy and civil liberties of the peoples of the world, the US State Department has officially accused my Latin American friends and me of “spreading the Kremlin narrative” and attempting to “spread sentiment against the US and NATO in Latin America.” Here is the original publication, which I reluctantly help the State Department distribute: https://www.state.gov/the-kremlins-effo ... n-america/
For non-polyglots, Russian version: https://www .state.gov/translations/russian/kremlin-efforts-to-hidden-distribution/
Shredded by the world gendarme. Either he has run out of budget for smarter advisers, or he has once again underestimated the intellectual abilities of the readers of his formidable declarations.
I answer in order:
1. The giant planetary propaganda machine, which has professionally blown the minds of the population of more than one country, including my own unfortunate Ukraine, has become concerned, accusing us of spreading an opinion that casts doubt on their comprehensive democratic truth. They suddenly noticed that independent journalists in a country far from them wrote something without agreeing with them. We know that their such declarations are always threats. If anyone doesn’t understand what I mean, let them remember the fate of Assange.
2. The drafters of the denunciation are confident that Latin America is populated by mentally retarded residents who do not know their own history, the one that teaches them better than a thousand Putins, to put it mildly, “anti-US and NATO sentiments.”
3. People, publications, organizations and governments have the right to freely express their opinions without having to answer to any world authority. Especially before someone who was not appointed to this position.
4. If the US State Department, to prove our deadly conspiracy for Latin American democracy, seeks to increase the list of our accomplices, I can offer it expanded lists with the names of thousands and thousands of fighters for true freedom of speech who live around the world. These people, despite threats, daily resist peace-loving and harmless propaganda paid for from NATO budgets.
5. All my life I considered the US government to be “the worst enemy of humanity,” as the famous Putin propagandist Latin American Ernesto Guevara once accurately said, and the only weapon available to me - in a word, in complicity with comrades from different countries, we do what we believe the only correct one.
6. We are accused of being “agents” by those who maintain their presidents-agents, “social and youth leaders”-agents, specialists in information and psychological warfare-agents around the world. Today they are horrified that a few sheep have miraculously escaped from their democratic fold.
7. Accusations that I am “against the USA” are lies and stupidity; I have many friends there. The people of the United States are as much a victim of the monster that rules them as everyone else.
8. Why does the State Department care what is published in Latin America at all? Their media and social networks control the media space of most countries of the world in order to expose our insidious machinations. Is this not enough for them? What are they so afraid of?
9. This is well known, but I will repeat it. Despite the technology, intellectual brilliance, budgets and efforts of the US State Department and NATO, humanity will someday win.
What’s on the tube? CNN and BBC coverage of Gaza versus Russia’s Vesti reporting
What I am about to say is counter-intuitive, which, I submit, makes it all the more essential to set it out explicitly.
It appears that CNN and BBC coverage of the Israel-Hamas war is quite favorable to the Palestinian cause and doing a good job of exposing Israeli war crimes. Meanwhile, Russia’s leading news program Vesti is doing its best to be ‘neutral’ or ‘balanced.’
How can this be? After all, both CNN and BBC usually promote the foreign policy positions of their governments, and both the USA and UK are throwing all support behind Israel, calling the operation in Gaza a matter of legitimate defense.
What brings me to reach these general observations?
For a starter, CNN is devoting a lot of air time to the terrible deprivations suffered by the Palestinians living in Gaza ever since the Israelis cut off all supplies of fuel, drinking water, medical supplies and food into the enclave. It is now devoting even more air time to the disastrous situation in the Gaza hospitals, interviewing medical staff there. All of this reporting is in line with the priority CNN normally gives to “human interest” stories. But the net result is strongly anti-Netanyahu, anti-Israeli.
What is even more surprising, the BBC is actually trying to practice proper journalism, which marks a great departure from its full time propaganda broadcasts when the subject dominating the news was the Ukraine war. They only gave the Kiev side of the conflict and took every allegation of war crimes issued by Zelensky to be God’s honest truth.
This evening the BBC aired an interview with one of the Israeli medical authorities which was conducted in the spirit of “hard talk,” with probing questions about the death and destruction that the Tsahal is carrying out in the immediate vicinity of the Al-Shifa hospital in Northern Gaza. What has been done to implement the plan of evacuating the babies on incubators by Israeli ambulances, he asked and asked again. He allowed the Israeli spokesman to hang himself with the rope he was given. The host of the BBC program under that heading of Hard Talk, Stephen Sackur, never does this when he is facing a sacred cow, like John Kerry, for example. Now, for Israel, the rules of the game have changed. Nothing is taken for granted. The journalist doesn’t say it, but the Israeli official spokesman, by his own words, is shown up to be an outrageous liar and a deeply immoral person.
Meanwhile, Russian news on state television divides air time evenly between the atrocities being committed by Tsahal today and the atrocities committed by Hamas on 7 October. Those last named atrocities are not fresh news, you say. No matter: the Russian journalist takes us on today’s tour of one kibbutz in the South of Israel and shows us afresh how the inhabitants were burned alive and what was left of their lodgings after the Hamas rampage.
To be sure, Vesti is telling its audience about the horrors of being penned in Gaza today under Israeli attack. But it lets ordinary people tell the story, not the journalist himself. Now that 70 Russian passport holders were allowed to leave Gaza today, Vesti interviewed several after their arrival in Cairo for processing by Russian consular officials and just before they were flown to Moscow on special transport planes sent in by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations. They complained about food shortages and worries over their safety given the level of Israeli bombing. But that is not as shocking as the photos of babies in Al-Shifa getting no medical care for lack of electricity and medical supplies, which is what the BBC posted.
I do not have easy explanations for the rather unexpected editorial positions of the two major Western broadcasters and of the Russian state television. But it is likely that both domestic and international considerations were taken into account by the respective decision makers.
Before closing these brief remarks on Russian media, I do want to signal something else that is coming to the fore and which I will be reporting on in detail as it progresses. I have in mind the debate within Russian elites over how the war in Ukraine should end. This is becoming all the more timely now that there appears to be growing agreement in the United States, in Europe that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has been a massive failure and there are signs of reluctance to extend further money or equipment to Kiev. The stage is being set for Western demands to end the fighting and negotiate a peace with Moscow. But how will Moscow respond to the likely ‘humanitarian’ pleas to end the deaths?
So far the Kremlin has been spared the need to find clever arguments for continuing the war to total victory. Zelensky’s law prohibiting negotiating a settlement with Russia so long as Putin is in power has done the trick for them. But Zelensky’s tenure in office may well be coming to a close and whomever the U.S. slots into the job would also be given a script that would appeal to the bleaters for peace in the West while putting the Russians on the back foot.
Today’s edition of Sixty Minutes already was presenting some thoughts on this very subject. We heard that if the West offered to recognize Ukraine’s loss of the territory now occupied by Russia, then further conditions would have to be set by Moscow, for example, at a minimum, demilitarization of the Ukrainian regions bordering Russia, meaning Kharkov in particular. But there are many hard liners in Moscow who want to stop at nothing short of mandatory neutrality for the whole of Ukraine and thorough going regime change that removes from their positions of power the neo-Nazi minders that have controlled Zelensky, not just president himself.
As this internal debate in Russia develops, I will be certain to report on it.
The 'balance' displayed by Russian media on Gaza reflected both the 'neutral' position adopted by the Russian Federation and the attitude towards Israel of Many Russians due to their joint suffering at the hands of the Nazis and the fact that about a million Israeli citizens are derived or descended from Russia. They have a great contradiction to resolve. Doctorow surely knows this.
For Cable News, a Palestinian Life Is Not the Same as an Israeli Life
Overflowing morgues. Packed hospitals. City blocks reduced to rubble.
In response to Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack, Israel has unleashed mass destruction on Gaza. Into a region the size of Las Vegas, with a population of 2.1 million, nearly half children, Israel has dropped more than 25,000 tons of bombs, the equivalent of nearly two Hiroshimas. It has killed journalists and doctors, wiped out dozens of members of a single family, massacred fleeing Palestinians, and even bombed a densely populated northern refugee camp. Repeatedly.
As UNICEF spokesperson James Elder recently put it, “Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. It’s a living hell for everyone else.”
In its initial attack on Israel, Hamas killed about 1,200 people and kidnapped about 240 more. By the end of October, less than four weeks later, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza had reached a wholly disproportionate 8,805 people. (Since then, the number has surpassed 11,000.)
This run-up in the death count was so rapid that prominent voices resorted to outright denialism. John Kirby, White House National Security Council spokesperson, labeled the Gaza Health Ministry, which is responsible for tallying the Palestinian dead, “a front for Hamas” (Fox, 10/27/23). (The ministry actually answers to the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority—Reuters, 11/6/23.)
And President Joe Biden, much to Fox’s delight (10/25/23), declared: “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed…. I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”
A Washington Post factcheck (11/1/23) diplomatically described this statement as an example of “excessive skepticism”:
The State Department has regularly cited ministry statistics without caveats in its annual human rights reports. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which tracks deaths in the conflict, has found the ministry’s numbers to be reliable after conducting its own investigation. “Past experience indicated that tolls were reported with high accuracy,” an OCHA official told the Fact Checker.
Some deaths count more
For cable news, however, determining the precise number of Palestinian dead may not be all that relevant. Because for them, an important principle comes first: Some numbers don’t count as much as others. Whereas around seven times as many Palestinians died as Israelis during October, Palestinian victims appear to have received significantly less coverage on cable TV.
A slew of searches on the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer, which scours transcripts from MSNBC, CNN and Fox News to determine the frequency with which given words and phrases are mentioned on cable news, bears this out. Here’s the breakdown of the screen time awarded to various search terms related to Israeli and Palestinian deaths over the course of October 2023 (see note 1):
In each instance above, coverage of Israeli victims outpaced coverage of Palestinian victims, often to a significant degree.
Even if they had reached numeric parity, that would still have translated to about seven times the mentions of Israeli deaths per dead Israeli compared to Palestinian deaths per dead Palestinian.
In their seminal study on media bias Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky make a distinction between worthy and unworthy victims. As far as the US media is concerned, the worthy include citizens of the US and allied nations, as well as people killed by state enemies. The unworthy include those killed by the US government and its friends.
Herman and Chomsky argue that we can expect the worthy and unworthy to be treated far differently by US media. The former will be the recipients of sympathy and support. The latter will be further victimized by neglect and perhaps even disdain.
It’s not hard to see who the media considers worthy in Israel and Palestine.
Unnewsworthy war crimes
Victims aren’t the only ones who receive different treatment according to group status. So do victimizers. Consider, for example, how often war crimes are covered when they are committed by Hamas versus when they are committed by the Israeli military.
One war crime Hamas is often accused of is the use of civilians as “human shields.” As the Guardian (10/30/23) has reported:
Anecdotal and other evidence does suggest that Hamas and other factions have used civilian objects, including hospitals and schools. Guardian journalists in 2014 encountered armed men inside one hospital, and sightings of senior Hamas leaders inside the Shifa hospital have been documented.
However, the same article continues:
Making the issue more complicated…is the nature of Gaza and conflict there. As the territory consists mostly of an extremely dense urban environment, it is perhaps not surprising that Hamas operates in civilian areas.
International law also makes clear that even if an armed force is improperly using civilian objects to shield itself, its opponent is still required to protect civilians from disproportionate harm.
And it’s worth noting, as the Progressive (6/17/21) has, but the Guardian article unfortunately does not, that
detailed investigations following the 2008–2009 and 2014 conflicts [between Israel and Hamas] by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations Human Rights Council and others have failed to find a single documented case of any civilian deaths caused by Hamas using human shields.
For its part, Israel has been accused of the use of white phosphorus in Gaza, a violation of international law. And its “indiscriminate military attacks” on Gaza have been described by United Nations experts as “collective punishment,” amounting to “a war crime.”
Yet coverage of these Israeli war crimes doesn’t even come close to coverage of “human shields.”
While “human shield(s)” got an estimated 907 mentions throughout October, “collective punishment” got only 140, and “white phosphorus” a mere 30.
Distracting from context
The difference in media’s treatment of a friendly victimizer—one that may cause more death and destruction, but is a longstanding close ally of the United States—and of an official state enemy doesn’t stop there.
On top of downplaying the friendly victimizer’s current war crimes, the media are also happy to distract from a context in which the friendly victimizer has been oppressing a population for years. In this particular case, Israel has illegally occupied Palestinian land since 1967, and has enacted “ruthless policies of land confiscation, illegal settlement and dispossession, coupled with rampant discrimination.” It has subjected Gaza to an illegal air, land and sea blockade since 2007. And it has imposed a system of apartheid on the Palestinian population in the occupied territories, as documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and B’Tselem.
Cable coverage of this context can’t exactly be described as extensive. Shows in which “Hamas” was mentioned near “terrorism” or “terrorist(s),” in fact, outnumbered shows that mentioned “Israel” near “apartheid,” “occupation,” “blockade” or “settlement(s)” more than 3-to-1 during the month of October. (See note 2.)
Put simply, coverage of Israel’s long-standing oppression of the Palestinian people doesn’t appear to come anywhere close to coverage of Hamas’s terrorist acts. Context is swept under the rug. An enemy’s crimes are displayed indignantly on the mantel.
This sort of coverage does not contribute to creating a population capable of thinking critically about violent conflict. Instead, its main purpose seems to be to stir up hatred for a state enemy, and blind support for a state ally. All a viewer has to remember are two simple principles:
The suffering of our allies matters. The suffering of our enemies? Not so much.
The crimes of our enemies matter. The crimes of our allies? Not so much.
The Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer provides estimates of screen time based on the number of mentions of search terms in the transcripts of cable shows. A time interval is assigned to each mention of a search term—by default and in the searches used for this article, this time interval is equal to one second. The time intervals for a given search term are then filtered for commercials, and for overlap with other time intervals for that same search term, to prevent overcounting. The number given for screen time is the sum of the time intervals after this processing. Since each mention of a search term is set to register as a one-second time interval, the figure for screen time in seconds is equivalent to number of mentions, which is the measure used in these graphs. These results are not without limitations, however, since the Analyzer does not filter for commercials with 100% precision, and CC captions can contain errors. For more details on the Analyzer, consult the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer website.
The Analyzer tallies the number of full shows, the vast majority of which clock in at around one hour in length, during which search terms are mentioned. Due to methodological issues, it’s difficult to get a precise picture of coverage when more complicated searches are fed into the Analyzer. A count of shows in which the search terms are mentioned near each other is therefore a cleaner way of estimating the extent of coverage than a measure of “number of mentions” of search terms. The searches used earlier in this piece, by contrast, were simple enough to avoid the methodological issues associated with more complicated searches. Thus, a count of mentions could be used to provide a more fine-grained estimate of the extent of coverage in those cases.
NewsGuard's For-Profit Censorship Model Merges Government and Corporate Power
The anti-misinformation start-up works closely with the Defense Department, intelligence agencies and the world's largest corporate marketing conglomerate.
NOV 15, 2023
This article is a collaboration with RealClearInvestigations.
In May 2021, L. Gordon Crovitz, a media executive turned start-up investor, pitched Twitter executives on a powerful censorship tool.
In an exchange that came to light in the “Twitter Files” revelations about media censorship, Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, touted his product, NewsGuard, as a “Vaccine Against Misinformation.” His written pitch highlighted a “separate product” – beyond an extension already on the Microsoft Edge browser – “for internal use by content-moderation teams.” Crovitz promised an out-of-the-box tool that would use artificial intelligence powered by NewsGuard algorithms to rapidly screen content based on hashtags and search terms the company associated with dangerous content.
How would the company determine the truth? For issues such as COVID-19, NewsGuard would steer readers to official government sources only, like the federal Centers for Disease Control. Other content-moderation allies, Crovitz’s pitch noted, include “intelligence and national security officials,” “reputation management providers,” and “government agencies,” which contract with the firm to identify misinformation trends. Instead of only fact-checking individual forms of incorrect information, NewsGuard, in its proposal, touted the ability to rate the "overall reliability of websites" and “’prebunk’ COVID-19 misinformation from hundreds of popular websites.”
NewsGuard’s ultimately unsuccessful pitch sheds light on one aspect of a growing effort by governments around the world to police speech ranging from genuine disinformation to dissent from officially sanctioned narratives. In the United States, as the Twitter Files revealed, the effort often takes the form of direct government appeals to social media platforms and news outlets. More commonly the government works with through seemingly benign non-governmental organizations – such as the Stanford Internet Observatory – to quell speech it disapproves of.
Or it pays to coerce speech through government contracts with outfits such as NewsGuard, a for-profit company of especially wide influence. Founded in 2018 by Crovitz and his co-CEO Steven Brill, a lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur, NewsGuard seeks to monetize the work of reshaping the Internet. The potential market for such speech policing, NewsGuard’s pitch to Twitter noted, was $1.74 billion, an industry it hoped to capture.
Instead of merely suggesting rebuttals to untrustworthy information, as many other existing anti-misinformation groups provide, NewsGuard has built a business model out of broad labels that classify entire news sites as safe or untrustworthy, using an individual grading system producing what it calls “nutrition labels.” The ratings – which appear next to a website’s name on the Microsoft Edge browser and other systems that deploy the plug-in – use a scale of zero to 100 based on what NewsGuard calls “nine apolitical criteria,” including “gathers and presents information responsibly” (worth 18 points), “avoids deceptive headlines” (10 points), and “does not repeatedly publish false or egregiously misleading content” (22 points), etc.
Critics note that such ratings are entirely subjective – the New York Times, for example, which repeatedly carried false and partisan information from anonymous sources during the Russiagate hoax, gets a 100% rating. RealClearInvestigations, which took heat in 2019 for unmasking the “whistleblower” of the first Trump impeachment (while many other outlets including the Times still have not), has an 80% rating. (See the NewsGuard-RCI exchange over the whistleblower.) Independent news outlets with an anti-establishment bent receive particularly low ratings from NewsGuard, such as the libertarian news site Antiwar.com, with a 49.5% rating, and conservative site The Federalist, with a 12.5% rating.
As it stakes a claim to being the Internet’s arbiter of trust, the company’s site says it has conducted reviews of some 95% of news sources across the English, French, German, and Italian web. It has also published reports about disinformation involving China and the Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Hamas wars. The model has received glowing profiles in CNN and the New York Times, among other outlets, as a viable solution for fighting fake news.
NewsGuard is pushing to apply its browser screening process into libraries, academic centers, news aggregation portals, and internet service providers. Its reach, however, is far greater because of other products it aims to sell to social media and other content moderation firms and advertisers. “An advertiser’s worst nightmare is having an ad placement damage even one customer’s trust in a brand,” said Crovitz in a press release touting NewsGuard’s “BrandGuard” service for advertisers. "We're asking them to pay a fraction of what they pay their P.R. people and their lobbyists to talk about the problem,” Crovitz told reporters.
NewsGuard’s largest investor and the biggest conglomerate of marketing agencies in the world. Its clients include Pfizer, whose COVID vaccine has been questioned by some news outlets that have received low scores.
NewsGuard’s BrandGuard tool provides an “exclusion list” deters advertisers from buying space on sites NewsGuard deems problematic. But that warning service creates inherent conflicts of interest with NewsGuard’s financial model: The buyers of the service can be problematic entities too, with an interest in protecting and buffing their image.
A case in point: Publicis Groupe, NewsGuard’s largest investor and the biggest conglomerate of marketing agencies in the world, which has integrated NewsGuard’s technology into its fleet of subsidiaries that place online advertising. The question of conflicts arises because Publicis represents a range of corporate and government clients, including Pfizer – whose COVID vaccine has been questioned by some news outlets that have received low scores. Other investors include Bruce Mehlman, a D.C. lobbyist with a lengthy list of clients, including United Airlines and ByteDance, the parent company of much-criticized Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok.
NewsGuard has faced mounting criticism that rather than serving as a neutral public service against online propaganda, it instead acts as an opaque proxy for its government and corporate clients to stifle views that simply run counter to their own interests.
The criticism finds support in internal documents, such as the NewsGuard proposal to Twitter, which this reporter obtained during Twitter Files reporting last year, as well as in government records and discussions with independent media sites targeted by the startup.
And although its pitch to Twitter (now Elon Musk’s X) "never went anywhere," according to Matt Skibinski, the general manager of NewsGuard, his company remains "happy to license our data to Twitter or any platform that might benefit." Coincidentally (or not), X comes in for criticism in NewsGuard’s latest “misinformation monitor” headlined: “Blue-Checked, ‘Verified’ Users on X Produce 74 Percent of the Platform’s Most Viral False or Unsubstantiated Claims Relating to the Israel-Hamas War.”
Meanwhile, one of the sites targeted by NewsGuard earlier, Consortium News, has filed a lawsuit against it claiming “First Amendment violations and defamation.”
Beginning last year, users scanning the headlines on certain browsers that include NewsGuard were warned against visiting Consortium News. A scarlet-red NewsGuard warning pop-up said, “Proceed With Caution” and claimed that the investigative news site “has published false claims about the Ukraine-Russia war.” The warning also notifies a network of advertisers, news aggregation portals, and social media platforms that Consortium News cannot be trusted.
But Consortium News, founded by late Polk Award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry and known for its strident criticism of U.S. foreign policy, is far from a fake news publisher. And NewsGuard, the entity attempting to suppress it, Consortium claims, is hardly a disinterested fact-checker because of federal influence over it.
NewsGuard attached the label after pressing Consortium for retractions or corrections to six articles published on the site. Those news articles dealt with widely reported claims about neo-Nazi elements in the Ukrainian military and U.S. influence over the country – issues substantiated by other credible media outlets. After Consortium editors refused to remove the reporting and offered a detailed rebuttal, the entire site received a misinformation label, encompassing over 20,000 articles and videos published by the outlet since it was founded in 1995.
The left-wing news site believes the label was part of a pay-for-censorship scheme. It notes that Consortium News was targeted after NewsGuard received a $749,387 Defense Department contract in 2021 to identify “false narratives” relating to the war between Ukraine and Russia, as well as other forms of foreign influence.
Bruce Afran, an attorney for Consortium News, disagrees. “What’s really happening here is that NewsGuard is trying to target those who take a different view from the government line,” said Afran, He filed an amended complaint last month claiming that NewsGuard not only defamed his client, but also acts as a front for the military to suppress critical reporting.
"There's a great danger in being maligned this way," Afran continued. "The government cannot evade the Constitution by hiring a private party."
Joe Lauria, the editor in chief of Consortium News, observed that in previous years, anonymous social media accounts had also targeted his site, falsely claiming a connection to the Russian government in a bid to discredit his outlet.
“NewsGuard has got to be the worst,” said Lauria. “They're labeling us in a way that stays with us. Every news article we publish is defamed with that label of misinformation."
Both Lauria and Afran said that they worry that NewsGuard is continuing to collaborate with the government or with intelligence services. In previous years, NewsGuard had worked with the State Department’s Global Engagement Center. It’s not clear to what extent NewsGuard is still working with the Pentagon. But earlier this year, Crovitz wrote an email to journalist Matt Taibbi, defending its work with the government, describing it in the present tense, suggesting that it is ongoing:
For example, as is public, our work for the Pentagon’s Cyber Command is focused on the identification and analysis of information operations targeting the U.S. and its allies conducted by hostile governments, including Russia and China. Our analysts alert officials in the U.S. and in other democracies, including Ukraine, about new false narratives targeting America and its allies, and we provide an understanding of how this disinformation spreads online. We are proud of our work countering Russian and Chinese disinformation on behalf of Western democracies.
The company has not yet responded to the Consortium News lawsuit, filed in the New York federal court. In May of this year, the Air Force Research Lab responded to a records request from journalist Erin Marie Miller about the NewsGuard contract. The contents of the work proposal were entirely redacted.
Asked about the company’s continued work with the intelligence sector, Skibinski replied, “We license our data about false claims made by state media sources and state-sponsored disinformation efforts from China, Russia and Iran to the defense and intelligence sector, as we describe on our website.”
Take the case of The Daily Sceptic, a small publication founded and edited by conservative English commentator Toby Young. As a forum for journalists and academics to challenge a variety of strongly held public-policy orthodoxies, even those on COVID-19 vaccines and climate change, The Daily Sceptic is a genuine dissenter.
Last year, Young reached out to NewsGuard, hoping to improve his site’s 74.5 rating.
In a series of emails from 2022 and 2023 that were later forwarded to RealClearInvestigations, NewsGuard responded to Young by listing articles that it claimed represent forms of misinformation, such as reports that Pfizer’s vaccine carried potential side effects. The site, notably, has been a strident critic of COVID-19 policies, such as coercive mandates.
Anicka Slachta, an analyst with NewsGuard, highlighted articles that questioned the efficacy of the vaccines and lockdowns. The Daily Sceptic, for example, reported a piece casting COVID-19 lockdowns as "unnecessary, ineffective and harmful,” citing academic literature from Johns Hopkins University.
Rather than refute this claim, Slachta simply offered an opposing view from another academic, who criticized the arguments put forth by lockdown critics. And the Hopkins study, Slachta noted, was not peer-reviewed. The topic is still, of course, under serious debate. Sweden rejected the draconian lockdowns on schools and businesses implemented by most countries in North American and Europe, yet had one of the lowest "all-cause excess mortality" rates in either region.
Young and others said that the issue highlighted by NewsGuard is not an instance of misinformation, but rather an ongoing debate, with scientists and public health experts continuing to explore the moral, economic, and health-related questions raised by such policies. In its response to NewsGuard’s questions about the lockdown piece, Young further added that his site made no claim that the Hopkins paper was peer-reviewed and added that its findings had been backed up by a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Yet to NewsGuard, Young’s site evidently posed a misinformation danger by simply reporting on the subject and refusing to back down. Emails between NewsGuard and the Daily Sceptic show Young patiently responding to the company’s questions; he also added postscripts to the articles flagged by NewsGuard with a link to the fact checks of them and rebuttals of those fact checks. Young also took the extra step of adding updates to other articles challenged by fact-checking non-governmental organizations. "I have also added postscripts to other articles not flagged by you but which have been fact checked by other organisations, such as Full Fact and Reuters,” Young wrote to Slachta.
How Western think tanks are reinventing the concept of disinformation
November 24, 2023
Last month, a report by the Ukraine War Disinfo working group appeared online, which collected and analyzed information trends in “pro-Russian media and Telegram channels” in Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic countries, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. This work was done to combat “disinformation,” especially that which harms the image of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the US military and could potentially hinder the spread of messages beneficial to the Western world.
As stated in the text of the document, the British Foreign Office took part in the work, as well as a number of NGOs and think tanks: Zinc Network (UK), Slovak Security Policy Institute (SSPI), Political Capital (Hungary), debunk.eu (Lithuania), International Center Defense and Security (ICDS) (Estonia), National Center for Defense and Security Awareness (Estonia), Coda Media (Georgia/USA), Union of Informed Citizens (Armenia), Detector M (Ukraine), Study Center Democracy" (Bulgaria), Center for the Study of Eastern European Politics (Latvia), Memo 98 (Slovakia), Media Initiative Center (Armenia), Press Club Belarus (Belarus), Georgia's Reform Associates (Georgia), Watchdog.md (Moldova), Civic Resilience Initiative (Baltic countries), FakeNews (Poland), Adapt Institute (Slovakia).
Zinc Network, well known to us from previous investigations, once again acted as the coordinator of the effort. Let us recall that, as it became known from government procurement reports, this organization receives funding directly from the US Special Operations Command and the US Army Command in Europe and Africa.
One of the Zinc Network's missions is to conduct training programs in "independent journalism" abroad, thereby developing new adherents of disseminating profitable opinions.
What do the report's authors see as the biggest threat?
Since the entire report is aimed at combating “disinformation,” it is necessary to define what it means. The document interprets this term as follows: “disinformation is information that corresponds to existing pro-Kremlin narratives, goals or activities.”
This proposal alone contains a huge mechanism for substituting concepts : specialists working in the information sphere are unobtrusively asked to abandon traditional tools for recognizing disinformation and work according to the “friend or foe” system. Most likely, in the above-mentioned courses, future “independent journalists” are offered to use this very method.
So, what ideas, according to the drafters of the document, pose the greatest danger to the well-being of Western elites? First of all, these are statements by information sources against the current governments in their countries. Discontent can be caused by various reasons: politicians’ sympathy for the Ukrainian regime, decision-making in the interests of global elites and to the detriment of their people.
Secondly, attempts by sensible people to put two and two together and draw (and even voice) the ineffectiveness of sanctions against Russia, which harm, ultimately and to a greater extent, only Western states, are considered destructive.
Thirdly, attention is paid to the religious issue. According to the authors of the report, “pro-Russian figures” exploit the feelings of believers and try to undermine their trust in the Western world, presenting it as a destroyer of traditional values.
Finally, the report clearly shows the concern that Western politicians are feeling about the growing popularity of patriotic parties in European countries. If previously it was very easy to accuse right-wing and ultra-right politicians of having ties to Russia and no one had anything against it, now, as they gain more and more sympathy, such slander is increasingly causing resistance.
What is proposed to be done to solve the “problem”?
The working group has developed recommendations, the implementation of which in the future will provide more favorable conditions for increasing the influence of globalist narratives.
First of all, it is proposed to make changes to the legislation of European states and, if possible, to expand the powers of the European Union as much as possible - at least in matters of information security. In particular, we are talking about “intensifying cooperation between intelligence services,” that is, increasing control over their activities. In fact, the report openly calls for continued efforts to strip EU countries of all sovereignty.
The next recommendation aims to “develop high-quality independent reporting.” To achieve this, according to the report, it is necessary to create new independent media and support existing ones, as well as expand cooperation with “participants in social networks and the digital market.” In other words, the importance of further expanding the network of controlled media and NGOs, as well as individual bloggers and bots - people who are ready to clog up the airwaves for a nominal fee - is emphasized.
Finally, they have not forgotten the good old method of “targeting vulnerable groups and isolated communities” under the pretext of protecting them. As everyone knows, the most vulnerable sections of the community in Europe are migrants, representatives of the LGBT community and national communities, who, under the pretext of drawing attention to their problems, are ready (not for free, of course) to talk about the benefits of democracy.
What does the appearance of such a report signal?
The Ukraine War Disinfo report can be called revolutionary in its own way: for the first time, Western centers draw conclusions about the state of the information field based on an analysis of information collected in Telegram channels.
Their concern is understandable: previously, there was not a single media platform on a global scale that was not under the control of globalist forces. This made it possible to quite effectively regulate the volume of representation of various views, maintaining a preponderance in favor of pro-Western theses.
In 2023, with the growing popularity of Telegram abroad and the change of owner X (formerly Twitter), the situation begins to change. If previously those who disagreed with democratic views could be ignored, now they have to at least be accused of collaborating with the Kremlin.
And if previously the fight against dissent was carried out mainly locally - on the scale of individual media and accounts on social networks, now it is proposed to expand it to states and political blocs. But this, of course, is different, and not at all attempts to introduce censorship on an unprecedented scale.
Media Holocaust Revisionism After Canada’s Standing Ovation for an SS Vet
SS commander Heinrich Himmler inspecting troops from the Galicia Division.
Canadian House Speaker Anthony Rota (Politico, 9/24/23) said of the SS veteran, “He’s a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service.”
Media coverage of the Canadian Parliament’s standing ovation in September for Yaroslav Hunka, a 98-year-old Ukrainian Canadian who fought for the Nazis in World War II, has included egregious Holocaust revisionism.
On September 22, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to the Canadian parliament, Canada’s then–Speaker of the House Anthony Rota introduced Hunka:
We have here in the chamber today a Ukrainian-Canadian veteran from the Second World War who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians and continues to support the troops today.
Rota went on to call Hunka “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero, and we thank him for all his service” (Politico, 9/24/23). Parliamentarians of all political parties gave Hunka two standing ovations, and Zelenskyy raised his fist to salute the man (Sky News, 9/26/23).
Then the New York–based Forward (9/24/23) pointed out that Hunka had fought for the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division, also known as the Galicia Division, of the SS. (The SS, short for Schutzstaffel, “Protection Squadron,” was the military wing of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party.)
‘A complicated past’
“You have to tread softly on these issues,” said the main expert used by the CBC (9/28/23) to discuss the topic of Ukraine and Nazism.
Covering the subsequent controversy, the CBC (9/28/23) ran the headline, “Speaker’s Honoring of Former Nazi Soldier Reveals a Complicated Past, Say Historians.” In the context of the Holocaust, “complicated” functions as a hand-waving euphemism that gets in the way of holding perpetrators accountable: If a decision is “complicated,” it’s understandable, even if it’s wrong.
Digital reporter/editor Jonathan Migneault, who wrote the piece, soft-pedaled the Galicia Division in other ways too. He said that some of the Ukrainians who joined it did so “for ideological reasons, in opposition to the Soviet Union, in hopes of creating an independent Ukrainian state.”
That’s quite a whitewashing of the ideological package that goes with signing up for the SS, leaving out that this vision for an “independent Ukrainian state” included the extermination of Jewish, LGBTQ, Roma and Polish minorities. As far as the “hopes of creating an independent Ukrainian state” alibi, the Per Anders Rudling (Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 2012) documents that “there is no overt indication that the unit [of Ukrainian Waffen-SS recruits] in any way was dedicated to Ukrainian statehood, let alone independence.”
‘Caught between Hitler and Stalin’
Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick (9/26/23) mocked Poland for wanting to extradite Hunka, whose unit massacred Poles during World War II, because “Poland has a notorious history of antisemitism.”
Toronto Star columnist Heather Mallick (9/26/23) also used the word “complicated” to diminish Nazi atrocities, and mock the Polish government’s interest in having Hunka extradited for war crimes:
Funny, they’ve had 73 years to ask Canada for him. It’s almost as if Poland has a notorious history of antisemitism but that’s crazy talk….
Rota should have understood how complicated history is, how, post-Holodomor, a Ukrainian caught between Hitler and Stalin made a fatal choice.
We can hate Hunka for that now. I do.
But would every Canadian MP have made immaculate choices inside Stalin’s “Bloodlands” in 1943? Of course you and I would have been heroic, joined the White Rose movement, been executed for our troubles. But everyone?
Mallick refers to Ukraine as “Stalin’s ‘Bloodlands,’” citing the Holodomor, the 1930s famine in the Soviet Union that killed an estimated 3.5 million Ukrainians, as well as millions in other parts of the USSR. Yet her link takes readers to a review of the book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, which—its own flaws notwithstanding (Jacobin, 9/9/14)—discusses the killings in Ukraine and elsewhere by Stalin and, on a significantly more egregious scale, Hitler. Acknowledging that the phrase she’s borrowing refers to both Soviet crimes and the Nazis’ genocides would have made the choice of joining the Nazis seem rather less sympathetic.
Meanwhile, Mallick’s baffling comments about Poland erase the Nazis’ systematic killing of Polish people. Polish history has indeed been marred by horrific antisemitism, with many Polish people complicit in the Holocaust, as she glibly references; this does not erase the fact that the Nazis also murdered 1.8 million non-Jewish Poles, or negate Poland’s desire to see their killers brought to justice. As Lev Golinkin (Forward, 9/24/23) pointed out, the Galicia Division that Hunka belonged to
was visited by SS head Heinrich Himmler, who spoke of the soldiers’ “willingness to slaughter Poles.” Three months earlier, SS Galichina subunits perpetrated what is known as the Huta Pieniacka massacre, burning 500 to 1,000 Polish villagers alive.
The non-Nazi SS
Keir Giles (Politico, 10/2/23) advances the argument that joining the SS and swearing “absolute obedience to the commander in chief of the German Armed Forces Adolf Hitler” doesn’t make you a Nazi.
An old cliché uses the analogy of gradually boiling a frog to explain how fascism takes hold in societies, but readers of Keir Giles’ intervention (Politico, 10/2/23) will feel like they are eyes-deep in a bubbling cauldron.
Giles, who said the relevant history is “complicated” four times and “complex” twice, wrote an article entitled “Fighting Against the USSR Didn’t Necessarily Make You a Nazi.” That’s a dubious claim in a piece focused on World War II, when the Soviet Union was the main force fighting Nazi Germany, and thus fighting the Soviets made you at least an ally of Nazis.
More to the point, the unit Hunka belonged to was a formal division of the SS, trained and armed by Nazi Germany (Forward, 9/27/23), which “fought exclusively to serve Nazi aims” (National Post, 9/25/23).
Giles, however, opened by writing:
Everybody knows that a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth has even got its boots on.
And the ongoing turmoil over Canada’s parliament recognizing former SS trooper Yaroslav Hunka highlights one of the most important reasons why.
Something that’s untrue but simple is far more persuasive than a complicated, nuanced truth….
In the case of Hunka, the mass outrage stems from his enlistment with one of the foreign legions of the Waffen-SS, fighting Soviet forces on Germany’s eastern front.
Setting aside that Giles omits “and butchering innocent people” when he describes Waffen-SS activities as “fighting Soviet forces,” his suggestion that calling Hunka a Nazi is a “lie” does not withstand even minimal scrutiny. For instance, Rudling (Journal of Slavic Military Studies, 2012) documents that, from August 29, 1943, onward, Ukrainian Waffen-SS recruits were sworn in with the following oath:
I swear before God this holy oath, that in the battle against Bolshevism, I will give absolute obedience to the commander in chief of the German Armed Forces Adolf Hitler, and as a brave soldier I will always be prepared to lay down my life for this oath.
Vowing “absolute obedience” to Hitler, and swearing that you’re willing to die for him, makes you as root and branch a Nazi as Rudolf Hess or Hermann Göring.
After drawing these bogus distinctions between the Nazis and their units, Giles moved on to genocide denial:
The idea that foreign volunteers and conscripts were being allocated to the Waffen-SS rather than the Wehrmacht on administrative rather than ideological grounds is a hard sell for audiences conditioned to believe the SS’s primary task was genocide….
Repeated exhaustive investigations—including by not only the Nuremberg trials but also the British, Canadian and even Soviet authorities—led to the conclusion that no war crimes or atrocities had been committed by this particular unit.
Giles doesn’t name any investigations by British or Soviet officials, so it’s unclear what he’s talking about on those points, but he’s lying about Nuremberg. The Nuremberg Tribunals did not specifically address the Galicia Division (Guardian, 9/25/23), but found that the combat branch of which they were a part, the Waffen-SS, “was a criminal organization”:
In dealing with the SS, the Tribunal includes all persons who had been officially accepted as members of the SS, including the members of the Allgemeine SS, members of the Waffen-SS, members of the SS Totenkopfverbaende, and the members of any of the different police forces who were members of the SS.
Giles asserted that “simple narratives like ‘everybody in the SS was guilty of war crimes’ are more pervasive because they’re much simpler to grasp”—but everybody in the SS was, quite literally, guilty of war crimes.
Heavily censored report
The Ottawa Citizen (9/27/23), citing B’nai Brith, reported that “the Canadian government’s approach to Nazi war criminals had been marked with ‘intentional harboring of known Nazi war criminals.'”
The Canadian investigation Giles refers to is a 1986 Canadian government report that claims that membership in the Galicia Division did not in and of itself constitute a war crime. This conclusion is highly suspect when read against the Nuremberg tribunal’s judgment, and the report also has to be understood in the broader context of Canadian state investigations into Nazis in the country. As the Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese (9/27/23) explained:
The federal government has withheld a second part of a 1986 government commission report about Nazis who settled in Canada. In addition, it has heavily censored another 1986 report examining how Nazis were able to get into Canada. More than 600 pages of that document, obtained by this newspaper and other organizations through the Access to Information law, have been censored.
Neither Giles nor any other member of the public knows what the Canadian government is hiding about its investigation, or why it’s concealing this information, so it’s disingenuous for him to present the fraction of the government’s conclusions to which he has access as if it is the final word on the Galicia Division or anything else.
As to Giles’ jaw-dropping complaint that people are “conditioned to believe the SS’s primary task was genocide,” the Nuremberg Trial concluded that the SS carried out
persecution and extermination of the Jews, brutalities and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, the administration of the slave labor program, and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners.
Perhaps the public is “conditioned to believe the SS’s primary task was genocide” because the SS carried out genocide.
As disconcerting as it is that authors like Giles are writing fascist propaganda—and that Mallick veers perilously close to the same—it’s even more alarming that editors at outlets like the Star, CBC and Politico deem such intellectually and morally bankrupt material worthy of publication.
PATRICK LAWRENCE: Media’s Fatal Compromises
November 28, 2023
It is no longer enough to tether correspondents to the perspective of the military from whose side they report. We appear to be on the way to having wars fought — huge, bloody, consequential wars — without any witnesses.
Israeli soldiers around Gaza Strip on Oct. 7. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
The practice of “embedding,” which requires correspondents to report in war and conflict zones as part of a given military unit, struck me as a repellent compromise with power as soon as American media began accepting this unacceptable practice. It is an undisguised effort to control what correspondents see and hear, and so what they write or broadcast, and so what their readers, listeners and viewers think.
It is a trick, in short. The ruling or governing power’s military pretends it respects the rightful freedom of an independent press, while correspondents and editors get to pretend they serve as brave correspondents and principled editors.
There is no respect, bravery or principle in any of it. Embedding is a charade, an offense on the part of everyone who participates in it.
It is an act of deprivation in that it gives those reading or viewing the work of embedded correspondents the illusion they are informed while they are, most of the time, kept ignorant of the war or conflict they are eager to understand.
As in various other ways, Israel’s real-time barbarity in Gaza has worsened the relationship between media — Western media, I mean — and the powers they are supposed to report upon. As to audiences, they — we — are left utterly confused to the extent the common language with which people can communicate begins to fail them.
The result is not silence. It is a senseless cacophony that echoes through a weird no-man’s land in which nothing can be said without the risk of retribution or condemnation or banishment. Civil discourse is more or less out of the question.
We are now a dreadful step on from embedding, it seems. It is no longer enough to tether correspondents to the perspective of the military from whose side they report. We appear to be on the way to having wars fought — huge, bloody, consequential wars — without any witnesses.
Last week Politico published a lengthy piece on the Biden regime’s argument that the current “pause” in Israel’s merciless murder spree in Gaza and the exchange of hostages proves the policy cliques in Washington have done the right thing. It does not take much for these dangerously unqualified people to fool themselves.
But the White House remains “‘deeply, deeply worried’ about Israel’s longer-term strategy and what the next phase of the war may look like,” Politico reported. Then this:
“And there was some concern in the administration about an unintended consequence of the pause: that it would allow journalists broader access to Gaza and the opportunity to further illuminate the devastation there and turn public opinion on Israel.”
In plain English, Biden’s people fret about what the slaughter of Palestinians will look like once it resumes — appearances being not quite all but nearly. But if there was no one there to see and report the savagery, there would be no appearances to worry about.
Trita Parsi at the Quincy Institute brought this quotation to my attention, and I cannot do better than his comment on it: “I’m speechless.”
It is interesting that at least some people in the Biden regime seem to consider relations between power and the media to be adversarial in the old-fashioned way. And how fine it would be were the corporate press and broadcasters to get their correspondents into Gaza on their own and report what they see as they see it.
This seems to me perfectly possible. The BBC, Al Jazeera, and various wire services — Reuters, The Associated Press, Agence France–Presse — are among the news organizations with bureaus in Gaza City.
Aug. 10, 1968, protest against the Vietnam War as Chicago was preparing to host the Democratic National Convention. (David Wilson, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)
But the record to date indicates that cowardice and supine compliance will prevail over the aforementioned bravery and principle. This is how embedding journalists got started in the post–1975 years. The defeat in Vietnam spooked the Pentagon and the political leadership, which blamed the media for turning Americans against the war. By the Gulf War, August 1990 to February 1991, embeddedness was s.o.p. among American media.
A reporter named Brett Wilkins published a well-reported piece in Common Dreams a month into the Israel Defense Forces’ war crimes in Gaza. In “U.S. Corporate Media Outlets Allow IDF to Vet ‘All Materials’ from Embedded Reporters in Gaza,” Wilkins laid out the whole disgusting nine. His lead:
“U.S. corporate media outlets have granted Israeli military commanders pre-publication review rights for ‘all materials and footage’ recorded by their correspondents embedded with the Israel Defense Forces during the invasion of Gaza, a precondition condemned by press freedom advocates.”
Wilkins goes on to name a few of the names — among them CNN and NBC — who indulge their spinelessness in this manner. And he quotes the feckless Fareed Zakaria offering the boilerplate excuse for this gross breach of professional ethics. “CNN has agreed to these terms in order to provide a limited window into Israel’s operations in Gaza,” Zakaria deadpans.
Speechless a second time.
A photojournalist named Zach D. Roberts gets my award for the pithiest summation of this daily travesty. “What CNN is doing here is creating ad b-roll [supplementary video footage] for the IDF,” Roberts said. “It’s nothing resembling news and the CNN employees that participated in it aren’t anything resembling journalists.”
So far as I can make out there are few-to-no exceptions to this condemnable practice. The New York Times sent two correspondents and a photographer into Al–Shifa Hospital earlier this month and had the integrity to acknowledge they were escorted by the IDF and to report that a hole in the ground the diameter of a manhole cover did not look much like a Hamas command center.
[Related: IDF Knew Real Hamas HQ While Lying About al-Shifa]
But “limited windows,” in Zakaria’s slithery phrase, are nonsense, and the Times should have declined the tour on any terms but its own. This seems to me the only way the press and broadcasters can reclaim the professional sovereignty they gave up in the post–Vietnam years.
Since then we have witnessed a succession of what I count as fatal compromises. This kind of conduct is part of what has devastated Western media’s credibility and left the reading and viewing public abandoned in the dark. Now we are down to embedding as bog standard procedure and the hinted possibility that correspondents may not be able to bear witness to conflicts and wars under any circumstances.
Journalists were once considered among the guardians of language. Writing and editing with rigorous attention to clarity and correct usage was how language as a vessel of meaning was preserved and protected.
Look at the circus all around us now. Anti–Semitism can mean anything you want it to mean. Ditto anti–Zionism. Anti–Israel can mean anti–Semitic, Hamas can be cast as a terrorist organization, a real-time genocide can be marked down as self-defense. The Times invites us, in Sunday’s editions, to wring our hands as we search for “a moral center in this era of war.”
It is an invitation to drown in blur and induced confusion. I put this down in part — in large part — to the derelictions of those reporting what is called — incorrectly, a case in point — the Israel–Gaza war.
I have watched recently a goodly number of videos recorded in Gaza and seen many photographs taken on the ground there. Here is a video of Gazans fleeing for their lives, published two weeks into the bombing by Al Jazeera. Here are some photographs shot by Mohammed Zaanoun, a Palestinian photographer, and published on Nov. 23 by The New Humanitarian, which was founded at the U.N. in the mid–1990s.
This kind of material, produced by professional journalists, various kinds of nongovernmental organizations, relief agencies and the like, is readily available. How differently would people think, how much clearer would their understanding and conclusions be, were our major media to make it available.