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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Starving for truth

Al Jazeera in America is shutting down. Fine by me. They were on board with a recent misinformation campaign intended to demonize the government of Syria. This campaign involved faked images of starvation.

Of course, Al Jazeera is hardly the only culprit. You may have seen that "viral" photo of a pretty Syrian girl who became emaciated and skeletal. The girl is actually Lebanese, she suffered from a medical condition, and she is doing just fine right now. For more, go here.

(Facebook was the primary distributor of that disinformation exercise. I shudder to think of how many people get their "news" from Facebook.)

And then there's the case of the starving Syrian town of Madaya. Here's how NBC is covering it:
Horrific images of emaciated residents and tales of desperation have emerged from Madaya, a town of some 40,000 residents that has been besieged by pro-Syrian government forces for months.
The wording conveys the impression that Assad's forces have prevented food from reaching the city.

 A "fixer" named Raed Bourhan, who works for the Times of London, has filled his Twitter feed with anti-Assad propaganda, including a sad image of a cat being killed for food. This photo was designed to affect Americans. Although I would not be surprised if people did use pets for food (as occurred during the 1870 siege of Paris), that particular image could have been taken anywhere. We must not forget the example of the "Syrian" girl who turned out to be Lebanese.

(Bourhan is one of those well-prepped and eager-to-help media assets who always show up in these situations. Lazy jounalists rely on his type far too often.)

CNN, using the now-familiar "false equivalence" gambit, assures us that "all sides" are using starvation as a weapon of war in Syria. However, CNN did publish the following:
But the United Nations said last week that it had received credible reports of people dying of starvation and that the Syrian government had agreed to allow aid convoys into Madaya, Foua and Kefraya.

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar al-Ja'afari denied that anyone is starving in Madaya, calling the images of starving people "fabrications." He said his government had appealed for humanitarian assistance weeks ago.

"The problem is the terrorists are stealing the humanitarian assistance from the Syrian Red Crescent as well as from the United Nations," al-Ja'afari said.

He denied the Syrian government is using starvation as a tool of war, which is generally considered a war crime.

"The Syrian government did not stop any convoys of humanitarian assistance," he said. "On the contrary: We sent plenty of convoys and we asked the U.N. to send more."
A moment's thought will tell you that the government has nothing to gain from a starvation campaign. Over the past year, we've seen stories indicating that ISIS and Nusra channel all resources to their fighters. It's a recruitment tool: If you join their army, you get a place to live and you get food to eat.

Vice News had to remove photos of starving children in Madaya, because the photos were taken elsewhere -- and were provided by Al Jazeera. Yet we were originally told that these photos were uploaded to social media by residents of the town!

This article questions the emerging Madaya narrative...
British state-owned broadcaster BBC tells us that there are up to 400,000 people being held in some 15 besieged towns across Syria. The BBC and other Western media refer to these places as "rebel-held", and by a process of outright lies or half-truths, it is inferred that the locations are being besieged by the Syrian army, supported by Hezbollah militia and Russian air power.

Occasionally, the Western media let slip, like when the New York Times reported this week on "people being shot as they try to escape" the captive towns. The people are being shot — by the so-called rebels holding the residents as hostages, but the NY Times omitted that fact.
The Western media portray the "Syrian regime" forces as having blockaded the towns and using starvation as a weapon against the residents. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The populations have been held hostage by the terror groups and used as "human shields" to prevent the Syrian army advancing to liberate those being held against their will.

This week, the siege towns being reported in the news are Madaya near the capital Damascus, as well as the northern locations of Kefraya and Foua. But the same siege situations and eventual liberation were repeated previously in many other towns and villages, such as Zabadani, Kessab, Adra, Homs and Maloula.

In all cases, the residents have welcomed the Syrian army with open arms as "liberators" — grateful to have been freed from the nightmare of captivity under the foreign-backed mercenaries. Their conditions of starvation and general brutality were not due to alleged blockade by the Syrian state forces, as the Western media claim, but rather as a direct result of being kidnapped en masse by the mercenaries.
That's our media: Another day, another disinformation exercise...

On a related note... The Syrian city of Idleb, also spelled Idlib, was one of the origin points for the anti-Assad movement of 2011. Control of the city has bounced back and forth in the years since, although Nusra (al Qaeda) has held it since March of this year.

A few days ago, Russian planes bombed Idleb, targeting the offices of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American NGO funded by the State Department. No one was killed, but the office was destroyed.

Moon of Alabama made an interesting catch:
Can someone explain why and how the U.S. Syrian Emergency Task Force, which is financed by the U.S. State Department, can continue to operate in al-Qaeda occupied Idleb?
Vanessa Beeley nails it with her 36 questions about Madaya that our media refuse to ask.

Farsnews does a good coverage of the scam, as does TheWallWillFall (here and here), especially the role of various agencies such as the Syrian Network For Human Rights ( and ICR2P (

And our old friend, Legatum neocon Michael Weiss, had a go at the Syrian government starvation theme back in 2013. So none of this is new.

The rebels are losing on the ground and are hoping to obtain UN support via this propaganda exercise. They want to solidify their shaky position on the ground, along with their political legitimacy, as part of the upcoming peace negotiations. Their Western backers are happy to endorse the lie.
I had hope for thar network years ago. Sigh.

Anyway, what a coincidence that Indonesia is attacked by proxy warriors today.

They opened a hospital in Gaza,7340,L-4749504,00.html
The process by which the misinformation is presented and disseminated is very layered, slick and professional. Here's the Washington Post with a story on food distribution in Syria:

The "Syrian activists" are described as members of civil society " including doctors, teachers and emergency responders...", who, the open letter suggests, are victims of food denial by the Assad regime ("besieging us"). The article separates these representatives of the "opposition" from ISIS, but nowhere is al-Qaeda or Nusra mentioned, allowing readers to assume that the Syrian war is directed at an opposition largely consisting of doctors, teachers and firefighters, who are being starved to death in part due to an ineffectual United Nations.

The article then notes the letter was put together by an organization called the Syria Campaign, "an activist group critical of Assad." The article does not note that this Syria Campaign is run out of an office in London, and received its core funding from the Asfari Foundation, created by an extremely wealthy Syrian exile and which has been funding professional anti-Assad "activist groups" since 2011, i.e. the start of the destabilization of Syria.
For some reason, I always associate posting stock pictures alongside news stories as becoming normal with the introduction of "Newser" around 8 years ago. I remember people having to explain to countless confused people that the picture wasn't an actual picture of those involved with the condensed "news story" paired with an equally misleading photo. Now it seems to be standard practice everywhere. The mainstream news has done similar things with choosing a picture of young Travon to further sensationalize that story, or mugshots instead of family photos when it wants to demonize.

This, however seems to be a more serious development. In your online travels, Joseph, have you run across any blog that tracks the propaganda of images used alongside sensational news stories?
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