On Monday a senior Guardian 'technology reporter' named Olivia Solon published the findings of her investigation into 'conspiracy theories' that the White Helmets 'Syrian civil defense' organization is an outreach of terrorist groups in Syria managed to dominate online discussion. The result was an incredible hit-piece against alternative media sites - particularly 21st Century Wire, which published original research by journalist Vanessa Beeley - whose work has done much to expose Western lies about the war in Syria. And it's all ultimately Russia's fault, of course...
How Syria's White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machineReading just the headline and first paragraph, you've already caught the gist of it. Solon constructs a tale about a grand conspiracy involving "anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government" to account for why people believe the alternative (and largely accurate) narrative about the White Helmets over the official, Western narrative that the While Helmets are actually 'white knights saving Syrians from their evil government'.
The Russia-backed campaign to link the volunteer rescuers with al-Qaida exposes how conspiracy theories take root: 'It's like a factory'
Beeley and others have produced many in-depth reports compiling mountains of evidence that expose White Helmet 'volunteers' moonlighting as terrorists who slaughter 'apostates' (usually people loyal to the Syrian government, which is of course most people in Syria). Additionally, while in White Helmet uniform, there is photographic and video evidence of them assisting black-flag-waving terrorists to conduct and clean-up their executions, evidence that is often produced by the White Helmets themselves as part of their propaganda effort to pass the atrocities off as the work of the Syrian government, then subsequently exposed for what it actually is.
Solon briefly addressed just a couple of these cases then characterized them as "isolated rogue actors," ignoring the dozens if not hundreds of instances in which the White Helmets were caught faking rescues and doctoring dead children, recorded on camera describing the group's video fabrications and its possession of prohibited chemicals, and recorded celebrating the deaths of Syrian civilians side-by-side with Al-Qaeda/Al-Nusra forces. (The civilians of Syria, by the way, to whom White Helmets is supposedly a hero, have also routinely condemned the organization, but the Guardian doesn't let that get in the way of a good story.)
But all of this is essentially irrelevant to the 'Guardian of Establishment Views'. It was interested only in citing meta-analyses of the public discourse about White Helmets to push its agenda, not conducting an investigation, much less questioning its assumptions of what the White Helmets actually do. Citing academic research, the Guardian published 'network maps' and analytics which, on the face of it, are rather damning indicators that the mainstream media can no longer dominate the discourse as they once did:
The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.What is richly ironic about her suggestion that Russia is somehow manipulating social media algorithms is that this is exactly what the social media platforms have themselves been doing in the official narrative's favor. It's total projection - accusing others of exactly what your side is doing - in an apparently futile effort to make everyone believe that the Russians are guilty of 'manipulating minds' with falsehoods when that is in fact what the Guardian itself is actively doing by accusing Russia of such!
"This is the heart of Russian propaganda. In the old days they would try and portray the Soviet Union as a model society. Now it's about confusing every issue with so many narratives that people can't recognise the truth when they see it," said David Patrikarakos, author of War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the 21st Century.
Beau Christensen, a Wisconsin native, has been a SOTT editor since 2006. A long-time non-believer in what we're told by the media and government, he is focused on exposing the lies and disinformation they feed us and studying the accompanying decline of civilization. When he's not waging information war online, Beau enjoys eating bacon and smoking cigars in the company of many animals and good friends.