Down the Alt-Right’s Syrian Rabbit Hole

How a Chemical Attack in 2013 set the Stage for Trump’s Post-Truth Presidency, and How We Can Fight Back.

On August 21st 2013 rumors of a massive chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta, a rebel held suburb of Damascus began to emerge. A series of now famous videos which showed victims laid out on the floor shaking were uploaded. Over the next few day fragmentary details of a major sarin gas attack began to emerge in the western media. As  journalists started putting the pieces together an Austin based conspiracy theorist named Alex Jones went on air to present his own version of events with absolute certainty.

In retrospect the August 23rd episode of “The Alex Jones Show” is worth re watching, because it was a chilling precursor to the alt right movement that would shape how Donald Trump sees the world. Between segments hawking survivalist and pseudo medical products, listeners called in to speak with Jones. One caller ranted about fears that Obamacare death panels would kill his grandmother, Jones suggested Obama’s Muslim background made him a bad dog owner and a segment about the inappropriate conduct of the Clinton foundation ran (remember this was during the summer of 2013).

The the subject of Jones program that day was the sarin gas attack in Damascus, and he jumped right into it.

“The so-called US, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Chase, that run this country, along with the Sachs, Cobergs, Gothes, and others, the Queen of England, the Dutch Queen others, that’s the main folks that own it all. They are openly taking the funding away from Egypt, and I’m not defending foreign aide, but the point is they are taking it away becasue they aren’t doing what they are told to turn it over to jihadis to just wreck everything.”

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Russia and the Syrian Regime are Documenting Their Own Crimes

In the era of “fake news,” Russian hacking, and “post truth presidency,” it can be hard to discern fact from fiction and propaganda from reporting. Over the past few years the smear and bullshit industry has been kicked into overdrive by state actors invested in spreading misinformation.

Propaganda is nothing new but as America comes to grips with the role of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election via hacks and so-called “fake news”, many are wondering what, if anything, can be done to counter these increasingly toxic and advanced strains of misinformation. Most worrying is the fact that US president elect Donald Trump seems to be a voracious consumer of fake information, at the expense of US intelligence agencies and other more rational observers.

This seemingly insurmountable challenge has left lawmakers scratching their heads, considering countermeasures and toying with the absolutely unacceptable notion of censorship. For those of us who oppose censorship but are still terrified by the plague of bullshit there is good news. Simply put, the best cure for Russian propaganda is Russian propaganda.

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Unpublished Tragedies: A Reply To Patrick Cockburn and Max Blumenthal.

The “Mainstream Media” Never Cared Enough About Syrian Civilians to Have an “Agenda.”

Whenever the media is accused of fabricating or exaggerating stories about bombs over Syria, as well as Yemen and Gaza for that matter, it reminds me of a man I met in Azaz, during the summer of 2014. I was reporting with an American friend, we drove up to a little street with our fixers. The block had been smashed in half by an airstrike no more than a day earlier. As we got out of the car we could see a middle-aged man sobbing in front of the rubble of his home, as a younger friend or relative picked through the dust.

Our translators talked to the man, soon it became clear he had lost more than one of his family members. At some point one of the fixers asked if we could take a photo of the site. The man’s sadness quickly turned to blind rage. He started screaming(I’m paraphrasing from a combination of what we could make out and what was translated) “My family was one of the first to join the revolution. Journalists just want money! FUCK OFF!”

The man didn’t want us to take a photo of his destroyed house, he wasn’t afraid of the people we were with, he didn’t want anyone to use his tragedy to fit any agenda. His heart must have been full of more hatred for the government that had blown his home to smithereens than anything we can imagine, yet he just wanted us to leave him alone so he could sob and come to terms with the loss of whoever had died in that rubble. Was it his wife? His children maybe? We never got to ask the question, he was screaming at us so we tried to apologize and left. There were no other western journalists in Azaz that day. There was no “Mainstream Media” rushing in to pay for footage of tragedy in Syria anyways. In the mind of Cockburn or Max Blumenthal there would have been “think tanks” and “Zionists” and “Saudis” all lined up to give me a bunch of cash for photos, to prop up the illusion that the people hate their government. Instead it was a man alone in the universe sobbing over his dead family.

Continue reading “Unpublished Tragedies: A Reply To Patrick Cockburn and Max Blumenthal.”