If the western world cared for Syria as much as CNN and the BBC appear to, heaven would reign here on Earth. Every waking hour of every day the tears of British, American, and European media publishers cascade over us. Those “White Helmets”, the humanitarian saints, the word wielding White House spokespeople immerse us in their humanity. And their humanity is a sinful joke.
For nearly four years now I’ve watched this sardonic drama unfold. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate turns the dogs of war loose. Morals and ideals are upended like dancing bowling pins. Liars blame truthtellers for the chaos we see, and those of us who embrace a moderate stance get labeled as trolls, traitors, fakes or worse. Proven criminals and elitist warmongers roam everywhere, and somehow we’ve evolved to accept it all. Madness is the only word that comes close to describing American policy these days, but the most maddening thing is the hypocrisy and arrogance. BBC! Every time I see the letters under a headline I cringe.
According to CNN, the Syrian Army is executing the families of Free Syrian Army rebels. With western world leaders up in arms over so-called “Fake News”, the Cable News Network is sourcing an “activist” named Mohammad Basbous, and a suspect media network called the Aleppo Media Center. With its Twitter account suspended, its Facebook broadcasting clear jihadist propaganda, this writer wonders at how CNN even considered this source. The YouTube channel features videos from Aleppo with soundtrack elements reminiscent of the film The Last Samurai. Bleeding children filmed like method actors, distraught mothers whaling, the angelic White Helmets workers salvaging what they can, the AMC channel shows the Al Nusra side of things without apology. Embedded within this propaganda though, the reality of a lie is readily seen. Scant days before the Syrian Army takes over a neighborhood, brave captains of the rebel uprising proclaim one small victory after another in the face of demonic attacks by Assad and Russia. If the Syria coverage were seen in a carnival tent it would be more convincing.
Still some believe the battle for Aleppo, Palmyra, and all of Syria is somehow a noble quest for democracy! But who are these CNN and BBC sources really? On the AMC Facebook pages we find four people associated with the account. Yousef Seddik, Zein Al-Rifai, Hasan Kattan, and the aforementioned CNN source Mohammad Basbous. Maybe if we look at them one at a time we can discern how the most prolific media in the west validates them.
Yousef Seddik broadcasts White Helmets heroism via Twitter to his 329 followers. As an expert in social media I can glean much from this account established back in 2013. First follows are often telling of people not so aware of social media, and Seddik creating this account as a function of the AMC network is brutally clear. Among his initial Twitter pals we find none other than Rima Maktabi, who hosted for two years CNN‘s monthly program Inside the Middle East. She works for Saudi TV Al Arabiya. Seddik’s very first “follow” was in fact Zidane Zenglow, another Al Arabiya correspondent. I could go on but what’s more telling than who someone follows in social media, is who “is” following a subject. Saudis quoting the Koran and how paradise is won by the faithful are Seddik’s first admirers, along with Al Arabiya correspondents following back.
Zein Al-Rifai is the freelance photojournalist who works for AMC. He’s the man who films the dying, dead, destruction and riveting propaganda this network spews out. He follows people like the President of France and the US Secretary of State, along with Saudi ministers, the White Helmets, and first follows indicating his social media was always about the war versus Assad. One early Tweep tweets about all the factions coming together as one now that Aleppo has fallen. I could dig deeper, but let’s move on.
Hassan Kattan is from Aleppo according to his social profiles. This rebel sympathizer began his social media efforts by following France 24 and the Saudi TV stations, and Shaam News Network in Damascus. This AMC operative just tweeted “We want freedom, we want to topple Assad” 8 hours ago. Here is the rough translation of a Facebook posting by him from November 24th:
“I swear our hearts tired blessings of God
A lot of pressure and reality hurts.
We lost a lot in this period of our friendly and loved us.
Personally I hate moments of weakness and hate across her.
We still have great confidence that e revolution will win. If we live or we die and that if we meet our God will not be afraid to ask him about what we did with our lives and what we have provided to our cause.!
Finally, if you trace down the network of people behind these CNN and BBC “sources” you always arrive at a dark destination. On the surface of these people and their accounts we find the fake idealism embracing the dead and destroyed in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria. Underneath, down the trail of collaborators and friends we find the AK 47s, the trenches and windows with snipers shooting at the real Syrian Army. There is no mistaking the “jihad” in the jihadist, in the revolutionary. I also find it ironic that Syria expert Vanessa Beeley talking with recently rescued citizens from East Aleppo revealed these White Helmet rescuers as phantoms, ghosts no trapped civilians there ever heard tell of.
Looking at the Twitter feed of an Aleppo named Fares Shehabi I find more credible news from freed Aleppo citizens. But CNN did not interview this Syrian official, unless I miss my guess. Shehabi, one of the most respected business and political figures in Syria, will probably end up being prime minister or president one day, so it’s puzzling nobody but Sputnik is talking with him since Reuters mentioned him in 2012.
On a final note, there is a common thread that runs through these “sources” histories. A man named Wadah Khanfar appears frequently. The President of Al Sharq Forum today was once the Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network. His presence in the social networks and media surrounding the AMC people brings to mind the scandal when WikiLeaks documents revealed Khanfar once unduly influencing Al Jazeera’s news coverage of the War in Iraq at the behest of U.S. embassy officials in Qatar. He subsequently resigned, but his role with elitists at the now notorious International Crisis Group as one of the Board of Trustees, is telling for me.
Khanfar is tweeting about executions to his 2.1 million followers too. Next I will follow the breadcrumbs from Aleppo to Kurdistan and the US interests there, as well as how the Davos elites tie in.
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.