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A Guide to Mainstream Media ‘Fake News’ War Propaganda

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In response to the establishment media’s contrived ‘fake news’ crisis designed to marginalise independent and alternative media sources of news and analysis, 21WIRE is running its own #FakeNewsWeek campaign, where each day our editorial team at 21st Century Wire will feature media critiques and analysis of mainstream corporate media coverage of current events – exposing the government and the mainstream media as the real purveyors of ‘fake news’ throughout modern history…

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Patrick Henningsen
21st Century Wire

 As mainstream media pundits, government officials and Silicon Valley technocrats continue the alarmist crusade over the perceived scourge of ‘fake news’ circulating on social media, their misplaced obsession belies the fact that the government-media complex has long been waging its own private disinformation war, against the global public. 

As the establishment continues its attempt to discredit alternative sources of information through its fake news faux crisis, it’s clear that some corporate media moguls would like to turn back the clock – back to the days when a handful of powerful institutions enjoyed a complete monopoly over the production of news and dissemination of information. For at least the last century and half, this tightly-controlled information syndicate has been able to manufacture a type of consensus reality. By channeling public opinion in this way, the establishment has used the mainstream press to facilitate a number of engineered outcomes – including war.

More than ever, it’s important to highlight how for many decades, these same media organizations, including the most respected brands in western mainstream media, have been the driving force behind some of most deceptive reporting and militaristic propaganda campaigns which have enabled the conditions for violent conflict worldwide. These acts of media malice have contributed to the unnecessary deaths of countless innocent people.

Undoubtedly, many who work in the media will not see it that way, but history speaks for itself.

Here are but a few of the greatest war propaganda deceptions of all-time – brought to you by the establishment’s own mainstream media. Here are the real consequences of fake news…

‘Remember the Maine!’

War propaganda is as old as the media itself.

In the winter of 1898, a terrible incident befell America after the USS Maine, one of its flagship Naval vessels had sunk following an unexplained explosion in Havana harbor in Cuba. Afterwards some leading US newspapers took advantage of the confusion and emotive nature of the story, including William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal and its racy sister publication, the Evening Journal, and also Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, blaming the incident on Spanish saboteurs. Shortly afterwards, the US entered the Spanish-American War in order to capture Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines. This practice of over-reporting and embellishing a story to stir public outrage became known as “yellow journalism” – a badge proudly worn by Hearst in his day. Certainly, Hearst was well ahead of his time in believing media outlets should insert themselves into events in order to affect political outcomes on behalf on the government. One year earlier in 1897, Hearst’s New York World [1] opined the doctrine of “journalism of action” which meant that a newspaper should inject itself into public life, in order to “fitly render any public service within its power.”

Are things really much different today?

The Gulf of Tonkin Deception

On August 4, 1964, a joint US Navy patrol ran into bad weather off the coast of Vietnam, causing problems with US radar and sonar, at a time when heightened tensions in the region had placed the US national security team on red alert. Amid the confusion, some US agent or official, either in the CIA, the NSA or the Pentagon national security structure – circulated a false report that the US Navy vessels and planes were under attack from North Vietnamese patrol attack boats in international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. The next day, President Lyndon B. Johnson appeared on national television to announce[2] his intent to retaliate against North Vietnamese targets, stating, “Repeated acts of violence against the armed forces of the United States must be met not only with alert defense, but with positive reply. The reply is being given as I speak to you tonight.” The infamous event came to known as ‘The Gulf of Tonkin Incident.’ Despite the fact that there were obvious discrepancies in some of the government account of events, the mainstream media accepted the government’s fake story without question. With the media providing public relations backing, Washington was then able to take the next step and declared War on Vietnam, albeit on false pretenses. This was the beginning of a 10 year-long bloody conflict which saw 55,000 US servicemen killed and 250,000 injured and maimed, along with over 1 million Vietnamese killed.

The First Gulf War 

It seems that Saddam Hussein’s incursion in neighboring Kuwait wasn’t enough to justify this historic US military operation because the first Gulf War, or ‘Persian Gulf War’ featured a number of fabricated and fake reports produced or circulated by the corporate mainstream media.

On October 10th, 1990, 15 year-old Nayirah al-Ṣabah, daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah (the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US) provided a tearful testimony in front of the mainstream media TV cameras, recounting alleged human rights abuses in front of a US Congressional Committee. The Kuwaiti teenager claimed that Iraqi soldiers took hundreds of babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Her dramatic testimony later turned out to be completely false.

During the 1990-1991 Gulf War when a leaked clip showed how CNN had constructed a fake blue screen studio set-up to give a false impression that reporters like Charles Jaco were at alternative locations, including a live sound stage used to simulate missile attacks in Saudi Arabia complete with fake date palm trees. This was also the first war where US cable TV provided the bulk of 24 hour mainstream media propaganda promoting every aspect of America’s military operation, led by CNN. Since then, CNN has become the Pentagon’s premier military and war propaganda outlet in the US.

Kosovo ‘Genocide’

After the Rwanda massacres of 1994, the ‘genocide’ alarm has become a tried and true tool used by western media outlets in order to expedite a ‘humanitarian intervention’ under the banner of R2P (Responsibility to Protect). As the narrative commonly goes, because the US “did not act” in 1994, over 500,000 Tutsis were killed in Rwanda. Granted, the desire to intervene in such a tragedy is born out of compassion and concern for humanity, but when the term ‘genocide’ is casually tossed about in the media in order to invoke an emotional reaction of public outrage, then the media risks stripping the term of its real meaning, and its potency as a call to humanity.

From 1998-1999, the US and Europe under the operational banner of NATO – backed the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA) ‘rebel’ fighters from the Kosovo region of Yugoslavia in a proxy war against the military forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. With the help of NATO intelligence and military assets, the KLA began attacks on police and Yugoslavian government facilities in Kosovo, which led to an increased presence of Serb paramilitaries and ‘regular forces’ who then began targeting KLA personnel and political sympathisers, as well as political opponents. It is estimated that during this initial period of fighting, Federal forces killed some 1,500 to 2,000 civilians and KLA combatants. From here, the conflict or “civil war” as it was portrayed in the Western mainstream media, began to escalate dramatically and with that, a flurry of alarmist and sensational western media reporting.

Justin Raimondo, independent journalist and editor of Antiwar.com reported back in 2000:

“The headline in the London Guardian [18 Aug. 2000] was really a bit of an understatement: “Serb killings ‘exaggerated’ by West.” The subhead, however, underscored the enormity of the lie: “Claims of up to 100,000 ethnic Albanians massacred in Kosovo revised to under 3,000 as exhumations near end.” Think of what this has to mean: Madeleine Albright, James Rubin, and Jamie Shea didn’t pull this off single-handedly. Not only the US government, but the worldwide media fabricated a “genocide” and, on that basis, launched a savage war against a sovereign nation that had never attacked us, in the name of “humanitarianism – a war, I might add, that was stopped but has not ended.”

Raimondo continues, “Where are the bodies, all 100,000 of them? This became the task of the “war crimes experts,” as the Guardian describes them: to produce what never existed in the first place – a task that naturally had to end in failure. The Guardian reports:

“As war crimes experts from Britain and other countries prepare to wind down the exhumation of hundreds of graves in Kosovo on behalf of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague, officials concede they have not borne out the worst wartime reports. These were given by refugees and repeated by western government spokesmen during the campaign. They talked of indiscriminate killings and as many as 100,000 civilians missing or taken out of refugee columns by the Serbs.”

As the standard progression goes, on the back of the humanitarian outrage which was playing out in the western media, the west soon demanded a “No Fly Zone’ over Kosovo and parts of Yugoslavia. In the end, it decided to proceed unilaterally, outside of the remit of international law, and in true Matador fashion – the western press offered no resistance at all. Journalist Lewis MacKenzie of the Globe and Mail explains:

“In 1999, with NATO celebrating its 50th anniversary and no enemy in sight to justify its existence, it sought a new role and solicited a UN resolution to establish a no-fly zone over Serbia/Kosovo – the scene of a civil conflict in the latter, with involvement of the former. When it proved impossible for the UN Security Council to approve such a resolution, NATO, in a highly questionable and arguably illegal move, commenced bombing a sovereign nation, the former Yugoslavia (Serbia/Kosovo). Justification, it was argued, was provided by a dated, no-longer-applicable UN resolution that provided for a no-fly zone to protect European Union monitors in Kosovo. The fact that the EU monitors were no longer deployed in Kosovo was conveniently ignored. What followed was an all-out bombing campaign against the infrastructure of the former Yugoslavia, all under the guise of enforcing a “no-fly zone.” The term was beginning to get a bad reputation.”

By the end of the war, you could see a clear process had been formalized – the production and dissemination of disinformation between government departments, political leaders and mainstream media outlets – in order to steadily advance a war agenda. Antiwar.com’s Raimondo concludes:

“It was lies, all lies, from beginning to end. They may have originated from government sources, in most cases, but in spreading these lies far and wide the Western media were more than willing accomplices. Keeping in mind that over 5,000 civilians were slaughtered in the NATO air strikes, the ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate might fairly be characterized as Madeleine’s willing executioners. This is a takeoff, of course, on the favored phrase of the New Republic wing of the War Party, which condemns the entire Serb nation as “Milosevic’s willing executioners.” Based on the myth of an Albanian Kosovar “holocaust” perpetrated by the Serbs, not only Milosevic and his regime but the entire Serbian people are condemned as being no better than the “good Germans” who voted Hitler into power and tacitly supported the Holocaust. Here was classic war propaganda, on a par with stories of Belgian babies impaled on German bayonets during World War I and tall tales told during the Gulf war of babies dumped out of incubators and gasping for breath on the floor of a Kuwaiti hospital. The idea is to get public opinion behind the complete subjugation and “reeducation” of the Serbian people, utilizing the postwar German model.”

It has to be mentioned also, that one of the leading agents of disinformation in NATO’s Kosovo operation was CNN’s ‘war correspondent’ Christiane Amanpour, whom Raimondo singles out as a key purveyor fake news that moulded public opinion enough to allow the war to escalate on schedule for NATO:

“In the case of the Kosovo war, the retreat has already begun. Far too late to help the victims of the vicious “Allied” air war: they are dead and buried, or else mutilated beyond repair. Yet we are still waiting for some acknowledgment – aside from a few stories in overseas newspapers – from the media that they were wrong. After endless horror stories illustrated with fantastically high death tolls were aired day after day on CNN, when will we hear a retraction? Christiane Amanpour repeated her husband’s lies with a perfectly straight face: tens of thousands slaughtered, we were told, and the murderous drug-dealing KLA were really “freedom fighters,” the Albanian equivalent of George Washington and his Continental Army! Journalists didn’t question the government line about alleged Serbian “genocide”: instead they wanted to know if the President would send in the ground troops – and if not, why not?”

Incredibly, we would see a near repeat of this planned model again in Syria.

Osama Bin Laden: A Mythology of Convenience  

A really big lie which was already baked into the official 9/11 narrative: “The terrorist known as Osama bin Laden carried out the 9/11 attacks and he is being given shelter in the nation of Afghanistan. If the Taliban government does not hand over this fugitive, then the US will have no choice but to retaliate against Afghanistan.” Kabul then asked if the US would provide evidence that bin Laden was indeed responsible for the spectacular attacks. This request was ignored by US authorities, but Washington’s ignorance paled in comparison to the mainstream media’s collective inability to follow-up on this, the most crucial piece in the story. In reality, the US was not going to wait for answers, or for the illusive bin Laden to appear. Washington had already mapped out its ‘strategic’ targets and scrambled its long-range stealth bombers. Assets were being mobilized and a new war began as ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ launched on October 7, 2001.  Some 15 years later, the Afghans are still having to endure the Pentagon’s version of freedom, as US-led forces are still occupying and controlling large regions of the country, but doing so conveniently under a NATO banner. To understand the scale and scope of the Afghanistan lie, consider the following:  In 2006, the Muckraker Report [3] contacted FBI Headquarters to inquire why Bin Laden’s “Most Wanted” poster did not indicate any connection to 9/11. When asked why, the FBI official stated that, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.” You’d think that would have been the big scoop, for some investigative journalist working at the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Instead, the press simply fell into line with the official narrative memo issue by the Bush Administration.

Beyond all this however, a bigger media failure which still continues to this day, is the total redaction of the fact that Obama Bin Laden was an intelligence asset of the CIA since the 1980’s during Operation Cyclone (among others) which facilitated a US policy of funding, training and arming a radical Islamist Mujahideen ‘rebels.’ Sound familiar?

The Media’s WMD Deception in Iraq

In March 2003, on the eve of the Iraq War, US and UK government officials had managed to convince their respective mainstream media cadres that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was harboring massive stockpiles of chemical weapons which came to be commonly known as “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Despite repeated assurances by UN weapons inspectors and long-time US weapons experts on the ground like Scott Ritter, both President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared to have already made up their minds that Saddam was hiding vast stores of deadly munitions and therefore a US-led invasion was a fait accompli. Despite the fact  they had no proof or actual evidence, the press didn’t seem to mind because they were “very confident” about the “intelligence.” The White House then dispatched Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations in New York where he regurgitated a made-up story about Saddam Hussein’s deadly mobile anthrax labs, aka “The Winnebagos of Death” [4]. Yes, it sounded completely crazy to millions of intelligent, normal people at the time, and yet – it was good enough for the mainstream media circa 2002 – 2003.

Aside from CNN, ABC, and NBC’s complete allegiance to the government’s fraudulent war effort, America’s once vaunted ‘papers of record,’ The New York Times and The Washington Post, helped endlessly in republishing government-issued fictional accounts. One journalist in particular, Judith Miller from the New York Times, managed to dupe the public by citing the same ‘sources’, like disgraced Iraqi dissident Ahmed Chalabi, that were feeding the US intelligence community false information about Iraq’s supposed stockpiles of WMDs.

The New York Times Later admitted that many of Miller’s stories were false. Still, the damage was already done. The result of this government-media complex campaign of actual fake news: 1 million dead Iraqis, thousands of dead US servicemen, tens of thousands wounded and maimed, along with trillions of US taxpayer funds spent – an open bill which continues to this day.

Miller has since been rewarded for her patriotic efforts with a job at FOX News.

The Planned Take-Down of Libya

Next was a revamp of the Iraq narrative, this time spear-headed by the new liberal ‘humanitarian interventionists,’ led by America’s Barack Obama and France’s Nicholas Sarkozy against Libya in 2010 and again, under cover of the NATO flag. To get the ball rolling, western politicians and the media tried to conflate a perception of political and armed dissent in Libya as part of the wider ‘Arab Spring’ movement, while simultaneously calling for the support of armed opposition groups on the ground.

In 2011, after working behind the scenes helping to organize, arm and equip militant Jihadis fighters and rebel operatives in Libya, the Obama Administration, led by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, desperately needed an excuse to ground the Libyan Air Force in order that NATO-backed Jihadi fighters on the ground could successfully overthrow the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. The most direct route to achieve air superiority would be to implement a ‘No Fly Zone’ over Libya, but with the public relations scars still fresh from the Iraq debacle, Presidents Obama and Sarkozy knew that a No Fly Zone needed broad international support and therefore had to be done through the United Nations. In order to get the global public behind the campaign, a series of fake news stories were concocted by the US State Department and the mainstream media. The first one was the popular talking point that Gaddafi was using military fighter jets to “gun down peaceful protesters in the streets.” Despite the lack of any proof or evidence that this actually happened, the entire mainstream media in the US and Europe ran with it anyway. This bogus claim became the keystone of the No Fly Zone campaign. Another outlandish tale was that Gaddafi was issuing Viagra to his troops so that they could go out and commit “mass rape” against the women of Libya. This invented story was originally disseminated by Qatari government media outlet Al Jazeera [5], and was specifically designed to help generate more western liberal and left-wing sympathy for a ‘humanitarian intervention’ by NATO, particularly from women in the US and Europe. The key emissary who delivered this fake news item to the public –and gave it credibility, was none other that Obama’s former Ambassador to the UN and National Security Advisor, Susan Rice[6]

The other media lie which was promulgated in partnership with the US political establishment was the myth that ‘Genocide’ was imminent in Libya at the hands of Colonel Gaddafi’s black ‘African Mercenary’ brigade, prompting the routine trope in the the Responsibility to Protect script of, “We must act now, before it’s too late,” and using the ‘Rwanda’ talking point as a marketing call to action.

Writer Maximilian Forte describes how this narrative was constructed:

“Just a few days after the street protests began, on February 21 the very quick to defect Libyan deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, stated: “We are expecting a real genocide in Tripoli. The airplanes are still bringing mercenaries to the airports”. This is excellent: a myth that is composed of myths. With that statement he linked three key myths together—the role of airports (hence the need for that gateway drug of military intervention: the no-fly zone), the role of “mercenaries” (meaning, simply, black people), and the threat of “genocide” (geared toward the language of the UN’s doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect). As ham-fisted and wholly unsubstantiated as the assertion was, he was clever in cobbling together three ugly myths, one of them grounded in racist discourse and practice that endures to the present, with newer atrocities reported against black Libyan and African migrants on a daily basis. He was not alone in making these assertions. Among others like him, Soliman Bouchuiguir, president of the Libyan League for Human Rights, told Reuters on March 14 that if Gaddafi’s forces reached Benghazi, “there will be a real bloodbath, a massacre like we saw in Rwanda”.[7]

As a result of these and other unfounded ‘human rights’ abuses trumpeted throughout the mainstream media, on March 17, 2011, UN Resolution 1973 was passed by the UN Security Council and the No Fly Zone was then immediately transformed into a US-led mass-bombing campaign of Libya by NATO. It is estimated that 30,000 Libyans were killed through ‘rebel’ ground fighting, artillery and relentless NATO bombing which toppled the Libyan government and to this day, has turned the once stable country into a permanent failed state and a terrorist haven. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that so few questioned these made-up stories, but like with Iraq and so many other wars, the media played their role in propelling the fake news.

SEE ALSO: AN INTRODUCTION: Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex by Patrick Henningsen

Russia’s Phantom Invasion of the Ukraine

As far as the corporate mainstream is concerned, this story is the media’s gold standard of fake news. Not a day goes by in the US media that you don’t hear the need for the US and NATO to “Counter Russian aggression,” alongside the tandem claim that, “Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine,” or “the Russian annexation of Crimea!” and how Moscow is somehow ‘occupying’ the peninsula militarily.

So who is driving this narrative? Once again, leading the way in the collective media construction of the ‘Russian Invasion’ narrative was a familiar rag. In April 20, 2014, a photo was published by the New York Times allegedly from inside Russia showing ‘Russian soldiers’ said to have later appeared in eastern Ukraine. This fake news story created by the New York Times was then sent along the usual disinformation daisy chain, with CNN and others elevating the story into “proof” of nefarious Russian military aggression. This in turn, was then cited by US State Department, and then by hawkish US politicians as the proof required to back a more aggressive policy against Russia. However, the photographer later went on record to state his photo was actually taken inside the Ukraine.

Award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry [8] explains:

“Two days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.

“Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (page 9 in my paper), the article by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer two of the three authors from the earlier story has this curious beginning: “A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the United States cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.”

By that time, the damage had already been done, and the media and political classes were already off and running with the narrative.

So the progression of disinformation is as follows: a mainstream media outlet (usually a ‘credible’ broadsheet like the New York Times or Washington Post) inflate or fabricate a sensational story, which then cascades through broadcast TV and cable news networks, which is then parroted by western political leaders – giving the public a false impression of ‘consensus’ that a said claim is legitimate. This is how western governments achieve what award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger calls “manufacturing consent.”

Bizarrely, one of the key media trigger words to invoke a ‘Russian Invasion’ of the Ukraine is a term known as “little green men.”  This portable term has been used by everyone from NATO General Philip Breedlove, to US Vice President Mike Pence during his presidential debate against Tim Kaine. TASS correspondent Vladimir Zinin describes the term as follows: “The notorious ‘green men’ who appeared in Crimea — they’re like the toy soldiers children play with, without a name or a face. Their past and their future is a cardboard box, which can be opened when it’s time to begin playing a new game.” [6]

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Russia’s Little Green Men (Image Credit: FPRI)

John Haines [9] who is a senior fellow at the Cold War era right-wing think tank, Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), explains the context:

The claimed emergent advantage in asymmetric warfighting — nonlinear war[2] as conceptualized by Russian strategists, sometimes called hybrid warfare — concerns such Western military commanders as General Philip M. Breedlove. “NATO must be prepared for little green men,” those “armed soldiers without insignia that create unrest, occupy government buildings, incite the population,” he said. “Once the green men are there,” General Breedlove warned, “a revolution happens quickly.”[3] A year later he added, “What we see in Russia now in this hybrid approach to war, is the use of all the tools that they have to reach into a nation and cause instability.”[4]

In reality, the little green men could have been a number of actors, from newly formed militia, to local defense forces and yes, even Russian special forces deployed to protect strategic military and logistical assets located over its border on eastern Ukraine. Indeed, this was also cited in Haine’s report:

“In February 2014, the 3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade of Russia’s Main Intelligence Director (aka GRU) deployed “for the protection of strategic facilities in Crimea… until the full stabilization of the situation in Ukraine” according to the Regnum news service.[11]

As far as the western media were concerned, it was important to keep the use of this term vague and avoid specifics and context wherever possible.  Still, this popular term could be dropped into the script at any time, and was meant to constitute a Russian Invasion of the Ukraine. It was a colorful comic book-like term, which is probably why the US gravitated towards it with such enthusiasm. In the past, comic book-like characterizations and dumbed-down metaphors have been very effective in convincing the American public to back a war – like Colin Powell’s colorful depiction of “Winnebegos of Death.”

Russia’s ‘Illegal Annexation’ of Crimea

Regarding Crimea, one habitual failure of the western media… is failing to report how on March 16, 2014, an overwhelming majority of Russian-speaking people living in Crimea had actually held a snap nation referendum about whether to remain, or leave the Ukraine. The results were stunning, with 95% voting to leave and rejoin Russia. The majority was impressive, although not surprising considering what was happening in the rest of the Ukraine. Residents only had to take one look at the chaos which was unfolding in Kiev; police and protesters in Maidan Square being shot by unknown and suspected mercenary snipers, western-backed neo-Nazis marauding in the streets, an economy in free fall, as well as talk of Kiev’s military being deployed to hunt down Russian-speaking dissenters in eastern Ukraine. In additional to all this, US officials were present in Kiev actively promoting far right NeoNazi affiliated political groups including the Svoboda and Right Sector parties in the Ukraine led by US Senator John McCain (a fact conveniently ignore by major US media outlets) and others, and all with a hand-picked puppet government installed by Victoria Nuland and the US State Department [10] (all gleefully cheered on by Washington and the EU) in what can only rightly be described as a western-backed coup d’etat and installation of a Putsch regime in Kiev.

The repeated claim by western journalists and politicians that Crimea’s move towards secession was “illegal” is quickly nullified by the fact that the western-backed mob’s occupation of, and setting fire to federal buildings, injuring and killing police, before pushing out democratically elected Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych at gunpoint – a transition admittedly brokered by the United States – meant that the government in Kiev was neither legal nor constitutional (according the Ukraine’s own legally ratified constitution). The argument could then be made that the government in Kiev was dissolved under duress, and that going forward any claims of legality or otherwise coming out of Kiev, Washington, or Brussels – lack real context, and thus lack real merit. It should be clear to any reasonable observer or mainstream media journalist or pundit looking at the totality of the situation, that Russia did not oust an elected leader, nor did it push the Ukraine towards civil collapse and into a violent civil war  – it was the US and its NATO member state partners (with the backing of the EU) who achieved this transformative feat. Any reasonable media professional should see that.

After seeing this horror unfold, it goes without saying that events in Kiev would have in all likelihood been a main driver in influencing the Crimean people to vote in favor of a new Autonomous Republic of Crimea with a 95% majority, in effect reunifying Crimea with Russia. Yes, that’s right – Crimea was only attached to the Ukraine after 1954, when then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred Crimea from the Russian Soviet Federation of Socialist Republics (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkrSSR). If one was to apply the western logic that Russia ‘annexed’ Crimea, then you could use that same flawed logic to suggest that West Germany had also annexed East Germany in 1990. An utterly ridiculous claim, and yet, this is what passes for geopolitical analysis in western politics in the 21st century. This is a prime example of how the media’s misappropriation of language and ignorance of history can completely distort a narrative by inverting reality, rather than actually trying to accurately depict it.

As far as western cries of “the Russian military is now in Crimea”, what these struggling pundits also don’t mention is that, long before Washington’s February 2014 color revolt in Kiev, the Russian military has maintained permanent bases in Crimea, including some 30,000 troops and technical support crew members in and around Sevastopol, home of the Russian Black Sea Fleet – since 1783. 

Both mainstream lies – that Russian invaded the Ukraine, and that Russia illegally annexed and is “occupying” Crimea – are responsible for placing the US and Russia on their worst diplomatic footing in 50 years, and inching Russia and NATO towards a possible conflict.

Based on recent history, it would be hard to argue that war-footing is not in the interest of the western military industrial complex, nor that the corporate media are helping to facilitate the public perception of “the threat” which justifies such war-footing.

Syria: An Exercise in Coordinated Corporate Media Deception

Then came Syria. No other modern conflict has been mired in so many competing narratives as Syria has, which continue to this day. Splits on the narratives stretch beyond the mainstream media, and into alternative media circles as well. The global ‘left-wing’, led by President Obama, US Democrats, and R2P liberal interventionists, have opposed any halt to the free flow of arms and ‘rebel’ terrorists from neighboring Turkey and Jordan into Syria, and wholly support a policy of ‘regime change’ – something roundly rejected by the anti-war left previously in Iraq. So the old anti-war party of the left has split into the new pro-war regime change party. This has paved the way for one of the biggest, and darkest festivals of deception in modern times.

Early on in the conflict, and in the spirit of Charles Jaco, CNN’s Anderson Cooper can be seen on-air trying to obfuscate his TV network’s own fakery with British operative, Danny Dayem, playing the role of “Syrian activist” from the city of Homs – after Dayem was caught staging reports with fake sound effects and other contrived elements in order to create the appearance of a “war report” from Syria. Despite this, CNN issued no public apology (and to my knowledge, no one was fired because of it, no surprise there).

Other accusations of mainstream media fakery coming out of Syria’s war theatre include NBC News correspondent Richard Engel’s contrived kidnapping stunt which appeared to be designed to demonize President Assad, UK Channel 4’s unbelievable ‘baby in the incubator‘ story, and last but surely not least – the BBC’s infamous Saving Syria’s Children’ panorama documentary aired on the same day as the UK Parliament was set to vote on military intervention in August 2013.

Undoubtedly, Washington and NATO member states felt confident after their swift success in destabilizing and destroying Libya, to repeat the process in Syria. However, they needed to deploy a series of lies first. Once the contrived Arab Spring in Syria narrative was deployed in the spring of 2011, western liberal interventionist outrage became the order of the day. The talking point then became, ‘We must act to protect this fragile democratic movement and protect the peaceful protesters from the dictator Bashar al Assad.’  As in Libya, western powers, along with financiers Saudi Arabia and Qatar, began flooding the region with weapons and were training and advising armed insurgent fighters [11], with orders to first destabilize Syria, before eventually overthrowing the government in Damascus.

The next big lie was a familiar one – the WMD. The US and UK claimed Syria’s government crossed a ‘red line’ by “using chemical weapons against his own people.” A false flag sarin gas WMD event was staged in East Ghouta, Damascus in August 2013, however, it failed to trigger the necessary declarations of war against Syria by the UK and US governments.

A study by an MIT University professor [12] demonstrated how the event was staged, most likely by US-backed ‘rebels’ embedded there. Since that time, a number of other academics and journalists have exposed the East Ghouta attack as a staged provocation.

Despite repeated failed attempts to pin the chemical weapons war crime on the Syrian government, the western mainstream media continued to rehash and recycle the same ‘WMD’ charges against the Syrian government, as part of a sustained public relations and slanted disinformation campaign which seems to have been spearheaded by the New York Times and others.

The lies didn’t end there. In June 2014, the great terror specter known as Islamic State (ISIS) suddenly appeared in the headlines. A number of questionable videos were permanently fixed on to western media screens, and it wasn’t long before the US had the excuse it needed to deploy its air forces over Syria, presumably to “degrade and destroy ISIS.” After nearly 18 months of bombing by the newly expanded US ‘Coalition’, ISIS was hardly dented, leaving many to suspect that ISIS might very well be a dangerous Trojan horse designed and supported by NATO and Gulf GCC member states. This turned out to be true by all accounts, especially when counting NATO member Turkey’s key role [13] in enabling the movement of arms, supplies and fighters over its border with Syria.

EDITORS NOTE: It has since been confirmed that the US, through the Department of Defense, has organized several tons of weapons used by al Qaeda and ISIS fighters, transported via diplomatic flights landing at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, and via Saudi Arabia. See the full report here.

Regarding Syria, there were many other lies before and afterwards – too many to mention in fact, but we’ll share just one more. Later in 2016, came the next lie, the supposed, “Siege of Aleppo.” John Kerry and other interventionist cheerleaders were all claiming, “We must act now, to save the innocent residents of Aleppo from a humanitarian disaster.” CNN and others parroted a misleading report issued by Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who tried to mischaracterize the liberation of terrorist-occupied East Aleppo as a “meltdown of humanity.” What they, and every mainstream media outlet conveniently failed to mention was that the overwhelming majority of Aleppo residents, 1.5 million of them, were residing in government-protected West Aleppo. East Aleppo had been taken over by western and gulf-backed terrorist ‘rebels’ in 2012 and later dominated by al Qaeda in Syria aka Al Nusra Front, and many of East Aleppo’s remaining 180,000 residents were being held against their will by the occupying terrorists. Indeed, the East side had been under attack by Syrian and Russian forces – attempting to liberate that part of the city. Spun by western media and political leaders, they attempted to get western voters to back saving their “moderate rebels” (who in actuality are western-backed Islamist militants) with another No Fly Zone over northern Syria, and ultimately regime change. Sound familiar?

Dedicated alternative media hounds will still dig relentlessly for the truth, but it’s clear that the issue of Syria has caused some serious fractures. This is partly because of the overwhelming complexity of the conflict, still characterized by the mainstream as a ‘civil war.’  The culpability of mainstream media outlets turned anti-Syria regime change propaganda mills should be obvious by now, with outlets like CNN, NBC, BBC, The New York Times and the Washington Post – all producing around the clock misleading reports from ‘anti-regime activists’ embedded exclusively in terrorist-held areas in Syria. The worst of these has to be the exploitation in western media of the 7 year-old Bana Alabed aka ‘Bana of Aleppo‘ whose Twitter account rose to prominence in September 2016.

Such reports and imagery were designed to generate sympathy towards ‘rebel’ (terrorist) factions and were being supplied to the western media by two US and NATO state funded ‘opposition’ media outlets, the Aleppo Media Centre and the White Helmets.

Another deceptive factor is the emerging trend of pseudo ‘alternative media outlets’ designed to appear as alternatives to the mainstream when in fact they are as establishment as the leading media conglomerate brands. Many of these outlets were disseminating reports furthering the media mythos of the ‘moderate rebel’ in Syria, thus reinforcing the US State Department’s deceptive foreign policy narrative for Syria. The drive for advertising clicks also rewards shallow and sound bite-based ‘news’ coverage, rather than focused, in-depth investigative reporting. Add to this, the proliferation of well-financed pseudo ‘alternative’ media outlets like the Daily Beast (under the umbrella of billionaire and FOX founder Barry Diller), Buzzfeed News (funded by NBC Universal), Vice News (seed funded by FOX), Democracy Now! (funded by the Ford Foundation), The Intercept (funded by billionaire Pierre Omidyar), Alternet (foundation-funded, with past funding by George Soros’s Open Society) – and one can better understand how the narrative was muddled early on with Syria – one of the most important international stories of our generation.

In a belated, desperate attempt to validate five years of media distortions and lies, NATO has recently released a report through its unofficial propaganda arm, The Atlantic Council, dramatically entitled,Breaking Aleppo which was immediately laundered through mainstream outlets like The New York Times, despite the fact that NATO’s report contains a number of unfounded claims and factual errors.

In terms of fake news and disinformation, the Syrian Conflict set a new benchmark for western war propaganda.

‘The Russian Hack’

In the heat of the US 2016 Presidential Election, a near repeat of the Iraq WMD scam unfolded, only this time the Obama government and the same “intelligence community” generated an official conspiracy theory that Russia had somehow hacked into the US election systems, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s emails. Backed by the Obama White House, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media pressed ahead on blaming Russia – not just for DNC leaks, but also for hacking into US election systems in Arizona [14] – despite the fact that there was no evidence of either other than innuendo and pure speculation. The media’s coverage on this issue was deceptive from the onset.

In a leading news release, entitled, Russian hackers targeted Arizona election system,” [15] we can see how after the cock-sure headline, the first paragraph would always sound definitive:

“Hackers targeted voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona, and the FBI alerted Arizona officials in June that Russians were behind the assault on the election system in that state.”

Later in the article, you can see the media walking back the charge to cover themselves for future inquiry:

“It turned out that the hackers had not compromised the state system or even any county system. They had, however, stolen the username and password of a single election official in Gila County.”

Here we can see how the media and the ruling party employed emotive headlines to sell an idea, even though there was nothing in the story at all.

A probable answer to this puzzle was revealed by a local broadcast affiliate WSBTV in Atlanta, who confirmed:

“The Georgia Secretary of State’s office now confirms 10 different cyberattacks on its network all trace back to U.S. Department of Homeland Security IP addresses.”

Not surprisingly, the Georgia report received no traction in the national press.

Is it possible that persons inside the US government were involved in hacking, or probing US election systems? It’s a question worth asking: if domestic federal agencies are hacking US systems, then are our electronic voting systems really secure? Again, you would think that the national media would be keen to follow-up on this promising lead, but instead they ignored it, and opted instead to pursue the elaborate Russian conspiracy theory-plot.

The Russian Hack story was then expanded by the White House and the Democratic Party to claim that Russia actually intervened in the Presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump, thus helping him defeat the odds-on favorite Hillary Clinton. To date, no actual evidence has been produced by the US government to back-up this incredible conspiracy theory.  Interestingly, just as in 2003 with Iraq, the establishment enlisted the help of some of the same media operatives to advance the mainstream’s fake news story. This story, which is likely false, has unnecessarily set back US-Russian relations 30 years to the Cold War era.

In December 2016, a month after the election, former New York Times ‘journalist’ of WMD fame, Judith Miller (now with FOX News), suddenly appeared on the scene [16] to give support to the White House and CIA’s shaky ‘Russian Hack’ narrative. “As Sen. McCain said, it’s pretty clear that the Russians did something,” said Miller. “And it’s pretty clear — according to 17 U.S intelligence agencies — what they did helped Donald Trump.” Another case of MSM déjà vu?

Germany’s ‘ISIS Crisis’

One event on its own does not constitute a crisis, but if the government-media complex is able to line-up a progression, or gestalt sequence of events, then consensus can be manufactured on what constitutes a “state of emergency.”

The year 2016 was one of the most intense years in terms of terrorism stories in Europe, featuring seemingly endless reports of ‘ISIS-inspired’ attacks and incidents in countries like France and Germany. Both far-right and far-left political factions have been feeding off of the instability in Europe, and in almost every case, additional new ‘Police State’ measures have followed each and every ‘terrorist’ incident. Therefor, it’s worth investigating beyond the ‘security headlines’ to find out what actually happened in each of these supposed ‘ISIS-inspired’ incidents.

This appears to be what happened in Germany, as a year-long ‘ISIS crisis’ unfolded in the media – adding to the backdrop for the existing political drama of the Migrant Crisis. It started off in February 2016, after it was reported that a 15-year-old girl identified as ‘Safia S’, had stabbed a policeman in the neck with a kitchen knife during a routine check at Hanover train station, in what German prosecutors claimed was an ‘ISIS-inspired’ attack. Later in May, another incident was initially dubbed by the media as a “ISIS knife attack” because someone claimed that the attacker shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) as he raged aboard a commuter train, although it was later revealed that the event was not terror related at all [17], but rather the work of an unemployed, mentally disturbed drug addict. Nonetheless, the ‘ISIS’ talking point was set into motion, with the emotive media meme already injected into the public consciousness.

A month later came the infamous “ISIS Axe Murder” aboard another German commuter train, injuring 20 people. In this incident, a 17 year-old Afghanistan refugee and asylum seeker living in foster care is alleged to have gone on a violent ‘jihadi’ rampage[18]. This event was initially labeled as an “ISIS” event solely on the basis that (once again) the attacker shouted the now standard domestic terror battle cry, “Allahu Akbar” as he stabbed people. We’ll never know the full story as he was promptly shot dead by police. Afterwards, and rather conveniently, the ‘ISIS media department’ known as “AMAQ” had apparently posted an online declaration that the axe murdering teen was representing their organization and its aims [19]. As is normally the case now, the western media do not vet or question statements made online by ISIS -instead the western media repeat them verbatim. The potential for manipulation here should be obvious, with ISIS assigning credit to anyone or any event they chose – which is then instantly validated by the western media.

Soon after the train incident, came the Munich ‘McDonalds’ Shooter – where 18 year-old Ali David Sonboly is said to have killed 9 people in broad daylight.  Initially, the media tried to paint this also as a ‘jihadi’ and ‘immigrant’ event, only to find out later that the alleged shooter (who shot himself after his alleged shooting spree) was actually a German born and raised, and was part Iranian (not Sunni, or Arab) – and had absolutely no ‘Islamist’ ties [20]. The media initially tried to claim that he also shouted “Allahu Akbar” – while at the same time claiming he shouted anti-immigrant slogans like “f***ing foreigners!”  Coincidentally, this Munich incident took place on the five-year anniversary of another unlikely GLADIO-style event, that of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik who allegedly shot and killed 77 people as well as set-off a car bomb in Oslo in 2011. Interestingly, Breivik was said to be a right-wing Christian Zionist, and member of a Masonic Lodge, giving the story a stark GLADIO tone.

Days later, a 27 year old Syrian refugee and asylum seeker in Germany was said to have carried out a bizarre “suicide bomb attack” in the German town of Ansbach [21], by allegedly killing himself and injured 12 others after setting off an explosive backpack outside a music festival in that city. Authorities speculated that the 27-year-old’s motive was that he had been denied asylum a year ago, although it was also reported that he was on the mental health authority’s radar after having already established a clear history of making attempts on his own life. Add to this Bavarian Police spokesman Michael Schrotberger who claimed, “If there is an Islamist link or not is purely speculation at this point.” In Germany, rejection of such applications is really the norm rather than the exception. According to Germany’s 2014 statistics, over half of the country’s 80,000 political asylum seekers had their applications rejected.[22]  Regardless of the clear lack of any conclusive evidence connecting the suspect to ISIS, a new mainstream media ‘migrant crisis’ talking point was quickly set into motion, as Bavarian interior minister, Joachim Herrmann declared, “It’s terrible… that someone who came into our country to seek shelter has now committed such a heinous act and injured a large number of people who are at home here, some seriously.” Case closed – it had to be ISIS.

The end result of these and the other supposed ‘ISIS-inspired’ events which followed in 2016, has been massive public outrage and fear in Europe, with the public backing the continual German government support of US-NATO state intervention in Syria, but also a u-turn by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s previous stance on the issue of immigration. This month, Merkel announced plans to begin deporting migrants from Germany. On its surface, this appears like a 180 degree reversal of her government’s ‘open door’ refugee policy.

These are but a few examples demonstrating what can, and will go wrong when the press blindly accepts the government narrative as gospel (and accepts ISIS-issued media memos), allowing the mainstream media to push out and validate government-approved fake news to an unsuspecting public.

This practice of collusion between the government and corporate media has enabled most major global conflicts which the US and its allies have participated in over the last century or more.

If there’s one thing we can learn from history it’s that absolute power corrupts absolutely. With their monopoly over print and the airwaves, the government-media complex has been able to control what the public believes they know about any given conflict.

Now that their monopoly is broken, we have a chance to break the continuous cycle of planned geopolitical strife and endless warfare – so long as we can keep the truth flowing.

Q: If you cannot trust the mainstream media, then who can  you trust?
A: Become your own researcher.

Patrick Henningsen will be speaking at the Media on Trial event in London on Thursday Oct 19, 2017. For tickets and information, visit Eventbright.

Author Patrick Henningsen is an international journalist and current affairs analyst, and executive editor of 21st Century Wire, as well as the host the SUNDAY WIRE radio show on Alternate Current Radio, and also host of Patrick Henningsen LIVE on Independent Talk 1100 KFNX AM in Phoenix. 


[1] Pulitzer Biography: An Opportunity Missed. https://mediamythalert.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/new-pulitzer-biography-an-opportunity-missed/

[2] The Truth About Tonkin. http://www.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2008-02/truth-about-tonkin

[3] No hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11’ http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article13664.htm

[4] Powell’s Winnebagos of Death. http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/58516:winnebagos-of-death

[5] Rape used ‘as a weapon’ in Libya. http://english.aljazeera.net/video/africa/2011/03/201132845516144204.html

[6] Gaddafi ‘supplies troops with Viagra to encourage mass rape. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/29/diplomat-gaddafi-troops-viagra-mass-rape

[7] Top Ten Myths of Libyan War. http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/08/31/the-top-ten-myths-in-the-war-against-libya/

[8] NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop. https://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/23/nyt-retracts-russian-photo-scoop/

[9] How, Why, and When Russia Will Deploy Little Green Men – and Why the US Cannot. http://www.fpri.org/article/2016/03/how-why-and-when-russia-will-deploy-little-green-men-and-why-the-us-cannot/

[10] The Mess That Nuland Made. https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/13/the-mess-that-nuland-made/

[11] CIA and Saudi arming rebels in Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/world/middleeast/us-relies-heavily-on-saudi-money-to-support-syrian-rebels.html

[12] Serious Questions about the Integrity of the UN Report. http://web.mit.edu/sts/Analysis%20of%20the%20UN%20Report%20on%20Syria%20CW.pdf

[13] Turkey’s secret pact with Islamic State.  https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/turkeys-secret-pact-with-islamic-state-exposed-by-operative-behind-wave-of-isis-attacks-6b35d1d29e18#.oeo5opgqb

[14] FBI Investigates Hack in US Systems. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-is-investigating-foreign-hacks-of-state-election-systems/2016/08/29/6e758ff4-6e00-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

[15] FBI Investigates Foreign Hacking in US Election Systems. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-is-investigating-foreign-hacks-of-state-election-systems/2016/08/29/6e758ff4-6e00-11e6-8365-b19e428a975e_story.html

[16] Fox contributor Judy Miller calls investigation of Russian hacking Obama’s ‘tar baby’ gift to Trump. http://www.rawstory.com/2016/12/fox-contributor-judy-miller-calls-investigation-of-russian-hacking-obamas-tar-baby-gift-to-trump/

[17] German Knife Attack Not Terror-related. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/munich-knife-attack-family-of-german-suspect-say-he-is-no-terrorist-and-detail-drug-and-mental-a7024366.html

[18] German Axe Attack. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/about-20-people-injured-in-axe-attack-on-train-in-germany

[19] ISIS Claim Axe Attack Was A Member. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/18/german-train-axe-attack-many-injured/

[20] Munich shooter had no Jihadi ties. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-crime-munich-idUSKCN1021YZ

[21] Ansbach Bombing. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/25/bomb-attack-southern-germany

[22] Syrian Asylum Seeker Was Allowed to Stay. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/25/syrian-bomber-at-german-festival-had-been-denied-asylum-authorities-let-him-stay/





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