23October2017

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Preferred Conclusions – The BBC, Syria And Venezuela

 

As the late media activist Danny Schechter wrote, when it comes to the corporate broadcast media: 'The more you watch, the less you know.'

Schechter's observation only fails in one key respect: 'mainstream' output does tell us a lot about which foreign governments are being lined up for regime change.

In 2013, it was remarkable to see the BBC reporting claims from Syria on a daily basis in a way that almost always blamed the Syrian government, and President Assad personally, for horrendous war crimes. But as the New York Times reported last month, the picture was rather less black and white. The US was embroiled in a dirty war that was 'one of the costliest covert action programs in the history of the C.I.A', running to 'more than $1 billion over the life of the program'. Its aim was to support a vast 'rebel' army created and armed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to overthrow the Syrian government.

The BBC's relentless headline stories were mostly supplied by 'activists' and 'rebels' who, in fact, were militants attempting to overthrow Assad, and whose claims could not be verified. Veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn described the problem afflicting virtually all 'mainstream' reporting on Syria:

'All wars always produce phony atrocity stories – along with real atrocities. But in the Syrian case fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the First World War... The real reason that reporting of the Syrian conflict has been so inadequate is that Western news organisations have almost entirely outsourced their coverage to the rebel side.'

There was a simple reason why 'rebel' claims were uncontested: they originated from 'areas controlled by people so dangerous no foreign journalist dare set foot among them'. The additional point being that 'it has never been plausible that unaffiliated local citizens would be allowed to report freely'.

This was obvious to everyone, doubtless including the BBC, which nevertheless produced a tsunami of 'rebel'-sourced propaganda. Crucially, these stories were not balanced attempts to explore the various claims; they sought to establish a version of events justifying regime change: 'rebels' and 'activists' were 'good', Assad was 'bad' and had to go. Journalist Robert Parry explains:

'The job of the media is not to provide as much meaningful information as possible to the people so they can exercise their free judgment; it is to package certain information in a way to guide the people to a preferred conclusion.'

The BBC campaign was clearly inspired – whether consciously or otherwise - by a high-level decision to engineer regime change in Syria.

The key moment arrived in August 2013 when the US came very close to launching a major attack against Syrian government forces, supposedly in response to Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons in Ghouta, Damascus. Only the UK parliament's rejection of the case for war and warnings from US generals on doubts about the claims, and likely fallout from regime change, prevented Obama from attacking.

Particularly disturbing was the fact that, as the possibility of a direct US regime change effort faded, so too did the steady flow of BBC atrocity claims. It was as if, with the goal temporarily unattainable, the propaganda tap was simply closed. It was later re-opened ahead of an anticipated, pro-war Clinton presidency, and then as part of an attempt to push president-elect Trump to intensify the Syrian war.

Read more: Preferred Conclusions – The BBC, Syria And Venezuela

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