‘Fake News’ Isn’t New: Dissecting Two Decades Of War Propaganda
MINNEAPOLIS — The “fog of war” erupts in the confusion caused by the chaos of war. And in the media, it’s an intentional phenomenon that makes it difficult to separate fact from fiction.
While the battles over war narratives evolve, they all have a common goal: to distort reality on the ground.
Such is the case on the crisis in Syria, the new cold war with Russia, and even the buildup for President Bush’s support for Kuwait’s “humanitarian” war against Iraq.
On Oct. 10, 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators and leaving them on a cold floor to die.
Her testimony was cited numerous times by senators and even President George H.W. Bush as justification for backing Kuwait in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein, which erupted just three months later.
However, it was later revealed that “Nayirah” was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and her testimony was arranged by a PR firm representing a Kuwaiti-sponsored group lobbying Congress for military intervention.
More recently, during the “Arab Spring” uprisings that swept the Middle East in 2011, Libyan media claimed that Moammar Gadhafi loyalists carried out mass “Viagra-fueled rapes,” and that the Libyan leader had ordered rape as a weapon of war. When Luis Moreno-Ocampo, a prosecutor with the International Criminal Court, opened an investigation into these allegations, it grabbed international headlines, appearing in Al-Jazeera, the BBC, and Reuters, among many others.
Even as Amnesty International questioned the legitimacy of the allegations, other supposedly humanitarian groups hit a loggerhead on the veracity of the claims. One top U.N. official said he believed the claims were meant as a scare tactic to invoke “massive hysteria” even as another top U.N. official defended them, creating a distraction from the war itself.
And today the fog of war is obscuring realities on the ground in Syria.
Major news outlets frequently cite unnamed sources, a convenient way to manipulate public perception. From CNN to Reuters, these outlets are publishing unverifiable claims and providing minimal evidence to support them, and readers are supposed to drink it all up
The crisis in Syria has attracted international attention and concern, and the corporate media is using the tragedies of war to push an agenda and boost its audience. This push for content — no matter what — has serious consequences. On Dec. 20, for example, Egyptian police arrested five people for making videos they claimed were set in Aleppo, but were actually filmed at a demolition site.
Social media further distorts reality on the ground, presenting a fragmented image of war as the media promotes only those accounts that align with the goals of the United States and its allies.
The media and public both accept the accounts of the White Helmets as gospel. Yet that group, which purports to serve as volunteer first responders in Aleppo, receives training from British mercenaries and funding from a PR firm with ties to George Soros.
Not only are the White Helmets making fake videos, but they’ve even been exposed as agents embedded in the Nusra Front and ISIS.. Armed and far from impartial, the White Helmets are a recipient of millions in USAID funding.
Whether the White Helmets are the apolitical first responders they claim to be or not, one thing is clear: The narrative being weaved by and about them supports U.S. intervention in the war in Syria.
The narrative is built around activists frequently cited by the media, like Bilal Abdul Kareem, who is embedded with the Nusra Front and recently glorified suicide bombers as revolutionaries.
It’s time to put a critical lens to the propaganda in the news and social media. It’s time to demand more than reporting that toes the government line and makes claims without real evidence.
Learn more about fake news and about the forgotten genocide in Yemen on the full episode of the Behind the Headline:
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