by Finian Cunningham
July 13, 2012
Finian Cunningham is Global Research’s Middle East and East Africa
The major Western mainstream media outlets have been running a “shock and
awe” propaganda offensive against the Syrian government of President Bashar
Al Assad for nearly 16 months.
The misinformation has been unrelenting,
monolithic, unverified, one-sided and, frankly, increasingly preposterous.
With the suppression of mounting facts that Western governments are waging a
covert war of aggression in Syria, the Western public is right to treat the
conventional media sources with skepticism and outright contempt. Such media
are seen as “politicized” and “unreliable”, serving a naked imperialist
agenda for Western regime change. In a word, they are damaged goods.
This is where a segment of the so-called alternative media can play a
valuable propaganda function for Western powers. Because such media are
supposed to be independent, critical, non-corporate, the public tends to
consider their reports as objective and unbiased.
One such “alternative” news service is
"Democracy Now" hosted by Amy Goodman.
Goodman is seen as something of a campaigning
critical journalist shedding the light of truth on the depredations of the
US government, corporations and the Pentagon. But a closer look at what
Goodman’s "Democracy Now" is reporting on Syria shows that the purported
critical broadcaster has become a purveyor of Western government propaganda.
While the mainstream media’s propaganda function is obvious to the informed
public, Goodman’s "Democracy Now" plays a more subtle role.
Camouflaged with the trappings of critical,
independent journalism, "Democracy Now" serves to sow powerful seeds of
misinformation in a way that the “compromised” mainstream media cannot.
This misinformation from "Democracy Now" is valuable to the ruling elite
because to many of its readers it is not seen as misinformation.
Rather, the “news” on "Democracy Now" is viewed as reliable and representing
the views of the anti-war, anti-imperialist constituency. In this way,
Goodman is a valuable asset to Washington and Wall Street because her
broadcasts can serve to disorient and undermine a constituency that is
normally opposed to Western warmongering and imperialism.
Many of the subscribers to "Democracy Now" may
see through the misinformation. Many, though, may not, and therefore will
become embedded with the imperialist agenda.
The fact that Democracy Now ratings appear to be
holding up would indicate that a lot of its followers are oblivious to the
insidious effect of such misinformation. As such, Democracy Now is more
the powers-that-be than, say, the New York Times or the
Financial Times. "Democracy Now" ensures that the agenda of the powerful
becomes infiltrated in a constituency that would otherwise be opposed to
First, let’s recap on the mainstream propaganda offensive against Syria.
Since mid-March 2011, when violence was initially reported in that country,
the Western mainstream television, radio and press studiously ignored the
evidence of covert foreign-backed subversion and terrorism. Instead these
outlets have sought to portray the protests as part of the pro-democracy
Arab Spring popular movements that were seen in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and
The mainstream media have run saturation
coverage to demonize the government in Damascus as a “brutal, authoritarian
regime” that is cracking down mercilessly on its civilian population
demanding democratic reforms. The narrative is monolithic in the major media
outlets on both sides of the Atlantic.
...the “story” on Syria is uncannily uniform.
A noble, civilian mass-based
movement is being savagely crushed by a tin-eared dictator, so the story
Every possible smear campaign against the Assad government has been indulged
in and indeed fabricated. From the alleged killing of innocent civilians by
the national armed forces, to the perpetration of massacres by
pro-government militias, to self-inflicted car bombs in urban centers by
Assad secret services, to the feckless shopping habits of the president’s
Russia Today, Press TV, Der Spiegel, the
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Vatican News Service (Agenzia Fides), to
name a few, have been honorable exceptions in mainstream media journalism
for conveying a more accurate picture of what is really happening inside
Syria - showing that “protesters” are far from peaceful civilians, and much
of the violence is actually stemming from Western, Turkish and Arab-backed
mercenaries that have infiltrated the country.
As the facts of US and NATO-backed violence in
Syria become more transparent and harder to conceal owing to the sheer
volume of covert involvement, the Western public has rightly become more
skeptical about what the mainstream media outlets are telling them. Indeed,
the blatant misinformation and lies that are being sold as journalism is
increasingly seen as contemptible.
The Houla massacre on 24 May is a case in point.
The BBC and other mainstream media outlets have
been shown to be outrageously wrong in their initial rush to blame the
atrocity on Syrian government forces when the evidence has slowly emerged
that it was most likely the grisly work of Western-backed mercenaries.
It is all the more disquieting when a supposedly informed, alternative news
service, Democracy Now, peddles such blatant misinformation - more than six
weeks after the massacre occurred and after evidence has been reported that
points convincingly to Western-backed perpetrators.
On 9 July, Goodman broadcast an interview (below
video) with Rafif Jouejati, a spokesperson for a Syrian opposition group called the
Syrian Local Coordination Committees, based in Washington DC.
mounting evidence of Western, Turkish and Saudi/Qatari covert operations,
Goodman gave her guest a free rein to regurgitate the litany of mainstream
media calumnies on Syria.
Without a hint of skepticism from Goodman, her
“The bottom line is that the majority of the
country is engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, for democracy,
for dignity… We have mountains of evidence indicating that [Assad’s]
armed forces have been engaged in systematic torture, rampant
detentions, massacres across the country.”
Really? The majority of the country engaged in a
popular revolution for freedom, democracy and dignity?
That sounds more like the fanciful imagination
of someone safely based in Washington DC. By contrast, sources in Syria have
confirmed that people are terrified by Western-armed gangs running amok in
their communities, kidnapping, murdering, evicting families from their homes
and burning down business premises.
According to the leaked Arab League Observer
Mission Report, which had initially been commissioned by the Arab League at
"In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer
Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government
forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries.
Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing
eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the
bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a
police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline
and some small bridges were also bombed."
"Such incidents include the bombing of buildings, trains carrying fuel,
vehicles carrying diesel oil and explosions targeting the police,
members of the media and fuel pipelines.
Some of those attacks have been
carried out by the Free Syrian Army and some by other armed opposition
(League of Arab States Observer Mission to
Syria, Report of the Head of the League of Arab States Observer Mission to
Syria for the period from 24 December 2011 to 18 January 2012. Ironically,
these fact-finding observations of the AL Observer Mission, went against
the interests of its Western sponsors. It was barely reported by the
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ):
"Those killed were almost exclusively from
families belonging to Houla’s Alawi and Shia minorities. Over 90% of
Houla’s population are Sunnis.
Several dozen members of a family were
slaughtered, which had converted from Sunni to Shia Islam. Members of
the Shomaliya, an Alawi family, were also killed, as was the family of a
Sunni member of the Syrian parliament who is regarded as a collaborator.
Immediately following the massacre, the perpetrators are supposed to
have filmed their victims and then presented them as Sunni victims in
videos posted on the internet."
Erkenntnisse zu Getöteten von Hula.Abermals Massaker in Syrien,
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, June 7, 2012 translated from the German)
The FAZ report quoted above echoes eyewitness
accounts collected from refugees from the Houla region by members of the
Monastery of St. James in Qara, Syria.
According to monastery sources cited by the
Dutch Middle East expert Martin Janssen, armed rebels murdered “entire Alawi
families” in the village of Taldo in the Houla region.
Also of significance is the report of Der Spiegel (March 29, 2012) entitled
"An Executioner for Syria's Rebels Tells His Story".
A system of "burial
brigades" for those executed confirms an organized process of mass-murder
and extra-judicial killings. This single "burial brigade", according to the
executioner's testimony, was responsible for the arbitrary execution of
350-400 people including "prisoners" and "traitors".
The "traitors" are Sunni civilians within the
occupied urban and rural areas, who express their opposition to the rule of
terror of the Free Syrian Army (FSA):
"Since last summer, we have executed
slightly fewer than 150 men, which represents about 20 percent of our
prisoners," says Abu Rami... But the executioners of Homs have been
busier with traitors within their own ranks than with prisoners of war.
"If we catch a Sunni spying, or if a citizen
betrays the revolution, we make it quick," says the fighter. According
to Abu Rami, Hussein's burial brigade has put between 200 and 250
traitors to death since the beginning of the uprising."
(Der Spiegel, March 29, 2012)
The Vatican News Service Agenzia Fides largely
confirms that the Western backed "opposition forces" rather than the Al
Assad government were responsible for countless atrocities:
"In Homs, called the "martyred city",
"opposition forces have occupied two areas, Diwan Al Bustan and Hamidieh,
where there are all the churches and bishoprics," the Archimandrite told
"The picture for us - he continues - is
utter desolation: the church of Mar Elian is half destroyed and that of
Our Lady of Peace is still occupied by the rebels. Christian homes are
severely damaged due to the fighting and completely emptied of their
inhabitants, who fled without taking anything.
The area of Hamidieh is
still shelter to armed groups independent of each other, heavily armed
and bankrolled by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. All Christians (138,000) have
fled to Damascus and Lebanon, while others took refuge in the
The Syrian soldiers in fact, continue to face foreign fighters,
mercenaries Libyans, Lebanese militants from the Gulf, Afghans, Turks.
"The Sunni Salafist militants - says the
Bishop - continue to commit crimes against civilians, or to recruit
fighters with force. The fanatical Sunni extremists are fighting a holy
war proudly, especially against the Alawites.
When terrorists seek to control the
religious identity of a suspect, they ask him to cite the genealogies
dating back to Moses. And they ask to recite a prayer that the Alawites
removed. The Alawites have no chance to get out alive."
(Agenzia Fides, Vatican News Service, 4
These reports were known to the alternative
media. "Democracy Now" chose to ignore them.
Figures, Blamed on the Government
Goodman also indulged in the overblown casualty figures from dubious Syrian
opposition sources as if they were verifiable accurate data.
She even sounded like Hillary Clinton in talking
up the “defection” of the hapless former Syrian Brigadier General Manaf
Tlass as “significant” when informed sources discount that news as a minor
In the interview between Goodman and her guest (whom sources describe as
belonging to a family formerly aligned with the Syrian government), Bashar
Al Assad was portrayed as an unhinged leader who is in denial over massacres
- massacres, as we have noted, that have most likely been carried out by
Western-backed death squads as confirmed by numerous reports.
Preposterously, Assad was described as guilty of much worse crimes than
former Egyptian and Libyan rulers Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi.
Then the “alternative” Democracy Now broadcast
this statement (far above video) from the supposed opposition spokesperson as if it were
“I would like to think that we will proceed
with full prosecution in the International Criminal Court. I think the
longer this issue goes on and the more violence he [Assad] commits, the
more likely he will wish to have a fate such as Gaddafi’s.”
Recall that the Libyan leader was lynched on a
roadside by a NATO-directed mob, and sodomised with a knife before being
It may also be recalled that "Democracy Now"
gave prominent broadcasts supporting NATO’s intervention in Libya and
justifying the criminal subversion of that country (below video.)
Going by the latest
coverage on Syria, Democracy Now is acting once again under a "progressive"
cloak as a propaganda tool for US-led imperialist intervention.
Given the misplaced respect among many of the
public seeking independent, alternative, accurate news and analysis, this
insidious role of Democracy Now is reprehensible.
May it be suggested, in the name of media
transparency, that the program be aptly renamed "Imperialism Now"...