On the 19th of April, The Guardian published an article making the positive assertion that two Twitter accounts were run not by real people, but by automated bot software based in Russia. Since the article was published, the owners of both accounts have stepped forward, on video, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that they are in fact real human beings and not software programs.
The article's author, Heather Stewart, makes the following claim:
"One bot, @Ian56789, was sending 100 posts a day during a 12-day period from 7 April, and reached 23 million users, before the account was suspended. It focused on claims that the chemical weapons attack on Douma had been falsified, using the hashtag #falseflag. Another, @Partisangirl, reached 61 million users with 2,300 posts over the same 12-day period."
Stewart explicitly asserts that the Twitter account @Ian56789 is a bot. That account's owner appeared for an interview on Sky News, completely disproving this assertion. Stewart also names the Twitter account @Partisangirl as a bot account. The account's owner, Maram Susli, is a well-known Syrian-Australian activist with many publicly available videos and a Wikipedia page.
This is an extremely egregious case of journalistic malpractice. A demonstrable falsehood has been published about two individuals, the information has been publicly available for days, and there has been no correction or retraction from a trusted mainstream news source. When confronted with the obvious and undeniable falsehoods in her story, Heather Stewart tweeted, "It's not my analysis - as the piece makes quite clear - it's the government's."
Wow. There's a lot going on in those thirteen words. First of all, a journalist's most important job is to question government power and hold it to account. The fact that mainstream British journos are now defending the unquestioning advancement of demonstrably false smears by saying that's what the government told them to say should disturb everyone, and the fact that they're not even correcting it at all is positively bone-chilling. Even after admitting to being a government stenographer, there should still be a correction after a claim's demonstrably false nature comes to light.
Secondly, Stewart's wording explicitly asserts that those accounts are bots as an absolute fact. It doesn't say "One alleged bot, @Ian56789," it says "One bot". It doesn't say "Another account the British government has labeled a bot, @Partisangirl," it asserts that the account is a bot. Stewart took the British government at its word, repeated what she was told as absolute fact, and published it in a very widely read and trusted news outlet, which has refused to retract or correct the claim.
This is because both The Guardian and and Stewart know that in today's political environment there are never any consequences for these McCarthyite hatchet jobs. It is much better for them to ignore those speaking dissenting perspectives than to publicly admit error, because those who question the narratives which benefit longstanding imperialist agendas do not have power on their side. The Guardian has arguably become in recent years the single most virulent promulgator of war propaganda on the planet, and it is protected by the might of the western empire. Those who get crushed into the dirt by its tank treads, not so much.
The legendary Australian journalist John Pilger, whose work on the evils of war and imperialism has been an inspiration for generations of journalists like myself, stated in an interview earlier this year that there was a "purge" of antiwar writers from The Guardian some three years ago.
“But my written journalism is no longer welcome – probably its last home was The Guardian, which three years ago got rid of people like me and others in pretty much a purge of those who were saying what The Guardian no longer says anymore,” Pilger said on the Flashpoint radio show.
Since that time we've seen a relentless outpouring of pro-interventionist propaganda from The Guardian with headlines like "After Douma, the west’s response to Syria’s regime must be military", conducting fact-free smear jobs on opponents of Syrian interventionism, and deliberately hiding all evidence which contradicts the pro-interventionist narrative. Day after day after day this toxic outlet advocates death, destruction and mass murder over peace and common sense, and those who have been permitted to rise within its ranks are the ones who understand that it is in the interests of their career advancement to march to the beat of the war drum.
This is not healthy, and this is not acceptable. But in a way it's good that these brazen war propagandists are exposing themselves so completely, because we can point at what they are doing and present clear evidence of a mass media campaign to manufacture support for a longstanding regime change agenda, thereby shattering the faith that people have placed in these deceitful institutions. Hopefully we can do it before they do much more harm.
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