“Fake News” and “Fact Checks” – Eva Bartlett and the Mannequin Challenge

I know probably everybody reading this has heard of Eva Bartlett by now, and you’ve probably seen the clip. However I couldn’t put this out of my mind somehow, I started to look at it all more closely. I fear that a lot of people have become a bit too partisan deciding that “she’s one of us”, “yes that’s right” and so forth. Sometimes you need to be partisan in things, very probably we do now on the Syria situation, but I just felt inclined to try and have a closer look. One big question, was Assad really using chemical weapons against civilians, and if so do you really want to be joining either side of a conflict where things like that are happening (possibly on both sides, more on that in a second)?

INTRO – THE UN PRESS CONFERENCE

She made some very serious allegations about Western mainstream media coverage of the war in Syria. She also made some very serious allegations about a group called the Syria Civil Defense, who are also known as the White Helmets. The group’s stated mission is to save lives by rescuing as many people from the war zone as possible.

Here is Eva Bartlett in action at the UN conference just in case you haven’t seen it yet:

2 key points:

At 5:13 she talks about the (alleged) attack on the al Quds hospital.

At 9:45 she talks about the opposition making chemical weapons.

THE CHANNEL 4 “FACT CHECK”

Channel 4 did a “fact check” on EB’s claims. Near the start there was a claim that started alarm bells ringing in my head:

She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.

Eva Bartlett’s blog is not “for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today”, Eva Bartlett’s blog is Eva Bartlett’s blog, says Eva Bartlett.

She has appeared on RT, but then as she points out, so have quite a lot of other people. Merely appearing on the programme does not make her an RT employee, as this seems to be implying, any more than Tommy Robinson’s appearance on the Daily Politics makes him a BBC employee. Of course she must be financially supported somehow, but for channel 4 to make this claim without presenting any evidence to us, well its really quite irritating, isn’t it.

Here is the link if you want to check the “fact check”, it was already looking not very credible in my mind:

https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-eva-bartletts-claims-about-syrian-children

Further down is an absolutely stupid statement:

It’s not clear whether critics of the White Helmets believe that all the videos the group posts of people being rescued from bombed-out houses are fake.

Critics of the White Helmets are not all going to think exactly the same way about this, this is just stupid. I only mention this because it seems to me this is a sort of slur against ALL critics of the White Helmets – lumping them all together, presumably with the intention of hinting that this is all a big conspiracy theory. It also asks:

Why use fake victims when there were other real people to film and photograph?

another really stupid question. To film real people in a war zone must be difficult to do, not to mention EXTREMELY dangerous. It also says:

And we have a Reuters photographer on the ground at one of the incidents, who was satisfied that the events he was recording were genuine.

Now this *sounds* quite impressive doesn’t it, but we only have their word for this, we’ve no way of verifying this from the “fact check” at least.

I wasn’t really sure about what channel 4 were saying here about the girl, it seemed to me they had selected particular photos where the girl’s face was contorted/or different angles. It seemed they were focusing just on one claim and I couldn’t really (frankly) be bothered to go into it too deeply. So I scrolled down to read the comments below the “fact-check” article. In the comments a couple of people had posted links to a Youtube video featuring some of the White Helmets in a “mannequin challenge”.

THE WHITE HELMETS’ MANNEQUIN CHALLENGE

What is a mannequin challenge (call me square but I’d never heard of this before)? This is a funny internet craze where people create videos showing groups of people who appear to be frozen in time while the camera pans around viewing them from different angles. It seems that some bright sparks in the White Helmets organization decided that it would be a good idea to make a mannequin challenge video of one of their “rescues”, in this case of a man from a bomb site. Unfortunately they didn’t really think this thing through, because by creating such an obviously fake video they have seriously damaged the credibility of the whole organization in one fell stroke. Any video they now produce of one of their “rescues” is going to be taken with a very large pinch of salt, however realistic or even actually real it may be. You can view the video in this article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38066791

Quote from the article:

“The video and the related posts were recorded by RFS media with Syria Civil Defence (White Helmets) volunteers, who hoped to create a connection between the horror of Syria and the outside world, using the viral Mannequin Challenge,” the statement read.

“This was an error of judgement, and we apologise on behalf of the volunteers involved.

I can’t however help wondering in watching this mannequin challenge video if the people involved have done this sort of thing before (acting), there is something practiced about it, it does not look particularly amateurish to me. However of course I could be totally wrong, that’s pure speculation. You can watch it in the link and tell me what do you think.

Another quote from the article:

But critics, often pro-Assad or pro-Russia accounts on social media, allege links to jihadist groups and have long claimed that the organisation fabricates reports and rescues.

I can’t help feeling this is another attempt to discredit the people questioning the white helmets – the phrase “often pro-Assad or pro-Russia” seems loaded to me. So what if they are “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”, what difference does that make? What matters is whether the claims are true or false. This very article is surely doing exactly that – claiming that the white helmets have fabricated a rescue! Are the BBC “pro-Assad” or “pro-Russia”? I’ve never been under THAT impression. At least the BBC reported this, although I don’t know how prominently (this is a thing, sometimes the BBC will publish something important but not put it on the front page, squirrel it away in a section).

At the end of the article it says this:

A spokesman for the RFS told the BBC that the activist group occasionally used this kind of campaign to help shine a spotlight on the suffering of millions of ordinary Syrians.

He pointed out that in the past it had attempted to raise awareness of the conflict by leveraging the popularity of computer game Pokemon Go and comic-book heroes The Avengers.

Terrible though all this is I almost laughed when I read that somehow. Note it says “this kind of campaign”. What, faked rescue videos shine a spotlight on what exactly? Pokemon Go in a war-zone? That seems particularly alarming, don’t try this in your own war-zones kids.

This is a very important point to make I think – if we are to be no longer allowed to view a fake news item like this mannequin challenge video by the “White Helmets”, then we lose a vital bit of information that helps us decide whether to take the “White Helmets” seriously or whether to question every single video they produce. Of course this one video alone does not prove that they are a completely fake organization, not by any means. It is just one small piece of evidence that can help us to build a picture. If European governments ever go ahead with their plan to censor fake news, this vital information may end up being suppressed.

There are other serious allegations about the White Helmets mentioned at Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Helmets_(Syrian_Civil_War)#Criticism

SNOPES

Snopes also “fact-checked” some of Eva’s claims including the Al Quds hospital claims and one about the little girl called “Aya”

http://www.snopes.com/syrian-war-victims-are-being-recycled-and-al-quds-hospital-was-never-bombed/

Quote:

Despite Bartlett’s claims, the existence of multiple children named “Aya” does not indicate the “recycling” of victims or prove that accounts of violence against Syrian civilians by their government are falsified. It attests only to the popularity of the given name Aya among Syrian families.

I didn’t look into this “fact-check” in detail, any feedback on it would be much appreciated – I think the stuff about the al-Quds hospital is much more interesting than this business about “Aya”, but if they believe in White Helmets videos after all the above then we have to wonder a bit at least. We know that the White Helmets have faked at least one video, after all.

EFFECT ON EVA BARTLETT HERSELF

Judging from some interviews I listened to, it would seem she is now spending a lot of time batting away these claims of “fake news” rather than actually reporting on things. It seems a shame really, doesn’t it. Why not do some reporting of your own MSM, instead of playing these childish games and slandering people without showing us anything to back your claims up with.

THE WAR IN SYRIA – WHO’S SIDE ARE WE ON??

I’ve been confused since this whole thing started about whose side the West is on in the civil war in Syria, maybe we’re not sure. However apparently (according to the BBC) we have special forces fighting against the Islamic State:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37015915

Quote:

The pictures, which date from June, follow an attack by the so-called Islamic State (IS) on the moderate rebel New Syrian Army base of Al Tanaf on the Syria-Iraq border.

Now, I’m sorry but I’ve really reached the point where I take the word “moderate” with a pinch of salt in all this. I suppose if we’re fighting the Islamic State then its a good thing, but if we’re helping to destablize Assad’s regime, well you see I just don’t know..

Back in 2013, we were trying to start a war against Assad:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-23892783

Fair enough in that this was about trying to deter the use of chemical weapons, but now we have these claims that the “rebels” also may have used chemical weapons. Are we going to bomb both sides in the conflict? I suppose that might make sense if we had really precise weapons but in another claim, the RAF were accused of hitting some Syrian forces. We had Obama giving Assad “red line” warnings and things on that and then he didn’t do anything, if I remember right.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Assad DID use chemical weapons on civilians and its been proved by the UN:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/25/un-proves-assad-regime-dropped-chemical-bombs-on-civilians/

Quote:

The US and other council members have repeatedly blamed the Syrian government for the chlorine gas attacks, saying no other party in the four-year civil war has helicopters to deliver the toxic chemicals.

However in other claims surface to surface rockets were used to deliver chemical weapons.

Syria chemical attack: Key UN findings

FRIENDS OF SYRIA

I came across this website/blog which I’ve been following for a while to try and pick up anything useful but I’ve not commented on this site. Some of it may be fake news, or it may reflect what’s going on, I just don’t know (there I go again). It seems though that they genuinely are trying to make sense of what’s going on there, but it definitely is pro-Assad. There does seem to be another side of the story – that there are people in Syria who are Sunnis but they are also pro-Assad, who knows maybe even the majority of them are in this category. One of EB’s claims is that the Western media exaggerates the Sunni-Shia split. Some of the people who comment there are Muslims I think but the website is pro-Trump, so its a bit of an interesting mix of viewpoints to my mind:

https://friendsofsyria.wordpress.com/

EVA BARTLETT’S BLOG

https://ingaza.wordpress.com/

I’ve looked at some of her blog but not in great depth. If anyone wants to dig in a bit and tell us all what they think I would be interested in what they have to say.

THE CORBETT REPORT

One link I noticed in her (EB’s) blogroll was the Corbett Report. I followed this guy for a little while ages (a few years) ago but I rather quickly came to the conclusion that he was a bit too into “conspiracy theories”, I didn’t think his claims really stood up to scrutiny after a while. He jumps to a lot of conclusions in my opinion, and the conclusions don’t seem to necessarily follow on from the claims he makes. He has some conspiracy about 9/11. I have never come across a 9/11 conspiracy theory that I found convincing, although I haven’t really taken a deep interest in the subject anyway. This is not to say I didn’t think questions needed to be asked about a lot of aspects of what happened, I’m just saying that I don’t believe the whole thing was orchestrated by people in the US, as Corbett seems to think. Linking to this site is not a plus point for Eva Bartlett in my view, unfortunately it kind of feeds into the narrative that she is a “conspiracy theorist” herself, and I don’t really get the impression that she is.

https://www.corbettreport.com/

https://www.corbettreport.com/only-911-truth-can-smash-the-911-lies/

9/11 Conspiracy Theory:

CONCLUSIONs

In general I’m inclined to come to the conclusion that I don’t feel any of the sources are totally reliable, the phrase “fog of war” springs to mind. The war seems like a choice between the lesser (Assad) of two great evils.

If our governments are going to go meddling in these places and help enable the dismantling of law and order (leading to these terrible atrocities – see some of the links below), then I feel complicit in what they are doing, more and more these days. I am not anti-war as a principle thing at all, but I think we need to be a lot more questioning of what our government is doing. I have lost almost all confidence in our governments on almost every front. What do you think? Any fact-checking of my above article will be appreciated, I don’t want to make a mistake on this stuff.

If you think I got anything wrong, please let me know.

ELSEWHERE ON THE WEB
(I’VE NO IDEA HOW ACCURATE ANY OF THIS IS, I JUST PICKED UP THESE LINKS AS I WAS GOING – WARNING SOME OF THIS STUFF IS REALLY HORRIFIC):

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/29/us-military-airstrikes-mistake-syria-assad-deir-ez-zor

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23927399

https://www.theguardian.com/global/2016/sep/28/aleppo-hospitals-are-latest-casualty-in-attacks-by-the-syrian-regime

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10796175/Syria-chemical-weapons-the-proof-that-Assad-regime-launching-chlorine-attacks-on-children.html

http://www.globalresearch.ca/un-syrian-chemical-weapons-report-exposes-washingtons-lies/5361671

http://www.christianpost.com/news/isis-kills-10-year-old-girl-using-flesh-ripping-torture-device-174526/

Syria conflict: Rebels ‘filmed beheading boy’ in Aleppo (quite why the BBC put that in quotes I don’t know, there is a video of it happening I believe (though I didn’t watch it)):
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36835678

Quote:

A legal adviser for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army was also cited by Enab Baladi as saying it would hold to account those responsible for such a violation.

Addendum

In the feedback we received for this post at Not the Daily Telegraph, commenter DJ Mystery Twister posted a link to a Youtube video of a presentation by one Robert Stuart.

This contains claims that a BBC Panorama program featured fake footage of victims of chemical attacks in Syria.  The claim is also made that the BBC program was intended to encourage support for a UK military intervention in Syria against Assad that the then UK Prime Minister called for.  The UK government were defeated in parliament on this occasion however.

[@26.00] At the Frontline club the journalist does seem evasive – trying to suppress questions:

“It kind of makes me sick to my stomach that people would even believe that that did not happen.”

“I don’t want to even talk about that.”

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s