On Syria: Jesse Zimmerman Responds to Critics

by Jesse Zimmerman on May 3, 2018

What a complete pile of bloody tripe this feckless toad is droooling… he should just stay in his hotel in Toronto and suffocate in his own bilge. Zimmerman is an anathema to investigative journalism. This punk writes Fiction.” reads a prominent comment on my previous article, Syria and the Left Split. Wishing death upon someone for having an opinion different from one’s own sounds very much like the essence of authoritarianism. The war in Syria has revealed such authoritarian streaks in wide swathes of the worldwide Left. In 2011, when Syrians criticized their government, initially calling only for reforms and the specific release of children imprisoned by the regime for rebellious graffiti, the regime responded with unparalleled bloodshed. The brutal actions of the regime and the words of its western apologists go hand in hand, it would seem. The mentality is the same.

“If you want front line news about reality in Syria try: Eva Bartlett; she is an indefatigable investigative journalist who is on the ground with the people of Syria.” the unhinged, largely misspelled comment rant went on. “Not in some hotel room in Canada. Or another fine investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley on FB. Both of these courageous women cringe at this Zimmerman, bane of any investigative journalist.”

Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley have indeed been to Syria, both at the invite of the regime in 2016. Around the same time a third western journalist, Cecilia Udden of Sweden, was reporting from Syria on a regime-approved trip, but was expelled for not reporting what the regime had wanted her to report. Whereas Beeley and Bartlett have been openly supportive of the Syrian regime of Bashar Assad, Udden attempted to cover the story from both sides. The regime, it appears, has been purposely micromanaging news that gets out of Syria, which explains why the Assad regime has been accused of purposely targeting journalists.

Vanessa Beeley, a British so-called independent journalist, met with Bashar Assad himself, something she described as her proudest moment on facebook. Beeley, who as stated above, claims to be an independent journalist, met with Russian officials including Maria Zakharova, director of information and press at Russia’s foreign ministry. Authoritarian tendencies were all full display at a presentation in Bristol, UK, hosted by the communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist-Leninist, an organization that openly glorifies Joseph Stalin, by Vanessa Beeley, where an attendant questioned Beeley’s version of events and was promptly shouted down and assaulted by Beeley’s security. Tellingly, one of Vanessa Beeley’s favourite medium to collaborate is the alternative news site, 21stCenturyWire, a conspiracy site that has featured conspiracy theories, including outright climate change denial. 21stCenturyWire was founded by Patrick Henningson, a contributor to far-right conspiracy site InfoWars. Why anyone who considers themselves left-wing would take someone with such associations with the far right seriously is difficult to fathom.

When one looks into other organizations that Vanessa Beeley has associated with, it becomes more confusing as to where she stands on the political spectrum. For instance, along with far Left groups, she has also attended functions on the far Right, including speaking at an event for the British Constitutional Group, a far right wing organization in the UK. Beeley has also hosted Gilad Atzmon, an activist who has been accused by Palestinian solidarity activists as an anti-Semite who is not welcome among their movement. On top of this Vanessa Beeley has openly showed support for far-right authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a leader known for his anti-refugee sentiment. With support for Orban, it appears as if Beeley’s demonization of Syrians extends to those fleeing from the Assad regime. She has also appeared in Compact, a populist right-wing magazine that is tied to the Islamophobic, anti-refugee group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamicization of the West) and the far-right wing party Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic group, and posted it on her Twitter handle.

Eva Bartlett, who has been thoroughly debunked and exposed by many, numerous sources for her allegations that images of war victims in Syria are fake, also dabbles in pseudo-conspiracy theories that are more at home on the far-right than in any legitimately progressive spaces. Her infamous speech at the United Nations, which was in truth sparsely attended, was organized directly by the Syrian Mission at the UN (the Syrian government). This raises questions about her self-declared credentials as an independent journalist. Her conspiracy theories include the claim that Al-Quds hospital in Aleppo, Syria, was never destroyed, a claim denied by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. On Twitter she has posted conspiracy theories about George Soros secretly funding everything she opposes, echoing Alt Right talking points. The conspiracy theories against George Soros have been thoroughly condemned as anti-Semitic dog-whistling, usually a favourite target of the Alt Right and white supremacists. Eva Bartlett twice participated on a youtube channel by conspiracy theorist Ryan Dawson, who has also hosted Holocaust deniers.   

Both Beeley and Bartlett have contributed their conspiracy theory rhetoric to Global Research, a site that regularly contains various pseudoscience, including climate change denial, chemtrails, and anti-vaccination propaganda. Suffice to say, GlobalResearch is a site full of anti-intellectualism. Apart from this, GlobalResearch has also published articles that posit Holocaust denialism, in an article, for example, that appears at first glance to be merely criticizing Israel and the occupation of Palestinian land, the author directly quotes a source that refers to the Holocaust as the ‘Holohoax’. GlobalResearch is often cited by the Syria Solidarity Movement, an organization that both Beely and Bartlett have had membership in.

It would appear that Bartlett and Beeley, despite the insistence of a certain troll, are not good sources for anyone who is dedicated to finding out the truth on Syria. The mere proximity of their work, both in literal location and source, and in tone, to extremist right-wing propaganda should be unsettling for anyone who calls themselves progressive. The tendency to, due to a legitimate skepticism towards mainstream news sources, believe anything simply because it comes from an ‘alternative’ source, is largely the cause of this phenomenon. At the root of much of this is a concerted campaign by the Assad regime’s ally, Putin’s Russia, of misinformation. Bartlett and Beeley, whether consciously or not, are part of this campaign. Both Bartlett and Beeley have appeared numerous times on Russia Today, a news site, along with the equally dubious Sputnik, that is directly tied to the Kremlin. It is an immense logical fallacy for one to assume that because many western mainstream sources are questionable and have shown dishonesty that anything that tells a different story is automatically true. And yet when it comes to Syria in particular many who identify as left-wing and progressive have done just that.

Since the beginning of the 2011 uprisings in Syria, the protest having consisted largely of the lower economic sectors of Syrian society, an immense amount of disinformation has been present globally. While respected human rights organizations have reported the reality early on of extreme regime repression and largescale murder of peaceful protestors, a different set of ‘information’ was immediately flowing from the mouthpieces of the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran. The regime, in Orwellian fashion, denied the initial crackdown on protestors even happened. Strangely, so many people on the Left worldwide fell for it, opting to believe a brutal dictatorship’s words over that of independent human rights organizations. Bartlett and Beeley have done the same thing by being embedded directly with the regime’s forces. They have opted to speak for the Syrian government, not Syria’s people. They are mouthpieces for the regime of Bashar Assad. Full stop.

What kind of self-described Leftist supports a neoliberal regime that is more or less exterminating its poor? What kind of progressive sides with a totalitarian regime that has used mass rape as a weapon of war? How does one criticize Israeli crimes against Palestinians, while quoting the above mentioned Human Rights organizations and United Nations reports, yet speak nothing of the Palestinians refugees who were placed under a starvation siege in Yarmouk by the Assad regime early on in the conflict? Why the hypocrisy? It has exposed those who are truly pro-Palestinian and not merely anti-Israel.

When the Syrian revolution began in 2011 and the regime’s security forces began slaughtering pro-democracy protestors, as stated above, there were immediate denials from the Assad regime that such action had ever taken place. Even as reports from various human rights organizations (the same ones progressives often quote to criticize Israel or the United States) and other firsthand observers, the Assad regime and its allies continually denied what had been reported, a tactic still used in 2018. As the country fell into civil war there was much confusion and disorientation in foreign audiences, making it difficult to discern what was occurring in Syria. Only recently have various articles, blogs, and observers taken to task this propaganda that is specifically made to confuse.

Things are changing, even if slowly. Many left-wing groups have come up with accurate analyses of the Syrian catastrophe that do not whitewash the crimes of the Assad regime, nor ignore that the regime’s actions as the root cause of the conflict. The pushers of conspiracy theories have largely been exposed and the hypocrisy of some segments of the Left have been called out. An example of possible waning influence of pro-Assad conspiracy peddlers is that of the likely fake twitter handle, Sarah Abdallah. The hashtag #SyriaHoax, for instance, has been used by Abdallah and other twitter handles whenever a chemical attack has taken place. In 2017, during the allegations of the Assad regime using chemical weaponry the #SyriaHoax was retweeted 280,000 times in a week, whereas in April 2018, with the allegations of another chemical attack, the same hashtag was only retweeting a mere 17,000 times. This may be a hint that sectors of the progressive Left are starting to wise up to the pro-Assad propaganda.

The Syrian Civil War has revealed major rifts in the worldwide Left, split between those who are motivated by a legitimate humanitarianism and who use discerning logic in pursuit of the truth, and those who engage in pseudo-conspiracy theories to confirm their campist biases in a retrograde Cold War mentality that is no longer relevant in the 21st century. The Bartletts and Beeleys of the world have made their choices and made their priorities clear.

I will not be, like the initial comment I pasted at the start of this article, be looking into Eva Bartlett or Vanessa Beeley’s sources for the same reason why I do not rely on Israeli Hasbara to explain events in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Logical consistency and a commitment to the truth is important and should be for anyone who calls themselves progressive.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

SocraticGadfly May 3, 2018 at 8:38 am

Well, given that you haven’t apologized for your White Helmets suck up, let’s quote you from the previous piece back to yourself:
‘Western Leftists like to pretend they are experts on other countries.’
Otherwise, i’ll take Max Blumenthal over you: https://mronline.org/2018/04/22/exclusive-emails-show-how-the-white-helmets-tried-to-recruit-roger-waters-with-saudi-money/
(Supported by Mark Ames and others)

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Joey Ayoub May 3, 2018 at 5:33 pm

To ‘SocraticGadfly’ You can probably take Syrian journalists instead but that’s too radical for Western leftists these days. Max Blumenthal was already debunked dozens of times by none other than pre-2015 Max Blumenthal. Fascinating phenomenon, and how easy it is for morons to fall for it.

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Nicholas Kiersey May 4, 2018 at 4:02 am

Meanwhile, oops… western powers and the so called ‘moderate rebels’ at it again.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/may/03/how-britain-funds-the-propaganda-war-against-isis-in-syria?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

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Reza May 6, 2018 at 8:06 pm

“at it again”?

First off, at what again?

Also … You do realize the article is dated Tuesday, May 3, 2016, right? (two years ago)

And, in any case, what’s the big surprise anyway (even if the UK-gov propaganda effort was happening right now; which it is I’m sure)? The Brits and the Americans have been very clear about their targets in Syria being ONLY ISIS, and NOT Assad regime. The American fighter jets have flown thousands of sorties since they got involved in the fight against ISIS, and only twice have they hit non-human regime targets. All the rest of the time, they’ve incinerated thousands of civilians, and of course ISIS targets. So, what’s shocking about running propaganda against ISIS?

In any case, it’s not very clear what your point is, Nicholas.

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SocraticGadfly May 15, 2018 at 10:47 am

And, another better piece (actually, second of two parts) from Consortium News, and by a Lebanese-American https://consortiumnews.com/2018/05/15/the-unrecognized-us-contribution-to-bloodshed-in-syria-part-two/

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