Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Posts Tagged ‘BBC

Conspiracy theorists, Sarah Abdallah and Syria.

with 13 comments

Tweet by @sahouraxo: "Nobody is happier about Trump's illegal attack on #Syria than Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu. McCain and Hillary too. #SyriaHoax"

‘Sarah Abdallah’. Followed by “supporters of pro-Palestinian causes, Russians and Russian allies, white nationalists and those from the extremist alt-right, conservative American Trump supporters, far-right groups in Europe and conspiracy theorists.”

Anybody with a Facebook or a Twitter account who’s got an interest in politics, let alone the Middle East and Syria itself, has seen conspiracy theorists posting in abundance over the last weeks.

There is a constant drip drip of  claims that the reports of chemical warfare come from doubtful sources, “jihadist groups” and the “white helmets” “funded by countries committed to regime change”. Opponents of Assad are, apparently, not to believed. They have an axe to grind. Unlike those reporting at length on the crimes of the jihadists, Western intervention and the misdeeds of all those who wish to get rid of the Baathist regime.

The Morning Star published this yesterday,

Inspectors unable to investigate alleged chemical attack due to Western missile strikes.

EXTERNAL inspectors visited the site of an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma today.

Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrived in the capital Damascus on Saturday but were unable to carry out investigations in Douma due to that morning’s missile strike by the US, Britain and France.

Syrian state media agency Sana reported the investigation team entered Douma last night.

France said it is “highly likely” that evidence disappeared from the site before the inspectors arrived in the area.

Britain, France and the US continue to say that they have evidence of a chemical attack which they insist was carried out by the Syrian government.

Their sources include jihadist groups and the White Helmets, founded by a former British military intelligence officer and funded by countries committed to regime change.

President Bashar al-Assad denies his forces have used chemical weapons and Russia has stated that it has “incontrovertible evidence” that British intelligence staged the attack to justify military intervention.

There are more systematic efforts to tie these threads together.

The ‘conspis’ (as French handily shortens this expression) have now got the attention of the BBC.

Syria war: The online activists pushing conspiracy theories

As the investigation continues into another alleged chemical attack in Syria, one group of influential online activists is busy spreading their version of events.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are attempting to access the previously rebel-held town of Douma, where medical organisations and rescue workers say President Bashar al-Assad’s forces dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals in an attack on 7 April, killing more than 40 people.

The Syrian government and its key ally, Russia, say the incident was staged. But the US, UK and France – who support the opposition to Mr Assad – say they are confident that chlorine and possibly a nerve agent were used.

Despite the uncertainty about what happened in Douma, a cluster of influential social media activists is certain that it knows what occurred on 7 April.

They’ve seized on a theory being floated by Russian officials and state-owned media outlets that the attacks were “staged” or were a “false flag” operation, carried out by jihadist groups or spies in order to put the blame on the Assad government and provide a justification for Western intervention.

The group includes activists and people who call themselves “independent journalists”, and several have Twitter followings reaching into the tens or hundreds of thousands.


The network of activists includes people like Vanessa Beeley. She has more than 30,000 Twitter followers and writes for a news outlet that the website Media Bias/Fact Check calls a “conspiracy and conjecture site” that has “an extreme right bias”.

In response to a list of questions, she called BBC Trending’s story a “blatant attempt” to “silence independent journalism” and repeated unsubstantiated claims about alleged chemical weapons attacks.

But in the online conversation about Syria there are more influential activists, about whom much less is known.

Sarah Abdallah (@sahouraxo on Twitter) has more than 125,000 followers, among them more than 250 journalists from mainstream media outlets. Her follower count is comparable to BBC journalists who regularly report on Syria, such as BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen (167,000) and BBC Chief International Correspondent Lyse Doucet (142,000).

In addition to pictures of herself, Sarah Abdallah tweets constant pro-Russia and pro-Assad messages, with a dollop of retweeting mostly aimed at attacking Barack Obama, other US Democrats and Saudi Arabia.

In her Twitter profile she describes herself as an “Independent Lebanese geopolitical commentator” but she has almost no online presence or published stories or writing away from social media platforms. A personal blog linked to by her account has no posts.

Her tweets have been quoted by mainstream news outlets, but a Google News search indicates that she has not written any articles in either English or Arabic.

She refused to comment several times when approached by BBC Trending and did not respond to specific requests to comment on this story in particular.

The BBC goes onto to underline this point:

The Sarah Abdallah account is, according to a recent study by the online research firm Graphika, one of the most influential social media accounts in the online conversation about Syria, and specifically in pushing misinformation about a 2017 chemical weapons attack and the Syria Civil Defence, whose rescue workers are widely known as the “White Helmets”.

They go on to observe,

Graphika found 20 million messages about the White Helmets, split between tweets in support and in opposition. Among the opponents, Kelly says, Sarah Abdallah was “by far the most influential”, followed by Vanessa Beeley.

The firm found that Sarah Abdallah’s account was primarily followed by a number of different interest clusters: supporters of pro-Palestinian causes, Russians and Russian allies, white nationalists and those from the extremist alt-right, conservative American Trump supporters, far-right groups in Europe and conspiracy theorists.

These groups were instrumental in making the hashtag #SyriaHoax trend after the chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017.

That hashtag, pushed by Sarah Abdallah and influential American conservative activists, became a worldwide trend on Twitter. Many of those tweeting it claimed that the chemical weapons attack was faked or a hoax.

Here is a sample of ‘her’ work.

She admires Robert Fisk,

Some are a lot blunter than the BBC about this creature,

The real Sarah Abdallah – Part I



Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2018 at 11:57 am

Defend the BBC !

with 2 comments

“The BBC News Service is the worst in the world, except for all the others.”

Old Saying.

The BBC’s director of news, Helen Boaden, and her deputy Steve Mitchell have been asked to “step aside” pending the outcome of an internal review (Here).

The fall out from the Newsnight report which led to former Tory treasurer, Lord McAlpine, being wrongly accused of child abuse in north Wales in the 1980s continues.

This is of great importance. The BBC is under attack by the usual quarters. The aim of some of them is not just to discredit the Corporation to hide their own faults (Murdoch) but to pave the way for its break up and privatisation.

There is little to add to comments on the McAlpine scandal.

Except that Michael Crick pointed out in the Observer yesterday that Newsnight had not contacted the former Tory Treasurer to put the allegations to him.

This contrasts with the normal procedures of the programme.

They have an absolutely rock solid and deserved reputation for solid investigation.

For example, earlier this year a Newsnight producer contacted me about a programme they were doing on Work Experience. We spoke for nearly half an hour on the Work Programme in general. Some of my concerns were reflected in the broadcast.

Thousands of other people will have had the same experience.

But the present crisis is not just of the BBC’s own making.

It is being fuelled by the long-standing attitude of political figures towards the BBC.

  • Conservatives have long disliked the Corporation’s ‘liberal’ agenda.  The Tory Cabinet resents the BBC’s refusal to let their opinions define its centre of gravity rightwards. Hysterics like Peter Hitchens blame it for moral decline. There is more mainstream resentment. Ipswich Conservative MP Ben Gummer whined recently when the BBC put his plan to give business people an extra vote and say in local politics on-line.
  • Many on left are hostile to the BBC. Sometimes there is the sweeping claim that it represents ‘Wetsern values’. A more serious (and in my opinion, well-founded) objection is that it that it is biased against anything outside the ‘centre-left’. The coverage of JeanLuc Mélenchon  during the French Presidential election,  was unremittingly hostile. Trade union action, above all strikes, are, as Le Monde has noted, considered in terms of “disruption”. The justice or otherwise of union demands is rarely considered.
  • Politicians of all sides always want to ‘correct’ reports about them and their parties. The Malcoms of this world will say that they respect the right of journalists to report and comment. They, however, just want the ‘facts’ (that is their views) to be given.

Political creatures are naturally news addicts.

Much of what’s cited above are ways of saying, “we want the news we agree with” (I include my own reactions).

Today you can see others news channels.

Not just the respected Channel Four but Sky, Russia Today and Al Jazeera, are available on digital free-view.

Sky is piss-poor and bland. Russia Today is made up of faux ‘anti-globalisation’ reports which are at the limit of any kind of objectivity.

Al Jazeera by contrast is serious. It carries investigations into subjects, such as the discrimination against Egyptian Copts, that confound criticisms of Islamic bias. But is  owned by the Qatari State, in which the unelected Emir holds supreme power.

For these reasons, for all Al Jazeera’s merits there are always bound to be controversies about its coverage. I have yet to see a documentary on the poor conditions for immigrant labour in Qatar.

The BBC faces no such objections.

This,  then, is my, unasked for, opinion.

If anybody fucking thinks that attacking the Corporation is going to be an easy touch know this: many many of us have great respect for the institution and will back its independence to the hilt.