Brandon Martinez / Non-Aligned Media
The battle lines have been drawn: authoritarian powers like Russia and China are part of the “savior” axis of BRICS “white hats,” whereas the Western “Atlanticists” are part and parcel of the “evil” coalition of sinister “black hats”.
This black-and-white Cold War dialectic – largely a construct of the “alt-media” and not the mainstream – is candidly illustrated in the coverage of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war by individuals and websites portending to be “alternative” but which are, in reality, engaged in yellow journalism for the new “Eastern block”.
Let’s look at Syria.
The Western coalition and Russia have killed at minimum a combined 3,000 civilians in Syria and Iraq, according to multiple media reports. On-the-ground observer groups have tallied up 2,000 civilian victims of Russian airstrikes since the Kremlin’s intervention late last year. Many of the victims are women and children who are trapped in areas occupied by insurgents where Russian forces are said to “have intentionally bombed civilian areas” in a blitzkrieg campaign “to spread fear and clear areas where government ground troops were planning to advance.”
The Western coalition air campaign whose jets are operating over the skies of both Syria and Iraq has killed at least 1,000 civilians, observer groups say. Their latest carnage was reported shortly after the truck attack in Nice, France, in July when French and US bombers responded to that by killing 140 civilians in the Syrian city of Manbij.
“Alternative” media outlets, pundits and followers are keen to recognize the Western coalition’s civilian victims, but not those slain by Russia. On the reports of Western excesses there is no fuss over the details of the reporting nor are any suspicions raised about the objectivity of the “sources” giving the information. It is simply accepted. Yet pro-Kremlin hacks and gatekeepers dismiss any and all reportage of Russian wrongdoing in the Syrian war as “propaganda” from the West.
The confirmation bias of the Kremlin’s alt-media pantomime is only growing more extreme. For instance, conspiracist guru Jay Dyer has argued – or, rather, repeated Kremlin propaganda – that Russia has not killed or at least not intentionally killed any civilians in Syria to date, theorizing wildly that all images, video and reports of civilian deaths caused by the Russian side are “faked” by “Western intelligence cut-outs”. “What does Russia gain by attacking civilians,” he ponders, begging the question but not actually proving with evidence that the 2,000 reported civilian victims of Russia are not real. Dyer essentially says that anyone who reports negatively about Russia is “working for the West” and is therefore dismissed out-of-hand as unreliable. But this hypocritical moralism about objectivity is coming from a guy who is openly sympathetic to Putin’s Russia for its perceived “conservatism” and chummy with a leading Russian exceptionalist ideologist, Alexander Dugin, who was once an advisor to Putin.
Even if some images from Syria are staged for “photo-ops” to make the Russia/Assad side look bad (and I’ll concede that has happened), it does not logically follow that everything that reflects badly on Russia or Assad is therefore fake. It’s true that even the Palestinians have in the past staged things for the cameras, but I doubt any “alt-media” guru would use that to further the argument that Israel isn’t actually killing any Palestinians.
Additionally, Dyer and other Kremlin apologists do not apply the same hardened apprehension towards media reports of Western or Western-backed rebel atrocities in the same conflict zones. Nor is comparable scrutiny applied to Western media coverage of ISIS rampages and war crimes. Observing Western press coverage of the Middle East since 2014, the focus has decidedly shifted from anti-Assad to anti-ISIS, coinciding with the ostensible Western policy shift from “removing Assad” to “destroying and degrading ISIS.” So, if their skepticism and suspicion were applied consistently, then all Western media reportage of ISIS crimes should equally be dismissed by them as war fiction. But that’s not what we see happening.
If these biased hacks were intellectually honest and consistent, then they’d have to write off all past Western media reportage that, for example, drew attention to Western financing and arming of extremist Syrian Islamist rebels, all coverage of Western coalition misconduct, all reporting of US-UK war crimes in the Iraq war, and all depictions of Israeli war crimes in the last Gaza invasion. The highly selective cherry picking of what can and cannot be trusted or believed is emblematic of the partisan information war that these compromised or ideologically driven alt-media outlets and pundits are waging.
Does Western big media slant its coverage to favor the whims of their respective governments? Absolutely. Should we be skeptical and cautious about certain claims and narratives being fostered? Certainly. But so does Russian media like RT for its side, yet the Russian outlets are universally hailed by the same “alt-media” sheeple as trusted news sources despite their obvious function as mouthpieces for the Kremlin.
A true non-aligned journalist or even opinion writer would acknowledge the inevitabilities that arise during wars of significant magnitude where both sides commit excesses, abuses and crimes, both sides do “propaganda” and both sides lie about their enemies. This “team choosing” cheerleader hobbyism of the alt-media has shown that it is by and large effectively no better than the mainstream sources they criticize. On top of that, much of the alt-media has shown that they are not non-interventionists or against militarism, but only selectively so when it is the “wrong” powers engaged in the action.
This is why it is always best to diversify one’s sources and never rely too heavily on one channel of information. Evidently this is not something we can expect from the low-brow thinkers who populate the rising “alternative” milieu of propaganda media.