Max Blumenthal is a well connected and known author who has done work on the Palestinian cause from a somewhat leftish perspective. He is also an arrogant and ignorant showman.
Blumenthal currently edits the Alternet Grayzone project. In their recent writings he and his co-writers profess to dislike the al-Qaeda led opposition in Syria. Yet it is exactly the same opposition they earlier vehemently supported.
Yesterday the Real News Network interviewed Blumethal on his recent piece about CNN's al-Qaeda promotion. The headline: Max Blumenthal on How the Media Covers Syria. During the interview Blumenthal laments the failure of progressive media on Syria:
In my opinion, they have abrogated their mission, which should be to challenge mainstream narratives and particularly imperial narratives on issues like Syria. I understand there are massive human rights abuses by the Syrian government, but that's not reason enough to not explore what the West's agenda, the Gulf agenda is for that country, what the consequences are, to actually get into the geopolitical issues. Instead, we've seen Democracy Now propagate generally a regime change narrative.
I don't believe they actually have a line on Syria. It's more a fear of actually taking on the official line. I haven't found a single article in the Intercept challenging the regime change line on Syria.
Blumenthal is outraged, OUTRAGED, that "progressive" media peddle the Syria conflict along "the official line".
Yet in 2012 Max Blumenthal resigned as columnist from the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar English because the paper did not write along "the official line". He publicly (also here) smeared and accused his Al Akhbar collegues for taking a cautious or even anti-opposition position on Syria.
The Al Akhbar writers challenged the mainstream narratives while Blumenthal, with his resignation and his writing about it, solidly aligned with the imperial project. Back then he himself went along "the official line". Then as now the Real News Network helped him along:
I noticed that it was publishing op-eds by people like Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who were just openly apologetic of the Assad regime, if not cheerleading Assad as this kind of subaltern freedom fighter leading what she called a front-line resisting state, or Sharmine Narwani, the blogger who was nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, [..]
This just was really too much for me.
My problem was that the opinions at Al-Akhbar's website in support of the Assad regime, which I've identified specifically by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb and Sharmine Narwani and by the editor-in-chief, Ibrahim al-Amin, were not based on any journalistic fieldwork. They're based on poring over YouTube clips, looking at textbooks, or really disturbing citations by Amin of anonymous regime sources, including documents that he cited which he referred to as investigations of people detained for trafficking weapons.
At that time Max Blumenthal was sitting in the U.S. stenographing Syrian opposition propaganda. Yet he accused Sharmine Narwani and other writers living in Lebanon and Syria of lack of journalistic fieldwork and of "poring over YouTube clips". Narwani wasn't amused by his ignorance:
I have made two trips to Syria in the past six months – the first to interview a wide range of domestic opposition figures, most of whom have spent years languishing in Syrian prisons; the second just a week ago, to spend time with the UN Observer team and learn about the changed military landscape throughout the country.
No journalistic fieldwork? How would Max know? He has done none on Syria, yet he presumes to condemn the dogged pursuit of truth by others.
Al Akhbar early on recognized the foreign sponsored insurgency in Syria for what it is. Max Blumenthal took the easy route of joining the anti-Syrian propaganda train. Even worse - he publicly smeared the writers at Al Akhbarwho were searching for the least harmful solution for Syria.
Now Max Blumenthal has found an outlet that pays him for writing along the very line he condemned when he resigned from Al Akhbar. Nowhere do I find an explanation by Blumenthal for his change of position. No public apology for smearing his former colleagues has been issued by him.
Max Blumenthal's sidekick and often co-author at the Grayzone project is Ben Norton. In his own latest piece Norton blames various pundits and main stream media for pushing for regime change in Syria. Conveniently he does not mention that he himself wrote along that line.
In January 2015 Norton accused the Syrian government of besieging Palestinian refugees in a suburb of Damascus: ‘No to martyrdom by hunger in Yarmouk camp’: Palestinian refugees protest Assad’s siege. Norton had never set a step inside of Syria. His reporting was solely based on opposition talk and videos.
Others did fieldwork. Three month before Norton published his piece Sharmine Narwani had written about her recent visit to Yarmouk:
At the entrance of the camp, I was greeted by armed Palestinians who are part of a 14-group ‘volunteer force’ formed for the purpose of protecting Yarmouk and ejecting the rebel fighters deep inside the camp.
The stories these fighters tell me is nothing I have read in English, or in any mainstream publication outside Syria. Theirs is a story that is black-and-white. Thousands of Islamist fighters invaded and occupied Yarmouk on December 17, 2012, and Palestinians and Syrians alike fled the camp, literally beginning the next day.
The Syrian government wasn't besieging hungry Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk. Most of those had long moved away from the camp. It was isolating al-Qaeda groups who had taken control of the camp by force. Professor As'ad AbuKhalil accused Norton of lying about the real situation:
Ben Norton on Yarmouk camp
This article seems to reproduce word-for-word the talking points of the Syrian exile opposition. In the case of the Yarmouk camp, there are two killers: the Syrian regime and the Nusrah front and other Bin Ladenites on the other side. The residents are victims of both sides. Norton does not mention the role of the rebels in using the camp for their won ends, and in shooting at aid convoys.
There was plenty of information available that the Yarmouk camp was an al-Qaeda occupied zone. Ben Norton ignored it and instead parroted opposition propaganda.
Norton is now accusing other media of doing what he himself did over several years of the Syria conflict: falsely attributing every calamity in Syria to the government while repeating the taking points of the head-chopping Takfiris and the forces behind them. Nowhere have I found an apology or explanation by Norton for his change of sides.
Last month Khalek lambasted the media for ignoring the misdeeds of the opposition: Ignored By Western Media, Syrians Describe the Nightmare the Armed Opposition Brought Them
American media outlets from right to left seem to imagine that there is a democratic mass movement living in Al Qaeda’s Idlib. Or they insist that the uprising was always moderate and democratic until Assad’s bombs transformed protesters into armed and radical insurgents, a common talking point that permeates any discussion of Syria.
Yet in late April 2011 the same Rania Khalek wrote (also here) along the "common talking point" she now condemns. She (falsely) accused the media of missing the alleged misdeeds of the government against the "protesters". She pushed the "common talking point". Her witness of the media missing the news were the same media she accused of missing it:
I thought I would take it upon myself to fill you in on the less newsworthy items that you missed.
Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has stepped up his deadly crackdown on protesters as well, by unleashing the army along with snipers and tanks to open fire at demonstrators.
In her rant about the media missing the news, Khalek links to an Associated Press news piece reproduced at the Guardian site. In it an anonymous witness makes the government-is-shooting claim. It seems to me that the one who missed the really newsworthy issue, the anti-Syrian propaganda campaign, was Khalek herself.
Max Blumenthal's original screed against Al Akhbar at MaxBlumthal.com is no longer available as his site has been "suspended". Some tweets by Blumenthal,Norton and Khalek, later deleted by their authors, have been archived here. Norton made claims along the line "Assad empowered ISIS", Blumenthal propagandized the "barrel bomb" myth, Khaled feared being poisoned by the "regime" while invited to eat with Syrian soldiers and other journalists.
Blumenthal had also propagandized against the Libyan government under Ghaddafi. The war against Libya was waged by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Blumenthal's father Sid works for Clinton and had hoped to profit from the war on Libya. Max Blumenthal spread the myth that an anti-Islam movie was the cause for the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi. The real reason was a quarrel about CIA controlled weapon shipments from Libya to Takfiri Syrian insurgents.
Norton deleted many of his anti-Syrian blog posts and tweets when he turned from fevered insurgence supporter into a "Grayzone" critic of the U.S. war on Syria. Some of his writings smeared public supporters of the Syrian government as mostly anti-Semites and Nazis. Like here colleagues Khalek deleted older tweets when those were no longer consistent with the new editorial line she now follows.
Even in the first days of protests in Syria the Saudi financing behind the exile opposition and the "protests" was already well documented. On April 9 2011 12 soldiers were killed and 23 wounded in a confirmed ambush in Banyas, Latakia. This was freely available neutrally sourced information. The "resistance" in Syria was obviously not peaceful or spontaneous but well financed by sectarian outside forces. It was organized, violent, militarized. It flashed up at the borders in Latakia near Turkey in the north and Deraa near Jordan in the south well before it migrating further into the country. A sure sign that cross border support and supplies played a significant role.
It was also quite clear how the situation was going to develop. As I predicted on April 25 2011:
The most likely scenario is massive sectarian strife with salafi-Sunni attacks on minority Christians and Alawites.
Unlike in Egypt there is no sign that the army will abandon the ruling government. [...] There is no sign that a majority or even significant minority of Syrians has any interest in violent regime change.
My current assessment is therefor that the regime will now put up a bit of a fight and, if it can stomach to do that harshly enough, it will win this fight.
The evidence that outside forces pushed an organized armed insurrection under the disguise of "peaceful protests" was there for everyone to see. It was possible to anticipate where this would lead to. Yet Blumenthal, Norton and Khalek did not care to look for facts. They were fiercely on the side of the opposition even as the opposition killed random people and government followers left and right. Now, as the fates of the sides have turned, they sanctimoniously oppose their former favorites. Now they lambast other writers for repeating the sorry propaganda they themselves proffered for years.
In his recent RNN interview Max Blumenthal proclaims:
[The other side of the narrative] hasn't happened in progressive media. It's why we're pushing, why we're trying to fill the void at the Grayzone project at AlterNet and provide a critical perspective on what the U.S. and its allies have been doing in Syria and what the consequences could be. I think we're probably the only progressive outlet that's consistently doing that.
Oh - f*** you Max.
The BlackAgendaReport 21centurywire, Shermine Narwani and many, many other outlets, including Moon of Alabama, have consistently written on Syria since day one. They immediately recognized the sectarian insurgency for the imperial project that it was and never fell for the "peaceful demonstrator" scam Blumenthal and his fellow hacks propagandized.
Blumenthal knows this well. His piece about the "White Helmets" for Alternet Grayzone was obviously sourced (if not plagiarized) from earlier work by Vanessa Beeley and other authors at the above sites. To then market Alternet Grayzone, which only exists a year or so, as "the only progressive outlet that's consistently" "provide[s] a critical perspective" is worse than marketing talk. It is an outrageous lie.
Any writer, me included, can err in the evaluation of the available facts. One can learn of new facts and one's opinion can turn out to be wrong and change. But one obligation to readers is to stay honest, to admit when one went wrong and to explain why ones opinion has changed. A certain humbleness is an essential ingredient of good writing.
Yet none of that can been seen in the output of Blumenthal and his fellow writers. No apology has been issued by him to the colleagues at Al Akhbar who he publicly smeared and accused. Neither Norton nor Khalek have explained their change of position. Blumenthal now publishes pieces based on the archive material of those progressive outlets which have long had a critical view on the Syria issue. Yet he claims that no such outlets exit.
If they are helpful for the cause Max Blumenthal, Ben Norton and Rania Khalek are welcome to join those writers who all along published against the imperial designs for Syria. It would feel much better through if their newly discovered "progressiveness" on Syria would not have the distinct stink of mere opportunism.
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