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The Christchurch Attack: is the stage is set for a continuing domino of death?

29 March 2019 6 comments

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“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.”

That was from the trial of Clayton Weatherston in 2009, convicted killer of Sophie Elliott. His behaviour in court, televised for all to see, was appalling.

Chief executive of Women’s Refuge (at the time),  Heather Henare, described Weatherston’s self-serving exploitation of his courtroom platform with disgust;

“New Zealanders hearing so many of the details and seeing Weatherston taking the stand will have been absolutely dumbfounded that this remorseless killer has had a platform for his justifications and excuses televised and thoroughly reported by the media.

Everyone must have a fair trial, of course, but I think we need to be asking whether a trial like this actually represents any kind of justice whatsoever.”

Even as the nation looked on at Weatherston’s performance, the fact is that there was only one real person that Weatherston was playing to: himself. He would have had very little, if any, support from his audience.

Two years later, another killer took the ‘stage’ in a Norwegian courtroom. Mass-murderer, terrorist, and far-right fanatic, Anders  Breivik was charged and later convicted of murdering seventyseven innocent people. Breivik made his court appearances with dramatic effect;

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(Note: this blogger will not share images showing the killer’s face. If you’re sufficiently curious, look it up yourself.)

Breivik justified his killing spree with a chilling statement that bears relevance to the Christchurch terror attack on 15 March;

“They were not innocent, non-political children; these were young people who worked to actively uphold multicultural values…”

During his court case, Breivik expounded his far right views. It became his platform to promulgate his ideology and to create an image of “heroic action” amongst the far-right in every nation on Earth, from America to Britain to Greece to Ukraine and elewhere.

One survivor of his terror attack, Viljar Hanssen,  was clear in his condemnation of the Courtroom circus;

“For many of us, the relentless struggle for a good and dignified life continues… while the media incessantly give a podium to the Breivik circus.”

It had an eerie similarity to critics of Weatherstone’s behaviour during his trial.

The difference between Weatherstone and Breivik is that Breivik was playing to a supportive, approving audience throughout the world.

It should not be lost on people that the alleged Christchurch shooter committed his terrorist atrocity having been inspired by Breivik.

Breivik, in turn, disclosed he had been inspired by Oklahoma bomber and far-right terrorist, Timothy McVeigh.

Breivik and McVeigh have becomes heroes amongst the far right, with many openly declaring their admiration of the murderers. Some, llike Christopher Paul Hasson, were fortunately  caught by law enforcement authorities before they could carry out their own terrorist attacks.

Hasson had been inspired by Breivik.

In the far-right “community”, the term “Going Breivik” has obvious, deadly meaning.

There are multiple instances of far right individuals carrying out, or attempting to carry out, their own terror attacks. All have been inspired by other attackers.  It is an ongoing cycle of domino of death.

It is against this back-drop that we now have to consider the alleged Christchurch shooter’s own looming trial. The alleged killer has indicated he will represent himself;

The duty lawyer who represented Tarrant in court on Saturday confirmed to the Herald today that he was no longer acting for him.

Richard Peters said Tarrant appeared to be lucid and was not mentally unstable – other than the extreme views that he held.

Peters said that his job representing Tarrant ceased on Saturday – and that the accused gunman had told him he wanted to represent himself in future.

This raises the spectre of the alleged Christchurch shooter repeating past instances of terrorists turning his trial into a platform to spout his racist, xenophobic views; his motivations; and his ideas of a world-wide war against other ethnic and religious groups.

Any notion that this will not happen is naive.

When the alleged shooter went on his killing spree, it was live-filmed and up-loaded onto social media. Since then Facebook confirmed removing 1.5 million copies of the terror attack. That was two days ago (as at writing this blogpost). The number has probably increased by the time you read this.

The purpose of filming and uploading a video of the attack should be clear to everyone.

For the alleged shooter to be given a Court platform by televising or  radio-broadcasting his comments would compound his desire to spread his toxic extremist views. As Massey University law professor, Chris Gallivan, pointed out;

“We’re going to hear a lot more about this gentleman and probably from this gentleman, and also about his ideology, before this is over.

We have to ensure the victims are protected through that and that it is not a platform to be able to extol his worldview. But if he self-represents – the courts probably will struggle to stop him using this as a platform.

Anders Breivik didn’t recognise the jurisdiction of the court and used every opportunity he possibly could to spout his vitriol and worldview.”

From there, it is a short step to that publicity being widely disseminated amongst the far right, and inspiring the next terrorist attack. Copy-cat attacks are already occurring in Britain;

Detectives are investigating an alleged far-Right terror attack in Surrey after a teenager was stabbed amid a spate of racist incidents across Britain which came in the wake of the New Zealand massacre.

Politicians and police have condemned the attacks and said extremism has no place in British society.

The 19-year-old victim was said to have been attacked by a man armed with a knife and a baseball bat who it is claimed was heard shouting racist comments.

Yet, conducting the trial in secret is also not a solution.

Secrecy breeds suspicion. It would give birth to a host of mind-numbingly tedious conspiracy theories. Salient information about his actions would be lost. It would create dangerous legal precedent.

There has to be a middle-ground. A compromise where the alleged shooter is denied a platform – but where secrecy does not create unintended consequences.

Televising and radio-broadcasting the alleged shooter’s comments is simply not tenable. That would give him the stage to encourage others by his own words.

Just as The Daily Blog denies links to ‘Infowars‘ because the administrator(s) consider Alex Jones a crazed hate-monger who cannot be reasoned with.

Worse still, it re-victimises the survivors and families of the terror attack. The ghoulish spectacle of the alleged shooter on our TV screens or his voice on our radios, would be an unbearable trauma for many people. There is no fairness in such a prospect.

The best compromise is to allow media to attend the trial – without electronically recording and disseminating anything the alleged shooter says. His comments can be paraphrased, if they are salient. Simply repeating his toxic beliefs is unnecessary. Anyone interested in his ideology has a multitude of far right websites to visit: they are not shy in seeking publicity (and recruits).

RNZ chief executive, Paul Thompson,  has  taken a lead by approaching other news media to show restraint how the alleged shooter’s comments should be reported in the media;

RNZ chief executive Paul Thompson said the organisation would have “really strong editorial controls” in its court coverage, focusing on the key legal aspects of the case.

“Just because someone’s representing himself, perhaps, and makes a three-hour opening statement, you don’t have to cover every word of it,” he said.

Mr Thompson said he had begun contacting others in the news business to see if they wanted to develop a joint approach.

“It’s no good if some of us exercise that restraint and other outlets don’t,” he said.

This shows responsible restraint.

Furthermore, Court gallery seating should be given priority to the families, friends, and community leaders of his victims. They, above all of us, have a right to see the face of the alleged killer who took so many precious lives.

Recording devices (smart phones, dictaphones, etc) should not be allowed into the Court.

Some may balk at these suggestions. I make no apology for making them.

‘Phase 1’ of the alleged shooter’s plan was to live-stream his terror attack. If the alleged shooter is allowed to use the Court as a platform for his toxic views, we are, in effect, allowing him ‘Phase 2’ of his plan for maximum publicity.

We should deny him that oxygen. Just as we deny ISIS the oxygen of publicity by removing their on-line propaganda videos whenever they are found.

Otherwise, any direct publicity given to him could inspire the next far right terrorist to commit his own atrocity. We would be complicit in that.

New Zealanders never thought this would happen here. But it did.

New Zealanders may think giving the alleged shooter a platform won’t inspire the next killer. It will.

We should think carefully on what we do next.  There will be consequences.

There are always consequences.

 

Postscript

This episode of Radio NZ’s “mediawatch” appeared too late for the blogpost above, but it is pertinent to the issues raised:

Mediawatch – How Christchurch’s assault has made a mark on our media

Mediawatch – Lessons from Norway on covering the quest for justice

 

 

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References

NZ Herald: Weatherston trial a ‘national disgrace’

The Guardian: Anders Behring Breivik claims victims were not innocent

France24: Breivik makes Nazi salute at court appearance

Sydney Morning Herald: Christchurch suspect claimed ‘brief contact’ with Norwegian mass murderer

The Buffalo News: For some alt-right extremists, bomber Timothy McVeigh is a hero

Public Radio International: Oklahoma City bombing inspired Breivik, Norway’s mass murderer

Washington Post: ‘They hate white males’ – A Norwegian mass murderer inspired the Coast Guard officer accused of plotting terror, feds say

New York Times: The Anatomy of White Terror

NZ Herald: Christchurch mosque shootings – Brenton Tarrant to represent himself in court

Mediaworks/Newshub: Christchurch terror attack: Lessons from the Anders Breivik trial

Fairfax/Stuff: Christchurch shootings: Facebook removed 1.5 million videos

The Telegraph: Surrey teenager stabbed in ‘far-Right terror attack’ amid spate of racist incidents after New Zealand massacre

Radio NZ: How media plan to cover the accused Christchurch shooter’s trial

Additional

ADLS: Judges zoom in on courtroom cameras

Other Bloggers

TDB:  On the trial, on the failure of our intelligence agencies & on the blame game

TDB:  Dr Liz Gordon – The narcissist twins and the future of humanity

TDB:  Selwyn Manning – Christchurch Terror Attacks – New Zealand’s Darkest Hour – Friday 15th 2019

Previous related blogposts

A funny thing happened at the Mall

15 March: Aotearoa’s Day Of Infamy

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 March 2019.

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Fairfax media and Kiwiblog revise incorrect story denigrating trans-people

2 February 2019 2 comments

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On 6 January, this blogger reported on a ‘tweet’ and  associated blogpost from right-wing blogger and National Party supporter, David Farrar;

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David Farrar had commented on a story that appeared on Fairfax/Stuff’s website on 18 December 2018, entitled;

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“UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too”

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As this blogger wrote on 6 January;

The Fairfax/Stuff article was based on a report from Brighton & Hove City Council dated 3 December 2018. The BHCC report  outlined how better support could be offered to students in the Council’s area for sanitary products during menstruation. The Council report outlined measures that could be taken to offer support where needed, remove stigma and shame associated with menstruation, and provide better education on the subject.

This was outlined on page 10 of the report.

Also on page 10 was a section headed;

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Key messages for learning about periods

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The tenth bullet-point made this observation;

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The statement reads “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods“.

It should actually read; “Trans boys and Trans men and non-binary people may have periods“. Or even “Trans boys/men and non-binary people may have periods“. (Which reflects their original internal biology, as opposed to the gender they later identify as.)

The BHCC report does not refer to CIS men.

This blogger wrote to Fairfax/Stuff on 5 January, pointing out the article’s gross inaccuracies;

I submit that the headline and story was not factually accurate and severely mis-represented a published report from the United Kingdom. The mis-repesentation was such that it elicited a hostile and angry response from readers.

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Nowhere in the BHCC report does it state that ”all genders can have periods“. This is an incorrect assertion that is not true. The report clearly refers to trans boys, [trans] men, girls, women , and non-binary people.

[…]

The BHCC report does not state anywhere that ”boys can have periods too“. The report clearly states that “trans boys and [trans] men” may have periods.

Trans boys and [trans] men were, at an early stage, biologically female. They subsequently identified as male

Furthermore, I pointed out the intemperate response by readers to the Fairfax/Stuff article;

The lack of factuality to the Stuff story is evidenced by the following Comments Section. Readers have mis-interpreted what the BHCC actually stated based purely on the headlining and the manner in which statements were mis-reported or presented out-of-context. There has been a massive response hostile to the BHCC report based on the Stuff story mis-representing that ” boys can have periods too” and ” all genders can have periods”.

Much of that hostility has been directed at trans-people/LGBTQI, and as such the erroneous nature of the Stuff story may have led to incalculable harm to an already marginalised minority in our community.

Fairfax/Stuff’s Deputy Editor, Keith Lynch, responded three days later. To their credit,  they accepted the poor quality of their “story”;

On reflection, we don’t think this story reached our journalistic standards.
It has been standard for us to refer to trans people as their chosen gender for some time (hence the reference to “boys” rather than “trans boys”).
However in this case, I do take your point and we have updated the story’s intro and headlines and added a clarification to the copy.

True to his word, Keith Lynch revised the story on their website. The heading now read;

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“UK school children to be taught trans boys can have periods too”

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The content was also amended;

New primary school sex education guidelines are being introduced in the United Kingdom to tackle the stigma around menstruation including for trans-gender boys and men. 

Brighton & Hove City Council has released a report advising teachers that “Language and learning about periods is inclusive of all genders, cultures, faiths and sexual orientations” as “trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”.

It recommends teachers use language that reflects “all genders, cultures, faiths and sexual orientations” and calls for transgender students to be given extra support from a school nurse if needed.

The Fairfax/Stuff story also linked to the original Brighton & Hove City Council report (above).

The reference to “all genders” was made more specific to learning about menstruation;

New guidelines in the UK suggest lessons on menstruation “must be inclusive of all genders”.

On 24 January, I wrote to David Farrar,  pointing out that his blogpost and ‘tweet’ were based on an inaccurate media story;

Kia ora David,

Re your blogpost on 3 January headed “”UK kids to be taught men can menstruate””, Fairfax/Stuff has revised their original story upon which you based your piece: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/109414247/uk-school-children-to-be-taught-boys-can-have-periods-too

The Fairfax/Stuff story was revised after it was pointed out that their story contained major factual errors. Deputy Editor, Keith Lynch, confirmed that the story did not meet their usual journalistic standards.

If you take a few minutes to read the revised version (link above), you will see it differs considerably from the original version you (and I) read.

Will you be amending or deleting your 3 January blogpost (and associated ‘tweet’) which now refers to a media story that no longer exists in it’s original form?

In all fairness, I’m advising you that I’m putting together a follow-up blogpost to this story (after an initial piece I wrote on 6 January), and  any comment you offer may be included.

To David Farrar’s credit, he responded in under 24 hours, confirming that he would amend his blogpost – which he has done so;

UPDATE: The original story has been corrected, and was misleading. They now advise:

This story initially quoted the report as stating”menstruation must be inclusive of all genders”. This was incorrect and the article has been updated. The headlines and intros has also been updated to better reflect the content of the report.

So not that much of a story after all it seems.

Frankly speaking, David Farrar owes this blogger nothing and he would have been within his rights to either ignore me or suggest detailed instructions where I could go. That he opted to make the correction – as did Keith Lynch – is in their favour. Kudos to them both.

All that aside, this experience has highlighted how easily widespread mis-information can end up demonising a marginalised, powerless minority in our community. Subsequently, nearly all comments following David Farrar’s blogpost and the Fairfax/Stuff story, were full of derision. Expressions of intolerance were given ‘permission’ to be voiced. There was more “knee-jerking” from reactionary conservatives than from athletes running a ten thousand metre race.

The problem is that none of the commentators who left comments after the Kiwiblog post and Fairfax/Stuff story would return to read the up-dated version, nor David Farrar’s correction.

Such is how mis-information is spread and misconceptions take form. Several hundred (thousands?) of readers may now be spreading the false notion that British “school children [would] be taught boys can have periods“.  Outrage over “political correctness gone mad” can usually be traced back to such mis-information.

It probably does not help matter that Fairfax has eliminated dozens of sub-editing positions within it’s offices, out-sourcing the role to companies such as Pagemaster. Journalists are also expected to sub-edit their own work prior to publication to on-line publications – a policy that invites errors to slip through.

As Karl du Fresne wrote in June 2017,

The casualties of the job cuts have included subeditors, the now virtually extinct class of senior journalists whose job was to keep errors out of the paper and whose absence is reflected in embarrassing mistakes that, with increasing frequency, provide much glee on social media.

Worse still, far-right groups like the so-called “New Conservative” Party will be only too happy to propagate fake information from various internet sources, whether correct or not..

If this lesson has taught us anything, it is a reminder that we should be very careful with our reporting. Whether highly-read bloggers or mainstream media, we have a duty to get it right the first time.

By the time corrections are made to a badly-written story or blogpost, the damage has been done.

Postscript

This blogger is not immune to “writing from the hip” and making a mistake based on an incorrect msm story:

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Prime Minister commits NZ troops to next US-led conflict zone!

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The problem with the above headline is that it wasn’t true. I had written a blogpost sourced from a msm story that had incorrectly attributed comments to John Key that he had never said.

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References

The Daily Blog: David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

Twitter: David Farrar – UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Kiwiblog: UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Brighton and Hove City Council: Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee Addendum

Scoop media: Fairfax plans to axe 70 jobs, mainly in Wellington, to outsource subbing to Pagemasters

Stop Press: NZME to take sub-editing in-house, job cuts likely to follow at Pagemasters

Noted: New Zealand papers are in dangerous decline – here’s what’s at stake

Additional

Agender NZ: Transgender Support

Previous related blogposts

Prime Minister commits NZ troops to next US-led conflict zone!

David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 January 2019.

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David Farrar – fomenting happy mischief at other people’s expense

11 January 2019 1 comment

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A recent ‘tweet’ on social media from right-wing blogger, David Farrar, caught my eye and raised an eye-brow to make a Vulcan proud;

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The ‘tweet’ linked back to a short blogpost on Farrar’s “Kiwiblog“;

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Farrar’s blogpost heading said it all;

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“UK kids to be taught men can menstruate”

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The response from Farrar’s sychophantic fanboi followers was predictably outraged. The “PC gone mad” theme was barked like demented hyenas throughout the commentaries on Farrar’s Twitter post and Kiwiblog.

Unfortunately, only a couple of Farrar’s commentators picked up on one simple fact: the Fairfax/Stuff article – upon which Farrar based his brief blogpost on – was factually incorrect;

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Kudos to those two more-lucid, clear-thinking commentators. (Further on the conversation, the commentator known as Psycho Milt also understood how badly the Fairfax/Stuff story had been written. I stopped checking other comments after Milt’s 3 January  2019 8:24am comment. If anyone else picked up on the bullshit nature of the story, they are in a lofty minority of questioning thinkers.)

The Fairfax/Stuff article was based on a report from Brighton & Hove City Council dated 3 December 2018. The BHCC report  outlined how better support could be offered to students in the Council’s area for sanitary products during menstruation. The Council report outlined measures that could be taken to offer support where needed, remove stigma and shame associated with menstruation, and provide better education on the subject.

This was outlined on page 10 of the report.

Also on page 10 was a section headed;

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Key messages for learning about periods

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The tenth bullet-point made this observation;

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The statement reads “Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods“.

It should actually read; “Trans boys and Trans men and non-binary people may have periods“. Or even “Trans boys/men and non-binary people may have periods“. (Which reflects their original internal biology, as opposed to the gender they later identify as.)

The BHCC report does not refer to CIS men.

Which ever way you look at it, the only thing Brighton & Hove City Council are guilty of is a poorly-worded statement. The meaning to anyone who understands biology and transgender issues should be clear enough. The intent of the statement should be obvious to all except the most uninformed.

I do not believe for a moment that David Farrar was too stupid to pick up on the fact that the authors of the Fairfax/Stuff article got it horribly wrong. Yes, “Stuff” stuffed up.

I do, however, believe he wilfully continued to mis-represent the media story, hyping it up with his wildly inflammatory (and wholly inaccurate) blogpost headline.

Even after I pointed out on Twitter that his blogpost was based on a fundamental inaccuracy;

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– both his ‘tweet’ and blogpost remained in-situ, without any correction.

This is lazy and/or dishonest on his part.

One of the roles that bloggers/citizen journalists is to hold the mainstream media to account when they omit facts or are inaccurate in the way facts are presented. In this case, the Fairfax/Stuff reporting was so carelessly written as to make it utterly worthless.

Practically every single comment left on Twitter, Kiwiblog (with three notable exceptions), and the “Stuff” comments-section was hysterically whipped-up and enflammed on the non-existent premise that men could have periods, as ordained by the Brighton Hove City Council. Conservative readers must have been  having coronary attacks at the time!

Farrar did nothing to set the record straight.

Instead he fanned the moral panic/hysteria/ignorance generated by a crappy Fairfax/Stuff story.

It was disappointing. I expected better from someone with his experience in media/blogging.

This is how vulnerable minorities become demonised and de-humanised.

Addendum

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy at gmail dott com>
to: Keith Lynch <keith.lynch@stuff.co.nz>
date: 5 Jan 2019
subject: Complaint

Keith Lynch
Deputy Editor
Stuff.co.nz

Kia ora Mr Lynch,

I am lodging a formal complaint that a story on your website (and in print?) headed “UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too“, published on 18 December 2018.

I submit that the headline and story was not factually accurate and severely mis-represented a published report from the United Kingdom. The mis-repesentation was such that it elicited a hostile and angry response from readers.

Link to story: https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/parenting/109414247/uk-school-children-to-be-taught-boys-can-have-periods-too

The article’s headline stated that ” boys can have periods too“.

The body of the text also stated;

“Primary school children in the United Kingdom will be taught that all genders can have periods under new sex education guidelines that aim to tackle the stigma around menstruation.”

Nowhere in the BHCC report does it state that ” all genders can have periods“. This is an incorrect assertion that is not true. The report clearly refers to trans boys, [trans] men, girls, women , and non-binary people.

The story quoted from the report commissioned by the Brighton & Hove City Council (UK) which correctly said (on page 10);

“trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods”

The BHCC report does not state anywhere that ” boys can have periods too“. The report clearly states that “trans boys and [trans] men” may have periods.

Trans boys and [trans] men were, at an early stage, biologically female. They subsequently identified as male.

The word “trans” should have preceded the word “men” to clarify the point being made in the BHCC report. However, the term “trans” is clearly used preceding the word “boy”. The intent of that sentence “trans boys and men…” should therefore have been clear to the author of that Stuff story.

A photograph of students in a classroom carried the caption;

New guidelines in the UK suggest lessons on menstruation “must be inclusive of all genders”

The reference to “ lessons on menstruation must be inclusive of all genders” is mis-leading in this context, as ” lessons on menstruation” has been linked to the erroneous premise that ” boys can have periods too”.

The lack of factuality to the Stuff story is evidenced by the following Comments Section. Readers have mis-interpreted what the BHCC actually stated based purely on the headlining and the manner in which statements were mis-reported or presented out-of-context. There has been a massive response hostile to the BHCC report based on the Stuff story mis-representing that ” boys can have periods too” and ” all genders can have periods”.

Much of that hostility has been directed at trans-people/LGBTQI, and as such the erroneous nature of the Stuff story may have led to incalculable harm to an already marginalised minority in our community.

I request that Stuff correct this badly written story and to make any such correction with a high degree of publicity.

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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References

Twitter: David Farrar – UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Kiwiblog: UK kids to be taught men can menstruate

Fairfax media: UK school children to be taught boys can have periods too

Brighton and Hove City Council: Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities, and Equalities Committee Addendum

Previous related blogposts

How biased is the media? A Patrick Gower case study

When the mainstream media go feral

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

David Farrar – Challenging Slater for Sultan of Sleaze?

David Farrar – A Question for you please?

According to David Farrar, John Key must resign!

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar

When Stupid meets Hypocrisy, the result is David Farrar – *Update*

Once Upon a Time in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land…

The Neverending Story in Mainstream Media Fairytale Land

Worse than “fake news” – sloppy news!

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 6 January 2019.

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Ali Jones rips right wing blogger a “new one” on Radio NZ’s “The Panel”

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Unexpected fireworks erupted on Jim Mora’s ‘The Panel’ on Radio NZ on Tuesday 15 May when PR consultant and  former Christchurch City Councillor, Ali Jones, took on National Party apparatchik, pollster, wannabe Bond-villain, and right-wing blogger, David Farrar.

Farrar began by parroting the current National party propaganda line – at 1.51 – that “despite being nine years in opposition, the government hasn’t actually come in with a lot of detailed policy“.

Ali Jones responded – at 3.15 – taking umbrage at Farrar’s pro-National spin. She replied with a scathing critique of National’s poor track record for the last nine years. It is worth listening to;

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National’s artificially manufactured reputation for “sound/prudent fiscal management” didn’t just take another hit from Ms Jones.  It got a swift, hard kick in the ‘goolies’ by a person unwilling to take any bullshit from one of National’s chief apologists.

Nicely aimed and delivered, Ms Jones.

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References

Radio NZ: Labour accused of doing nothing but setting up committees (alt.link)

P & R Communications

The Press: Ali Jones not seeking second term on Christchurch City Council

Kiwiblog

Previous related blogposts

The Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

National’s housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse – delusional or outright fibber?

The many mendacities of Mr Bridges – a few volts short of an EV

Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

National spins new “fake news” narrative: there is no health crisis

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 May 2018.

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Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua)

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Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.” – Eric Hoffer, 1902 – 1983

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Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”

.

* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.

.

Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From NZ Herald

Most, if not all stories published on the Herald’s website originate from Associated Press.

One of the first reports, dated 8 April, was headed “Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack“. The first two paragraphs gave equal space to claim/counter-claim;

A Syrian rebel group has accused government forces of dropping a barrel bomb containing poisonous chemicals on civilians in Eastern Ghouta, and a medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area.

Syrian state media denied government forces had launched any chemical attack as soon as the reports began circulating and said rebels in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma were in a state of collapse and spreading false news.

The third paragraph referred to “an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma“.

While an un-named “medical relief organisation said 35 people had been killed in chemical attacks on the area” – curiously the UK-based anti-Assad organisation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, appeared more non-committal;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 11 people had died in Douma as a result of suffocation caused by the smoke from conventional weapons being dropped by the government. It said a total of 70 people suffered breathing difficulties.

Interestingly, this early statement ties in with an investigation and interviewing of eye-witnesses,  by Middle East correspondent, Robert fisk, who reported nine days later;

War stories, however, have a habit of growing darker. For the same 58-year old senior Syrian doctor then adds something profoundly uncomfortable: the patients, he says, were overcome not by gas but by oxygen starvation in the rubbish-filled tunnels and basements in which they lived, on a night of wind and heavy shelling that stirred up a dust storm.

Could it be that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights inadvertently told the truth before a new version was framed, blaming the incident on so-called “poison gas”, instead of a lack of air and heavy dust?

The Herald/AP story admits as such;

Rami Abdulrahman, the Observatory director, said he could not confirm if chemical weapons had been used.

In the same article, the so-called Medical relief organisation, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), put  the blame on an alleged “chlorine bomb”. They stated it  “hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and a second attack with “mixed agents” including nerve agents had hit a nearby building“.

The Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)  is a US-based organisation and according to the Russian government-aligned website, RT News, is funded through a United States government department. RT News is scathing of SAMS;

SAMS is not merely a group of Syrian doctors tending to the wounded in war torn areas, nor can it be considered a objective source on chemical attacks and other atrocities. The organization is a USAID-funded lobbying powerhouse that functions with a single-minded determination to stimulate a US-led war of regime change that will place Syrian Islamists in power in Damascus.

It is unclear at this stage how SAMS knew within a day that Douma had been hit by an alleged “chlorine bomb”.

The 8 April Herald/AP  story continued with reporting of the battle for rebel-held Douma, and that Syrian government forces were advancing on the town. There was no further mentioned of a so-called chemical weapon being used.

The following day, the Herald ran another AP story. This time, there was no reference to the term ‘alleged’. Instead, ‘suspected’ entered the framing of the narrative, being used three times.

One statement referred to “a suspected poison gas attack” – whilst stating definitively that “at least 40 people were killed“;

The missile attack followed a suspected poison gas attack Saturday on the last remaining foothold for the Syrian opposition in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. At least 40 people were killed, including families found in their homes and shelters, opposition activists and local rescuers said.

The story  related allegations of a “chlorine attack” from both well-known anti-Assad organisations, SAMS and the White Helmets;

They did not identify the substance used, but the civil defense organization, also known as the White Helmets, and the Syrian American Medical Society, a medical relief organization, said survivors treated at clinics smelled strongly of chlorine.

To it’s credit, a disclaimer immediatly followed;

Those reports could not be independently verified because of a government blockade around the town.

The three authors of this AP  story appeared very keen to impress upon readers that allegations of a “gas  attack” had not been independently verified. This despite that Trump was already ‘tweeting’  of a “mindless chemical attack” before any evidence had been gathered or facts verified. (Who needs facts or evidence when you’re the President of the United States?)

Unfortunately, despite the not-independently-verified disclaimer, parts of the Herald/AP story neglected to insert the all-important term, ‘alleged’;

First responders entering apartments in Douma late Saturday said they found bodies collapsed on floors, some foaming at the mouth.

By omitting the term ‘alleged’, the above phrase takes on a factual status that is not deserved. There was simply no independent corroboration of any bodies “ collapsed on floors“, nor that “some [were]  foaming at the mouth“. What is the point of a not-independently-verified disclaimer if  unsubstantiated claims are presented as facts?

Again it is worthwhile noting that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights refused to apportion blame on alleged chemical weapons;

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

With the heavy bombardment on Douma, the above statement makes far more sense as to a cause of fatalities. It also ties in with Robert Fisk’s findings.

By contrast, a Herald/AP story on 11 April yielded fourteen uses of ‘suspected’; five of ‘apparent’; four of ‘alleged’, and three of ‘allegations’;

The U.N. Security Council has rejected a Russian resolution that would have welcomed an investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons into a suspected poison gas attack in the suburbs of Syria’s capital.

[…]

The international chemical weapons watchdog says it will send a fact finding mission to the Syrian town where an alleged chemical weapons attack occurred over the weekend.

The OPCW mission to Syria was referred to early-on in the story;

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the U.K. opposed the resolution because an OPCW investigative team is already headed to Syria and the Russian text did not include a new body to determine accountability for chemical weapons attacks.

Occassionally, though, an assertion was presented as factual, omitting the use of ‘alleged’ to maintain the unverified aspects to these events;

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s [unverified*] poison gas attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus.

[…]

Syrian opposition activists say 40 people [allegedly*] died in Saturday night’s chemical attack in the town of Douma, the last remaining rebel bastion near Damascus. The opposition blamed President Bashar Assad’s forces for the [alleged*] attack, accusations the government strongly denies.

[* – inserted by Author]

Another story on 11 April occasionally referred to an ‘alleged’ attack;

The Syrian air base was struck by missiles a little more than 24 hours after the alleged chemical attack. Israel does not typically comment on its operations in Syria, and it is unclear whether the missile attack was linked to the alleged use of chemical weapons

As was ‘suspected’ attack;

The international chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday it was sending a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town where a suspected chemical gas attack took place over the weekend, following a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers that appeared to be aimed at averting punitive Western military action.

Russia’s doubts that an alleged chemical attack even took place at all was canvassed, as was the OPCW mission to Syria.

However, statements by rebel groups were still reported as facts;

Syrian opposition activists and paramedics said more than 40 people were killed in last weekend’s suspected chemical attack and blamed the government.

Nowhere was it stated explicitly that reports of any deaths were unverified.

Such an omission might lead a reader to unconscious bias, accepting the alleged chemical attack as a proven event because of the claim – still unverified – that people had died.

A 13 April Herald/AP story reported that Syrian government forces had retaken Douma from rebels. The so-called “gas attack” was described as ‘alleged’ seven times.

With the defeat of the rebels in Douma,  no one had been reported as asking two basic questions;

1. What did the Syrian government hope to gain by allegedly using chemical weapons to retake Douma – when it was already close to victory anyway?

2. Why was the alleged  gas attack carried out against civilians, rather than rebel fighters? If the alleged gas attack was indeed orchestrated by the Syrian regime, it would have made more strategic sense to target armed enemy combatants rather than unarmed civilians.

A subsequent NZ Herald/AP story on 13 April carried the claim that the French government had “proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks”. The story did not mention what that “proof” was, or how it had been obtained. The OPCW mission to Syria had not yet reached Douma to carry out their investigation.

The article did not use ‘alleged’, and ‘allegations’ was used only in conjunction with the Syrian government denying culpability for any so-called “attack”. In fact, the story abandoned any consideration that the alleged attack was still to be verified;

He [President Emmanuel Macron] previously said any French action would target Syria’s chemical weapons abilities.

Note: not, “Syria’s *alleged* chemical weapons abilities“.

The US-led strike on Syria was only a day away.  Media stories now seemed to lean further toward the alleged gas attack as factually proven, rather than still-to-be-verified.

Macron’s so-called “evidence” was revealed the following day, in a story run by Reuters;

The French services analyzed the testimonies, photos and videos that spontaneously appeared on specialized websites, in the press and on social media in the hours and days following the attack.

Testimonies obtained by the French services were also analyzed. After examining the videos and images of victims published online, they were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated. The spontaneous circulation of these images across all social networks confirms that they were not video montages or recycled images. Lastly, some of the entities that published this information are generally considered reliable.

In other words, Macron – and later Prime Minister Ardern – based their “evidence” on unverified video footage and photographs supplied by rebel groups in Douma.

Macron’s “evidence” brings back memories of  strident insistence by the US in 2003 that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. Those claims were eventually proven false.

All, of which was pointed out in a subsequent Herald/AP story on 15 April;

The West’s assessments of what happened April 7 in Douma rely mainly on open source information. That includes witness testimony, as well as video and photos shot by aid workers, victims of the attacks and unspecified additional intelligence about barrel bombs and chlorine canisters found in the aftermath.

The same story pointed out to Herald readers;

The three countries launched their missiles even as the fact-finding team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was in the Syrian capital and had been expected to head on Saturday to Douma.

Though these valid points were utterly lost amidst unsubstantiated allegations by the US and it’s clients in Syria;

The White House said doctors and aid organizations on the ground in Douma reported “the strong smell of chlorine and described symptoms consistent with exposure to sarin.” A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the U.S. has “significant information that also points to sarin use.”

It would be a very astute, politically aware, member of the public to “read between the lines” and arrive at any other conclusion that – on the balance of probabilities”, and not “beyond reasonable doubt” – that the West had reliable evidence to point to Assad’s forces being the culprits in the alleged gas attack on Douma.

Indeed, this very fact was highlighted when an acquaintance of this blogger referred to “Assad being responsible for the [so-called] gassing of his own people”. Upon closer questioning, my acquaintance was unaware that;

A. There was no evidence who carried out the alleged attack,

B. That it may not even have occurred at all,

C. And that an OPCW team was presently in Syria awaiting an opportunity to enter Douma to conduct their investigation.

It is against a back-drop of media stories that fail to reinforce that the so-called “gas attack” has not been verified, nor has the OPCW not carried out their investigation – yet statements by Western governments and Syrian rebels are reported as “facts – that a subtle narrative has taken hold in the public’s collective consciousness.

The fact that Robert Fisk’s own investigation has cast serious doubt on supposed events in Douma on 7 April has barely been reported. Only two  references to Fisk’s reporting (according to a Google search) can be found in New Zealand’s mainstream media;

Mediaworks “Newshub” reported on 19 April;

Syrians living at the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack say it never happened, according to a new report.

British journalist Robert Fisk, writing in The Independent, says when he visited the site in Douma his questions about the attack were met with “genuine perplexity”.

The attack was used as a pretext for last weekend’s air strikes against the Russia-backed Assad regime.

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks,” Mr Fisk wrote.

“Two actually told me they didn’t know about the connection.”

The video of civilians suffering from the effects of chemical weapons – believed to be chlorine and sarin – is undoubtedly real, but a local doctor told Mr Fisk they were suffering from hypoxia – oxygen loss – and dust inhalation.

“On this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived,” said Assim Rahaibani. “People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss.”

The confusion began when someone shouted “gas!” and panic broke out.

“People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.”

And on 22 April, Mark Dawson, editor of the Whanganui Chronicle, wrote a suprisingly radical (for the msm) critique of US military involvement in other nations’ affairs;

[Prime Minister Ardern]… has taken some criticism for her less-than-enthuiastic take on bagging Russia, rallying behind the United States and cheering on Donald Trump’s missile strikes on Syria.

It has been pointed out, with underscores, that she “accepts” rather than “supports” the US bombing of Syria, and that puts her out of step with other leaders gathered in London this week. Oh dear, a national leader who doesn’t relish killing people … how terribly squeamish.

But hang on …

On Thursday, Robert Fisk of the Independent reported from Douma, the city where the Syrian chemical attacks that prompted the US retaliation are said to have occurred.

Fisk travelled the pummelled city freely — most of the fighters and government minders from Bashar al-Assad’s regime have got out. His report casts serious doubt on whether there actually was a chemical attack.

Fisk has lived in and reported from the Middle East for 40 years; he is fluent in the languages and has never been tainted by suggestions of political partiality or propaganda. In short, he is the genuine article — a journalist.

The United States has said al-Assad used chemical weapons in Douma, and maybe that is correct.

But it should be remembered that for more than 50 years US foreign affairs have featured two constants — putting its troops in other people’s countries and lying.

Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq … all have been marked by a consistent policy of lying to the American people and the world.

So perhaps Ms Ardern has good reason to be cautious.

…From TV1 News

The first reference from TVNZ’s “One News” was on 8 April, with war reporting centered around the Syrian government’s ongoing battle to retake Douma, in Eastern Ghouta, from the rebel group known as “Jaysh al-Islam – The Army of Islam Syria“. Jaysh al-Islam is funded by the Saudi Arabian government and fought against ISIS.

A brief one-sentence referred passingly to the so-called gas-attack in Douma;

CNN and other outlets are reporting a possible chemical attack against civilians has taken place.

The word ‘alleged’ is not used anywhere in the story.

On 9 April, a news story on the TVNZ website is unambiguous in determining that the so-called ‘attack’ took place. The headline left no room for doubt;

.

.

The source of the story is Associated Press, but no other indication where it originated from.

The text of the story, though, is somewhat more circumspect than the guilty-judgement of the headlines;

The report comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

And for some strange reason, TVNZ placed an image of a launching rocket at the bottom of the ‘story’.

.

.

Though what that image has to do with Douma is unclear, as rebels have claim that the alleged gas attack was dropped by Syrian Government helicopters – not by missile(s).

The terms ‘alleged’ and ‘unverified’ are not used in the above ‘story’.

Two days later, TVNZ  ran another story – and again the headline was unequivocal:

 

Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

 

There was no mention of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, or ‘unverified’: the headline stated the so-called gassing as fact.

But again, the text of the story made belated attempts to appear impartial;

“…apparent chemical weapons attack…”

The term ‘alleged’ finally made an appearance;

“…the weapon of choice in a US attack one year ago on an airfield in Syria following an alleged sarin gas attack on civilians….”

Curiously, the author of the story touched on one peculiarity in this so-called “attack” that – until Robert Fisk’s investigation – had not been noticed;

The White House sharply rejected any suggestion that Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack, which killed more than 40 people, including children.

There was no follow-up on this point. The un-named author does not elaborate on the suggestion that “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“.

In what way had “Trump’s own words about pulling US troops out of Syria had opened the door for the attack“?

There is no explanation. No follow-up. In one passing sentence, the writer may have missed a critical possible motive for the alleged gas attack. As the time-line above shows, eleven days after Trump announced that the US will withdraw its forces from Syria – the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, stated unequivocally, “… We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things.”

On 14 April, the term ‘alleged’ is used for the first time (?) in a TVNZ headline;

 

Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

 

The story used terms;

“…victims of the purported attack were staged…”

“…the suspected chemical attack…”

“…threatened military action in response to the alleged attack…”

“…She said of the alleged chemical attack…”

“…the suspected gas attack in Douma…”

“…the suspected April 7 attack…”

“…previous alleged use of chemicals by the rebels…”

The nature of the impartiality of the terminology may have been prompted by the re-taking of Douma by Syrian government forces, and serious doubts being raised regarding the veracity of the so-called “gas attack”. Or, the author of this particular write-up may have been more conscious of the fact that the so-called “gas attacks” were, as yet, unverified.

However, sadly the non-judgemental terminology was undone with a claim that was yet to be supported by independent investigators;

“… and killed more than 40 people in Douma…”

The phrase should have read “… and *allegedly* killed more than 40 people in Douma…”, to keep it consistent with the unverified nature of this story.

The story reported that OPCW was sending a team to investigate the situation in Douma. It also featured strong counter-claims from Syria’s Russian ally.

The following day, another headline presented the so-called attack as a fact, omitting any reference to ‘suspected’ or ‘alleged’;

 

Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

 

– though the opening statement indicated otherwise;

The Russian Ministry of Defence on Friday (local time) said it has enough evidence showing that a planned provocation was carried out in the case of alleged chemical attack in Syrian town of Douma on April 7.

The headline and the body of the text are contradictory.

Another story on 15 April raised concerns about the actual claims of chemical weapon usage by the Syrian army. The story quoted a Syrian official who asked an obvious question after a so-called “chemical weapons manufacturing facility” was destroyed by American missiles;

 “If there were chemical weapons in the building, we would not be here. My colleagues and I came here at 05:00 this morning. If there were chemical weapons, we would need to wear masks and take other protective measures to be staying here.”

It would be interesting if there were a follow-up to this story to determine if – after the buildings were destroyed by missiles –  the surrounding area had been contaminated by toxic chemical fall-out.

The story headed;

 

Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

 

– did not pre-judge the veracity of the rebel’s gas attack claims.

A further story on 15 April again reverted to predetermined judgement, with the opening paragraph suggesting that the unverified was now verified;

President Donald Trump on Saturday declared “Mission Accomplished” for a US-led allied missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons programme, but the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

A paragraph near the end of the story also accepted “as fact” that chemical weapons facilities were targeted;

The strikes “successfully hit every target,” White told reporters at the Pentagon. The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons “bunker” a few miles from the second target.

With few exceptions, most other headlines also presented the so-called gas attack as factually proven, without the all-important caveats of ‘alleged’, ‘suspected’, etc;

.

.

Despite being a state-owned broadcaster, TVNZ – like its privately-owned cousins – has used language that pre-determined (a) the veracity of the alleged “gas attack and (b) those culpable. Attempts to use neutral, non-judgemental terms have been sporadic and mostly within the text of the stories.

The headlines cannot be viewed in any other way than casting blame on the Syrian government as being the ‘authors’ of the so-called gassing of Douma.

None of which has yet to be verified by the OPCW acting on behalf of the U.N.

…From TV3 News

On 8 April , TV3 News reported the so-called “gas attack” with headlines that left zero room for doubt;

.

 

.

The  alleged “gas attack” was reported without question;

Dozens have been killed in a chemical attack in Syria after a barrel bomb dropped poisonous chemicals on civilians in eastern Ghouta

A medical relief organisation has estimated 35 people have died as a result of the attack, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has confirmed 11 deaths.

A Syrian rebel group is accusing government forces of launching the attack. State media has denied this claim.

More than 70 people suffered breathing difficulties due to the attack, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

According to the Syrian American Medical Society, a chlorine bomb targeted Douma hospital and a second bomb with “mixed agents”, including nerve agents, was dropped on a nearby building.

The most basic journalistic tenet was ignored: question everything. The story could have been written by hired propagandists writing for any government. It was not news – it was a copy-and-pasted press release.

The following day, a subsequent headline read;

 

Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

 

Though the term “a suspected chemical attack” was used and Russian statements denouncing the claim as bogus were published, the headline carries the weight of pre-judged pseudo-authenticity. The headline conveyed the firm message: the “gas attack” happened; people died; an atrocity was committed. The subtext is that the culprit was the Syrian government (or its allies).

After all, why would the rebels gas their own? That would be like questioning whether the “gas attack” occurred at all.

A further headline on 9 April also repeated the certainty of Assad’s guilt;

 

Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

 

As the West launched its missile strike on Syrian targets, a 14 April Newshub headline read;

 

US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

 

The opening statement referred to a “suspected chemical attack” – not ‘alleged’;

The United States, France and the UK have launched military strikes in Syria to punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again, President Donald Trump has announced.

– and then declared that the Western attack was launched to “punish dictator Bashar al-Assad for his suspected chemical attack against civilians and to deter him from doing it again“.

Doing it again“? Is the world completely convinced Assad did it the first time on 7 April?

The same Mediaworks/Newshub story then made an even more astounding (and unsupported) claim;

The one-off missile strike in April 2017 targeted the airfield from which the Syrian aircraft had launched their gas attack. But the damage was limited, and a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals.

There was no corroborating evidence to back up the assertion that “a defiant Mr Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals“. It was an assertion based purely on Western government’s press releases.

On 15 April, another story perpetuated the slanted, partisan nature of the “gas attack” claims;

 

First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

 

The US military says the joint air strikes by the US, UK and France have set back Syria’s chemical weapons capability “for years”.

The story reported;

The target, a chemical research centre outside Damascus, was on the receiving end of 76 of 105 cruise missiles fired at Syria on Saturday.

– without a shred of evidence that the destroyed buildings housed “a chemical research centre“. For all we know those buildings may have been producing pharmaceuticals, as one Syrian official stated. Or buzzy-bees, for Syrian children. There is zero evidence either way.

Another story on the same day reported a statement made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, parroting the non-fact that the destroyed buildings housed chemical weapons facilities;

Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday New Zealand “accepts why” the strikes, which targeted Syrian chemical weapons facilities, took place.

“The action was intended to prevent further such atrocities being committed against Syrian civilians.

“We stand firm in our condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta. This is clearly in breach of international law.”

Not even the lesser term ‘suspected’ was used.

Unfortunately, the Green’s condemnation of the US-led bombing failed to mention anywhere that the alleged “gas attacks” had yet to be verified by the OPCW. Their statement in Spinoff on 14 April accepted the so-called “gas attack” in Douma as factual.

It was not until 17 April – ten days after the alleged “gas attack” – that Newshub revealed in depth that the OPCW had not even visited Douma to investigate the alleged attack;

 

International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

 

At no point does Mediaworks/Newshub recognise the contradiction of apportioning blame to Assad before the OPCW had had a chance to investigate.

Which does not prevent the same article from asserting;

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for the suspected poison gas attack in Douma.

Note the phraseology: “Three chemical weapons facilities in Syria” – not “three *alleged* chemical weapons facilities in Syria“.

On 16 April, Mediaworks/Newshub’s Anna Bracewell-Worrell published a story that explicitly stated;

On April 7, civilians in Syria were attacked with chemical weapons.

The images that came out of the attack were horrifying – civilians convulsing and struggling for breath, children ash-faced and terrified. At least 42 people were killed.

[…]

It is the second time Mr Trump has ordered retaliation after the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Claims by Russia and the Syrian government that the so-called “gas attack” was fake was casually dismissed;

Russian officials have even suggested the attack was staged.

Yet, further down in the same story, the author referred to;

Mr Trump said that attack was also a direct punishment for Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

It was a rare moment for Mediaworks/Newshub to employ the term ‘alleged’. At some point, the author may have realised that allegations of a “gas bombing” had yet to be proven. Thus far the story appeared to be firmly in the realm of war propaganda.

Unfortunately, a subsequent comment by the author returned to the Official Western Narrative;

Following the missile attack on chemical weapons…

Then came the explosive (no pun intended) on-the-scene report by veteran Middle East Correspondent, Robert Fisk, that locals in Douma had no knowledge of a “gas attack” in their city;

“Oddly, after chatting to more than 20 people, I couldn’t find one who showed the slightest interest in Douma’s role in bringing about the Western air attacks.”

One would find it inconceivable that the smell of chlorine would go unnoticed by citizens in a sizeable city such as Douma.

Mediaworks/Newshub – to its credit – ran a story on Fisk’s investigation on 19 April;

 

Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

 

As far as this blogger can determine, Mediaworks/Newshub was only one of two media outlets that reported on Fisk’s findings in any meaningful way. The other was Mark Dawson, writing an editorial for the  Whanganui Chronicle.

All of which makes Tova O’Brien, Newshub’s Political Editor, “opinion” piece on 17 April another example of Western media “pundits” banging the war-drum of hysteria;

 

Tova O’Brien: PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

 

No stranger to flawed “news” reporting, Ms O’Brien abandoned any pretext of journalistic impartiality and the search for truth when she tried and convicted the Syrian government as the culprit behind the alleged “gas attack” on Douma;

These are just a few of New Zealand’s close friends who got in behind the United States, United Kingdom and France when they launched airstrikes against the murderous Syrian regime and its chemical weapons sites…

Ms O’Brien didn’t doubt for a moment that the alleged “gas attack” occurred, and that there were (allegedly) victims;

The attacks came after yet another gas attack that killed 75 people, including children.

[…]

US airstrikes in Syria last year in response to a chemical weapons attack clearly didn’t deter further similar attacks by the Syrian regime.

[…]

But meanwhile the Syrian war wages on. Children keep dying, being gassed, poisoned by nerve agents – eyes weeping, noses and mouths streaming and frothing. They’re vomiting, and if the exposure is great enough they’re lucky if they die fast.

Ms O’brien blamed “an impotent UNSC that has diplomatically done sweet FA when it comes to the Syrian War” and demanded, “should innocent Syrians and their children suffer because the UN is inherently flawed?

Nowhere does she mention that not only is the alleged “gas attack” unverified – but that the OPCW has despatched an investigatory team to search for evidence.

Evidence.

The stuff we usually require before confirming a crime took place and assigning guilt to the culprit.

Even as Ms O’Brien towed the Pentagon-line that the dastardly Bashar al-Assad was guilty of a chemical weapon atrocity,  her employer went from this;

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… to this;

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Luckily for us there are real journalists operating who ask the hard questions and risk their well-being to bring us the truth. It is far harder than Ms O’Brien and her desk-bound colleagues who operate well away from “theatres of conflict” and instead rely on propaganda from governmental media “advisories” (ie; propaganda).

Unfortunately, when the truth is eventually teased out and presented to the world (as when the mythical “weapons of mass destruction” were shown to be a Western governmental fabrication), it is rarely presented with the same mass-coverage as the original “fake news”.

In this case, Robert Fisk went to Douma and discovered that the so-called “gas attack” lacked credibility with the locals. In other words, he revealed that it was fake news.

The question we – especially so-called professionals in the mainstream media – should be asking is: did the public notice?

…Conclusion

What makes governmental war pronouncements sound so credible is not from whence they emanate – but that they are given a veneer of factualness by constant, non-critical repetition by the mainstream media.

Our media is tasked with running a critical gaze over government-supplied information. Alleged “events” are supposed to be tested  and “facts”  fact-checked.

Instead, when it comes to war, in many instances they have become a compliant mouthpiece for State propaganda far more effective than anything Josef Goebbels could have envisioned in his widest dreams.

No wonder George Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” was never built. Instead it was outsourced to private enterprise. They apparently do it so much better.

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References

NZ Herald:  Syrian regime accused of killing civilians in chemical attack

The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

RT News:  Al-Qaeda’s MASH unit – How SAMS is selling regime change & driving US to war

NZ Herald: Syrian news reports missile attack – US denies it fired them

Twitter: Trump – 9 April 2018

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN nixes Russian text on Syria gas attack probe

NZ Herald:  Chemical weapons experts to inspect attack site in Syria

NZ Herald:  The Latest – UN Security Council schedules meeting on Syria

NZ Herald:  France mulls military action against Syria for gas attacks

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

TVNZ News:  Prime Minister reaffirms that she ‘accepts the decision’ to bomb Syria – but would have preferred going through the UN

NZ Herald:  Certain of gas attack, allies struck Syria before UN report

Mediaworks:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Whanganui Chronicle:  Please be careful what you ‘accept’, Jacinda

TV1 News:  Suspected Syrian gas attack reportedly kills 70 Douma

Wikipedia:  Jaysh al-Islam

Daily Mail:  The Army of Islam: Militant group battling ISIS and the Syrian regime show their might in ‘graduation ceremony’ featuring 1,700 soldiers and a fleet of armoured tanks

TV1 News: Strikes hit Syrian airfield one day after chemical attacks on civilians, – reports, US denies responsibility

The Independent:  Syrian government accused of using nerve agents as death toll from Douma ‘chemical weapons attack’ rises

TV1 News:  Trump promises ‘forceful’ action after chemical attack on civilians in Syria

TV1 News:  Russia says alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

TV1 News:  Russian Defence Ministry claims chemical attack in Syria was a ‘planned provocation’ by UK

TV1 News:  Syrian research facility hit by US strikes didn’t have chemical weapons, says official

TV1 News:  ‘A perfectly executed strike’ – Trump declares ‘Mission accomplished!’ after US-led missile attack on Syria

TV1 News:  France says decision to launch strike on Syrian chemical weapons based on trusted information

TV1 News:  US vows to hit Russia with fresh sanctions in wake of Syrian chemical attack

TV1 News:  Syrian Minister meets with international chemical weapons watchdog over deadly chemical weapons attack

TV1 News:  Shots fired at UN security team visiting site of suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub: Dozens killed in Syria chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub: Syrian gas attack death toll tops 70

Mediaworks/Newshub: Retaliation on Syrian military base after chemical attack

Mediaworks/Newshub: US, UK and France launch strikes on Syria following suspected chemical weapons attack

Mediaworks/Newshub:  First images emerge of latest bombing in Syria

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Greens condemn ‘Trump-led’ strike on Syria

Spinoff:  Bombing Syria will never bring peace. NZ must stand up against ad hoc violence

Mediaworks/Newshub:  International inspectors push to see Syria gas site

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Strikes on Syria – How we got to the edge of ‘World War III’

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Syria gas attack didn’t happen – local doctor

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Tova O’Brien – PM’s position firmly on the fence isn’t good enough

Additional

The Times: Critics leap on reporter Robert Fisk’s failure to find signs of gas attack

Previous related blogposts

The GCSB law – Oh FFS!!!

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 29 May 2018.

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Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part tahi)

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“The first casualty when war comes is truth…” Hiram Johnson, 1866 – 1945

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Recent Timeline*

4 April: Trump announces he wants all remaining US forces out of Syria “very quickly”. Trump says; “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, Well, you know, you want us to stay? Maybe you’re going to have to pay”.

8 April: First reports emerge of chemical gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta province. Reports are unverified.

8 April: Russian government calls reports of alleged gas attack in Douma “fake news” and describes the story as a “false flag” operation. Russia’s Foreign Ministry states; “The goal of this… baseless speculation is to shield the terrorists and… the radical opposition that refuse to engage in a political settlement [process], as well as to justify potential military strikes from the outside”.

9 April: Trump promises major decision in next twentyfour hours  on alleged gas attack.

10 April: Syria  and  Russia invite Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate allegations of chemical attack in Douma.

10 April:  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West; “ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

11 April: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says it will support any military strike on Syria in retaliation for the alleged gas attack in Douma; “If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present”.

11 April: Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, repeats Colonel General Shamanov’s warning to the US: “If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

12 April: French President Emmanuel Macron declared that France has evidence that Syria carried out the gas attack in Douma; “We have proof that last week, now 10 days ago, that chemical weapons were used, at least with chlorine, and that they were used by the regime of (President) Bashar al-Assad. Our teams have been working on this all week and we will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it most useful and effective.”

Two days later, hours after the US-led attack on Syria, France releases statement on evidence of alleged gas attack: “After examining the videos and images of victims published online, (French intelligence services) were able to conclude with a high degree of confidence that the vast majority are recent and not fabricated.

12 April: OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team lands in Syria to investigate alleged gas attack in Douma. Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, said; “We will facilitate the arrival of the team to anywhere they want, in Douma, to check whether or not there was use of chemical substances”.

14 April: Trump announces US-led attack on Syria, launching 105 missiles at targets in that country. Trump  states: “So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality”.

14 April: President Putin of Russia states categorically: “Just as one year ago, when the Shayrat Airbase in Syria came under attack, the US used as a pretext a staged chemical attack against civilians, this time in Douma, a Damascus suburb. Having visited the site of the would-be chemical attack, Russian military experts did not find any traces of chlorine or any other toxic agent. Not a single local resident was able to confirm that a chemical attack had actually taken place.”

15 April: Trump declares: “Mission accomplished!”

15 April: Russia loses vote in UN Security Country to condemn US-led military strike. Russian UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia said: “Today is a very sad day for the world, the UN, its charter, which was blatantly, blatantly violated.”

15 April: US Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley, tells Fox News Sunday that US troops will remain in Syria: “Yes, it is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things. ”

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* International time-zones not taken into account: above dates are approximate.

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Saturday: a proven crime of aggression

On 14 April, the  United States launched 105 ‘Tomahawk‘ cruise missiles against Syria. The United Kingdom sent four RAF  ‘Tornado‘ jetfighters to attack and destroy targets at a former missile base near Homs. France also participated.

Despite assurances from Western governments that Bashar al-Assad’s forces were responsible for the alleged gas attack, no actual evidence has been presented regarding;

(a) who carried out the alleged attack

(b) if the so-called ‘attack’ happened at all.

Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, was not even certain what gas weapons were used. At a Press Briefing after the attack, he disclosed;

We are very much aware of one of the agents. There may have been more than one agent used. We are not clear on that yet. We know at least one chemical agent was used.

An OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) fact-finding team had barely reached Syria to determine what took place at Douma (if anything), when the US-led attack took place shortly afterwards. The OPCW team could not have found evidence or reached conclusions in the brief period of time (see timeline above) available to carry out their UN-mandated duties.

Local media reporting…

The response of our local media to report Saturday’s missile strike has been largely superficial and followed the Western narrative;

(a) the gas attack happened

(b) Syrian government forces were responsible

…From Radio NZ

Radio NZ has attempted to maintain a measure of cautious agnosticism, referring to “a suspected chemical attack“; “alleged chemical weapons sites“; and, “suspected poison gas attack“.

In most instances, the terms “suspected” and “alleged” are used. In one of it’s first stories, Radio NZ explicitly stated;

There has been no independent verification of the reports.

That caveat was not repeated on most (if any)  updates from Radio NZ.

On occasion, though, Radio NZ has reported US and other sources without questioning veracity or indicating that statements presented as facts may or may not be accurate;

At a Pentagon briefing shortly after Mr Trump’s announcement, Gen Joseph Dunford listed three targets that had been struck:

  • A scientific research facility in Damascus, allegedly connected to the production of chemical and biological weapons
  • A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs
  • A chemical weapons equipment storage and an important command post, also near Homs

And;

UK strikes carried out by four Tornado jets hit one of the targets mentioned by the Pentagon – a military site near the city of Homs which is believed to have housed precursor materials for chemical weapons, according to the UK ministry of defence.

The term “allegedly” is noticeably missing in these paragraphs from a 13 April story;

The attack on the city on Saturday is said by activists and medics to have killed dozens of people when government aircraft dropped bombs filled with toxic chemicals.

The international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is due to send monitors to Douma, but it is [unclear] how much evidence of any chemical attack might remain.

And from this 12 April story;

May, also speaking earlier on Wednesday, said all the indications were that the Syrian authorities were responsible for the chemical attack in the town of Douma and that such shocking assaults could not go unchallenged.

Radio NZ had reported that a OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus on Saturday, the day of the U.S.-led attack, and in subsequent stories;

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says a fact-finding mission has been “gathering information from all available sources and analysing it”.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are currently in Damascus and are expected to visit Douma this weekend.

No reference to the fact that Syria and Russia had both invited the OPCW to send a fact-finding team.

…From Newstalk ZB

Commercial radio station , NewstalkZB,  was the complete polar opposite to Radio NZ.  They made no pretense to journalistic impartiality, and the term “alleged” was notably missing from their stories;

14 April:

President Donald Trump says the United States has “launched precision strikes” on targets associated with Syrian chemical weapons program.

This coordinated strike marked the second time in a year that Trump has used force against Assad, who U.S. officials believe has continued to test the West’s willingness to accept gruesome chemical attacks.

…since the reported chemical attack that killed civilians in the rebel-held town outside Damascus last weekend.

…an attack could pull the United States into Syria’s civil war and trigger a dangerous conflict with Assad ally Russia – without necessarily halting chemical attacks.

In the wake of last weekend’s gruesome attack, some U.S. officials advocated a larger, and therefore riskier, strike than the limited action Trump had ordered in April 2017, also in response to suspected chemical weapons use.

But the airfield targeted by the Pentagon resumed operations shortly after the attack and, according to Western intelligence assessments, chemical attacks resumed.

And  just in case anyone doubted who NewstalkZB held responsible for the alleged gas attack in Douma;

Planning for these strikes focused on ways to curb Assad’s ability to use such weapons again.

Since last year’s strike, multiple chemical attacks have been reported in opposition areas, most of them involving chlorine rather than the nerve agent sarin, as was used in 2017, suggesting the government may have adjusted its tactics.

An attribution at the bottom revealed; “Additional reporting by AP and The Washington Post“. Not surprising then that NewstalkZB’s story looked more like a rehash of a Pentagon press release than any notion of impartial reporting;

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A subsequent story on 16 April stated;

It’s unknown whether missile strikes in Syria will prevent or evoke the use of chemical weapons in future.

The only thing missing from NewstalkZB stories on Syria is a disclosure, “Approved by The White House Politburo”.

…From Fairfax

Fairfax media fared not much better than NewstalkZB, making only cursory attempts to qualify reports. As far as can be determined by this blogger, the phrase ‘unverified’ was used only once on the day the reports were first published in various Fairfax publications.

On 9 April, in a story headlined “Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say“, the term ‘apparent’ was as close as Fairfax dared in lieu of ‘alleged’;

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in an apparent chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus, doctors and rescue workers say.

Even when the term ‘alleged’ should have been used, it was omitted – giving reportage an air of conclusive factuality when it was not deserved;

Gregory D Koblentz, the director of George Mason University’s Biodefense Program, said the [alleged*] attack appeared to reflect how much the clout of US policy has faded in Syria.

[…]

US President Donald Trump responded to the [alleged*]   attack Sunday morning on Twitter.

[…]

The [alleged*]   attack came as Syrian government forces stepped up an eight-week long offensive against Douma, outside Damascus, the last stronghold controlled by hardline rebels from the Jaish al-Islam group.

[…]

Multiple reports, including from rescue workers and the US State Department, said an initial [alleged*]   attack had targeted a hospital. It was unclear, however, what type of [alleged*] chemicals may have been used.

[…]

Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert described the [alleged*] reports from Eastern Douma as “disturbing and “horrifying,” saying they required an “immediate response by the international community.”

[…]

Syrian doctors and rescue workers on Sunday shared with journalists [alleged*] graphic images of men, women and children they said had been [allegedly*] killed or wounded in the [alleged*] attack.

[* Author’s insert: ‘alleged’]

A statement  from UN Secretary General, António Guterres, was the only instance where the reader was reminded that reports of a so-called “gas attack” were unconfirmed and nothing more than unproven allegations;

A representative for the United Nations said that Secretary General António Guterres was “particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma” but that the United Nations was “not in a position to verify these reports.”

At no point does the 9 April Fairfax story mention that an OPCW fact-finding team had landed in Damascus after the alleged gas attack and had not yet had an opportunity to verify events. Once again, the U.S. had circumvented an ongoing investigation to judge and apportion guilt without any corroborating, independent evidence.

Another  Fairfax story on 9 April attempted to put a caveat on the alleged gas attack with the term “suspected” – but that does not convey the same meaning as ‘alleged’;

The reported strike comes after a suspected poison gas attack killed at least 40 in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, the last foothold for the Syrian opposition in the area.

US President Donald Trump has promised a “big price to pay” for the suspected chemical attack.

Curiously, the end of the story makes a brief reference to another state ‘actor’ in the Syrian civil war, citing;

Israel has also struck inside Syria in recent years.

Again, no mention  that the alleged incident was unproven and that the OPCW  had yet to determine the facts.

Also on 9 April, an emotive piece penned by Josie Ensor presented a seemingly chilling “eye witness account” of victims of the alleged attack. The story presented the so-called “attack” as factual, with supposed “eye witness” statements and descriptions of “victims”.

The sympathies of the author is evident when she writes;

Both Syria and its Russian backer denounced the allegations as “fabrications”, while Iran, another of Bashar al-Assad’s patrons, called it a “conspiracy”.

There is no questioning of the incident’s veracity – until near the end of the article;

Saturday’s alleged attack pushed the holdout rebels back to the negotiating table. Hours later, they agreed to a Russian evacuation deal, signalling the end of the rebellion in one of the opposition’s most important territories.

Despite belatedly describing the so-called ‘attack’  as “alleged”, the author then reverted to indicating that it was a factual, proven event;

Reports sparked international outrage. But as Syrians have learned over the years, those responsible are unlikely to ever be held to account.

How can anyone be “responsible” if the so-called “attack” was “alleged” and not yet proven? If the “attack” is shown to be false, then no one could be held “responsible” for an incident that never happened. QED?!

The following day, another Fairfax article abandoned any pretext of an ‘alleged’ gas attack;

The prime minister has expressed “the strongest condemnation” of the chemical attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria, while the foreign minister has labelled it a war crime.

Dozens of men, women and children have been killed in the chemical attack on a besieged Syrian enclave near Damascus.

The deadly attack came as Syrian Government forces escalated their offensive to recapture the last rebel strongholds near the capital.

At least 40 people were killed on Saturday evening (local time) in the attack in Douma, eastern Ghouta, about 20 kilometres from Damascus, according to the Syrian-American Medical Society (SAMS), a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports health facilities in the area.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Winston Peters condemned the attack, and said those behind it needed to be held to account.

[…]

News of the attack comes after the Labour-led Government promised to double New Zealand’s refugee quota from 750 to 1500 each year.

Only Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, to his credit, held out by keeping an open mind;

“When we know who to point the finger at, we’ll point the finger then… It’s abhorrent, and it’s against international laws and standards.”

Only on 14 April – six days after reports emerged of the alleged attack –  Fairfax deigned to refer to the supposed incident as ‘alleged’;

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The story even referred to an impending investigation by the OPCW and carried substantial statements from the Russians.

Was this a realisation by Fairfax management that the alleged incident in Douma had yet to be verified? That coverage by New Zealand’s mainstream media had been less than “fair and balanced”?

Unfortunately, no. The above story emanated from PBS News Hour and was carried via Associated Press, which Fairfax picked up. It did not originate from the hands of any New Zealand journalist. (Much to our shame.)

A day later, after the U.S. had launched 105 cruise missiles at various locations in Syria, Trump announced with glee; “Mission Accomplished”.  Fairfax reported the post-strike event, abandoning all notions of keeping an open mind on the alleged gas attack;

Allied missiles struck at the heart of Syrian chemical weapons arsenal in a show of force and resolve aimed at punishing the Assad government for a suspected poison gas attack against civilians and deterring the possible future use of such banned weapons.

Notice that the opening paragraph referred to “Syrian chemical weapons arsenal” – not “Syria’s [alleged] chemical weapons arsenal“. There is zero evidence that Syria possessed any chemical weapons after they were removed under international supervision in 2014;

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If such banned weapons still remained in Syria, Western powers were mysteriously silent on the issue.

The “Mission accomplished” story goes on to point out – albeit briefly,  almost as an afterthought – that the OPCW had sent a team to Syria;

A global chemical warfare watchdog group said its fact-finding mission would go as planned in Douma, where the apparent use of poison gas against civilians on April 7 that killed more than 40 people compelled the Western allies to launch their attack. Syria has denied the accusation.

None of the  story’s three writers could bring themselves to use the word ‘alleged’, substituting instead  the more bland “apparent use of poison gas”.

The next paragraph again abandons any notion of journalistic skepticism;

But France’s foreign minister said there was “no doubt” the Assad government was responsible, and he threatened further retaliatory strikes if chemical weapons were used again, as did Pentagon chief Jim Mattis, who said the assault was a “one-time shot,” as long as chemical weapons weren’t used again.

As far as Fairfax’s journalists were concerned, there was no doubt that the attack had occurred; gas was used against civilians; and Assad’s forces were the guilty party. No doubt at all; no question that Western governments were 100% truthful.

The OPCW had yet to find any evidence, but that seemed not to matter for most Western journalists.

What other areas of state-government activities draws such unquestioning fealty from our much-vaunted “free press”?

For example, when the story reported that;

Dunford said missiles first struck a scientific research centre in the Damascus area that he said was a centre of Syrian research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. The second target was a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs. He said this was believed to be the main site of Syrian sarin and precursor chemical production equipment.

The third target was a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post, also west of Homs, Dunford said.

– did no one in the Fourth Estate bother to ask the most basic question: why were those “facilities” destroyed when they potentially held vital evidence that the OPCW team could have uncovered?

By 16 April, the murky smog of  chemical weapon hysteria began to part just a little so that questioning voices could be heard. Perhaps someone at Fairfax realised that Western allegations of a so-called “gas attack” were just that: unproven allegations.

A story entitled “Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack” used the term ‘alleged’ three times, once in the title;

Syrian state TV says another 5,000 security forces are deploying in a town near the capital that was brought under full government control a week after an alleged chemical attack.

[…]

In Assad’s view, the airstrikes that were launched in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Syrian forces on the town of Douma will unify the country.

Following paragraphs returned to the less neutral term ‘suspected’;

The town was also the scene of a suspected poison gas attack on April 7 that prompted the US, Britain and France to launch missiles on Syrian military targets early Saturday.

[…]

The pope spoke after airstrikes by the United States, France and Britain aimed at taking out Syria’s chemical weapons capacity, following a suspected poison gas attack on a Damascus suburb that killed dozens, including children.

The OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria was again only briefly alluded to;

An international fact-finding mission from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is in Syria and expected to visit Douma.

Better than previous reporting, without doubt. But not by much.

[To be concluded in Syria: the mendacities of the mainstream media (part rua).]

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to ‘Francesca‘ for the OPCW link,  Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.

References

Wikiquotes: Hiram Johnson

Politico:  Trump – ‘I want to get out’ of Syria

BBC:  Syria war – At least 70 killed in suspected chemical attack in Douma

RT News:  Moscow calls ‘chemical attack’ in Douma ‘fake news,’ warns against Syrian intervention

BBC:  Trump promises ‘major decision’ on Syria chemical attack

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

RT News:  Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria

Reuters:  Saudi could take part in military response in Syria – Crown Prince

Al Jazeera:  Russia threatens to shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria

Reuters:  France has proof Syrian government conducted chemical weapons attack – Macron

USA Today: French report lays out the evidence – Assad forces conducted chemical attack on civilians

RT News:  ‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack

Military Times:  President Trump’s statement on the U.S. military action in Syria

Kremlin.ru:  Statement by President of Russia Vladimir Putin

Bloomberg:  Trump Says ‘Mission Accomplished’ With Syria Strike Unanswered

The Guardian:  Russia loses vote condemning strikes

Fox News:  Amb. Nikki Haley on Trump administration’s Syria strategy

The Guardian: ‘No alternative’ – Theresa May sends British jets to join airstrikes on Syria

US Department of Defense:  Briefing by Secretary Mattis on U.S. Strikes in Syria

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:   Progress in the elimination of the Syrian chemiucal weapons programme

Radio NZ:  Syria – Toxic gas attack kills at least 70 in Douma

Radio NZ:  US and allies launch strikes on Syria chemical weapons sites

Radio NZ:  US ‘has no moral right to blame other countries’ – Russia

Radio NZ:  Macron has ‘proof’, to decide on Syria air strikes

Radio NZ:  UK’s May summons ministers for Syria meeting

Radio NZ:  The path to the attack on Syria

Radio NZ:  Syria warned US still ‘locked and loaded’

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

NewstalkZB: Russia vows to retaliate after missiles target Syria

NewstalkZB:  Effects of Syria strikes unknown

Fairfax: Dozens killed in apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria, rescue workers say

Fairfax: Syrian news agency reports missile attack

Fairfax:  Nowhere to hide from Syria ‘gas attack’

Fairfax:  NZ expresses ‘strongest condemnation’ of chemical attack on Syrians

Fairfax:  Russia claims alleged chemical attack in Syria staged by UK

PBS News Hour:  Russia says suspected chemical attack in Syria was staged by UK

Fairfax:  ‘Mission Accomplished’ in Syria, Trump declares on Twitter

BBC:  Last of Syria’s chemical weapons shipped out

NPR:  Syria Gives Up Chemical Weapons … But A War Rages On

Reuters:  Syria hands over remaining chemical weapons for destruction

Fairfax: Syrian government deploys forces in Douma after alleged chemical attack

Additional

The Independent:  The search for truth in the rubble of Douma – and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack

Reuters:  French declassified intelligence report on Syria gas attacks

Previous related blogposts

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

One minute to midnight?

It is ten seconds to midnight

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2018.

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Letter to the editor: What’s up with Richard Griffin and National’s Melissa Lee?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Interesting to note this little item which has been all but over-looked by the mainstream media;

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Which begged these questions;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 31 March 2018
subject: Letter to the editor
.The editor
NZ Herald
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The recent furore over the so-called “secret” meeting between broacasting minister Clare Curran and RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld revealed that Board chair and former National government advisor, Richard Griffin, phoned National MP, Melissa Lee to inform her that Ms Hirscheld had tendered her resignation. This barely reported event raises several questiins that have yet to be fully answered;

Why did Griffin contact Ms Lee?

Is it appropriate for a Board member to be discussing sensitive employment matters with an Opposition National MP?

Did Griffin get Board approval to discuss this with Ms Lee?

What other contact has Griffin had with National MPs?

If Griffin’s discussion with Ms Lee was inappropriate, will he be resigning as RNZ’s chair of the Board?

And who advised National MP Melissa Lee of the not-so-secret meeting between Clare Curran and Carol Hirscheld?

There is more to this story than coffee-chats beteen two people. The apparent behind-the-scenes machinations hint at something far deeper between the National Opposition and an unknown “agent” working from within Radio NZ.

Plans to expand the public broadcasting service of Radio NZ may be threatened by a secretive faction at work.
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Frank macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Questions remain – and not just of Minister Curran to answer.

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References

Radio NZ:  Richard Griffin ‘gobsmacked’ by details of interaction

Additional

Radio NZ:  Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills

Fairfax media:  Melissa Lee was given a heads up about Carol Hirschfeld’s resignation

FYI.org:  Communications between Melissa Lee and Richard Griffin

Twitter: Tim Murphy

Other blogs

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on Clare Curran’s dim future

Previous related blogposts

National pissed off: Labour is nicking John Key’s dodginess!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2018.

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