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If democratic institutions are dismantled or corrupted to achieve political or military goals, then we all have a problem.

If the media don’t hold these organizations to account then all is lost.

In 2018 the UK, US and France bombed Syria on the pretext that President Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were sent in to independently evaluate if this was true. OPCW whistleblowers have now come forward to question the legitimacy and independence of the OPCW report

Host Ross Ashcroft is joined by writer and investigative journalist Tareq Haddad and by the Co-director of the organization for propaganda studies and convener of the working group on Syria, Dr. Piers Robinson, to discuss the OPCW leaks and the ongoing battle for your mind.


In his 1997 book, Taking The Risk Out Of Democracy, Australian social scientist, Alex Carey made the crucial, and often overlooked point, that in an advanced democracy the maintenance of existing power and privileges are vulnerable to popular opinion in a way that is not true in authoritarian societies. Therefore, elite propaganda within ‘democracies’ must assume a covert and sophisticated form of thought control. When the bludgeon – characteristic of totalitarian states – is no longer an option, propaganda comes into its own in ‘democracies’.

Carey’s insight is remarkable given that even now, some 23 years later, the possibility that a corporate media system that monitors a society dominated by large corporations might be something other than free, open and honest, remains largely unacknowledged by the UK media establishment. It is perhaps ironic that it took Lord Jonathan Sumption’s 2019 Reith Lecture speech to bring to the attention of the mainstream that the facade of democracy is what lies at the heart of a propaganda system in crisis.

Unholy trinity

The ongoing battle for minds in an age of sophisticated thought control is the context for Renegade Inc. host Ross Ashcroft’s discussion with the writer and investigative journalist, Tareq Haddad and the co-director of the Organization for Propaganda Studies and convener of the Working Group on Syria, Dr. Piers Robinson.

The former, a respected commentator on foreign affairs and international politics, outlined how, in relation to Syria, editors at Newsweek rejected his sourced Wikileaks and verified Reuters copy, but were happy to rely on unverified information from government propaganda arm and fake news outfit, Bellingcat.

Rather than admitting any wrongdoing or acknowledging that alternative media is producing better content than the mainstream, Newsweek engaged in ad hominem attacks against Haddad. What the investigative journalist has nevertheless revealed, is an unholy relationship between mainstream journalism, think tanks and the military industrial complex.

The example Haddad cites is CNN journalist, Fareed Zakaria, who followed a familiar pathway through the establishment system – a US State Department funded degree at an elite US university, a foreign affairs position at the Council of Foreign Relations followed by editor positions at Newsweek and Time. “I saw numerous occasions where this happened. And I think that’s why we’ve got this blanket silence on Syria, but also on Julian Assange and Jeffrey Epstein, on Afghanistan papers, on Jeremy Corbyn. You could keep on going. Anything that doesn’t fit the narrative of military or corporate interests doesn’t get covered accurately in the media”, says Haddad.

Censorship by omission

Censorship by omission, as Piers Robinson attests, is another form of mainstream media propaganda. TV debates and discussions give the impression to the public that what is being viewed is a vigorous independent political discourse, when in reality the availability of information is limited by invisible boundaries. The purpose is to prevent people from understanding the true nature of power and the meaning of contemporary events.

“That’s how you control the cognitive map, how you control how people think”, says Robinson.

Social media provides an alternative platform for dissenting voices that question prevailing establishment narratives. However, Robinson notes that there are difficulties with the medium in terms of the public’s ability to forge a sense of cohesiveness and confidence. According to the academic, the reason why people tend to doubt their own cognitive abilities stems, in part, from the fear of being smeared and labelled ‘conspiracy theorists’.

But he also argues that it has something to do with the failings of an education system that discourages critical thinking and independence of mind while undermining self confidence. This extends to journalists themselves, many of whom have no awareness they are on an ideological leash or that propaganda is an integral part of contemporary democracies. This, in turn, explains why the system is allowed to run riot in the way it does, particularly in the realm of foreign policy.

Cognitive dissonance

As Robinson acknowledges, one of the greatest propaganda achievements of big business within ‘free, open and honest’ ‘democracies’ has been their ability to persuade the public, including journalists, that propaganda is limited to formal authoritarian regimes.

This kind of cognitive dissonance helps explain, for example, the mainstream media’s response to an investigation by the OPCW into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in 2018 by Assad. This led to the bombing of the country by the US, UK and France a week later.

As was the case with the Iraq WMD debacle in 2003, the mainstream media, as if with almost one voice, fell into line by uncritically accepting the official OPCW version of events despite the fact that a leaked engineering report suggested that the science did not corroborate the claims made. OPCW investigator, Ian Henderson, addressed the UN Security Council and testified that no chemical attack took place at Douma.

There were also serious conflict of interest issues involved. The politicization of the international system is such that we are at a tipping point into tyranny where dissenting voices are either ignored, belittled or, in the case of Julian Assange, imprisoned and tortured.

In order to rein in the democratic tyranny undertaken by Western governments and their journalistic stenographers, Piers Robinson asserts that people need to act:

“We’ve had 20 years of war since 9/11 and these wars have destroyed countries. Millions of people have been killed as a result of these conflicts. We’ve been acting in a way which has caused phenomenal loss of life in the international system. And just that simple fact alone means that people in the West have a moral responsibility to play their part in trying to rebuild our governments and our institutions actually from the ground up in order to stop this, the bloodshed, which has been going on and which is carrying on as we speak”, says Robinson.

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