Britain’s most liberal newspaper is no less inclined to yellow journalism than any of its (marginally) more right-wing rivals. That modern liberalism has reduced itself to a self-willing adjunct of neoconservatism is a tendency that has been outlined at length elsewhere. I am still shocked, however, when the Guardian presents me with obvious examples of this tendency in practice.
Look at this story, filed by correspondents in Cairo and South East Turkey, which reports that 34 children have been killed in northern Syria because the measles vaccine admistered to them by some undisclosed anti-Assad activist group had been (according to some floating mouthpiece of an entity referred to as “the rebel government”) sabotaged by government forces.
“Primary investigations point to a limited security breach by vandals likely connected to the regime, which has been attempting to target the medical sector in Free Syria in order to spread chaos,” claimed a man identified as “the rebel health minister”. The rebs have sent samples have been sent to Turkey for testing.
Really? Could this story possibly be true? It already shows all the hallmarks of anti-Assad propaganda: dead children and lethal chemicals. It was posted on The Guardian website without a comments section.
The truth was buried elsewhere in the Guardian website later that same day. The rebel medics had tragically mixed up a batch of measles vaccines with a batch of muscle relaxants, with fatal consqeuences.
The earlier story, a work of unabashed disinformation, cloaks the real questions which foreign correspondents should be asking; namely, how the “humanitarian narrative” is used to futher the interests of Western powers at the expense of Arabic soverignty and Arabic lives. This has been the case in the Middle East since the days of T E Lawrence and before. The refugee camps around Syria are teeming with intelligence officers and rebel recruiters of various stripes. Nobody reports on that. Why are illiterates, who cannot even read the packaging on the vaccine box, administering intravenous drugs to children? One suspects they were appointed to the task because of their political allegience, not their medical capability. How did this come about?
It is also worth pointing out how the first story reflects the fact that the rebels (the “side” our government supports) are less trustworthy than the Damascus government. They lie reflexively as a matter or course, a characterestic which is also frequently exhibited by the new government in Kiev, another bunch of usurpers Western governments are keen to prop up. This is why stories from Syria and Ukraine always come with the implicit editorial instruction to believe one side over the other: because the side shovelling us the stories are the prime fabricators in both cases.
The names of the two journalists who filed the first story are Patrick Kingsley and Mowaffaq Safadi.