The British press seem to be doing a rancorous business of late of fabricating stories about Iran, Hezbollah and China. It’s almost as though these subjects are fair game for the old newsroom saying, once repeated often by hacks at the Daily Express in the 80s “make it sing, make it dance, but above all, make it up”.
But the culprits are not red top tabloids who one naturally assumes have an estranged relationship with facts at the best of times. But the Times and the Telegraph, stalwart champions of journalism and pillars of British society no less.
Somebody has really let the dogs out on Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based Shiite group which acts as a proxy to Iran in the Middle East. Hezbollah plays a very good game of smoke and mirrors itself with the media and in particular doesn’t let its top people speak freely with journalists, which could explain in part why hacks tend to get carried away when writing about the organisation. But that’s hardly a justification for making up stories flat out.
Take for example the Sunday Times whose Irish correspondent and expert on the IRA recently penned a piece which was an agonising triumph of futility if not a record breaking example of what can be done with almost no evidence, a dodgy source with an axe to grind and the effortless efficacy of the conditional tense.
“New IRA forges links with Hezbollah” the Times headline rages.
And yet, within seconds the caveats start stacking up and leave you giggling at the pure piece of fiction which masquerades as journalism. (My bold).
“The New IRA, the largest dissident Irish republican group, is thought to have forged alliances with Hezbollah and radical organisations in the Middle East, who may be providing it with weapons and finances”.
The IRA is thought to have forged alliances with Hezbollah?
Incredible. So, who is doing the thinking then to make this article stand up? A retired undercover cop who had his cover blown who thinks that IRA folk travelled to Lebanon in 2018 and visited the Iranian embassy there with the sole purposes of possessing arms, er from, Hezbollah.
Amazing. Given that Hezbollah doesn’t make arms and certainly doesn’t trade them with like-minded groups around the world, this is a pretty breathtaking conclusion to come to, based merely on a visit.
But wait. Give it just a few days for the army of shoddy Middle East copy/paste journalists and the ludicrous story can gain some momentum. Step forward The National, the UAE’s fake news rag which started off so well in its early days with a former Telegraph editor at the helm, but is now so bad that many of its British journalists there tell me that traffic on the website has fallen down to almost nothing. And who can blame readers when some of the articles are such baloney that no one wants to put their name on them?
Dog didn’t bite man
The Hezbollah piece from the Sunday Times was replicated and done so well that you couldn’t see the seams. It went further with this cracking theme of IRA buying arms off Hezbollah and actually interviewed a number of experts. But this only served the purpose to shoot the wild notion down in flames as the article quoted UK police sources which said that it was old news as moves for the New IRA to make contacts with Hezbollah had been made possibly years earlier and that it was more about the new Irish group’s public image than acquiring weapons.
“It appears that they were forging the links between the New IRA, Iran and Hezbollah,” said an intelligence source. “No weapons from Hezbollah had been received although they were on the verge of concluding some form of agreement, but now the whole thing has been shattered.”
So, a story about a dog which didn’t bite a man. No wonder powerful Royals in Abu Dhabi have given up on The National being a credible newspaper one day and are looking at setting up a new international news outlet in London, according to my own sources. (In the Middle East you don’t pull the plug on an under-performing news organisation, but simply start a new one with the intention that the former dies of natural causes).
But don’t let that stop the Saudi cat litter tray daily “Arab News” taking up the theme – a newspaper which has no shame whatsoever publishing fake news articles from computer-generated identities who don’t exist and who were probably created by the UAE (who wrote their articles), following an investigation which caught them red-handed.
Just like the UAE’s The National’s article (which also had no byline) the Arab News knocks out the same garbage, with such vociferous disregard of facts it makes you wonder why the CIA even bothered to investigate its editor in 2015, after he presented himself and his fortuitous, if not amorous online activities as a prime candidate for a Kurdish honey trap in Oslo.
One story on Hezbollah in a British newspaper generates a huge amount of download the brown load Middle East journalism. Some newspapers in the Middle East, like Annahar in Lebanon, for example, only know this copy/paste model.
But wait. The Daily Telegraph isn’t going to be left standing out in the rain when the gangbang is inside in the warmth. It also claimed in a piece, strongly denied by those who know Hezbollah in Lebanon, that the Shiite group was smuggling ammonium nitrate to Europe, according to a U.S. counter intelligence official. I have no doubt that the official said that but why do people buy newspapers? For journalists to guide us through the maize of inference and disinformation, of course. Not just to parrot a narrative in Washington which fits nicely into how western readers like to read about “terrorist” organisations. The Telegraph, the year before, had a big piece on a shipment of ammonium nitrate confiscated by UK security forces just outside London, kept by terrorists who had “links” to Hezbollah. But what does that mean? If these terrorists looked at an article online from a Lebanese website which was believe to be linked to the group, is that enough for mainstream media outlets to join up the dots? If only British journalists would report correctly terrorist activities carried out by Hezbollah or Iran when the latter really is the culprit – like Lockerbie for example which was blamed on Libya’s leader for well over a decade – people might have confidence once again in mainstream media. Currently all that the Times and the Telegraph appear to be doing in the UK is supporting a ruse by Trump to, at some point, go to war with Iran, supposedly as an act of “defence” with these sexed up stories.
It’s a similar story on China. Recently it was reported that a UK official working in Brussels for a lobby group was passing information about the EU to China. Great story. If only it were true. Fraser Cameron’s tale has all the makings of a good spy story. He himself was an MI6 agent until 1991 but there is very little if any evidence to support allegations against him that he was deliberately leaking sensitive information from the EU to China although he admits that some of his China contacts may well be conduits for Beijing. The idea that Cameron would have any sensitive information from the bowels of the European Commission is also laughable. James Bond in Brussels. You couldn’t make it up.
New journalists, lower standards
Sexing up stories on Hezbollah, Iran and China, unfortunately, is an inevitable derivative of a new generation of journalists and editors in the newsroom, which has lost its sense of purpose and no longer follows the dictum ‘The Story Is King’. These days these subjects are a fodder for journalists to go wild on story-telling to keep themselves in the spotlight among their contemporaries with no fear of any accountability, in what has become an entirely corrupted profession – while keeping the security services happy. A double tap. The problem, which editors at the Times and Telegraph, should be aware of is when hacks peddle such bullshit, it has a an uncanny habit of accumulating and gaining its own momentum. This is again down to really atrocious levels of professionalism and pressure on the same journalists to produce more. We saw this previously with a number of journalists who got pulled into the “Assad uses chemical weapons” line and couldn’t get out of it, when irrefutable evidence piled out showing that the entire basis for this notion lacked any solid evidence whatsoever.
But how do you build on foundation of lies? Only with more lies. Expect stories soon of “Revealed: Hezbollah in the UK” or “Iran agents’ network in south of England” with lots of references to “security sources” but not one single shred of evidence to make them stand up.