By James F. Tracy

Western news media reportage on the rampant criminal activities of foreign-backed paramilitary groups operating within Syria still relies heavily on unreliable sources frequently referred to as “activists.” Such spokespersons routinely claim the Syrian military are committing atrocities against the Syrian population. The reports are often disputed by the Bashar al-Assad government and proven suspect or false when additional information is unearthed by independent researchers and alternative news media.

 James Tracy discusses corporate media’s Syria reportage on Voice of Russia, 2/17/14.

In July 2012 UK journalist Charlie Skelton reported that Western news outlets remain willing accomplices in a propaganda campaign being carried out by public relations practitioners. According to Skelton, “the spokespeople, the ‘experts on Syria’, the ‘democracy activists’ … The people who ‘urge’ and ‘warn’ and ‘call for action’” against the Assad regime are themselves part of a sophisticated and well-heeled propaganda campaign to allow NATO forces to give Syria the same medicine administered to Libya in 2011. “They’re selling the idea of military intervention and regime change,” Skelton reports,

and the mainstream news is hungry to buy. Many of the “activists” and spokespeople representing the Syrian opposition are closely (and in many cases financially) interlinked with the US and London – the very people who would be doing the intervening. Which means information and statistics from these sources isn’t necessarily pure news – it’s a sales pitch, a PR campaign.[1]

One needn’t look far for current examples of such uncertain reportage and sourcing from eminent news organizations. For example, a prominent February 8, 2014 story from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, titled, “Aleppo Bombings Kill 23, Activists Say,” carries the lead, “At least 23 people have been killed as a regime helicopter dropped barrel bombs on an opposition-controlled district in Syria’s largest city Aleppo on Saturday, activists said.”[2]

The New York Times reports, “Rebel and government groups have each been accused of massacring civilians, and the government has stepped up air attacks on Aleppo with barrages of improvised ”barrel bombs” packed with high explosives that activists say have killed more than 200 people.[3]

Similarly influential papers such as the Washington Post also remain unabashedly forthright in their reliance on such sourcing. A recent Associated Press piece carried in the paper, titled, “Activists: Syrian Forces Launch New Aleppo Strikes,” quotes the Aleppo Media Center, a self-described “anti-Bashar Assad activist group.” Post readers are assured the entity “has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting.”[4]

Likewise, in November 2013 the BBC, whose Syria coverage tilts strongly toward “activist” observations, cites the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights to break the story of Syrian government air strikes “kill[ing] dozens in Aleppo.“ As Skelton noted in his 2012 exposé, “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is commonly used as a standalone source for news and statistics” which are taken at face value and parroted by corporate media. While SOHR sounds like a credible and non-partisan human rights outfit, “’They’ are Rami Abdulrahman (or Rami Abdel Rahman), who lives in Coventry,” Skelton observes. In 2011 Reuters reported that when Abdulrahman “isn’t fielding calls from international media, [he] is a few minutes down the road at his clothes shop, which he runs with his wife.”[5]

The analysis suggests how despite the fact that those regularly quoted as authorities on Syria are often far-removed from what is transpiring on the ground and thus involved in a more far-reaching disinformation program to confuse the public on the calculated murder and chaos being carried out throughout Syria by Western-financed mercenary forces.

With the foreign-backed destabilization of Syria now well over two years old, major corporate-owned and government-backed news media, perhaps amazingly, continue to rely on such questionable entities as sources. Indeed, a Google search of “activists say” and “Syria” yields 919,000 results.

A more careful LexisNexis database search for “Syria,” “Assad,” “government” and the phrases “activists say” or “activists report” in the subject headings or text of news items for conventional print outlets indexed for June 1, 2012 to February 7, 2014 yields a data set consisting of close to 2,000 pieces—1,638 newspaper articles, 205 BBC broadcast transcripts, and 148 web-based articles.[6] A total 134 articles appeared in the New Zealand Herald, 52 in the Washington Post, 38 in the New York Times, 30 in the Financial Times, and 28 in the International New York Times.

The following table breaks down the news outlets that, based on the above search parameters, appear to have used so-called “activists” as sources 20 or more times since June 1, 2012.

News Outlet

News Articles / Transcripts

Referencing “Associated Press”

British Broadcasting Corporation


New Zealand Herald



Belfast Telegraph Online



Washington Post



Daily Star (Lebanon)



New York Times



Today’s Zaman (Turkey)



The National (UAE)



Anadolu Agency



Bismarck Tribune



Financial Times









International New York Times



The Capitol (Annapolis MD)



McClatchey Tribune



Times of Oman



Salt Lake City Tribune



Times & Transcript



Times (London)



The Mirror



About 13.5% of the sample (270) either reference the Associated Press as a source or are AP wire stories. A search for “Associated Press” within the search results yields 270 articles, including a significant number appearing in the New Zealand Herald (43), the Washington Post (26), The National (21), the Bismarck Tribune (15), and the International New York Times (8). A far smaller number of the overall sample (33) reference “Reuters.”

Combined with an acquiescent news media that are arguably complicit in such deception, the end result amounts to sheer propaganda selling the “Syrian revolution” and further conditioning world public opinion for the inevitability of gradual regime change or even more direct military intervention.

After over two decades of phony atrocity stories and tall tales involving Middle Eastern bogeymen and their legion hordes—from babies being thrown out of incubators in Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to bin Laden’s alleged 9/11 attacks, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and Muammar Gaddafi’s fabricated “crackdown” on his people—the public should well understand that much of corporate news media merely function as a well-oiled propaganda machine where “special interests” pull the strings. This is particularly the case when the true powers that be seek to undermine sovereign governments and carry out programs of wholesale terrorism and destruction against their populations.


[1] Charlie Skelton, “The Syrian Opposition: Who’s Doing the Talking?” Guardian, July 12, 2012.

[2] “Aleppo Bombings Kill 23, Activists Say,” Anadolu Agency, February 8, 2014.

[3] Anne Barnard and Mohammad Ghannam, “Dozens Are Killed in Syrian Violence, Even Amid Preparations for Peace Talks,” New York Times, December 23, 2013, 12.

[4] “Activists: Syrian Forces Launch New Aleppo Strikes,” Associated Press / Washington Post, February 1, 2014.

[5] Skelton, “The Syrian Opposition”; “Coventry: An Unlikely Home to Prominent Syria Activist,” Reuters, December 8, 2011.

[6] A search including the past tense phrases “activists said” or “activists reported” would have likely retrieved an even larger sample.

Republished at on February 11, 2014.

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26 thought on “Corporate Media’s Dubious Syria Coverage”
  1. Prof. Tracy is spot-on in that the PR campaign continues in order to condition the US Public to accept “intervention” in Syria as inevitable.

    That the US Public forced a stand-down this past Fall is encouraging. If enough people stay tuned into the Syria and Iran fronts we will hopefully keep out of another Middle East War.

    If Putin’s offer hadn’t come when it did last Fall… it would have blatantly obvious to the American Public that the US Congress had become paralyzed when faced between doing AIPAC’s bidding or honoring the overwhelming public outcry against Military action.

    Putin’s offer provided nice cover.

    Remarkably, the press has not once raised the issue of competing gas pipelines that would be laid through Syria to serve the European market. Funny omission.

  2. The Benghazi attack, which murdered our Ambassador, 3 US citizens and wounded an unpublished number of Americans, was also not covered by the press. They were working on moving the weapons that we supplied to Lybia terrorists to the Syria rebels.

    In fact it was covered up, as that knowledge would of certainly had a profound effect on the national election. It is no wonder many in the world hate those war mongering Americans that our ‘leaders’ are.

  3. Over-View, Context, Perspective Valuable, Helpful, And Essential

    Well Prof. Tracy: does it occur to u the “corp. media,” which u so well and effectively expose, herein, this blog, is literal instrument of the genocidal US Military Industrial Complex?–and that these both in turn are wholly-owned/controlled subsidiaries of powers behind US Federal Reserve COUNTERFEIT scam, including the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Trilateralists, and Bilderbergers, among others too?

    I trust u’d find it difficult to refute my statements above. Thus I submit it’s important to understand things, including Sandy Hook “massacre” and Boston marathon “bombing” incidents, all in context and perspective within a larger over-view–much as I describe above.

    Further, there’s an even wider over-view, entailing the large culture. For example, is it mere co-incidence that Christianity is evermore mocked by these same corp. powers, including and bolstered by the Fed, which push anti-Christ homosexual agenda?

    So I submit it’s mistake to exclusively focus upon details and isolated events only and ignoring the larger cultural and economic contexts as I describe and as it seems u tend to doing, to my own frustration, I must admit.

    1. Hopefully more of us are getting frustrated, Apollo. And many of us are connecting the dots. The focus of this article is to remind everyone that, though we continue to learn more and gain insight, the people in Syria are sacrificial pawns while we stand by… experiencing frustration. Again.

      1. Old…, I absolutely assure u, pawns-r-us too, never doubt. The way Syrians and Palestinians are treated is way WE will be treated too–observe militarized cops here in USA murdering people w. impunity, NSA & TSA violating 4th amendment, and Obongo, gross fraud who is NOT a natural-born citizen, issuing monarchical edicts, totally un-Constitutionally–TREASON in-ur-face–corp. mass-media lying and ignoring the facts, etc.

    1. I have to say that the church that I go to frequently invites speakers whose message is war inciting. The term warrior is applied to Jesus and it’s used to imply that we should be brave warriors, too. And not spiritual warriors, as the message used to be. We are continually being bombarded with information about how awful the people from the countries that you are talking about are, how they are trying to overtake our country, and that you can’t trust any of them, even your seemingly nice neighbor down the street.

      You probably are aware of the “Christian” books about the Jihad, I won’t mention the author’s name.

      Most people that I know fall for it.

  4. It’s truly amazing that a wide-awake professor of media studies can write such a detailed analysis of the blatantly biased, push to go to war with another Middle Eastern country MSM and never type the words ‘AIPAC,’ ‘Zionist,’ ‘Israel,’ or ‘NeoCon.’

    Is that what the ‘Comments’ section is for?

  5. Obama’s ilegal wars on Libya and Syria have unmasked him once and for all as an out and out fraud. America elected him on an anti war platform of “hope and change”, applauded when he was awarded a Nobel peace prize, and yet the mainstream media seems not to have noticed this extreme contradiction between the man we elected and the president we were given. One wonders what would have happened had he let the cruise missiles fly. Were we standing on the precipice of world war three? We may still find out. Watch for the dying babies !

    1. Clearly, anti-war protests of a decade ago lacked sincerity to the issue. It was quite evident at the time. Many of the protesters could not help but say Bush and company wanted war because of strong Christian beliefs and racist dispositions. Insomuch as they believed this they were not attempting to stop a war as much as hunt down another phantom racist—this time, one not hiding in the bushes, but one who was himself a Bush. Their wild goose chase has today been supplanted with other mystical, pseudo-causes: stopping undetected-imperceptible-to-human-senses-violence against homosexuals; and making everyone believe they have mental errors—without ever showing any evidence that such a thing as mental illness exists, of course. Remember the charge against Gaddafi? It was that he went a little crazy and had to be taken care of, said CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) propagandist Ron Maclean. Maclean, therein, committed a little war crime, for which he may have a little trial, if Canadian or Libyan men and women ever decide to hold him a little accountable for what’s happened to Libya.

      The destruction of Africa has only intensified since Obama started going through the motions of the US presidency. It is reasonable to assume the videos showing Western Intel managed death squads putting dog collars on Libyan blacks and digging pits to fill with them are depictions of raw and brute racism. We may further observe that similarly trained and managed death squads have entered, and are destroying Syria, in fits of racially and religiously charged barbarism. Amy Goodman’s “rebel” heroes have cut off little boys’ heads for as little as a joke concerning food distribution. They never became less than “the opposition” on her “Democracy [. . .] Now” though. They’ve used chemical weapons. They’ve cut out hearts and recorded themselves taking a bite out of them (some evidence suggests, additionally, that they engage in organ trade with the murdered’s organs).

      What are we to make of the anti-war left, the pro-war (CIA) Washington Post, the unification of Ann Coulter and Amy Goodman at the heart of the matter. We could start by learning to address them as nothing other than war criminals. These people and institutions create pretexts for expanded invasion and mass murder. They repeatedly rally public support for the worst kinds of crimes. I think it’s a gross simplification to say the invasion of Syria is imperialistic or the consequence of unchecked capitalism. Maybe in an abstract sense. But the truth is these people, with their overarching agenda, live as much for murder as they do to capitalize it. And what if they don’t? For our purposes, they are, simply, murderers. Those who aid them can only be perceived and addressed accordingly.

      1. Here is David Icke in one of his better moments – The Real Background to Syria. The background from where he is speaking is very appropriate, not a green screen, and he refers to the occupants of the building as “a bloody lot”. He reminds us of the seven middle eastern countries that were on the drawing board for destruction. They are being picked off one by one. Really one of his better presentations in its simplicity and so true. Twenty minutes.

        1. Agree! And guess who’s playing us like a stringed instrument? And there we stand, stupefied, unable to do a thing… Until enough people in this country have the guts to stand up and say: “Enough! We’ve had enough. No more tax dollars for war mongers. We are linked indissolubly with the worldwide victims of a phony world-wide War on Terror. We demand that the perpetrators of 9/11 whereby this phony war was launched in earnest, and all their defenders, which means BO & Company, be jailed immediately!” And as Ickes gestured, the key should be thrown into the middle of the ocean… The only problem is, in case you’ve noticed, you can’t get your so-called representatives to even mention the date, 9/11, let alone talk about it. They’re the first line of defense for this obscene regime called RepoDems or Demreps; We need to start getting rid of them all… November 2014.

  6. Seriously folks, one should always be skeptical when the deaths of children are used by the media to promote a political agenda. From incubator babies, to Sandy Hook kids, to the Ghouta gas attacks, this seems to be the go to provocation used by the powers that shouldn’t be to get Americans to do something that goes against their better judgment. Dead babies=big red flag

  7. The reports are getting confusing with the Secretary of State declaring things are good in Syria and Iran and congress saying not. Is this not one more distraction?

    At the young age of 63, we were looking at retiring. Regardless of the media’s betrayal that the young will have to pay the health care costs of the older population, the plans available to us were $20-30 thousand dollars per year for minimal coverage. If we keep our income below $60k, we could get a welfare benefit of $10,000.

    This is really bad math and our imperial president keeps changing the law to suit the next election.

      1. In an interview Dr. Lorraine Day said that thirty years ago she and a dozen other doctors were invited to take part in a discussion in DC about health care insurance for American residents. Meetings were going on behind closed doors and the doctors were pretty much excluded. When it was over the doctors were asked to pose for a photo op with the politicians. She declined to be used as a prop and flew back to San Francisco. She knew then that the scam was in the bag. Took a while for them to trot it out though, they were in no hurry and the political circumstances had to be right.

        There is no other country on this planet with such an asinine plot as “Obamacare” which was planned long before Obama set foot in DC. Who has 20,000 dollars laying around to hand over to the cabal each year? It is beyond insane and another step in the scheme to bring this occupied nation further down in the gutter. Affordable Care Act? 1984 speak. The words for this scam are not fit to print.

  8. Excellent article James. Thank you. I just finished watching the Frontine programs on Syria broadcast on PBS television. The first half of the program followed a reporter embedded with the Free Syrian Army. This group allegedly started the revolution and is now competing with a fundamentalist faction and the Assad regime for control of the Syrian government. The second half of the program followed a family of five living and fighting among the ruins of an embattled city. As sympathetic as the mother, father and especially the children (who got most of the coverage) were – I was left asking, yet again, “What exactly are they fighting to be freed from?” and “Who’s giving them those weapons?” The two hour PBS program failed to follow one person who was pro-Assad. The implication being: “It goes without saying and EVERYONE knows Assad must be deposed!”

      1. Thanks for that video, Peter. He says the FSA is working for the Saudi king and Lebanese president, in cooperation with Israel and the U.S.

        Here’s the translation of that last bit:

        We are the Soldiers of King Abdullah and the excellence Hariri, Inshallah we stand on Israels side when we crush Hezbollah and we stand on USA side when we destroy Iran with all our s*&t. All the talk about Nasrallah will nothing change on the battlefield, thats not a talk

  9. I would point others in the direction of examining the Scherf (Bush) Saudi Bandahar connection, who “threatened” Putin, claiming to control a bunch of terrorists. Putin sent him marching empty handed.

    The plans for Syrian gas supply routes are also very important to examine. It may also be viewed as a risk to attack Iran without first sealing the back door through Syria. I believe Russia, China and Iran have the Zionist threats and propaganda adequately under control.

    With regards to what the US and NATO have done in Libya and Egypt, I think they have completely jeapordised their official 9/11 zionolla crappolla stories. And now going slightly off the main topic…

    Time to get the genetically proven “anti Semtics” out of Israel and let the true Semites have their land back. Research the John Hopkins university material regarding DNA and show me one Ashkenazi that isn’t a Khazarian “convert”.

    The ongoing Palestinian genicide and suppression is completely out of order! Gerald Kaufman MP (UK) spoke out about it on Feb 5 during a Parliamentary debate, describing Israel as a piriah state. Pretty strong words for a “chosen one”.

    With their fractural reserve banking outfit, of which we are tax slaves to meet the interest costs, they would be better off creating enough electronic money and building something big enough to transport their people to a large biosphere on Mars. Cydonia looks wonderful.

    Egregore worship can continue unabated and their Archon masters might even be able to handle the surface air and live in a physical state beside them. Have I been listening too much to John Lamb Lash, or getting too deep into Gnosis?

    I think Genesis tells us a lot more. Great to see the first DNA result of the Peru skulls. Hybrid/Nephilm descent? I wonder if there is a connection with the Neanderthal gene. The latter scientific research data is astounding too.

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