An Open Letter to Olivia Solon
by James Corbett - The Corbett Report
Feb. 11, 2018
As attentive Corbett Report viewers will already know, The Guardian was the recipient of the highest dishonor of the year this year: The award for “Fakest Fake News Story of the Year 2017” at my First Annual REAL Fake News Awards ( aka “the Dinos”).
Specifically, the dishonor was bestowed on The Guardian’s San Francisco-based technology reporter, Olivia Solon, for her breathtaking contribution to the annals of establishment fake news hackery, “How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine.”
The report, for those who have not read it yet, is as exactly what you would expect from an establishment stenography institution like The Guardian: The so-called “Syrian Civil Defence,” aka the White Helmets, are pure and virtuous; anyone who questions them is an anti-imperialist activist/conspiracy theorist/troll with support from the Russian government; no criticisms of the group are valid and they’ve all been refuted by reputable fact-checkers like Snopes; blah blah blah, etc., etc.
As I say, you know exactly how the story goes…but you should read it anyway. It really is a perfect snapshot of the template that the MSM uses to discredit any and all opposition, and it would have been incredible effective…in the 1950s, when people still trusted the mainstream media. (Protip: no one trusts the MSM anymore!)
As it is, this is the age of the internet and it’s impossible for fake news stories like this to fly with an increasingly informed and connected public. When The Guardian ran its hit piece on the independent researchers like Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett and Tim Anderson who are countering the mainstream White Helmets / Syria narrative, they just responded on their own websites and social media and in interviews on independent media sites, probably reaching more people in the process.
One of the highlights of this response came in Eva Bartlett’s rebuttal of The Guardian smear job, “How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda and the White Helmets in Syria.” In that report, Eva Bartlett published Olivia Solon’s actual emails to Bartlett when she was seeking comment for her article. Stop what you’re doing and read those emails right now.
If you ever wanted to know how the sausage is made, here it is in all its gory glory: Leading questions. Accusations. Taunts and insults framed as innocent inquiries. It’s like Solon went to the same school of journalism as Cathy Newman.
As attentive Corbett Report viewers will also know by now, I released my own response to Solon’s hit piece this past Friday: The White Helmets Are A Propaganda Construct.
As I note at the end of my podcast:
“Olivia Solon was contacted for comment on this report, but she did not respond to the request.”
That’s right, of course I offered Solon a right of reply to the piece that I was writing about her story. In fact, I did even more than that: I very closely copied her own email’s style, format, and even some of her questions when I reached out to her. Sadly, though, Solon did not see fit to reply to my query.
So, in an effort to reach her via a different outlet, I am releasing my email to Solon as an open letter. If anyone out there happens to be in contact with her, perhaps you could pass these questions along? Thanks!
FROM: James Corbett
TO: Olivia Solon
SUBJECT: Media request re: The White Helmets
I am a reporter in Japan and I’m planning to publish a report on February 9 about the “journalists” who believe that the White Helmets are crusading heroes and the independent reporters who are seeking to expose that lie.
Your reporting is featured in this report and I’d like to include your voice within it. I am including the key parts of the report which will call your own reporting into question below. It would be great if you could respond to them by 12 noon Japanese time on Friday, February 9th (2 days from now). I will be sure to carefully consider any comments you make. If you do not choose to respond to the numbered points by Friday I shall proceed on the basis that you have no comment you wish to make.
1. That the White Helmets are an organization of crusading heroes who are above reproach – they are, in your view, a politically neutral organization of everyday Syrians who have valiantly saved tens of thousands of lives.
2. That you rely nearly exclusively on The Syria Campaign for your “expert analysis” of the White Helmets and their trustworthiness despite The Syria Campaign’s admitted role as a PR firm lobbying for the White Helmets. You also completely ignore or exclude reporting on the Syria Campaign, its murky origins, its anonymous donors, and its ties to groups promoting regime change in Syria.
3. You believe that all opposition to the White Helmets is part of a smear campaign that is being coordinated by the Kremlin. Do you still believe this?
4. You attack the work of independent reporters who have done on-the-ground investigative journalism in Syria and come to differing conclusions about the White Helmets, calling them “anti-imperialist activists,” “conspiracy theorists” and “trolls with the support of the Russian government.” At the same time, you fastidiously ignoring the similar conclusions reached by:
John Pilger, one of the most celebrated journalists and documentarians of the past half century
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer
Gareth Porter, the award-winning journalist who has contributed to Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The Nation, Al Jazeera, Salon, The Huffington Post, Alternet and countless other outlets
Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times correspondent and, ironically, recent contributor to The Guardian.
Can you please identify which category of “anti-imperialist activists,” “conspiracy theorists” or “trolls with the support of the Russian government” that Pilger, Giraldi, Porter and Kinzer fall into? (Please categorize each one individually.)
5. That you think that Assad is maniacally killing his own population and deploying chemical weapons on his own country, knowing that this is the one “red line” that would ensure an invasion of Syria by outside forces, because he is a deranged bloodthirsty maniac and likely suicidal.
I also have a few questions for you:
1. You are described as a “technology reporter based in San Francisco” who would appear to have absolutely no background, expertise or training in international geopolitics. Why do you believe you were assigned these stories about the White Helmets and what makes you think you are qualified to report on them, despite seemingly never having set foot in Syria?
2. Do you believe that members of the White Helmets have openly advocated for, appeared with, or even fought for listed terrorist organizations, as their own social media profiles make abundantly clear?
3. Even if you believe the White Helmets are faultless heroes, do you believe it is possible that there are jihadis and terrorists in their ranks, and that their work is promoted as part of a cynical operation to rally Western support for increased military intervention in Syria? Or is it all above board, in your opinion?
4. Could you briefly outline your training as an investigative reporter?
Well, there it is. And if Olivia Solon does read this post, perhaps I can use this opportunity to ask a few follow-up questions:
1. What do you think of The Guardian’s uncritical reporting of the (admittedly completely fictitious) “Syrian sniper boy” video and why did you not include critical reflection of that incident in your article’s lengthy treatment of the White Helmets’ Mannequin Challenge video?
2. Assuming you are paid by The Guardian for your…*cough*…”reporting,” what can you tell us about the paper’s financing and how that might help to influence a pro-interventionist editorial position at the paper? And can you elaborate on any potential conflicts of interest that might arise from The Guardian’s relationship to The Doc Society, which promotes various White Helmet documentaries?
3. Do you think the public should take The Guardian seriously as an objective arbiter of the truth about the White Helmets given that their editorial board is on record lobbying for the White Helmets to win the Nobel Peace Prize?
4. Why do you think that Beeley and Bartlett were reluctant to answer the questions in your email?
Thanks again for your time, Olivia Solon! I will now start holding my breath while waiting for your reply…