An obscure blog post, that accuses journalists and intellectuals of inciting “crimes against humanity” for their views on Syria, has received glowing reviews from verified Twitter pundits, despite its factually dubious claims.
Featured on an unfrequented Medium blog, the “International Assadists References Directory” lists 151 people and organizations who have allegedly “expressed support and/or whitewashed the Assad regime.” The eclectic compilation of “Assadists” features individuals and groups of all political stripes and backgrounds, from the Greek nationalist political party Golden Dawn to Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters. Notable journalists such as Seymour Hersh, John Pilger, Peter Hitchens, Glenn Greenwald and Patrick Cockburn are also listed as reckless Assad apologists.
According to the directory’s author, Kester Ratcliff, some of those featured in his comprehensive but perhaps over-zealous index may even be involved in “a criminal act of incitement of a crime against humanity,” although some are more guilty than others, Ratcliff judiciously notes.
Ratcliff, a student in the Netherlands who describes himself as a human rights activist, caught a lucky break after his humble blog post was promoted by several blue-checkmarks on Twitter, including Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, and Shane Bauer, a senior reporter at Mother Jones.
Whitaker’s endorsement in particular spurred a flurry of reactions, with many wondering how the former Guardian editor could take seriously a list that accuses Noam Chomsky, Slavoj Zizek, and Jeremy Corbyn of being ‘Assadists.’
Political commentator, activist and former member of parliament George Galloway, who was also listed in the directory, called it a “McCarthyite compilation.” Galloway told RT that he’s not “a supporter of Assad” but “an enemy of his enemies,”which include “the head cutting, heart-eating, alphabet soup of Islamist extremism” and “the hegemonic imperialist powers.”
Independent journalist and RT contributor Eva Bartlett, who was accorded an extensive entry in the directory, was particularly amused by the inclusion of Boris Johnson. In an email to RT, Bartlett pointed out that the former UK foreign secretary “supported the ‘Assad must go’ theme.”
Likewise, she said it was strange that journalists Robert Fisk and Peter Hitchens were included on the list, since they “write openly about their contempt for the Syrian government, but have also written honestly on crucial issues like alleged chemical attacks and the White Helmets narrative.”
Bartlett also highlighted the fact that many of the individuals included in the list have extensive on-the-ground experience in Syria, conducting in-depth reporting that often contradicts with mainstream narratives about the seven-year conflict.
“In fact, instead of successfully smearing us, Kester has compiled a go-to list of people to follow for original and truthful content on important international issues today, particularly Syria, Palestine, and Yemen,” Bartlett said. “More importantly, readers should be aware that the author is advocating R2P [Right to Protect] on Syria, aka the humanitarian destruction of that country as per Libya. That alone shows his intent with the smear is to silence voices who starkly oppose such a genocidal position.”
Journalist Max Blumenthal believes the goal of the blacklist is to silence the critics of Western meddling in Syria.
“This McCarthyite blacklist is part of an effort to not only denigrate even soft opponents of Western intervention in Syria and beyond, but to literally criminalize dissent against the Washington consensus,”Blumenthal told RT. “It would be easy to dismiss this screed as the isolated irritable mental gesture of a random blogger if it hadn’t been shared by an array of pro-war pundits and regime change activists. In my view, the widespread sharing is the mark of a coordinated campaign.”
Although initially receiving accolades from the ‘Assad must go’ corner of Twitter, upon closer inspection the list was found to contain a number of glaring factual errors – as well as shaky evidence. For example, Ratcliff described British journalist Marcus Papadopoulos (the directory incorrectly calls him “Papadopolous,” but let’s not nit-pick, it’s just his name) as “a major figure in the FBI and Mueller investigations of Russian interference in the US election.” The error was later corrected, with Ratcliff acknowledging that he had confused Papadopoulos with George Papadopolous. Is ‘Marcus Papadopolous’ George’s long-lost, Assad-worshipping twin brother?
In numerous cases, the list cites highly dubious and outright contradictory information in an attempt to expose secret Assad supporters.
Evidence used to indict the late Robert Parry amounted to a single link to a blog post about Andrew Spannaus – a journalist who has contributed around 20 articles to Parry’s website, Consortium News, since 2016. Even more odd, the article doesn’t discuss Spannaus’ writings about Syria. In other words, an article used to prove Parry’s Assadist worldview is not about Parry and does not focus on his website’s coverage of the Syrian conflict.
Patrick Henningsen, editor of 21st Century Wire and alleged Assadist, underscored that the list’s inclusion of deceased journalists Alexander Cockburn, who passed away in 2012, and Parry, who died earlier this year, revealed its amateurish nature.
“I didn’t realise this ‘directory’ was posthumous as well. What this demonstrates is that the author has very little grasp of the subject he is attempting to frame. If it were a high school report, it would’ve been graded a failure,” Henningsen told RT. “What’s most shocking however, is that former media professionals have actually endorsed this misadventure, which shows that they don’t care much for facts and reality either. All that seems to matter is who and whom. This speaks volumes as to the deteriorating level of critical thinking in political discourse in certain mainstream echo chambers.”
Henningsen said that, personally, he was flattered to share the blacklist alongside Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh, as well as Martha Gellhorn Prize-winners Patrick Cockburn and Gareth Porter.
Another accused Assadist, Louis Allday, pointed out that the list used a quote from him that was fabricated. The error was corrected, but only after a peeved Ratcliff gave Allday a new title: “scumbag.”
The cornucopia of errors even received an honorable mention from Glenn Greenwald, who tweeted: “You published an article full of lies because you’re too lazy and/or malicious to care that you’re doing it. I never defended the Assad regime in my life, and the same is true of numerous other people on the defamatory blacklist you spread.”
Ratcliff retorted that only a handful of errors have been found in the list, insisting that Greenwald was spewing “defamatory claims with no factual basis.”
“I think that what this ‘Assadist’ screed really shows is how those who’ve been cheering on the west’s proxy war and debilitating economic sanctions are now desperately trying to rewrite history, and because they can’t actually do that, all that’s left is lash out and attack anyone who doesn’t tow the corporate line, and try to smear and slander anyone they can through ad hominem guilt by association slurs, or simply by engaging in pure libel – which is what this so-called report does,” noted Henningsen.