One of the most effective tools of the propagandist is the power of leaving out.
The complete failure of the Australian mainstream media to cover the scandalous behaviour of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has proven once and for all that the role of our free press is not too keep us informed but rather to manage a narrative; in other words to disseminate propaganda.
American journalist Patrick Lawrence calls it the ‘the power of leaving out’ or the ‘untruth of omission.’ By omitting important details on the historical context, timelines, causality, responsibility and motives behind events a narrative can be generated that supports a particular viewpoint. It has long been apparent that the Australian media has used this approach to promote a warped view of events in a range of countries including Syria. The complete absence of any reporting by the Australian mainstream media on the doctoring of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) report into the alleged April 2018 chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria, suggests that our ‘free press’ is managing a narrative to mislead the Australian public.
The alleged chemical weapons attack, the missile strikes by the US, UK and French militaries in response and the OPCW investigation has been covered extensively by the Australian mainstream media. The coverage leaves you with the distinct impression that it is the Syrian Government who is responsible for the chemical weapon’s attack. Whilst the possibility remains that this could be the case it appears increasingly unlikely as more documents and information from whistle-blowers within the OPCW has been released. The back story and implications of this information has been discussed by Paul Malone and myself in previous P&I articles with the original documents available from WikiLeaks.
There are several reasons why the OPCW scandal may not have been covered in the media. These reasons include ignorance, not being newsworthy or this story not fitting the narrative. Given how closely the Douma incident has been followed, that the documents are readily available from WikiLeaks, that Kristinn Hrafnsson, the Editor-In-Chief of WikiLeaks, recently covered this at the National Press Club and the large range of alternative media (and some international outlets) that are covering this scandal; ignorance, other than wilful ignorance, can be immediately ruled out.
Whether this story is not newsworthy story can also be ruled out. The veracity of the documents released by WikiLeaks has not been questioned. The OPCW whistle-blowers were intimately involved in investigating the Douma incident. The available information thus appears credible and suggests that there is a prima facie case that the OPCWs impartiality has been compromised and its final report doctored for geopolitical purposes, at the behest of the United States and potentially other western nations, to attribute responsibility to the Syrian Government. Even on the busiest of news days this is a newsworthy incident. A litmus test would be to change the names of the countries involved in this scandal and ask whether it would be covered. If the accusations were against countries such as Russia, China, North Korea, Iran or Venezuela there is no doubt whatsoever that this would be covered. A handy example being the ABCs coverage of attempts by Russia to spy on the OPCW.
If we assume that there is no Government censorship of this story, the only remaining reason is that these allegations don’t fit the narrative. But failing to cover this story is more than an effort to avoid offering an embarrassing mea culpa. To cover this story would pull loose the thread that unravels the whole narrative that has been built around Syria, the Assad ‘regime,’ the ‘moderate rebels’ and the White Helmets. For if we accept that the whistle-blower evidence and leaked documents are accurate, the logical conclusion is that there was no chemical weapons attack. And if there was no chemical weapons attack then it suggests that the US and UK government funded White Helmets, who produced and disseminated the Douma video footage, are not the humanitarians portrayed in an Oscar winning documentary, but rather information warriors supporting vicious terrorists organisations (also known as ‘moderate rebels’) fighting for regime change in Syria. And if a staged event can lead to illegal (as it was not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council) military action being taken by leading Western governments then it suggests that the intelligence services of these countries are either thoroughly incompetent; or of even more concern, coordinating their efforts with terrorists groups. And if the narrative of the Douma incident as portrayed in the media is patently false, then what other narratives are also false; previous chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the Skripals, the Ukraine, Venezuela, MH17?
When it comes to foreign affairs, it is increasingly apparent that our media is little more than compliant stenographers for official narratives emanating from Washington, London and Canberra. By failing to report on the misdeeds, perfidy and malfeasance of Australia’s allies, the media is failing to hold our Government accountable. The Australian Government immediately attributed blame for the Douma incident to the Syrian Government and fully supported the air strikes against Syria. It is one thing for private citizens to attempt to hold the Government to account on these issues, quite another when 7.30 or The Australian does. Media silence is allowing the continuance of a belligerent and often illegal foreign policy by our allies, generally supported by Australia; that is creating the very political instability and global insecurity that our media covers on a daily basis.
I have previously stated that the greatest threat to liberal democracies is not an external one but rather a deep gangrenous rot that is coming from within. The OPCW scandal is an example of this rot. Hopefully the blatant ‘untruth of omission’ exposed by the OPCW scandal crystallizes in the minds of enough people that currently our ‘free press‘ are actually propagandists. Perhaps Australian journalists may follow the example of Newsweek’s Tareq Haddad who recently and very publicly resigned in protest after his editors suppressed his story on the OPCW scandal. A functioning media is critical to our democracy, freedom and trust in our institutions; it would be nice to think having been exposed as propagandists that the OPCW scandal maybe a catalyst for change in Australia’s media.
Cameron Leckie served as an officer in the Australian Army for 24 years including three operational deployments. He maintains a keen interest in strategic affairs.