In October, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the media that the viral photo of a bloodied Aleppo boy in an ambulance was a forgery. Now, Russian State TV is mimicking the same tactic by labeling the five-year siege on the Syrian city (and Russia’s own role in the slaughter) as “fake news.” Now, some far-right websites are using the same term to describe fundraisers geared towards helping refugees who fled Aleppo, and Russia is trashing Amnesty International as a fraud.
Assad made his statement amid growing criticism over nightly bombings of civilian neighborhoods in rebel-held areas of Aleppo. This year, the situation grew worse with the aid of the Russian air force, and December saw the reported killing of fleeing families by pro-government troops in a “meltdown of humanity.” These reports caused Russia to attempt blocking maneuvers at the UN to prevent monitors from witnessing the evacuations.
Now that the Assad regime has retaken control of Aleppo from rebel forces, the new narrative is that Russia helped “liberate” Aleppo. You can see these stories on Russia’s state-owned news outlets and on the InfoWars conspiracy-theory site. It further follows that these outlets are deeming images of a crumbled Aleppo and reports of pro-government attacks on civilians as “fake news.” From the Daily Beast:
The most viral of the Aleppo denial claims comes from RT personality Eva Bartlett, who has been claiming that “the media is lying to you [about] Aleppo” for a year. (In August, she referred to the human rights group Amnesty International as “Shamnesty International” after the organization requested help in the Syrian city.)
Bartlett posted a video to a Facebook page called In The Now that has received over 2.5 million views in 12 days. In The Now is a Russian-backed viral news offshoot of RT meant to mimic BuzzFeed or NowThis News, and it mostly posts non-political lifestyle stories about things like cute animals and innovative technology.
In this video, however, Bartlett accused the civilians who were about to be killed if they did not evacuate Aleppo of being “activists.”
“What do all of these people have in common? They want you to think there’s one side to this story — one truth. That Assad is going from city to city killing his own people, for some crazy reason, with the help of Russia,” she says. “The question is, do you buy it?”
For the record, Russia’s role in the Battle of Aleppo included nightly air strikes in support of the Assad regime, including the bombing of humanitarian trucks. John Kerry tore into Syria and Russia for attacks on civilians, and several UN ambassadors (including France) called out Russia for “barbaric war crimes.” In response, Vladimir Putin threw a tantrum and cancelled a Parisian excursion.
The Beast’s full report includes more of the far-reaching excuses from the Kremlin-run outlets and the American far-right contingent, which both aim to erase evidence of Russia’s role in the Aleppo slaughter.
Of late, the term “fake news” (which is a real phenomenon) has been reappropriated as a growing insult against the media. The term is favored not only by the Syrian regime but also Russia and the far right, which enjoy labeling journalists as propagandists whenever they don’t like a story. Oh, and Donald Trump tweets the term too…