In summer of 2014, wannabe-journalist Benjamin Norton began making a name for himself online as a supporter of the Syrian revolution against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. He wrote and published at least 14 anti-Assad blog posts and corresponded with supporters of the revolution through social media platforms Facebook and Twitter. His online profile and following grew accordingly and he landed a job at Salon in October 2015 from which he was recently fired for reasons unknown.
After getting a job at Salon, Norton abruptly stopped writing anti-Assad blog posts; his support for the uprising disappeared the moment he had a mass readership. His first and second Salon blog posts in late 2015 were characterized by neutrality between the revolution and the counter-revolution. In January 2016, he abandoned this new-found neutrality in a screed conflating the U.S. blockade of Cuba with mass starvation imposed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen, smaller scale starvation imposed by the Assad regime on Madaya, and an anti-Assad rebel siege of Fua and Kefraya where the possibility of starvation was mitigated by regime air drops. Yet he ‘forgot’ to mention to Salon readers that the rebels used their sieges as leverage to alleviate the regime’s starvation of Madaya in a humanitarian aid deal covering four areas. Whether such tactics are morally defensible is an open question, but cutting deals to alleviate civilian suffering is hardly the something irreconcilable religious fanatics hell-bent on genocide and sectarian mass murder would do (ISIS for example would never agree to such an arrangement).
But details, nuance, factual accuracy, and political sophistication are clearly beyond Norton’s rather limited intellectual abilities. From January 2016 onward he used the exact same lines of attack to demonize rebels and supporters of the revolution that ‘anti-imperialist’ and ‘anti-war’ leftists previously used to demonize him and his support for the revolution. Activists he slammed for using bogus evidence and leftists he derided as ‘tankies’ suddenly became his new best friends as he sucked up to them and pretended he was really with them all along. Norton even resorted to Alt-Right Muslim-bashing anti-terror rhetoric to smear the cause and the people he once defended from such racist attacks.
The problem for Norton as he shed and slithered away from his previous positions was that he left an extensive written record of opposition to Assad and support for the Syrian uprising. Because he stole lines of attack from his former enemies to use against his former allies, his former allies began quoting Norton 1.0 to expose Norton 2.0 as a hypocrite, liar, fraud, and flip-flopping opportunist. Unable to explain the evolution of his thinking in a forthright way (since there was really no thinking behind his crass, careerist position-shedding), Norton tried to eliminate his critics’ source material and destroy history by deleting at least 50 Tweets and the 14 blog posts. Fortunately, he was caught red-handed by 9/11 truther in a remarkable series of Tweets documenting what Norton tried to dispose of in what George Orwell’s 1984 called the memory hole. Orwell was a visionary — and someone Norton once praised — but even he couldn’t imagine a journalist and the Ministry of Truth being one and the same individual.
What makes Norton’s deletion spree even more perverse is that the Assad regime is busy ‘deleting’ human beings all over Syria and doing its best to hush up the topics Norton 1.0 brought to light such as the plight of Palestinians in Yarmouk or the 1982 Hama massacre.
Links, dates, and screenshots of all known cases of Norton deleting his own material are reproduced below.
1. “Statement of Worldwide Solidarity with Refugees from Syria,” published on bennorton.com August 22, 2014, deleted some time after May 31, 2016
2. “Pew Study: Majority of Middle East & North Africa Opposes Assad,” published on bennorton.com September 16, 2015, deleted some time after May 13, 2016.
3. “Using Photos of Assad’s Bombing to Oppose US/Gulf Bombing,” published on bennorton.com September 27, 2014, deleted some time after July 21, 2015.
4. “Meet the Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theorists Who Are Assad’s Biggest Fans,” published on bennorton.com on October 5, 2014 and deleted some time after July 21, 2016.
5. “Bashar Al-Assad’s False 2014 ‘Election’,” published on bennorton.com on October 5, 2014 and deleted some time after June 3, 2015.
6. “Left Unity’s Socialist Perspective on ISIS and Western Intervention in Iraq,” published on bennorton.com on November 16, 2014 and deleted some time after June 3, 2015.
7. “Stratfor Report: Assad Shares Intelligence with US,” published on bennorton.com on November 28, 2014 and deleted some time after August 20, 2016.
8. “The ‘Anti-Imperialist’ Nations of Iran, Syria, and Libya Participated in the CIA Torture Program,” published on bennorton.com on December 10, 2014 and deleted some time after May 1, 2016.
9. “Pro-Assad Bingo,” published on bennorton.com on January 2, 2015 and deleted some time after February 16, 2016.
10. “Palestinian Refugees Flood the Streets of Yarmouk, Protesting Assad’s Siege,” published on bennorton.com on January 19, 2015 and deleted some time after May 7, 2016.
11. “The US Government Essentially Sides with Assad,” published on bennorton.com on January 20, 2015 and deleted some time after June 3, 2015.
12. “Remember Assad’s Hama Massacre 33 Years Later,” published on bennorton.com on February 2, 2015 and deleted some time after May 7, 2016.
13. “56 Dead in One Day, a Glimpse of Assad’s Brutality,” published on bennorton.com on February 5, 2015 and deleted some time after March 3, 2016.
14. “ISIS Blew Up Tadmor Prison Destroying Evidence of Assad’s Torture,” published on bennorton.com on May 30, 2015 and deleted some time after May 31, 2015.