Doing nothing to protect Syrians and to uphold international humanitarian law has serious consequences not only for Syrians but for all of us.
Letter sent to the UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and my constituency MP Thangam Debbonaire.
I have been volunteering full-time with refugees since about December 2015. I went to Greece, started with driving at night to pick up refugees landing in north-eastern Lesvos in collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières to bring people safely and quickly to MSF’s transit camp at Mantamados, etc. Eventually I developed into a specialist in providing legal information about the asylum interviews, family reunification procedures, and assistance with applications for humanitarian visas, mainly to France. I did interview preparation sessions with about 80 refugees in Chios in June-July 2017, mostly Syrians, listening to their personal stories in detail.
Since then, I identified with them, some became my close friends, and I have been following the situation in Syria very closely for the last two years. My ideological background is Catholic. I have previously voted LibDem and Labour — I am disgusted with the current Labour leadership, but my constituency MP, Thangam, is excellent and I can hardly imagine a better parliamentary representative.
I assume you are aware enough of the factual situation. I also assume that you are not devoid of human empathy and a natural sense of obligation to others, although clearly you are not acting on those now. I guess you are thinking that the political situation constrains you and it is ‘necessary and inevitable’ to compromise with evil, but that is part of how the reflexive control strategy works. I think you are constrained by your cultural conditioning and you do not really fully understand the implications and long-term consequences of your decisions. That is why I am writing, in a last ditch attempt, to ask you to think.
It is clear that you have decided to allow the people of eastern Ghouta to be slaughtered, or face whatever fate Assad, Khamenei and Putin wish to inflict on them, without limits and with impunity in the near future. It was the British government in 2013 which, by withdrawing from joint preparations following the parliamentary vote, stopped the USA and France from intervening to forcibly set limits on Assad’s war on Syrians, which would have enabled the Syrian armed resistance to win, and would have put the West in a strong negotiating position of conditional cooperation with the pro-democratic and moderate Islamist parts of the Syrian opposition to nudge and negotiate a better transition.
I am fully aware it was the Tankie leadership of Labour in 2013 which misinformed and mobilised popular opposition to forcible intervention in Syria, but I am not interested in party-political blame or excuses, as, in my view, we share collective responsibility as members of a democratic society for whatever our government does, even if we have opposed it. Even if you were to change your minds now, it is almost certainly too late for Ghouta–60% has already been captured (midnight 12th March 2018), and the regime militias have reportedly begun massacring civilians captured in Misraba, as they did previously in other cities they “cleansed” and as they publicly broadcast their intentions to do. But it is not yet entirely too late for the people in Idlib. The Russian airbase at Hmaimim has just threatened to do the same to Daraa next.
About 4.5 million people remain at serious risk in Syria if Western governments do not act to stop or limit Putin and Khamenei from ethnically cleansing Syria of opposition to Assad, their client regime. All three categories of atrocity crimes are being committed primarily and mainly by the Assad regime, by the Iranian forces and their ‘international’ Shia sectarian paramilitaries and by the Russian air force and mercenaries on the ground. That includes — precisely — genocide crimes, because among the regime militias and the regime’s civilian supporters in Syria and Lebanon, explicitly sectarian extremist narratives to incite and instigate their militias to kill and “cleanse” opposition areas of Syria are common, and they are explicitly saying their intention is to destroy a group, who they identify by sectarian identity — Sunnis, although the people in the group are actually mixed, and the intention to destroy such a group is the defining qualification of genocide. I understand that you will not publicly acknowledge this reality, because the facts now and the UK’s treaty commitment to the Genocide Convention 1951 obligate the UK government to act to protect and prevent genocide (that is a treaty obligation independently from the UN Charter), and you think that is nationally and internationally politically infeasible, so you continue acting as if the reality does not exist, to avoid responsibility. But that that will not avoid the consequences, even for us directly, not only for Syrians.
The same pattern of siege, continuous bombing, targeting medical facilities, then escalating bombing to extermination frequency, bombing with choking, burning and neurotoxin chemical agents, lying about humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave which do not really exist, then offering forced displacement to Idlib, has been inflicted on people in eastern Aleppo, Moadamiya and Daraya, Wadi Barada, Madaya and Zabadani, and the forcibly displaced people in Idlib continue being bombed. I am in daily contact with some of them and have friends from all four areas now including direct, daily contacts in eastern Ghouta.
The Assad regime is a criminal agency controlling Syria only by means of its totalitarian violence and terror, not by the consent of the Syrian people. Its purpose is to exploit people and extract wealth, not to protect and represent people, or organise social support systems. Even before the war, State institutions in Syria were dedicated to a pyramid scheme of bribe-taking more than serving citizens and residents. It is factually and morally wrong to act as if it was a legitimate State. I reject the claim that the Assad regime, or any State, has absolute or inherent sovereignty — the Syrian people have sovereignty, and they have never elected the Assad regime in any free and fair election, nor does the regime respect human rights; therefore it is a tyranny both by usurpation and by oppression, and it deserves to be destroyed. I believe that a State’s legitimacy derives from people’s human rights and their freely given consent, never the other way around. I seriously question whether the Western Nation-State theory, with the twin myths it was based on and its implied range of social imaginaries, has actually done more harm than good in all its 370-year history.
It is too late to undo all the effects of the appeasement policies of the last 7 years. Appeasement of the Russian regime over Crimea, murders in British territory, their backing for Assad’s counter-revolutionary war on the Syrian people, the European Council’s compromise in the EU-Turkey Deal with Neo-Eurasianist fascist myths and their policy demands about refugees, at every point when we should have resisted the inducements to destroy our own society’s moral and constitutional foundations, the British government has led the way with appeasement, and enabled the undermining of our social solidarity on the basis of coherent and reasonably objective moral values and principles, indeed our constitutional law. We will all suffer the long-term consequences, probably for generations.
Processes in the public sphere of information and in public consciousness are set on a trajectory now which I foresee leading to three possible futures: 1) overt kinetic warfare with the Russian regime; 2) a long smouldering global hybrid warfare, in which we are at a disadvantage due to democratic constraints, resulting in division and disintegration of Western societies and delegitimization of our representative States until they are on a par with Russia, Iran and Venezuela; or 3) a nice, “peaceful” acquiescence into a new international order dominated by violent kleptocratic authoritarian regimes, with no effective political or legal constraints on ‘State’ violence, persecution and terror, and widespread use of Neo-Eurasianist fascist narratives to win elections, which may gain a life of their own even out of the control of the Kremlin regime. I fear possible future (3) the most, and it is currently the most likely, as it is the path we are currently on.
In writing this letter I expect to get nothing but a polite, formal fobbing-off, and do not hold high hopes for a relevant and considered reply, partly because it is a British tradition, and partly because to consider changing your minds and policies about Syria would require you to review your philosophical assumptions and your whole social imaginary which you probably have not even recognised as such. In the British class and gerontocratic system, I do not have the status required to get you to read and really think about a 5 page letter with 3 pages of references. But, whether you regard me as credible or not, if you do not reconsider and drastically change course soon, you will continue leading us into the abyss.
‘Syria’ in global media and in public consciousness has already changed the world, mostly for the worse.
Watching images of horrific brutality and the desperate suffering imposed on Syrians for seven years, both– (1) miscontextualised, in the ‘alternative’ narratives of the Russian-led global information-psychological warfare; or (2) artificially politically decontextualized of a sense of our ability and our ethical and international legal obligations to respond effectively to protect people, because we have been conditioned by our government and opposition leadership saying essentially–‘it’s sad but there’s nothing we can do’, which is and always has been untrue, so the main way the images of horrific suffering appearing continuously in e.g. my Facebook newsfeed have been experienced in my part of the social media network is conditioning and reinforcing the distressing but passive acquiescence to the idea that this is ‘just the way things are’ now, that a ‘State’ can be accepted internationally and be ‘sovereign’ by monopolising violence, not by popular consent and respectful practice of human rights. That is extremely dangerous conditioning.
Justice is inherently a common good, but by acquiescing to mass atrocity crimes with impunity for seven years, we have undermined that public sense that justice has objective and universal dimensions. Likewise, the normative valuing of truth as a public good, loses its relevance sympathetically for all issues and all public fora discussions if it is allowed to be seriously degraded in any particular public issue and discussion.
As I mentioned above, I believe very seriously that human rights law is an expression and formulation of the natural principles of justice which any person in bona fide can reasonably discern and, independent of particular cultures, anyone will come to fundamentally very similar principles, although not necessarily with the Western Nation-State theoretical system for implementation. This is also, I think, the philosophical basis of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the Preface, probably written by Jacques Maritain.
‘Human rights’ are now seen as a political aesthetic or an insincere performance by Western regimes as and when they find the narrative motif useful for delegitimising opponent regimes, not as the objective moral foundation of our international constitutional order, which had a reasonable claim to approach universality. To most self-identified ‘leftists’ now it is acceptable to know just enough about Iraq, Libya, Yemen, to instrumentalise images of people’s suffering there to discredit criticism of anti-Western tyrannical regimes.
Politics has lost a sense of respect for the possibility and ethical obligation to struggle towards a reasonably objective understanding of what is factually and ethically true, which endangers justice, peace and security. The Rand Institute has called this social phenomenon ‘truth decay’. The public discourse norm described by Kant’s principle of humanity has been seriously eroded by years of whataboutism used for trivial party-political advantage, by both Conservative and Labour leaderships normalising political lying in public.
‘Syria’ as represented in most of our media environment now has been part of changing our society’s implicit philosophical assumptions, at the deepest level of mostly-unconsciously learnt social imaginaries. It is a process of creeping normality; so you can continue ignoring it, but if you do it will hurt more later.
Our culture’s informal, implicit operating theory of truth now has become essentially consumerist — ‘truth’ was assumed in the design of the personalisation algorithms in the new media environment to be evolved from the ‘market of ideas’ by means of the mythical ‘invisible hand’ guiding aggregating processes of our individual consumer sentiments to select the best competing claims for truth. This is based on absurdly unrealistic assumptions about how humans actually process information and make decisions, and it evidently doesn’t work well or even viably in practice, but it has become the mainstream informal theory of truth actually in social practice now, through the stigmergic interaction and reinforcement processes of living politically through social media. The Russian regime has used this in-built weakness in the media environment which Western societies created to induce us to damage and divide our own societies. You might dismiss this as ‘too abstract’–but that assumption that philosophy can safely be dismissed as ‘impractical’ or as only a private interest is also part of why we are (almost certainly now) doomed.
The informal, implicit meta-ethic which was assumed (probably unconsciously) in the design of the personalisation algorithms in social media and which the Russian regime has also instrumentalised to induce us reflexively to damage our own society, also using the postmodernist tendencies of my parents’ generation (I am 34), assumes that how we should decide what to do in an ethical sense is the same as how we decide what to buy, what brands we want to associate with, and what feels nice. Ethics has collapsed into individual consumer sentiments. Part of this comes from and uses bourgeois niceness norms, which prioritise trivial niceness to fellow bourgeois-nationals over much more serious claims to universal justice.
‘Syria’ is one of the main topics in the media which the Russian global Active Measures campaign has instrumentalised to delegitimise Western governments and media companies which don’t support them, to turn fissures in our social lattice of identities into intractably non-communicating divisions, and to condition us narratively and through cognitive-linguistic framing techniques to accept informal theories of truth and of meta-ethics which are systematically, seriously damaging to our societies’ social cohesion and hence our ability democratically to make factually relevant, potentially adequate and timely political decisions.
Observing how Syrians have been treated the last 7 years has also delegitimised the whole Western Nation-State operating theory, the international order built on it, and the mainstream sense of normality and common sense for me too, but I have not replaced my previous socially learnt beliefs with any of the Kremlin’s alternatives. Most people however have not been afforded the privilege of about 30 years of education and can’t afford the time and attention resources to really think for themselves, so seeing the legitimacy collapse of the Western liberal democratic order partly brought on by watching the UK, French and US governments increasingly abandon and positively undermine the international humanitarian and human rights legal regime in practice, most are going to become hopelessly politically unmotivated or else fall for one or other of the nice, simple, easy, responsibility-free, totalising ideologies offered by the Kremlin and its allies.
You can also observe the fact that pro-Kremlin governments, parties and politicians across Western societies and globally consistently repeat and side with pro-Assad disinformation and propaganda. Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) politicians are a particularly dangerous example. As well as visiting Russian occupied parts of Crimea in violation of international sanctions, they are visiting Assad and going on regime minded tours to get information to use in pro-Assad and anti-refugees propaganda in Germany. Specifically they want to impose the fiction and compel Germany to act as if it were true that there are ‘safe zones’ in Syria controlled by the regime, as if Da’aesh and Jabhat al-Nusra were ever actually the main killers and as if Assad was really fighting them. In fact, Assad instigated Jabhat al-Nusra and Da’aesh, allows Da’aesh to move around through regime controlled territory to attack opposition areas, and fights alongside them against the FSA and moderate Islamist militias like Jabhat al-Shamiya, instead of attacking Da’aesh.
As long as the German constitutional court stays strongly independent, there is no way the German government, however hard the AFD and some pro-Kremlin SPD and CDU politicians may push, will be able to get the fiction that Syria is safe to forcibly return refugees to past the German courts, but in their performance of campaigning for it, discussing Goebbelsian ‘Big Lies’ as if they were true and demonstrating the political power to compel people to ‘act as if’, they are establishing an essential totalitarian political norm, which will generalise to all other and subsequent issues if its normalisation process is not stopped.
Having allowed Putin, primarily, to overpower the Syrian revolution and reinstall Assad as the proxy client regime for the Iranian regime and Russian regime to colonise Syria and use it as a geopolitical strategic military base, has fundamentally undermined the international political, moral and constitutional legal order.
When has appeasement ever stopped a totalitarian regime from starting or continuing a war? Please review the British governments policies of appeasement in the period leading up to the Second World War, and consider why you are repeating much of the same kinds of mistakes. Do you understand what global hybrid war means (i.e. information-psychological warfare and kinetic warfare are integrated, cyclical and reflexive, the information-psychological warfare is primary and the kinetic warfare feeds material into it)? Do you really listen to your intelligence briefings? If you really did listen and understand, I am convinced you would not have decided to do nothing about Ghouta, or about all the previous cities Assad has “cleansed” of life, and you would not continue to do nothing to stop the regime coalition exterminating people in Idlib, when there is nowhere left for them to be forcibly displaced to except into Turkey. Turkey really cannot resettle and integrate more refugees now, so if you do not protect people in Idlib region, unless the Turks are willing to machine gun down millions of Syrians rushing the border fence to stop them getting to Europe, there will be another much bigger mass influx of refugees — I say this not because I do not want to welcome them, but because I do not want them to be forced to leave or to suffer even more, or be killed. And of course if there is another mass influx of Syrian refugees this summer, the Kremlin’s Active Measures program will use the news about it to promote their fascist ally parties and politicians around Europe again.
Appeasement does not make it less likely we will face scenario 1 (above), but more likely, and it makes scenario 2 or 3 almost certain.
If Western publics were polled today, I think majorities would probably choose Neo-Eurasianist fascist or pro-Kremlin “Alt-Left” candidates, such as Corbyn who, though he formally denies it, is a populist nationalist, he persistently repeats Kremlin propaganda about Syria, and he is in favour of genocidal tyrants as long as they’re anti-Western. If we think of ‘democracy’ now as simply the majoritarian voting procedure, then our continent will totally fall to fascism. ‘Democracy’ in my view is primarily the values and principles of fundamental freedoms, human rights (not just citizens’ rights), and fundamental equality of valuing human beings independently of nationality, race, religion, ethnicity, etc., and the majority voting procedure is a means to implement those values, but it is not an end in itself which justifies whatever the majority will demands. Constitutional constraints on the popular majority will to protect human rights of scapegoated minorities and foreigners are even more fundamentally legitimate in a democratic constitutional system than the majority voting procedure. It is moments like this that motivated the authors of our uncodified constitutional legal system to frame the UK’s form of government as representative not simply direct democracy. Even though it will be unpopular, probably with a majority, you or your successors must at some point choose to act to oppose our nice, quiet, peaceful slide into a fascist international era.
I’m not going to beg you to act as if it was only a matter for your compassion or voluntary morality, but I am warning you of the very long-term consequences if you do not act. Probably a majority of the public now would oppose UK forcible intervention against Assad, no doubt mobilised by the opposition party, but in a decade or two when people realise what was actually happening around now and can see the whole thing in hindsight, I think more people would be grateful if you do not repeat all of Chamberlain’s mistakes.
Even if you don’t do it for Syrians, please recognise we are not really separate; abandoning them to be slaughtered endangers us all in the long-term. ‘Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’
Yours sincerely, Kester Ratcliff
Speech of a Ghouta resident at a meeting with UN aid workers when they entered with the first delivery of food aid, translated and transcribed- https://www.facebook.com/kester.ratcliff/posts/10155383230341238
Muzna Duried of the Syrian Political Feminist Movement writes about her friend Bayan Rehan, head of the Women’s Office at the Douma Local Council in Ghouta-
Syrian civil society’s open letter in the New York Review of Books, ‘Stop Pretending You Can’t Do Anything to Save Syrians’, 27 February 2018, now with more subscribers —
“Power manifests itself in the regime’s ability to impose its fictions upon the world.” The complicity of the people within this imposition enforces the regime’s power of domination. In other words, the regime’s power is mainly constructed by the people’s enacted participation in that very construction.
According to Wedeen: “The politics of acting ‘as if’ carries important political consequences: it enforces obedience, induces complicity, identifies and ferrets out some disobedient citizens …”
Amal Hanano, quoting Professor Lisa Wedeen in his review of her book ‘Ambiguities of Domination’. He continues:
“Indeed, one of the fundamental ways the Syrian people functioned in the police state was by “acting as if”. Acting as if nothing was going on as Hama was pummelled in 1982. Acting as if they loved the leader even though they were terrified of him.
The tragedy of Bashar Al Assad’s rule is that his father’s construct of complicity has, over the past 32 months [November 2013], bled far beyond Syria’s borders to encompass the entire region and international community.” Amal Hanano, November 2013, https://www.thenational.ae/asking-assad-to-stay-is-asking-syrians-to-be-party-to-a-charade-1.455893
The World of Syria, Syria of the World, Yassin al-Haj Saleh, 21 January 2017, http://www.yassinhs.com/2017/01/21/the-world-of-syria-syria-of-the-world/
“Some States [a State] like ours is a crime agency, but there is an essential problem in the State as such: Monopolizing violence by States, solely, legitimates any State violence and makes it invisible. By contrast, any non-State violence becomes illegitimate and glaringly visible. In Syria we have a genocidal regime and terrorist organizations and the international (read: Inter-State) system orders them in a hierarchy that tolerates genocide and sees its perpetrators as “the lesser evil” and relegates non-State violence to terror and labels it as “the greater evil”. The system is evil and it is heading in my opinion to dysfunctionality.” Yassin al-Haj Saleh, personal communication, 7 March 2018. (Slightly edited for typos and a couple of paragraph breaks to make it clearer.)
“They are indefensible because they are represented without dignity,
and the spectacle of their indignity imposes itself as evidence of that.”
Abounnadara, Regarding the Spectacle, 2 December 2016.
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-03-08/the-american-century-is-over-putin-and-assad-killed-it (beware the claim in the article “most moderates in Syria have gone..” — I have not seen any data for that, only repetition, and the terms of the question may also be faulty when you consider the global hybrid character of this war. Syrian moderates in the diaspora are still effectively resisting, the whole thing and not only the part in Syria, and are even more able to be effective than if they were still under bombs in Syria. Revolution is not primarily about armed force — civil society organizing is the most important and foundational part of a democratic revolution, and that is flourishing, although more (mostly?) in exile now.)
“Narrative war has become far more important than physical war due to new technologies that shape public perceptions of conflicts in real time, regardless of what is actually happening on the battlefield. The spread of social media, he argues, has brought about a situation of “virtual mass enlistment” that gives civilians as much power as state propaganda machines — and sometimes more. Although some techno-utopians have celebrated the breakdown of centralized state control of information and the empowerment of the individual to challenge authoritarian regimes, he is not starry-eyed about the leveling of the playing field. “[B]ecause these new social media forums are structurally more egalitarian,” he writes, “many delight in holding up the Internet as the ultimate tool against tyrants.” It is not. As Patrikarakos notes, “the state will always fight back” — and it has.’”
Sasha Polakow-Suransky, ‘For Whom the Cell Tolls’, review of War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century, by David Patrikarakos, November 2017, in Foreign Policy, 28 February 2018. http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/28/for-whom-the-cell-trolls/
The Meaning of Eastern Ghouta and Assad’s “Victory”: The Assad regime has won the war; it cannot, however, win the peace, by Nabeel Khoury, in the Cairo Review, 6 March 2018 https://www.thecairoreview.com/tahrir-forum/the-meaning-of-eastern-ghouta-and-assads-victory/
“This situation is arguably the strongest driver of extremist recruitment both in the region and beyond. The idea that there is no such thing, as human rights or the basic right to life if you are a Syrian, a Muslim — a sunni Muslim in fact — presents the perception of the genocide of sunni Muslims by the “Shia crescent” and their allies.
The sectarianization of this conflict and its impact on radicalisation globally, is tangible. On the reactionary Far-right side, the incoming of a million plus refugees into Europe has been a unifying and vocal cry, seen most recently with the rise of the Far-right in Italy.
If our humanitarian inclinations; our duty to protect; saying ‘never again’ after World War II, are not going to move us to stop this genocide by the Assad regime, maybe our self-interest and selfish security concerns should. The results of Syria pose a very real threat to our freedom — the rise of the Far-right, disregard of international norms, murdering people in our countries, as well as terrorism and radicalisation — and should motivate us to do more to stop this ‘hell on Earth’, now.
Upholding the demands of the UN for a ceasefire, stopping the regime’s war on its own citizens, is not just a moral, legal and political necessity, it is a vital security interest.” Rashad Ali in ISD Global. https://www.isdglobal.org/syria-radicalisation-stopping-massacre-not-moral-necessity-vital-security-interest/
“a lot of RT’s success lies beyond fact or reason — it lies in feelings, in a will to disbelieve. RT delivers affirmation, not information. Its conspiratorial worldview confirms prejudices rather than encouraging curiosity. It doesn’t question falsehoods to reveal truth; it does it to oppugn the very notion of truth. The Guardian has called this “weaponized relativism.” Syria offers an object lesson in its lethal effect where RT has successfully blurred the difference between victim and perpetrator. Should such inversions of truth become commonplace, the very possibility of justice will be erased. We ignore this at our own peril.”
Idrees Ahmad, For Russian TV, Syria isn’t just a foreign country — it’s a parallel universe, in Washington Post, March 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/democracy-post/wp/2017/03/13/for-russian-tv-syria-isnt-just-a-foreign-country-its-a-parallel-universe/
The reason why populists and political newcomers are so willing to challenge basic democratic norms is in part tactical: whenever populists break such norms, they attract the univocal condemnation of the political establishment. And this of course proves that, as advertised, the populists really do represent a clean break from the status quo. There is thus something performative about populists’ tendency to break democratic norms: while their most provocative statements are often considered gaffes by political observers, their very willingness to commit such gaffes is a big part of their appeal. …
But their recklessness is no less dangerous for all of that. Once some members of the political system are willing to break the rules, others have a big incentive to follow suit. And that, increasingly, is what they do. While some of the most spectacular attacks on basic democratic norms have come from political newcomers, the representatives of old, established parties have also become increasingly willing to undermine the basic rules of the game.” Prof. Yasha Mounk, How populist uprisings could bring down liberal democracy, in the Guardian 4 March 2018, summary of part of his book, The People Against Democracy. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/04/shock-system-liberal-democracy-populism
[Added later:] Frederic Hof, former US Ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Arab Spring and for the first 18 months of the war in Syria. He resigned because he conscientiously objected to Obama’s policy, and continued criticising it and proposing in detail practical better alternatives from within the Rafat Hariri Centre in the Atlantic Council (NATO research institute). This is his final statement as Director of the Hariri Centre, reviewing what’s happened since 2011 and US policy’s role in the catastrophe in Syria and the world — http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/syriasource/leaving
Network analyses of the Russian pro-Assad disinformation campaign targeting the international public:
https://diary.thesyriacampaign.org/killing-the-truth/ first network analysis of the pro-Assad Russian disinformation campaign on social media.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/18/syria-white-helmets-conspiracy-theories network data analysis showing how conspiracy theories about the Syrian Civil Defence volunteers in opposition areas are instrumentalised by the Assad regime and the Kremlin to normalise fascism internationally.
https://web.archive.org/web/20180309225139/https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2018/03/09/multipolar-spin-how-fascists-operationalize-left-wing-resentment network mapping of hard left and far right pro-Assad ‘alternative news’ sites and political groups and their connections to the Kremlin.
Alexander Reid Ross’s two articles explaining the results of some network analyses of right and left-wing media sites significantly associated with the Russian regime’s own media and Kremlin official statements were originally published in SPLC but were pulled after Max Blumenthal made spurious defamation litigation threats, but are still perfectly valid —
https://louisproyect.org/2018/03/19/the-far-right-influence-in-pro-kremlin-media-and-political-networks/ look closely at the graph. (A single data point indicating why I consider Blumenthal’s complaint utterly spurious — https://twitter.com/KesterRatcliff/status/974986049029132288 )
The whole situation now is very dangerous, not just for Syrians but for all of us, because long-term really our security and their security cannot be separated. Sorting facts from propaganda is genuinely hard, especially when so many elderly “experts”, because of their Orientalist and Islamophobic racist assumptions, which were normal in their generation, are so inclined to believe the Russian propaganda about Syria which plays to those elderly prejudices. Avoiding facing the difficulties will not make them go away, delaying is making it much worse, and choosing to do nothing is not a safe option in the long-term. Please look at the whole situation and think far ahead.
https://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/peter-pomerantsev/putins-rasputin about Andrei Surkov’s use of Lyotard’s postmodernist theory in the new Russian, more philosophically clever and aggressive information warfare since 2014.
 “the main guidelines for developing Russian military capabilities by 2020 are:
i. From direct destruction to direct influence; ii. from direct annihilation of the opponent to its inner decay; iii. from a war with weapons and technology to a culture war; iv. from a war with conventional forces to specially prepared forces and commercial irregular groupings; v. from the traditional (3D) battleground to information-psychological warfare and war of perceptions; vi. from direct clash to contactless war; vii. from a superficial and compartmented war to a total war, including the enemy’s internal side and base; viii. from war in the physical environment to a war in the human consciousness and in cyberspace; ix. from symmetric to asymmetric warfare by a combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns; x. From war in a defined period of time to a state of permanent war as the natural condition in national life.” Jānis Bērziņš, National Defence Academy of Latvia Center for Security and Strategic Research, April 2014. http://www.naa.mil.lv/~/media/NAA/AZPC/Publikacijas/PP%2002-2014.ashx