Being Skeptical of All Sources of Media Information

by omouggos

We are living through rather interesting times. Traditionally the West, for all of its faults, was known as the free world, where one could live as they pleased, in peace and prosperity. During the Cold War, the freedom that we had known in the West had to be defended against the Communist onslaught of the Soviet Union. America was the “shining city upon a hill,” which beckoned to humanity as an example and as a sanctuary.[1] In short we were the good guys and they, the Communists, were the bad guys. We defended freedom and were agents of truth and they attacked freedom and were agents of lies.

Maybe this characterization is a bit erroneous and naive, since it can be argued that the Cold War situation was more complicated, but it was clear that the West and America were bastions of freedom, liberty and prosperity. Unfortunately things have changed. America has lost much of its prestige and honor abroad and at home. The light that shines upon the hill no longer instills hope and admiration in people, but instead fear and scorn.

Some no longer see America as a defender of freedom but as a bringer of chaos and oppression. As evidence they cite the invasion of Iraq to support this negative view of America. After all, Iraq was invaded under the false pretenses of being a terrorist state and of possessing weapons of mass destruction. And while the tyranny of Saddam Hussein was replaced with a democratic government, the relative order and stability of the former was soon replaced with horrific sectarian violence, which now threatens to break Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni statelets. In this violent and disorderly milieu the evil scourge of ISIL arose. The current turbulent situation in Iraq is largely attributed by many to the actions of America.

The present situation in Syria has also tarnished America’s reputation. Since 2011 the Syrian Civil War has been raging, killing over 250,000 people.[2] Large portions of the country are under the control of ISIL and other rebel groups. In establishing and maintaining its Caliphate, ISIL has been busy killing, enslaving and raping anyone who does not accept their form of Islam. Taking stock of this situation President Obama characterized ISIL as the JV team. Yet over a year of American airstrikes have not demonstrably thwarted this JV team.

While ISIL is an odious and barbaric organization worthy of destruction, why has America been unable to destroy it, let alone significantly degrade it? Is Obama so weak willed that he will not unleash the full might of the American air force to decimate ISIL or is he holding back because he is using ISIL as a proxy army to fight Bashar al-Assad? Either America and its President is weak willed or diabolical. Either possibility provides plenty of support to the numerous detractors of America.

Here enters Russia. At one time the wicked Soviet Union, Russia is now seen by some as a force for good in the world, as they are standing up to and opposing the US. Where Obama did little to oppose ISIL in Syria, President Vladimir Putin in only a few weeks of moderately intense airstrikes appears to have sent ISIL into disarray and panic. Where Obama is seen as weak, dithering, academic and ineffective, Putin is seen as strong, decisive, pragmatic and cunning. In the past America was seen as the good guy and Russia as the bad guy, but now in a rather amazing turn of events, America is the bad guy and Russia is the good guy. Russia is now perceived as a force for world stability and national autonomy.

With this reversal of roles, the American government and media is no longer trusted. Many people, including many Americans, just assume that what American sources say are lies and propaganda. In contrast the Russian government and media are seen as exposing the truth about what is going on in Syria, how there are no moderate rebels, how US airstrikes against ISIL are insignificant, etc.

But here is the problem, many people who have become rightfully skeptical of the information presented by the American government and media, have become rather credulous towards whatever is presented by Russian sources. It seems that if America is ‘bad’ then Russia, who is opposing the former, must be ‘good.’ Only America can be bad, all others are just victims of its aggression, imperialism and hubris. But just because the Russians are doing good in Syria by targeting ISIL and other extremist groups does not mean they are completely benevolent.

If one skeptically filters the information of the American government and media, then they should do likewise with analogous Russian information. Case in point is an interview by PressTV of Russian analyst Dmitry Babich on the topic of Russian involvement in Syria.[3,4] He dismissed Western reports that Russia was building up their military presence in Syria as American propaganda, saying:

So far, the Russian government officials have not confirmed the presence of any Russian troops or Russian military planes on the territory of Syria. I tend to believe the Russian sources a lot more than American sources; American sources are very often used for propaganda. There were so many cases when the United States officials lied that I don’t think we should believe them now.[4]

At the time Babich’s statement may have seemed very reasonable. American sources have, in certain instances, been used as propaganda and the reports of a Russian military buildup in Syria were by ‘untrustworthy’ American sources. So here we have a Russian analyst who works for the ‘truth telling’ Sputnik news agency calling into question American claims pertaining to Russia. In such circumstances should not we trust Babich over his Western colleagues?

But less than two weeks later Russian warplanes based in Syria began their aerial bombardment of rebel forces, which as of October 16 have involved 600 sorties and 380 ISIL targets being struck.[5] Even before the official Russian bombing campaign started there was photographic evidence of Russian troops on the ground in Syria, with some of this evidence indicating that these troops have engaged in combat alongside Syrian forces.[6] It seems that Mr Babich was a bit off the mark.

Now there are reports that some Cuban soldiers have arrived in Syria tasked with manning Syrian tanks and that 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops have also just arrived in Syria.[7] But of course the source is an Israeli site, so why should we trust it as Israel is the wicked ally of the US. Furthermore, Cuban officials have denied that any of their troops have been deployed to Syria[8] and Iranian and Syrian officials have said that there are no Iranian troops fighting in Syria, but that there are some Iranian ‘consultants’ present.[9]

To those who have lost faith in America, Cuban, Iranian and Syrian official sources seem much more trust worthy than Western sources. But recently three important Iranian military commanders, including Hossein Hamedani, were killed by ISIL in Syria.[10] I guess these consultants just happened to get a bit reckless and wandered too close to the battle front. Or maybe there are in fact Iranian forces fighting in Syria and just maybe there are also Cuban forces there as well, in contradiction to what Cuban, Iranian and Syrian sources are telling us.

With all this in mind I am not recommending that one blindly trust American and Western sources of information and conversely completely dismiss out of hand Russian and other sources of information. What I am advocating is that if one is skeptical of American sources then one should also be skeptical of Russian sources as well. In the world today no one country or group has a monopoly on deception and obfuscation, sadly it is ubiquitous throughout the world’s political entities. If America is capable of lying and misleading to further its own geopolitical aims, then so to is Russia.

It is also possible that Russian commentators, such as Mr Babich, are not spreading official Russian misinformation, but that they honestly believe what they are saying. While they may be sincere in their statements, this does not mean that they do not have an inherent anti-Western and pro-Russian bias, which should be accounted for by an observer.

For all of these reasons we need to be skeptical and critical of media and official sources from both America and Russia. Just because something was reported by someone with a Russian accent does not mean we should accept it hook, line, and sinker. Deception, corruption and iniquity are found not only in America, but throughout the world and even in Russia. Thus all media should be critically analyzed regardless of its source.

O Mouggos

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c32G868tor0

[2] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/10/16/More-than-250-000-people-killed-in-Syria-war-.html

[3] http://sputniknews.com/authors/dmitry_babich/

[4] http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/09/19/429840/us-russia

[5] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/10/16/Russia-claims-380-ISIS-targets-in-Syria-since-start-of-bombing-.html

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11840713/Russian-troops-fighting-alongside-Assads-army-against-Syrian-rebels.html , http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3226009/First-picture-proof-Russia-troops-ground-Syria-helping-dictator-Bashar-Al-Assad-ve-APRIL.html

[7] http://www.debka.com/article/24950/Israel-perturbed-by-the-arrival-of-3-000-Iranian-troops-in-Syria-with-2-000-Cubans

[8] http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2015/10/18/Havana-denies-talk-of-Cuban-troops-in-Syria-.html

[9] http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/10/14/433335/Syria-Iran-Omral-alZoubi-Daesh-militants- , http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-denies-troops-in-syria-will-boost-support/27312375.html

[10] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/10/iranian-commanders-killed-syria-151013192529038.html

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