Liars get angry when caught – Embarrassment at the US State Department.

This is US State Department paid spinner John Kirby insulting a journalist from RT at a State Department briefing:


The question is a  valid one (as the excellent journalist, Matt Lee, from AP points out). If the US is going to build a narrative about Russian “war-crimes” in Syria then they need to source that. It is interesting to note that John Kirby did not even have the list of “aid organisations” on which the claims he made are based, at hand. Presumably he forgot RT was at the briefing and didn’t expect to be asked any challenging questions. That’s probably why he lost his cool and insulted a journalist.

As for his absurd claim that state media organisations aren’t on the same level as “independent media” we can only fall about laughing. That would put the BBC and quite a few major French media organisations – such as Antenne 2 and Agence Presse – on a lesser footing than the ahem “independent media”. “Independent” means owned by private and/or publicly traded finance capital rather than a state, we can assume. The idea that these organisations are somehow not driven by the interests of their stakeholders is risible. It is a basic tenet of capitalism that organisations act in their profit-seeking interest, or has Mr Kirby forgotten the principle on which his country’s economy is based?

The tactic of citing third-party reports of questionable source is a long-standing tactic of Western propaganda. They rely, for their narratives, on various opposition groups, “social media” and “aid organisations” sometimes backed up, as here, with unspecified “other sources of intelligence” which we are perhaps supposed to think means e.g. satellite surveillance data. This propaganda tactic was used in quite a crude form in the run up to the Iraq war when Western intelligence agencies based their stories about Iraq on the tales of defectors. It was used in Kosovo when the West spread tales about alleged Serbia atrocities. It was used in Ukraine – when the State Department and other US officials made frequent reference to “information on social media”. And it is being used to the full in Syria. From the outset of the Syrian conflict it was the stated policy of the UK (in particular) to undermine the “regime” by using “activists” to build cases against it for “war crimes”. The tactic is to rely on the tales of one side in a far-off civil conflict – obviously the side whose interests can be be harnessed to fit the current regime change goals of the West – and to believe their tales absolutely. In Syria it has gone much further. They fund “NGOs” [1] with the specific purpose of getting them to generate propaganda. They think it is a clever strategy – they can rely on these opposition groups to generate the most lurid of claims. At the same time the US – as we see specifically in the clip of the State Department briefing above – doesn’t have to take any responsibility for making these claims. If a claim is ever proved wrong they can walk away from it. (But given the lack of interest by Mr Kirby’s “independent media” in investigating these claims the State Department hasn’t got too much to worry about on the score). We can add that if the “other intelligence” does exist then the US has a responsibility to put that into the public domain if it would either help identify Russia as guilty of deliberate war crimes or help them avoid mistakes in the future.

But – there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There weren’t acres of mass graves in Kosovo. [2] The multiple convoys of Russian hardware entering Ukraine may have existed but we saw surprisingly little evidence outside of social media. And – while Russia has no doubt made mistakes in Syria they don’t have a monopoly on hitting civilian targets. The civilian death score-card may be about equal with the US overall in current wars.

This use of “war crimes” as a tactic of a propaganda war is scraping the barrel of cynicism. No wonder John Kirby loses his rag when found out by the excellent Gayane Chichakyan. As for John Kirby’s telling Gayane Chichakyan “go ask the Russian MOD your challenging questions”. That isn’t the point. She’s there, as a journalist, in your press briefing, by invitation. That is no more than an attempt to deflect away from the question. – If the choice is between a tight-lipped and somewhat authoritarian Russian or Chinese press briefing and a “free” Western one full of lies who is to say which is better?


1. RT. Oct 2016

2. Wall Street Journal


Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer