The author finds herself getting attacked on Twitter for an article she wrote in 2018 about a CNN interview with a child about the Syrian war.
By Caitlin Johnstone
Listen to a reading of this article.
There’s a thread going around on Twitter by Columbia University’s Sophie Fullerton advancing the claim that I have promoted crazy conspiracy theories about child “crisis actors” in Syrian war atrocities. Fullerton has me blocked on Twitter so I can’t respond to her there, but in her thread she brings up one of the most egregious instances I’ve ever seen of U.S. war propaganda in the mass media, so it’s worth taking some time to unpack her claims here as a public service.
Fullerton has written for The Washington Post slamming social media users who travel to Syria and dispute the official mainstream narrative about what’s been happening in that country, and has served as an expert analyst in a Daily Beast hit piece on the progressive Gravel Institute for their scrutiny of U.S. warmongering. So it’s fair to call her a spinmeister on the side of the U.S. empire, and it’s probably fair to predict that her young career will bring her tremendous success and mainstream elevation as a result of this.
“It takes a special kind of evil to see what happened yesterday in Dnipro and immediately start doing PR for the perpetrator,” Fullerton tweets, with a screenshot of me saying it’s deceitful for people to talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine without also talking about the ways the U.S. empire provoked and benefits from this war. “It should come as no surprise that this account built a following out of claiming Syrian children impacted by Assad/Russia atrocities were crisis actors,” she adds.
Here Caitlin attacks Bana al-Abed, a child from Aleppo who spoke out against Assad and Russia’s siege on the city. pic.twitter.com/ooSZkOykur
— Sophie (@florida_sophia) January 15, 2023
Fullerton’s thread has gained a lot of traction because it has been amplified by Olga Lautman, a senior fellow at the imperialist think tank Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) with a large following.
CEPA’s donor list includes the U.S. State Department, the C.I.A. cutout National Endowment for Democracy and the weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and General Atomics.
Fullerton uses the phrase “crisis actors” to evoke the image most people have of that term and what it means: conspiracy theories about people pretending to have been wounded or otherwise involved in a false flag mass shooting or bombing incident, particularly Alex Jones’ infamous claims about the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.
Google defines “crisis actor” as “a person who takes part in a supposed conspiracy to manipulate public opinion by pretending to be a victim of an event such as a bombing, mass shooting, or natural disaster.” Imperial spinmeisters have a history of using the phrase “crisis actors” to smear skeptics of dubious claims by the U.S. empire about what’s been happening in Syria as crazy conspiracy theorists who are the same as Sandy Hook deniers.
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But for her evidence of my “crisis actors” conspiracy theorizing, Fullerton cites something very different from any such claim. She cites an article I wrote in 2018 titled “That Time CNN Staged A Fake Interview With A Syrian Child For War Propaganda,“ and revealingly she includes only a screenshot of the top of the article rather than providing a link. She did this because the arguments made in the article are unassailable and she doesn’t want people to see them.
In 2017 CNN conducted a fraudulent interview with a 7-year-old Syrian child named Bana Alabed, whose name had earlier been popularized by a Twitter account operated by an adult calling for U.S. interventionism in Syria to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
I know the interview was fraudulent not because I’m some kind of dogged investigative journalist who spent months digging into the facts and the sources, but because I watched the interview. It is plain as day that the child was either reading or reciting words that had been prepared for her, and every comment I can see on CNN’s YouTube share of the segment agrees with this assessment.
To the best of my knowledge, no serious attempt has ever been made by anyone to dispute this.
Fullerton claims that my article “attacks Bana al-Abed,” but if you actually read my article you will see that what I am in fact attacking is CNN for staging a bogus interview with a child who is clearly reading or reciting words authored by an adult, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota for playing along with this sham.
My article at no time mentions the phrase “crisis actor” (pretty sure I’ve never even used those words except in reference to claims made by other people), and it is quite obvious from the child’s awkward recitations in her CNN appearance that she is not an actor by nature.
No intellectually honest person with any sense of normal human speech will ever claim that this interview was anything but scripted. And, I mean, of course it is. A CNN anchor asked a 7-year-old child for her opinions on who is responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Syria and repeatedly asked her for her perspective on the highly complex and multifaceted conflict in her country. The only way you’re going to get answers to those questions from a child that age is if you feed them to her. This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say.
But even if you accept on faith the idea of a 7-year-old child conducting off-the-cuff military analysis and geopolitical punditry on cable television, it is evident from the video that that isn’t what’s happening. She not only speaks like someone with no acting experience reading from a script, she sounds like someone who is not fluent in English simply sounding out English words phonetically.
Which would make sense, because other video evidence indicates that she did not speak English very well around the time of her CNN appearance:
Irrefutable proof that Bana does not know any English. Not even the simplest possible English. What a scam! #Syria pic.twitter.com/ytOc9ieb4R
— Ibn Walid (@walid970721) February 3, 2017
In footage from an interview in Turkey (from where, according to the CNN chyron, Alabed also conducted the Camerota interview), Alabed is asked in English if she likes the food in Istanbul. She replies “Yes,” and when asked what food she likes, Alabed replies “Save the children of Syria.” Her mother says something to her, and then Alabed replies, “Fish.”
She did not understand the question. But Sophie Fullerton wants you to believe this child was engaging in adult-level conversation about complicated ideas on CNN, in fluent English.
Again, this is not an attack on a Syrian child. It would be insane and ridiculous to expect a 7-year-old Syrian to be fluent in English and to be able to articulate highly advanced analysis about what’s been happening in her native country, so I am of course not criticizing her inability to do so. I am absolutely criticizing the war propagandists who put her up to it, though, and I am absolutely criticizing those who run apologia for their having done so.
The U.S.-centralized empire’s dirty war on Syria has had many atrocious elements to it over the years, and an abundance of propaganda and spin have been used to facilitate them. But never has it been so in-your-face brazen as when CNN staged a plainly fraudulent interview with a small child.
Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, YouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes. For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.
This article is from CaitlinJohnstone.com and re-published with permission.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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At the drop of a hat the Imperial juggernaut wipes out a million Iraqis – the unfortunate recipients of the US war machine – the supporting caste includes: Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman … and so on and so forth, who did their stuff for the flag and the American way. But hey, they were the right guys – were they not! What about those wicked Russians who bore the object the Ukraine’s 8 year siege of the Donbass which just happened to kill an estimated 14000 people – and are still being shelled today.
Ah well, he who controls the discourse controls mass indoctrination.
She wasn’t reading a script, she was struggling to read the script.
It reminded me of my recent eye exam (I’m near sighted). ‘Mr. Chuba, read the first line on the chart’. Me, ‘g’ no wait its a q’. The tech actually coached me, ‘remember, the last three characters are numbers, not letters’ (so I confined myself to only guessing numbers, a 1 in 1o shot.
Why should it be any different today? Always blame others long, very long, before blaming thyself. An American trait…
Terrific response, Caitlin. ………….The journalism profession is totally corrupted and co-opted by a ruling elite. Hell, they own just about ALL of it. If you’re an up and coming professional in that field, you readily see how well you’ll be compensated for going along and spinning the official narratives handed on down from the Pentagon/State Dept. No one, from the lowly reporter to the top editorial manager wants to jeopardize their well-paying career just by shining a light on contradictions/falsehoods/half-truth/propaganda spun by the state. ———The truth tellers are relegated to a few websites or writing books and that’s THAT. The persecution of Julian Assange stands as a stark example/warning/threat to any journalists anywhere in the world who might reveal material the state would rather NOT be revealed.
This seven year girl was reading (phonetically) a script carefully crafted by imperial managers. ……. just like corporate media reporters do. The girl here being used for war propaganda follows in the footsteps of another young girl who told the teary tale of Saddam ‘throwing babies out of hospital windows”. ———The war propaganda in this Ukraine conflict is off the charts. “Russian soldiers are raping Ukrainian babies!!!” It’s a daily barrage of propaganda and psy-ops. ——— Hell, they get away with it, so, don’t expect anything different. I mean, there’s, what, only a few hundred or a few thousand folks reading independent news sites?? These handful of sites are, so far, not seen as a big threat to imperial plans of the Empire. Even so, independent sites/writers are under attack by Big Tech, tasked by the state the job of algorithmically ‘disappearing’ or marginalizing critics of the Empire.
Anyone who takes at face value ANYTHING presented by corporate MSM, especially in the real of foreign affairs, is a FOOL!
Actually. many corporate news reporters are very poorly paid. That Big Tech is going after independent media shows that they are indeed seen as at least a potential threat to the establishment.
Sigh. So sick of the BS. Y’all recall Seymour Hersh? No? He is(was) an honest and world renowned investigative reporter until he reported that – please correct me if my memory is faulty- perhaps the chemical attack was not what the MSM reported. He was immediately “disappeared” from same MSM and I haven’t heard a peep from him since.
“Ohhhh, gawd”…… “They influence our decisions without us knowing it. They numb our senses without us feeling it. They control our lives without us realizing it.” “THEY LIVE!!!” The blue, blather’n, babblin,’ bobble-heads, eyes bulgin’ under their coiffed ‘do’s” & lipstick, “Aliens,” like “Sofie,” a viper in the pit, assumes the colors of HER surroundings, bang’n the drum to “Keep America Dumb.”
“Both the media and the government are comprised of subliminal messages meant to keep the population subdued, and that most of the social elite are skull-faced aliens bent on world domination.” THEY, the “mind-controlling aliens,” LIVE.
KUDOS!!! To Caitlin Johnstone sans “le sunglasses,” for “SHOWING The WORLD the “wicked and immoral” WAY IT TRULY IS!!!” “the nefarious nature of poverty, exploitation, consumer culture, and capitalism. “El Capitalismo es el Viruz”
The 1988 film “THEY LIVE” is one of the last great masterpieces to come out of the Hollywood’s “lefties.”
The 2017, “Proof That Your Government Is Lying To You And The Media Is Helping Them” MAY 9, 2017, IS A Caitlin Johnstone “masterpiece:”
The FULL Context, w/Video, Photos, etc., A BEST Read. “Re-Visit” in its entirety. It’s golden!!! TY, Mrs. Johnstone. “KEEP IT LIT,“
I am happy to see you defending yourself, your reputation and your honour. In the face of liars, cheats and sycophantic nobodies who try to gain fame by mudslinging, the citizens with intellect will see it for what it is – more lies and Orwellian tactics to protect the power structure and confuse the public. But honest people of integrity know you are the truth-teller and your adversaries are the scum who continue to lie.
There is no limit to how, for political purposes, everything is exploited/manipulated, in this case even children. That is the “evil” of our society we need to fight. It is not a new thing. Our culture has been highly influenced by Christianity, master in exploiting human condition as well as spiritual symbols, e.g. “white, blond, blue-eyed Jesus” (Yeshua his real name, too hard for Europeans to pronounce) and God. Giving them characteristics that fitted European ideology and societal control that reinforcing the “guilt culture”, God the relentless, vengeful, punisher, an idiot with an EQ lower than a jelly fish, who made everyone fearful and miserable. It has never been God the problem, but the people and the church, the true”anti-Christ and hell on earth. The religious bigots then are the political bigots now, the priests then are the journalists, politicians, and scientists today. Nothing has changed. Witches will still be burned, sinners will still be punished, ostracized, everything we don’t understand will be handles with violence and repression, problems will be solved with apocalypticism and fear (see climate change), not love, hope and understanding. I am not religious but I wonder how God and Yeshua would handle e.g. the war in Ukraine, would they throw in more weapons? would they discriminate every Russians? Would they allow the Australian opens to deprive Russian players of their flags? it make me laugh how ridiculous, retrograde, perverse, devious and narcissitic is our culture and CNN is one of the epitomes of it, how ridiculous sounded Biden the many times he mentioned God at the beginning of the war in Ukraine
Can you elaborate? Thanks.
Dear Caitlin Johnstone,
You write: “… it’s probably fair to predict that her young career will bring her tremendous success and mainstream elevation as a result of this.” Lol. We know what a hell of a stress it is to start and keep the young career running, which means keep oneself running in it. I guess it is the same for this young lady; she’s showing symptoms of despair, like of desperately campaining with the help of old or actually irrelevant news. Only ‘PR’ calls other peoples thoughts “PR”. The acronym could also been read as “propaganda”. To turn a critic against CNN into a soi disant attack of a child is also the psychotic way to twist around with facts and narratives into fake truths.
As for the twitter trumpets: Even one of the biggest of them, Trump, didn’t do well on the long run. I still think, that this kind of hypes does not represent the main stream, but the loudest and maybe most deranged or vulnerable or dangerous ones in the waters.
Have a good day
When propaganda plays a part – a very important part in war – it is hard to determine what is fact and what is not. The truth can be gleaned from history. Like Occam’s razor, look for the preposition with the least assumptions. What are wars fought for? Power (or interests). Why are alliances formed? For power (or interest). Who are alliances made with for power or interest? Anyone.
A free ebook: The Pattern Of History and Fate of Humanity
“It takes a special kind of evil to see what happened yesterday in Dnipro and immediately start doing PR for the perpetrator,” Fullerton tweets, with a screenshot of me saying it’s deceitful for people to talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine without also talking about the ways the U.S. empire provoked and benefits from this war. “It should come as no surprise that this account built a following out of claiming Syrian children impacted by Assad/Russia atrocities were crisis actors,” she adds.” By coincidence I had just finished an article on the Dnipro story, in this case the New York Times account. What happened yesterday in Dnipro? If you do a bit of “investigative” work, which any decent journalist would take a few minutes to do, you find that the Russians did NOT target a residential building in Dnipro, did NOT fire a KH22 at it. Rather an Ukrainian S300 hit a Russian cruise missile (not a KH220) and caused the damage to the building — something that has happened before in other places. This is conclusively proven by video and audio footage.
That 7 year old is not the only one reading from a script. Fullerton is too. As are Specie and Tung at the NYT. Fullerton and others like her are not analysts or journalists — they are are in fact “crisis actors”. Great article, Caitlin.
Great job, Caitlin! Love how you expose the Empire of BS. Keep going strong. Your getting to them.
PS: My donation forthcoming.
From the play-acting President in Ukraine to that Syrian child “crisis actors” are only natural to the shameless new age of False flags that we are all being drawn into. This age I believe started of bloody grandly with 9/11 with its own set of crisis actors still hiding out somewhere. Anyway, another great expose by Caitlin.
Lying about your opponent has always been a tactic of War. I believe Thomas Hardy wrote a nice poem noting that soldiers on both sides always have more in common with their “enemies” than with their overlords.
WWI had lies about the Huns’ atrocities (partly why people didn’t believe the NAZI concentration camp stories). The Turks in WWI were depicted as huge monsters, yet were smaller than their European and Australian opponents. Propaganda had become state-sponsored by then, although “remember the Maine!” and other such episodes showed the effectiveness of official lies; now that is embraced.
The media using children as a propaganda weapon (infamous from the Nayirah testimony, as an example, in wiki and other places) seems new, probably because children had little agency or credibility until recently.
The abolition of anti-domestic propaganda law (“modernization” of Smith Mundt) and related censoring of all dissenting views against the Official Narratives is just another step in the efficiency of the US Totalitarian Police State. We seem much better at it than the Gestapo and Stasi, but of course have better technology.
Dear Mrs Johnstone, I have been following your writing for quite some time now. You are fluent, uncompromising and very knowledgable. You cut through garbage spins like hot knife through warm butter. I put you on the same pedestal (not that someone like you would want to be put on the pedestal) as John Pilger and Julian Assange (although Julian is not exactly a journalist, more of a publisher).
What I am trying to say is that you should lock your door at night, so to speak. You are making many people very uncomfortable , I imagine, and we know what is happening with Assange. I applaud your bravery and integrity, but please, be careful. Do not stop, we need you not to stop, but continue carefully.
I agree. Reporters who tell the truth and have back-up facts are in danger.
Rob, please read my comment to Yuri.
Yuri, I know you didn’t do it on purpose, but your comment is a perfect example of how it’s possible for a person to appear to be making veiled threats while showing – or pretending to show – concern. Let me repeat that I’m sure your motives are laudable. But your opening – “I have been following your writing for quite some time now” – sends up a “stalker” warning flag. And, with that little doubt in the reader’s mind, your ending almost seems to drive the nail home. Not to mention the phrase “lock your door at night,” which sounds like it’s straight out of the Google database of threatening letters.
So please be careful. I know you probably have much to contribute to this and other sites in future, and it would be a shame for you to be flagged as a nut case.
A few years ago, I noticed C.J. on left wing sites but was skeptical. Was this person following some unreliable Marxist dogma, as the liberal Dem sites seemed to imply? But the more I read, the more I found myself appreciating how she presents evidence for her views.
A young blue collar union activist in the late ’60s, I was trained by people who’d been labor organizers in the 1930s. They told me: “liberals are the ones who leave the room when the fight starts.” Which proved true as the center-right neolib Dem party elite abandoned the New Deal, unions, and the entire working class.
Why the current misdirection and outright propaganda tactics used by media defenders of empire and econ status quo? Why, if truth is on your side, would such manipulation be necessary? The ad hominems, out of context or outright inaccurate quotations, and deliberately garbled sources of the arguments aimed at C.J. are yet more evidence as to who is not telling the truth. And proof as to who is.
Scratch a liberal, a fascist bleeds. Many thanks to Emily Weir on The Glinner for this concise phrase.
Ambitions of pseudo “journalists” transports us to tyranny again and again.
Surely journalists living in developed countries can afford to be ethical?
Free Julian Assange
In my view Caitlin is being attacked by the oligarchy’s internet brigade because of her accurate reporting on the corporate media. The corporate media is an essential bulwark protecting the oligarchy from legal consequences for its crimes. It keeps the American public deceived with omissions of key facts and promotion of false narratives. If the corporate media were to lose its credibility with the general public, the oligarchy would fall.
And I suspect that corporate media bulwark is cracking. First, there is an increasing number of independent news outlets that report the actual facts. Second, the corporate media’s coverups and lies are now so glaring that every corporate reporter and editor must be aware of them. Therefore they are aware that they are complicit parts of a grand deception. Such a huge deception is obviously not to benefit the American people, but is being orchestrated by enemies of the American people. This will inevitably create a huge cognitive dissonance and emotional strain that will eventually snap. That tipping point may be near. As one example, the lies about the Ukraine battlefront in the oligarchy’s attack on Russia may not be sustainable much longer.
I appreciate Caitlin’s solidly supported and well-reasoned articles, and CN for publishing them. I knew Russiagate was a fraud, and therefore Rachel Maddow was lying to me, from the beginning because I read CN. Rachel was ignoring key information that was readily available. That convicted her of complicity in the fraud. The fraud has grown into a giant balloon that is going to explode.
It is remarkable (and disturbing to me as a reader of the 60s assassination literature) how potent a smear “conspiracy theorist” remains in our society. This article does a good job of revealing the “conspiracy theorist” smear for what it is, a multi-purpose thought control device dreamed up by the US security state and deployed by their mainstream media partners.
Somehow this surprises me not. News flash to the press. If you blow your credibility by putting up fraudulent pieces, your credibility ain’t comin’ back anytime soon.
the attack on Caitlin Johnstone shows that her criticism of US militarism is having an impact, enough to annoy the Powers that Be.
Folks, I am not on twitter but those fine folks who are on CN and are also on twitter, my humble request to you would be to flood this Fullerton and Olga Lautman’s account with responses and links to this article if that is possible on twitter. May be more people will find their way to CN this way. Thank you
CNN, NBC. NYT, WAPA, ABC, CBS, PBS…All of their stories about America’s “enemies” come from U.S. Intelligence (unnamed) sources. Americans need to smell the coffee.
It is becoming more and more difficult to oppose US policy in international affairs. Fewer and fewer are doing it.
Many years ago, I conducted extensive research to determine whether or not “Caitlin Johnstone” (purportedly a journalist from Australia) is a real person or a bot. I concluded that “Caitlin Johnstone”was a bot. Does anyone have credible evidence that “Caitlin Johnstone” is a human being?
Yes. Joe Lauria and Cathy Vogan of Consortium News had lunch with Caity and her husband at her home in Melbourne on Sunday. She is very much a real human being.
That’s good to know.
OT: what’s the relationship between her and Diana Johnstone? Or are they not related despite having the same surname?
They are absolutely not related. It is a very common surname.
Do we have any evidence that Mary is a real person? Or is she a paid worker for Empire?
Are you serious?
If she’s a bot then she’s a very unusual one: i.e. one that is ethical, honest and brave. It strikes me as very odd that someone would read an article like this – which highlights how the author has been attacked for penning a previous article about how a young child has been CLEARLY exploited by the MSM for the purpose of warmongering (a foul act on a par with child abuse) – and have no comment other than to suggest the author is a bot! TBH, it beggars belief.
……..Maybe ‘Mary’ is actually ‘Sophie’?
Thanks again, Ms. Johnstone, for your clarity. I notice, although MSM has at last admitted Russiagate was a farce (which some of us knew from the beginning, knowing HRC as we did/do), yet the lies that Bashar al Assad used chemicals on Syrians still crops up there regularly. I remember that child just as you do, just as I remember the children crying in Douma because they were doused by cold water with the hosers screaming “Chemicals!” Just as I’ll never forget the stupidity of our Congress fawning over that little corrupt upstart and odious president Zelensky. People calling him “Hero” makes me gag. Just remember, if you’re banned from Twitter by any caved-in “journalist,” it’s an honor. You’re the best.
I totally understand, Caitlin. Anyone who uses the term “conspiracy theory ” loses all credibility and respect from me immediately. The term was invented by a three letter group done years back. It’s use it dwindling but it still gets thrown around a bit.
Seems to me the main problem here is the manipulations of CNN and the interviewer, in which a child is treated as though an adult who is expert on complex questions. The mainstream audience nods obligingly. That is, the pump is primed for outrage and pity for the little girl. As far as I can see Caitlin did not suggest the little girl was lying, even though reading a prompter, and she may have been a victim. The process relies on emotional linking from the response oh the poor little girl to yes! Assad is guilty and the US is righteous!
Apparently also this latest attack on Caitlin does not take into account that the Assad-was-guilty has subsequently been debunked, as with the following:
MIT expert claims latest chemical weapons attack in Syria was staged (ibtimes.co.uk)
Aaron Mate was raked over the coals for his in-depth investigation of Assad’s “gassing his people”. Unfortunately facts and evidence no longer matter in America. We live in a post-truth world where the Official Narratives come from the top, and no dissenting views are allowed.
The grim hilarity of the blow-dried media set and their aspirants hyperventilating over Dnipro, when the same lot mostly want to see Assange hanged for publishing the likes of “Collateral Damage”. I wonder if Fullerton’s ever weighed in on a wedding party or funeral obliterated by a Hellfire, amongst the legion of similarly slaughtered innocents, or the abundance of evidence that Assad did not make those chem attacks, and certainly would’ve had least motive do so over Obama’s “red line” that had already been thoroughly faded once Assad with Putin destroyed Syrian chem stocks.
And, yes, Fullerton’s blow-dry is set to high cravenly spewing “crisis actor” as she well knows she’s attempting to spin from the Alex Jones-type idiocy. Uh, well played, Sophie, the joke’s on you. Bedfellows, strange choice… Alex Jones lol.