(AM Opinion) — I’m not a user of Facebook or Twitter anymore, but there was a time when I would use these platforms to engage in meaningful discussions with all manner of political commentators.
Those of you who follow alternative media have likely come across independent journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, both of whom I have had the pleasure of being blocked by on both social media platforms mentioned above.
Bartlett promptly blocked me on Twitter after I once asked her why she is so obsessed with the White Helmets. And honestly, I wouldn’t have even known who the White Helmets were if Bartlett and Beeley didn’t harp on about them so much.
Beeley, on the other hand, initially sent me a Facebook friend request when I first commented on one of her posts, but then quickly retracted that request when she realized I was actually questioning her stance. (Or perhaps she sent the initial request as a mistake—who knows, who cares?)
I recall one such incident in which Beeley slammed the US for failing to attack hospitals in Syria on Facebook. I responded with something to the effect of: “you are not supposed to attack hospitals under international law.” She took some serious issue with my line of thought, claiming at least twice that I was a neocon throughout the exchange.
For the record, I am not a neocon. I am a staunch anti-war activist, writer and lawyer. But being anti-war doesn’t mean I have to equate opposing the crimes of the US-NATO war machine with the loving acceptance of everything done by those arch-rivals the US-NATO foreign policy seeks to unseat.
Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad is a prime example of this. According to an investigative piece by journalist Nafeez Ahmed, a leaked private conversation between Beeley and a fellow activist illustrated that she was willing to actively conceal and deny the Syrian government’s war crimes—including torture. In response to Ahmed’s article, Beeley has often attacked his credibility on Twitter. And yet again, the essence of her attack can be boiled down to the “you are effectively toeing NATO line” argument.
In all honesty, this is not an argument. It is entirely possible—and incredibly rational—to criticize NATO without justifying the criminal actions of another government. That’s what independent journalism is—we are supposed to be objective.
I don’t always agree with journalist George Monbiot, but when a Twitter user challenged him to follow“independent journalist” Vanessa Beeley, Monbiot aptly said Beeley “is neither independent nor a journalist.”
Seriously, Beeley once put up a social media post of herself standing alongside Assad, which she captioned as her “proudest moment.” If I put a photo of myself on Facebook standing next to George W. Bush and captioned it as my proudest moment—all the while dedicating an entire career to defending every allegation against him—no journalist outside of Fox News would take me seriously. And rightly so.
Beeley’s latest Facebook attack on journalist Max Blumenthal is no different. She is actively criticizing one of the more prominent anti-war voices in the independent media for not being pro-Assad enough. Bear in mind that just a few weeks ago, Blumenthal was being condemned by corporate media pundits for “prancing around Syria on a government luxury tour, posting tourist photos near torture centers, and mocking Syrian refugees who can never return to their country without risking being tortured to death.” In other words, “some Goebbels shit.”
All things considered, Blumenthal’s coverage of Syria following his trip is reasonably balanced. But according to Beeley, Blumenthal is no more than a “gatekeeper.” The idea that you should never say anything critical of Assad—or any government opposed to the US—is not just ludicrous, but it just plainly requires you to ignore every single piece of history we have about the Assad family. Even prior to the 2011 Syrian war the allegations against Assad’s rule were rampant.
Being anti-war does not mean being in favor of war when done by a government you approve of. It means being anti-war. Period. There is a difference between saying that the Syrian government has a legal right to defend itself from a foreign-backed jihadist insurgency and saying: I totally support and endorse all actions done by said government within that framework—and in some cases, flat-out deny them.
If we want to the anti-war movement to be taken seriously, we have to do better. We have to be truly anti-war, regardless of the players. And we have to unite on that basic premise because, for a movement to be successful, we need unity not division, in what is already an incredibly divisive political landscape. A movement seeking to upturn something as monumental and powerful as war simply cannot afford to waste time on in-fighting and unproductive criticisms of others, such as what are currently seeing with Bartlett and Beeley’s attack on Blumenthal.
It’s no secret that the anti-war movement is struggling. To grow, to spur change, and to be effective we need independent journalists on our side that are truly independent and boldly anti-war and who aren’t afraid to call it like it is.
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