CNN aired a 3 minute segment earlier this week that can only be described as jaw-dropping. Watch it for yourself. Go on, watch it.
It’s almost too unbelievable to take in what you’re watching. CNN is giving air time to an Al Qaeda spokesman to talk about how they’ve changed their name so it’s now perfectly good and logical for the West to be supporting them in Syria now.
Oops, did I say “Al Qaeda spokesman?” Of course I meant a “Jabhat al Nusra spokesman.” But I guess that’s “Jabhat Fatah al-Sham” now. Emphasis on “sham.”
No, none of this will be particularly surprising to my regular readers. Remember, after all, that it was only two months ago that the U.S. requested that Russia stop bombing Al Qaeda in Syria. (“Is the war on terror over?” asked Brandon Turbeville at the time. “Can we have our rights back?”)
And no, this Qaeda/Nusra/Sham group is certainly not the only terrorist organization the US is openly supporting in Syria. In fact, US State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner was thrown for a loop earlier this week trying to answer precisely what atrocities a Syrian “rebel” group would have to commit in order to be branded a terrorist group. (Answer: Apparently beheading 10-year-old boys and launching chemical weapons attacks are gray areas.)
And yes, at least CNN does give a few seconds of lip service to the plainly obvious truth that this is a PR move by a group that’s desperate for Russia to stop bombing it (and killing their spokesmen).
But cast your mind back just ten years. What do you think the average, dumbed-down Joe Sixpack would have said in 2006 if he was told that the US was going to be fighting on the same side as Al Qaeda in a foreign intervention and giving their spokesmen airtime on CNN? Probably the same response they would have given if you had told them that Al-CIA-duh and Osama Bin Laden were the “good guys” in Afghanistan in the 80s: they would have laughed in your face (or maybe punched you in the face). Even though, of course, both statements are true.
Just to put this all in perspective, Jabhat al Nusra was the organization that the neocons were busy saying were more dangerous than I-CIA-SIS earlier this year. And now they’re on CNN pleading their case.
If there is anything hopeful to come out of reports like this and the Orwellian doublethink that lay behind them, it is that these terror organizations are being exposed for what they really are: branding.
Mainstream journalist Jason Burke was pointing out the basic truth about the Al Qaeda brand a decade ago. In his 2004 book, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam, he demonstrates how “Al Qaeda” as a terror organization with a traditional structure (including a leader and sworn members) was a convenient legal fiction created by the FBI for the prosecution of USA v. Usama bin Laden. As Burke points out, Al Qaeda’s own alleged operatives had never heard of the group called “al-Qaeda.” Instead, to them “al-Qaeda was a formula system for what they carried out” (the African embassy bombings of 1998).
In effect “Al Qaeda” is a brand that was advertised by the US and the Western media after 9/11. And like any successful advertising campaign, it increased the brand’s value. Suddenly every would-be terrorist, whether patsy or stooge or double agent or genuine jihadi, was using the “Al Qaeda” name. But, as former French military intelligence agent Maj. Pierre-Henri Bunel famously said:
“The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida[sic]. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the ‘devil’ only in order to drive the ‘TV watcher’ to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the US and the lobbyists for the US war on terrorism are only interested in making money.”
But the Qaeda brand lost its luster as the US transitioned attention away from their AfPak front and moved into the Libya and Syria operations. To use the parlance of current day Holy-wood, a “reboot” was needed.
And so they briefly floated the idea of the deadly, fearsome Khorasan Group! (Are you afraid?) The lapdog media was happy to play along, pumping it up with all the appropriate buzzwords (“Worse Than Al-Qaeda!“, “Worse Than ISIS!“)…but it turns out that a group of 50 fighters wasn’t exactly the existential threat they needed to keep people quaking in their boots. Oh, and as it turns out, Khorasan, too, doesn’t actually exist.
And so we now have I-CIA-SIS. The latest, greatest terror brand, recognized and feared the world over. Every time a person is stabbed anywhere in the world the entire corporate media kicks into its 24/7 speculation cycle waiting for word that “ISIS has taken credit for the stabbing.” In the case of the Orlando nightclub event, all they needed was to claim that the gay Democrat perp called 911 before his rampage to swear allegiance to ISIS, and hey presto! We have a terror event that justifies a further crackdown on civil rights at home and a further commitment to death and destruction abroad.
Orwell himself couldn’t have devised a better system. And yet…
Doublethink has its limits. Every now and then there’s a breaking point where people realize that they are being asked to believe the exact opposite of what they were previously told was unassailable truth. This CNN story may be one of those inflection points.
The real question is whether the average CNN viewer will even notice what is happening or if this will be just another three minute fluff segment to fill the space between commercials. Stay tuned.