NGOs: Grassroots Empowerment or Tool of Information Warfare?

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Written and produced by SF Team: Daniel Deiss, J.Hawk, Edwin Watson

During the early phases of the post-Cold War “New World Order,” NGOs were touted as representing a new wave of international politics. Instead of allowing international issues to be settled in closed meetings, the people themselves, informed by intrepid citizen journalists, would from now on play the key role in setting the agenda. Like most of the promises made in the 1990s, this one also failed to deliver. It became clear that many NGOs, far from representing the “grass roots” of politics, were more akin to the artificial grass-like stadium surface known in the US as “astroturf”. It may look and even, to a degree, feel like the genuine article, but it most certainly is not. Many NGOs, while presenting a public image of bottom-up activism, were funded by major corporations or governments, which had the effect of depriving them of their independence and objectivity.

Given the success of NGOs as promoters of corporate interests, it did not take very long for them to begin to position themselves as independent, objective, and trustworthy sources of political information. Their appeal was largely based, once again, on the perception that the average NGO, or even a blog dealing with international affairs, is being implemented as a collection of concerned citizens engaged in unbiased news collection, analysis, and reporting. In that respect, they filled quite a large niche vacated by government spokesmen, news organizations, and intelligence services, all of which have been losing the public’s trust and which were no longer seen as objective.

Today, such fake NGOs as Bellingcat, White Helmets, Syria Observatory for Human Rights, plus a whole range of less well known bloggers and self-styled “open-source information” analysts, are no longer playing a supporting role in the ongoing information war that is an important component of hybrid wars. They have become the tip of the spear. These fake NGOs are now playing a leading role in what US military doctrine refers to as “shaping the information battlefield” within the “Full Spectrum Dominance” agenda.

Hybrid War Propaganda Laundering

Naturally, these entities are not setting the agenda or calling the shots. They have been assigned a number of roles by the political elites.

First of all, they are supposed to engage in veritable “propaganda laundering.” Much as banks provide legitimacy to funds obtained through illegal or immoral means, Bellingcat, White Helmets, and others turn what would otherwise be recognized as propaganda into “breaking news”–style stories that are then run, with reference to the NGO in question rather than the true source of the disinformation, by the mainstream media. Bellingcat’s so-called investigations into the MH17 tragedy represent an example of this process. Anyone who follows Ukrainian social media and government sites understands that Bellingcat has not performed much due diligence actual investigation and instead selectively chooses only certain events that fit western propaganda narratives while ignoring others that may exposed western backed proxy groups, such as the May 2014 Odessa Massacre. Every bit of what it calls “evidence” has been spoon-fed to it by Ukrainian intelligence services which in fact manufactured the videos, the photographs, the supposed intercepted communications, immediately in the aftermath of the MH17 shoot-down and uploaded them to Youtube and other social media outlets with the aid of Ukraine’s own “information warriors” posing as concerned citizens.  Bellingcat’s staff, by passing this disinformation as the product of its own open-source intelligence gathering, made it appear as if the conclusion that only Russian troops could be responsible for the MH17 tragedy was the product of independent research conducted by a team of citizen truth-seekers armed only with the Internet.

In Syria, the White Helmets function in a similar manner. While pretending to be an impartial humanitarian organization, they operate in strict collaboration with a variety of jihadists organizations, and their reports place the blame for civilian suffering solely on the shoulders of Syria’s legitimate government and its Russian allies. Once again, propaganda issued by al-Nusra and affiliated groups is being given a stamp of legitimacy by what appear to be selfless humanitarian workers.

The second function these NGOs fulfill is allowing interested governments to refrain from directly lying to the media and the public themselves, since doing so would inevitably have negative political consequences. Indeed, the practice has become so widespread that the discerning observer can readily tell whether information being presented by government representatives is true on the basis of whether the government cites and presents its own evidence, or refers the public to an NGO-run website. The NATO use of commercial imagery rather than its own satellite imagery as evidence that Russian forces were operating on the Donbass is a variation on this theme.

Thirdly, the use of propaganda-launderers allows government factions to pursue their own foreign policy agendas independently of the rest of the government. It is apparent that they are used as conduits for information leaks by the more aggressive factions in Western governments which seek to sabotage peace efforts in Ukraine, Syria, and other regions of the world. This is a dangerous trend, because these launderers serve as a megaphone for hardliners, to the point that the more reasonable voices are drowned out.

Fourthly, the propaganda-launderers allows a certain degree of plausible deniability, and even a reversal of policy if need be, with the NGO in question being quietly shunted aside when it ceases to be useful. Should Western interests demand a rapprochement with Russia, entities such as Bellingcat, the White Helmets, and all the rest would vanish overnight.

Is It Working?

The answer to that question depends on the target audience. Specialists, and even well informed journalists, are unlikely to be swayed. The pathetic scenes of US State Department spokesmen squirming under the pointed questioning of genuinely truth-seeking journalists such as Matt Lee or Gayane Chichakyan show that the reliance on propaganda-laundering NGOs has its limits. The general public is a different story, since cable news channels do not show such embarrassing moments to the public. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. The weakness of all propaganda efforts is their heavy-handed, one-note message which in this instance amounts to “Everything is Russia’s Fault.” This approach can be effective for a while, but eventually it runs into a mounting wall of public skepticism which will consign propaganda laundering to obsolescence, to be replaced by another method of manufacturing public consent.

Coming back to the MH17 incident it’s clear that lots of question still remain 2 years after the tragedy. Who is responsible for downing of the plane? Who ordered to down it? Why the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was there? Who did point the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to this corridor? Was it an accident or a planned provocation?

Recently, a newly appeared team of pro-Russian bloggers, ‘Anti-Fake’, blasted the open-source investigation into the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash over Ukraine in 2014 by Bellingcat. Anti-Fake issued a 44-page report, blaming Bellingcat for a pro-Kiev stance and relying on fake and falsified evidence. In turn, Bellingcat and its supporters in main stream media pointed out some mistakes in Anti-Fake’s report and blamed the group for alleged links with the Russian government. SouthFront suggests to all concerned to contribute some time to read reports from the both sides.

It appears that the reports by Bellingcat and Anti-Fake are an element of the current informational warfare. It’s pretty clear that such reports are aimed to shape informational battlefield in order to pursue foreign-policy or political and military objectives.

The both sides of the ongoing geopolitical conflict use various tools of informational warfare, the West’s states have much more resources than their opponents. So, the quality of pro-Western content is higher.

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  • Where did this all start from. How did it come down to this? Oh here it it, I found the graph. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/27d5676053c81a4d896d8a337733fb8b84cedbaee10bd5992204740d2249f366.jpg

  • paul

    I don’t believe these NGOs at all. Never have. It is clear to me also
    that western politicians and media only speak to a preconceived
    narrative. They just invent the truth so as to suite their objective.

    What astonishes me is that Russia and their partners give any substance to
    anything the west says. At times they appear to trust the west when
    they should more than understand that they are squalid craven liars.

    The usa is eternally a dishonest broker and should never be given the
    benefit of the doubt.

  • Ronald

    Happy to see the emergence of “Anti-Fake” NGO .
    Two can play the information game and an obvious need to counter false information , is better performed by an NGO rather than a Russian government department .
    While the western states have more financial resources , they have a harder job , trying to sell black, as white ( jihadists as good).
    So in that Russia is on course with the defense of the common good , the quality of their content is of a superior grade .

  • SuchindranathAiyer

    The MH-17 was brought down by a BUK 35 from the Azov Battery belonging to the Fascist regime installed in Ukraine by the United States.

    Cui Bono? The objective was to unite a reluctant NATO in sanctions against Russia.

    The context and sequence:

    The downing followed closely on H.E.Vladimir Putin’s open letter on Syria in the New York Times that gained traction with literate Americans annoying the Obama-Hilary regime in the White Hice.

    This letter brought the Saudi Bandar to Moscow to try and purchase H.E. Vladimir Putin’s co-operation on Syria and fall in with the objectives of the US-NATO-Sunni Axis* in the Middle East which was a series of “regime change” exercises including “The Arab Spring” intended to create wide spread chaos in which Sunni Islam could be imposed by the Axis’ boots-on-the-ground also known as “Taliban” i.e. Students of the Quran and the Hadiths, by whatever name from Boko Haram, Jaish e Mohammaed, Harkat ul Mujahideen, or Daesh (ISIL to Obama, ISIS to you and Islam to your friendly neighbourhood Mahamutton) and trained in the successors and assigns to Al Qaeda (“The Base” or Terrorist Training Academy created by the US and Pakistan for Taliban reared in Said, Qatari and other Petro Dollar funded Mosques and Madrassas World Wide).

    H.E.Vladimir Putin declined the offer by the Saudi Bandar and told him that is there was a Beslan at Sochi, he would blow up the Qa’aba. This led to the Obama-Hilary Regime initiating the “Regime Change” in Ukraine which had already been in the works to excise Russia’s legacy military-industrial complex and further advance NATO’s “East Ward Ho!” program begun by Lewinsky Clinton to take advantage of US unipolarity by repudiating the Reagan -Gorbachev agreements. The Lewisnky Clinton-Mad Alright regime also bombed Belgrade for 84 days to render Croatia to the Vatican and throw Bosnia and Kosovo into the maws of Islam.

    There is no physical evidence at all to prove that Russia did the firing. The only physical evidence is that the MH-17 was downed by a BUK 35.

    The “West”, largely comprising the semi literate and uneducated vote fodder of democracies or brainwashed Moslems, is notoriously susceptible to both “Four legs good, two legs bad” and the long arm of past nightmares such as Mc Carthyism, Hooverism and Salemism with a bit of help from Hollywood, Marvel Comics and Madison Avenue. Demonization of some “Farmer Jones” or the other, whether of His Excellency Slobodan Misosevich, (who was exonerated by the Hague War Crimes Tribunal a few years after he was assassinated while in its custody) or His Excellency Sadam Hussein under whose secular Government communities of Jews and Christians thrived along side unveiled women, free education, medical services, discos and bars until the US-NATO-Sunni Axis started its war crimes in Iraq, or His Excellency Muamar Qaddafi, or His Excellency Bashar Al Assad all of whom have had to to suffer demonization as pretext for the US-NATO-Sunni Axis to do away with peace, stability and multi religious, multi culturalism to bring chaos to their countries; is the established stock in trade that they now bring to His Excellency Vladimir Putin.

    The fascist Regime installed by the US controlled the Soviet Era heavy weaponry including the Azov Battery of BUKs in the whole of Ukraine at the time the MH-17 was downed. The rest is conjecture convenient to US-NATO-Sunni Axis policy.

    The Dutch report on MH-17 is a well written piece of fiction in line with Iraq’s WMD. It is a confection by a NATO member in its own offence. They might find a lot more “finger prints: in other places around the World from Afghanistan to Syria to embroider into this “evidence” Perhaps you could ask one of your former Chief of Joint Chiefs to project blurred photographs on the walls of the United Nations Security Council once more?

    At the end of the day it is a Dutch report. The US funneled the Islamic Bomb technology to Pakistan via Apartheid South Africa’s CSIR for Saudi Petro Dollars. A. Q. Khan got his centrifuges from the same Dutch source that Apartheid South Africa did for making both the Apartheid Bomb and the Zionist Bomb. But, you would not know any of this because you are steeped in the bilge you are fed by your lords and masters in the White Hice and Langley.

    On the US-NATO-Sunni Axis hands I see the blood of countless innocent men, women and children. Right now, the brisk trade in Yazidi Sex Slaves and Body Parts is an american enterprise.

    As an educated and cultured gentleman who values humanity, chivalry and justice, I find these antics of the “West” disgusting to say the very least.

    *The US-NATO-Sunni Axis was forged with Petro Dollars by Nixon, Yamani and Kissinger and has directed global wars, terror, economies and public opinion ever since.

  • Bernie Matthews

    Well I’d debate a lot of things about this especially the one sided bases of propperganda only being projuced

    • Not to mention that there are so many NDAs (Nondisclosure Agreements) entangling the involved parties in the MH-17 shotdown investigation, by all those NATO members plus the sole junior partner, the victimized Malaysia.

      Oh poor Malaysian, first the MH-370, then MH-17. Mahathir Mohamad should have lowered his aspiration over the The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCT), also known as the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, to ever investigate the war crimes done by the Israelis in the Palestine; otherwise more Malaysian assets will be targeted as the collateral damages!

      And where is the record of the ATC Kiev and the doomed plane?

      A Malaysian Airlines spokesman has already confirmed that, for some unknown reason, Kiev-based Ukrainian Air Traffic Control (ATC) ordered MH-17 off of its original flight path along the international air route, known as L980. As MH-17 moved into Ukrainian air space, it was moved by ATC Kiev approximately 200 miles north – putting it on a new course, heading directly into a war zone, a well-known dangerous area by now – one that’s hosted a number of downed military craft over the previous 3 weeks.

      AND CUI BONO?

      To whose interests this MH-17 shotdown indeed? Russia??? The insurgents in the east Ukraine? NATO? Washington? He he he… be sane and use one’s logic and common sense!

      Read more at “MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of FAILED FALSE FLAG” | 21st Century Wire

  • Zoragn

    SF editorial article on this subject demonstrates how easily these think tanks are diverted from their stated objectives: https://southfront.org/when-conservative-think-tanks-betrayed-the-world/

  • workaholic minion

    Would had been an enjoying video if wisely avoid to mention Ukraine and reminding the “Little Green Men” Putin said were not Russian Army in Crimea but locals :)