"On the day after his 51st birthday, Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, took a victory lap through the dusty streets of a destroyed and empty rebel town that his forces had starved into submission.
"Smiling, with his shirt open at the collar, he led officials in dark suits past deserted shops and bombed-out buildings before telling a reporter that -- despite a cease-fire announced by the United States and Russia -- he was committed 'to taking back all areas from the terrorists.' When he says terrorists, he means all who oppose him."
The story by Ben Hubbard continues in that vein, although oddly the accompanying photograph doesn't show Assad smiling but rather assessing the scene with a rather grim visage.
But let's unpack the propaganda elements of this front-page story, which is clearly intended to paint Assad as a sadistic monster, rather than a leader fighting a foreign-funded-and-armed rebel movement that includes radical jihadists, including powerful groups linked to Al Qaeda and others forces operating under the banner of the brutal Islamic State.
The reader is supposed to recoil at Assad who "smiles as Syria burns" and who is rejoicing over his "impunity." Then, there's the apparent suggestion that his trip to Daraya was part of his birthday celebration so he could take "a victory lap" while "smiling, with his shirt open at the collar," although why his collar is relevant is hard to understand. Next, there is the argumentative claim that when Assad refers to "terrorists" that "he means all who oppose him."
As much as the U.S. news media likes to pride itself on its "objectivity," it is hard to see how this article meets any such standard, especially when the Times takes a far different posture when explaining, excusing or ignoring U.S. forces slaughtering countless civilians in multiple countries for decades and at a rapid clip over the past 15 years. If anyone operates with "impunity," it has been the leadership of the U.S. government.
On Sunday, the Times also asserted as flat fact the dubious charge against Assad that he has "hit civilians with gas attacks" when the most notorious case -- the sarin attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013 -- appears now to have been carried out by rebels trying to trick the United States into intervening more directly on their side.
A recent United Nations report blaming Syrian forces for two later attacks involving chlorine was based on slim evidence and produced under great political pressure to reach that conclusion -- while ignoring the absence of any logical reason for the Syrian forces to have used such an ineffective weapon and brushing aside testimony about rebels staging other gas attacks.
More often than not, U.N. officials bend to the will of the American superpower, failing to challenge any of the U.S.-sponsored invasions over recent decades, including something as blatantly illegal as the Iraq War. After all, for an aspiring U.N. bureaucrat, it's clear which side his career bread is buttered.
We find ourselves in a world in which propaganda has come to dominate the foreign policy debates and -- despite the belated admissions of lies used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Libya -- the U.S. media insists on labeling anyone who questions the latest round of propaganda as a "fill-in-the-blank apologist."
So, Americans who want to maintain their mainstream status shy away from contesting what the U.S. government and its complicit media assert, despite their proven track record of deceit. This is not just a case of being fooled once; it is being fooled over and over with a seemingly endless willingness to accept dubious assertion after dubious assertion.
In the same Sunday edition which carried the creepy portrayal about Assad, the Times' Neil MacFarquhar pre-disparaged Russia's parliamentary elections because the Russian people were showing little support for the Times' beloved "liberals," the political descendants of the Russians who collaborated with the U.S.-driven "shock therapy" of the 1990s, a policy that impoverished a vast number of Russians and drastically reduced life expectancy.
Why those Russian "liberals" have such limited support from the populace is a dark mystery to the mainstream U.S. news media, which also can't figure out why Putin is popular for significantly reversing the "shock therapy" policies and restoring Russian life expectancy to its previous levels. No, it can't be that Putin delivered for the Russian people; the only answer must be Putin's "totalitarianism."
The New York Times and Washington Post have been particularly outraged over Russia's crackdown on "grassroots" organizations that are funded by the U.S. government or by billionaire financial speculator George Soros, who has publicly urged the overthrow of Putin. So has Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which funnels U.S. government cash to political and media operations abroad.
The Post has decried a Russian legal requirement that political entities taking money from foreign sources must register as "foreign agents" and complains that such a designation discredits these organizations. What the Post doesn't tell its readers is that the Russian law is modeled after the American "Foreign Agent Registration Act," which likewise requires people trying to influence policy in favor of a foreign sponsor to register with the Justice Department.