Friday, October 05, 2018

Is Eva Bartlett a reliable source?

This post is part of a series I am calling the Reliable Source Project. It contains no original material, but only extracts from already published materials. Where text is in bold the emphasis is mine. 

Who is Eva Bartlett?

From Channel 4's FactCheck (2016):
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian citizen who describes herself as an “independent writer and rights activist”. She writes a blog for the state-funded Russian media outlet Russia Today and is candid about her support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting Syrian rebels with Russian and Iranian help.
From Shawn Carrié's Assad's allies in the West (2016):
When there was starvation in besieged Madaya, Eva Bartlett, a Canadian writer for Russia Today, trumpeted reports claiming that the images of severely malnourished children were either fake or propaganda.
From Olivia Solon's Guardian article on the Russian-backed White Helmets misinformation campaign (2017):
Some of the most vocal sceptics of the UN’s investigation include... Eva Bartlett, a Canadian writer and activist who said the White Helmets staged rescues using recycled victims – a claim that’s been debunked by Snopes and Channel 4 News. “[Bartlett and others like her] are basically excusing the inexcusable,” said [Professor Scott] Lucas. “They have a range of websites that will publish whatever nonsense and Russia Today will have them on TV,” he added.
From Emran Feroz's Syria’s White Helmets: Stigmatising saviours (2018):
A video by the blogger Eva Bartlett attained particular notoriety. Aired during a UN media conference, it presented purported facts with a slightly rhetorical twist. But these facts were basically nothing other than the official narrative of the Damascus regime. This is unsurprising when one considers Bartlett’s "career". She has appeared several times in recent years in regime-held territory, where she posed alongside soldiers and made no secret of her admiration for Assad’s power apparatus. 
Fake news a la Bartlett, Beeley & co. 
Bartlett’s video, which went "viral" on RT, has now been deconstructed several times. But the lies she circulated are still out there. Even now, as all hell breaks loose in Ghouta, many Facebook users are referring to Bartlett’s statements in comments under articles and videos published on reputable news sites. Regardless of whether the reports are by CNN, Der Spiegel or Al Jazeera – they are all spreading "fake news". Only Assad and RT are in the right, they claim....
Hybrid warfare
Data research carried out by British newspaper The Guardian in late 2017 clearly showed that almost all Internet propaganda against the White Helmets can be traced back to Beeley and Bartlett. In this context, observers are talking about "hybrid warfare" being systematically waged by Russian state media against the aid workers. The fact that the White Helmets, who are persistently accused of being "western agents", have also uncovered war crimes perpetrated by the U.S. military, is deliberately ignored.
Bartlett posted a video to a Facebook page called In The Now that has received over 2.5 million views in 12 days. In The Now is a Russian-backed viral news offshoot of RT meant to mimic BuzzFeed or NowThis News, and it mostly posts non-political lifestyle stories about things like cute animals and innovative technology. In this video, however, Bartlett accused the civilians who were about to be killed if they did not evacuate Aleppo of being “activists.”
Bartlett's Crisis Actors conspiracy theories

From HuffPo's 5 Major Myths About Syria Debunked (2017):
The Syrian war has no lack of horrific footage showing civilians wounded in pro-government airstrikes, but many Assad supporters claim that these videos are fake. Conspiracy theorists believe that “crisis actors” play the role of victims, some of whom have been “recycled” and can be seen playing the same role in multiple staged attacks. Assad himself has even made the claim that opposition groups are carrying out these elaborate hoaxes.
One frequently cited source for this claim is pro-Assad blogger Eva Bartlett, whose statements at a pro-Syrian-government panel held at the UN has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and Facebook. Many of these views come from the Facebook page In The NOW, which is an offshoot of the Russian state-sponsored media outlet RT.

Bartlett makes a number of claims about the Syrian war, including that White Helmets media workers recycle a child named “Aya” in two different reports. This claim, like much of what Bartlett says, has been debunked. A Snopes fact check on her statements found that the videos thought to be in question show distinctly different children, albeit with the same first name.
From Channel 4's FactCheck (2016):
In a speech organised by the Syrian mission to the UN, Ms Bartlett recently criticised the western “corporate media”, saying journalists were “compromised” and used sources that were “not credible”. She went on to attack the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group funded by a number of western governments including Britain...
Ms Bartlett said: “Their video footage actually contains children that have been recycled in different reports; so you can find a girl named Aya who turns up in a report in say August, and she turns up in the next month in two different locations.”  
A clip from the press conference has been viewed more than 3 million times on In The NOW, a Facebook page run by Russia Today but not branded as such.
The piece then goes on to forensically examine - and refute - her claim about Aya.
Three different Syrian girls Bartlett claimed were all actually one girl
From Snopes' Syrian War Victims Are Being ‘Recycled’ and Al Quds Hospital Was Never Bombed? (2016):
On 10 December 2016, Eva Bartlett — an activist and blogger who openly says she is biased in favor of the Syrian regime — was featured in a circulating YouTube video that says she is “schooling” a “mainstream media” reporter by making a series of outlandish-sounding claims, including that international media are conspiring to fabricate stories of hospital bombings and that anti-government activists are “recycling” victims to cast the Syrian military in a negative light. (She also refers to all factions fighting President Bashar al Assad’s forces as terrorists.) 
Bartlett has a statement on her own web site that says she supports the current Syrian regime. (It reads: “I support Syria against a ‘civil’ war that is funded, armed and planned by the western powers and their regional allies with a view to wiping out all resistance to imperialism in the Middle East…”). 
In the video, Bartlett was speaking at a pro-Syrian government event on 9 December 2016 at the United Nations, where she was billed as an “independent Canadian journalist.” (She is also a contributor at RT, a news site funded by the Russian government.) When a Norwegian reporter from the newspaper Aftenposten questioned her statements that the Syrian people overwhelmingly back Assad and that the media has conspired to lie to the world about him, she said she knows Syrians back Assad, because the majority voted for him in the 2014 election. 
Voting in that election only took place in government-held territories and while Assad won 88.7 percent of the vote, the country’s constitutional court reportedly put turnout at 73 percent. Bartlett also claimed that the New York Times has the same end goal as outlets such as Democracy Now!, and that goal is ousting Assad.
Bartlett went on to claim that Al Quds Hospital, which was bombed in April 2016, was never actually bombed, and that victims of Assad’s forces are being falsified by the group known as the White Helmets, a search-and-rescue organization in rebel territories.
The piece then goes on to forensically reconstruct - and again refute - Bartlett's claims.

Bartlett and Kremlin-sponsored disinformation networks

From the Atlantic Council's Breaking Ghouta report (2018):
Commentators such as Beeley, Bartlett, and 21st Century Wire colleague Patrick Henningsen bridged the gap between the “alt-right” movement in the United States and the Russian state communications network, being cited both on sites such as RT, and alt-right hubs such as Infowars. Beeley and Bartlett contribute to both 21st Century Wire[129] and RT.[130]
[See below for footnotes]

The assault on Ghouta, 2018

From the Atlantic Council's Breaking Ghouta report (2018):

Many of the attacks on the White Helmets were both voiced and amplified by a group of pro-Assad bloggers, of whom the most prominent were British citizen Vanessa Beeley and Canadian citizen Eva Bartlett.[66] These, in turn, were supported online by a group of Twitter users who have repeatedly targeted critics of the Assad regime.[67] Neither Bartlett nor Beeley can be viewed as a credible or impartial commentator. Bartlett’s editorial position emerges clearly in her publications—for example, writing that Western nations “do everything in their power to ensure civilians suffer from terrorism and sanctions” in Syria,[71] writing of the “lapdog media” in the West,[72] and accusing US National Security Advisor John Bolton of issuing a “very public command to Al-Qaeda and co-extremists to stage yet another fake chemical attack.”[73]

[The Douma chemical weapon incident - the "hosing down" incident and conspiracy theories]
On April 13, Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov cited witnesses who claimed that, rather than showing a genuine treatment of the victims of a genuine chemical attack, the hosing down had been staged for the cameras by “unidentified people,” and that the victims had not been suffering from chemical poisoning.[97] Konashenkov described the Douma Resistance video as “the key ‘evidence’ of all these accusations made by western countries,” and said that Russia had “overwhelming evidence” that the Douma incident was a “planned provocation” designed to trigger Western intervention.[98]

Over the following two months, Syrian, Russian, and Iranian outlets repeatedly argued that the “hosing-down” video was faked, and that the Douma attack therefore had never happened...Pro-Assad blogger Eva Bartlett, writing for RT, cited pro-Assad blog Moon of Alabama on “discrepancies” in the same videos, to prove that the West was “caught in a lie” over the attacks.[101].., As late as June 1, Bartlett used the incident as the central piece of evidence in a post claiming that the entire attack was a “hoax.”[103]
[See below for footnotes]

Bartlett's politics
Eva Barlett in North Korea, 2017
From Idrees Ahmad's Russia Today and the post-truth virus (2016):
This is the “I [heart] Bashar” bracelet that “independent” journalist Eva Bartlett wore on her visit.

Eva Bartlett, the woman in the video, writes for various conspiracy sites including SOTT.net, The Duran, MintPress and Globalresearch.ca. But more recently she has emerged as a contributor to Russia Today. And though her wordpress blog is called “In Gaza”, and though she has a past in Palestine solidarity work, unlike the people of Gaza, she is a strong supporter of Assad and she uses language to describe Assad’s opponents that is a virtual echo of the language Israeli propagandists use against Gazans.
Bartlett was recently a guest of the Assad regime, attending a regime sponsored PR conference and going on a tour of regime-controlled areas herded no doubt by the ubiquitous minders (the regime only issues visas to trusted journalists and no visitor is allowed to travel without a regime minder). On her return, the regime mission at the UN organised a press conference for her and three members of the pro-regime US “Peace Council” (The organisation has the same relationship to peace as Kentucky Fried Chicken has to chicken). In the press conference they all repeated the claims usually made by the regime’s official media SANA and by Russia Today: all rebels are terrorists; there is no siege; civilians are being held hostage; the regime is a “liberator” etc.
(See also "For Russian TV, Syria isn’t just a foreign country — it’s a parallel universe", Washington Post, 2017)

From a group of anarchists from Hamilton, reblogged by Freedom Press (2018):
Eva Bartlett is a Canadian blogger who has focused her writing on the middle-east: specifically Palestine and Syria. She shot to sectarian-internet fame when she managed to get filmed taking questions in front of a UN backdrop. According to her backers, Bartlett, unlike the Main Stream Media, is one of few sharing the “truth” about Syria. Unlike these outlets, she can lay claim to being “on the ground”, and not under the influence of the NATO-backed western media. 
While we appreciate the skepticism towards the mainstream media, as well as a general disdain for western imperialism, the so-called anti-imperialists who back Bartlett want us to believe that the near-consensus global and small press reports of the atrocities carried out by Assad regime simply didn’t happen. Or, to paraphrase Bartlett, it’s possible that a few mistakes have been made by Assad’s army, but she hadn’t heard of anything in particular. Sound conspiracy theory-ish yet? There’s more. 
Bartlett’s conspiratorial claims, many of which have been debunked online (by sources which, by virtue of contesting Bartlett’s claims, are considered unreliable), have found a welcome home on such websites as GlobalResearch.ca, a site that sounds very professional and…well…researched when she’s citing it in front of a crowd. When you check the site out though, you’ll find that it devotes an entire section of it’s content to 9/11 truth articles, hosts articles by Alex Jones/Infowars, alt-right figure Paul Joseph Watson, and describes itself as “a major news source on the New World Order”.
That the far-right and the authoritarian left are feeding at the same conspiracy trough should give us pause, and all the more so when Bartlett, practically quoting Donald Trump, dismisses all information that doesn’t fit her narrative as fake news. As well, the conspiracy theory that there must be a guiding, conspiratorial hand behind mass movements because oppressed people could never rise up on their own has its roots in anti-black right-wing American conspiracy theories that refuse to accept that black people could possibly organize to make demands for justice. It doesn’t stop being condescending and racist when it’s said about Syrians. 
Bartlett’s selling point for her material is that she, again unlike mainstream reporters, has been “on the ground”. That’s true inasmuch as she was in the region still understood as Syria, but she has not set foot in any non-regime areas. [1] In fact, she distinguishes between the people whose stories she claims to be innocently recounting as true “average, every-day Syrians”, contrasting them with the millions of Syrian people who have populated areas that have been out of Assad’s control, who she only refers to as terrorists. One of these “average Syrians” she quotes is an Assadist army general who, wouldn’t you know it, tells a western self-styled journalist getting the Assad tour of Syria that he’s refusing to attack a neighbourhood because there are too many civilians. Woah! Really digging deep with your investigation, there, Eva!
The US Syria Solidarity Movement

From Shawn Carrié's Assad's allies in the West (2016):
Some writers in this milieu share ties more significant than their dissenting opinions: Bartlett, Beeley, Larudee and Sterling are all steering committee members of an organisation named the "Syria Solidarity Movement" - an activist group and registered nonprofit which has collected more than $1,545,000 in gross receipts from donors since its founding in 2007. SSM has organised demonstrations "in support of the Syrian government", and two group trips to Syria on official visas arranged by an Iranian NGO.  
In June 2014, the group sponsored a delegation to travel to Syria to observe presidential elections dismissed as a "stage-managed sham" by many in the international community, with Bashar Al-Assad receiving 89 percent of votes.

On the morning of the election, the delegation published an endorsement, stating: "The poll is about to demonstrate the real scale of public support President Assad is enjoying inside the country, heroically resisting foreign-sponsored aggression for more than three years."

One delegation member, however, acknowledged in an email that the process was "not without flaws", including voters being intimidated, possibly paid off, and that the delegation was under constant watch by government chaperones. 
During the visit, Larudee and Bartlett appeared in an interview on Syrian state television, met with government officials, and were even granted a sit-down meeting with Ali Haidar, head of the Ministry of National Reconciliation. Created in 2012, it is responsible for negotiating surrenders of rebel groups in efforts to win hearts and minds and facilitate reinsertion for who wish to return to the state.
Footnotes:


[66] Their impact on the conversation is detailed in Kate Starbird et al., “Ecosystem or Echo-System? Exploring Content Sharing across Alternative Media Domains,” University of Washington, April 25, 2018, http://faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/Starbird-et-al-ICWSM-2018-Echosystem-final.pdf.
[67] DFRLab, “#TrollTracker: From Tags to Trolling,” Medium, June 27, 2018, https://medium.com/dfrlab/trolltracker-from-tags-to-trolling-58bb2ef87acd.
[71] Eva Bartlett, “Caught in a Lie, US & Allies Bomb Syria the Night before International Inspectors Aarrive,” RT, April 15, 2018, https://www.rt.com/op-ed/424186-us-allies-syria-lie/.
[72] Bartlett, “Syrian Civilians from Ground Zero Expose Chemical Hoax.”
[73] Eva Bartlett, “Bolton Calls on Al-Qaeda to Stage More Chemical Attacks in Syria,” RT, August 24, 2018, https://www.rt.com/op-ed/436783-us-syria-chemical-attack-bolton/.
[97] “Briefing by Official Representative of Russian Defence Ministry Major General Igor Konashenkov,” Russian Ministry of Defense, April 13, 2018,  http://eng.mil.ru/en/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12171238@egNews.
[98] Ibid.
[101] Bartlett, “Caught in a Lie, U.S. & Allies Bomb Syria the Night before International Inspectors Arrive,” RT.
[103] Bartlett, “Syrian Civilians from Ground Zero Expose Chemical Hoax.”
[129] “Vanessa Beeley, Author at 21st Century Wire,” 21st Century Wire, https://21stcenturywire.com/author/21vbeeley/; “Eva Bartlett,” 21st Century Wire, https://21stcenturywire.com/category/eva-bartlett/.
Further reading:

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