Connect with us

Latest

Analysis

News

Overview of Special Counsel Mueller’s Indictments and Russiagate social media claims: much ado about nothing

Russiagate legal case going nowhere; social media claims absurd

Alexander Mercouris

Published

on

18,465 Views

As the dust settles following the indictments Special Counsel Mueller issued yesterday I cannot avoid the feeling that Mueller has wielded a gigantic sledge-hammer only to hit empty air.

A quick rundown of the two indictments shows why:

Manafort/Gates indictment

Manafort and his associate Rick Gates have pleaded not guilty to all twelve counts of the indictment.  They have also issued a defiant statement denying collusion with the Russians during the election campaign, rejecting arguments that they ‘looted’ Ukraine and insisting that on the contrary they helped put Ukraine on a pro-European course, and ridiculing the suggestion that their transfers of money from overseas accounts into the US amount to a conspiracy against the US.

On their claim that they assisted Ukraine to pursue a pro-European course they are unquestionably right.

As many have pointed out it was President Yanukovych – whom they advised – who took the fatal decision to negotiate an association agreement with the EU, which if President Yanukovych and his Party of the Regions had been really pro-Russian he and they would never have done.

For the record Yanukovych never refused to sign the association agreement.  He merely postponed signing it until certain trade related problems which arose as a result of the association agreement were ironed out in further negotiations with the EU and the Russians.

Whatever view is taken of Paul Manafort – and I have already made mine clear – it is in my opinion by no means a foregone conclusion that a US court will find him guilty of the charges which are set out in the indictment.

Such cases are vastly difficult to prosecute with the defence always having the advantage over the prosecution in that it knows far more about the complex transactions that are the subject of the case than the prosecution does.

It is not a foregone conclusion that a jury will prefer the prosecution’s opinion of these transactions to the explanations of the defence, and as it happens I believe I am right in saying that most cases of this sort which are defended and do not end in a plea bargain end with an acquittal.

The most important point however about the indictment against Manafort and Gates is that it does not touch on the collusion allegations which are central to the Russiagate scandal at all.

Instead Mueller has committed himself to prosecuting a very complex fraud case against Manafort and Gates on a wholly unrelated Ukraine connected topic which is going to drain his resources.

What is going to make it even more difficult to motivate Mueller’s prosecutors who will have to conduct this case is that at the back of their minds they must know that it is highly likely that even if they secure Manafort’s and Gates’s conviction the case will end with a Presidential pardon.

One way or the other it is difficult to see how this indictment of Manafort and Gates takes the Russiagate conspiracy theory further forward at all.

Frankly it looks to me so far removed from the Russiagate claims, and the case it seeks to bring is so complex, that I strongly suspect that before long the US public and the US media will become bored with it.

Papadopoulos indictment

Since I wrote my two previous pieces on this indictment – which is currently dominating the headlines – (see here and here) a great deal more information has come to light about the background behind it.

Firstly, it turns out that Papadopoulos has never been asked to give evidence to either the Senate Intelligence Committee or the House Intelligence Committee, both of which are supposed to be investigating the Russiagate case.

Putting the tortuous explanations for this omission which have been given by the members of these two Committees to one side, that reinforces the view that Papadopoulos is small-fry whose activities do not touch on the central Russiagate allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and who is not a credible witness.

I say that because the academic who plays such a central role in the indictment has now come forward and in an interview with the Daily Telegraph has poured scorn on the whole story set out in the indictment.  Here is what the Daily Telegraph reports him to have said

The London professor is not named in the official court documents but the Telegraph can disclose his identity as Professor Joseph Mifsud, honorary director of the London Academy of Diplomacy, which is affiliated to the University of Stirling in Scotland.

Prof Mifsud confirmed he was the London professor described in the document drawn up by special counsel Robert Mueller but vehemently denied any wrongdoing. He told the Telegraph: “I have a clear conscience.”…..

Prof Mifsud poured scorn on the FBI case, insisting he had no knowledge of any emails containing ‘dirt’ on Mrs Clinton.

His denial bolsters suggestions that Papadopoulos may have fabricated or at least exaggerated claims of his Russian connections to impress Trump campaign bosses back in the US.

Prof Mifsud said he had introduced Papadopoulos to the director of a Russian think tank because it was right for him – as one of Mr Trump’s then advisers – to understand better Russian foreign policy.

“We are academics,” said Prof Mifsud, “We work closely with everybody.”

He said he had also tried to set up Papadopoulos with experts linked to the European Union.

Prof Mifsud, a former official with Malta’s ministry of foreign affairs, confirmed some of the details of the inquiry – such as he met Papadopoulos at a meeting in Italy in March 2016 and ten days later in London.

But Prof Mifsud disputes the contents of the further crucial conversation said by the FBI to have taken place at a London hotel in April 2016.

According to the court document: “During this meeting, the Professor told defendant Papadopoulos that he had just returned from a trip to Moscow where he had met with high-level Russian government officials.

“The professor told defendant Papadopoulos that on that trip he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton.”

Prof Mifsud told the Telegraph he was “upset” by the claims because they were “incredible”.

He also described as a “laughing stock” a suggestion in the report that he had introduced Papadopoulos to a “female Russian national” described as a relative of President Vladimir Putin. The FBI statement later asserts that the claim by Papadopoulos that the woman was a relative was not true.

Papadopouls also appeared to over-exaggerate the extent of his Russian contacts in messages to the Trump campaign, according to court documents. In one email sent to the Trump campaign Mr Papadopoulos says he has just been introduced to the Russian Ambassador in London. He has since admitted the pair never met.

(bold italics added)

Professor Mifsud’s account appears to support the second theory about Papadopoulos which I outlined in my second article about him yesterday: that he is a Walter Mitty character with an uncertain grasp of reality.

It is worth remembering that the only two witnesses to the now famous conversation between Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos in April 2016 during which Professor Mifsud is supposed to have made his comment about the Russians having “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and possessing thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails were Professor Mifsud and Papadopoulos.

Professor Mifsud categorically denies making the comment.  Papadopoulos admits to lying to the FBI and it now seems certain that it was he who fabricated the tales of his dealings with “Putin’s niece” and with Russia’s ambassador to London.

There is no reason to doubt Professor Mifsud’s denial, whilst Papadopoulos’s conduct strongly suggests that it was he who made the comment up. 

The trigger was obviously the furore over Hillary Clinton’s misuse of a private server for her emails whilst she was Secretary of State, which was approaching its peak at the time the comment was supposed to have been made.

As to Papadopoulos’s motive for making up the comment, it was obviously done Walter Mitty style in order to impress his bosses at Trump campaign headquarters. 

That was why Papadopoulos also misrepresented the nature of Professor Mifsud’s contacts with the Russians and the background of the Russian woman with whom he was having dealings – whom he sought to pass off as Putin’s niece – and why he invented a meeting with Russia’s ambassador Yakovenko which never took place.

In the event, it is clear from the indictment that by the time Papadopoulos reported the comment no one at Trump headquarters was any longer taking him seriously.  That was why the comment was never followed up.

The “evidence” of a Walter Mitty character – which is anyway not evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians – is not evidence which can be taken seriously, which is why Papadopoulos has only been charged with lying to the FBI, and why the Senate and House Intelligence Committees have shown no interest in him.

In no sense is Papadopoulos any sort of “star witness” and I cannot believe Special Counsel Mueller thinks he is.

Over the next couple of days and weeks I expect this to become clear, and Papadopoulos to fade from view.

Social media claims

To my mind these claims constitute the single most absurd element of the whole Russiagate conspiracy theory, though given the way these claims are being used to clamp down on dissident opinions they are also the most dangerous.

Briefly:

(1) As RT has rightly pointed out the alleged ‘Russian election posts’ constituted no more than 0.74% and 0.004% of the content carried by Twitter and Facebook respectively, most of this material was published either the year before or after the election, and much of it concerned material of no conceivable relevance to the election, including material about puppies.  The level of absurdity reached in discussing this material is best illustrated by the fantastic theories about the ‘weaponising’ of Pokemon Go;

(2) As RT has also rightly pointed out, Twitter actually pitched a proposal to RT for RT to spend millions on advertising during the election, a fact Twitter neglected to point out to the US Senate Intelligence Committee and which has been almost completely ignored by the media; and

(3) Google now says that there is no evidence that RT manipulated YouTube or violated its policies during the 2016 US Presidential election campaign.

This is not really a case of a mountain moving to produce a mouse, since the mouse in this case is so infinitesimally small that it can only be seen through a microscope.

The idea that a tiny number of advertisements and comments on Facebook and Twitter – some in the case of Twitter actively pitched for by Twitter itself – swung the US Presidential election towards Donald Trump in the face of the mass artillery of the US media – which overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton – ought to be too ridiculous to take seriously.  That anyone believes that anyone in Moscow honestly thought that they would is even more ridiculous.

Frankly, apart from a tiny minority of truly paranoid people, I doubt anyone who is properly informed about it genuinely believes it.

Summary

The swirl of revelations over the last few weeks has therefore produced the following:

For the Russiagate conspiracy theory: two indictments neither of which refer to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, one of which is concerned not with Russia but with Ukraine, the other of which is against a Walter Mitty character because he lied to the FBI, and a mass of claims about a Russian influence campaign on YouTube and social media which essentially amount to nothing.

Against the Russiagate conspiracy theory: confirmation that both the foundation documents of the Russiagate conspiracy theory – the CrowdStrike report into the alleged Russian hacking and the Trump Dossier – were paid for by the DNC and in the case of the Trump Dossier also by the Hillary Clinton campaign.  For a detailed discussion of the implications of this see this excellent article by Joe Lauria.

It should not be difficult to see on which side of the ledger the evidence is building.

In the meantime the sum total of what has come out of the Manafort and Papadopoulos indictments can be summed up quickly: nothing at all.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of

Latest

Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

Published

on

Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

Published

on

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Follow The Duran Audio Podcast on Soundcloud.

Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

Latest

‘End of free speech’: Maffick CEO, host slam Facebook’s unprovoked ‘censorship’ after CNN report

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

RT

Published

on

By

Via RT…


Facebook blocking several pages operated by Maffick Media is nothing short of outright censorship, the company’s CEO Anissa Naouai said, after a US-funded think tank pointed them out to CNN for a ‘hit-piece’.

The actions of the social media giant, which suspended the accounts of In the Now, Soapbox, Back Then and Waste-Ed last Friday without providing any explanation or even contacting the company that ran the pages, is nothing but a simple attempt to get rid of dissenting voices critical of Washington’s policies, Naouai told RT.

It is blatant censorship. What else can you call it?

Unexplained ban

The ban came literally out of the blue even though Maffick did not violate any existing Facebook regulations. “There is no rule that you have to post anything about your funding or personal funding. No one does it, not any of the US-sponsored outlets,” Naouai said. However, that was apparently the stated reason for the blocking as a Facebook spokesperson said the social media giant wanted the pages to become more transparent by disclosing their funding and “Russian affiliations.”

Facebook never contacted Maffick Media directly, though. In fact, it did not even answer the company’s emails and stayed conspicuously silent about the ways that would allow the accounts to be reinstated. “We have not heard a word from Facebook and it has been over three days now,” Naouai said.

The whole situation makes one think that the suspension is in fact connected to the pages’ popularity as well as their critical stance towards US policies, the Maffick CEO said. “We have hosts that talk about things that are not allowed to talk about on other networks like CNN,” she explained.

“If a video that says that gets hundreds of thousands of views on a page that has millions of views, people [in Washington] start to notice that and they get upset. I believe that is why we were targeted: because of our success and because of, as CNN said, high quality of our videos,” Naouai added.

The Maffick CEO also assumed that a recent piece on the US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela might have become a trigger for this drastic measure taken by Facebook. “There is a very … divisive and obnoxious policy taking place right now against Venezuela,” she said, “we do not know if this was the segment that triggered [the suspension] but the timing is convenient.”

“When someone calls out what is happening in Venezuela as a blatant coup it ruffles the feathers of think tanks that spent millions if not billions of dollars to persuade [the audience otherwise] and lobby their interests.”

‘Interrogation’ by CNN

Some details of this whole case may indeed seem odd. Just about an hour after the pages were blocked, CNN published a report on the issue as if they broke the news. “CNN knew that we were going to be blocked before we did,” Naouai said, explaining that, when she found out her company’s pages were suspended, CNN had already published its piece.

Weeks before the blocking, CNN sought to interview some freelancers working with Maffick in an apparent attempt to “dig up some dirt,” Rania Khalek, the American host of Soapbox – one of the video shows Maffick ran on Facebook – recalled.

When the company’s leadership “got wind of it” and offered CNN an interview, it all ended up with a 45-minute “interrogation” loaded with “unethical” questions that “almost any other media organization would even think to answer.”

It felt like a police interrogation: very invasive questions about Maffick and our editorial policies. It was clear that they were doing a hit-piece.

“A CNN journalist repeatedly asked me about my political viewpoints. He was in complete disbelief that I have editorial control over my scripts. He could not understand how it was possible,” Khalek, who was one of those, who gave the interview to CNN, said.

Maffick Media assumed that CNN might in fact pressure Facebook into blocking the accounts. “It is a very competitive market existing in a very political atmosphere that is toxic right now in the US,” Naouai said.

Loophole for state censorship?

CNN itself admits in its piece that it did not just stumble upon the Facebook pages in question independently. Instead, this issue was brought to its attention by the Alliance for Securing Democracy – a part of the German Marshall Fund. This fund is a think tank, which is financed by the US and German governments and has such people as Michael Morell, the former CIA deputy head, and Jacob Sullivan, former Vice President Joe Biden’s top security aide, on its advisory board.

Now, CNN, which stepped on a slippery slope by scrutinizing other media outlets’ funding, had to go to some extraordinary lengths to persuade its audience that the Alliance for Securing Democracy “does not receive any funding” from the German Marshall Fund, while still being a part of it at the same time. However, all these facts just added a new layer to the story.

“You have this US-funded think tank prompting CNN to pressure Facebook to ban our pages. That is an act of censorship,”Khalek said. She thinks the whole scheme was used to circumvent the First Amendment banning the US authorities from directly censoring free speech. “So, they use a middleman to pressure private companies to censor us,” she added, calling it a “legal loophole.”

‘Beginning of an end’

Regardless of who is really behind the ploy, Facebook banning some media pages without any explanation sets a tremendously dangerous precedent, Maffick Media believes. “We had a verified page, which had billions of views, just disappear from online without any kind of comment, any kind of requirement, without breaking any rules. That is unprecedented,” Naouai said.

You have Facebook dictating what people can and cannot see and judging what is good content and bad content. And it is all based on the accusations and criticism coming from a government-funded outlet. If Facebook does it to us, it can do it to anyone,” Khalek warned.

This is because of the political content that challenges the US wars. It is absolutely an act of censorship.

The US establishment apparently seeks to suppress the outlets that “offer a platform to alternative voices that can speak out against US wars and the corporate control over our government in a way that you just do not hear in our corporate media,” the Soapbox host believes.

However, if the social media giant and the likes of it will just continue to randomly block media resources while having “no grounds” to do so, it could create very serious problems for society, Naouai believes.

That would be the beginning of an end of free speech.

 

Liked it? Take a second to support The Duran on Patreon!
Continue Reading

JOIN OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Your donations make all the difference. Together we can expose fake news lies and deliver truth.

Amount to donate in USD$:

5 100

Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Validating payment information...
Waiting for PayPal...
Advertisement

Advertisement

Quick Donate

The Duran
EURO
DONATE
Donate a quick 10 spot!
Advertisement
Advertisement

Advertisement

The Duran Newsletter

Trending