On Saturday 13 June 2020 the Times newspaper published its third attack on academics associated with researching British government propaganda and the war in Syria. This time the attack focused on smearing myself and Professor David Miller with the objective of discrediting an academic organization we established, the Organisation for Propaganda Studies (OPS), designed to foster research and writing on propaganda.
The article contained multiple falsehoods and distortions and was similar in style to previous attacks aimed at character assassination mainly through employment of the ‘conspiracy theorist’ smear. Most prominently the hatchet pieces misleadingly conflated work by members of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), of which myself and Miller are also members, with the OPS. Formal complaints from the OPS are in process and the Times has already been forced to issue a number of corrections.
Of course, character assassination as a propaganda tactic is widespread and there is even a Routledge academic handbook on the subject, the ‘Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Management’, which was published in 2019 and contains 30 odd chapters. The attacks by the Times have been amplified by similar pieces written by Chris York for the Huffington Post.
In total, approximately 20 articles have been produced attacking those of us who are working on the war in Syria and questioning important aspects of UK propaganda operations. The bulk of these articles have been written by just two journalists, Dominic Kennedy for the Times newspaper and Chris York for the Huffington Post. This represents an extraordinarily intensive and sustained campaign against us.
Why on earth have we gotten into so much trouble?
In fact, there are some indications that the media attacks might be the direct result of deliberate media alignment with the UK government position on Syria and its well-established policy seeking to overthrow the existing Syrian government. Specifically, two of the authors of the original Times attack on the academics, Dominic Kennedy and Deborah Haynes, are identified in leaked documents as being associated with the UK government-funded propaganda operation known as the Integrity Initiative.
The Integrity Initiative leaks provided powerful insights on how propaganda operations were being built around “clusters” of journalists. Haynes has subsequently denied involvement with the article whilst Kennedy has repeatedly refused to answer questions regarding the relationship between his articles and the Integrity Initiative.
Most notably, Times columnist Oliver Kamm has stated in public that the late James Le Mesurier ‘had reached out to this newspaper to urge us to keep on their [the academics] case’.The War on Truth, Dissent and Free Speech