On February 9, 2019, an open forum of ideas was held in Oslo, Norway to discuss and shine a light on a number of high-profile issues including Syria. The general outcome of this event was to educate and inspire delegates, and to elevate the level of political discussion in Norway which is a key component of Western geopolitics and hugely influential in international affairs through its multilateral institutions like the Norwegian Nobel Institute, and presently as a leading member of NATO, according to the American writer and global affairs analyst Patrick Henningsen who gave a presentation to the forum.
Henningsen told the Syria Times e-newspaper that the name of the conference was ‘Mot Dag’, which roughly translated in English means, ‘out of darkness, towards light’. The event was co-hosted by Pål Steigan, who is a major left-wing political figure in Norway, and Norwegian activist and media personality, Kari Angelique Jaquesson, who has been advocating on a number of high-profile social and political issues including Syria.
“The two day event covered a number of controversial issues including mainstream media propaganda, the West’s war on Syria, the White Helmets scandal, NGO fraud, the Venezuelan coup, the Gilet Jaunes aka Yellow Vests, feminism within the current western political discourse, and the debate on gender identity, including a political critique of transgender identity politics,” the writer clarified.
He underscored that the audience was extremely well-versed in cutting edge political issues which is not surprising considering that one of Pål Steigan’s core missions with his media and advocacy organization, Steigan.no, is about educating people on a broad range of political and social issues, and certainly this crowd exhibited a very high degree of political awareness on a range of topics.
The Speakers included Henningsen, journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett, women activist and campaigner Posie Parker from the UK, and also leading Norwegian writer and cultural commentator, Terje Tvedt, Norwegian journalist Eva Thomassen, and many more. While attendees consisted of activists, writers, artists, philosophers, journalists, and politicians mainly from Norway, guests also came from UK, Europe, Canada and the US.
“Although the organizers are perhaps more well known for their political activities on the left side of the political paradigm, the range of both speakers and guests included those on the left, the right and center. So in that sense, this event was very much an open forum for ideas and political dialogue which meant the discussion were very dynamic, with everyone definitely challenging the prevailing establishment from their respective areas of expertise,” stated Henningsen, who is the founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire and host of the Sunday Wire weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR).
In a response to a question about the main points he mentioned in his presentation, the US writer said: “The main thrust of my presentation was the recent revelations of a multi-million dollar UK and US government-funded propaganda operation known as the “Integrity Initiative,” a clandestine network of bureaucrats, think tanks, intelligence operatives and mainstream western journalists – which claims to be ‘fighting Russian disinformation’ but in reality is actually spreading disinformation through the placement of propaganda and in some cases – completely fabricated anti-Russian news stories, and even targeted smear campaigns against political dissenters and alternative voices. There activities carry on right through a sophisticated international of network western media outlets and “clusters” of journalists located in the various NATO member states, all in order to demonize Russia and keep anti-Russian policies like sanctions firmly in place.”
‘There is no MSM opposition to illegal wars of aggression’
He went on to say: “Militarized information warfare programs like the Integrity Initiative has actually backfired in the sense that they are damaging public trust in mainstream media. People know the stories are spun, they know they are being hit with fake news by the same governments and media outlets who claim to be ‘battling Russian disinformation’. The problem has reached a critical stage now whereby the credibility of mainstream media outlets is nearly eviscerated, and rather than looking in the mirror at this destructive Kafkaesque hydra they’ve allowed to run amok, the Establishment networks are instead doubling-down on this behemoth of a psychological operation and pursuing ever more aggressive censorship policies on social media monopoly platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. One of the main points I tried to make in my talk is that throughout history and right up to today – the most prolific and primary source of so-called “fake news” is government agencies and the mainstream media. This is a historic fact, and people should always bear this in mind when they see the latest government-media complex crusade against the alleged scourge of fake news online.”
As for the cause of the collapse of western media credibility, Henningsen emphasized that Western mainstream media’s credibility has collapsed because rather than playing the proper role of ‘Fourth Estate’ – as an unofficial and independent people’s branch of society which traditionally would act as a watchdog against government corruption and maleficence, this formerly free press has been transformed into a Fifth Column which is now working against the people it was supposed to serve.
“So that means effectively there is no mainstream opposition to state corruption and illegal wars of aggression. The only remaining opposition is in alternative media – with its bloggers, independent journalists and social media activists – all of whom are being actively targeted by secret programs like the Integrity Initiative and so-called think tanks like the Atlantic Council and its DFR Labs. So this amounts to an extremely dire state of affairs at the moment in a Western society which is meant to be the beacon of democratic ethics and republican values,” he asserted.
The global affairs analyst indicated that this crisis in media is tearing at the very fabric of western society, and instead of addressing the real enemy within this system, the Establishment and political operatives are attempting to blame ‘the Russians’ for the current breakdown, and for all of the Establishment’s own shortcoming and systemic problems, as well as attacking alternative media outlets, bloggers and social media users of being in league with the Kremlin or ‘Assad’.
‘Social media now under direct threat’
He stressed that what we are seeing today has gone way beyond the days of Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare of the 1950’s, because this project has now been internationalized, “with a pernicious censorship component that is being enforced globally across Silicon Valley social media platforms.”
Henningsen believes that social media has been a tremendous tool in terms of allowing a variety of people locally and globally to share information, opinion and analysis and to network laterally and without traditional hierarchies and filters imposed by the corporate media cartels and government agencies trying to keep a lid on what information the public is allowed to see. Henningsen explains, “However, the progress of the last decade is now under direct threat from governments and corporate elites controlling the main Silicon Valley social media monopolies – who fear they have ‘lost control of the narrative’. In other words, traditional mechanisms for the production and dissemination of propaganda are no longer working for the Plutocracy like they had in the past, and so they are attempting to wrestle back control of these new digital platforms and re-compartmentalize them through automated algorithms and A.I. censorship software programs designed to mute or erase any content or view points which threaten the Establishment’s agenda on any number of geopolitical, political, commercial, social and even health issues.”
The US writer has visited the Middle East on a number of occasions, including an extended five week fact-finding mission to Syria during the war in 2017. While the war was winding down in some places at that time, but he was able to see some incredible scenes in East Aleppo, Homs and Damascus which confirmed much of what he had suspected since he started reporting on Syria in 2011.
“Most of all, I was struck by the determination of the Syrian people to resist the long proxy war which was being waged against them by the US-led ‘Coalition’ of countries and Gulf states. Much of the country has been devastated, but the people have never given up hope that they could eventually overcome the situation. That is incredible in itself and something which is absolutely unique to Syria. The people and the culture are incredibly resilient. We all can learn a lot from Syria,” Henningsen concluded.
See highlights from Henningsen’s Norway presentations here