Conspiracy Milieu Objects to Guardian Probing of Disinformation Against White Helmets

From the Guardian:

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The article has been met with howls of outrage from the supporters of those named, and the author, Olivia Solon, has been receiving abusive comments (e.g. “You, and the Guardian are more distasteful, than a dogshit inadvertently trodden upon. Fuck off and die”).

Solon’s article contains much of interest, but I here focus here on the conspiracy theory angle. Solon notes that evidence from White Helmets was used during a UN investigation into Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack in April:

Some of the most vocal sceptics of the UN’s investigation include the blogger Vanessa Beeley, the daughter of a former British diplomat who visited Syria for the first time in July 2016; a University of Sydney senior lecturer, Timothy Anderson, who described the April chemical attack as a “hoax”; and 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.

…Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at

Beeley’s reporting has apparently been gratefully received by the Assad regime and Russia; Solon explains that

In 2016, Beeley had a two-hour meeting with Assad in Damascus as part of a US Peace Council delegation, which she described on Facebook as her “proudest moment”. She was also invited to Moscow to report on thedirty war in Syria”; there, she met senior Russian officials including the deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, and Maria Zakharova, director of information and press at Russia’s foreign ministry.

However, her work is problematic not just because of what she claims, but because of what she is willing to pass over in silence. Private Eye recently reported on this (1456 p. 10, and provided by Eliot Higgins here), after Beeley spoke at an event called “Media on Trial” at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church:

There was, of course, not one Syrian among the speakers. But there were some in a small group of dissenters… [One] of the protesters’ placards – “Tell the TRUTH about Assad’s TORTURERS” – touched a sore spot for Beeley. Earlier this year she had an exchange of private Twitter messages with an American conspiricist about whether the Syrian government uses tortue. “Tbh [to be honest] torture happened,” she wrote, “I am never going to say it publicly but it happened.” She added: “[I] have been to Syria and I know what went on and I don’t say it publicly… not going to give that opening to anti Syria brigades.”

The admission was made to one Scott Gaulke, and it was made public as part of a denunciation of her by Assad supporters who objected to even a private acknowledgement that the Syrian government was involved in torture.

Beeley appears to play both sides of the aisle when it comes to the conspiracy milieu: she doesn’t appear to have been interviewed by Alex Jones, but the association with the Infowars editor Patrick Henningsen indicates an affinity, and she has been promoted in the US by Ron Paul (1). On the other hand, though, she has also appeared on the alternative left conspiracy podcast The Richie Allen Show, which is produced “in association with David Icke” (previously blogged here), and on UK ColumnUK Column‘s Brian Gerrish – previously noted on this blog for his promotion of Wilfred Wong’s Satanic Ritual Abuse claims – has responded to the Guardian article with a graphic full of arrows that has been commended by one Caitlin Johnstone at Medium.

According to Solon:

Separately, both Graphika and [Fil] Menczer’s Hoaxy tool identify Beeley, the British blogger, as among the most influential disseminators of content about the White Helmets.


1. Beeley was also quoted by WND as part of the site’s attack articles aimed at Melissa Zimdars, an academic who included the site on an informal list of unreliable news sources (blogged here). WND advised readers to bombard Zimdars and her employer with emails and phone calls, and reported Beeley’s crowing that Zimdars had upped her social media privacy settings because she “can’t take the heat. Named ‘fake media’ & then protected all her own media sites.”