Russia Today is a self-described “news” channel that happens to be owned and operated by the Russian government, and therefore serves as a reliable outlet for whatever Russian President Vladimir Putin would like you to believe is “news.” It tends to get some measure of credibility among American bloggers, largely by booking said bloggers on its programs (including, regrettably, the editor of this web site, but just once and he’s sorry). Which is why it’s somewhat ironic that RT has twisted the generally reliable work of Syria-blogger Brown Moses to fuel Putin’s conspiracy theory that Syrian rebels are behind the sarin gas attack that the Assad regime unleashed on civilians last month.
Yesterday, RT aired footage purporting to show Syrian rebels initiating the gas attack, using the fact that the videos had been posted by Brown Moses—whom RT described as a “prominent Syria blogger” who had been “focusing on the Syrian conflict for the last couple of years, analyzing claims and counterclaims”—as a peg. The only problem: the footage was fabricated, and Moses—in reality an Englishman named Eliot Higgins—had openly doubted their authenticity, right there on his blog.
On Monday, Higgins linked to several videos originally uploaded to LiveLeak that appear to indicate that Liwa al-Islam, a Syrian rebel group, had a hand in the August 21 poison gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. However, Higgins noted several discrepancies that suggested the footage was faked.
The men in the video claim to be Liwa al-Islam, and the many flags in the video are also marked Liwa al-Islam ... but there’s a lot about it that seems dubious. First of all the video quality is awful, so it's very difficult to make out a lot of details. It’s also rather odd it's so dark when August 21st was a full moon, and there's no lights in the city visible.
And then, for some reason, RT credulously aired the same videos, minus the debunking, using the fact that Higgins had posted them to suggest that they are in fact credible. Today Higgins reproduced the transcript from Wednesday broadcast seen above. One anchor, Paul Scott, says:
It is interesting now that [Higgins] has posted a video on this blog that suggests that it actually could be the Syrian Opposition that had been using these chemical weapons. It represent a slight shift in focus from what the narrative that the blog has been taking in recent weeks.
To which Higgins answers: “I do not support Russia Today's use of the credibility of my work to prop up videos I consider to be highly dubious.”
[Video via YouTube]