In February 2017, Rick Sterling, writing for Consortiumnews, reported on a documentary about a supposedly humanitarian Syrian organization, the White Helmets. The Netflix documentary, The White Helmets, featuring the Syrian civil defense organization of the same name, won an Oscar for best short documentary at the Academy Awards. However, some have criticized the documentary for its incomplete and inaccurate depiction of the White Helmets.
Much of the information provided by the documentary is inaccurate. For instance, the White Helmets is not an independent Syrian organization as much of the corporate media have claimed. The organization was created by James LeMesurier, currently a British military contractor and former Blackwater employee, and is funded by the US and the UK. These funds are used in part to pay the members of the White Helmets, who are often misleadingly referred to as “volunteers.” The documentary also claims that the White Helmets are a neutral and independent organization with the sole aim of humanitarian aid. However, it has been found that the White Helmets tend to only stage their relief operations after armed militants are attacked. Not only are the White Helmets funded by foreign governments, but their actions are affected by other questionable influences—like Al Qaeda. Still, the corporate media continuously refer to the group as an autonomous, humanitarian organization.
The corporate media has exclusively reported on the Academy Award win for film as a positive message of hope to the people of Syria. For example, the Los Angeles Times included this quote from Orlando Von Einsiedel, the director of the film, “right from the start this [documentary] was about shining a very bright light on the heroes of our film…Syrian rescue workers.” These kinds of quotes perpetuate the idea that the White Helmets are the “heroes of Syria.” In reality, there are many unsavory facts about the White Helmets that the corporate media choose to ignore. Contrary to corporate media’s coverage of the White Helmets, independent news sources suggest that the documentary is part of a larger disinformation campaign to garner support for increased US military presence in Syria.
Rick Sterling, “Syrian War Propaganda at the Oscars,” Consortiumnews, February 24, 2017, https://consortiumnews.com/2017/02/24/syrian-war-propaganda-at-the-oscars/
Student Researcher: Adeel Pervez, Diablo Valley College
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff, Diablo Valley College