Max Blumenthal is no stranger to divisive articles. The American journalist has covered a variety of Middle Eastern issues, often controversial. He posted a video showing North American Jewish teenagers shouting racial slurs while on a Birthright trip in Israel, and resigned from Lebanon’s Al Akhbar, calling their staff “Assad apologists.”
Now, Blumenthal is in a Twitter war over his latest article at AlterNet, which argues that The White Helmets – the widely praised and Nobel Peace Prize-nominated group of emergency responders also known as the Syrian Civil Defense who perform rescue operations in rebel parts of Syria – are impartial supporters of US interventionism in Syria. The piece puts forth similar arguments on The Syria Campaign, a public relations firm that backs the group.
Twitter is currently embroiled in a full-fledged tweet and reply frenzy over the article, as Blumenthal is being widely hammered for the piece, but he’s also fighting back.
Many called Blumenthal an Assad supporter for the article, which is perhaps ironic given that he resigned from Al Akhbar over what he called their objectionable support for the Syrian president.
What a shameful pro-Assad propaganda piece. Blumenthal trying to vilify people who risk their lives every day to save that of others. https://t.co/dOzFxmkCoy— Brenda StoterBoscolo (@BrendaStoter) October 3, 2016
One day Max Blumenthal's crazy smears & pro-Assad propaganda will make sad chapter in some media blog's obituary of his career— Thanassis Cambanis (@tcambanis) October 3, 2016
Others took the criticisms a step forward. One of the most vocal critics was Iyad el-Baghdadi, an activist exiled from the UAE. He argued that Blumenthal diminished the Syrian revolution by asserting that one of its major players is a vehicle of US intervention.
So the Syrian revolution can't be a grassroots native struggle against dictatorship. It has to be smart white men who put us up to it.— Iyad el-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) October 4, 2016
But Blumenthal did not take the heat sitting down. For one, he criticized the ad-hominem and personal attacks he received.
So far the only answer I've seen to my factual reporting is mockery, moral posturing, and crying "conspiracy." Not one substantive challenge— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 3, 2016
Once I started reporting my piece on @TheSyriaCmpgn, I began getting veiled anonymous threats & private pressure. Today I got this call: pic.twitter.com/m7PY9CD0LA— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 3, 2016
He also claimed that his opponents are supporters of US intervention in the Middle East, which Blumenthal believes to be destructive.
Launder your drive for stepped up US military intervention and regime change behind banal calls for "solidarity" #WokeSyriaHandbook— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) October 3, 2016
Much of the Twitter reactions to the article are critical, but some, including pro-Assad media personalities, defended it. Leith Abou Fadel, the CEO of Al-Masdar News, defended Blumenthal’s right to criticize The White Helmets amidst the backlash.
@MaxBlumenthal @TheSyriaCmpgn Lol freedom of expression is not taken kindly by these people— Leith Abou Fadel (@leithfadel) October 3, 2016
Another tweeter pointed out that Blumenthal has criticized the Assad regime on numerous occasions, including with his aforementioned resignation from Al Akhbar.
Max Blumenthal has been anti-Assad and virulent against Syrian government supporters since 2012. https://t.co/qh15ywW6bl https://t.co/J2DuGPyDVx— Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) October 3, 2016
This not the first time The White Helmets have been attacked. Some allege that they are connected to jihadist groups in Syria. However, they are confirmed to have saved tens of thousands of lives throughout the course of Syria’s brutal civil war, and received wide praise internationally for their efforts. They were the subject of a recent Netflix documentary entitled “White Helmets.”
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