white helmets syria
On Monday a senior Guardian 'technology reporter' named Olivia Solon published the findings of her investigation into how it came to pass that 'conspiracy theories' about the White Helmets 'Syrian civil defense' organization actually being a terrorist group managed to dominate online discussion. The result was an incredible hit-piece against alternative media sites - particularly 21st Century Wire, which published original research by journalist Vanessa Beeley - whose work has done much to expose Western lies about the war in Syria. And it's all ultimately Russia's fault, of course...
How Syria's White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Russia-backed campaign to link the volunteer rescuers with al-Qaida exposes how conspiracy theories take root: 'It's like a factory'
Reading just the headline and sub-headline, you've already caught the gist of it. Solon constructs a tale about a grand conspiracy involving "anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government" to account for why people believe the alternative (and largely accurate) narrative about the White Helmets over the official, Western narrative that the White Helmets are actually 'white knights saving Syrians from their evil government'.

Beeley and others have produced many in-depth reports compiling mountains of evidence that expose White Helmet 'volunteers' moonlighting as terrorists who slaughter 'apostates' (usually people loyal to the Syrian government, which is of course most people in Syria). Additionally, while in White Helmet uniform, there is photographic and video evidence of them assisting black-flag-waving terrorists to conduct and clean-up their executions, evidence that is often produced by the White Helmets themselves as part of their propaganda effort to pass the atrocities off as the work of the Syrian government, then subsequently exposed for what it actually is.

Solon briefly addressed just a couple of these cases then characterized them as "isolated rogue actors," ignoring the dozens if not hundreds of instances in which the White Helmets were caught faking rescues and doctoring dead children, recorded on camera describing the group's video fabrications and its possession of prohibited chemicals, and recorded celebrating the deaths of Syrian civilians side-by-side with Al-Qaeda/Al-Nusra forces. (The civilians of Syria, by the way, to whom White Helmets is supposedly a hero, have also routinely condemned the organization, but the Guardian doesn't let that get in the way of a good story.)

But all of this is essentially irrelevant to the 'Guardian of Establishment Views'. It was interested only in leveraging meta-analyses of the public discourse about White Helmets to push its agenda, not conducting an investigation, much less questioning its assumptions of what the White Helmets actually do. Citing academic research, the Guardian published 'network maps' and analytics which, on the face of it, are rather damning indicators that the mainstream media can no longer dominate the discourse as they once did:
white helmets network map

A domain network graph for 'white helmets' tweets from May-Aug 2017. These are websites connected by users (who tweet to both). Blue are sites reporting the alternative narrative; red, the official story. Sott.net is in there, adjacent to Tim Hayward's blog.
But Solon didn't interpret this as it should be interpreted: multiple online nodes cross-referencing each others' work and collectively contributing to the public discussion by presenting a cohesive narrative that has little overlap with its opposite, 'official' narrative. Instead, she did as every almost other mainstream pundit before her did, presenting this as evidence that the Kremlin sits at the center of a web, pulling the strings of dissidents everywhere. Solon writes:
The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars. It exposes just how rumours, conspiracy theories and half-truths bubble to the top of YouTube, Google and Twitter search algorithms.

"This is the heart of Russian propaganda. In the old days they would try and portray the Soviet Union as a model society. Now it's about confusing every issue with so many narratives that people can't recognise the truth when they see it," said David Patrikarakos, author of War in 140 Characters: How Social Media is Reshaping Conflict in the 21st Century.
What is richly ironic about her suggestion that Russia is somehow manipulating social media algorithms is that this is exactly what the social media platforms have themselves been doing in the official narrative's favor. It's total projection - accusing others of exactly what your side is doing - in an apparently futile effort to make everyone believe that the Russians are guilty of 'manipulating minds' with falsehoods when that is in fact what the Guardian itself is actively doing by accusing Russia of such!
white helmets execution
© Vanessa Beeley
Execution attended by White Helmets, where they performed a mop-up operation for Nusra Front fighters in Haritan, North Aleppo, Syria, May, 2015.
But there is more than mere irony of circumstances at work here. As an Oxford-edcuated career journalist, Solon is perfectly capable of retracing and verifying the steps Beeley took to map out the real "heart" of the White Helmets and thus the actual propaganda machine behind it: the prominent role of the British Foreign Office, with supporting roles from American and Israeli entities.
intelligence white helmets
© UK Column
Here's a network graph the Guardian will never publish
It is little wonder that most people with a clue conclude that 'journalists' like Solon are conscious agents of Western governments in their ridiculous propaganda war against Russia.