21st Century Wire
by J.R. Smith
There’s good money to be made in fake news.
Earlier this week on April 14th, a nameless ‘news story’ appeared on the “Corruption Chronicles Blog” section of the website Judicial Watch, which claimed “ISIS Camp a Few Miles from Texas, Mexican Authorities Confirm.” The website claims that ‘an ISIS base’ exists approximately 8 miles from the US-Texas border in an area known as ‘Anapra’ just west of Ciudad Juárez in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
Upon closer inspection, it’s clear that this story is fake.
The following day, even FOX News distanced itself from the story, reporting that US law enforcement agencies flatly denied there was any truth at all to allegations that ISIS militants had set up a training base in Mexico. El Paso-based local news affiliate ABC-7 also contacted multiple federal border agencies. They all said the same thing: the report is unverified, and there is no ISIS in Anapra, or Juarez.
Today, the US State Department also weighed-in, calling the claims “unfounded”.
“COUNTDOWN TO TERROR’ – ISIS Propaganda, Made in the USA (Source: Video Still)
This did not stop a number of right-wing, fear mongering and opportunistic media outlets from running with this latest fake ISIS story, with some US-based outlets even producing their own fake ISIS beheading videos designed to hype-up the fear surrounding this fake story (as if we needed any more fake ISIS videos made to scare the US population into submission).
If one actually reads into the original Judicial Watch ‘report’, it soon becomes apparent that nothing in it is actually real. The blog post cites “sources in the Mexican military”, and further alludes to an “unnamed Mexican Army officer” and a Mexican “police inspector”.
Based on the over-the-top sensationalism and the lack of any substance in the story, most intelligent Americans might write it off as just another fake ‘ISIS in Mexico’ story, but for cash-obsessed media businesses, a wild story like this, whether true or not, will automatically generate tens of thousands of dollars in online ad revenues overnight. Beyond the obvious financial gains however, the real function of a planted story like this is political. By invoking the ISIS threat, it energizes the far right-wing in America which further polarizes the political spectrum. Here we can see how a planted news story is custom designed to advance a fear-based agenda, where media outlets work hand-in-glove with the US government’s military establishment to secure more funding and foreign intervention in the Middle East, as well as more funding for the Department of Homeland Security in the US.
The Judicial Watch decoy story cites multiple vague sources including “Mexican intelligence sources”. This might be the first mention of “Mexican Intelligence” in US media ever, as it’s widely accepted that Mexico is not known for having any ‘intelligence’ body that is not already co-opted by organized drug cartels. Regardless, Judicial Watch and its media affiliates have no reservations about passing off lines like these to their readers:
“Another ISIS cell to the west of Ciudad Juárez, in Puerto Palomas, targets the New Mexico towns of Columbus and Deming for easy access to the United States, the same knowledgeable sources confirm.”
Notice the phrase, “the same knowledgeable sources confirm.” This vague wording is all it takes to fool any reader who is already predisposed to swallowing a certain flavor of either pro-war and Islamophobic propaganda. Unfortunately, the story quickly cascaded through what many would classify as the right-wing tabloid media, led by the highly dubious Washington Times (not to be confused with the real media outlet The Washington Post), The Blaze, Drudge Report, and also by ‘alternative’ media outlet Infowars.
The ad revenues from this story alone across all media have already generated millions of dollars in the aggregate.
The Judicial Watch blog post then goes on to build-up an imaginary case stating, “During the course of a joint operation last week, Mexican Army and federal law enforcement officials discovered documents in Arabic and Urdu, as well as “plans” of Fort Bliss – the sprawling military installation that houses the US Army’s 1st Armored Division. Muslim prayer rugs were recovered with the documents during the operation.”
Of course, no such “ISIS documents” or “prayer rugs” were ever presented by the Mexican authorities. So the logical conclusion should be fairly certain to anyone by now: they do not exist.
Not content with the initial fake news story, Judicial Watch doubled-down with a “follow-up” story contrived in order to add credence and reinforce the original fake story planted earlier on Tuesday.
The follow-up is impressively entitled, “FBI Holds “Special” Meeting in Juárez to Address ISIS, DHS Not Invited”, and again, claims to have scooped this off of a “high-level intelligence source”, who must remain anonymous for “safety reasons”. Here they claim that another anonymous source has leaked to Judicial Watch about “a secret FBI meeting to determine who is providing information to Judicial Watch”.
There are only two possibilities here. Either the editor at Judicial Watch is being fed fake information by his “anonymous intelligence sources”, or the editor is simply making it up. Either way, you cannot call it journalism, or even ‘reporting’. Perhaps worse, is the fact that so many other alternative media outlets have not even questioned the original blog post, and ran with such a wild fish story.
All anonymous, and all secret. This has all the makings of a classic circular media psy-op. Judicial Watch continues, stating that:
“To the east of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, cartel-backed “coyotes” are also smuggling ISIS terrorists through the porous border between Acala and Fort Hancock, Texas.”
Almost hidden away at the very bottom of the same propaganda article in the Washington Times, a tacit admission is printed confirming that the story is not real, stating that Mexican authorities dispute the Judicial Watch invention:
“The government of Mexico dismisses and categorically denies each of the statements made today by the organization Judicial Watch on the alleged presence of ISIS’s operating cells throughout the border region, particularly at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua – El Paso, Texas,” Ariel Moutsatsos-Morales, Mexico’s minister for press and public affairs, told The Washington Times.
The irony here is almost comical, as this official denial by the Mexican government and Moutsatsos-Morales – is the only real item to be found throughout this whole invented ISIS drama.
Last August, Judicial Watch issued a similar non-story which “reported” that:
“ISIS operating from Ciudad Juárez, was planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level U.S. federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources confirmed then that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border had been issued.”
They go on to be even more vague, saying, “Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice and Defense agencies were placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning the imminent terrorist threat.”
The wording certainly sounds as if it was issued from the Department of Homeland Security itself.
In essence, the whole story here is that a “warning bulletin was issued” about an “imminent attack on the border”. This was timed on the heels of the last summer’s highly politicized Immigration-Border Crisis. Reports even appeared which claimed that ‘ISIS Plans To Invade Mexico’. Back in August, September and October, these very same voices who were hyping the ‘ISIS in Mexico’ narrative were also shamelessly cooking-up the ultimate trifecta – connecting Ebola to ISIS and the US southern border.
Evil “Mosque-looking building” in Anapra, Mexico, most likely a night club, or maybe an eccentric drug-dealer’s attempt at recreating Disney World south of the border (Image: Video Still from Infowars.com).
Infowars.com daring crack reporter Joe Biggs went on to embellish Judicial Watch’s ‘story that wasn’t.’ He was said to be conducting an ‘in-depth report’, only the deeper Biggs went, the more ridiculous the whole affair became. After flying over a nondescript location (in Mexico, or Texas? It’s hard to believe anything at this point) in a single engine Cessna pointing out various building and churches, as well as a concrete patch that “looked suspicious”, Biggs then jumped in a car and “infiltrated the cartel-controlled border” and eventually claimed he had discovered a possible ISIS hide-out – in what he described as a suspicious “Large religious building surrounded by barbed wire”, and what he believed was a “Mosque-like structure” somewhere south of the border.
Despite the fact that no camp existed, the following day Infowars still ran the headline: “Confirmed: ISIS Camps Located a Few Miles From Texas and New Mexico”, along with “Borders wide open as terror group gains tactical advantage”.
The following day, Joe Biggs later drove around Anapra asking of local Mexicans, “Have you seen any Muslims around here?” If this were a SNL comedy skit, it would have been awesome, but the fact that Biggs was trying to pretend that it’s news shows little respect for his audience, and is quite frankly… beyond ludicrous.
This adolescent brand of infotainment reporting will only be used to discredit alternative media in the future.
This type of fake news story is also commonly coupled with other fear-based, right-wing media talking points like:
1. Fears of a ‘Sharia Law’ Takeover.
2. Obama is Behind ISIS
3. ISIS Bringing Ebola in US Over the Border
In late March another fake story began circulating exclusively through US right-wing websites claiming that, “Muslims Tried To Bring Sharia Law To Texas“. The real story was nothing of the sort. It was built on the back of another fake story claiming that an “Islamic Tribunal established in Texas”, when there was no tribunal or ‘court’ established. Perhaps unknown to the right-wing media pundits is the fact that Islamic ‘sharia’ customs are applied in the same manner as Jewish ‘Kosher’ customs, specifically with regards to family and social areas like marriage, funerals, usury and food preparation. Similar parallels can be made with Amish ‘laws’ and even with certain Christian, or Catholic social doctrines. No doubt egged-on by political operatives, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne moved to construct a classic straw man argument where she erroneously claimed that somehow Irving’s modest Muslim community was attempting a ‘Sharia takeover’ by establishing a “Foreign Islamic Court” designed to override or supersede the US Constitution. She then passed a city-wide resolution against this new ‘threat’. The reward for Van Duyne was political – winning more far-right votes by stoking fear in her own community (straight out of old Sheriff Joe’s playbook). Watch:
The other popular conspiracy theory is that somehow, President Obama is secretly working with ISIS. This over-simplified, reductionalist narrative assumes that the President controls everything globally, even though this notion should have been put to bed after the reign of George W. Bush. “Obama is funding ISIS”, propagandists are able to politicize what is historically an apolitical issue – that US intelligence agencies and their allies have consistently trained and funded terrorists from numerous regions, including launching al Qaeda through Operation Cyclone, and also supporting terrorist groups like Jundullah, the MEK, along with other terrorist groups in Iran, as well as in Central and South America, and recently with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, and also with western cooperating with multiple terrorist fighting groups in Syria. By propagating the throwaway propaganda line that “Obama is behind ISIS”, it gets the CIA and other clandestine entities off the hook (so whichever media operatives are pushing that line – are effectively pushing the CIA line), and serves to further polarize an already ill-informed and divided America along false left-right lines.
Nothing happens by accident in American politics. The new fundamentalist vanguard in the Republic Party represents an extremist, far right-wing, PNAC world view, and it’s composed of war hawks like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tom Cotton (R-AR).
Another key actor in this extremist enclave is Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) who was the first US politician to openly punt the sensational ‘ISIS is invading the US through Mexico’ tale in 2014. He took things even further, later claiming that ISIS would bring Ebola into the US via the southern border. “You simply have to secure the border and make sure that people we don’t want coming in the country whether they have Ebola or they’re terrorists, name your terrorist organization, they’re coming in through the southern border. This isn’t that complicated,” he said on Sean Hannity’s radio show on Oct. 15, 2014. Not surprisingly, FOX’s Hannity lapped it up. Despite any evidence to support his claim, Hunter stuck by the fable insisting that, “at least 10 ISIS fighters” were caught by US border security officers trying to cross the US southern border. Hunter’s partner in creating this story appeared to be California Republican spokesman, Joe Kasper, who then claimed the DHS ‘denial’ of the ISIS arrested were somehow ‘proof’ that Obama was covering up the story. Kasper tried to shore-up his own straw man creation saying, “because foreign nationals with terrorists associations, captured on the border, doesn’t really play well for an administration trying to convince the world that the border is secure.”
The U.S. government would later confirm that Hunter’s claims were false. In other words, it was a lie. Just like all the lies before and after it, it was designed to instill fear in the media, and to further divide America along extremist political lines.
Fake News Helps ISIS
Are fake news stories about ISIS in the public interest? Not really, but they do help ISIS. Charlie Winter, a researcher with the counter-extremism thinktank Quilliam, told The Independent this:
“Mr Winter said that while there had always been “scare stories” about the terror groups of the Middle East setting up bases closer to home for the US, it was “very important to think about how reporting on Isis reflects the group”.
“This is exactly the kind of coverage Isis wants, for others to project and exaggerate its menace for it.”
Fake News Lays Groundwork for a False Flag in US
The other problem with fake ISIS stories is that these could be used as PR padding required for a future false flag attack on US soil. After years of being inundated by ISIS fear propaganda, most people will just relent and automatically register any false flag as the work of ISIS. Again, this is where the media are playing straight into CIA and Operation Mockingbird-type synthetic narratives. Ironically, websites like Infowars.com used to dedicate most of its time educating Americans about fake media stories, only now they seem to be creating them. They also used to educate Americans about government false flag attacks on US, but now it seems that they may be, knowingly or not, playing some role in facilitating the public opinion swing needed for the government to sell a future “ISIS Attack in America” to an unwitting American population. Keeping America scared.
This week’s bogus Taco Jihad is just the latest in that new popular genre of propaganda being advanced by partisan charlatans and their corrupted media outlets. If you think that this will be the last “ISIS in Mexico” story – you’d be wrong. The same media operative who planted this story will continue to recycle it, over and over.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Judicial Watch claims to be a ‘conservative and nonpartisan’ watchdog organization. In reality, it is mostly partisan, favoring the Republican Party and the far right-wing in America. Its supporters will point to its many activities and investigations over the years, and while Judicial Watch has certainly achieved genuine successes as a legal and advocacy group in the past, its recent PR stunt propagandizing about ‘ISIS in Mexico’ should cast serious doubts over its legitimacy as a media or ‘news’ outlet. In this instance it is functioning as a disinformation outlet.
(Edited by Peter Sterry)