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28 Aug, 2018 17:38

Don’t tell him, Pike! The laughable (yet sinister) list of ‘International Assadists’

Don’t tell him, Pike! The laughable (yet sinister) list of ‘International Assadists’

A newly-compiled directory of 151 ‘International Assadists’ is both hilarious - for all the mistakes in it, but disturbing too, as it represents a McCarthyite attempt to police the debate on Syria.

It was voted the funniest comedy scene of all time and with good reason. A U-boat commander, held captive by the Home Guard platoon in Dad’s Army, is making a list of people who will be ‘brought to account’ when Germany wins the war. The young Private Pike sings a little ditty mocking Adolf Hitler. “Your name will also go on ze list. Vot is it?” the U-boat commander declares. “Don’t tell him, Pike!” says Captain Mainwaring. The U-boat commander writes the name ‘Pike’ on his list.

Forty-five years on from that classic episode of Dad’s Army first being broadcast, it seems the obsessive list-compiling German officer has a disciple.

READ MORE: Chomsky, Hersh and... Boris Johnson? Twitter pundits ponder odd 'Assadist' blacklist

Step forward one, Kester Ratcliff, an ‘EvoBio’ Msc student based in Groningen, in The Netherlands. Ratcliff isn’t a Nazi, but boy, he wouldn’t have been out of place in that scene in Dad’s Army. Because if you’re a public figure, who has ever opposed, even in the mildest way possible, Western foreign policy towards Syria - your name too will go on ze list, just as Private Pike‘s did.

By Ratcliff’s own admission you don’t even have to be ‘pro-Assad’ to be included in his ‘International Assadists Reference Directory’.

His definition of ‘Assadist’ is incredibly wide - so wide in fact that it even includes those who have supported air strikes on Syrian government targets.

All pro-Assad people are Assadists (they repeat Assadist propaganda claims), but not all Assadists are in their own view pro-Assad,” he explains in the introduction. In other words, if you repeat anything on Syria that he regards as an “Assadist propaganda claim”, you’re an Assadist. Even if you make it clear you strongly oppose the Syrian president - and support bombing Syrian airfields, like former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is listed.

Ratcliff, to be fair, doesn’t damn everyone equally. In his ‘Ten Point Scale of Assadism’ he says that people who only assert points 1-4 on his scale are “more likely to be recoverable than people who assert 4-9.”

However Ratcliff doesn’t say how these people (which include me), can be ‘recovered’. Do we have to attend a compulsory re-education course? Do we have to recant our sins in public? Please let us know, Kester!

When it comes to names, the mistakes in the directory made me laugh long into the night.

Alexander Cockburn is on the list - but the poor man died in 2012. Perhaps he‘s promulgating ‘Assadist propaganda‘ in Heaven?

Marcus Papadopoulos is described as someone who “works for RT‘‘ and is “a major figure in the FBI and Mueller investigations of Russian interference in the US election.” But he doesn’t work for RT and is not a major figure in the FBI and Mueller investigations. That’s George Papadopoulos. The mistake has subsequently been corrected.

My own brief entry has me described as a writer for ‘Global Research’. That’s news for me, as I’ve never written for them in my life. What Global Research has done, rather naughtily, is republish some of my RT articles without my knowledge, consent or payment. The original source of the publication was visible on the G.R. website, but Ratcliff obviously missed it in his enthusiasm to link me to the outlet.

John Pilger, the award-winning veteran anti-war journalist, is described not in those terms, but as being on the “Western Assadists celebrities speaking circuit (!) often speaking alongside Vanessa Beeley, especially in the ’Media on Trial’ series.” But Pilger has never spoken at a ’Media on Trial’ event. He pulled out of one due to illness last year, and there‘s only been one more.

Didn’t Ratcliff know this? He can easily have watched a video online and seen for himself that John P wasn’t there.

Just reporting factual events can get you a listing in the International Assadists References Directory. Jonathan Steele, a former Middle East correspondent for the Guardian, who knows more about Syria than his detractors will have forgotten by breakfast, is included on account of an article he wrote about an opinion poll which showed that the majority of Syrians support Assad.

By that measure anyone who writes about a poll which shows Trump in the lead is a ‘Trumpist’.

The list includes figures across the political spectrum, but what unites many of those featured (when they’re spelt correctly), is the fact that they have actually been to Syria and reported from there. Has Ratcliff done the same, I wonder? He says he has spoken to many Syrian refugees, which is commendable, but has he actually been to see for himself what’s been going on?

The errors in the ‘International Assadists Reference Directory’ didn’t stop several quite high profile figures from promoting it enthusiastically on social media as a brilliant piece of work. “A useful directory of people defending the Assad regime,” declared Brian Whitaker. “The trolls of Putin, mapped as the defenders of Assad,” said Molly McKew. (Her post was retweeted by David Aaronovitch of The Times) “This is a useful resource,”announced Shane Bauer of Mother Jones.    

In fact, it’s a ‘useful resource’ only if you support McCarthyism on steroids, and have Dad’s Army U-Boat commander style tendencies to compile blacklists of people who say the ‘wrong’ things. Ratcliff makes it quite clear in his introduction why he compiled the list. But all attempts to police the debates on Syria and brand people beyond the pale, because they don’t take the ‘right’ line should be resisted.

Let’s go back to WWII to illustrate how absurd Ratcliff’s logic is. In 1941, an agreement was signed between Britain and the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced: “The cause of any Russian fighting for hearth and home is the cause of free men and free peoples in every quarter of the globe.

Did that make him a ‘Stalinist’?

And what about the Minister of Supply and right-wing newspaper magnate Lord Beaverbrook, who declared “Communism under Stalin has produced the most valiant fighting army in Europe. Communism under Stalin has provided us with examples of patriotism equal to the finest annals of history. Communism under Stalin has won the applause and admiration of all the Western nations. Communism under Stalin has produced the best generals in this war.

If Ratcliff had been around in 1941, would he have been compiling an ‘International Stalinists References Directory’, which would have included the entire UK government and almost everyone in Britain?

There are direct parallels with today. For the Red Army 1941-45,  read the Syrian Arab Army 2011-18. For the Battle of Stalingrad, read the Battle of Aleppo. It’s not ‘Stalinist propaganda’ to point out that the alternative to a victory for the Soviet Union in WWII was a victory for the Nazis.

It’s not ‘Assadist propaganda’ to point out that the alternative to a victory for the Syrian government in the brutal conflict was a victory for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and similar extreme sectarian groups - the sort of groups who have slaughtered religious minorities and carried out terror attacks against civilians in the UK and other countries across the world.

US Secretary of State John Kerry admitted, on tape, that the US had watched IS/Daesh extend its territory in the hope it would weaken the Syrian government. “The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger. Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus at some point and that’s why Russia came in… We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength… we thought that we could manage that Assad might then negotiate,” Kerry said.

Just imagine if IS had got to Damascus and Syria had then fallen under their full control.  You’d have a Middle Eastern country, bordering on the Med, from where terror attacks on Britain and other countries could be planned and orchestrated. Any sane person, who has seen the carnage unleashed by IS and similar groups worldwide, would prefer those fighting them to prevail.   

This is the fundamental problem with Ratcliff’s analysis. He fails to understand that in war, there are often no ‘perfect’ options. He claims to oppose binary thinking, but his blacklist is based on such thinking. In the end, labelling people ‘Assadists’ to try and place them beyond the pale won’t work. As in 1941 when ’Thank God for Russia’ was a common cry, most people can see the bigger picture. The German U-Boat commander was keen on making lists too, don’t forget, but he found himself on the wrong side of history.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.