Seven Steps of Highly Effective Manipulators

White Helmets, Avaaz, Nicholas Kristof and Syria No Fly Zone

You might think that after seeing the consequences of their campaign for “freedom and democracy” in Libya, journalists like Nicholas Kristof and “humanitarian campaigners” like Avaaz would have some qualms.

Unfortunately they have learned nothing. They have generally not been held to account, with a few nice exceptions such as this Greenwald/Hussain article. And now they are at it again. Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration shows the sequence and trail of deceit leading to Avaaz’s call for a No Fly Zone in Syria.

unnamedFollowing is a brief description documenting the flow of misinformation and deceit, beginning at the Source and ending with Avaaz’s campaign for NATO/US attack on Syria.


The “Source” is unknown at this time. It might be some US agency with or without the approval of the Obama administration. Or it might be another foreign government which seeks, in plain violation of international law,  the overthrow the Syrian government.  In addition to the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, France, Britain and Qatar have each spent hundreds of millions and even billions in heavy weaponry plus 3,000 tons of weapons via Croatia plus arming, training, supplying and paying the salaries of thousands of domestic and international mercenaries sowing mayhem and destruction in Syria.

At this point we do not know but there is a REWARD:  $100 finders fee to the first person who can provide credible evidence identifying the SOURCE.


This is an international PR firm. CEO is Jeremy Heimans, a co-founder of Avaaz.

President is Kevin Steinberg, previous CEO of World Economic Forum USA (antithesis of World Social Forum).  Their website describes their goal:

“Purpose builds and accelerates movements to tackle the world’s biggest problems.”

In this case the “problem” is reluctance to take over Syrian skies and land.

For a hefty fee, “Purpose” will dupe the public and break down that reluctance.

Toward that end,  Purpose created “The Syria Campaign”.

The Syria Campaign 

The Syria Campaign began in spring 2014. One of their first efforts was to work to prevent publicity and information about the Syrian Presidential Election of June 2014. Accordingly, “The Syria Campaign” pressured Facebook to remove advertisements or publicity about the Syrian election.  Since then Syria Campaign has engineered huge media exposure and mythology about their baby, the “White Helmets” using all sorts of social and traditional media. The campaigns are largely fact free. For example, the Syrian election was dismissed out of hand by them and John Kerry but taken seriously by many millions of Syrians.

The Syria Campaign is managed by Anna Nolan,  who grew up in northern Ireland and has very likely never been to Syria. In addition to promoting the White Helmets,  Syria Campaign promotes a new social media campaign called “Planet Syria”. It features emotional pleas for the world to take notice of Syria in another thinly veiled effort pushing for foreign intervention and war.

According to their website, The Syria Campaign received start-up funding from the foundation of Ayman Asfari, a billionaire who made his money in the oil and gas services industry.

White Helmets

White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria.  Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

The trainees are said to be ‘nonpartisan’ but only work in rebel-controlled areas of Idlib (now controlled by Nusra/Al Queda) and Aleppo. There are widely divergent claims regarding the number of people trained by the White Helmets and the number of people rescued.  The numbers are probably highly exaggerated especially since rebel-controlled territories have few civilians. A doctor who recently served in a rebel-controlled area of Aleppo described it as a ghost town. The White Helmets work primarily with the rebel group Jabat al Nusra (Al Queda in Syria). Video of the recent alleged chlorine gas attacks starts with the White Helmet logo and continues with the logo of Nusra. In reality, White Helmets is a small rescue team for Nusra/Al Queda.

But White Helmets primary function is propaganda. White Helmets demonizes the Assad government and encourages direct foreign intervention.  A White Helmet leader wrote a recent Washington Post editorial.  White Helmets are also very active on social media with presence on Twitter, Facebook etc.  According to their website, to contact White Helmets email The Syria Campaign which underscores the relationship.

Nicholas Kristof/New York Times

The “White Helmets” campaign has been highly successful because of uncritical media promotion.  Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was an advocate of the NATO/US attack on Libya. According to him, villagers who had been shot, injured and their homes destroyed were not bitter, they were thankful! . “Hugs from Libyans” is how he viewed it.  It was, of course, nonsense, helping to pave the way in the invasion and destruction of the country.

Now Kristof is uncritically promoting the White Helmets, aiding and abetting their political and propaganda message seeking foreign intervention in Syria.


Avaaz is an online lobby organization founded in 2007 by Jeremy Heimans (now CEO of Purpose) and others. Start-up funding was provided by George Soros’ foundation.  While Avaaz has promoted some worthy causes, they have been prominent in promoting neoliberal foreign policies in keeping with the U.S. State Department. Accordingly, they had a major disinformation campaign against Venezuela last year.

Avaaz very actively promoted a No Fly Zone in Libya. They are now very actively promoting the same for Syria.

In-depth research and exposure of Avaaz can be found here. The titles give some indication: “Faking It: Charity Communications in the Firing Line”, “Syria: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire”, “Avaaz: Imperialist Pimps for Militarism”.

Avaaz justifies its call for No Fly Zone in part on White Helmets. Given the close interconnections between Avaaz and Purpose, they are surely aware that White Helmets is a media creation. This calls into question their sincerity.


The manipulators rely on emotional images and messages, not facts. They depend on willing partners in the mainstream media who amplify the easy and glib characterizations of who and what is good and bad.  The manipulators depend on their audience not asking questions or investigating on their own. In these times of rapid spread of visual and text information via social media, the potential for deceit is huge.


unnamedAvaaz Petition for Libya No Fly Zone — 2011

unnamedAvaaz Petition for Syria No Fly Zone — 2015 (Syria Campaign Posting)

unnamedKristoff/New York Times/2011

unnamedKristoff/New York Times/2015


unnamedThe Real White Helmet Purpose:  Propaganda

Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at Read other articles by Rick.