Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian on the new world of "tribal epistemology", where you don't just put a different interpretation on known facts: you actually dispute that the facts are facts.
The more egregious example is also the more serious. At a concert in Barcelona, the former Pink Floyd star Roger Waters accused the Syria Civil Defence, or White Helmets – the volunteers who pull survivors from the rubble of bomb attacks, and are widely credited with saving thousands of civilian lives – of being “a fake organisation that exists only to create propaganda for the jihadists and terrorists”.
That claim, which has been repeatedly debunked, was instantly applauded and spread by the same crowd of pro-Russia voices on the far left and far right who have served so dutifully as Assad’s online cheerleaders. To them, Waters was a hero for daring to speak an unpopular truth. For everyone else, a once admired musician had joined the ranks of conspiracist cranks and apologists for a murderous dictator.
The remark by Waters fitted a story the Assad denialists have been telling for a while: that the chemical attack in Douma was fake, staged by the White Helmets and their western friends. Russian state TV even aired footage that, it claimed, showed a film set where such atrocities are cooked up. (The pictures were, in fact, taken from the set of a Syrian feature film.)....
Waters and the rest may seem like fringe voices, but such thinking eventually leaks into the mainstream. On yesterday’s Question Time, Emily Thornberry echoed the Russian claim that chemical weapons inspectors were being kept out of Douma by UN red tape and health and safety rules – when in fact it is Assad and Russia keeping them out: long enough, presumably, to ensure that by the time they’re granted access the crucial evidence will have been cleared away.
It makes for a chilling landscape, a world where atrocities are committed twice over – once when they are done, and again when they are denied. Not decades later, but even as the dead are still being buried. The great division of our time may not, after all, be between left and right or open and closed, but something more fundamental still: between what is true and what is false.
No surprise really about Roger Waters. He's long been an outspoken BDS supporter, and has compared Israeli policies with those of the Nazis. The Anti-Defamation League, back in 2013, reluctantly acknowledged that “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” have “seeped into the totality” of the former Pink Floyd frontman’s views. Even his fans think he's maybe crossed a line with this, though.
Others have been less kind:
Waters was accused of “echoing Russian propaganda” in The New Arab, an online publication. Idrees Ahmad, a lecturer in digital journalist at Scotland’s University of Stirling and a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, wrote on Twitter that Waters “debuts a new career as a conspiracist crank promoting racist slurs against Syrian first responders.”