The Deeply Distorted ‘Syria Deeply’

“Sites like Syria Deeply & Storyful need to be exposed for what they are –minions of an imperial mindset that act as the propaganda arm for the military industrial complex and profit on war & suffering. Any aid group that aligns with this is either deeply delusional or capitalising on obscene atrocities.”



April 11, 2013,

Lisa Inti, Wrong Kind of Green Critical Thinking Collective

Syria Deeply launched on March 12, 2012. It describes itself as “an independent digital media project led by journalists and technologists, exploring a new model of storytelling around a global crisis.” The word ‘independent’ appears to be a loose and vague term these days. Various members of the Syria Deeply team have been involved in ABC News, Bloomberg Television, the International Herald Tribune, the Business Insider, Monocle Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, TIME Magazine, The New York Times, Foreign Policy, ABC and PBS. Deborah Amos, the senior editorial advisor is a member of The Council on Foreign Relations.


Nadine Apelian Dobbs, the Senior Advisor for Strategy & Outreach for Syria Deeply was also “Assistant Director of Communications at the Council on Foreign Relations and then head of media relations for Foreign Affairs.” Her work has also included: “Chicago Ideas Week, an annual gathering of global thought leaders co-chaired by Groupon founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky; the 2012 NATO Summit, where she was a media consultant to The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a member of the city’s NATO Host Committee”.  At the bottom of the main page in the resources section, there are links to the International Crisis Group, the Council on Foreign Relations, Human Rights Watch and others. In short, Syria Deeply is an effort to centralise and promote media in line with US foreign policy. Lara Setrakian, the managing editor & co-founder says as much herself:

“Perhaps the greatest source of Setrakian’s passion for this project stems from her belief that technology can serve as a bridge between journalism and foreign policy: ‘The U.S. suffers for lack of foreign policy literacy–we need to make a quantum leap in how people understand the world and America’s role in it,’ … ‘Technology can help engineer that leap, as it helps us create a new wave of foreign news reporting and insight.'” []

Just in case they hadn’t made their objective clear enough to readers already, there is another article that is actually titled: “How we’re merging global awareness, foreign policy and education.”  The article details how the organisation intends to expand into schools ‘to infuse U.S. classrooms with foreign policy’. As if children aren’t bombarded with enough propaganda through schooling and television! Clearly, empire is losing its battle for minds and feels it has to step up the efforts substantially. There’s something disturbingly Orwellian about this project with its doublespeak name ‘Teach deeply’.



One feature on Syria Deeply is called Syria Deeply Asks. This is rather like those joke debate panels where all the so-called ‘experts’ say more or less the same answer. Or more to the point, the answers certainly do not oppose US foreign policy. These ‘experts’ are from think-tanks such as the Brookings Institute or Chatham House. Take a look at this as an example:


Here is another example question on Syria Deeply Asks: “Should Israel be more concerned about instability in Syria than it is about Iran’s nuclear program?” Does the propaganda implicit in this question need explaining??  Answers from a US state department official, an analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and director of the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affair. I kid you not:


There appears to be an increased effort being made to concentrate media to propagandize. LandDestroyer notes another propaganda operation called Storyful: “Storyful is a niche propaganda organization which supplies the Western media monopolies with filtered, pre-packaged biased accounts of world events – including of the ongoing Syria crisis. It boasts that its content, trawled from across the Internet’s various social media platforms, is cited 10’s of thousands of times across the Western media.” ( It is therefore no surprise to find a link to Storyful at the bottom of Syria Deeply’s homepage.


Be warned: there could be much more of this to come. The author at Fast Company enthusiastically notes: “More Deeply sites dedicated to Iran and Pakistan are already in the works–and Setrakian envisions more story-specific Deeply sites in the future, such as Drug War Deeply or Euro Debt Deeply.”

Setrakian herself is clearly interested in profitability: “Quality journalism is often information good enough to trade on; as you develop deep expertise in beats like Syria, Iran, China, or subject matter areas like oil markets, food security, and extreme weather, that expertise [can] be packaged into syndicated content, specialized premium products, B2B services, and executive education modules,” … pointing to her alma mater Bloomberg News as an example. “We [can] expand beyond the news business and serve the insight industry, which is booming.”


This overt enthusiasm for ‘serving the insight industry’, providing information ‘good enough to trade on’ and infusing schools with US foreign policy is grotesque in the face of horrific realities. The US, its allies & proxies have actively funded, armed and trained groups in order to destabilise Syria and replace the Syrian government with one favourable to the US. This has led to the escalation of war & violence that has left tens of thousands of people dead and the country in a state of ongoing violence and suffering. Syria Deeply has shown itself to be a tool to merge media networks, education & US foreign policy. So what are we to think of the ‘aid’ organisations promoted on the site?  The logical conclusion is that they too are aligned with US foreign policy objectives.


Cory Morningstar points out: “With each created crisis, comes the orchestrated opportunity for millions more dollars & branding for NGOs.” It is essentially engineered disaster capitalism. Sites like Syria Deeply & Storyful need to be exposed for what they are –minions of an imperial mindset that act as the propaganda arm for the military industrial complex and profit on war & suffering. Any aid group that aligns with this is either deeply delusional or capitalising on obscene atrocities.


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