2020 was a chaotic year for the planet. While the Covid-19 pandemic dominated global politics, The Grayzone continued shining a light on the machinations of empire, from the persecution of imprisoned journalist Julian Assange to the defeat of a US-backed coup regime in Bolivia, from the growing corporate war on free speech to the OPCW’s scandalous Syria cover-up.
Throughout the year, The Grayzone’s website had more than 5.24 million views and 2.48 million unique visitors. Our small, independently funded team of journalists published nearly 300 reports, filing on-the-ground dispatches from Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Colombia.
These are our top 12 stories from 2020.
The Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal published a series of exclusive reports on imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, some of which were brought up by the defense in the UK extradition case against the Australian journalist.
Blumenthal exposed the role of the security team of billionaire Republican Party mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in an apparent CIA spying operation targeting Assange when he had asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
Blumenthal’s reporting helped lead to further developments in the case, including a Spanish judge’s formal request to probe Adelson’s security chief in the CIA spying on Assange.
Even more scandalously, Blumenthal showed how a CIA contractor spied on US journalists that reported on Assange — and how the intelligence agency-friendly media personalities did absolutely nothing to defend their rights.
The Grayzone also obtained and published exclusive photographs surreptitiously taken inside a British courtroom showing the undemocratic, dystopian conditions that Assange was being held in during his extradition hearing.
If there was another story that captured headlines in 2020 as much as the Covid-19 pandemic, it was the US government-led cold war on China.
The Grayzone published a series of reports, which continued on the base established by The Grayzone’s 2019 investigations, showing how intelligence agencies fueled anti-China myths that became dominant in Western politics and culture.
Max Blumenthal exposed the Western media’s favorite ‘Hong Kong’ activist to actually be a white American regime-change operative with a history in the human rights industry.
The Grayzone contributor Ajit Singh showed how the Donald Trump administration spread conspiracy theories to blame China for the novel coronavirus and deflect from its own failures at home.
Singh documented how these anti-Beijing rumors are churned out of highly partisan Western think tanks funded to the hilt by Washington, NATO member states, and the weapons industry.
A key part of this anti-China disinformation campaign was unsubstantiated accusations made about the country’s Uighur community. Singh showed how the US government pours millions of dollars into the coffers of extremist separatist groups like the World Uyghur Congress to turn up the heat internationally on Beijing.
In a series of exclusive reports by Aaron Maté, The Grayzone exposed corruption in global chemical watchdog the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the body’s manipulation and cover-up of an investigation into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria in April 2018.
In February, we revealed a chilling email from a former senior OPCW official who warned of a climate of intimidation against dissenting inspectors, and also published the leaked UN testimony of one of the dissenting inspectors on the Douma mission, Ian Henderson.
Also in March, we published a statement provided to The Grayzone by an anonymous OPCW official who came forward to voice alarm at the Douma cover-up. This official denounced the “abhorrent mistreatment” of the two dissenting inspectors, and also warned of a climate of intimidation designed to keep other staffers “frightened into silence.”
In May, we revealed that OPCW Director General Fernando Arias had made false claims about dissenting inspector Ian Henderson in a bid to minimize his role in the Douma probe. Leaked documents obtained by The Grayzone undermined Arias’ claims that Henderson “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.”
In September, Aaron Maté testified about the OPCW cover-up in a session of the United Nations Security Council. In his remarks, Maté called the scandal “one of the most important, and overlooked, global stories in recent memory” and urged the UN and OPCW to let the dissenting inspectors air their concerns.
In October, the US, UK, and France took the extraordinary step of blocking the UN testimony of José Bustani, the OPCW’s first director general. Bustani had come to speak out in support of the inspectors. After the unprecedented censorship of the veteran diplomat, The Grayzone published his suppressed remarks. Shortly after, Bustani gave an exclusive interview to Aaron Maté on Pushback in which he praised the inspectors, criticized the OPCW cover-up, and revealed that he had been spied on during the lead-up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
In another exclusive, renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky made his first public remarks on the OPCW scandal in an interview on Pushback. “What happened certainly arouses very severe suspicions… The United States and its allies want the evidence provided by some of the top inspectors to be banned,” Chomsky said. “And the OPCW is capitulating to this, which is pretty shocking.”
Also in October, The Grayzone exposed a hoax by Bellingcat, the NATO member state-funded website. Bellingcat attempted to denigrate OPCW inspector Brendan Whelan — and whitewash the cover-up he challenged — by publishing part of a letter that it claimed was sent to Whelan. Bellingcat asserted that the letter undermined Whelan’s concerns, and suggested that both he and The Grayzone had kept it from the public. In reality, the letter that Bellingcat claimed was sent to Whelan was never actually sent. It also contained ludicrous assertions. In exposing Bellingcat’s hoax, The Grayzone exclusively published the actual OPCW letter that Whelan was sent — as well as Whelan’s initial letter to the OPCW, which detailed concerns that have yet to be addressed.
In November, we sent, and published, a series of questions to the BBC over a falsehood-ridden podcast that it aired. The 10-part series, Mayday, attempted to whitewash the White Helmets and the OPCW’s Douma cover-up. Despite initially agreeing to, the BBC has yet to provide answers.
Finally, The Grayzone closed the year with another exclusive report that showed that OPCW executives privately criticized the manipulation of a Syria chemical weapons probe, and supported dissenting inspector Brendan Whelan’s efforts to challenge the cover-up. One official, however, feared helping the “Russian narrative.” The report also provided new details on how other senior officials carried out the cover-up.
Throughout 2020, The Grayzone documented how Big Tech corporations worked closer and closer with US intelligence agencies to censor voices, both in the United States and abroad, that challenged Washington’s interventionist narratives.
The Grayzone contributor Gareth Porter showed how the FBI waged a campaign to destroy an independent news website in the name of protecting “national security.”
Hawkish Western government-funded think tanks targeted The Grayzone in their censorial disinformation campaign, as contributor Alexander Rubinstein reported.
Ben Norton documented how the US government’s regime-change arm the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a CIA cutout, has waged a full-frontal attack on independent journalists, including those at The Grayzone, who expose Western regime-change operations.
Norton also showed how the leader of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team for the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), Richard Stengel, urged the government to use propaganda against its “own population” and called to “rethink” the First Amendment.
The Grayzone likewise documented how editing on the internet encyclopedia Wikipedia was largely taken over by politically motivated Western regime-change advocates, who have used the platform to censor facts and viewpoints that diverge from the Washington Consensus.
The top officials who help run Wikipedia are deeply linked to US government regime-change organizations, we showed.
Despite intense Covid-19 restrictions, The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal, Anya Parampil, and Ben Norton managed to travel to Bolivia in October to report on the repression of the US-backed coup regime, and its historic loss in national elections.
We documented the crimes committed by the junta, producing an original documentary featuring family members of the victims of the notorious Senkata massacre.
We also traveled to the rural Cochabamba region to meet Patricia Arce, a leader from Bolivia’s Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party who was publicly tortured and humiliated during the November 2019 coup.
We similarly shined a light on the authoritarian crackdown by the Bolivian coup regime on the eve of the election.
The Bolivian dictatorship repeatedly threatened international election observers, including The Grayzone reporters when we were in the country.
The Grayzone’s Ben Norton obtained a cache of leaked UK Foreign Office documents showing how Western governments ran a massive propaganda operation as part of its proxy war on Syria.
The materials reveal how every aspect of the Syrian opposition was cultivated and marketed by Western government-backed public relations firms, and how international media coverage of the conflict was heavily influenced, distorted, and even created by these contractors themselves.
Max Blumenthal similarly showed how a disinformation campaign backed by the US government and the monarchy of Qatar was weaponized by the media to justify a crushing Western sanctions regime that unleashed an unprecedented economic and humanitarian crisis inside Syria.
The Grayzone editor-in-chief Max Blumenthal produced a deep investigation into the billionaire-funded corporate astroturfing infrastructure that has taken hold of the climate justice movement in North America.
Blumenthal showed how these oligarch-sponsored forces unified to successfully censor a documentary produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, “Planet of the Humans.”
Max Blumenthal and Anya Parampil reported from inside Venezuela during its December National Assembly election, where they dispelled media myths about the country’s democracy and shined a light on US government-led regime-change operations.
Blumenthal reported from a pro-government rally, where average Venezuelans spoke about the hybrid war on their homeland.
Parampil interviewed pro-Chavista voters, who are totally ignored in mainstream corporate media, in a video package from the polls.
Anya Parampil also revealed in an exclusive scoop in July how the “attorney general” appointed by Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó, José Ignacio Hernandez, raked in lucrative fees as a legal mercenary for the corporate looters of Venezuela’s PDVSA oil company.
The Grayzone’s Ben Norton exposed how a US government-linked PR firm ran a huge disinformation campaign on social media to spread propaganda on behalf of the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and Bolivia.
We showed how the US government’s so-called humanitarian arm USAID spent hundreds of billions of dollars to bankroll this right-wing Venezuelan opposition.
Some of the money that the US government illegally seized from Venezuela in this regime-change attempt, Norton documented, was used to fund Trump’s border wall with Mexico.
This critical coverage of Venezuela led right-wing opposition leaders to blame The Grayzone and President Nicolás Maduro for the US uprising against police brutality, following the brutal killing of George Floyd, as Alexander Rubinstein reported.
Building on The Grayzone’s deep reporting on a brutally violent US-backed coup attempt in Nicaragua in 2018, targeting the small country’s democratically elected socialist Sandinista government, Ben Norton filed a series of reports from inside the country in 2020.
Norton uncovered a document from the US government’s soft-power arm USAID detailing new plans for a regime-change attempt, to bring about a “market economy” and a purge of Sandinistas.
The Grayzone also exposed how violent Nicaraguan coup-plotters who were dubbed “political prisoners” by US government-funded opposition groups and subsequently released under pressure by Washington and the Organization of American States then went on to murder innocent people, including their own pregnant girlfriends.
Norton traveled to rural Jinotepe to interview family members of one of the victims.
Ben Norton was the only international reporter who got access to the small gathering marking the 41st anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, which was held in the capital Managua under tight Covid-19 restrictions on July 19.
While foreign corporate media outlets spread demonstrable lies and distortions about Nicaragua’s response to the novel coronavirus, Norton filed dispatches showing the reality on the ground.
And we detailed the role of the billionaire-funded human rights industry in advancing this regime-change war on Nicaragua and Venezuela, in collaboration with the US government.
Contributors Jeremy Loffredo and Michele Greenstein published a lengthy investigation for The Grayzone documenting how, with the help of a compliant Western media that was bought and sold by corporate oligarchs, billionaire Bill Gates and his Gates Foundation have exploited the Global South as a human laboratory, to suck out profits — and how Covid-19 kicked its privatization schemes into hyperdrive.
When newcomer Pete Buttigieg was elevated to the status of a Democratic Party star and media celebrity practically overnight, The Grayzone contributor Alexander Rubinstein looked past the neoliberal wunderkind marketing and documented the former US military spy’s work with the CIA during the war on Afghanistan.
Contributor Samuel D. Finkelstein investigated the long list of spooks and coup-plotters who were behind Buttigieg’s campaign.
And Max Blumenthal showed how Buttigieg’s political career was carefully birthed and groomed in a petri dish with elite national security insiders.
Related to these exposés were The Grayzone’s investigations into the sabotage of the Iowa caucus by Democratic Party elites in February, with the money of a shadowy billionaire.
As an increasingly vicious right-wing campaign against Mexico’s progressive President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) escalated in 2020, The Grayzone’s Ben Norton showed how the country’s oligarchs and establishment political parties united in a secret alliance to try to remove him from power, with help from the media, Washington, and Wall Street.
Contributor José Guadalupe Argüello III and Norton likewise investigated the opposition alliance leading the campaign to undemocratically topple President AMLO, and documented their corporate ties and extreme-right views.
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