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The MEK’s Fake Mouthpiece and Western Credulity

Murtaza Hussain has reported an important story [1] on the ongoing propaganda campaign sponsored by the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK) cult. This is the group of discredited Iranian exiles that has been building up its support in the West over the last decade by cultivating ties with and paying many Iran hawks, including the current National Security Advisor John Bolton. Hussain has found that a prominent online figure, Heshmat Alavi, is a fake persona created by the MEK’s troll farm in Albania to harass and attack journalists and analysts that criticize the cult and oppose war and regime change in Iran:

There’s a problem, though: Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi’s persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept.

“Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,” said Hassan Heyrani, a high-ranking defector from the MEK who said he had direct knowledge of the operation. “They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person.”

Heyrani said the fake persona has been managed by a team of MEK operatives in Albania, where the group has one of its bases, and is used to spread its message online.

The MEK has long been harassing and attacking journalists and analysts that oppose their fanatical regime change agenda and their creepy, abusive organization. On occasion, I have also been subjected to some of this same treatment on Twitter when I have pointed out the group’s past and its current abuses against its own members, but others have had to endure much worse harassment and threats for a long time. The Alavi case goes beyond unleashing the usual army of bots against the group’s critics. In this case, the fake persona was able to publish dozens of articles in Western news and opinion outlets promoting the MEK as the main Iranian opposition group and advocating for regime change in Iran:

Alavi, whose contributor biography on the Forbes website identifies him as “an Iranian activist with a passion for equal rights,” has published scores of articles on Iran over the past few years at Forbes, The Hill, the Daily Caller, The Federalist, Saudi-owned al-Arabiya English, and other outlets.

The problem here is not just that the MEK has managed to spread its poison in Western media using this fake persona, but that so many of these outlets readily accepted submissions from a pro-MEK trolling operation. It isn’t surprising that a creepy cult intent on rehabilitating its image in the West would resort to trickery and lies, but it is disturbing how willing so many of these outlets were to lend legitimacy to that effort and broadcast outright propaganda. It is equally troubling how long the MEK was able to get away with this before the deception was uncovered.

The Alavi case is an important piece of a larger story about how advocates of regime change in Iran have been resorting to harassment, intimidation, and smears of Iranian and Iranian-American journalists, analysts, and genuine activists for years. It is similar to the recent scandal involving U.S. government funding of the so-called Iran Disinformation Project that engaged in similar smear tactics and harassment against many of the same people, and it is part of the same phenomenon of shouting down credible opponents of regime change and war in an attempt to control the debate. Fortunately, thanks to Hussain’s story, Twitter has suspended the Alavi account and the fake persona has been outed to the entire world. No doubt the MEK will keep trying to promote their message in Western media outlets, and some will be happy to oblige them, but an important part of their campaign of deception and intimidation has been exposed and stopped.

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10 Comments To "The MEK’s Fake Mouthpiece and Western Credulity"

#1 Comment By Procivic On June 10, 2019 @ 2:50 am

The tactics have changed but the aims remain the same.

In the months leading up to the 1953 CIA-MI6 coup to replace the government of Mohammad Mosaddeq, money poured into the coffers of Iranan newspaper publishers to ensure front-page banners proclaimed “death to ” and “long live” stories at appropriate times.

After a bumpy start, that campaign was a success for its U.S. and British sponsors. This time the machinations employed by them and their co- conspirators has been a lot more invasive and lasted over 40 years.

#2 Comment By K Squared On June 10, 2019 @ 7:06 am

How much money were Bolton and Giuliani paid by MEK over the last 15 years?

#3 Comment By Christian J Chuba On June 10, 2019 @ 7:28 am

The irony is that U.S. officials frequently claim that the Iranian govt is active in both cyber hacking and spreading disinformation in facebook and twitter. The latter claim is absurd of course, has anyone actually seen a noticeable amount of pro-Iranian content in either place?

This proves the adage, if someone is making an accusation that they cannot prove, chances are they are projecting. Now about that claims of cyber hacking? Hmm…

#4 Comment By SteveM On June 10, 2019 @ 9:30 am

Re: K Squared, “How much money were Bolton and Giuliani paid by MEK over the last 15 years?”

Exactly. The implication is that Alavi being fictitious is largely irrelevant. The fundamental point is that whether from fictitious creations or real humans, policy makers and the MSM are saturated with supposedly objective opinions that are actually tendentious propaganda funded by organizations that use Beltway Swamp Creatures and their Think Pimp Tanks as fronts. And it is that tendentious propaganda that largely drives American foreign policy whether it’s about Iran or China or Russia or anything else.

Heritage, AEI, Brookings, etc., etc., etc. know what side their bread is buttered relative to the Warfare State and the MIC that largely funds them. I.e., they are script writers for the Global Cop Gorilla. MEK is just playing a variation of the same game.

#5 Comment By Sid Finster On June 10, 2019 @ 9:59 am

Great, another Ahmad Chalabi, another charlatan who fools an administration intent on regime change because he tells them what they want to hear.

#6 Comment By Jessup On June 10, 2019 @ 10:52 am

“Great, another Ahmad Chalabi …”

At least Chalabi was an actual human being. Bolton and Giuliani were working for a group that uses fake “people” with faked CVs to manipulate American public opinion.

#7 Comment By First Ashore On June 10, 2019 @ 12:38 pm

If it were some other recently “de-listed” terror group, behavior like this would probably land them back on the terror list. But the MEK has powerful enablers and protectors inside the Trump administration.

It’s been known since at least 2012 that the MEK received special training in espionage, disinformation, and terror operations by Israel’s secret services. Given that the current administration regularly lets known Israel proxies like Sheldon Adelson directly meddle in our politics, and that Trump’s people take their Mideast foreign policy cues from Israel and Saudi Arabia, it isn’t very surprising that they would allow another Israel proxy (the MEK) to do the same thing.

It would interesting to know whether Bolton, Giuliani et al pushed to de-list the MEK in order to make it easier for an Israeli proxy to disinform the American public.

#8 Comment By Clyde Schechter On June 10, 2019 @ 7:41 pm

Well, this isn’t exactly a surprise. Neo-conservatism was founded on lies and has consistently shown utter disregard for the truth or falsity of its claims. They clearly judge assertions only by their usefulness to their cause. They clearly believe that any means are justified by their ends of war and global domination.

The mystery here is why the media continue to give them a platform for their lies. If I ran a media outlet, I would be happy to publish op-ed pieces from a neoconservative perspective, but only after thoroughly vetting the sources and triple-checking every fact claimed. I do believe in free speech, but not freedom to flat-out lie. If the media operated by those principles, we would barely hear a peep from the neocons because, at this point, I think they wouldn’t know how to tell be truthful if they wanted to. They are a genuinely evil faction.

#9 Comment By another opinion On June 11, 2019 @ 8:29 am

Re First Ashore — “It would interesting to know whether Bolton, Giuliani et al pushed to de-list the MEK in order to make it easier for an Israeli proxy to disinform the American public.”

It wouldn’t be the first time, would it? At this point you can safely say that using foreign agents to lie America into war is standard neoconservative operating procedure.

#10 Comment By Sid Finster On June 11, 2019 @ 11:10 am

“At least Chalabi was an actual human being. Bolton and Giuliani were working for a group that uses fake “people” with faked CVs to manipulate American public opinion.”

See, a real Chalabi may go off message or turn out to be working for some foreign power. A fake Chalabi can be trusted to do none of these things, unless you count “Israel” and “Saudi Arabia” as foreign powers.

This is even better than “Curveball”. Anyone else remember him? Who says that the neocons have learned nothing from the Iraq fiasco?