COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

The spy chief said he did not know why Russia was so aggressive, adding: “Perhaps it feels threatened by the quality of Western institutions and Western alliances.”

Alex Younger, head of MI6, 16 February 2019

I’m sure that’s the reason: Putin and his inner circle sit around bemoaning the fact that, as Russians, they just never will have that mysterious quality.

RUSSIA THE ETERNAL ENEMY QUOTATIONS

All the clichés in one neat package.

  • Poor little NATO: just quietly minding its own business when those pesky Russians start doing exercises on its borders.
  • And again with the “rules-based order” claptrap: our rules, your disorder Ukraine, Libya, Syria and Venezuela.
  • What “Western interests” in the Middle East?
  • Amazing the “interference” a few grand on Facebook can produce, isn’t it?
  • Military activity in the rather large chunk of the Arctic it owns.

Ah well, the Bubble is strong and I’m sure the authors are paid to believe what they believe to be paid.

Geography still matters. Russia—NATO’s largest, most militarily capable neighbor—remains NATO’s principal external challenge. Russia under President Putin ignores international commitments; violates Ukrainian, Georgian and Moldovan sovereignty; conducts provocative exercises and maneuvers along NATO’s borders; expands military activity in the Arctic and North Atlantic; intervenes in parts of the Middle East against Western interests; and interferes in democratic processes within members of the Alliance, aspiring members and partners. President Putin’s objectives seem clear: secure his leadership position within Russia and prevent regime change; undermine the international rules-based order in favor of a Europe re-divided into spheres of influence; assert increasing influence on the Russian periphery, especially in Ukraine and Georgia, to prevent the success of democratic, pro-European governments whose example could undermine his own kleptocratic system; seize every opportunity to erode the cohesion of NATO and the EU; and widen divisions within individual member states.

NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis, Nicholas Burns, Douglas Lute, February 2019

RUSSIAN FEDERATION SITREP 14 FEBRUARY 2019

RUSSIA COLLUSION. US Senate says none. Clinton’s excuse for her shattered campaign has generated much damage: censorship, stronger war party, hysterical TV, attacks on anyone who bucks the war party, destruction of the last bits of “journalistic standards”, bogus charges, mangled innocents like Maria Butina. And more aggression against Russia. How much better off we’d be if Trump had never uttered the words “Russia” or “Putin”. We’re at the end state I feared: no Trumputin (remember this from the NYT?) but much more evil Putin. I doubt Schiff will ever stop and CNN and MSNBC still have time to fill.

CURRENCY WARS. The Central Bank of Russia continues its strategy: total USD holdings down to 22% from 46%, Euros and Renmenbi holdings up; gold 2,112 tonnes. Total external debt $453.7 billion, lowest in nearly 10 years. Moody’s upgrades debt rating. Washington’s economic war is failing.

INFRASTRUCTURE. Lots of roads being built and improved. Bridges too.

IVANOV. We learn what Sergey Ivanov has been doing. “Environmental Activities, Environment and Transport“. I guess Avangard changes the security environment and is a form of transport.

ROC. I think Helmer’s over-reacting — I see the Patriarch saying the Church is independent of the state.

FAKE NEWS. Only liars try to control the news. (A propos: BBC producer says Douma films faked.)

NOT SUCH FUN NOW. Remember when it was fun to poke the bear? “Weak and dying”, “really weak”, “not strong”, “deceptively weak military”? Second thoughts now. Missile defence systems fail. Chinese and Russian space technologies. S-400 iron curtain against US airpower. US military outgunned. Of course, not a millisecond’s consideration of a diplomatic solution: it’s all “we are not investing enough to keep up“. Delusion rules in Washington.

INF TREATY. Washington is leaving the INF Treaty, Moscow followed suit. I think this is the Trumpian overture (vide North Korea and NAFTA) to negotiating a new treaty to include China. We’ll see if it works. Russia has an immediate response: take the ship-borne Kalibr systems and put them on land. I agree with Orlov that the suspension of the Treaty actually works to Moscow’s benefit. Will the Europeans, with this new bullseye painted on their heads, protest as before – protests that helped create the Treaty – or have they been completely de-spined?

SOTU. 16% by word count on foreign affairs. More money for military, missile defence system, maybe we can negotiate a new INF, Korea going well, time to get out of Syria and Afghanistan. BUT. Time to interfere in Venezuela, Iran is the “leading state sponsor of terror” (where do they get that nonsense? there is an immense gulf between ibn Taymiyyah-inspired jihadists and Twelver Shiites. I know, silly question.) End three wars, start two more. Progress. Sort of.

WESTERN VALUES™. We arrive at cut-rate prostitution of something that, a couple of decades ago, had some content. The excuse: “Venezuela’s Humanitarian Crisis” (ever-compliant Human Rights Watch); the reason: “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” (Bolton) Pretty stupid not to recognise the pattern now.

AMERICA-HYSTERICA. Tulsi Gabbard is a Putinbot. Russia could freeze us to death! Trump spouts Russian propaganda. Russian fishsticks!!! “Russian disinformation” bunk from Canada. To paraphrase Planck: hysteria will recede funeral by funeral.

NORDSTREAM II. Despite Washington – the US Ambassador even wrote threatening letters – and a peculiar intervention by Macron, Berlin holds firm on building it.

EUROPEANS ARE REVOLTING. Germany, France and the UK have set up a payments system – INSTEX – to avoid US sanctions on Iran. Or is it too late and will only affect small stuff on the margin?

AUTRES TEMPS, AUTRES MŒURS. Brave protester against Putin’s “diktat of a monolithic and unshakable order“, flees to France, repeats fire stunt. No “art of the political protest” there: arrested, 11 months in pre-trial detention, 2 years suspended and €21K fine. Gessen lionised him then, will she now?

UKRAINE. “Ukraine’s steady progress and growing momentum toward democracy are irrefutable… Ukraine’s accomplishments rival those made by any of the Central Europeans in the same time span since 1990. “Sounds like the sort of tripe the Integrity (Challenged) Initiative extrudes (when not smearing Corbyn). Still not the stupidest pimping Ukraine story: In Ukraine It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and a Lot Less Like Russia remains the winner.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer

WHY YOU HAVE RETIRE TO SEE REALITY

(I wrote this under a pseudonym three years ago today and we still see it all the time.)

Ex-President Sarkozy of France is recently quoted as saying two things: “Nous avons une civilisation en commun avec la Russie. Les intérêts des Américains avec les Russes, ce ne sont pas les intérêts de l’Europe avec la Russie”. Europe has a common civilization with Russia and our interests are not the same as Americans’. “La Crimée a choisi la Russie, on ne peut pas le lui reprocher”. Crimea chose Russia and you can’t blame it.

In doing so, he has added his name to a long list of ex-officials who contradict the official line on the Ukrainian catastrophe that we see promulgated by virtually all present office-holders.

Many people have noticed this and speculate why former office holders should have such different opinions from present office holders. One common theory is that they are blackmailed into obedience by Washington. Another, which we can see in Hungary and the Czech Republic today, is that speaking out of line can bring sudden “spontaneous protests” supported by the local American Ambassador and people who have some (later revealed) connection with USAID or the NED. “Exes” aren’t as vulnerable to blackmail or a Washington-orchestrated regime change as “presents”.

While I do not rule either of these explanations out – how could I? we know that Washington spies on everybody and we know that these “spontaneous” protests are nothing of the sort – I have been wondering and I believe there is a simpler cause that also operates.

I worked in a bureaucracy for several decades. Bureaucracies are pyramids. Most occupants – many think of little else – wish to rise and the easiest way to rise is by attracting the benevolent attention of a higher up. This leads to what might be called “schedule flooding” as people compete for the boss’s time. And so, the higher ups have almost no unscheduled moments. The only case in which a higher up would have any free time is when he has a truly powerful will and intellect to carve out that free time. But such individuals are not common; too many, in fact, are von Moltke’s stupid and industrious.

So let us imagine President Smith of Yourland and his daily schedule. At the top of the pyramid of pyramids, thousands of underlings seek a few of the 1440 minutes a day he, and every other mortal, has. His schedule is filled with meetings and briefings for months in advance. And that’s just the expected meetings – inevitably some crisis will pack the schedule even tighter.

Very few of these people seizing some of Smith’s 1440 minutes will tell him he’s not doing a very good job or that the Conventional View of Things is defective. That would not attract his patronage.

Assuming Smith is intelligent, wise, a good manager, industrious, well-educated, knowledgeable, a good character judge with a strong sense of reality, he will just be able to keep his head above water and drive ahead the two or three issues that he really takes an interest in. Fortunately, in contrast with less-favored parts of the world, the electoral system in Western countries produces leaders who are all of these things and we never have to fear that schedule flooding will drown a stupid, incompetent, foolish, lazy, ignorant narcissist.

What happens when President Smith leaves office? I recommend this anecdote of former British Prime Minister Macmillan – The Telephone is immediately disconnected. Yesterday every minute of his time was competed for, today none is. He’s dug a hole in water.

But now he has some time to think quietly and some actually do think. Some, as Sarkozy apparently has, think their way to an understanding that Europe is being ruined in service to Washington and that it’s perfectly natural that Crimeans should want to get out of the Ukrainian catastrophe and return home.

So, one reason the exes outnumber the presents in this case is that they have the opportunity to contemplate the forest because they no longer have every minute occupied by people telling them how important the bark on their favorite tree is.

INTEGRITY INITIATIVE: BIG BROTHER’S MINIONS – OR FLIM-FLAM ARTISTS?

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation. Picked up by JRL2019/16/24,  ZeroHedge, South Front, Straight Line Logic, The New Dark Age, Trade for Profit, The Russophile, Viral News, Olduvai.ca, Truth in Our Time,

I’m not sure what to make of Integrity Initiative (what a great gaslighting name: integrity? Hah hah: no, just furtive paid propaganda and opinion steering). But I watch the unfolding revelations with fascination. Certainly, the whole thing is bigger than it seemed at first and all the documents being revealed appear to be true.

On the one hand, it looks like a group of superannuated old gits gassing on about how warfare today involves everything, especially “information warfare”, while last century it was only bullets. (Ever read any, say, Sun Tzu or Clausewitz? Or, speaking of the last century, Goebbels? How about Bernays?) And how we concerned individuals have voluntarily come together (assisted by £2+ million of the taxpayer’s money) to save democracy. Unpaid, unasked and unplotted. Completely conspiracy-free in fact. To individually and unconspiratorially assure you that only Russian dupes would try to tell us, contrary to all reason, that Russia, a nuclear superpower, has interests that we’d be wise to consider. Or that Western NGOs are often US State Department fronts. Or that the West promised Gorbachev it wouldn’t expand NATO (Too late, the documents are out). In short, that the essence of democracy is never to doubt what the Ministry of Truth tells you. There’s a naïve and bubble-like quality to this: they never think any thoughts but their own. So maybe these guys, instead of kveching at the mirror and shouting at the TV set, have figured out how to flim-flam the government into supplementing their pensions in return for pages of conspiracy-babble.

Or are we looking at something rather bigger? As John Helmer points out, there is a long history of British intelligence operating behind such “independent” and “disinterested” cover. Did they help start the Russia hysteria in the USA? Did they not only play up the Skripal affair but actually create it? Did they have an effect on Spain and Catalonia? Infiltrate Sanders’ campaign? What’s this “impose changes over the heads of vested interests. NB we did this in the 1930s” stuff? Is that a reference to the Zinoviev Letter forgery? (1924 actually, but they don’t look like people who bother to check details). Corbyn, of course, they see as another Kremlin stooge: is it time to “discover” a Dear Jeremy, How can I help you win? Your friend Vladimir letter? There is a danger these “clusters” of like-minded (and paid) flacks pose: in a time when the “news” media solemnly informs us that Putin has weaponised humour and Pokemon, to say nothing of killer squids, a group of “expert” “concerned citizens” who “voluntarily” appear can ratchet the hysteria up to further heights. (Although only a Russian troll would “emphasise the dangers of war in Europe (!!)”) They are trying to establish a base in the USA (“challenging the ignorance of, tolerance of or sympathy for the Russian activity” – tolerance!!?? the US media Russia-bashes 24/7!) So, no matter the temptation, we can’t write them off as silly old fools.

Here’s their website. And here’s some of their output, most of it written straight off the top of the head. Bellyfeel, as they say in Newspeak.

Deadly “Novichok” is not strong enough to kill you today, but is strong enough to kill someone four months later. Whatever – deadly, shmeadly – you read it, my head hurts.

Its [Russia’s, of course] ongoing lawfare activities have shaken the pillars of the post-WWII security architecture in Europe. Who knew? The very pillars!

Russian state media have succeeded in persuading some parts of the Arab world that Russia intervention is required to resolve the region’s disputes, which appears be the ultimate goal of Russia’s strategy in the region. I don’t think it’s Russian media, I think it’s these guys. Here they are again in Manbij.

The Thesis of Conspiracy: The Kremlin’s current world-view is stark, striking and scary. According to senior leaders, including Putin, America is attacking Russia. Silly Russians! NATO expansion, colour revolutions, sanctions, gas wars, rhetoric, tossing arms control treaties – all done to help you!

Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, lying that it was Georgia which had attacked Russia, absurd though this sounds when one compares the respective sizes of each country. A powerful argument, not heard before. (And not considered by the EU either; even its feeble report understood that Tbilisi attacked.)

Russia’s only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, is often presented as the most striking symbol of Russia’s resurgent military power. Really, by whom? I follow this stuff and I know Russians like to talk about Piotr Velikiy or their submarines but the elderly Kuznetsov is just functional. (Although, escort tug, belching smoke and all, it works and the British media gets the fantods every time it appears.) This piece tries to show that Russia’s infrastructure is falling apart. Maybe they should spend more time on YouTube.

The Kremlin lies. Repeatedly and seriously. This is the only conclusion which can be drawn if you accept the view of the British Government that the Russian state is behind the attack using a nerve agent on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yuliya. The Russian authorities have already put out at least 17 different versions of what happened. (47 here). Ah, but the prosecution doesn’t win if the accused can’t prove who did it. Presumption of innocence – isn’t that one of those fundamental principles you’re supposed to be defending? The problem with accepting the “view of the British Government” is that it requires superhuman doublethink and crimestop as this summary of the absurdities shows. The latest being that a bit of “Novichok” on a door handle requires removing the roof of the house while Zizzi’s, old roof and all, is open for business!

However, at no time has the Integrity Initiative engaged in party political activity and would never take up a party-political stance. Spain and Catalonia? Sanders? Corbyn? Stay tuned.

These guys really should get out more. If they were being paid by some private individual for this tripe that would be one thing; but the British government (and others?) is paying – in fact, it’s actually paying these people to influence its own policy. Think about that: that’s rather different. Even leaving aside all the stuff about “we did this in the 1930s”. It’s a bit Deep Stateish – it’s a lot Deep Stateish.

Or maybe it’s just a bunch of retirees swindling the government by writing fluff about how Russia is sapping and impurifying all our precious bodily fluids.

Sarcasm is fun but the big question is: who’s winning: these guys with millions and the support of most media outlets, or us with hundreds and sites like this one? But then we have reality on our side and, eventually, but it can be a long eventually, it bites.

You decide. Here and here are the hacks. Or are they leaks? Interesting question, eh? We owe much thanks to Anonymous for exposing these people. Add Kim Klarenberg to your Twitter feed – an actual reporter doing actual reporting! I think there’s lots more to be revealed.

I’m amused by Donnelly saying that the fact that their stuff has been hacked shows that they must be having an effect; no, there are people out there who are tired of the lies, secret manipulations and managed media campaigns whooping up war fever. They found you and they broke into your files. That’s all.

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

This has to be the stupidest thing ever said about Putin.

On October 23, 2018, Schiff solemnly told a young audience at the old Hillary Clinton/John Podesta Center for American Progress Action Fund that he had been told that Putin has one of his henchmen follow Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev around with a pillow to smother him in his sleep if he ever gets out of line.

Ray McGovern

Here’s the video. Thanks to Rosie memos at @almostjingo. Watch it – there is nothing to suggest he’s joking.

This man – Adam Schiff – is now the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He is an enthusiastic proponent of the Trump-Putin collusion story.

REAL CRICKETS, FAKE NEWS

(First published at Strategic Culture Foundation

You’re an American diplomat. Posted to Cuba. You compose yourself for peaceful slumber, as an innocent American dip should… What’s that noise? Whine, buzz. Get up. Lights on. Look. Nothing. Head on pillow. Whine, buzz. We’ve all been kept up nights by some unidentifiable sound. You promise yourself you won’t listen to it. Aha, it’s stopped… no, there it is again. Another night of tossing and turning. Very understandable. The next morning you tell a colleague, heard it too, another hadn’t but can’t help listening. Soon everybody is awake listening to this irritating noise. Doctors come, check people out and find this and that (as ageing apes we all have something. Is there any before and after take on these injuries?) This is happening in Cuba, a country richly furnished with noisy insects. At some point, this irritating sound, that could be insects, morphs into something more sinister: “‘microwave hearing,’ also known as the Frey effect” for example.

The US Embassy in Havana re-opened in July 2015. About a year later, it was reported that some American diplomats complained about strange noises. The Guardian reported the story using numerous variations on the word “attack”. Crickets are mentioned, but only to be dismissed; “But this is Cuba”, wink, wink, nudge, nudge; Russia peeps above the horizon:

In fact, almost nothing about what went down in Havana is clear. Investigators have tested several theories about an intentional attack: by Cuba’s government, a rogue faction of its security forces, a third country like Russia or some combination thereof. Yet they’ve left open the possibility an advanced espionage operation went horribly awry, or that some other, less nefarious explanation is to blame.

Attacks – the story builds. A recording is produced (verrry irritating; keep anybody awake). “High pitched cricket sound”. That’s because they are insects say the Cubans. The phrasing of the AP report that covered the Cuban findings has to be read to be believed: it’s written in the sneering tone that tells you to ignore them:

Cuba on Thursday presented its most detailed defense to date against U.S. Accusations… Cuban officials attempted to undermine the Trump administration’s assertion… alleged was a lack of evidence for the U.S. Accusations… an exhaustive investigation ordered by “the highest government authorities,” a clear reference to President Raul Castro… Thursday night’s special did not present an alternate explanation for the facts presented by U.S. officials, with one significant exception…

What a dishonest way to cover a report by Cuban specialists saying we compared the recordings with cicada sounds and there was a good fit. Fortunately, as we shall see, honest people did follow that lead.

American tourists are solemnly warned “Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to attacks targeting U.S. Embassy”. Washington expels Cuban diplomats and the Guardian helpfully tells us:

Cuba employs a massive state security apparatus that keeps hundreds and possibly thousands of people under constant surveillance. US diplomats are among the most closely monitored people on the island. It’s virtually impossible for anyone to take action against an American diplomat without an element of the Cuban state being aware.

So the state of play as of the end of 2017 is this. Facts: noises, medical findings, investigations, expulsions. Speculation: they’re “attacks”, the Cuban authorities control everything and the insect explanation should be laughed at. Next year it’s China’s turn.

But at last, in September 2018, the Russian sun rises over the horizon.

The suspicion that Russia is likely behind the alleged attacks is backed up by evidence from communications intercepts, known in the spy world as signals intelligence, amassed during a lengthy and ongoing investigation involving the FBI, the CIA and other U.S. agencies. The officials declined to elaborate on the nature of the intelligence… If Russia did use a futuristic weapon to damage the brains of U.S. personnel, it would mark a stunning escalation in Russian aggression toward Western nations, compounded recently by the use of a military-grade nerve agent to poison an ex-spy and his daughter in Britain.

Love the juxtaposition of “suspicion”, “likely” and “alleged”: how many degrees of uncertainty is that? You have to wonder whether an Integrity-challenged Initiative clusteroid gave that little gem to NBC – the “signals intelligence” will probably turn out to be a five-year-old RT report about insomnia. Also note that the US military “has been working to reverse-engineer the weapon or weapons used to harm the diplomats”.

Ensorcelled by this “un-elaborated” “intelligence”, the Gadarene media swine rush straight for the cliff:

Did Russia Attack U.S. Officials in Cuba? U.S.S.R. Used Microwaves Against American Diplomats During Cold War (Newsweek) Russia Is No. 1 Suspect in Mystery Brain Attacks in Cuba and China: Report (Daily Beast) Russia Might Be Behind Those Sonic Attacks on U.S. Government Workers in Cuba and China (Fortune) The U.S. Now Believes RUSSIA May Be Behind Sonic Attacks On Americans In Cuba And China (Daily Wire) So the Russians were ‘sonic-ing’ down in Cuba? (American Thinker) Russia main suspect behind illnesses of US staff in Cuba and China – report (Guardian) Russia suspected in Cuba mystery ‘attacks’ against US diplomats (NBC) Report: Experts Suspect Cuba May Have Had Russian Help in ‘Sonic’ Diplomat Attacks (Breitbart)

Altogether a perfect illustration of how fake news is built.

Step One. Something that could be lots of things but we’ll call it an attack.

Step Two. Attacks have attackers, so who is it? (I find it interesting that they weren’t quite ready to blame Havana, although they expelled a few Cuban diplomats: “‘I still believe that the Cuban government, someone within the Cuban government can bring this to an end,’ Tillerson added.”)

Step Three: Drum roll… Putindunnit!

It’s surprising, actually, that it took so long; after all, Putin has weaponised Soviet history, Syrian refugees, Photoshop, humour, Pokemon, and Russophobia, why would you think he’d have forgotten crickets? Nothing is beyond or beneath him: “14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin?“.

This happy complacency was interrupted…

by…

a loud…

POP!

The Sounds That Haunted U.S. Diplomats in Cuba? Lovelorn Crickets, Scientists Say.

And, because they’re Western scientists, not Castro’s Cuban Collaborators, we have to believe them. Two honest scientists – remember their names: Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Zapato of the University of Lincoln in England – on their own it seems, applied human reason to the problem and solved it. Here’s a summary of their paper.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

So that’s it; the story’s dead (although the NYT does its best to keep it alive: “That’s not to say that the diplomats weren’t attacked, the scientists added”). Would be nice, though, if State took its warning down. In time the details will fade away leaving a vague sense that Cuba’s a bad and dangerous place and nasty Russians do nasty things for the fun of it. But that’s the purpose of propaganda: to leave an impression when the details are forgotten.

So what really happened? Irritating cricket sounds produced a kind of dancing mania among US diplomats and the presstitutes sank to the occasion – even though the Cuban evidence was out there – and blamed Russia.

PS. My neighbours often ask me from where I get my news when I tell them something they’ve never heard of. Well not from the Guardian or the NYT or NBC or the others that boomed this fake story: I learned from Moon of Alabama that it was crickets waaaay back in October 2017 when he (a one-man operation who does more reporting than the entire NYT building) beat the NYT by 14 months. You should read him too so you too can get next year’s NYT headlines today.

BACK TO THE USSR: HOW TO READ WESTERN NEWS

(First published in Strategic Culture Foundation. Picked up by ZeroHedge, JRL/2019/5/20, Biedex.com, YoNews, Daily Read List, The Fringe News, Nation and State, PeoplesTrustToronto, 911grassroots, TradingCheatSheet, StraightLineLogic, SOTT, SGTreport, AustrianEconomicBlogs, WeatherInternal, The Duran, Russia Insider.)

The heroes of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers visit the fictional borough of Eatanswill to observe an election between the candidates of the Blue Party and the Buff Party. The town is passionately divided, on all possible issues, between the two parties. Each party has its own newspaper: the Eatanswill Gazette is Blue and entirely devoted to praising the noble Blues and excoriating the perfidious and wicked Buffs; the Eatanswill Independent is equally passionate on the opposite side of every question. No Buff would dream of reading the “that vile and slanderous calumniator, the Gazette”, nor Blue the ”that false and scurrilous print, the Independent”.

As usual with Dickens it is both exaggerated and accurate. Newspapers used to be screamingly partisan before “journalism” was invented. Soon followed journalism schools, journalism ethics and journalism objectivity: “real journalism” as they like to call it (RT isn’t of course). “Journalism” became a profession gilded with academical folderol; no longer the refuge of dropouts, boozers, failures, budding novelists and magnates like Lord Copper who know what they want and pay for it. But, despite the pretence of objectivity and standards, there were still Lord Coppers and a lot of Eatanswill. Nonetheless, there were more or less serious efforts to get the facts and balance the story. And Lord Coppers came and went: great newspaper empires rose and fell and there was actually quite a variety of ownership and news outlets. There was sufficient variance that a reader, who was neither Blue nor Buff, could triangulate and form a sense of what was going on.

In the Soviet Union news was controlled; there was no “free press”; there was one owner and the flavours were only slightly varied: the army paper, the party paper, the government paper, papers for people interested in literature or sports. But they all said the same thing about the big subjects. The two principal newspapers were Pravda (“truth”) and Izvestiya (“news”). This swiftly led to the joke that there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestiya. It was all pretty heavy handed stuff: lots of fat capitalists in top hats and money bags; Uncle Sam’s clothing dripping with bombs; no problems over here, nothing but problems over there. And it wasn’t very successful propaganda: most of their audience came to believe that the Soviet media was lying both about the USSR and about the West.

But time moves on and while thirty years ago 50 corporations controlled 90% of the US news media, today it’s a not very diverse six. As a result, on many subjects there is a monoview: has any Western news outlet reported, say, these ten true statements?

  1. People in Crimea are pretty happy to be in Russia.
  2. The US and its minions have given an enormous amount of weapons to jihadists.
  3. Elections in Russia reflect popular opinion polling.
  4. There really are a frightening number of well-armed nazis in Ukraine.
  5. Assad is pretty popular in Syria.
  6. The US and its minions smashed Raqqa to bits.
  7. The official Skripal story makes very little sense.
  8. Ukraine is much worse off, by any measurement, now than before Maidan.
  9. Russia actually had several thousand troops in Crimea before Maidan.
  10. There’s a documentary that exposes Browder that he keeps people from seeing.

I typed these out as they occurred to me. I could come up with another ten pretty easily. There’s some tiny coverage, far in the back pages, so that objectivity can be pretended, but most Western media consumers would answer they aren’t; didn’t; don’t; aren’t; isn’t; where?; does; not; what?; never heard of it.

Many subjects are covered in Western media outlets with a single voice. Every now and again there’s a scandal that reveals that “journalists” are richly rewarded for writing stories that fit. But after revelations, admissions of bias, pretending it never happened, the media ship calmly sails on (shedding passengers as it goes, though). Coverage of certain subjects are almost 100% false: Putin, Russia, Syria and Ukraine stand out. But much of the coverage of China and Iran also. Many things about Israel are not permitted. The Russia collusion story is (privately) admitted to be fake by an outlet that covers it non stop. Anything Trump is so heavily flavoured that it’s inedible. And it’s not getting any better: PC is shutting doors everywhere and the Russian-centred “fake news” meme is shutting more. Science is settled but genders are not and we must be vigilant against the “Russian disinformation war“. Every day brings us a step closer to a mono media of the One Correct Opinion. All for the Best Possible Motives, of course.

It’s all rather Soviet in fact.

So, in a world where the Integrity Initiative is spending our tax dollars (pounds actually) to make sure that we never have a doubleplusungood thought or are tempted into crimethink, (and maybe they created the entire Skripal story – more revelations by the minute), what are we to make of our Free Media™? Well, that all depends on what you’re interested in. If it’s sports (not Russian athletes – druggies every one unlike brave Western asthmatics) or “beach-ready bodies” (not Russian drug takers of course, only wholesome Americans) – the reporting is pretty reasonable. Weather reports, for example (Siberian blasts excepted) or movie reviews (but all those Russian villains). But the rest is some weird merger of the Eatonswill Gazette and Independent: Blues/Buffs good! others, especially Russians, bad!

So, as they say in Russia, что делать? What to do? Well, I suggest we learn from the Soviet experience. After all, most Soviet citizens were much more sceptical about their home media outlets than any of my neighbours, friends or relatives are about theirs.

My suggestions are three:

  1. Read between the lines. A difficult art this and it needs to be learned and practised. Dissidents may be sending us hints from the bowels of Minitrue. For example, it’s impossible to imagine anyone seriously saying “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon“; it must have been written to subversively mock the official Russia panic. I have speculated elsewhere that the writers may have inserted clues that the “intelligence reports” on Russian interference were nonsense.
  2. Notice what they’re not telling you. For example: remember when Aleppo was a huge story two years ago? But there’s nothing about it now. One should wonder why there isn’t; a quick search will find videos like this (oops! Russian! not real journalism!) here’s one from Euronews. Clearly none of this fits the “last hospitals destroyed” and brutal Assad memes of two years ago; that’s why the subject has disappeared from Western media outlets. It is always a good rule to wonder why the Biggest Story Ever suddenly disappears: that’s a strong clue it was a lie or nonsense.
  3. Most of the time, you’d be correct to believe the opposite. Especially, when all the outlets are telling you the same thing. It’s always good to ask yourself cui bono: who’s getting what benefit out of making you believe something? It’s quite depressing how successful the big uniform lie is: even though the much-demonised Milosevic was eventually found innocent, even though Qaddafi was not “bombing his own people”, similar lies are believed about Assad and other Western enemies-of-the-moment. Believe the opposite unless there’s very good reason not to.

In the Cold War there was a notion going around that the Soviet and Western systems were converging and that they would meet in the middle, so to speak. Well, perhaps they did meet but kept on moving past each other. And so, the once reasonably free and varied Western media comes to resemble the controlled and uniform Soviet media and we in the West must start using Soviet methods to understand.

Always remember that the Soviet rulers claimed their media was free too; free from “fake news” that is.

COMMENTS FROM THE LOCKED WARD

(Miscellaneous comments from pieces dealing with Russia I’ve collected. Most of them anonymous or with pseudonyms. They are chosen to illustrate either rabid hostility to everything Russian or stone-dead ignorance of present reality. I post from time to time when I have enough, spelling mistakes and all.)

Putin-style glorification of the Soviet regime is entering the mind of the president, inspiring his words and—who knows—perhaps shaping his actions. How that propaganda is reaching him—by which channels, via which persons—seems an important if not urgent question. But maybe what happened yesterday does not raise questions. Maybe it inadvertently reveals answers.

David Frum: Why Is Trump Spouting Russian Propaganda? The president’s endorsement of the U.S.S.R.’s invasion of Afghanistan echoes a narrative promoted by Vladimir Putin. The Atlantic 3 January 2019.

Frum, in his account, doesn’t give any reason for the Soviets to invade that contradicts what Trump said. He is also, it seems, unaware of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s involvement in enticing the Soviets to invade. The beginning, as it happened, of a long process that got us to 911 as Washington alternately supported and opposed jihadists.

GOODBYE RI

I HEREBY WITHDRAW PERMISSION FROM RUSSIA INSIDER TO REPRINT MY PIECES.

The gratuitous addition of a Nazi anti-semitic illustration to my piece was too much. After I posted this (and many other denials elsewhere) they changed the picture to an anodyne shot of a Pravda front page.

Too late.

I was a big supporter of (and contributor to) RI at its start but, over time, I lost my conviction. I stopped.

I got it wrong and trusted what I should not have trusted.

Well, as Aeschylus said: “Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise, has established his fixed law— wisdom comes through suffering.”

I can’t say I suffered all that much. But enough.

Goodbye, Charles Bausman and RI. I believed once, but no more.

Pity. There was a possibility once.