The Porcelain Cup Award for the Worst Piece on Russia


I have long thought there should be an award that recognises the hard work and achievement of the people who write – that is to say, emit – outstanding pieces – that is to say, unusually idiotic propaganda – about Russia in Western media outlets. An unusually rich crop of nonsense in the last week has inspired me to put this idea forward.

May I have the envelope, please:

Ladies and Gentlemen, our first nominee is Amanda Foreman of the Sunday Times for “A view from afar: Chest-beating Putin aims his vilest weapon at the West — misogyny” containing this opener: “Putin’s Russia is one of the most loathsomely misogynistic countries in the world”. Fact: Russia has more women in senior management than any one else.

Our second nominee is Liisa Tuhkanen of Reuters for “Putin’s high approval ratings not real: protest group”. Ignoring repeated data from actual polling organisations like Levada or Gallup that find his popularity sky-high, she prefers to quote the only two members of Pussy Riot/Voyna we ever hear about (what happened to the others?). Apparently the opinions of these two professional stokers of the anti-Putin fires are worth the death of a few trees.

Our third nominee, and a personal favourite, is this cartoon by Tom Toles in the International New York Times. So stunningly upside down, that I don’t think any comment would be possible. Thanks to Eric Kraus who found it: I hope he gets the paper free.

Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon - tt_c_c141116.tif
Tom Toles Editorial Cartoon

So, over to you out there in Internet land: announce your nominees (just from the last month or two – no one has enough time to look at all the potential winners from the last twenty years) and vote for your favourites.

Let’s make the The Porcelain Cup Award a coveted honour among the anti-Russia cohort and a byword and a hissing among the rational cohort.


RUSSIA ISOLATED? Not at APEC – here’s the thousand word photo. And not at G20 either – BRICS had a happy meeting. The West and its tame media is seriously deluding itself with this Russia is isolated stuff.

NEW NWO. Russia bought 55 tonnes of gold in the last quarter. What’s that mean? here’s a theory. (Ukraine’s gold, on the other hand, is almost all gone.) Meanwhile, an arms sale to China. Sberbank offers Yuans. Another huge gas deal. Increasing military cooperation. India-China. New financial instruments. Petrodollar. Russia-Pakistan. It marches. Who thought Ukraine would be so important?

NUKES. Russia has them; they work: Bulava, Topol and Sineva. Meanwhile, in the USA not so much.

NONSENSE. It’s never easy to pick the most idiotic anti-Russian rant but here’s the latest: “Putin’s Russia is one of the most loathsomely misogynistic countries in the world”. Fact: Russia has more women in senior management than any one else. But, it’s Russia, what do facts have to do with it?

RUBLE. Has fallen quite a lot against the USD (but so have most other currencies). Here’s an analysis of the pros and cons. But the ruble price of oil is about the same.

SANCTIONS. They’re hurting Russia, but Europe more. Industrial production continues to rise in Russia but inflation is too. In Europe industrial production is down. Remember, it’s not that Russia was such a big market for the EU but that it was about the only one that was growing: Russia can substitute; the EU cannot. So why is Europe ruining itself in such a questionable cause?

RUSSIA A GOOD INVESTMENT? The famous Jim Rogers thinks so. Give it a read, he’s made a lot of money going against the common view.

POROSHENKO GIVES THE GAME AWAY. Watch this short video: “Their children will hole up in basements”. Why would they be in basements? Because his government is shelling them, that’s why. Even Human Rights Watch has stopped pretending they don’t know who’s firing the artillery into civilian areas in east Ukraine. That’s what the West is supporting. But Putin has drawn the line. “Today there is fighting in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian central authorities have sent the armed forces there and they even use ballistic missiles. Does anybody speak about it? Not a single word. And what does it mean? What does it tell us? This points to the fact, that you want the Ukrainian central authorities to annihilate everyone there, all of their political foes and opponents. Is that what you want? We certainly don’t. And we won’t let it happen.”

GORBACHEV. The West is not pleased: in Berlin for the celebrations, he bluntly said the world was on the edge of a new Cold War, and they should listen to what Putin said at Valdai. And he supports Putin and the annexation of Crimea.

MH17. A Russian TV channel published, with great excitement, a photo showing a fighter plane firing. One Russian says the photo is fake; another says it isn’t. (In Russian, but you’ll get the idea). For what it’s worth, the US State Department’s files were just hacked. I don’t know; you decide. Unfortunately (and maybe not by accident) this has obscured more radar evidence of military aircraft near it. (For those who think it’s open and shut, go to 6:11 on this CBC interview with one of the first OSCE people on the scene: you may be surprised at what you hear). But the fix may already be in with a secrecy agreement.

RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE! Someone added them up: 26 breathless headlines since February. And not a smidgeon of evidence. “If Russia had invaded, you wouldn’t have to ask; if you have to ask, it hasn’t.” Help, supplies, advice, very possible; formed combat units, no. If, however, the US arms Kiev as McCain wants, then weapons will flow from Russia. But no “invasion” because the Donbass militias don’t need them: where they get weapons, their best weapons, how they win. The result (VERY gruesome).

RUSSIAN INCURSIONS. Much about Russian ship and aircraft activity. This is never mentioned: “In recent months, the number of NATO jets in the skies over our Eastern Allies has increased five times. We have deployed more ships in the Baltic and the Black Sea. And this year, we are conducting over 200 NATO and national exercises in Europe.” What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. And then, some “Russian” aircraft in Sweden turn out to be French or American. War propaganda.

© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (

“Real Journalism” Explained at Last

I have often heard the phrase “Real Journalism” (generally used in the sentence “RT, RIA/Novosti/Sputnik/insert-any-other-Russian-source, does not practise ‘Real Journalism’”. Always wondered what it meant. Now, thanks to an exchange between Mark Adomanis and a “Real Journalist” I do.

Adomanis wrote a piece for Forbes in which he pointed out that, according to the not especially Putin-friendly Levada polling centre, Putin’s popularity ratings were at an all time high. He concluded:

The point isn’t to defend Putin’s policies in Ukraine or the general trajectory of the Russian government. I’ve been extremely critical of both because both deserve to be criticized. The point is simply to note that the West’s policy so far has had precisely the opposite of its intended effect. Rather than weakening Putin and exposing him to expanded criticism, Western sanctions seem to have encouraged Russians to “rally ’round the flag.

One Oliver Bullough tweeted him, saying “My advice? Stop reporting Russia using numbers. More than anywhere Russia is about people.” The discussion continued and may be read here. Another revelation from Bullough: “So Mark, take your thinking a bit further…does Putin’s increasing poll rating justify his actions since Feb?”

Now Bullough writes for a number of Main Stream Media outlets, New Statesman, Guardian, Wall Street Journal, New Republic and so forth and may therefore be considered to practise “Real Journalism”.

I, in my naiveté, had always wondered what this “Real Journalism” actually was as applied to Russia. So now, thanks to Mr Bullough, we know:

Stay away from data and condemn Putin’s actions.

Advocacy is what that sounds like to me but because Bullough is a “Real Journalist” I must be mistaken.

Propaganda is the deliberate dissemination of information that you know to be false or misleading in order to influence an audience” as someone put it. Condemning RT as it happened, not “Real Journalism”.

The Western Spinners are Losing and They Know It

When I wrote “Those Horrible Russians are Winning the Information War” I was just amusing myself and having a laugh at the expense of Anne Applebaum. But I hadn’t realised that a whole campaign was beginning!

She was at a forum organised by Legatum; she being the Director of its Transitions Forum which deals with “countries that are striving to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy”. Said forum, “organised by the Legatum Institute, in cooperation with the Atlantic Council and the US Department of State” worried that “Through the manipulation of facts and the integration of outright lies into mainstream narratives, the Russian government seeks to influence public opinion and shape Western politics.” One of the attendees was the US Ambassador to Ukraine (and participant in the infamous phone call setting up the coup d’état, or, as the conference participants would put it, the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in Ukraine.) Anyway, here he is is saying that, although he is fully confident he knows what’s going on in Ukraine, he hasn’t actually been to the east and that “The biggest lie Russia tells is that Ukraine is a society somehow divided”. And that he has no idea who’s paying for the conference.

So it wasn’t just Applebaum, it was a group and one of their purposes was to figure out “what can be done about it”. (Can we take a guess at their answer? Shut them down. Free speech requires that JRL, RT and other deviants be silenced. Truth has only room for One Truth). A campaign will coming to your Local News Outlet soon; watch for it. Here are the first appearances: Legatum again and something longer on “Russian Hybrid Warfare” quoting Applebaum approvingly.

The whole idea is preposterous. Has your Local News Outlet mentioned the evidence that the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Ukrainian aircraft? How about evidence that the “Heavenly Hundred” were actually killed by “elements of the Maidan opposition, including its extremist far right wing”? Any questioning of NATO’s commercially-obtained satellite photos? Mention of atrocities by “volunteer battalions” in the east? No, of course it hasn’t. You can only read about MH17 on sites like, the Maidan killers in academic journals, NATO’s evidence is only criticised on websites, only Russian news sites report atrocities. These are easily dismissed as, in order: crazy conspiracy sites, probably not peer-reviewed, pro-Russian websites and Kremlin funded so-called news organisations. None of it is “real journalism” and therefore none of it is worthy of inclusion in your LNO.

Instead, your LNO has covered Russian submarines in Sweden, Russian air force aggressive flights (but not told you that NATO has quintupled its flights), and the monthly Russian invasion scare. And lots of Hitler-Putin comparisons. This is “real journalism”.

So what’s really going on here? Certainly not that your LMO is passively re-printing Kremlin news releases or that the Kremlin’s tactics are working and could undermine European democracy. Quite the reverse. So what are these people worried about?

The answer is pretty obvious when you think about it: they realise their story is failing.

And it may well be that the impetus for this preposterous plaint are the problems the Party Line (and why not use that word redolent of Communist mind-control?) is having in Germany; in that Germany which is certainly the most important part of the European anti-Russia front. First we have satirical pieces like this one in which it’s evident that the audience knows they’re being manipulated. That’s bad enough. But the real bombshell was the revelation by Udo Ulfkotte, a veteran German reporter and editor, that “I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the Bundesnachrichtendienst.” The effect has been dramatic; his book Gekaufte Journalisten (Purchased Journalists) is high on the German best seller lists and the falloff in site visits to German media outlets is immediate and spectacular.

Comments by readers on stories also reveal the failure of the Party Line. I’ll take the first five surviving comments on a Telegraph piece from September “Its time to back away from the Russian wolf” to illustrate my point. 1. Russia is entering economic collapse 2. The author is paid by the Kremlin 3. if Russia had wanted to topple Kiev, it would already have done so 4. Ukraine is unstable and only NATO can stabilise it and “it is not only Putin who is empire building” 5. thanks for countering the standard line. The first two fit the Party Line; the third notices one of its fundamental contradictions; the fourth, while somewhat confusing, starts out well enough but is too even-handed and the fifth is outright scornful. Two out of five; that’s worrisome.

In short, the Party Line is not selling very well. But it’s not because yappy little dogs in the Blogosphere are bringing it down; it’s not because RT is creating millions of Putinbots. These are insignificant against the Western MSM chanting in unison.

Which brings me neatly to the real reason why the Line isn’t selling very well: from FAIR’s dissection of the Washington Post’s coverage of Putin’s Sochi speech. “The thing is, if you’re going to say someone is a poisonous liar who traffics in conspiracy theories, then you should show that. That the Post doesn’t seem to feel the need to do so either means the evidence isn’t there, or that the burden of proof is very low when it comes to official enemies.”

The evidence either isn’t there, or the burden of proof is low. Indeed.

What’s killing the Washington-Brussels-NATO Party Line on Ukraine is not Sinister Putin mind-control but its inherent falsity. Consider some of the things they expect their audience to believe, at one and the same time.

  • That the best way to prevent oligarchs from looting your country is to make one of them president and appoint others as provincial governors.
  • That the only way to transcend Ukraine’s political failures is to appoint a bunch of people who have been in and out of governments for years.
  • That an election that excludes the parties that got 40%+ the last time around is perfectly democratic.
  • That the shoot-down of MH17 is an enormously important story until it suddenly isn’t.
  • That the rebels would shoot down an aircraft flying at 10000 metres heading towards Russia in a straight line.
  • That the Putin who is so determined to re-establish the Empire forgot to grab Georgia in 2008.
  • That people haven’t noticed that it’s NATO that’s getting closer to Russia and not the other way around.
  • That NATO gets its intelligence from tweets, twitters and blurry commercial satellite images.
  • That postponing implementation of the Ukraine-EU agreement is unacceptable right up to the moment that it is postponed.
  • That the fact that Ukraine owes Russia billions for gas it has consumed is evidence of Russian pressure on Ukraine.
  • That Russia is always invading but never actually invades.
  • That all those swastikas and neo-nazi references are just a figment of Putin’s imagination.
  • That artillery shells keep falling on civilians in eastern Ukraine but nobody knows where they come from.
  • That self-determination is perfectly acceptable in Kosovo but absolutely unacceptable in Ukraine.
  • That Nuland and Pyatt didn’t actually plan out the new government.
  • That conferences like the Legatum one are ever going to tell you anything that you can’t already guess.

The Party Line involves just too much doublethink and memory suppression to keep going without turning the volume up ever louder and silencing dissenters. And it’s not just that they have a bad hand of cards, but they’re playing them badly: surely they can do better than blurry photographs of combine harvesters.

That’s all. At some level the Legatum people know it and they are getting desperate.

And, by the way, in these days of the Internet it’s much harder to get away with it. Since I began writing this piece, I have learned that Anne Applebaum’s income has greatly increased and something about who is behind Legatum (just the people you’d guess, too).

Those Horrible Russians are Winning the Information War: So we gotta ban them

Russia’s unconventional war on Ukraine is being fought with weapons, with economics—and with an unprecedented disinformation campaign now being waged across online forums, airwaves and media sites across Europe. Through the manipulation of facts and the integration of outright lies into mainstream narratives, the Russian government seeks to influence public opinion and shape Western policy. In conversation with Anne Applebaum, Director of the Legatum Institute’s Transitions Forum, the panellists examined why these tactics are working, how they could undermine European democracy and what can be done about it.

I read this, and I just wanted to weep. Despite 2 million Google hits for “Russian aggression in Ukraine” and 4 million (plus images) for “Putin evil”, and 56 (56!) million for “Russian lies”, we (the Good Guys, that is) are being pasted in the information war with those Russian liars.

And to make all this still weirder – Applebaum & Co claim that they speak The Truth, which is commonly thought to be stronger than lies.

But still the few noble Truth-tellers (like Applebaum – PS, speaking about truth, did she tell you she is the wife of Poland’s former Foreign Minister and NATO GenSec hopeful?) have to struggle against the Russian Anti-Truth Media Lies and Falsification Campaign that is winning hearts and minds everywhere and can only be stopped by banning it altogether. Sometimes freedom can only be free by being unfree. Or something. Anyway, we gotta shut down these lying liars.

So Applebaum & Co want us to believe that although there are umpteen Western media outlets which are, day and night, 24/7, pumping out The Truth – BBC, CBC, CNN, Fox, AFP, Reuters and so on and on – thousands and thousands of hairstyles on TV earnestly explaining that it’s all Putin’s fault – day and night on every TV channel, every newspaper – NYT, WaPo, National Tubby, Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel – that, somehow (ah those insidious Russians!) the effort is failing. This gigantic effort is for naught.

Somehow in Applebaum’s universe (despite the fact that half the West’s newspapers have an oped by her explaining that it’s all Putler’s (Putler hasn’t quite caught on: only about 200K hits) fault every Sunday (41 thousand hits for “applebaum op ed”) lonely old RT beats them all in penetrating the Western Hive Mind Target.

But RT just pumps out lies (34 million hits on “RT lies”) cooked up in Putler’s demented brain (1 million hits on “Putin sucks”).

What a load of self-serving propagandistic nonsense.

How stupid do Applebaum and her minions think we are?

I mean to say:


A Dozen Theories About What’s Really Happening in Ukraine and One More

The unanimity of the Western media on Ukraine and the memory repression required to swallow it should make any intelligent reader suspicious. One moment MH17 is the Biggest Story Ever, the next moment there is no mention of it at all. The postponement of the Ukraine-EU agreement was unthinkable right up to the moment when it suddenly happened. NATO gets its intelligence from commercial services. An election in which parties that had got 40% of the vote the last time around were effectively banned is a triumph of democracy. The best way to end the rule of corrupt oligarchs is to pick one as president. And so on.

Therefore, there must be some other reason. Here are some theories to explain what’s going on. They are in no particular order and the reader is invited to mix and match.

  1. Brzezinski has frequently said that Russia plus Ukraine equals Empire. Brzezinski is said to have great influence on Obama’s policy. So Ukraine must put into the NATO box where Russia can’t get at it.
  2. Fracking is unpopular in Europe, there are said to be large deposits in eastern Ukraine; there is much money to be made.
  3. The GMO theory is similar to the fracking theory, Ukraine’s black-earth area is ideal for GMO food production.
  4. Frighten Europe with the “Russian threat” in order to curtail any desire for an independent foreign policy. Putin himself suspects this might be the reason.
  5. The Ukrainian oligarchs had run out of things to steal, so they concocted a scheme to attract IMF money to steal by manipulating the West. In order to make the coup happen, they enlisted the neo-nazis of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda and, realising that they could be dangerous, the oligarchs started a war in eastern Ukraine so as to kill them off.
  6. It’s really all about China. The aim is to frighten Europe with the “Russian threat” so that it expands defence spending and frees Washington to confront China in the Pacific.
  7. See Jon Hellevig’s exposition of why the West is destined to decline and is desperate to prevent or delay that decline.
  8. It’s a trap to catch a bear. If Russia openly intervenes, it can be treated as a pariah for decades; if it doesn’t, Ukraine will be a bleeding sore to weaken it for decades.
  9. It’s really all about preserving the US Dollar as the world’s reserve currency, very important pillar of Washington’s power.
  10. It’s Washington’s revenge on Moscow for preventing the attack on Syria last year.
  11. The US Navy wants a base in Crimea.
  12. It’s a chance to expand NATO further and keep it in business for years to come. Lots of employment and business opportunities there.

Finally, and never to be forgotten, those powerful drivers of history: stupidity and arrogance. We must recall that Obama and his advisors think Russia “makes nothing”. In short, they possess such a level of ignorance that any foolish or slapdash behaviour is to be expected.