With respect to Russia, sophisticated manipulation in the struggle for power, money and influence unfolds. The United States plays unclean.
A couple of weeks ago, a cautious suggestion was made in this column that John Kerry’s talks with Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Sochi, which lasted all day, are a sign that the clouds hanging over some issues on the international agenda such as Ukrainian crisis - begin to dissipate. Personally, I did not see any confirmation that Secretary of State Barack Obama suddenly, for no apparent reason, discovered a new foreign policy strategy - reasonable, in the spirit of post-imperialism and consonant with the new era in which we live. It happened just because of the circumstances. It's just that the 21 century has come into its own.
And what is destined to be will be done - whether with clean hands, according to the rules, and peacefully or in some other way.
The unexpected development of events in Sochi inclined the public to the fact that an open and peaceful path was chosen. However, judging by what is happening since then, most likely, everything went the other way. It is difficult to judge, since these are all hidden games, but it seems that in the Ukrainian question the American ruling elite is walking on the muddy ice - no matter how they fail.
Since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001, it began to seem that reality is a common product, “I don’t want to take it”. Karl Rove, a devilishly competent politician, fighter of the inner-party front, who, however, had little influence in the intellectual field, could have been a visionary when he advised all of us to forget our boring ideas about reality - real, real-life reality. Because empires create their reality, he told us, and now we are an empire.
The Ukrainian crisis teaches us that congenital pathologies are found not only among representatives of the Bush administration, who at one time broke wood, whose idea of reality was so idealistic that it turned out to be beyond logic. Today we see manifestations of the late imperialist syndrome. The word “unprecedented” could well describe the furious attempts of the Obama administration to fabricate reality in Ukraine and the endless reproduction of false arguments by the American media, but journalists do not like to use this word, it is unsafe.
At this stage, it would be reasonable to simply take all the arguments that lead the American media, and turn it upside down, and then try to analyze. Well, who wants to live in a world akin to the Orwellian or as in the novel by Aldous Huxley, where reality is erased by the destruction of the language, as in the first case, or where the reference to stories considered a crime, as in the second?
Language and history: as has been said several times, this weaponwhich we are not supposed to have.
Today, Ukraine serves as the source of two egregious examples of what I understand by distorted argumentation.
First, we are literally filled up with messages about the resumption of the Russian military presence in the east of the country. Looking at them, I just want to ask: what was there conceived in Washington? Escalate US military engagement? Special operation? We will find out soon.
Secondly, harsh accusations addressed to Moscow are getting louder - that it launched a malicious propaganda campaign undermining all security principles, the purpose of which was to destroy the truth, our truth, could be said. There is no less “militarization of information”, that is, use as a weapon, the media warn us. Let's call things by their names: our truth, and the very air that we breathe, is so infected with propaganda that even during the Cold War, this has not been dreamed of, and it seems no one is set to change anything for the better, but only vice versa.
Let's try to figure out how this is possible.
Accusations against Russia of increasing the presence of troops and equipment on the border with Ukraine are by no means news. Such is the work of the NATO commander, General Bridlav, to come up with alarming warnings about a military threat. They can be safely ignored - as most Europeans do.
However, in April of this year, these accusations reached a new stage of escalation, when an article by the correspondent Michael Gordon, accredited to the Department of State (and regularly voicing his line), was published in the New York Times. Referring to only one non-anonymous source, Gordon argued that Russia was deploying additional troop contingents and air defense systems along its border. The State Department press secretary Marie Harf, as well as a standard set of anonymous officials and experts, acted as a source.
The article began with the following words: “As US officials said last Wednesday, Russia continues to deploy air defense complexes in eastern Ukraine and build up its grouping of troops along the border, which may be a sign of an early escalation of the Ukrainian crisis. Western leaders are not sure whether these measures indicate preparation for a new offensive, designed to help pro-Russian separatists increase the territory they control. ”
“As stated,” “continues to unfold,” “can serve,” “not sure.” And this is the introductory paragraph of the article, which should, in theory, be killer facts. If, however, clear an article of speculation, nothing remains of it. At the same time, the passage about the “new offensive of the pro-Russian separatists,” for the sake of which everything was intended, including the introductory phrase “the Western leadership is not sure.” From the point of view of journalism principles, this article is below any criticism.
But what is the background of the news - the one that the authors of such publications do their best to hide from the reader. In mid-April, Washington did not abandon attempts to sabotage the truce concluded in the framework of the “Second Minsk Agreement” in Ukraine. In Kiev, a series of political assassinations of pro-Russian politicians and public figures were gaining momentum. At the same time, the government of Poroshenko (regardless of whether it approved this campaign of terror or not) turned out to be either incapable or not inclined to fulfill its Minsk commitments in terms of revising the constitution.
A week before the article appeared in the New York Times (dated April 22), three hundred 173-th paratroop regiment of the US armed forces arrived in Ukraine, sent as instructors for the Ukrainian National Guard. In his material, Gordon mentions this obvious fact - simply because it would be simply impossible not to notice him - however, he refuses to see at least some causal connection with the subsequent actions of Russia. Instead, he immediately begins to express peremptory speculation about the sinister plans of the Kremlin.
Given the context, I would not be surprised at all by the decision of Moscow to deploy along its border an air defense system. And I do not really understand why the West sees this as a serious cause for concern. And what if the West is guided by the same considerations as Benjamin Netanyahu, who recently expressed concern about Russian deliveries of air defense systems to Iran - they say, now it will become more difficult for us to strike at them?
I also do not understand why everyone is so alarmed by the fact that Russian military instructors are training the partisans in eastern Ukraine (this is another of the accusations voiced by Mari Harf). After all, we refuse to understand Moscow’s concern about the presence of American instructors in Ukraine.
After 22, a new theme began to develop in April. On May 17, official Kiev announced that two soldiers were caught in Russian uniform - they participated in operations on the territory of Ukraine. 21 May came new messages: European observers talked with two soldiers (the circumstances of the conversation did not reveal) and confirmed that they were really Russian infantrymen serving in the regular troops. This gave Kiev a certain weight, the New York Times notes, but at this stage this evidence is not enough.
And 30 May - drumming - the final blow, the long-awaited deliverance from the torment. The Atlantic Council, a Washington-based expert group professing some kind of trained neoliberalism, published a report allegedly showing that, in the New York Times, “Russia continues to provoke the West by conducting protracted military operations on the territory of Ukraine.”
The very first sentence of the report: "Russia is waging war against Ukraine."
“Continuing to provoke?” “Waging a war against Ukraine?” If you refuse to accept that indisputable and carefully documented fact that Moscow made great efforts to reach a settlement, working on this issue together with Europe (bypassing the provocations of the Americans), if you don’t consider Ukrainian conflict civil war, it means only one thing - someone else creates your reality for you.
Now the details. The New York Times claims that the report of the Atlantic Council, "Hid in plain sight: Putin’s war in Ukraine", is an independent project. I just imagine the serious expression of Gordon’s face (such a feeling that he is now in charge of all the dull materials) when he writes three paragraphs below that John Herbst, one of the authors of the report, is the former US ambassador to Ukraine.
I don’t know what the expression on Gordon’s face was later, when he wrote that the document of the Atlantic Union was based on materials from the “website of investigations” Bellingcat.com. Or when he agreed with Herbst that Bellingcat, which appears to be operating from an office on the third floor of a building in the English city of Leicester, is an “independent source.”
Honestly, I don’t know what journalists look like when they write like that - maybe they’re really sad that this is their job now.
First, Bellingcat used Google, YouTube and other publicly accessible social network resources in its “research”. And they are trying to prove to us that they are so smart and inventive. Kidding me
Manipulations with “evidence” from social networks became the favorite game of Kiev, Washington, the CIA and NATO at the very beginning of the Ukrainian conflict. Look at the graphic elements in the presentation. I think you do not need to be an expert in technology to understand: all these pictures prove the same thing as all the “facts” presented earlier, namely, nothing. Another trick.
Secondly, examine the Bellingcat site and try to guess who is behind it. I went to the link "About Us" and came across a blank page. The entire site consists of ill-founded anti-Russian "plots" - there is no focused "investigation" here.
I look at all this and think: “Hm, it is quite possible that some actions are being carried out on the Russian border and in the territory of Ukraine. Or maybe not. These two soldiers may be Russian military personnel of the regular troops, but I can’t draw any precise conclusion. ”
I do not like this process of perception of information - neither as a reader, nor as a former news journalist. I do not like to read editorials in the New York Times, such as the one that was published on Tuesday, which uses the combination of “Putin's war” and other phraseological units of this kind, and to think: “Our most influential newspaper also got involved in the game with the invented reality. "
Here it is necessary to clarify a few points. I will say straight away - despite the lack of credibility of the evidence presented, we can be almost certain that Russia really pulled the troops and military equipment to the border with Ukraine.
I, at least, hope for it, and in what quality they are there - it does not interest me at all.
First, it is still a rather moderate response to the current geopolitical situation, which Moscow regards as dangerous, Washington, apparently, does not, and Kiev in general strongly denies the existence of any danger. If the circumstances were reversed, all this could have resulted in an open confrontation between the two nuclear powers. Fig leaves have their own function.
I already wrote about spheres of influence: they need to be observed and even read somewhere. Stephen Cohen, a specialist in Russia, prefers the expression “security areas”, and this term accurately conveys the meaning of the idea. Russia cannot give up its interests, as Cohen describes them. And if you take into account how high the stakes are for Moscow, then the Russian reaction to what is happening can be considered reasonable and restrained.
Apparently, Moscow also understands that the lack of balance between the pro-Russian east and the pro-Western west will lead to a bloody massacre in Ukraine. Given the irresponsibility of the Ukrainian authorities, who have almost no control over right-wing extremist groups, Kiev should not be given a single opportunity to attempt a military resolution of this crisis.
We must remember what is usually done in such situations. I had a cousin who flew a helicopter during the Vietnam War. When hostilities moved to the territory of Laos and Cambodia, he flew his helicopter not in military uniform, but in jeans, a T-shirt and sneakers and without his army badge. He was told: "If the helicopter falls, we do not know you."
The same was in Angola in the middle of the 70's. When the Portuguese were forced to leave the old colony, the CIA began to supply weapons to right-wing groups in the north and south, and money was also sent to the country. And only in response to these actions by the United States, did Cuba send its troops to Angola, whose actions turned the tide of events. I remember very well all the cries of “aggression”, all this hypocritical nonsense: America’s efforts to overthrow the regime that still rules peacefully in Angola have continued for more than one year.
The New York Times editorial is called “Vladimir Putin hides the truth.” This is the most terrible version of the script "upside down."
It is difficult to compare messages about the Ukrainian crisis, comparing them with each other. Imagine two bottles of wine without labels, and here you are offered to taste the drink with your eyes closed. Now read on.
It’s so obvious that Moscow’s view of events in Ukraine and in general at the confrontation between the West and the East is more logical. Read or listen to Putin’s addresses, especially his statements on the forum of the Valdai Discussion Club (an analogue of Davos) and in Sochi last October. He always has a historical base, an understanding of interests (common and opposite), as well as the peculiarities of the conditions and ways of achieving the best results in this situation prevailing in the 21 century.
Moscow provides a much more reasonable, accurate and comprehensive report on the Ukrainian crisis. Not a single American official can do this. For one simple reason: neither Putin nor Lavrov has a heavy burden that American officials have to deal with - the burden of having to make people believe in mythical arguments about how the world works and about their place in this world.
In other words, Russia's interests are clear, they can be explained. While American interests, namely the expansion of opportunities for capital and the spread of its power, must always remain hidden.
There is a serious asymmetry in the issue of the plausibility of information, and this is a fundamentally important point. I think this explains the probably most unprecedented propaganda efforts I wrote about above. Their rapid implementation began since Andrew Lack, appointed in January by the chief American propagandist (director of the International Broadcasting Council), immediately declared the information environment a battlefield. War of worldviews, one might say.
This war is gaining momentum in his eyes. In the latest edition of The Nation, journalist James Cardin published an excellent article on how far things have gone. I consider it a must-read, published here.
Cardin's article is called “Neomacartism of the American media,” and even a quick glance is enough to understand why we all need to fear a reversal to the paranoia of 1950's. Much of the material in this column would be banned as misinformation. Whatever beliefs you hold, I urge you to take this seriously.
The article discusses the report “The threat of unreality: information, culture and money as a weapon of the Kremlin” by Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, published in The Intepreter online edition and written with the participation of the Institute of Modern Russia.
Questions about the professional competence of the authors - a lot. Weiss is an “expert” on the latest trends, always looking for an opportunity to succeed. A student and admirer of the late Christopher Hitchens, he lived in a research center in London until he became the editor of The Interpreter. Pomerantsev worked as a television producer in the back streets of the Russian media circus and turned against him when he failed. Now he, of course, the favorite of our media.
And most importantly, both of them seem to be in the service of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oligarch and a fraudster, whom the Western media, from the New York Times and beyond, are now extolled as a democrat because they are enemies with Putin. Khodorkovsky is funding the Institute of Modern Russia, located in New York. And the Institute of Modern Russia, in turn, is financed by The Interpreter.
Understand what's what? Take this report seriously?
Surprisingly, many have done so. According to Cardin, Weiss and Pomeranz were successful among many representatives of the Congress suffering from Russophobia of the new sample. They are supported by a number of politically significant figures, for example, Ann Applebaum, a well-known paranoid on all matters relating to Russia, and Jeffrey Payet, the US ambassador in Kiev, who contributed to the coup.
Carden expertly states the essence. According to the report, The Threat of Unreality, Putin, who uses news as a weapon, is more dangerous than any communist, and needs to be stopped. How? With the help of an “internationally recognized disinformation rating system”.
“Information organizations that deliberately mislead the audience should be excluded from the journalistic community,” write Weiss and Pomerantsev, meaning by “community” those whose views are considered correct.
No, Cardin is not joking.
It may seem strange, but in one thing I will give Weiss and Pomerantsev his due: they are right that an ideological infection weakens us. A kind of blindness is spreading, and it needs to be treated. This is the only point on which I agree with them. Otherwise, I consider their report to be one of the most serious cases of the manifestation of the disease at the moment.
You can try to follow the logic of publication, but I would not spend a lot of time on it: there is simply no way outside of their world. True, only one, they argue, and it just so happens that she is just the way we see her. There is simply no other way of looking at things, there is no alternative.
It is easy to write off Weiss and Pomerantsev from the accounts as arrogant charlatans, which I do, but you cannot do that with their views. They clumsily and straightforwardly express the prevailing point of view, a key aspect of neoliberalism. "There is no alternative!" - Margaret Thatcher's famous slogan - applies to everything.
To say that the Threat of Unreality calls for a kind of intellectual protectionism would be an understatement. The idea of Weiss and Pomerantsev is reduced to control over information, that is, control over the truth. If you can come up with a better definition of propaganda production, write in the comments.
Fighting alleged propaganda with the help of propaganda - that’s turned upside down. This is what we get when other people create reality.
Patrick Smith is the author of Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. From 1985 to 1992, he headed the bureau of the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong and then in Tokyo. At this time, he wrote Letters From Tokyo for the New Yorker newspaper. Patrick Smith is the author of four more books and often writes for publications such as the New York Times, The Nation, The Washington Quarterly, and others. You can follow him on Twitter, @thefloutist.