There is sometimes a call that people who peddle hate-speech should be “de-platformed”. We should, it is suggested, deny them the “oxygen of publicity”, which they crave. But when it comes to hating Russia and spreading false stories and myths all is open season. Strange. At least; irrational.
Let’s consider a few points. The heading is: “The confusion around Russian ‘meddling’ means they’re already winning”. If you think about this it means that when – as it now happens with the results of the Mueller investigation showing no collusion between Trump and Russia – the narrative line about “Russian meddling” has to be pulled back then the purveyors of this line can now simply say that Russia wants the confusion. Now Russian is guilty not because they meddled but because there is some doubt as to whether they meddled. This is the logic of the ducking stool. The point is that whatever – proof or no proof – Russia is guilty. Of something. From the point of view of irrational hate this is rational.
The author claims in the piece that the piece was written before the results of the Mueller probe were released (which formally found no collusion between Trump and Russia). It was published by the Guardian at 9.00 UK time so possibly. It is of course possible that the author had advance information on the results of the Mueller probe but if not we can simply understand it as a clever pre-emptive strike. The challenge is to backup the anti-Russia narrative just when it seems to be falling away. How to do that? This is the challenge which BBC ‘Foreign Correspondent’ Ms Gatehouse gallantly sets herself to solve.
Extracts and comments:
the arguments around Russia’s role in Brexit rage on
Arguments may “rage on” somewhere but even the most die-hard proponents of this line in the liberal press have to date produced no more than a fistful of Facebook posts which may or may not be linked to the Kremlin.
Vladimir Putin must be delighted… the very fact that people believe in his power to drive massive population movements, bewitch electorates and divide allies is a win for the Kremlin
All this is simply madness floating around in Ms Gatehouse’s mind. That is – the only people who actually believe this are the liberal propagandists who keep pushing this line. No one else believes in it. If Putin is “delighted” (and who knows what delights Putin) then it is because of Western propaganda scoring an own goal. Indeed when Putin commented that he didn’t think the US was a “banana republic” whose elections could be readily manipulated he probably was having a bit of a laugh.
At the height of his [Vladislav Surkov] power, he represented a sort of Kremlin svengali, controlling most of the MPs in the Duma, the Russian parliament, both from pro-Kremlin parties and the so-called “opposition”.
Vladislav Surkov is an adviser to the Russian government. The line here about ‘so-called “opposition”‘ is a standard part of the Western narrative on Russia. The claim is that all the parties in the Duma are in fact part of the Kremlin’s project. There is no real opposition, they claim. They then invent some liberal opposition for example touting the Moscow blogger Navalny as examples of the “real opposition”. (Navalny is in fact a Russian nationalist who hates Georgians and who takes a very un-Western line on Crimea but he serves as a sort of pretend liberal for these people). All this shows a desperate failure to understand Russia and modern Russian politics. Firstly; Fair Russia and the Communist Party of Russia do represent a real, left-wing, opposition to the pro-capitalist policies of United Russia and Putin. Secondly, there is a failure to grasp that the Russian character is simply not the same as the liberal Western one. There is (an oversimplification of course) a more authoritarian tendency in Russia. Respect for the leadership is more of an engrained trait that it is in the West where politics has no credibility and little public respect. This may be a good thing or a bad thing; but it is inane to judge Russia through the same lens which works for looking at the West.
When a journalist was beaten nearly to death in the streets of Moscow in 2010, fingers were pointed at Surkov’s youth groups. When snipers massacred dozens of protesters on the streets of Kiev in 2014, Ukraine’s government said Surkov was giving the orders.
This is how these “foreign correspondents” operate. Innuendo, unattributed claims (usually references to claims made by anti-Russia journalists like themselves) and references to claims by US client governments treated as sacrosanct. (In this case the “government” referred to was a coup government in waiting which was itself responsible for great violence in the course of that coup). From a journalistic point of view all this is essentially a disgrace.
Surkov is no longer the pre-eminent force in Russian politics. In 2016, a leak of emails from his office showed him to be running pro-Kremlin separatists in eastern Ukraine, part of Putin’s war against the pro-western government in Kiev.
The link is to another Guardian story. Ms Gatehouse must be hoping no one actually follows the link. Because if we do we find that the story there does not support the claim made here that the “leak” showed Surkov to be doing anything. In that story the Guardian is careful to acknowledge the possibility that supposed leak may in fact be faked. This is one way that these fakers work. It could be called inflation. A possible fact is recycled a few times, gains some distance from its source, and is now presented as incontrovertible truth. But, reality remains reality and something doesn’t become true because you want it to be.
Once again, with a nod and a wink, Surkov pulls back the curtain. But he also gives the game away. We’re doing the work for him: fostering suspicions and manipulating the facts to suit our agendas. The power of Surkov is mostly in our heads.
This seems to be the argument of this piece of anti Russian poison. It isn’t that Russia is meddling in the West. But, in allowing us (well, liberal ‘journalists’) to think so they are still meddling. Ultimately this is psychotic. As the story of Russian meddling in the US Presidential elections falls away the new claim is that Russia is responsible for us (well, liberal ‘journalists’) having come up with this idea in the first place. Instead of accepting that there is an element of delusion in their claims of Russian meddling the new line is that they (the Russians – but it could be anyone, Chinese, Martians) – are planting these crazy and delusional thoughts in our heads. This is how psychotics protect their “sanity”. My thoughts may be crazy but someone is putting them there.
It is a sign of the times and the very low level of rationality in public discourse in the West that this kind of somewhat frightening craziness can pass as normality.
If Ms Gatehouse wants to defend this line – that the fact that Western liberals think that Russia meddled in the US elections is part of a Russian plot – she needs to show us the concrete mechanism by which they did this. It is not enough to point to the fact (assuming it is a fact) that Putin and United Russia run a very slick campaign which ensures that they remain the main party of choice in Russian elections. That does not explain the mechanism by which thoughts of Russian meddling in Western elections have been placed in the brains of Western ‘foreign correspondents’.