Why does the Guardian lie so much on Russia?

Quite possibly a Russian intelligence agency was behind the alleged attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. If this was the case then maybe the Kremlin knew about it in advance; or maybe they didn’t. There is quite a lot of material in the public domain which makes the former quite a strong possibility.

All this makes it all the more surprising that the Guardian incessantly lies when they write about Russia. If they want to criticise Russia there is  surely plenty to write about without lying?

This is Guardian ‘journalist’ Andrew Roth writing from Moscow on Putin’s comments that Skripal is/was a traitor and scumbag.

These are the lies in Mr Roth’s piece:

i. The piece is headlined “Vladimir Putin calls Sergei Skripal a scumbag and a traitor”. However; in his actual remarks Putin called Skripal a traitor and then went on to say that surely seeing a traitor as  a ‘scumbag’ is the natural reaction. (The Russian word he used is подонок for which Wiktionary offers the following translations “rogue, bastard, rat, scum, scoundrel”). That is – for Putin Skripal is a traitor and it follows from this that he is a rogue/rat/scum/scoundrel. To report this as “scumbag and traitor” i.e. to change the word order obfuscates Putin’s principled position – he doesn’t like traitors, and for Putin it follows from this that Skripal is a подонок. Furthermore; the word “scumbag” appears to be the worst possible translation of the Russian word Putin used. These errors are likely not unintentional. Mr Roth wants to tell a story about how terrible Putin is and he will distort the facts to prop up his story.

ii. “The novichok used was one of a number of nerve agents developed in the Soviet Union”. This is tendentious. Indeed this lie has already been called out. The substance allegedly used has been identified as being of a type which was developed by the Soviet Union. However, the specific material that was used in Salisbury could have come from a wide number of countries (including Britain) with the knowledge and capacity to produce this kind of agent.

iii. “Investigative journalists claim they have identified one of the two men as Col Anatoliy Chepiga, a military intelligence officer who strongly resembles one of the two suspects.” This refers to claims by a blogger called “Bellingcat”. Bellingcat specialises in scouring social media to find material to bolster NATO narratives on various matters. His analytical abilities do not reach the standard required of an investigative journalist – as this website has shown. Citing the weak ‘analyses’ by this propagandist as the work of an “investigative journalist” is one way that Western propagandists/journalists produce their narratives.

iv. “The Kremlin has said it will not help secure an interview with the suspects or discuss speculation as to their identities, despite the fact that Putin had originally called on them to come forward and protest their innocence on television”

In fact the two suspects were produced and gave an interview to RT.

v. “Russian television presented the two suspects, naming them as Boshirov and Petrov, as tourists who travelled twice to Salisbury because they were determined to see the city’s cathedral”

If Mr Roth is referring to the RT interview this is incorrect. RT simply interviewed the two men. It didn’t “present” them as anything. The interviewer (the editor of the channel) declined to state her personal opinion as to whether the men were telling the truth or not.

Embellishing a story or outright lying – a matter of semantics perhaps. But in either case – not journalism.

Update

It really is incessant. Here is today’s article which links Skripal and alleged Russian cyberattacks. It is by ‘Diplomatic Editor’ Patrick Wintour. He writes:

Official Russian explanations for the two men’s visit to Salisbury have been widely ridiculed, prompting tensions inside the Russian government over the inept handling of the episode.

However; there haven’t been any official explanations. See point iv. above: “The Kremlin has said it will not help secure an interview with the suspects or discuss speculation as to their identities”. You can check they are lying because they can’t even get their story straight.

Then we have:

The cyber-attack on the DNC headquarters, critical to the outcome of the 2016 elections, has often been attributed to the Russians, but it is the first time the UK intelligence services have made the claim.

Maybe ‘critical’. But that is a judgement not an objective fact as Mr Wintour presents here. (And a simplistic hack as this was reported to be is not a ‘cyber-attack’. A cyber-attack is when you set out to actively damage or cripple infrastructure – such as the US/Israel cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. In this case it was a hack to obtain data. Calling this event a cyberattack is just another lie).

Actually this story about alleged Russian hacking (perhaps provided to the Guardian by the Security Services?) should be understood completely in the context a) of Britain having recently set up its own dedicated cyber warfare unit and b) Britain trying to create a post-Brexit security role for itself in Europe.

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We “bolster” – they meddle

You have to do a double-take to check that the author of this Guardian article on the recent referendum in Macedonia is not having a laugh. But no – this is how they think. The referendum asked people if they wanted to change the name of the country so as to be able to resolve a dispute with Greece and move towards EU and NATO membership. The vote was high – about 90% in favour – but the low turnout (36%) meant that the result was not binding.

There are the usual unsubstantiated claims about “Russian meddling”. There is the usual reliance on claims by US officials. As usual “allegations” are treated as facts. And a smattering of Facebook posts (which could, as far as the article evidences, be by anyone at all) are cited as evidence of Russian interference.

But what is really surprising is how they manage to keep a straight face when after all these (vague and unsubstantiated claims) of Russian “interference” they calmly discuss how the US spent USD 8 million trying to “bolster” the yes vote.

The vote – to move towards NATO and EU membership – was not binding on the government because the turnout was only 36%. But in a nice show of Western progressives true attitude towards democracy – they report that “The paradox is that, whatever their country is called, a large majority of Macedonians support EU and Nato membership, according to a recent survey”. The source of the survey is not mentioned. So; the referendum abjectly failed to achieve the desired result despite a massive US/EU attempt to “bolster” the result . This was blamed on Russia – simply based on a series of allegations and claims by Western officials. But – not to worry – a survey said that Macedonians want NATO and EU membership so, hey ho, lets press on anyway.

Russian meddling does seem to have a purpose. The story (true or not – in this world of media narratives it makes no difference) of Russian meddling allows progressives to blame Russia for any failure of their “democratic” political projects – it isn’t that some of their domestic audiences are beginning to tire of the Western political project.

Fake news on the Salisbury suspects?

This is the Guardian’s report on a ‘report’ from ‘Bellingcat’ about the two British named suspects in the alleged Skripal poisoning.

‘Bellingcat’ is a web site which publishes ‘investigations’ based on ‘social media research’ which usually find Russia guilty of something.

This website realised that ‘Bellingcat’ was a fraud after reviewing their report into the downing of the MH17 flight over Ukraine. In this report ‘Bellingcat’ shows a total lack of understanding of forensic science – for example making inferences based on different colours in the ground – when the images being compared come from two different cameras. The word ‘calibration’ appears to be unknown to ‘Bellingcat’. In the same report they demonstrate a critical failure to understand how the software they are using to analyse apparent changes in jpeg files actually works.

It is a sign therefore not only of the frantic desire to accept anything which says Russia is bad but also of the very poor state of intellectual honesty and ability amongst those who pass for journalists in Britain today that the press has largely lapped it all up without noticing the glaring deficiencies.

This is in today’s Guardian report on the latest ‘Bellingcat’ ‘investigation’:

Bellingcat has frequently sparred with Russian military and diplomatic officials, who have claimed without evidence that Bellingcat fabricates evidence and is a front for foreign intelligence services.

However – the evidence that (at least in some cases) ‘fabricate’ is exactly what ‘Bellingcat’ does is there for all to see.

(We can add that this claim appears in an article in which Bellingcat is reported as declining to reveal the sources which provided them with a secret database of Russian passports…. Not MI6 by any chance???)

Update.

Craig Murray occasionally makes mistakes – but this looks like quite a strong post on the ‘Bellingcat’ ‘evidence’. Note, especially, the BBC report on the matter only using the two photos which are agreed to be Boshirov.

 

 

Guardian propaganda watch – fake news on Russia

The Guardian seems to be obsessed with criticising Russia. This is strange in itself. The Guardian is a UK newspaper. Its readership have no democratic say over what happens in Russia. They do (in theory) have a democratic say over what happens in the UK. There is plenty wrong in this country that one would have thought that a liberal democratic newspaper would want to concentrate on. But for some reason the Guardian wants to cover a lot of screen space criticising Russia instead.

There probably is plenty to criticise in Russia – if you want to. This is why it is all the more surprising that the Guardian ‘journalists’ who write on Russia have to consistently make up stories. Why do this? That they do this (and this website has demonstrated that they do this  time and time again) gives away what is going on. They aren’t even criticising Russia from some kind of real, genuine, indignation. They just want a straw-dog to shoot down.

This is typical example; a story about the head of Russia’s National Guard who has released a video in response to claims by the nationalist “anti-corruption” blogger Alexei Navalny of corruption in tendering by the National Guard. In the video the head of Russia’s National Guard, Victor Zolotov, refers to the age-old tradition of fighting a duel with someone who insults you, and, in this context, offers to fight Navalny on the mat or in a boxing ring.

The article is standard Guardian fare. It stops short of outright lies (mostly they avoid outright lies) but is spun in such a way to support the fixed narrative on Russia. Zolotov is described as a “close ally of Putin”. He obviously is a connection but the point of mentioning this, which isn’t really relevant to the story, is to tarnish Putin. The report by one of the Guardian’s propagandists in Moscow (that these people can live there and write this propaganda quite freely undermines half the narrative on the ‘harsh media climate’ of course) omits the context in which Zolotov made his comments – the tradition of the duel. Without this context it does appear as a “bizarre rant”. Since “bizarre rant” is the preferred story they omit the details which give the video a more coherent meaning.  The “investigation” by Navalany, referred to by the Guardian, appears, in his own words, to depend solely on looking at the website of the National Guard (where tenders are openly published, as government tenders are in the UK).  [1] Finally, the Guardian mentions that protesters have been detained in recent political demonstrations against recent pension reforms. (Not really relevant to their non-story about Zolotov but it is all part of the anti-Russia narrative so it finds a home here). This is true; people have been detained. But, as is standard in how the Guardian reports on protests in Russia, they omit the fact that people have been arrested on a proper legal basis. In Russia there is a law, (passed by an elected government), that it is an offence to hold a rally if the authorities have not given permission for it to go ahead. This may be a somewhat more authoritarian law than we are used to in the UK, (though police here also take a robust attitude to policing demonstrations where the organisers have not cleared it with the police), but that is the law in Russia. The protesters have been arrested for breaking Russian law. All this will be known to Andrew Roth in Moscow, but he chooses, for whatever reason, to omit it and instead promote a false narrative on Russia. As for the police “using batons on people who are in their teens and early twenties”. Gosh, Andrew, have you never attended a political demonstration in the UK? Hey ho; the police here use batons as well – and against people in their “teens and early twenties”.

There is plenty to write about in the UK – massive social inequality, laundering of public money to private corporations on an absolutely massive scale, use of solitary confinement as a routine punishment on teenagers in schools etc. etc. Are we being distracted from all this with these endless fake tales of how bad things are in Russia?

Notes

1. https://www.rt.com/politics/438154-national-guard-navalny-duel/

Skripal

This is Craig Murray’s take on the recent Skripal case revelations (the naming of two suspects said to be working for Russian military intelligence).

His observant point about the timeline is interesting – based on the times now given by the police of the victims’ and suspects’ movements this leaves only a small frame between 12.00 and 13.15 on the day of the assassination attempt for the poison to have been applied to the “doorknob”.

It seems implausible that the would-be assassins turned up at a random time hoping that the Skripals would be out so they could calmly apply the poison to the doorknob and then leave. In the material presented by the police there has been nothing relating to other operatives or surveillance of the Skripals which could have helped the assassins know that the Skripals were out. We can posit then a meeting – the 2 would-be assasins met the Skripals on their doorstep. During this meeting they applied the poison to the door-knob. The meeting could have been by arrangement or not. (If not though surely the Skripals would have panicked having these 2 dodgy looking characters turn up on their doorstep unannounced – and called their MI6 handlers rather than popping into town for a quick coffee?). This modus operandi is similar to the assassination of Litvinenko – a meeting is set up and during the meeting the poison is administered.

We then have to assume that because of the method of administration – via a surface rather than direct application to the skin – the Skripals only came into contact with a tiny amount of the substance – which is why they were not killed.

If we follow this line of conjecture all we can suggest is that the Skripals were meeting someone / some people who they expected to look Russian and these people were their would-be assassins.

Do the revelations about these two suspects – who are said to have flown in from Russia – tell us who did it? Essentially no; all the three main theories (Kremlin ordered assassination; rogue elements in Russian intelligence and/or the mafia; a third-party state) remain in the running. The only theory which takes a slight dent from these revelations is the theory that the attack was staged by Ukrainian intelligence – as it would be quite challenging for Ukrainian intelligence to have sent two agents from Russia (and back again) with plausible fake Russian passports. If it was an unauthorised attack by Russian military intelligence that tells us that Putin is not in control (though of course we are continually told by the Western propaganda machine that Putin is fully in control). If it was a mafia hit then we might expect Russia to track down the perpetrators – why not? Of course the British position of trying to embarrass Russia by a series of media leaks rather than talking to them does not make it easy at all for Russia to say that it was done by the Russian mafia/unauthorised elements in their intelligence networks. – The British position – managed by MI6 and No. 10 – is aimed at extracting maximum political capital from this and trying to use it to discredit Putin personally. The British position – either confess you did it or confess to an unauthorised chemical weapons programme – has specifically closed off the door for Russia to admit that it was an attack by rogue agents – even if it was. Russia is only offered a single choice here – and all doors lead to the toppling of “Putin” – the main goal of the Western financial (“freedom”) elites at the moment.

In summary – we still can’t say who did it based on the actual evidence in the public domain. We can observe that the event is being used by No. 10 to try to attack and discredit Putin personally. To do this they are stage managing the media narrative in the British press. (This stage management of the ‘democratic’ media is a bit of an insult to the British public – but we know that these people have no conception of democracy so that is no surprise).

 

 

 

More Guardian propaganda

This is a lovely piece of Guardian propaganda on Syria.

The author is delusional. It is however a nice example of how the Western media builds its propaganda. A few quotes – from Anti-Assad groups and the UN (to give it a sense of objectivity) are picked out and strung together to build the narrative. Of course; this is just how delusions are developed by psychotics – a few points which are true establish the narrative which itself is delusional. The author no doubt believes his “analysis” and probably thinks he is saving humanity.

Before commenting on a few specific points it is worth noting that the author gets through his whole piece about an upcoming “murderous onslaught” in Syria’s Idlib province without once mentioning who the target of the military campaign is – Al-Nusra, or Al Qaeda in Syria – and affiliated groups. This, Al-Nusra / Al-Qaeda, is the same group who murdered more than 3000 Americans in the Twin Towers attacks in 2001. This group is not mentioned once in the article! That alone tells us we are in the realm of extraordinary propaganda.

A few points:

The author cites something called “The Syria Campaign” as evidence of human rights atrocities committed by Assad/Russia (he doesn’t specify which). A quick glance at the website of “The Syria Campaign” with its banner “We are a human rights advocacy group supporting Syria’s heroes in the struggle for freedom and democracy” tells us clearly which side of the civil war this group is on. As we know “truth is the first casualty of war”. Citing a partisan group for information in the context of a war is reasonable reporting; however to present it as some kind of source of neutral facts is babyish. You shouldn’t even pass the first year of an undergraduate course in journalism if you can’t show that you are assessing your sources for likely bias.

The author describes as “disinformation” and “fake news” recent Russian claims that the militants are planning a chemical weapons “false-flag” operation. He then backs up this claim by referencing “documented evidence” by a group called the Syrian Archive that the Syrian government has committed chemical weapons attacks in the past. (Therefore it is false to say that the militants are planning a false flag attack). Again we are supposed to believe that the Syrian Archive is some kind of neutral objective group. But even one second’s research shows that it is not. The director of this group is linked to the notorious Belllingcat operation – a single person who is linked to Nato’s Atlantic Council [1] and who produces shoddily researched papers based largely on “social media analysis” backing Western positions on various matters (usually Russia bad). (We have analysed his ‘work’ on MH17 here – it is demonstrably technically flawed). What we see here is a nexus of organisations who present themselves as “human rights advocates” and so on but who, in reality, are part of an organised network of groups producing pro-Western narratives. Furthemore; if the Assad regime has on occasion used chemical weapons it does not follow from that that every incident can be taken at face value. It is possible for it both to be true that Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons and militants have staged false flag attacks. In reality this is what happens in the fog of war. On both points then – objectivity of sources and general understanding of how to report on wars author Simon Tisdall’s piece fails elementary tests of journalism. He simply fails to show that Russian claims about an upcoming chemical weapons false flag operation by militants are “fake news”.

Then we have this:

The Russian and Syrian regimes claimed to be solely concerned with fighting terrorism when defending their previous, indiscriminate missile, barrel bomb and artillery attacks on civilian residential areas, hospitals and schools, notably in Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, which caused mass casualties.

One wonders if Mr Tisdall has any evidence for his claim that Russia has used “barrel bombs” and “indiscriminate missile attacks” in Syria? Probably not. He’s probably just making it up.

The underlying thread here is basically that when Russia is involved in a military operation it is a “murderous onslaught on civilians” but when the West or Israel is it is usually a “targeted campaign aimed to minimise civilian casualties”. To be fair to Mr Tisdall he was one of a few voices questioning the propaganda the public was fed in the run-up to the Iraq war. It seems strange that he appears to have lost his ability to question what the Western corporate-state is telling him on Syria.

Notes

1. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/about/experts/list/eliot-higgins

Skripal – wave 2

The first ploy was to tell the public (and possibly Britain’s allies) a lie. Porton Down had indentified the substance used as coming from Russia.

That was exposed as a lie.

What has happened since is exactly what we would expect from Britain’s intelligence services. They have leaked a series of claims to the press.

The leaks (better understood as planted information) concern this persistent claim about a Russian training manual mentioning smearing nerve agents on doors and the claim about a message being sent from Syria to Moscow about “the package has been delivered” and “two agents have made their egress”. (With reference to the latter Craig Murray suggests this is probably just a sexed up translation of “left”).

That is – they are scraping through their records to find anything, no matter what, which can be used to prop up the government line. This – information management – is a primary function of the intelligence services. This is what they do.

No doubt there was some kind of an intercept (by all accounts of an unencrypted communication) from Syria. No doubt there is some document which can somehow be described as a “training manual” and there are some grounds which permit it to be said that it dates from post-Soviet times (which is what they are claiming). But all this is just the usual titbits  – without the details including the source of the alleged ‘training manual’ no one can independently come to any conclusion at all.

All this doesn’t stop the eager press from playing its part. For example, today’s Daily Telegraph has the headline: “Russia hacked Yulia Skripal’s emails for five years and tested Novichok on door handles, bombshell intelligence dossier reveals”. There is nothing “bombshell” about this. As we say above this is routine and the intelligence services are just doing their bit to prop up a government story. – As for the story about Russian intelligence carrying out surveillance into Julia Skripal’s emails – we would expect them to be doing exactly that. If a British spy defected to Moscow and his daughter continued to work in London MI6 would not be hacking her emails? Come on. What is going on here is little titbits of ‘information’ are being released as part of a studied news management campaign to prop up a failing story.

MI6 is doing what we would expect from them. Telling lies (or at least planting massaged information) to prop up whatever the government wants them to prop up.

But it is lamentable to see the “free press” quite so eagerly doing their bidding. We can note the Telegraph breathlessly says “it has been revealed” and “it has emerged”. The “journalist” will get some kind of a payback for further dressing up MI6’s planted stories. But it has zero to do with journalism.