More anti-Russa [sic] propaganda in the Guardian

Russia has on its statute books a set of laws known as anti-extremism laws. These laws have been made by the normal process by which laws are made in Russia, a country which, while not a mirror reflection of a Western ‘democracy’ has, nonetheless, a constitutional political process, an elected President, and a parliament composed of two chambers.

The anti-extremism laws cover a number of areas. In particular they mandate possible prison sentences for calls for extremism, for financing extremism, for public attempts to humiliate people and for organising religious communities that spread extremist ideology. [1] The legislation also provides for the banning of groups which promote religious, social, ethnic or racial discord. [2]

The (stated) motivation for this set of laws is to preserve the unity of Russia from threats emanating from religious or nationalistic groupings. [3] Much of the legislation is similar to hate-speech laws in the UK. As this article by the Wilson Centre [4] notes Russia does indeed have a problem with extremism. Furthermore, the Wilson Centre states that “Few have been convicted and imprisoned under anti-extremism laws”. [4] The Wilson Centre is a US based think-tank part funded by the US government so hardly “pro-Russian”. [5]

The legislation came in two waves. The EU report we have already referred to [2] details the first wave. This gave the authorities power to ban organisations for promoting extremism. The second wave is reported on by RT [1] and introduced prison terms for individuals for promoting extremism. One criticism of the legislation is that the terms of “extremism” are too broad. [4]. That may be; but then, such criticism can easily be made of, for example, the UK’s “anti-social behaviour” legislation. The Russian government is not the only government in the world which likes to give itself leeway when creating offences. The Europa article [2] lists the actions which are considered extremist. One of these is using violence to interfere in an election. Readers who only learn about Russia’s anti-extremism laws from the pages of the Guardian might be surprised that the laws include provision to defend the electoral process in Russia. They are not just about persecuting minority groups (the Guardian’s version).

The above gives a brief introduction to Russia’s anti-extremism laws. (The Europa report is worth reading). [2]. This is an article in the Guardian about a group of Jehovah’s witnesses being persecuted in Russia under this legislation. Following are some extracts together with our comments:

Anti-terror legislation is being used to target those whose faith is only ‘extreme’ in terms of its commitment to non-violence. It should be a warning to us all.

Why? Already we have the main problem of Western liberals writing on Russia (and indeed often on America too). They write from a point of view of a single world order. They assume that we should be worried about what happens in Russia, or the US, as if it was happening here. There may be concerns; but what happens in another country is not of the same import to British readers as what happens here in the UK. If only for the simple reason that the average Guardian reader can (in theory anyway) influence what happens in the UK through democracy but has no way of influencing Trump or Putin through the ballot box.

The small Siberian town of Birobidzhan is set in a mosquito-infested swampland on the far eastern end of the Trans-Siberian railway. It was to places such as this that the Soviets exiled various undesirables. In April 1951 more than 9,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses were rounded up and sent to Siberia on Stalin’s instruction. They were allowed to take 150kg of their possessions with them. Everything else was confiscated by the state.

A nice caricature of Russia’s far-east and why not bring Stalin into it? We don’t let the Germans forget Hitler so why should we let Russia forget Stalin? (The source given for the Stalin era deportations is a WikiPedia article which references a range of sources. At the time this author checked of the 4 sources explicitly given for the deportations 3 were to web links of which two were not available and one was to a Ukrainian human rights organisation. The fourth citation was to a Russian book).

A couple of months ago, the Russian police raided the Birobidzhan branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and “discovered” extremist literature. The Jehovah’s Witnesses describe the incident thus: “Masked special police disrupted a religious meeting and planted literature under a chair in the presence of the attendees.” The police ordered the place to be permanently closed.

Quite possibly material was planted. Yes; the police in Russia, as elsewhere are capable of planting material. Equally the claim may be a fabrication. (The Guardian links to a video provided by the Jehovah’s witnesses which may or may not show something but such evidence needs to be corroborated). It isn’t clear what exactly happened in terms of the “police ordering the place to be permanently closed”. The legislation states that banning of a group must be ordered by a court. [2] Is the Guardian claiming that this did not happen?

A few weeks later, the Russian ministry of justice demanded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses HQ hand over all information on their 2,277 Russian congregations. After a brief examination of what the police allegedly found, it concluded that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were showing signs of “extremist activity”. Congregations in Belgorod, Stary Oskol and Elista have all been shut down. Bibles have been impounded at customs, their literature banned. Many expect that the Russians are gearing up for an outright ban.

That sounds like due process is being followed under Russian law.

So what is it about Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Russians find so objectionable? This week, I decided not to avoid the eye of the couple who hand out literature at my tube station. So many times I’ve ignored them, and their Olympic smiling endurance, brushing past grumpily. Reading about their history, I now feel guilty about my lack of respect.

This is where the Guardian writer, a certain Giles Fraser, moves from simply repeating claims by an interested party (he also gets in a quote in their favour from an ex British Ambassador), to complete fiction. Mr Fraser’s “tube station” is, presumably, in London. But, hang on, I thought we were talking about Russia? How does Mr Fraser know that the material he reads at his local “tube station” is the same as the material the authorities are concerned about in Russia? He doesn’t. Obviously.

On open display was What Does the Bible Really Teach?, the book that the Russian authorities often plant in kingdom halls as an excuse to shut them down.

Now Mr Fraser is falling over himself. If “What Does the Bible Really Teach” is a book that has been deemed extremist in Russia and if this is a common piece of literature for Jehovah’s witnesses is it not likely that this book is sometimes found in Russia and causes problems for the Jehovah’s witnesses?

Jehovah’s Witnesses were taken to Nazi death camps for that very reason [their pacifism ed.]. They refused to swear loyalty to a worldly government and refused to serve in the military. They wouldn’t say Heil Hitler either. So within months of the Nazis coming to power, their meetings were ransacked and a Gestapo unit was set up to register all known Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their children were taken off them to receive a proper patriotic German education. And they were given their own purple triangle to wear as identification. In 1942, Wolfgang Kusserow was beheaded in Brandenburg prison by the Nazis for refusing to fight. “You must not kill,” he said at his trial. “Did our creator have all this written down for the trees?”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are right to fear what is happening to them again, right now, in Russia. They have seen it all before. It should be a warning to all of us that the idea under which they are now being persecuted is that of “extremism”.

This is truly revolting. The Russian legislation (under which few people have been imprisoned, according to the US government funded Wilson Centre [4]) is aimed at preserving the unity of the Russian state and preventing groups from operating in a way which causes social divisions. Certainly including Jehovah’s witnesses in this category reflects a more illiberal position that in say Europe. But there is no equivalence with the Nazis. No concentration camps. No purple badges. No gassing. Few prison sentences; (perhaps none at all for Jehovah’s witnesses?) In reality a law enacted by a fully constitutional government under which groups can be banned. Pacifism is not one of the activities which is deemed extremist under Russian law. But claims about exclusiveness based on religion are. [2] If Mr Fraser is trying to claim that the Jehovah’s witnesses organisation is having problems with anti-extremism legislation in Russia because of their pacifism he is making it up. (And there his Nazi analogy breaks down).

In Germany the Scientology movement is under government surveillance. The authorities have at times come close to seeking a ban. [6] The reason for this is that with the experience of Nazi rule behind them the German government does not want to allow ‘strange’ ideologies to take hold.  In other words; if we want to bring the Nazis into it then we can see that Russia’s anti-extremist laws far from being a repeat of Nazism are arguably the opposite. A valid concern about ideologies which can potentially lead young people to extremism. People who bandy about parallels with Nazi persecution when there is manifestly no parallel in reality diminish the reality of what did happen in Nazi Germany. It shows that their concern about these tragic events is suspect.

There is a total lack of basis to the analogy with the Nazis. None can be produced because there is none other than some vague and unsubstantiated appeal to “they came for you first”. The other problem with this article is that it shows zero understanding of Russia. Indeed the criticism even appears to be based on the author’s experiences outside his local UK tube station. Russia is a different country from the UK. It has a different kind of ethnographic and religious make-up being a unity of divergent peoples. (Britain has a single race which has been augmented by immigration). Russia has very real problems with extremism. Russia is at a different stage of development having, apart from anything else, only recently emerged from 80 years of Bolshevik rule. Young people in Russia may be more susceptible to ideologies; (for example there is a real social problem in Russia at the moment with young people being talked into suicide via online Internet groups [7]). And Russians are, well, Russians. Not English. Slavonic. Why do UK ‘journalists’ think that Russia should apply the exact same standards as the UK now and in all matters? It shows a bizarre lack of historical, political and cultural thinking.

Russia’s anti-extremist laws can of course be criticised. For example; the report by the Wilson Centre argues that they are capable of too broad an interpretation. But it is not as simplistic as the Russian state is using radical Islam as “an excuse to crack down on all religious activity that refuses to bow the knee to Mother Russia” as Mr Fraser suggests. Apart from the grotesque tone on display here (a callow abuse of a term which is indeed sacred to many Russians) a quick review of the details of the actions seen as extremist under the Russian legislation [2] shows that it is not a question of radical Islam + other religious activity, which is of concern to the authorities, but a wide range of activities. These include interference with electoral processes, hate speech, and, as we have mentioned, specifically “propaganda of exclusiveness”. It is quite probably this latter which is causing problems for the Jehovah’s witnesses in Russia. Exclusive salvation is an absolutely key tenet for the sect and the Russian laws specifically describe claims to exclusiveness as extremist. If Mr Fraser was writing journalism he would have taken the trouble to research Russia’s anti-extremism laws and answered his question about “What is it about the Jehovah’s witnesses ‘the Russians’ find so objectionable?” on a factual basis. Instead Mr Fraser offers a piece of theatre based on a chat with some Jehovah’s witnesses outside his local tube station in the UK! He uses their answer to this question – about non-violence – as a lead in to his unsubstantiated and revolting Nazi analogy. In fact if Mr Fraser had done some research he might also have learned that the same laws he denounces as being inspired by the Nazis in fact make it an offence to use Nazi attributes and symbols. [2]

This is standard fare in the Guardian these days when it comes to articles on Russia. Very weak journalism and denouncing Russia for not following the exact same standards as those held (or espoused) by the journalist himself. (Western liberal permissive values). Oh well, in true Western liberal fashion Mr Fraser assures us he now feels “guilty” about his previous “lack of respect” for the Jehovah’s witnesses. (Though he is not so respectful that he fails to describe their literature as “cringeworthy”).

And yes, the Guardian, has indeed headlined one of their anti-Russia propaganda articles as being about “Russa”. Which gives us an inkling of the level of thinking going on here.


1. RT

2. Report from European Parliament on Russia’s anti-extremism laws

3. RT

4. Wilson Centre. January 2013

5. WikiPedia



The imperialist mindset in the Western media

The Western media in the main produces narratives which support and ‘explain’ the actions of the political classes in the West. The actions of the West are always ‘explained’ in terms of morality and virtue using phrases like “the international order” and “the norms of international behaviour”.

This is because they (that is the individuals involved) all share a mindset which is essentially that of unreconstructed imperialism. The mindset has not been updated since Britain ruled the waves.

This leads them to some convolutions which are strange to outsiders but not to themselves. For example; part of the narrative on the UN is about how Russia and China often “block UN action”. Here is an example from Reuters/The Guardian:

Russia and China have vetoed a UN resolution to impose sanctions on Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons during the six-year war.

It is Russia’s seventh veto to protect the Syrian government from UN security council action.

But Russia has not “protected the Syrian government from UN security council action”. Russia has protected the Syrian government from action by the US, France and the UK. It is not the same thing. It is only the same thing to those who think that their “world order” is the world order. That is, those, who can only see others as vassal states who are either a) doing what they are told or b) “blocking” / being “obstructive” etc. In exercising their veto at the UN Russia fulfils its role in making sure that the UN cannot be used just to implement the policies of one power-block.

If the West fails to bring Russia and China to their knees (the current game-plan) then the only alternative will be that they will finally have to do what they claim to be doing all the time; act responsibly at the UN, support the international order, and so on.

Further examples

From the GuardianIn an article about Afghanistan:

Isis has been active in Afghanistan since 2014 but maintains a far smaller presence – and poses far less of an existential threat to the Afghan state – than the Taliban, who continue to be responsible for the majority of violence in the country

In reality the group responsible for most of the violence in Afghanistan is NATO, the US and the forces of the Afghan government they support. The mindset here is straightforwardly imperialistic; we have the right to come into a country, suppress it with massive force, and then declare that any local forces offering armed resistance are “terrorists” offering “violence”, whereas we are “peacekeepers” etc. etc.


More anti-Russia propaganda in the Guardian

Really; it is so irrational that hate may be the best explanation.

This is one of the Guardian’s propaganda writers, sorry ‘journalists’, writing on Russia and Ukraine.

At least Shaun Walker has taken the trouble to visit Ukraine. (Note that he did so and was able to write his anti-Russia propaganda and then presumably to return to Moscow to write up his article – which can be read by any Russian with an Internet connection. That must be the ‘Kremlin media bubble’ and ‘oppressive media climate’ the Guardian informs us about so often).

The article concerns the recent flare-up of violence along the contact line in Eastern Ukraine.

The line promoted is the one offered by Kiev – Russia started it. There is the usual completely unevidenced claim by Kiev of convoys of Russian vehicles and supplies moving into Donbass. The area occupied by the militias (as always misleadingly named ‘Russia-backed separatists by Mr Walker – an attempt to mask over the actual aspirations of people in that area of Ukraine) is tiny. Just a fraction of the provinces of Donetsk and Lugansk are occupied by the militias. If every claim by Kiev of convoys of Russian armour and vehicles moving into Donbass was true you would hardly be able to move in this region without bumping into a Russian armoured vehicle or fuel tanker. Maybe some of it is true; but it would be good to see some evidence. Talking of evidence – the OSCE monitoring mission has been showing for some time that Kiev has been moving heavy weapons around in violation of the ceasefire. At least – both sides have. [1] This alone destroys the “it is Russian aggression” narrative.

At the present stage it is (if for one moment we think about the situation rationally – as Russia is certainly doing) extremely unlikely that Russia would have provoked the current flare-up. The new President in the White House has at least spoken conciliatory words. The Russians would have everything to gain by waiting to see if Trump will exercise some leverage on Kiev to support a settlement in the region (i.e. to oblige Kiev to implement Minsk 2). A much more likely explanation is that the current round of fighting was provoked by Kiev in an attempt to draw Russia into the conflict and thus force Trump to take their side. This theory is partly confirmed by an admission by one Ukrainian soldier in Walker’s report – who admits that Kiev has been taking territory. This theory was also supported by an accidental admission recently by a Ukrainian government minister about advancing ‘one meter at a time’. [2] This latter admission was widely reported on Russian state media and not so widely reported in the West. (But this must be because Russian state media only presents ‘fake news’?). In reality it seems that – if we look at the evidence and consider the probable explanations – this theory is the most plausible. There is no rational reason for Russia to initiate anything at the present time. To his small credit Walker does at least mention the comments by a Ukrainian soldier – but in the main his article repeats the narrative officially put out by Kiev. Does it not occur to Walker that Kiev may just be spinning a story to achieve a certain end? Apparently not.

The article then is par for the course. It supports an irrational narrative. The (rational) Russian viewpoint is striking by its absence. The aspirations of the actual people who live in Donbass and who don’t want to be part of a European Ukraine are vanished out of the picture.

It’s all pretty shameless.



2. RT

Imperialistic journalism v. journalism based on universal rationality. [1]

This is an article in the Guardian about a group of Russian hackers who, apparently, have spent 3 years hacking the accounts of Russian officials – for money.

The Guardian is quite keen on this group. Previously, a Guardian journalist met with someone from the group on a yacht ‘outside a European city’.

The Guardian is quite happy to preserve the anonymity of this group, which appears to have been working to a commercial agenda. The articles are free of any condemnation or even criticism.

Apparent Russian hacking of the US Democratic Party in the run-up to the election, however, is reported on in terms of “interference”. Terms like “fake news”, “disinformation” and “cyber-espionage” activity are bandied about. All the US claims against Russia for “hacking the election” are taken as true. And this is in ‘reportage’ articles. The opinion pieces couldn’t condemn the (alleged) hacking more strongly.

Concerning another story; the woeful situation in Libya, which was torn apart by the NATO intervention in 2011, carried out on the basis of distorting a UN resolution, the Guardian today carries a report about how Russia may be about to help General Haftar seize power. The Guardian reports:

Diplomats are watching to see if Russia engages constructively in Libya, or seeks instead solely to back Haftar to undermine the laborious UN efforts to get the multitude of Libyan factions to compromise.


Moscow, which is eager to recover lost oil and infrastructure investments in Libya has feted Haftar, and also tended to his wounded soldiers.

“Constructively”, of course, means in line with Western interests and plans. That Moscow may be motivated by considerations regarding its oil and infrastructure investments in Libya is quite possibly true. That the West is motivated by exactly the same considerations in backing the process they are backing, is not mentioned. We are perhaps supposed to believe the usual hogwash that the West is always acting from some high and disinterested moral principals? Of course they are not. This is an article in Der Spiegel detailing the competition between European firms for a share of the Libyan oil market right at the time of the 2011 attacks on Libya. It shows how the “rebels” were already working on deals with oil companies even before Gaddafi was toppled (butchered on the battlefield with the assistance of the SAS).

What we see here is that the Guardian journalists write articles, without thinking, which adopt the narrative of Western power. The articles are written from the point of view that the West is “right” and anyone in conflict with the West is “wrong”. This is an imperialist outlook – which essentially dates from the Victorian era. It appears to be largely unconscious. Morality, as Kant pointed out, only works if it applies to everyone, equally, all of the time. There are two possible perspectives which journalists can write from. One is the imperialist perspective. From this point of view our spies are good, theirs are bad. We act out of high moral motives; they act out of low and sinister motives. And so on. This is a sort of “my country first” position. It has nothing to do with universal rationality. From a perspective of universal rationality such assumptions are not made. From this perspective one looks at the act as an act regardless of who made it. It would be entirely possible to do journalism from a perspective of rational universality. Such journalism could contribute to world peace. Imperialistic journalism will only prolong the war.