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.

Notes

1. RT

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

3. RT

4. Wilson Centre. January 2013

5. WikiPedia

6. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7133867.stm

7. life.ru

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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.

Notes

1. http://www.osce.org/ukraine-smm

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.

and

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.

 

 

The Guardian’s departure from truth

The Guardian is continuing to produce an endless stream of anti-Russia propaganda. (They are so keen on doing this that they even publish anti-Russia stories produced by the US propaganda outlet ‘Radio Free Europe’ and Bill Gates’s charitable foundation and present them as ‘news’ [1]).

The following is an example of one approach. In this approach – a claim by activists is reported and then by a magical process morphs itself into absolute uncontested truth.  – We should, of course, not be naive. Russia does sometimes operate tactically in a way that allows for ‘plausible deniability’. The presence of volunteer Russian servicemen in Eastern Ukraine might be cited as an example; it is unlikely that they are not being coordinated to some extent by Russian intelligence. Their presence as volunteers allows the Russian state to officially say that “there are no Russian troops in Eastern Ukraine”. On the other hand; elevating unproven claims against Russia made by die-hard ‘anti-Kremlin’ activists to the status of truth is not journalism either.

This article, by Guardian journalist Alec Luhn, writing in Moscow, describes how a US based Kremlin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza, has fallen ill while on a trip to Russia. His wife has alleged that he has been poisoned. On a previous trip he apparently fell ill in a similar way. On that occasion, the Guardian reports, samples were sent to laboratories in Israel and France – but no poison was identified. That Vladimir Kara-Murza is being poisoned by the Russian state is taken for granted by the liberal anti-Russian Western propaganda machine. This is Alec Luhn:

Kara-Murza is not the first Putin critic to have been poisoned. Former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died in London in 2006 after drinking tea that was found to be laced with polonium-210, a the radioactive substance. An inquiry last year said two Russian agents had murdered Litvinenko and that the hit was “probably approved” by Putin.

But poisoning has not been proved. No poison was “identified” in the previous case. (Which may, it seems, in fact mean that no poison was found – see below). And no evidence whatsoever of involvement by the Russian state is provided. To claim as Alec Luhn does that it is a fact that Vladimir Kara-Murza has been deliberately poisoned is itself a fabrication. And while Alex Luhn avoids directly saying the “Putin did it” by linking it to the Litvinenko case he as good as does.

Interestingly Kara-Murza himself was more circumspect when talking about the 2015 incident:

The diagnosis which I received was a high level of “intoxication,” but they did not manage to find out the reason exactly. It is hard for me to believe this was an accident, because I am a healthy person and so that one after another of my organs would start to shut down abruptly…But I can’t confirm anything because when I was in City Hospital No. 1 in Moscow, the doctors – and I am incredibly grateful to them, they pulled me back from the other world literally; the experts gave me a 5% chance of survival when I landed there — but finding out the reason was not a priority for them. And when I went for rehabilitation in the US, too much time had passed for the tests to show anything definitive. [2]

The “inquiry” mentioned by Alec Luhn into the assassination of Litvinenko was, of course, an inquiry run by a British judge which based its findings on material provided in secret by British intelligence, material which was probably based on information provided by Russian defectors. It is weak journalism to omit this background information about the “inquiry”.

So; there is no evidence of intentional poisoning. And certainly no evidence of Russian state involvement. The article incorrectly, it seems, takes it as given that these illnesses are the result of intentional poisoning and then floats the idea (in a way which allows for deniability of course) that it was an act by the Russian state. This isn’t journalism. It is a kind of faith based religion. We believe that “Putin is evil and Russia is evil” – and then whatever happens is fitted into the article of faith. This is exactly how primitive superstition works; there is a big fierce God in the sky – and then everything that happens is explained on this basis. It is a pity that highly educated Western journalists descend to this level.

Notes

1. RFE propaganda as ‘news’ in the Guardian

“News” in the Guardian provided by the Bill Gates Foundation

2. http://www.interpretermag.com/russia-update-august-19-2015/

 

More propaganda in the Guardian on Ukraine

Journalists have a substantial responsibility to write the truth. Or, least to do their level best to do so.

In a nominal democracy where public opinion influences (even slightly) public policy people who are in a position to form public opinion have a particularly strong responsibility to write the truth.

Unfortunately many journalists in the West, much of the time, either due to laziness or due to deliberately malign intent write propaganda. They produce the narrative that power wants to see produced. They don’t dig behind the given narrative of power to get at the truth. They, precisely, neglect their true function.

This is an example from the Guardian. It is a report on the recent renewed fighting in Eastern Ukraine. It is a typical piece of Western media propaganda of the kind that floods the press day in day out. It is reasonably well-written. Where it quotes checkable facts (as in “someone said such and such”) the facts check out. At the same time it gives a one-sided version of events. Naturally, the version preferred by Western power mechanisms. It does this by a) missing out the context, b) using loaded language to generate the narrative, c) selective reporting of facts and d) in place of reportage much of the article is add-on narrative and interpretation.

The background to the article is that fighting has broken out again between the forces of the (self-proclaimed) DPR and LPR and Kiev in Ukraine. The narrative preferred by the West on Ukraine is that Russia is to blame for everything. This has to be the narrative because it absolves the West from its responsibility in forcing the conflict in Ukraine and is the only way that the West will “win”, that is secure the whole pie of Ukraine into the EU and NATO. That the vast majority of people in the Eastern provinces of Ukraine do not want to join the EU or NATO [1] – and thus were wholly unrepresented by the February 2014 coup in Kiev – is simply air-brushed out of reality.  That is, the wishes and feelings of millions of Ukrainians don’t count. They are the wrong wishes from the perspective of Western liberals and so Western liberals have no qualms ignoring them.

Turning to the article. There is the usual use of loaded terms. The local militias are described as “Russia-backed separatists”. This neatly eliminates any need to pay attention to the democratic reality. People in the East of Ukraine do not want to join the EU and NATO. The political party of the deposed President Viktor Yanukovych was most strongly supported in the East. [2] When Yanukovych was chased out of office by a Western-backed mob burning policemen (or, of course, “peaceful protestors singing hymns”) the people in the East were in democratic terms disenfranchised. Russia may indeed be “backing” the militias. But to describe the militias as “Russia-backed”, and thus to frame them in terms of their link to Russia, is to mask and hide the legitimate and rational aspirations of the people in this region. The fact is the militia leaders in Donbas have signed up to a political agreement (Minsk 2) which envisages autonomy but not independence. It is therefore factually wrong to describe them as “separatists”. “Russian-backed separatists” as a term specifically serves to mask the legitimate aspirations of people in the East of Ukraine and thus to mask the anti-democratic nature of the Western power-grab in Ukraine.

In this case the US State Department has not blamed Russia for the current uptick in violence.

The article naturally manages to find a source which supports the narrative:

The state department statement was markedly different in tone to comments from the US mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is staffed by career diplomats and may be out of step with the new mood in Washington.

“Russia and the separatists initiated the violence in Avdiivka,” said the US chargé d’affaires to the OSCE, Kate Byrnes. “We call on Russia to stop the violence, honour the ceasefire, withdraw heavy weapons and end attempts to seize new territory beyond the line of contact.”

A look at the OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine report for 30/1/17 seems to show multiple violations by both sides to the conflict.  [3] Both sides are moving heavy weapons around in violation of the Minsk agreements. Both sides appear to be shelling the other side. The State Department’s version, in a refreshing departure from the “blame Russia” narrative, is closer to the actual OSCE reports. This may not last for long, however.

The Guardian journalist gives the last word to an outgoing official from the last administration:

Diplomats who served during the Obama administration have cautioned against making deals with Russia. “For almost three years the United States has worked closely with our European partners to support a peaceful resolution to the conflict through full implementation of the Minsk agreements, including by using sanctions to encourage Putin to comply,” said Dan Baer, formerly the US ambassador to the OSCE. “This should continue to be US policy going forward; anything else would be irresponsible.”

The destabilisation of Ukraine by the US and EU – who did everything possible to manipulate the shift of Ukraine away from Russia and to the West including the completely shameless signing of the political part of the EU Association agreement with a regime which came to power in a violent coup – is not mentioned in this narrative. The lack of concrete steps by the new regime in Kiev towards implementing the Minsk agreements including a refusal to talk to the other side is also absent from this absurd narrative. But it’s the one that Western liberals mean to stick to if they possibly can.

Another major lacuna on the part of the Western media and Guardian journalists like Shaun Walker, who wrote the article discussed here, is the economic blockade [4] conducted by the regime in Kiev against its own citizens in the areas under control by the DPR and LPR. The blockade is notable for its refusal to pay pensions to elderly residents of these areas. One can scarcely imagine the horror and outrage that we would see in the Western media were Russia to be implementing such a blockade on a region within Russia. Yet this blockade is scarcely mentioned in the Western media.

One final irony. The Guardian is constantly telling its readers about the lack of media freedom in Russia. But we can note that this propagandist and anti-Russian article was written by a journalist who is based in Moscow and who is, presumably able to carry on his work without being harassed by the FSB. And the same article can be read by anyone in Russia with an Internet connection. (The Guardian is not blocked in Russia).

Notes

1. Gallup Poll. April 2014. See p31.

2. WikiPedia

3.

These reports are very difficult to interpret. They often simply describe that an explosion was heard at a certain location, without saying who fired the weapon. This is probably due to a desire to avoid being seen to be pointing fingers. Nonetheless this report (for 30/1/17) clearly records ceasefire violations by both sides in terms of moving around heavy weaponry. In addition, in the detailed annex to the report, a large number of explosions are recorded. In many cases the explosion is listed as “undetermined”. However many are identified as either “impact” or “outgoing”. From this information we can see that both sides are exchanging fire.

4. Sputnik News (Russian State media)

RT

Total fiction the norm in UK media

This is a little example in today’s Daily Telegraph:

Mrs Merkel has been a strong supporter of the EU and US sanctions regime imposed on Russia following the annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine in 2014.

It appears in an article discussing a the phone calls between new US President Donald Trump and European and Russian leaders as well as a witty response in verse to Mrs May’s cold war era warnings about the need to beware of Russia.

This kind of outright lie is fed daily to the public by lazy and irresponsible journalists in the West. It is an example of the propaganda technique of narrative amplification. In this technique a ‘factoid’ is created. Once created (but never established as true by a detailed analysis) the factoid floats about and is re-inserted into a wide variety of articles which touch on the matter at all as if it were “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. Readers of this sort of material are being “brainwashed”.

Crimea was annexed, if you like. But to mention this without also mentioning that there was a popular vote overwhelmingly in favour (a vote whose results have been confirmed by subsequent polling by Western polling organisations) [1] is to portray what was in fact a popular move approved of by the people as an act of aggression by Russia. As for “invasion of Eastern Ukraine” in 2014. No such event has taken place. Pure make believe. Something to do with Peter Pan. Yes; Russia is very likely running some kind of military intelligence operation in support of the residents of Donbass. But “invasion”. No. And; again; the lack of context is important here. As this web site has discussed frequently the Western media studiously avoids mentioning the historical and political context of the events in Eastern Ukraine. For example; it is a fact that people in Donbass are far far less interested in joining the EU and NATO than those in the West of Ukraine. At the same time the elected President who was deposed in the coup of February 2014 was most heavily supported by people in the East. That there should be resistance by these people, even without Russian support, to becoming part of a Western-leaning Ukraine is as rational as it was predictable.

This article in the Daily Telegraph is provable dishonest. If ‘dishonest’ means to create a false impression.  (That is, and this is entirely characteristic of this kind of propaganda material; it might be possible to defend statements about ‘annexation’ and ‘invasion’ against, say, defamation charges, by citing small items of evidence; e.g. evidence of a burnt-out Russian tank in Donbass, but the statements made loudly amplify only one side of reality, miss out the political and historical contexts and indeed any ‘evidence for the defence’ at all, and thus create a distorted and indeed false narrative). Yet people (in this case someone called Roland Oliphant) churn this material out day in day out. And call it journalism. Apart from any political considerations it is simply incredibly lazy to present only one side of a complex situation. It may be that one motivation is that this is what your sub-editor (on your newspaper owned by Western finance capital) wants to see. But that would be no excuse for someone who cared about journalism.

Update – more factual errors in the Daily Telegraph

This is another article by the same Roland Oliphant who claimed that Russia had “invaded” Eastern Ukraine. In this article he actually corrects the “invasion” line to a more defendable line about “military intervention”:

Those grievances [between Russia and the US] include Russia’s annexation of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine and Syria, the sanctions the US imposed in response, and the exchange of accusations of hacking following apparent Russian attempts to swing the US election in Mr Trump’s favour.

There is very very little tangible proof even for Russian “military intervention” in Eastern Ukraine. This line is simply repeated in the Western press as a truism. But there are very few serious articles which attempt to back it up with reporting or investigative journalism.  (This story by Reuters from October 2014 is a very rare exception to the rule. In this story there is tangible evidence of Russian military involvement. The case is somewhat circumstantial and could be contested. But at least it represents a serious attempt to back up the claims about Russian “military involvement” with real journalism; going there, taking pictures, getting the pictures reviewed by people who can be cited as experts etc. The story stands out as an exception. Usually the claim is just repeated, essentially, because that is what the US State Department said.) Anyway.

The factual error worth highlighting here is that US sanctions on Russia relate solely to Crimea and/or Eastern Ukraine. The US discussed sanctions on Russia in relation to Syria [2] back in October 2016 when the Syrian government and Russia were in the process of re-taking the Syrian city of Aleppo from Western backed “moderates” and Al-Qaeda. But they were not imposed. (Syria re-took Aleppo and the story moved on). The author says that the US sanctions on Russia are connected to Syria. They aren’t. That’s just wrong.  In terms of correctly understanding international affairs this is a significant error.  This kind of basic factual error is not all that uncommon in the Western press. It probably occurs because the basis on which they write is not reportage. (Facts and analysis based on facts). But phantasy. Narratives – issued by the liberal elites in power in Washington, Paris and London. Designed to make them look good and to rationalise whatever murderous project they are currently engaged on. And, when your job is repeating narratives, it is easy sometimes to get a bit adrift. After all, 90% of it is make-believe anyway so what does it matter if you get basic facts wrong?

(There were additional sanctions by Obama’s administration in relation to  claimed Russian hacking of the US Democratic Party and other figures in the US Democrats. [3]. Possibly this is the mistake. The author meant to refer to these and not to Syria. But if you are going to write about international affairs you might as well get it right).

Essentially the problem is that 95% of the time the Western media is not doing journalism. They are acting as the PR department for the Western liberal political/financial elites – spinning whatever stories suit them.

Update – more fake news in the Guardian

This is from a blog post about demonstrations in the UK against the US ban (temporary ban) on people from 7 listed countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) entering the US.

Other speakers linked Trump’s ban on refugees and Muslims from seven countries entering the US to the prime minister’s official visit to meet Trump in the US last week. Rhea Wolfson, a member of Labour’s national executive committee, said: “we say it loud and clear to Theresa May: you shame yourself and you shame your country.

“Muslims from 7 countries”. This isn’t true. It isn’t a mistake or partly not true or a spin which could be defended by a piece of sophistry. It is simply not true. As in “there is a cat on the mat” when the mat is utterly empty. The ban applies to anyone from those 7 countries – regardless of their religion. This blog is attributed to “Andrew Sparrow and Kevin Rawlinson”. Whoever wrote it they are just making it up. They seem to be more interested in stirring up unrest than in reporting facts.

That’s the main point; a straightforward piece of fake news. To critique the piece a little deeper we can also notice that, like much of reporting in the liberal press about Trump’s moves on immigration, they neglect to report a) the suspension of the US refugee programme is for 120 days not permanent – only the Syrian refugee programme has been permanently suspended, and b) the ban on entry to the US to people from 7 listed countries is limited to 90 days and is to (stated purpose) give the administration time to review security vetting procedures. Perhaps you can call yourself a journalist and distort the news by skipping the context and full facts. But to “report” that Trump has “banned Muslims from seven countries” is to move from journalism purely into the realms of writing incendiary propaganda.

That is; disagree with it on principle or at the level of tactics. But don’t just fake it. If you fake it it looks like you don’t care at all about the subject matter you apparently claim to care so much about.

Notes

1. New Obs

2. Independent. October 2016

3. CNN

They huddle in groups and throw spears at the ‘enemy’

They huddle in groups and throw spears at the ‘enemy’.

So, human beings behaved in the Bronze Age. And in some sectors nothing much seems to have changed,

This pattern of behaviour is in strong evidence amongst Guardian ‘journalists’ these days. They are giving full coverage to lurid tales about Trump based on, by their own admission, paid for second hand ‘information’ provided by email. [1]

It is no surprise to learn that this operation was conducted (for money presumably; it was done as a business commission) by an ex-MI6 agent. Using informers and defectors as a source to build your chosen narrative is a key part of their work. The illegal and disastrous war in Iraq was based in part in false testimony provided to British intelligence by Iraqi defectors. [2] It strains belief to believe that these people (MI6 agents / Guardian journalists) do not consider that their sources may be telling them what they want to hear and not the truth. The point is probably that they put entirely to one side the question as to whether what they are being told is true. What matters is that it suits the story they want to tell. (Iraq must be bombed. Putin is evil. Trump is etc. Both Putin and Trump are evil and are in it together. And so on). The informers and defectors play their part. Job done.

All of these considerations are obvious and should be on an entry-level journalism course. That the Guardian is promoting this material without in any way being able to corroborate it tells us that at the Guardian they are not practising journalism.

Indeed as one reads the Guardian these days with its incessant stream of anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda one realises that this is a kind of primitive group behaviour. They find security from huddling in their group and throwing spears (one-sided propaganda articles) at the ‘enemy’ outside. It seems that some people need the feeling of security they get from being in a group which is collectively against an ‘enemy’. So much so that they will even invent enemies… Strange to see Bronze age behaviour matched with 21st century technology and (in some cases at least) a certain degree of intelligence. But there you go.

If my gentle readers have any doubt that the Guardian is struggling with basic concepts of journalism (or indeed how to distinguish reality from non-reality) consider this (from another article on the Trump ‘dossier’):

But it is unlikely to be discarded as quickly or as conclusively as Trump would like. The flip side of information that cannot be classed reliable is that neither can it be classed unreliable.

What this appears to mean is that any innuendo from any source whatsoever – so long as it is completely unverifiable can become the stuff of political and ‘democratic’ discourse. This principle is the exact opposite of good journalism – that only information which can be verified and checked should be used.

Notes

1. Guardian. January 2017

2. The Chilcot report.