One-sided War

Many things which might come as a surprise to foreigners are taken for granted in Russia. There’s the idea that BRICS represents some kind of anti-American alliance, like a 21st century Warsaw Pact. There’s the idea that the Crimea was always Russian and thus the annexation justified, though Russia hadn’t even raised the issue in the international arena until after their coup de main in March of this year. Then of course there’s the idea of the “information war.” The information war is the justification for consolidating the media under state control and using ever-increasing regulations to censor or seriously hamper any independent media source.

For some unknown reason, the degenerate, near-death USA doesn’t really act like it’s fighting the information war, at least within its own borders. After all, there’s RT, the propaganda service of Russia, which has its own offices in the US. No attempt has been made to block Voice of Russia, or any of the American-based Russia fans such as “the Saker”(there’s a piece of work, let me tell ya). As far as anti-government media goes in the US, most of AM talk radio and a massive portion of internet media are dedicated to accusing the president of everything from being born in a foreign country to being the instrument of a global Communist conspiracy to destroy the United States. That’s in addition to a left wing media which still reminds millions of Americans about things such as drone strikes, Snowden’s revelations, torture, and the country’s failure to reign in police brutality. America’s information warriors must be incompetent because they have failed to implement anything like the kind of measures Russia’s government routinely approves. In fact America’s information war specialists are so incompetent, so obviously asleep at the switch, that it’s a miracle Russia’s propaganda, in conjunction with local fifth column organs have somehow thus far failed to incite mass unrest throughout America’s major cities. How couldn’t there be a real American maidan, given the lackadaisical attitude shown by America’s government when it comes to the information war?

All joking aside, like most Kremlin memes the information war really only makes sense within one of the various fantastical narratives which exist in Russia. This “war” is being waged mostly by one side- Russia. Oh, does that raise the hairs on the back of your neck? Allow me to explain then.

Recently I wrote about an incident where a Russian TV channel falsified a video so as to make it appear that a father had painted the walls of his 11-year-old son’s room with cartoon drawings of naked men. In reality, the home video was used in a commercial for a graphics company called Fathead, and the real image the kid was gasping at was in fact a giant picture of a monster truck. I was happy to learn that Fathead is suing the Russian TV channel shortly after the story broke. Thus far, the TV channel’s response was that it was an “accident.” They accidentally edited an altered a video so as to insert cartoons of naked men, aired in a news piece about how sexually degenerate the West supposedly is. Sounds plausible.

This particular episode was amusing, but far less entertaining was a piece that ran on Russian TV a short time earlier. Airing on the Russian show “However” was Russia’s 67th alternate explanation as to the destruction of Malaysian passenger airliner MH17 over Eastern Ukraine. Supposedly a “graduate of MIT,” named George Bilt, provided Russian intelligence with photos from a “foreign satellite.” Lucky for Putin, the satellite just happened to catch a Ukrainian Mig-29 fighter firing a missile at MH-17. Naturally the photo was quickly busted as a fake, and the mysterious George Bilt has never been found. I’m sure he must have been hanging out with that Spanish air traffic controller who happened to be working in Kyiv’s Boryspil airport that fateful day, i.e. the subject of one of the Russian media’s earlier bullshit claims about the disaster.

Neither of these incidents are even remotely isolated. Stopfake.org documents dozens of fake stories, videos, and photographs from Russia’s media every week. These usually involve photoshopped pictures, misrepresented videos, or photographs from other conflicts presented as being from Ukraine. It is important to note that to date, I’ve yet to see any effort from Russia’s side to defend these phony photos and stories. Instead of answering, they just put out more. Which country is waging an information war again?

Now I ask a very simple question: Where is the Western equivalent to this? If Russia has to do this because of the information war, where is America’s ridiculously fake video that justifies this? Commentators, don’t be shy. Please show me how the Western media has faked satellite photos, cited Russians who don’t exist, or deliberately altered videos to show how degenerate Russia is. This is and information war, is it not? That means we should see this kind of thing coming from both sides.

Off the top of my head, the closest I can come to finding anything approaching Russia’s propaganda consists of two examples. First, there’s Timothy Snyder, who really makes no attempt to sound objective or even accurate in his prosaic defense of Maidan. Objective facts already condemn Russia, there is no need to weave a fairy tale as Snyder did in his ridiculous coverage of the event. Plenty of other Western journalists were far more objective, noting the presence of far right-wing extremists, and soberly pointing out that the EU association agreement wasn’t an automatic way out of Ukraine’s troubles. Even in the case of Snyder’s work, however, there was concrete truth in some of his conclusions. His allegation that Putin was afraid of having democracy so close to his borders is definitely a sound argument. It’s even more threatening to him that this theoretical democracy would inevitably encompass millions of Russians. His regime depends on the idea that the Russian people are different, and the form of government they have suits them. A successful Ukraine with democratic norms and a developing economy would seriously challenge that narrative. Even a hack like Snyder can see that.

The second example I thought of was the alleged radio intercepts that supposedly revealed two pro-Russian rebels panicking over the realization that they’d shot down a civilian plane. If any Western media sources aired that without using words like “allegedly,” they would be guilty of potentially passing on Ukrainian propaganda. Obviously even a Russian-speaking person such as myself could not accurately identify the two men on the recording. Even if that recording was faked, that’s on the Ukrainian government, and any news editor who didn’t make sure his reporters used terms like “alleged” or “supposed” when reporting on the matter.

Both of those examples are quite mild. We have a delusional, romantic professor embellishing a protest movement, and we have a voice recording that could have been faked, but which is ultimately irrelevant due to the overwhelming amount of other, more concrete evidence implicating the rebels in the destruction of the Malaysian airplane.

Thus again do I repeat my demand: Show me America’s equivalent to the video with the phony wall paintings. Show me the video where we see a phony satellite photo shooting down MH17. Show us a Ukrainian woman talking about how Donbass rebels crucified a small boy. Show us scenes from the set of a film being presented as evidence of rebel atrocities. Is this not an information war? Does this war not entail offensives on both sides?

Of course the information war is just another example of Russian projection. They tell themselves there’s an information war, and therefore they are justified in lying and fabricating videos and photo, just as they are justified in clamping down on media organs or journalists who get too troublesome. Since there is no objective truth, there’s no way anyone opposing the government could possibly claim that they deserve to be heard simply because they are presenting facts or they are able to back their claims with evidence. There is no need to back up things with evidence because truth doesn’t matter. Only winning the information war matters.

Has the US media falsely reported information in the past? Absolutely. Has it skewed stories, displayed bias, and helped sell bad policy to the American people? Yes, numerous times. Usually the problem with the American media stems from the desire for access, ratings, circulation, profits, etc., as well as laziness, reliance on experts without digging deeper, and so on.  What you don’t generally see are major American media outlets deliberately producing and airing specially-faked videos as true stories on a regular basis.  Disagree? Again, there’s the comments section. Give me the American equivalent of the satellite image story, or the wall with naked men story, or the woman who claimed to see Ukrainian soldiers crucify a little boy. All media lies, right? It’s all the same, right?

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18 thoughts on “One-sided War

  1. mtreasureseeker

    Would Jennifer Psaki’s apparently sourceless news reports count? I must admit that I’m in no position to argue seriously over the subject, as I’ve been out of the loop on the subject since its beginning. I’m still curious about how that might have been interpreted by a Russia condemner such as yourself, as so far I’ve only been exposed to the Russian side of the news.

    Also, could you provide your evidence pointing to Russia having anything to do with the Maidan and whatever that followed? “Objective facts already condemn Russia” sounds exactly like something an information warfare agent would say to turn the audience to their side.

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      “Would Jennifer Psaki’s apparently sourceless news reports count? ”

      Uh…WHAT sourceless “news” report are you referring to? Psaki is a representative of the state, not a media personality. Governments make dishonest statements, media is supposed to preface that with “the government alleges,” “claims,” etc. Contrast that with Perviy Kanal, which invents people who never existed and shows photoshopped photos on TV as real. Did Psaki ever do that?

      You then admit that you’ve been out of the loop from the beginning, and yet you call me a “Russia condemner,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. Go read more entries on this blog before you make such a ridiculous accusation. Speaking of which…

      “Also, could you provide your evidence pointing to Russia having anything to do with the Maidan”

      Do you even know what Maidan was? I’m asking because nobody alleges that Russia had anything to do with Maidan other than the fact that the Russian government was friendly with Yanukovych, the target of the protests. It was interpreted as an ANTI-Russian movement.

      ” and whatever that followed? ”

      There is plenty of evidence of Russian involvement in Ukraine. Go ahead and watch Vice’s video reports, for example. Read the words of actual Russian citizens fighting in Ukraine. The men on the ground make no attempt to hide the fact that they are Russian citizens. Then there are leaders like Girkin and Borodai, who are both safe and fine in Moscow now.

      Aside from undeniable facts such as that, there is plenty of evidence that the rebels somehow have a supply of heavy weapons such as artillery and the shells which are needed for them. Did they really capture all of it from Ukrainian supply depots? WHICH supply depots? What did they take from them? Does Russian intelligence have no estimate as to what supplies and bases were in the area taken by rebels? Seems to me like they’d be really forthcoming with this information, seeing as that it would go a long way towards exonerating them from the accusation that they’re supporting the rebels.

      Reply
      1. mtreasureseeker

        > Did Psaki ever do that?

        I won’t tell you about the photos since I’ve seen none, but as far as I know, the representative has made quite a few claims that come seemingly from nowhere, as she denying reports any attempts to get an answer as to where the information is coming from.

        > The men on the ground make no attempt to hide the fact that they are Russian citizens.

        How do we know that? After saying that Russia is the sole offender in this fake war they’ve created, how can you be sure that the US or Europe won’t do the same? Just because they allow talking about drones and Barack Obama in the bad light, it doesn’t mean they won’t go as far as you accuse Russia of for the sake of winning a created problem, or for any reason at all. There are plenty of examples of the US fucking up in history and it all coming up for public to see. Just because we don’t see it all (which it probably isn’t), doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

        > and yet you call me a “Russia condemner,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

        As far as I see it here, that’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? You’re actively defending the US’ position and attacking Russia’s. Isn’t that what being a condemner of anything is?

        As for the depots and their weapons in general, what is to disallow them to scavenge a depot for supplies when their lives depend on it? If I were in a war, I’d be swift to find all the supplies I can lay my eye on and grab this mother home to where I can use it or prepare properly.

      2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        Okay clearly you are far too ignorant about this issue to discuss it. Several of your questions are akin to asking, “Hey, why were the British and Americans bombing Germany in the 40’s? What did the Germans do? Why was the Red Army attacking Germany?

        First of all, it’s not a matter of dispute that Girkin, Borodai, etc. are Russian citizens. They are back in Moscow and making public appearances. Girkin, in an interview, spoke about serving with Russian servicemen “on vacation” in Ukraine. In Putin’s press conference he made no attempt to deny that there were Russian citizens fighting in Ukraine, but said that they were “fulfilling their duty” and that they weren’t mercenaries because they weren’t paid(sure).

        “There are plenty of examples of the US fucking up in history and it all coming up for public to see”

        Ah yes, but if someone writes about those, you generally don’t get leaped on by people asking, “But what about RUSSIA?”

        “As far as I see it here, that’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? You’re actively defending the US’ position and attacking Russia’s. Isn’t that what being a condemner of anything is?”

        Your assuming that there are only two positions to be taken here. Just because the US happens to take one position doesn’t mean they automatically own it.

        “As for the depots and their weapons in general, what is to disallow them to scavenge a depot for supplies when their lives depend on it? ”

        Which depots? Where? What was in them? Where do they keep getting all these artillery rounds and rockets that they’d been routinely using prior to the ceasefire in December? Do you realize how quickly you run out of things like that in a war?

      3. mtreasureseeker

        I don’t see how my ignorance is to prevent me from learning – which is all about getting away from ignorance – and discussing it, but since you’ve taken such position already, there’s not much for me to learn from here. Have a good going with blogging, and have a good day.

      4. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        Earlier you asked for evidence that Russia had anything to do with Maidan, indicating that you are not familiar with even the basic details of the events that have transpired from late 2013 to the present. Why is it my job to educate you on that first? At least go and read what Wikipedia has to say about it to get a basic grounding.

      5. Big Bill Haywood Post author

        Mainly for the gallery: If someone wanted to debate, say, the necessity of bombing Dresden, yet lacked the most basic information about WWII, the opponent should not be required to provide this basic education in the topic. That is a prerequisite one must bring to the game on their own.

    2. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      Oh yeah, please keep pretending that I don’t criticize Ukrainian claims or that I’m a “Russia condemner.” Go ahead and browse those, to start, before accusing me of anti-Russian bias.

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/08/08/both-sides-do-it/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/04/22/hurrrrr-journalism-it-are-keep-the-people-to-be-informed-pancakes-now/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/07/02/intelligence-free-europe/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/03/12/ukraine-news-round-up/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/04/14/yes-they-are-fascists/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/10/24/the-idiocy-of-maidan-supporters/

      https://nobsrussia.com/2014/10/24/food-in-mouth/

      Reply
  2. JLM

    I get that you’re (probably justifiably) criticising the Russian media, but I don’t get your seeming whitewash of the Western media. You want examples? Look at the fairly obviously faked photos around the Syrian chemical weapons attack, the infamous staged Bosnian ‘death camp’ photos, the Kuwaiti tales of Iraqi soldiers throwing babies from incubators, among other hoaxes. And it seems a little weak to blame this all on ‘laziness’ or ‘desire for ratings’ — as if such stories would ever be given the same airtime if they didn’t dovetail perfectly into the needs of Western power.
    I wonder if your living in Russia for so long has inured you to how propagandistic the Western media machine really is?
    Regards

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      First of all, imagine you’re reading the story behind one of those particular incidents you mentioned. Is your first reaction: “Hey, there’s nothing about the lies of the RUSSIAN media in this?” I highly doubt it. So why should every criticism of Russia, on a blog that’s about Russia, contain some aside about Western media failures?

      Second, even with your examples(which had more to do with the PR industry as opposed to the media) still aren’t an accurate comparison. In Russia nearly all media is state owned. This media has put out phony story after phony story with no apology, admission, or without any consequences. These stories come out, in some cases, literally every day. By contrast, you list two stories from the early 90’s, separated by several years.

      Furthermore in talking about my alleged “whitewashing” you ignored the question of access and reliance on official sources. If you don’t have access to newsmakers your outlet loses credibility and thus ratings or circulation. In my job I have to report the official statements of Russian news makers(including Putin) all the time, and even when I know something they are saying is total bullshit and easily disproved, it doesn’t mean I get to put that in the story. It’s just not how that kind of news works. You let people speak for themselves, you use quotation marks, words like “alleged” or “claimed,” and the reader can decide for themselves. Russian news, on the other hand, often uses deliberately edited videos, photoshopped pictures, scenes from films or other wars to concoct stories of a non-existent mass genocide in Eastern Ukraine.

      Reply
      1. thewaywithin

        “First of all, imagine you’re reading the story behind one of those particular incidents you mentioned. Is your first reaction: “Hey, there’s nothing about the lies of the RUSSIAN media in this?” I highly doubt it. So why should every criticism of Russia, on a blog that’s about Russia, contain some aside about Western media failures?”

        This is SO true! No matter what critics isms I make of Russia, it’s always the US this or that. Always deflection. I critisize US policy as well as an American. But you are 100% correct, no one says “but what about Russia” when I do.

        It seems to me that some would have us believe it is NEVER, EVER Russia’s fault.

  3. JLM

    You write:

    “why should every criticism about Russia, on a blog that’s about Russia, contain some aside about Western media failures?”

    This is rather silly, given that the post I’m responding to specifically compares the Russian media to the Western, relatively lauding the latter. It also contains the following direct challenge: “What you don’t generally see are major American media outlets deliberately producing and airing specially-faked videos as true stories on a regular basis. Disagree? Again, there’s the comments section. Give me the American equivalent of the satellite image story, or the wall with naked men story, or the woman who claimed to see Ukrainian soldiers crucify a little boy.”

    I gave three examples off the top of my head (I could give more: eg Gaddafi’s ‘viagra rape’ soldiers, the dubious ‘Houla massacre’ in Syria, the Kosovo ‘Racak massacre’, Venezuela’s ‘democratic coup’), to which you replied:
    a) they are from the 1990s (you ignored the Syrian chemical-weapons example, which was precisely a year ago)
    b) the Russian media is state-owned (so what? so is the BBC)
    c) you say the examples I’ve mentioned have more to do with PR than the media (which ignores the issue about why the media give such wide-eyed credence to PR claims from one side and not another: I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but every single time the side given airtime is the one Western state power is supporting).
    d) you suggest that the Western media’s failures come down to ‘access to sources’, but none of the examples I’ve listed (up to seven so far) would be explained by that: in each case, the Western media pushed an incredibly one-sided barrage of propaganda, deriding any counter-narrative as obviously false (even ‘conspiracy theory’), even though the stories were easily refuted by anyone with an ounce of curiosity and an internet connection.

    You talk about the relative frequency of the lies/photoshops, which is a valid point: however, if you read my post, I never argued that the Western media was ‘just as bad’ as the Russian: I was just responding to your challenge, which intimated that such things never (or almost never) happen in the Western media.

    Regards

    Reply
  4. Big Bill Haywood Post author

    You’ve yet to provide any evidence of the claims you have made being equivalent to Perviy Kanal’s fake satellite image, RT’s non-existent Spanish air traffic controller, etc.

    In fact I’m glad you brought up the topic of the Libyan viagra story. See the Western media has people who check up on it, as you can see here: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2011/0624/No-evidence-of-Libya-Viagra-rape-claims.-But-war-crimes-Plenty

    As far as I know, the famed Journalist Seymour Hersh has written about the problems with the Syrian chemical weapons claim. As for the Racak massacre, I haven’t seen convincing evidence that this was radically different from what was claimed. In any case, prominent intellectuals in the US, such as Norman Solomon, exposed the lies regarding Appendix B to the Ramboulliet accords.

    “b) the Russian media is state-owned (so what? so is the BBC)”

    Yup, all the media in the UK is state owned, and they have increasing restrictions on creating independent media sources, right? Good analogy there. Do you realize that there is already a law in Russia requiring BLOGS which get over 3,000 views a month to register as media companies(thereby forcing them to undergo the same restrictions). Is that what they do in the UK?

    Again, you’ve failed to make your case.

    Reply
  5. JLM

    You claim I’ve ‘failed to make my case’, but I fail to see how RT reporting a bogus satellite image is indeed qualitatively different to the extremely dubious Syrian chemical-weapons photos which were trumpeted in the Western media last year (if you look at collections of the photos carefully, you’ll see the same ‘dead’ child in various positions; also chemical-weapons experts have pointed up various incongruous aspects, etc). You can argue about relative frequency (although in fairness, despite saying it happens ‘every day’, you’ve only given a handful of examples yourself) — but then that was never my bone of contention.

    You offer as rebuttal the fact that occasional articles challenging the overwhelming chorus do indeed exist in the Western media — although even there, the example you cite of Sy Hersh’s piece about the chemical weapons attack in Syria was essentially blacklisted from the major Western media at the time (even his regular ‘left-wing’ haunt the New Yorker magazine refused to publish it); it was accepted only by the ‘London Review of Books’, meaning that, in pre-internet days, it would have essentially been disappeared, and to this day the major Western media acts as if the facts it revealed don’t exist. (Presumably also, even though it isn’t my aim to draw a direct equivalence between Western and Russian media, it must be possible to find occasional voices of dissent somewhere in the Russian media, but this doesn’t contradict your basic argument about Russian propaganda). As for Norman Solomon, given that his life’s work appears to be an organisation (FAIR) which harshly criticises the slanted nature of the Western media, I hardly think he’s a good source for you to cite in our debate.

    To be honest, I feel like we’re going round in circles a bit here, so let me offer an olive branch:
    a) I’m not saying Russian media isn’t propaganda.
    b) I’m not disputing that the West has nothing like the control/suppression of independent media that exists in Russia.

    Regards

    Reply
    1. Big Bill Haywood Post author

      Here’s a report from CNN about the Syrian chemical attack. It is weighted heavily in favor of US government sources, but you can see how it attributes claims and also acknowledges the debate. Where is the Russian media story that acknowledges some Russian responsibility for Maidan, or which acknowledges that most pro-government Ukrainians aren’t Bandera-loving fascists, as both sets of election results plainly show?

      But given the points you used in your conclusion, I don’t see what we’re debating, then. Because I totally agree with those two points.

      Reply
  6. JLM

    Incidentally, further to your demand for evidence of Western media lies, this article (rather long, but well worth reading) details a fairly egregious example, as it shows how major Western media will contradict their own earlier reporting — thus undermining any explanation based on ‘laziness’ or ‘reliance on official sources’ etc — in the service of war propaganda: http://www.hirhome.com/yugo/milospeech.htm

    Happy reading!

    Reply
  7. JLM

    Well, as I said at the beginning, I understand your critique of the Russian media — I just felt you were being overly kind to its Western counterpart. I strongly encourage you to read the article I linked to in my previous post, as it seems to me to be on a par with the kind of thing you’re complaining about in Russia (and is difficult to explain as a result of mere ‘laziness’ etc).
    As to the Syrian CW issue, having felt the full barrage of the propaganda at the time, I can only say that, sure, both sides were technically ‘presented’ (I don’t know exactly how bad Russian-language media is), but Western readers were left in absolutely no doubt about what was the ‘truth’ and what was the obviously lying denials of that truth. To give just a small sampling, and admittedly a ‘red-top’ (ie tabloid), but also from the ‘left’ and considered by many to be a fairly decent quality paper (John Pilger used to be a correspondent): http://21stcenturywire.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/1-Chemical-weapons-Syria-Mirror-headline.jpg
    But in any event, you’re right: there doesn’t seem any need to continue our debate further.
    Regards

    Reply

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