Tag Archives: journalism

Get a JERB!!!

I was asked to write something on this topic by a friend of mine who has been in the same boat for much longer than me. Basically it began when she retweeted my appeal for donations yesterday. A particularly self-righteous dipshit of a Western cheerleader decided to give her unsolicited opinion on the concept of a blogger asking for donations. My friend shut her down and then wrote a timely rant on the subject, because as I said she’s in the same boat and she felt it needed to be called out. She also said I shouldn’t remain silent about it either.

First of all I must say that I have received some substantial donations from some long-time readers and I seriously appreciate it. I’ve had problems with crowdfunding in the past, largely because I’m limited to a platform people apparently hate (at least some people have told me this), and because my life situation is constantly changing. As I’ve written before, what seems feasible at the beginning of a campaign usually turns out impossible by the time it’s over, especially since the goal has never been reached (last time I reached only 50%). These failures are entirely my own responsibility. I know why they failed and I know what I can do to turn things around, but that’s another story.

Getting back to the topic at had, the Russia-watcher in question put forth two very cogent arguments:

  1. I should get a job.
  2. Nobody should expect to get paid to write a blog.

Let me answer those here. For the first question, I’ve been in Ukraine trying to get a job I had lined up. I left a full-time position for this job which entailed a significant pay cut. For me, money was not the issue- helping Ukraine was, and I have very limited resources with which to make a difference. By contrast the cheerleader in question’s method of helping Ukraine, as much as I can see, consists of tapping away at a keyboard from the comfort of their home somewhere in the West (I’m told the UK). I took a big risk, it didn’t pan out through no fault of my own and in spite of my best efforts- that’s it.

Next, “get a job” doesn’t work so well in countries where you are not a legal resident, be that Russia or Ukraine. You can’t just walk into a McDonald’s and fill out an application. “Pounding the pavement” isn’t an option. It’s amazing how many Westerners simply do not understand this concept. They apparently think only their countries are allowed to have immigration and labor laws. I have had offers for full-time jobs which would have taken care of the work permit issues, but I could not take advantage of them because I was being strung along by my other prospective employer.

In spite of all this, I have been working all this time. I’ve pointed out before that when there’s a long lapse in posts on this blog it’s typically for one reason- I’m working. If I’m not writing here, I’m writing articles for money, doing translations, proofreading, or something else. That work is never stable, but at times it was fairly sustainable. In order to make ends meet here I actually not only went back to teaching English, but I actually taught kids because it was the only thing offered at the time. I have not willingly taught anyone under the age of 16 since maybe 2008, and the last time I was teaching kids I was getting paid about $100 an hour for doing so. So yeah, spending the first half of my Saturdays as a baby-sitter for about three hours wasn’t beneath my dignity- it is an honor to suffer for Ukraine! 

Now before moving on from the personal side of this post let me address the equally idiotic second argument. I never expected this blog to make money. I never even expected to write it on a regular basis. It started as a cathartic thing that had nothing to do with politics. While it has had its share of high-traffic days, the blog has never garnered enough regular views to qualify for ad sharing, and thus has never directly made any money. Directly is the key word here. My writing is what has allowed me to get paid for numerous articles in various publications. It has got me full-time positions, TV appearances, and even a part in a reality TV series. More important than money, it has given me access to people I’d otherwise never meet and allowed me to experience things most Americans never experience. So in reality, this humble blog has paid off a lot more than I ever expected it would in 2013. Having provided thousands of people with free entertainment and education here and on Twitter for years, there’s nothing wrong with putting out a tip jar.  The fact is that if I had a sustainable income or a sizable amount of money for investment, I would be able to greatly increase the quality and quantity of content I produce. And that brings me to the main point of this post, what my supportive friend was so upset about.

The problem is that since 2014, I’ve mostly been subsumed in the so-called “gig economy.” Our wise innovators in Silicon Valley as well as the hacks in the media tell us that it’s wonderful. “Work from the comfort of your own home!” Well I’m here to tell you that’s nonsense. Anything that pays decent money, or even just significant money, requires a lot of time, or in some cases there are expenses to be paid. The highest I’m typically paid for articles is $150. If you want more than that, you need to spend some money. Those articles I did from the Donbas? I probably lost money the first time and maybe made about $150 “profit” on the latter ones- the ones where I was in an active warzone. I know people who have had full time positions and spent far more time on the front lines than myself yet their salaries would put them below the poverty line in their home countries.

If you want to talk about a sense of entitlement, talk about media companies these days. They want journalists to put their lives in danger, but they don’t want to pay for it. Indeed, some publications pay a lot for an article, but rest assured there are expenses associated with such pieces. It’s not the kind of thing you do sitting at home writing emails or on the phone. Here it also bears mentioning the all too common “write for exposure” problem as well, even though I’ve been lucky enough not to encounter it myself.

Aside from low pay and sporadic work, just getting in touch with editors is a pain in the ass. People don’t answer emails, or answer them weeks after the fact. Here we have this amazing tool to get in touch with people almost instantly around the world, and now we have smartphones so you can maintain access even outside of the office, yet many people whose job is to communicate with journalists seem to be unable to answer emails within a reasonable amount of time, if at all.

Another problem that is somewhat connected with the above is late and or sporadic payment. In this business you often have to chase down payment, and you always are made to feel like you’re bothering someone for asking about the money they owe you for work performed. Even when they’re not late, your pay cannot be reliably calculated when you don’t know if a pitch will be accepted, when it will be accepted, when it will be ready for editing, publishing, etc. I’ve seen the process for one article last about a month before it actually got published and I got paid. Any site that claims writing for them can provide a stable income is most likely lying.

This is what many of the people who inform you are doing- spending their own money and sometimes risking their own lives to bring you something more in-depth than what you’re going to get on cable news. You say the headlines don’t give you a good well-rounded story about Russia, Syria, or Ukraine? Well the people that are willing to provide that need to be paid for their trouble. That’s just the way it is.

Getting back to my situation, the truth is that back in 2013 when things first started to go awry work-wise, there was actually a very simple solution to all my financial/work problems. In other words, I could have just “got a job” and not even written a blog at all. See I had and still have connections in this really big media company you might have heard of called RT. It wouldn’t have been very difficult at all to get a full time position there, and from what I know the salary and benefits are quite good. I’ve also had other offers from other Russian state media outlets over the years. So in reference to my aforementioned detractor’s unhelpful suggestion to “just get a job,” I could have just got a job with one of those media outlets. It would have made life from 2014 to the present a whole lot easier on every level. But alas, there’s just this thing I’ve been saddled with all my life called a conscience. It’s the reason I haven’t solved my financial problems to date by becoming a self-help guru or religious cult leader.

On the other side of the coin I could easily buy a fake diploma, a decent suit, and peddle my skills as a “Russia foreign policy” expert. I’m sure plenty of think tanks, politicians, and other thought-leaders would pay decent money for lectures about how “Russia’s going to hack the midterms, like, really badly this time!” Maybe I could teach corporate and private clients how to “safeguard your data against Russian hackers,” or teach people how to evade and thwart “SVR active measures.” I know the jargon, I know how to sound credible, it’s just that I value not being a grifter asshole than the amount of money that such “work” might rake in.

So yeah, life’s just a little more complicated than “get a job.” We’re living in an era when jobs are increasingly disappearing or getting worse. The most advanced countries seem to be suffering the worst from this trend.

When I put out the call for donations yesterday, it isn’t in the expectation of a reward for writing blog posts. I have the opportunity to do some volunteer work in Ukraine, but that means foregoing paid work. I also am considering doing other stories from other regions, or changing the focus of my work. Beyond that I’ve lost a good chunk of my savings while being strung along here in Ukraine. If someone who has enjoyed or been informed by my work after all these years thinks any of that is worth a few bucks, they’re free to donate. Otherwise no one’s arm is being twisted here. Your donation either helps produce more content of some kind, or it helps me help someone in Ukraine, modestly though it may be (apparently only the rich should have the privilege of volunteering).

The fact that people get so outraged at such appeals is a combination of the resentment culture in the West as well as people’s misconceptions about entitlement. We ignore when investors or businessmen feel entitled to hundreds of millions of dollars without actually doing any of the work that generates that value. We don’t question the entitlement of pundits who never actually engage in journalism and yet are given a platform to pontificate on every issue under the sun as though they were experts. But someone who puts out free content 90% of the time is suddenly a beggar and “entitled” for putting out the equivalent of a tip jar.

 

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Journalists Stage Uprising in Donbas, Declare Independent Country of ‘Pressia’

DONETSK- War correspondents from around the world working in Ukraine’s embattled Donbas region staged an armed uprising against both Ukrainian government and Russian-backed forces in the region on Thursday. The rag-tag army of reporters, recognizable by their “uniform” of blueish body armor and PRESS logos, held a presentation in the Radisson Hotel in Donetsk to announce the declaration of independence for a new nation they call “Pressia.”

 

“Whereas journalists have for decades put their very lives at risk to inform the people, whereas they have rarely been adequately compensated for that sacrifice, and whereas everybody, everywhere, hates us with a passion, we liberated journalists do declare the sovereignty and independence of the nation of Pressia,” the declaration reads.

Many of the revolutionaries were described as ecstatic by themselves.

“I can’t believe it,” said Roger Felton, a freelancer who is extremely good-looking and until now was forced to work for six different publications just to make ends meet. “Two weeks ago I had to supplement my income by teaching bratty kids in Kyiv, and now I’m a founding father of a new country!”

Tom Rawlings, acting minister of defense for the new nation and an extremely eloquent correspondent who has never been given his due until now, explained why the journalists were able to overpower both the Ukrainian and Russian forces so easily.

“You have to remember that with war correspondents you’ve got people who have prior military experience or have at least witnessed several military conflicts,” he said, running a hand through his awesome hair that looked totally badass with his long beard and olive-drab keffiyeh.

“Besides that, we all have body armor and helmets, some of which are better than those used by the combatants,” he added, putting on a pair of dope shades.

The journalists have formed a provisional council to organize a system of governance in the territory they control. According to sources who are very well-traveled, experienced, and intelligent, the new nation’s government will consist of local autonomous councils making decisions via direct democracy and choosing delegates for higher, regional councils. The system is based on that instituted by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party in northern Syria, where some of the journalist militia leaders have worked in the past.

Apart from radical direct democracy, spokespeople for the provisional council also promised that style guides would be eliminated. Council members affirmed their commitment to human rights, but reserved the right to legislate capital punishment for late payment to freelance writers.

Meanwhile, world leaders, particularly those of Russia and Ukraine, have expressed their opposition to the fledgling nation.

“This is an unacceptable violation of the Minsk process,” said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who is totally lame.

“This is obviously a plot by our Western partners who are desperate to prevent the rise of a multi-polar world,” babbled Vladimir Putin’s deformed spokesman, Dmitry Peskov. His mustache makes him look like a 70’s porn star who did so much coke his eyes are about to burst out of their sockets.

Apart from general whining by loser politicians, overall coverage of the Pressia revolution has been overwhelmingly positive, and is expected to remain so. Spokespeople for the new country asserted that they plan to carry the revolution throughout the world, starting first in conflict areas.

“Journalists of the world, you have nothing to lose but your stupid editors,” said one revolutionary who is definitely a successful well-adjusted adult. “You have the world to gain! Journalists of the world, unite!”

If you are a journalist please see our contacts page to find out how to stake out police or military armories in your locale. Our day has come!

 

Slaughter those strawmen

While any satirical work is going to entail some hyperbole for comic effect, satire works best when it is at least rooted in truth. For example, if you read enough “realist” articles about Russia you will notice that they talk about negotiating with Russia while largely ignoring what Russia’s supposed to give up in return. Either that, or the proposed deal is weighted in Russia’s favor. Another common feature is the implication that America’s best interests are at home while Russia is allowed to find its national interests on its neighbors’ land or as far away as the Levant.

Satire doesn’t work if all your jokes are based on strawmen, or in other words, if they’re not true. Imagine I’m writing a satire aimed at mainstream American conservatives, for example, and I keep making references to them being stoners and always trying to enforce strict environmental regulations on everyone. This is totally ineffective because in general, American conservatives either don’t use recreational drugs or at least don’t advertise the fact that they do, and we all know how they hate environmental regulations of any kind. In short, satire works when it’s based on a kernel of truth.

With that out of the way, let’s look at an example of what not to do. This popped up in one of my news feeds and at first I thought it would be entertaining. Halfway through, however, it started to turn into a passive-aggressive attack on an army of poor, defenseless strawmen. The author is anonymous, but claims to have tried to work as a journalist in Russia without success. If you read the whole thing, I think it’s pretty clear that this happened because of the evil Western media conspiracy, which makes sure that only journalists who write “anti-Russian” work have careers.

Let’s unpack.

“On the bright side, while it is true that scores of journalists have been killed in Russia since the 1990s, foreign correspondents should have it slightly easier than local journalists, being allowed to work without the need to constantly put their life in danger, while posing as heroes fighting for liberty, truth, democracy, LGBT rights, Chechen independence, freedom, fair elections, and protesting against Russian propaganda.”

Here was the first red flag. The author correctly points out that yes, Russia is far less lethal for foreign correspondents (only one killed), but where are they getting this stuff about “posing as heroes” for all those things that follow it? Posing implies that you don’t actually believe in any of those things. Moreover, most of the Russia journalists I know don’t do this and aren’t interested in being seen as “heroes” for anything.

“I tried my hand at it once, many years ago, but I was very young, barely discovering my emerging skills at writing, and though I was very passionate about the cause and thought I knew a thing or two about what I was writing, I had not discovered the right formula to deliver the content I was expected to provide.”

Here it is, folks, that part where our anonymous hero was a visionary but the gatekeepers of the mainstream media couldn’t see their brilliance. Look, here’s a piece of advice. Maybe you did have a great writing style and unique insight or expertise on Russia, but then again maybe you didn’t, or maybe you were too “passionate about the cause”(what cause?), or whatever. When I say that my inbox isn’t swamped with invitations to conferences or job offers from major media outlets, I freely admit that on one hand it is due to politics, but on the other it is due to lack of academic credentials or in some cases experience. I realize that keeping my own style and point of view through most of my work is limiting, because it’s not necessarily what big outlets are looking for. I don’t imply that there’s some cabal of media guardians who don’t want me working for their outlets because they can’t handle the truth that I write. I accept limited prospects (which have been better than I could have imagined) as the price of remaining me.

I hope you’re ready for more passive aggression:

“I have come to realize however that, whatever the dangers might be, for many professional journalists from Europe or the US, spending one or two years in Russia may be a real life-time career investment: after some months spent there, you will deservedly become a respected and distinguished expert on all things Russian until your retirement.”

It’s interesting to me how these types always seem to assume that nobody can possibly have knowledge about Russia before moving there. I’m not talking about picking up a few books and skimming them as you prepare for your assignment. I’m talking about people actually studying Russian language, culture, and history in university, for example. I’m also not sure who these “distinguished experts” are. It sound more like a description of pundits rather than actual journalists.

“After all who goes to Russia voluntarily? There certainly must be some rewards if one is ready to sacrifice one or two years of their lives to live in a dirty, gray, squalid, corrupt and poor country surrounded by rude, aggressive and retrograde brutes.”

Again, a passive-aggressive strawman. These are your words, author, not theirs. The kind of complaints or jokes that many Russia correspondents make are the same as those made by ordinary Russians. In fact I’d say that most newcomers tend to be super idealistic and don’t get why Russians complain so much. To them, everything is magical and wonderful. You only really start to assimilate when you begin to hate the same things that Russians hate. They don’t like the mud and rain, the lack of sun, or the hell that is trying to accomplish any sort of transaction at Sberbank. None of these things are magical because they’re in Russia. They suck in your country and they suck here.

“Going to Russia and reporting from there will also provide you with the unique experience of joining the envied and exclusive club of the Moscow hack pack, where you will meet all these other eccentric and heroic individuals, some idealist reformers, some Oxford educated aristocrats, the inevitable New York Jew who feels tied to his Russian-speaking ancestors, and some mean spirited but good-at-heart intellectually restless and brave villains, who just like you, got stranded between Europe and Asia.”

Passive-aggression intensifies. For those who don’t know, the so-called Moscow Hack Pack, inasmuch as such a group formally exists, is nothing more than a Facebook group. Any member of the group can invite and authorize a new person, and many members are actually Russians as opposed to foreigners. In fact, many of the members aren’t even journalists but fixers, copyeditors, translators, etc. It’s not even remotely exclusive, my membership being strong evidence of this, and this cast of characters the author describes does not resemble anything like the parties I’ve been to. It’s clear that the author is describing these Western correspondents in a way that makes them unlikable, particularly with the “aristocrats” remark.

As for restless or eccentric well, that’s pretty much anyone who lives in Russia long term. And for the record, not all of us got “stranded” here. I’m here because however ridiculous and naive it might have been, I wanted to be here. It was my biggest goal from the end of high school until the day I left. But alas, I guess I don’t really love Russia on the deeper, molecular level that the author does. I don’t love it enough to conflate Russia and Russians with a particular government and its foreign policy. I don’t love it enough to pretend that Russia exists outside of a system based on antagonistic classes.

So the real slaughter of strawmen begins with a bullet-point list:

“You do not have to like Russia. What sane human being likes Russia anyway? At worst, it will only be a temporary stay, just enough for you to become more familiar with the realities of Russia, before your employer decides to post you somewhere else to prevent you from going native, that is to say, incapable of delivering objective reporting.”

From my experience, most of the Western correspondents I know like living in Russia. A number of them have worked in places that would make Russia look like paradise by comparison. It is rarely boring here, and no matter how bad things are you can always find some good in Russian society.

“It is good if you go to Russia with all your good old preconceived ideas: these are the ones that have been popular until now, and frankly, who are you, the newbie, to challenge the good old cliches anyway? After all, Russia is Russia is Russia. Read some of the masters and the classics in the genre of Russia “reporting”, like Edward Lucas and Masha Gessen and stick to their wisdom. They are professionals with a vast experience and you have a lot of things to learn from them. The readers know what to expect when they read about Russia, and you know what sort of people your readers are: idealist loners with a genuine wish to improve humanity and some weird, exotic interest in the dark and cursed corners of the planet, who are looking for the excitement they would otherwise find in a detective story; or your other type of readers, who are worried about the impending threat Russia poses to all of us naive fools who are too cowardly to recognize a threat when we see one.”

This one’s a bit long so I’ll break it down into two parts. First let’s tackle that thing about preconceived notions. The author is right to attack the practice of coming to Russia with preconceived ideas. For example, when I came to Russia my preconceived notion was that Putin was a patriot who was making his nation stronger, cleaning up corruption, and restoring Russian pride. I dismissed the Western media coverage of him because at the time I assumed they just hated him for all those aforementioned things he was doing. Luckily once I arrived it was blatantly obvious that this was all bullshit. Putin and his cronies were comfortably in bed with the West, which happily accepted their ill-gotten fortunes in Western banks and real estate markets, and which also invested billions into Russia. Good thing I gave up that preconceived notion, right?

Now for the second part, notice the only Russia journalists that are ever named are Ed Lucas and Masha Gessen. These are two members of the Trinity of Low-Hanging Fruit for Kremlin Apologists, the third member being Paul Goble. The implication is that other Western correspondents write like them. Uh no, they do not, in fact. If you can’t tell the difference, you’re not paying attention. And while Gessen is indeed hysterical at times, she did spent much of her life in Russia and speaks Russian. That ought to count for something.

And get a load of that description of the audience. Hey, guess what- that’s you, dear reader! You’re an idealistic loner who wants to save the world. I say let’s look at the audience for pro-Putin English-language media and see who has more loners and weirdos. Take a look at the comments section on any RT article some time.

I hope I’m not the only one that doesn’t find this incredibly pretentious beyond belief. The Western correspondents don’t really get it. The media outlets don’t get it. The audiences don’t get it. No, only this guy, who admits he failed at journalism in Russia, truly gets it. Sure.

“You don’t need to do your own investigative work. After all, you are in a foreign and dangerous country, and you’d better take care of yourself. Just read the newspapers, watch TV and talk to opposition politicians, particularly those who got so little votes that they failed to get into Parliament. In other countries, their voices would be “marginal”, that it is to say, insignificant. In Russia, their voices are “marginalized”, so well worth reporting.”

This one is really insulting. Just to give you an example why, here’s Simon Ostrovsky sitting in Moscow and reading some newspapers:

 

Ostrovsky’s work is extreme, but I can rattle off numerous “hack packers” who have reported from front lines in Ukraine, often on both sides. Many have literally put their lives in danger when reporting on this war. In fact, so have I. That’s why I get a bit pissed when I see some self-acknowledged failed journalist implying that Western Russia correspondents just hang out in Moscow, surf the net, and meet with opposition candidates.

Next a word on those opposition candidates. When someone asks why such candidates get that amount of attention it is an indicator that they know little about Russian politics. When you cover politics, you’re supposed to cover controversy and conflict. That’s why the Tea Party got so much attention, for example. The problem in Russian politics is that the official opposition parties don’t really oppose the government or more accurately, the president, on any issue of significance. Anyone who does gets seriously “marginalized.” Just ask Ilya Ponomarev.

The fact is that such opposition parties are marginalized. Their candidates and supporters have suffered everything from arrests to assaults, and in the case of Nemtsov- assassination. They are typically banned from the ballot in most regions. They often get no media coverage save for the occasional story about how they’re secret agents of the United States.

As for the official opposition parties, as I wrote in an update to my last post, this is basically a trap. If you report on the bombastic antics of the LDPR or the Stalin rehabilitation of the KPRF, as many reporters do from time to time, the pro-Kremlin people can just claim those are opposition parties that have nothing to do with Putin. You’re “smearing” Russia by implying that they have real power. If you don’t report on them, you’re focusing on marginal opposition figures. You just can’t win.

“You don’t need to study Russian (a smattering of Russian will be more than enough). Opposition politicians generally speak English very well, especially these self-exiled martyrs who have fled Russia for abroad. They might live outside of Russia now, but nobody has so much insider information about the inner diabolical workings of the Kremlin and so much insight into the bully psychopathic soul of Vladimir Putin. In fact, opposition politicians will court you, because they are careful to avoid Russian state propaganda media. Limited knowledge of Russian will also keep your exposure to Russian propaganda under check. Putin’s propaganda won’t fool you.”

Most of the correspondents I know either have a working professional knowledge of Russian or they are fluent in it (sometimes because it was their first language). But maybe that doesn’t matter. They don’t really know Russian like this author. There’s actually some kind of deeper Russian, so powerful that when you use it in conversation you actually make a connection with the other speaker’s magical Russian soul.

Oh and about interviewing opposition politicians, again I know plenty of people who interview die-hard regime supporters like Evgeny Fedorov (Marc Bennetts does so in his book I’m Going to Ruin Their Lives) or Night Wolves motorcycle club leader Aleksandr “The Surgeon” Zaldostanov. Western journalists have interviewed cossacks, volunteers in the Donbas, Sergei Markov, and of course Putin himself, on occasion.

As a final note, I find that a working knowledge of Russian is what protects you from “Putin’s propaganda.”

“Always remind the reader about Putin’s (preferably accompanied by the adjective “sinister”) KGB past. If you have some space left, do not fail to point out that in reality Putin was just a low level unglamorous employee posted to an insignificant provincial town in Eastern Germany, which does not make him anyway less sinister however. Putin is a nonentity, Putin is a nobody, but he is a dangerous tyrant who wants world domination too.”

The author nearly had a point here until the screwed it all up. Yes, there was and in some cases still is an irritating habit of always pointing out Putin’s KGB past any time he is mentioned. There are times when it is relevant, but this is way overused.

However, one reason it is overused is for the reason the author provides, namely that he was basically a desk jockey. Contrary to his implication, most journalists don’t point this out, and it has bolstered Putin’s mystique.

It’s probably worth pointing out that while Putin’s position was indeed not glamorous, he was stationed in Dresden, the capital of Saxony, and not some “insignificant provincial town in Eastern Germany.” Gee, the global Western media conspiracy really missed out on a great Russia expert here!

“Whatever action Russia takes, it is aggressive. For example Russia aggressively annexed Crimea (actually not a single shot was fired) and aggressively allowed for an aggressive referendum to take place in March 2014. Or like President Poroshenko put it last week, “the aggressor Russia, (with whom Ukraine is fighting a war) aggressively closes its markets, which amounts to economic aggression”. Not only the aggressor is aggressively attacking your country, it is also, aggressively, refusing to trade with your country!”

Whatever action? No, just the acts of aggression. The author excuses the annexation of the Crimea (which began with a military operation to secure the Crimean parliament building) because it was carried out without a shot fired. Well guess what- the Anschluss, the annexation of the Sudetenland, and the annexation of what was left of Czechoslovakia were all accomplished without a shot fired. Incidentally, the author is wrong about no shots being fired, and the takeover was far from non-violent; in some cases it was lethal. Incidentally one correspondent of mine had his camera stolen from him by Russian military personnel in the Crimea. Serves him right for not staying in Moscow and interviewing opposition figures!

Back to the question of aggression, seizing other countries’ land by military force, even if they rarely resort to using deadly force, is still aggression, period. Does anyone have the slightest belief that the author would approve of the US doing the same thing?

But you know what’s really funny? The author seems to be leaving out something. There’s a remark about Ukraine fighting a war with Russia, but no word as to who started it. For all we know, maybe Ukraine invaded and occupied Kursk or Rostov-na-Donu. Why mention aggression and then not bring up the Donbas? Instead the author mentions Poroshenko’s reference to a trade war. What the author doesn’t seem to know is that Russia had already pulled this trick…prior to Maidan.

Russia used trade and “sanctions” as a method of dissuading Yanukovych from signing the EU Association Agreement.  Here’s a relevant passage from that article:

“Glazyev, speaking on the sidelines of the discussion, said the exact opposite was true: “Ukrainian authorities make a huge mistake if they think that the Russian reaction will become neutral in a few years from now. This will not happen.”

Instead, he said, signing the agreement would make the default of Ukraine inevitable and Moscow would not offer any helping hand. “Russia is the main creditor of Ukraine. Only with customs union with Russia can Ukraine balance its trade,” he said. Russia has already slapped import restrictions on certain Ukrainian products and Glazyev did not rule out further sanctions if the agreement was signed.

The Kremlin aide added that the political and social cost of EU integration could also be high, and allowed for the possibility of separatist movements springing up in the Russian-speaking east and south of Ukraine. He suggested that if Ukraine signed the agreement, Russia would consider the bilateral treaty that delineates the countries’ borders to be void.”

Hmmm…Glazyev. That name sounds familiar. Glazyev…borders void…separatist movements…OH RIGHT! THIS THING! Isn’t it weird how the thing they threatened Ukraine with in 2013 actually happened almost exactly as they said it would?

So no, Western journalists don’t call everything Russia does “aggression.” Only the aggressive stuff. And on that note, Russian state media loves to brag about Russia’s military and nuclear capabilities. When you do that, people might see you as aggressive, particularly if you’ve invaded your neighbor. On to the next point.

“No explanation is too far-fetched. 9/11 truthers, it is widely known, are a bunch of lunatic conspiracy theorists. Russia actually had its own little 9/11 two years earlier, in September 1999, when bombs were detonated in Moscow and other cities killing almost 300 people. It has become common place in the media universal consensus on Russia that these bombs were actually planted in the apartments by FSB agents who were trying to create a pretext for the next invasion of Chechnya. The tragic accident is often remembered because it brought about the rise of Putin, who had left his post as FSB director, where he served for eight months, and had just been nominated Prime Minister by Eltsin.”

While the truth will probably never be known until after the regime’s archives are opened, I would ask the author to look at the concrete evidence provided for both conspiracies before declaring them to be equal. And another thing to consider is that the idea that this was a false-flag was not cooked up in the Western media but rather in Russia. Lastly, if this was a false-flag, it was a crime of the Yeltsin administration and not Putin, who could not have organized such a thing at the time. Putin no doubt became aware of what happened somewhere down the road and thus this incident is probably one of many reasons why he’s afraid to leave power.

“Putin is a macho. What could possibly be worse than being a man, and not just any man, but a man who pretends to pose as a manly man? The age of men is over. Men should not be allowed to be men, otherwise they become machos. Putin may have been seen shirtless a couple of times or two. Angela Merkel has been spotted naked. Somehow the press does not show the pictures of the German Chancellor naked every time there is a passing reference to her. It must be because she does not look so good naked.”

What’s a pro-Kremlin article without a little bit of creepiness. The thing isn’t that Putin is macho, it’s that he wants to be seen as such so badly. He’s constantly appearing in photo ops riding motorcycles, shooting guns, running around shirtless. He’s not simply “spotted” this way. Putin’s media machine promoted this macho image so they’re responsible for the reactions. And no, I don’t see references to shirtless Putin any time there’s a passing reference to him. I think I’ll just take the author’s word on the Merkel thing.

“If somebody online is expressing a view which might be interpreted as a slight display of sympathy towards Russia, you can assume pretty much without doubt that you are dealing with a paid Kremlin troll. There are actually millions of them and they are extremely infectious, their sole task is to transform the naive online users into Putin worshiping zombies, so the best way to deal with them is to ignore their inherently worthless arguments while naming-and-shaming them. If your article or your book receive a bad review, do not worry at all, it is the work of professional online trolls.”

I’ve often written about how ridiculously overused the term “Kremlin troll” is. For one thing, people need to be aware that these pro-Putin citizens of theirs have been around for a long time, some before the advent of the St. Petersburg troll factories and some even before the founding of RT. Instead of pretending this phenomenon is some kind of artificial foreign invasion, they should look at the problems in their society which alienate people so much that they’re willing to fantasize about some foreign government being their potential savior.

Now that being said, don’t worry, author. If you told me that nobody pays you to write, I’d believe it 100%.

“Russia is on the brink of economic collapse, but it has billions of dollars to invest in propaganda operations to subvert the Western liberal order.”

More like hundreds of million now, but that’s beside the point. Venezuela is on the brink of collapse and yet they still fund Telesur. As for that Western liberal order, well, it is subverting itself with its internal contradictions.

“If somebody is killed in Russia, the first thing to do is to blame the Kremlin for the assassination. After all, centuries of history have proven that Russia is a genocidal country.”

Russia has a higher homicide rate than the US, so that would be a lot of murderers pinned on the Kremlin, don’t you think? And yeah, when outspoken Kremlin opponents are gunned down in a country where getting firearms is no easy task, people are going to look toward the Kremlin. The last political assassination included as one of its suspects a man connected to one of Russia’s most powerful men, Ramzan Kadyrov. The killing was carried out within sight of the Kremlin walls. Yeah that strongly suggests some state involvement, doesn’t it?

“Putin wants to invade the Baltics. Nobody understands what Putin wants, nobody can understand him because he is illogical and insane. Indeed Putin has no reason why and Russia has shown no intention to invade the Baltics but this is exactly reason why Putin will do it. How can you be insane if you don’t do insane things?”

This is the one argument I’d totally agree with, but even here it fails because the link used as an example goes to the Atlantic Council think tank and I don’t see many Russia correspondents taking this threat seriously. I strongly suspect that the author had Ed Lucas and possibly Anne Applebaum in mind when they wrote this whole piece, but I don’t understand why they didn’t just call those people out. Instead they go after this exclusive “hack pack,” which as far as I know, never included either of those authors.

This seems to be a common tactic of some Putin fanboys, as I’ve often seen it before in Op-Edges on RT. Basically you smear Western correspondents in general, then pick some low hanging fruit, many of whom are more pundits than journalists these days, and the reader thinks that the rest of those Western journalists are the same. Guess what- they’re not. Actually read what they write some time.

But in case the author hasn’t insulted your intelligence enough, they end with a cover of Der Spiegel magazine that says, in German, “Stop Putin Now!” This is supposed to show how hysterical and biased the Western media is. Yet looking at the cover and the date, it looks as though it is a photo collage of victims from the MH17 incident. These people were killed with Russian weapons, by Russian-backed forces, in a war started by Russia. But the author looks at this and smirks at how irrational the Western media supposedly is toward Putin.

Can’t imagine why those Western outlets never hired this individual. Must be because they all secretly hate Russia. If the author’s still up for the job I’m sure RT will take them. They’ll hire anyone.

How I became The Guardian

Life has been full of surprises lately. Yesterday I found out I was published in The Guardian. Today I learned that I am The Guardian. In fact, I am the “Western mass media.” Yeah I know, weird huh? It’s true though, at least according to the prestigious Russian news site Ridus.ru (yes, that Ridus.ru), who just today ran a story featuring yours truly bearing the headline “British Guardian accuses the Western mass media of idiocy.”

Yes, we have yet another case of one source being labeled as the “X mass media,” in this case British, but this time I happen to be the source. Well I guess it wouldn’t be the first time Russian media over-hyped some lone blogger.

In the article there are no direct quotes from the article in question. Nor are there any links to the article. Instead it says:

“Джим Ковпак в статье «Сталин, водка и ядерное оружие: как не надо писать о России» перечислил мифы, используя которые иностранные журналисты оказываются в положении полных идиотов.”

“Jim Kovpak in the article “Stalin, vodka, and nuclear weapons: How not to write about Russia,” lists myths whose use makes foreign journalists look like total idiots.”

It  then goes on to say that I wrote that Western media coverage gives the impression that Russia is full of prostitutes.

Before I tackle this I should point out that The Guardian piece is heavily edited to be more concise. The original article appeared on Russia!.

Once one sees both articles it ought to be clear that it isn’t necessarily aimed at journalists. It certainly isn’t aimed at Western Russia correspondents, many of whom I know personally and who in many cases have far more background knowledge and/or experience in Russia than the expat Putin fanboys out there. Many of those types flat out tell you they “knew nothing about Russia” prior to chasing down some girl they met on the internet or whatever.

Of course these cliches certainly can apply to people who are by definition journalists, but these types are most likely those who for whatever reason find themselves writing about Russia without actually being in the country or even visiting it. They may work for some news aggregator site, they could be some kind of travel journalist, or someone just reporting on pop culture phenomena throughout the world. I did specifically refer to expat writers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean journalists. They could be bloggers or even novelists. Also in the long version I occasionally point out that some of these cliches apply to Ukraine as well. And lastly, nowhere in either article did I “accuse the Western media of idiocy.”

It wouldn’t seem like a big deal if I didn’t just get a call earlier in the evening from the state-run NTV about an interview regarding this article. Even if I had the time and were so inclined, I’m afraid they’d be disappointed if the reason for their interest was the wholly inaccurate Ridus article.

But there’s a good lesson to be found in the unusual level of interest that the Russian media paid to this. First of all, the Guardian piece had been up for roughly a day, maybe a day and a half before I was told about the Ridus story. I got the NTV notification about two hours later. Is it not curious how the Russian media constantly paints the “mainstream Western media” as nothing more than a propaganda machine bent on waging information war on Russia, and yet the second they find something in that “mainstream media” they think they can use, the jump all over it? Also, The Guardian is pretty “mainstream,” and it is particularly hated by the Kremlin media and Putin fanboys the world over. To be fair, that no doubt is largely due to the publication’s association with intrepid super spy Luke Harding. Still, The Guardian is definitely “Western” media, so it’s a little odd that Western media would accuse Western media of idiocy, isn’t it?

The other funny aspect of this, perhaps the funniest of all, is that this long-time Kremlin media tactic of referring to “Western/American/foreign mass media” in order to back up some claim, whether it is a matter of gross distortion as with my article or misrepresenting an author’s expertise or credentials in other cases, is essentially a tacit admission that the Russian media isn’t trustworthy. See every time they do this the message is always the same, “Look! A Western says this! If they say that, it must be true!” It’s as if they know they must somehow attach themselves to Western sources because otherwise they have no credibility, or at least Western sources seem more credible to their audience, even if they too generally believe the ideas behind the story and buy into the “information war” conspiracy.

Western media doesn’t appear to operate by these rules. They don’t need to constantly throw up some Russian source and say, “Look! Even the Russians themselves support us and say what we’re writing is true!” Okay, sometimes it seems like Paul Goble is doing that, but he’s hardly “MSM.” Otherwise there is some concept of journalistic ethics and its expected that a reporter will go out and speak to sources and make every effort to confirm their stories while also striving for objectivity. If they interview opposition sources, for example, it’s because there’s a political or human interest story here and you’re supposed to let the sources speak for themselves. The idea isn’t to say “Look, even the Russians themselves admit that Putin sucks! Obama is right!”

Does the system of journalism always work that way? Of course not. For one thing journalism is, for most major Western outlets, a business. Thanks to the internet it has become a rather cutthroat one at that. But as I’ve said plenty of times in the past- just because one system has flaws doesn’t mean we should adopt another one that is worse. And if the Kremlin owned media wants to protest the implication that it is worse and not, as they sometimes claim, equal in terms of credibility, maybe they should stop and ask why they have to constantly invoke the “Western media” as backup for their claims.

UPDATE: They apparently really love that piece because a more accurate translation of the article was published on RT’s Russian site. So yeah, now I’v finally been published on RT. Unfortunately it would seem that RT failed to recognize my Guardianship. Have no doubt in your minds, I am The Guardian, and I shall rule this world that is rightly mine! 

Major mission creep with Sputnik

This initially started out as a sort of How to Amnesty International for Dummies, but in the course of my research on the topic I found a gem that I simply couldn’t ignore. So forgive me but this post is going to read something like a double feature that appears to go way off topic.

First let’s get the Amnesty story out of the way. If you follow Russia news on Twitter you may have heard that Amnesty International released a report about Russian bombing of civilians in Syria, and apparently the report also accused them of using cluster munitions. Human Rights Watch has also reported the use of cluster munitions either by Russia or the Syrian government.

Naturally the Russian state run totally independent media went ape shit, as did the Russian Ministry of Defense.  Just check out this tweet of theirs:

This one has been making the rounds and frankly I like it a lot, if only because the veiled threat basically serves as a warning that they’re about to make shit up. But to get to the heart of the matter, one needs to read this quote from the Sputnik article:

“We have a question for Amnesty International: why did this organization keep silent and turn a blind eye to material, undeniable, real evidence of the use of cluster munitions by the Ukrainian Armed Forces against cities in eastern Ukraine?”

As is typical for the Russian government, the denial follows a typical pattern. Accuse anybody and everybody of deliberately lying to frame Russia. Claim no evidence was given. Claim that contrary evidence was given, even when it hasn’t been or it is highly suspect. And then…WHAT ABOUT?! 

In this case, the what about was directed at Ukraine of course. Strangely, the intrepid journalists at Sputnik didn’t bother to actually go to the Ukraine section of Amnesty’s website, a task I accomplished in roughly 15 seconds thanks to Google. Here is that link.  In the end notes one finds links to the actual detailed reports. As is clear from the summary and the report titles, Amnesty International certainly didn’t turn a blind eye to human rights violations on the part of the Ukrainian armed forces and volunteer units. Several times we see the term “both sides” being used. Of course naturally Kremlin supporters will, with all sincerity, insist that those crimes Amnesty attributed to the Ukrainian side are 100% genuine, while all those attributed to the “rebel side” are sinister lies cooked up by the international conspiracy against poor, persecuted Russia.

This is the point I’m trying to make about Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch- they actually do document human rights abuses pretty much anywhere. Here, take a look at their section on the United States.

“Ah yes,” the Moscow supporter exclaims. “The US has its own human rights abuses! There’s proof, from the West itself!”

Oh but wait, sir! When you’re done with that you can read this report on Russia!

LIES! All lies! This is nothing but information war waged by Washington against Russia! Who funds Amnesty International anyway?! It’s probably a CIA front!”

Yes, yes, brave dissident. Of course it is. Such is the ridiculously childish Kremlin mentality. And when it comes to the topic of civilian casualties, sure, nearly all governments engage in these double standards about collateral damage, human shields, and the slaughter of innocent civilians from the air. But when Russia does it is is ridiculously childish, black and white, and unlike the West there is no significant counterweight, no real criticism. All criticism is a sign of treason. George W. Bush era on steroids.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way it’s time for our second story. As I said it is not on the same topic, but the common thread is that Sputnik was the source. First a little background though.

You remember that idiotic story about Putin’s so-called “gunslinger gait,” the one that alleges his mode of walking was somehow influenced by his “KGB training?” I tore this one apart in the second half of my post Vladipocalypse. Mark Adomanis did one better and wrote an article for Russia! about it. I know a lot of Russia/Ukraine journalists and commentators, both in person and online, and pretty much every one of them found the story to be rather ridiculous. Oh but we were wrong. So wrong.

As it turns out, one of Sputnik’s aggressive, muckraking investigative journalists has apparently discovered that this was in fact a “CIA smear” against the glorious leader Putin. The headline reads: CIA Smoking gun in Latest Putin Slur. This promises to be intriguing! Excuse me while I put on some mood-enhancing music.

 

Alright that’s better. It’s called “Spy Music” and god dammit it delivers! Just leave that playing from now until the end of the article, just to keep your heart pounding till the bitter end.

Now before we go through the looking glass, it’s probably worth pointing out that several other people and myself would strongly disagree that this non-story was a “slur” against Putin. On the contrary, I argued from the start that it’s essentially pro-Putin propaganda that feeds into his undeserved macho tough guy image. If some credible evidence emerged to suggest that the so-called “study” of Putin’s gait was in fact sponsored and disseminated by a Kremlin PR firm, I would not have been surprised at all. Suffice to say, implying that Putin was such a highly trained KGB agent that he still retains some kind of Bond-like handgun training decades after the fact isn’t black propaganda. You’ll rarely hear Putin critics say things like, “Damn that Putin! He’s such an efficient killing machine because of his superior KGB agent training!”

Sputnik’s Finian Cunningham is having none of that though. He’s convinced this was a CIA plot to slander His Majesty. So what’s his smoking gun? Well if we assume he did his homework properly, it seems that the “smoking gun” is the fact that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty supposedly put out the story before some British publications. It’s not clear whether they were the first in the world to publish the story, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. What does this prove, exactly?

“The concerted way the British press ran with the tawdry story points to a politicized agenda – and in particular orchestration by the American Central Intelligence Agency.”

This is a typical tactic of conspiracy theorists. In reality there are several other, far more likely things this points to. I and many others have said for years that poor coverage of Russia (and many other countries for that matter) is largely caused by the cutthroat struggle for profits and the lack of experienced correspondents on the ground. Sensationalism sells, and Russia garners very little attention without it, unfortunately. Even with everything that has happened since 2014, most readers and viewers simply don’t care about Russia. When it comes to big, old school media outlets, they seem to have a formula- KGB stuff, nuclear weapons, war, and stories about prostitutes and strippers. That’s what they think gets the attention of their readers.

This isn’t even exclusive to coverage of Russia. These big dinosaurs and even some of the newer media outlets are notorious for being taken in by bogus stories about China and North Korea, for example. Strangely, however, you don’t see these Western crusaders for media fairness coming to the rescue of poor China. No, it looks like it’s up to Cracked.com to do that kind of fact checking.

That’s a topic for another article. Actually that was originally intended to be the main topic of this blog before the Kremlin and its media decided to go cuckoo bananas in the end of 2013. It really makes me wish I’d started this blog a lot earlier, but what’s done is done. What’s important now is tracking down the CIA role in this story.

So getting back to Cunningham’s theory, RFERL was the first to publish the story, and then the British media fell for it.

“Several other British newspapers, such as the Daily Express, Daily Star, The Mirror and Daily Telegraph, as well as the state-owned BBC, all ran similar headlines. Notably, too, all the reports were written in very similar style, sharing the same wording and “talking points.”

Why wouldn’t they be written in a similar style with the same talking points? This is not a major feature, and they’re all quoting the same source. Perhaps there was a press release that accompanied the paper, which would explain a lot. When you look around at routine stories from different outlets, particularly about the same event and quoting the same sources, you’re going to get a lot of similarity. Then there’s the whole matter of journalistic style. Individual outlets will often have their own style guides, but they’re all following a more or less similar pattern. Do you even journalism, bro?

Still, I want to get to that CIA link. Where is it?

“Now here is where it gets interesting. The paper was published in the BMJ on Monday, December 14. Within hours it was then made into a story and published on Tuesday by the US government-owned news outlet, Radio Free Europe (RFE). It is well documented that RFE has close ties with the CIA, and has served as a propaganda outlet since the heady days of the Cold War back in the late 1940s and 50s.”

He promised it would get interesting, but alas, it didn’t. First of all, The Daily Mail, just the kind of publication you’d expect to run with such a story, ran it on the same day as RFERL, at 10:55 GMT. Cunningham claims, with no substantiation, that RFERL publishes at midnight, Central European time, but again, none of this matters because his assertion about the CIA is far more important.

Note he says it is “well documented that RFE has close ties with the CIA.” Indeed, RFE was affiliated with the CIA. Key word: was. The CIA stopped funding RFE in 1972. That’s a bit late to be using the present perfect there, Mr. Cunningham. Basic research, folks. Indeed, RFERL is funded by the US government and as such one should be on the lookout for bias. That is a far cry from a CIA operation to spread black propaganda, however. In fact, all this is basically saying is at worst, RFERL is just like RT or Sputnik. But hold on, we’re getting to the best part. This would be a good time to find your favorite part of that spy music mix in the video above.

“In recent years, Western news media have shown a sporadic tendency to engage in negative stories about Putin. And the telling thing is that this negative Western media coverage shows a concerted response.
Newspapers and other news outlets tend to publish the same pejorative stories about Putin at the same time. That indicates a centrally manipulating source.”

Once again I’m forced to ask if this guy has any idea how news is made? The Gunslingergaitgate (See what I did there?) non-story was a perfect example of the type of sensationalist click-bait that publications like The Daily Mail and Daily Express are known to lap up. Curiously, he didn’t give us any examples from the American media. Did the CIA forget about its own home turf?

The author is also using another tactic here, whereby without even having proven his first example, he’s using it as proof that this happens all the time without providing other examples. We’ll look at more of that later.

“But what is revealing from the latest Putin “gunslinger” smear story is that the triggering media source was evidently and specifically the CIA-affiliated RFE outlet.”

Cunningham still failed to prove this point. We’re supposed to take his word about the publishing time of RFERL, which he claims to be midnight, Central European Time. We also have no idea if this study was announced via press release, which would explain why so many publications jumped on it when they did. Also note that yet again he has called RFE “CIA-affiliated” when it hasn’t been so since 1972.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Here it comes! Get ready for a tsunami of bullshit!
“In previous bouts of Western media slandering against Putin, such as his alleged millionaire daughter, or his alleged ordering of the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 by Russian-backed rebels, it is plausible to speculate that there was covert media manipulation going on.
However, in this week’s media smear job carried out by British publications, it is clearly traceable that the disinformation came from the CIA operation RFE.”

Once again we see the typical tactic in action. He hasn’t proved his point and he’s already using it to make unsubstantiated claims about other, unrelated stories which incidentally didn’t come from the very not CIA-affiliated RFERL.

First of all the story about Putin’s daughter started with Reuters, not RFE. Reuters sticks by its story and the Kremlin has thus far failed to provide even a remotely convincing answer to its allegations. If they are in any way inaccurate, Putin has no one to blame but himself for making even the most basic details of his family a matter of state security. Would it really be such a risk to actually show Putin’s daughters, living in Russia?

Cunningham tries to hammer through an even bigger lie after that, however, when he speaks of the Western media slandering Putin with stories of his “alleged ordering of the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine…” Excuse me but what Western media publication ever claimed that Putin had ordered the plane to be shot down? What Western media publication even suggested that the civilian plane was shot down intentionally? The only side that has ever accused the other of intentionally shooting down a civilian plane is the Russian side, and maybe a handful of Ukrainian crackpots whom no one takes seriously.

So no, Mr. Cunningham, it isn’t “plausible to speculate” about covert media manipulation, especially when you can’t get your basic stories straight. And once again he refers to RFE as being affiliated with the CIA when it isn’t. Laziness or deliberate lying, take your pick.

He just gets better and better though:

“Nevertheless, what should be alarming to anyone upholding independent, critical journalism is the odious way that supposedly independent news media are played as political tools to sell a propaganda message.”

Says the guy writing for a state-owned media outlet whose own bosses openly claim there’s no such thing as objectivity and that they are fighting an information war. And what does he mean by propaganda message? If RT had published a story about what a badass Putin is with a gun, would it still be slander?
“If in this instance it is clear that British media are so pliable to serve as propaganda outlets to demonize Vladimir Putin what does that say about the credibility of all their other news and information?
What of their coverage on events in Ukraine, Syria, or any other major international development?”

See what I mean, the way they try to get an inch and then take a mile? He’s never even proved his initial point and he’s either deliberately lied or included false information (about RFE and the CIA), and now he wants us to use this to call into question all the coverage of the so-called “Western media.” Well how about this- RT, Sputnik, and other Russian state-owned media outlets have been busted numerous times deliberately misrepresenting sources or in some cases actually fabricating stories. I’ve yet to see any example of anyone being punished for these instances, unlike in the Western media where a failure to thoroughly fact check ended Dan Rather’s career. So that given the case, should we then just dismiss any and all coverage coming from outlets like RT? Brace yourselves…

No. You’re not hallucinating. I said no, as in “No, we should not immediately dismiss anything that comes out of RT offhand.” All claims must stand or fall on the merits of their evidence. No exceptions. Imagine you’re on trial for your life, in spite of the fact that you’re 100% innocent of the charges. Which standard of evidence would you prefer, mine as expressed above, or Mr. Cunningham’s?

I could end this here, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t let you see the author’s hilarious ass-kissing session with Putin.

“As already noted, the CIA-British media smear job about “gun-toting Putin” came out just as the Russian leader was holding a major international press conference. In recent months and especially over the conflict in Syria, Putin has shown himself to be probably the best world leader there is.”

Notice how he goes from suggesting that the CIA was involved via RFERL, to just flat out calling it a CIA-British media (again, why no American media?) “smear job?”  I’m also not sure what major press conference he was referring to; Putin’s annual press conference was held three days after the non-story broke, and people who actually pay attention to that press conference are the last people to take that Putin walk article seriously.

“Best world leader there is?” Are you shitting us? This is an impulsive dictator whose best defense is that he is completely ignorant of what is going on in his country (aka “Good Tsar, Bad Boyars”). According to his own propaganda machine, in 15 years Russia has failed to produce even one more man capable of properly leading Russia, and even according to his own supporters Russia cannot have democracy. That’s right- America with over twice the population of Russia and shit tons of firearms for everyone is capable of having regular, contested elections according to rules that have changed very little since the country came into being, but Russians cannot handle this minuscule freedom, even after over a decade of Putin’s brilliant leadership. Best leader indeed.

“Putin has proven himself to be a noble world leader – unlike mediocre Western politicians, who are not fit to tie his shoelaces.”

Okay seriously how do you write this and not feel like a prostitute? One thing I notice about Western media critics of Putin is that you’d be hard pressed to see them launch into such pathetic, groveling praise of Western leaders, from Cameron to Obama, or Poroshenko for that matter. Most of them have scathing criticism for their leaders, because you know, that’s kind of what we’re supposed to do. How do you launch into this kind of diatribe and then pretend that you’re somehow more objective, and imply that people should trust you over experienced journalists who don’t lavish fawning praise over political figures?

 

Anyway, maybe Western politicians need to gut their constitutions, destroy their electoral institutions, and then run their national economies into the ground. Then maybe they’d be fit to tie Putin’s shoelaces. On second thought, maybe Putin should tie their shoelaces, if only because he is closer.

journo

Someone needs to ship a dump truck full of these things to Sputnik.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RT’s double failure

Here’s a riddle for you. What’s worse than RT giving expert credentials to someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about? The answer, RT giving expert credentials to someone who not only doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but who tries to cover for this by claiming other journalists don’t know what they’re talking about. And wouldn’t you know it, RT served us up exactly that.

In case you haven’t heard, Putin recently made a tacit admission of Russian military involvement in Ukraine at his annual press conference last Thursday. Almost immediately, Putin’s press secretary tried to walk back Putin’s words, claiming that he was referring only to Russian “volunteers” and not serving military personnel. Of course in 2014 Putin also tacitly admitted to the presence of Russian volunteers, yet he hilariously claimed they weren’t receiving any material compensation and he was suspiciously unconcerned about his citizens crossing a border illegally to fight in an armed conflict for states not recognized by his government. You’d think that with the West constantly accusing Russia of orchestrating and supporting the rebellion in the Donbas, indeed using it as the basis of their sanctions, Putin would have been cracking down on any attempt by Russian citizens to engage in that conflict and thus provide fodder to the West.

Before we get into RT’s hilarious attempt to spin the words of a president who is increasingly detached from material reality, let’s be clear- there would be no war in the Donbas were it not orchestrated by Moscow. A basic understanding of very recent Ukrainian history and talking to anyone from the region, plus basic common sense regarding insurgencies and military science is more than sufficient to support this conclusion. This is then backed by tons of evidence in a variety of forms, including admissions from some of the rebellion’s leaders themselves, many of whom are Russian citizens who have returned to Russia without facing any legal consequences of their actions, in spite of the fact that said actions were embarrassing for Russia and directly related to the West’s sanctions. There is no need to rely on grainy satellite photos that supposedly show Russian vehicles crossing the border or artillery firing into Ukraine from Russian territory. Here are just a couple examples:

 

Reports coming from inside of Russia speak of serving military personnel being asked to sign contracts if they are conscripts (as only contract soldiers can be sent abroad under Russian law), while captured Russian personnel are said to have resigned from the Russian armed forces prior to the time of their capture, implicitly prior to their arrival in Ukraine. It is important to note here that the actual status of the military personnel is irrelevant. The Russian government has steadily denied all involvement in the conflict that they claim is a “civil war,” including providing arms and financing for the “rebels.” A Russian soldier fighting in the Donbas is a Russian soldier regardless of whether or not he signs a meaningless document claiming that he “resigned.”

It’s also worth noting that this tactic of creating pseudo-states and denying involvement in supporting them militarily is by no means new, nor is it exclusive to Russia. In the beginning of this video, we see the late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic publicly denying that the Belgrade-controlled Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was supporting the Serbian Republic forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

 

Russia did essentially the same thing in the run-up to what would become the first Chechen War.

There are debates as to what percentage of the “rebels” are actually Russian military personnel and what their official status is within the Russian armed forces, but there can be no debate about Russia’s involvement in this conflict. War is extremely expensive and complex. Insurgencies so well armed and trained do not simply pop up within a matter of a few months as they did in Ukraine. The “rebels” simply have too many shells, too much heavy artillery, too many tanks, too many personnel capable of using such modern weaponry effectively, and engage in tactics far too conventional to be local insurgents. Anyone still insisting otherwise is either deliberately lying, like Putin and other Russian officials, or simply doesn’t know what they are talking about, like these “experts” on RT.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about those two “experts,” shall we? The first is from Neil Clark, a journalist from the UK. He is quoted in the Op-Edge as saying:

“It’s misreporting again in much of the Western media. [Some time ago] the claims were of “Russian invasion of Ukraine” and, of course, soldiers were mentioned. And Putin isn’t saying this. What he is saying is that military advisors are, or were in Ukraine, the same way US military advisors were in Ukraine, too. So, I think it is a bit of a non-story, really. He is not saying that there were Russian soldiers coming in; that was the claim. And now his words are twisted again …”

Apparently Clark hasn’t been following the story closely, because first and foremost, Putin specifically denied the existence of Russian instructors or advisers in Ukraine. You can see him say exactly that in this video:

 

So no, Neil, Putin wasn’t admitting to instructors or advisers on par with those from the US. If he were talking about military advisers, which he had denied in the past, he could have just said they had advisers or instructors instead of talking about people handling “questions in the military sphere.” It’s clear from their other attempts to spin this that we’re talking about people who were actually fighting in Ukraine. That’s why the comparison with the US and Western advisers is inaccurate, particularly in light of the fact that the US and NATO were totally open about the instructors and training missions that were carried out in Ukraine from the beginning. In fact, they made a pretty big deal of it.

So nice try, Neil, but you lose this round. Next time figure out what your masters have been claiming before you try to cover for them. Also maybe this little item can be of use:

journo

Next at bat is Marcus Papadopolous of Politics Firsta UK publication which I’m told typically deals in domestic politics. Papadopolous tries a different tack, accusing unnamed journalists of not knowing anything about Ukraine.

“Western journalists remain very ignorant of Ukraine. Prior to the crisis in Ukraine, many of them wouldn’t have been able to find Ukraine on a map. And if you said to them Kiev, they wouldn’t have thought of the capital of Ukraine, they probably would have thought of a certain dish that you can find in Russian and Ukrainian restaurants.”

Strong words there. Before I go on, I just want to point out that on a certain level he is right; Western journalists often didn’t know much about Ukraine until 2014, as many of them didn’t know much about Russia either. This fact makes many Western journalists prime targets for bullshit coming from both sides. Of course this is somewhat irrelevant to the issue here, because one doesn’t have to be an expert in Ukrainian history to discover evidence of Russian military involvement in Ukraine.

Getting back to Marcus’ statement, I think that it’s at least reasonable to infer that if he’s attacking unnamed Western journalists as having utterly no knowledge of Ukraine, including its basic geographical location, he must possess some solid background knowledge of Ukraine that they just don’t have. So let’s see what insight Marcus can give us based on his vast knowledge of Ukraine.

“The reality is this that Ukraine is a very important part of the Russian people’s identity, their cultural identity, their linguistic identity. And, of course, Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities; it is the birth place of the Russian state. And it is only natural that the Russian government will have an interest in eastern Ukraine where millions and millions of Russian speaking people reside rather than ethic Russians or Ukrainians who consider the Russian language to be their mother tongue.”

There’s plenty to pick apart in this statement, but I think it is unnecessary because this does nothing to demonstrate any real insight or background knowledge of Ukraine. This is basically cobbled together from information which could be gleaned from Wikipedia, plus the regurgitation of a Russian-government narrative. Anyone with real knowledge of Ukraine and Russia would be able to see the flaws in this non-argument. For one example, look how he speaks of their “linguistic identity” in spite of the fact that most Russians are unable to understand even basic Ukrainian (whereas the opposite is not true), and they often express undue hatred and hostility to that language.

The real fun starts when Marcus uses his vast background knowledge in Ukrainian history to creatively interpret Putin’s statement.

“So, President Putin did not say there are Russian regular forces in eastern Ukraine. What he said is that: “Yes, there are Russian personnel, Russian officials acting there in the interest of the local population of Donetsk and Lugansk,” because these people have been suffering tremendously because of the Ukrainian government’s dreadful murderous policy towards them in terms of cutting electricity, cutting gas, shelling them, bombing them either with artillery or aircraft. So, it is only natural that Russia would not stand by idly and would do something in eastern Ukraine and quite rightly, so,” he said.”

No, Marcus, Putin wasn’t saying that. Oh sure, he accused the Ukrainian forces of all manner of atrocities in their “punitive operation,” but he also insisted from the beginning that he was doing absolutely nothing about it. Marcus is just being creative.

Still, I was concerned about Mr. Papadopolous’ credentials to speak on Ukraine, as he is obviously more qualified than all those unnamed journalists who didn’t know that Kyiv is not a chicken dish. I wrote him an email asking him to detail his experience in Ukraine and Russia prior to 2014. It was sent on the 19th and I’ve yet to receive an answer.

The Noodleremover did a little digging and found that Mr. Papdopolous has a soft spot in his heart for Cyprus, and is quite logically opposed to the Turkish occupation in the form of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. I was in Cyprus last month and I too find the division of that island to be a crime. But wait a second! I’m just getting one point of view here! I need to question more! After all, if you know anything about the history of Cyprus, we all know that the Turkish invasion was in response to a coup in Greece that installed a right-wing junta, which in turn overthrew the democratically-elected government of Cyprus in an attempt to unite the island with Greece. In the fighting that ensued, the Greek Cypriot fighting organization EOKA-B engaged in a murderous policy of their own. So how about it, Mr. Papadopolous? Is it good for Ukraine but not good for Greece? At least in the latter case, the coup and the right-wing junta were real.

This tactic is getting to be commonplace with RT and their fellow travelers. Talk about unnamed “Western journalists” who supposedly know nothing about Ukraine or Russia, and the audience will assume that the person speaking on a Russian network must actually know something. Perhaps these talking heads are aware that readers often don’t know much about the journalists in the bylines, that is to say they often have no idea whether they are reading the work of a seasoned Russia correspondent who is fluent in Russian and who spent years in that country.

Another irony of this tactic is that oftentimes the people making these accusations are, like the two featured here, Western journalists with little to no background knowledge of Russia. Hence they are as wide open to Russian propaganda narratives as idealistic, newcomer journalists could be toward Ukraine and Maidan. In both cases, they are vulnerable to propaganda narratives simply because they have no frame of reference. It’s as true of pro-Kremlin journalists who showed up in Russia in the last couple years as it is of pro-Ukrainian folks who never heard of Stepan Bandera until 2013-2014.

In any case, the tactic is extremely dishonest, and it’s rich when people appear on RT and accuse others of not having proper background knowledge in the subject. We’re talking about a network that showers guests with titles like “political analyst” all the time, and a media machine that is happy to label a guy with a website as a “Western political scientist.” Furthermore, there is little trivia knowledge of Ukraine or Ukrainian history that can somehow make Putin’s words mean something completely different. Even his “admission” contained a lie, as he specifically denied the presence of Russian instructors and advisers in addition to all other Russian involvement save for “humanitarian aid” convoys.

I’m willing to make one concession, however. This is by no mean the worst example of using this tactic. If you’re up for it, get ready to cringe:

 

Yeah, Steve, “do your homework” by going to Russia and regurgitating whatever their state media has to say. Now there’s a real journalist. I bet he’s got shit tons of glitter gel pens, confetti  flowers, gemstones, and sequins.

 

Make your own Putin article!

You too can sound like a professional journalist by writing your own article on the topic of Ukraine. Simply use no less than ten of the following phrases in a sequence of coherent sentences!

Doubling down

Putin’s cold gaze

…the former KGB agent

State-run TV

Cold Warriors

New Cold War

Neo-Stalinist Soviet Tsarism

Raising the stakes.

Experts

The West

European leaders

Looking eastward

Gas and oil

Dependency on natural resources

sphere of influence

SAMPLE:

Evidence has surfaced that despite the cold gaze of the former KGB agent Putin, Cold Warriors believe he is actually doubling down, raising the stakes of his recent Neo-Stalinist Tsarism. Experts, basing their calculations on a recent speech broadcast on Russian state-run TV, believe that we are indeed in for a new Cold War, much worse than before.  This time the West will see if European leaders have what it takes to find other sources of gas and oil so as to reduce their dependency on Russian natural resources. At the same time, there is a fear that the collapse of a Russian sphere of influence in the West may lead to the country looking eastward to China.

I'm just so easy to write about! You're welcome.

I’m just so easy to write about! You’re welcome.