Tag Archives: Sputnik

RT and Sputnik Are On Notice!

Look out, Margarita and Kiselyov- there’s a new counter-propaganda project in town and it has vowed to protect “Western values” from Russian attempts to undermine them. That’s right, RT, Sputnik, get ready to face the wrath of…Nick and Mauro! Yeah…Seriously.

I stumbled across this site for the first time when someone shared this article, in which the authors decide that it’s time to “retaliate” against Russia because we have been “bombarded” with their propaganda. Let’s look at a few choice excerpts:

“It was the Kremlin’s toxic propaganda, with R.T at the forefront, that for years instigated the unprecedented anti-European sentiment which lead to Brexit.”

Errr…No. Only someone who has never met any Brits would say something like this. Brits have been complaining about the EU, often comically so, for many years. Before Sputnik, before RT, before Putin even. Britain has a world-infamous tabloid press that has been stoking anti-EU, anti-immigrant sentiment all this time. Seeing as how these publications are not state-financed and they’re still in business somehow, I’d say they have a much larger audience in the UK than RT or Sputnik.

“It was fake articles, sponsored by the Kremlin, that prompted the rise of radical groups throughout Europe by purposely brewing hatred towards immigrant communities.”

Oh really? Which ones, exactly? Last time I checked, far right parties have been a thing for decades. In fact, one could reasonably argue that far right groups and figures from Europe and America had an impact on Russia first, and then the Kremlin merely adopted their rhetoric for its own political purposes. If the entire Russian propaganda machine simply disappeared overnight, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment would still be just as much of a problem, and Western domestic media would be guilty of stoking it as well.

“During the 2016 election, Kremlin media targeted and exploited the grief felt by those on the fringes of the left as well, by shamelessly promoting Green party candidate Jill Stein as the only ethical choice. Although she did not win, Stein served her purpose by helping Russia achieve its aims. Her vote totals in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan were all greater than Clinton’s margin of defeat, and arguably denied Clinton an Electoral College victory.”

Well that’s a bold claim. The author must present some serious evidence for it, right? Well no. All we get is this tweet:

Let’s see…What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. There’s no evidence these people would have voted for Hillary.
  2. They might have been swayed to Hillary if she had campaigned in their states.
  3. TST’s implication is that these people were somehow influenced to vote for Stein thanks to RT. No evidence is provided to support that.

Moving on…

“It is finally time for some reciprocity.”

Nah. I think it’s time for some GAME THEORY!

“The U.S. could launch a counter-propaganda campaign and hit the Kremlin where it hurts most by sowing dissent and distrust between Putin and his small but loyal oligarchy.”

Okay how is this supposed to work, exactly? Do we start a special news network that broadcasts fake stories claiming, for example, that Igor Sechin is complaining about Putin behind his back? Show your work.

“If successful, this initiative will mark the first centralized counter-propaganda push-back against the Russians since the 1990s.”

What counter-propaganda campaign was used in the 1990s? Maybe he means since the Cold War, which effectively ended in the 1990s? Who knows?

“Yet as grim at it might all seem, there is a silver lining to our new commander in chief . Before the Trump phenomenon, this ever-encroaching Russian propaganda was receiving nowhere close to the attention it deserved. In the US that meant none at all. The recent election of a suspected Kremlin puppet however, is bringing a new level of awareness to this issue. This is key because merely recognizing the networks used to peddle Russian falsehoods is half of the battle, and right now more Westerners understand that RT stands for Russia Today. And for that we thank you Mr. President.”

Russian propaganda received little attention in the United States because very few Americans actually consume it, at least directly. And much of what they do consume is simply rehashed material from the American political fringes. If we speak about propaganda undermining American values, the biggest threat comes from Fox News and AM talk radio. Freakin’ millennials think this is all novel.

“When I say we are fighting a war I don’t mean that as some sort of figure of speech. The threat is real and the stakes couldn’t be higher. And they should, as the eventual victor will decide which values are preserved, and whose ideology ends up on the wrong side of history.”

Russia’s ruling class doesn’t have an ideology, beyond boundless greed and sheer survival. Incidentally, boundless greed is the closest thing the United States has to an ideology these days. The US, as it is, will surely win this “New Cold War” for reasons that ought to be obvious to any honest observer, but the problem that led to this will still be there.

“The good news is that we’ve faced this same opponent before and won. The bad news is that we seemed much more united when we did so.”

Okay first no, we haven’t. The Soviet Union can’t be compared to Putin’s Russia. The differences are extreme. Second, what do you mean we were more united? Look I graduated from high school in 2000 so I understand a lot’s changed, but did they really stop teaching about the Civil Rights movement, the Anti-War movement, McCarthyism, the Counter-Culture movement, all of that stuff? There was a time when people with actual authority were going around accusing people of being Soviet agents; it wasn’t like now when the people doing that are just mental cases on Twitter.

If you think this is as bad as it gets, think again. This ride is far from over. In another article, the author laments the death of the “Tear Down This Wall Republican.” Yes, the problem with Republicans isn’t that they’ll gleefully try to deprive people of healthcare in order to shovel more money into the gaping maw of America’s richest- it’s that they don’t recognize Russian propaganda as the biggest threat to the United States. Seriously- they wrote that:

“It used to be that the pursuit of basic birthrights around the World was a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. And although a bipartisan issue, Republicans always seemed to champion an active role around the world more vocally that their democratic counterparts.”

Again how old is this guy? How could anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history even write that without irony? When did this used to be the case? When the CIA helped overthrow Allende to install the dictator Pinochet, or was it earlier, when the US was dropping more ordnance in the former Indochina than they did in the entire Second World War? It’s often said, and quite rightly so, that Russia’s current leadership views human rights as nothing but a cynical ploy for achieving geopolitical goals. They are not entirely correct, and they use this interpretation to justify horribly immoral actions, but it’s also painfully clear that they did not simply pluck this notion out of thin air.

Of course the author isn’t unaware of this either, but their understanding is rather limited, as this paragraph indicates:

“The big elephant in the room, of course, always being our relationship to Saudi Arabia. How can we, with a straight face, stress human rights while maintaining a close alliance with a literal authoritarian monarchy?”

These days Saudi Arabia probably is the biggest elephant in the room, but it’s not nearly the only one. Let’s just say the US once had enough elephants in the room to run its own circus. Also these days it’s important to understand just how immoral the US relationship with Saudi Arabia is. Taking into account what the Kingdom has been doing in Yemen, it is basically the equivalent to Russia’s relationship with Assad (no, it doesn’t cancel out Russia’s actions in Syria- they’re both wrong).

Then there’s this hyperbolic statement:

“I’ve said this before (yes even before the Trump phenomenon): Russian propaganda is the single biggest threat facing Western society today.

Not the Russian military. Not the political discourse in the USA. No. Our biggest threat is non-countered propaganda spewed by our enemies designed to seed doubt in our American institution, and career professionals, while simultaneously spreading false news.”

Um…No. No it is not the biggest threat. The biggest threat in America today is the fact that the entire federal government, along with many of the state governments, is controlled by a party that openly and almost enthusiastically declares that it is unconcerned with the suffering and potential death of millions of American citizens. It is the same party that engineered what may be the worst American foreign policy disaster of the 21st century, namely the invasion of Iraq, which has thus far been responsible for untold death and suffering far beyond the borders of that small country. This party, often with the collusion of their so-called opponents, has literally killed thousands of Americans via their policies. Excuse me if I find that just a tad more threatening than a foreign network whose most watched video is about a homeless guy who sings really well.

As further proof of ignorance, take a look at this next part:

“I don’t believe that the solution should be to censor RT, Sputnik, or any of the many channels peddling Putin’s garbage. The solution instead, should be to counter misinformation with facts.

The Baltic countries have been leading on this front:
In Lithuania a small army of bloggers of who’ve dubbed themselves “elves” — patrol social media, coordinating their actions through Facebook or Skype to expose fake accounts.
Latvia, intends to launch independent quality media in Russian, which could include a Russian-language TV channel to counter Kremlin propaganda.”

Okay in another article he said that the US should “retaliate” by creating a network that would sow dissent among Putin’s ruling class. I’d imagine that somewhere in that operation you’d have to lie, simply because the people behind such a network would not be privy to the internal dialog within the Kremlin and Russia’s elite. But never mind that- why is he saying that the Baltic countries took the lead in this effort without ever once mentioning Ukraine’s StopFake, which has been all over the media in the past few months?

 

Bear with me, but I’m going to quote from one more piece on the site to complete our sampler for today.

In a piece which carries the bizarre headline Projecting The Russian Federation’s Soft-Power Abroad Via Its Visa Program, we learn some interesting things about the author and their possible motivations. First, the author is basically implying that Russia’s “visa program” is somehow an incarnation of Russian soft power. “Russia’s visa program,” is the visa regime it maintains for foreigners- other countries decide their own policies when it comes to admitting Russian citizens. This cannot be considered a form of Russian soft power. You could argue that Russia maintaining a visa free regime for former Soviet nationalities like Ukrainians is a form of soft power, but in reality that has far more to do with economics and cheap labor. But let’s get to the red flags in this piece:

“If you’re a citizen of the Russian Federation and want to jaunt off anywhere across the globe, it’s common knowledge that many popular and regularly visited places you choose as your destination will require you to obtain a visa. Annoying, time-consuming, and on a broader state level, a political game of chess. It’s a way to irritate the folks over at The Kremlin and to tell Vladimir Putin that he’s not so welcome in their backyard, and if he really wants his citizenry to travel there, they have to shoulder this bit of extra burden.”

This is exactly what Putin wants. For one thing, several million Russians are already banned from traveling abroad for security reasons. Second, when conditions in Russia did improve during the 2000’s and thousands of Russians went abroad, what happened? They saw how much more modern and functional the West was in comparison to Russia, and then they started protesting. Putin no doubt wishes he could be dealing with the Soviet population, little of which had ever visited the West and thus could not make comparisons. Anything that makes it harder for Russians to travel to Europe or the United States would be a gain for Putin.

But the article gets even more bizarre because in the next paragraph you can’t even tell who the author is talking to. Are they making recommendations to the West or to Putin?

“So what better way to stick a thumb in the eye of the United States, NATO members and others, while at the same time exercising a projection of Russian power on a global scale? Slap these countries with visa requirements of their own and one-up them by making the process as onerous as possible, requiring sponsorship from an organization inside the Russian Federation, strict limits on the days one can remain traveling, and also adding transit visas to the mix to make it even more burdensome. Even meeting this exceedingly strict series of measures will not guarantee an automatic approval and more often than not, those applying are denied and must start the process all over again, meaning more money, time, and resources wasted.”

Russia has strict visa rules, but they’re by no means the worst. Keep in mind there are countries where American citizens, or in some cases anyone, must book a guided tour just to visit. It is, as I’m told, rather easy for an American to get a visa to Iran, for example, but you won’t just be able to wander around as you please. Also, these rules have been in place for quite some time, yet the author acts like they were implemented as some kind of “soft power” by Putin. If that’s the case, it would suit Putin to relax visa laws so as to bring in more tourists and potentially, useful idiots. And indeed, the Russian government has relaxed visa laws over the years. They have done it for special events like the UEFA Championship, and they signed an agreement with the United States which allows US citizens to get a three year multi-exit tourist visa.

Confused yet? Read on:

“Following the splintering of the USSR back in 1991, Russia wasted no time in crafting together a bulwark to NATO in its own backyard with the creation of the CIS, or Commonwealth of Independent States. This association is comprised of countries that were once part of the Soviet Union; I like to think of this group as a “mini Warsaw Pact”. These countries also enjoy visa free entry into the Russian Federation and this along with the very existence of the CIS further serves to poke a stick in NATO’s direction.”

The CIS was not a “mini Warsaw Pact” and countries joined and left freely of their own accord. It does involve visa free travel and free trade agreements but how is this “poking a stick in NATO’s direction?” Please, explain the threat that is posed to NATO when Russia allows Uzbek citizens free travel into their country.

This is where the author really loses the plot, and goes off the rails with a personal anecdote:

“From experience, this author has seen first-hand just how exhausting it can be to enter Russia if you don’t enjoy the benefit of being a citizen of any of the aforementioned countries. While on a trip throughout Scandinavia back in the summer of 2012, I entered Russia by way of Finland, utilizing my Nicaraguan passport in order to avoid the migraine that obtaining an entry visa would have entailed; and even then, things did not go smoothly. If you’ve ever seen a movie featuring a gulag, or Siberia full of pine trees, with the occasional outpost filled with barbed wire fence and Russian security forces walking around with attack dogs, then you’re picturing the VERY remote border crossing between Finland and Russia that I encountered. The hour spent there seemed like the very definition of eternity, with confused and clearly untrained officials looking at my passport every which way while sounding out “N-i-c-a-r-a-g-u-aaaaaaaaa?” in a mix of bemusement and disbelief. To play devil’s advocate, I’m sure that these Russians stationed in the most remote of outposts had probably never heard or even known the existence of a Central American country located thousands of miles away. After being peppered with endless questions about why I wanted to enter Russia, what my business and purpose(s) for doing so were – all while having uniformed KGB-like officers with trained attack dogs at their side looming over me – I was coldly told “Da”, “Yes”, and allowed to enter.”

Notice how the author claims to have entered via a remote border post. How many Westerners (discounting Finns, who might have business on the other side of the border) do you think they encounter out there? When you go to a remote border post like that, expect to be asked questions. Also, while the border guards are certainly aware of the existence of Nicaragua, I doubt they were aware of the fact that Nicaraguan citizens do not require visas for entry to Russia (up to 90 days). Random border guards don’t have a database in their head detailing the visa policies for every nationality on the planet- they often have to look them up.

Also I don’t see on what grounds the officers were “KGB-like.” Was that simply because they were Russian? They had attack dogs? Again- you’re at a remote border post. Dogs are used to patrol the borders, and certainly not only in Russia. Need I remind you that the President of the United States campaigned on building a giant wall?

“Talk about a first impression entering the Russian Federation, and this while holding a passport of a place where both countries enjoy very warm relations. Had I dared use my US passport, I’d be spending my remaining days in some even more remote part of Siberia.”

No, you would have been refused entry for not having a visa- it’s that simple. Just last year an American tried to enter Russia via Kazakhstan without a visa. He was in a car and was turned around at the border. He then tried to drive around the border post and was, naturally, caught. So was he packed off to Siberia? No- he was fined about $107 and then flown to New York at the Russian government’s expense.

If the author had used his American passport and had a visa to Russia, he probably would have gotten through the border crossing more easily.

Moral of the story is really simple here, folks- get a visa before entering Russia, and if you don’t want undue hassle just enter at an airport instead of trekking across the wilderness to some remote border post.

Also, the author might want to consider the US’ requirements for Nicaraguan citizens (who are not fortunate enough to also have US citizenship) to enter the country.

 

With all that out of the way, I think it’s time for a general evaluation. First, on the page’s “about” section it says that the site’s sole purpose is defending Western values. Yet I only had to scroll down to the bottom of the second page to see an article about Harambe the gorilla.  Not terribly disturbing but a possible clue that the site was originally launched as some kind of blog project and then maybe was refashioned as an “anti-propaganda” effort later. Later, as in when it started to look like one could profit off of this Russian propaganda bandwagon.

Next I found this article by one of the site’s co-founders, Mauro, who is apparently an “International Relations, Political Science & Tech/gadget guy.” In it, the author compares America to…*drumroll* the Roman Empire! Congratulations- this is one of the laziest attempts at a political analogy the world has produced, and I’m already wondering how much Mauro spent on a degree in International Relations and Political Science to produce something that a bookish high school senior could have written. The problem with Roman collapse analogies is that they often peddled by people who don’t properly understand why the Roman Empire collapsed (HINT: It’s really complicated), who then go on to creatively interpret modern American history until the United States is suddenly threatened by the same one factor that just happened to be Rome’s downfall.

Look, I’m not trying to be a dick to these two guys, but looking at their bios I don’t see any evidence that either of them have any special insight into Russia, nor do they seem to speak the language. The lack of historical knowledge (American, Russian, Saudi, Cold War, etc.) is incredibly conspicuous. None of this makes them bad people, but it certainly disqualifies them from being taken seriously in regards to Russia and it especially disqualifies them from taking on Russian propaganda. The truth is that Putin’s fanboys just love amateurish efforts like this, and they’ll pick this low-hanging fruit clean and then claim that it’s representative of “Western journalism” about Russia.

There is an unspoken rule among some people that discourages policing people “on our side,” with “our side” being the “anti-Kremlin” one. I’m sorry but I don’t play that game and I never will. For me the struggle against the Kremlin regime is a struggle against reactionary fascism, a struggle for the independence of Ukraine and for the future of the peoples of Russia. It is also a struggle against what I see as a by-product of a global capitalist mode of production which consistently ignores human rights in favor of private profit, and which cannot but do otherwise. So-called “counter-propaganda” which is poorly produced or which advances bad politics is not helpful in this struggle; on the contrary it is often more harmful than anything the Kremlin’s propaganda masters could cook up.

But hey what do I know? I’m sure these fine lads are just days away from getting a massive grant from the State Department or cushy jobs with some major think tank. On both sides, the system loves team players.

Fake News? You Don’t Say!

So America just elected an incompetent, possibly insane billionaire president, and now it seems the media’s got a new coping strategy to adjust to the inevitability of a Trump administration. Oh wait, hang on, what I really meant is that they have totally flipped out and started a new moral panic about “fake news.” Naturally we have to pretend that fake news is a new phenomenon, because anything less might suggest we have some serious problems with our society- from corporate consolidation of media and the relentless profit-driven scramble for ratings and views, to the lack of critical thinking in education and the ridiculous idea that all opinions are equally valid. Just to be sure, some folks in the media would have us believe this is an external threat, specifically one coming from Russia. Put simply, this is bullshit, but I’ve got a lot to say about fake news so please strap yourself in.

lies

American liberal, 2016

I guess the logical place to begin is by saying that fake news is nothing new. Liberals did virtually nothing to oppose the corporate takeover of AM radio in the 80’s and 90’s, which, along with the revocation of the “Fairness Doctrine,” essentially turned America’s talk radio medium into a non-stop sewage pipe belching out right-wing propaganda. Even big names like Rush Limbaugh weren’t averse to spreading conspiracy theories about Bill and Hillary Clinton. If you want to know the roots of some of the wackier Hillary-related conspiracies today, you really have to start with something called The Clinton Chronicles. For those of you too young to remember or not from the US, American politics during the 90’s basically consisted of outrageous scandal after outrageous scandal, and many conservatives were acting as if the US had been taken over by a radical socialist junta. The lexicon included terms like jack-booted government thugs, black helicopters, and New World Order. And then…in 1996…it wasn’t just radio anymore.

Fake news reached new heights with an actual fake news cable TV network, known as Fox News. While the claim that Russia influenced this most recent election is highly dubious, Fox News certainly swayed a US election within four years of its existence. An outside observer might think that American liberals rallied against a foreigner-owned TV network that engaged in all manner of dishonest tactics, but that’s not necessarily true. The documentary Outfoxed spoke of something called the “Fox effect,” whereby other TV networks moved to the right in order to get a piece of Fox’s action. This had disastrous effects during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, as one might expect, but hey- capitalists gonna cap.

 

It’s also worth noting that around this time, Alex Jones was building his media empire. In addition to Jones’ non-stop conspiracy mongering from 1996 onward, you also had sites like World Net Daily, founded in 1997. And in case you think I’m picking on right-wingers too much (as if that’s bad), remember Oliver Stone? JFK was a boring, conspiracy theory laden production which came out a few week after the Soviet Union broke up. These aren’t just pre-Russia Today; they’re pre-Putin. The simple but inconvenient (for some) fact is this: Virtually all Russian propaganda for foreign audiences is nothing but rehashed conspiracy theories, largely from the United States.

So why is the media and all of liberaldom panicking about fake news now? Well one thing is that for years, they dismissed it and made fun of it. Now, in a way, it seems to be upsetting their precious liberal order, and so they’ve suddenly decided it’s a problem. But as I alluded to in the beginning, admitting too much would require choices they don’t want to make such as free higher education or more critical thinking classes in school (I suspect liberals are too cowardly to face the inevitable conservative backlash over this). Thus, the threat needs to come from somewhere else, as this recent Washington Post article claims. 

Yet there’s something rather amusing about that article. It relies on an anonymous source (the reason they have given for their anonymity doesn’t hold water) based in the US. In other words- exactly the same tactic that actual Russian fake news uses all the time, i.e. misrepresenting a dubious source. And just like any other fake news story, WaPo‘s article got cited by other publications, such as Gizmodo. Way to fight fake news, guys!

There’s also a far more serious issue at stake when we allow charlatans to pin all their woes on Russian propaganda- they are in fact helping Russia’s propaganda war. Recently we’ve seen a perfect example of this with the EU resolution against Russian propaganda.

First of all, the resolution was proposed by Anna Fotyga, a member of Poland’s Law and Justice Party. In case you hadn’t heard, that’s the same party that wants to criminalize women for having abortions and recently dug up the remains of Poland’s ex-president to prove that Russia somehow caused his plane crash. Why is her proposal so hypocritical? Well as it turns out, the Law and Justice Party’s propaganda in many ways mirrors Russian propaganda about the European Union, i.e. Europe is nothing but gender-bending degenerates rapidly being overrun by Muslim migrants. What is more, the party’s politics in Poland are eerily similar to those in Russia. The media and courts come under attack for their independence. History is rewritten as “patriotic” and those who dissent by insisting on staying factual are punished. So to sum up this point, though it is a minor one, the resolution was proposed by the least qualified person to speak out against propaganda.

But far more important was the fallout of the resolution. If you read RT or Sputnik’s reaction, you’d think they’re totally pissed about this resolution, but I assure you they are not. Shortly afterward Putin actually congratulated Russia’s “journalists” in response to the news. Do you know what that means? It means no funding cuts for a while.

See the only performance metric RT and Sputnik have is basically “Look! The West is afraid of us! See how angry they are?” They almost literally say exactly that in their own material meant for Russian consumption. Every panicky op-ed demanding that the EU do something about this Russian propaganda is liable to be snatched up by the propagandists themselves so as to justify their already inflated budgets in this time of crisis. So you can imagine how the Kremlin reacts when they find serious public figures in the West actually claiming that Russia swayed the election in favor of Trump. As immature and childish as the RT/Sputnik performance metric is, the widespread panic over Russian propaganda says “This is working. We’re winning. Let’s keep going and see what else we can do.”

What then, is the right way to respond to the threat of fake news? First of all- it’s domestic. Deal with it. Second, fake news and echo chambers are a symptom of our capitalist society. If this last election taught us anything, it’s that the ruling class on both sides of the political spectrum is extremely out of touch with much of the country, including their own constituents. If someone doesn’t start addressing the social causes of this, then Americans will continue checking out of real politics and tumbling down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and fringe politics. So what is to be done?

In counter-insurgency warfare they have this term called the “population-centric” strategy. While it’s hard to find historical examples of purely population-centric strategies and not every population-centric strategy resulted in victory, in general this strategy tends to work much better than its opposite, known as “enemy-centric” strategy. The current Western approach to Russian propaganda could be termed as an enemy-centric strategy. Every proposal comes down to responding to the Russians, which is problematic because as we have seen, the West can’t control Russia’s actions (though I suspect they don’t want to).

What I propose is a sort of population-centric strategy, meaning that the focus is put on American and Western societies. It means opening up more dialog, addressing controversial issues, and actually resolving those problems that alienate people and perpetuate cynicism. This isn’t going to be easy. It means we’re going to have to start talking to people with bizarre politics, many of whom may display traits of cult-like brainwashing. But there is ample research to suggest that attacking someone’s beliefs, however absurd they may be, only causes them to double down and retreat further into a bubble. Meanwhile if Western institutions do more to address people’s needs, provide more tangible, visible stability and prospects for advancement, and also show accountability for their past actions, many people will open up and be willing to talk.

Do I believe that Western governments will adopt such a strategy? Personally I’m skeptical, because doing so threatens the status quo even more than Russia ever could, but at least we could say we warned them.

 

RT and Sputnik commentators may be replaced by homeless men due to budget cuts

MOSCOW- Ronald B. Wallace, once a homeless man in his native Baltimore, finally has a roof over his head. Thousands of miles away in a residential district of Moscow, Wallace has been provided with a room in a small flat that also doubles as a studio for his own news talk show. Pacing back and forth across the old Soviet parquet floor and muttering to himself, he is mentally preparing to “go live” and begin a new career in TV journalism.

“You see people, it’s all there,” Wallace says at one point, going over his own script that he wrote in a coffee-stained spiral notebook. “They’ve had this planned out since 1776, maybe longer. The New World Order is here, I’m telling you. Open your eyes.”

Wallace is one of several dozen homeless Americans lured, some say kidnapped, to Moscow as part of a new pilot program of the state-run media. Because Russia’s foreign language media such as RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik News often require foreign staff and operate outside of Russia, their operational costs are considerably high, and worse still- numbered in hard currency such as dollars or euros. Faced with budget cuts in the wake of Russia’s worsening economic situation, some enterprising officials in the presidential administration believe they have found the solution. Vladimir Frolov, one of the Kremlin’s so-called “political technologists,” is one of those.

“Basically the problem is this- we need to maintain Russia’s soft power throughout the globe, but with the collapse of the ruble and the economic downturn it’s difficult to justify the huge operating costs that go with such efforts,” Frolov explained.

“I was tasked with evaluating the content of outlets such as RT and Sputnik, and suddenly it hit me. Why are we paying these foreigners such ridiculous salaries when I knew for a fact that we could find other foreigners, even native English speakers, who will do the same job for far less money and no noticeable decline in quality?”

An idea made in the USA

Frolov’s found his inspiration while on his annual family vacation in Miami, where he owns a luxury condominium.

“I was waiting for my Uber ride near a bus stop, and there was this dirty homeless man waving a tattered book in one hand and ranting at anyone who passed by. I heard him talking about the NWO, secret plans to rule the world, and he was constantly referencing the CIA and NSA. That’s when it dawned on me- this guy sounded just like one of our pundits! I offered him dinner at a nearby fast food establishment and the rest was history.”

Frolov took several additional weeks off to do research at bus stations, libraries, and public parks up and down the East coast. When he’d finally seen enough, he pitched his new idea to his kopeck-pinching superiors.

“Why pay some useless long-term expat 200,000 or 300,000 rubles a month to write long, incoherent rambling op-eds full of 9/11 conspiracy theories, alleged CIA plots, and lavish praise of Putin as a defender against the global hegemonic Anglo-American-Zionist imperialist NWO, when I can just stick some of these homeless guys in an apartment and hook them up with some booze and hot food from the nearest McDonald’s or KFC? What’s even better, about half these guys don’t even realize they’re in another country,” Frolov explained.

Escape from the CIA

Wallace was chosen for the project back in April and said that he initially had some misgivings about the project.

“I was on the street corner telling the truth, the truth that those in power don’t want you to hear, that which remains untold, and suddenly these guys come out of the bushes and grab me,” Wallace said,staring at the floor as he spoke. “I screamed that I was being taken by the CIA. I’d been waiting for this moment. I was sure they were the CIA Conein division; those are the guys that do all the black ops and wet work. I kept screaming this but nobody came to my aid. They are sheep, still trapped in the Matrix.”

Eventually the Russian operatives were able to convince Wallace that they were not, in fact, CIA agents, and Wallace agreed to be taken to their “secret arctic underground base,” where he was assured that he would be kept safe from what he dubbed the “Conein division.”

“You’ve got to understand, the CIA Conein division has been after me for years- decades even,” Wallace explained. “So when these men told me that they work for Vladimir Putin, the only man in the world who would know how to stop them, I naturally agreed. For once I can sleep soundly at night.”

Showtime

During the pilot, Wallace sits behind an IKEA desk with a green sheet draped behind him. To the viewer the broadcast would appear not far removed from a typical program on RT. The producer gives a signal, and Wallace begins his program without the aid of a teleprompter.

“Good evening and welcome to The Hunt for the Truth,” Wallace stares into the camera with laser-like focus, still clutching his ragged notebook in one hand.

“I’m your Paul Revere. I’m Prometheus. I’m Morpheus. I’m here to tell the untold, the knowledge they don’t want you to have. The CIA Conein division boys have been hunting me for years because they know what I know- I know all about the population control, the mainstream media Matrix, the chemicals they’ve been adding to our food and water to make us mindless, dull consumers who can’t care about anything but reality TV and professional sports. But thanks to Vladimir Putin, the NWO’s number one most hated opponent, I can broadcast the truth into your homes and none of their micro-jamming satellites can block the signal!”

Throughout the broadcast, Wallace dazzles his audience with complex diagrams explaining what he calls the “Luciferian New Genesis Agenda,” a conspiracy which has allegedly been in progress for centuries, if not millennia.

“Most experts, almost all of whom have been assassinated throughout history, acknowledge that this conspiracy goes back at least 300 years,” Wallace says, standing in front of a white board which he uses to map out the various connections between world events and leader involved in the alleged plot. “But it may go back even further, to the times of ancient Egypt or even earlier. There’s evidence to suggest that the Biblical Lucifer was in fact a man, and the legend about him being cast out of heaven was actually allegorical. Since then, Lucifer and his followers have been attempting to create their own ‘Garden of Eden.’ That Eden is the NWO- the New World Order.”

Winners and Losers

Not everyone is pleased with Frolov’s new cost-cutting measures. Some Western expats who work for the state media see the writing on the wall. Adam Tudesky, a frequent guest commentator on the Kremlin’s international satellite network, had dreamed of getting his own talk show but now says that he’s “in the sights of the cost-cutters.”

“I have always been an admirer of Putin’s style of rule and leaving the decaying, degenerate third world America for a resurgent Russia was the best decision I ever made,” said the 25-year-old political analyst, who moved to Russia in the summer of 2014 after leaving graduating college with a degree in Russian studies.

“I started talking to some people about NATO aggression against Russia, the fascist CIA coup in Ukraine, and color revolutions- all these things I’d heard about on RT. Two months later I’m a geopolitical expert and a little later I become a board member of the Institute of Eurasian Geopolitics and Hybrid Warfare, a prestigious Russian think tank.”

But Frolov’s new project has got Tudesky worried.

“I mean who are these guys, really? Are they real patriots? Could the CIA slip one of their agents in here as a homeless guy and start a color revolution? What if one of them says something on the air which casts doubt on Putin and his brilliant foreign policy? What then?”

Apart from concerns about the quality of the broadcasting, Tudesky admits he has his own personal interests as well.

“I’m not going to lie. I feel threatened by this move. If they go through with this my choices are teaching English to little kids or doing the unthinkable- moving back to the US and trying to figure out how I’m going to survive when the dollar collapses. Hopefully when that happens I can use my speaking skills to assist Putin in creating a Russian enclave on the continental US, but I don’t know what I’m going to do in the meantime.”

The next generation

Wallace admits he feels sorry for expats whom he might replace if the project get the go ahead, if only because they will, according to him, “no longer be safe from the Conein division.” But he also said this wouldn’t stop him from performing what he considers a “duty to wake people up.”

“People need to know the truth. They need to wake up and break free of the Matrix. When the UN troops show up on your doorstep to drag you off to the FEMA population control camps it’ll be too late. That’s why I do what I do. I’m sounding the alarm.”

I’ll just leave this here…

I’ve been too busy to sit down and hammer out any of the long posts I’ve planned recently, but just to show that I’m not dead I’ll share a rather amusing article with you readers, courtesy of an old friend of mine.

Take a look at it and you’ll see that it seems Sputnik News plans to spar with the fake Sputnik Twitter account and even Russia in Your Face! for the title of most hilarious Russian parody news site ever.

Now I don’t think it makes sense to go through this line by line and debunk it. It is so out of touch with reality it might as well be a flat-Earth argument. It’s worth commenting on a couple of key details, however.

First we’ve got another anonymous writer. This seems to be getting more popular with RT and Sputnik lately. This time it’s “The Tactical Investor,”who I’m guessing is probably Zero Hedge or someone who reads his work. Oddly enough the name seems to link to a legitimate investment advice site of some sort, but if they did indeed prepare this article I wouldn’t take any of their financial advice. Hell I wouldn’t buy a ham sandwich from this son of a bitch.

The article is of course about the “worthless dollar,” yet it’s definitely not worthless to point out that Russia holds substantial dollar reserves and also increased its share of American debt in 2015. For example in December of that year, the Russian government owned $92 billion in US Treasury Securities. This is something you don’t do when you think a nation is crushed by its sovereign debt and its currency is on the verge of worthlessness.

Of course the crux is the article of the long-held fap fantasy of the Kremlin and its ideologues, which is the abandonment of the dollar for trade in favor of local currencies. Check it out:

“One of the reasons the US has engaged Russia is that it has made it a mission to wean itself from the dollar. Putin openly stated that Russia should sell its oil and gas in ruble. This does not sit well with the US for many other nations could follow in Russia’ footsteps as it is a dominant and powerful player in the energy sector.”

If Russia has had a mission to wean itself from the dollar, it has failed spectacularly just as it failed in its mission of modernization, fighting corruption, and nanotechnology. For one thing, Russia is still selling oil and gas in dollars. At the moment there’s actually some benefit for them to do this. Kremlin politicians and pundits never shut up about switching to local currencies in trade, and yet every time they sign a big energy deal to great fanfare (which then immediately runs into obstacles and stalls), the buyers want to pay in dollars. It was that way with Turkey, it was the same with China. Early last year Putin visited Egypt and there was talk in the Russian media of Egypt switching to trade in local currencies. Guess what- the Egyptians denied it.

Next, a note about their little theory regarding Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, and selling oil in euros. First of all, the theory about the former is disputed. In any case, the claim is so widespread it begs the question- if the danger of Saddam selling oil in euros was so great because it would cause other oil producers to follow suit, why didn’t those oil producers perceive this and start doing exactly that? Why didn’t Russia take the lead against the dollar at the time? Oh right- oil prices shot up and Putin benefited from the Iraq invasion, as did Gazprom (which has operations in Iraqi Kurdistan). They give no evidence for Gaddafi planning to switch over to the euro. The pretext to intervening in Libya was an uprising inspired by Arab Spring, which did not start in Libya. Was Tunisia planning to sell oil in euros? Was Egypt’s Mubarak, a long time ally of the US, planning to sell oil in euros? Hmmm… Looks like this hypothesis might be flawed.

And for a few more laughs, look at some of their “analysis.”

1) The US is desperate and they are doing their best to portray power, but instead it is coming off as weakness. But a desperate animal is bound to do even more desperate thing;

Hey can someone remind me of the definition of psychological projection? Anyone? Anyone at all? Replace “US” with Russia and that sentence suddenly makes perfect sense.
2) Now that China and Russia have joined forces, they have become a lethal combination. China has the money and the economy and Russia has the guns and firepower.

Just one little problem there, slick- Russia and China haven’t joined forces. China has signed exploitative trade deals with Russia. It’s also suffering itself under an economic and approaching demographic crisis. This makes it all the more laughable that the author says they have the money and the economy. First, why doesn’t Russia have it? Second, China’s military is considerably bigger. Lastly, what do they expect to happen? Russia’s going to go to war and China’s going to pay for it…just for the pretext of “standing up to the US?” These people live in Fantasy Land, plain and simple.

In the mean time if you have a surplus of worthless US dollars, I’d be happy to take them off your hands. The email address for the Paypal account is in the FAQ.

 

 

Merry Christmas! Your present: Pro-Kremlin Op-ed Template

Recently in the process of writing an article I was overtaken by morbid curiosity and actually started reading some Sputnik articles. Then I became even more masochistic, and I went over to look at RT’s Op-Edge section. I’ve noticed that nearly every story you run across can essentially fit into one of a few categories. You have your stories about what a great leader Putin is, and how the West is unjustly demonizing him. Then you’ve got your stories about how the Western media lies about Russia all the time. Then there are a lot of stories about how the EU is bound to collapse any moment, just like it has been poised to do for at least a decade now according to doomsayers. Lastly, there are stories about how the US has fucked up the Middle East. At least there’s some truth to those, though it’s usually coming from a ridiculously one-sided, hypocritical position.

After subjecting myself to reading a few of these, I decided to make a special template that you can use to make your own pro-Kremlin op-ed piece. Simply fill the gaps with timely details where necessary.

The Western media lies about _____________

Recently the Western media has been crowing hysterically about something Putin or Russia did. Of course they would say that- the Western media always lies about Putin and Russia. Obviously their whole “story” is nothing but information warfare and totally untrue.

We know their claims are untrue because they are contradicted by official statements from the Russian government, which denies them completely. Also, here are some opinions from people we labeled as “political analysts” and other Russian state-owned media which also contradict the claims made by whatever we are arbitrarily dubbing “the Western media.”

Of course if their claims were true, they would still be justified because the US did something like this one time, and that was bad. Putin’s actions are no different than that example, except that it is morally right when Russia does it whereas the US was still morally wrong for doing the same thing.

Also I have to wonder why the Western media even covered this, while not covering this long list of other things that don’t involve Russia. Could it be they have a deliberate agenda to accuse Russia of things she did not do, or if she did them, things that were totally justified?

Here I’m going to pick out the most ridiculous Western commentator I can find, and then I’m going to take his most inflammatory, idiotic comment about Russia or Putin. I’m going to easily debunk this low-hanging fruit, then I’m going to insinuate that his or her opinion represents the entire Western media consensus as a whole, even though a casual Google search would reveal plenty of differing opinions among what I arbitrarily label the Western or mainstream media.

Here’s an example of an article I found in the same “Western media” which supports my point of view. I’m going to focus on this and use this to vindicate my claims, totally oblivious to the fact that if my “information war” claims were true, this kind of diversity of opinion shouldn’t exist in the Western media. I’m also going to ignore the obvious fact that I’m more than happy to cite Western media and believe it so long as it appears to be supporting my point of view.

Now here’s where I explain the reasons why the Western media is constantly lying about Russia. Of course I’ll attribute it to the information war, which certainly exists as dozens of countries and their public and private media are directly manipulated against Russia by the United States. But that’s not the only factor.

The truth is that many Western journalists don’t know much about this subject, unlike me. In order to show my expertise, here are some random historical facts or some things I got verbatim from some Russian “geopolitical analyst,” which incidentally show no special insight into the topic in question, nor do they suggest that I have any more background in the subject than the Western journalists I’m attacking.

Now I’m going to go off on a tangent about some pet cause of mine, and in the process I’m going to praise Putin for his wise leadership compared to my own leaders, whom I can’t stand. I’m going to advance a false dichotomy whereby I label anyone who doesn’t agree with me and my slavish devotion to Putin as a “neocon” or “warmongerer.”

Lastly, here’s an oblivious paragraph where I again decry the mass of organizations I’ve arbitrarily lumped together as the Western media, and then hilariously lecture them on the importance of ethics and independence in journalism. I will bristle at the idea that someone might label me a paid Putin propagandist, simply because I’m paid by the Russian government and I constantly write fawning praise of Vladimir Putin while always taking the Kremlin’s side in any foreign policy dispute.

THE END

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup, they mad: Russian foreign language media can’t take the heat

RT has been feeling the heat as of late, from critics in the West to Russians fed up with seeing so much of their state’s wealth pissed away on propaganda aimed at foreigners. The response to these critics has come largely in the form of anonymous hit pieces on RT’s website, as well as from RT chief Margarita Simonyan herself on her Livejournal account.

I’ve read plenty of these responses and they’re typically filled with bizarre logic, unsubstantiated claims, and insinuations about the motives of their critics. Personally I’ve found RT’s reactions to be rather amusing because they present a paradox- RT is supposed to be so successful, yet it has to constantly run articles about how popular it is, while its staff, including senior people and even the network’s own chief apparently spend considerable time attacking critics.

Imagine, if you will, that this entire blog was about how much CNN sucks. I highly doubt anyone from CNN would post a special op-ed on their website attempting to refute my claims. I’m quite certain the head of the network wouldn’t bother. I’m damned sure they wouldn’t attempt to smear me as some kind of paid agent, perhaps working for MSNBC. Naturally this is quite laughable, because big successful networks, even those which suck like CNN, don’t feel the need to defend themselves against such criticism.

Now lately I’ve been thinking of making a rule, more accurately a hierarchy, which describes the quality of Russian foreign language media. It goes RT>Sputnik>Russia Insider. And now days, if RT does something stupid, Sputnik’s going to lower the bar considerably. And that’s exactly what they did in this article.

In case you hadn’t heard, or in case you just don’t use Twitter, there was a parody account based on Sputnik that became famous for being near-indistinguishable from the real thing. If you want to see how indistinguishable, try your hand at this quiz. Recently the parody account was shut down for violating certain regulations in Twitter’s Terms of Service agreement, but it was quickly resurrected under a different name.

So what did the real Sputnik do? Well Sputnik is just so successful and widespread that they just had to dedicate an entire article to the parody account, claiming that it is proof of Sputnik’s popularity. This was a real genius move, as it duly informed otherwise unaware readers that there was a parody account. That in turn begs the question as to why there is a parody account in the first place. But that parody account was shut down and the article mentions this, right? Yeah, and it also mentions that it was restored. Just look at this:

“In what could be testament to the growing popularity of this website, Sputnik nevertheless attracted not one, but several parody accounts.
Unfortunately for the people running it, the account violated Twitter’s impersonation guidelines and was deleted, although a new one soon popped up.”

Hmmm…Your serious news site has, according to you, several parody accounts, one of which was so similar it was taken down for “impersonation.” So yeah, that could be a testament to the growing popularity of your website. But it could also be that your content is so redonkulously batshit insane that numerous individuals derive great entertainment out of satirizing it. Again, it begs the question as to why this site has so many parody accounts and why are they often difficult to distinguish from the real thing?

It gets even better though. Sputnicians vow to get to the bottom of this:

“Out of genuine curiosity, we here at Sputnik decided to carry out one of those “open source investigations” employing “digital forensics” to find out, with varying degrees of certainty, who is behind the account.”

Yes, the super popular serious news site conducted an “open source investigation” into the people behind these parody accounts. In other words, they’re doing the same thing they claim is utter bullshit when Bellingcat does it. But then again, they’re not really using the methodology of Bellingcat, which becomes apparent when you see the results they came up with.

“The preliminary results turned out to be pretty uninteresting: an American expatriate in Kiev, who also has some sort of vendetta against Russia’s president; a Finnish systems administrator, who has too much free time at the community college where he is employed; a Russian blogger, who in the recent past was involved in the killing and dismemberment of cats.”

An American expat in Kyiv with a “vendetta against Russia’s president.” I don’t know who this could be, but leave it to Sputnik to call criticism of their glorious leader a “some sort of vendetta.”

Next there’s the systems administrator who “has too much free time on his hands.” First of all, he’s a systems administrator, so the fact that he has time to tweet stuff from work shouldn’t be too surprising. Also it’s a little rich accusing him of having too much free time when these people are claiming they did an actual investigation into the people behind a Twitter account. Maybe they ought to be sending out some people to run down the story behind that hand grenade attack (originally thought to be an IED) at a bus stop on Pokrovka last night.

Lastly I don’t know about the cat-killing Russian blogger, but since no names are given for anyone and only the slightest details appear, we can’t really trust that bizarre claim. If the guy actually killed and dismembered cats I’ll be the first to condemn him, but as it is this just isn’t convincing.

And so those are the results of their big investigation. The article ends with the typical RT-style gloating and obliviousness to irony.

“It may seem like a worthwhile pursuit for three strangers, bored on the Internet, to entertain pundits, in essence becoming a second-rate version of them. Let’s hope that they learn the rules on trademarks and impersonation, or at least gain aspirations to go beyond small-time Internet fame.”

Once again, Sputnik is so successful, unlike these dorks with too much free time on their hands, that it must do an investigation, write and copy edit an article, all in order to not really expose three people who might be behind a Twitter parody account. Not website mind you, Twitter account.

This is all pretty funny because unlike RT, Sputnik doesn’t really have as much reason to panic and defend itself with bizarre polemics and hit pieces. RT has suffered budget cuts and scrutiny over its performance and expenditures. Sputnik on the other hand received an increase in funds. Sputnik is far cheaper than RT as well. Dumping RT entirely would save the Russian government massive amounts of money, and Sputnik would be more or less just as effective. RT’s responses to critics are stupid and often inaccurate, but it’s logical as to why they engage in these tactics. They are indeed exaggerating their popularity and they require a massive budget. What is more, RT’s responses aren’t aimed at parodies but rather serious pundits, analysts, and journalists. The information war narrative remains intact.

Parody is another matter however. The fact that Sputnik found this matter so important as to write an article about it, risking the inevitable discovery of its parody accounts, is because parody and satire are extremely effective. Before I explain why, let’s look at what isn’t effective.

Remember how we heard about the “weaponization of information” and how the EU countries needed countermeasures? There were numerous conferences, meetings, and lectures on this topic. The EU’s solution was to create a sort of “mythbusters” outlet that would debunk Russian propaganda sources. Now this thing actually exists, and here’s what it looks like. Wow.

I found some interesting resources in this and previous releases, but that’s me, a writer, long-term resident in Russia, in short, someone who deals with this kind of crap on a near-daily basis. If you’re a layperson or new to the game, it seems this wouldn’t be very informative. And if this is supposed to convince Russians living in Baltic countries as one of the stated goals was, forget about it. Comments like “No evidence for these allegations given” aren’t going to convince any of them.

The infuriating thing is that this project must cost money, and I shudder to think how much was spent on it. Compare these reports to Stopfake, which survives off grants and consists of about a dozen or so people. Which would you rather read? Which is going to give you more context and background? Stopfake shows what self-organizing people can do on their own initiative.

Just as Stopfake is more effective than dry, state produced reports and documents, parody is effective because it totally deflates the Russian propaganda machine, any propaganda machine really. Already some Russian foreign language media outlets have hurled themselves across the line into self-parody. Russia Insider, for example, did it with this gem about Putin’s Christ like qualities.  RT did it by publishing articles from that very same author, as well as whatever the hell this is supposed to be. Sputnik’s people must have been rightly scared at the idea that their brand was becoming indistinguishable from a parody account. What if someone more educated on Russian propaganda and the Kremlin’s political ideology were to create another parody? What if dozens of such people did?

RT, Sputnik, and the rest are very effective at attracting disaffected Westerners who don’t know much about Russia, its system, or its media. Russia’s propaganda machine paints itself as a voice of truth, a revolutionary voice against Western hegemony. Yet this image is as shallow as a teenager wearing a Che shirt and having no idea who he is. What is more, these people might have their convictions, but when they see that the Russian outlets are all followed by clusters of parody Twitter accounts or websites they’re going to start wondering how trustworthy these sources are. People don’t want to look stupid and thus they’ll be less inclined to associate with sources whose content is routinely mocked.

Panicky speeches about the “weaponization of information” and “information war” in conjunction with “hybrid warfare” only help people behind the Kremlin’s media. If they can show Western academics and leaders in hysterics over the information war, this not only confirms that the information war is a real, objective fact, and that the Russian efforts in information warfare are effective and thus worthy of their inflated budgets. On the other hand, if the Kremlin wants to see results and those results are laughter and mockery, the higher ups might be more than happy to pull the plug on an expensive budget item. Domestic propaganda in Russia is crucial, but foreign language propaganda is expendable.

So don’t panic. Point and laugh.