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Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies: The New York Times, 1917–2017

Edward S. Herman, the economist, Wharton School professor emeritus, and prolific author, died this week at age 92. The following article by Edward Herman appeared in the July-August issue of Monthly Review .

It has been amusing to watch the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets express their dismay over the rise and spread of “fake news.” These publications take it as an obvious truth that what they provide is straightforward, unbiased, fact-based reporting. They do offer such news, but they also provide a steady flow of their own varied forms of fake news, often by disseminating false or misleading information supplied to them by the national security state, other branches of government, and sites of corporate power

An important form of mainstream media fake news is that which is presented while suppressing information that calls the preferred news into question. This was the case with “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down,” the title of a January 18, 1988, Times editorial referring to a propaganda claim of five years earlier that the editors had swallowed and never looked into any further. The lie—that the Soviets knew that Korean airliner 007, which they shot down on August 31, 1983, was a civilian plane—was eventually uncovered by congressman Lee Hamilton, not by the Times.

Mainstream media fake news is especially likely where a party line is quickly formed on a topic, with any deviations therefore immediately dismissed as naïve, unpatriotic, or simply wrong. In a dramatic illustration, for a book chapter entitled “Worthy and Unworthy Victims,” Noam Chomsky and I showed that coverage by Time, Newsweek, CBS News, and the New York Times of the 1984 murder of the priest Jerzy Popieluzko in Communist Poland, a dramatic and politically useful event for the politicized Western mainstream media, exceeded all their coverage of the murders of a hundred religious figures killed in Latin America by U.S. client states in the post-Second World War years taken together.1 It was cheap and safe to focus heavily on the “worthy” victim, whereas looking closely at the deaths of those hundred would have required an expensive and sometimes dangerous research effort that would have upset the State Department. But it was in effect a form of fake news to so selectively devote coverage (and indignation) to a politically useful victim, while ignoring large numbers whose murder the political establishment sought to downplay or completely suppress.

Fake news on Russia is a Times tradition that can be traced back at least as far as the 1917 revolution. In a classic study of the paper’s coverage of Russia from February 1917 to March 1920, Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz found that “From the point of view of professional journalism the reporting of the Russian Revolution is nothing short of a disaster. On the essential questions the net effect was almost always misleading, and misleading news is worse than none at all…. They can fairly be charged with boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled, and on many occasions with a downright lack of common sense.”2 Lippmann and Merz found that strong editorial bias clearly fed into news reporting. The editors’ zealous opposition to the communists led the paper to report atrocities that never happened, and to predict the imminent collapse of the Bolshevik regime no fewer than ninety-one times in three years. Journalists uncritically accepted official statements and relied on reports from unidentified “high authority.” This was standard Times practice.

This fake news performance of 1917–20 was repeated often in the years that followed. The Soviet Union was an enemy target up to the Second World War, and through it all, Times coverage was consistently hostile. With the end of the war and the emergence of the Soviet Union as a military rival, and soon a competing nuclear power, the Cold War was on. In the United States, anti-communism became a national religion, and the Soviet Union was portrayed in official discourse and the news media as a global menace in urgent need of containment. With this ideology in place and with U.S. plans for its own global expansion of power established, the Communist threat would help sustain the steady growth of the military-industrial complex and repeated interventions to counter purported Soviet aggressions.3

An Early Great Crime: Guatemala

One of the most flagrant cases in which the Soviet threat was exploited to justify U.S.-sponsored violence was the overthrow of the social democratic government of Guatemala in 1954 by a small proxy army invading from U.S. ally Somoza’s Nicaragua. This action was provoked by government reforms that upset U.S. officials, including a 1947 law permitting the formation of labor unions, and plans to buy back (at tax-rate valuations) and distribute to landless peasants some of the unused property owned by United Fruit Company and other large landowners. The United States, which had been perfectly content with the earlier fourteen-year-long dictatorship of Jose Ubico, could not tolerate this democratic challenge, and the elected government, led by Jacobo Arbenz, was soon charged with assorted villainies, based on an alleged Red capture of the Guatemalan government.4

In the pre-invasion propaganda campaign, the mainstream media fell into line behind false charges of extreme government repression, threats to its neighbors, and the Communist takeover. The Times repeatedly reported these alleged abuses and threats from 1950 onward (my favorite: Sidney Gruson’s “How Communists Won Control of Guatemala,” March 1, 1953). Arbenz and his predecessor, Juan Jose Arevalo, had carefully avoided establishing any embassies with Soviet bloc countries, fearing U.S. reprisals—to no avail. Following the removal of Arbenz and the installation of a right-wing dictatorship, court historian Ronald Schneider, after studying 50,000 documents seized from Communist sources in Guatemala, found that not only did Communists never control the country, but that the Soviet Union “made no significant or even material investment in the Arbenz regime,” and was at the time too preoccupied with internal problems to concern itself with Central America.5

The coup government quickly attacked and decimated the new social groups that had formed in the democratic era, mainly peasant, worker, and teacher organizations. Arbenz had won 65 percent of the votes in a free election, but the “liberator” Castillo Armas quickly won a “plebiscite” with 99.6 percent of the vote. Although this is a result familiar in totalitarian regimes, the mainstream media had by then lost interest in Guatemala, barely mentioning this electoral outcome. The Times had claimed in 1950 that U.S. Guatemala policy “is not trying to block social and economic progress but is interested in seeing that Guatemala becomes a liberal democracy.”6 But in the aftermath, the editors failed to note that the result of U.S. policy was precisely to “block social and economic progress,” through the installation of a regime of reactionary terror.

In 2011, more than half a century after 1954, the Times reported that Guatemalan president Alvaro Colom had apologized for that “Great Crime,” the violent overthrow of the Arbenz government, “an act of aggression to a government starting its democratic spring.”7 The article mentions that, according to president Colom, the Arbenz family is “seeking an apology from the United States for its role” in the Great Crime. The Times has never made any apology or even acknowledgement of its own role in the Great Crime.

Another Great Crime: Vietnam

Fake news abounded in the Times and other mainstream publications during the Vietnam War. The common perception that the paper’s editors opposed the war is misleading and essentially false. In Without Fear or Favor, former Times reporter Harrison Salisbury acknowledged that in 1962, when U.S. intervention escalated, the Times was “deeply and consistently” supportive of the war policy.8 He contends that the paper grew steadily more oppositional from 1965, culminating in the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. But Salisbury fails to recognize that from 1954 to the present, the Times never abandoned the Cold War framework and vocabulary, according to which the United States was resisting another nation’s “aggression” and protecting “South Vietnam.” The paper never applied the word aggression to this country, but used it freely in referring to North Vietnamese actions and those of the National Liberation Front in the southern half of Vietnam.

The various pauses in the U.S. bombing war in 1965 and after, in the alleged interest of “giving peace a chance,” were also the basis of fake news as the Johnson administration used these temporary halts to quiet antiwar protests, while making it clear to the Vietnamese that U.S. officials demanded full surrender. The Times and its colleagues swallowed this bait without a murmur of dissent.9

Furthermore, although from 1965 onward the Times was willing to publish more reports that put the war in a less favorable light, it never broke from its heavy dependence on official sources, or from its reluctance to confront the damage wrought on Vietnam and its civilian population by the U.S. war machine. In contrast with its eager pursuit of Cambodian refugees from the Khmer Rouge after April 1975, the paper rarely sought testimony from the millions of Vietnamese refugees fleeing U.S. bombing and chemical warfare. In its opinion columns as well, the new openness was limited to commentators who accepted the premises of the war and would confine their criticisms to its tactical problems and domestic costs. From beginning to end, those who criticized the war as an immoral campaign of sheer aggression were excluded from the debate.10

The 1981 Papal Assassination Attempt

The mainstream media gave a further boost to Cold War propaganda in reporting on the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in Rome in May 1981. At a time when the Reagan administration was seeking to demonize the Soviet Union as an “evil empire,” the shooting of the pope by Turkish fascist Ali Agca was quickly tied to Moscow, helped by Agca’s confession—after seventeen months of imprisonment, interrogations, threats, inducements, and access to the media—that the Bulgarians and Soviet KGB were behind it all. No credible evidence supported this connection, the claims were implausible, and the corruption in the process was remarkable. (Agca also periodically claimed to be Jesus Christ.) The case against the Bulgarians (and implicitly the KGB) was lost even in Italy’s extremely biased and politicized judicial framework. But the Times bought it, and gave it prolonged, intense, and completely unquestioning attention, as did most of the U.S. media.

During the 1991 Senate hearings on the nomination of Robert Gates to head the CIA, former agency officer Melvin Goodman testified that the CIA knew from the start that Agca’s confessions were false, because they had “very good penetration” of the Bulgarian secret services. The Times omitted this statement in its reporting on Goodman’s testimony. During the same year, with Bulgaria now a member of the “free world,” conservative analyst Allen Weinstein obtained permission to examine Bulgarian secret service files on the assassination attempt. His mission was widely reported, including in the Times, but when he returned without having found anything implicating Bulgaria or the KGB, several papers, including the Times, found his investigations no longer newsworthy.

Missile Gap

From roughly 1975 to 1986, much of the reporting on the purported “missile gap” between the United States and the Soviet Union was little more than fake news, with Times reporters passing along a steady stream of inflammatory official statements and baseless claims. An important case occurred in the mid-1970s, as right-wing hawks in the Ford administration were trying to escalate the Cold War and arms race. A 1975 CIA report had found that the Soviets were aiming only for nuclear parity. This was unsatisfactory, so CIA head George H. W. Bush appointed a new team of hardliners, who soon found that the Soviets were achieving nuclear superiority and preparing to fight a nuclear war. This so-called Team B report was taken at face value in a Times front page article of December 26, 1976, by David Binder, who failed to mention its political bias or purpose, and made no attempt to consult experts with differing views. The CIA finally admitted in 1983 that the Team B estimates were fabrications. But throughout this period, the Times supported the case for militarization by disseminating false information, much of it convincingly refuted by Tom Gervasi in his classic The Myth of Soviet Military Supremacy, a book never reviewed in the Times.

Yugoslavia and “Humanitarian Intervention”

The 1990s wars of dismantlement in Yugoslavia succeeded in removing an independent government from power and replacing it with a broken Serbian remnant and poor and unstable failed states in Bosnia and Kosovo. It also provided unwarranted support for the concept of “humanitarian intervention,” which rested on a mass of misrepresentations and selective reporting. The demonized Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević was not an ultra-nationalist seeking a “Greater Serbia,” but rather a non-aligned leader on the Western hit list who tried to help Serb minorities in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo remain in Yugoslavia as the United States and the European Union supported a legally questionable exodus by several constituent Yugoslav Republics. He supported each of the proposed settlements of these conflicts, which were sabotaged by Bosnian and U.S. officials who wanted better terms or the outright military defeat of Serbia, ultimately achieving the latter. Milošević had nothing to do with the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in which Bosnian Serbs took revenge on Bosnian Muslim soldiers who had been ravaging nearby Bosnian Serb villages from their base in Srebrenica under NATO protection. The several thousand Serb civilian deaths were essentially unreported in the mainstream media, while the numbers of Srebrenica’s executed victims were correspondingly inflated.11

The Putin Era

The U.S. political establishment was shocked and delighted by the 1989–91 fall of the Soviet Union, and its members were similarly pleased with the policies of President Boris Yeltsin, a virtual U.S. client, under whose rule ordinary Russians suffered a calamitous fall in living standards, while a small set of oligarchs were able to loot the broken state. Yeltsin’s election victory in 1996, greatly assisted by U.S. consultants, advice, and money, was, for the editors of the Times, “A Victory for Russian Democracy.”12 They were not bothered by either the electoral corruption, the creation of a grand-larceny-based economic oligarchy, or, shortly thereafter, the new rules centralizing power in the office of president.13

Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, gradually abandoned the former’s subservience to Western interests, and was thereby perceived as a menace. His reelection in 2012, although surely less corrupt than Yeltsin’s in 1996, was castigated in the U.S. media. The lead Times article on May 5, 2012, featured “a slap in the face” from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe observers, claims of no real competition, and “thousands of antigovernment protesters gathered in Moscow square to chant ‘Russia without Putin.’”14 There had been no “challenges to legitimacy” reported in the Times after Yeltsin’s tainted victory in 1996.

The demonization of Putin escalated with the Ukraine crisis of 2014 and subsequent Kiev warfare in Eastern Ukraine, Russian support of the East Ukraine resistance, and the Crimean referendum and absorption of Crimea by Russia. This was all declared “aggression” by the United States and its allies and clients, and sanctions were imposed on Russia, and a major U.S.-NATO military buildup was initiated on Russia’s borders. Tensions mounted further with the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over southeastern Ukraine—promptly, but almost surely falsely, blamed on the “pro-Russian” rebels and Russia itself.15

Anti-Russian hostilities were further inflamed by the country’s escalated intervention in Syria from 2015 on, in support of Bashar al-Assad and against rebel forces that had come to be dominated by ISIS and al-Nusra, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. The United States and its NATO and Middle East allies had been committing aggression against Syria, in de facto alliance with al-Nusra and other extremist Islamic factions, for several years. Russian intervention turned the tide, frustrating the U.S. and Saudi goal of regime change against Assad, and weakening tacit U.S. allies.

The Times has covered these developments with unstinting apologetics—for the February 2014 coup in Kiev—which it has never labeled as such, for the U.S. role in the overthrow of the elected government of Victor Yanukovych, and with anger and horror at the Crimea referendum and Russian absorption, which it never allows might be a defensive response to the Kiev coup. Its calls for punishment for the casualty-free Russian “aggression” in Crimea is in marked contrast to its apologetics for the million-plus casualties caused by U.S. aggression “of choice” (not defensive) in Iraq from March 2003 on. The paper’s editors and columnists condemn Putin’s disregard for international law, while exempting their own country from criticism for its repeated violations of that same law.16

In the Times‘s reporting and opinion columns Russia is regularly assailed as expansionist and threatening its neighbors, but virtually no mention is made of NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders and first-strike-threat placement of anti-missile weapons in Eastern Europe—the latter earlier claimed to be in response to a missile threat from Iran! Analyses by political scientist John Mearsheimer and Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen that noted this NATO advance were excluded from the opinion pages of the Times.17 In contrast, a member of the Russian band Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, was given op-ed space to denounce Putin and Russia, and the punk rock group was granted a meeting with the Times editorial board.18 Between January 1 and March 31, 2014, the paper ran twenty-three articles featuring Pussy Riot and its alleged significance as a symbol of Russian limits on free speech. Pussy Riot had disrupted a church service in Moscow and only stopped after police intervened, at the request of church authorities. A two-year prison sentence followed. Meanwhile, in February 2014, eighty-four-year-old nun Sister Megan Rice was sentenced to four years in prison for having entered a U.S. nuclear weapons site in July 2012 and carried out a symbolic protest. The Times gave this news a tiny mention in its National Briefing section, under the title “Tennessee Nun is Sentenced for Peace Protest.” No op-ed columns or meeting with the Times board for Rice. There are worthy and unworthy protesters, just as there are victims.

In Syria, with Russian help, Assad’s army and allied militias were able to dislodge the rebels from Aleppo, to the dismay of Washington and the mainstream media. It has been enlightening to see the alarm expressed over civilian casualties in Aleppo, with accompanying photographs of forsaken children and stories of civilian suffering and deprivation. The Times’ focus on those civilians and children and its indignation at Putin-Assad inhumanity stands in sharp contrast with their virtual silence on massive civilian casualties in Fallujah in 2004 and beyond, and more recently in rebel-held areas of Syria, and in the Iraqi city of Mosul, under U.S. and allied attack.19 The differential treatment of worthy and unworthy victims has been in full force in coverage of Syria.

A further phase of intensifying Russophobia may be dated from the October 2016 presidential debates, in which Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump would be a Putin “puppet” as president, a theme her campaign began to stress. This emphasis only increased after the election, with the help of the media and intelligence services, as the Clinton camp sought to explain their electoral loss, maintain party control, and possibly even have the election results overturned in the courts or electoral college by attributing Trump’s victory to Russian interference.

A major impetus for the Putin connection came with the January 2017 release of a report by the Office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Background of Assessing Russian Activities and Intention in Recent US Elections. More than half of this short document is devoted to the Russian-sponsored RT news network, which the report treats as an illegitimate propaganda source. The organization is allegedly part of Russia’s “influence campaign… [that] aspired to help President-elect Trump’s chances of victory when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to the President-elect.” No semblance of proof is offered that there was any planned “campaign,” rather than an ongoing expression of opinion and news judgments. The same standards used to identify a Russian “influence campaign” could be applied with equal force to U.S. media and Radio Free Europe’s treatment of any Russian election—and of course, the U.S. intervention in the 1996 Russian election was overt, direct, and went far beyond any covert “influence campaign.”

Regarding more direct Russian intervention in the U.S. election, the DNI authors concede the absence of “full supporting evidence,” but in fact provide no supporting evidence at all—only speculative assertions, assumptions, and guesses. “We assess that… Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2015,” they write, designed to defeat Mrs. Clinton, and “to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process,” but provide no proof of any such order. The report also contains no evidence that Russia hacked the communications of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) or the emails of Clinton and former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta, or that it gave hacked information to WikiLeaks. Julian Assange and former British diplomat Craig Murray have repeatedly claimed that these sources were leaked by local insiders, not hacked from outside. Veteran intelligence experts William Binney and Ray McGovern likewise contend that the WikiLeaks evidence was leaked, not hacked.20 It is also notable that of the three intelligence agencies who signed the DNI document, the National Security Agency—the agency most likely to have proof of Russian hacking and its transmission to WikiLeaks, as well as of any “orders” from Putin—only expressed “moderate confidence” in its findings.

But as with the Reds ruling Guatemala, the Soviets outpacing U.S. missile capabilities, or the KGB plotting to assassinate the pope, the Times has taken the Russian hacking story as established fact, despite the absence of hard evidence. Times reporter David Sanger refers to the report’s “damning and surprisingly detailed account of Russia’s efforts to undermine the American electoral system,” only to then acknowledge that the published report “contains no information about how the agencies had … come to their conclusions.”21 The report itself includes the astonishing statement that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.” Furthermore, if the report was based on “intercepts of conversations” as well as on hacked computer data, as Sanger and the DNI claim, why has the DNI failed to quote a single conversation showing Putin’s alleged orders and plans?

The Times has never cited or given op-ed space to William Binney, Ray McGovern, or Craig Murray, leading dissident authorities on hacking technology, methodology, and the specifics of the DNC hacks. But room was found for Louise Mensch’s op-ed “What to Ask about Russian Hacking.” Mensch is a notorious conspiracy theorist with no relevant technical background, described by writers Nathan Robinson and Alex Nichols as best-known for “spending most of her time on Twitter issuing frenzied denunciations of imagined armies of online ‘Putinbots,’” making her “one of the least credible people on the internet.”22 But she is published in the Times because, in contrast with the informed and credible Binney and Murray, she follows the party line, taking Russian hacking of the DNC as a premise.

The CIA’s brazen intervention in the electoral process in 2016 and 2017 broke new ground in the agency’s politicization. Former CIA head Michael Morell announced in an August 2016 op-ed in the Times: “I Ran the C.I.A. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton,” and former CIA boss Michael Hayden published an op-ed in the Washington Post just days before the election, entitled “Former CIA Chief: Trump is Russia’s Useful Fool.” Morell had yet another op-ed in the Times on January 6, now openly assailing the new president. These attacks were unrelievedly insulting to Trump and laudatory to Clinton, even portraying Trump as a traitor; they also made clear that Clinton’s more pugnacious stance toward Syria and Russia was preferable by far to Trump’s leanings toward negotiation and cooperation with Russia.

This was also true of the scandal surrounding former Trump Defense Intelligence nominee Michael Flynn’s telephone call with the Russian ambassador, which may have included a discussion of the incoming administration’s policy actions. The political possibilities of this interaction were quickly grasped by outgoing Obama officials, security personnel, and the mainstream media, with the FBI interrogating Flynn and with widespread expressions of horror at Flynn’s action, which could have allegedly exposed him to Russian blackmail. But such pre-inauguration meetings with Russian diplomats have been a “common practice” according to Jack Matlock, the U.S. ambassador to Russia under Reagan and Bush, and Matlock had personally arranged such a meeting for Jimmy Carter.23 Obama’s own ambassador to the country, Michael McFaul, admitted visiting Moscow for talks with officials in 2008, even before the election. Daniel Lazare has made a good case not only that the illegality and blackmail threat are implausible, but that the FBI’s interrogation of Flynn reeks of entrapment. “Yet anti-Trump liberals are trying to convince the public that it’s all ‘worse than Watergate.’”24

The political point of the DNI report thus seems to have been, at minimum, to tie the Trump administration’s hands in its dealings with Russia. Some analysts outside the mainstream have argued that we may have been witnessing an incipient spy or palace coup that fell short, but still had the desired effect of weakening the new administration.25 The Times has not offered a word of criticism of this politicization and intervention in the election process by intelligence agencies, and in fact the editors have been working with them and the Democratic Party as a loose-knit team in a distinctly un- and anti-democratic program designed to undermine or reverse the results of the 2016 election, on the pretext of alleged foreign electoral interference.

The Times and the mainstream media in general have also barely mentioned the awkward fact that the allegedly hacked disclosures of the DNC and Clinton and Podesta emails disclosed uncontested facts about real electoral manipulations on behalf of the Clinton campaign, facts that the public had a right to know and that might well have affected the election results. The focus on the evidence-free claims of a Russian hacking intrusion have helped divert attention from the real electoral abuses disclosed by the WikiLeaks material. Here again, official and mainstream media fake news helped bury real news.

Another arrow in the Russophobia quiver was a private intelligence “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence agent working for Orbis Business Intelligence, a private firm hired by the DNC to dig up dirt on Trump. Steele’s first report, delivered in June 2016, made numerous serious accusations against Trump, most notably that Trump had been caught in a sexual escapade in Moscow, that his political advance had been supported by the Kremlin for at least five years, under Putin’s direction, in order to sow discord within the U.S. political establishment and disrupt the Western alliance. This document was based on alleged conversations by Steele with distant (Russian) officials: that is, strictly on hearsay evidence, whose assertions, where verifiable, are sometimes erroneous.26 But it said just what the Democrats, the mainstream media, and the CIA wanted to hear, and intelligence officials accordingly declared the author “credible,” and the media lapped it up. The Times hedged somewhat on its own cooperation in this tawdry campaign by calling the report “unverified,” but nevertheless reported its claims.27

The Steele dossier also became a central part of the investigation and hearings on “Russia-gate” held by the House Intelligence Committee starting in March 2017, led by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. While basing his opening statement on the hearsay-laden dossier, Schiff expressed no interest in establishing who funded the Steele effort, the identity and exact status of the Russian officials quoted, or how much they were paid. Apparently talking to Russians with a design of influencing an American presidential election is perfectly acceptable if the candidate supported by this intrusion is anti-Russian!

The Times has played a major role in this latest wave of Russophobia, reminiscent of its 1917–20 performance in which, as Lippmann and Merz noted in 1920, “boundless credulity, and an untiring readiness to be gulled” characterized the news-making process. While quoting the CIA’s admission that it had no hard evidence, relying instead on “circumstantial evidence” and “capabilities,” the Times was happy to describe these capabilities at great length and to imply that they proved something.28 Editorials and news articles have worked uniformly on the false supposition that Russian hacking was proved, and that the Russians had given these data to WikiLeaks, also unproven and strenuously denied by Assange and Murray.

The Times has run neck-and-neck with the Washington Post in stirring up fears of the Russian information war and illicit involvement with Trump. The Times now easily conflates fake news with any criticism of established institutions, as in Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy’s “Europe Combats a New Foe of Political Stability: Fake News,” February 20, 2017.29 But what is more extraordinary is the uniformity with which the paper’s regular columnists accept as a given the CIA’s assessment of the Russian hacking and transmission to WikiLeaks, the possibility or likelihood that Trump is a Putin puppet, and the urgent need of a congressional and “non-partisan” investigation of these claims. This swallowing of a new war-party line has extended widely in the liberal media. Both the Times and Washington Post have lent tacit support to the idea that this “fake news” threat needs to be curbed, possibly by some form of voluntary media-organized censorship or government intervention that would at least expose the fakery.

The most remarkable media episode in this anti-influence-campaign was the Posts piece by Craig Timberg, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say,” which featured a report by a group of anonymous “experts” entity called PropOrNot that claimed to have identified two hundred websites that, wittingly or not, were “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” While smearing these websites, many of them independent news outlets whose only shared trait was their critical stance toward U.S. foreign policy, the “experts” refused to identify themselves, allegedly out of fear of being “targeted by legions of skilled hackers.” As journalist Matt Taibbi wrote, “You want to blacklist hundreds of people, but you won’t put your name to your claims? Take a hike.”30 But the Post welcomed and promoted this McCarthyite effort, which might well be a product of Pentagon or CIA information warfare. (And these entities are themselves well-funded and heavily into the propaganda business.)

On December 23, 2016, President Obama signed the Portman-Murphy Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, which will supposedly allow the United States to more effectively combat foreign (namely Russian and Chinese) propaganda and disinformation. It will encourage more government counter-propaganda efforts, and provide funding to non-government entities to help in this enterprise. It is clearly a follow-on to the claims of Russian hacking and propaganda, and shares the spirit of the listing of two hundred tools of Moscow featured in the Washington Post. (Perhaps PropOrNot will qualify for a subsidy and be able to enlarge its list.) Liberals have been quiet on this new threat to freedom of speech, undoubtedly influenced by their fears of Russian-based fake news and propaganda. But they may yet take notice, even if belatedly, when Trump or one of his successors puts it to work on their own notions of fake news and propaganda.

The success of the war party’s campaign to contain or reverse any tendency to ease tensions with Russia was made dramatically clear in the Trump administration’s speedy bombing response to the April 4, 2017, Syrian chemical weapons deaths. The Times and other mainstream media editors and journalists greeted this aggressive move with almost uniform enthusiasm, and once again did not require evidence of Assad’s guilt beyond their government’s claims.31 The action was damaging to Assad and Russia, but served the rebels well.

But the mainstream media never ask cui bono? in cases like this. In 2013, a similar charge against Assad, which brought the United States to the brink of a full-scale bombing war in Syria, turned out to be a false flag operation, and some authorities believe the current case is equally problematic.32 Nevertheless, Trump moved quickly (and illegally), dealing a blow to any further rapprochement between the United States and Russia. The CIA, the Pentagon, leading Democrats, and the rest of the war party had won an important skirmish in the struggle over permanent war.

Notes

  1. Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, Manufacturing Consent (New York: Pantheon, 2008), chapter 2.
  2. Walter Lippmann and Charles Merz, A Test of the News (New York: New Republic, 1920).
  3. On the Grand Area framework, see Noam Chomsky, “The New Framework of Order,” inOn Power and Ideology (Boston: South End, 1987).
  4. Edward S. Herman, “Returning Guatemala to the Fold,” in Gary Rawnsley, ed.,Cold War Propaganda in the 1950s (London: Macmillan, 1999).
  5. Ronald Schneider,Communism in Guatemala, 1944–1954 (New York: Praeger, 1959), 41, 196–97, 294.
  6. Editorial Board, “The Guatemala Incident,”New York Times, April 8, 1950.
  7. Elisabeth Malkin, “An Apology for a Guatemalan Coup, 57 Years Later,”New York Times, October 11, 2011.
  8. Harrison Salisbury,Without Fear or Favor (New York: Times Books, 1980), 486.
  9. Richard Du Boff and Edward Herman,America’s Vietnam Policy: The Strategy of Deception(Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, 1966).
  10. See Chomsky and Herman, Manufacturing Consent, chapter 6.
  11. Editorial Board, “A Victory for Russian Democracy,”New York Times, July 4, 1996.
  12. Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, “The Dismantling of Yugoslavia,”Monthly Review 59, no. 5 (October 2007); Herman and Peterson, “Poor Marlise: Her Old Allies Are Now Attacking the Tribunal and Even Portraying the Serbs as Victims,” ZNet, October 30, 2008, http://zcomm.org.
  13. Stephen F. Cohen,Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: Norton, 2000).
  14. Ellen Barry and Michael Schwartz, “After Election, Putin Faces Challenges to Legitimacy,”New York Times, March 5, 2012.
  15. Robert Parry, “Troubling Gaps in the New MH-17 Report,” Consortium News, September 28, 2016, http://consortiumnews.com.
  16. Paul Krugman says, “Mr. Putin is someone who doesn’t worry about little things like international law” (“The Siberian Candidate,”New York Times, July 22, 2016)—implying, falsely, that U.S. leaders do “worry about” such things.
  17. A version of Mearsheimer’s article appeared as “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,”Foreign Affairs, September 10, 2014. The paper likewise rejected Stephen Cohen’s 2012 article “The Demonization of Putin.”
  18. “Sochi Under Siege,”New York Times, February 21, 2014.
  19. Michael Kimmelman, “Aleppo’s Faces Beckon to Us, To Little Avail,”New York Times, December 15, 2016. Above this front-page article were four photographs of dead or injured children, the most prominent one in Syria. The accompanying editorial, “Aleppo’s Destroyers: Assad, Putin, Iran,” omits some key actors and killers. See also Rick Sterling, “How US Propaganda Plays in Syrian War,” Consortium News, September 23, 2016.
  20. William Binney and Ray McGovern, “The Dubious Case on Russian ‘Hacking,’” Consortium News, January 6, 2017.
  21. David Sanger, “Putin Ordered ‘Influence Campaign’ Aimed at U.S. Election, Report Says,”New York Times, January 6, 2017.
  22. Nathan J. Robinson and Alex Nichols, “What Constitutes Reasonable Mainstream Opinion,”Current Affairs, March 22, 2017.
  23. Jack Matlock, “Contacts with Russian Embassy,” Jack Matlock blog, March 4, 2017, http://jackmatlock.com.
  24. Daniel Lazare, “Democrats, Liberals, Catch McCarthyistic Fever,” Consortium News, February 17, 2017.
  25. Robert Parry, “A Spy Coup in America?” Consortium News, December 18, 2016; Andre Damon, “Democratic Party Floats Proposal for a Palace Coup,” Information Clearing House,” March 23, 2017, http://informationclearinghouse.info.
  26. Robert Parry, “The Sleazy Origins of Russia-gate,” Consortium News, March 29, 2017.
  27. Scott Shane et al., “How a Sensational, Unverified Dossier Became a Crisis for Donald Trump,”New York Times, January 11, 2017.
  28. Matt Fegenheimer and Scott Shane, “Bipartisan Voices Back U.S. Agencies On Russia Hacking,”New York Times, January 6, 2017; Michael Shear and David Sanger, “Putin Led a Complex Cyberattack Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Finds,”New York Times,January 7, 2017; Andrew Kramer, “How Russia Recruited Elite Hackers for Its Cyberwar,”New York Times, December 30, 2016.
  29. Robert Parry, “NYT’s Fake News about Fake News,” Consortium News, February 22, 2017.
  30. Matt Taibbi, “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting,”Rolling Stone, November 28, 2016.
  31. Adam Johnson, “Out of 47 Media Editorials on Trump’s Syria Strikes, Only One Opposed,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, April 11, 2017, http://fair.org.
  32. Scott Ritter, “Wag the Dog—How Al Qaeda Played Donald Trump and The American Media,” Huffington Post, April 9, 2017; James Carden, “The Chemical Weapons Attack in Syria: Is There a Place for Skepticism?”Nation, April 11, 2017.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Righteous Russia-gate Censorship

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | November 14, 2107

A stark difference between today’s Washington and when I was here as a young Associated Press correspondent in the late 1970s and the early 1980s is that then – even as the old Cold War was heating up around the election of Ronald Reagan – there were prominent mainstream journalists who looked askance at the excessive demonization of the Soviet Union and doubted wild claims about the dire threats to U.S. national security from Nicaragua and Grenada.

Perhaps the Vietnam War was still fresh enough in people’s minds that senior editors and national reporters understood the dangers of mindless groupthink inside Official Washington, as well as the importance of healthy skepticism toward official pronouncements from the U.S. intelligence community.

Today, however, I cannot think of a single prominent figure in the mainstream news media who questions any claim – no matter how unlikely or absurd – that vilifies Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country. It is all Russia-bashing all the time.

And, behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity are increasing assaults against independent and dissident journalists and news outlets outside the mainstream. We’re not just entering a New Cold War and a New McCarthyism; we’re also getting a heavy dose of old-style Orwellianism.

Sometimes you see this in individual acts like HuffingtonPost taking down a well-reported story by journalist Joe Lauria because he dared to point out that Democratic money financed the two initial elements of what’s now known as Russia-gate: the forensic examination of computers at the Democratic National Committee and the opposition research on Donald Trump conducted by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.

HuffingtonPost never contacted Lauria before or after its decision to retract the story, despite a request from him for the reasons why. HuffPost editors told a BuzzFeed reporter that they were responding to reader complaints that the article was filled with factual errors but none have ever been spelled out, leaving little doubt that Lauria’s real “error” was in defying the Russia-gate groupthink of the anti-Trump Resistance. [A version of Lauria’s story appeared at Consortiumnews.com before Lauria posted it at HuffPost. If you want to sign a petition calling on HuffPost to restore Lauria’s article, click here.]

Muzzling RT

Other times, the expanding American censorship is driven by U.S. government agencies, such as the Justice Department’s demand that the Russian news outlet, RT, register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act, which requires such prompt, frequent and detailed disclosures of supposed “propaganda” that it could make it impossible for RT to continue to function in the United States.

This attack on RT was rationalized by the Jan. 6 “Intelligence Community Assessment” that was, in reality, prepared by a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. Their report included a seven-page addendum from 2012 accusing RT of spreading Russian propaganda – and apparently this Jan. 6 report must now be accepted as gospel truth, no questions permitted.

However, if any real journalist actually read the Jan. 6 report, he or she would have discovered that RT’s sinister assault on American democracy included such offenses as holding a debate among third-party candidates who were excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates in 2012. Yes, allowing Libertarians and Greens to express their points of view is a grave danger to American democracy.

Other RT “propaganda” included reporting on the Occupy Wall Street protests and examining the environmental dangers from “fracking,” issues that also have been widely covered by the domestic American media. Apparently, whenever RT covers a newsworthy event – even if others have too – that constitutes “propaganda,” which must be throttled to protect the American people from the danger of seeing it.

If you bother to study the Jan. 6 report’s addendum, it is hard not to conclude that these “hand-picked” analysts were either stark-raving mad or madly anti-Russian. Yet, this “Intelligence Community Assessment” is now beyond questioning unless you want to be labeled a “Kremlin stooge” or “Putin’s useful idiot.” [An earlier State Department attack on RT was equally ridiculous or demonstrably false.]

And, by the way, it was President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper who testified under oath that the analysts from the three agencies were “hand-picked.” That means that they were analysts personally selected by Obama’s intelligence chiefs from three agencies – not “all 17” as the American public was told over and over again – and thus were not even a full representation of analysts from those three agencies. Yet, this subset of a subset is routinely described as “the U.S. intelligence community,” even after major news outlets finally had to retract their “all 17” canard.

So, the myth of the intelligence community’s consensus lives on. For instance, in an upbeat article on Tuesday about the U.S. government’s coercing RT into registering as a foreign agent, Washington Post reporters Devlin Barrett and David Filipov wrote, “U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the network and website push relentlessly anti-American propaganda at the behest of the Russian government.”

In the old days, even during the old Cold War and President Reagan’s ranting about “the Evil Empire,” some of us would have actually examined the Jan. 6 report’s case against RT and noted the absurdity of these claims about “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.” Whether you want to hear the views of the Greens and Libertarians or not – or whether you like “fracking” and hate Occupy Wall Street – the opportunity to hear this information doesn’t constitute “relentlessly anti-American propaganda.”

The U.S. government’s real beef with RT seems to be that it allows on air some Americans who have been blacklisted from the mainstream media – including highly credentialed former U.S. intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – because they have challenged various Official Narratives.

In other words, Americans are not supposed to hear the other side of the story on important international conflicts, such as the proxy war in Syria or the civil war in Ukraine or Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Only the State Department’s versions of those events are permitted even when those versions are themselves propagandistic if not outright false.

For example, you’re not supposed to hear about the huge holes in the Syria-sarin cases, nor about Ukraine’s post-coup regime arming neo-Nazis to kill ethnic-Russian Ukrainians, nor about Israel’s evolution into an apartheid state. All right-thinking Americans are to get only a steady diet of how righteous the U.S. government and its allies always are. Anything else is “propaganda.”

Also off limits is any thoughtful critique of that Jan. 6 report – or apparently even Clapper’s characterization of it as a product of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies. You’re not supposed to ask why other U.S. intelligence agencies with deep knowledge about Russia were excluded and why even other analysts from the three involved agencies were shut out.

No, you must always think of the Jan. 6 report as the “consensus” assessment from the entire “U.S. intelligence community.” And you must accept it as flat fact – as it now is treated by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other mainstream news outlets. You shouldn’t even notice that the Jan. 6 report itself doesn’t claim that Russian election meddling was a fact. The report explains, that “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

But even quoting from the Jan. 6 report might make an American reporter some kind of traitorous “Russian mole” whose journalism must be purged from “responsible” media and who should be forced to wear the journalistic equivalent of a yellow star.

The Anti-Trump/Russia Hysteria

Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from the year-long fury about the shocking election of Donald Trump. From the first moments of stunned disbelief over Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the narrative was put in motion to blame Trump’s victory not on Clinton and her wretched campaign but on Russia. That also was viewed as a possible way of reversing the election’s outcome and removing Trump from office.

Hillary Clinton (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The major U.S. news media quite openly moved to the forefront of the Resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as it unleashed its journalists to trumpet the narrative of some disloyal Americans spreading Russian propaganda. Darkness presumably was a fine place to stick people who questioned the Resistance’s Russia-gate narrative.

An early shot in this war against dissenting information was fired last Thanksgiving Day when the Post published a front-page article citing an anonymous group called PropOrNot smearing 200 Internet news sites for allegedly disseminating Russian propaganda. The list included some of the most important sources of independent journalism, including Consortiumnews.com, apparently for the crime of questioning some of the State Department’s narratives on international conflicts, particularly Syria and Ukraine.

Then, with the anti-Russia hysteria building and the censorship ball rolling, Congress last December approved $160 million for think tanks and other non-governmental organizations to combat Russian propaganda. Soon, reports and studies were flying off the shelves detecting a Russian behind every article, tweet and posting that didn’t toe the State Department’s line.

The New York Times and other leading news organizations have even cheered plans for Google, Facebook and other technology companies to deploy algorithms that can hunt down, marginalize or eliminate information that establishment media deems “fake” or “propaganda.” Already Google has put together a First Draft coalition, consisting of mainstream media and establishment-approved Web sites to decide what information makes the cut and what doesn’t.

Among these arbiters of truth is the fact-check organization PolitiFact, which judged the falsehood about “all 17 intelligence agencies” signing off on the Russian “hacking” claim to be “true.” Even though the claim was never true and is now clearly established as false, PolitiFact continues to assert that this lie is the truth, apparently filled with the hubris that comes with its power over determining what is true and what is false.

But what is perhaps most troubling to me about these developments is the silence of many civil liberties advocates, liberal politicians and defenders of press freedom who might have been counted on in earlier days to object to this censorship and blackballing.

It appears that the ends of taking down Donald Trump and demonizing Vladimir Putin justify whatever means, no matter the existential danger of nuclear war with Russia or the McCarthyistic (even Orwellian) threats to freedom of speech, press and thought.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

November 15, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King and Lee Harvey Oswald

By Jacob G. Hornberger | The Future of Freedom Foundation | November 7, 2017

The mainstream media and the acolytes of the U.S. national-security establishment continue to emphasize that there are no “smoking guns” in the tiny (2 percent) of the 50-year-old JFK records that President Trump, the National Archives, and the CIA have recently permitted the American people to see.

Of course, these people define “smoking gun” as a videotaped confession or a memorandum summarizing how and why the CIA orchestrated the November 22, 1963 regime-change operation. If the released records don’t contain a confession or such a memorandum, then in the minds of the people that means the official narrative must stand: A lone-nut former U.S. Marine communist with no motive suddenly decided to kill the president.

Even with the tiny release of records, however, it is possible to draw logical inferences that show the falsity of the official narrative. This type of analytical analysis, however, only works for people who have a critical and analytical mindset. It doesn’t work for people whose mindset is one of deference to authority and inconceivability that the CIA would be willing to protect national security with a domestic regime-change operation.

The records that the National Archives just released included a secret FBI analysis on civil-rights leader Martin Luther King. The thrust of the analysis is that King was a communist, and an immoral communist at that. In a November 4, 2017, article entitled “In the Latest JFK Files: The FBI’s Ugly Analysis on Martin Luther King, Jr., Filled With Falsehoods,” the Washington Post writes:

The 20-page document, dated March 12, three weeks before King was assassinated in Memphis, is included in the latest trove of government files about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which the National Archives released Friday. It alleges that King’s political ideologies and the creation of his civil rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, were heavily influenced by communists, specifically the Communist Party USA. The FBI document went into great detail about one of King’s most trusted advisers, Stanley Levison, a New York lawyer and businessman who served as a top financier for the Communist Party years before he met King in 1956.

One big question that arises, of course, is why the FBI chose to keep this 50-year-old analysis secret from the American people until now.

One possibility, of course, is that the FBI was just embarrassed about having published such a report.

A second possibility, however, is that the FBI orchestrated the assassination of King and decided that the analysis would constitute evidence of motive. After all, don’t forget, this was the era of the Cold War, when the CIA was targeting communists for assassination. Before anyone cries, “Conspiracy theory, Jacob!” let’s not forget that in a civil lawsuit brought by King’s family, after weighing all the evidence the jury found, in its official verdict, that government agencies conspired to kill King.

Does the FBI analysis on King have any bearing on the Kennedy assassination?

Actually, yes. That’s where critical thinking, circumstantial evidence, inferential thinking, and common sense come into play.

The FBI analysis on King reflects the national-security establishment’s overwhelming obsession with Russia (i.e., the Soviet Union) and communists during the Cold War. It is impossible to overstate the magnitude of this anti-communist obsession—it is 1000 times greater than the national-security establishment’s and mainstream media’s obsession with Russia today. Think of the Korean War. The McCarthy hearings. The search for communists in the Army and the State Department. The invasion of a country that never attacked the United States (Cuba). Regime-change operations, including assassination, in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, and, later, Chile. The U.S. invasion of Vietnam.

Not to mention COINTELPRO, MKULTRA, secret hiring of Nazis, infiltration of the U.S. Communist Party and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, prosecution of members of the U.S. Communist Party, and other totalitarian-like domestic programs to protect America from communists and communism.

The focus on King was all part of this anti-communist obsession. The FBI, especially its head J. Edgar Hoover, was absolutely, totally convinced that King was a communist, which is why they spied on him, wiretapped him, smeared him, and even blackmailed him in an attempt to get him to commit suicide. In fact, Hoover was convinced that the entire civil-rights movement was a secret front for the international communist conspiracy.

Okay, so you have the picture? Communists are bad. Communists are trying to take over America. Spy on them. Infiltrate their organizations. Kill them or try to destroy them. Or try to get them to commit suicide.

Now, here’s a funny part. That Washington Post article concludes with the following sentence: “The FBI document was among the 676 files that the National Archive released Friday. Among the recent disclosures are more than 500 never-before-seen CIA files that contain information about Lee Harvey Oswald….”

Why is that funny? Because it shows how obtuse the mainstream press can be when it comes to Lee Harvey Oswald. They just leave it at that!

This is where common sense, logic, and an analytical and critical mindset come into play.

What does the official narrative say about Oswald? Doesn’t it say that he was a communist?

Let’s review the facts.

Oswald gets interested in communism and joins the Marines, an institution that hates communists and kills communists. He is stationed in Japan at the military base that houses the top-secret CIA U-2 spy plane. He learns fluent Russian while in the military. Fellow soldiers laughingly refer to him as “Osvaldovitch.”

And yet, no one does anything to him, notwithstanding the national anti-communist crusade that is ferreting out and destroying communists everywhere!

Does that make any sense?

Oswald travels to Moscow, enters the U.S. Embassy, announces that he wishes to renounce his citizenship, and says that he is going to reveal everything he learned in the military to the Russians. He ends up living in Russia, marrying a woman whose uncle was a colonel in the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Oswald changes his mind and decides he now wants to return to the United States, with his Red wife. U.S. officials let him back in and even help him to return.

He moves to Dallas, where he hangs out with right-wing people rather than fellow-traveler, left-wing, commie types. He gets a job at a photography business that develops top-secret photographs for the CIA.

He moves to New Orleans, where he somehow gets a job with business owned by a right-wing, anti-communist American. He is seen at the offices of a former FBI agent, who seems to be connected to U.S. intelligence. He openly proselytizes for one of the organizations that the FBI and CIA are trying to destroy, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. He even stamps one of his FPCC pamphlets with the return address where the FBI agent had his office. He approaches a secret CIA anti-communist front organization, the DRE, and offers to help train its members.

Oswald travels to Mexico City, where he visits with the Cuban and Soviet embassies. He supposedly meets with one of the top assassins for the Soviet Union.

Okay, you get the picture?

Now, think about what they did to Martin Luther King, who arguably wasn’t a communist at all. Think about what they did to Dalton Trumbo and the Hollywood 10. Think about what they did to all the people hauled up to testify before Sen. McCarthy and forced to answer whether “they are now or ever have been members of the Communist Party.” Think about all the communists they targeted for assassination. Think about all the communists they killed in Korea and Vietnam. Think about what they did to Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Communist Cuba. Think what they did to Mossadegh, Arbenz, Allende, and Lamumba.

Now, ask yourself: What did they do to a supposedly real, died-in-the-wool, honest-to-goodness, self-avowed American communist named Lee Harvey Oswald?

Answer: They did nothing! Nothing at all. No COINTELPRO. No harassment. No abuse. No prosecution or persecution. No torture. No jailing. No military tribunal. No hauling before a federal grand jury. No criminal indictment for treason. No humiliation. No nothing!

And here’s the thing: It’s not as if they didn’t know about Oswald. In fact, as Jefferson Morley figured out several decades after the Kennedy assassination, a small section of the CIA, headed by CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, was secretly monitoring Oswald’s movements in the weeks leading up to the JFK assassination.

Why not harass, abuse, prosecute, or persecute this supposed communist? Why not treat him like they treated Martin Luther King and other people they were convinced were communists?

There can be only one logical answer: Oswald wasn’t a real communist. Instead, he was exactly what some people were saying he was after the assassination: He was a U.S. intelligence agent who had been trained to behave as a communist in order to infiltrate the Soviet Union, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and perhaps even Cuba as part of the CIA’s many assassination programs against Fidel Castro. In fact, recently released records among the two percent that were released also reveal that the CIA was in fact using secret agents to infiltrate communist organizations.

And don’t forget: Oswald vowed to give all his military secrets to the Russians. Would U.S. officials really ignore that threat, especially given that CIA pilot Francis Gary Powers was shot down while flying a CIA U-2 spy plane illegally flying over Russia while Oswald was living in Russia? Not a chance! Look at how they have treated Edward Snowden who simply revealed illegal acts of the NSA to the world.

So, why would the CIA be secretly monitoring Oswald and, equally important, why keep that secret from the American people for decades? Indeed, once the CIA learned that Oswald had supposedly met with a top Soviet assassin, why not report that to the Secret Service?

Indeed, where are the telephone recordings and photographs of the CIA’s Mexico City surveillance of Oswald? Why was Lyndon Johnson told that someone had impersonated Oswald in Mexico City? Why are the CIA and the National Archives still keeping the CIA’s records on Oswald’s trip to Mexico City secret from the American people?

There is only one answer that makes any sense: Oswald was exactly what he said he was after he was arrested. He was a “patsy” — a person who was being framed by the people around him. In order to make the frame-up succeed, they needed not only to fortify his bona-fides as a “communist,” they also needed to watch him carefully to make sure that he hadn’t figured out that he was being set up.

As Jefferson Morley recently pointed out at JFKfacts.org, “Pre-assassination communications about the unimportant Lee Oswald went straight to the top of the agency, i.e., to James Angleton.”

Needless to say, however, the mainstream media and the acolytes of the CIA are pointing to a recently disclosed CIA record that denies that Oswald was a U.S. intelligence agent.

Well, duh!

Let’s not forget one important thing about the CIA: It lies. Everyone knows it. In fact, lying is one of the core features of the CIA.

For example, recall CIA Director Richard Helms. He intentionally and knowingly lied under oath to Congress about the CIA’s role in instigating the Chilean coup in 1973. Perjury. He lied to protect “national security,” which meant protecting the secrecy of what the CIA had done to bring regime change to Chile.

Even though other CIA officials clearly knew that Helms had committed perjury, they intentionally and knowingly let the perjury stand. The need for secrecy was considered of paramount importance.

Moreover, when Helms returned to the CIA after being caught and sentenced, he was treated by his fellow CIA operatives as a hero and a patriot. They thought his lying was great. They even passed a hat around to help him pay his fine.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, if they would lie to protect the secrecy of their regime-change operation in Chile, why wouldn’t they lie to protect the secrecy of their regime-change operation here in the United States on November 22, 1963?

Indeed, let’s not forget the last word in the title of the recent Washington Post article about the FBI’s analysis of Martin Luther King: “In the Latest JFK Files: The FBI’s Ugly Analysis on Martin Luther King, Jr., Filled With Falsehoods.”

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eritrea “Massacre” That Never Happened

By Mela Ghebremedhin | Black Agenda Report | November 8, 2017

Mass protest. Mass rally. Indiscriminate gunshots. Mass casualties and death. These are some of the sensationalist words and phrases used to create buzz and portray events as simply black and white. They are often also used without nuance or context. Recently, Eritrea made the headlines after a group of teenagers walked down the streets of Asmara to voice their discontent at their school being closed. Shouting “Allahu Akbar”, the boys, mostly aged around 14-15, were walking from their neighborhood, Akria, towards the Ministry of Education.

Many Eritreans on the sidewalks, in shops and restaurants, and otherwise within the city center looked on in confusion, particularly with the chants of “God is Great” in Arabic. Generally, such loud, public proclamations are rare in a society long known for its sense of collective tolerance and respect. After some members of the group threw stones at several policemen, authorities dispersed the crowd and fired some shots into the sky. In total, the entire incident lasted several minutes, with no casualties or injuries.

However, almost instantly, reports of the incident were twisted, mashed, mixed and remade to provide an account that was quite far from the reality. One of the most culpable was Aljazeera. Lately, it seems that anything negative is a treasure for Aljazeera. Associated Press, reporting from Ethiopia, the BBC, and others followed not too long after. The statement by the US Embassy in Eritrea, warning its citizens from going to the city center, was also somewhat ironic considering that people in the streets of Asmara are far safer than those in the US, who must regularly confront police brutality and killings, stop and frisk campaigns, regular mass shootings, and general violence.

Ironically, as more time passed by, the more twisted the reports became. By Wednesday, the story was completely distorted. The Washington Post and its Ethiopian writer – with an extensive history of reports on Eritrea that later ended up being debunked – stated that 100 were injured and 28 killed, despite the fact that there were no casualties and no one was injured. Notably, it was overlooked that the source for the claim was the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO), which is based in Ethiopia and is an internationally recognized terrorist group.

The Washington Post and its Ethiopian writer – with an extensive history of reports on Eritrea that later ended up being debunked – stated that 100 were injured and 28 killed, despite the fact that there were no casualties and no one was injured.

Expectedly, news outlets jumped on the new “fact” of multiple deaths and the story quickly began trending on Twitter. Repeated efforts at clarifying and providing an accurate account of the event were made by Eritreans, located both in the Diaspora and on the ground in Asmara, but they were largely ignored. Instead, self-titled experts on Eritrea and acknowledged regime change activists fueled the fire, and spread inaccurate, false accounts. Others would continue the lies by shifting the source of the youths’ discontent, and also claiming that the Internet, telephone lines, and power in the capital were cut – despite things proceeding as normal in the city. Soon afterwards, almost as expected, the AJStream started sending private messages to many on Twitter, inviting them on their show. Obvious, right?

It is hard to understand how, instead of pursuing the truth or trying to provide an objective, balanced account, mainstream media rejected information or views of people tweeting from on the ground in Asmara, dismissing them as “supporters of the dictatorship” or “regime sympathizers.” What mainstream media failed to understand, however, is that the great majority of Eritreans – regardless of gender, class, or faith – were disappointed and angry towards the youngsters. Eritrea is not a country divided along religious or ethnic lines.

Shortly after the brief, small incident things returned back to normal. Some men – ordinary civilians – did stay out during the night, but only to ensure that there would be no more incidents. Notably, no militia or army personnel were called in to stand guard; in Eritrea, the people themselves have a sense of ownership and civil responsibility, and the prevalent attitude was that no such incidents should happen again. Women even brought them food and drinks, and it was quite telling that both Muslims and Christians were standing together in solidarity and community, side by side. However, on the other side of the world, the media and the Internet were abuzz with fake news and false accounts.

It should be noted that, by law, Eritrea follows a secular system where religious schools and national curriculum of education are separate. The issue with the school being shut down was that some of the speeches by the staff were found to be radical and could have posed a threat to the tolerance and peace prevailing within the country. Similarly, in the past, other schools, such as Cathedrale (Catholic) and St. Mary’s (Orthodox), were also closed down illustrating that this latest closure had nothing to do with discrimination.

According to Eritrea’s National Charter of 1994, “the diverse cultures of Eritrea should be a source of power and unity. The national system should be secular, separate from religion, yet respectful of the equality of religions” (PFDJ 1994:9). This vision was enshrined during the long, bitter armed struggle where people from all layers of Eritrean society – regardless of religious background – came together to win the country’s independence.

In today’s Eritrea, implementing a secular system has helped ensure peace and tolerance in a region known more for its ethno-religious volatility, violence, and tensions. What mainstream media and individuals looking for storm and chaos in a general sea of calm totally fail to understand is that Eritreans have a long history of struggle. Eritreans paid a heavy price for independence and sovereignty, and the people condemn any signs of conflicts, violence, discrimination, or division. Thus, despite the continuous efforts to disturb this harmony, the country remains united and will continue to work toward a society based on peace, love, tolerance, and mutual respect.

Mela Ghebremedhin is a freelance journalist based in Asmara, Eritrea.

November 8, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Russia-gate Jumps the Shark

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | October 10, 2017

A key distinction between propaganda and journalism is that manipulative propaganda relies on exaggeration and deceit while honest journalism provides context and perspective. But what happens when the major news outlets of the world’s superpower become simply conveyor belts for warmongering propaganda?

That is a question that the American people now face as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and virtually the entire mainstream media hype ridiculously minor allegations about Russia’s “meddling” in American politics into front-page hysteria.

For instance, on Tuesday, the major news outlets were filled with the latest lurid chapter of Russia-gate, how Google, the Internet’s dominant search engine, had detected suspected “Russia-linked” accounts that bought several thousand dollars worth of ads.

The Washington Post ran this item as front-page news entitled “Google finds links to Russian disinformation in its services,” with the excited lede paragraph declaring: “Russian operatives bought ads across several of Google’s services without the company’s knowledge, the latest evidence that their campaign to influence U.S. voters was as sprawling as it was sophisticated in deploying the technology industry’s most powerful tools.”

Wow! That sounds serious. However, if you read deeply enough into the story, you discover that the facts are a wee bit less dramatic. The Post tells us:

“Google’s internal investigation found $4,700 of search ads and display ads that the company believes are Russian-connected, and found $53,000 of ads with political content that were purchased from Russian Internet providers, building addresses or with Russian currency, people familiar with the investigation said. …

“One Russian-linked account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called ‘You’ve Been Trumped,’ a film about Donald Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline, these people said. Another spent $30,000 on ads questioning whether President Obama needed to resign. Another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Obama.”

A journalist – rather than a propagandist – would immediately follow these figures with some context, i.e., that Google’s net digital ad sales revenue is about $70 billion annually. In other words, these tiny ad buys – with some alleged connection to Russia, a nation of 144 million people and not all Vladimir Putin’s “operatives” – are infinitesimal when put into any rational perspective.

A Dangerous Hysteria

But rationality is not what the Post and other U.S. mainstream news outlets are engaged in here. They are acting as propagandists determined to whip up a dangerous hysteria about being at “war” with nuclear-armed Russia and to delegitimize Trump’s election last year.

Photos by Gage Skidmore and derivative by Krassotkin

It doesn’t seem to matter that the facts don’t fit the desired narrative. First of all, none of this content, detected by Google, is “disinformation” as the Post claims, unless you consider a critical documentary about Trump’s Scottish golf course to be “disinformation,” or for that matter criticism and/or support for President Obama.

And, by the way, how does any of this material reveal a Russian plot to put Trump in the White House and to ensure Hillary Clinton’s defeat, which was the original Russia-gate narrative? Now, we’re being told that any Internet ads bought by Russians or maybe even by Americans living in Russia are part of some nefarious Kremlin plot even if the content is an anti-Trump documentary or some ads for or against President Obama, but nothing attacking Hillary Clinton.

This surely does not seem like evidence of a “sophisticated” campaign to influence U.S. politics, as the Post tells us; it is either an indication of a totally incoherent campaign or no campaign at all, just some random ads taken out by people in Russia possibly to increase clicks on a Web site or to sell some merchandise or to express their own opinions.

And, if you think that this latest Post story is an anomaly – that maybe some editor was having a bad day and just forgot to include the requisite perspective and balance – you’d be wrong.

The same journalistic failures have appeared in similar articles about Facebook and Twitter, which like Google didn’t detect any Russian  operation until put under intense pressure by influential members of Congress and then “found” a tiny number of “Russia-linked” accounts.

At Facebook, after two searches found nothing – and after a personal visit from Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a key legislator on the high-tech industry – the social media company turned up $100,000 in “Russia-linked” ads spread out over three years (compared to its annual revenue of $27 billion). Facebook also reported that only 44 percent of the ads appeared before the 2016 election.

Facing similar pressures from key members of Congress, Twitter identified 201 “Russia-linked” accounts (out of Twitter’s 328 million monthly users).

Tiny Pebbles

However, rather than include the comparative numbers which would show how nutty Russia-gate has become, the U.S. mainstream media systematically avoids any reference to how tiny the “Russia-linked” pebbles are when compared to the size of the very large lake into which they were allegedly tossed.

The mainstream Russia-gate narrative also keeps running up against other inconveniently contrary facts that then have to be explained away by the “responsible media.” For instance, The New York Times discovered that one of the “Russia-linked” Facebook groups was devoted to photos of “adorable puppies.” That left the “newspaper of record” musing about how nefarious the Russians must be to cloak their sinister operations behind puppies. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Mystery of the Russia-gate Puppies.”]

The alternative explanation, of course, is unthinkable at least within the confines of “acceptable thought”; the alternative being that there might be no sinister Kremlin campaign to poison American politics or to install Trump in the White House, that what we are witnessing is a mainstream stampede similar to what preceded the Iraq War in 2003.

In the run-up to that disastrous invasion, every tidbit of suspicion about Saddam Hussein hiding WMD was trumpeted loudly across the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major U.S. news outlets. The handful of dissenters who questioned the groupthink were ignored or dismissed as “Saddam apologists”; most were essentially banned from the public square.

Another similarity is that in both cases the U.S. government was injecting large sums of money that helped finance the pro-war propaganda. In the Iraq case, Congress funded the Iraqi National Congress, which helped generate false WMD claims that were then accepted credulously by the U.S. mainstream media.

In the Russia-gate case, Congress has authorized tens of millions of dollars to combat alleged Russian “propaganda and disinformation,” a sum that is creating a feeding frenzy among “scholars” and other “experts” to produce reports that support the anti-Russia narrative. [See Consortiumnews.com’sThe Slimy Business of Russia-gate.”]

Of course, the big difference between Iraq in 2003 and Russia in 2017 is that as catastrophic as the Iraq invasion was, it pales against the potential for thermo-nuclear war that could lie at the end of this latest hysteria.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

October 10, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

Smoking gun or nothingburger? WaPo claims Russia ‘meddled’ in election through Google, YouTube

RT | October 9, 2017

In the latest of its near-weekly scoops, the Washington Post has claimed that “Russian operatives exploited Google’s platforms to interfere in the 2016 election.” However, as previously, its own evidence can’t bear the weight of its allegations.

While the report did genuinely break the news of an internal investigation at the California tech giant, which Google has since confirmed, it waits until paragraph six to specify what it has found so far.

“The people familiar with its investigation said that the company is looking at a set of ads that cost less than $100,000 and that it is still sorting out whether all of the ads came from trolls or whether some originated from legitimate Russian accounts,” write the authors.

Even if the figure involved is closer to $100,000 than, say, $10,000, it is notable that the two leading candidates in the 2016 election spent at least $1.8 billion, with Hillary Clinton outspending the winning candidate Donald Trump by a factor of two to one. Evidently, she didn’t have genius Russian “trolls” authoring her ads. But then again, the authors go on to note that “the number of ads posted and the number of times those ads were clicked on could not be learned” by Google, so maybe not.

The second part of the statement – about “legitimate Russian accounts” – seems to run even more contrary to the tenor of the report, suggesting in fact that adverts being audited may represent normal spending after all, something the Washington Post omitted from its headline and intro.

The use of anonymous sources – “people familiar”  that also later featured in a Reuters version of the report – to make claims about Russia that go beyond the factual, even in situations where there is no fundamental security reason to stay off the record, has become too common to produce more than a disappointed sigh.

But there is more.

“The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook – a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far,” write Elizabeth Dwoskin and Adam Entous, responsible for many of the newspaper’s Russian-tech-meddling stories.

So, when a “Kremlin-affiliated troll farm” buys adverts, it is evidence of Russian meddling, but when that “troll farm” doesn’t buy adverts, it is also evidence of Russian meddling, indeed perhaps “broader” in scope?

It is in fact not until the penultimate paragraph of the story that the method of the investigation is revealed.

“Google downloaded [historical tweet] data from Twitter and was able to link Russian Twitter accounts to other accounts that had used Google’s services to buy ads,” write Dwoskin and Entous.

So, from this it appears that Google has simply identified Russian Twitter accounts, and tried to find which of them bought ads on YouTube and its DoubleClick ad network – and that’s it so far. In fact, somewhat sheepishly, the authors admit in the very last paragraph that “Google’s probe is still in its early stages.”

And that is fine. But now cycle back to the claims made in the headline and compare. Why not just report the investigation? Why the tenuous insinuations and overblown allegations?

Dwoskin is the newspaper’s Silicon Valley correspondent, Entous has two decades’ experience as a well-known security, intelligence and foreign affairs correspondent. Yet over the past year the stories by  them and others from the same newsroom, have resulted in multiple retractions, denials, and instant  takedowns.

That is not to say that they are no longer capable of credible journalism. Almost apropos of nothing in their attempt to see what sticks, at one point they state “RT also has a sizeable presence on YouTube.” That part is definitely true.

October 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Antifa in Theory and in Practice

By Diana Johnstone | CounterPunch | October 9, 2017

Fascists are divided into two categories: the fascists and the anti-fascists.”

– Ennio Flaiano, Italian writer and co-author of Federico Fellini’s greatest film scripts.

In recent weeks, a totally disoriented left has been widely exhorted to unify around a masked vanguard calling itself Antifa, for anti-fascist.  Hooded and dressed in black, Antifa is essentially a variation of the Black Bloc, familiar for introducing violence into peaceful demonstrations in many countries. Imported from Europe, the label Antifa sounds more political.  It also serves the purpose of stigmatizing those it attacks as “fascists”.

Despite its imported European name, Antifa is basically just another example of America’s steady descent into violence.

Historical Pretensions

Antifa first came to prominence from its role in reversing Berkeley’s proud “free speech” tradition by preventing right wing personalities from speaking there. But its moment of glory was its clash with rightwingers in Charlottesville on August 12, largely because Trump commented that there were “good people on both sides”. With exuberant Schadenfreude, commentators grabbed the opportunity to condemn the despised President for his “moral equivalence”, thereby bestowing a moral blessing on Antifa.

Charlottesville served as a successful book launching for Antifa: the Antifascist Handbook, whose author, young academic Mark Bray, is an Antifa in both theory and practice. The book is “really taking off very fast”, rejoiced the publisher, Melville House. It instantly won acclaim from leading mainstream media such as the New York Times, The Guardian and NBC, not hitherto known for rushing to review leftwing books, least of all those by revolutionary anarchists.

The Washington Post welcomed Bray as spokesman for “insurgent activist movements” and observed that: “The book’s most enlightening contribution is on the history of anti-fascist efforts over the past century, but its most relevant for today is its justification for stifling speech and clobbering white supremacists.”

Bray’s “enlightening contribution” is to a tell a flattering version of the Antifa story to a generation whose dualistic, Holocaust-centered view of history has largely deprived them of both the factual and the analytical tools to judge multidimensional events such as the growth of fascism. Bray presents today’s Antifa as though it were the glorious legitimate heir to every noble cause since abolitionism. But there were no anti-fascists before fascism, and the label “Antifa” by no means applies to all the many adversaries of fascism.

The implicit claim to carry on the tradition of the International Brigades who fought in Spain against Franco is nothing other than a form of innocence by association. Since we must revere the heroes of the Spanish Civil War, some of that esteem is supposed to rub off on their self-designated heirs. Unfortunately, there are no veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade still alive to point to the difference between a vast organized defense against invading fascist armies and skirmishes on the Berkeley campus. As for the Anarchists of Catalonia, the patent on anarchism ran out a long time ago, and anyone is free to market his own generic.

The original Antifascist movement was an effort by the Communist International to cease hostilities with Europe’s Socialist Parties in order to build a common front against the triumphant movements led by Mussolini and Hitler.

Since Fascism thrived, and Antifa was never a serious adversary, its apologists thrive on the “nipped in the bud” claim: “if only” Antifascists had beat up the fascist movements early enough, the latter would have been nipped in the bud. Since reason and debate failed to stop the rise of fascism, they argue, we must use street violence – which, by the way, failed even more decisively.

This is totally ahistorical. Fascism exalted violence, and violence was its preferred testing ground. Both Communists and Fascists were fighting in the streets and the atmosphere of violence helped fascism thrive as a bulwark against Bolshevism, gaining the crucial support of leading capitalists and militarists in their countries, which brought them to power.

Since historic fascism no longer exists, Bray’s Antifa have broadened their notion of “fascism” to include anything that violates the current Identity Politics canon: from “patriarchy” (a pre-fascist attitude to put it mildly) to “transphobia” (decidedly a post-fascist problem).

The masked militants of Antifa seem to be more inspired by Batman than by Marx or even by Bakunin.

Storm Troopers of the Neoliberal War Party

Since Mark Bray offers European credentials for current U.S. Antifa, it is appropriate to observe what Antifa amounts to in Europe today.

In Europe, the tendency takes two forms. Black Bloc activists regularly invade various leftist demonstrations in order to smash windows and fight the police. These testosterone exhibits are of minor political significance, other than provoking public calls to strengthen police forces. They are widely suspected of being influenced by police infiltration.

As an example, last September 23, several dozen black-clad masked ruffians, tearing down posters and throwing stones, attempted to storm the platform where the flamboyant Jean-Luc Mélenchon was to address the mass meeting of La France Insoumise, today the leading leftist party in France. Their unspoken message seemed to be that nobody is revolutionary enough for them. Occasionally, they do actually spot a random skinhead to beat up. This establishes their credentials as “anti-fascist”.

They use these credentials to arrogate to themselves the right to slander others in a sort of informal self-appointed inquisition.

As prime example, in late 2010, a young woman named Ornella Guyet appeared in Paris seeking work as a journalist in various leftist periodicals and blogs. She “tried to infiltrate everywhere”, according to the former director of Le Monde diplomatique, Maurice Lemoine, who “always intuitively distrusted her” when he hired her as an intern.

Viktor Dedaj, who manages one of the main leftist sites in France, Le Grand Soir, was among those who tried to help her, only to experience an unpleasant surprise a few months later. Ornella had become a self-appointed inquisitor dedicated to denouncing “conspirationism, confusionism, anti-Semitism and red-brown” on Internet. This took the form of personal attacks on individuals whom she judged to be guilty of those sins. What is significant is that all her targets were opposed to U.S. and NATO aggressive wars in the Middle East.

Indeed, the timing of her crusade coincided with the “regime change” wars that destroyed Libya and tore apart Syria. The attacks singled out leading critics of those wars.

Viktor Dedaj was on her hit list. So was Michel Collon, close to the Belgian Workers Party, author, activist and manager of the bilingual site Investig’action. So was François Ruffin, film-maker, editor of the leftist journal Fakir elected recently to the National Assembly on the list of Mélenchon’s party La France Insoumise. And so on. The list is long.

The targeted personalities are diverse, but all have one thing in common: opposition to aggressive wars. What’s more, so far as I can tell, just about everyone opposed to those wars is on her list.

The main technique is guilt by association. High on the list of mortal sins is criticism of the European Union, which is associated with “nationalism” which is associated with “fascism” which is associated with “anti-Semitism”, hinting at a penchant for genocide. This coincides perfectly with the official policy of the EU and EU governments, but Antifa uses much harsher language.

In mid-June 2011, the anti-EU party Union Populaire Républicaine led by François Asselineau was the object of slanderous insinuations on Antifa internet sites signed by “Marie-Anne Boutoleau” (a pseudonym for Ornella Guyet). Fearing violence, owners cancelled scheduled UPR meeting places in Lyon. UPR did a little investigation, discovering that Ornella Guyet was on the speakers list at a March 2009 Seminar on International Media organized in Paris by the Center for the Study of International Communications and the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. A surprising association for such a zealous crusader against “red-brown”.

In case anyone has doubts, “red-brown” is a term used to smear anyone with generally leftist views – that is, “red” – with the fascist color “brown”.  This smear can be based on having the same opinion as someone on the right, speaking on the same platform with someone on the right, being published alongside someone on the right, being seen at an anti-war demonstration also attended by someone on the right, and so on.  This is particularly useful for the War Party, since these days, many conservatives are more opposed to war than leftists who have bought into the “humanitarian war” mantra.

The government doesn’t need to repress anti-war gatherings. Antifa does the job.

The Franco-African comedien Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, stigmatized for anti-Semitism since 2002 for his TV sketch lampooning an Israeli settler as part of George W. Bush’s “Axis of Good”, is not only a target, but serves as a guilty association for anyone who defends his right to free speech – such as Belgian professor Jean Bricmont, virtually blacklisted in France for trying to get in a word in favor of free speech during a TV talk show. Dieudonné has been banned from the media, sued and fined countless times, even sentenced to jail in Belgium, but continues to enjoy a full house of enthusiastic supporters at his one-man shows, where the main political message is opposition to war.

Still, accusations of being soft on Dieudonné can have serious effects on individuals in more precarious positions, since the mere hint of “anti-Semitism” can be a career killer in France. Invitations are cancelled, publications refused, messages go unanswered.

In April 2016, Ornella Guyet dropped out of sight, amid strong suspicions about her own peculiar associations.

The moral of this story is simple. Self-appointed radical revolutionaries can be the most useful thought police for the neoliberal war party.

I am not suggesting that all, or most, Antifa are agents of the establishment. But they can be manipulated, infiltrated or impersonated precisely because they are self-anointed and usually more or less disguised.

Silencing Necessary Debate

One who is certainly sincere is Mark Bray, author of The Intifa Handbook. It is clear where Mark Bray is coming from when he writes (p.36-7): “… Hitler’s ‘final solution’ murdered six million Jews in gas chambers, with firing squads, through hunger an lack of medical treatment in squalid camps and ghettoes, with beatings, by working them to death, and through suicidal despair.  Approximately two out of every three Jews on the continent were killed, including some of my relatives.”

This personal history explains why Mark Bray feels passionately about “fascism”. This is perfectly understandable in one who is haunted by fear that “it can happen again”.

However, even the most justifiable emotional concerns do not necessarily contribute to wise counsel. Violent reactions to fear may seem to be strong and effective when in reality they are morally weak and practically ineffectual.

We are in a period of great political confusion. Labeling every manifestation of “political incorrectness” as fascism impedes clarification of debate over issues that very much need to be defined and clarified.

The scarcity of fascists has been compensated by identifying criticism of immigration as fascism. This identification, in connection with rejection of national borders, derives much of its emotional force above all from the ancestral fear in the Jewish community of being excluded from the nations in which they find themselves.

The issue of immigration has different aspects in different places. It is not the same in European countries as in the United States. There is a basic distinction between immigrants and immigration. Immigrants are people who deserve consideration. Immigration is a policy that needs to be evaluated. It should be possible to discuss the policy without being accused of persecuting the people. After all, trade union leaders have traditionally opposed mass immigration, not out of racism, but because it can be a deliberate capitalist strategy to bring down wages.

In reality, immigration is a complex subject, with many aspects that can lead to reasonable compromise. But to polarize the issue misses the chances for compromise. By making mass immigration the litmus test of whether or not one is fascist, Antifa intimidation impedes reasonable discussion. Without discussion, without readiness to listen to all viewpoints, the issue will simply divide the population into two camps, for and against. And who will win such a confrontation?

A recent survey* shows that mass immigration is increasingly unpopular in all European countries. The complexity of the issue is shown by the fact that in the vast majority of European countries, most people believe they have a duty to welcome refugees, but disapprove of continued mass immigration. The official argument that immigration is a good thing is accepted by only 40%, compared to 60% of all Europeans who believe that “immigration is bad for our country”. A left whose principal cause is open borders will become increasingly unpopular.

Childish Violence

The idea that the way to shut someone up is to punch him in the jaw is as American as Hollywood movies. It is also typical of the gang war that prevails in certain parts of Los Angeles. Banding together with others “like us” to fight against gangs of “them” for control of turf is characteristic of young men in uncertain circumstances. The search for a cause can involve endowing such conduct with a political purpose: either fascist or antifascist. For disoriented youth, this is an alternative to joining the U.S. Marines.

American Antifa looks very much like a middle class wedding between Identity Politics and gang warfare. Mark Bray (page 175) quotes his DC Antifa source as implying that the motive of would-be fascists is to side with “the most powerful kid in the block” and will retreat if scared. Our gang is tougher than your gang.

That is also the logic of U.S. imperialism, which habitually declares of its chosen enemies: “All they understand is force.” Although Antifa claim to be radical revolutionaries, their mindset is perfectly typical the atmosphere of violence which prevails in militarized America.

In another vein, Antifa follows the trend of current Identity Politics excesses that are squelching free speech in what should be its citadel, academia.  Words are considered so dangerous that “safe spaces” must be established to protect people from them. This extreme vulnerability to injury from words is strangely linked to tolerance of real physical violence.

Wild Goose Chase

In the United States, the worst thing about Antifa is the effort to lead the disoriented American left into a wild goose chase, tracking down imaginary “fascists” instead of getting together openly to work out a coherent positive program. The United States has more than its share of weird individuals, of gratuitous aggression, of crazy ideas, and tracking down these marginal characters, whether alone or in groups, is a huge distraction. The truly dangerous people in the United States are safely ensconced in Wall Street, in Washington Think Tanks, in the executive suites of the sprawling military industry, not to mention the editorial offices of some of the mainstream media currently adopting a benevolent attitude toward “anti-fascists” simply because they are useful in focusing on the maverick Trump instead of themselves.

Antifa USA, by defining “resistance to fascism” as resistance to lost causes – the Confederacy, white supremacists and for that matter Donald Trump – is actually distracting from resistance to the ruling neoliberal establishment, which is also opposed to the Confederacy and white supremacists and has already largely managed to capture Trump by its implacable campaign of denigration. That ruling establishment, which in its insatiable foreign wars and introduction of police state methods, has successfully used popular “resistance to Trump” to make him even worse than he already was.

The facile use of the term “fascist” gets in the way of thoughtful identification and definition of the real enemy of humanity today. In the contemporary chaos, the greatest and most dangerous upheavals in the world all stem from the same source, which is hard to name, but which we might give the provisional simplified label of Globalized Imperialism. This amounts to a multifaceted project to reshape the world to satisfy the demands of financial capitalism, the military industrial complex, United States ideological vanity and the megalomania of leaders of lesser “Western” powers, notably Israel. It could be called simply “imperialism”, except that it is much vaster and more destructive than the historic imperialism of previous centuries. It is also much more disguised. And since it bears no clear label such as “fascism”, it is difficult to denounce in simple terms.

The fixation on preventing a form of tyranny that arose over 80 years ago, under very different circumstances, obstructs recognition of the monstrous tyranny of today. Fighting the previous war leads to defeat.

Donald Trump is an outsider who will not be let inside. The election of Donald Trump is above all a grave symptom of the decadence of the American political system, totally ruled by money, lobbies, the military-industrial complex and corporate media. Their lies are undermining the very basis of democracy. Antifa has gone on the offensive against the one weapon still in the hands of the people: the right to free speech and assembly.

Notes.

* «Où va la démocratie?», une enquête  de la Fondation pour l’innovation politique sous la direction de Dominique Reynié, (Plon, Paris, 2017).

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions. Her new book is Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. She can be reached at diana.johnstone@wanadoo.fr

October 9, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WaPo forced to retract claim that Obama told Zuckerberg to tackle alleged Russian meddling

RT | September 27, 2017

The Washington Post has been forced to remove Russia from the headline and alter the content of its front-page “scoop” over a supposed conversation between Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, after the social network denied the newspaper’s claims.

Under the headline “Obama sought to prod Facebook on Russia role,” the three-author story alleged that “Obama and his top aides quietly agonized over how to respond to Russia’s brazen intervention on behalf of the Donald Trump” prior to the 2016 election, before the last US president “pulled the youthful tech billionaire aside and delivered what he hoped would be a wake-up call” last November.

Only this is not what the exchange at the APEC conference in Peru on November 19, 2016 was about – and there was no mention of political interference from Moscow or anyone else.

“Their conversation was about misinformation and false news, which Mark had addressed the previous day in a post that outlined specific steps Facebook was taking to combat these challenges. The discussion did not include any references to possible foreign interference or suggestions about confronting threats to Facebook,” the social network in a statement.

Obama’s representatives have declined to comment on the Washington Post story.

The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has changed the story title in its online archive, and says its piece has now been “updated with an additional response from Facebook.”

The authors used the misrepresented Obama conversation as a hook into a 2,500-word report about the social network’s slowness in catching on to, and counteracting purported Russian meddling, and to put forward expert claims that it “dragged its feet and is acting only now because of outside political pressure.”

“We believe in the power of democracy, which is why we’re taking this work on elections integrity so seriously, and have come forward at every opportunity to share what we’ve found,” Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president for public policy and communications, told the Washington Post in response.

Read more:

‘Where are the Russians?’ WaPo worried it can’t find Kremlin hackers in German election

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

The Rise of the New McCarthyism

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 26, 2107

Make no mistake about it: the United States has entered an era of a New McCarthyism that blames nearly every political problem on Russia and has begun targeting American citizens who don’t go along with this New Cold War propaganda.

A difference, however, from the McCarthyism of the 1950s is that this New McCarthyism has enlisted Democrats, liberals and even progressives in the cause because of their disgust with President Trump; the 1950s version was driven by Republicans and the Right with much of the Left on the receiving end, maligned by the likes of Sen. Joe McCarthy as “un-American” and as Communism’s “fellow travelers.”

The real winners in this New McCarthyism appear to be the neoconservatives who have leveraged the Democratic/liberal hatred of Trump to draw much of the Left into the political hysteria that sees the controversy over alleged Russian political “meddling” as an opportunity to “get Trump.”

Already, the neocons and their allies have exploited the anti-Russian frenzy to extract tens of millions of dollars more from the taxpayers for programs to “combat Russian propaganda,” i.e., funding of non-governmental organizations and “scholars” who target dissident Americans for challenging the justifications for this New Cold War.

The Washington Post, which for years has served as the flagship for neocon propaganda, is again charting the new course for America, much as it did in rallying U.S. public backing for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in building sympathy for abortive “regime change” projects aimed at Syria and Iran. The Post has begun blaming almost every unpleasant development in the world on Russia! Russia! Russia!

For instance, a Post editorial on Tuesday shifted the blame for the anemic victory of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the surprising strength of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) from Merkel’s austerity policies, which have caused hardship for much of the working class, or from her open door for Mideast refugees, which has destabilized some working-class neighborhoods, to – you guessed it – Russia!

The evidence, as usual, is vague and self-interested, but sure to be swallowed by many Democrats and liberals, who hate Russia because they blame it for Trump, and by lots of Republicans and conservatives, who have a residual hatred for Russia left over from the Old Cold War.

The Post cited the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which has been pushing much of the hysteria about alleged Russian activities on the Internet. The Atlantic Council essentially is NATO’s think tank and is financed with money from the U.S. government, Gulf oil states, military contractors, global financial institutions and many other sources which stand to gain directly or indirectly from the expanding U.S. military budget and NATO interventions.

Blaming Russia

In this New Cold War, the Russians get blamed for not only disrupting some neocon “regime change” projects, such as the proxy war in Syria, but also political developments in the West, such as Donald Trump’s election and AfD’s rise in Germany.

The Atlantic Council’s digital lab claimed, according to the Post editorial, that “In the final hours of the [German] campaign, online supporters of the AfD began warning their base of possible election fraud, and the online alarms were ‘driven by anonymous troll accounts and boosted by a Russian-language bot-net.’”

Of course, the Post evinces no evidence tying any of this to the Russian government or to President Vladimir Putin. It is the nature of McCarthyism that actual evidence is not required, just heavy breathing and dark suspicions. For those of us who operate Web sites, “trolls” – some volunteers and some professionals – have become a common annoyance and they represent many political outlooks, not just Russian.

Plus, it is standard procedure these days for campaigns to issue last-minute alarms to their supporters about possible election fraud to raise doubts about the results should the outcome be disappointing.

The U.S. government has engaged in precisely this strategy around the world, having pro-U.S. parties not only complain about election fraud but to take to the streets in violent protests to impugn the legitimacy of election outcomes. That U.S. strategy has been applied to places such as Ukraine (the Orange Revolution in 2004); Iran (the Green Revolution in 2009); Russia (the Snow Revolution in 2011); and many other locations.

Pre-election alerts also have become a feature in U.S. elections, even in 2016 when both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton raised questions about the legitimacy of the balloting, albeit for different reasons.

Yet, instead of seeing the AfD maneuver as a typical ploy by a relatively minor party – and the German election outcome as an understandable reflection of voter discontent and weariness over Merkel’s three terms as Chancellor – the Atlantic Council and the Post see Russians under every bed and particularly Putin.

Loving to Hate Putin

In the world of neocon propaganda, Putin has become the great bête noire, since he has frustrated a variety of neocon schemes. He helped head off a major U.S. military strike against Syria in 2013; he aided President Obama in achieving the Iran nuclear agreement in 2014-15; Putin opposed and – to a degree – frustrated the neocon-supported coup in Ukraine in 2014; and he ultimately supplied the air power that defeated neocon-backed “rebel” forces in Syria in 2015-17.

So, the Post and the neocons want Putin gone – and they have used gauzy allegations about “Russian meddling” in the U.S. and other elections as the new propaganda theme to justify destabilizing Russia with economic sanctions and, if possible, engineering another “regime change” project in Moscow.

None of this is even secret. Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, publicly proclaimed the goal of ousting Putin in an op-ed in The Washington Post, writing: “The United States has the power to contain and defeat this danger. The issue is whether we can summon the will to do so.”

But the way neocon propaganda works is that the U.S. and its allies are always the victims of some nefarious enemy who must be thwarted to protect all that is good in the world. In other words, even as NED and other U.S.-funded operations take aim at Putin and Russia, Russia and Putin must be transformed into the aggressors.

“Mr. Putin would like nothing better than to generate doubts, fog, cracks and uncertainty around the German pillar of Europe,” the Post editorial said. “He relishes infiltrating chaos and mischief into open societies. In this case, supporting the far-right AfD is extraordinarily cynical, given how many millions of Russians died to defeat the fascists seven decades ago.”

Not to belabor the point but there is no credible evidence that Putin did any of this. There is a claim by the virulently anti-Russian Atlantic Council that some “anonymous troll accounts” promoted some AfD complaint about possible voter fraud and that it was picked up by “a Russian-language bot-net.” Even if that is true – and the Atlantic Council is far from an objective source – where is the link to Putin?

Not everything that happens in Russia, a nation of 144 million people, is ordered by Putin. But the Post would have you believe that it is. It is the centerpiece of this neocon conspiracy theory.

Silencing Dissent

Similarly, any American who questions this propaganda immediately is dismissed as a “Kremlin stooge” or a “Russian propagandist,” another ugly campaign spearheaded by the Post and the neocons. Again, no evidence is required, just some analysis that what you’re saying somehow parallels something Putin has said.

On Tuesday, in what amounted to a companion piece for the editorial, a Post article again pushed the unproven suspicions about “Russian operatives” buying $100,000 in Facebook ads from 2015 into 2017 to supposedly influence U.S. politics. Once again, no evidence required.

In the article, the Post also reminds its readers that Moscow has a history of focusing on social inequities in the U.S., which gets us back to the comparisons between the Old McCarthyism and the new.

Yes, it’s true that the Soviet Union denounced America’s racial segregation and cited that ugly feature of U.S. society in expressing solidarity with the American civil rights movement and national liberation struggles in Africa. It’s also true that American Communists collaborated with the domestic civil rights movement to promote racial integration.

That was a key reason why J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI targeted Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American leaders – because of their association with known or suspected Communists. (Similarly, the Reagan administration resisted support for Nelson Mandela because his African National Congress accepted Communist support in its battle against South Africa’s Apartheid white-supremacist regime.)

Interestingly, one of the arguments from liberal national Democrats in opposing segregation in the 1960s was that the repression of American blacks undercut U.S. diplomatic efforts to develop allies in Africa. In other words, Soviet and Communist criticism of America’s segregation actually helped bring about the demise of that offensive system.

Yet, King’s association with alleged Communists remained a talking point of die-hard segregationists even after his assassination when they opposed creating a national holiday in his honor in the 1980s.

These parallels between the Old McCarthyism and the New McCarthyism are implicitly acknowledged in the Post’s news article on Tuesday, which cites Putin’s criticism of police killings of unarmed American blacks as evidence that he is meddling in U.S. politics.

“Since taking office, Putin has on occasion sought to spotlight racial tensions in the United States as a means of shaping perceptions of American society,” the article states. “Putin injected himself in 2014 into the race debate after protests broke out in Ferguson, Mo., over the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an African American, by a white police officer.

“‘Do you believe that everything is perfect now from the point of view of democracy in the United States?’ Putin told CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ program. ‘If everything was perfect, there wouldn’t be the problem of Ferguson. There would be no abuse by the police. But our task is to see all these problems and respond properly.’”

The Post’s speculative point seems to be that Putin’s response included having “Russian operatives” buy some ads on Facebook to exploit these racial tensions, but there is no evidence to support that conspiracy theory.

However, as this anti-Russia hysteria spreads, we may soon see Americans who also protest the police killing of unarmed black men denounced as “Putin’s fellow-travelers,” much as King and other civil rights leaders were smeared as “Communist dupes.”

Ignoring Reality

So, instead of Democrats and Chancellor Merkel looking in the mirror and seeing the real reasons why many white working-class voters are turning toward “populist” and “extremist” alternatives, they can simply blame Putin and continue a crackdown on Internet-based dissent as the work of “Russian operatives.”

Already, under the guise of combating “Russian propaganda” and “fake news,” Google, Facebook and other tech giants have begun introducing algorithms to hunt down and marginalize news that challenges official U.S. government narratives on hot-button issues such as Ukraine and Syria. Again, no evidence is required, just the fact that Putin may have said something similar.

As Democrats, liberals and even some progressives join in this Russia-gate hysteria – driven by their hatred of Donald Trump and his supposedly “fascistic” tendencies – they might want to consider whom they’ve climbed into bed with and what these neocons have in mind for the future.

Arguably, if fascism or totalitarianism comes to the United States, it is more likely to arrive in the guise of “protecting democracy” from Russia or another foreign adversary than from a reality-TV clown like Donald Trump.

The New McCarthyism with its Orwellian-style algorithms might seem like a clever way to neutralize (or maybe even help oust) Trump but – long after Trump is gone – a structure for letting the neocons and the mainstream media monopolize American political debate might be a far greater threat to both democracy and peace.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 3 Comments

Washington Post Pushes More Dubious Russia-bashing

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | September 25, 2017

Some people are calling the anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up across the U.S. mainstream news media a new “golden age of American journalism,” although it looks to me more like a new age of yellow journalism, prepping the people for more military spending, more “information warfare” and more actual war.

Yes, without doubt, President Trump is a boorish and dangerous demagogue, now highlighted by his reckless speech before the United Nations last week, his schoolyard Tweet taunts toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his ugly denunciation of black athletes for protesting against police killings of often unarmed African-Americans.

And, yes, I know that some people feel that the evidence-lite and/or false allegations about “Russian meddling” are the golden ticket to Trump’s impeachment. But the unprofessional behavior of The New York Times, The Washington Post and pretty much the entire mainstream media regarding Russia-gate cannot be properly justified by the goal of removing Trump from office.

Ethically in journalism, the ends – however much you might wish them to succeed – cannot justify the means, if those means involve violating rules of evidence and principles of fairness. Journalism should be a place where all sides get a fair shake, not where some get a bum’s rush.

But the U.S. mainstream media has clearly joined the anti-Trump Resistance and hates Russian President Vladimir Putin, too. So, we are given such travesties of journalism as appeared as a banner headline across the front page of Monday’s Washington Post, another screed about how Russia supposedly used Facebook ads to flip last November’s election for Trump.

The article purports to give the inside story of how Facebook belatedly came to grips with how the “company’s social network played a key role in the U.S. election,” but actually it is a story about how powerful politicians bullied Facebook into coming up with something – anything – to support the narrative of “Russian meddling,” including direct interventions by President Obama and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a key legislator regarding regulation of high-tech industries.

Finding the ‘Evidence’

In other words, Facebook was sent back again and again to find what Obama and Warner wanted the social media company to find. Eventually, Facebook turned up $100,000 in ads from 2015 into 2017 that supposedly were traced somehow to Russia. These ads apparently addressed political issues in America although Facebook has said most did not pertain directly to the presidential election and some ads were purchased after the election.

Left out of the Post’s latest opus is what a very small pebble these ads were – even assuming that Russians did toss the $100,000 or so in ad buys into the very large lake of billions of dollars in U.S. political spending for the 2016 election cycle. It also amounts to a miniscule fraction of Facebook’s $27 billion in annual revenue.

So the assertion that this alleged “meddling” – and we’ve yet to see any evidence connecting these ads to the Russian government – “played a key role in the U.S. election” is both silly and outrageous, especially given the risks involved in stoking animosities between nuclear-armed Russia and nuclear-armed America.

Even the Post’s alarmist article briefly acknowledges that it is still unclear who bought the ads, referring to the purchasers as “suspected Russian operatives.” In other words, we don’t even know that the $100,000 in ads over three years came from Russians seeking to influence the U.S. election. (By comparison, many Facebook advertisers – even some small businesses – spend $100,000 per day on their ads, not $100,000 over three years.)

But this diminutive effort by “suspected Russian operatives” doesn’t stop the Post from going on and on about “fake news” and “disinformation,” albeit again without offering evidence or specifics of any Russian “fake news” or “disinformation.”

It has simply become Official Washington’s new groupthink to say that everything linked to Russia or its international TV network RT is “fake news” or “disinformation” even though examples are lacking or often turn out to be false accusations themselves.

For instance, there is nothing in the Post’s article acknowledging that nothing from the various Democratic email disclosures, which have been blamed on Russia (again without real evidence), has been identified as untrue. So, how can truthful information, whether you like how it was obtained or not, be “fake news” or “disinformation”?

Falsehood as Fact

But Monday’s Post exposé simply asserts the claim as flat fact. Or as the article asserts: “what Russian operatives posted on Facebook was, for the most part, indistinguishable from legitimate political speech. The difference was the accounts that were set up to spread the misinformation and hate were illegitimate.”

In responsible journalism, such an accusation would be followed by a for-instance, giving an example of “the misinformation and hate” that the “Russian operatives” – note how they have been magically transformed from “suspected Russian operatives” to simply “Russian operatives” – were disseminating.

But there is no example of the Russian “misinformation and hate,” a classic violation of the reporting principle of “show, don’t tell.” In this story, it’s all tell and no show.

Indeed, what is shown in the article is often contradictory to the story’s conclusion. The article says, for instance, “A review by the company found that most of the groups behind the problematic pages had clear financial motives, which suggested that they weren’t working for a foreign government. But amid the mass of data the company was analyzing, the security team did not find clear evidence of Russian disinformation or ad purchases by Russian-linked accounts.”

So, Facebook initially – after extensive searching – did not find evidence of a Russian operation. Then, after continued pressure from high-level Democrats, Facebook continued to scour its system and again found nothing, or as the Post article acknowledged, Facebook “had searched extensively for evidence of foreign purchases of political advertising but had come up short.”

That prompted Warner to fly out to Silicon Valley to personally press Facebook executives to come up with the evidence to support the Democrats’ theory about Russia paying for carefully targeted anti-Clinton ads in key districts.

The Post’s article reported that “Finally, [Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex] Stamos appealed to Warner for help: If U.S. intelligence agencies had any information about the Russian operation or the troll farms it used to disseminate misinformation, they should share it with Facebook. The company is still waiting, people involved in the matter said.”

Under Pressure

Still, faced with extraordinary pressure from senior Democrats, Facebook finally delivered the desired results, or as the Post reported, “By early August, Facebook had identified more than 3,000 ads addressing social and political issues that ran in the United States between 2015 and 2017 and that appear to have come from accounts associated with the [St. Petersburg, Russia-based] Internet Research Agency.”

So, the ads covering three years, including post-election 2017, only “appear” to be “associated” with some private Russian operation that only allegedly has ties to the Kremlin. And the total sums of the ad buys are infinitesimal compared to what it actually takes to have any real impact on Facebook or in a U.S. presidential election.

If the context of this story were changed slightly – say, it was about the U.S. government trying to influence public opinion in another country (which actually does happen quite a bit) – the Post would be among the first news outlets to laugh off such allegations or dismiss the vague accusations as a conspiracy theory, but since these allegations fit with the prejudices of the Post’s editors, an entirely different set of journalistic standards is applied.

What the article also ignores is the extraordinary degree of coercion that such high-level political pressure can put on a company that recognizes its vulnerability to government regulation.

As Facebook has acknowledged in corporate filings, “Action by governments to restrict access to Facebook in their countries could substantially harm our business and financial results. It is possible that governments of one or more countries may seek to censor content available on Facebook in their country, restrict access to Facebook from their country entirely, or impose other restrictions that may affect the accessibility of Facebook in their country for an extended period of time or indefinitely. …

“In the event that access to Facebook is restricted, in whole or in part, in one or more countries or our competitors are able to successfully penetrate geographic markets that we cannot access, our ability to retain or increase our user base and user engagement may be adversely affected, we may not be able to maintain or grow our revenue as anticipated, and our financial results could be adversely affected.”

Avoiding Reality

In other words, another way to have framed this story is that powerful politicians who could severely harm Facebook’s business model were getting in the face of Facebook executives and essentially demanding that they come up with something to support the Democratic Party’s theory of “Russian meddling.”

The Democratic leaders wanted this finding as an explanation for Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, rather than going through the painful process of examining why the party has steadily lost ground in white working-class areas across the country.

What is missed in these Russia-bashing articles is that the Democratic brand has been sinking for years, including massive losses in statehouses across the country as well as in Congress. The party’s decline was not a one-off event with Donald Trump suddenly snaking away with significant parts of the white working class because the Russians bought some Facebook ads.

However, instead of looking in the mirror, national Democrats demanded that Facebook executives ferret out whatever tiny or imaginary information there might be about some Russians buying Facebook ads – and then allow those coerced findings to be fed into the excuse industry for why Hillary Clinton lost.

And, what about the Post’s repeated accusations about Russia engaging in “disinformation” and “fake news” without offering a single example? Apparently, these assertions have become such articles of faith in the U.S. mainstream media that they don’t require any proof.

However, honest journalism demands examples and evidence, not just vague accusations. The reality is that the U.S. government has stumbled again and again when seeking to paint RT as a disinformation outlet or a vehicle for undermining American democracy.

For instance, the Jan. 6 report on alleged Russian “cyber operations,” released by Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, included a lengthy appendix, dated from 2012, which decried RT for such offenses as allowing a debate among third-party presidential candidates who had been excluded from the Republican-Democratic debates; covering the Occupy Wall Street protests; and citing the environmental dangers from “fracking.”

The idea that American democracy is threatened by allowing third-party candidates or other American dissidents to have a voice is at best an upside-down understanding of democracy and, more likely, an exercise in hypocritical propaganda.

False Accusations

Another misfired attempt to discredit RT came from Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel, who issued a “Dipnote” in April 2014, which helped establish the narrative of RT as a source of Russian disinformation.

For instance, Stengel claimed that RT reported a “ludicrous assertion” that the United States had spent $5 billion to produce Ukraine’s “regime change” in February 2014.

But what Stengel, a former managing editor of Time magazine, apparently failed to understand was that RT was referring to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.” In other words, the RT report wasn’t “ludicrous” at all.

Nuland also was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine who personally cheered on the Maidan demonstrators, even passing out cookies. In an intercepted pre-coup phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland discussed who should run the new government and pondered with Pyatt how to “glue” or “midwife this thing.”

So, Stengel was the one disseminating false information, not RT.

Similarly, senior U.S. politicians, including Hillary Clinton, and the U.S. mainstream media have falsely asserted that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies signed off on the Russia-did-it hacking claims.

For months, that canard was used to silence skepticism. After all, how could you question something that all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed to be true?

But it turned out that – as DNI Clapper, himself a hardline Russia-basher, belatedly acknowledged – the Jan. 6 report on the alleged Russian hacking was the work of “hand-picked” analysts from only three agencies, the CIA, FBI and NSA, and the “assessment” itself admitted that it was not asserting the Russian conclusion as fact, only the analysts’ opinion.

The New York Times finally retracted its use of the fake claim about “all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies” in late June 2017 although it wouldn’t let the lie lie, so instead the Times made misleading references to a “consensus” among U.S. intelligence agencies without using the number.

Recent studies by former U.S. intelligence experts have punched more holes in the certainty by raising doubts that the email downloads could have been accomplished over the Internet at the recorded speeds and more likely were achieved by an insider downloading onto a thumb drive.

Deciding What’s Real

So who is guilty of “fake news” and “disinformation”?

One positive from the current PBS series, “The Vietnam War,” is that despite its bend-over-backwards attempts to make excuses for the “good faith” decisions by U.S. politicians, no one can watch the series without encountering the chasm between the upbeat Official Story being peddled by the U.S. government and the ghastly on-the-ground reality.

Yet, given how little accountability was meted out then for journalists who served as conveyor belts for pro-war propaganda in Vietnam – or more recently over the fraudulent reporting that rationalized the U.S. aggressive war against Iraq – it is perhaps not surprising that similar false group thinks would coalesce around Russia now.

Careerist journalists understand that there is no danger in running with the pack – indeed, there is safety in numbers – but there are extraordinary risks to your career if you challenge the conventional wisdom even if you turn out to be right. As one establishment journalist once told me, “there’s no honor in being right too soon.”

So, for the Post reporters responsible for the latest journalistic violation of standards – Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg – there will be no penalty for the offense of telling about Russia’s alleged “disinformation” and “fake news” – rather than showing, i.e., providing actual examples. When it comes to Russia these days – as with the Vietcong in the 1960s or Iraq in 2002-03 – you can pretty much write whatever you want. All journalistic standards are gone.

Yet, what is perhaps most insidious about what we are seeing is that – in the name of defending democracy – the U.S. mainstream media is trampling a chief principle of the Enlightenment, the belief that the marketplace of ideas is the best way to determine the truth and to create an informed populace.

The new U.S. mainstream media paradigm is that only establishment-approved views can be expressed; everything else must be suppressed, purged and punished.

For instance, if you question the State Department’s narrative on alleged Syrian government sarin attacks – by noting contrary evidence that points to staged incidents by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate – you are called an “apologist” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

If you question the one-sided State Department narrative regarding the Ukraine coup in 2014 – indeed even if you use the word “coup” – you are denounced as a “Kremlin stooge.”

No ‘Other’ Side

It is now not okay to even consider the other side of these stories, just as it was anathema to suggest that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government may have been telling the truth in 2002-03 when it declared repeatedly that it had destroyed its WMDs. That made you a “Saddam apologist.”

The hostility toward Americans who dare question the current anti-Russian hysteria was highlighted by an article last Thanksgiving Day by one of the authors of the new Post article, Craig Timberg.

In another front-page Post story, Timberg allowed an anonymous group called PropOrNot to malign the professionalism and patriotism of 200 Web sites, including our own Consortiumnews, that were lumped together in a McCarthyistic smear that they were somehow guilty of disseminating “Russian propaganda.”

The unnamed accusers – granted anonymity by the Post – acknowledged that they had no evidence that the sites were part of some grand Russian conspiracy but made the judgment based on PropOrNot’s analysis of the Web sites’ content.

In other words, if you questioned the State Department’s narratives on Ukraine or Syria – regardless of how well-supported those critiques were – you got smeared as a “Russian propagandist” – and the Post, which didn’t even bother to contact the accused, considered that sort of analysis to be worthy of its front page.

The story fed into another frenzy about the need to use algorithms and artificial intelligence to hunt down and suppress or purge such dissenting views from the Internet, supposedly to protect the sanctity of American democracy and spare Americans from exposure to “fake news.”

So, well-meaning Americans who may hope that Russia-gate will somehow bring down Trump are getting recruited into a movement that intends to silence dissent and allow the U.S. establishment to dictate what information you will get to see and hear.

And that officially approved “information” will surely lead to new global tensions, more military spending. and additional warfare up to and possibly including nuclear war with Russia.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

September 25, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Latest Attack on Sputnik a ‘Symptom of a US Media Unused to Competition’

Sputnik – 11.09.2017

The FBI has questioned former Sputnik employee Andrew Feinberg as part of an ongoing Congressional investigation into whether the agency is a ‘Russian propaganda network’ worthy of a registry in the US Foreign Agents Act. Speaking to Sputnik, respected author and journalist James Petras explained what was really at the heart of this political circus.

On Monday, anonymous sources told Yahoo News that the FBI had questioned Feinberg, and is studying his Sputnik work correspondence, as well as that of Joseph John Fionda, another former employee of the agency’s Washington bureau. These efforts are part of a probe to determine whether Sputnik should be included on the list of foreign agents under the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and sanctioned accordingly.

Earlier, a bill was submitted to Congress proposing an amendment to the requirements for the registration of foreign agents under FARA, including the provision of additional powers to the Department of Justice to identify and prosecute organizations which work illegally to try to influence the political process in the United States.

Asked to comment on the brewing scandal involving the FBI and Congress on one hand and Russian foreign news broadcasters on the other, Dr. James Petras, respected sociologist, author and activist, said that he believes the Sputnik inquiry is simply another chapter in the US political elite’s efforts to harm Russia-US relations.

“It’s part of the attempt to harm Russian-US relations – there’s no question about it,” Petras said. “There is a paranoia that runs through Washington these days that discovers plots and conspiracy, beginning sometime back [from] the time of the election of President Trump.”

As for the charges alleging that Sputnik may be a ‘foreign agent’, ‘illegally’ influencing the US political process, Petras stressed that there is simply “no basis” for this claim. “There is no basis for saying that Sputnik intervened in or is prejudicing elections. They’re publishing information. All countries in the world are always engaged in presenting news from whatever slant they want, and nobody considers that a point of intervention.”

In fact, the scholar recalled, the US itself “has radio stations and other means of communications which present US policy and US interests, and are slanted from a particular direction.”

Accordingly, Petras said he believed that this attack on Sputnik “is part of an effort to break relations with Russia. I think the intervention in the consulate is an unprecedented violation of international law.” Along with the new, recently approved sanctions, the Sputnik inquiry is really just “part of an effort building up toward a break in diplomatic relations… This is part of a turn in US foreign policy which stems from a war in Washington between the pro- and anti-Trump people.”

The academic noted that the Democratic Party, in particular, appeared “willing to sacrifice major diplomatic ties in order to isolate and oust President Trump. It has very little to do with Russian foreign policy, and everything to do with the civil war going on in Washington between Trump and anti-Trump forces,” he said.

Asked to comment on the Andrew Feinberg inquiry, and specifically the editorial approach said to influence Sputnik’s content, Petras suggested that the allegations were frankly “laughable” compared to those found in US mainstream media.

“I think the propaganda message from the Washington Post, in particular, reflects a point of view which essentially is pointing to a conspiracy theory of politics,” the scholar said. “It slants the news according to the desires of the most extreme elements of the deep state in the United States. You read the Washington Post and it’s almost as if you’re reading bulletins from the CIA, the Pentagon or the State Department. It has no independence, and I think it’s laughable to accuse Sputnik of what the US press does.”

Asked about the real goals behind the attempts, both in the media and US Congress, to brand Russia’s foreign language news outlets as propaganda, Petras said that this was “paranoia” rooted in the mainstream media’s loss of much of its audience to these alternative resources.

“I think the point of view that we hear in the [mainstream] media has alienated a great many listeners, and I think part of the ‘problem’ is that Sputnik and RT are picking up listeners in the United States and Europe, the observer noted.

“I think the competition is something the US media is not used to, and the fact that they have tried to monopolize the media with their particular political message has a lot to do with the smear on the [Russian outlets]. Even if the investigation reveals nothing, the propaganda is that they [were] subject to investigation. I think it’s a form of intimidation… I think it’s a war against the free media, not only out of Russia but elsewhere,” Petras warned.

Asked what it is that’s really driving the anti-Russia hysteria found in the much of the US media and its political system, Petras suggested it has to do with Washington’s desire for hegemony in countries with whom Russia has friendly relations.

“I think this is the key,” he said. “Under Putin, Russia is an independent country; it develops ties with allies. It has expanded its relations with China, Iran and other countries. I think the wish of the State Department and the mass media is to return to the period of Yeltsin, when Russia was converted into a helpless satellite of the United States. They cannot accept the fact that after 2000, Russia has returned to assuming an important role in the world economy, and has the independence to engage in relationships outside the orbit of the US.”

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

‘Where are the Russians?’ WaPo worried it can’t find Kremlin hackers in German election

RT | September 12, 2017

With two weeks left till the general election in Germany, the Washington Post is “worried” to see no evidence of a massive Russian meddling campaign. The article does not, however, consider the possibility that Russia had no intention of conducting one in the first place.

Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election in the US has become a universal truth for the American media. Many observers and officials on both sides of the Atlantic were expecting ‘Kremlin-controlled hackers and bots’ to act blatantly during this year’s elections in key European nations – France and Germany.

The two rounds of the French election in April and May witnessed a frenzy of Russia-blaming, with Emmanuel Macron’s campaign pointing fingers eastwards over a strategically-timed leak of emails and alleged peddling of fake news. The leak could not be traced to the Russian government by the National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI), and those labeled as sources of fake news, RT and Sputnik, both continue to wait for now-president Macron to name a single example.

While Macron’s office in France is struggling with his approval rating nose-dive, the eyes of all observers are on Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is slated to keep her mandate after the September 24 vote.  Despite expectations, there is no evidence of a campaign to derail the election which could be attributed to Moscow, the Washington Post noted last Sunday, asking in the headline “Where are the Russians?

In particular, the newspaper says, the trove of documents stolen in 2015 by hackers who targeted the German parliament never surfaced. The hack was blamed on a group designated APT28 and dubbed “Fancy Bear” by a US cybersecurity firm, which said that the group’s activities coincided with working hours in Moscow and that it must be working for the Russian government because the Kremlin would benefit from APT28 operations. Fancy Bear was named as the party behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee in the US and the Macron campaign hack, among others.

Nor does there seem to be a campaign in social media to spread “fake news” which could affect the outcome of the vote, the Washington Post reported, saying that “Kremlin-orchestrated bots” in Germany have been “conspicuously silent”.

“The apparent absence of a robust Russian campaign to sabotage the German vote has become a mystery among officials and experts who had warned of a likely onslaught,” the newspaper added.

“That’s what makes me worried,” said Maksymilian Czuperski, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab told the newspaper. “Why is it so quiet? It doesn’t feel right.”

The Washington Post suggests several theories to explain the situation, including Moscow waiting for a last-minute intervention, or having simply backed off because of boosted German cybersecurity and efforts to counter “Russian propaganda” on social media. Unlike the US under President Barack Obama, the Germans did not hesitate to accuse Russia of cyber-attacks, it said.

The one theory the newspaper does not even consider is that Russia is telling the truth when it says that it did not interfere with the US election or any other. After all, the US intelligence community says otherwise, and it is an institution with a long record of trustworthiness.

Read more:

Boogeyman picked: Germany concerned with Russian ‘meddling’ in upcoming election

No trace of Russian hacking in Macron election campaign attack – French cyber defense chief

September 12, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 2 Comments