Who’s the Propagandist: US or RT?

Exclusive: After Secretary of State Kerry lashed out at Russia’s RT network over its reporting on Ukraine, a senior aide assembled a list of particulars, which have backfired by showing how weak Kerry’s case is and how hypocritical Kerry’s State Department has been, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The U.S. State Department, which has been caught promoting a series of false or dubious stories about Ukraine, is trying to give some substance to Secretary of State John Kerry’s counter-complaint that Russia’s RT network is a “propaganda bullhorn” promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “fantasy.”

In a “Dipnote” of April 29, Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy, made some broad-brush criticisms of RT’s content accusing the network of painting “a dangerous and false picture of Ukraine’s legitimate government” by citing examples of fascism, anti-Semitism and terrorism surrounding the Kiev regime.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland.

Stengel claims he knows the difference between news and propaganda because he spent seven years as managing editor of Time. He defines propaganda as “the deliberate dissemination of information that you know to be false or misleading in order to influence an audience” and asserts: “RT is a distortion machine, not a news organization.”

But Stengel offers no specific citations of the supposedly propagandistic stories done by RT, making it impossible to ascertain the precise wording or context of the RT content that he is criticizing. One basic rule of journalism is “show, don’t tell,” but Stengel apparently didn’t learn that during his seven years in the top echelon of Time magazine.

Nevertheless, Stengel accuses RT of “disinformation” ranging from “assertions that peaceful protesters hired snipers to repeated allegations that Kiev is beset by violence, fascism and anti-Semitism, these are lies falsely presented as news.”

Though it’s impossible to fully assess Stengel’s complaint because he doesn’t specify the offending stories, the first complaint is an apparent reference to the mystery surrounding the identity of snipers who opened fire on protesters and police during the Maidan protests in Kiev on Feb. 20.

The U.S. government, the U.S. press and the Maidan protesters were quick to blame President Viktor Yanukovych although he denied giving an order to fire on the protests and suggested the shootings may have been a provocation. That suspicion of “false-flag” violence as a way to spur on the coup against Yanukovych also was expressed by some neutral observers on the ground in Kiev.

Two European Union officials, Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, were revealed discussing in a phone call their suspicions that elements of the protesters were responsible for the shootings.

“So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition,” Paet told Ashton, as reported by the UK Guardian.

In other words, if Stengel is referring to RT’s reporting about the sniper attacks, his assumption that RT was knowingly lying when it referenced a possible role of the Maidan protesters in the sniper shootings is itself false. Further, Stengel must have known that not all the Maidan protesters were “peaceful.”

Hide the Neo-Nazis

Although the State Department has tried to hide the crucial role of neo-Nazi militias in overthrowing Yanukovych’s elected government, it was well known at the time (and acknowledged by the Maidan protesters themselves) that far-right groups had organized 100-man brigades to carry out the final attacks. There was also widely broadcast news footage of these Maidan protesters hurling Molotov cocktails at police, more than a dozen who died in the clashes.

Is Stengel really unaware of the involvement in the coup by neo-Nazi storm troopers from the Right Sektor and the Svoboda party, which both lionize World War II Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera? Does Stengel really not know about the prevalence of banners honoring Bandera, Nazi insignias at rallies and even the appearance of the Confederate battle flag unfurled at the Kiev City Hall as the universal symbol of white supremacy?

Just because virtually the entire U.S. press corps has joined in the U.S. government’s propagandized version of what happened during and after the violent overthrow of Yanukovych doesn’t mean that RT and other news organizations have to shut their eyes, too.

For instance, the BBC, which is funded by the British government much as RT is funded by the Russian government, had the courage to run a segment on the Maidan’s neo-Nazis, noting that the far-right groups were given four ministries in the new government in recognition of their important contribution.

Most significantly, the new chief of national security, Andriy Parubiy, was one of those neo-Nazis. He founded the Social-National Party of Ukraine in 1991, blending radical Ukrainian nationalism with neo-Nazi symbols. Parubiy also formed a paramilitary spinoff, the Patriots of Ukraine, and defended the awarding of the title, “Hero of Ukraine,” to Bandera, whose paramilitary forces joined with the Nazis in exterminating Poles and Jews during World War II.

During the months of protests aimed at overthrowing Yanukovych, Parubiy became the commandant of “Euromaidan,” the name for the Kiev uprising. Then, in mid-April as the new regime’s national security chief and facing growing resistance in eastern Ukraine, Paubiy warned that he was siccing some of his paramilitary veterans, now incorporated in the National Guard, on the anti-regime protesters. On Twitter, he wrote, “Reserve unit of National Guard formed #Maidan Self-defense volunteers was sent to the front line this morning.”

Some leading neo-Nazis have been brazen in their assertion of Ukrainian racial superiority over other ethnic groups in Ukraine, including the ethnic Russians in the east. Like their hero Bandera, these modern-day storm troopers would prefer an ethnically pure Ukraine.

Though it is true that most of the Maidan protesters were there in support of closer European ties and anger over government corruption, it is also true that the neo-Nazi militias surged to the front of the protests for the final clashes on Feb. 20-22. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine, Though the US ‘Looking Glass.’”]

And, as for Stengel’s insistence that RT’s reporting that “Kiev is beset by violence” is further proof of RT’s “propaganda,” there’s the inconvenient reality that far-right forces have been clashing with other Maidan protesters over the past few days. Some of these ultra-nationalists want more rewards for their role in Yanukovych’s ouster and some want a harsher crackdown on the uprising in the ethnic Russian east.

Who’s Playing Terrorist Card?

In his unspecified litany of other purported RT offenses, Stengel also cites “the constant reference to any Ukrainian opposed to a Russian takeover of the country as a ‘terrorist.’ Or the unquestioning repetition of the ludicrous assertion last week that the United States has invested $5 billion in regime change in Ukraine.

“These are not facts, and they are not opinions. They are false claims, and when propaganda poses as news it creates real dangers and gives a green light to violence.”

However, regarding the use of the word “terrorist,” which Stengel finds so offensive, it has actually been applied promiscuously not by RT but by the Kiev regime and the U.S. State Department against the anti-regime protesters in eastern Ukraine though they have not engaged in behavior that is traditionally considered “terrorism.”

The Russian ethnic protesters in the east have engaged in no indiscriminate killing of civilians for political purposes, the classic definition of “terrorism.” Yet, the post-coup regime in Kiev has repeatedly announced plans for an “anti-terrorism” campaign against the east. In other words, Stengel’s “side” is guilty of what he accuses RT of doing.

As for RT’s “ludicrous assertion” about the U.S. investing $5 billion, that is a clear reference to a public speech by Assistant Secretary of State for European Affaris Victoria Nuland to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13 in which she told them that “we have invested more than $5 billion” in what was needed for Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.”

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, obscenity-laced phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland said her choice to replace Yanukovych was Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who ended up as Prime Minister after the coup.

If Stengel wants to quibble about whether Nuland’s $5 billion remark was a reference to “regime change” or not although the European association was a key issue in Yanukovych’s ouster the under secretary can make his argument. But to ignore the obvious context of Nuland’s $5 billion reference is again either a sign of stunning ignorance or willful deception.

As for Stengel’s office of “public diplomacy,” it is a segment of the State Department that I have personally dealt with since the 1980s during my days covering the Reagan administration’s Central America policies for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

Back then, some of us referred to the “PD” office as “the office of propaganda and disinformation” because of the endless distortions and lies generated in support of U.S.-backed “death squad” regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala and for Ronald Reagan’s beloved Nicaraguan Contra rebels who fairly could be called “terrorist” given their proclivity for slaughtering and raping Nicaraguan civilians and for collaborating with cocaine traffickers to make money on the side.

The Earlier Brave Kerry

Ironically, in those days, a younger version of John Kerry was a U.S. senator who bravely investigated these Reagan-affiliated crimes and faced attacks from the State Department’s public diplomacy operatives.

Part of Kerry’s punishment for being early in his investigation of White House skullduggery in Central America was to be excluded from the Iran-Contra investigation when some of Reagan’s crimes and lies surfaced dramatically in late 1986.

Because Kerry had been ahead of the curve, he was judged “biased” on the issue of Reagan’s guilt and thus passed over for the “select committee” investigation. Only Democratic senators who had been fooled by the lies or were asleep at the switch were deemed “objective” enough for the high-profile inquiry. [For more on the contrast between Kerry’s past and present, see Consortiumnews.com’s “What’s the Matter with John Kerry?”]

Another irony of Stengel’s defense of Kerry’s anti-RT outburst is that one of the senior “public diplomacy” operatives on Central America back in the 1980s was a young neocon named Robert Kagan, whose State Department team developed propaganda themes to undercut Kerry and various journalists, like myself, who would not toe the line.

At one point when Kagan realized that I would not play ball with the administration’s propaganda, he informed me that I would have to be “controversialized,” that is become the focus of public attacks from pro-Reagan attack groups and thus have my journalistic career damaged, a process that was subsequently carried out.

The irony in this is that Robert Kagan went on to become a leading light in the neocon movement, a Washington Post columnist, a co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, a star proponent of Iraqi “regime change” and the husband of Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the recent cheerleader for “regime change” in Ukraine.

That Stengel, the current master of the State Department’s “public diplomacy” operation, is now offended by what he considers “propaganda” by RT has to be considered one of the purest expressions of hypocrisy in the long history of U.S. government hypocrisy. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Kerry’s Propaganda War on Russia’s RT.”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

18 comments for “Who’s the Propagandist: US or RT?

  1. May 4, 2014 at 05:50

    > In other words, Stengel’s “side” is guilty
    > of what he accuses RT of doing.
    That’s called “hutzpa”, for those who didn’t know.

  2. Consortiumnews.com
    May 1, 2014 at 20:27

    From Randal: U.S. propaganda is even more glaringly visible when we adopt a definition of propaganda that takes into account deception by omission, distraction, and specific techniques such as repetition, transfer (juxtaposing images that create an association not necessarily reflected in reality) and much else. I have a book on this. Nancy Snow has an edited collection, Propaganda in America, just published in March. It’s time more people paid attention to the phenomenon of propaganda and to Jacques Ellul’s observation that propaganda relies for its success on people wanting to believe what they are fed by the mainstream media, or whatever the propaganda source happens to be. They want to believe in something that is simple and makes them feel responsibly informed, good and virtuous. Enter Fox News.

    Keep up the great work.


  3. May 1, 2014 at 18:56

    The 5 billion was invested in 85 or more programs to support regime change in Ukraine. (See “Rogue State” by William Blum for an overview of the NED organization in coups and subverting democracy.)

    US coup methods have not changed since USA’s 1953 Iran coup; they have just gotten more use.

    In 53, the US invested 1 million to support regime change in Iran. In Ukraine it was much higher, even accounting for inflation.

    Here are parallels between the two US coups, using declassified docs from the Iran one and the leaked information from the Ukraine one, as well as pictures illustrating the similarities in the “mobs”, as the US gov put it, that it was able to “get in the streets” to effect overthrows:


  4. F. G. Sanford
    May 1, 2014 at 16:58

    Strange, isn’t it? The Democrats serve up a kettle full of lies, and the Republicans utter nary a word. Where is the partisan bickering? I guess Russophobia really is still a unifying holdover from the “cold war”. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, Abbott and Costello Meet Dracula…Abbott and Costello Meet Putin, and so on. Where would they be without a boogeyman?

    This should all be a tip-off, but it’s not quite big enough to get America’s attention. Apparently, there are still Americans surprised to learn that Victoria Nuland is married to Robert Kagan, or that Kimberly Kagan founded the Intitute for the Study of War and was given an office from which she oversaw Petraeus’ conduct of the “surge”, or that Susan Rice signed on to the Neocon WINEP doctrine which embraces the PNAC strategy, or that she is also a member of CFR. They would also be surprised to learn that Fred Kagan studied under Leo Strauss, whose mentor was Carl Schmitt. Most Americans would be shocked to learn that Zbigniew Brzezinski, an angry disposessed former Polish aristocrat and member of CFR, wrote the book that defines current U.S. policy in Eurasia.

    But even more shocking than all the other things Americans don’t realize might be the strange case of Pierre Omidyar. He is apparently the latest benefactor/patriarch of the Greenwald/Snowden/Poitras trio. The billionaire behind EBay, rumor has it that he is one of the private financial sponsors working in tandem with all those “Non-governmental Organizations” to which Victoria Nuland boasted giving $5 Billion American taxpayer dollars. So…if Snowden is working for Greenwald, and Greenwald is working for Omidyar, and Omidyar is working for the NGOs, and the NGOs are working for Euro-Maidan, and Euro-Maidan is full of neo-Nazis, and the Euro-Maidan is supported by Nuland, the State Department and the CIA…then who is Snowden really working for?

    Hey America, just a hint: look up German political philosopher and jurist, Carl Schmitt. Make up your own minds. And PLEASE Mr. Parry, keep up the great work. I’d love to hear some educated speculation on the supposedly forthcoming Snowden revelations. Greenwald claims we’ve only had the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to see the Titanic!

    • Joe Tedesky
      May 1, 2014 at 20:02

      FG like your comment, and you made me recall how in the past comments on this very site stated some wonder or doubt on Snowden. Somewhere I have heard that Snowden rep’d the CIA & Feinstein rep’d the NSA…..????? Just say’n & look forward to hearing your comments in the near future.

    • Joe Besser
      May 2, 2014 at 17:05

      Have thousands of rockets, will travel.

  5. Karl Bloomfield
    May 1, 2014 at 14:27

    How chilling to learn that Victoria Nuland is the wife of Robert Kagan, one of the architects of regime change in Iraq, who for some reason still has a shred of credibility anywhere outside the walls of the American Enterprise Institute. Now I understand why David Brooks and John McCain jumped to her defense when that idiot Rep. Darryl Issa put her in his sights in his Benghazi circus. President Obama is not being well-served by these people. We know from her actions as a U.S. Senator that Hillary Clinton was not going to stand up to the neo-con mentality or purge it from important policy making positions in the State Department. But, what’s John Kerry’s excuse? Is he so warped from having served in a futile war that, like John McCain, he is desperately seeking one that’s both justifiable and winnable? Does he think that the neo-con mentality can actually bring about regime change in Russia, which no one doubts has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction?

    • N Dalton
      May 1, 2014 at 18:59

      Your observations is an ` encouraging ` sign which should serve to see the bigger picture – still not too obvious to many – and should indeed be ` chilling to learn ` especially Victoria Nuland `s background under these circumstances.
      It would be fitting to point out this gem
      which shows their ` chilling mindset `.
      A good example and case in point here should be the ” Sterling Syndrome ” – changing ones last name from Tokowitz to Sterling – to give an aura of success.

  6. blurkel
    May 1, 2014 at 14:03

    Kerry has clearly forgotten who he once was, a champion of peaceful negotiations instead of an advocate for war. I suspect that marrying into the 1% has corrupted him beyond redemption.

  7. May 1, 2014 at 12:59

    Well investigated. Thank you Robert and keep up the great work. Pretty sure RT and the Russian government are spreading plenty of propaganda too though. I’m not 100% sure some of the Eastern Ukrainian militias and their Russian trainers aren’t engaged in terrorism – e.g the police chief and another man whose tortured bodies were found dumped in a river after pro-Moscow groups siezed power in the East – though i suspect the more extreme Ukrainian nationalist groups were also the ones killing police in Kiev during the Maidan protests.

  8. Bob
    May 1, 2014 at 12:51

    Not sure what to believe. There are almost always fascist elements in almost any group. One must be careful not to taint whole movements by fringe elements. Maybe the above is correct but:

    BBC’s Kiev correspondent David Stern points out, “Euromaidan officials are not fascists, nor do fascists dominate the movement.”

    “The ultranationalists, and their extreme right fringe, are a small part of the overall campaign – a subgroup of a minority. They are concentrated primarily amid the tents, barricades and self-defence units of the Maidan, the shorthand term for the movement’s core,” Stern wrote in a March 6 column. “Many Euromaidan supporters bristle at, or deny, any claim that the movement contains an influential ultranationalist element, fearful this will be used to tar the entire movement, which in fact is what has happened. They simply call them ‘patriots.'”

    • W. R. Knight
      May 1, 2014 at 18:02

      Like the Tea Party is a small fringe element of the Republican Party?

    • Kiza
      May 5, 2014 at 08:16

      The Right Sector goons play the same role Al Qaida plays in Syria – they do most of the killing (in Ukraine the burning of people) and of the dying. The US appointed regime in Kiev will need them till the SE Ukraine is crushed. Then they will try to purge them. But do any of the US puppet masters see that Al Qaida could not be purged from Libya after the “job was done”? The US ambassador Stephens paid with his life, but still no lessons learned? Why do they imagine that they will be able to purge them in Ukraine?

  9. Tjoe
    May 1, 2014 at 12:22

    Satan really hates it when the light of truth shines through.

    We must learn from Jesus in the matter or be led to a fate worse than the Wiemar Republic.

    • ELMO
      May 1, 2014 at 13:23

      That depends on which version of Jesus you are teaching.

  10. W. R. Knight
    May 1, 2014 at 12:05

    It’s not surprising that Stengel didn’t learn about the first rule of journalism. Many years ago, my history professor always said about Life and Time magazines that “Life Magazine is for people who can’t read and Time Magazine is for people who can’t think”.

    Furthermore, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, propaganda is “the systematic propagation of information or ideas by an interested party, esp. in a tendentious way in order to encourage or instil a particular attitude or response”. I.e., propaganda does not have to be false.

    So much for the State Department’s learned journalist mouthpiece.

  11. incontinent reader
    May 1, 2014 at 11:52

    Stengel’s statement is in the ignominious tradition of Time magazine, starting with its founder Henry Luce, Jr., the ‘great proponent’ of “American Exceptionalism”, who manufactured news as a matter of course, and did so with missionary zeal.

    • incontinent reader
      May 1, 2014 at 12:32

      It is frustrating that these people remain in power and get away with the same lies and crimes again and again, but Bob,
      I’m convinced that in the end people do want to hear the truth, and in-depth articles like yours put it on record with solid facts. So, while you’ve been up against a corrupt and pervasive machine, the message is getting through. Polls are showing that people have had enough with these wars and other misadventures- and the private intelligence goons at Stratfor, and their clients, are beginning to acknowledge it even as the Kagans, Kerrys and their ilk
      get more desperate to sell us the ‘big lie’.

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