The U.S. mainstream media (MSM) presents itself as the arbiter of truth-telling and journalistic professionalism – the global gold standard – but its deep-seated biases, especially on Russia, belie that self-image, notes William Blum.
By William Blum
The anti-Russian/anti-Soviet bias in the American media appears to have no limit. You would think that they would have enough self-awareness and enough journalistic integrity -– just enough -– to be concerned about their image. But it keeps on coming, piled higher and deeper.
One of the latest cases in point is a review of a new biography of Mikhail Gorbachev in the New York Times Book Review (September 10). The review says that Gorbachev “was no hero to his own people” because he was “the destroyer of their empire.”
This is how the New York Times avoids having to say anything positive about life in the Soviet Union or about socialism. They would have readers believe that it was the loss of the likes of Czechoslovakia or Hungary et al. that upset the Russian people, not the loss, under Gorbachev’s perestroika, of a decent standard of living for all, a loss affecting people’s rent, employment, vacations, medical care, education, and many other aspects of the Soviet welfare state.
Accompanying this review is a quote from a 1996 Times review of Gorbachev’s own memoir, which said: “It mystifies Westerners that Mikhail Gorbachev is loathed and ridiculed in his own country. This is the man who pulled the world several steps back from the nuclear brink and lifted a crushing fear from his countrymen, who ended bloody foreign adventures [and] liberated Eastern Europe. … Yet his repudiation at home could hardly be more complete. His political comeback attempt in June attracted less than 1 percent of the vote.”
Thus is Gorbachev’s unpopularity with his own people further relegated to the category of “mystery”, and not due to the profound social changes.
It should be noted that in 1999, USA Today reported: “When the Berlin Wall crumbled , East Germans imagined a life of freedom where consumer goods were abundant and hardships would fade. Ten years later, a remarkable 51% say they were happier with communism.” [USA Today, October 11, 1999, p.1]
Earlier polls would likely have shown even more than 51% expressing such a sentiment, for in the ten years many of those who remembered life in East Germany with some fondness had passed away; although even 10 years later, in 2009, the Washington Post could report: “Westerners [West Berliners] say they are fed up with the tendency of their eastern counterparts to wax nostalgic about communist times.” [Washington Post, May 12, 2009; see a similar story November 5, 2009]
It was in the post-unification period that a new Russian and Eastern Europe proverb was born: “Everything the Communists said about Communism was a lie, but everything they said about capitalism turned out to be the truth.”
The current New York Times review twice refers to Vladimir Putin as “authoritarian”, as does, routinely, much of the Western media. None of the many such references I have come across in recent years has given an example of such authoritarian policies, although such examples of course exist, as they do under a man named Trump and a woman named May and every other government in the world. But clearly if a strong case could be made of Putin being authoritarian, the Western media would routinely document such in their attacks upon the Russian president. Why do they not?
The review further refers to Putin to as “the cold-eye former K.G.B. lieutenant colonel”. One has to wonder if the New York Times has ever referred to President George H.W. Bush as “the cold-eye former CIA Director.”
Just as in the first Cold War, one of the basic problems is that Americans have great difficulty in believing that Russians mean well. Apropos this, I’d like to recall the following written about George Kennan, one of the most prominent American diplomats ever:
Crossing Poland with the first US diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1933, a young American diplomat named George Kennan was somewhat astonished to hear the Soviet escort, Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village nearby, about the books he had read and his dreams as a small boy of being a librarian.
“We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves,” Kennan wrote, “that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.” [Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), p.158]
It hasn’t happened yet.
Kennan’s sudden realization brings George Orwell to mind: “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report, https://williamblum.org/aer/read/151 .]
Corporate media really wants the military industrial complex to go to war with Russia.
No, they just want the money. War and war mongering is good for the news business. A side benefit is it also lets the media personalities talk to generals (and in the event of actual combat, put on military like costumes) and pretend they are important.
When wars are actually fought they are ether won by one side or both sides give up in a stalemate leading to negotiated peace. A cold war, or a war on a word ( e.g. war on “terror”) can go on for ever. Meanwhile, corporate media, publicists. “think tanks” and politicians can always come up with reasons to spend more money (“missile gaps”, “development aide”. “Moderate” rebels, “meddling”, WMDs, “collusion”, “surge” etc.).
Thank you for the article, looks great!
Reading the history of U.S. relations with the USSR in the first Cold War is interesting. For instance I wasn’t aware that in the 50’s President Eisenhower sent the U.S. Hockey team to play in Moscow against a equally qualified Russian team. Prior to that, in 1929 Henry Ford helped to develop the Russian car the Gorky, by building the Gorky car plant. Then in 1973 David Rockefeller opened up a Chase Bank in Moscow. Then there was pianist Van Cliburn who in 1958 stunned his Russian audience with his performance at the Russian held International Tchaikovsky Competition. Musician Van Cliburn was an early warm up to Billy Joel’s 1987 Moscow Tour.
So where is this detente now? Instead we have such Russiaphobes such as Rachel Maddow. Seriously, I choose Rachel because now she is blaming Russia from everything from what she terms a Russian invasion of Crimea, to how Russian trolls flip European plus American election results. Maddow with the aid of Joy Ann Reid certainly go after Russia to the point of hysteria like none I have ever seen. Although their MSNBC attack machine loses all serious credibility when Rachel, or Joy, flash pictures of a shirtless Vladimir Putin only to giggle like pre-schoolers who think the new kid in school combs his hair funny.
All this saber rattling may possibly be a clever way of upping the need for an over bloated Military Industrial Complex according to Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, and I tend to agree with the Colonel.
It’s said that ‘talk is cheap’, but when it comes to Russia talking may prove to be an inexpensive way of avoiding a very costly, in both human and financial resources, a very costly human error where everything, and all things of some value are loss forever.
Selfishness is the key to all our burgeoning problems. Love for all Life is the answer we seek. Commitment to developing Unconditional Love releases us from the fatal spell of selfishness. There is truly no other answer. Capitalism is the cover for selfishness as the aim of life – it is the kiss of death for all who embrace it.
i disagree. but you knew that.
you confuse selfishness with wanting things and money. you forget that power is what truly screws all.
the saying is not that money is the root of all evil. it’s the “love of money” that is. there is a difference.
selflessness is not something you can force on people.
charity is not charity when practiced by force.
love is not pure when you hate those that disagree with you.
i think most people want to do what’s best for all humanity. and the way i see it is that we just have everyone fighting over who can control the rest. who can ban the most. who can force others what to do and then it will all be great.
i don’t blame anyone for trying to do what’s best but it goes back to the saying “the road to hell is paved by good intentions”
The word selfishness refers to excessive concern for one’s self and it’s interests. A reasonable concern for one’s own interests is not reprehensible, and should not be characterized as selfishness. Money is power, it confers all sorts of powers on it’s possessors. At any given time there is only a set amount of money in the monetary system. Having money is in game theory terms a zero sum game. This means if I have more money, some others must have less. This sets up a competition for money. Those who are greedy, which often goes along with being selfish, may acquire far more money than others in the economic pool. When Oxfam determined that 62 individuals had wealth equivalent to half of the persons in the world, that meant that these individuals by their selfishness were causing the misery and often starvation of millions by hoarding all this money. These were 62 of the most selfish people on Earth.
Those who have been brainwashed to believe that this is a just and equitable situation will doubtless find all kinds of specious arguments to refute this contention, but I am convinced that this is just the simple truth. Don’t waste your sophistry on me, I don’t buy it.
only those 62 believe that it is just or equitable. and my guess is that they used the system that exists(crony or predatory capitalism) to their benefit. and your simple, yet naive description of money is wasted sophistry in itself. i would argue that most of the inequality we see in our culture is the fault of usury. or money speculation. both, very similar to each other but both also that are not money per se.
it’s not money’s fault. money is a tool. it is a medium of exchange.
mediums of exchange can be exploited no matter what they are.
i believe that humans have the capacity to use money in a humane way. we are at a point in our history where technology has robbed humanity of our humanity. there has to be a new spiritual awakening to deal with our modern life. much like the buddha or jesus or even muhamed. these changes in human thinking happened and changed the world. the change does not have to be tied to religion. only to a mindset.
i always go back to organic food. here we have an idea that was not original but was practiced by a bunch of idealists in the 60’s and 70’s. they preached to those that would listen. there was no advertising campaign to push it. if anything, they demonized it. the government did not create subsidies for it nor monopolies by those practicing it. nor did they create laws outlawing it or outlawing it’s competition(which by the way is pretty toxic to the planet) yet within 40-50 years it’s popularity is outstripping it’s supply.
how can it be that a simple idea practiced since the beginning of time has become so ingrained in the public’s mind?
Collectivism lets to “us” versus “them” and WAR. I am pretty sure that there were concentration camp guards who thought they were doing the right thing for their fellow countrymen and were acting out of duty and love of country.
As for the 62 greedy “individuals” none of them have anything like the $700Billion that the US STATE alone takes from its citizens every year to spend on it’s war machine. None of them do anything equal to what the US STATE does to actively spread the death and misery of the American Empire all over the world. Oligarchs (who usually gain their power through the mechanisms of state) are evil but not as bad as the STATE.
Uh huh. And I suppose the 62 greatest artist in the world were the most selfish because they hoarded all that talent.
Have you read anything at all about life under Stalin and Mao???
Some people get tired of hearing the obvious repeated, but that Orwell quote is why it’s necessary – only those few get it, right away.
viewing the USA from a distance really is better than a Monty Python skit or probably better still a three stooges movie, great slap stick comedy. Look forward every morning to see what new stupidly their networks can bring us
A deadly comedy.
Funny, I hear that quite often from Europeans. And yet what they find funny is Donald Trump, the man who apparently is being hailed as a misunderstood genius on these pages. Well, I guess you can always enjoy watching Fox News and reading Breitbart.
Unless we find and use a vaccine against the capitalist virus, we are done on Earth. Some kind of radical socialism would be the best bet. It’s no mystery why Russia became the West’s bete noir – they directly threatened capitalism. All the thinking here on CN that does not address the central problem of capitalism, is just wasted energy.
i think you are getting capitalism confused with crony capitalism.
Yeah capitalists bad. Socialists good (except for Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Maduro, Trotsky, Castro, etc….)
Doesn’t it bother you in the slightest that the very first thing the population of every socialist country did, once they had the opportunity to elect their own leaders, was to vote out of office everyone who supported socialism, vote in everyone who opposed it, and that no country which has previously experienced socialism has elected to return to it? Nor that the two countries still practicing it, Cuba and North Korea, are among the most impoverished in the world? The citizens of Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, all have realized that socialism is just a polite word for universal poverty. What do you, sitting in the West, know that they don’t?
I see it as delusion, manufactured in a coddling self-pride and over-assessment. JP Sottile’s piece earlier today demonstrates delusions that the old conventional warfare pertains, although additional to its irrelevance we’ve been hearing stories of equipment so shoddy it’s not working, and even endangering the military. (Sorry I don’t have a link on that; maybe somebody does.) What kind of delusions were they in the Civil War to manufacture and clean up on selling boots to the military made of cardboard? Beyond the strictly crooked, or those having sunk to it, herd behavior affects a leadership as much as a populace being brainwashed. Obama apparently believed the indispensable stuff and used it as a disguise for his other self-oriented purposes. An honest president like Carter is relegated to “senile” and “irrelevant.” “Self-oriented” lies at the base of all of it, which Americanism continually encourages, in terms of “the good life” and “everybody can be rich.” It is also easier to allow the mental assuaging powers of being in the herd and the group think and with the conventional, the unthinking. Recently, Realist, you were arguing with a person who has swallowed the simplistic notion that because something might be it probably is, and this is some kind of “proof.” Glory be such thinking fallacies, paraded here continually by the trolls. With this kind of thinking I can convince the trolls that the moon is made of green cheese and waiting investment development. If I keep saying it’s green cheese often enough will they say, hey, you know, it’s a possibility! And if it’s a possibility it’s likely true! Americanism tends to spoil us into self-indulgence and supremacism–but not all of us. Maybe not even most of us. But IMV it’s within these seeds of narcissim, actively cultivated by the economic system with decades of polishing, that lies what’s wrong with us. We need an awakening, and hopefully not one that involves any kind of war.
Meant to be a reply to Realist.
It’s certainly obvious that the entire American establishment, including its financial leaders, the politicians and the media, have always had a very noticeable bias against Russia and all allies or vassals of Russia. That didn’t go away even in the aftermath of the catastrophic dissolution of the Soviet Union. The antagonism and bias always remained. The key question is why have these animosities so escalated at this moment in history?
Russia is now much weaker, less adversarial, more inclined to cooperate with the West and actually desired integration into the West’s financial and technological juggernaut until Obama turned against the country and its leadership like a rabid dog. (Dubya had started the process by abrogating nuclear missile treaties, but Obama’s escalation of tensions was quite dramatic, insulting and unrelenting.) What is truly behind this massive rejection of an important part of European Christian civilisation that had much to offer the West, which can only result in terribly dysfunctional outcomes including driving all of Russian society and all of its resources into the arms of the East, mostly the Chinese, and might even precipitate a nuclear war that erases all civilisation from the earth.
Why ratchet bad relations with, truth be told, most of the world, including the Middle East, China, Korea and Latin America, to such unprecedented dangerous levels? What is driving our American leaders to believe this brinksmanship is in the best interests of anyone? Even the worst days of the first cold war were not as dire as today, and, yes, that includes the Cuban missile crisis. Back then you had two rational leaders both prepared to negotiate from a rational playbook, both gave a little (removal of nukes from Cuba and Turkey) to get a lot (avoiding war) though the details were kept secret for many years.
Today, though Putin remains flexible, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and now Donald Trump wouldn’t give Putin the time of day to stop Armageddon. Why is every move that Washington makes yet one more escalation in its confrontation with Moscow? Every month there are additional economic sanctions imposed, unheard of diplomatic breaches imposed, and additional treaties abrogated. Now the “free skies” agreement is being limited. What new obstruction to peaceful co-existence will Washington trot out tomorrow? Soon there will be no moves left short of actually starting the big war that all our recent presidents and presidential candidates have threatened. Is that truly where we want to go? And, why do we want to squander our national treasure, to say nothing of human lives, in this confrontation with the entire world, with Russia cast as the main bogeyman? WTF is wrong with us? This is a playbook for auto-immolation.
To answer your question, another one must be seriously answered: how is it the NAZIs seriously believed they conquer the World and arrange it according to their race/eugenics theories? I ask seriously, not knowing how they thought it possible. I also ask it because it is basically the same crew (BoardRoom NAZIs, autocratic, politicized, CEOs of various Corporations and Banks and such, along with titled Nobility and Royalty [think Prince Bernhardt and Prescott Bush here]; the battlefield NAZIs didn’t make it out alive) that is running the American show, starting immediately after FDR’s death and not securely locked into place until it was safe to run “Reichstag Fire II” on September 11th 2001. People will have to wake up and realize NAZIism was (and is, although they call themselves Synarchists) a global movement, just as Communism was, and they still have plans for the World, to re-cast it in their image of how things should be. It seems to me they have abandoned blitzkreig for ultra-slow motion, proxy, maneuvers: stealthkreig. Chaos and destabilization leading to failed-state status will open the door for their groomed ultra-right wing parties to come in and “save the day”. And Russia would indeed be a big prize for this new Holy Roman Empire project. They are probably not looking to incinerate the World, but capture it through deceit and trickery, painting themselves as the Saviors of the World.
Brad I thank you for sharing your frustration. Years ago I began my concentration in non-fiction reading by being fascinated by the New England Transcendentalist’s of Emerson and Thoreau.
As contemporary, first generation American Scholars, they were concerned about the accuracy of their judgments and many of them had to travel to Europe, engage and compare, their assumptions with the opinions of their better known European counterparts. In Emerson’s case he was encouraged by his uniqueness and assured that “American Scholarship” was unique and valuable.
It’s not the American uniqueness that intrigues me about my comparison, but the fact that they were intellectually challenging the European powers that be… It seems to me that whenever power becomes self-assured and dogmatic; it Must be challenged. Of course, I know that you know of what I speak, but I thought this was the unique time to share it.
Our Powers That Be are crusty, institutionalized and have been for too long now. They must be supplanted with more contemporary thinking…
Thanks Brad, I admire your mind from afar.
MSM is the voice of the neoliberal and neocon establishment. If their journalists told the truth, they wouldn’t be doing their job.
Russia, bad, America, good. Communism, bad, Capitalism good. Drunken Yeltsin good, and every other Russian leader bad. Does anyone remember growing up and hearing anything else? No doubt it is the main reason so many are quick to believe the Russians helped Trump win the presidency. We thing the Russians are capable of all manner of foul deeds, while we are the exceptional nation, and nothing we do is wrong. When people read anything negative about Russia they are quick to believe, since Americans have been totally brain washed on this issue. We also love to create boogeymen, since it makes it so much easier to surround them with anti-ballistic missiles, create a coup in Ukraine, and then sit back and say how dare they break international law and annex the Crimea. What a con we have going.
The corner stone of democracy is free speech and a free and unfettered press. Clearly, the press and MSM is controlled either directly or indirectly by the Washington insiders, the corporations and the so called deep state. I wonder what would happen if say, the editor of the New York times went rogue and decided to publish an article thoroughly critical of the governments position of Russia and also included praise and support for Russia in various aspects such as Syria etc. I think there would be an out break of McCarthyism and an urgent call to the witch finder general to procure his services. The fact is no reporter of journalist dares to write anything which contradicts the state point of view, any more than an editor would dare to publish anything remotely critical of the government. People need their jobs so when it comes to journalistic integrity, the pay packet comes first and can you really blame them?
Yes, I blame them. Let them do their jobs in the spirit of being a purveyor of fairness and reasonable interpretation instead of a work-slob on the dole lying in their teeth.
Thanks for the counterpunch reference D5-5 but it doesn’t really alter anything. If you want to be a journalists in the MSN one has to ditch any ideas of honest discourse. Even people in academia have to be careful what they say, as they can be replaced at the drop of a hat. The trouble with the press is that news papers have owners and owners are always rich and rich people get rich by being part of the establishment which they inevitably support. What we must all do is tell as many people as we can about blogs like Robert Parry’s and also tell them about broadcasters like RT and Sputnik. RT has a huge following all over the world and in the UK where its able to broadcast freely with its own free to watch channel, its the main source of news for an ever expanding part of the population. As for journalists in the MSN, they have sold their souls for “30 pieces of silver” and there is no hope for them. Its up to we readers of these blogs to spread the word and tell folks that there really is an alternative.
John, I included the Counterpunch because it states the obligation of honoring the progressive idealism of the governing framework through challenge and questioning, instead of craven kowtowing to lies and brainwashing, as a form OF patriotism instead of against it. IMV journalists ought to be on the front line of protecting that framework, at least traditionally, and not excused because they need a paycheck, as with representatives in the government itself and those perpetuating the lies in the first place. People in academia are in a similar position, to recall again the period of loyalty oaths in McCarthyism1 back in the ’50’s. They are even more badly needed now than ever, so their silence, if that’s what they are doing in fear of alarming their administration or their local community for the sake of their paycheck, will be a bitter medicine to continually digest. Thanks for your friendly reply, and I agree with your comment on the need for alternative viewpoints.
Hell yes I blame them. Their lies are destroying millions of lives. They are the worst kind of scum. Forget about letting them off the hook.
The mere fact that the press disagrees with you or agrees with the U.S. government does not means they are controlled by some sinister “deep State”. A far simpler and more logical explanation is that the press reflects the opinion of American society as a whole. Those media outlets that do not tend not to survive.
When MSM is used it referrers to only six men – the CEOs who control the “Privileged Press” of the mainstream. They work together don’t ya’ know. Kind of like a cartel. They keep up their “reputations” by stroking each other and agreeing on what to ignore.
When a society is based on selfishness and the desire to dominate and steal from others, fighting ensues and lies about one’s enemies and about oneself proliferate. When society is based on cooperation, sharing, and helping each other such problems as arise are more easily and peacefully resolved. TO PUT IT SIMPLY, LOVE IS PREFERABLE TO HATE. Is that too hard to understand? Does anyone believe that selfishness is the best formula for living together? Isn’t “capitalism” based on selfishness? Do you still think capitalism will deliver anything but war and mutual alienation? Have people been brainwashed to think socialism is evil? What should we do about that?
I have worked with immigrants from all over the world for the past 30 years, and one of the comment which I have heard most often of them is how they are impressed by the kindness Americans show strangers and their willingness to help others. Virtually all of them compare Americans favorably to their own country in this regard. One can well be capitalist and yet also be non-selfish. By and large, my guess is most Americans are.
In watching MSNBC’s saturation coverage of the alleged Russian perfidy (leaving aside for the moment just how perfidious spilling the beans on Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s machinations actually was, no matter who did it), I have definitely encountered phrasings such as “it’s in their [i.e. the Russians’] DNA”.
It’s really anything goes at this point.
I think some are taking a cue from John Brennan’s comment about Russian DNA from a few months ago. I guess when people can entertain notions of genetically-based untrustworthiness, anything goes.
“You would think that they would have enough self-awareness and enough journalistic integrity -– just enough -– to be concerned about their image.”
Here you go thinking again, your really should know that they have none…
And yes, I still hear it from folks in former Warsaw-Pact countries that their life had been better under the previous governments. Especially, if the country joined the EU, in which case the younger generation is basically migrant workers for Western European countries…
Al Pinto, reporters, journalists and editors can’t afford the luxury of integrity because at the end of the day they need their pay packet. There must be many people who work in the MSN industry who can see what a sham the whole thing is, but if they tried to write something critical of the sate or favourable to Russia, they would soon find themselves flipping burgers at a wayside cafe somewhere.
When journalistic outlets within the Outlaw US Empire were infiltrated and/or co-opted by CIA via Operation Mockingbird, integrity and such immediately vanished. Empire promotion and justifications for its many crimes now consumes most of what media writers and presenters are tasked with, while almost all serious investigative journalism now resides within the blogosphere. This item from last January about Journalism within the US Empire got little notice due to the seemingly radical nature of its publisher; but isn’t it true nowadays that telling the truth is a radical expression, https://www.blackagendareport.com/cia_real_organized_crime
Karl Sanchez, many thanks for your accurate attention on the legacy of Operation Mockingbird, I certainly agree. It is Our awful dilemma to deal with! Too, I wish to thank you for the excellent link which is scholarly and directs some attention to Douglas Valentine, an author that I read initially as a skeptic, who won me over as an invaluable resource.
I think one of the great values of this site is further, informed education and you’re a part of that. I’ll add a link to Mr. Valentine. Thank You.
Maybe some Eastern Europeans are nostalgic for Communism, but no one will arrest them for saying so, nor spy on them constantly or report their every word or movement to the secret police. They can publish their own newspapers, produce thier own television programs as they wish, luxuries that were denied to the opponents of Communism. And yet despite this advantages not one Communist party has won a single election in Eastern Europe or Russia. Its very easy for people to wax nostalgic for communism, but when faced with an actual Marxist party on the ballot, they are forced to recall with what it actually meant to live under Communism – the surrender of the freedom to hold openly hold an opinion which was different from the government, the freedom to change employment or even residence at will, the freedom to travel abroad (at least to those countries which would take them). And they are not interested. Bill Blum should know this better than most. Despite writing books that are vastly more critical of the U.S. than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s were of the Soviet Union, his biography fails to report a single instance of him being arrested or even losing a job because of his political views. He travelled freely internationally, published books and newspapers, was paid large sums for writing a movie script highly critical of the U.S. government, all with no consequences to himself. What Soviet dissident in their time (or Chinese dissident today) would not be overjoyed by such freedom.
Thank you Bill Blum for this article. Few people could equal your depth, sensitivity and breadth of knowledge. Russia is an historically unique nation state. It is still the product of the Russian Revolution, the decades of life in the first workers’ state. Lenin never expected it to survive without revolution in the west, notably Germany. Despite the deformations; the degeneration of the revolution, the sheer power of the planned economy, monopoly of foreign trade, collectivized production, I believe, has left a deep imprint on Russia as well as the rest of the world. A country sui generis.
It seems to me that, to the extent any such generalizations hold water, the Russian people tend toward egalitarian and social attitudes economically, while being rather conservative on the cultural, religious, and sex/gender issues that are held up as defining “the left” and “liberalism” in the U.S.
This is of course exactly the combination that will get a person or a nation relegated to troglodyte status by the U.S. media.
My apologies to William Blum for posting this under his perceptive media analysis, but I believe it is of considerable importance to CN readers.
Bob H, the issue is highly complex and deserving of questioning and exchange. Hoping not to oversimplify too badly, I boil it down to your view that the Kurds have their independence issues as part of today’s boil-back against subservience, and Cartalucci’s and others’ view that the current referendum plays right into Israel-neocon hands to be used in the script leading on to war with Iran. This dialogue does not need to be shut off with caustic and insulting responses, from anybody. We all have our anger today, or at least irritability. Trolls are especially annoying. Bob H you are not a troll and nobody seriously reading this site would think so, having read your many contributions. Abe is a bit crusty. I’ve run across his tongue myself some time back when I questioned an attack he was making on a troll. Turned out he was right about the troll and I had to apologize, but in the process he burned me as though I was an accomplice, whereas I was raising a question. Personally I appreciate the exchange you had with Abe, as well as valuing both of your viewpoints in this forum. We will disagree, after all, and maybe flare a bit once in a while, that is the nature of passionate and honest dialogue. I’d say it’s time to move on.
D5-5, thank you for your wise words. Actually I think you summed up the Kurdish situation very well. I don’t deny there is a legitimacy to the argument that an independent Kurdistan could be “used” by the Iran bashing faction. Time will tell. Meanwhile, as you say, I’m moving on.
Dear comrades, “free exchange of ideas in civil debate” obviously does include “passionate and honest dialogue”.
So let’s be honest here: Online propaganda is a reality we all have to deal with.
Respecting that CN is an investigative journalism website that addresses complex and controversial issues from a variety of fact-based perspectives, it is necessary to recognize that the comments areas of the site are subject to propaganda attacks.
So before we “move on”, let’s quickly define a few relevant terms.
In Internet slang, a “troll” is a person who sows discord or confusion by posting in an online community with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal, on-topic discussion of a topic. This sense of both the noun and the verb “troll” is associated with Internet discourse, but also has been used more widely.
A “sockpuppet” is an online identity used for purposes of deception. On independent news and information sites, false online identities are created for propaganda purposes by groups and government agencies in order to promote an opinion or view.
The first Oxford English Dictionary example of the term “sockpuppet”, defined as “a person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion,” is taken from U.S. News and World Report, March 27, 2000.
A “strawman sockpuppet” is a “false flag” identity created to make a particular point of view look foolish or unwholesome in order to generate negative sentiment against it. “Strawman sockpuppets” typically behave in an unintelligent, uninformed, or bigoted manner and advance “straw man” arguments that their puppeteers can easily refute. The intended effect is to discredit more rational arguments made for the same position.
A “strawman sockpuppet” often behaves in an inflammatory manner similar to the behavior more typically associated with Internet “trolls”. In contemporary online discourse, the term “troll” more generally applies to both “sockpuppets” and “trolls”.
A noted example of “sockpuppet” deception or “troll” activity online is Hasbara (which literally means “explanation”), propaganda that serves the interests of the Israeli state or the Israel Lobby. Both ordinary “sockpuppets” (Conventional Hasbara) and “strawman sockpuppets” (Inverted Hasbara) are employed.
Common advice is to ignore rather than engage with a “troll” – sometimes phrased as “Please do not feed the trolls” – due to the tendency for “sockpuppets” or “trolls” to start quarrels or upset people.
However, in the context of online deception operations conducted by agencies and governments, non-engagement allows propaganda messages to exert influence. In such instances, direct engagement can be instructive and supportive of the community.
On a personal note, I never use the term “troll” as an ad hominem or to “insult” someone I “disagree” with, however passionately. Hope all that’s helpful.
I read your considerably important blog post with great interest.
Please be informed that I definitely am not a “gatekeeper” in any capacity here.
As far as trolls are concerned, they’re usually the ones grumbling about “groupthink”.
You state in your blog post: “My intention was to present an opposing argument in favor of the recent referendum in Kurdistan.”
Whatever your opinion is on the “Kurdish question”, the issue here is that presenting “an opposing argument” requires one to address the argument that is being opposed.
Referencing our exchange in the comments at
You directed your six “points” of purported “disagreement” at Tony Cartalucci’s article “What Syria’s Kurds ‘Think’ They are Fighting For Versus Reality”.
Unfortunately, the August 2016 article you “took issue with” was not about the September 2017 Kurdish independence referendum in Iraq.
I presented Cartalucci’s 2016 article to highlight the fact that Kurdish forces openly serve as a military instrument of Western interests. Cartalucci accurately stated that:
“Kurdish forces that allowed themselves to be used by Western interests were used as one of several components – the others involving sectarian extremists including Al Qaeda – to divide and destroy Iraq, and now they are being used against Syria, and soon against Iran.”
I accurately stated that your six “points” were “bogus” in terms of any sort of “disagreement” because they failed to address “Cartalucci’s geopolitical analysis of the function of Kurdish militants”.
And I pointed out the fact that no one here at CN has advocated the subjugation of minorities.
I characterized your “response” as an effort to “downplay the relationship between Kurdish proxy forces and US/Israeli interests” and described it as “a collection of Hasbara talking points”, remarkably similar to the statements issued by the Israeli government and its proxies concerning all that Kurdish flag and Israeli waving in Iraq.
In fact, Bob, you are the one who declared “guess I’m just another Hasbara troll!”
I honestly didn’t think your statement was a confession. I thought your problem was more in the attention deficit realm.
However, if you persist in your insinuation that CN is a site that somehow encourages “groupthink”, then it definitely will be necessary to retract that “benefit of the doubt” thing.
“However, if you persist in your insinuation that CN is a site that somehow encourages “groupthink”, then it definitely will be necessary to retract that “benefit of the doubt” thing.”
Abe…I’ll be taking down this link shortly as I’ve been overcome by the brilliant logic of you argument and must confess I really am a Kurdish troll! A peshmerga is now on his way to deliver a message to Barzani recommending that he invalidate the independence plebiscite. Happy troll-busting!
“Sorry, the issue you were looking for in this blog does not exist.”