John Pilger: War in Europe & the Rise of Raw Propaganda

Russia’s security proposals ought to be welcomed in the West, writes John Pilger. But who understands their significance when all the people are told is that Putin is a pariah?  

Oct. 8, 2014: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland at a Ukrainian State Border Guard Service Base in Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Flickr)

By John Pilger

Marshall McLuhan’s prophecy that “the successor to politics will be propaganda” has happened.  Raw propaganda is now the rule in Western democracies, especially the U.S. and Britain

On matters of war and peace, ministerial deceit is reported as news. Inconvenient facts are censored, demons are nurtured. The model is corporate spin, the currency of the age. In 1964, McLuhan famously declared, “The medium is the message.” The lie is the message now.

But is this new? It is more than a century since Edward Bernays, the father of spin, invented “public relations” as a cover for war propaganda. What is new is the virtual elimination of dissent in the mainstream.

The great editor David Bowman, author of The Captive Press, called this “a defenestration of all who refuse to follow a line and to swallow the unpalatable and are brave.” He was referring to independent journalists and whistle blowers, the honest mavericks to whom media organizations once gave space, often with pride. The space has been abolished.

The war hysteria that has rolled in like a tidal wave in recent weeks and months is the most striking example. Known by its jargon, “shaping the narrative,” much if not most of it is pure propaganda.

The No-Evidence Rule

The Russians are coming. Russia is worse than bad. Putin is evil, “a Nazi like Hitler,” salivated the Labour MP Chris Bryant. Ukraine is about to be invaded by Russia – tonight, this week, next week. The sources include an ex CIA propagandist who now speaks for the U.S. State Department and offers no evidence of his claims about Russian actions because “it comes from the U.S. Government.”

The no-evidence rule also applies in London. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who spent £500,000 of public money flying to Australia in a private plane to warn the Canberra government that both Russia and China were about to pounce, offered no evidence. Antipodean heads nodded; the “narrative” is unchallenged there. One rare exception, former Prime Minister Paul Keating, called Truss’s warmongering “demented.”

Truss has blithely confused the countries of the Baltic and Black Sea. In Moscow, she told the Russian foreign minister that Britain would never accept Russian sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh – until it was pointed out to her that these places were not part of Ukraine but in Russia. Read the Russian press about the buffoonery of this pretender to 10 Downing Street and cringe.

Dangerous Farce 

U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss visits Estonia, Nov. 30, 2021. (Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street)

This entire farce, recently starring U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Moscow playing a clownish version of his hero, Winston Churchill, might be enjoyed as satire were it not for its wilful abuse of facts and historical understanding and the real danger of war.

Vladimir Putin refers to the “genocide” in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. Following the coup in Ukraine in 2014 – orchestrated by former U.S. President Barack Obama’s “point person” in Kyiev, Victoria Nuland – the coup regime, infested with neo-Nazis, launched a campaign of terror against Russian-speaking Donbass, which accounts for a third of Ukraine’s population.

Overseen by CIA Director John Brennan in Kyiev, “special security units” coordinated savage attacks on the people of Donbass, who opposed the coup. Video and eyewitness reports show bussed fascist thugs burning the trade union headquarters in the city of Odessa, killing 41 people trapped inside. The police are standing by. Obama congratulated the “duly elected” coup regime for its “remarkable restraint.”

In the U.S. media the Odessa atrocity was played down as “murky” and a “tragedy” in which “nationalists” (neo-Nazis) attacked “separatists” (people collecting signatures for a referendum on a federal Ukraine). Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal damned the victims —”Deadly Ukraine Fire Likely Sparked by Rebels, Government Says.”

March 4, 2015: OSCE monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine. (OSCE, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Professor Stephen Cohen, acclaimed as America’s leading authority on Russia, wrote,

“The pogrom-like burning to death of ethnic Russians and others in Odessa reawakened memories of Nazi extermination squads in Ukraine during World War II. [Today] storm-like assaults on gays, Jews, elderly ethnic Russians, and other ‘impure’ citizens are widespread throughout Kyiv-ruled Ukraine, along with torchlight marches reminiscent of those that eventually inflamed Germany in the late 1920s and 1930s …

“The police and official legal authorities do virtually nothing to prevent these neo-fascist acts or to prosecute them. On the contrary, Kyiv has officially encouraged them by systematically rehabilitating and even memorializing Ukrainian collaborators with Nazi German extermination pogroms, renaming streets in their honor, building monuments to them, rewriting history to glorify them, and more.”

Today, neo-Nazi Ukraine is seldom mentioned. That the British are training the Ukrainian National Guard, which includes neo-Nazis, is not news. (See Matt Kennard’s Declassified report in Consortium News, Feb. 15). The return  of violent, endorsed fascism to 21st-century Europe, to quote Harold Pinter, “never happened … even while it was happening.”

On Dec. 16, the United Nations tabled a resolution that called for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism.” The only nations to vote against it were the United States and Ukraine.

Almost every Russian knows that it was across the plains of Ukraine’s “borderland” that Hitler’s divisions swept from the west in 1941, bolstered by Ukraine’s Nazi cultists and collaborators. The result was more than 20 million Russian dead.

Russian Proposals

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and President Vladimir Putin, center, in 2017. (The Russian Presidential Press and Information Office, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Setting aside the manoeuvres and cynicism of geopolitics, whomever the players, this historical memory is the driving force behind Russia’s respect-seeking, self-protective security proposals, which were published in Moscow in the week the U.N. voted 130-2 to outlaw Nazism. They are:

– NATO guarantees that it will not deploy missiles in nations bordering Russia. (They are already in place from Slovenia to Romania, with Poland to follow)

– NATO to stop military and naval exercises in nations and seas bordering Russia.

– Ukraine will not become a member of NATO.

– the West and Russia to sign a binding East-West security pact.

– the landmark treaty between the U.S. and Russia covering intermediate-range nuclear weapons to be restored. (The U.S. abandoned it in 2019.)

These amount to a comprehensive draft of a peace plan for all of post-war Europe and ought to be welcomed in the West. But who understands their significance in Britain? What they are told is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a pariah and a threat to Christendom.

Russian-speaking Ukrainians, under economic blockade by Kiev for seven years, are fighting for their survival. The “massing” army we seldom hear about are the 13 Ukrainian army brigades laying siege to Donbass: an estimated 150,000 troops. If they attack, the provocation to Russia will almost certainly mean war.

In 2015, brokered by the Germans and French, the presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France met in Minsk and signed an interim peace deal. Ukraine agreed to offer autonomy to Donbass, now the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The Minsk agreement has never been given a chance. In Britain, the line, amplified by Boris Johnson, is that Ukraine is being “dictated to” by world leaders. For its part, Britain is arming Ukraine and training its army.

Since the first Cold War, NATO has effectively marched right up to Russia’s most sensitive border having demonstrated its bloody aggression in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and broken solemn promises to pull back.  Having dragged European “allies” into American wars that do not concern them, the great unspoken is that NATO itself is the real threat to European security.

In Britain, a state and media xenophobia is triggered at the very mention of “Russia.” Mark the knee-jerk hostility with which the BBC reports Russia. Why? Is it because the restoration of imperial mythology demands, above all, a permanent enemy? Certainly, we deserve better.

John Pilger’s 2003 film, Breaking the Silence, about the “war on terror” is available to view here.  

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

26 comments for “John Pilger: War in Europe & the Rise of Raw Propaganda

  1. Patricia P Tursi
    February 18, 2022 at 13:03

    The continuation of the 2014 fiasco with Nazi overtones led by Biden, Nuland and involving graff of Biden’s son, continues. The ports in Crimea on the Black Sea are Russia’s only winter commercial shipping parts. While denying Russia admittance to NATO, and smiling on using Ukraine, Biden struggles to look presidential during “war”. This is so apparent and once more, the US looks silly.

  2. Francis Lee
    February 18, 2022 at 10:28

    It was the British playwright Harold Pinter, who captured the spirit of the age when he was describing US atrocities in Latin American. These atrocities were ”Of no consequence, they didn’t matter, even whilst they were happening they were not happening.’

    This now forms the mental life-world of the average, and not so average, citizen of the west. Moreover,

    ”The ways in which issues and the popular will on any issue are being manufactured is exactly analogous to the ways of commercial advertising. We find the same attempts to contact and manipulate the subconscious. We find the same technique of creating favourable and unfavourable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are. We find the same evasions and references and the same trick of producing ‘opinion’ by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people.” (J.A.Schumpeter – Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy – 1941)

  3. David Parry
    February 18, 2022 at 08:22

    Thanks for some refreshing insight. The Western propaganda cloud here is truly suffocating.

  4. Aaron
    February 18, 2022 at 07:48

    That’s appalling that Barack Obummer congratulated the Donbass thugs. And considering the US refusal to compromise or negotiate at all with Putin, it seems like Blinken is doing the opposite of what he claims, like he’s there to start a war, not prevent one, because there is no acknowledgement of the NATO expansion concerns of Russia which were not supposed to happen according to earlier agreements. I doubt if that freaky hag Truss will be on the front lines of combat in any real war.

  5. John Danziger
    February 18, 2022 at 07:28

    Excellent article as usual.

  6. Neville
    February 18, 2022 at 05:21

    Of course, another part of this obscenity is that most of the western countries supporting this by sending millions in funding and arms have severe socio economic problems at home. The war pigs can always find money for killing people but can never afford to feed, educate and care for their own people. Spreading their perverse form of peace and democracy overseas whilst keeping the jackboot on the throats at home.

  7. February 17, 2022 at 23:17


  8. Randal Marlin
    February 17, 2022 at 22:01

    “The ‘massing’ army we seldom hear about are the 13 Ukrainian army brigades laying siege to Donbass: an estimated 150,000 troops. If they attack, the provocation to Russia will almost certainly mean war.”

    It’s true that we seldom hear about the 150,000 Ukrainian troops laying siege to Donbass. I’m inclined to believe it, but I still would like to have evidence for this. Who came up with the estimate of 150,000 and on what factual basis?

    (As an aside, I am sorry to hear that Canada is supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. All on the basis of combating “Russian aggression.”)
    If the report about 150,000 Ukrainian troops laying siege to Donbass is true, that could be why Putin has ordered the deployment of his own Russian troops, and instead of being an aggressor he could arguably be seen as attempting to deter aggression.
    I do remember the Odessa massacre. It supports the idea that Ukraine would be determined to regain control over Donbass, and that Russian speakers would not fare well if that happened.

  9. February 17, 2022 at 20:19

    Thank You Mr Pilger.
    I’ve just sent this 2014 article from you to my list : Nato’s action plan in Ukraine is right out of Dr Strangelove
    John Pilger – hxxps://

    Thank you

    Pierre Girard

  10. February 17, 2022 at 18:29

    thank you John pinger! As usual you offer desperately needed set of facts to counterbalance the “coverage” of corporate western countries.

  11. peon d. rich
    February 17, 2022 at 18:12

    Look at what is there without the presuppositions of the tired political presuppositions and truisms, a wearisome pragmatism that pivots to the most banal while catering to the masters of war and finance. War, preparations for war, rumors of war, threats of war are a drain to human well-being. Whatever virtues that can be found in it (e.g., courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice, patriotism) can be nurtured in other pursuits that do not destroy. This is its real sense outside of the bias of numerous self-interests and presuppositions that pose themselves as rational, but fail to grasp the radical givenness of what war truly is as itself. And because of this war appears as a solution, a political reality. F*^k this s*^t, it becomes irreason foisted as reason; mere propaganda. Stop the idiotic intrigues and look at what is given originally: the horror and despair of war and all that war, preparations for war, and politicizing for war costs us spiritually and materially. Thank you, Mr. Pilger.

    • Eddy
      February 18, 2022 at 00:06

      Peon d. Rich.
      Quote, “whatever virtues that can be found in it (e.g., courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice, patriotism)” Unquote. It would seem to me, making such statements as this, displays very clearly, the author has no idea whatever, of what WAR entails. As a Veteran of the Vietnam war, let me advise you, there is no such thing as courage, loyalty, self sacrifice or patriotism. Every one of these alleged virtues, is pushed by the folks who also push the aggression and wars, self serving individuals. Rest assured, I for one, did not see any of those virtues from OUR troops in Vietnam. It’s extremely difficult, to portray any such virtues when your sitting in an ambush in the middle of the night waiting for unsuspecting Vietnamese people to come along and then blow them all to bits, then sit there waiting for sunrise, while the victims of our attacks are slowly expiring, then when the sun comes up, we go down to examine the handy work, check out documents/intelligence these people may be carrying, collect the body parts and bury them. At no time, did I witness any of the virtues the author of this article claims proponents of war, regularly claim is the right thing to do.

      • Hide Behind
        February 20, 2022 at 04:32

        As a Iet Veteeran I fully concurr with what you said..
        An incident years after return between wife and I watching a US propaganda documentary comes to mind
        After a fire fight between US company’s and a platoon almost 40 men they showed a scene where Americand
        S are disfiguring and poses of dead by laughing American troop..
        My wife gave a gasp a nd with tears asked ?”
        me “How could men make fun joke and laugh while burying men they killed?”
        I told her to them those were not humans but gooks, and zipperheads.
        War is an insanity, nothing to do with flags and apple pie Patriotism. Was between your soldiers not nation and you.were those men crazy, to so.eextent but foursome of us we had to laugh or go crazy”
        Lucky for me I retained my sanity.
        Today we get 100 or more suicides by ex service men who couldn’t retain theirs.

  12. Templar
    February 17, 2022 at 17:46

    Thank you, John. As you’ve mentioned, only former Prime Minister Paul Keating, who referred to Liz Truss as demented, has not swallowed the anti-Russian hysteria in Australia. The pro-US/Ukrainian bias in government and the MSM is palpable.

    • Eddy
      February 18, 2022 at 00:12

      Templar, on the contrary, there are many Australians who can see very clearly, thru the cow manure being spread by the MSM and our politicians. The problem is that generally, no one really gives a stuff, we are all suffering from Covid fatigue and besides, Russia and Ukraine are thousands of miles away in the Northern hemisphere and really, no concern of ours. Our politicians simply repeat what they are told to say, to stay in line with their masters orders in Washington and London. For the general population of Australia, those events are totally irrelevant and of no concern. Though there are many Australians, who will, when asked, offer their views which will in the majority, be in line with Paul Keating’s views.

      • Tim S.
        February 18, 2022 at 13:48

        “…really, no concern of ours.”

        Maybe the Ozzies who think this should read “On the Beach” again (or maybe they never read it in the first place). Over half a century old, but quite relevant to today’s headlines…

        • February 18, 2022 at 17:43

          “On the Beach”, movie version from 2000.

          A great film, that everyone on the face of the planet should watch, and understand this can happen, in a matter of hours, if our politicians ignore science, and forget to sit down with their adversaries and simply talk !

          It’s truly a shame if the world would ever come to this.

          It’s a also a vitally important message to get across to succeeding generations.

  13. Georges Olivier Daudelin
    February 17, 2022 at 17:45

    Il faut dire: “La propagande brute est désormais la règle dans les démocraties occidentales, en particulier aux États-Unis et en Grande-Bretagne” ET AUSSI AU CANADA ET EN AUSTRALIE.

    • TP
      February 18, 2022 at 13:52

      Ça s’appelle les Five Eyes…

  14. Lois Gagnon
    February 17, 2022 at 17:23

    The US believes it’s going to do regime change in Russia and absorb it into its draconian neoliberal sphere. Every idiot in Washington that supports this madness belongs behind bars.

  15. Guy
    February 17, 2022 at 16:31

    “On Dec. 16, the United Nations tabled a resolution that called for “combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism.” The only nations to vote against it were the United States and Ukraine.”
    And Canada abstained to my shame.

  16. bobzz
    February 17, 2022 at 16:18

    Liz Truss in that tank wearing a helmet reminds me of Michael Dukakis in a suit with a helmet in a tank—both equally silly. For the younger, Dukakis’ stunt was part of his vying for the presidency versus Bush I.

  17. February 17, 2022 at 16:14

    Thank you John!! And thank you Consortium! for explaining so clearly what has been going on in eastern Ukraine and exposing the lies we have been told. This is going to be forwarded to friends and relatives who rreally don’t know ;what has been goin g on and still is going on.

  18. Realist
    February 17, 2022 at 16:11

    I think that Washington has just started the war. According to the Saker (Andrei Raevski) the American telecom companies have just severed Russia from the internet, apparently including government agencies.

    The lightning invasion the world has been waiting for may well have been started by Lord Biden and his band of fascists.

    I’m sure Washington feels entirely entitled to have taken such actions, after all, it thinks it owns the whole world.

    As I’ve always said, this war will not be televised, it will also not be reported if Washington has anything to say about the matter. Very dark day for freedom and democracy in the world if this report is true. I hope it is wrong but the guys providing the intel are highly cautious, conservative and careful. May well be the “false flag” both sides have threatened. But may also be the last day of peacetime for a long time to come.

  19. Ray Peterson
    February 17, 2022 at 15:55

    John, I’m worried that soon your truthfulness will come to an end
    as you have reached the “fourscore” and may soon “fly away” (Ps.90).
    Consortium readers need to know how a “Britain arming Ukraine
    and training its army,” will impact Julian Assange and WikiLeaks?
    Orwell warned us long ago about politics degenerating into propaganda,
    his words maybe worth the remembrance: “Political language is designed to make
    lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of
    solidity to pure wind” (Why I Write).

  20. ramon
    February 17, 2022 at 15:27

    thank you for such accurate information the saying

Comments are closed.