The ‘free’ press in the West (part 2)

This web site published an article in May 2014 about the Western media reporting on the situation in Ukraine. Through a careful reading of the details of multiple press reports we demonstrated how the Western press was collusive in telling tales about what is happening in Ukraine. All semblance of factual reporting had been lost. Reports used selectivity with facts, mis-reports and elaborate language to create a narrative fully in-synch with that of the Western political class. Everything was filtered through the interpretation of the Western political establishment. The story was about how a “new government” came to power in Kiev after “peaceful protests”. They did nothing wrong. They (all Ukraine) just wants to be part of the EU. The Russians responded by annexing Crimea at gunpoint and then stirring up a war in the East. All because they are “aggressive”.

This piece is a stock take one year later. Is the “free press” in the West still producing hysterical and one-sided propaganda which white-washes Western intervention in Ukraine? The method is the same. A number of articles from the news agencies and UK press are selected (mostly at random) and reviewed for factual accuracy and propaganda intention.

5/2/2015

This is from Reuters in a piece discussing NATO’s plans to increase its posture in the member states around Russia:

NATO has made clear it will not intervene in Ukraine but will bolster the defenses of nervous eastern allies who were under Moscow’s domination for four decades until 1989

It may be the case that NATO is not going to intervene officially in Ukraine. However, the US, NATO’s biggest contributor, is already intervening heavily. The US is already supplying “non-lethal” weapons. [1] The US is planning to send military trainers. [2] NATO has officially left it up to individual members to arm Kiev. [3] According to Russia several members are in a programme to arm Kiev which is coordinated with the US. [4]. The Ukrainian Defence Minister has confirmed that they are receiving arms from NATO members. [5] NATO member Poland has indicated it is willing to sell arms to Kiev. [6] The US is openly mulling whether to send “lethal”, as opposed to “non-lethal” arms to Kiev. [7] Â In effect they are intervening while attempting to avoid doing so publicly by delegating the decisions to individual regions. Interestingly this is what they accuse Moscow of doing. The US and NATO have a long history of accusing the other side of what they are doing. So. To clarify; NATO may have “made it clear” they will not intervene in Ukraine. However, in effect, they are intervening. Reuters is free to report on NATO’s statements as matters of fact; or, to probe, question and try to tell something resembling the truth. If they choose the former, as they do here, they are acting as a kind of press arm of NATO.

The “eastern allies” were not under Moscow’s, (as in the current Moscow, capital of Russia), domination for four decades. They were part of the Soviet Union. Reuters is confusing present-day Russia with the Soviet Union. No doubt intentionally. Given the way that the Baltic States were incorporated it is fair (if a summary) to say they were “dominated” by the Soviet Union. Perhaps, again in general terms, the same can be said of Romania. But hasn’t Reuters noticed; the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991? The “Moscow” who dominated these countries was the Soviet Union. The Moscow of today is the capital of Russia. A democratic country – with no foreign countries under its “domination”. Who is revising Cold War era politics – Moscow or Reuters/NATO?

The report details how NATO is going to set up new bases in the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. 30,000 troops are earmarked as a rapid reaction force. Reuters comments that:

NATO officials believe its measures comply with the alliance’s 1997 commitment not to permanently station substantial combat forces in eastern Europe while providing allies in the region with a visible assurance that the rest of NATO would come to their aid if they were attacked.

NATO is trying to build up forces in the Baltic States and in the Black Sea by endlessly re-cycling training exercises. It is true in a sense that “NATO believes” etc. But to report that “NATO believes” is a kind of tactic of propaganda. It can be said to be reportage because it has attributed the source. But the Russian side quite understandably sees this for what it is. A build up of NATO forces on their door-step. Reuters report has nothing to say about this. It is thus one-sided. It could printed in a NATO PR sheet with no embarrassment.

6/2/2015

This is from AFP.

It is typical of much of current Western reporting on Ukraine.

It doesn’t specifically misrepresent anything. US Vice-President Biden is quoted without AFP taking a view. As such it qualifies as factual reporting.

Biden is quoted:

Russia cannot be allowed to redraw the map of Europe.

President Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside, and he absolutely ignores every agreement his country has signed in the past

The US narrative blames Russia for everything. The role of the US in stoking the conflict is white-washed out. There is no mention here for US plans to send military advisers to Ukraine. [2] Nor of the “non-lethal” arms already sent. [1] Nor of the open discussions about sending lethal arms. [7] So; US military equipment is already flowing through the Ukrainian countryside. As concerns Putin “ignoring agreements he has signed”. This again is a consistent narrative line issuing from the State Department propaganda machine.  One is reminded of the agreement of 21st February 2014 between the then President Yanokovich and the then opposition, which was brokered by France, Germany and Russia. It was immediately “absolutely” broken by the opposition. [8]  No one in the US called for this agreement to be honoured. For a short-while the West cast around for the narrative line to deal with this, before finding it. It was Yanokovich who broke the agreement by “fleeing”. No mention of the violent and armed mob outside his windows which drove him out. Neither side has implemented the Minsk agreement [9]. In particular the US sending arms to Kiev (to follow-on from their existing supplies of “non-lethal” material or war) seems difficult to reconcile with support for a ceasefire.

The AFP piece also reports comments by Donald Tusk, the ex Polish premier. He is also on-message with the narrative line:

We cannot compromise on Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity

Is it “balanced reporting” to report what are obviously the “politically-motivated” narrative positions of the US machine being presented by US leaders (and their NATO allies) without comment, criticism or doubt?

It seems that “balanced reporting” may mean giving balance say to both sides of the arguments about a government health insurance programme but when it comes to Russia v. the West it is all tribal. Only “our side” is right. This is a disappointment to those who hoped that truth might extend beyond national boundaries.

9/2/2015

This is from SkyNews.

Pro-Russian rebels annexed the Crimea region of southern Ukraine last year and have also taken control of areas in the east of the country, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Whatever view you take on how Crimea has rejoined Russia there is no way that it was an “annexation” by armed “rebels”. This story-line cannot even be supported with a selective use of the facts. There was a free election organised by a legitimate regional government – which the Western Media, including Sky News, was able to witness and report on. On 2/3/2014 Sky TV News reported “The Pro-Russian parliament of Crimea decides to join Russia. Now the narrative has become “Pro-Russian rebels annexed the Crimea region”. This is a nice example of the way the Western media delivers a narrative line. When they think no one is looking they’ll just change it. Narrative lines unlike reportage are not bound to facts.

10/2/2015

This is an editorial piece in the Daily Telegraph.

It’s included here because of the synching between its narrative line and that of the US administration. It also provides an example of what Professor Furedi has called “shallow posturing and empty moralising“.

Although Mr Obama won’t be bandying around the appeasement word, as the hawkish senator John McCain did at last weekend’s Munich Security Conference, he will have demanded assurances that Germany and France are not about to cut a weak and misguided deal with Vladimir Putin

So. We know here that the author is inline with the most right-wing elements in the US political scene who say that negotiating a peace deal in Ukraine is “defeatism” or failing to “defend freedom”. Of course they do; if the US sends more weapons to Ukraine the war won’t be on America’s doorstep.

The author continues:

For all the formulaic professions of unity at yesterday’s press conference in Washington, the Obama administration was rattled by the decision of Mrs Merkel and Franois Hollande to go racing off to Moscow last week on a mission that looked dangerously like rewarding bad behaviour.

“Rewarding bad behaviour”. Thousands of people have died in Eastern Ukraine. From both sides in the conflict. Though it has to be said that civilians have been hard-hit in Eastern Ukraine. Many have died at the hand’s of Kiev’s indiscriminate shelling. [10]. In fact this sentence reflects two aspects of the official right-wing Western narrative on Ukraine. It white-washes Kiev’s crimes. And it reduces a complex conflict with a long history to the level of school rules and “morality”.

For the last few weeks the Kremlin has continued to pour men and materiel into eastern Ukraine, while Mr Putin sets conditions for talks that sceptics fear will buy him time to continue re-drawing Europe’s borders ‘at the barrel of a gun’, as Mr Obama put it.

Well. There seems to be surprising little evidence for the men and material which “Mr Putin” is sending to Eastern Ukraine. Anyway. Here we have the “at the barrel of a gun” narrative line. It looks like this one was patched up between the US President and David Cameron. The latter used a variant “at the barrel of a Kalashnikov” to describe the referendum in Crimea. It’s worth pointing out that no less a figure than former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy has commented that he thinks the Crimea joining Russia was legal and analogous to Kosovo gaining its independence under his Premiership. What we see here is, again, what Frank Furedi would call “shallow posturing and empty moralising, always with an eye to making an impact with the media”.

At the heart of that disagreement exposed by more hawkish voices in the US administration who want to send defensive weapons to Ukraine is whether at this juncture it is worth negotiating with Mr Putin at all.

Mr Foster is right on track here with the US narrative. In fact they are already sending “non-lethal” military support. [11] This includes kit such as night-vision googles; which are designed to support offensive operations. Now we have the new euphemism from the US; anti-tank weapons [12] are described as “defensive weapons”. Mr Foster doesn’t miss a beat in echoing the correct narrative line. In fact he even goes further when he uses the term “defensive weapons”. The US President describes them as “lethal defensive weapons”.

The risk, as Mr Obama implied in his press conference with Mrs Merkel, is that Mr Putin will talk he might even sign a deal but will soon break any commitments as he prosecutes his ultimate ambition, which is to hive off a significant portion of Ukraine and open a land bridge to Crimea.

It isn’t clear whether this is Mr Foster’s opinion or if he is reporting on what the US President said at the Press Conference. This seems to be a transcript of a least part of President Obama’s press conference.

When it comes to military intervention Mr Obama has always been cautious, but as conditions worsen on the ground he is under mounting pressure to authorize defensive weapon shipments to the Ukraine, including Javelin anti-tank missiles and high-tech radars

Nope. As President Obama candidly admits in the Press conference comments linked above the US is already involved militarily in Ukraine.

Mr Obama has resisted has resisted such calls before, most notably when it came to arming Syrian rebels, but such are the stakes in Ukraine, there are those who believe that this most reluctant of interventionists may be forced to concede, at least partially, to the hawks.

Factual error. The US is arming Syrian rebels. [13] As for “most reluctant of interventionists” that seems to something of a misnomer. Libya would be another case where the US under Obama has intervened.  [14] In this case the US coordinated arms being sent from Qatar. [15] He is also over-seeing a world-wide programme of drone strikes.

President Obama does not believe that he is the “most reluctant of interventionists”. This is him speaking to Vox magazine:

My administration is very aggressive and internationalist in wading in and taking on and trying to solve problems.

And so it continues:

That might mean sending not anti-tank weapons, but some less offensive weapons, such as Humvees and medical transport vehicles, the lack of which are preventing Ukrainian casualties from receiving timely medical attention.

They are already sending Humvee vehicles. [16] Another factual error.

In the end, that could ultimately play into the hands of Angela Merkel who, if weapons are to be provided, is determined that she will have demonstrated to her own gun-shy public that she did everything possible to engage Mr Putin before conceding the necessity of providing military assistance to Kiev.

The necessity? We couldn’t help it your Honour. We “had” to do it.

Peter Foster, the author of this tosh, is the Telegraph‘s bureau chief in Washington. It serves as a good example of how some sections of the Western press apparently simply see their job as being repeating the narrative lines being constructed by the political leadership. Little echoes.

14/2/2015 – satellite pictures and narrative lines

The US Ambassador to Ukraine has published some satellite photographs on his “Twitter” feed. These are supposed to show “Russian military not separatist” artillery pieces near the contested village of Debaltsevo. The images were taken by a commercial satellite company.

The first image shows some grey blobs in a field somewhere. Let’s assume that these are indeed artillery pieces, that they are in the location we are told they are and the images have been taken recently.

The US Ambassador headlines his “Tweet”:

We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems

An account which appears to be owned by the BBC has Tweeted the Ambassador:

BBC News are keen to use the satellite images you’re posting. Are we clear to use them on our outlets? Please follow and DM us.

Thus are narratives constructed.

What does the claim “We are confident these are Russian military, not separatist, systems” mean? It means, one supposes, that these artillery pieces are supplied by Russia. And maybe a claim that they are manned by Russian soldiers as well. Rather than being equipment which the “separatists” have captured from the Ukrainian army. Or have bought. The problem is that there is nothing in the image (image 1) which supports such an assertion. Nothing. Zero. Even if it is an artillery piece etc. how does the image show that it is “Russian military”? If the claim is based on an analysis of the type of artillery piece then the Ambassador has not shared that with us. And given the fact that the images show no detail at all it is far from clear that it would be even theoretically possible to work out the type of weapon.

But the BBC is apparently lapping it all up.

The release of such an image on the US Ambassador’s Tweet stream is not the casual almost chatty act it appears to be. Such a post will have been put together by a team of people whose job it is to create a certain narrative line for public consumption using available evidence. This is one of the tasks of intelligence agencies. For example Scott Ritter detailed an MI6 information project in the book War on Iraq. [17] The aim is to manipulate the press into producing the preferred narrative line. And thus the population into believing it. In this case: Russia is sending heavy weapons into Eastern Ukraine. Thus do our modern democratic governments behave.

The claim that the (supposed) artillery pieces are “Russian” is not evidenced by the image. The claim accompanies the image. The image is just there to sex up the claim. And to make it something which gets published. Media outlets love a good photo. As it stands there is no evidence here for the claim about Russian artillery pieces. It is just an assertion made by the Ambassador. Is the Western media responsible, and for that matter, good enough at journalism to spot the difference?

This is how the BBC did indeed pick up the ‘Ambassador’s’ story:

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, also said on Twitter that Russian units along the border were preparing a large shipment of supplies to separatist fighters.

He pointed to satellite images of what he said was Russian artillery north of Debaltseve, taken on Thursday.

The BBC is careful enough not to reproduce the image on their own web site. But; absent is any critical questioning of the images. Or of the forces behind them. This is characteristic of much current Western media reporting on Ukraine. It is less absurdly one-sided than during the heady days of Russia’s “invasion” of Crimea. But it remains one-sided in that it publishes claims and narrative fabrication efforts by Western politicians without comment or question. It provides a service where these narrative lines are amplified and broadcast to the population. The BBC acts, you might say, as a propaganda bullhorn.

15/2/2015 – more lies

The US narrative building plot around satellite images worked well (see above post for 14/2/2015). To clarify the Ambassador’s 3 blurry pictures show (allegedly):

i. Artillery pieces near Debaltsevo

ii. Artillery Pieces near Debaltsevo

iii. “Russian multiple rocket launcher deployment” at Molodyy Shakhtar

Molodyy Shakhtar is inside Ukraine in rebel held territory. This image helpfully has an arrow leading from Russia into Ukraine.

As we discussed above (post for 14/2/2015) not one of theses images provides any evidence for Russia arming the separatists. Even if we allow that the blurry images do indeed show artillery and rocket launchers in the locations and at the times claimed this does not establish that the weapons are either supplied by or operated by Russia. The weapons systems are not identified as Russian. There is no supporting evidence to explain why they cannot have been captured from Ukrainian supplies. There is no evidence that they are operated by Russian soldiers. There is no evidence of movement across the border. There is no evidence of Russian government involvement. The images accompany the claims but provide no evidence for them. But the images create a kind of media frenzy. A picture is worth more than a thousand words…(even if the picture provides no actual information).

The Daily Mail takes the bait and writes:

Vladimir Putin’s position is, of course, absurd. He denies supplying weapons and men to the rebels in Ukraine but both Nato and Western intelligence have no doubt he is lying. They say there is plenty of proof that Russia has not only been supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry but that Russian regular soldiers are fighting alongside the separatists.

US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, yesterday said satellite photos showed large numbers of weaponry being massed on the border with Ukraine and said that some of the tanks being used ‘are Russian military, not separatist systems’. Pyatt added: ‘The separatists now have more tanks, APCs, artillery and missile systems than some European Nato countries.’

This report in the Daily Mail fails even to report the Ambassador’s Tweets correctly. The images are claimed to show artillery pieces not tanks. But, “of course”, “tanks” makes a better story than artillery pieces. And while the Ambassador does indeed claim that image 3 shows supplies being massed at the border the location given is inside Ukraine – not inside Russia. The “at the border” fib told by the Ambassador and repeated by the Daily Mail is necessary to spin along the narrative line “Russia is invading Ukraine”.

Thus does the media collude with US imperialism in create narratives for public consumption.

To the credit of the Daily Mail writer he does at least acknowledge that the narrative line “Russia is expansionist and belligerent” is an opinion not a fact:

The rebels’ arms can only be coming from Russia. Many western countries believe they are working according to a plan by Putin to rebuild a new Russian-led empire.

Nonetheless it is a pity that the alternative analysis – that Russia is in self-defence mode and is concerned about a) having NATO bases along its entire Western flank and b) has a genuine interest in supporting and defending ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine from Ukrainian nationalists is not mentioned. Again; the Western media by only mentioning one point of view (the view of NATO and imperialist Western politicians) acts as a kind of propaganda conduit for this view.

In another Daily Mail piece the same images are said to show anti-aircraft weapons! The Ambassador claims artillery. The Daily Mail claims first tanks and then anti-aircraft weapons. The images are being used by the Daily Mail to evidence just about anything. This aptly illustrates the point we are making about the relationship between the images and the Ambassador’s claims. The actual images don’t really show anything but they can be used to add spice to any claim at all. The Ambassador started the ball rolling and the Western media duly picks it up and further expands it. (The Ambassador has indeed claimed that Russia is supplying tanks and anti-aircraft systems to the rebels though that was a separate claim to the tweeted images of “artillery pieces” and “rocket launchers”. [18] )

23/2/2015 – more lies from Reuters

This is a piece of particularly shameless lying from Reuters.

Comments:

Does the Kremlin really call the Eastern provinces of Ukraine New Russia? Certainly some of the “separatists” do – but the Kremlin? It seems unlikely given that their stated policy all along (and since before the war started) has been to propose a federal Ukraine. But this fits the narrative about “Russian invasion” and “annexation” etc.

As for:

Germany and France mediated the peace deal that came into effect a week ago. They still hope it can be resurrected, even though the rebels ignored it to inflict to seize the town of Debaltseve after encircling thousands of Ukrainian troops

Fantastic. No mention of Russia who was one of 4 parties to this deal. As far “the rebels ignored it”. Time for a fact check. Debaltseve was behind the ceasefire lines of both sides. This is shown for example on this map produced of the Minsk 2 ceasefire lines by the Ukrainian side. Incidentally the BBC report on that page is far more objective than Reuters. It presents quotes from several sides and acknowledges that both sides in the fighting are in breech of the ceasefire.

This kind of blatantly dishonest reporting – telling lies that can easily be verified as lies – is a hallmark of Reuters reporting on the Ukraine conflict. Someone somewhere must be pulling the strings. Reuters is owned by Thomson Reuters, which is a publicly traded company. Reuters has its headquarters in Canary Wharf in London. It is therefore at the heart of Western finance capital. The project to bring Ukraine into the orbit of Western finance capital through EU membership, IMF programmes and a military intervention is well supported by the corporate media.

23/2/2015 – the warmongering Western press

Today, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has made an important speech at the UN on the occasion of the UN’s 70th birthday. He comments on how the UN is being side-lined by the US/UK alliance. They use the UN to approve their actions and if they don’t succeed they either go ahead anyway – or they abuse the resolutions. This is consistent with facts. On Syria for example, when Russia indicated it would not sign a resolution authorising bombing the UK described Russia as “obstructing” the UN.

This is RT’s report on Sergey Lavrov’s speech. (The incompetent journalist has confused Syria with Serbia in her piece to camera).

This is important stuff. The role of the UN and the entire shaping of the international order is at stake. Even if you don’t agree with the Russian analysis it behoves the press in a “democracy” to report the speech made to the UN by one of the 5 permanent members.

Yahoo News however is instead today covering the comments by a US Senator, John McCain that he feels “ashamed” that his country has allowed the “dismemberment” of a European state. He is presumably referring to the “annexation” of Crimea.

This prioritising of editorial subject matter shows a lack of balance. These kinds of editorial choices have an impact of public opinion and thus, to some extent, effect what kind of answers and explanations the political class needs to give. By making this kind of choice Yahoo is seeing to it that an open discussion about the role of the UN is less likely to take place. The debate they shape is one which is already at the “right” of the possible spectrum. Should  we bomb or just sanction Russia? Peace, rational negotiations, international democracy are excluded.

Yahoo is a publicly traded company. That is another media outlet owned by finance capital.

The finance capital owned Western media is actively waging war on behalf of the project of Western finance capital to capture Ukraine, lock, stock and barrel. In international affairs at any rate the Western media does not provide a balanced range of opinion which would promote rational and informed debate and decision making.

26/6/2015 – lots of little lies

This is a Daily Mail story about a) the display of NATO armoured vehicles in Estonia within 300m of the border with Russia and b) the situation with gas in Eastern Ukraine.

The paper tells its readers:

Putin this week began supplying gas direct to areas of eastern Ukraine which are now controlled by pro-Moscow rebels who are, the West allege, propped up by the Russian army.

He lambasted Kiev for switching off gas to the region, notwithstanding Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s threat to cut Ukraine off entirely – a block which would affect Europe’s pipeline supply

It’s not a huge lie. Kiev has switched off the gas supply to parts of Eastern Ukraine. They claimed that this was due to damaged pipes. It is possible to see it as a punitive measure. They previously cut of pensions and banking services to the rebel area. The threat by Gazprom to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine is because Ukraine is on an advance payment model and they haven’t paid for next month’s supply. There is a dispute. Russia is regarding gas which they supplied to Eastern Ukraine when Kiev cut off the pipes as part of the gas which has been pre-paid for by Ukraine. (Naturally perhaps since this is gas which was consumed in Ukraine and which Kiev would have used if they hadn’t shut down the pipes to Eastern Ukraine). Ukraine disputes this view. Thus there is a dispute about the current balance of account.

It appears that there is a reckless strategy from Kiev which is saying to Russia something like “if you want to support these rebellious regions then go ahead and bear the costs”.

Either way; the indication by Gazprom that they will cut off the gas relates to non-payment. It is not on the same level as Kiev shutting off gas supply to the rebel regions – whatever the actual reason for that.

The Daily Mail’s report gives a misleading impression of this dispute. It creates an image of Russia belligerently using gas supplies as a weapon. All they are trying to do is get paid. Putin’s warning to Europe is a matter of fact not a threat. If they stop supplying Ukraine because of a payment dispute then supplies to Europe may be effected. Putin may be trying to prompt the EU to help Ukraine resolve the payment issue. The Daily Mail’s report rendering though fits with the belligerent Russia narrative line.

Some paragraphs later in the article there is the detail that Kiev stopped supplying gas because the pipeline was damaged. And, to be fair, it quotes Putin in some detail. Nonetheless the overall narrative explains Russia’s actions as a tit-for-tat measure – and makes no mention at all of the fact the Gazprom simply wants to get paid for gas.

It’s not a big lie. But it is an example of the kind of journalism where the facts are selected to fit the narrative rather than the narrative being established by the facts.

The same article contains the absurd claim that a Russian exercise “swooped” on an area within Russian territory in response to the NATO parade in Estonia, 300m from Russia’s border – a parade that can only be seen as a deliberate provocation. This shows we are in the world of Russia hysteria. Objectively speaking holding a parade of NATO armoured vehicles 300m from Russia’s border in a Baltic state is obviously a provocation. But these are described as a “small contingent” and to do with “exercises”. Whereas a Russian exercise inside their own borders held in response (apparently) is described in colourful language of “swooping”.

This kind of reporting is typical of the current level of inaccuracy on reporting on Ukraine. It is no longer the hysterical reporting about the “Russian invasion” of Crimea. It gives the point of view of Russia. But only up to a point. The overall narrative is still largely in line with the NATO story about “Russian aggression”. In  a way then it is even more insidious as it gives the impression of being “balanced” while in fact still being written as if it had to be approved by a censor in NATO HQ.

Here is another little lie from the Daily Mail.

It will be watched warily by the UK, which has led calls for a string of punishing economic sanctions against Moscow for arming pro-Kremlin separatists who have taken over huge swathes of territory

In fact sanctions were started when Russia “annexed” Crimea. They were not initially applied because of events in Eastern Ukraine. They were also applied long before the Western powers started claiming that they “know” that Russia is arming the “pro-Kremlin separatists”. The phrase “pro-Kremlin separatists” serves a number of propaganda purposes. It completely buries the fact that the rebels in Eastern Ukraine have their own agenda. And, (at least from their point of view), a legitimate fight. And it subtly tells the viewer that Russia is under some kind of Kremlin led dictatorship. This sentence is not entirely not true. It could probably even be defended successfully in a libel action. But it nonetheless spreads multiple lies in a kind of insidious way. The interesting question is the extent to which this is done deliberately or it just the result of lazy “journalists” who somehow instinctively know how to cover up the West’s guilt.

8/2/2015

This is a story by AFP about the arrest of suspects in the case of the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. It is pretty much as we would expect. There is no praise for the Russian police in bringing suspects in and charging them. Though the arrests have only just happened AFP remarks that the investigators have given no information about who ordered the hit. This is then followed up with repeated remarks about a “string of other killings of Russian opposition figures” – in which investigators also failed to blame Putin, sorry, identify the forces who ordered the killings. As so often the Western propaganda machine has to ignore the actual facts which it itself reports. The facts, as reported by AFP, are that the suspects have been remanded in custody for two months for investigations to take place. If the investigators had announced a result within 2 days no doubt AFP would have printed a story about how “Kremlin investigators rushed out a conclusion….”. The objective is to taint Putin and any measures are allowed.

Even if Putin didn’t “order” it he is still to blame according to AFP:

Many Russians say that failing direct involvement, Putin is still to blame for whipping up hatred against the opposition by regularly referring to them as a “fifth column” of traitors and spies — a message spread daily by all-powerful state media.

One wonders who the “many Russians” are? A few Russian ÊmigrÊs who work for AFP perhaps? Putin has popularity ratings of around 83% [19][Gallup poll] and the murdered Boris Nemtsov as a member of the liberal opposition could count on perhaps 1% of the electorate according to opinion polls. [20] So is it really the case that “many Russians” blame Putin. No, of course not. This is a Western propaganda line which they validate by finding a few Russians to agree to it.

Putin doesn’t refer to the opposition as “traitors and spies”. He does, it is entirely true, distinguish between a patriotic opposition and an opposition which he sees as not supporting Russian national interests. However he is on record as saying that in his discussions with this opposition he still learns something and that everyone has something to offer. He may have used the term “fifth column” – but “frequently”? And is this message spread “daily” by “powerful state media”? Well; there is nothing like this on the front-page of ria.ru today (6/3/15) – and probably won’t be most days you care to look. In Russia the neo-liberal pro-Western opposition is a niche interest. It is the Western political class and media who talk about it.

If Putin referred to the liberal opposition as a “fifth-column” perhaps that was an entirely accurate description. After all; they are clearly promoted by the West, out of proportion to their domestic popularity, in order to discredit the elected government of Russia. So “fifth-column” perhaps contains a valid political point. But AFP cites this as evidence of Putin’s tyranny. He can’t win. Whatever he does or doesn’t do will be used as evidence against him. That’s because AFP is engaged in and party to a project to get regime change in Russia and steal all that lovely oil and gas for Western interests. While “freeing” the Russian people from tyranny of course.

It is true that all the main TV stations in Russia are owned by the state. However, this is not the case for the print media. [21] And, anyway; as this article and this one conclusively demonstrate the so-called “free press” in the West is really just a big propaganda machine. Owned in the main by Western finance capital the “free media” in the West is actively part of the project of Western finance capital to expand all over the world. AFP is something of an exception in not being owned by finance capital. It is owned by the French government. Should one call it “NATO controlled mass media”?

This article also seeks to link Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea to the murder of Boris Nemtsov which, even if Putin didn’t order he is still responsible for we are told. This article then is part of the hysterical whipping up of anti-Russian sentiment which characterised earlier reporting on Crimea. Are they getting ready for war? This irrational demonising of the “enemy” is usually part of the warm-up phase when the West wants to condition its own populations for the next imperialist war.

The author of this article appears also to be mixing up President Putin with Ramzan Kadyrov, head of the Chechen Republic.

This article too manages to give the impression that it is “balanced”. For example it quotes a statement from the investigators into what lines of enquiry they are following. But the key points are in the biting anti-Putin rhetoric. No serious critical voices against Western propaganda are or can be included in the piece.

The Western press does not just mis-report the facts and mislead their viewers. The Western press is part of the regime change operation. Goebbels would have been proud.

Summary

In short. The situation has changed somewhat from February 2014. More attempt is being made to present what looks like balanced reports. Articles sometimes, as is normal in journalism, include some mention of statements made by Russian ministries. However; the West is still presented as whiter than white. And there is no attempt to present the Russian point of view in any depth. Language which pre-determines the political interpretation, such as “annexation” of Crimea, is still rife. Outright lying continues. The narrative of the political forces in the West is amplified not criticized. Whereas Russian positions, if they are mentioned at all tend to be described in ways that portray the Russian leadership as lying, aggressive and tyrannical towards its own people. One could say that the propaganda has become a bit more sophisticated. But the press is still completely on-message.

10/3/2015 – update

This is a piece from the editor of RT describing how she was stitched up in a Time magazine interview.

The telling piece of what appears to be sheer manipulation is how her comment that the Russian world-view (her words) is:

defined by certain principles expressed by the state: by representatives of the Russian state, if you talk to people on the street, if you look at different polls with Russian people as a whole – you will see that one of the important things that we do not like in the existing world order is the desire of Western countries to make unilateral judgements about what is good, what is bad in the countries far removed from them, about which they know very little, and take military actions based on those unilateral judgements

becomes

defined by certain principles expressed by the state, by representatives of the Russian state

This is consistent with the narrative line of the Western political class/press. Putin is a tyrant. Who governs using a state controlled media. They are trying to paint Russia as being like North Korea. It isn’t true. But that doesn’t matter.

19/3/2015 – update

This is the Daily Mail creating fiction for its readers in a piece about “Shameless Putin”:

Putin claims he was forced to take over Crimea – home to Russia’s key Black Sea Fleet – to protect ethnic Russians in the wake of the ouster of Ukraine’s Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.

Thus the disposal by a violent mob of an elected President is re-written as an “ouster” (whatever that means) of a Kremlin stooge. The piece does (as it has to be said is characteristic of Daily Mail journalism) give more details about the background to this than is usual in the Western press. They even mention that Crimea was given to Ukraine at a time when no one thought the Soviet Union would fall. But the re-union of Crimea with Russia is described in terms of a Russian “payback” carried out “under the eyes of elite soldiers”. Their own narrative about “Russian aggression” is contradicted by the very facts in their story but it doesn’t stop them. Who is shameless? (And in terms of details the narrative is selective. The fact that the EU and US were supporting the mob who “ousted” the elected President is not to be found).

Notes

1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ukraine-to-get-53-million-in-non-lethal-aid-from-the-united-states/2014/09/18/c2c19c28-3f4b-11e4-b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.html

2. http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/land/army/2015/01/21/ukraine-us-army-russia/22119315/

3. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/07/us-ukraine-crisis-nato-arms-idUSKBN0H20E820140907

4. http://rt.com/news/170388-rogozin-ukraine-arms-europe/

5. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/14/us-ukraine-crisis-heletey-idUSKBN0H90PP20140914

6. http://news.yahoo.com/poland-ready-sell-weapons-ukraine-155808684.html

7. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/world/us-taking-a-fresh-look-at-arming-kiev-forces.html?_r=0

8. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/21/agreement-on-the-settlement-of-crisis-in-ukraine-full-text

9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minsk_Protocol

10. http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/07/24/ukraine-unguided-rockets-killing-civilians

11. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ukraine-to-get-53-million-in-non-lethal-aid-from-the-united-states/2014/09/18/c2c19c28-3f4b-11e4-b0ea-8141703bbf6f_story.html

12. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/02/world/us-taking-a-fresh-look-at-arming-kiev-forces.html?_r=0

13. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/19/us-iraq-crisis-congress-vote-idUSKBN0HD2P820140919;Â http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-begins-weapons-delivery-to-syrian-rebels/2013/09/11/9fcf2ed8-1b0c-11e3-a628-7e6dde8f889d_story.html

14. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/30/us-libya-usa-order-idUSTRE72T6H220110330

15. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/africa/weapons-sent-to-libyan-rebels-with-us-approval-fell-into-islamist-hands.html?pagewanted=all

16. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/21/us-ukraine-crisis-usa-exclusive-idUSKCN0J426U20141121

17. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter revealed the existence of an M16 program which took low-grade intelligence from UNSCOM and planted it in the press in non-aligned countries in an attempt to manipulate how the governments of those countries voted at the UN. War on Iraq. Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt. Profile Books. 2002

18. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/02/talks-as-ukraine-fighting-worsens/12033425/

19. http://www.gallup.com/poll/173597/russian-approval-putin-soars-highest-level-years.aspx

20. http://rt.com/politics/237993-putin-popularity-presidential-elections/

21. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_the_press_in_Russia

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