Fake narratives on “Putin”

While complaining about the state controlled media in Russia the Western press continues to outdo any “bias” the Russian state TV networks (actually just one part of the media scene in Russia) manage to report with.

This is an example from Max Hastings, writing in the Daily Mail about the Victory day celebrations in Russia. Celebrations which Western leaders have notably absented themselves fromThe piece is full of omissions, lies, fabrications, unsubstantiated claims and cynical warmongering. That it has been published at all should be a scandal of the highest order. Journalists up and down the country should be voicing outrage that this sort of material can be put out in the name of journalism. However; in today’s world of voluntary propagandising for NATO that is unlikely to happen.

This quote, from British Civil Servant and poet Humbert Wolfe, comes to mind:

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! the
British journalist.
But, seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there’s
no occasion to. [1]

We shouldn’t of course allow ourselves to be riled by this sort of silly and blatantly obviously warmongering. Nonetheless it is an affront to decent standards that it is published so here goes. Â These are just a few of the fabrications in Max Hasting’s wretched little article:

The U.S. and British governments are boycotting the event, declining to send high-level representatives, in response to Vladimir Putin’s repeated acts of aggression against neighbouring states

Well; state not states, but that little process of inflation aside that is what they are saying. (If by states, plural, he means to include the war with Georgia over South Ossetia – that was resolved and normal relations were restored between Russia and NATO after that). Is it true that Russia has committed “repeated acts of aggression”? Well; the other narrative, and the one more closely anchored in historical and political facts, is that Russia has re-incorporated Crimea after a Western backed coup forced out the legitimately elected President and dis-enfranchised the 13 million people who live in the Eastern part of Ukraine – who do not want Ukraine to follow a path of joining NATO and the EU. As a journalist Hastings could at least mention the other point of view especially since it is based on testable facts. [9]

Last July, just ten months ago, Russian missiles destroyed a Malaysian airliner over separatist-held territory, killing 298 passengers and crew, most of them European citizens.

Really? The civilian aircraft may have been shot down by a Buk missile supplied to the rebels by Russia but there is not a shred of evidence in the public domain for this explanation. German intelligence thinks it was shot down with a Buk system the rebels captured from Kiev. [2] If Hastings is referring to that view then he is just engaging in shameless propaganda. Most of the weapons in Ukraine (except the ones supplied by the US and Britain [3]) are of Russian make. Most of the people dying in Ukraine are being shot to death or blown up with Russian weapons – on both sides. Blaming Russia for the downing of the civilian airliner, if the German analysis is correct, is like blaming Putin for the deaths of civilians in Eastern Ukraine shot by forces loyal to Kiev.

Putin is a dictator, albeit an elected one, whose critics are murdered in the streets of Moscow or dispatched to rot in prisons on trumped-up charges.

“Murdered in the streets of Moscow”? Evidence? As for “dispatched to rot in prisons on trumped-up charges” this may be a reference to the case of  Magnitsky a lawyer who did indeed die while in jail in Russia. He worked for an investment company Hermitage led by Bill Browder. Bill Browder has been declared persona non grata by the Russian government. Currently Bill Browder is trying to avoid appearing in a civil case in the US in connection with his financial dealings. [4] It is easy to make claims about the rigged Russian juridical system; but, ironic, that Mr Browder does not wish to appear in a US court. Such details rather spoil the phantasy around investment banker Mr Browder as a champion of “freedom” being hounded by those nasty Russians. But it doesn’t stop journalists like Mr Hastings continuing to trot out the story. (Even if via oblique references; a well-worn propaganda technique in its own right). Mr Hastings may also be referring to the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, an oil magnate who acquired wealth during the period immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was indeed tried and sent to prison for fraud. The European Court of Human Rights noted some concerns with his case but ruled that ultimately the case was not politically motivated. [5] This case could only be heard because Russia has signed up to be a member of The European Court of Human Rights and accept its judgements. Mikhail Khodorkovsky has recently been pardoned and released from jail. He is now waging a legal battle for financial compensation for his business in various European arbitration courts. So; journalism would establish the opposite of what Mr Hastings claims.

In a fashion that we find hard to comprehend in the 21st century, they have swallowed the big lie propagated by Putin’s ruthlessly state-controlled media. They see themselves as the victims of a Western conspiracy to encircle and ruin Russia.

Ah. This is the attempt to make Russia out to be like North Korea. However it is a fiction. It is true that all TV stations in Russia are owned directly or indirectly by the government. However; CNN can broadcast in Russia. And the print press is owned by a diverse range of owners including foreign investors. Â Rupert Murdoch is one such owner. And Newsweek is published in a Russian edition. And so on. [6] This view is just patronising to Russians. As for the “Western conspiracy to encircle Russia”. Look at a map of US bases and say again that this is a conspiracy. Look at how the EU is trying to pull Ukraine into its orbit; even throwing aside any pretence of democracy by signing an agreement with an unelected government who came to power in a coup. [7] Look at the actions of NATO flooding the Black Sea with all the latest missile destroyers and beefing up their armour in the Baltics. A conspiracy is when there are no facts to base the view on. This doest’t seem to be the case here. Even if Mr Hastings wants to propose that the military actions of NATO are entirely defensive he can’t accuse the Russians of believing in a “conspiracy”.

The ruler of Russia has turned back the clock, recreating the mindset of the old Soviet Union half a century ago. This is both tragic and dangerous, because he has unleashed nationalist forces that he may prove unable to control, especially as his country’s economic plight worsens.

This is a strange statement. If an economically weak Russia is so dangerous why is the US trying to weaken Russia’s economy? This is what they say they are trying to do. How does Mr Hastings explain that? As for releasing nationalist forces the Russians could be forgiven for saying the same thing about how the EU’s policy in Ukraine has unleashed Ukrainian nationalist forces. But like all anti-Russian propagandists Mr Hastings suffers from an ability to only look in one direction.

When Putin publicly applauds Joseph Stalin as a great national leader, his countrymen are told nothing truthful about the unspeakably cynical August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact.

While theatrical and fixed solely on “Putin” this is possibly about the only true statement in Mr Hastings piece. The Russians do not easily acknowledge this piece of history. Though that said it is quite easy to find evidence that they do admit at least the facts of the case. Documentaries on WWII on the Russian government sponsored web site RT.com certainly admit the fact of this deal. To give full historical context we can also remind readers, as Mr Hastings does not, that Stalin first tried to approach Britain for a pact but was rebuffed. [8] However; the idea that Russians are not aware of the Nazi-Russian pact at all is a fiction. We are back in the fiction that there is a North Korean style news blackout in Russia.

The decision of certain nations not to attend Saturday’s Moscow celebration is easy to understand: Poland and the Baltic States had hundreds of thousands of their own people murdered by the Russians — many of them being killed after they were ‘liberated’ by the Red Army in 1945. Today, those same countries are again directly threatened by Putin.

This is the tiresome fiction that Putin is about to invade Latvia. Honestly; there is not a shred of evidence that Putin would even want to make such a wildly reckless move. If the argument is  that “he has “invaded Ukraine” so we are just asking who is next” – the problem is the “invasion” of Ukraine has been by the EU and US who supported an unconstitutional coup so they could get Ukraine into EU and possibly NATO – over the heads of the millions of Ukrainians who want no such thing. [9]. Russia hasn’t invaded anywhere.

For Britain and the U.S., it is a more difficult call: we want to make plain to President Putin that he has made himself an outcast by his ruthless use of force, and shameless imperialism; yet it would be welcome, if an opportunity existed, to show the Russian people that we respect and honour their sacrifice in the cause of destroying Nazism

Putin’s “shameless imperialism”. I think Mr Hastings may need psychiatric assistance. What “shameless imperialism”? Recently Russia has shown that it is prepared to defend ethnic Russians who live beyond its borders. Russia acted to protect South Ossetia from being conquered by Georgia. And similarly in Crimea Russia acted to protect ethnic Russians from being ruled by Ukrainian nationalists [10] who hate anything to do with Russia. The fact that the semi-legitimate new parliament in Kiev is busy passing laws outlawing the Communist party, banning Russian TV stations, and banning professions of support for communism is clear evidence which entirely vindicates Russia’s position on Crimea. [11]

The “imperialism” in Ukraine is the disguised version run by the Western democracies and enabled by pseudo journalists, actually crude propagandists, like Max Hastings.


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humbert_Wolfe

2. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/german-intelligence-blames-pro-russian-separatists-for-mh17-downing-a-997972.html

3. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/20/us-ukraine-crisis-usa-exclusive-idUSKCN0J426U20141120, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31465365

4. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/antiputin-campaigner-bill-browder-fights-court-appearance-9734760.html

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Khodorkovsky

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

7. https://thenewobserver.co.uk/estranged_from_reality/

8. Robert Service. Russia. Penguin. 1997. Chp. 13.

9. https://thenewobserver.co.uk/its-all-in-the-narrative/

10. http://www.channel4.com/news/svoboda-ministers-ukraine-new-government-far-right

11. http://rt.com/news/181440-ukraine-bans-russian-tv/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communist_Party_of_Ukraine, http://rt.com/news/248365-ukraine-bans-communism-nazism/

Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer