Manipulating the public mood in relation to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal

A quick glance at the tabloids shows anti-Russia hysteria in full-swing.

A careful bit of news management (MI5’s forte) has released into the public domain that Sergei Skripal was poisoned with a ‘nerve agent’. That’s enough to make everyone who thinks casually about these matters think ‘Russia’ and ‘state actor’. But not enough to enable serious observers to take any kind of informed view or even opinion. Was it ricin – which can be cooked up by anyone in a bedroom or a more sophisticated ‘nerve agent’, which might at least raise questions about state involvement? By this stage they (MI5 / No. 10) will know. But they aren’t telling us. So much for democracy.

The lack of details helps the tabloids who lost no time in linking the matter to the Kremlin. The 1950’s language of ‘Reds’ is making a comeback. Vladimir Putin becomes ‘Vlad’ (which itself makes him sound like something out of Star Wars – something evil from another planet).

Even slightly more balanced reporting is still twisted. For example one paper has it that Sergei Skripal ‘sold secrets to MI5‘. Well; yes he did. But it is likely that he was actively recruited for this purpose by British intelligence. A subtle wording manages to suppress the reality: this is a conflict between spy agencies. It is not ‘us – pure angels of white innocence’ v. those evil Russkies (always bad).

The Daily Telegraph provides a nice example  of the subtle but relentless way that the Western media acts as the propaganda arm for Western power. They have: “The Kremlin is being blamed for the assassination attempt”. Who by? Use of the passive voice is a convenient way of getting round the question. The paper can amplify the required narrative while bypassing the problem that there’s no evidence and at the moment it is simply speculation that this was a state attack.

When Sergei Skripal was active he was betraying Russian agents to the West. Those he betrayed who were based in Europe or the US may perhaps have been politely asked to leave. But if he was betraying Russian agents in other countries; perhaps some of them met a bad end. If he betrayed them to British intelligence and this subsequently happened then British intelligence is morally responsible. MI5 may well avoid assassinations and torture themselves. But British intelligence has partnerships with regimes who are far less clean. [1] Spying is a dirty game. When British intelligence was ‘running’ Sergei Skripal British intelligence was playing a dirty game too. It is a manufactured illusion that the West is somehow above all this; that we do intelligence in a clean way.

It’s impossible to comment on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal at this point because the facts are not being released to the public. This is likely to be motivated to help stage manage the response. As per 1984 the leadership scares the population with tales of the evil Other – denying them access to facts on which to form their own assessments.

Update 14/3/2018

After some days MI5/No. 10 finally came up with a claim. The agent used was from the Soviet Novichok programme.

Presumably the analysis (if it is that and not just a piece of fabrication) was done at the UK’s shady little chemical weapons facility at Porton Down. (Described as made up of ‘world-renowned’ scientists by one British minister in an attempt to gloss the sordid reality).

From this May/MI5 have ‘concluded’ that “there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter” [2]. Reading the Financial Times story as it stands it appears that part of the basis for this conclusion is that Russia (while being denied access to the evidence on which the claim is made) has “provided no explanation for having an undeclared chemical weapons programme”. Did anyone say Ducking Stool? As has come to be usual in these cases the rest of the gang move swiftly from probability to treating the matter as an absolute fact. NATO has expressed  “deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on alliance territory” [2]. Hang-on – a moment ago Russian state involvement was only an inference. Now it’s a fact. Oh, well. This is Russia. In this game normal processes are suspended.

The absurd claim about “undeclared chemical weapons programme” is (they think) a clever piece of strategy in the war against Russia. Russia’s policy is to stick to international law. (Russia points out, for example, and completely correctly, that in Syria they are on the right side of International Law. It is the West who has illegally invaded Syria). By trying to smear Russia in this way they are trying to undermine Russian foreign policy. Russia’s foreign policy – of sticking to International Law is a big threat to the West – who, as a rule, do not. (E.g. illegal invasion of Iraq, illegally arming rebels in Libya, illegal interventions in Syria).  That’s why a claim (unproven – no evidence provided) about a Russian nerve agent being involved is exploited into this absurd claim about a ‘chemical weapons programme’. It is a strategic move to undermine Russia on the International stage – literally to obliterate Russia as a player.

This narrative (remember folks – this is the West, we deal in narratives not facts), also serves to cover the US who still has a live chemical weapons programme as opposed to Russia which has ended theirs. It may also be a sly threat to Russia, after all, we know what happens to countries who have chemical weapons programmes. In general ‘chemical weapons’ is used as a rallying cry by the ‘civilized’ nations of the West. Nations who think nothing of killing thousands of brown-skinned children with fuel air explosives, depleted uranium shells and all the rest of it for the sake of a theatrical show of force (as in Iraq).

Is there some clever (albeit dishonourable) strategy in all this? Sadly probably not. What we are witnessing with this present attack on Russia is really just the immature actings out of people who have zero grasp of history or politics or international relations. People who appear absolutely unable to analyse political reality. Over-schooled school-pupils  who’ve accepted all the contemporary ideologies of emotionalism and narcissism; people who’ve never got beyond the mentality of a first-year ‘Uni’ student; people who live in the ‘eternal present’ and in a world where only one world view is permitted. The over-schooled corporate kids are pulling the strings of government and it is not an edifying sight.



1. MI6 rendited two Libyans to Libya who were subsequently tortured.


Author: justinwyllie

EFL Teacher and Photographer