The New Observer Uncategorized Propaganda Watch – weekly roundup

Propaganda Watch – weekly roundup

1. Shooting the messenger

This is a Guardian US story about the US journalist Tucker Carlson in Moscow, apparently to interview President Putin.

It illustrates a few common patterns of the more or less insane levels of anti-Russia propaganda in the Western media. Just as power likes to hide itself, so does propaganda. So this article appears to be news when in fact it is a propaganda piece. Tucker Carlson is a former mainstream media personality who has gone freelance. He has been, I think, quite consistent in criticising the mainstream media narrative on Russia. Based on the piece Tucker Carlson intends to interview Putin in order to enable the Russian point of view to be heard in the West. The present Guardian piece is the inevitable sabotage operation. Comments follow.

In a post to X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday afternoon, Carlson portrayed the upcoming interview as a chance for the American public to see the “truth” of the Ukraine war against a backdrop of what he says, without any evidence, are a succession of lies told by western media outlets.

This is a constant theme from this propaganda template. It is not necessary to produce “evidence” for every journalistic assertion you make. That is one propaganda trick; this demand for “evidence” as a way of making an opposing point of view look ridiculous (because it is “unevidenced”). Secondily; the case that the Western media “tells lies” about the Ukraine war is not something that can be simply evidenced or not, something with is simply “true” or “false”. This is (as we discussed in a recent post) the game of reducing all complex topics to the level of the most basic kind of factual truth, and then (of course) finding that your side is “true”.

The article then continues to discredit Carlson – he has interviewed, for example, people about UFOs. This is one of their favourite lines about Tucker Carlson. It enables them to put his reasonable point of view about the Ukraine war into the same whacky bracket as UFO spotting. (The UFO story, however, was based on leaks by a US government official and resulted in public Congressional hearings, so not quite so whacko as it seems without that context). They also accuse him of “extremist and bigoted language”, based around a few possibly distasteful and controversial remarks.

Having completely discredited Carlson they then produced “balanced journalism”, giving the last word to the now portrayed as UFO-spotting, extremist, bigoted, sacked journalist Tucker Carlson:

“That is not journalism. It is government propaganda of the ugliest kind,” he added. (Talking about Western media coverage of the Ukraine war).

Update on the Tucker Carlson story.

This is a truly amazing article in the Guardian. The journalist is toying with the idea that the EU will use new legislation which requires tech companies to control hate speech and “disinformation” on their platforms to block the interview with Putin!. [1]

This really should be a stop and think moment. Firstly; it may not be quite so simple as the journalist seems to think. The legislation is designed in such a way as to try to make the tech companies self-censor. The enforcement action depends on there being a consistent pattern of allowing hate speech to flourish without regulation – that is a failure to self-regulate. I am not a lawyer but it may well be that the legislation could not do anything about a single interview. But, more amazing; this is a naked attempt to prevent the Russian side putting their point of view to a Western audience. Why would they do that? Are we really supposed to accept the idea that Putin will use the interview to “put out misinformation” and the European public has to be protected from this? What happened to the idea that European citizens are free-thinking, educated, capable of rational assessments – i.e. the whole principle on which democracy is based? The idea that millions of Europeans are not capable of making their own assessment of whatever Putin says is insulting. The alternative explanation (the actual one) is that the whole basis for the war is that legitimate Russian concerns have been absolutely denied and this is hidden from Western audiences in what is quite possibly the most large-scale and collusive propaganda operation in history. Putin may talk about the risks from NATO; an entirely understandable concern. He may talk about what was happening in the Donbas prior to 2022. Quite possibly he will present (if asked) a one-sided point of view which favours the Russian side; but that isn’t “misinformation”. It is the job of rational citizens to listen to that, look into the topic and decide for themselves. If they do; they cannot but fail to find that many people in Eastern Ukraine were not included in the post-Maidan settlement in Ukraine and that rather than find an over-arching political settlement in the country which could have included them, Kiev chose (under pressure from right-wing paramilitary formations) the path of military confrontation. One can talk about possible Russian influence and support for the “separatists” but that is only one side of the story.

I was struck by the quotes from an unnamed EU Commission official in this piece. These apparently included:

a reference to “twisted desire to reinstate” to reinstate the Russian Empire

Putin is a chronic liar

Putin is directing a campaign which “is directed against the European Union and is considered as a threat to our societies”

“And he is trying to kill as many Ukrainians as he can for no reason. There is only one reason for his twisted desire to reinstate the now imperialistic Russian empire where he controls everything in his neighbourhood and imposes his will. But this is not something we are able to tolerate or are willing to tolerate in Europe or the world in the 21st century”

These remarks are attributed to a Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Quite probably they reflect the views of the lunatic Ursula Von Der Leyen who acts as if this war were some sort of party grinning her way through her various sorties to Kiev.

This really is a particularly egregious statement of the official US/EU position on Russia’s motivations for the Ukraine war. President Putin here is portrayed as some kind of crazed monster from a sci-fi film, falling on Ukraine with blood dripping from his maws, or perhaps like Grendel in Beowulf.

Rationally; we are back to the first problem. There is zero doubt that the US would not tolerate a Russian military alliance and bases in say Venezuela. (We know this, if there was any doubt, because before the special operation began Russia conducted a public thought experiment. An official mooted the idea of placing missiles in Venezuela and elicited from the US a terse reply which didn’t actually say “military response” but was pretty clear. [2]) The international relations scholar John Mearsheimer refers to the Monroe Doctrine; US policy is not to allow foreign military powers to establish themselves in their hemisphere. In essence – Russia’s objection to Ukraine joining NATO with the possibility that that would lead to the placing of various kinds of missiles in Ukraine is no different from the position of the US regarding its sphere of influence. This very simple reality is absolutely hidden from the European public. If they were to discuss it they would be forced to say the truth; “yes; we, the US-Atlantic alliance are the world power; one set of rules applies to us, and another to all other countries, including Russia; these countries should fall into line with our system, or be our enemies”. This is their actual position. They don’t want to say it out loud because if they did, a sizeable proportion of their own liberal, rational, educated, humane citizens would reject it. So; they spin this line about Russia’s “imperialistic ambitions” (a line, which as John Mearsheimer points out, no one was talking about prior to February 2022), and hope no one asks about why one set of rules applies to the US-Atlantic alliance and another set to Russia. The Western media acts as one in suppressing this question. Which is, presumably, one reason why they are trying to shut down Carlson’s interview; by discrediting Carlson, painting it as “misinformation” in advance and even, as here, mooting the idea of banning its dissemination.

As for “campaign against the European union”, according to Richard Sakwa, [3] prior to the crisis following the Maidan and eruption of violence in Eastern Ukraine, while the EU was pressing ahead with the Association Agreement with Ukraine, which would have had significant knock-on effects for the Russian economy they simply refused to discuss Russian concerns with them. [3] This was before any outbreak of hostiles, before the annexation of Crimea. As Sakwa explains the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement would have effected the Russian economy, for example if Ukraine permitted EU goods to enter Russia, or, alternatively, if being flooded with EU goods Ukraine then directed cheaper, lower quality goods to the Russian market. Either way; Russia had every expectation that as a “partner” (that was the official position at that time) the EU would have been ready to discuss the matter with them. But:

Since the establishment of the EaP [Eastern Area Partnership – an EU programme to draw into their orbit various countries of Eastern Europe], Putin had repeatedly advanced various formats for trilateral discussion between Moscow, the EU and the respective partnership countries. Various plans had been proposed to modernise Ukraine’s gas transit network and to manage the trade issues that would arise from signing the DCFTA. Such ideas were repeatedly rebuffed, with for example Barroso being quoted by news agencies as late as 29 November 2013 as saying: ‘Russia’s inclusion in the talks on setting up an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine is wholly unacceptable.’ [3]

Who provoked who?

One has to agree with Henry Kissinger, quoted by Sakwa: “Putin is a serious strategist – on the premises of Russian history. […] For the West, the demonization of Vladimir Putin is not a policy; it is an alibi for the absence of one.” The unnamed EU Commission official appears to be doing their best to demonstrate this.

2. One of the greatest unsolved mysteries of modern times.

No. It’s not the Bermuda Triangle. It’s who blew up Nord Stream 1 and 2! This is a Reuters propagnda broadcast in the Guardian.

Sweden has apparently decided that it doesn’t have jurisdiction and is closing its investigation!

If no conclusive evidence is found by either of the remaining investigations, the mystery behind one of the most audacious acts of infrastructure sabotage in modern history could remain unsolved

How you say that with a straight face, I don’t know. (Considering that much of Western Media has already conceded that it was almost certainly the work of Ukranian intelligence).

3. Trump-Russia

The progressive-liberal / democratic internationalists of course see Donald Trump as their no. one enemy. On the domestic front he believes in smaller government and lower taxes. On the international front he believes in “America first”, which means less support for attempts to export democracy around the world. We should note, however, that while in power Trump enacted strong sanctions against Russia; his expressed ‘admiration’ for Vladimir Putin does not in fact translate directly into “being soft on Russia”. However; it does seem that if he were to be elected again, massive funding for Ukraine would be more in doubt. Not because he is “pro-Russia” but because he is “America First”; that is, he doesn’t believe in the liberal project of exporting the US system around the world.

This is a headline in today’s Guardian: “Donald Trump says he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies who pay too little”. It is “fake news”. If you read the article you can see what this actually about. Apparently, at a meeting of NATO heads of state, Donald Trump, told an unnamed head of state, in response to a question about whether they could rely on US protection if they did not meet the agreed NATO target of 2% of GDP on military spending, that he would not protect them and even “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them [Russia] to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.” Trump recounted this anecdote at a political rally to his supporters. We only have Trump’s word that such a conversation even took place. (In this case the liberal media don’t preface the story with “Trump claimed without evidence”, surprisingly enough). But, let’s say it did. Trump is recounting the anecdote so as to drive home the point to his supporters that he is the America First choice. He will make other countries pay their way and under his Presidency the US will no longer prop up European liberal democracies ‘for free’. He added in, according to the anecdote, the bit about “encouraging Russia”.

Firstly then, Trump has not made some kind of statement about “encouraging Russia”. He is telling an anecdote about something he said in a particular context. Secondly; the point is to reinforce his political message about America First, which he does with typically bombastic language. What is happening in this propaganda piece is to seize on this (unwise telling of a possibly exaggerated anecdote) to increase the overall theme that Trump is somehow “pro-Russia”. (Recall the Mueller investigation which singularly failed to find any evidence for Trump-Russia collusion in the run-up to the 2016 election but nonetheless managed to get the narrative widely established in the public consciousness). Since Russia is demonized in the Western media Trump will be demonised by association. This is all propaganda at the crudest level.

Update to Trump-Russia

A story grows in the telling. The Guardian is now reporting that Trump “invited Russia to attack member countries”. The wording is such as to imply that Trump has just made such a call, rather than (in reality) that he told an anecdote about a specific conversation which happened some time ago. [4] They are deliberately whipping up hysteria. Partly to attack Trump and partly to heat up tensions with Russia. For them this is a win-win.

The liberal NYT has gone absolutely full on twisting with this headline: “Favoring Foes Over Friends, Trump Threatens to Upend International Order”. The subhead develops the idea: “Former President Donald J. Trump suggested that he would incite Russia to attack “delinquent” U.S. allies, foreshadowing potentially far-reaching changes in the world order if he wins the White House again”. We have gone from Trump telling an anecdote to his supporters to reinforce the idea that he is for “America First” and will not let European allies freeload to the idea that Trump is planning to collude with Vladimir Putin to invade, say, Germany, on Day 1 of his Presidency.

It is clear that the Democrats (liberal-progressives : in fact a new cult) will stop at nothing in order to block Trump from getting elected.

Update 2 to Trump-Russia

This one is running and running. Here is the Guardian demonstrating the close line between sloppy journalism and lying:

As president between 2017 and 2021, Trump was widely held to have shown alarming favour, and arguably subservience, to Vladimir Putin.

In fact, under Trump, the US started sending lethal weapons to Ukraine, something Obama had desisted from. And the Trump administration introduced many new sanctions against Russia. [5] (A quick internet search shows that liberal media claim this sanctions activity was ‘softer’ than Obama and ‘right-wing’ think-tanks claim it was more robust!). The above is simply a fake. Somewhat amusingly this is the narrative which the Mueller report was supposed to establish. It failed to do so (because it couldn’t find any facts to do so); but they haven’t even broken pace telling the story!

This is a New York Times article about Republicans who are defending Trump. Those who do, make the same point I make above; the remarks were made in a specific context, in Trump’s typical bombastic style, in order to chivvy other NATO countries into paying their way. He was not actually giving a speech and inviting Russia to attack Germany. For the New York Times these Republicans are: “rationalizing and sanitizing” what Trump said! This, in a way, relates to a point I have been writing about recently; the new liberal-progressive cult likes to keep everything very simple. There are no complex, nuanced, political debates. Everything is a fact and is either true of false. Trump’s remarks (a retelling of something he said some time ago) are taken at absolute face value, discarding the context and the genre (a speech to his supporters at a rally, not a speech at the White House). Like the Guardian it is hard to know if this is sincere or they are deliberate pretending not to understand the context. I can’t help also being reminded of something I read on RT today. (Yes, yes, a terrible propaganda outlet which picks exclusively negative stories about the West and only positive stories about Russia; I only look at it once a month when I need to check my internet connection). Nonetheless I believe the story that Russian diplomats at the UN are finding that when talking to their Western counterparts these days they have to simplify the language they use. Previously, for example, they had sometimes quoted Russian and Western classics; now they don’t feel they can do this, because people simply won’t understand.

Maybe the truth is that they are becoming less intellectually capable, less able to hold multiple viewpoints and interpretations, less able to consider matters from the point of view of the other, and so on, and, at the same time, they are weaponizing this simplicity. That looks like a cult on a self-destruct route.


  3. Sakwa, Richard. Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands (p. 76). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.