I sometimes try to get establishment loyalists to explain to me exactly why we’re all meant to be terrified of this “Russian propaganda” thing they keep carrying on about. What is the threat, specifically? That it makes the public less willing to go to war with Russia and its allies? That it makes us less trusting of lying, torturing, coup-staging intelligence agencies? Does accidentally catching a glimpse of that green RT logo turn you to stone like Medusa, or melt your face like in Raiders of the Lost Ark?
“Well, it makes us lose trust in our institutions,” is the most common reply.
Okay. So? Where’s the threat there? We know for a fact that we’ve been lied to by those institutions. Iraq isn’t just something we imagined. We should be skeptical of claims made by western governments, intelligence agencies and mass media. How specifically is that skepticism dangerous?
Trying to get answers to such questions from rank-and-file empire loyalists is like pulling teeth, and they are equally lacking in the mass media who are constantly sounding the alarm about Russian propaganda. All I see are stories about Russia funding environmentalists (the horror!), giving a voice to civil rights activists (oh noes!), and retweeting articles supportive of Jeremy Corbyn (think of the children!). At its very most dramatic, this horrifying, dangerous epidemic of Russian propaganda is telling westerners to be skeptical of what they’re being told about the Skripal poisoning and the alleged Douma gas attack, both of which do happen to have some very significant causes for skepticism.
When you try to get down to the brass tacks of the actual argument being made and demand specific details about the specific threats we’re meant to be worried about, there aren’t any to be found. Nobody’s been able to tell me what specifically is so dangerous about westerners being exposed to the Russian side of international debates, or of Russians giving a platform to one or both sides of an American domestic debate. Even if every single one of the allegations about Russian bots and disinformation are true (and they aren’t), where is the actual clear and present danger? No one can say.
No one, that is, except the Atlantic Council.
We Need a NATO for Infowar | Commentary by @elisabethbraw of @AtlanticCouncilhttps://t.co/ntIpBplhGe pic.twitter.com/Ij6f74gwc9
— Defense One (@DefenseOne) May 3, 2018
In an absolutely jaw-dropping article that you should definitely read in its entirety, Elizabeth Braw took it upon herself to finally answer the question of why Russian propaganda is so dangerous, using the following hypothetical scenario:
What if Russia suddenly announced that its Baltic Fleet had dispatched an armada towards Britain? Would most people greet the news with steely resolve in the knowledge that their governments would know what to do, or would constant Kremlin-influenced reports about the incompetence of British institutions make them conclude that any resistance was pointless?
I mean, wow. Wow! Just wow. Where to even begin with this?
Before I continue, I should note that Braw is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, the shady NATO-aligned think tank with ties to powerful oligarchs whose name comes up when you look into many of the mainstream anti-Russia narratives, from the DNC hack to the discredited war propaganda firm Bellingcat to Russian trolls to the notorious PropOrNot blacklist publicized by the Washington Post. Her article, published by Defense One, is titled “We Need a NATO for Infowar”, and it argues that westerners need to be propagandized by an alliance of western governments for our own good.
Back to the aforementioned excerpt. Braw claims that if Russian propaganda isn’t shut down or counteracted, Russia could send a fleet of war ships to attack Britain, and the British people would… react unenthusiastically? Wouldn’t cheer loudly enough as the British Navy fought the Russians? Would have a defeatist emotional demeanor? What exactly is the argument here?
That’s seriously her only attempt to directly address the question of where the actual danger is. Even in the most cartoonishly dramatic hypothetical scenario this Atlantic Council member can possibly imagine, there’s still no tangible threat of any kind. Even if Russia was directly attacking the United Kingdom at home, and Russian propaganda had somehow magically dominated all British airwaves and been believed by the entire country, that still wouldn’t have any impact on the British military’s ability to fight a naval battle. There’s literally no extent to which you can inflate this “Russian propaganda” hysteria to turn it into a possible threat to actual people in real life.
A NATO for infowar? As if the entire Western mainstream media doesn’t already provide that function. https://t.co/MbNYv2mnvm
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) May 3, 2018
It gets better. Check out this excerpt:
Such responses to disinformation are like swatting flies: time-consuming and ineffective. But not addressing disinformation is ineffective, too. “Western media still have this thing where they try to be completely balanced, so they’ll say, ‘the Russians say this, but on the other hand the Americans say this is not true,’ They end up giving a lie and the truth the same value,” noted Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former president of Estonia.
I just have so many questions. Like, how desperate does a writer have to be for an expert who can lend credibility to their argument that they have to reach all the way over to a former president of Estonia? And on what planet are these people living where Russian narratives are given the same weight as western narratives by western mainstream media? How can I get to this fantastical parallel dimension where western media “try to be completely balanced” and give equal coverage to all perspectives?
Braw argues that, because Russian propaganda is so dangerous (what with the threat of British people having insufficient emotional exuberance during a possible naval battle and all), what is required is a “NATO of infowar”, an alliance of western state media that is tasked with combatting Russian counter-narratives. Because, in the strange Dungeons & Dragons fantasy fairy world in which Braw penned her article, this isn’t already happening.
And of course, here in the real world, it is already happening. As I wrote recently, mainstream media outlets have been going out of their minds churning out attack editorials on anyone who questions the establishment narrative about what happened in Douma. A BBC reporter recently admonished a retired British naval officer for voicing skepticism of what we’re being told about Syria on the grounds that it might “muddy the waters” of the “information war” that is being fought against Russia. All day, every day, western mass media are pummeling the public with stories about how awful and scary Russians are and how everything they say is a lie.
This is because western mass media outlets are owned by western plutocrats, and those plutocrats have built their empires upon a status quo that they have a vested interest in preserving, often to the point where they will form alliances with defense and intelligence agencies to do so. They hire executives and editors who subscribe to a pro-establishment worldview, who in turn hire journalists who subscribe to a pro-establishment worldview, and in that way they ensure that all plutocrat-owned media outlets are advancing pro-plutocrat agendas.
.@SecPompeo: On #WorldPressFreedomDay, we renew our commitment to promoting & protecting a free press — an essential pillar of democracy, & we honor journalists who have dedicated their lives to promote transparency & accountability throughout the world. https://t.co/6TFWT77tOT
— Department of State (@StateDept) May 3, 2018
The western empire is ruled by a loose transnational alliance of plutocrats and secretive government agencies. That loose alliance is your real government, and that government has the largest state media network in the history of civilization. The mass media propaganda machine of the western empire makes RT look like your grandmother’s Facebook wall.
In that way, we are being propagandized constantly by the people who really rule us. All this panic about Russian propaganda doesn’t exist because our dear leaders have a problem with propaganda, it exists because they believe only they should be allowed to propagandize us.
And, unlike Russian propaganda, western establishment propaganda actually does pose a direct threat to us. By using mass media to manipulate the ways we think and vote, our true rulers can persuade us to consent to crushing austerity measures and political impotence while the oligarchs grow richer and medicine money is spent on bombs. When we should all be revolting against an oppressive Orwellian oligarchy, we are instead lulled to sleep by those same oligarchs and their hired talking heads lying to us about freedom and democracy.
Russian propaganda is dangerous because when your government decides it's time to go to war with Russia, you might not want them to.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) May 3, 2018
Russian propaganda is not dangerous. Having access to other ways of looking at global geopolitics is not dangerous. What absolutely is dangerous is a vast empire concerning itself with the information and ideas that its citizenry have access to. Get your rapey, manipulative fingers out of our minds, please.
If our dear leaders are so worried about our losing faith in our institutions, they shouldn’t be concerning themselves with manipulating us into trusting them, they should be making those institutions more trustworthy.
Don’t manipulate better, be better. The fact that an influential think tank is now openly advocating the former over the latter should concern us all.
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Patricia Ormsby / May 7, 2018
You are a voice of sanity in a wilderness of hysteria, Caitlin. Thank you for continuing to write! The current situation, especially in Britain, reminds me of Japan in the later years of World War II. A couple decades ago, I was handed an aging piece of paper with Japanese printed on it, a souvenir from Occupation Japan brought back and passed along, and asked to translate it. It was a leaflet from our fellows warning the inhabitants of Hiroshima to clear out of town if their government didn’t surrender forthwith. Of course, anyone picking up and reading such a leaflet would have been hauled in before the police.
They are clearly losing the information war, tripping over their own tongues. I hope that is all it comes to, but fear that with military build-ups happening everywhere at once, our ‘garchs will go for the Hail Mary pass, with plans to scamper off to New Zealand or Paraguay when it fails.
Well, they can run, but they can’t hide. I pity them in their infinite stupidity.
Twostime / May 7, 2018
Sharp Ears found this : https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/05/37463/comment-page-4/#comment-746521
Arby / May 6, 2018
“The western empire is ruled by a loose transnational alliance of plutocrats and secretive government agencies. That loose alliance is your real government, and that government has the largest state media network in the history of civilization. The mass media propaganda machine of the western empire makes RT look like your grandmother’s Facebook wall.”
The paradigm (of the wild beast of Corporatocracy and those who side with it) is ‘riches for the strongest’. Ego is a component of that mindset.
The Atlantic Council crap looked at here is certainly all that Johnstone says it is. And it’s no doubt simple bragging. It’s not actual fear, Is it?
Joe Van Steenbergen / May 5, 2018
I will echo a comment I saw here on a different article: I don’t know how you continue to do what you do, Caitlin, but I enthusiastically hope you continue to do it. Yours are the only articles I eagerly await daily; no one says what you say in the way you say it, and I hope you continue. Thank you ever so much for all that you do.
Nancy Barritt / May 4, 2018
I absolutely love your articles & look forward to each & every one. You have me laughing so hard that I have to stop to catch my breath. The oligarchs & their bought MSM are amusing. I just wish they could see themselves as we do.
windwisdom / May 4, 2018
Your wit and wisdom are much appreciated. I laughed out loud several time, and laughter is the best response to the absurdity of US pundits, policy and plutocrats. Thanks for the sanity you bring to a (seemingly) insane world.
John Allen aka Ol' Hippy / May 4, 2018
Again another good observation on the relentless propaganda ‘wars’ in these troubling times. Thanx! I actually read this piece linked from another site and took the time to read the garbage piece by Ms Bray. Wow! That says it all. This is the main reason we need an open net, to keep real information flowing so at least a few enlightened people can see what’s really happening before the unspeakable becomes reality. I haven’t seen such disregard for nuclear disaster since the shift away from detente in the early 80’s of the cold war. Trouble is it’s the same actors that have infiltrated the government throughout the last 4 decades. The neocons. They are the real enemies. They are the class of rulers wanting a unipolar cabal running capitalistic domination of the world. The MSM is dominated by corporate interests that want to control the flows of information. The work hand in hand with government interests to manufacture public support for their relentless pursuit of capital. These are the real enemies of the peoples of the world. They are why Americans have shit for healthcare and mega-expensive college education. They are why my medical costs have risen over 300% in 5 years. I just wish the magic spell the rulers are weaving throughout main media channels could be broken and good people could; “wake the fuck up” before there’s nothing left to wake up to. Peace, The Ol’ Hippy
Rowan Bircumshaw / May 4, 2018
Read the comments under Elisabeth Braws article. Hopefully anyone who reads her rubbish article will. They blow her Western Imperial rhetoric out of the water.
John Allen aka Ol' Hippy / May 4, 2018
Yes indeed. I didn’t translate the French one though. Some good folks do get it. Enough real information still gets to some of the people. These are the ones that need to get the truths out among the masses.
Wills Flowers / May 9, 2018
Braw just isn’t made of the stuff the English used to be made of…
“We were playing golf the day the Germans landed,
All our ships went down in flames, all our troops were stranded.
And the thought of England’s shame
Nearly put us off our game.”
jean marc peres / May 4, 2018
ha, le mur des langues. si vous aviez une traduction en anglais du livre de serge Halimi le grand bond en arrière, comment l’ordre libéral s’est imposé au monde ed. fayard 2005.
vous verriez que ce que vous dites a une logique, celle de la société mont pèlerin.
bien sûr, l’information est truquée.
avez-vous remarqué qu’en france, macron applique la même procédure qu’en nouvelle zélande par roger Douglas à partir de 1984?
Kobus de Kock / May 4, 2018
Dennis A Mitchell / May 4, 2018
We only need fear Russian propaganda if the buy “Entertainment Tonight” or ” TMZ”.
Harry S Nydick / May 4, 2018
The article elucidates the type of common sense rhetoric that I have tried, with varied results, to explain to people (usually strangers) on a one to one basis.
Webstir / May 4, 2018
— “Nobody’s been able to tell me what specifically is so dangerous about westerners being exposed to the Russian side of international debates, or of Russians giving a platform to one or both sides of an American domestic debate.” — CJ
“He who controls the medium controls the message. He who controls the message controls the masses.”
— Joseph Goebbels