Listen to a reading of this article:
You can always tell how important narrative control is by watching the way people react when their control of the narrative is jeopardized.
Empire apologists are raging at Amnesty International for pausing its aggressive facilitation of western imperialism to issue one brief criticism of the way Ukrainian forces have been endangering civilian lives with their warfare tactics against the Russian military.
Amnesty is far from the first to highlight this extensively documented issue; that Ukrainian forces have been deliberately positioning themselves in civilian populations without taking proper measures to protect noncombatants is a concern that has been voiced repeatedly since the war began and reported on by both mainstream western news outlets and the United Nations.
Nevertheless, Amnesty’s claim that “Ukrainian forces have put civilians in harm’s way by establishing bases and operating weapons systems in populated residential areas, including in schools and hospitals” has drawn fire from Ukrainian officials, from mass media pundits, from the brainwashed rank-and-file on social media, and from President Zelensky himself.
Incredible seeing Amnesty attacked for documenting what every minimally independent observer has from the start. See e.g. Washington Post, March 28 on "Ukraine’s strategy of placing heavy military equipment and other fortifications in civilian zones." https://t.co/vu3v3UCdIq https://t.co/v0qy2ehVLV
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) August 6, 2022
A common criticism circulating among the outrage is that Amnesty is facilitating Russian propaganda, has been influenced by Russian propaganda, or has itself become an instrument of Russian propaganda.
The head of Amnesty International’s Ukrainian branch resigned as a result of the report, saying that “the organization created material that sounded like support for Russian narratives” and that in an effort to protect civilians, “this study became a tool of Russian propaganda.”
“It is a shame that the organization like Amnesty is participating in this disinformation and propaganda campaign,” tweeted Zelensky advisor Mykhailo Podolyak.
“Amnesty International can go to hell for this garbage,” tweeted Human Rights Foundation Chairman Garry Kasparov. “Or go to Ukraine, which Putin’s war is trying to turn into hell. As with their actions on Navalny, it reeks of Russian influence turning Kremlin propaganda into Amnesty statements.”
The Daily Mail called the Amnesty report “a coup for Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine.”
“The organization gives a huge assist to Russian propaganda,” tweeted Oleksiy Sorokin, chief operating officer of the NATO propaganda outlet Kyiv Independent.
“Shameful victim-blaming. Russia invaded Ukraine and is committing unspeakable war crimes there. Please do not amplify Russian lies,” tweeted Paul Massaro of the US government’s Helsinki Commission.
Pathetic. Amnesty International can go to hell for this garbage. Or go to Ukraine, which Putin's war is trying to turn into hell. As with their actions on Navalny, it reeks of Russian influence turning Kremlin propaganda into Amnesty statements. https://t.co/KOC0S0NJOt
— Garry Kasparov (@Kasparov63) August 4, 2022
The underlying premise behind these complaints, of course, is that it is Amnesty International’s job to help Ukraine win a propaganda campaign against Russia. Which is odd, because Amnesty’s reporting on the war has actually been overwhelmingly biased in favor of Ukraine this entire time.
“Anger directed at Amnesty is surprising given that it is the first critical piece the group has written on Ukraine since the war began,” reports Unherd. “Over the last six months, Amnesty has published 40 articles on Ukraine, nearly all of which condemn Russia’s invasion, with only one exception — its latest — that could be conceivably described as critical of Ukraine.”
Even the Amnesty report currently sparking all the outrage contains repeated condemnations of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, citing “indiscriminate attacks by Russian forces” and “war crimes” Amnesty has found Russia guilty of committing, as well as decrying the use of “inherently indiscriminate weapons, including internationally banned cluster munitions.”
But even ninety-nine percent loyalty to the official line is not enough for imperial spinmeisters and the empire’s useful idiots. Anything short of 100 percent compliance counts as Russian propaganda.
Zelensky now implies that Amnesty International has now fallen under the spell of Kremlin propaganda for pointing out the obvious that Western press would not report & that is Ukrainian forces have been using civilians as shields.
— Ajamu Baraka (@ajamubaraka) August 5, 2022
But that’s precisely the notion that has been drummed into western consciousness with ever-increasing fervor since 2016: that any dissent about US foreign policy is Russian propaganda. Don’t support western interventionism in Syria? You’re spouting Russian propaganda. Worried about nuclear war? Russian propaganda. Don’t think the fight for US unipolar domination is worth all this dangerous brinkmanship? Russian propaganda. Don’t like the idea of an expensive proxy war with no exit strategy whose economic fallout is making life harder and harder for more and more people all around the world? Russian propaganda.
I myself am accused of being a peddler of Russian propaganda many times per day, and have been for years. This despite my hardly ever consuming Russian media, never receiving a penny from Russia, and never having worked for the Russian government or any other government at any time. Russian media have at times chosen of their own initiative to amplify my work since I have a standing invitation for anyone to do so, but I’m literally just an Australian woman writing her opinions online with her American husband. I only qualify as “Russian propaganda” because I disagree with US foreign policy.
Ask anyone who says a criticism of the western empire’s Ukraine policy is “Russian propaganda” to name a critic of western Ukraine policy who they don’t consider a Russian propagandist. They won’t be able to. For them, disagreeing with one’s government about Ukraine is itself Russian propaganda.
For empire apologists the measure of what constitutes “Russian propaganda” about Ukraine has nothing to do with whether or not what’s being said is true or valid; it’s literally just a question of obedience to one’s government about the decisions it’s been making with regard to that nation.
So the @amnesty basically accused Ukraine of endangering civilians by continuing to resist Russian advances.
The organization gives a huge assist to Russian propaganda.
— Oleksiy Sorokin (@mrsorokaa) August 4, 2022
If the measure of whether something qualifies as propaganda is defined entirely by whether it agrees with one’s government, then that measure is itself propaganda.
That’s exactly what’s happening with criticism of the west’s interventionism in Ukraine. Something doesn’t have to come from Russia to be considered Russian propaganda, and its source doesn’t need to have any connection to the Russian government. It doesn’t even have to be false. All it needs to be is disobedient.
We saw this illustrated this past June when The Guardian published a NATO-backed claim that journalist Aaron Maté was “the most prolific spreader of disinformation” among a “Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists,” despite being incapable of citing a single false thing in Maté’s Syria reporting, and despite The Guardian having to hastily edit out their “Russia-backed” claim.
We also saw this illustrated this past June in a University of Calgary briefing paper on “disinformation” about the war in Ukraine which warns about “five primary narratives” being circulated online:
1. Implying NATO expansionism legitimizes the Russian invasion
2. Portraying NATO as an aggressive alliance using Ukraine as a proxy against Russia
3. Promoting a general mistrust in institutions and elites
4. Suggesting that Ukraine is a fascist state or has extensive fascist influences
5. Promoting a specific mistrust of Canada’s Liberal government, and especially of Prime Minister Trudeau
There are arguments of varying strengths to be made for every one of those points, but more importantly it is self-evident that all of them are matters of opinion and none of them meet any sane definition of “disinformation”. They also can’t in and of themselves rightly be called either “Russian” or “propaganda”.
“We are moving into a situation where dissent from officially sanctioned opinion can be pathologized & criminalised. Pressures for increasing censorship of dissenting opinion are becoming normalised.” Academics should be resisting this, not assisting it.https://t.co/R1tRb34D6W
— Tim Hayward (@Tim_Hayward_) July 31, 2022
Russian propaganda certainly exists, and the Russian government certainly has a vested interest in influencing western thought in its strategic favor to whatever extent it is capable. But its capability is very, very limited, especially compared to the exponentially greater influence that western institutions have over our minds.
Russia has a few trolls and some media outlets that were barely viewed by westerners even before they were banned; the US-centralized empire has the billionaire media, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the education system. Comparing the two is like comparing a candle to the sun, and the sun ain’t Russia. But that’s the one whose influence over our minds we’re meant to worry about.
In reality we are swimming in propaganda that is favorable to the US empire our entire lives; it’s so ubiquitous that people don’t even notice it. Claiming your support for US foreign policy on an issue has nothing to do with being propagandized is like someone who was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church claiming it was pure coincidence that he happens to agree with the church on the sinfulness of homosexuality. It pervades our minds and shapes our society, but they want us all freaking out about the virtually nonexistent problem of “Russian propaganda”.
This is a thought-killing dynamic, and it is a major problem. It is not good that propaganda is shoved into our minds manufacturing consent for dangerous escalations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers while anyone who opposes any part of it is dismissed as a Russian propagandist or a useful idiot of the Kremlin.
Ten Times Empire Managers Showed Us That They Want To Control Our Thoughts
The single most under-appreciated aspect of our society is the fact that immensely powerful people are continuously working to manipulate the thoughts we think about our world.https://t.co/s9gIfQGb39
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) May 29, 2022
We should be using our minds more at this critical juncture, but these dynamics put in place by imperial narrative managers have instead got us using them a lot less.
A Russian and an American get on a plane in Moscow and get to talking. The Russian says he works for the Kremlin and he’s on his way to go learn American propaganda techniques.
“What American propaganda techniques?” asks the American.
“Exactly,” the Russian replies.
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Jim / August 25, 2022
I’m no tactician or strategist, but I assume the problem that Ukraine faces is that these are the very areas that Russia is attacking.
Russia doesn’t want to invade fields or barren land – it wants to lay claim to cities and populated areas and to establish its own systems and governments in those places. Hence, Russian forces are striking at Ukraine’s towns and cities in an attempt to occupy more of Ukraine. Of course, ideally, Ukraine should help non-combatants to evacuate before establishing defensive positions in populated areas, but it’s not as though Ukraine can control where Russia invades – it is reacting to the invasion and fighting back against it.
John Manning / August 12, 2022
I can understand the need for political propaganda in the west. Politicians who rely on votes for their continuing power need to control public thought.
I cannot understand why Russia or China would bother with propaganda, because I am told they are dictatorships where the public has no choice so what the public thinks has no significance.
So if there is such a thing as Russian propaganda does that mean Russia is actually a democracy?
FRED GANOE / August 7, 2022
Iit’s worse than propaganda, Caitlin. It’s lies. Please highlight these truths about the lies.
According to Barbara Honegger who was in the meeting in February 1981 a couple of weeks after Reagan’s inauguration, CIA Director William Casey disclosed what he had learned about the disinformation campaign. This suggests strongly to me that the program preceded Casey (anybody remember Allen Dulles?).
“We will know our disinformation campaign is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”
Further, from the point of view of a decision scientist, everything Americans know isn’t necessarily untrue. Some Americans believe the misinformation they’ve been forced or have chosen to ingest. Some Americans know the truth but can’t be certain about it because of the disinformation. Hype, spin, BS, propaganda, deceit, and outright lies have created perfect Uncertainty for decision-making.
Not to be religious, but Truth is important — especially the truth that we are victims of “disinformation.”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
John 1:1 [https://biblehub.com/john/1-1.htm]
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lying to Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, 2013
Secretary of State – CIA Director Mike Pompeoass boasting about CIA Lying, Cheating & Stealing:
• Pompeo Finally Tells the Truth: ‘We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal’ – Antiwar.com Blog
• Lying not to make America ‘great again’ – CGTN
Truth Slanger / August 7, 2022
Exactly. Kasparov doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I think he just dislikes Putin for personal reasons.
WillD / August 7, 2022
In this madness, I see all conscious rational thought suppressed, and ugly base anger / hatred / prejudice come out. Primitive human responses as they lash out because they feel threatened. That’s why propaganda and media spin works so well – it bypasses rational thought and targets raw emotions. Just proves how uncivilised we really are.
tjrich / August 6, 2022
“Canada’s abusive immigration detention system is in stark contrast to the rich diversity and the values of equality and justice that Canada is known for globally,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call on the Canadian authorities to end the inhumane treatment of people in the immigration and refugee protection system by gradually ending immigration detention in Canada.” – June 2021
Ammesty calls out everyone who is abusing human rights whether western, mid-east, Aisian, European, or Russia. That’s their job don’t whine when they do.
Glenn / August 6, 2022
This proxy war in Ukraine was always bleeding down Russia into surrendering all of its resources to the West.
NATO and the West never cared about saving Ukrainian lives, only about turning sympathy away from Russia so it could be starved into submission.
Wake up America, read “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives”
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
Caliman / August 6, 2022
There’s no “betrayal” like a bolt of truth from a hitherto “trusted” insider like AI. Really, why are they interrupting this nice uniform “Russia evil” narrative house of cards that everyone has been building, eh? In fact, how dare they?
david outa bolelwang / August 6, 2022
Amnesty International, the same as it is with other empire financed bodies all over the world, they can’t bite the hand that feeds them. They are either towing the line or are suspected of having been bought off when they report nothing but the truth. If the CNN would dare report the truth, it would incur the wrath of its backers and be seen as dangerous by the establishment.
paul holdsworth / August 6, 2022
It seems that the beast has woken, one can only suspect that all this will end in great destruction and worst, and i am really not over dramatizing either, it just goes to prove the old buddhist saying THERE IS ONLY ONE TRUTH IN THIS WORLD ‘AND THAT IS: THERE IS NO TRUTH IN IT we can only watch this evil drama play it’s self out
Katy / August 6, 2022
My understanding is that AI is a CIA front and that they placed this very old and widely known news because they are about to “get rid of” Zelensky (and blame it on the Russians).
Anarcissie / August 6, 2022
Or, they could be salting the propaganda a little to improve its flavor, its verisimilitude.
Zbigniew Roger Nowosielski / August 6, 2022
I’m sure glad you’re still around.
Please email me. You’ve got the address.
pretzelattack / August 6, 2022
that makes sense.
Pascal / August 6, 2022
Russian propaganda is the last rubber stamp that gets you branded a “bad guy” (TM) and it’s only the ultimate avatar of a long list: heretic, anti-Semite, racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-vaxxer…
It saves saliva. Doesn’t matter if the guy who’s mildly critical of the vaccine for landing him in a wheelchair for life has had two jabs and two boosters and previously all the vaccines that Big Pharma has ever invented to make money, he’s an “anti-vaxxer” and Bob’s your uncle.
The best is with Wikipedia. Guys there, who probably couldn’t tell the difference between a virus and a bacterium because they read exclusively Marvel comics, pose as the ultimate scientists and come up in people’s entries with definitive stuff like: “During the pandemic, he/she spread conspiracy theories.”
They fucking KNOW! They’re beyond doubt, controversy or scientific research because they KNEW, even before the vaccine was produced, that it was going to be “safe and effective” because it would make money! What better proof do you need?
It’s experimental? Well then it makes experimental money but you can still change the yacht with it. So it’s just a technicality really…
Anyway, you don’t want to have anything to do with conspiracy theories, do you? Like saying the vaccine stopped transmission and in the worst-case scenario – because perfection is not of this world – guaranteed that you wouldn’t end up in hospital or die from Covid like all these vaccinated people who end up in hospitals and die from Covid.
Well, you know what I mean… Get the vax because it’s only twenty bucks while the next batches will be thirty because not enough people get vaxxed to meet the profit projections. So be a good citizen and help your government save money as inflation’s getting worse by getting vaxxed NOW! Your country needs you!
And the beauty of it is that the anti-vaxxer smear morphs seamlessly into “Russian propaganda”. It’s practically interchangeable if you consider the total absence of evidence to back both claims – as a matter of fact, often the amount of evidence dismissing them.
It only works in the media though…
Try it in the street… Cop: “You are driving under the influence!” You: “This is Russian propaganda!” See how it goes… Unless of course you’re Paul Pelosi. Then you can hand out your gold donor card as you say “Russian disinformation” and you get away with a misdemeanour charge even if the other car looks like it’s been shelled for eight years by the Azov Battalion.
But there’s only one Paul Pelosi. And it’s not you. He’s only trumped by Hunter Biden who doesn’t even have to hand out any card or say anything since former CIA honchos get together to sign letters to say that whatever he may be accused of by white supremacist assholes & Trump supporters Inc. is Russian disinformation all the way.
Even Gary Kasparov AND Amnesty International know that! Which goes to show they can at least agree on something!
John Knox / August 6, 2022
Some idiot once told me I was secretly working for big pharma. It’s hilarious how stupid old conservatives get.
Pascal / August 7, 2022
Flattery won’t get you anywhere.
grandy / August 10, 2022
“experimental money”… love it
KP / August 6, 2022
An old joke but an excellent one.. some things never change!
Americans see propaganda like a fish sees the water it lives in.
Newton Finn / August 6, 2022
To the contrary, IMHO, most of the people here in America I talk to, including nearly all of the youth, assume that the government and mainstream media are liars. They don’t even take in enough of the official narratives to be able to explain or care about explaining precisely how they’re wrong—which, of course, poses its own set of problems. The exception here, and an extremely dangerous one, is the emotional conditioning by the entertainment industry, which does deeply affect Americans, especially its youth. This is what makes R2P an attractive cover for the bastards.
Anarcissie / August 6, 2022
Sworn-in members of the PMC often Believe.
Caliman / August 6, 2022
Newton – The interesting thing is that, even when they know it’s propaganda and lies, it still works! In other words, when you survey opinions about the subject matter in question, you see that the aim of the propagandists has been achieved.
When you swim in a sea of propaganda, you don’t have to believe any particular aspect of it … you are influenced by the whole. That, btw, is probably why they HATE it when someone like AI, which does have some viewers and attention, strays from the consistent barrage of the machine. It creates a discontinuity.
David / August 6, 2022
These poor blue souls. They accuse anything & everything they dislike of being “Russia” They remind me of those chatty Kathy dolls that are programmed to talk except everytime it’s Russia. Never do they realize they are programmed by the Pentagon through the moving picture box on the wall with all the bright colors & happy people in the tv. They don’t know why they support Ukraine. They just know the USA supports Ukraine and they mistakenly believe the disgusting United States is the good guys in all this.
Secret Santa / August 6, 2022
That moron Gary Kasparov has long ago revealed himself to be no more than a one trick pony. Perhaps he has mastered the game of chess but totally abandons all logic whenever the subject comes to the Russian state, Russian politics or the Russian leadership especially Vladimir Putin. Perhaps it is because he is not an ethnic Russian but rather a member of another group who really hates Russians and their entire society. Really, he is such a divisive influence in the country that they ought to deport him, except they won’t because they are far more tolerant of dissent in that country than anything we have going here in the United States. In the US, his counterpart (a hater of the United States, not a US sycophant like himself) would be sent to virtual Coventry–they’d be totally cancelled by the media as if disappeared by Pinochet or Galtieri. My advice to Mr. Kasparov (and I reserve such niceties for only the biggest of fuck sticks) is go fellate that idiot Zelensky, you know you want to, you fascist piece of shit.
david outa bolelwang / August 6, 2022
Kasparov is being groomed to become a CIA- created Yeltsin-like puppet, wait for it..
George Cornell / August 6, 2022