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Joining Some Dots on the Skripal Case: Part 6 – Tying up the Loose Ends

By Rob Slane | The Blog Mire | June 23, 2018

Over the last five pieces (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5) I have, slowly but surely, advanced a theory of what happened in the Skripal case. I must confess to having done so with a fair amount of unease. I don’t want to believe that my Government has been stating a case that is false. I don’t want to believe that the public have been lied to. I don’t want to have to think that there has been a lot of effort made to present an explanation that hides the truth.

And yet, given the fact that the Government story contains self-evident fallacies, and cannot be made to add up, I don’t think that there’s much alternative than to be hugely sceptical about their claims. I stated the two main fallacies in Part 1, which are the claims that three people were poisoned by the nerve agent A-234, which is 5-8 times more toxic than VX, and that because A-234 was developed in the Soviet Union, the Russian State is responsible for what happened. The first claim cannot be true, because the three people are alive and well and have suffered no irreparable damage. The second claim is palpably untrue, because A-234 has been synthesised in a number of countries.

Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg of the absurdities and anomalies. I don’t intend to go through all of them, but would simply point anyone who does believe the official story to concentrate on three words: The Door Handle. This was apparently where the poison was poured, so allow me to pose five questions about this claim to those who believe it to be true:

  1. During the “clean-up” operation, there were lots of military chaps wearing HazMat suits, which are designed to protect against exposure to toxic chemicals. How, then, did the assassin apparently manage to pour this same lethal, military grade nerve agent on a door handle, without wearing a HazMat suit?
  2. On the other hand, if he or she was wearing a HazMat suit when performing the operation, wouldn’t someone in Christie Miller Road have noticed and found it – shall we say – a bit odd?
  3. If the poison was administered to the door handle, how exactly did both Sergei and Yulia Skripal manage to touch it (people don’t normally both touch the door handle if they go in the house together), and how did they manage to get exactly the right quantities on their skin so that they collapsed at exactly the same time, some four hours later?
  4. The door handle theory only reared its head some three weeks after the poisoning, at which point the substance was said to have been still present in a “highly pure” form. During this three weeks, many people went in and out of Mr Skripal’s house using the front door. How did they manage to do so without using the door handle, or if they did, how did they manage not to succumb to poisoning?
  5. Part of the Government’s alleged evidence pointing at the high likelihood of Russian involvement in the case, is an FSB instruction manual showing – amongst other things – how to assassinate someone by pouring Novichok on a door handle. Suspending our disbelief on this claim for a moment (and admittedly that is hard), did the Government have the manual when they made their accusations against the Russian Government on 12th and 14th March, and if so, why did the door handle theory not surface for more than a week after this?

Of course, a few moments consideration about the door handle theory will show that – like the rest of the official story – it is simply wrong. And because it is so plainly wrong, that is why we can safely say that the real explanation lies elsewhere.

Nevertheless, I am aware that in advancing another explanation, there are likely to be many holes in it too. Whilst much of what I have said throughout this series has been based on facts and eyewitness statements, the theory I have advanced from those facts and witness statements remains unproven. And so I would ask that where I have got things wrong, you would forgive me, and where things don’t make sense, you would point them out.

Having said that, what I want to do in this final piece is to tie up a few loose ends and – most particularly – attempt to demonstrate how the theory I have advanced explains some of the other anomalies in the case in a far more cogent and rational way than does the official story. So here goes.

The Deafening Silence of Sergei Skripal

One of the least talked about points in the official story, yet one that really is very important, is that if it were a true account, Mr Skripal would almost certainly have no more clue about who poisoned him than the average person in the street. If it were true that an unknown assassin, appointed by the Russian Government, poured military-grade nerve agent onto his front door on 4th March, before fleeing back to the Motherland, Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, would be as much in the dark as to who did it as you or I.

Now, if that were the case, two things would naturally follow. The first is that Mr Skripal would almost certainly be inclined to believe the version of events given to him by the Metropolitan Police. Think about it. He wakes up one morning in a strange hospital bed, and has absolutely no clue why he is there or what happened to him. Then a kindly policeman comes and explains that he was the target of an assassination attempt using a lethal nerve agent, and that the British Government believes that it was ordered by the Russian Government. What is he going to believe? Fairly obvious I would think. At least he would have no reason to disbelieve them.

The second thing that would naturally follow is that, as soon as he was able, he would want to release a statement, either on paper, or in an interview, where he not only pledges his support for the Metropolitan Police and their ongoing investigation, and no doubt hints at involvement of the Russian State, but also – and this is crucial – where he also gives the public some information about what actually happened to him on 4th March: where he went, when he first started to feel ill, and what he last remembers.

Again, think about it. If you were in his shoes, wouldn’t you want to catch the people who did it? And wouldn’t you assume that the more information you could give to the public, perhaps even clearing up some of the anomalies (such as the reason for the agitation in Zizzis), the more chance there would be that someone’s memory might be jogged and vital information given to the police?

Of course you would. And yet so far, Mr Skripal has released no such statement. Why?

It isn’t that he is physically or mentally incapacitated. We know from Yulia Skripal’s brief call to her cousin on April 5th (which almost certainly wasn’t “meant” to happen), that Sergei was by that time fine. In response to Viktoria’s question about her father, she said this:

“Everything is ok. He is resting now, having a nap. Everyone’s health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is ok.”

That was nearly three months ago, and yet the Sergei Skripal who was fine on 5th April, having suffered no irreparable damage from apparently being poisoned by the world’s most deadly nerve agent, and who was discharged on 18th May, still has not spoken.

I put it that the theory I have advanced (see Part 5 in particular), suggests an obvious reason for his silence. Were he in the dark about the identity of those who poisoned him, as the official story implies, his silence would be inexplicable. Don’t you want to catch the perpetrators of this crime upon you and your daughter, Sergei?

Yet, if we assume that actually he knows exactly who poisoned him and why they poisoned him – as would be the case according to the theory I have advanced – then his silence is very easily explained. He cannot be allowed to be interviewed about what happened, because he would blow the whole wretched business clean out of the water. He cannot be allowed to make an open statement, with the press there to ask free questions, because it would come out that he had been meeting someone at the bench in The Maltings, and that this someone whom he met was the person who poisoned him.

In addition, his (highly likely) authorship of the Trump Dossier would be revealed. And if this were to happen, not only would it be seen that the foundation upon which the whole Trump/Russia collusion hoax was based was made of straw, but it would become clear that the interference in the 2016 US Presidential election was never really about Russian interference to get Trump elected; but rather about British interference to stop Trump getting elected.

The deafening silence of Mr Skripal is therefore strong evidence of a number of things:

  • That the Government story, in which he was the unsuspecting victim of a Kremlin plot, is without foundation.
  • That he well knows who his poisoners were and why they poisoned him.
  • That he cannot be allowed to speak freely because if he was, a scandal of monumental proportions would be revealed.

The Deafening Silence of Yulia Skripal

Deafening silence of Yulia? What am I talking about? She has released a number of statements through the Metropolitan Police, and in the statement (not interview) she made to Reuters. So what do I mean?

Many have pointed out a number of remarkable things about her Reuters statement. For one, she looked remarkably well. For another, the language of the statement she read was highly suggestive that it was first written in English – not by her – and then translated into Russian (statements like “I do not wish to avail myself of their services” don’t normally trip off the tongue of native English speakers, let alone those who speak it as a second language).

But for me the most remarkable thing about all of her statements are not what they do say, but rather what they don’t say. As with Sergei’s silence, Yulia has nothing whatsoever to say about the day of the poisoning. Isn’t that odd? She notes that she and her father survived an “attempted assassination”. She notes that a nerve agent was used to do it. But she says nothing about her and her father’s movements that day. Nothing about what they did and where they went. Nothing about when they first succumbed to the effects of the poisoning. Nothing to suggest that her father’s agitation in Zizzis may have been caused by poisoning.

In short, she says nothing whatsoever about the poisoning itself. Zero. Diddly squat. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. Why?

As with Sergei’s non-statements, this doesn’t compute. If you happened to wake up in a hospital to be told that you had been the victim of a nerve agent poisoning, you would almost certainly want to tell people as much as possible about your movements up to the point of the poisoning. Wouldn’t you? Of course. Especially if not only you had been poisoned, but also your dad. You’d at least want to sound a bit more interested in actually catching the perpetrators than Yulia, who didn’t so much as mention it, and instead sounded like she just wanted to move on and forget it ever happened.

Once again, this total silence on something so crucial just doesn’t fit at all with the official story. That narrative suggests that Sergei and Yulia were innocent victims of a Kremlin-hired assassin. That narrative suggests they don’t know who that Kremlin-hired assassin was. But it also suggests that they of all people have a huge interest in giving details of what happened to them that day. And yet there is silence.

Does it fit better with the theory I have proposed? You bet it does. If what I have suggested is anywhere close to the truth, just like Sergei, Yulia cannot be allowed the freedom to give a proper interview where any question is allowed. She cannot be given consular access by the Russian Embassy. Why not? Because she knows what her dad was up to; she knows why he was meeting people at a park bench on Sunday 4th March; and she knows that the two of them were poisoned by the people who they were meeting.

Why did she agree to an interview? No doubt she realises what a difficult and vulnerable position she is in. Despite claims to the contrary, she clearly has no contact with her family back in Russia, or indeed any contact with the outside world. She was almost certainly pressured into making a statement, and yet — as Tony Kevin convincingly argues here — it has many signs of being a compromise statement. And so she agreed to making a fairly nebulous statement — one which is almost inconceivable from the point of view of the official narrative, but which fits perfectly with the narrative I have advanced.

The Deafening Silence of Nick Bailey

One final deafening silence that doesn’t exactly do wonders for the official narrative, is the silence of Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. He has always been a big puzzle in this case, for a number of reasons. It was first said that he was poisoned at The Maltings. However, the problem with this explanation is that there was absolutely no reason for him to have been there. The case was treated by Salisbury District Hospital as a case of Fentanyl poisoning. Why would a member of the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) be called to a bench to an apparent opioid overdose?

It was then said by none other than Lord Ian Blair that DS Bailey was actually poisoned at Mr Skripal’s house. But again, the same question arises. Why would a member of CID be sent to the home of a person in a what looked like a case of opioid poisoning?

The story then swung backwards and forwards a number of times between a poisoning at the Maltings and a poisoning at Mr Skripal’s house. These anomalies are very important, but even more important is that they could have been put straight by DS Bailey himself. If the official story was correct, not only would it have been super easy to have verified where DS Bailey was poisoned, but he himself could have testified to it. And yet like the Skripals, there has been nothing!

Given the absurd changes to this particular part of the story – and it is perhaps the easiest of all parts to verify – my assumption is that he was poisoned at neither The Maltings or Mr Skripal’s house. Instead, just as I wrote in Part 5 that I believe it likely the Skripals were poisoned by an incapacitating nerve agent in the red bag that was then seen next to the bench, I think it highly likely that DS Bailey was poisoned from the same source.

But where? The red bag was removed from the scene by a police officer and placed in an evidence bag. Why would this have been done? Because the pair on the bench were suspected of overdosing on an opioid, and the bag would naturally be removed by police so that its contents could be examined. And whereas I think it unlikely that someone from CID would be called to the scene of a drug overdose, it seems quite likely that they might receive and handle evidence taken from such a scene. Therefore my guess – and I stress that it is only a guess – is that DS Bailey was the man who received the bag, and whilst looking inside to see its contents, was poisoned by the same incapacitating agent as the Skripals (possibly something like 3-Quinuclidinyl Benzilate (BZ), but definitely not A-234).

Again, if the official story were true, what would prevent DS Bailey from giving a brief statement or interview, confirming exactly what happened to him? But if the red bag theory is close to the mark, then it becomes plainly obvious why this hasn’t yet happened.

Smokes and Mirrors

Which actually brings me on to the penultimate point I want to make in this piece, and indeed in this 6-part series. Everything in the official story, no matter how absurd, seems designed to point our attention away from the most probable source, place and type of poisoning: The red bag, at the bench, and an incapacitating nerve agent. And it does so because if our attention is focused on them, then a very different story begins to emerge. Which cannot be allowed to happen.

As stated above, claims about A-234 being used just don’t add up. Neither the time delay, nor the symptoms, nor the recovery of the Skripals with no irreparable damage match up to what this deadly, military grade, high purity, lethal nerve agent that is so much more toxic than VX, is meant to do. What the claim does, however, is points our attention away from what is far more likely – an incapacitating agent administered to the Skripals between 3:45 and 4:00pm on 4th March.

As stated above, claims about the door handle just don’t add up. Neither the fact that both Sergei and Yulia were poisoned, nor the fact that others went in and out of the house before the door handle theory was put forward and didn’t succumb, nor the fact that the substance on it apparently remained of “high purity” weeks later – none of these things make any sense. What the claim does, however, is directs our thoughts away from what is far more likely – that the substance used to poison the Skripals was administered at the bench, and probably via the red bag.

The apparent motive put forward in the official narrative doesn’t add up either. There is a general agreement among countries that you do not target spies who have been part of a swap. Why? Because if you do, you can kiss goodbye to ever getting any other spies swapped in the future. It’s called shooting yourself in the foot big time! But what this frankly risible explanation for the apparent motive behind the poisoning does, however, is to point our attention away from what Mr Skripal was really up to. And as I set out in Part 4, this was very likely something to do with authoring the Trump Dossier.

Nothing about the official story makes sense. None of it adds up. It is riddled with holes. But I would submit that the only thing that does make sense about it, is that the parts that go to make up the sum are all desperate attempts to divert attention. They are smokes and mirrors, designed to stop us from considering some of the more obvious aspects of the case, and some of the more startling aspects of the case – Mr Skripal’s involvement with MI6; his likely involvement in or authorship of the Trump Dossier; the likelihood that he was due to meet people at the bench in The Maltings; the probability that this is why he was agitated and in a hurry in Zizzis; the likelihood that he knows who poisoned him and why.

And of course the reason that these things are not supposed to be considered is that if – and I acknowledge it is a big if – the alternative explanation I have advanced is true, and if it became generally known, then it would cause just about the biggest political crisis in British political history.

And Finally…

Having said that, I have to say that I don’t believe it at all likely that the British Government knew about any of this before it occurred. I get the impression that the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are a law unto themselves, and I think it likely that some of their number wanted to send Mr Skripal a message, one which would look like an opioid overdose, one which he would recover from reasonably quickly, and one which would be forgotten very soon.

However, I don’t think that the poisoning of DS Bailey was meant to happen, but when it did, it set off a series of events that quickly got out of control. I don’t think the identity of Sergei Skripal as a Russian involved in a spy swap was ever meant to make it into the press, but it did and very soon what looked like some kind of opioid poisoning quickly became an international spy saga.

The British Government’s reckless and extraordinarily quick reaction to the case was, apart from being a travesty of the rule of law, one of the biggest clues that the official narrative was not true. If it were true, they could have took their time, acted calmly, and let the investigation run its course. Instead, what we got was a lawless, irrational and absurd response. It all smacked of a panicked reaction, and whilst it made no sense in terms of the story they sold us, it makes perfect sense if the truth was that they were desperate to prevent news getting out about who Skripal really was, what he had been up to, and how the poisoning might well be connected with that work. And indeed the D-notices they slapped on the reporting of that stuff, and of Mr Skripal’s connections to Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller, are further evidence that it is so.

And so they very quickly decided to turn attention away from the big clues of the case, by invoking the scary sounding “Novichok” and pinning the blame – without any evidence – on the Russian State. To this date, they have given us no evidence to back up their claim, much less a suspect, but have unwittingly given us a bunch of absurdities that can be blown out of the water through the use of simple reason and logic.

They should have remembered this:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)

But I have a feeling they don’t believe it applies to them. I have a feeling that it does.

And so there’s my case. As I say, there are bound to be a good many holes and no doubt many errors and inconsistencies in it. Please do forgive me for those. As for the rest of it — Make of it what you will.

I hope to leave this case for now and write about other stuff. But I will of course return to it if there are any new and interesting developments.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

‘Forget sanctions, G7 & Assad – Trump-Putin summit should focus on America’s Ukraine interference’

RT | June 22, 2018

Ukraine, not Syria, is going to be in the spotlight at the potential meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after the US supplied Kiev with Javelin missiles and imposed sanctions on Russia, former US diplomat told RT.

The NATO summit set for July is already being upstaged by rumors of a separate meeting between Trump and Putin – and news that National Security Advisor John Bolton will be heading to Moscow this month has only increased speculation. RT America’s Natasha Sweatte discussed this latest development with former US diplomat Jim Jatras.

RT: What are your thoughts on Bolton going to Russia? Do you think this is going to be a similar matter to how Mike Pompeo set things up for the president with Kim Jong-un?

Jim Jatras: I think in some ways, yes. I understand that ambassador (Jon) Huntsman, our ambassador in Moscow, was here not too long ago to begin some of the prep, Bolton is supposed to be in Moscow next week and then three Republican senators are supposed to be in Moscow the week after that. I think there’s some of the groundwork being prepared for this meeting.

RT: What do you think is the most important thing for them to discuss, if they do indeed meet. Do you think something like Syria?

JJ: Certainly, Syria. But to tell the truth, I think the mere fact of the meeting, like the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un, is the most important thing. The fact that they meet. Let’s remember, there has been a full-blown campaign of hysteria on so-called “Russian collusion” from not only the US deep state, but their friends in the United Kingdom, in MI6 and GCHQ, trying to try to sink this thing. And I think coming off of the summit with Kim and also some of the economic news, some of his domestic successes, Trump now feels he has the ability to go ahead with something he said he wanted to do during the campaign and has been frustrated from doing so.

RT: Do you think a positive meeting between the two will have any impact on Mueller’s investigation or do you see it as an important thing for Trump to block all of that out, if he does indeed meet with Putin?

JJ: I think it is going to be in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, the Trump-haters who actually believe all the nonsense about Russian collusion, they’ll just see this: He is reporting to Moscow, he is reporting to headquarters. This proves everything we’ve been alleging.”

Of course, that’ll be total nonsense. I think just as a lot of people aimed potshots at him over North Korea, the fact that he comes back with something that looks like we’re making progress on a peaceful settlement, I think will resonate with a lot more people than the naysayers.

RT: Now to the G7 summit: do you think there is a seat at the table for Russia? Do you think maybe these talks with the US is the first step in that direction?

JJ: It could be. But to tell the truth, G7 isn’t all that important. And certainly not for the Russians. The Russians are looking more toward Eurasian integration with the, One Belt, One Road, initiative with the Chinese, with the Eurasian Economic Union. Sure, they’d like a seat at the table. But they’re not going to sit there and beg for it. And they’re not going to look at it as some kind of a cookie to be thrown to them.

RT: And what’s the ultimate outcome? Do you think just the meeting itself speaks volumes?

JJ: I think, the meeting itself speaks volumes. But I think, the question of sanctions, for example, is way in the background. You’ll never get that through Congress anytime soon. Although, I think we could look at some positive action in Europe in the very near future. I think that actually the thorniest question isn’t really Syria so much. Look, Assad has won, he is going to stay in power. The real issue is going to be what to do about Ukraine. During the campaign, Trump said that is a European issue. But, of course, you know, we’ve provided the Javelin missiles, we’ve added new sanctions to the Russians. We’ve got to find some way to get the US out of the driver’s seat on aggravating the situation in Ukraine.

RT: And maybe, if (Robert) Mueller’s investigation does wrap up sometime soon, maybe Congress’s outlook would change on sanctions?

JJ: No, I don’t think so. I think, unfortunately, there are just so many people who have planted their feet in concrete in an extreme, I would say, hysterical anti-Russian position, that just isn’t going to change. I think Trump basically has to move beyond them somehow and not really focus on the sanctions, which to tell the truth, do not have the same devastating impact on Russia that a lot of people here would like to think they have.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Trump riding high and set to roll the dice for a summit with Putin

By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times | June 22, 2018

If the Trump White House had let it be known a couple of months ago that it was working with the Kremlin to schedule a summit meeting between the two presidents, all hell would have broken loose in the Washington Beltway. But that isn’t happening. There is an eerie calm in Washington, as if Trump’s detractors have run out of ammunition.

What explains it? First, the fizz seems to have gone out of the Russia collusion theory. Robert Mueller could keep uncovering crimes in American public life (of which there is no dearth) forever but he has not been able to say he has actually substantiated the Russia collusion theory. The latest Pew Research Center analysis on June 20 reveals that only 28% Americans remain any longer “very confident” of the fairness of Mueller’s investigation, while four-in-10 say they are not too sure (19%) or are at all confident (21%) in his ability to do this.

Pew admits: “Republicans and Democrats offer starkly different assessments of Mueller’s conduct of the investigation and Trump’s ability to deal with it, and these partisan differences extend to views of the importance of the investigation itself.”

This partly explains why the cascade of criticism that could have been expected over Trump’s plan for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin hasn’t materialized – although a lavish, televised lovefest is sure to make a mockery of the Mueller inquest.

Fundamentally, Trump has had remarkable success in boosting his political standing among members of his own party. As Susan Glasser wrote in the New Yorker recently: “Increasingly, few Republicans are willing to stand in Trump’s way, even when the President’s policies clash with their own deeply held views.”

The recent lamentation by John Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives – “There is no Republican Party. There is a Trump Party” – may be an exaggeration that he made while sipping a Bloody Mary on stage at a recent conference in Michigan. Nonetheless, as Glasser writes: “The political reality is simply this: President Trump is now too popular with the Republican base to challenge, even when he appears to be upending policies the party of Reagan has embraced for decades.”

Thus, when Trump presses ahead with a meeting with Putin (which he wanted all along), there is now an air of resignation about it. To be sure, Trump’s dramatic, showy one-one-one meeting with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently has rewritten America’s contemporary diplomatic history. And he rewrote it all by himself while no one back home was even sure whether he should do it.

Trump-Putin summit: perfect next act?

Russia, of course, is different. But the analogy of the Art of the Deal is still relevant and why should Trump give up on his campaign vision of closer ties with the Russian president without ever testing it? The Russophobes are hard-pressed to find an answer. Thus, it is a fait accompli that as a US president who embraces personal diplomacy with America’s adversaries as his trademark in foreign policy, Trump’s forthcoming summit with Putin becomes a perfect next act.

Did Trump work towards this? The point is, he’s an inscrutable politician. It wasn’t mere coincidence that just before leaving for the recent G-7 summit in Canada, he would think up the unthinkable – Russia’s return to the grouping. The seemingly stray thought actually gets bracketed with his move to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the vital underpinning of President Barack Obama’s ‘pivot-to-Asia’ strategy (without which a containment strategy against China lacks gravitas).

The common thread is that Trump’s Art of the Deal means putting the focus on America’s interests rather than on the negating of adversaries’ legitimate interests or concerns – be it North Korea or Russia. Of course, if there is an uncomfortable overlap, a deal becomes necessary and Trump believes in his ability to negotiate it.

So, Trump essentially took a pot shot at the West’s containment strategy against Russia by raising the G7 petard. Meanwhile, on a parallel track, the spadework began for a successful summit between Trump and Putin. Of course, there are so many fault lines in the overall relationship and anything can go wrong between now and the summit. The Kremlin can ensure that there is no “sabotage” from the Russian side, but that cannot be said for the Trump White House.

An announcement on the Trump-Putin summit in the second week of July is due any moment. From available indications, the meet will come after Trump’s participation in the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12. Trump is also facing resistance from the US’ European allies who fear “exclusion” from a potential US-Russia rapprochement. And the resistance to detente in the US and in Europe coalesces. Yet, Trump’s strategic asset is that with a high popularity rating of 45% he is at his strongest position today politically and could do things pretty much as he always wanted.

The best sign so far is that a three-member group of Republican senators comprising Richard Shelby (Alabama), John Neely Kennedy (Louisiana) and John Hoeven (North Dakota) is visiting Russia in early July on a “reconnaissance mission.” Historically, Moscow preferred to talk with America’s “hawks”. And the good part is that the Trump administration is sponsoring the lawmakers’ visit.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | | Leave a comment

The Parallel Universe of BBC Panorama

By Kit | OffGuardian | June 21, 2018

The BBC flag-ship documentary series “Panorama” has long been a stalwart of state-funded television propaganda. They can always be relied upon to tell us what we’re supposed to think. In 2013, just days before the Commons vote on military intervention in Syria, BBC aired “Panorama: Saving Syria’s Children”, a shambolic piece of fiction designed to outrage the public into war.

Robert Stuart has done truly exceptional work in deconstructing the fakery and propaganda on which the BBC sees fit to spend taxpayer’s money.

In just the last year they’ve had two documentaries about North Korea being evil (“North Korea’s Secret Slave Camps” and “North Korea’s Nuclear Trump Card”).

And it’s not just foreign “enemies” that end up in Panorama’s crosshairs either – it’s also domestic ones.

In 2015, just a few days before Jeremy Corbyn’s first Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Jeremy Corbyn – Labour’s Earthquake”, a documentary which prompted Corbyn’s team to file an official complaint, labelling it a “hatchet job”.

Then in 2016, on the eve of Corbyns second (larger) Labour leadership victory, the BBC aired “Panorama: Labour – Is the Party over?”, a documentary full of doom and gloom, featuring anecdotes about abuse, and various (predictable) Blairite MPs bemoaning the “unelectability” of their leader.

In the 2017 General Election, Jeremy Corbyn’s resurgent Labour defied the polls, the pundits and the BBC to knock-off the Tory majority and come within 2% of winning. Could the BBC’s, and Panorama’s, relentlessly negative slanted coverage be responsible for keeping Corbyn out of No.10? It would be foolish to deny the possibility.

And there, neatly demonstrated in those three paragraphs, you see the value and purpose of state-sponsored propaganda. Panorama is the spirit of the BBC, a pretense of faux objectivity, shrouded in cuddly familiarity, employed exclusively and decisively against anything the establishment sees as a threat.

*

Enter Vladimir Putin

The folks at Panorama LOVE Putin, or at least love to hate him. In the last two years there have been no less than five (five!) episodes devoted to the man, and indeed the myth.

January 2016 brought us “Putin’s Secret Riches”, January 2017 “Trump: The Kremlin Candidate”, March of this year brought us two inside a week, “Putin: The New Tsar” and “Taking On Putin!”. As the titles suggest, none of them were especially objective or open-minded. That’s not in the BBC’s remit.

The most recent Putin-hit piece aired just last week – in the run up to the World Cup – its rather more mundane title simply: “Putin’s Russia with David Dimbleby”. The documentary, for want of a better word, opens on David Dimbleby wandering through a Moscow market looking at sigh Russian nesting dolls, and it doesn’t get less predictable from there on in.

A long time ago, I was taught you construct an argument in three steps – “Statement, Evidence, Conclusion”. Instead Panorama opted to go for the unorthodox “Conclusion, Anecdote, Stock Footage of Nesting Dolls” approach.

The first problem, and perhaps the biggest, is David’s hat… but it never really goes up-hill from there.

The second problem, is the smugness. Forget the factual inaccuracies re: the Russian economy, forget the totally evidence-free assertions, and just focus on the smugness.

The smugness of an English man who went to Charterhouse School, and then on to Oxford, is possibly one of the most toxic things in the world. So much evil has been done by men who are taught their own effortless superiority. Blood has been spilled by such men, oceans of it, evils done beyond imagining, all with a soft chuckle and clear conscience, because they come from a system that tells them their very existence MAKES them RIGHT. They do the “right thing” as a matter of course because of who they are and what they think. They are right, and the vast swamps of Other are wrong, and that’s just the way it is.

These are the people who spread the British Empire over a quarter of the globe, all the time telling themselves that they were doing the savages a favour by giving them civilisation. The same men, the same minds, in suits that change with time and with methods that shift with the ages, have run the country for centuries… and run the BBC since its inception. Men who believe morality is a function of their very existence. A path that rises up to meet their feet.

This is the British version of what the Americans call “exceptionalism”. It’s less brash, and less obvious, but no less poisonous for that.

The worst actions of mankind flow from minds who never question their own moral position, and this documentary can be counted as small, septic, addition to that list.

And so we begin…

I’ve come to see how Putin has managed to hold on to power for so long, and what the Russians see in the Putin that We, in the West, don’t.

Dimbleby’s introduction is immediately partisan and dishonest – referring to “we” in the West as if there is a consensus, when clearly that is not the case, is a variation on the argumentum ad populum, the argument to common knowledge. “Everybody knows that”, or “We all agree on this”. It is deceptive language, being used to paint a false picture.

Likewise, saying Putin “held on” to power for so long, makes it seem like his Presidency was an act of force, when all the evidence is to the contrary. Dimbleby says so himself just a few minutes later.

(SIDEBAR: When Dimbleby says “so long”, he means 18 years. The classic mainstream media trick of ignoring Medvedev’s term as president is employed here. As is every other, long discredited, anti-Putin rhetorical device.)

In a democracy if you failed to deliver on your economic promises, if you surrounded yourself with cronies, and if you used the law to oppress opposition, well you’d be thrown out on your ear… but this is Russia, and they do things differently here.

Dimbleby lays out, in one broad stroke, that Russia is backwards, and silly, and he’s going to come along and point out to us sensible Westerners just how they went wrong.

Leaving aside the hypocrisy (this is, let’s be honest, a pretty accurate summary of what every single British government has done since Margaret Thatcher), it’s also simply insulting. I find it insulting, and I’m British. If I was Russian and heard that? I would vomit blood.

It’s sickening… and we’re only 2 minutes in.

*

David on… the Russian Birthrate

Our first port of call on David’s whistle-stop tour of everything that’s shit about Russia is the birth rate. He tells us that it fell sharply in the years following the collapse of the USSR, and this is true, he doesn’t say WHY this happened. As a matter of policy this programme avoids, at all costs, mentioning what Russia was like in the 1990s.

Anyway, when Putin came to power the birth rate was declining, and what did he do about this? Well, in a masterstroke, decided to encourage people to have babies.

Mrs Cherenkova’s medals

How? Well by increasing state benefits to mothers with more than 2 children, and further increasing them for families with more than 3 children. Families with multiple children are also entitled to free school meals, tax breaks and get discounts on family holidays. Medvedev also introduced a medal in 2008 – “The Order of Glorious Motherhood” – for mothers with 7 or more children, based on the “Mother Heroine” medal from World War 2.

(SIDEBAR: It’s worth noting here that we, in lovely hugs-and-flowers Britain with our nice fluffy democracy, DON’T have free school meals… for anyone. At all. Ever. The government that proposed this bill was not “thrown out on their ear”, but DID have to spend £1.4 BILLION pounds bribing a minority party to vote it through.)

The measures worked, and under Putin/Medvedev the birthrate has increased almost every year since 2000. In 2011 the birthrate moved ahead of the death rate for the first time since 1992, and Russia’s population started growing.

Now, if this is all sounding very sensible and not at all bad to you, then well done for paying attention.

It’s here the film reaches its first hurdle… and goes into it face first. Russia is supposed to be backwards and Putin is supposed to be a brutal corrupt dictator with no concern for the country he runs… but the facts on the ground don’t jive with this at all, at least in the birthrate example. Not only did he try to improve his country, but he did via perfectly reasonable methods, and they worked.

The film makers decide to simply leave an ellipsis on this one, just a long pause that’s obviously designed to make us ruminate on how bad Russia is, but it doesn’t really work. Partly because it doesn’t make any sense, but mostly because – for some reason – David thinks the best way to hammer this point home is show us the Cherenkovas. A very happy family with lots of healthy children. He refers to them as “Putin’s ideal family”, as if the term itself is insulting.

Mrs Cherenkova proudly displays her medals for motherhood in a leather case, explaining she wears them on public holidays. The family sing as they sit down for dinner, talk about the Church and how life has improved under Putin compared to the 1990s. (David, staying true to his brief, doesn’t ask how bad things were in the 1990s. In 58 minutes it’s not mentioned once.)

*

David on… the Russian Orthodox Church

The Cherenkovas praying as they sit down to dinner provides a neat segue for David to discuss something really terrible – the growing influence of the Russian Orthodox Church.

You see, the ROC was suppressed under Communism, which was bad, and now it’s not… which is apparently, also bad. I don’t fully understand the point David is trying to make, but that’s OK since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.

We are presented with a Bishop, who tells us that it’s now easier for the Church to interface with the state than it was during the 1990s. We don’t know what he means by that, because he’s cut off and David never asks.

The implication, backed by stock footage of Putin lighting candles in a church and David’s narration about “conservative values”, is that Russia is becoming a kind of quasi-theocracy. It’s never stated out-loud, because the position is so ridiculous as to be indefensible, but it is quite clearly the implication.

*

David on… Russian Opinion Polls

Curious to see “how widely [the Cherenkovas’] views are shared”, David goes in search of a broad opinion, but meets an apparent problem:

It’s all very well to say “I’ve come to Russia to find out what the Russians really think”, but it’s not actually that easy in a country where the press, radio and television are all strictly controlled by an authoritarian government.

1) He hasn’t gone there to find out what Russians think. He knows what Russians “really think”. He’s there to tell US why THEY are wrong. He’s there, at our expense, to make sure we hate who we’re told to hate.

2) The press, radio and television are not all “strictly controlled”, that’s a lie, and he knows it’s a lie because he proves it himself less than 10 minutes later.

But that’s beside the point. How does David get around the problem of finding out what Russian’s “really think” under such an authoritarian regime? Well, he goes to the one of the biggest public opinion polling companies in Russia, the Levada Centre.

The irony of rambling on about Russia’s repressive controlling government as you take a gentle stroll down to the partly-American funded NGO, just minutes from Red Square, is apparently lost on David.

Imagine, if you can, a Russian-funded “polling centre” operating within walking distance of Westminster or Pennsylvania Avenue. That not only calls the government-run polls inaccurate, but claims that the CIA forces people to vote and that the President is corrupt.

It would never be allowed to happen, but in “authoritarian” Russia, with its “strictly controlled” media, this is the current reality.

In the Levada Centre (Russia’s only “independent” polling centre), David finds out that around 80% of Russian’s support Putin as President. Which everyone in the world already knew.

The fact the “independent” Levada’s centre polls almost perfectly align with the apparently unreliable government polls doesn’t cause anyone to question their assertions about corruption or dishonesty. It’s one of the many inconvenient truths the Panorama team feel the need to brush over as quickly as possible.

When the head of the Levada Centre claims a President with an 80% approval rating had to “force” people to vote, David doesn’t ask why, or state that it doesn’t make any sense. No, he just makes concerned faces at the camera.

They discuss the “annexation” of Crimea as Russia “taking back” what is theirs, with no reference to the polls that show huge Crimean support for the move, going all the way back to 1992, including those done by both the American and German governments.

*

David on… Propaganda

From Crimea it’s a steady flow to “propaganda” – theirs, not ours – Dimbleby narrates in solemn tones:

For most Russians, state-run television remains the main source of television news.”

… blithely passing over that this statement is being made on a state-run television station, that is the main source of television news for most people in Britain.

He goes from Russian domestic television to RT, saying they are “accused of spreading conspiracy theories”, he doesn’t say who accuses them, or ask his audience to consider the possible reason behind such accusations. He doesn’t even throw the weight of conviction behind it enough to make a declarative statement. No, just sends out the little accusation, evidence free and with no reply or counter, and hopes the implication does its job.

He interviews a British anchor for RT, who says that they aren’t told what to say, and he’s “answerable to no one but his own conscience”. To which David replies, “And that’s clear is it?” The anchor explains the structure of RT, but David isn’t listening. He’s too busy making a documentary demonising a designated “enemy” for a state-funded broadcaster.

He doesn’t pose the same questions about his own conscience.

It’s always worth remembering that the BBC, formerly the British Broadcasting Corporation, is not “independent”, even though they’ve spent decades pretending otherwise. We’re encouraged to think of the BBC as a friendly presence, our shared “Auntie Beeb”, cosy and reassuring and honest. It’s none of those things, it’s a state backed broadcaster with a history of launching pro-government, pro-war propaganda, for which it never faces censure or punishment. It’s a much a less “friendly auntie”, more a threatening “big brother”.

With truly Orwellian posters intimidating us into paying for it.

Imagine this poster was in cyrillic and about RT.

That Dimbleby can stand under the banner of one of the biggest state-funded media organizations in the world, and pontificate about “media control” from an “authoritarian government” demands levels of cognitive dissonance few would think possible. It’s marvelously without irony.

*

Next David seeks out a human rights lawyer to discuss Russia’s legal system. David tells us that Russian judges convict in 99% of cases. This is apparently shockingly high. It does sound high, but deliberately left without context to make it seem worse than it is.

Firstly, the 99% refers only to Judge cases. Jury trials are relatively new to Russian law – in fact Putin, in one of his desperate power grabs, introduced them nationwide in 2003 – and they have a conviction rate of roughly 80%, right in line with the UK’s own courts.

A high conviction rate is not unheard of, especially in systems that run “special procedure court hearings”, a slightly complex system of what amounts to plea bargaining.

Japan runs a similar system and has a conviction rate of nearly 100%, as does Israel. The US federal courts had a conviction rate of 93% in 2012. Will we be seeing documentaries about that? No.

I’m not a lawyer, I’m in no position to launch a full defense of the Russian legal system – for all I know it is corrupt and/or unfair. But there’s no evidence in this film that shows it to be the case, outside of some anecdotal evidence from one lawyer.

Then they move on to Putin’s “online crackdown”.

Apparently Russia is starting to try to censor the internet. How? We don’t know, they don’t tell us. They cite no laws and name no Acts. It is just anecdote after anecdote. There’s no body to any part of it. We’re told Putin wants more control of the internet, as if this is shockingly tyrannical and when Dimbleby says there is…

… a crackdown on what the security services call “online extremism”.

He thinks his scare quotes show some desperately dystopian alternative universe, but doesn’t seem to know, or at least acknowledge, that WE call it that too, or that our very own dear Theresa May called for a “crackdown in online extremism” in a speech just last year.

Or that she put having an entirely government controlled internet in her manifesto last year.

Or that she passed an act in 2016 which Edward Snowden described as:

The most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy.

Is Panorama asking questions about that? Of course not.

Does the BBC call our government authoritarian? Not once.

Instead they offer just a talking-head, making a scary statement that “thousands” of innocent Russians could be in prison, with again no evidence to back it up at all.

When you actually dig into the numbers they tell a completely different story.

The New York Post, not known for its pro-Russia bias, reported that 233 Russians were convicted of “hate speech” in 2015, “most of them for online activity.”

Meanwhile, in happy bunny funland Britain, 2015 saw 857 people arrested for “offensive” tweets or Facebook posts… in London alone.

It sounds like we’re more “authoritarian” than the Russians on the internet front at least. A fact which takes maybe 30 seconds of research to find.

*

David on… Russia’s Controlled Media

Next David goes to Echo of Moscow Radio to talk to one of the completely non-existent members of the independent media in Russia. She claims that the entire country is actually run by the KGB. As per usual, she produces no evidence for this statement, she just says it. But that’s good enough for David who asks her to “explain how the KGB dominates society”, underlining that the KGB and MI6 are not at all similar:

Explain to our UK viewers, who might think of the KGB as just like our MI5 or MI6… how the KGB dominates society?”

Got that everyone? There’s their spies, and our spies, and they are completely different. This attitude was ridiculous enough to be used as satire in Blackadder, but now is being seriously repeated by one the BBC’s most respected personalities.

Her “explanation” involves simply repeating the same sentiment she already expressed, only in slightly different words, and David is too polite to press for more, or too lazy to be bothered, or too smug to notice. It’s really getting hard to say at this point.

(SIDEBAR: Of course one of the most prominent ways that MI6 and the KGB differ is that the KGB doesn’t exist anymore, whereas MI6 are very much still going.)

It’s at this point the documentary seems to realise the rather confusing contradiction of its own existence. They are there to talk about how autocratic and terrible Russia is, and yet they seem to talk to human rights lawyers, anti-government television hosts and the head of anti-Putin radio stations. If Putin has all dissidents and protestors locked up and/or murdered… how do these people exist?

They get around this in one, short sentence:

By allowing a few independent outlets, a few dissident voices, Putin can claim freedom of expression.

Brilliant logic. Unfailing reason. Yes there’s SOME freedom of speech, but only so Putin can say there’s freedom of speech, it’s not REAL freedom of expression.

It just looks like it.

Much like that old expression:

“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s not really a duck because Putin doesn’t allow ducks. He’s just letting that duck exist so he can pretend he’s got a duck.”

*

The Russian Orthodox Church seems to be a real bugbear of David’s, because fresh from announcing that “there IS free-speech in Russia, it just doesn’t count”, David goes back to talk to a member of the Church… and asks him if he approves of the lack of free speech in Russia. David narrates:

When it comes to political repression, the one place not to look for support is the Orthodox Church.”

This sentence implies we’re about to hear a Church spokesman defending political repression… which is not the case. Instead we see the same bemused Bishop as before, being asked:

You know there’s a lot of criticism of Putin’s encroachment on human rights: People in prison for speaking out against the state, internet communications closed down, the state spying on people’s communications, do you approve of all that?”

Note he’s asking “do you approve of…”, not “is this the case…”. Leading questions predicated upon unproven assumptions have no place in honest discourse… but if you took them out the documentary there would only be 3 or 4 minutes of stock footage of nesting dolls and onion domes.

The bishop, who seems slightly perturbed by the rudeness of the question, evidently wasn’t provided with a script because he doesn’t launch into a fascistic diatribe about values, or verbal attacks on traitors and dissidents… he simply says:

This is your point of view, and we do not always agree. With all due respect.

You can see his Russian politeness straining, but not breaking. And that’s it.

So much for Russia the conservative theocracy.

*

David on… Russians’ Right to Protest

The documentary just gets less coherent and more confusing from here on in. The facts they present never align with the spin they try to put on them. They point out eminently reasonable realities of Russian life, with a weight of sinister implication that defies all reason. (In the trade, we refer to this maneuver as “The Harding”).

The perfect example is the story of a women’s rights campaigner Alena Popova, protesting about the allegations of sexual harassment made against the Russian MP Leonid Slutsky.

We see her standing outside the State Duma with cardboard cut-out of Slutsky. I don’t read Russian, but I can’t imagine the slogans on the cut-out are especially complimentary. She is briefly detained by the police who ask her who she is and what she’s doing… she explains and is released. Then she returns to the Duma, and does her protest unmolested.

All this seems perfectly fine, despite David’s chuntering narration.

This is just one example of brutal oppression of dissent, ever present in Putin’s Russia.

Alena is standing literally right outside the door of the parliament building, with a cut-out of Slutsky covered in protest slogans. She requires no permit to do this under Russian law, which states that solo protests are allowed anywhere at any time without a permit. You do need permission to hold group protests.

By way of comparison, let’s imagine Alena were British, not Russian: If she attempted the same exact protest in the UK… she would not be allowed to. At all. Ever.

Firstly, you would never get to stand within inches of the doors of Parliament without getting halted by armed police. Secondly, you’re not allowed to protest in Parliament Square – even alone – without getting prior permission. This law was passed by Blair’s government in 2006, in order to shift anti-war protester Brian Haw.

At one point a young man approaches David and Alena and asks what’s going on, David’s voice-over claims the young man works for state security, and intones the words with foreboding. We have no way of knowing if this is true, if it even matters. I’m fairly sure a Russian camera crew standing outside the Houses of Parliament would attract the attention of special branch. He asks them two questions and then leaves.

Later, there’s a counter-protest. Four people appear with signs in support of Slutsky. David claims they’re there to cause trouble for Alena, and even implies they are working for the state. A claim which is rather shot-down when the counter-protest group – who support the government – are escorted away by the police because they don’t have permission for their group protest.

The pro-government protesters are gone, the anti-government protester remains. David doesn’t see this as, in any way, challenging his position on government oppression of dissent. He asks Alena:

If they control protest, if they’re against protest, why do they let it happen at all?”

A fantastic question, the only really cogent thing he’s said for the last half an hour. She replies:

Because we have a constitution.”

(SIDEBAR: Britain, of course, has no written constitution at all.)

*

David on… Russian Paranoia

The next episode in this bizarre saga opens with the director of the Levada Centre claiming the Kremlin is “paranoid” about a revolution, referencing the 2012 protests (the aborted “Snow Revolution”). To which David adds some rather incongruous narration:

Putin prepares to go to almost any lengths to prevent a popular uprising against him.”

He never says what these “lengths” are. In fact, we have no idea what the Russian government has done to prevent a Revolution. If anything. But breaking away from the specific facts, which the documentary forces us to do, maybe we should ask a simple question.

Why would the Russian government be paranoid about revolution?

Maybe we should look at other countries that have had “revolutions” recently for an answer to this question.

Ukraine is a disaster. Libya is possibly the only country in the world worse off than Ukraine and the only reason Syria isn’t just as bad those two is that Russia stepped in to help. David talks about revolutions as if they are organic, almost accidental, occurrences. But we all know that’s not true, we’ve all seen “Colour Revolutions” be fomented by the Western powers to overthrow governments that the USA has deemed to not have “American interests” at heart.

“Revolutions”, in recent years, are Imperial acts of aggression carried out by proxy armies with the aim of removing an “enemy” of the West. And they have left nothing in their wake but blood and destruction. The Kremlin has every right to be concerned about possible Western attempts at a coup against their government. Such a move could destroy everything they have built.

Do you think a Western-backed coup government will keep up free school meals and medals for motherhood? Do they have a constitutional right to protest in Libya right now? How about the birthrate vs death rate in Syria, is that going up?

Shouldn’t all governments fear revolution and hope for stability?

How would David feel about a revolution in Britain? Would it be welcomed? Would Theresa May like seeing violent unrest in the streets of London? Or being replaced by a Russian-backed, unelected leader?

Despite the chaos that has been left in the wake of “revolutions” the world over in recent years, the documentary gives no credence to Russian fears. Russia is never “afraid”, and always “paranoid”.

David talks to an Sergei Markov, a “political consultant who has worked with Putin”. We have no way of knowing if this is true, and this being Panorama taking it in faith is an unearned act of trust, but let’s assume that they’re telling the truth.

Markov highlights that Russia has good reason to fear Western aggression. Pointing out, reasonably enough, that no Russian soldier has ever set foot on British soil in the name of conquest, whereas Britain has invaded Russia every several times since the 19th Century:

Now, you are preparing to invade Russian territory again, to establish your control of Russian political, social and economic constitution, for us it is absolutely clear.”

We are encouraged to see Markov as a crazy-eyed lunatic, and David’s response is to laugh in his face:

You don’t seriously think an invasion of Russia is planned by the West? I mean, you’ll have me laughing in a moment.”

A rather patronising rebuttal, that would hold more water if Russia weren’t practically encircled by NATO airbases. Or if the US hadn’t unilaterally withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. Or if they hadn’t positioned their missile defense shield in Eastern Europe under clearly false pretences, granting them theoretical first-strike capability.

David doesn’t mention these facts.

Just as he doesn’t go into any recent history of Western military interventions. How America has, in the last 20 years alone, carried out coups in Venezuela, Ukraine and Honduras. Or how, when covert means did not work, they simply declared all out war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

Any impartial viewing of world history – especially recent history – would explain every country in the world having a fear of falling into NATO’s crosshairs.

Rather than acknowledging this, the documentary remains resolutely in its own little world. Insisting, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Russia has nothing to fear from the West.

*

David on… Russia’s “Orchestrated” Democracy

Fresh from telling us that Putin’s Russia is a “paranoid place”, where the leader with 80% approval is constantly worried about revolution and is prepared to go any lengths to stop it – even so far as having laws regulating protests that are almost identical to our own – David goes to talk to all the young people about their views on Putin.

They all like him, apparently:

One of the most fascinating aspects of today’s Russia, is that the under 25s, who might be expected to rebel, are Putin’s strongest supporters.

He’s talking to a group called Set (Russian for Network), a collection of “young artists, writers and designers” who consider Putin a role-model. David asks them a series of questions.

What do you like about Putin?

One of the young men says that before Putin it was “uncomfortable”, even “shameful”, to be associated with Russia. David doesn’t ask a follow-up question, putting paid to his earlier claims about wanting to know what Russians “really think” and staying true to the programme’s aim of never, ever mentioning the 1990s. Instead he skips back to leading questions based on false assumptions:

You feel happy with one person controlling the whole country?

We don’t know what they say to that, because it cuts off before anyone answers.

Do you agree that he’s quite ruthless when it comes to opposition?

They say they don’t agree. In fact they say quite the opposite. Which cues in a snide narration:

This generation of Russians are internet savvy, globally connected, but they prefer Putin’s authoritarian rule to democracy.

None of the people on camera ever express this opinion. Which makes this one of the most egregious lies in the whole 58 minutes. To appreciate what a statement that is, you really need to watch the film.

None of these young people “prefer authoritarianism to democracy”, they make it quite clear – in their opinion, they live in a democracy. Is there an effort to understand their position? None whatsoever. Instead we get treated to the head of the Levada Centre (again), this time dismissing all the young people who like Putin as being either stupid or brainwashed:

They are very different to Western youth, their minds were formed at the same time Putin’s regime was established, and for them the rhetoric of a great power is a very important part of their collective identity.

This is, as far as we know, another unsupported statement. Not one of the half-dozen young people David talked to said anything about Russia being a great power. Not one thing. They talked about Putin personally being relatable and they talked about improving conditions from the Yeltsin era.

When confronted with Dimbleby asking yet another offensively phrased question…

People in Britain look at Russia and say “this is a powerful autocrat who stops opposition, prevents anyone, if necessary puts them in jail to stop them opposing him” is that not how you see it?

… one young man, far from claiming to “prefer authoritarian rule” or praising the “rhetoric of a great power”, launches into a defense of Russian democracy. Pointing out the sheer number of different political parties (48), and that they had 8 different Presidential candidates running against Putin.

David isn’t listening. He’s nailed his colours to the mast on this one, Russia isn’t a democracy. It doesn’t matter how popular the leader is. It doesn’t matter how many elections they have, how many candidates are on the ballots, or how much public support they have. Russia is NOT a democracy, because David says so.

The film even references Navalny as “Putin’s biggest political opponent”, without mentioning that his party has ZERO seats in the Duma, and that he polls at less than 2% public support. Dimbleby doesn’t know these numbers, because his “researchers” either didn’t look them up, or pretended not to know them. Instead David solemnly declares:

Putin had him convicted of fraud.

Not “he was found guilty”, no, “Putin HAD him convicted”. Is there evidence produced that shows Navalny was framed? Nope. Is there evidence produced that shows any corruption on behalf of the judiciary? None. Is there any mention of Navalny being a right-wing ultra-nationalist who referred to Caucasians as “cockroaches”? Not even a little.

“Russia isn’t a democracy”, and “Putin’s main political opponent” is an unpopular convicted criminal with a history of racism, who was forbidden by the constitution from running in a Presidential election in which he would have come ninth.

Cut to:- Skyline of Moscow. Night. Synthy music plays, and the David lets fly with this beauty:

As many autocrats have shown, just holding an election doesn’t make a democracy.”

Boom. Just as a free press doesn’t mean Russia has freedom of expression, elections don’t mean they are a democracy. The documentary is slowly becoming less an attack on Putin and Russia, than an attack on the English language, and indeed logic itself.

David doesn’t tell us what DOES make a democracy, but it certainly isn’t elections. Following this logic, of course, you could have a democracy without elections. And if that sounds absurd, then remember that Margaret Thatcher praised Pinochet for bringing “democratic order” to Chile.

Elections that return the “wrong” result? They aren’t democratic. Rounding up dissidents in soccer stadiums and gunning them down? That is democratic.

“Democracy” means whatever the establishment wants it to mean.

Putin uses carefully orchestrated elections to legitimise his rule.”

Who “orchestrates” the elections? How do they do it? How does David know this? We’re not told. We’re now 40 minutes in, and we’ve yet to have any single accusation or anecdote backed up with anything even approaching evidence. We’re not even provided basic logical reason.

Perhaps more pressing is: Why would a President with 80% popularity NEED to “orchestrate” elections?

They never explain.

*

David on… Russia’s “small” economy

David’s next port-of-call on his tour of Bizzarro World is the Russian economy. Having been told that the Russian economy is “struggling” we get some more stock footage – this time of factories and oil wells – with David narrating:

Russia is one of the largest countries on Earth, with a population of 144 million, but its economy is much smaller – not even two-thirds the size of Britain, and even smaller than Italy.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, it’s absolutely hilarious that dear little David can’t even bring himself to acknowledge the simple fact that Russia is not “one of the largest countries on Earth”, it is the largest. It’s nearly double the size of China. It’s European portion is the largest country in Europe, its Asian portion is the largest country in Asia and if you cut it evenly in half the two new countries would still be 4th and 5th largest countries in the world.

Russia is very big.

Nobody would ever dispute that, so why not just say it? It goes to show the pettiness of the mindset behind this programme. They simply cannot give Russia any credit, even so far as acknowledging its size.

Second, the language is again very deceptive. When he says “much smaller than Britain” and “EVEN smaller than Italy”, he’s painting a picture of small economy. He doesn’t mention that the UK has the 4th largest economy in the world, and Italy the 7th. Russia is 10th, just behind Canada. He also doesn’t mention that those figures don’t include the economy of Crimea, which the World Bank refuses to count as Russian.

Nobody would seriously claim that the 10th biggest economy in the world is “small”.

David sits down with Russia’s former deputy-Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich who says, when asked about the size of Russia’s economy:

If you look at other European economies, they have a long tradition of private entrepreneurship, we started this tradition only in the 1990s and need to accumulate experience.”

It’s a fair point, considering they’ve only been capitalist for 28 years or so, the 10th biggest economy in the world isn’t bad at all. David is unmoved. We don’t see his answer to that point, I would suggest because he couldn’t make one.

Instead he changes the subject, in voice-over, to corruption. Calling it a “tradition” in Russia.

He talks to Vladimir Pozner, a member of the allegedly “strictly controlled” Russian media, who apparently feels free to say corruption is endemic, giving yet more anecdotal evidence. This time about entirely hypothetical traffic policeman being bribed. A (strictly controlled?) anti-corruption campaigner points at a flat and says a politician lives there and shouldn’t be able to afford it. And David mentions an (unnamed) survey which ranks Russia 135th in the world in terms of corruption.

Thus is it established that Russia has a terrible corruption problem.

At this point the documentary devolves into a series of complete lies. Not mistakes, not exaggerations, lies. Lies so simple and so easy to refute with only a few google searches, that we’ll just go ahead and work through them one at a time:

Corruption is widespread, according to one survey it’s one of the worst countries in the world – it ranks 135 out of 180.”

He’s almost certainly referring to the famous “corruption perception index”, which is NOT a measure of corruption, but a measure of how corrupt some (unnamed) people THINK something MIGHT BE. It is a nonsense stat, discussed in more detail here.

“Russia has one of the most unequal economies in the world…. 20 million people live in poverty.”

This is technically true, there are 20 million people living under the poverty line in Russia, or 13.8% of the population. Before the sanctions it was less than 12%.

In the US, there are 45 million people living under the poverty line, or 13.8% of the population.

In the UK, there are 14 million people living under the poverty line, or 20.6% of the population.

Of course, where these numbers differ is that Russia’s number is coming down from 35%, and ours is going up. The makers of this programme know this, because the numbers were published on the BBC’s own website.

Putin’s failure to diversify the economy means that half the Russian budget comes from oil and gas, so when the price of oil fell after the annexation of Crimea, Russia was plunged into crisis.”

The price of oil did not “fall”, it was deliberately sabotaged by the gulf monarchies flooding the market. This was done to try to hurt the Russian economy, we can tell David knows this because he references the “annexation of Crimea” as the cause, he just doesn’t explain the details.

Putin’s aggressive foreign policy, along with the West’s sanctions, made the situation worse.”

Putin’s foreign policy – “aggressive” or otherwise – has no bearing on the Russian economy. This is all about the sanctions. Sanctions imposed by the West are not any reflection on the economic competence of the Russian government, especially when they are put in place over entirely false accusations, such as the Skripal poisoning or “hacking” the US Presidential election.

It is one of the oldest tricks in the US Imperial playbook, create a pretext for action against a country which they see as an “enemy”. Use this pretext to sanction a country with the aim of crippling their economy, and then use the fact the economy is struggling to criticise the government of the target country. The US has been doing it to Cuba and North Korea for decades, to Venezuela for years and Russia since 2014.

The deliberate destruction of their economy by powers beyond their control has no bearing on the competence or corruption of the Russian government.

In fact, by any standards, the Russian government under both Putin and Medvedev has been exceptionally competent.

… this list could go on and on.

Russian GDP under Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev

Russia’s economy – under both Putin and Medvedev – has gone largely in the right direction.Of course, part of that is that there was only one direction to go.

All of this comes back to the 1990s. When Russia, as a country, was possibly within only months of ceasing to exist, collapsing into Balkanisation and chaos.

Average salary in Russia since 1998

Putin’s government prevented that, and turned things around for ordinary Russians in a quasi-miraculous fashion. That is why 80% of Russians support the man.

It’s the most basic rule of governance, but its one we in the West are encouraged to ignore – the first priority of government is to make the country better. Do that, and the people will support you.

To discuss the Russian economy, or the living standards of Russian people, or popularity of Putin, without acknowledging these facts, is just incredibly dishonest. Sickeningly so.

*

Conclusion

This is a bad documentary. It’s not simply ethically bankrupt, it’s also badly made. It’s badly paced, badly edited and incoherent. It’s so dedicated to its agenda that it sacrifices all else.

There is a relentless war being waged here, not just at the BBC and not just against Russia, but throughout the Western world… and against reality itself.

Consider the implications of this situation: One of the largest media organizations in the world spent license fee-payers money to send a man half-way around the globe, to convince their captive audience of tax-payers that elections don’t equal democracy, that independent media doesn’t equal free speech and that a $15bn trade surplus means your economy is struggling.

It recycles lies that have become terribly dull to refute, so must be simply exhausting to repeat. It routinely accidentally steps on its own argument, realises it has done so, and then performs logical gymnastics to try to prove it knows what it’s talking about. It makes no sense, and you can tell that they know it.

The list of contradictions and unanswered questions goes on and on, creating a world that cannot exist under the laws of reason. We’re told that Putin is popular, but that people are forced to vote for him. We’re told by Russian independent media organizations, critical of the government, that Russia has no independent media organizations critical of the government, and we’re told by a protester standing right outside the Russian parliament, that protests are practically illegal.

All of this irrationality combines to put together a patchwork-Picasso portrait of “Vladimir Putin”, the corrupt communist idealist, KGB hardliner and devout christian ideologue, who forces all the devoted members of his cult of personality to vote for him in elections he rigs anyway. A man who stole all the money he also spent on rebuilding Russia’s military, schools and hospitals, is best-buddies with all the oligarchs he sent to jail for tax evasion, and who – despite the size of the country – has “only” got the 10th biggest economy in the world.

It’s a documentary made by people at war with themselves, unable to understand that their delusions are absurd and incomprehensible to those of us struggling to live a reality-based life.

There’s desperation in this film, a hysterical repetition of proven lies and shrill fake news, screamed out by people who feel they’re losing control of the narrative.

They don’t know what they think except that Russia is bad and Putin is worse, they don’t know why they think it except that they’ve got to because they were told to, and they’re aghast. Unable to understand why no one’s listening when they’re making so much sense!

This documentary, like so much of the MSM’s recent output, is a wail of outrage at a world that refuses to listen to their nonsense. As well-reasoned as a toddler’s tantrum, as well sourced as “Trevor from the pub” and as well researched as toilet stall graffiti. A limping, heaving, slime-ridden pile of self-defeating, self-contradictory garbage that has no place in people’s hearts, minds or homes.

And I watched it five times to write this.

I need a shower.

June 21, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

New UK Army Chief Lists Russia Among ‘Imminent’ Threats to Country

Sputnik – 21.06.2018

General Mark Carleton-Smith has given his inauguration speech, becoming the new army chief shortly after replacing General Sir Nick Carter, who has moved on to become chief of the defense staff.

The new British chief of the general staff, General Mark Carleton-Smith, has stated that the UK faces imminent threats from multiple states that he described as “rogue,” including Russia, during a speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He also noticed that Russia is currently in “revisionist mode” and that it possesses a “growing arsenal of long-range precision capabilities.”

“The misplaced perception that there is no imminent or existential threat to the UK, and that even if there was, it could only arise with long notice, is wrong,” he said.

He also warned against cutting army’s funding, noting that if the country falls behind, the UK might lose its “unquantifiable advantage” over its adversaries.

Information earlier surfaced regarding an alleged conversation between the UK prime minister and the UK defense secretary, where Theresa May had suggested that the army needs to enhance its cyber warfare capabilities in order to deter modern threats coming from other states, including Russia. She also reportedly questioned whether the UK had lost its “top tier” status as a military power.

Relations between the UK and Russia have been trapped in a downward spiral following the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England. The UK declared that the substance used in the attack is similar to the Novichok-class of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union and accused Russia of organizing the attack, expelling 23 of its diplomats as a punitive measure. Both Skripals later regained consciousness, despite their alleged poisoning with a nerve agent. Moscow has rejected the UK’s accusations, also expelling British diplomats, as well as closing the British Council in Saint-Petersburg.

June 21, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

UK Worried NATO to be Hurt if Trump Meets Putin Before Bloc’s Summit – Reports

Sputnik – 21.06.2018

US President Donald Trump may sit down for talks with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin during his trip to Europe next month.

The British government fears that the two presidents could meet before NATO’s upcoming summit in Brussels and Trump’s official visit to London.

“It’s unclear if this meeting is after or before the NATO and UK visit. Obviously after would be better for us,” the Times quoted a Whitehall source as saying.

“It adds another dynamic to an already colorful week,” the official added.

According to the newspaper, London is alarmed that the possible talks between the US and Russian presidents could have an impact on Trump’s commitment to NATO’s “shared goals” and the outcome of his July 13 visit to Britain.

The Times also quoted a Western diplomatic source as saying that if Trump and Putin meet before the July 11 NATO summit in Brussels, this would be viewed as a highly negative development.

On Friday, Donald Trump told reporters that it was possible that he would meet Vladimir Putin this summer.

Trump, who had two meetings with Putin during last year’s G20 summit in Germany, has shown keen interest in restoring Russia’s place in the international community.

At the G7 summit in Quebec earlier this month, he proposed that Russia should be re-admitted to the Group of Eight countries.

June 21, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

 The Deep State “Informants” Used Against the Trump Campaign Were Agent Provacateurs

The Entrapment of Papodopouplos 

By Mark F. McCarty | Medium | June 3, 2018

As you will recall, Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos (P) informed the FBI that, in a London conversation with a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, he was told that the Russian government had “dirt” on Hillary. The precise language in P’s indictment is: “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.” (When later questioned by the FBI, Mifsud denied having told P about Russian dirt on Hillary. Then he mysteriously vanished, and hasn’t been spotted since.)

On May 10th, 2016, former Australian ambassador to the UK Alexander Downer met in a London bar with P, who told him about what Mifsud had told him about Russian “dirt” on Hillary. Downer subsequently passed this info along to the US State Dept, which in turn passed it to the FBI (as recently reported by Kimberley Strassel). However, he has denied that P referred to “emails”, but rather had referred to “dirt” on Hillary that “could be damaging.”

In subsequent communications with the Trump campaign, P did not mention any “dirt on Hillary”, but rather proposed that Mifsud — who had represented himself as having close Kremlin ties — could help set up contacts between Trump people and top Kremlin officials. Nothing came of these suggestions, as the Trump higher-ups felt that such contacts would be rash and perhaps inappropriate while the campaign was being contested. (Which of course is evidence that the Trump campaign had no intent to “collude” with Russia.)

The MSM have strongly implied that “emails” that P referred to were those subsequently released by Wikileaks, obtained from the DNC and John Podesta, that occasioned such consternation during the 2016 campaign. This interpretation would indeed suggest that Mifsud had close ties to the Kremlin, and had learned about a nefarious plot by the Russians to interfere on behalf of Trump by hacking those emails and enabling their release by Wikileaks.

The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably wrong. First, in his statement to the FBI, P referred to “emails of Clinton” — Wikileaks released DNC and Podesta emails, very few of which had been written by Hillary. And, at the time of P meeting with Mifsud (April 26th, 2016), a number of pundits were opining in the MSM that almost surely Russia and other foreign powers had hacked the private server that Hillary used as Secretary of State. These emails were of particular interest because 30 K of them had been (seemingly irreversibly) destroyed while under judicial subpoena; people were reasonably suspicious that Hillary did not want these emails to see the light of day, either because of their classification status, or because they would tend to confirm allegations that as SOS she was engaged in pay-for-play through the Clinton Foundation. Moreover, Wikileaks did not begin to release their trove of DNC emails until late July of that year. So if Mifsud had indeed referred to “emails of Clinton” that could be “damaging”, the most reasonable interpretation is that he was referring to emails that had been deleted from Hillary’s SOS server.

But here’s a more compelling point that I haven’t seen made before. Downer’s meeting with P was on May 10th. The DNC emails subsequently released by Wikileaks were written as late as May 25th.

Steve McIntyre has depicted the dates of origin of the DNC emails released by Wikileaks.

Email Dates in the Wikileaks DNC Archive

So, unless Mifsud or his Russian contacts were psychic, they weren’t referring to the DNC emails. Which puts the nail in the coffin of the claim that P had been tipped off to a genuine Russian election interference plot.

And P’s wife has just come forward to verify that P was indeed referring to Hillary’s emails, not those of the DNC.

The other key implication of McIntyre’s observation is that it is extremely hard to square with the Deep States’ claim that the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were hacked. The DNC-commissioned cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike allegedly learned about hacking attempts on the DNC server on May 6th, and very quickly had installed their state-of-the-art anti-hacking tool Falcon on the server. Yet, as McIntyre notes, the majority of the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were written after the installation of Falcon. And even if Falcon had failed to prevent data exfiltrations by hackers, it was supposed to pinpoint the hackers’ exact location — yet no such info has been forthcoming. The clear resolution of this paradox is that the DNC emails released by Wikileaks were not hacked — they were leaked. Which won’t surprise anyone who has followed the statements of Julian Assange and of his close associate Craig Murray, who claims to have met with an affiliate of the leakers in Washington D.C. two months prior to the election — or who knows about the claims of Sy Hersh’s source within the FBI.

Of course, this revelation eviscerates the “Russia interfered” mantra that was the necessary predicate to the “Trump colluded” narrative pushed by the Deep State; it’s hard to collude with non-interference. This mantra, which you must have heard a thousand times if you’ve been watching the MSM, is the creative contribution of Crowdstrike — whose founding CEO Shawn Henry was a top deputy of Robert Mueller at the FBI — to the Deep State plot against Trump.

The motivation of Mifsud remains mysterious, as does his location. While Mifsud has been presented in the press as an associate of Kremlin figures, Elizabeth Vos has reported that in fact he has close ties to British intelligence.

All Russiagate Roads Lead To London As Evidence Emerges Of Joseph Mifsud’s Links To UK Intelligence

In light of this, and of the central role that British intelligence played in fomenting the “Trump colluded with Russian interference” narrative, it is reasonable to suspect that Mifsud was acting at the behest of British intelligence to entrap P. This seems all the more likely in light of P’s claim that Mifsud introduced him to a lady claimed to be Putin’s niece — the lady was no such thing, and Mifsud was evidently engaged in bamboozling the naïve, unsuspecting P. And why has Mifsud gone into hiding for over 6 months — unreachable by even his fiance?

A recent, highly insightful essay by “Publius Tacitus” explains how the plot may have been designed to work:

Here is what you need to understand. When Papadopoulos communicated to persons in the Trump campaign the results of his meetings with Mifsud and Mifsud’s Russian contacts, that information was relayed from the UK to America via telephone and email. Those conversations, without one doubt, were intercepted and put into a Top Secret intel reports (known in intel circles as SIGINT) by GCHQ.

It would be damning if Papadopoulos had initiated the contact with Russian sources and was lighting up the web with requests for info about Russians willing to work with or help Trump. But that did not happen. The impetus to talk about Russia originated with Mifsud, who, based on circumstantial evidence, was a British intelligence asset and was directed to target and bait Papadopoulos. It was Mifsud who raised the specter of the Russians targeting Hillary Clinton.

Mifsud provided the Russian information. Not Papadopoulos. Mifsud’s mission of feeding Papadopoulos “Russian intelligence,” which the later then reported back to the Trump campaign produced the casus belli (of sorts) to justify opening an FBI counter intelligence investigation. The FBI also was ensnared, most likely. It does not appear the FBI was briefed immediately on these matters. Instead, John Brennan and Jim Clapper built up a pretty sizable intel file, filled with SIGINT reports from the UK’s GCHQ, which contained American names and reports of efforts to broker a meeting with Vladimir Putin. Of course they (Clapper and Brennan) conveniently failed to mention to the FBI that the information originated with a UK plant. But it did provide legal cover for unmasking the identities of Trump campaign personnel.

Framing the Trump Campaign as Lackeys of Russia by Publius Tacitus

Once Downer’s report on his conversation with P got back to the FBI, two agents were sent to London to interview Downer. As I noted previously:

In other words, two FBI agents flew to London, after preparing the way with significant negotiations, to meet with someone who had fourth degree hearsay claiming that the Russians had done something [hacked Hillary] that half the pundits on TV thought they had done. Nor was there any evidence that P had played any role in the alleged hacking. That this was the key basis for initiating a counterintelligence investigation against a rival political campaign, must be considered both paranoid and politically corrupt.

The New York Times “Crossfire Hurricane” Story — Let Me Count the Lies

P’s subsequent indictment by Mueller had nothing whatever to do with any “collusion with Russia”, but rather the allegation that P had misrepresented whether he had been formally hired by the Trump campaign by the time he first met with Mifsud (May 14th). In fact, P had been alerted that he was to be hired prior to that time, but the formal announcement of his hiring was not made public until May 21st, so this discrepancy might have reflected some confusion on P’s part as to when his employment had formally begun. In any case, particularly in light of the fact that P had done nothing illegal prior to his FBI interview, this is a very trivial point, and it seems unlikely that an indictment would have been forthcoming if Mueller hadn’t felt under pressure to justify his bogus investigation by putting some pelts on the wall. Andy McCarthy has discussed this recently.

The Papadopoulos Case Needs a Closer Look

We now know that CIA asset Stefan Halper — who previously had leaked classified info from the Carter administration to aid Reagan’s election campaign — tried to further entrap P by bringing up the “Russian dirt on Hillary issue”; how would he have known about this claim unless he were working hand-in-glove with British/American intelligence? (Alas, P disappointed him by disclaiming any knowledge on the issue.) And Halper made a point of making the acquaintance of two other Trump aides, Carter Page and Sam Clovis. The latter provided him with access to P.

As to the Trump Tower meeting, the deceptive emails that Rob Goldstone sent to Trump Jr. seem to show foreknowledge of unsubstantiated claims regarding the Russian government’s desire to help Trump that subsequently appeared in the Steele dossier — perhaps not surprising, as he is described as an associate of Fusion GPS, which commissioned the dossier — and quite possibly were drafted with the help of GCHQ. (Like Mifsud, Goldstone also has gone into hiding.) This affair seems likely to have been another attempt by the Deep State to entrap Trump officials — particularly in light of the fact that Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya was given a special rare visa by the Obama DOJ just prior to the meeting, enabling her attendance. A story that appeared last year in True Pundit claimed that , according to “inside sources”, the intent of arranging the meeting was to give British intelligence a legal excuse to surveil the Trump associates who attended the meeting.

Six U.S Agencies Conspired to Illegally Wiretap Trump; British Intel Used as NSA Front to Spy on Campaign

Claims that the Deep State employed “spies” against the Trump campaign seem to be off-base — they were employing agent provocateurs, whose intent was to provoke Trump associates into behavior that, if it couldn’t be construed as illegal, could be used to obtain warrants on them to justify further surveillance and to excuse the surveillance already conducted illegally.

June 19, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Kremlin Unaware of Meeting Between Trump Team, ‘Russian’ Having Dirt on Clinton

Sputnik -June 18, 2018

The Kremlin is not aware of a meeting between former aide from US President Donald Trump’s election headquarters Roger Stone and a man from Russia, who called himself Henry Greenberg and allegedly offered Trump’s team compromising data on his then-rival Hillary Clinton in 2016, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday.

“I cannot say anything, I am not aware of this… These nuances are completely unknown to us and we know nothing about the issue,” Peskov told reporters when asked to comment on the publication.

On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Trump’s election headquarters in 2016 denied Greenberg $2 million for the “dirt” on Clinton. The newspaper confirmed that Greenberg was an FBI informant until 2013, but found no evidence that he continued this activity after 2013.

Stone told the publication that another staffer, Michael Caputo, arranged for him to meet with a certain “Russian,” who offered to pay him $2 million in exchange for compromising material on Clinton. His offer was rejected.

The Washington Post interpreted the refusal of Trump’s staff to pay money for this information as another suspicious “contact with the Russians.” In total, the newspaper counted 11 campaign officials who “contacted the Russians” in some capacity.

Special Counsel Mueller is investigating the alleged connections between Trump and Russia, which are denied both by the Kremlin and the White House. Trump has said in the past that his political enemies had been conducting an investigation against him during the presidential race together with intelligence officials. Trump has called the investigation a “witch hunt.”

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | 1 Comment

‘Occupation’: How Norway Was Scaremongered Into Doubling US Military Presence

Sputnik | June 16, 2018

Norwegian historian and Russia specialist Bjorn Nystad explains how his country’s political class, media, academics and filmmakers have artificially pumped up a fear of its eastern neighbor.

Oslo has opted to violate its own established practice of refusing to station foreign troops on the country’s soil during peacetime, and is more than doubling the number of US marines stationed in Norway from 330 to 700, and providing bases for US surveillance aircraft and fighter jets. The Marines will be moved from Trondheim, about 1,500 km from the Russian border, to the northern county of Troms, about 300 km from Norway’s border with Russia.

Opposition lawmakers slammed the government for failing to put the issue up for debate in parliament. Social Left Party leader Audun Lysbakken complained this week that more US troops would only “increase the tension,” in the region. “It’s sad that the government believes it is in Norway’s interest to say yes to whatever the US is asking for,” he said.

Speaking to Sputnik, Dr. Bjorn Nystad, a former University of Oslo professor who lost his job in 2010 over alleged “Russophilic views,” said that the growing US military presence is taking place against the background of a steady campaign of spreading anti-Russian sentiments in the Norwegian media.

The latest manifestation of this anti-Russian paranoia occurred this week, when the NRK and TV 2 broadcasters decided to head to the World Cup with brand new laptops and phones out of fear of being “monitored” or “cyberattacked” while in Russia.

Nystad believes these anti-Russian attitudes are being injected into the Norwegian consciousness from above. “It’s enough, for example, to write an article about Putin being a ‘dictator’, or something like that, and you will get a job at a university without any problems,” he said. The professor’s own 2016 biography on Putin was met with hostility, with Aftenposten’s editor describing it as a “dangerous rewriting of history.”

There are many in Norway who have a neutral attitude toward Russia, Nystad said, but they fear running into trouble with the established narrative. “Academics, experts, and journalists understand very well that if they say something ‘wrong’ about Russia, they could lose their jobs. Therefore everyone avoids running into conflict with authorities,” he noted.

Okkupert

Probably the “pinnacle” of the anti-Russian campaign is the widely publicized TV series Okkupert (Occupied), whose storyline features Russia occupying Norway in response to a Europe-wide energy crisis. The most expensive television series in Norway’s history, Okkupert has been picked up for a third season.

“For some part of the population, these kinds of series probably have an effect,” Nystad noted. But others understand that this is “stupidity and anti-Russian propaganda,” he added. “People are losing trust in the media and politicians. They are starting to think critically. Alternative media have appeared, along with popular bloggers. And our elite is now terrified of losing power,” the academic concluded.

June 16, 2018 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Australia needs an urgent reappraisal of its place in a changing world

By James O’Neill | OffGuardian | June 13, 2018

It seems likely that the Australian House and Senate will pass the governments legislative proposals, ostensibly aimed at alleged foreign interference in Australia’s electoral process. Despite denials to the contrary, the legislation is manifestly aimed at alleged Chinese interference, although the scope of the proposed legislative provisions amounts to a sustained attack upon the ability of critics in the media and elsewhere to do their job of holding governments to account.

The cynic might argue that such legislation is hardly necessary, as serious and sustained criticism of the policies of successive Australian governments, and certainly in the “defence” and “national security” areas has been conspicuously absent for many years both from the mainstream media and the Labor opposition.

There has been a noticeable increase in the barrage of one-dimensional propaganda in recent decades, and a corresponding reduction in the presentation of fact based analysis. As equally insidious as the propaganda nature of much of what is termed “news” is the systematic ignoring of actual events.

A stark illustration of this is in the initial coverage of the alleged assassination attempt upon Sergei and Yulia Skripal and the almost complete disappearance of this story from the news cycle as the original absurd claims of the British government have been systematically destroyed.

The fact that the British government issued a “D” notice after the Daily Telegraph referred to the existence of Skripal’s MI6 “handler” (whom they did not name) living in Salisbury is significant, but the Australian media have completely ignored that fact. That Skripal and his MI6 handler were also associated with the author of the so-called Trump dossier through the same company (Fusion) is important to an understanding of the Skripal incident and the likely motive for the attack upon Skripal and his daughter.

Instead of investigating these issues, the media have simply repeated parrot fashion the British claims. The Australian government has been no better. It simply expelled two Russian diplomats when the investigation into the Skripal incident had barely begun, and certainly before there was any evidence to support the British government’s allegations. Foreign Minister Bishop’s statement at the time was merely a repeating of the British claims made in a memorandum circulated to 80 foreign embassies in Moscow.

A further variation of the media’s inability to present an objective analysis is the use of language that denigrates the object of ridicule by pejorative adjectives. The Assad government of Syria is invariably described as a “regime”; Russia’s President Putin is “brutal” or “authoritarian”; and China’s policies are “increasingly aggressive” or “assertive.”

Such terminology is never applied to the actions of allies such as the United States, Israel or Saudi Arabia, although by any objective measure the actions of those three governments over the past seven decades far exceeds in brutality and ruthlessness anything that could be attributed to either Russia or China. William Blum among others, including John Menadue in these pages has provided chapter and verse on the wholesale carnage wrought by the United States.

The violent exercise of “regime change” by bombings, invasions, colour revolutions, sanctions and bribery is now in excess of 70 countries, with a death toll of more than 30 million and counting.

In many of these exercises in regime change Australia has been a willing participant. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are only some of the better-known examples. What is especially galling is that these illegal wars are invariably accompanied by the relentless mantra of Australia’s support for the “rules based international order.”

The subtext of this mantra is that it is our definition of “rules” and “order” that is applied and any alternative view is denied any legitimacy. Even on its own definition however, the actions of Australia and its allies fail the legal test. The invasion of Afghanistan and it’s continuing occupation after that more than 16 years is an ongoing violation of international law. The recent revelations of alleged war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan are merely the latest in a long line of reported atrocities by the occupying forces.

The same is true of the 2003 invasion and the occupation of Iraq, also ongoing after more than 15 years. That invasion was based upon a particularly blatant set of lies. The illegality is compounded in Australia’s case by a continuing refusal to hold the perpetrators accountable, or even to hold a Chilcot type inquiry.

The current involvement in the Syrian war is an another example of illegality, compounded by a lack of proper parliamentary accountability, and a veil of secrecy over military operations that at the very least involved Australia as a party to war crimes being carried out by United States forces.

The free pass given by the mainstream media to such terrorist aligned groups as the “White Helmets”, and the constant reiteration of the “Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons” when such allegations have been comprehensively debunked, illustrate the abysmal state of journalism in this country.

Another favoured mantra is the exercise of so called “freedom of navigation exercises” by United States warships, vocally supported by Australia. The “peaceful” transit of shipping is guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which China is a party and the United States is not.

There is not a single demonstrated instance of China impeding the transit of shipping in the South China Sea. If free passage was hindered, the biggest loser would be the PRC itself, for whom the South China Sea is a vital facility for both exports and imports. It is not difficult to imagine what the American reaction would be if China were to conduct similar exercises off the American coast or in the Gulf of Mexico. One has only to recall the 1962 Cuban missile crisis for an intimation of the likely reaction.

Critics of China point to the building of artificial islands in disputed waters and their fortification in some cases. That identical cases of creating artificial islands and their fortification have been done by Vietnam and Taiwan among others is never mentioned in the mainstream media.

The media is similarly silent on the annual joint US- Australian military exercise code named Operation Talisman Sabre, one of whose objectives is the blockading of the narrow (2.5km) Malacca Strait through which more than 80% of China’s oil imports pass.

That China might have legitimate security concerns as a result of Operation Talisman Sabre, the carrying out of regular military exercises in or near Chinese territorial waters or land borders, and the existence of 400 US military bases whose primary purpose is to “contain” China or act as a springboard in the event of an outbreak of war, is never conceded by the mainstream media. China is also acutely aware that in recent decades major wars (Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos) have been fought on or near China’s borders.

Australian politicians and media have been similarly silent on the blockade of Gaza and Yemen, both of which are illegal under international law and have been nothing short of genocidal in their consequences. Australia’s continued support of Israel in the United Nations is completely inconsistent with any sincere belief in international law, yet such support is one of the dominant features of Australian foreign policy.

Ironically, it was the Americans and the Israelis who have expressed concern about the government’s anti-interference laws, as it would inhibit their own activities. There is a steady procession of Australian legislators to Tel Aviv, yet no one in the media is willing to discuss the relationship between that fact and the support given to Israel by Australia in the UN and elsewhere.

Australia’s voting record in the United Nations and its constant involvement in other people’s illegal wars that should be the basis of a discussion of “foreign interference. Interference is a two way street, and Australia’s record in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, East Timor and Nauru provide ample evidence.

That Australia is essentially a United States colony reflected in Malcolm Turnbull’s “joined at the hip” supine characterization of the Australia-US relationship is far more a legitimate concern than alleged Chinese “interference”.

One suspects that what is at the root of this manufactured panic about China and Russia is a dawning realization that the era of US hegemony and the unipolar world is rapidly disintegrating. The past 300 or so years of western domination is an historical aberration and a reassertion of the traditional dominance of the East is underway.

Australia has actually been a beneficiary of this transition, as the trade, education, tourism and investment figures attest. What has been lacking in politics and the media, has been a comparable transition in Australia’s strategic thinking. The time for an informed and subtle reappraisal of that transition and its longer-term implications is well overdue.

The current myopia and ill-informed hysteria manifestly does not serve Australia’s national interest.

James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Mueller Scrambles To Limit Evidence After Indicted Russians Actually Show Up In Court

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 06/13/2018

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is scrambling to limit pretrial evidence handed over to a Russian company he indicted in February over alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, according to Bloomberg.

Mueller asked a Washington federal Judge for a protective order that would prevent the delivery of copious evidence to lawyers for Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, one of three Russian firms and 13 Russian nationals. The indictment accuses the firm of producing propaganda, pretending to be U.S. activists online and posting political content on social media in order to sow discord among American voters.

The special counsel’s office argues that the risk of the evidence leaking or falling into the hands of foreign intelligence services, especially Russia, would assist the Kremlin’s active “interference operations” against the United States.

“The substance of the government’s evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment,” prosecutors wrote.

Improper disclosure would tip foreign intelligence services about how the U.S. operates, which would “allow foreign actors to learn of those techniques and adjust their conduct, thus undermining ongoing and future national security operations,” according to the filing.

The evidence includes thousands of documents involving U.S. residents not charged with crimes who prosecutors say were unwittingly recruited by Russian defendants and co-conspirators to engage in political activity in the U.S., prosecutors wrote. –Bloomberg

Mueller also accused Concord of “knowingly and intentionally” conspiring to interfere with the election by using social media to disparage Hillary Clinton and support Donald Trump.

And Concord Management decided to fight it… 

As Powerline notes, Mueller probably didn’t see that coming – and the indictment itself was perhaps nothing more than a PR stunt to bolster the Russian interference narrative.

I don’t think anyone (including Mueller) anticipated that any of the defendants would appear in court to defend against the charges. Rather, the Mueller prosecutors seem to have obtained the indictment to serve a public relations purpose, laying out the case for interference as understood by the government and lending a veneer of respectability to the Mueller Switch Project.

One of the Russian corporate defendants nevertheless hired counsel to contest the charges. In April two Washington-area attorneys — Eric Dubelier and Kate Seikaly of the Reed Smith firm — filed appearances in court on behalf of Concord Management and Consulting. Josh Gerstein covered that turn of events for Politico here. –Powerline Blog

Politico’s Gerstein notes that by defending against the charges, “Concord could force prosecutors to turn over discovery about how the case was assembled as well as evidence that might undermine the prosecution’s theories.”

In a mad scramble to put the brakes on the case, Mueller’s team tried to delay the trial – saying that Concord never formally accepted the court summons related to the case, wrapping themselves in a “cloud of confusion” as Powerline puts it. “Until the Court has an opportunity to determine if Concord was properly served, it would be inadvisable to conduct an initial appearance and arraignment at which important rights will be communicated and a plea entertained.”

The Judge, Dabney Friedrich – a Trump appointee, didn’t buy it – denying Mueller a delay in the high-profile trial.

The Russians hit back – filing a response to let the court know that “[Concord] voluntarily appeared through counsel as provided for in [the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure], and further intends to enter a plea of not guilty. [Concord] has not sought a limited appearance nor has it moved to quash the summons. As such, the briefing sought by the Special Counsel’s motion is pettifoggery.

And the Judge agreed

A federal judge has rejected special counsel Robert Mueller’s request to delay the first court hearing in a criminal case charging three Russian companies and 13 Russian citizens with using social media and other means to foment strife among Americans in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In a brief order Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich offered no explanation for her decision to deny a request prosecutors made Friday to put off the scheduled Wednesday arraignment for Concord Management and Consulting, one of the three firms charged in the case. –Politico

In other words, Mueller was denied the opportunity to kick the can down the road, forcing him to produce the requested evidence or withdraw the indictment, potentially jeopardizing the PR aspect of the entire “Trump collusion” probe.

And now Mueller is pointing to Russian “interference operations” in a last-ditch effort.

Of note, Facebook VP of advertising, Rob Goldman, tossed a major hand grenade in the “pro-Trump” Russian meddling narrative in February when he fired off a series of tweets the day of the Russian indictments. Most notably, Goldman pointed out that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election, were hardly pro-Trump, and they was designed to “sow discord and divide Americans”, something which Americans have been quite adept at doing on their own ever since the Fed decided to unleash a record class, wealth, income divide by keeping capital markets artificially afloat at any cost.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

French Thought Police and the Creeping Dictatorship of Virtue

By Jean Bricmont | Consortium News | June 11, 2018

The French government of Emmanuel Macron has introduced a new law to protect the French from “fake news” during election periods. This vaguely drafted amendment to existing press law seems to have been inspired by Macron’s resentment at rumors circulated against him during last year’s presidential election – which didn’t prevent him from winning. Widely opposed by opposition parties from left to right, and by most journalists, this amendment fits in all too well with the growing establishment campaign to censor dissident opinion by one means or another. The main pretext is the copycat Clintonite accusation of Russian “interference in Western elections.”

Applying initially only to election periods, to protect “our democracy”, this attempt to legislate the difference between true and false is a dangerous step in the door toward official censorship. Similar plans to ban “fake news” are brewing on the European level.

The law is superfluous to start with, since the existing 1881 French press law already sanctions insults, defamation and the artificial creation of panic, such as shouting fire in a crowded theater. But Macron’s government wants to go much farther, outlawing the spread of “false information”, obscurely defined as “alleging or lending credibility to a fact lacking verifiable elements of a nature to make it believable”. (…“une allégation ou imputation d’un fait dépourvue d’éléments vérifiables de nature à la rendre vraisemblable”.)

This definition is both unclear and potentially far-reaching.

To start with, a skeptic could ask what are the “verifiable elements” proving the existence of God, of life after death or of the effectiveness of prayer. There goes religion. How about the “verifiable elements” proving the effectiveness of astrology? There go some popular daily newspaper features. Numerous scientists have raised questions as to the “verifiable elements” justifying psychoanalysis without receiving satisfactory answers. Should psychobabble be banned in the name of combatting fake news?

And what should be done with post-modern French philosophy, whose most famous names take psychoanalysis very seriously and pride themselves on leaping to subjective conclusions? No one proliferates more fact-free assertions than Bernard-Henri Lévy, which so far has not interfered with his position on the board of major media from Le Monde to the cultural channel Arte.

But that’s only the beginning. What do we do with scientific theories that have been advanced without experimental confirmation? For example, string theory in physics and various hypotheses in cosmology.

In fact, many scientific discoveries begin with unproven hypotheses. Better not mention them!

Bernard-Henri Lévy: No one proliferates more fact-free assertions. (CNN Screenshot.)

And what about mainstream media? In one recent news report after another (Skripal poisoning, chemical weapons attacks in Syria, the falsified murder in Ukraine of an anti-Putin journalist, not to mention the responsibility for firing a missile that shot down a Malaysian airliner in July 2014), there is a big difference between the Western version of the facts and that which prevails in Russia, Malaysia, Syria and much of the non-Western world.

A Mental Border with Russia

Instead of Pascal’s “truth on this side of the Pyrenees, and error on the other side”, we would be establishing “truth on one side of the Mediterranean, error on the other”. Or rather, truth exists up to the Eastern border of NATO, with error on the other side. This is no way to advance toward universal understanding. The only way to resolve our differences with the rest of the world is free discussion. Inasmuch as the law against fake news seems to be designed mainly to counter what Western governments describe as Russian propaganda, there is a strong likelihood that it can only enforce the mental border between us and the Russians.

When the independent journalist André Bercoff simply raised a couple of questions concerning anomalies in reports of the amazing rescue by Mamoudou Gassama of a child hanging from a Paris balcony, his own colleagues instantly condemned him for “provoking doubts” and engaging in “conspiracy theories”. The official regulatory agency, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, hastened to open an investigation… of Bercoff. President Macron had invited Gassama to the Elysee Palace, offering him French citizenship and making the event an exemplary national legend. Thus sacred.

It is an odd sign of the times to reproach a journalist for asking questions. Leaving aside the rescue incident, raising questions used to be considered a primary function of journalism. If it is better to let ten guilty persons go free than to imprison one innocent man, in terms of rational scientific method, it is better to have ten extravagant doubts than one unchallengeable dogma.

It is true that what the dominant media call “conspiracy theories”, going everywhere from legitimate questioning of their own narratives and of official assertions to the wildest fantasies, do indeed proliferate on social media. But can anyone believe that describing Bercoff’s doubts as “conspiracy theorizing” will in any way stem that proliferation?

Françoise Nyssen: Public broadcasts must combat reactionary ideas.

The French Minister of culture, Françoise Nyssen, has decided that public radio and television, financed by taxpayers, should be devoted to combatting French people’s “highly reactionary” ideas, notably concerning “diversity”. Note that Macron’s ruling party, Republic in Movement, considers “reactionary” exactly what was considered progressive only a few decades ago: defense of public services and national sovereignty. Is it legitimate to oblige adults to pay for their own ideological re-education?

I by no means suggest that the current government is consciously intent on installing a totalitarian regime. The problem stems rather from the overwhelming subjectivism of contemporary culture in which talk of “values” leaves little space for concern for facts or objectivity. This is increasingly true even in discussions of scientific or technical progress. Of course, legislation cannot be fully objective, but since the Enlightenment reflection on freedom, the ideal has been to seek to establish reasonable rules to protect the individual from arbitrary power. This rule applies particularly to freedom of expression.

Those who speak endlessly of their values are merely trying to show off their own moral superiority. That is the basis of the corruption of the legal system in the matter of “fake news”, the reaction to Bercoff’s doubts, and the crusade of Madame Nyssen against what she considers “reactionary ideas”. Once a group of people convince themselves that they embody Virtue itself thanks to their “values”, they become unable to perceive any legitimate grounds for limiting their own power. That could be called the totalitarianism of the naïve.

This article originally appeared on RT’s French-language site. It was translated and adapted by Diana Johnstone. 


Jean Bricmont is professor of theoretical physics at the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), and author of numerous articles and books, including Humanitarian Imperialism, La République des Censeurs,and Fashionable Nonsense (with Alan Sokal).

June 11, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , , | 2 Comments