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Manufacturing Truth

By CJ Hopkins | Consent Factory | December 3, 2018

If you’re one of the millions of human beings who, despite a preponderance of evidence to the contrary, still believe there is such a thing as “the truth,” you might not want to read this essay. Seriously, it can be extremely upsetting when you discover that there is no “truth” … or rather, that what we’re all conditioned to regard as “truth” from the time we are children is just the product of a technology of power, and not an empirical state of being. Humans, upon first encountering this fact, have been known to freak completely out and start jabbering about the “Word of God,” or “the immutable laws of quantum physics,” and run around burning other people at the stake or locking them up and injecting them with Thorazine. I don’t want to be responsible for anything like that, so consider this your trigger warning.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at how “truth” is manufactured. It’s actually not that complicated. See, the “truth” is … well, it’s a story, essentially. It’s whatever story we are telling ourselves at any given point in history (“we” being the majority of people, those conforming to the rules of whatever system wields enough power to dictate the story it wants everyone to be telling themselves). Everyone understands this intuitively, but the majority of people pretend they don’t in order to be able to get by in the system, which punishes anyone who does not conform to its rules, or who contradicts its story. So, basically, to manufacture the truth, all you really need is (a) a story, and (b) enough power to coerce a majority of people in your society to pretend to believe it.

I’ll return to this point a little later. First, let’s look at a concrete example of our system manufacturing “truth.” I’m going to use The Guardian‘s most recent blatantly fabricated article (“Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy“) as an example, but I could just as well have chosen any of a host of other fabricated stories disseminated by “respectable” outlets over the course of the last two years. The “Russian Propaganda Peddlers” story. The “Russia Might Have Poisoned Hillary Clinton” story. The “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story. The “Golden Showers Russian Pee-Tape” story. The “Novichok Assassins” story. The “Bana Alabed Speaks Out” story. The “Trump’s Secret Russian Server” story. The “Labour Anti-Semitism Crisis” story. The “Russians Orchestrated Brexit” story. The “Russia is Going to Hack the Midterms” story. The “Twitter Bots” story. And the list goes on.

I’m not going to debunk the Guardian article here. It has been debunked by better debunkers than I (e.g., Jonathan Cook, Craig Murray, Glenn Greenwald, Moon of Alabama, and many others). The short version is, The Guardian‘s Luke Harding, a shameless hack who will affix his name to any propaganda an intelligence agency feeds him, alleged that Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, secretly met with Julian Assange (and unnamed “Russians”) on numerous occasions from 2013 to 2016, presumably to conspire to collude to brainwash Americans into not voting for Clinton. Harding’s earth-shaking allegations, which The Guardian prominently featured and flogged, were based on … well, absolutely nothing, except the usual anonymous “intelligence sources.” After actual journalists pointed this out, The Guardian quietly revised the piece (employing the subjunctive mood rather liberally), buried it in the back pages of its website, and otherwise pretended like they had never published it.

By that time, of course, its purpose had been served. The story had been picked up and disseminated by other “respectable,” “authoritative” outlets, and it was making the rounds on social media. Nonetheless, out of an abundance of caution, in an attempt to counter the above-mentioned debunkers (and dispel the doubts of anyone else still capable of any kind of critical thinking), Politico posted this ass-covering piece speculating that, if it somehow turned out The Guardian‘s story was just propaganda designed to tarnish Assange and Trump … well, probably, it had been planted by the Russians to make Luke Harding look like a moron. This ass-covering piece of speculative fiction, which was written by a former CIA agent, was immediately disseminated by liberals and “leftists” who are eagerly looking forward to the arrest, rendition, and public crucifixion of Assange.

At this point, I imagine you’re probably wondering what this has to do with manufacturing “truth.” Because, clearly, this Guardian story was a lie … a lie The Guardian got caught telling. I wish the “truth” thing was as simple as that (i.e., exposing and debunking the ruling classes’ lies). Unfortunately, it isn’t. Here is why.

Much as most people would like there to be one (and behave and speak as if there were one), there is no Transcendental Arbiter of Truth. The truth is what whoever has the power to say it is says it is. If we do not agree that that “truth” is the truth, there is no higher court to appeal to. We can argue until we are blue in the face. It will not make the slightest difference. No evidence we produce will make the slightest difference. The truth will remain whatever those with the power to say it is say it is.

Nor are there many truths (i.e., your truth and my truth). There is only one truth … the official truth. The truth according to those in power. This is the whole purpose of the concept of truth. It is the reason the concept of “truth” was invented (i.e., to render any other “truths” lies). It is how those in power control reality and impose their ideology on the masses (or their employees, or their students, or their children). Yes, I know, we very badly want there to be some “objective truth” (i.e., what actually happened, when whatever happened, JFK, 9-11, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Schrödinger’s dead cat, the Big Bang, or whatever). There isn’t. The truth is just a story … a story that is never our story.

The truth is a story that power gets to tell, and that the powerless do not get to tell, unless they tell the story of those in power, which is always someone else’s story. The powerless are either servants of power or they are heretics. There is no third alternative. They either parrot the truth of the ruling classes or they utter heresies of one type or another. Naturally, the powerless do not regard themselves as heretics. They do not regard their “truth” as heresy. They regard their “truth” as the truth, which is heresy. The truth of the powerless is always heresy.

For example, while it may be personally comforting for some of us to tell ourselves that we know the truth about certain subjects (e.g., Russiagate, 9-11, et cetera), and to share our knowledge with others who agree with us, and even to expose the lies of the corporate media on Twitter, Facebook, and our blogs, or in some leftist webzine (or “fearless adversarial” outlet bankrolled by a beneficent oligarch), the ruling classes do not give a shit, because ours is merely the raving of heretics, and does not warrant a serious response.

Or … all right, they give a bit of a shit, enough to try to cover their asses when a journalist of the stature of Glenn Greenwald (who won a Pulitzer and is frequently on television) very carefully and very respectfully almost directly accuses them of lying. But they give enough of a shit to do this because Greenwald has the power to hurt them, not because of any regard for the truth. This is also why Greenwald has to be so careful and respectful when directly confronting The Guardian, or any other corporate media outlet, and state that their blatantly fabricated stories could, theoretically, turn out to be true. He can’t afford to cross the line and end up getting branded a heretic and consigned to Outer Mainstream Darkness, like Robert Fisk, Sy Hersh, Jonathan Cook, John Pilger, Assange, and other such heretics.

Look, I’m not trying to argue that it isn’t important to expose the fabrications of the corporate media and the ruling classes. It is terribly important. It is mostly what I do (albeit usually in a more satirical fashion). At the same time, it is important to realize that “the truth” is not going to “rouse the masses from their slumber” and inspire them to throw off their chains. People are not going to suddenly “wake up,” “see the truth” and start “the revolution.” People already know the truth … the official truth, which is the only truth there is. Those who are conforming to it are doing so, not because they are deceived, but because it is safer and more rewarding to do so.

And this is why The Guardian will not be punished for publishing a blatantly fabricated story. Nor will Luke Harding be penalized for writing it. Luke Harding will be rewarded for writing it, as he has been handsomely rewarded throughout his career for loyally serving the ruling classes. Greenwald, on the other hand, is on thin ice. It will be instructive to see how far he pushes his confrontation with The Guardian regarding this story.

As for Julian Assange, I’m afraid he is done for. The ruling classes really have no choice but to go ahead and do him at this point. He hasn’t left them any other option. Much as they are loathe to create another martyr, they can’t have heretics of Assange’s notoriety running around punching holes in their “truth” and brazenly defying their authority. That kind of stuff unsettles the normals, and it sets a bad example for the rest of us heretics.

December 3, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

How Elites Use Mainstream Media to ‘Maintain and Expand Their Power’

By Kit Klarenberg – Sputnik – November 16, 2018

For quite some time, debate about ‘fake news’ has reverberated clamorously in both mainstream and alternative discourse. One could easily conclude the issue was a pressingly new plague, restricted to certain corners of the web – but academic TJ Coles begs to differ. In fact, he tells Sputnik fake news has been ubiquitous for thousands of years.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment the term ‘fake news’ entered the Western political and media lexicon, but the election of Donald Trump as US President certainly turbocharged its usage. For the controversial leader and his supporters, the label can be automatically applied to any and all media reporting critical of him, while his opponents play much the same game when roles are reversed.

This tit-for-tat sparring inspired TJ, director of Plymouth University’s Institute for Peace Research, to write a book on the subject — the fruit of his labours, Real Fake News: Techniques of Propaganda and Deception-based Mind Control, was published in September.

“All that talk made me think ‘hang on a minute, we’ve always had fake news’. It’s the nature of power — all power structures want to maintain and expand their power, so it’s therefore important to present information that benefits them, and keeps populations in a psychological and/or intellectual prison. The ‘fake news’ peddled by elite financial, commercial and political financial interests, duly regurgitated by major media organizations, eclipses any bogus story perpetuated by alleged ‘bots’ on Twitter, or whatever,” TJ says.

Babylonian Beginnings

In his work, TJ traces the birth of fake news all the way back to ancient Babylon, when rulers sought to perpetuate the notion they were descended from Gods and thus had a right to dominate and control the populace — history’s first recorded instance of the ‘divine right of kings’.

Similarly, Plato famously popularized the idea of the ‘noble lie’ — privileging untruths told for the benefit of elites and the population alike. These ideas very much endure in the modern day — TJ notes Wikileaks’ dump of the Clinton campaign’s internal emails amply demonstrates her team felt it wouldn’t be good, or necessary, for Hillary’s supporters to be aware of her close connections to Wall Street, so did their utmost to conceal the mephitic kinship.

“Elites the world over are acutely aware information is power, and actually quite open about their use and abuse of the news to shape public perceptions and preserve sociopolitical conditions benefitting them. For instance, the UK Ministry of Defence regularly publishes projections of how planners think the world will look in 10 — 20 years, and they routinely note the media is one of the key ways to maintain the current paradigm, and discuss the various ways information can be ‘weaponized’ against the public,” he says.

TJ suggests elites shape and control the public mind so effectively because they exploit fundamental facets of human nature. First, the well-established instinctive inclination to reflexively believe something reinforcing one’s existing beliefs, rather than assessing whether alternative facts or viewpoints have any value, or indeed considering whether what one believes might be wrong, or informed by confirmation bias.

This tendency is greatly exacerbated by the use of internet and social media algorithms that present a ‘personalized’ picture of the world to users, unfailingly presenting individuals with content they want to see, and tacitly suppressing information contrary to their existing opinions.

“Elites also know how easy it is to exploit guilt, which is why atrocity propaganda is so widespread today. Most sympathize with the victims of major atrocities, and naturally want to do something to help, so this aspect of human nature can be easily manipulated to justify aggressive foreign policy actions — ‘look at what we’re letting happen to poor defenceless people, we have a responsibility to protect them’ etcetera. It’s funny, when it comes to the economy, the powerful are quick to say people are naturally selfish, so it’s everyone for themselves, but when it comes to foreign policy, we should care about our fellow human beings and do something to help,” TJ says.

Evidence

As the academic’s work makes clear, atrocity propaganda doesn’t even need to have any grounding in reality whatsoever. In the lead-up to the NATO-backed violent overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the mainstream media was awash with reports government forces fuelled by viagra were conducting mass rapes of civilians, and planning a borderline genocidal massacre of rebel forces — claims used to justify the imposition of a no-fly zone over the country, and NATO airstrikes.

The stories were subsequently found to be entirely without foundation — similarly, serious question marks hover over the veracity of numerous claimed chemical weapons attacks in Syria, which likewise have provided a pretext for Western attacks on the country.

Muammar Gaddafi

© Flickr / Thierry Ehrmann

“It’s especially easy to exploit guilt when you present bite-sized news reports about an atrocious event stripped of all context, and exclude the voices of people who are actually on the ground. Occasionally, contradictory voices do filter through the system, although largely by accident. For instance, the BBC made the mistake of inviting Peter Ford, former UK ambassador to Syria, on air to discuss chemical weapons attacks — he quickly demolished their propaganda. He hasn’t been invited back since,” TJ says.

Ford is surely but one of a great many talking heads to effectively be banned from appearing on the BBC for daring to state views and evidence contrary to ascendant elite narratives. However, the British state broadcaster’s blacklisting activities also extend to its own employees — in April 2018, the BBC admitted that for decades, job applicants and serving staff were subject to political vetting by MI5, in an effort to prevent “subversives” gaining employment with the Corporation.

Often, individuals were ostracized on extremely tenuous grounds. For instance, respected film director John Goldschmidt was blacklisted in the late 1960s, with two projects he was working on for the Beeb cancelled midway through production without warning or explanation — MI5 deemed him a potential subversive as he’d spent a few weeks in Czechoslovakia in his youth, as part of a student exchange program. Similarly, award-winning journalist Isabel Hilton was refused a job by BBC Scotland in 1976 — that she spoke Chinese and had been a member of Scottish China Association at Edinburgh University made MI5 extremely anxious.

Under the policy, popular children’s book author and playwright Michael Rosen was also outright sacked from the BBC in 1972 while a graduate trainee for a number of ‘transgressions’, including student activism at Oxford, and producing a film featuring clips of US soldiers being tested with LSD. The American Embassy in London complained about the project to both MI5 and the BBC directly, whereupon Rosen was shown the door.The policy was wound down in the 1990s, and it’s unknown whether any comparable structures existed at other major news organizations — although City University research suggests dissenting voices remain rare in the British mainstream media. The 2016 study concluded UK journalists are overwhelmingly white, male, and elite-university educated — and are far more trusting of politicians, the government, police and military than the general population, which the study’s authors partly attributed to reporters’ “reliance on these institutions as sources of information”.

Such widespread faith in the establishment may account for why so many prominent reporters see no problem with maintaining close relationships with the intelligence services. The Guardian’s Luke Harding has frequently, openly and proudly advertised his warm bond with British spying agencies in articles and books — and equally frequently been condemned for uncritically running stories of questionable probity potentially provided to him by agency staff. In a September article he claimed Russian diplomats had held secret talks in London with associates of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in an attempt to assist in his escape from the UK. The covert action would’ve allegedly seen Assange smuggled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge under cover of Christmas Eve in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to Moscow.

The story was entirely based on the testimony of anonymous sources, the identity of which Harding didn’t even hint at in the piece. In response, Craig Murray, former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, slammed the article, calling it a “quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies” and “entirely black propaganda” published by an “MI6 tool”.”I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian. It is not only the case Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact Julian directly ruled out the possibility as undesirable. The entire story is a complete and utter fabrication. It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism,” Murray wrote.

Similarly, in 2007 the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran published an analysis of 44 articles written by Daily Telegraph Defence Editor Con Couglin on Iran — including stories suggesting North Korea was helping Iran prepare a nuclear weapons test, and Iran was grooming Bin Laden’s successor. They found the pieces almost invariably; were based on “unnamed or untraceable” sources in intelligence agencies or the UK Foreign Office and “published at sensitive and delicate times” when there’d been “relatively positive diplomatic moves” towards Iran; contained ‘exclusive revelations’ about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines, which were typically drawn from a single sentence in the wider article.

Prison Break

Despite his bleak analysis, TJ does not view the elite monopoly on information as insurmountable, or invincible — there’s much individuals and groups can do to shatter the stranglehold.

“People should keep a keen eye on sources that analyse news reporting and misreporting, such as Glasgow University Media Group and MediaLens, which offer alternative information and tell you what media coverage is actively omitting from the real story. However, change must come from within too — people should divorce themselves from preconceptions, and question their beliefs wherever and whenever possible. When presented with information that doesn’t conform to our predispositions, we should ask ourselves whether it’s true, rather than reflexively dismissing it outright,” TJ says.

While having less trust in the media more generally is a must, the academic also warns against placing too much faith in alternative news outlets and social networks, despite them being valuable resources with a significant positive potential.

“Independent media is growing in size and strength, but its overall reach is still relatively tiny — while print circulation is obviously down, people still get the vast bulk of their information from mainstream outlets. Similarly, social media could’ve democratized the spread of information, but it hasn’t — and in fact any such potential has probably been permanently neutered by the proliferation of ‘fact-checking’ resources, which are anything but unbiased and disinterested arbiters of truth,” TJ notes.

One-such ‘fact-checker’ is the Atlantic Council, a NATO-offshoot with a board of directors comprised of a ‘who’s who’ of contentious US political figures, including Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, Michael Hayden and David Petraeus, among others.

It partnered with Facebook in May to “independently monitor disinformation and other vulnerabilities” and combat the spread of fake news on the platform. To date, the collaboration has resulted in untold hundreds of pages and personal accounts being shut down — rather than being promulgators of propaganda though, the overwhelming bulk of the banished were alternative news sources, political organizations and individuals, highlighting issues and events the mainstream media downplays or ignores, such as US interventionism, drug legalization and police brutality.

Moreover, that elites exploit social media’s information-sharing capabilities to suit their own objectives is well-established.”The US State Department has used major social networks to recruit revolutionaries on several occasions, most notably during the ‘Arab Spring’, connecting ‘moderate rebels’ — actually violent jihadist lunatics — in select countries. Washington wanted Assad, Gaddafi and Mubarak gone, because they weren’t following orders — but there were no Twitter or Facebook ‘revolutions’ in the Gulf states, because the American empire wanted their rulers to remain in place. In Cuba, the CIA even went as far as creating a social network for the same purpose,” TJ concludes.

November 16, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Extraordinary and Deliberate Lies from the Guardian

By Craig Murray | September 23, 2018

I am just back from a family funeral – one of a succession – and a combination of circumstances had left me feeling pretty down lately, and not blogging much. But I have to drag myself to the keyboard to denounce a quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies published in the Guardian about a Russian plot to spring Julian Assange last December.

I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian. It is not only the case that Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact that Julian directly ruled out the possibility of going to Russia as undesirable. Fidel Narvaez told the Guardian that there was no truth in their story, but the Guardian has instead chosen to run with “four anonymous sources” – about which sources it tells you no more than that.

I have no idea who the Guardian’s “anonymous sources” are, but I know 100% for certain that the entire story of a Russian plot to extract Julian from the Embassy last Christmas Eve is a complete and utter fabrication. I strongly suspect that, as usual, MI6 tool Luke Harding’s “anonymous sources” are in fact the UK security services, and this piece is entirely black propaganda produced by MI6.

It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services. I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism. The aim of the piece is evidently to add a further layer to the fake news of Wikileaks’ (non-existent) relationship to Russia as part of the “Hillary didn’t really lose” narrative. I am, frankly, rather shocked.

September 23, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | 7 Comments

Skripal Case: Luke Harding’s latest work of fiction

By Kit | OffGuardian | September 6, 2018

Luke Harding likes writing books about things that he wasn’t really involved in and doesn’t really understand. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, that covers pretty much everything. His book about Snowden, for example, was beautifully taken down by Julian Assange – a person who was actually there.

He’s priming the traumatised public for another of his works, this time about Sergei Skripal. This one will probably be out by Christmas, unless he can find someone else’s work to plagiarise, in which case he might get it done sooner.

It will have a snide and not especially clever title, perhaps a sort of pun – something like the “A Poison by Any Other Name: How Russian assassins contaminated the heart of rural England”. It will relate, in jarring sub-sub-le Carre prose, a story of Russian malfeasance and evil beyond imagining, whilst depicting the whole cast as bumbling caricatures, always held up for ridicule by the author and his smug readership.

There’s an extract in The Guardian today. It’s not listed as one, but trust me, it will be in the book. It’s title, as predicted above, is sort of a pun (and will probably be a chapter heading):

Planes, trains and fake names: the trail left by Skripal suspects

You see? Like that film? I don’t really get it either but until someone else comes up with something clever he can copy, Luke is left to his own rather meagre devices.

It starts off surprisingly strong, waiting three whole sentences before lurching violently into totally unsupported conjecture:

The two men were dressed inconspicuously in jeans, fleece jackets and trainers as they boarded the flight from Moscow to Gatwick. Their names, according to their Russian passports, were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Both were around 40 years old. Neither looked suspicious.

This is, as far as we know so far, true.

The plane trundled down the icy runway. In Moscow the temperatures had fallen below -10C, not unusual for early March. In Britain it had been snowing.

… and so is this. In fact, in googling “Moscow weather March 2018” Harding has displayed an uncharacteristically thorough approach to research that was rarely (if ever) evidenced in his previous works.

They had also packed a bottle of what appeared to be the Nina Ricci perfume Premier Jour. The box it came in was prettily decorated with flowers, it listed ingredients including alcohol and it bore the words “Made in France”.

This is where truth ends and guesses take over: there is no evidence, at all, that these two men had anything to do with the “perfume bottle” allegedly found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th and allegedly containing a powerful nerve agent. There is (as far as we know) no fingerprint or DNA evidence on the bottle, nobody saw them with the bottle, and there’s no released CCTV footage of them holding or carrying the bottle. Saying “it’s in their backpack” is meaningless without any evidence to back it up.

According to the Metropolitan police, the bottle in fact contained novichok, a lethal nerve agent developed in the late Soviet Union. The bottle had been specially made to be leakproof and had a customised applicator.

Note he doesn’t feel the need to examine, question or even verify the words of the Metropolitan Police [Seemingly, in the UK, bottles are designed to leak]. This is a recurring theme in Harding’s works – there are people who tell the truth (US) and people who lie (RUSSIANS). Evidence is a complication you can live without.

Moscow’s notorious poisons factory run by the KGB made similar devices throughout the cold war.

Did they? Because he doesn’t show any evidence this is true. One thing you can be sure of, if there had ever been even a whisper about a “modified perfume bottle” in any Soviet archive or from any “whistleblower currently living in the United States”, it would be on the front page in big black letters.

Petrov and Boshirov were aliases, detectives believe. Both men are suspected to be career officers with the GRU, Russia’s powerful and highly secretive military intelligence service.

Note use of the word “believe”, it makes regular appearances alongside it’s buddies: “suspect” and “probably”.

And yes, they “believe” they are aliases because IF they were assassins then obviously they used aliases. There’s no evidence taken from their (currently totally theoretical) visa applications that point to forgery, nobody at the time questioned their passports. As of today, we have been given no reason to think they were aliases, except reasoning backwards from assumed guilt… which isn’t how deduction works.

In fact, there’s more than enough reason to assume they aren’t aliases – Firstly, they passed the visa check, secondly their passports were never questioned, thirdly they’ve used them before (see below), and finally… just WHY would a Russian spy-come-assassin use a fake Russian name and a fake Russian passport? That’s ridiculous.

The officers’ assignment was covert. They were coming to Britain not as tourists but as assassins.

[citation needed]

Their target was Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who spied for British intelligence, got caught and was freed in a spy exchange in 2010. They were heading for his home in provincial Salisbury.

Luke doesn’t feel the need to dig down into the nitty gritty here – motive is a trifle, to be added in the footnotes or made up on the spur of the moment when asked at a book signing. I’m a bit more fussy than that – I feel the need to ask “Why did they release him in 2010 and then try to kill him in 2018?” If they had wanted to kill him, why not just do it when he was in prison in Russia between 2006 and 2010? If they wanted to kill him… why do it just weeks before the World Cup? What could they possibly have to gain?

Luke doesn’t know, and neither do I.

Their Aeroflot flight SU2588 touched down at 3pm on Friday 2 March. They were recorded on CCTV going through passport control, Boshirov with dark hair and a goatee beard, Petrov unshaven and wearing a blue gingham shirt. Both were carrying satchels slung casually over the shoulder.

This is all true, and completely unnecessary. It’s what we in the industry call “filler” or “padding”. Totally meaningless and useless words that do nothing but take up space. Without it, a lot of Luke’s books would only be about 700 words long.

According to police, the pair had visited the UK before.

Way to bury the lead there, Luke.

This is actually quite important isn’t it? I mean, when did they visit the UK before? Did they visit Salisbury then too? Did they have any contact with Sergei Skripal? Were they travelling under the same names? Were these visits linked with other intelligence work? Were they just holidays? What kind of assassins would use the SAME FAKE IDS ON TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS?

These are all very important questions, but Luke doesn’t ask them. Because Luke is a modern journalist, and they don’t interrogate the claims of the state, just report them. To Guardian reporters a question mark is just that funny squiggle next to the shift key.

From Gatwick they caught the train to London Victoria station and then the tube to east London, where they checked in to the City Stay hotel in Bow. It was a low-profile choice of accommodation. The red-brick Victorian building is next to a branch of Barclays bank, a busy train line and a wall daubed with graffiti. Across the road is a car pound and a Texaco garage.

This just more filler. Totally meaningless packaging material. The prose equivalent of All-Bran.

On hostile territory, Boshirov and Petrov operated in the manner of classic intelligence operatives.

In this instance “the manner of classic intelligence operatives” means, flying direct to London from Moscow, using Russian names and Russian passports (which you’ve used before), checking into a hotel with a CCTV camera on the front door, going straight to the hometown of an ex-double agent, leaving a Russian poison his front door even though he’s already gone out, dumping your unused poison in a charity bin on the high street, going back to your hotel, smearing poison around that too even though you already dumped it, and then flying directly back to Moscow without even waiting to see if the plan worked and the target is dead.

This, in Luke’s head, is ace intelligence work.

On the day of the hit, according to detectives, the pair made a similar journey, taking the 8.05am train from Waterloo to Salisbury and arriving at 11.48am.

Yes, they arrived at 11.48, making it absolutely pointless to put poison on the Skripal’s door, as they had already gone out.

The perfume bottle was probably concealed in a light grey backpack carried by Petrov.

It was “probably concealed” in that backpack because, as I said above, there’s no evidence either of those men ever knew the perfume bottle existed. You never see it in their possession.

Oh, and the backpack would have to contain TWO bottles of perfume – because the police aren’t sure the bottle Rowley found 3 months later was the same bottle, and Rowley reported it was unopened and wrapped in cellophane. Perhaps Luke should have read the details of the case instead of trolling IMDB looking for movie titles with “plane” in them or googling “insouciant” to see if he was using it right.

From Salisbury station the two men set off on foot. It was a short walk of about a mile to Skripal’s semi-detached home in Christie Miller Road.

… which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

At Skripal’s house the Russians smeared or sprayed novichok on to the front door handle, police say.

… which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

It doesn’t matter if Borishov and Petrov re-tiled the bathroom with novichok grouting or hid novichok in the battery compartment of Sergei’s TV remote or replaced all his lightbulbs with novichok bombs that explode when you use the clapper…. according to everything we’ve been told so far Sergei and Julia were literally never in that house again.

Luke seems to write a lot about this case, considering he is barely acquainted with the most basic facts of it.

The moment went unobserved

True. There is not a single piece of footage, photograph or eyewitness placing these men within a hundred feet of the Skripals, or their house. The “moment went unobserved” is an incredibly dishonest way of phrasing this, “the moment is entirely theoretical” is rather fairer. Or, if you want to be honest “it’s possible none of this happened”.

At some point on their walk back they must have tossed away the bottle, which at this point was too dangerous to try to smuggle back through customs.

It’s all falling into place perfectly isn’t it?

At some point the two men, who we never see holding or carrying the bottle, must have thrown it away because three months later someone else found it.

They took it through customs once but couldn’t a second time, because reasons.

Also one of them was smiling a sort of “I just poisoned somebody” smile:

At 1.05pm the men were recorded in Fisherton Street on their way back to the station. They appeared more relaxed, Petrov grinning even.

Those evil bastards.

By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the poisoners were gone.

No Luke: By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the ALLEGED poisoners were gone.

Alleged is an important word for example, there is a marked difference between being an ALLEGED plagiarist, and being a plagiarist.

The visitors were captured on CCTV one more time, at Heathrow airport. It was 7.28pm and both men were going through security, Petrov first, wheeling a small black case. In his right hand was a shiny red object, his Russian passport. Police believe the passport was genuine, his name not. In other words, that it was a sophisticated espionage operation carried out by a state or state entities.

You see? Nobody thought the passport was fake, which means it was a really good fake. So the Russian state must have been in on it. This is known as an unfalsifiable hypothesis. If the passport did look fake, that would be evidence that the men were spies… and therefore the Russian state was in on it.

Harding has created a narrative where there is literally no development that could ever challenge his conclusions.

Seemingly, the GRU plan – executed two weeks before Russia’s presidential election – had worked perfectly.

This is an example of the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy – two things happen at the same time, therefore they happen for the same reason. It’s a maneuver we at OffG refer to as “the Harding”, where you state two separate assertions or facts one after the other in such a way as to imply a relationship, without ever making a solid statement. I’ll give you an example:

Luke Harding was born in 1968, mere weeks before the brutal assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Harding is suggesting some sort of connection between the election and the poisoning. He can’t STATE it, because then he has to explain his reasoning – and there isn’t any. Putin, and Russia as a whole, had nothing to gain from poisoning an ex-spy they had released nearly a decade earlier, especially on the eve of a Presidential election and mere weeks before the World Cup. There’s no argument to be made, so he doesn’t attempt to make one, he just makes a snide and baseless insinuation.

In his defense, Luke might genuinely believe it, cum hoc ergo propter hoc is a favorite amongst paranoid personalities, of which Luke is definitely a prime example.

Vladimir Putin, the man whom a public inquiry found in 2016 had “probably” signed off on the operation to kill Litvinenko. The UK security services say a “body of evidence” points to the GRU.

“Probably” is also a big word. For example, there’s a marked difference between “probably being a plagiarist” and “being a plagiarist”.

It seems clear that Moscow continues to view Britain as a playground for undercover operations and is relatively insouciant about the consequences, diplomatic and political. The Skripal attack may have misfired. But the message, mingling contempt and arrogance, is there for all to see: we can smite our enemies whenever and wherever we want, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This is the second time Luke has used the word “insouciant” in two days, which means that word of the day calendar was probably a sound investment, but he forgot to flip it over this morning.

Other than that, this final paragraph is nothing but paranoia.

The Russians were TRYING to make it obvious, to send a message. But were also lazy and arrogant. And yet also left no solid evidence because they are experts at espionage. They had no motive except being mean, and couldn’t even be bothered to make sure they did it right. They want us all to know they did it, but will never admit it.

The actual truth of the situation can be summed up in a few bullet points. Currently:

  • There is no evidence these men were using forged documents.
  • There is no evidence these men were travelling under aliases or assumed names.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal’s house.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal or his daughter.
  • There is no evidence these men were Russian intelligence assets or had any military training.
  • There is no evidence these men ever possessed or had any contact with the perfume bottle found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th.
  • They have visited the UK before, not on intelligence business (as far as we know).
  • Their movements don’t align with the timeline of Skripal’s illness.

The entire narrative is created around half a dozen screen caps of two (allegedly) Russian men, not behaving in any way illegally or even suspiciously. All the rest is fiction, created by a hack to service an agenda. This isn’t one of those “You couldn’t make it up” stories, it’s not that incredible. It’s just insulting and stupid.

You could make it up, and he did.

September 6, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

Collusion

Book review by Paul Robinson | Irrusianality | December 2, 2017

The investigation into suspected collusion between US President Donald Trump and the Russian government has claimed its first three victims: one (Paul Manafort) for completely unconnected money laundering charges, and two (George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn) for lying to investigators about things which were not themselves criminal, and which are therefore crimes which would never have happened had there never been an investigation. To date, the evidence of direct collusion between Trump and the Russians is looking a little thin, to say the least. Now, into this maelstrom steps Guardian reporter Luke Harding with his book Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russian Helped Donald Trump Win.

Collusion spends over 300 pages insinuating that Trump is a long-standing agent of the Russian secret services, and hinting, without ever providing any firm evidence, that Trump and his team acted on orders from the Kremlin to subvert American democracy. I’ll be honest, and admit that I picked this book up expecting it to be a series of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and to be utterly unbalanced in its analysis, and in that sense I’m not an unbiased reader. At the same time, I was interested to see if Harding had come up with anything that everybody else had not, and was willing to give him a chance. I needn’t have bothered. For alas, my worst suspicions proved to be true, and then some.

The first thing to note about Collusion is that most of it is padding. That is to say, that it consists mainly of a lot of digressions in which Harding describes people and events not directly related to the main story of collusion. Whenever a new character is introduced, you tend to get pages of background information, along with descriptions of various places they’ve been to, things they’ve done in the past, and so on. At the start of the book, for instance, Harding introduces Christopher Steele, who prepared an infamous dossier purportedly based on secret sources within the Kremlin, which made all sort of extreme accusations against Trump. We learn about Steele’s parents, his childhood, his education, his career, and so on. Harding recounts how he met Steele. We learn about how they tried one café, then another, who drank what, etc, etc. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book. There’s a lot of padding. This padding makes Collusion an easy read, and gives it colour, and the flavour of a spy novel. But none of it adds anything to our knowledge of Donald Trump and his relationship with Russia. It’s just filler, designed to cover up the fact that, when it comes to the matter of collusion, Harding doesn’t have a whole lot new to say and certainly doesn’t have enough to fill up an entire book.

The second thing to note is that Harding’s modes of argumentation and standards of evidence are not  – how can I be polite about this? – what I’m used to as an academic. Let’s take the example of Trump’s former convention manager, Paul Manafort, to whom Harding devotes an entire chapter, obviously on the basis that the Trump-Manafort connection somehow proves a Trump-Kremlin connection. The problem Harding has is that, despite pages of fluff about Manafort, he hasn’t got any evidence that Manafort is a Kremlin agent. In fact, he quotes one source – a former Ukrainian official, Oleg Voloshin – as telling him that when Manafort worked as a political advisor to Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich:

Manafort was an advocate for US interests. So much so that the joke inside the Party of Regions [in Ukraine] was that he actually worked for the USA. … He supported Ukraine’s association with NATO and with the EU. He warned Yanukovich not to lock up [former Prime Minister Iuliia] Tymoshenko. “If it weren’t for Paul, Ukraine would have gone under Russia much earlier,” Voloshin told me.

This is pretty funny behaviour for a Kremlin agent, and Harding has to admit that, “It’s unclear to what extent, if any, Manafort was involved in supplying intelligence to Russia.” This doesn’t fit with the conclusion that Harding obviously wants readers to draw – that Manafort was a Kremlin agent, and so Trump must be too. So, he comes up with something else: some of Manafort’s associates in Ukraine “were rumoured to have links with Russian intelligence.” Note the use of the word “rumoured”. It’s not exactly convincing, but it’s good enough for Luke, who uses it to tell a story about one such associate, Konstantin Kilimnik. Harding recounts that he contacted Kilimnik by email to ask him about his relationship with Manafort. Kilimnik responds by telling him that the collusion accusations are  “insane” and “gibberish”, and signs off his email with a bit of self-mockery: “Off to collect my paycheck at KGB. :))”

And here’s where it gets interesting. For Harding thinks there’s something suspicious about Kilimnik’s answer. He writes:

The thing which gave me pause was Kilimnik’s use of smiley faces. True, Russians are big emoticon fans. But I’d seen something similar before. In 2013 the Russian diplomat in charge of political influence operations in London was named Sergey Nalobin. Nalobin had close links with Russian intelligence. He was the son of a KGB general; his brother had worked for the FSB; Nalobin looked like a career foreign intelligence officer. Maybe even a deputy resident, the KGB term for station chief. On his Twitter feed Nalobin described himself thus:

A brutal agent of the Putin dictatorship : )

And that’s it. That’s Harding’s evidence. Just to make sure readers get the point, he follows the last line up with a double paragraph space. Stop and think what this means, he seems to be saying. Someone who “looked like a career foreign intelligence officer” uses smiley faces. Kilimnik uses smiley faces!!! Say no more.

This is the level at which Harding’s logic works. Harding recounts a meeting of Trump and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the White House, a meeting which was photographed by someone from the Russian news agency TASS. As Harding tells us:

The Times put the photo of Trump and Lavrov on its front page. At the bottom of the photo taken inside the White House was a credit. It said: “Russian Foreign Ministry.”

Yet another double paragraph break follows,  just to make sure that readers take in the implication of what this means.

Take another example. We learn (which in fact we knew already if we’d been following this story) that Trump’s short-lived National Security Advisor, and former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Michael Flynn, attended a conference on the subject of intelligence at Cambridge University, where he met a Russian woman, Svetlana Lokhova. Harding admits that, “There is no suggestion she is linked to Russian intelligence.” Nevertheless, he feels it necessary to tell us that Flynn later corresponded with her by email. He writes:

In his emails, Flynn signed off in an unusual way for a US spy. He called himself “General Misha.”

Misha is the Russian equivalent of Michael.

Again, Harding then introduces a section break, leaving this ominous fact hanging in the air. Think of what it means, he is saying!

This is typical of how Harding argues. He puts in some suspicious sounding fact, or asks some question, and then just leaves it hanging. The implication is that the question doesn’t need answering, that the most damaging and extreme answer is obviously true. There’s an awful lot of this technique in Collusion. Harding spends pages on a digression about Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybovlev before telling us that Rybovlev’s private jet sometimes parks next to that of Donald Trump. Seems suspicious, huh? Except that Harding tells us that, ‘The White House … said that Trump and Rybovlev had never met. This appears to be true.” But Harding isn’t satisfied, and asks, “Had he [Rybovlev] perhaps met someone else from Trump’s entourage during his travels? Like, for example, Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen?” Later, Harding tells us that Rybovlev’s yacht was once at Dubrovnik at the same time as Ivanka Trump’s yacht. “Was this perhaps planned” he asks.

Harding’s method is to ask these questions, as if asking was itself proof of guilt. Trump borrowed money from Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was bailed out at one point by the Russian bank VTB. “Was there a connection?” Harding asks. But Harding doesn’t answer these questions. In fact, one of the interesting things about this book is that again and again the author has to confess that the facts don’t really fit what he’s trying to say. For instance, when discussing Trump and Deutsche Bank, and trying to make it sound as if Trump was in some way connected to the Kremlin because he was borrowing from the Germans, Harding writes, “The sources insist that the answer was negative. No trail to Moscow was ever discovered, they told us.”

This isn’t a lone example. Harding spends quite a few pages discussing Carter Page, a businessman who appeared on RT and gave a talk at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, and who at one point had a marginal role in the Trump election campaign. It’s clear that he wants it all to sound really damaging. And yet, he writes that Page’s “attempts to meet Trump individually failed.” So, it turns out that there’s not much of a connection there after all. Likewise, when discussing Russian computer hackers, Harding writes: “By the second decade of the twenty-first century the cyber world looked like the high seas of long ago. The hackers who sailed on it might be likened to privateers. Sometimes they acted for the ‘state’, sometimes against it.” This rather undermines his claim that the Russian state was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

In another example, Harding discusses the sudden death of Oleg Erovinkin, who worked for the oil company Rosneft. He speculates that “Erovinkin was Steele’s source deep inside Rosneft,” and was murdered because word of Steele’s document had leaked out. The murder, he implies, is proof of the dossier’s validity. Except that Harding admits that, “there was nothing suspicious about Erovinkin’s sudden death” and “Steele was adamant that Erovinkin wasn’t his source.” Yet this doesn’t stop Harding from writing that, “in the wake of the dossier the Kremlin did appear to be wiping out some kind of American or Western espionage network. … It certainly looked that way.”

I could give other examples, but I can’t make this review too long. The point is that Harding ignores his own evidence. He argues by innuendo, and on occasion he just lets his imagination run away with itself. Steele’s dossier alleged that Trump had hired prostitutes while on a trip to Moscow. Vladimir Putin’s response was to crack a joke about Russian prostitutes being the best in the world. But to Harding it wasn’t a joke. As he writes:

Putin may have been sending a second message, darkly visible beneath the choppy, translucent waters of the first. It said: we’ve got the tape, Donald!

I wish I could say that this book was a joke. If you were going to write a parody of the collusion story, this is perhaps what it would look like. Unfortunately, Harding is deadly serious and I suspect that a lot of uncritical readers will soak it all up, not stopping to reflect on the awful methodology. So, I end on a word of warning. By all means read this book. But don’t do so in order to find out the truth about Donald Trump and Russia; do so in order to understand the methods currently being used to enflame Russian-Western relations. In that respect, Collusion is really quite revealing.

December 5, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

“Global Laundromat” has the Guardian in a Spin

By Kit | OffGuardian | March 21, 2017

The latest “breaking” story from the Guardian and Luke Harding is hitting the headlines. Almost exactly 1 year after the explosive anti-climax that was “The Panama Papers”, Harding and the coterie of NGOs for which he acts as de-facto spokesperson have a big announcement to make: Banks launder money, and some of it is Russian.

I don’t know why they use American money with a Russian flag superimposed. They were probably afraid nobody would recognise roubles.

We are nearing the anniversary of the release of the Panama Papers, a “big story” involving years of work, hundreds of leaked documents, a team of exceptional journalists (and Luke Harding) and a dramatic reveal: “Sometimes, very rich people use legal loopholes to avoid paying their taxes.”

The list of implicated parties included heads of state, celebrities, athletes, David Cameron’s dad and a cellist that knows Vladimir Putin. We all remember who the Guardian decided to focus on, and we all know why.

Today the same crack-team (and Luke Harding) are releasing the long-awaited sequel to their original hit. “The global Laundromat”, it’s called. It’s a product of a years-long investigation into money laundering in ex-Soviet states, using British shell companies. I can’t comment on the truth of these allegations, because we don’t get to see the evidence, we are simply told that it’s true “according to letters The Guardian has seen”, and “reports shown to the Guardian ”… and other variations on that theme.

They may well be true. Big business and billionaires take part in shady and/or illegal business practices all the time. Just as was the case in the Panama Papers, they tell us something we all already know to be true, and then act like it was a surprise.

There’s a lot to like here. The simultaneous publication of four different articles on the subject, all practically identical. The implication that it is “breaking news”, when their prize factoid is three years old, and the scheme itself hasn’t operated since 2014. The fact that Luke Harding has to publicly declare the US government’s involvement, to stop people like us from pointing it out and making them look silly (like last time). The persistent use of the old Harding trick of simply dotting your story with plenty of “could haves” and “speculations suggests”. It’s all good stuff.

Where it becomes hilariously cack-handed in their agenda-pushing is in trying to force tenuous links to the Kremlin and, of course, Vladimir Putin in particular.

Last year they plastered their front page with pictures of Putin and videos about Putin and editorials about corruption in Russia… despite having to admit in the text:

… the president’s name does not appear in any of the records…

This year they can’t even go that far. They fall to the level of implication. Talking around inconvenient facts on the one hand, and then wildly speculating on the other. Leaving deliberate dots for the reader to join up, whilst never having the courage of their convictions to make plain their insinuations (probably for fear of being sued and/or corrected in the alt-media).

Much like the Panama Papers launch, there’s an awful lot of verbiage to work through, implications are thick on the ground, evidence less so. No direct sources are named, it is always “an ex-banker living in exile said”, or “a Russian business-man said”. Gorge on words and starve of meaning seems to be the message of the day.

Some interesting bullet points I pulled out:

Now we can reveal Britain’s role in this scheme – and how vast sums of potentially tainted money flowed into and out of western banks, including HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, without raising any alarm.

This is taken from this piece, one of the four long reads The Guardian is currently devoting to this topic. You can tell it’s a Harding creation because of the prose… for want of a better word… style. It might seem inconsequential at first, but note the use of the phrase “potentially tainted”, that means there is no proof of any wrong-doing at all. It means, the money is “potentially” untainted. As in just totally legal money being used to buy things.

Normally speaking I would expect a crime to at least have definitely happened before a paper put it in their headlines. But maybe I’m being old-fashioned.

The ingenious scheme has its origins in Russia. Put simply, it was a way for Kremlin insiders and other well-known Russians to shift cash abroad.

Not a single “Kremlin insider” is named in any of the four stories currently running on this issue.

Before it was rumbled, the scheme was one of several mafia operations that have allowed the rich to spirit money out of the country to spend in the west.

There’s no evidence to back-up this statement, not a single connection to the mafia is ever mentioned again. But even so it’s worth noting. The money is leaving Russia and coming here. Remember that, because it will be important later on.

“Money laundering is the biggest business in Russia,” one former Moscow banker, now living in exile, explained. “You steal from the budget. You’ve got this dirty money. You have to do something with it.”

The source here, the “former banker living in exile”, is naturally unnamed. As an educated guess it’s probably Sergei Pugachev, a banker and oligarch who has fled both Russia and Britain on charges of embezzling and money laundering. Harding has interviewed him before, it would make sense if he became Harding’s primary source on Russian banking.

Pugachev fled Russia after the government seized his assets and charged him with various financial crimes. That’s an important pattern that will repeat, and has repeated, many times over.

Here we come to the “Putin connection”, are you ready?

It features Russian banks, Moldovan oligarchs, and a network of fake UK companies fronted by fake or “nominee” directors, many of them in Ukraine. It had impeccable Moscow connections. Vladimir Putin’s cousin Igor sat on the board of a bank which held accounts that laundered billions.

His cousin worked at one of the banks that held accounts that may have laundered money. That’s it. These are connections that Harding considers “impeccable”. Is there any evidence connecting the two cousins? Phone calls? Photographs? If any exists, none is presented.

Interestingly, Igor Putin is actually a member of an opposition political party in Russia, which supported an alternative presidential candidate in 2012.

You can put the above quote together with another statement, from this article, to see just how completely meaningless it is:

Accounts held at 19 Russian banks were involved in the scheme. In 2014, it was reported that one financial institution was the Russian Land Bank (RZB). A bank board member at the time was Igor Putin.

Yes nineteen, nineteen(!), different Russian banks are “involved” with the scheme, and the “impeccable Moscow connections” are that Putin’s cousin worked at one of them. At least five different British banks were involved, HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds TSB, NatWest and RSB. It’s hard to imagine that every cousin, of every board member, of every bank is currently under investigation by Scotland Yard.

In fact, nobody is under investigation by Scotland Yard, at all. Every single reference to a criminal investigation is talking about Latvia, Moldova… and Russia.

Once the goods had been cleared the UK firms were liquidated. No duty was paid. Often, Russia’s tax inspectors then took the UK companies to court.

In practice, the Laundromat made possible three different crimes inside Russia: tax evasion, evasion of customs duty and money laundering. In 2013 grey import schemes cost the state $40bn, a Russian parliament committee said.

… alleged ringleader Alexander Grigoriev was detained in November 2015 while eating in a Moscow restaurant… In 2014-15, [Russian] regulators stripped Grigoriev of his banking licences amid concerns that funds were mysteriously vanishing… Russian police sources told Kommersant that Grigoriev was one of a number of prominent people who used the Laundromat to move $46bn in liquid assets out of Russia.

In three separate paragraphs, dotted throughout the four different articles he has contributed to, Harding makes reference to three different Russian governmental efforts to control illegal movement of money: Taking foreign companies to court, parliamentary enquiries, and the arrest and suspension of (alleged) criminal bankers.

He makes no such mention of any British efforts to do the same, because there were none.

The FSB, the Russian security service Harding routinely refers to as “the successor to the KGB” (in fact, in one article today he simply calls them the KGB), have apparently launched an investigation into this scheme. How does Harding address this issue? Very simply:

The Russian investigation into Laundromat has been cursory.

There are suspicions the FSB’s real goal was merely to find out how much investigators knew.

… officers from Russia’s FSB spy agency visited detectives in Moldova. They took away records. It is unclear if this was a genuine investigation or an attempt to discover how much the Moldovans knew. Probably the latter.

No sources are linked to back up these assertions. He completely dismisses, without evidence or argument, the FSB investigations.

He doesn’t dismiss the intentions of Britain’s NCA investigations… because, once again, there were none.

A step back, and a gentle examination, paints a rather different picture from the one with which the Guardian is trying to present us. It shows us Russian oligarchs and bankers shifting vast sums of money OUT of Russia and INTO the EU. Now why would this be?

Logic would suggest that money flows FROM regulation INTO corruption. That’s a natural physical force, like water running downhill. Like osmosis. Russia, since the end of the chaotic Yeltsin era, has been going through a slow process of de-oligarchisation, even Shaun Walker (grudgingly) admitted that. The aforementioned Sergei Pugachev can attest to it (he does so, often and loudly). The Russian government has jailed billionaires for embezzling. Russia prosecutes bankers, and demands companies pay their taxes. Is the same true of Britain? Did a single banker see the inside of jail cell after the 2008 crash? Have Amazon, Google or Vodafone been brought to court for their massive tax evasion?

What you’re looking at here, like the Panama Papers, is just further evidence of that which we already know, that the deregulated bank and business sectors in the UK can be abused by the super wealthy for their own personal gain. And, like the Panama Papers, it was deliberately misrepresented by “investigative journalists” in order to exaggerate any connection with the Russian government, and just generally shine a poor light on Russia.

So, who is behind this revelation?

To answer that, let’s take a look at the about page of the driving force behind this “scandal”, The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The following is taken directly from their own website:

OCCRP is supported by grants by the Open Society Foundation, Google Digital News Initiative, the Skoll Foundation, the Sigrid Rausing Trust, Google Jigsaw, the National Endowment for Democracy and the Knight Foundation. OCCRP also receives developmental funds for improving journalism from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the United States Department of State and the Swiss Confederation.

The bolded are all very familiar to us here at OffG, and should be to anyone that has followed our work on US-back NGOs. They form an argument on their own, you don’t need me to tell you what it means.

All this really tells us, so far, is that the US government, their corporate allies and puppet NGOs have spent years of their time, and God knows how much of their near-limitless resources, trying to tie the current Russian administration to any kind of criminal corruption. What have they found? A cellist legally avoiding his taxes and that Russian oligarch’s think their ill-gotten gains are safer in British banks, than Russian ones. A rather damning fact, when you think about it.

This is the result of years of work from the world’s business and intelligence elites (and Luke Harding), and it is, frankly, pitiful.

March 21, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guardian journalist’s bizarre claim Vladimir Putin’s New Year and Christmas invite is a threat to US diplomats’ children

By Alexander Mercouris | The Duran | December 31, 2016

Reading Western media reactions to Putin’s decision yesterday not to retaliate in kind to Obama’s latest sanctions has been instructive, with the tone extending from the admiring, to the factual, and to the furious.

One comment however stood out as by far the most unpleasant, and it came (unsurprisingly to those who follow him) from Luke Harding in the Guardian :

The statement wished Obama, Trump and the American people a happy new year. It further invited “all the children of American diplomats” to visit the Kremlin’s festive Christmas tree. Instead of playing the Grinch, Putin had taken on the role of Ded Moroz, Russia’s answer to Father Christmas. One Russian MP on Vesti TV said Obama was Bad Santa. It was also a subtle reminder, for those who were able to decode it, that the FSB – the KGB’s successor – has precise information about the children of US embassy personnel. Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday tartly denied reports that Moscow was to close the Anglo-American school, attended by diplomatic kids, and the offspring of bankers and oil workers. (bold italics added)

The claim that the Russians planned to close the Anglo-American school was indeed furiously denied by the Russians after it circulated for a short time in the media.

Luke Harding nonetheless conflates this claim – which the Russians of course denied, and which almost certainly did not originate either with the senior officials of Russia’s Foreign Ministry or with the Kremlin – with President Putin’s invitation to the children of US diplomats to attend New Year and Christmas parties in the Kremlin, to construe a threat by the Russians to US diplomats through their children (“the FSB – the KGB’s successor – has precise information about the children of US embassy personnel”).

This threat is however so “subtle” that only those in the know – including of course Luke Harding himself – are “able to decode it”.

That this is utterly paranoid stuff, turning an invitation to a party into something sinister, should not need saying. What does Luke Harding think the FSB might do with the “precise information about the children of US embassy personnel” it supposedly has? That this sort of paranoia gets published in the Guardian unfortunately shows how mainstream it has become. I hope it won’t deter any US diplomats from keeping their children in Moscow, or from letting them go to the parties to which President Putin has invited them.

January 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 2 Comments

Crimea and Ukraine: Luke Harding goes off his meds

By Kit | OffGuardian | August 10, 2016

Modern mass-media is replete with instances of cognitive dissonance. However none can so perfectly encapsulate the madness of the pretend world so many “journalists” now live in better, than these two offerings from the always entertaining Luke Harding.

It has been reported that Russia has beefed up security on the Ukraine-Crimea border, in response to an apparent attack by SBU agents that resulted in the deaths of 2 Russian servicemen, there are also fears Kiev may try to disrupt the September 18th parliamentary elections.

Luke’s reaction to this, on twitter, was as balanced and reasonable as anybody who reads his articles would expect (at least, the ones he hasn’t stolen from other people):

Yes, he declares the Ukrainian attacks are “classic fakery”, when asked he would not provide evidence for this assertion. But then evidence isn’t really Luke’s thing.

The strange thing is that, in his other writings, such as this column for the Guardian, he writes:

Last November Ukrainian activists blew up energy pipelines to Crimea, plunging homes into darkness. People ate dinner by candlelight, factories shut down and for the first few days even traffic lights stopped working. The peninsula’s water supply is also vulnerable.

So which is it Luke? Do Ukrainians target Crimea or not? How can you state that the most recent Ukrainian attacks on Crimea are “classic fakery”, whilst at the same time volunteering that Ukraine has been actively trying to terrorise the population of the peninsula for over two years?

How can you confidently speculate about “another invasion” of Ukraine by the Russian army:

At this point there seem to be three possible scenarios. One is that Putin will try to leverage this latest crisis to persuade EU countries to drop the sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict. Another is that he is preparing a limited military incursion, possibly to set up a security corridor, which doubtless would include the electricity station in the nearby Ukrainian city of Kherson. A third is that he is planning something bigger.

…whilst simultaneously admitting that every single one of your previous speculations as to Russia’s plans in Ukraine had been totally wrong?

In spring 2014 there was speculation that he would seek to carve out a land corridor connecting separatist Donetsk and Luhansk with Crimea. That would involve over-running Ukrainian forces in the port city of Mariupol and advancing along the coast. The Kremlin also floated the idea of Novorossiya, a historical pseudo-entity encompassing Ukraine’s southern and south-eastern Russian-speaking regions…None of this happened

Not for a moment does the author’s fevered brain consider that, given every single one of his previous speculations “never happened”, maybe he should lay off the speculating this time. Not once do his previous humiliations cause him to adjust his world view. It is, to put it bluntly, insane.

It is staggering that, no matter the utter and complete failures of logic, no matter the number of totally incorrect rampant speculations they publish, the MSM will simply continue to push insane narratives about Russia, written by a man with only the flimsiest grasp on reality.

Oh well, that’s The Guardian for you. And especially Luke Harding, it’s why he’s our favourite

August 11, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

“MH17 two years on”: Luke Harding’s cynical exploitation of one family’s pain

OffGuardian | July 14, 2016

If Luke Harding’s wild-eyed narcissism was less in tune with the current western agenda then his editors at the Guardian might be taking him aside and quietly suggesting counselling and medication. But things being as they are, his narratives of battling Demon Russia and its Empire of Evil tend to make the front page, however rabidly insane, libellously mendacious or simply cringeworthy they may be.

But yesterday the Guardian unleashed this:

notatallbiasedheadlinehardingmh17

Absorb the headline and the intent behind it. Something of a tour de force of moral bankruptcy even for the team that brought you the Polonium story. We don’t just get racism, warmongering and towering falsehoods here. No – we can also experience the exploitation of 20 year old Richard Mayne’s short life and tragic death and his family’s pain! So sit back and enjoy as Harding rushes in where the sane and ethical might fear to tread, boldly turning one family’s unspeakable tragedy into grist for his own Putin-hate mill.

You see, happily for Luke and the pro-war agenda, Richard was killed on board MH17, and his parents blame Vladimir Putin…

Amid their grief, the Maynes came to a grim conclusion: Richard had been murdered. The man whom they believe murdered him is Vladimir Putin. It was Putin, they believe, who gave orders for the Russian military to cross the border, setting in train a series of consequences, including the shooting down of MH17 and 10,000 dead in the conflict.

Let’s be crystal clear at this point. No one can blame this family for their anger. They’re desperate and grief-stricken and need someone to be punished for the crime that took their son. The fact Putin is their target is an understandable human response, and no one could condemn them.

But even in a world of wall-to-wall media deception there’s something freshly disgusting in the way this piece weaves saccharine “sympathy” for the tragically bereaved into a simplistic narrative of polarity and hatred, likely to produce nothing but more death, and more grieving families like the Maynes.

Here are just a few examples, starting with the least egregious:

In the previous week, the Russian defence ministry had provided the rebels with an array of heavy weaponry: tanks, artillery pieces and mortars. Plus undercover soldiers disguised as “volunteers”.

If Harding had prefaced this claim with “it’s rumoured” or “it has been claimed” he would be doing something closer to journalism. And if he also mentioned the counter-claims that NATO is supplying the Kiev government with weapons, or the evidence for NATO-backed mercenaries fighting for the Kiev government, or the claims of the Kiev government’s war crimes against its own people (including the use of white phosphorous, which is banned under UN rulings), there’d be something approaching balance here.

But of course none of this has any direct evidential bearing on the fate of MH17 anyway, since tanks, artillery pieces and mortars were not in any way involved in shooting down that plane. Harding is merely trying to evade the facts and plant a perception of guilt by associated ideas. But it gets a lot worse.

The Buk arrived after Ukrainian war planes started bombing rebel positions and government troops were taking back territory. Suddenly, Ukrainian military aircraft were being blown from the sky.

Note how he completely elides the fact that a Dutch Intelligence report stated only the UAF had the operational capacity to shoot down a jet liner at 20,000+ feet, and the only Ukrainian planes “blown from the skies” were taken down at comparatively low altitudes by ManPads or “light” anti-aircraft guns not BUK. If his sentence ran something like: “unverified claims have been made that a BUK arrived some time before July 17, but the only planes known to have been downed by the rebels before or after this date were brought down using portable Manpads or light SAMs”, it would be broadly definable as honest.

And then we get this:

Certainly, Russia has done everything it can to cover up the crime. The Kremlin used its UN security council veto to stop an international investigation similar to that carried out following the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing.

Getting into his stride, Luke abandons implications and guilt by juxtaposition in favour of his old standby – the outright lie. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how completely unfazed he is by the total absence of evidence anywhere that Russia covered up anything, or by the small detail that Russia did not veto an “international investigation”, at all but in fact supported UN Resolution 2166 that called for “efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines”. What does Luke think the Dutch Safety Board international investigation was if not – well, an international investigation? Is he not aware Russia supported it and supplied it with evidence?

We can be charitable and assume Harding means the proposal for a UN tribunal. Russia did veto that, it’s true, because – it argued – this was unprecedented and also premature to begin a second international investigation while the first was still underway. But this is not the same thing at all as vetoing an “international enquiry,” and Harding is surely aware of that. His narrative here amounts to a total reversal of known and established facts.
But he ain’t done yet…

Last October, a Dutch safety board report confirmed that a Buk missile launched from rebel-controlled territory hit MH17…

Is Luke trying to make us think the DSB directly blamed the “rebels” for shooting down MH17? Because to the unwary it might read as if that is what they did. But of course it isn’t, and Luke knows it. The DSB report concluded a BUK was probably responsible for the destruction of MH17 (though this is by no means conclusive), but it did not say which side had fired the missile because it could not pin down the probable launch area in a narrow enough corridor to make such a statement feasible. The claim of “rebel-conrolled territory” is word-fog designed to create the illusion of accusation where none exists.

The Buk’s crew appear to have fired on MH17 by mistake. At 5.50pm Moscow time, their leader Igor Strelkov, a veteran Russian intelligence officer, tweeted that his men had shot down another Ukrainian transport – or “bird”, as he put it.

All we need to do is note the weasel-words “appear to.” Another Harding trademark. They translate as “I want you to believe it but I have no evidence whatsoever that anything even remotely resembling this actually happened”. Admire also how he breezes right past the fact the DPR denied this tweet, and the account it emanated from, had anything to do with Strelkov at all.

You don’t have to believe it, Luke, but you do have to report it, particularly when you are building your story around the need of a bereaved family for justice.

I could go on. I could talk about Harding’s complete elision of the numerous uncertainties and controversies still surrounding almost every aspect of the incident in favour of a groundless certitude. His refusal to acknowledge the fact there is still no agreement over what shot MH17 out of the sky, never mind who (was it a BUK, as the corporate media claim, not a BUK, an SU-25, definitely NOT an SU-25, or something else again?). Or his absolute refusal to even acknowledge the fact the UAF is known to have had over 20 working BUK, while the rebels are only rumoured to have had one. Or the virtual impossibility of an untrained amateur crew being able to use one “acquired” BUK to take down anything. Or the Russian satellite data, all but ignored by western media, that seems to suggest very strange shenanigans immediately prior to the take-down of the plane. Or the numerous questions and accusations hanging over the DSB’s final report.

But you probably get the picture. The depth of the lie here and the fragility of their control over their own narrative is evidenced BTL. The comments were opened for less than three hours and at close the final page looked like this:

decimatedcommentsectionlukehardingmh17article

Other comments were simply airbrushed away in totality (we’ve all experienced that). One reader even tells us his account of 18 months standing was permanently disabled simply because he pointed out that Eliot Higgins’ work has been described as “propaganda.” Harding, of course, is known to fear the comments section and is rumoured to police it ferociously, demanding the instant banning of anyone who critiques him.

But however much he silences his critics BTL, the question still remains – what is Harding doing here? And, even if we accept he’s too lost in his narcissistic persecution complex to understand concepts of right and wrong or truth and fiction, what is the Guardian’s excuse? The Mayne family, like so many others, are looking for answers and solutions, not lies and propaganda. They want to know who killed their son. Who really, actually killed their son. because it’s the only thing they can do for him any more; the only act of caring and protection left available to them. And for that they need and deserve more than being used as the unwitting attack dogs for undeclared and lunatic agendas. They deserve the respect of honesty and full and truthful disclosure.

If they’d been given that would they still be blaming Vladimir Putin? Or would their anger be directed against other – possibly more deserving – targets, such as the media that has lied and continues to lie in the service of obscuring truth and promoting war?

I can’t tell and wouldn’t presume to dictate. But if one of my children had died so abominably I hope I would find someone willing to help me find the culprits rather than use me as a poster child for their own personal hate campaign.

July 15, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment