Sneer and Smear…

For Vanessa Beeley, independent journalist...

As an arm of the corporate state — yes, it pretends not to be; but we know better, don’t we? — the BBC is naturally charged with certain vital propaganda tasks in the service of Western elite power.

For example, there is the need for that Western elite power to seem at all times legitimate, accountable and well-intentioned: the sanctifying, magical word used for this purpose is ‘democratic’; and once it is deployed, no fundamental disagreement is possible.

Then there is the need for that Western elite’s murderous military violence to seem necessary, just and proportionate — allowing the expropriation of foreign wealth and the progress of elite careers to continue apace without any kind of revolt from the mere taxpayer. To achieve the kind of make-over miracle by which aggression is painted as a combination of victimhood and altruism, a whole battery of beautifying propaganda terms is required, including ‘defence’, ‘response’, ‘intervention’, ‘human rights’, and ‘international law’.

Even with these rousing words conveniently to hand, however, our state broadcaster might still struggle to whip up majority support for yet another massively destructive foreign action so clearly motivated by a mixture of neoimperial greed and military Keynesianism; therefore our propagandists have developed a ‘slow burn’ approach which, acting over years and even decades, engineers an emphatically Manichean division of the world by way of the sustained, insidious use of manipulative vocabulary, tone and topic.

Which is what I want to discuss here — by way of a paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of a recent BBC article that shows with outrageous clarity how it is that the BBC’s news-replacement services induce the public to think of the world in terms of ‘the international community’ on the one hand and ‘rogue states’ on the other; as a place where nations are controlled either by ‘governments’ (legitimate) or by ‘regimes’ (non-legitimate); and where leaders are either persons of talent, probity and gravitas who just want ‘what’s best for everyone’ … or murderous kleptocratic tyrants who are, by turns, terrifying and ludicrous.

How is it done? I’ll show you…

*     *     *

My text on this occasion is the long and disgraceful piece by BBC correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse that appeared on the ‘BBC News’ website on 5th March 2018. In the discussion that follows, I will present it one paragraph at a time, and then discuss my numbered objections in sequence. If you want to view the original excrescence in situ, you will find it here.)

Okay, here we go…

The day Putin cried [1]

[1] Yes, I’m starting with the article’s title. Before you accuse me of over-zealousness, remember that there is no quicker or more efficient way of getting a message across than by means of a manipulative title — not least because a non-trivial proportion of potential readers will see a title and not read beyond it: what good propagandist will want to waste the ‘drive-by’ viewer’s single moment of engagement…?

And what does this particular title achieve? Well, for a start, observe the elements of both wish-fulfilment and instruction. Since Russian President V. V. Putin is by some way the most enduring and successful non-compliant leader on the planet, the Western elites currently have no greater desire than to see him defeated, brought down, humbled, broken. He is, in short, a major hate-figure of Western power; this being so, anything at all that presents him in a state of sorrow, distress, misery or discomfiture will not only be pleasing to the elites, but also something they are happy for the public to share. ‘Crying’ is what we must all want Putin to do…

[[Insert: Not many hours after I drafted that paragraph, Gabriel Gatehouse himself actually posted the following message on Twitter… Do I win a biscuit?]]

Moving on to the so-called ‘standfirst’ (UK journalism terminology):

As Russia prepares to elect Vladimir Putin for a fourth term as president [2] on 18 March, the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse looks back at a revealing event [3] that took place at the start of his Kremlin career — when he was Russia’s acting president, running in his first presidential election.

Here too, we see things of significance placed at a prominent, preludial stage in the article’s structure:

Since human psychology tends to confuse ‘familiarity’ with ‘truth’, the essence of propaganda is repetition

[2] ‘As Russia prepares to elect Vladimir Putin for a fourth term as president…‘: is that not a strikingly odd way to refer to a forthcoming election? In our ‘normal’ reporting of Western politics, we might see a formulation like ‘As the US prepares to elect its 46th president…‘; but it would be impossible for a ‘mainstream’ media article to say ‘As the US prepares to elect John Q Puppet as president…‘, however strong that candidate’s position in the opinion polls. The reason, of course, is that a major part of the West’s electoral charade is the idea that ‘the important decisions’ are only made ‘on the day’ and ‘by the voters’ — and thus that not until ‘the will of the people’ is finally known will it be clear who will wield power. In reality, of course, this is twaddle (whoever may win the vote, power remains in the hands of the financial services sector); but the importance of the pretence can be divined from the way it is here withheld for purposes of manipulation: the standfirst’s opening line is meant to make you feel uneasy about Russia’s democracy — and to view a Putin election victory as illegitimate.

[3] ‘A revealing event…’ As you will discover, it is nothing of the sort: these words are used to try and make you see things that aren’t there.

Now we move on to the text proper…

Russians rarely see their president cry [4], though there has been plenty of tragedy during his 18 years in power. [5] It happened once, right at the start of his rule [6] — on 24 February 2000, at the funeral of Anatoly Sobchak.

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The president who bombed seven countries in six years — dropping 26,171 bombs in 2016 alone — somehow manages to cry during a speech about gun control…

[4] In reality, citizens of many countries rarely see their leaders cry: the attitude of those who possess or seek power tends to be that tearfulness is an indication of weakness. I say ‘tends to’ with a reason: exceptions exist, mostly in proudly ‘liberal’ contexts where signs of ‘sensitivity’ and ’empathy’ — especially in men — are a political selling-point. For example, US president Barack Obama was widely praised for the tears he shed in 2016 when speaking about the Sandy Hook school massacre — even though the display was absurd: anyone who believes that the episode showed Obama to be ‘a sensitive man, healthily in touch with his emotions’ needs to remember that this president’s expanded drone assassination programme was then killing nine innocent bystanders for every intended target, and with never a whiff of due process, either.

[5] In terms of its ostensible meaning, Gatehouse’s statement can only be considered idiotic: the world being the place it is, what country’s population hasn’t seen ‘plenty of tragedy’ in the last 18 years? But, of course, Gatehouse wasn’t attempting to ‘describe reality’: as a propagandist, he was attempting to control thought — first by quickly creating the impression of Russia as a troubled and unhappy place where terrible things happen (‘… there has been plenty of tragedy…’), and then by immediately associating that with Putin himself (‘… during his 18 years in power’). See how it works?

It should also go without saying that in highlighting Putin’s tearfulness on this sole occasion (‘It happened once…’), our writer is not attempting to emphasise the Russian leader’s sensitivity. Quite the reverse. I mean, there’s been all that ‘tragedy’ over 18 years — and he’s hardly cried at all

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The essence of propaganda is repetition

[6] Every journalist embedded in the West’s state-corporate media system instinctively takes care when using the word ‘rule’ in connection with a political leader. Where an officially approved Western leader is concerned, the word is usually avoided: what we will tend to get instead are colourlessly respectful references to, say, ‘Blair’s time as Prime Minister’, ‘Obama’s administration’, and suchlike. To speak of someone’s ‘rule’ in a first-world, ostensibly democratic context — try it: ‘Cameron’s rule’, say, or ‘Merkel’s rule’; even ‘Trump’s rule’ — would seem nakedly antagonistic: one of the central sustaining lies of the West’s pasteboard democracy is that our rulers don’t ‘rule’, but merely serve. In short, the word ‘rule’ will be carefully withheld when an elected leader’s control over a country is to be prettified, and joyfully employed when it isn’t. To put it another way, in the (mis-)leading language of the West’s state-corporate media, if you are an elected president who ‘rules’ there’s likely to be something wrong with you

Sobchak was one of the men who, alongside Gorbachev and Yeltsin, helped bring about the end of the Soviet Union. He was also the reformer who plucked a middle-ranking KGB officer [7] by the name of Vladimir Putin from obscurity and gave him his first job in politics.

[7] Do I detect a sneer there? (‘Middle-ranking, puh!’ I mean, he didn’t even reach the top! And in the lousy old Soviet Union, too!‘). In our society, let me remind you, things to do with middles — ‘middle-man’, ‘middle-manager’, ‘middle-of-the-road’, ‘middling’, and so on —  don’t exactly drip with positive estimation. Had I been writing that paragraph, I would have included a fact or two (it turns out that in his 16 years as a KGB foreign intelligence officer, Putin rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel), and then allowed every reader to do their own evaluation; but, then, I’m not a paid propagandist posing as a journalist.

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The essence of propaganda is repetition

No-one really knows what drove him to make that fateful [8] decision. But today, factions from the old Soviet security establishment have taken hold of the levers of power in Russia to such an extent as to make it a democracy hardly worth the name. [9]

[8] Depending on where you stand, Sobchak’s role as Putin’s patron might be legitimately described using all kinds of terms — some of which, if true, would convey real information about the era in question: was Sobchak’s decision considered at the time to be ‘surprising’, ‘bold’, ‘risky’, ‘baffling’, ‘perspicacious’, ‘ill-advised’…? Describing it as ‘fateful’, on the other hand, merely conveys information about where Gatehouse standsi.e. in a place where the agenda is to toxify Putin and everything connected with him. As always, maximum clarification can be obtained by simply swapping the sides round: with more than 1 million Iraqi deaths on his non-existent conscience, Tony Blair ranks as one of our century’s major war criminals — yet if a BBC article ever used the word ‘fateful’ to refer to the young barrister’s decision to switch from law to politics, the screams of protest would be deafening.

[9] The Soviet Union was dissolved back in 1991; i.e. 27 years ago. Since that time, no small proportion of its ‘old security establishment’ will have died or retired: Gatehouse’s allusion — in the ‘present perfect’ tense — to ‘factions’ and their ‘hold’ is, then, mainly an attempt to scare the reader with a ‘Boo!‘ that draws on warmed-over ‘Cold War’ paranoia. Note also that while ‘the old Soviet security establishment’ is presented as something that self-evidently ought to be kept away from those ‘levers of power’, the BBC never treats the increasing influence and empowerment of the Western ‘security establishment’ as anything other than a good thing. In case you haven’t noticed, no fewer than 57 of the US Democrats running for office in 2018 — that’s around 1 in 4 — are part of the military/intelligence apparatus … while the UK continues its rapid transformation into a data-harvesting, thought-policing surveillance state with a securicrat elite and a compliant media spooked up to the eyeballs: my prediction is that we will wait in vain for Gatehouse or one of his BBC colleagues to complain that either of these countries is becoming ‘a democracy hardly worth the name’…

Image result for economist cover putin

The essence of propaganda is repetition

There are eight candidates running in this latest election, but Putin is known as the “main candidate”, and the outcome is not in any doubt. [10]

[10] To the extent that it might be true to say ‘the outcome is not in any doubt’, is this not related to Putin’s popularity with Russian citizens? I mean, are the presidential election’s results to be considered wholly independent of the actual voting? The last poll I saw put Putin at 53% — a stunning 50 points higher than the 3% of the nearest contender (V. V. Zhirinovsky), and 51 points above A. A. Navalny, the ‘opposition leader’ so feted by the West’s media. If that poll lead doesn’t make Putin ‘the main candidate’ in purely objective terms, I don’t know what would.

One rival candidate calls it a “fake election” [11]. “Just like in a casino,” she told me, “where the house always wins, in Russian democracy, the win is always on Putin’s side.” [12]

[11] It hasn’t even happened yet; but already claims that it is ‘a fake election’ are being reported by the BBC with complete seriousness.

[12] In the US, where the two barely distinguishable political parties are both pro-war and pro-corporations, one could legitimately make the point that ‘in US democracy, the win is always on globalised imperialism’s side’. Somehow, though, I can’t see Gatehouse rushing to quote someone on that subject: the long-standing attitude of the BBC is that US democracy is a beacon to the world, and therefore not something that is open to substantial or sustained criticism. In the media’s treatment of a non-compliant state, on the other hand, different rules apply: I submit as a straightforwardly empirical fact that, if Uncle Sam isn’t getting what he wants from somewhere, that country won’t be called ‘a democracy’, however many may be the ballot papers with crosses next to the leader’s, I mean the ruler’s name…

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The essence of propaganda is repetition

Her name — wait for it — is Ksenia Sobchak, and she is the daughter of Anatoly, Putin’s old friend and mentor.

Ksenia, as she is often known, is 36 years old, a former reality TV presenter-turned-opposition-journalist. Supporters of Alexei Navalny, the quote-unquote “real” opposition candidate, who’s been barred from standing [13], say she is a Kremlin stooge [14] — an old family friend drafted in by Putin to lend the election an air of credibility. [15]

[13] Note how the words ‘been barred from standing’ create the impression that Navalny is being unfairly kept out of the election because he would be a serious rival to Putin: what Gatehouse has done here is omit all mention of what appears to be the fact that Russia’s Constitution bars Navalny from standing because of his convictions for embezzlement and fraud. Needless to say, Navalny’s supporters in and (suspiciously) outside Russia insist that those convictions are merely ‘political’; whether or not that is true, the fact remains that Gatehouse should have included the relevant information — but chose to withhold it, allowing readers to jump to a congenial conclusion. Let me also mention that, over and over again, ‘second place’ in Russia’s presidential elections goes to the Communist Party candidate; yet never — literally never — does our media stoop to calling that person the ‘real’ or ‘main’ opposition candidate … if they even mention them at all. Do you want to try and work out why that is…?

[14] Keep the ‘Kremlin stooge’ idea in mind for later…

[15] What makes that line fascinating is that it points to another difference between the BBC’s handling of events in approved states on the one hand, and non-approved states on the other. Where a non-approved state is concerned, that state’s official narrative is treated with obvious contempt and obtrusive scepticism, even where supporting evidence may be available or could be sought; when dealing with an approved state, on the other hand, ‘journalistic scepticism’ is nowhere in evidence, and that state’s official narrative is the accepted narrative, however manifestly implausible it may be. This distinction is particularly important in determining which events can and cannot be discussed in terms of a possible covert motivation: as Gatehouse shows us, the idea that the Putin government, I mean regime, might secretly be running a ‘stooge’ candidate in an election is quite open to discussion, even if proposed by people with an obvious axe to grind and much to gain. By contrast, when, say, a convicted Russian traitor and former double-agent is mysteriously poisoned in a Wiltshire shopping centre, the thought that the culprit may be someone secretly attempting to influence events by doing something for which Russia will be blamed will not be explored at any level, even though the possibility is utterly obvious to anyone of normal intelligence. Or, to put it another way, modern journalistic ‘professionalism’ means knowing whether a given narrative requires the media lackey to act as inquisitor or stenographer.

The essence of propaganda is repetition

Certainly, she would not be running without the tacit permission of the authorities. That’s how Russian democracy works. [16]

[16] One wonders if the ever-obedient Gatehouse has any awareness of how ridiculous he is making himself look. Remember that the entire world has recently watched a US election campaign in which a so-called ‘primary’ was rigged in the most blatantly crooked way in order to prevent Bernie Sanders receiving the DNC nomination: the relevant ‘authorities’ wanted Hillary Clinton to be the Democrat candidate, so Sen. Sanders — in spite of massive popular support — had to butt out. Remember also that the official victor in the presidential election itself was appointed by the votes of the so-called ‘electoral college’ (Trump: 306; Clinton: 232) in spite of having lost the ‘popular vote’ (Trump: 46.4%; Clinton: 48.5%). I feel fairly confident that, if Gatehouse ever touches upon these electoral obscenities in one of his pieces, he will neither refer to a US candidate’s need to have ‘the tacit permission of the authorities’ nor crown his discussion with the cynically dismissive phrase ‘That’s how US democracy works‘. (On top of which, just imagine what would happen in our media if the same kind of result occurred in Russia; i.e. if Putin won in spite of losing!)

But the men in grey suits who run the Kremlin may be regretting their decision. Ksenia is touring TV studios naming corrupt cronies around Putin and calling the annexation of Crimea illegal. If, as she maintains, she is running not to win but to be heard, then she is certainly breaking some taboos. [17]

[17] Remember my earlier comment about official enemies being presented as both terrifying and ludicrous? I meant it absolutely seriously: it’s a basic technique of political and geopolitical ‘Othering’ — indeed, it happens in innumerable other contexts as well (take a look at the anti-Schoenberg literature sometime!), probably as a consequence of what experimental psychology knows as the centrality of ‘warmth’ and ‘competence’ to human evaluation (see Cuddy et al. [2008]: ‘Warmth and Competence as Universal Dimensions of Social Perception: The Stereotype Content Model and the BIAS Map‘). I don’t think it takes a genius to see the Western image of the ‘terrifying’ Putin as being a ‘low warmth’ stereotype, and the ‘ludicrous’ Putin as a reflection of the need to indicate ‘low competence’. (In case you’ve missed the ‘ludicrous’, the BBC itself has gone all the way from joyful reporting of Putin’s clumsy marriage proposal to joyful reproduction of any photo that shows him outdoors without a shirt…)

[[Insert: The paragraph above was drafted on 13th March; finished on 14th March, and uploaded on 15th March. On 16th March the BBC proved me even righter by posting the following on Twitter…bbcputinshirt16March2018]]

[[You thought I didn’t know what I was talking about? You thought I made this stuff up? Guess again…]]

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The essence of propaganda is repetition

And what is happening at this point in Gatehouse’s production provides yet another example: the need for ‘low warmth’ explains our propagandist’s packaging the idea that Ksenia Sobchak is ‘a Kremlin stooge’ (Oh, those dastardly Russians!) — while ‘low competence’ inheres in the notion that the ‘stooge’ they created is now running amok, careering out of control (Oh, those clueless Russians!).

So what on Earth is going on?

Answer: we are in the middle of a tawdry and mendacious hit-piece from the stinking centre of our elite-serving media, designed to poison minds against a non-compliant foreign leader whose resource-rich country the West’s gangster capitalists desperately want another chance to rip apart and plunder. Or is that not what you meant?

Let’s leave the daughter for a moment and go back to the father. He was mayor of St Petersburg. Putin was his deputy. [18] The two were so close that when Sobchak senior was accused of corruption [19], Putin helped spirit him out of the country on a specially chartered aeroplane. That was in the 1990s.

[18] ‘He was mayor of St Petersburg’…? Sobchak was actually the first democratically elected mayor of St Petersburg: Gatehouse, clearly,  is happy for you not to have the issue clouded by unnecessary talk of democracy. Hell, before we know where we are, some of these elections might start to seem legitimate

[19] According to wikipedia, Anatoly Sobchak was accused of ‘irregularities in the privatization of his own apartment, his elder daughter’s apartment, and his wife’s art studio‘; the accumulated losses to the city finances are described as ‘in the tens of thousands of dollars‘. This, while conceivably very dishonest indeed, pales into comical insignificance in comparison with the literal billion-dollar thefts of assets and resources carried out by well-placed and ruthless individuals in those post-Soviet years. Yet, rather than provide the details that would indicate Sobchak to be a man of distinctly limited criminal ambition, Gatehouse simply refers to ‘corruption’ — and leaves the reader to imagine something of shocking audacity and scale. What’s more, he doesn’t mention Ksenia Sobchak’s claim that the accusations were an attempt ‘to prevent her father from running in future presidential elections’.

Image result for economist cover putin

The essence of propaganda is repetition

Remember those days? Russia was in chaos. Its president, Boris Yeltsin, was frequently drunk and barely functioning. [20]

[20] Note that Yeltsin was functioning quite well enough to enable the economic gang-rape of his country — with those state-owned assets being privatised at fire-sale prices, and massive amounts of wealth vanishing offshore. For many millions of Russia’s citizens, the consequences were genuinely tragic; but since the beneficiaries included major Western corporations and individuals who became billionaires, our corporate-serving, billionaire-owned media seldom discusses the issue in any detail.

The men in grey suits in the Kremlin thought they’d found just the solution — another grey man, a blank slate, from which to build the ideal antidote to Yeltsin. [21] They began grooming Putin as his successor.

[21] Aside from the need to sneer at Putin, I can’t think of any reason why the term ‘blank slate’ should be applied to him. Nor can I imagine why the ‘ideal antidote to Yeltsin’ should come in the form of a figure ‘built from a blank slate’. Or, rather, I can — because I know what it is that Gatehouse can’t bring himself to say out loud, and why it is that its suppression makes nonsense of what he does say. What he can’t — mustn’t! — allow his readers to know is that the seven oligarchs who were essentially running Russia — and bleeding it dry — at the end of the Yeltsin era were persuaded by the security services to see Putin as someone who would restore a superficial kind of order while not interfering with turbo-charged oligarchic ‘larceny-as-usual’. On that basis, Putin was accepted — only for the maggots in Russia’s flesh to discover that, far from being a bureaucratic caretaker happy to turn a blind eye, this ‘ideal antidote to Yeltsin’ was actually a patriot with a strong aversion to seeing stolen wealth transform itself into political power.

(Come on, folks: who’s better at this? Me, or Gatehouse?)

Then, suddenly, just as Putin was running for president for the first time, his old friend Anatoly Sobchak died, at the age of 62, in a hotel room in Kaliningrad.

The autopsy said it was cardiac arrest but can’t [sic]  find any trace of a heart attack. [22] Sobchak’s widow suspected foul play and had her own autopsy done.

[22] Gatehouse’s text is garbled here, so I cannot be sure what meaning was intended. But it may be worth recalling that Sobchak’s wikipedia entry makes passing mention of a heart condition: at its most uninteresting, then, the story of his death might reduce to ‘man with heart condition succumbs to heart attack’.

The essence of propaganda is repetition

Her name is Lyudmila Narusova. I met her recently and asked her if she thought her husband had been murdered. She paused long enough to say “Yes” 10 times over, and then replied: “I don’t know.” [23]

[23] See why I used the word ‘outrageous’ in referring to this piece? The nasty little trick above is — quite literally — as bad as anything I have ever seen in English-language journalism: in a media that sought to serve the public rather than the elites, Gatehouse would have been clearing his desk ten minutes after submitting his copy. According to his report, Narusova merely said ‘I don’t know’ — yet our propagandist feels entitled to conjure up a ‘Yes’, in quotes, before the reader’s eyes … by stating how many times she could have said the word in the several seconds when she wasn’t saying anything. I need hardly point out that she could have used that pause to say literally any number of things: she could have repeated the equally monosyllabic word ‘No’ just as many times; or she could have opted to fill the gap with ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘; but of course Gatehouse was not attempting to place either of those words in the mind of the reader, was he?

One is tempted to describe this truly disgusting exhibition as an abdication of the most basic journalistic standards — except that it isn’t really: this is precisely what ‘BBC News’ exists to do — and at your expense, too. (Note also that Gatehouse neglects to tell you that Narusova was and is a Russian politician. Yes, she has skin in the game…)

Some have suggested Putin may have had a hand in his death. [24] Did Sobchak have something on him? Narusova dismissed that idea out of hand

[24] Ah, that sneaky old ‘Some have suggested…‘: the favourite trick of the hack who desperately wants to take charge of the reader’s perceptions, but doesn’t actually have a quote that can be stood up.

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“Mmm! Delicious!”

Let’s take a moment to unpack the absolute nothing contained in that gaudy wrapping: Putin ‘may’ [sic] ‘have had a hand in’ [sic] the death of his friend Sobchak, according to what has been ‘suggested’ [sic] by ‘some people’ [sic]. (Pause, then read on…) My point is, of course, that all sorts of people suggest all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons: what matters — to a real journalist, anyhow — is the need to say who is doing the suggesting, and what their evidence might be. If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find ‘some have suggested’ that Putin’s eyelids close sideways when no-one is around, and that he sucks out the blood of tiny puppies in the belief that this will give him eternal life; but without proper support, it’s nothing but waffle.

Oh, and look: Narusova ‘dismissed the idea out of hand’ — but Gatehouse planted it in the reader’s mind nevertheless…

I went back and looked at the footage of the funeral.

Putin really is distraught. His eyes are red, he seems to struggle to swallow as he embraces Lyudmila Narusova. Putin is not an actor. Nor is he prone to public displays of emotion. So it’s reasonable to assume that he is struggling with some genuine grief. [25] Or is it something else. Guilt? [26]

[25] Summary: ‘Man shows intense emotion at funeral of close friend and supporter dead at 62’. Gosh! You don’t say…!

The essence of propaganda is repetition

[26] … Oh, actually, you don’t say: suddenly, and completely out of nowhere — the same nowhere inhabited by the ‘some who have suggested’ — you invent something other than ‘genuine grief’ to explain what looks exactly like genuine grief. This sudden arrival of fantasised ‘guilt’ is in fact a handy demonstration of Doran’s Third Law — which states that, where a non-compliant leader is concerned, anything goes: to all intents and purposes, there are no limits to what a journalist-impersonator can get away with saying about him or her — and no restrictions on the extent to which ‘Occam’s razor’ can be disregarded.

“There were people who were manoeuvring Putin into power,” Narusova told me. [27]

[27] What’s that? Man with political ambitions is manoeuvred into power by persons of influence? Gosh, really? Thank heaven we in the West never witness anything so shocking…!

She’s right. Back then, Putin was a vehicle to power for various factions inside the Kremlin. To some extent he still is. [28]

[28] What’s that? Man acquiring political power functions as enabler for sundry insiders and their agendas? Gosh, really? Thank heaven we in the West never witness anything so shocking…!

If Sobchak was murdered, was it by one of those factions who feared his mentor’s hold over him? [29] Maybe. [30] And if so, did the old KGB officer realise his old friend died in the furtherance of Project Putin. [31] It’s only a suspicion, but I’m beginning to think so. [32]

[29] Translation: If this thing actually happened, could its happening have been engineered by unnamed people worried that unspecified things might happen if it didn’t happen? Well, myself, I’d say that was a definite ‘maybe‘…

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The essence of propaganda is repetition

[30] See?

[31] Translation: If this happening really had been engineered by unnamed people worried that unspecified things might happen if it didn’t happen, was Putin crying because he had realised why it had happened?

[32] Just imagine that Gatehouse had written this utter garbage about an official ally — King Salman of Saudi Arabia, for example — rather than an official enemy. His BBC editor would have thrown the junk back at him.

I asked Narusova about that autopsy she had done.

It turns out she never made the results public, but keeps the documents locked in a safe in a secret location outside Russia. When I asked her why, she didn’t want to talk about it.

I pressed her. I said, “It sounds like you’ve got yourself some kind of insurance policy.” [33]

[33] Or, conceivably, an autopsy report that doesn’t say anything remotely interesting, and whose value, therefore, only exists as long as its contents remain unreleased

“You could see it that way,” she responded.

“Are you afraid,” I asked, “for your own safety or that of your daughter?”

She paused for a moment.

“You know,” she said, “to live in this country is scary. Especially for those who hold opposition views. [34] So yes, I am afraid. I am…”

[34] Trust me, madam: quite a few countries are scary to live in for ‘those who hold opposition views’. Ask Fred Hampton; or Michael Hastings; or Seth Rich. Ask Berta Cáceres; or Marielle Franco. Ask Hilda Murrell; or Pat Finucane; or Willie MacRae, or Dr David Kelly. Oh, hang on: you can’t, can you…?

Image may contain: 1 person, sittingAll right, we’ve finally come to the end of Gabriel Gatehouse’s disgracefully manipulative screed. If you want to look again at the original without my comments but in their inevitable light, you can go here; either way, note that not only is it shockingly the case that there is hardly a single sentence in it that doesn’t contain something objectionable, but the piece actually contains no small number of things that should not have been published in any journalistic context whatsoever. Yet here is the ‘news service’ of the UK’s national broadcaster passing it on — for general, indeed worldwide consumption…

Sensible readers will also have observed that Gatehouse’s text contains almost nothing that can be considered significant information or insightful commentary; and my point is that it doesn’t intend to: the function of his article is to help create and cement — by way of what I called ‘the sustained, insidious use of manipulative vocabulary, tone and topic‘ — a ‘climate of public opinion’ within which energy-rich Russia in general and non-compliant Putin in particular are felt to be sufficiently ‘bad’ that it really doesn’t matter what is done to them, either by ‘us’ or by someone else.

And that, dear reader, is what propaganda is all about. We’re the good guys — and that’s all that matters. The other lot is… well, who cares about the other lot. They and their badness just have to be defeated, that’s all.

Shall we send some missiles? You can’t reason with such people; but they’ll understand missiles, won’t they…?

And we’ve got such good ones, haven’t we? I mean, what could possibly go wrong…?

Note: The above is long piece written in a great hurry. Suggestions and corrections will be gratefully received, and a final text will probably not be in place for several days: readers might care to come back in a week or so and see what has been improved…


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22 thoughts on “Sneer and Smear…

  1. Mark, I think this analysis is excellent, but spoilt (if I may so) by your excessively sarcastic tone. If you turned that down, I think that your point might be taken by a somewhat wider audience.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you, Mr. Doran, it’s knowing that people like you are still around that gives one hope for the future.

    It’s intensely painful for someone who lived under the communist thugs when they ruled the East to see the Western political elites to reach this level of moral decrepitude. In Soviet Russia one couldn’t publish a narrative such as this, the elites did what they pleased. In the West today, one can still publish it, but the elites do as they please, too. Tragic this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • In the capitalist west the elites control citizens’ minds not via pervasive censorship and cartoonish propaganda but by framing the parameters of what can be talked about and debated in the public arena. Anyone who challenges the establishment narrative is simply dismissed as a crank conspiracy theorist (or a “Russian troll”, “Putin-bot” etc.) and shut out of the “debate”. It is a very effective system of propaganda and mind-control because it maintains the illusion of a robust free press that speaks truth to power.

      I have heard it said often times that in Eastern bloc countries during Cold War 1.0 everybody knew the news media pumped out propaganda and could therefore not be trusted…but in the West, where propaganda and mind-control techniques are more subtle (but not THAT subtle) many people still believe they can trust the information the media feeds them.

      It is a bit depressing how even after fake Iraqi WMDs, “dead” incubator babies, the “fall” of Aleppo and the increasingly not-so-subtle hysterical and jingoist demonization of leaders and countries the US/UK/NATO/Israel axis have marked for subjugation and destruction.

      Liked by 6 people

  3. Excellent dissection of the media’s shameless and profoundly anti-democratic propaganda campaign relentlessly mocking and vilifying Vladimir Putin for having the gall to stop western imperial expansion before it can destroy more states and their people (including Russia). These are the twilight days of the already badly compromised post-Second World War experiment in liberal capitalist democracy. The state and its media organs are now openly hostile towards the citizenry. Unfortunately too many people still believe the guff about our “free” press and “democratic” government. May the scales fall gently, but quickly, from their eyes.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Great article, and if I may say so, I appreciate your tone. It emphasises, for me, how the mindless non-thinkers of this world are so totally blinkered and robotic-like in their blind faith. Never considering to question anything.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Mr Corbyn supports the Palestinian cause, the Palestinians are a Semitic people – so how is he “Anti-Semitic?”
    I’m amazed and disappointed that such vacuous nonsense passes for intelligent comment when so little knowledge is needed to reveal its true nature.
    America is picking a fight with Russia, using Britain as a Trojan horse, and the Zionist faction is smearing the likely opposition before they can object.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. The ‘people’ are in lock down ~ the news is delivered to the couch potatoes. They are bred to accept the MSM and either they are too lazy to examine the duplicitous tripe or they don’t care and likely watched some sporting event cuz they don’t want their reality to be ruined.
    They are willing to send their kids off to die for lies for the ‘red white & blue’ ~
    Then there are those of us who wish they’d all come home in body bags cuz we detest mercenaries.
    All this propaganda is what leads those idiots to crave war and invasions.
    In a few days Vlad and Don will have a pow wow. I commend DT for going and not listening to the lowlifes in his admin and the disgusting Librul dirtbags. He had the guts (to make a deal) to speak with Kim Jong-un and then the Libruls were up in arms cuz a pull out of all military troops and the end of the war games ie the end of the colonization of S. Korea was a very likely scenario. Bad for the Libruls who get their $ from Wall St where an end of the war games and the colonization would disrupt the money flow into the DNC coffers.
    Meanwhile Russia and China are building a real inter connection and the West’s grip on reality is slipping away. Even ‘Greater Israhell’ is seeing the ‘greater’ vanish! yeaaaaa gawd how i detest Israhell
    Viva Russia / Viva Syria
    I’m heading back to the Montana from Mexico tomorrow ~ it’s about 4 times cheaper to get dental work done here than in the Capitalist US of A.
    Really appreciate your journalism Mr. Doran. i see Vanessa Beesley on your site ~ i do my best to support Eva Bartlett and will see how i can swing some coin your way. Thank you for the great analysis.


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