Commentary: Western Cold War fever broke into beads of sweat this week with yet more doom-laden reports warning about Russia 'winning the information war'. That's a revealing way to look at journalism and news -- as 'warfare'. But is Russia really winning an "information war"? Funny how you don't ever hear Russian leaders speaking in those terms. Or is it just a more prosaic matter of Russian news media providing a closer approximation to the truth on major world events than Western counterparts?
Russia Winning 'Information War'
-- or Just Telling the Truth? Finian Cunningham / RT News
(October 1, 2016) -- Western Cold War fever broke into beads of sweat this week with yet more doom-laden reports warning about Russia 'winning the information war'. That's a revealing way to look at journalism and news -- as 'warfare'.
But is Russia really winning an "information war"? Funny how you don't ever hear Russian leaders speaking in those terms. Or is it just a more prosaic matter of Russian news media providing a closer approximation to the truth on major world events than Western counterparts?
Then it added: "The West must step up its efforts to combat and counter the information war being waged by its opponents, according to NATO officials. They warn that countries like Russia are exploiting the freedom of the press in Western media to spread disinformation."
In a separate report, the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Jr. sent members of Congress the summary of a new classified assessment on alleged Russian "information warfare".
The top American spymaster specifically accuses Russian news broadcasters RT and Sputnik of subverting Western societies by tapping into radical groups and sowing public confusion. Clapper warned that Russian "statecraft" was now relying equally on "media propaganda" and "military intimidation" to further geopolitical interests.
Going back to VOA, it quotes Edward Lucas, senior editor at The Economist, as saying that RT and Sputnik should not even be considered as legitimate news channels.
Lucas claims: "Russia has really grasped the post-truth environment. And they will lie about things absolutely brazenly. They understand the weaknesses of our media in the post-Cold War environment: that we prioritize fairness over truth."
It's not hard to see where this kind of logic is going: NATO, a military-security organization, is declaring that Western societies are under threat from Russian subversion; Western state intelligence services label specific Russian media threats; and Western media establishment figures lead public opinion to view said Russian outlets as "illegitimate". The next short step is for Western governments to ban Russian news channels from the airwaves and Internet -- on the basis of "national security".
The tunnel vision here is astounding. Western arrogance and self-righteousness is betrayed by such casual, deprecatory qualifiers of Russian channels as "state-owned" or "close to the Kremlin". This week, for example, France 24's media watch presenter James Creedon airily dismissed a report on the US elections published in Sputnik because "it is close to the Kremlin".
What about France 24? The BBC? Or Deutsche Welle? Somehow these channels are not qualified as "state-owned" or "close to Paris, London or Berlin" -- even though they very arguably are.
Voice of America is also government-owned, but Western pundits don't seem to have any qualms about its evidently pro-Washington bias.
No qualifications or qualms because Western establishment media -- whether state-owned or private -- assumes to be immanently "truthful" and "independent". That assumption is based on arrogant delusion.
Take an editorial piece in the New York Times this week. The paper is privately owned, therefore presumed to be independent from US government, and is considered a paragon of American journalistic excellence.
Under the headline, 'Vladimir Putin's Outlaw State', it opines: "President Vladimir Putin is fast turning Russia into an outlaw nation. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, his country shares a special responsibility to uphold international law. Yet, his behavior in Ukraine and Syria violates not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency."
Based on a dubious, partisan investigation released this week on the 2014 downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine and, secondly, on unverified reports of civilian casualties from air strikes in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the NYT accuses Russia of "butchering civilians" and of being an "outlaw state" deserving prosecution in the International Criminal Court.
Such monstrous hubris! For decades, the US and its Western allies have been obliterating international law with illegal wars, destroying nations like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, killing millions of civilians -- and yet the supercilious New York Times, which provided the justifying lies for these crimes, castigates Russia for "violating rules to promote peace and common human decency".
The Western media have become so embedded in the ideological matrix of the ruling Western class that they no longer know what the meaning or purpose of genuine journalism is. It is not a public service to inform. It is an administration of permissible public thinking as dictated by the oligarchic complex of corporations, banks and the military-security apparatus.
Just this week, American forces and their various allies killed civilians in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen. Bloodied children's bodies were pulled like lifeless rag dolls from rubble in Yemen after US-supported Saudi air strikes continued their week-after-week slaughter of civilians there.
No coverage of these crimes in Western media. No emotive denunciations from UN officials. No calls for sanctions, prosecutions or editorial condemnations of Washington and its allies as "outlaw states".
On Syria, as in many of the above conflicts, it is due to fair and independent reporting and analysis by Russian media outlets that citizens around the world have been able to find out what is really going on.
The proof of Russian news channels are the growing audiences for these channels, in particular among Western citizens. It is the height of elitist conceit for Western pundits and governments to ascribe this paradigm shift to "Kremlin propagandists and manipulation".
People are choosing news services based on their own judgment about which version of news concurs with how the world really is, not how the world ought to be as designated by Western Cold War ideology.
In recent years, Russian news outlets have given international audiences a broader, more accurate view on a whole host of events and issues.
By contrast, Western governments and evidently the mainstream Western media have a uniform, preconceived narrative, or policy of omission, on Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, cyber-hacking, Donald Trump as a "Putin agent", Russia as a "rogue state", "accidental" US air strikes, Russia "targeting" UN aid convoys, and so on and so on.
Turns out that many ordinary people out there, including many Americans and Europeans, just don't buy those narratives as credible. That's democracy.
They look at Syria and see a covert war orchestrated by Washington and its allies since March 2011, using proxy insurgents dominated by vile terror groups armed and trained by Western powers.
Many people view Syria and its ally Russia as having the legal and moral right to crush this foreign-fueled criminal war of aggression.
Russian media, unlike Western counterparts, have reported crucial information on the real nature of the Syrian conflict and how it has been fomented covertly by Washington. Russian media have also reported on how the West has manipulated disinformation about the humanitarian crisis in the city of Aleppo through such propaganda conduits as the so-called White Helmets "first responders" who in reality are part of the West's terror proxy army.
This is not "winning an information war". It is simply telling the truth about what is going on in the world.
But, of course, if your interests are about systematically violating international law and subterfuge, then the truth is indeed a matter of "war".
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism.
For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
What Putin Really Said at the UN Matheous77 / YouTube
(August 11, 2016) -- I noticed that all of the translations on Youtube of what Putin actually said at the UN General Assembly on September 28th 2015 were either very vague or unclear. I have translated this to make it more understandable as to what Putin was trying to express.
''Just look at the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, as mentioned by the previous speaker. Indeed, political and social problems had been brewing there for quite some time, and the people there had naturally wished for changes.
But how did things actually end up turning out? Rather than bring reform, aggressive foreign intervention had instead unceremoniously lead to the destruction of state institutions and the very way of life. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress; there is violence, poverty, and social disaster, and a disregard for human rights; including the right to life.
One cannot help but ask those who created such a situation: Do you now realize what you have done? But I'm afraid that no one is going to answer that; as politics based on self-conceit, impunity, and beliefs in exceptionalism are not easily abandoned.
It is now obvious that the power-vacuum created in some countries in the Middle East and North Africa has lead to the emergence of areas of anarchy, which have immediately begun to be filled with extremists and terrorists.
Tens of thousands of militants are now fighting under the banner of the so-called ''Islamic State.'' Among them include former Iraqi servicemen who were thrown out onto the street after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Many recruits also come from Libya, a country whose statehood was destroyed as a result of the gross violations of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. And now the ranks of the radicals have been joined by the so-called ''moderate'' Syrian opposition supported by the Western countries.
First they are armed, and trained, and then they defect to the so-called ''Islamic State' side. The ''Islamic State'' itself did not just appear from nowhere. It was also initially created as a tool against undesirable secular regimes.
Having established a foothold in Iraq and Syria, the ''Islamic State'' is now actively expanding and is seeking dominance in the Islamic world; and not only there, its plans go even further than that . . . This situation is extremely dangerous.
Under these circumstances it is hypocritical and irresponsible to make loud declarations about the threat of international terrorism, and at the same time turn a blind eye to the channels of funding of support for terrorists, including the proceeds from drug-trafficking, and the illicit trading of arms and oil.
It would be equally irresponsible to try to manipulate extremists groups, and place them at one's service in order to achieve one's own political objectives, in the hope of later ''dealing'' with them, or in other words: ''eliminating'' them.
To those who carry out such acts, I would like to say: that you are no doubt dealing with violent and cruel people, but they are by no means primitive nor stupid -- they are just as clever as you are, and you never know who is manipulating who for their own purposes. The recent data of arms transfers to the most ''moderate'' opposition to terrorists, is the best evidence of that.
We believe that any attempts to play games with terrorists, especially arming them, is short-sighted and extremely hazardous. This may result in increasing the global terrorism threat, and engulfing new regions around the world, especially given the fact that Islamic state-run camps train militants from many different countries, including European countries.
Unfortunately, I must admit dear colleagues that Russia is no exception. We cannot allow these criminals who have already tasted blood, to return back home where they will continue their evil deeds. We do not want this to happen, and neither does anyone else.
Russia has always consistently fought against terrorism in all of its forms. Today we provide military and technical assistance to both Iraq and Syria, and many other countries in the region who are fighting against terrorist groups.
We believe that it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the legitimate Syrian government and its armed forces, and with those who are courageously fighting terrorism face-to-face. We should also acknowledge that no one but President Assad's army, and Kurdish militias, are truly fighting Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria.
We understand all of the problems and contradictions in the region, but we must proceed in accordance with reality.
Dear colleagues, I must note that in recent years our honest and direct approach has been used as a pretext to accuse Russia of growing ambitions, as if those who say it have no ambitions themselves.
However, dear colleagues, it's not about Russia's ambitions, but recognition of the fact that we can no longer tolerate the current state of affairs in the world.''
Putin to UN: America Is Destroying
The World, and Only We Can Stop It Joshua Keating / Slate
(September 28, 2015) -- Both Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin frequently claim to reject outdated Cold War thinking, but it's hard to avoid the comparison when both leaders devoted their addresses to the UN General Assembly on Monday morning to rejecting the other's worldview.
Speaking shortly after Obama dismissed Russia's view that Syria's Bashar al-Assad can be a partner in fighting ISIS, Putin, making his first address to the General Assembly in a decade, blamed foreign -- read: US -- interference for helping the spread of extremism in the Middle East. "Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in the brazen destruction of institutions," he said.
Addressing "those who've caused the situation," Putin said he's temped to ask, "do you realize now what you've done?" (Putin never referred to the US specifically, only to an unnamed Voldemort-like malevolent presence doing terrible things in the world.)
Attacking the policies of two US presidents in one fell swoop, Putin noted that the ranks of ISIS include former Iraqi service members who were decommissioned after the 2003 invasion, as well as the "ranks of so-called moderate opposition. First they are armed and trained, and then they defect to the Islamic State."
Saying "we cannot allow these criminals who have already tasted blood to return home and continue their evil doings," Putin argued that ISIS's growth poses a threat to all nations, including Russia, and called for the formation of an international partnership "similar to the anti-Hitler coalition" in order to fight them. (That would be a coalition with several brutal dictators competing for the role of Stalin.)
This wasn't the only historical analogy in Putin's remarks. He also compared western attempts to spread democracy in the Middle East to Soviet-era experiments in spreading Communism around the globe, suggesting they were destined for similar failure. "No one has to conform to a single development model that someone has recognized as the only right one," he said.
Moments after Obama rejected the notion of a "conspiracy of US-controlled NGOs" to overthrow governments around the world, Putin described the 2014 overthrow of Ukraine's government as a "military coup" that was "orchestrated from outside."
Putin also defended Russia's use of its veto at the UN Security Council, which US officials say undermines the authority of the body by shielding violators of international law from criticism and sanctions. Russia's response is that the US is simply irritated by a check on its unrestrained power in international affairs.
Putin rejected criticism of Russia's veto as "a dangerous attempt to "undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations" by a power who "thought they knew better and didn't have to reckon with the UN."
Wonder who he could be talking about.
Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.