Tag Archives: propaganda

Finding truth amidst the lies about Russia & the Ukrainian civil war

Summary: Today we look at off-road sources of information about the world (especially wars), used by those who seek more than the polished narrow narratives of the western news media. What do we seek? Are we gathering information, or finding only new sources of propaganda? Answers and advice follow, using examples from the Ukraine Civil War. Post your thoughts in the comments.  {2nd of 2 posts today}

The Truth is Out There

The western news media deliver a richly detailed and polished narrative about our world. The information highway takes those seeking more detail or different perspectives to a vast array of websites offering what seem to be reliable pictures of conflicts in the far corners of the world. Usually described in the first or second person, often with graphics, pictures, or videos as evidence, they give dissidents from the mainstream worldview confidence that theirs is a more accurate worldview. Are they correct?

A frustrating aspect of cyberspace results from our inability to know what’s real. This makes effective propaganda easy to manufacture, and much of the fringe internet overflows with exaggerated, distorted, or fake news created by partisans about distant wars — some by amateurs, some by professionals. Debkafile developed many of the tactics now commonly used: details from the front lines (sometimes real, sometimes bogus) plus confident analysis dramatically presented.

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The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told

Summary: Another war starts with its barrage of propaganda on America, raising the usual questions. Can we learn from experience? Will we demand accurate information and better analysis, laughing at those who have been so often wrong?  Today’s post provides some context that might help you decide what’s happening, or at least create useful doubts.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“‘Truth,’ it has been said, ‘is the first casualty of war’.”
— Philip Snowden in his Introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel (1916).

Ministry of Truth

Contents

  1. Update from Ukraine.
  2. About previous clashes with Russia.
  3. Compare Ukraine with Vietnam.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. Other posts in this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Update from Ukraine

The US Army announced that “about 300″ soldiers from the 173rd Airborne arrived in Ukraine on April 14 “to begin a six-month training rotation with Ukrainian national guard forces”. The NY Times describes the training in the upbeat prose typical of its stenographers repeating what they’re told, with a few specifics (“The courses will train 705 Ukrainian soldiers at a cost of $19 million…”). Canada has sent 200 trainers, Britain has sent 35, and perhaps Israel has sent some as well.

There’s no mention of involvement by US Special Forces, the premier trainers of foreign armies in the methods to fight civil wars, beyond a bland announcement by Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) of deployments to train local troops in “Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia involving several hundred personnel from U.S. special forces”.  No mention of direct involvement of US special operations troops, the covert tip of DoD’s spear — but then we shouldn’t expect to be told.

Relive the cold war

(2)  Compare it to previous direct confrontations with Russia

As usual with American geopolitical analysis, many “experts” quickly lose their perspective at the first hint of conflict, venting breathless warnings that we’re in a new Cold War — perhaps even sliding to nuclear war. It led them to predicted scores of great power wars since WWII; every month brings a new crop of war rumors (last year the hot “news” concerned war between some combo of Japan, the Philippines, and China).

Back on Earth, nuclear powers tend to walk lightly around each other after their first close call. For the US and Russia that was a close brush with death in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (see the tapes of the NSC meetings described in Virtual JFK; you’ll have a far higher opinion of him after reading it). For India and Pakistan that was a not-close but still scary moment during Kargil War in summer 1999.

One glimpse of atomic death convinces national leaders to avoid direct confrontations of armed forces, relying instead on proxies willing to die for the interests of their great power sponsors. After centuries of experience, western governments have become expert in managing these.

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The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit

Summary: Seymour Hersh’s new article about the bin Laden hit is important. Most political news provides entertainment for the outer party but makes no difference in their lives. But sometimes we get a teachable moment that rips aside the narrative fed to us by government officials and journalists, revealing truths that can inspire us to change ourselves. It’s our choice.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

That’s almost the only part of the story that was correct.Bin Laden killed..

Contents

  1. Truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. Fruits of the bin Laden hit.
  3. Conclusions.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1) The truth about the bin Laden hit

Today’s vital reading: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books. It’s rich with important lessons for us.

First and most important, the various stories about the bin Laden raid by government officials (formal and leaked, quite contradictory, often unrealistic) remind us how far we’ve come since Eisenhower regretted getting caught lying to us about the Russia shooting down our U2. Now they lie light-heartedly and frequently, with no consequences when caught. Hersh pulls together and supplements what we learned from previous articles — that they lied about almost every important detail about the raid.

The information from torture played no role in locating bin Laden. Unlike what we saw in about the film Zero Dark Thirty, CIA intel played no role. A former senior Pakistani intelligence officer sold us bin Laden’s location for the $25 million reward.

The SEALs did not run a daring penetration into Pakistan. The Pakistan military knew of the raid and allowed them in and out. There was no resistance. Bin Laden did not use a woman as a shield and shoot at them; he was a sick prisoner.

It was planned as a hit, the assassination of a sick old guy. Lies were constructed afterwards to conceal this ugly truth.

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What do we learn from conservatives’ fake quotes?

Summary:  Today both Left and Right in America are dysfunctional, but they are neither equivalent nor equal in power. Today we look at the Right’s revealing love of fake quotes. {2nd of 2 posts today}

“Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it.”
Jonathan Swift, The Examiner (1710).

Obama: "American brought down"

An exceptionally dumb fake, but popular.

 

 

One astonishing aspect of today’s America is our credulity, our willingness to believe whatever matches our tribal prejudices — without the slightest evidence, no matter how improbable.

The bogus obsessions of the Right highlight this — Obama was not born in the USA, Obama is Muslim, and Benghazi Benghazi BENGHAZI!  But a more common mode of propaganda is the fake quote, preferably with a nice picture attached. These memes are launched daily, spread by gullible conservatives by email and social media.

It makes these people easy to manipulate (lousy citizens, but good followers). The Right talks big about responsibility, but apparently it does not apply when passing on information — no matter how slanderous. Or, as you’ll see from many of these quotes, idiotic.

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Do thousands of Saudi deserters show the Kingdom to be a house of cards?

Summary: One of the big themes of the FM website is that we can better learn about our world, which I consider a vital skill for 21st century citizens swimming in a sea of propaganda. Today’s post gives a fun case study from the current news, showing how for the unwary the information superhighway acts like a children’s game of “telephone”.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Spoiler of the conclusion: Fox News is the model for news in America.

The government doesn’t have one, so we built our own.

Ministry of Truth

 

Contents

  1. Why do a forensic analysis of news?
  2. Today’s hot story
  3. Conclusion
  4. For More Information

(1)  Why do a forensic analysis of news?

Following a story back to its source reveals so much about us and America. It shows how we have become so easily manipulated, and how the information superhighway doesn’t help the credulous as much as it does propagandists and businesses. In the last section you’ll find links to more forensic analysis of the news.

(2)  Forensic analysis of today’s hot story

(a)  The Fars News Agency (Iran’s semi-official news source) publishes a typical bit of propaganda. It’s useful for them. We cannot tell if it’s 100% true or false. But then few of us read Fars. “Thousands of Saudi Forces Flee Bases“, 26 April 2015. We’ll consider this the primary source (i.e., we don’t know if this is invented or reporting).

This “news” story supports a hot theory that the Saudi Princes run a house of cards that might quickly collapse.  For examples see “Saudi Arabia Plunges into an Abyss” by John Robb (Global Guerrillas, 15 January 2015) and “Will Saudi Arabia survive the Yemen War?” by Pat Lang (Colonel, US Special Forces, retired). Full disclosure: I consider Robb and Land to be serious people, but their analysis strikes me as a few steps beyond speculative.

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Is Obama purging the US military leadership?

Summary:  Today we review the good news about signs of reform from within the US military, reforms starting at the core — enforcing high ethical and performance standards on its senior officers. It’s a big story, something reformers have long demanded. More broadly, it’s a strike against the system of high, middle, and low justice that’s emerging in America. How people react to this also says much about America.

Military Virtue Medal: Romania

Usually we post about national security in the afternoon. This is both good news and important, and so the subject of both of today’s posts. {1st of 2 posts.}

{A} private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”
— Paul Yingling (Lt. Colonel, Army ) wrote this in 2007. It might be changing.

Flag officers rediscover ethics

As one of America’s most powerful institutions, the military has the ability to resist all but the most powerful external pressures for change. Reformers have often focused, correctly in my opinion, on the behavior of its senior officers — well protected by custom from punishment excerpt for the most public screw-ups. That’s changing.

Reformers have almost totally ignored this good news. The Left clamors for more heads to roll on a few narrow grounds, such as too-slow changing the definition of sexual assault. The Right typically declares this a conspiracy-mongering, covering instituted personally by Obama.  Articles like this from Breitbart flood the internet: “Is Obama Purging the Military of Dissent?“, 18 November 2013. These often give stratosphere numbers for those purged; “200” is common.

Here’s one of the most common lists: “Obama Purging Military Commanders“, The Blaze, 23 October 2013  — “The Nine Military Commanders Fired This Year by the Obama Administration.” Let’s examine the facts to see if these claims are true. Read for yourself and decide (

Spoiler: not only are these claims false, they don’t even bother to cite actual evidence for it. Read these as accounts of military recovering its mojo, taking the first steps to reform.

(1) Carter Ham (General, Army, retired)

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