Ignore the propaganda. See the world through clear eyes.

Summary: Americans are confident about events on the other side of the world based only on what the government tells us. Whatever is happening over there, our unquestioning belief will not serve us well. Here are pointers to a better way.

Ministry of Propaganda

Comments on the FM website and social media overflow with people confidently agreeing with the government about poisoning of Skripal in Salisbury and the events in Syria. They do so based on what they read in the news. That’s quite bonkers. First, journalists report only the government’s narrative (and government officials lie a lot). Second, journalist report fragments of the news – in a confused manner, liberally mixed with misinformation. How remarkable is it to take these reports and clearly understand complex events on the other side of the world?

Sherlock Holmes personally investigated events, using his remarkable powers of observation and deduction. His older and smarter brother, Mycroft, solved crimes by reading the news (see “The Greek Interpreter“). Just as these remarkable Americans do!

The rest of us cannot hope to equal such feats of genius. But a more limited form of truth is out there, easily available to anyone paying attention. We can see holes in the narratives offered us. We can remember past government stories that proved to be lies. We can match stories with known facts and see lies. Even if this does not discern truth, it moves us forward.

Here are two articles of the kind that can help us.

About the Syria narrative

Caitlin Johnston at your website, 15 April 2018.

Ordinary Americans rarely thought about Russia prior to 2016. It certainly wasn’t a nation the rank-and-file west was thinking and talking about constantly. Then all of a sudden, through nothing other than the power of sheer narrative, it’s become an omnipotent, insidious force in the eyes of the public with the ability to infiltrate and overturn democracies all around the world and influence major events everywhere from the US to the UK to Syria.

The Facebook ads could have been a second-page story for one day and nobody would have cared. The DNC hack, even if it happened, could have disappeared from the news after a day or two and it would have gone unnoticed. But because the mass media propaganda machine has been hammering Russia, Russia, Russia all day every day, it now seems perfectly reasonable to believe that Putin is behind every major event in the world; perfectly reasonable for so much of the Syria saber rattling to be targeted not at Damascus but at Moscow.

This anti-Russia propaganda campaign started in 2016 not because of the 2016 election, but because that was when a Russia hawk was scheduled to replace Barack Obama in office.

In 2014, to the notice of hardly anybody, the US staged a coup in UkraineHere’s an article from the beginning of 2015 about Hillary Clinton promoting a very anti-Russia position on Ukraine which contrasted sharply with Obama’s, and here is an article from June 2015 about people on both sides of the aisle being made nervous by Clinton’s Russia hawkishness. This was long before Russia was a blip on the radar in American consciousness, but the then-heir apparent to the throne was already gearing up for escalations with that nation. …

Obama’s refusal to fully collaborate with ramping up tensions with Russia was scheduled to be rectified by Clinton, and since they didn’t get her they’re getting the same thing from Plan B.

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Another dark insight

About Trump the puppet of Putin

With Latest Syria Threats, Trump Continues to Be More Confrontational Toward Russia Than Obama Was.

By Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept, 11 April 2018.

It is common refrain among Trump’s Democratic critics that he is Putin’s “puppet.” Because the Russian government preferred him in the 2016 presidential election and has compromising information to hold over his head, so the prevailing narrative goes, Trump is predisposed toward, perhaps even captive to, Moscow’s point of view — and thus, enacts policies demanded by the Kremlin to benefit the Russians at the expense of the U.S.

Yet far beyond Trump’s hostile posture toward Russia’s client state led by Assad, the reality is the exact opposite: The Trump administration has been more belligerent, and more confrontational, toward Moscow than the Obama administration was.

Two weeks ago, Trump responded to the alleged Russian-directed poisoning attack in the United Kingdom by personally signing off on expelling 60 Russian diplomats and shuttering the Russian consulate in Seattle — just another example negating the claim that the U.S. under Trump is serving the dictates of the Russian government. Indeed, Trump’s decision on the Russian diplomats was the largest such expulsion in U.S. history: higher than the number Obama expelled after being told that the Russians had interfered in the U.S. election. (In 1986, when Ronald Reagan expelled 55 Russian diplomats, it was previously the largest number of Russian diplomats ever expelled at one time from the United States.)

After Trump ordered what the Washington Post correctly described as “the largest expulsion of Russian spies and diplomats in U.S. history,” the paper acknowledged an uncomfortable, narrative-busting truth:

“Despite Trump’s reliably warm rhetoric toward Moscow and his steadfast reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Trump administration has at times taken aggressive action against Russia at the recommendation of the president’s top aides.”

Indeed, the Post then quoted John Herbst, “a Russia scholar at the Atlantic Council,” as saying that the Trump administration has been more willing to confront Putin than the Obama administration was. “If you just look at policy, this administration has taken steps the Obama administration was not willing to.” Though Herbst somehow speculated that Trump’s “heart doesn’t seem to be in it,” he emphasized that Trump’s overall approach to Moscow has been far more in line with a hawkish view toward Russia than Obama’s was.

This assessment has ample support — beyond the bombing of Assad and the record expulsion of Russian diplomats:

{Arming Ukraine …Appointing an Anti-Russia Hawk as U.N. Ambassador …Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as the Ambassador to Germany …Nominating an Anti-Russia Hawk as CIA Director and Secretary of State …Antagonizing Russia’s Iranian Allies …Appointing a National Security Adviser Who Is Hostile to Russia …Sanctioning Russian Oligarchs Close to Putin …

But whatever else is true, Trump — notwithstanding the prevailing Democratic Party and media narrative over the last 18 months — has been far more willing to confront Russia and defy Putin than Obama ever was. While that may make think tank militarists, the defense industry, and warmongers in both parties giddy, it is extremely dangerous for the world.

What makes this all the more dangerous is that Democrats, both because of ideology and political maneuvering, have painted themselves into a corner where they cannot possibly provide any meaningful, credible opposition to Trump’s increasingly dangerous path regarding Syria and Russia.

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The Truth is Out There

Conclusions

The information and insights we need as citizens are out there. We have to want the truth more than comforting lies. We won’t know everything. We will learn uncertainty. We will learn disturbing things. See posts about making Americans less gullible, so we see our world more clearly.

I am convinced this is the necessary first step to we the people regaining control of America.

For More Information

Important to remember when reading today’s confident predictions by pundits: “The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they’re not willing to admit it” by Max Abrahms and John Glaser, op-ed in the LAT, December 2017.

The big picture about US – Russia relations: We ended the Cold War by lying to Russia. They remember, even if we don’t.

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about Russiaabout RussiaGate, about propaganda, and especially these…

  1. About the Ukraine war: The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told.
  2. Learning from the Cold War to prevent war with Russia today.
  3. Trump says the truth about our wars. Do Not Listen!
  4. The Russian cyberattack on the world that wasn’t (again).
  5. Debunking RussiaGate, attempts to stop the new Cold War.
  6. Debunking the story about Russia’s hit on Sergei Skripal.
  7. Another rush to war! This time in Syria.
  8. Secrets about our attack on Syria & Russia to help jihadists.

Two new books about our new Cold War.

Return to Cold War by Robert Legvold

Who Lost Russia?: How the World Entered a New Cold War by Peter Conradi.

See Tony Wood’s review of these new books in the London Review of Books.

Return to Cold War
Available at Amazon.
Available at Amazon.

9 thoughts on “Ignore the propaganda. See the world through clear eyes.

  1. The trick is to be skeptical and questioning depending on the source. I still find our own governments far more credible and legitimate than the Russian regime. Our institutions are imperfect of course, and have been caught out in both stupid and wrong behaviors. But they have been caught out, and its been adm

    But the Russian regime is the successor to the regime which perpetrated a genocide to dwarf the Holocaust, and one which is still in denial about its own recent history. So when they claim the British were behind Salisbury, for alleged motives which only make sense to the paranoid style, or that the latest Syrian attack was staged by White Helmets, or in the latest fantasy, also done by the British for some incomprehensible supposed reason?

    Consider the source…

    And account for the whole series. What about the other chemical attacks in Syria? Were they all staged, too? By the British? What about Markov? And the polonium poisoning? Were those all faked by British Intelligence? And the other series of Russian deaths in the UK? Was that the UK government too?

    I agree that the West’s approach to the Ukraine has been stupid. I also think the reaction in Syria was ineffective and therefore wrong even if we accept chemicals were used, so it was not sensible period. But if we are going to be paranoid and skeptical about governments, let us not give the dictatorships a free ride.

    1. George,

      “I still find our own governments far more credible and legitimate than the Russian regime.”

      Mycroft would admire the precision you bring to reading the news! Have you quantified it? Perhaps 40% skepticism to statements by US officials and 60% to Russian officials?

      Also, have you conducted a historical analysis prior to adopting this insight? That would be worth seeing. Esp the incidents (e.g., Cuban missile crisis, the Gary Powers U-2 incident) in which Russian officials were far more honest than those of the US.

      See Greg Mitchell’s article describing how journalists went along with JFK’s lies, but with much pushback. For a broader corrective see The Atlantic article “The Real Cuban Missile Crisis” by Benjamin Schwartz — “Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.”

      “But the Russian regime is the successor to the regime which perpetrated a genocide to dwarf the Holocaust, and one which is still in denial about its own recent history.”

      Quite so. It also dwarfs our genocide against the Indians — conducted by the Army using similar methods to the Soviet’s. About which Americans are still in denial. Is this part of your credibility formula?

  2. The Atlantic piece is very sobering, I had not seen it before.

    The thing we probably agree on, and agree with Trump incidentally, is that even if you accept the alleged facts, the wars are not prudent or effective or in the interests of America or the West, and that its time to stop it. We are being given statements which, even if true, do not justify the actions they are made in support of.

    How we stop it, I do not know. Wish I did.

  3. Is it the Democrats fault? They have, literally, no real power yet somehow have managed to control America’s foreign policy to such an extent that it’s forcing the easily controlled President (really?) to completely to do their bidding.

    Just think about the implication here, just for a second, even if you don’t agree with me pointing this out. Does this make any sense? Trump is being coerced by the democrats. Really? So it’s easy for him to ignore anything his opponents want him to do except on this one issue. Ok, this could be true, we simply don’t know all the facts.

    But then there are increasing amounts of serious indictments being handed out to his associates. Far more then any president in the past. Democrats again? Well, it must be, we’re told. Even though the prosecutors themselves are life-long republicans. But not real republicans we’re told. So, ok.

    Many of these charges against his associates link Russian influence not just to the election, but to ongoing business dealings he had with Russian friends ofPutin going back many years. Again, democrats must be the cause of this misdirection.

    So, the conclusion is inescapable: Democrats can and do control Republicans and by proxy control the US foreign policy and will likely get a sitting president who is backed by a totally controlled Republican government impeached and removed from power.

    OR

    It’s just propaganda by the Republicans and the democrats really aren’t or can’t do any of this.

    Here’s my take, if you think the democrats are evilly motivated, you will go with the former, and if not you’ll go for the latter. This isn’t a choice of best-evidence, it’s a typical article that just preaches to the choir. No one’s mind will be changed here.

    1. T.

      “Is it the Democrats fault? They have, literally, no real power”

      That’s not remotely correct.

      First, US foreign policy has been consistent for generations. The specific policy — aka The Long War — was began by Bush Jr, institutionalized by Obama, and is being continued essentially the same by Trump.

      Second, Democrats in Congress have consistently voted to support it. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists passed both Houses of Congress on almost unanimous votes. Ditto with most of the other supporting votes for the Long War.

      Third, the Dems had majorities in both Houses of Congress 2007-2011 (including Obama’s early years). They had a majority in the Senate (which approves Treaties and confirms officers) thru 2014.

  4. Unwinnable wars, and wars which even were they to be won would not materially strengthen any vital national interests. And overstretch, with rising deficits, the enrichment of the finance sector, and the crowding out and impoverishment of industry and commerce. It is a recipe for decline.

    If you want an historical parallel, Antoine Adam, Grandeur and Illusion. English language summary of his untranslated multi volume magnum opus on the Grand Siecle of France. Also John Wolfs history of Louis XiV. This has happened before.

    The passivity of the population in the face of it is extraordinary to someone old enough to remember Vietnam. As extraordinary as the apparent conviction that all this is rational and in the national interest.

    But, but. We do have an independent judiciary, we have real elections, we have separation of powers. There are many things wrong with us but we can change it. Russia is not where the migrants are heading for. There is a reason for that.

  5. George
    The US public is both financially as well as socially sheltered from the realities of the horrors we inflict on others.
    The monetary costs of our military follies, estimated by Jack Ma at $15 trillion, does not appear because we have the world’s reserve currency and print more at will.
    The social cost is minimized by using an all volunteer force and heavily propagandizing the public about ‘our heroes’, so that a more searching appraisal is never performed. Plus casualties are still small, because the wars have been so extensively dehumanized with drones and proxy fighters.
    The end result is that we are building up a mountain of hatred abroad, having dissipated the goodwill that America had accumulated, when initiatives such as scholarships and the Peace Corp helped give substance to the concept of America as the ‘shining city on the hill’.
    Lincoln’s Second Inaugural speech deals with the balance of justice and war. We have a large bill accruing. However, neither our judiciary nor our information and media giants appear at all eager to address this reality.

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