Three reads on Russia

12 Mar

I have a huge map of the world on my wall: 1950 cm east to west; 1200 north to south, Arctic and Antarctic excluded. The other day my brother – great guy and smart with it but, alas, having the slit-window view on the world of those solely reliant on corporate media – came for lunch.

Many know Russia to be the world’s biggest country but, until we see it mapped alongside such as Canada and China, don’t realise how vast it truly is.

“All that space”, said bro. “So why do they want Ukraine?”

Where do you start? I didn’t. I felt momentary dismay but, on my sixty-seventh orbit of the sun, have learned a thing or two about when not to waste my breath. What he and a few hundred million others know of Russian history, let alone Ukraine’s, could be written on the back of a stamp but that won’t stop him. And – oh, the irony – it’ll be me held up as a text book case of weak opinions strongly held. How I suffer in the camp of the Philistine!

“A bit of history helps”, I said, then changed the subject to one where I value his input, and he mine.

But what do you know of Russia? And who told you? I suspect Bro is a Telegraph man, which’d put him a shade ahead of those whose views are fed by Luke Harding et al in the Guardian. But truth be told, the extent of difference is slight. On matters of import to our rulers, mainstream media all sing – for reasons which need not suppose conspiracy1 – from the same hymn sheet.

That’s alarming given on the one hand the hostile choreography on Putin, on the other Russia’s status as a formidable nuclear power. Souls more circumspect – like those whose love of their children extends to not wanting them incinerated, or eking out a few years of bleak existence in some post nuclear wasteland – might see fit to get some triangulation on whether Russia really is a threat to you, me and the bairns; or simply an obstacle to the ‘right’ of a predatory few to imperialise the planet unchallenged.

To this end I offer three reads, all appearing within the last few days. First and, on the criterion of insight into a Russian perspective, most important is this crackling analysis by Dmtry Orlov of Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Russian National Assembly two days ago.

It appeared yesterday in OffGuardian, where it is preceded by my second read, RussiaGate as Organised Distraction. Written by Professor Oliver Boyd-Barrett, a Dubliner at Ohio’s Bowling Green State University, it first appeared on the Organisation for Propaganda Studies website, one of whose directors is Sheffield University’s Piers Robinson, subject of my pre Xmas post, First they came for the socialists. Impressively documented, as we’d expect from the academic credentials of both its author and the OPS directorship, it does what it says on the tin.

My third and final read, brought to us by Information Clearing House, is shorter, sharper, more  workaday in tone and less ambitious in scope. Again though, the title gives an accurate steer as to content: Russia To Defend Its Venezuela Oil Assets In ‘Toughest Way Possible’.

Over and out.

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  1. Nor should we discount all possibility of conspiracy, given rising evidence of direct military and intelligence services involvement in news production and opinion formation within corporate media. Nevertheless, as Herman and Chomsky among many others have comprehensively explored, the political economy of mass media ensures support for ‘the establishment’ on matters critical to its agendas. See for instance my review of the recent Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz.

2 Replies to “Three reads on Russia

  1. I was watching a programme on PBS America (usually quite good on Nam, WW2 and other history) dealing with Facebook. Its attack against Russia was not balanced with its non exposing of the massive US and UK trolling and reckless intervention Facebook usage which was a disappointment to say the least. It seems that even otherwise fair and unbiased media outlets cannot resist the temptation to demonize Russia at the expense of the truth. Needless to say, people will have watched the programme and swallowed the lot hook line and sinker.
    Thanks for the links, I’ll follow them up.

    Hope that media mob over at OffG in response to your post re the imprisoning of Manning has died a deaath – I can’t be arsed to deal with knuckleheads. I might have misinterpreted the introductory words of your article, but that was my bad, but perhaps I’m not as thick as I sometimes think I am on reading some of the comments. Dear oh dearie me. You were right on the money – the whole issue of Mannings reimprisonment deteriorated into IP discourse, which of course detracts from the criticism that should be directed at the US and it’s use of Skinners operant conditioning alternative to brainwashing and torture.

    • I want to pen a post on FB and other social media, Susan, though when’s a tough question.

      Yeah, the Chelsea Manning he/she furore has slowed.This morning I wrote to a pal:

      “… this is good for a writer. After the initial shock it causes us to look into the criticisms to see if there’s a modicum of truth. In this case I’m not sure. I was wrong in thinking ‘him/her’ innocuous, allowing me to place a marker without diverting from my central thrust. But was there a better way? I could have said “her” and avoided all that fuss, but there is a debate to be had around transgender identity and the suspicious ease – considering how long and hard feminists then gays had to struggle for acceptance – with which it’s gone mainstream.* I could have avoided pronouns altogether but the ensuing inelegance would have united grammar stylists and what Vaska calls the “trans IDPol PC Brigade” in anger. And I could have really thrown red meat to the wolves by insisting on “he”. (That was never going to happen, I hasten to add.) All in all, no regrets about the choice I made.

      Two, it builds character to get some flak. Writers can be too thin skinned … I’m privileged to write in a way earlier writers could not, allowing access to rapid feedback.

      Three, debate has ensued. I’d say ‘my side’ won. The comments of my detractors failed to bring a wider focus while my defenders on the whole were seeing a bigger picture.”

      * As you point out Susan, there’s also the rewriting history aspect. Chelsea was indeed Bradley at time of arrest, so why brush that aside in an ahistoric use of “she”? It reminds me of the way Liverpool Council wanted to rename Penny Lane, the eponymous Penney having made his pile as a slaver. There was international outcry and I think they backed off but, had the fab four not immortalised the street, that awkward fact would also have been erased by PC revisionism.

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