Caitlin Johnstone, yesterday …
Russia-Afghanistan Story Is Western Propaganda At Its Most Vile
All western mass media outlets are now shrieking about the story The New York Times first reported, citing zero evidence and naming zero sources, claiming intelligence says Russia paid out bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan for attacking the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. As of this writing, and probably forevermore, there have still been zero intelligence sources named and zero evidence provided for this claim.
As we discussed yesterday, the only correct response to unsubstantiated claims by anonymous spooks in a post-Iraq invasion world is to assume that they are lying until you’ve been provided with a mountain of hard, independently verifiable evidence to the contrary. The fact that The New York Times instead chose to uncritically parrot these evidence-free claims made by operatives within intelligence agencies with a known track record of lying about exactly these things is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. The fact that western media outlets are now unanimously regurgitating these still 100 percent baseless assertions is nothing short of state propaganda.
The consensus-manufacturing, Overton window-shrinking western propaganda apparatus has been in full swing with mass media outlets claiming on literally no basis whatsoever that they have confirmed one another’s “great reporting” on this completely unsubstantiated story.
“The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have confirmed our reporting,” the NYT story’s co-author Charlie Savage tweeted hours ago.
“We have confirmed the New York Times’ scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan,” tweeted The Washington Post‘s John Hudson.
“We matched The New York Times’ great reporting on how US intel has assessed that Russians paid Taliban to target US, coalition forces in Afg which is a pretty stunning development,” tweeted Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.
All three of these men are lying.
John Hudson’s claim that the Washington Post article he co-authored “confirmed the New York Times’ scoop” twice uses the words “if confirmed” with regard to his central claim, saying “Russian involvement in operations targeting Americans, if confirmed,” and “The attempt to stoke violence against Americans, if confirmed“. This is of course an acknowledgement that these things have not, in fact, been confirmed.
The Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Gordon Lubold cites only anonymous “people”, who we have no reason to believe are different people than NYT’s sources, repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions about an intelligence report. The article cites no evidence that Lubold’s “stunning development” actually occurred beyond “people familiar with the report said” and “a person familiar with it said“.
The fact that both Hudson and Lubold were lying about having confirmed the New York Times‘ reporting means that Savage was also lying when he said they did. When they say the report has been “confirmed”, what they really mean is that it has been agreed upon. All the three of them actually did was use their profoundly influential outlets to uncritically parrot something nameless spooks want the public to believe, which is the same as just publishing a CIA press release free of charge. It is unprincipled stenography for opaque and unaccountable intelligence agencies, and it is disgusting.
None of this should be happening. The New York Times has admitted itself that it was wrong for uncritically parroting the unsubstantiated spook claims which led to the Iraq invasion, as has The Washington Post. There is no reason to believe Taliban fighters would require any bounty to attack an illegitimate occupying force. The Russian government has denied these allegations. The Taliban has denied these allegations. The Trump administration has denied that the president or the vice president had any knowledge of the spook report in question, denouncing the central allegation that liberals who are promoting this story have been fixated on.
Yet this story is being magically transmuted into an established fact, despite its being based on literally zero factual evidence.
Outlets like CNN are running the story with the headline “Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill US troops“, deceitfully presenting this as a verified fact. Such dishonest headlines are joined by UK outlets like The Guardian who informs headline-skimmers that “Russia offered bounty to kill UK soldiers“, and the Murdoch-owned Sky News which went with “Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan” after “confirming” the story with anonymous British spooks.
Western propagandists are turning this completely empty story into the mainstream consensus, not with facts, not with evidence, and certainly not with journalism, but with sheer brute force of narrative control. And now you’ve got Joe Biden once again attacking Trump for being insufficiently warlike, this time because “he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law”.
You’ve also got former George W Bush lackey Richard Haas promoting “a proportionate response” to these baseless allegations.
“Russia is carrying out covert wars vs US troops in Afghanistan and our democracy here at home,” Haas tweeted with a link to the New York Times story. “A proportionate response would increase the costs to Russia of its military presence in Ukraine and Syria and, using sanctions and cyber, to challenge Putin at home.”
Haas is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a wildly influential think tank with its fingers in most major US news outlets.
And indeed, the unified campaign to shove this story down people’s throats in stark defiance of everything one learns in journalism school does appear to be geared toward advancing pre-existing foreign policy agendas which have nothing to do with any concern for the safety of US troops. Analysts have pointed out that this new development arises just in time to sabotage the last of the nuclear treaties between the US and Russia, the scaling down of US military presence in Afghanistan, and, as Haas already openly admitted, any possibility of peace in Syria.
“This story is published just in time to sabotage US-Russia arms control talks,” Antiwar‘s Dave DeCamp noted on Twitter. “As the US is preparing for a new arms race — and possibly even live nuclear tests — the New York Times provides a great excuse to let the New START lapse, making the world a much more dangerous place. Russiagate has provided the cover for Trump to pull out of arms control agreements. First the INF, then the Open Skies, and now possibly the New START. Any talks or negotiations with Russia are discouraged in this atmosphere, and this Times story will make things even worse.”
“US ‘intelligence’ agencies (ie, organized crime networks run by the state) want to sabotage the (admittedly very inadequate) peace talks in Afghanistan,” tweeted journalist Ben Norton. “So they get best of both worlds: blame the Russian bogeyman, fueling the new cold war, while prolonging the military occupation. It’s not a coincidence these dubious Western intelligence agency claims about Russia came just days after a breakthrough in peace talks. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location (and trillions worth of minerals) is too important to them.”
All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.
It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.
Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
“Western propagandists are turning this completely empty story into the mainstream consensus, not with facts, not with evidence, and certainly not with journalism, but with sheer brute force of narrative control.”
No facts. No evidence.
And no due process can be added to that as any means to actually test the narrative, any narrative, is to all practical purposes non existent.
* The physics defying nonsense peddled about alleged chemical attacks in Salisbury or Syria;
* The redefinition of terms such as “racism” – see Jonathan Cook here
and this logic defying hierarchy of racism pitch reported here
* The rejection of biological realities
And just about anything else to do with objective reality.
Welcome to the zeitgeist where all that is required to change inconvenient objective reality is to assert the subjective one in your own head. Why be a human when you can assert your identity as a Cat, a Zebra, hell, even a Kangaroo. The earth is flat. Gravity does not exist. Anyone who criticises the subjective fantasy made up narrative is a raving racist – even victims of actual racism (or ask Rebecca Long Bailey), phobe or red under the bed/Putin apologist/traitor/unpatriotic/preacher of hate or whatever convenient label. Deadly nerve agents operate much like Covid-19 only working in certain circumstances for narrative convenience.
Due process principles like objective evidence, right to a defence, and innocent until proven guilty; along with the scientific method are no longer convenient
Will the masses swallow this bollocks?
Of course they will. Making up and living in your own made up subjective fantasy reality is second nature today. Any dissenters will be Cancelled by whatever handy mob has been manufactured for that purpose.
Even criticism of “Capitalism” is a dog whistle code for the highest form of racism in the subjective narrative hierarchy.
Not that anyone would recognise actual Capitalism if it existed in a Western World in which the UK economy shrinks by around 20% in three months whilst the UK Bond Market sits at a three hundred year high from the free money tree courtesy of Central Bank printing presses;
Where US companies like Chesapeake Energy file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with a write down of $9.1 billion of debt* (how many pension funds and elected Local State/County/Town etc Councils are going to go under on that largess?) and will then carry on trading and operating as though nothing happened; and the rest of us are left over the coming generations to pick up the bill for hundreds of trillions of dollars, pounds, euros, yen printed to keep Zombie companies and their CEO’s in ever increasing bonuses and larger yaughts.
The have yaughts and the have nots.
If Lewis Carroll were around today he’d be writing a story entitled ‘Malice in Blunderland.’
It’s going to be one hell of a hangover if the twelve year olds running the show at the moment ever wake up.
*Forgot the footnote.
Chesapeake Energy’s $9.1 billion debt write down will enable it to continue operating – and probably making the same mistakes in an industry with debt s exceeding $280 billion which has never made a dime in dividends. When the balance sheets of these companies show a consistent year in year out surplus which is less than the debt servicing requirements what you have ‘aint Capitalism.
Yet you still have too many people who believe Capitalism is what we have, that it’s working as it says on the tin, and that stock/share prices can only go up because the Central Banks have their backs.
Nice one, Dave. There is an Irish proverb which encapsulates what we should anticipate coming from the NYT, the BBC, the Grauniad and all the rest of the gatekeepers of the ‘Overton Window’. – it goes:
“What would you expect from a pig, but a grunt?”
Always a good thought to keep in mind.
Next episode: China and Huwei. As for the masses swallowing it – yes, as you say , they will, But what has happened to the English working class? I’ve just been reading about the widespread enthusiasm for striking in the 3 or 4 years just before WW I. Incredible amounts of unrest. Where has all that energy gone to? Facebook?
Or as Chomsky put it:
Having worked for BT since it was Post Office Telephones until retiring six years ago I’ve been keeping my eye on the Huwei issue as I’m aware that there is a lot of Huawei kit in the UK networks (plural – fixed line and cell phone).
Including the broadband street cabinets.
The testimony given by the current man in a suit CEO of BT, amongst others, to whatever Select? committee of Parliament was it would take a minimum of five years, probably seven, to remove all Huawei kit from the UK networks systems.
And seven years is what they’ve given. Never mind the outages involved for millions of subscribers (no apologies for using that S word rather than the C for customers term), the inconvenience and the cost in this public act of fealty to a foreign power (USA).
Whose going to be paying for this?
What will the opportunity costs be?
Will there be compensation for subscribers?
How much disruption will this cause?
What happened to the Great God of “Competition”?
Taking back control eh!
“But what has happened to the English working class? ….. Where has all that energy gone to?”
We’ve had decades of affluence, not to mention decades of bright shiny trinkets, fashion shows, a whole lavish entertainment industry etc. We are more sedentary than any other generation perhaps ever. In the West, the masses have enjoyed the biggest loveliest crumbs from the most luxuriant table. And I’m not posing as someone exceptional. I am as complacent as the world I grew up in. Of course it’s all fading but I think most wouldn’t know how to start an uprising. But maybe I’m being too pessimistic? Perhaps we have a younger generation who are less and less impressed by those flashy fripperies – especially when they feel less and less hope?
This is a question very much exercising – in truth, oppressing – me right now George. Jams refers to the period immediately prior to WW1. We can add the literally explosive period of its aftermath, leading to the General Strike of 1926. Revolution was indeed in the air, and there’s a ton of evidence that the British ruling class was ready to do whatever it took – ‘democracy’ or no – to ensure that it would not materialise.
The ‘Bolshevik threat’ receded as cold war propaganda – which, like all successful propaganda, had elements of truth – worked with the post WW2 social contract, and the consumerism you refer to, to neuter it in the advanced capitalist ‘democracies’.
Now the social contract is being dismantled, and capitalism is very different in that it is consumer led in the West. It is also in its advanced imperialist stage. Previously national relations of production are now global. Fewer and fewer Western workers produce value but are low level operatives in the safeguarding (cops, medics, teachers), distribution (bank workers) and recycling (call centre workers, Amazon workers) of surplus values extracted from Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian and other superexploited workforces in the global south.
(Conditions for that last group are in many ways akin to those of 19th century European workers but with a key difference. In both cases, newly industrialising economies could not absorb all the peasants displaced from the land. But where 19th and early 20th century Europeans could emigrate to the ethnically cleansed Americas and Antipodes, Asia’s surplus labour forces have no such option. As noted in John Smith’s Imperialism in the 21st century, the global south’s displaced peasantry has since the late 20th century been trapped by the West’s anti immigration policies. Immobilised, it can only swell the ranks of a lumpen proletariat and further depress wages to make third world workforces even more attractive to the investors of the West.)
It also reduces the bargaining power of Western workers, and the ability of reformists – whether a Corbyn or a Keir Starmer – to negotiate ameliorative measures. Last but not least, the ruling classes of the West are even more able – through ever more sophisticated armaments, intelligence gathering and the policing of dissent – to marginalise and if need be crush opposition.
I see no other choice but to resist, if only by pointing out these realities to the slumbering populations – and childishly obtuse (because still relatively privileged and flattered) intelligentsias – of the West. But it’s not looking good, is it?
Sorry for voicing my gloomy thoughts like this. I’ve been sitting on them quite a while.
I’d rather truthful gloom than glitzy fantasy. I have long had a vision of us in the affluent West as part of the global aristocracy – as if the old and brutal hierarchy of Dickens’ time has become enlarged and projected outwards. Western affluence is a condition that has never existed before in history – a nature with a “bourgeoisefied” majority where the destitute proletariat has largely been moved offshore. I know this is a simplified account, but that pampered mentality has taken root here for two reasons: first, the very fact of the affluence and second, the permeating down of ruling class ideas.
Re: this pampering, it would be tempting to draw a parallel with the famous “Let them eat cake” line allegedly from Marie Antoinette (it seems there is no record of her actually saying it. Perhaps it was a bit of revolutionary agitprop?) But I think a better parallel might be Nicholas II as described in Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution”. It seems that Nicholas was a strange somnambulant character with an almost schizoid view of the impending upheaval i.e. he behaved as if it didn’t really matter or wasn’t really going to happen. Those hard-won rights and protections we have been brought up have become an entrenched second nature and, like born royalty, we cannot imagine them being taken away. And, after all, there is so much to watch on Netflix.
“a nature with a “bourgeoisefied” majority”
“a nation with a “bourgeoisefied” majority”
“Will the masses swallow this bollocks?
Of course they will.”
I don’t think this is the way it works. In a society where everyone is encouraged to think of themselves as a “rugged individual” and where there are innumerable social groups, the only apparent centre (or perhaps I should say the most immediately apparent centre) is the media. And it should be clear by now that, all pretensions to diversity notwithstanding, the media acts as a monolithic entity whose true purpose is to serve the interests of a tiny minority. The most glaring recent example of that was the way the whole media-presented political spectrum ganged up against Corbyn in the last election. I still can’t believe the bias shown by the BBC re: that event.
I really don’t think that the vast majority of the public are nearly as stupid as they are made out to be. It’s just that they feel powerless before the drone of this omniscient media oracle pumping out whatever bullshit is required. And so, the basic situation is that hardly anyone believes what they hear but everyone believes that everyone else believes it.
Nicely put, George.
Yes. I think surveys have shown that readers of the Sun don’t believe much of what it says, but there are numerous and varied other drags on the incentive to revolt against the system – especially, in the Europe, the UK and to a much greater extent in the US a prolonged demonisation of socialism, communism, anarchism and other manifestations of the ‘left’
Oddly enough, Dave, I’m just in from walking the woofers. A chance conversation with two fellow dog walkers centred on exactly this point.
I had intended to add to George’s reply but this piece adds more to that aspect of thr debate than I can:
That link has been effectively annulled since a notice comes up saying “Your video has been blocked”. Oddly I can still access the video but not the article.
That’s odd as I’ve just been reading some of the BTL comments on the article with no problem accessing it.
Try accessing it by putting ‘Wings Over Scotland’ in whatever search engine you use and then clicking on the article.
Let me know how you get on.
That’s even odder. According to all the clocks here, including the computers/tablets, that reply above was posted at 13:25.
Yet it’s showing as having been posted at 12:25. Is this blog running on what we used to refer to in the army as ‘Mickey Mouse Time’?
I managed to read the linked article and it’s hugely instructive. I agree with it – apart from one matter: it disapproves of the term “gaslighting”. I have to say my own reception of this term has been different from theirs i.e. on finding out what it meant, I have now assimilated it and constantly bear it in mind. To put it in vulgar terms, it means you are constantly being mentally fucked over. In this instance, the tiniest area – and one that I think has been artificially created – is being relentlessly blown up in your face and you’re being asked, indeed someone is demanding, you to have an opinion on it. I didn’t have any feelings about the trans issue until I heard that children i.e. prepubescents were being asked to “make a choice”. (Or were they? Sometimes you can have an article that feels as if it is deliberately raking up ill feeling and it’s difficult to tell which side it is on. Hence – another suspect case of possible “gaslighting”.)
And it’s very revealing that this Wings Over Scotland article querying these new gender definitions attracted a vast response that WASN’T abusive, spiteful etc – and all because the customary “shock troops” of the “Trans-divide” had not been alerted to it.
And I see the relevance to the point I was making i.e. that people in general, i.e. the majority, do not believe or think or act in the way they are portrayed by the media. The bottom line is that the vast majority of the public couldn’t care less about what consenting adults do in private. They all know that there are far more serious things to worry about. But these innumerable and continually expanding demographics get all the emphasis – this emphasis being laced with as much hysteria and vitriol as possible. Stir the buggers up and keep them fighting each other!
Maybe I’ve read it wrong. Campbell’s attitude to the term gaslighting seems to be based on the term not being sufficiently transparent and obvious – like QE is used to obscure the reality of a Ponzi scheme.
The issue in this article is not the only issue in which certain features exist in common. The same approach is used in the AS issue. Where, again, there is no debate permitted; dissenting members of a particular community are denied as existing or themselves sidelined and gaslighted out of collective consciousness; absence of due process; guilt by allegation and so on.
And as a result you end up with situations like this:
In which serious debate is pushed into an ever shrinking ghetto. This open letter was not circulated on Social Media but via email – where the number of people with access to the information of its existence was severely limited. Hence the low number of signatories.
The Independent newspaper and Tribune did not even acknowledge the letter for publication. The Guardian refused to print the letter unless it was provided with the email and phone number of every signatory.
Now that is gaslighting on an epic scale. And whilst the point about most people not behaving as portrayed by the media – and the latest Wings article provides another stark example of that with some interesting poll data on a particular issue – remains valid, the key point is that the majority of people don’t even know there is an issue and can be split into roughly two categories.
Those who buy into the narrative because that’s all they can see, it’s all they get so they believe six impossible things before breakfast. Like selectively acting deadly nerve gas, the existence of constructed mirages like WMD, or the destruction of a building they can still see standing on the TV screen behind the commentator whilst the announcement of the destruction having occurred is made by the talking head, and so on.
And those who refuse to be gaslighted but have to conclude on the basis of observations and experiences of contact with others that they are in a minority in the absence of evidence to the contrary. And even where it’s obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse that a majority exists (such as being in favour of public ownership and control of a range of sectors and industries in the economy) it never archives a voting majority.
Which suggests a rigged game/system of which mass gaslighting forms merely one part. Probably why most people operate on the basis that most others either believe or buy into the bullshit.
On an only slightly different note, this long Jacobin feature on Keith Starmer is well worth a read. As you’d expect from Jacobin, it’s kinder on left and even centre reformists than many of us would be, but as a forensic and unusually elegant piece it gets my vote.
That is one of the more sobering reads I’ve encountered. Generally, I don’t trouble to go into details, just assuming that there is a lot of toxic activity going on. But when you actually read the details, you can’t believe it. I knew Tom Watson was a shit. I had no idea how much of a shit. And the hypocrisy is of such magnitude that it can only be comprehended as brutal conscienceless machination. If it “works” then they use it. No other considerations.
Amusingly – if you’re in a good mood – Jacobin sports a piece written days earlier, urging socialists not to leave Labour. One of the reasons being the presence in the shadow cabinet of such as – wait for it – Rebecca Long-Bailey!
Reading the actual report and the email/what’s app conversations contained in it is bad enough. Being involved in what passes for a complaints/discipline process goes beyond Kafka.
Selective fast tracking of some complaints; refusal to deal with others. Selectively Lost complaints; multiple resubmissions of complaints. Subject Access Requests taking over six months and still not being supplied. Refusal to deal with simple straightforward questions (such as was X decision based on direct or indirect use of illegally obtained data?). Volunteers consistently put at legal risk with inadequate responses. Breaches of confidence involving the vulnerable. Gerrymandering of selection processes at local and national level. Decisions on complaints based on political convenience and expediency.
And unfortunately it’s not just the right of the Party. Momentum occupies the same role of official monopoly “left” opposition within the LP as the LP does in Parliament in its role of Loyal Opposition. Mere managers of discontent quite happy to indulge in the same practices as the right of the Party for the same reasons and just as full of its own careerist
cadre who don’t know their backside from a hole in the ground.
The corrupt practices of advancement and access to due process etc depending on who you are and who you know are just as prevalent and endemic on the official left as they are on the official right. And just as dangerous for the Demos.
Finn’s observation about Formby’s situation- ‘who would want to work in such a toxic environment’ – applies generally across the Party. Where Finn neglects to go is in posing the question, in a context in which the Party is at war with not just it’s members but its stated values and raison detre using outside agencies (the unrestricted blank cheque promises it has made leave the Party as a hostage to fortune), how is the Party ever going to win an election?
You cannot treat your foot soldiers in such a manner and not expect hordes of them to vote with their feet and down tools. The loss of Scotland to the SNP (which has its own similar problems after years of power) has taught no lessons. The same arrogant entitlement to voters in former heartlands (‘they have nowhere else to go’) has seen the loss of many English seats which won’t be won back with this toxic attitude and monopolistic approach.
Voter’s in those seats found somewhere else to go. In Scotland it was the SNP. In England it was UKIP and UKIP light (who have taken over the Tory Party). A lot of the foot soldiers who you need to knock on doors, canvass, deliver leaflets and campaign are set to follow, either to sit on their hands or go elsewhere.
And that’s the whole point of those like Starmer, Watson, Streeting, Mann, Smith, Austin, Phillips, et al. They are where they are (as was/is Blair, Mandleson, Brown, Straw,Kinnock (junior and Senior), Campbell) to ensure that the LP does not win elections if it deviates one iota from a narrowing and unsustainable Overton Window.
They know the Party cannot win without the wider left. But that’s not considered a problem in those circles. Because that is their role in British politics. As gatekeepers to ensure nothing fundamentally changes.
The establishment will be pushing for the SNP to run the country at this rate!
Oh! Hang about. They’ve already started:
Hello Philip. I see you haven’t posted for a while. I hope you are well. I suspect you may be feeling the same odd lack of engagement I myself am feeling? It seems that everyone has split into factions that are just screaming at each other and I can’t even be bothered reading them.
OffG has become downright dull, circling around some predictable patterns – and some annoying ones too. The most recent item raised the issue of the politics of inclusion as a diversionary tactic – an important topic. However, the very first comment was a complaint about how “whites” were being discriminated against. How ironic. I was going to point this out, but I thought someone else would. I go back and find a whole ream of folk who agree with that first comment. So now, as well as right wing libertarians, we have the mantra of “white victimhood”. I don’t know if I’ll bother going back.
Hi George. My inactivity is to do with personal circumstance. I’m very busy on other fronts. That said, I too have been pretty fed up of “factions screaming at each other” or, to be more precise, by a sense of people that what these thigs indicate is people more interested in ego sparring than in effecting real change.
The BLM thing has been salutary. I see a tendency – I think you called it ‘undialectical’ – to one-sidedness on matters explored in depth for over a century. Issues like patriarchy, racism and national oppression are not diversions or distractions, as the cruder class ‘analysts’ would have it. Nor are they solvable – for all women, all non whites and all oppressed nations – without taking on the fundamental exploitation we call capitalism.
I’ll be writing again as soon as I’m released from inescapable duties too tedious to relate …
I unfortunately DID go back to OffG. We are now getting the full “extermination of the white races” drivel.
My apologies also.
Currently tied up with a number of other local members producing a submission to the Forde Inquiry which needs to be submitted in less than two weeks.
Please keep us informed on progress, Dave