Job-spec for a Russia correspondent

21 Nov

The above job listing appeared yesterday on the twitter feed of the New York Times. Today, Caitlin Johnstone writes:

People only just beginning to research what’s wrong with the world often assume news reporters are knowingly propagandizing all the time. That they sit around scheming up ways to deceive their audiences into supporting war, oligarchy and oppression for the benefit of their plutocratic masters.

Once you’ve learned a bit more you realize it’s not quite happening that way. Most reporters are not really witting propagandists – those are to be found more in plutocrat-funded think tanks and other narrative management firms, and in opaque government agencies which feed news media information to advance their interests. The reason mainstream news reporters say things that aren’t true is because to be hired by them, you need to jack your mind into a power-serving worldview that is not based in truth.

A recent job listing for a New York Times Russia Correspondent, flagged by Russia-based journalist Bryan MacDonald illustrates this dynamic perfectly:

Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains one of the biggest stories in the world.

It sends out hit squads armed with nerve agents against its enemies, most recently the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. It has its cyber agents sow chaos and disharmony in the West to tarnish its democratic systems, while promoting its faux version of democracy. It has deployed private military contractors around the globe to secretly spread its influence. At home, its hospitals are filling up fast with Covid patients as its president hides out in his villa.

If that sounds like a place you want to cover, then we have good news: We will have an opening for a new correspondent as Andy Higgins takes over as our next Eastern Europe Bureau Chief early next year.

Is this a job someone with a less than hostile attitude toward the Russian government would apply for? Would it welcome one who sees mainstream Russia hysteria as cartoonish hyperbole to advance geostrategic interests of western power structures against a government resisting the dictates of those power structures? One sceptical of the plot hole-riddled establishment narratives of Russian election meddling and Novichok assassinations? One who, as Moon of Alabama notes, might point out that Putin is in fact at work in the Kremlin right now and not “hiding out” in a “villa”?

To get a job at the NYT you need to subscribe to a mainstream oligarchic imperialist worldview which forms the entirety of western media output. You need to show you have been properly indoctrinated, and can be guided into toeing the imperial line with simple attaboys and tisk-tisks from your superiors rather than being explicitly told to knowingly lie.

Because if they did tell you to knowingly lie to advance the interests of the powerful, that would be propaganda. And propaganda is what what happens in evil backwards countries like Russia.

Mainstream establishment orthodoxy is essentially a religion, as fake and power-serving as any other, and if you want to work in mainstream politics or media you need to demonstrate that you are a member of that religion.

That’s all you’re seeing when you notice blue-checkmarked reporters tweeting in promotion of imperialist interests and status quo politics. They are not laboring under the delusion that they are saying anything new or insightful that a hundred other people aren’t saying at the exact same time; they are signalling. They are letting current and prospective peers and employers know, “I am a believer. I am a member of the faith.” This way they are ensured the continued advancement of their careers in mainstream news media.

This is why you have labels for anyone expressing skepticism of establishment narratives like “conspiracy theorist”, “useful idiot”, “Russian asset” or “Assadist”; the powerful people who understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world need labels to separate the faithful from the heathens. It means the same thing as “heretic”.

The fast and easy way to get rich and famous has always been to promote the interests of the powerful. This is as true in every other sector as it is in media. For this reason, those who pour their energy into criticizing existing power structures and shining a bright light on their dynamics aren’t likely to be living in fancy mansions or going to ritzy parties any time soon, while those who do the opposite actually will. And yet when someone sets up a Substack or a Patreon account to make criticizing the powerful their life’s work, it is they who will get called money-grubbing grifters by the propagandized.


The faces you see thrust onto screens by plutocratic media are not spouting falsehoods while aware of their lies, any more than any preacher is knowingly lying when they say you’ll burn for eternity if you don’t accept the gospel. Most  believe everything they are saying, because they have been propagandized into becoming good acolytes and proselytizers of the faith.

The most propagandized people on earth are those who are responsible for promulgating propaganda.


13 Replies to “Job-spec for a Russia correspondent

  1. “This is why you have labels for anyone expressing skepticism of establishment narratives like “conspiracy theorist”, “useful idiot”, “Russian asset” or “Assadist”; the powerful people who understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the world need labels to separate the faithful from the heathens. It means the same thing as “heretic”.

    The fast and easy way to get rich and famous has always been to promote the interests of the powerful.”

    And if the powerful could they would certainly have no qualms about extending their level of control freakary to being able to read the thoughts of any “heretics”:

    “He describes with some relish how these technologies “can intrude into the hitherto private space of our minds, reading our thoughts and influencing our behavior”. (28)

    Schwab predicts: “As capabilities in this area improve, the temptation for law enforcement agencies and courts to use techniques to determine the likelihood of criminal activity, assess guilt or even possibly retrieve memories directly from people’s brains will increase. Even crossing a national border might one day involve a detailed brain scan to assess an individual’s security risk”. (29)

    There are times when the WEF chief gets carried away by his passion for a sci-fi future in which “long-distance human space travel and nuclear fusion are commonplace” (30) and in which “the next trending business model” might involve someone “trading access to his or her thoughts for the time-saving option of typing a social media post by thought alone”. (31)”

    A set of overarching controlling policy goals which are every Corporatist Fascists ultimate wet dream and which is already the subject of the same control narratives via that corporate media. Where even right wing conservative writers/journalists not with the program – like James Dellingpole – are subject to the “conspiracy theory” jibes on talk radio (apologies I’ve had to remove the link as too many results in the comment being rejected as spam) and some cultural narrative gatekeepers are trying to sell a Privately relaunch of Turbo Rentier Capitalism – judge for yourself from the WEF’s own video:

    as a Marxist plot to destroy Capitalism (again, link removed).

    There’s a wicked rumour going the rounds (well there is now) that the working title of the Head of the World Economic Forum’s next book is “Resistance is Futile.” But I couldn’t possibly comment?

    Good job we’ve got a Government and a private sector that couldn’t organise a co-ordinated farting session.

    • “Good job we’ve got a Government and a private sector that couldn’t organise a co-ordinated farting session.”

      Very comforting, Dave.

      • Only to happy to be of service George. That’s what us foot blisters (irritants) are here for.

        You’ll no doubt be pleased to be reminded of some of the detail – such as the colossal waste of public money on procurement via cronyism as reported in this recent Daily Mail article:

        Which draws ones attention to this BMJ piece from September 2020:

        on the Government’s mass testing program codenamed “Operation Moonshot.”

        A plan which involves achieving (excuse me while I repair my splitting sides and reattach my head as I’m struggling to stop laughing) 2-4 million tests a DAY by December (yes, this year apparently) and 10 million tests a DAY by January 2021.

        All in order to deliver a weekly test to every member of the UK population for the much touted “Digital Passport”, of which:

        ““A negative test result (or potentially a positive antibody result) may inform not just whether you could attend an in-patient appointment, but if you go to work that day, access a venue, get on a flight or visit an elderly relative.” The documents also point to a “significant expansion” of testing funded and delivered by the private sector, such as in football stadiums to allow access.”

        Delivered by the usual suspects:

        “The documents talk about “buying large scale capabilities” from partners such as the drug company GSK to “build a large scale testing organisation.” However, under “potential partners for increasing laboratory capacity” the documents list only the company AstraZeneca. Under logistics and warehousing, the documents list potential partners as Boots, Sainsbury’s, DHL, Kuehne+Nagel, G4S, and Serco. Under workforce are listed universities, the Society of Microbiologists, and the British Society of Immunology.”

        With a price tag of £100 billion.

        Don’t know about you George but on past, experience, observation, precedent and performance I’ve got every confidence.

        Especially after receiving a recent report from someone of, lets say, my “acquaintance”, who was recently part of this random testing regime roll out. Despite strict guidelines for taking the test, storing, sending back via courier with fridge box etc the actual process went something along the lines of:

        Sub contracted courier arrives at door. Protocol is to open freezer box to receive sample and step back. Actual occurrence was courier leaning forward requesting randomly selected test subject to attach sticker in couriers hand to the test sample.

        On being challenged that correct protocol relating to labels has already been carried out and per-supplied label is already on the sample as per instructions said sub-contracted courier insisted. On being further advised by randomly selected test subject that for obvious reasons they would not be accepting this label from the sub-contracted courier said courier responded by stating they would not be taking the sample from the test subject despite being advised that everything which entered the house in the middle of a pandemic should be subject to quarantine as per correct protocols.

        The impasse was “resolved” via randomly selected test subject donning gloves and mask to take the new label. Resulting in the randomly selected test subject observing that they should definitely have been negative at least until they came into contact with the Govt research program.

        You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Because the Corporate private sector – who are being given vast amounts of printed out of thin air money to deliver this – have a business model based on driving costs to as near zero as possible. Doing everything with nothing. A business model in which the only remaining route to increasing those profits is to take money off workers and end users at the point of use in addition to the shed loads of public money already being shoveled to them by the container load.

        The problem is these numpties think that algorithms can replace years of human experience, expertise, knowledge, nous and gumption. In this world, the world of the WTF, Schwabb, “build back better” etc 99% of the populace are surplus to requirements and the “success” of stuff like this is determined by making it up an excel spreadsheet.

        This lot, and the system they are “running” couldn’t effectively deliver a dose of the pox – even if some of them own the patent:

        • Yes I’m familiar with the colossal wastage being thrown around this …uh situation. I just wonder if it’s deliberate. Think of all that apparently insane squandering. I recall Thomas Frank’s “The Wrecking Crew” in which he gives us the American version but it seems the same thing i.e. that public services are run by people who don’t believe in public services. Hence they delberately wreck it all – for the purpose of driving as many as possible into the private sector.

  2. Agreed that technological and scientific progress under capitalism serve the law of value, but they also represent steps forward for meeting human need – once they are liberated from the capitalist straitjacket. Schwab and Malleret see the pandemic as a further step in economic and social disintegration. Their answer to capitalism’s crisis and developing social unrest is not fascism but turbo charged Keynesianism, in its current rebirth as Modern Monetary Theory. A dead end, unsurprisingly supported by Sanders.

    Delingpole, a regular contributor to Breitbart, and fan of Trump, Johnson and Farage, is much closer to fascism in his views that the lockdown in the UK is a police state measure. Tell that to the 50% of residents in our local care home who died in the first wave. Perhaps the sick and elderly are disposable untermensch.

    I looked at the WEF video link. Its largely a hopelessly unattainable (under capitalism) wish-list, but among them, roll on the day when private property is a thing of the past and we can all get a decent standard of living, irrespective of whether we work or not. As the wobblies used to sing, “Hallelujah! I’m a bum.” Its achievable but only when the working class have taken the power away from the parasites represented by Schwab.

  3. George Orwell, despite his turncoat and revisionist tendencies, was onto something with his “Eastasia”, “Oceania”, “boot stamping” etc. He just got the major target wrong – i.e. Russia instead of the US. But what he and the totalitarians and control freaks in present western Neo-facism also get wrong is that ‘western culture’ is on the slide. All the internet tracing facilities, info gathering and Ad-focussing in the world will not matter a damn when western society collapses under the weight of global warming, soil destruction, pesticide induced insect genocide, climate destruction, mass migrations from Africa, the ‘Middle East, Mexico and Central America to the north in search of food, water and electricity. Present measures to avoid this are at best feeble. Present western politicians are the same. Johnston, Biden, Macron etc. haven’t got a clue. It almost makes you believe in Norse mythology (but not quite, of course). If I’m going to be re-incarnated I’m aiming for China – at least they are competent (ish!).

  4. At first, when I saw the advert I thought it was a prank because it was so outlandishly false. I’m still a bit skeptical because I find it difficult to believe that any person with even the remotest degree of intelligence would take this advertisement seriously.
    That said, the comments section shows that respectable minds do believe that the advert is not a hoax. This means that the only people who would respond to it would be either zombies with no functioning brain, or highly motivated, unyieldingly bigoted and dishonest characters with nothing but $ signs dictating their careers.
    Either species of homo sapien is a worrying aspect of the times we live in and if I, with my limited intelligence and lowly education, can see the obvious dishonesty in the advert descriptor, then what on earth does it say about people with supposedly superior intellect?
    Are you certain that this advert is not some kind of prank or ironic joke? Because the wording could apply to some countries under the boot of despotic and tyrannical rulers(like MbS) or even at a stretch the USA whose police force has already killed 890 of it’s own civilians this year so far, but not really Russia or any of the lesser civilised countries.
    There is only so much “cognitive dissonance” can excuse, the rest is usually referred to as dumb *****(sheep) or Neanderthals, who did not supposedly survive the evolutionary race to the top(or should that be bottom?)of modern man.
    I remember E.A Blair’s Animal Farm and his 1984 SciFi cult fiction, but he really did get it wrong in assigning it to Trotsky’s(whom he hated) world, rather than the western corporate owned dumbed down capitalist regimes which he thought he was defending.
    I really don’t want to live another twenty years in this upside down world.
    Hope you are well.

    • I really don’t want to live another twenty years in this upside down world.

      Me neither Susan. But I’m in it right now and, like you, feel compelled to shout the truth as best I see it. What’s more, though I’m pushing seventy, I brought children into this sorry world so have a stake in what happens after I leave it.

      Yes I’m well. Thanks for asking. Hope that goes for you too.

      Orwell failed to see, as liberals tend to do, the extent of capitalism’s totalitarianism. That’s largely due I think to Britain’s success as a colonial and now an imperialist power. Even in his day, and to greater extent in the decades to follow, people in the west have been shielded from the worst excesses of that totalitarian logic. Now the shield is wearing thin.

      Yes, the job spec looks like caricature. And since I dislike having egg on my face – and have seen too many people fooled by their own confirmation biases – I checked. That’s why I include the link to the NYT twitter feed. It’s authentic alright. Note the 48.2 million followers!

      Last but not least, this is the first comment ever from you to have come straight through without awaiting moderation. Whatever you did, keep doing it!!

    • What seems to make this job advertisement so outlandish is just how explicit and open it is in its core assumptions and world view.

      It seems reasonable to suggest, on the basis of what Chomsky spelled out to Marr alone, that these assumptions and the world view they represent have always previously been implicit and hidden behind a veneer of unspoken deceit and hypocrisy. Present in actual everyday practice but never made explicit. Perhaps so as not to frighten the masses or to retain some degree of plausible deniability?

      It also seems reasonable to suggest that it is not an isolated example of stripping away what was implicit and making it explicit. The technocratic Corporist Agenda of Schwabb and the WTF provides a further example of long suspected attitudes and ambitions being made so explicit. Though one has to tip ones hat in ironic admiration to the WTF ‘s naive expectation that Britain, a country in which a large section of the populace retain an almost obsessive and nostalgic attachment to it’s/their role in and experience of the second World War – even after three quarters of a century, – would ever embrace a set of ideas proposed by anyone going by the name of Klaus.

      And this begs the question as to why make such long suspected and previously implicit attitudes explicit?

      Is this a legacy of the Trump style or a sign of how bad matters are in regard to the current state of capitalism as a functioning and workable practical system paradigm?

  5. “The reason mainstream news reporters say things that aren’t true..”
    I think they’re much more clever than that. Lies can be found out. Truths taken out of context are much more serviceable. I recall that after the London bombings, there was a Channel 4 item that spoke of how 59% of young Muslim men didn’t trust the govt story on those bombings. This led seamlessly into a bit about how these young Muslim males were becoming “radicalised”. The percentage was, of course, based on a survey and was probably true. The answer everyone should have asked is “Why put this to young Muslim males?” Unless of course you were specifically targeting that part of the population to generate a certain impression of them. As for the seamless link into “radicalisation” – well this was a case of two completely different ideas being made to look connected by simply having one follow the other.

    I recall another news item re: Afghanistan and on the troublesome Taliban where, after a number of specific claims, we were presented with the unexpectedly vague “The poppy fields producing opium are also a problem”. This made it look as if the Taliban were behind opium production. But, as devout Muslims, they burned the fields.

    It’s all true but cunningly phrased and deviously engineered to create connections where there are none.

    • Lies can be found out.

      Yes. I often say that most media lying is of omission rather than commission – a subset of the latter being the “truths out of context” you cite. For instance I’m pretty sure that Saddam’s Iraq and Gaddafi’s Libya were unpleasant places to be if you got out of line. But missing from Western coverage was the fact both states had impressive welfare infrastructure, literacy levels of European standard or higher and – those rulers’ true crime – state control of key economic sectors. (I touched on these aspects in my post, The Kurds in Syria.)

      The Taliban did in fact turn reluctantly to opium. Less than fully reliable sources have it that Bin Laden personally advised Mullah Omar that, since the end consumers would be Western infidels, cultivation would be for the greater good. Speaking of “greater good”, the CIA have form on bypassing overt funding – hence oversight and accountability – by using narcotics to fund their darker ops. (Though mainly associated with cocaine and Latin America’s Operation Condor, CounterPunch’s Jeffrey St Clair did an excellent piece on the Afghan branch of this practice, as cited in the second of my July reads post.) This abetting by state agencies is always missing from media reports of the War On Drugs.

      That said, all media can and do resort to lies of commission when the stakes are high enough. And as we know from Douma and Salisbury, even when the lies are exposed the whistle-blowers can be easily marginalised.

      • I recall a story retold by Gore Vidal where he cited a visiting Soviet official eager to see the fabled “free” Western press and being astonished at how uniform it all was. Vidal told him there were far more effective ways of managing public perception than outright totalitarianism.

        Anyway – on a possibly unrelated note, I recall someone saying recently about how we may be witnessing a new period of “primitive accumulation” whereby the new commons to be grabbed are not the peasant lands of the feudal age but the stored up public sector assembled here from WW2 onwards. Of course this has been going on for decades now – and nothing ever repeats exactly.

        Dave makes a comment above about the shocking levels of wastage in recent approaches to covid and I was recalling a Marx passage on that capitalist crisis which would have been an absurdity in any previous age i.e. a crisis of OVER accumulation. One way of “sorting this out” would be to have a war which has the effect of taking all that accumulated material (which could have provided relief to any number of the poor but is totally “unviable” from a capitalist profit motive point of view) and simply dumping it in the ocean. I mention this only to suggest that a lot of apparently idiotic schemes involving scandalous amounts of wastage may in fact make sense from the capitalist vantage point. None of which is intended to imply that the virus is a manufactured crisis – but it, like so much else, has its opportunistic side.

        Speaking of which, I went through a misunderstanding at work (well not really AT work but coming out of this “matrix” like societal situation we are in at the moment) which led to some ill feeling and I felt compelled to phone some colleagues up just to blow off steam. If I truly were AT work it would have been no trouble to meet up and chat. But such is the nature of this social distancing and its employment requirements that people must be finding it harder to simply communicate. But think also of all those community based activities which have been affected e.g. churches, sport centres, clubs etc. But this is probably why I’m droning on now. So I’ll stop.

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