Ukraine and the official narrative

30 Oct

The US Ambassador to Russia taking to Twitter with a widely held view of President Putin, one echoed in the image below 1

It’s occasionally put to me that, were I a citizen of Russia or China, I wouldn’t be free to criticise my government the way I am as a citizen of a Western democracy. 2 Of several responses I can make, I’ll settle for this one. My freedom to publish this blog is heavily contingent on its fringe status, drowned out by mainstream corporate media (see footnote 2). In a situation of declared emergency, one sign being people turning en masse  to blogsites like this, dissident voices like mine would be shut down and the publishers criminalised. 3

We’re not a democracy. It’s a terrible misunderstanding and a slander to the idea of democracy to call us that. In reality, we’re a plutocracy: a government by the wealthy.

Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General

To see how power behaves when it feels threatened, look to Julian Assange, to the blocking of Russian online media – even though “we” are not at war with Russia – and to the censorship of social media by their oligarch owners. Look also to America’s Patriot Act and the UK’s Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act. Though liberals still don’t see it, the signs are plentiful that ruling classes in the west are tooling up for dissent as the social contract continues to unravel.

But why are voices like mine on the fringe? Because inherently absurd? I’m biased of course, but on the most important issues addressed in these posts, the facts – and do feel free to challenge me on this – support my claims and not those of corporate media. But then, in the manufacture of public opinion, media narratives in tune with cradle to grave ideology – “we in the freedom-loving West are the good guys” – trump evidence and reason at every turn. 4

Take Ukraine. The frequency with which Washington’s undeclared war on Russia is referred to as “Putin’s war” – today Richard Murphy, who otherwise has my qualified respect, does exactly that – points to this form of words having been framed by editors, proprietors and BBC top brass – if not by deep state intervention. At any rate, journalists who know which side their bread is buttered intone the officially sanctioned phrase with dutiful regularity. 5 Yet the facts – decades of Russia’s attempts at diplomatic solutions to her legitimate security needs having fallen on deaf ears 6 – say otherwise.

If pictures are worth a thousand words, maps can be worth a million. America did all it could to provoke “Putin’s war”. And as Caitlin documents below (her embedded links repay the effort of following up) America continues to block attempts at peaceful resolution.

Cue for me to hand over to another fringe commentator, albeit one with a far higher following than I have. Here’s Caitlin Johnstone on The Official Narrative on Ukraine:

The official narrative promoted by the entire western political/media class is that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine in February of this year solely because he is evil and hates freedom. He wants to conquer as much of Europe as possible because he cannot stand free democracies, because he is another Adolf Hitler.

The official narrative is that while Russia is in Ukraine solely because its leader is an evil monster like Hitler, the US is in Ukraine solely because its leaders are righteous. The United States is providing arms, military intelligence, and assistance on the ground from special ops forces and CIA officers to Ukraine, as well as implementing an unprecedented regime of economic warfare against Russia, solely because the US loves its good friends the Ukrainians and wants to protect their freedom and democracy.

If you dispute any part of the official Ukraine narrative, you are an evil monster, and a disinformation agent. Because Vladimir Putin is the same as Adolf Hitler, you are also the same as Neville Chamberlain, guilty of the cardinal sin of supporting appeasement.

Because you are an evil disinformation agent Neville Chamberlain appeasement monster, it is legitimate to censor you. It is legitimate to accuse you of being secretly paid by the Russian government. It is legitimate to swarm you with coordinated astroturf trolls working to shout you down and overwhelm you. It is legitimate to publish propagandistic smear pieces about you. All normal expectations of public discourse go out the window, because you are a monster, not a person.

If you are tempted to ask questions which put a wobble on the official narrative, you must resist this urge at all cost. Don’t ask why western officials, scholars and strategists have spent years warning that the actions of western governments would lead to this war. Don’t ask what people are talking about when they say the US provoked this war, or when they say the US is using this war to advance strategic agendas it has had in place for years, or when they suggest that these things might have something to do with why the US is obstructing diplomatic solutions at every turn. If you ask questions like these, you are the worst person in the world.

Per the official narrative, if you confront powerful lawmakers on their support for US interventionism in Ukraine, you are “parroting pro-Putin talking points” and spreading “Russian disinformation“. Questioning officials of the most powerful government in the world about the most consequential decisions being made in the world is violence, and is not allowed.

The context for this exchange, cited by Caitlin, is given here. Below is a sample of replies

If you claim you are objecting to the US using proxy warfare in Ukraine on anti-war grounds, you are lying; you are not anti-war. You are only anti-war if you support the same positions on Ukraine as noted anti-war activists John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Tom Cotton, and Mike Pompeo. Anyone advocating diplomacy, de-escalation and detente is an evil warmonger, like Hitler. If you want to learn about the true anti-war position, consult reliable anti-war publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

The official narrative on Ukraine is that the US empire and its media never lie or circulate propaganda about wars that the US is involved in. If you dispute this, you are lying and circulating propaganda. That’s why it’s necessary to have so much censorship and organized trolling and mass media reports reminding you how good and righteous this war is: it’s to protect you from lies and propaganda.

If any part of the official narrative on Ukraine sounds suspicious to you, this means you have been infected by Russian disinformation. Do not breathe a word of the thoughts you’ve been thinking to anyone, or else you will be guilty of spreading Russian disinformation and will become the enemy of the free world.

Remember, good citizen: we must oppose Russian propaganda at all costs to protect our western values of free expression, free thought, free press, and free democracy. So do not question any part of the official Ukraine narrative. Or else.

* * *

  1. Likening those who obstruct US empire designs to Hitler is a recurring feature – think Assad, Gaddafi and Saddam – of propaganda blitzes.
  2. Yet again I’ll set out the pithiest of several reasons why Western democracy is largely illusory. Democracy implies consent. Consent is meaningless if uninformed. Informed consent implies independent media. That last we do not have when, as Chomsky noted, media are large corporations selling privileged audiences to other corporations. He then asked: what pictures of the world would a rational person expect from this?  Chomsky’s rhetorical question lies at the heart of my post of May 2021, Britain decides!
  3. Direct state repression is one route. In extremis, our rulers have form on turning to arm’s length variants. CIA support for death squads in Central America and elsewhere – ditto British Army/MI5 collaboration with “loyalist” terror in the Six Counties, and IDF ties to armed illegal settlers on the West Bank – give food for thought.
  4. In saying “the facts” support my claims, rather than those (including claims silently made by omission of highly relevant context) of corporate media, I don’t deny that writers like Martin Chulov and Luke Harding have access to vastly more information on Russia and the Middle East than I do. As does Helen Davidson on China. (I use Guardian examples because liberals still trust it.) What I mean by “the facts” are fundamentals like Nato expansion to Russia’s borders, not only in breach of promises to Mikhail Gorbachev but posing a situation Washington would never tolerate in America’s backyard. Even more fundamental is the silence of all mainstream media on the reality of the US empire, and significance of its decline as a motive for stepping up – in ways and to an extent perilous to all of us – its efforts to stop Eurasia rising. Factual detail presented by corporate media fails, even at its best, to address such core issues. At worst it is obfuscatory, cherry-picked and, as the stakes rise, flat out mendacious; as in Luke Harding’s lie that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange in London’s Ecuador Embassy. Witness too the frequency with which “intelligence sources” are cited by upmarket media organs as if somehow neutral brokers. Ditto think-tanks funded by governments and a for-profit arms-sector. Ditto the verdicts of so-called fact checker sites to which the energetically credulous – none more so than those who deem themselves sceptics – turn whenever a claim counter to the messages Caitlin lampoons comes their way.
  5. I’m sure Richard Murphy, a radical thinker on fiscal matters, uses the term, “Putin’s war”, because that’s what he believes it to be. The phrase is now a meme, but the precision-drilled use of this formulation suggests that, to become the go-to phrase, it had first to be minted by spinmeisters for mass consumption: much as political propaganda’s twin sister, advertising, does with its own catchphrases. The irony being that the memes we embrace – Putin’s war … Corbyn’s antisemitism … finger-lickin’ good KFC – we come to regard as arrived at on our own sweet lonesome. Unlike those brainwashed Russians.
  6. I’ve been watching the Guardian more closely of late. Below a post on Hungary, its gist that President Orbán is ‘too close to Putin’, the sagacity of one comment had promoted it to “Guardian pick” status: “Putin clearly considers both the EU and NATO its enemies …”  Gosh, how paranoid of the man! What on earth put that  idea in his jaundiced Russian mind? Sarcasm aside though, I sense a need for a monthly steel city post, showcasing the most egregious examples of what Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton – see the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect – calls “wet-streets-cause-rain stories”.

5 Replies to “Ukraine and the official narrative

  1. Putin’s speech at the recent Valdai International Discussion session provided plenty of cogent observations and analysis. not least of which was this gem which nailed the attitude of the Western elites and their paid shills:

    “Believing themselves infallible, the rulers of the West desire to destroy – or “cancel” – those they dislike.

    Where Nazi’s burn books, the Western “guardians of liberalism & progress” now ban Dostoevsky & Tchaikovsky.

    Liberal Democracy has transformed into something unrecognisable, declaring any alternative view as propaganda or a threat. The so called “cancel culture” destroys anything that is alive & creative, preventing any freedom of thought in culture, economics or politics alike.

    History, of course, will put everything in its place.

    The self-conceit of those who seek to cancel them is off the charts, ‘but no one will even remember their names in a few years, while Dostoevsky, Tchaikovsky & Pushkin will endure.”

    As anyone who has been at the sharp end of the establishment elites generated and controlled opposition Woke asset and its cancel culture – most women; JVL members; lesbian women and gay men; the authentic left to name a few – will attest this is not so much agreeing with Putin as Putin agreeing with them and their experiences.

    The core problem, again laid out in the Valdai session (45 minute speech + over four hours of Q&A – can anyone see anyone from among what passes for the Western leadership holding it together for 30 minutes without notes and teleprompter?):

    “The biggest threat to the political, economic, and ideological monopoly of the West is that alternative social models may arise in the world – and would be more effective and more attractive.”

    In other words, ‘They don’t like it up ’em Mr Mainwaring.’

    Andrei Raevsky over at the Saker – – put it most eloquently:

    “We do, after all, live in a society were nobody teaches how to think anymore (schools just make kids dumber and dumber) and the vast majority of people still rely on legacy corporate propaganda machine to get what they think is “information”. Not to mention that on a psychological and spiritual level, we live not only in a post-Christian society, but even a post-Truth society in which true and false have simply lost any objective meaning other than “like it” or “I don’t like it”. We could even call this a “post-reality” society!”

    Followed up in a later post – – with:

    “Seriously, what we see here are the clear contours of two different civilizational realms which have nothing in common with each other and whose values are mutually exclusive.”

    The Valdai session also differentiated between two distinct ‘West’s.’ That of the tiny Establishment Elites (along with their associated propaganda shills) and the majority they rule over and control.

    The bottom line is that wherever we are on the planet we are all now somewhere along the irreversible process of an existential conflict which Chomsky, in the title of one his many books, labelled “Hegemony or Survival.” Unless the Western Establishment Elites and their ancillaries are totally eliminated – de-nazification – then those Elites will eliminate not only themselves but everyone else as well rather than give up what they regard as their self-entitled hegemony.

    i.e My way or no way.

    Sidebar: – Murphy’s intellectually lazy throw away usage of the term ‘Putin’s War’ provides another classic example of the Gell-Mann amnesia effect at work. Though it seems unlikely that Murphy would ever accept such a notion in relation to himself such is his sensitivity to any criticism and challenge.

    • I try to maintain an impassive distance from Mr Putin. The issues are far bigger than him and my mix of fear and anger at the West’s behaviour is not dependent on his being a saint.

      That said, I am struck by the intelligence not just of the RF President but of others – Sergey Lavrov and Maria Zakharova spring to mind – in prominent positions. Indeed, a snippet from Putin’s speech at the Valdai International Discussion is at time of writing my masthead quote.

      • There was an old Soviet era joke:
        “What’s the difference between the US people and the Russian people?
        The US people believe their governments propaganda.”
        ‘Baboom!’, as they say!

        • It’s a matter of considerable irony that every citizen of the West, drenched in wall to wall and 24/7 advertising – i.e. subject to the most sophisticated propaganda of all – implicitly believes that (a) s/he is miraculous immune, his/her consumer behaviour arrived at by independent thinking, and (b) that a hermetic seal prevents the black arts of opinion manufacture, perfected on Madison Avenue, being applied in mainstream political propaganda.

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