Ukraine – how will history judge?

25 Mar

The Economist today, March 25 2024

It gets boring I know. Sometimes I bore myself but I can’t overstate the importance of taking it to heart that on matters crucial to the oligarchs who beneath a chimera of democracy rule us, corporate media cannot be trusted. It’s not that journalists or editors set out to deceive. Some do of course but most, I’m sure, pride themselves on bringing the light of truth to shady corners without fear or favour. I’ve gone into all this before – here and here and here – so will just say that (a) credulity, albeit of the self serving kind, 1 rather than intent to deceive is the primary engine; (b) more deception is through omission than commission, though both apply when the stakes are high enough.

In sum, on what most matters to power – such as the vilifying of states, leaders and brave men like Julian Assange – those media are systemically incapable of being wholly truthful. It’s not enough to know this in our heads. It has to be deep rooted in our being. Amid the intensity of propaganda blitz on a Bashir al-Assad or Vladimir Putin, it’s so easy to succumb to the nagging thought that there’s no smoke without fire and they can’t all be making it up.

Actually they can, though they often aren’t aware of it, being themselves as much consumers as producers of propaganda.

Here’s digital editor Adam Roberts in this morning’s Economist news round-up. It’s free; all you need do is go to the site and subscribe to it. It comes as an e-letter, though, so I can’t link to it.

Hello from London,

What consequences might flow from Friday’s terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall in Moscow? Even—or especially—for an autocrat who just won a sham election …

There is zero evidence that the Russian election was a sham. Once again an assertion with no basis in ascertainable fact is given the status of truth by blanket repetition. And I’m sure Adam Roberts buys his own sweeping claims. Not to do so would be a poor career move and, as the American writer Upton Sinclair drily observed, “it’s hard to get a man to see a truth his salary depends on him not seeing”. 2

… there is a risk of looking weak or wrong-footed after such a horrific event. Vladimir Putin, a spy by training, tends to stay out of the public eye when confronted by unexpected crises. Last year, for example, he was nowhere to be seen as Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, led a column of fighters towards Moscow. The Russian president took his revenge later.

Unlike the “sham election” charge, these assertions serve no particular  purpose. They’re filler, seemingly puerile but a tiny sample of a 24/7 vilification that keeps our hate levels topped up while lending spurious credence to charges more specific. Do keep in mind that homo sapiens sapiens  is more a psychological than logical animal. Sufficiently conditioned to dislike a man, we’ll buy the most preposterous of defamations about him.

And guess what? I figured this out on my own sweet lonesome, with no help from that course on critical thinking – see opening screenshot – advertised on the E’s masthead. 3

Clever me!

This time, as our new article explains, Mr Putin hopes to pin the blame for the Moscow attack on his foes in Ukraine. I suspect he will struggle to do so …

I don’t know whether the Crocus City Hall atrocity was or was not made in Kiev. Neither do you and neither – unless he’s more blackguard than useful idiot – does Adam Roberts. Moscow is saying the four suspects apprehended were close to the Ukrainian border, and assumed to be fleeing there. I don’t suppose either the claim or its circumstantiality will impress a digital editor who knows which side of his bread gets buttered. I do know it’s the height of stupidity or worse to categorically rule it out the way he, with such unseemly zeal, is bent on doing.

… An affiliate of Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and it bore the group’s hallmarks. Russia has suffered from Islamist attacks on civilian targets before. Indeed, just a few weeks ago American intelligence warned of an imminent assault by such actors in Russia. Mr Putin dismissed their claims as blackmail.

A few things to unpack here. The timing does not point to IS. The murders come three days after Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Pescov announced that Russia’s SMO is now a full-scale war, one day after heavy strikes on Ukraine’s hydro-electric capacity, and at a time when Islamic State hasn’t mounted a major operation in years. And even if IS – what Professor Michael Hudson has called America’s Foreign Legion – is behind it, that would assuredly leave the US deep state in the frame given its record of weaponising jihad, most egregiously but not exclusively in Syria. And with relations between Washington and Moscow at a WW3-threatening low, a ‘warning’ from DC of imminent assault by “such actors” might well be seen not so much as blackmail – is Adam Roberts straw-manning or sloppy with words? – as mafia style threat. Or as back cover when the attack – for which elements of the US deep state may well have had foreknowledge, be the perps IS or Ukraine’s SBU – materialises.

Finally, an unsourced claim by “an affiliate of Islamic State” is worthless – if I believed “critical thinking” a skill I’d recommend Adam Roberts take the course his own organ is advertising – but at least it leans me toward seeing him as useful idiot rather than something darker. As for it bearing IS hallmarks, we’ve already been told of Washington’s ‘warning’. If this really had US deep state blessing then, with all its practice on false flag ops, we’d expect them to get some at least of the cover story right, wouldn’t we?

Speculation? Of course. The difference being that my speculation does not blithely shut down – on no other basis than rooting for the Good Guys busily enabling genocide in Gaza – avenues of enquiry Adam Roberts gives such short shrift.

Nonetheless, Mr Putin will surely try to take advantage of the uncertainty. He might, for example, say that the terrorist threat requires more resources to be given to the security services. Perhaps he will try to mobilise another wave of conscripts to fill the ranks of his army ahead of an anticipated spring offensive for his needless war in Ukraine …

Large numbers of Russian conscripts are slaughtered there each week. Last month we published a grim article assessing how many Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since the invasion two years ago.

I didn’t see that “grim article”, and any death in the war the US-led West provoked is a tragedy. (The construct in the previous paragraph – “his needless war in Ukraine”  – is accurate barring that one small word, “his”.) But Russian losses, given her command of the skies, overwhelming superiority in materiel and cautious advance – a far cry from the profligate sacrifices of men by a Zelensky fixated on holding towns of low strategic value, and by Zaluzhny’s replacement Syrskyi, aka the butcher of Bhakmut  – are assuredly far lower than those incurred by the AFU.

Forgive my returning from these specifics to the more general remarks I began with. What we need to understand is that for all their relatively sophisticated tone, and interesting pieces on matters which may be of high importance but do not much trouble our rulers, high end liberal mouthpieces like the Economist are in the business, on so non negotiable a subject as Russia rising, of serving up propaganda of the most childish kind.

Which leads me to close with the short piece posted to his onthebrynk website two days ago by my pal Bryan Gocke. I’ve replicated in full here, with link to his own site embedded in the title.


The judgment of history

The judgment of history is going to be extremely harsh on Western leaders’ role in the Ukraine / Russian conflict.

On The Duran platform on 22.03.24. is a discussion between Alex Christoforou and Alexander Mercouris about the current state of the conflict in Ukraine. The main points for me are:

1) All we have been told about Russia has turned out to be bullshit:

– Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country,

– The Russian economy is weak and will be brought to its knees by economic sanctions.

– The Russian army is poorly equipped, badly led and will run away if confronted.

– Vladimir Putin has a tenuous grasp of power and regime change will be easy.

– The conflict in Ukraine has reached a stalemate with the Russian army unable to make significant progress.

2) The Russians are about to move from a military strategy of ‘active defence’ (attritional) to one of ‘offence’ designed to take full control of the four eastern Ukrainian regions where Russian is the predominant language.

3) The West has been exposed as being totally unprepared to equip and support the fight against a peer enemy. Its tactics have been demonstrated to be out of date when employed against a modern army which is able ‘to shoot back.’ Having supplied materiel to equip the Ukrainian army (twice) the West has now run out of munitions, artillery, missiles and vehicles to send. It does not have the industrial capacity to equip and re-equip a modern army despite the millions funneled into its defence industries.

4) Having pressurised Ukraine into fighting Russia, the West is not prepared to put its own soldiers on the ground or pilots in the air but is insistent that Ukraine mobilises its youth and ever older people to address its steadily increasing military manpower crisis.

5) The West’s motivation to keep an already lost war going is to get to the US presidential elections without a Ukrainian collapse that would feed into a Trump victory – or if that was un-avoidable, to then blame the subsequent collapse on him once he was in office.

6) European leaders are panicking that the US will withdraw from the continent (to focus on internal issues and the coming conflict with China), leaving them presiding over economies that have been wrecked by the counterproductive sanctions against Russia.

Alex and Alexander suggest that the West must seek terms with Russia to bring this war to an end and negotiate the basis for a sustainable peace which will bring to a halt the slaughter of Ukrainians and the continued destruction of their country.

However, it seems that Ukraine is being urged to fight on – ‘to the last Ukrainian’ in order to expedite political objectives in the US. Shame on those who do this in our name!

The video is 48 minutes long – longer than usual for The Duran – but as they say there is a lot to cover – and it does, to my mind, provide a good analysis of the current situation.

* * *

  1. Journalists who know what’s good for them please editors. Editors who know what’s good for them please proprietors. Proprietors not only crave seats at the high table. They also need advertisers. Or in the case of The Guardian, oligarch sponsors like Gates and Soros, while state media like the BBC are beholden to politicians themselves either in bed with or fearful of incurring the wrath of men like Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the Barclay brothers.
  2. To Upton Sinclair’s perspicacity we can add Noam Chomsky’s crisp 1996 retort to Andrew Marr, then at the BBC, when the latter insisted that he does not self censor:

    I do not say you self-censor. I’m sure you believe all you say. But what I’m saying is that if you did not believe those things you would not be sitting in that chair.

  3. This from my March 17 post on generalising from personal experience: “What I observed in my own motivation, and inferred from the behaviour of fellow academics, is that critical thinking flies out the window the moment we have skin in the game – a personal stake, emotional or material, in a particular way of seeing things. Ergo it’s highly misleading … to speak of a need to teach the “skills”  of critical thinking.”

7 Replies to “Ukraine – how will history judge?

  1. “..neither does Adam Roberts.”
    That’s very courteous of you Philip. I suspect that Mr Roberts and the editorial team at The Economist are privy to all manner of information from one of the most likely organisers of the Crocus Hall attack.
    It has all the earmarks of the latest develoment of imperialist terror: the employment of low wage employees to minimise the costs of an operation at a time when austerity is affecting everyone-even Military Intelligence.
    Of course we don’t know (yet) exactly whodunnit but the chances of a tiny group of Tajiki followers of wahhabi doctrines closing their eyes to what is going on in Palestine during Ramadan and deciding to blow up a rock concert in Moscow do not amount to much.
    Everything points to Kiev. And when you get there all calls are forwarded to NATO.

    • I’m often accused of being too kind, bevin. It’s my only fault. The comment following yours, by Bryan Gocke, makes the same charge at a more general level.

      One who emphatically agrees with you is Scott Ritter, former US marine intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector frequently cited in my posts. Here he is in one of several interviews, setting out in measured but forthright tones the case for US and Ukrainian deep state involvement in the Crocus Hall atrocity.

      It’s only 17:26 and I recommend listening rather than viewing, due to the distracting background military scenes.

  2. As you know Phil I agree with your basic model of how a dominant ideology underpins hegemony and that the attendant propaganda is subtly comprised more of omission than commission …. but …. but ….. the nonsense being fed us by the MSM about the state of the conflict in Ukraine seems so outrageously false – and so easily demonstrable as false that I feel myself increasingly entertaining the notion of outright conspiracy. Journalists must have access to the same sources we do …. but then again, as you hint, the consequences of taking them seriously are, for the individual, very serious – resignation and loss of income.

    Thanks for the inclusion of my post in yours and the link to the onthebrynk blogsite.

    • The gap between active and conscious mendacity on the one hand, self-serving credulity on the other, is rapidly shrinking. It’s the nature of our times, and journalists like Adam Roberts – whose name is Legion – will not be judged kindly by history.

      (An analogy I sometimes draw is the Philpotts. Found guilty of the manslaughter of their children, in a blaze they’d started with venal intent, their crime was judged so egregious they got a life sentence and may well stay in jail longer than many who killed with intent to do so.)

      For analytic purposes, however, I think the distinction matters.

    • “Journalists must have access to the same sources we do . . .”

      You raise an interesting issue, Bryan. In theory they must but reading them, and particularly listening to them, I’m often led to wonder if they do make use of them. Or if they’re even properly aware of alternative narratives.

      As Pat Lang used to say, perhaps still does, many of them may have drunk deeply of the Kool-Aid.

  3. Yes, Chomsky’s comment seems entirely apt.

    Footnote 3 is also highly relevant. Skin in the game can be a game changer, but at a more general level we all probably also have unexamined foundations to our belief systems. Until something forces a closer examination, they simply sit there, determinative but invisible.

    I certainly know for me it’s been a slow, long process, and one that’s far from over.

    There’s also the question of personality. It seems to me some are natural partisans, some simply don’t care, and some are primarily driven by a desire to understand. To the extent I understand myself, I’m one of the latter and I get the sense you are as well. A burden and a blessing.

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