Censorship, fake news, perception management

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Fri Jul 15, 2022 3:33 pm



CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA – As the bloody conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate, so does the online propaganda war between Russia and the West. A prime example of this is the White House directly briefing influencers on popular social media app TikTok about the war and how to cover it. As the crisis spirals out of control, Americans have turned to TikTok to view real time videos and analysis of the invasion. With the app estimated to have around 70 million U.S. users, the White House is keenly aware of its impact. “We recognize this is a critically important avenue in the way the American public is finding out about the latest … so we wanted to make sure you had the latest information from an authoritative source,” President Joe Biden’s director of digital strategy, Rob Flaherty, told 30 top TikTok influencers.

TikTok itself has taken steps to align itself with U.S. government policy, deleting more than 320,000 Russian accounts and removing at least 41,000 videos peddling misinformation about the war. In addition to this, it has placed warning labels marked “Russia state-controlled media” on 49 accounts linked to the Russian government. Like other big social media platforms, it has not done the same to Western state-owned outlets such as the BBC, RTÉ, or the CBC.

All this is a far cry from 2020, when President Donald Trump signed an order that would shut down TikTok within 45 days unless it was sold to an American buyer. The Chinese-owned platform, the U.S. government alleged, posed a severe national security threat to the United States. Although TikTok is a Chinese company, it is, ironically, completely blocked inside China, their domestic market being served by a sister app, Douyin, which functions in a similar way but is separated by the Great Firewall. Thus, there is no contact or overlap between the two. After Douyin’s success in China, its parent company ByteDance launched a global platform.

ByteDance first reached a deal to sell TikTok to Microsoft, then to Oracle and Walmart. Yet the new Biden administration, without explanation, quietly dropped the sale requirement indefinitely in early 2021, saying in a court filing that it had begun a review of security concerns cited by the Trump administration.

That decision left buyers and onlookers alike perplexed. Yet studying the backgrounds of dozens of key TikTok employees brought on since the 2020 scare suggests that, instead of destroying TikTok, perhaps the U.S. national security state has co-opted it instead.


Since 2020, there has been a wave of former spooks, spies and mandarins appointed to influential positions within TikTok, particularly around content and policy – some of whom, on paper at least, appear unqualified for such roles.

For example, while simultaneously being the Content Policy Lead for TikTok Canada, Alexander Corbeil is also the vice president of the NATO Association of Canada, a NATO-funded organization chaired by former Canadian Minister of Defense David Collenette. In order to join TikTok, Corbeil left his job at the SecDev Foundation, a U.S. State Department-funded security think tank. Corbeil’s work focused on Middle Eastern security and in particular on the war in Syria and what NATO’s role should be.

Another NATO-linked new recruit is Ayse Koçak, a Global Product Policy manager at the company. Before joining TikTok last year, she spent three years at NATO. Like Corbeil, Koçak had special expertise in Middle Eastern politics, including a year’s tour in Iraq as the organization’s deputy senior civilian representative.

Foard Copeland, who works on TikTok’s trust and safety policy, is also an ex-NATO man. Copeland previously worked as a desk officer for NATO, as well as for the Department of Defense. Between 2011 and 2021, he also worked for U.S. contractor Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), spending much of that time in Afghanistan. DAI has long been accused of being a CIA front group, perhaps with some justification. In 2009, for example, DAI agent Alan Gross was arrested in Cuba and sentenced to 15 years in prison for spying, espionage, and his part in efforts to destabilize the government.

Perhaps the most worrying NATO alumnus, from a public perspective, is new Feature Policy Manager Greg Andersen. According to his own LinkedIn profile, until 2019, Andersen worked on “psychological operations” for NATO. This fact, according to MintPress contributor Lowkey, was removed after his tweet raising concerns about the relationship between big tech and the national security state went viral. Lowkey wrote:

Andersen’s profile continues to identify him as a former NATO employee, but there is no reference to “psychological operations” or “soldier-system lethality.” Lowkey provided MintPress with a screenshot of what he said was Andersen’s pre-tweet profile, which has been included below.



NATO, however, is far from the only organization newly connected to TikTok. The company’s new Global Lead of Integrity and Authenticity, Chris Roberts, is a former senior director of Technology Policy at the Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG), a powerhouse strategy and consulting firm started by late-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. The ASG has been perhaps the major staffing source for President Biden’s administration, with at least 10 ASG employees appointed to key positions in national security, state and foreign policy positions.

Before ASG, Roberts worked, in his own words, on “special projects” for the National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NDI was founded by the Reagan administration after a series of CIA scandals necessitated the creation of a network of front groups to take the heat off the agency. The NDI exists to channel U.S. government money, training and support to political and social groups around the world. This could charitably be described as “democracy promotion,” although cynics might label it “overthrowing governments.” As Roberts himself said, “The nature of democracy promotion is that the most important countries to work in are also the ones where the government may not want your ‘help.’”

At TikTok, Roberts’ role is to “Lead the Integrity and Authenticity policy team. This team covers misinformation, synthetic and manipulated media, covert influence activity, and spam and inauthentic engagement.”

One group infamous for peddling misinformation and carrying out covert operations is the CIA. Yet rather than identifying operations, they might be conducting, TikTok has instead recruited a former agent to serve in an important position. Since January, Beau Patteson has been working as a threat analyst for TikTok’s Trust and Safety Division. Between 2017 and 2020, however, Patteson was a targeting analyst for the CIA, after which he joined the State Department to become a foreign service officer. In addition to his role at TikTok, Patteson is also, according to his social media profile, a military intelligence officer in the United States Army.


One step closer to the halls of power is Victoria McCullough, who previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security and for the White House itself. Like Patteson, McCullough now works on trust and safety at TikTok. Another trust-and-safety TikTok staff member, Christian Cardona, spent nearly 13 years in senior roles at the State Department across the Middle East and Europe before seamlessly moving to the social media giant.

Virtually every former spook or state official this investigation found works in very specific (and highly politically sensitive) fields such as trust, safety and content moderation, rather than in banal areas like marketing, customer service or sales. Yet TikTok’s new recruits come from some of the least trustworthy organizations anywhere in the world – organizations that should not be anywhere near the levers of power of such a popular platform.

The national security state has been the source of some of the most outlandish and damaging fake news claims in recent years. This includes lurid allegations about so-called “Havana Syndrome” and the “BountyGate” hoax. Going further back, falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction or an immiment genocide helped push the U.S. to war in Iraq and Libya, respectively. Yet individuals from many of these institutions are now in charge of deciding what is real and what is fake, and which content to promote or suppress.

In this light, the 2020 pandemonium about TikTok being a national security threat looks increasingly like a power play from the national security state. These dire warnings, and even the threat to completely shut down its platform, subsided only after TikTok began appointing Western officials to important positions within its organization, thereby giving the state considerable influence over the content and direction of the app.


Readers who consider TikTok little more than a fun app to watch short videos of people dancing are behind the times. From a modest beginning, it has exploded in popularity, growing exponentially from 85 million global users in early 2018 to 1.2 billion by late 2021 (with a similar monstrous growth in revenue to boot).

It is exceptionally popular among the younger generations. The 2021 Reuters Institute Digital News Report found that 9% of people aged between 18 and 24 worldwide had gone to TikTok to get news over the past week, while 31% of that age group used the app in that period (and therefore likely passively consumed news to some extent). Furthermore, it has a very loyal user base, with the tens of millions of U.S. TikTok users spending an average of 68 minutes per day on the platform.

Thus, TikTok has become an enormously influential medium that reaches over one billion people worldwide. Having control over its algorithm or content moderation means the ability to set the terms of global debate and decide what people see and do not see. MintPress invited TikTok to comment on its relationship with the government, but has not received a response.


This is far from the first time the national security state has pulled this trick, however. In 2018, Facebook came under enormous pressure from the U.S. government, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself being hauled in front of both the House and the Senate to face hours of grilling over the platform’s role in privacy, content moderation and spreading Russian disinformation. Only weeks after this, Facebook announced a new partnership with the Atlantic Council, whereby the group would serve as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” taking considerable control over its content moderation, supposedly in an effort to weed out fake news and disinformation. The Atlantic Council, however, is NATO’s think tank and serves as its brain trust, with no fewer than seven former CIA directors on its board. Since then, Facebook (or Meta, as it is officially known), appointed former NATO Press Officer and current Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Ben Nimmo to serve as its head of intelligence. In addition, Facebook’s new global director of content policy, Mark Smith, was formerly employed by NATO as an advisor to its deputy commander.

The Atlantic Council has also found its way into Reddit’s management. In 2017, Jessica Ashooh went straight from being deputy director of Middle East strategy at The Atlantic Council to director of policy at the popular news aggregation service – an unusual career move that drew few remarks at the time. Like Corbeil, Koçak and others, Ashooh was a Middle East specialist and was intimately involved in the West’s war in Syria. For years, Reddit took a free-speech absolutist position, even defending hosting clearly illegal sexual content. However, Ashooh’s arrival coincided with a new era of far more forceful moderation. Reddit recently took the decision to not only ban links from Russian state media outlets, but all websites with a Russian (.ru) domain.

Likewise, a number of key Twitter personnel raise eyebrows. Chief among them is Head of Editorial for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Gordon MacMillan, who, in addition to his duties at Twitter, is an officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade – a notorious unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. Like Facebook, Twitter has partnered with some highly questionable state-linked organizations, giving them considerable influence over its content moderation.

Meanwhile, Google’s current global head of Developer Product Policy, Ben Renda, was formerly a strategic planner and information management officer for NATO, before working for both U.S. Cyber Command and the Department of Defense.


The U.S. government, it appears, refuses to allow any competition to its hegemony over the digital realm. Huawei has effectively been banned throughout much of the West, with the United States refusing to allow the Chinese giant to control the new network of 5G communications. U.S. attempts to convince other nations to block Huawei have elicited significant pushback in the Global South. “If you are ahead, I will ban you, I will send warships to your country…That is not competition, that is threatening people,” said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, commenting on U.S. actions. Decades earlier, the U.S. government effectively destroyed the Japanese semiconductor industry, forcing Japan to sign a one-sided trade deal while imposing a 100% tariff on Japanese electronics – a power play that led to a decades-long recession from which the island nation has never recovered.

In 2020, the U.S. government even forced Chinese-owned Grindr to be sold to a U.S. company, deeming the LGBT dating app to be a “national security threat.”

In every accusation, it is said, there is a confession. That Washington considers even frivolous hookup apps to be too important to be outside of U.S. control, lest they be used to influence the public, suggests they know exactly what they are doing, infiltrating big tech companies. Indeed, this was more or less confirmed earlier this month by a letter written by a host of top natsec officials, including former CIA Directors Michael Morell and Leon Panetta, and former Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Frances Townsend (all of whom also sit on the Atlantic Council’s board of directors).

The officials advised that breaking up Silicon Valley giants, as many have advocated, would “inadvertently hamper the ability of U.S. technology platforms to … push back on the Kremlin.” “The United States will need to rely on the power of its technology sector to ensure [that] the narrative of events” globally is shaped by the U.S. and “not by foreign adversaries,” they explain, concluding that Google, Facebook, Twitter are “increasingly integral to U.S. diplomatic and national security efforts.” In other words, they see big-tech as a key weapon of the U.S. empire.


In the 1970s, the Church Committee unearthed the existence of Operation Mockingbird, a secret CIA project to infiltrate newsrooms across America and place agents masquerading as journalists inside. Investigative reporter Carl Bernstein’s work found that the CIA had cultivated a network of over 400 individuals it considered assets, including the owner of The New York Times.

Today, it appears that the links between big media and big government are, if anything, closer than they were in the 1970s. The monopolistic power of big social media platforms gives them – whether they like it or not – extraordinary influence over public opinion. And within their opaque Silicon Valley offices, a small cadre of individuals set the algorithms and decide the moderation policies that shape what billions of us see every day. With a host of former officials taking positions in these companies, the U.S. national security state is acquiring some measure of influence over the means of communication. It’s Operation Mockingbird for the 21st century – and on a global scale.

It is not normal for NATO officials or CIA agents to suddenly be put in charge of TikTok content policy. This did not happen purely by accident, just as it did not occur by chance at the other big tech platforms. One might reasonably argue that some of the only people who have the skills to highlight, spot and counter disinformation campaigns are those who have done similar work in the military or secret services. However, these organizations are the last ones that many would want in control of big-tech platforms, given their history of subterfuge and deceit.

Put another way, if these were Russian-based social media companies filled to the brim with former FSB, KGB or Kremlin officials, we would immediately recognize them as blatant government-controlled platforms. Yet many of the most popular apps are heading in the same way.

There is certainly a huge problem with fake news and disinformation online. And a fair chunk of it emanates from Russia. But while some might argue that poachers can become gamekeepers and use their skills for good, this situation feels far more like foxes being in charge of the digital henhouse.

https://www.mintpressnews.com/nato-tikt ... ts/280336/
"There is great chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent."

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Mon Jul 18, 2022 2:26 pm

Open Letter to CBC on its Defamation of Eva Bartlett
JULY 17, 2022

UN Press Briefing on Syria Featuring Eva Bartlett. Photo: The Canadian Patriot.

By Karin Brothers – Jul 13, 2022

On the morning of July 6th, the CBC crossed the line from merely putting out its usual biased news on Ukraine to a defamatory attack on independent journalists who report live from the Donbas. While they named Americans John Mark Dougan and Patrick Lancaster, they reserved particular venom for the highly-respected Canadian Eva Bartlett.

The National News anchor Ian Hanomansing featured Justin Ling, a writer who has been known to attack reputable journalists whose accounts counter state propaganda. They suggested that those who report the Ukrainian news from Bartlett and her colleagues’ perspective must be in Russia’s pay.

The implication that Eva Bartlett’s reporting is bought and paid for by Russia (made, incidentally, by those whose opinions seem to have been bought and paid for by Canadian taxpayers) is defamatory. She has a well-earned reputation for courageous eyewitness in the most dangerous situations, including in Gaza when it was under devastating Israeli bombardment in 2008/9, in Syria (where she publicized western false flag attacks), as well as in Ukraine, where she showed the reality of the supposed “mass graves” in Mariupol.

Implying that those who call out US responsibility for fomenting the Ukrainian conflict are Russian pawns is cover for those flogging western propaganda — propaganda that:

ignores the US-backed 2014 coup against the democratically- elected Ukrainian president;
ignores Zelensky’s landslide victory on the platform of making peace with Russia;
ignores the U.S. undermining of the Minsk Accords that would have enabled that peace;
ignores the Kiev government’s ongoing attacks on Donbas civilians [now with the use of new U.S. weaponry!] that have killed an estimated 15,000 since 2014; and that
even ignores the now-public evidence that the US motive in training tens of thousands of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi soldiers for the last eight years was to prepare them for this proxy war in order to weaken Russia and get rid of Putin.

Americans who have spoken out about the U.S. set-up of Russia for this conflict include:

Prof. John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago;
Former Pentagon advisor Col. Douglas McGregor;
Former Virginia State Senator Col. Richard Black;
Former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Editor of the Wall Street Journal Paul Craig Roberts;
Former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter;
Editor-in-Chief of Consortium News Joe Lauria; and
Marine Corps Veteran and producer of “The New Atlas” Brian Bertelic.

The CBC owes Eva Bartlett and her colleagues a public apology for their defamation.

To make amends, it should present a clip of Eva Bartlett’s work to show viewers what honest reporting looks like.


In case ya didn't know:
RELATED CONTENT: Who is Eva Bartlett? https://orinocotribune.com/who-is-eva-bartlett/

https://orinocotribune.com/open-letter- ... -bartlett/

Eva, please be careful....



Leaked Docs: Facebook ‘Bot’ adviser secretly in pay of U.S. regime change agency
Originally published: MintPress News on July 14, 2022 by Kit Klarenberg (more by MintPress News) | (Posted Jul 16, 2022)

Platforms such as Facebook on alleged state-backed online influence campaigns–has itself received $1.2 million from U.S. intelligence front USAID, for “counter disinformation and communications support.”

This relationship has hitherto never been publicly acknowledged, and the resulting income is not reflected in the company’s published accounts.

On Valent’s direction, Facebook has purged huge numbers of Sudanese accounts and pages critical of the Western-backed government, helping to keep a controversial civilian and military administration in power. There are also suspicions the company may have played a role in the mass suppression of Ethiopian voices online supporting the government of Abiy Ahmed, and opposing U.S. attempts to overthrow him.

Valent Projects is the creation of Amil Khan, a veteran BBC and Reuters journalist turned British intelligence-adjacent information warfare professional. For many years, Khan worked on secret Foreign Office projects in Syria. There, he ran covert psyops campaigns targeting domestic and international audiences, trained ostensibly independent opposition journalists and activists to communicate effectively with the media, and provided propaganda support to numerous armed groups trained, funded, and armed by London and Washington.

Perversely, but perhaps unsurprisingly given his professional history, Khan is now an influential and well-remunerated component of the international counter-disinformation industry. He and his company receive vast sums from an assortment of prominent clients–not all of whom are advertised–for a variety of dubious services, including managing online astroturf campaigns, and identifying alleged foreign-borne propaganda and enemy government-backed “information operations” online.

Khan bills Valent Projects as “an integrated digital agency that works with clients who want to do good in the world.” But internal company documents passed to this journalist anonymously reveal that his disinformation busting efforts amount to a deeply sinister arm’s length state censorship mechanism.

There is no indication that Khan apprised social networks of his commercial connections to USAID when making representations to them about purported “inauthentic behavior”, “coordinated activity” and troll and bot accounts on their platforms–representations that result in independent activists, journalists and others being permanently suspended, and dissent crushed online.

By definition, this activity poses a grave, unseen, and wholly unaccountable threat to the ability of independent journalists, academics, activists, and regular citizens the world over to be heard online, if their perspectives contravene established Western narratives. And it represents yet another ominous example of how major social media platforms have been insidiously coopted and corrupted by national security interests.


Valent’s active role in compelling major social media platforms to take action against “networks” of trolls and bots elsewhere has been well-publicized. In June 2021 for instance, 53 Facebook accounts, 51 pages, three groups, and 18 Instagram accounts in Sudan, with over 1.8 million followers “that targeted domestic audiences,” linked to individuals associated with a national opposition party, were summarily purged.


“We found this network after reviewing information about some of its activity shared by researchers at Valent Projects,” a Meta report on “inauthentic behavior” that month states.

This was one of many mass-defenestrations of social media users in Sudan carried out by Facebook in the period between the April 2019 coup that ousted long-time President Omar al-Bashir, and the military’s seizure of power in October 2021, to which Valent was either central or closely adjacent.

These accounts, usually associated with opposition elements in the country, were variously claimed to have engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” by disseminating content critical of the country’s military and civilian power-sharing government, “[promoting] Russian interests,” and other malign activities.

While one would be forgiven for concluding from Meta’s “inauthentic behavior” report that Valent approached the social network in an independent capacity, the company was in fact acting on behalf of USAID’s Agency’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which “provides fast, flexible, short-term assistance targeted at key political transition.”

This is an Orwellian euphemism for facilitating regime change. While never admitted in the mainstream, and strenuously denied by officials in Washington, USAID has since its 1961 inception served as a U.S. intelligence Trojan Horse, aiding the CIA and other agencies in undermining “enemy” governments.

The Agency’s penetration of Sudan following the 2019 coup was extensive. An official USAID explainer openly avows that the event represented a “historic” opportunity to “further U.S. interests” in the country and wider region, strongly hinting that the civilian and military power-sharing government was created by OTI.

South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, left, walks with Samantha Power outside the presidential compound in Juba, South Sudan, Sept. 4, 2016. Justin Lynch | AP

The administration was then provided extensive financial and material support by USAID, its representatives coordinating closely with the Sudanese Prime Minister’s office to “counter mis- and disinformation.” The Agency also financed independent media outlets and NGOs, and supported “civilians advocating for democratic reforms,” in order to shore up its rule.

Numerous reports from leading human rights organizations published during the executive’s two years of operation documented rampant corruption and egregious abuses of power by authorities, including murderous crackdowns on protests, jailing of activists without charge or trial, and closure of opposition media outlets. By the time the administration disintegrated, it had failed to implement almost all of the institutional and legal reforms outlined in its founding constitutional charter.

One would not know any of this from statements by U.S. officials, however. In September 2021, USAID chief and notorious war hawk Samantha Power hailed Khartoum’s “hopeful…progress” in “achieving a democratic, inclusive, and peaceful future benefiting all Sudanese.”

To say the least, USAID had a significant vested interest in maintaining this grossly distorted fiction, and silencing detractors of the power-sharing executive. It was no doubt calculated that Washington becoming openly involved in compelling social networks to deplatform the disreputable administration’s denigrators would even further undermine its legitimacy at home and abroad though.

Hence, the need to employ Valent Projects to achieve that objective, and lend a legitimizing imprimatur of ostensibly independent “expertise” to insidious state censorship.


Questions also abound on Valent’s role in the Ethiopian Civil War, which has raged since November 2020, and the mass online censorship that has accompanied the bitter fighting.

What began as a limited regional skirmish in which government forces responded to attacks on military infrastructure and atrocities perpetrated against civilians by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) eventually came to engulf much of the country. A political movement-cum-party which ruled the country between 1991 and 2018, the new government in Addis Ababa has designated the TPLF a terrorist group.

During its period in power, the U.S.-backed TPLF made Ethiopia the country “one of the most inhospitable places in the world,” carrying out vicious actions “bearing the hallmark of crimes against humanity”, according to Human Rights Watch. Untold billions provided in financial aid was embezzled by state officials and spirited out the country, and Ethiopia became the second-worst jailer of journalists on the continent.

This egregious track record is reflected in the TPLF’s conduct in the civil war. The group has committed countless atrocities, including gang rapes and multiple massacres of civilians, and used children extensively as human shields. Yet these abuses have barely been acknowledged by Western journalists.

The elected government’s efforts to quell the bloodshed, and time in office more generally, have not been without fault. But the administration evidently represents a welcome change for Ethiopian voters, who re-elected it in an overwhelming landslide in mid-2021, even as the TPLF-instigated carnage continued apace. However, corporate news outlets have consistently framed authorities’ prosecution of the war as a murderous, unprovoked assault on the general population, with charges of artificially manufactured famine, mass atrocities and ethnic cleansing, if not outright genocide repeatedly abounding–although never substantiated.

Officials in Washington have at regular intervals also openly and eagerly advocated for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ethiopia, if not U.S. boots on-the-ground. Such comments are commonplace in buildups to Western military intervention.

In November 2021, independent journalist Jeff Pearce released a leaked recording of a secret Zoom summit earlier in the month between high-ranking current and former U.S., U.K., and EU diplomats and a senior TPLF representative. During the meeting, the TPLF was actively encouraged to advance on Ethiopia’s capital and seize power via force, which only confirmed suspicions that Addis Ababa had been earmarked by Washington for regime change.

In response to this aggressive tubthumping, many Ethiopians, members of the country’s sizable diaspora, and independent reporters and researchers took to social media and began coordinating via messaging apps to counter the war propaganda perpetuated by Western politicians, journalists and think tanks, in furtherance of U.S. aggression and exploitation throughout the Horn of Africa.

Their collective struggle gave birth to the No More movement, its name a concise but powerful call to end “disinformation, division and war” in Addis Ababa and beyond–a corresponding hashtag spread like wildfire across social media platforms, and served as a rallying cry at many protests in key Western capitals, where Ethiopians and Eritreans defiantly marched side by side against conflict and imperial meddling.

These endeavors very effectively challenged mainstream consensus on the civil war, in the process amply underlining the potential power of independent media and social networks. Were it not for the crusading work of No More et al, it seems almost certain Washington would have staged some form of direct intervention to assist the TPLF in overthrowing the Ethiopian government.

This can only be considered a tremendous achievement for people power. But Valent Projects had very different ideas. Among the leaked papers reviewed by MintPress is a report on “inauthentic behavior” and “coordinated networks” online related to the Ethiopian civil war produced by the company in May 2022.

It frames the seismic upsurge of grassroots outcry over the past 18 months as a “complex and sophisticated online manipulation effort” on the part of Addis Ababa, with the Chinese and Russian governments “supporting if not directing” vast armies of troll and bot accounts to support that activity, and promulgating “anti-imperialist” narratives via social media to manipulate “specific audiences,” as part of an “orchestrated online influence campaign.”

Ethiopian and Eritrean protest against western intervention in their country in Washington, Dec. 10, 2021. Gemunu Amarasinghe | AP

The methods by which Valent reaches these sensational conclusions leave much to be desired. To put it bluntly, its report is a poorly woven patchwork of peculiar logical fallacies, paranoid conspiracy theorizing, dumbfounding non sequiturs, defamatory and false allegations, sweeping conspiratorial conjecture, unsupported and inexplicable value judgments, and amateurish analytical blunders.

For example, the company’s initial assumption–for reasons unstated–was the overwhelming majority of accounts tweeting #NoMore were automated. Its research team therefore analyzed 150 accounts that used the hashtag most frequently using Botometer to validate this hypothesis.

Just 20% were found to be “probable” bots, quite obviously indicating most of the users were real people. But Valent instead concluded that the Russian and Chinese “operation” was in fact quite so sophisticated, “many inauthentic accounts” simply escaped detection.

To reinforce this dubious, self-perpetuating conclusion, Valent “isolated” 49 of these accounts, which displayed location data, and found 30 had tweeted from six separate “identical locations, within and outside Ethiopia.” This is said to suggest they were all being run “by an individual or small group of actors,” in order to create the false impression that interactions between these accounts were “organic online conversation.”

One site purportedly linked to several accounts was the world famous Trafalgar Square. Valent cites this as “a clear sign of falsification,” although a far more logical explanation is that these users simply listed London as their location on their profiles.

Trafalgar Square marks the point from which all distances to Britain’s capital are measured, and thus represents the city’s epicenter. Searches for “London” via online maps invariably direct to the area as a result. As a native of the city and resident to this day, it is remarkable Khan was apparently unaware of this.


An accompanying Excel spreadsheet lists a large number of accounts that tweeted content related to the civil war, divided by Valent into “seeders”–“accounts that produce original content and introduce it into the discourse”; “superspreaders–“accounts that take that content and amplify it”; and “endorsers”–“accounts that interact with the content to give the appearance of organic engagement to the interactions.” Each user is also given a Botometer ranking out of five.

Among the accounts are dozens of Ethiopians, including academics and activists, and anti-imperialist Western journalists and researchers. Much of the Ethiopian contingent rate highly on the Botometer scale, although academic tests show the software to be “imprecise when it comes to estimating bots,” producing significant volumes of false positives and negatives alike, “especially” so when accounts tweet in a language other than English.

Underlining Botometer’s inaccuracy, the official account of independent media outlet Breakthrough News is ranked 3.3 on the inauthenticity scale, and highlighted in the spreadsheet in a menacing red.

Breakthrough and its founders Eugene Puryear and Rania Khalek crop up repeatedly in the report. In November 2021, they traveled to Addis Ababa to conduct on-the-ground reporting on the situation, which Valent outlandishly asserts was the start and core component of a dedicated “phase” of China and Russia’s “political influence operation” related to the civil war.

This is predicated on the bogus basis that the outlet–which receives no state or corporate funding, and is primarily financed via viewer donations and subscriptions–is in fact “Russia-backed”.

The existence of such a “phase” is buttressed by the observation that other figures bogusly accused of being “linked to Russian state interests” also became “more active in shaping discourse” on social media at this time, pushing an “anti-imperialist” narrative to “hard-left audiences.”

Again, an altogether saner explanation could be that the interest and output of anti-imperial, independent activists and journalists was spurred by ongoing developments in the crisis, and they reported on them accordingly. After all, November was when the aforementioned bombshell recording leaked and when the TPLF concurrently expressed a desire publicly to push on to Addis Ababa.

That was certainly the case in my regard. I feature prominently in the report as a result of having independently published a Substack newsletter on the leaked recording, and Valent levels a number of wild charges against me. For example, a series of tweets about the company and Khan posted in early December 2021 is framed as a “doxxing attack” that “demonstrated an awareness of Valent’s internal operations” and “suggested access to information obtained through espionage/security links.”

The “sophistication” of this “attack”, the report argues, “further reinforces the view” that Russia was managing a high-level “pro-Ethiopian operation” on social media, despite the tweets being completely unrelated to Ethiopia, and this journalist having not the slightest inkling the company was engaged in work related to the civil war at this time.

The report goes on to lament that despite Valent reporting these tweets to Twitter, the company took no action, which is said to suggest “a lack of commitment on the part of the platform to enforcing its stated policies.” In reality, Twitter’s failure to respond was likely due to the information included in the tweets being gleaned from internet search engines, and publicly-accessible resources such as LinkedIn, and therefore no rules actually being broken.


Such irrationality, ineptitude and rank incompetence would be amusing, except Valent’s framing of legitimate, organic online activity by genuine civil society actors as malign, orchestrated, counterfeit, enemy state-directed and in breach of established platform rules could well have influenced social media platforms to suppress if not outright ban a large number of users, distorting public perspectives and damaging reputations and livelihoods in the process.

Independent journalists named in Valent documents, such as Sputnik contributor Wyatt Reed, have told MintPress that their online reach collapsed after they reported on the civil war. Many of the accounts flagged by Valent as bots–likely wrongly–have been permanently suspended. Other prominent pro-Ethiopian activists unnamed in the report, including No More cofounder Simon Tesfamariam, have likewise been banned without warning, explanation or recourse. Meanwhile, prominent figures have engaged in outright hate speech about Ethiopians and no action has been taken.

Rania Khalek likewise alleges there was a “huge dip” in views of Breakthrough videos related to Ethiopia after they traveled to Addis Ababa, despite their initial output on the crisis generating vast numbers. Jeff Pearce, who is listed in the spreadsheet as “historian/propaganda [sic]”, believes his Twitter account to now be shadowbanned. Pearce told MintPress that,

I’m volcanically pissed that Valent has the gall to smear myself and my colleagues as Kremlin assets, or part of some info op run by Moscow. It’s beyond ridiculous and insulting. I’ve publicly condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on several occasions–you can watch a speech I made on the war earlier this year on my YouTube channel.”

“We’ve traveled to Ethiopia multiple times, interviewed witnesses, investigated massacres, seen hospitals, universities and museums vandalized and looted by the TPLF,” he added. “I’ve published documents proving UN officials ignored war crimes and did nothing to help their own staff when they were assaulted and kidnapped. You can make up what you like, but you can’t transform the reality of over 100 million people.”


Whether Valent’s work on Ethiopia was also conducted for USAID is an open question, but the parallels with its Sudanese operations are clear and cohering. It may be significant that Samantha Power was one of the most prominent voices agitating for U.S. intervention in the civil war, declaring in August 2021 that “every option is on the table” for dealing with the crisis.

Moreover, the Valent report on “inauthentic behavior” states the company has identified “information operations in the Middle East and Africa,” while other leaked documents refer to Valent helping “supporting newly democratising governments” deal with “disinformation” for USAID–suggesting several other countries, and their populations, in the Agency’s crosshairs have likewise been in the firing line of Khan’s warped insight.

There is quite clearly an urgent need for social media platforms to review any and all suspensions that have been motivated by information provided by Valent Projects. It is inevitable that untold numbers of journalists, activists, academics and authentic civil society voices will have been purged on the most preposterous, unjust grounds imaginable as a result of Khan’s interventions. The only question is who was targeted, and where.


On June 7, it was revealed that Khan was also working closely with British journalist Paul Mason in an effort to deplatform The Grayzone, as part of a wider personal crusade against the anti-war, anti-imperialist left over the matter of Ukraine.

Leaked emails between the pair exposed how Mason suggested subjecting The Grayzone–which he baselessly and bizarrely believed to be a Chinese and Russian intelligence operation–to “relentless deplatforming” via “full nuclear legal” attacks, official probes by government bodies, and cutting the website and its contributors off from online donation sources such as PayPal.

This was a fate MintPress News, its founder Mnar Adley and senior staff writer Alan MacLeod suffered in May this year–an egregious development Mason spoke of approvingly in the leaked emails. In reality, MintPress does not support the Russian government, and staff such as MacLeod have publicly condemned Vladimir Putin for his actions.

Nevertheless, the conflict in Ukraine has grown the power of Western governments to directly dictate what is and is not true, and what their populations are and are not allowed to know, exponentially. Yet, their ability to distort and censor overseas is limited, if not outright waning–and that’s where Valent Projects comes in.

As such, the leaked documents reviewed by MintPress illuminate a hitherto unexplored purpose of online suppression and deplatforming: regime change. By filtering out troublesome viewpoints and inconvenient facts in target countries, governments can be destabilized, and who or what replaces them entrenched in power, with domestic and foreign audiences deprived of access to any and all critical viewpoints.

As the New Cold War grows considerably hotter every day, Khan’s services will surely become ever-increasingly in demand. Neither he nor his state and quasi-state sponsors can be allowed to succeed.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Jul 19, 2022 1:51 pm

When You Lack Real News Just Rewrite Yesterday's Story

Diligently reading the news every day makes one perceptible for subtile changes. Often they are edits in pieces that have been published but then appear rewritten in the same place a few hours later. That seems to be a rather normal occurrence and is fair as long as the factual descriptions and their interpretation don't change.

But this one is weird.

On July 17 the New York Times published this piece by Carlotta Gall from the Ukrainian front lines:

On Donetsk’s Front Line, Small Gains and Losses Impose a Heavy Toll


DONETSK PROVINCE, Ukraine — Red flames crackled in the golden wheat field, the target of Russian artillery just minutes earlier. Nearby, the commander of a Ukrainian frontline unit was finishing his lunch of pasta from a tin bowl. As more incoming shells exploded in the fields, his men took cover in their bunkers. ...

On July 18 the New York Times published this piece by Carlotta Gall from the Ukrainian front lines:

On Donetsk’s front line, small gains and losses impose a heavy toll.


In the grinding battle for eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Province, Russia has intensified attacks on the next line of cities that stand in their sights — Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut, among others. ...

Both pieces are linked on the current 'World' page of the NYT website. The URLs of both pieces, one published on the 17th one on the 18th of July, are different as are their opening paragraphs.

But the rest is rewritten, edited and slightly updated but content wise pretty much the same.

From the piece published on the 17th.


Almost everyone in a volunteer unit guarding the area had suffered a concussion in recent weeks, said one soldier, Oksana, 27. She and her husband were training as criminal lawyers before the democracy protests of 2013 and joined up to fight in 2014 when Russia first annexed Crimea and Russian-backed separatists seized power in eastern Ukraine.
The unit successfully blocked a Russian attack at the end of June, said her husband, Stanislav, 35, who was commander of a forward defensive position.

“Early morning I had 33 people. By early evening I had lost 19,” he said. “It was very hard — they were firing on our positions nonstop for six hours.” Twice Russian tanks tried to flank their positions, but they spotted them and trained artillery fire on them, forcing the Russians back, he said.

And the same anecdote but published in a different piece on the 18th.


Almost everyone in a volunteer unit guarding the area had suffered a concussion in recent weeks, said one soldier, Oksana, 27.
The unit successfully blocked a Russian attack at the end of June, said her husband, Stanislav, 35, who was commander of a forward defensive position.

“Early morning I had 33 people. By early evening I had lost 19,” he said. “It was very hard — they were firing on our positions nonstop for six hours.”

Some passages of both piece differ from each other but there is a very significant overlap of the reported anecdotes that have only been slightly rewritten.

I don't know how others feel about this but if they want me to pay for 'news', in whatever form, I want it to be news, not a rewrite of yesterday's story.

I have been reading the NYT's 'World' page for the last 20 years but have never noticed something like this. A 'new' rewrite published under the same headline a day after the original story went up? Why?

The paper may have done this for its lack of real news from the Ukraine. It seems to have only one reporter in the field. Others, like Megan Specia from London or Jane Arraf from Baghdad, have been flying in and out of Lviv or Kiev, the first being the ideological center of the Banderites in west Ukraine, delivering largely irrelevant stories. There is no NYT reporter in the Donetzk or Luhansk republics reporting on the other side of the war.

There is some real news about the Ukraine, not exactly new but still news. But it is not the stuff the NYT would like you to know about.

Maria Dubovikova @politblogme - 20:02 UTC · Jul 18, 2022
An audio recording of a conversation between Biden & Petro Poroshenko in Nov 2016 reveals that Biden demanded Poroshenko to refuse the money offered by the future Trump administration and do everything possible to close PrivatBank so that the IMF could provide a loan to Ukraine.

All of that was presented by Biden as a needed step for the sake of economic security and "physical security", apparently of Poroshenko himself. So Biden had been threatening Poroshenko.


The Biden family business in the Ukraine is really something some of the larger mainstream media, not just Trump affiliates, should have been digging into. It is remarkable how their ideological blinders keep them away from doing that.

By the way: Today, July 19 2022, the word 'Trump' appears nine times on the current NYT front page, 'Ukraine' appears five times.

And what about this?

Michael Tracey @mtracey - 3:10 UTC · Jul 19, 2022
Wonder if the vaunted US intelligence services have any insight into why Zelensky just sacked the equivalent of his CIA Director and Attorney General and accused them of treason.

With this peculiar development, along with the peculiar missile strike on Vinnytsia, it's safe to assume the general public is probably being told around 20% of what's really going on in Ukraine: whether regarding US policy or otherwise. So that's a roughly 1 to 5 bullshit ratio.

The Director of National Intelligence famously made the incredible statement in May that the US has less "insight" into Ukraine's operational status than Russia's. Which presumably must mean the US is just a clueless bystander with respect to these peculiar developments. Oh well.

Zelensky replaced his childhood friend Ivan Bakanov as head of the SBU with Vasily Malyuk, who is said to be a man of former president Poroshenko. Will Poroshenk be back and replace Zelenski after the now rumored of coup finally happens?

Do not expect the mainstream media to report on it.

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Please consider to contribute.

Posted by b on July 19, 2022 at 7:52 UTC | Permalink

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Fri Jul 22, 2022 2:13 pm

Calling Putin ‘Hitler’ to Smear Diplomacy as ‘Appeasement’

The New York Times (7/2/22) attributed a spike in mentions of Nazism at the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine to Putin describing Ukraine as “full of Nazis,” but did not discuss Western media comparing Putin to Hitler.
Earlier this month, a New York Times (7/2/22) report, “How the Russian Media Spread False Claims About Ukrainian Nazis,” argued that falsely branding people as Nazis is inherently propagandistic:

The lie that the government and culture of Ukraine are filled with dangerous “Nazis” has become a central theme of Kremlin propaganda about the war.

To say Ukraine is “filled” with Nazis is an obvious exaggeration, although even a relatively small number of Nazis has wielded disproportionate influence in the Ukrainian government (Kyiv Post, 3/26/19; Euronews, 8/4/21). Nevertheless, FAIR (3/7/14, 1/15/22, 1/28/22, 2/23/22) has covered the Western media’s denial of the far-right’s role in the Ukrainian 2014 coup, as well as their complicity in amplifying Ukrainian neo-Nazi publicity stunts during the war.

But if it’s true that falsely associating a government with Nazism is a manipulation worthy of condemnation, how then should one judge Western media efforts to tie Russian President Vladimir Putin to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler?

FAIR (3/30/22) has previously noted how evidence-free caricatures in Western media of Putin as irrational (and perhaps psychotic) make diplomatic efforts to end the Ukraine crisis seem pointless. Tracing a connection between Putin and Hitler is an even more insidious attempt to make the idea of a negotiated end to the war seem like a moral outrage.


In the early days of the Ukraine crisis, former US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul implied to guest host Ali Velshi on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show (3/11/22) that Putin was worse than Hitler, because Putin was killing his own people, while Hitler “didn’t kill ethnic Germans.” McFaul’s comments were later shared without attribution or pushback by the Maddow blog on Twitter (3/12/22)—suggesting that Maddow’s show endorsed McFaul’s comparative ranking of Putin and Hitler—before being removed following social media backlash and a correction by the Auschwitz Memorial. (Many of the Jews killed by Hitler were, of course, ethnically German, as were countless other victims of Hitler, if that makes a moral difference.)

Historian Richard J. Evans (New Statesman, 4/9/22) listed several ways Putin could be compared to Hitler, including the argument that genocide was at “the heart of the Nazi project,” and Russia’s actions in Ukraine amount to genocide because Ukrainians “are being killed because they are Ukrainians, and for no other reason.” Furthermore:

Both men had imposed dictatorial rule over their respective countries, both men suppressed dissent and eliminated independent media, both men had no hesitation in murdering people they considered a threat to their rule. Both Hitler and Putin invaded a series of neighboring countries, both used lies and disinformation to justify their actions, both used a symbol–in Putin’s case “Z,” in Hitler’s the swastika–to advertise support for their aims. Both men had no hesitation in causing death and destruction on a massive scale to further their ends.

Many of these features would seem to apply to virtually any authoritarian ruler, from Augusto Pinochet to Ferdinand Marcos—though not every dictator has a distinctive logo, were they all Hitler as well?

Political scientist Alexander Motyl wrote an op-ed for The Hill (5/3/22), “Putin’s Russia Rose like Hitler’s Germany—and Could End the Same,” that argued that the “striking similarities between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Adolf Hitler’s Germany are not accidental,” because their “imperial mindsets, militaristic ambitions, personality cults and demonization of minorities (Jews and Ukrainians)” made it “almost inevitable that Hitler and Putin then embarked on major wars.”
“We err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust…But today’s Russia meets most of the criteria that scholars tend to apply. It has a cult around a single leader, Vladimir Putin,” wrote Timothy Snyder for the New York Times (5/19/22).
Historian Timothy Snyder’s New York Times op-ed (5/19/22), “We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist,” averred that we “err in limiting our fears of fascism to a certain image of Hitler and the Holocaust,” but claimed there are similarities between “Mr. Putin’s war” and “Hitler’s main war aim” of conquering Ukraine in 1941. In any case, Snyder suggested that, as with Hitler, there was no point in negotiating with Putin, because the only way to deal with such leaders is to hand them a military defeat: “The fascist leader has to be defeated, which means that those who oppose fascism have to do what is necessary to defeat him,” he asserted, warning that if “Ukraine does not win, we can expect decades of darkness.”

‘More dangerous’ than Hitler

In the London Telegraph (5/10/22), Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki argued that Putin is “more dangerous” than Hitler (or Stalin), because not only does Putin “have deadlier weapons at his disposal, but he also has the new media at his fingertips to spread his propaganda.” While it “seems impossible that Hitler or Stalin could return in our time,” Morawiecki wrote, they apparently did so when the “inconceivable became fact when rockets fell on Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities of a sovereign, democratic state in the heart of Europe.” (Serbia was also, like Ukraine, a sovereign state with an at least nominally elected government—but NATO rockets falling on its cities during the Kosovo War did not seem to herald the second coming of World War II–era dictators.)

Morawiecki claimed that Putin’s “Russkiy Mir” ideology is “the equivalent of 20th-century Communism and Nazism,” and a “cancer” that poses a “deadly threat to the whole of Europe.” It is “not enough to support Ukraine in its military struggle with Russia,” he declared; nothing less than rooting out this “monstrous new ideology entirely” would be satisfactory to him.

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine is a violation of international law, condemned by 141 out of 193 countries in a UN General Assembly vote. But claims that Russia is committing genocide—a charge that carries automatic repercussions under international law—have to reckon with the comparison between the Ukraine invasion and the largest US military operation of the 21st century, the Iraq War. The UN’s count of civilian deaths in the first four months of Russia’s war was 4,677; the tally in the first four months of Iraq, according to Iraq Body Count, a project that monitored press accounts of civilian casualties, was 8,576.

Both numbers are horrific, and each surely underestimates the true civilian toll of these wars. But if Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, what was the US doing in Iraq?

“I know it’s hard…to swallow that the carnage and destruction could be much worse than it is,” a US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst told Newsweek (3/22/22). “But that’s what the facts show. This suggests to me, at least, that Putin is not intentionally attacking civilians.”

If one genuinely wants to compare Putin’s brutality to Hitler’s, one has to look at the actual civilian toll of World War II. In the European theater alone, tens of millions of civilians were killed; some 14 million of these deaths were inflicted in the Soviet Union, which comprised both Russia and Ukraine. When you assert that the enemy of the day is as bad as Hitler, you’re also asserting that Hitler is no worse than the enemy of the day.

A parade of new Hitlers

Political scientist Michael Parenti pointed out in Against Empire that the corporate media often demonize the leaders of Official Enemy states as an evil personification of the entire population in order to justify US aggression against them, and there are few better ways to vilify foreign leaders in the West than by making exaggerated accusations that they are Adolf Hitler reincarnate. The glib trope demonstrates how frivolously historical comparisons are thrown around to advance US geopolitical goals.

British journalist Louis Allday (Ebb Magazine, 3/15/22) compiled a list of instances where Western journalists and officials have compared foreign leaders to Hitler—with Hitler sometimes coming off better in the comparison. Hitler-like leaders include Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Milošević, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and even Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

If we take all of these allegations at face value, we should all be shocked by how many Hitlers have emerged after World War II. Or one could reasonably infer that Western journalists and officials will compare any foreign leader they dislike to Hitler, trivializing the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the suffering endured by their victims. Allday argues that these flippant Hitler comparisons are “effectively tantamount to a form of Holocaust denial and even an insidious rehabilitation of Nazism.”

Diplomacy = ‘appeasement’

One inevitable feature of these Hitler comparisons is frequent reference to “appeasement” when reporting on the US’s dealings with foreign leaders. This presents any attempt at diplomatic negotiations with foreign leaders opposed by the US as a misguided or unprincipled effort to placate an irrational or evil dictator bent on expansionist conquest.

Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, as it amassed troops near its border, British Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace worried that “there was a whiff of Munich in the air.” This was a clear reference to what is commonly perceived to be a failed policy of diplomatic efforts to prevent World War II in the West, when European powers agreed to let Hitler annex part of Czechoslovakia in the 1938 Munich Agreement (BBC, 2/13/22).

Ian Bond (Guardian, 2/22/22), the director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform, wrote that although Putin is “not a charismatic madman,” there are still “echoes of 1938 in current developments,” as what “Putin has in common with Hitler” is a “mystical belief in a nation stretching beyond his country’s current borders.” Bond criticized Western officials for appearing to focus on “accommodating” Putin instead of deterring him, arguing that deterrence is “impossible” if “leaders keep telling Putin what they are not prepared to do” by ruling out in advance escalation into World War III.

New York Times columnist David Leonhardt (5/9/22) made it seem as if US leaders can only choose between their “old strategy” of “appeasement,” which supposedly caused Putin to “become more aggressive,” and their “new strategy” of “confrontation,” which would risk “a fight with a nuclear power that many Americans and Europeans do not want.”

This is a false dichotomy. Although establishment Western pundits and officials like to claim that the Russian invasion was “unprovoked,” FAIR (1/28/22, 3/4/22) has pointed out that this self-serving narrative omits a record of conscious provocations against Russia via NATO expansion towards Russian borders, in violation of promises made to Soviet reformer Mikhail Gorbachev. Leonhardt falsely described the US’s previous foreign policy toward Russia as a “strategy of non-confrontation ” rather than encirclement and antagonism.

(A poll of Ukrainians conducted by the Wall Street Journal and the National Opinion Research Center—6/9-6/22—found 58% thought the US bore “some” or “a great deal of responsibility” for the current conflict, along with 55% for NATO, while 82% said the same of Russia. This majority opinion in Ukraine would be difficult to utter in an establishment US media outlet.)
According to a Wall Street Journal and the National Opinion Research Center poll, 58% of Ukrainians believe the US bears “a great deal/some responsibility” for the war in Ukraine.
Accusations of “appeasing” Russia or Putin have been raised towards influential Western officials who have either engaged in diplomacy or advocated de-escalation through negotiations. Zelenskyy has made contradictory remarks throughout the conflict, arguing that diplomacy is the only way to end the war, while also advocating for escalation through more NATO military support and setting up a “no-fly-zone.” Western media outlets (e.g., Reuters, 5/26/22; Newsweek, 5/26/22) amplified Zelenskyy’s Munich references, with no pushback, when he criticized former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for advocating Ukrainian territorial concessions as a path to ending the war. Zelenskyy mocked Kissinger, stating that his “calendar is not 2022, but 1938,” and suggesting that Kissinger was speaking to an audience “in Munich back then.”

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel has also had to defend her record of diplomacy with Putin numerous times from charges of “appeasement,” as Zelenskyy blamed her and former French president Nicholas Sarkozy for not doing enough to prevent the situation. Other op-eds (Politico, 5/23/22; Bloomberg, 6/9/22) denounced her as the “Neville Chamberlain of our time”–evoking the British prime minister who met with Hitler at Munich–because of her insufficiently aggressive policy.

Russia’s ‘appeasement’ history

Comparisons that depict diplomacy with Russia as a reenactment of Munich gloss over Russia’s unique history with Nazi Germany. The popular narrative of “appeasement” in 1938 often omits that World War II might not have happened if Britain and France had accepted Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s offer to form a military alliance to preemptively attack Nazi Germany in August 15, 1939 (Telegraph, 10/18/08). Britain and France’s rejection of Stalin’s offer arguably led to the USSR signing a nonaggression treaty with Nazi Germany (also known as the Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact) on August 23, 1939; it was this agreement that set the stage for WWII, not Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler in Munich.

World War II is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, because approximately 26 million Soviet citizens died in the conflict, while around three-quarters of all Nazi wartime losses came from fighting the Red Army (Washington Post, 5/8/15). But there are other historical memories that drive Russia’s perception of threats coming from the West. Another fact seldom recalled in US media is that Russia was invaded by the US and 14 other nations in 1918, who were intervening on behalf of the White Russian Army against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War (National Interest, 9/3/19; Consortium News, 7/18/18).
“The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people,” Putin said in his February 24 speech.
Indeed, Putin cited Russia’s history of being invaded by the West in the 20th century as a major reason behind the timing of his decision to preemptively invade Ukraine. In his speech announcing the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Putin invoked his own version of the “appeasement” trope in justification of military aggression:

The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people. In the first months after the hostilities broke out, we lost vast territories of strategic importance, as well as millions of lives. We will not make this mistake the second time.

Recreating empire?

An oft-repeated corollary to the Western media’s frequent Hitler comparisons is that there was little point before the invasion in addressing Russia’s security concerns surrounding NATO expansion and the US’s unilateral abandonment of arms control treaties, since Putin supposedly wanted to recreate the Soviet Union or Russian Empire despite his repeated explicit denials. Putin’s alleged belief that the modern state of Ukraine has no right to exist, the argument goes, is proof of his supposed Hitlerian expansionist ambitions.
“Talk of ‘de-Nazification,’ while absurd on a factual level, is nonetheless revealing. It tells us that Putin is acting on his long-held belief that the Ukrainian government has no right to be independent. It hints at his ultimate goal: to transform Ukraine into a vassal of a new Russian empire,” wrote Zack Beauchamp for Vox (2/24/22).
The two sources Western media most cite to make this claim are Putin’s speech (2/21/22) recognizing the independence of the separatist Donbas republics, and an essay he wrote last year (7/12/21) titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Vox’s Zack Beauchamp (2/24/22) wrote that Putin “believes that Ukraine is an illegitimate country that exists on land that’s historically and rightfully Russian.” Ha’aretz (3/17/22) published an op-ed comparing Putin’s July essay, with its “Hitlerian motifs,” to Hitler’s Mein Kampf—particularly “the notion of an artificial and tragic division of a people that must be rectified by reunification.”

Perhaps the most frequent purveyor of this narrative is Timothy Snyder (4/18/18), who claimed that the war in Ukraine is a “colonial war”:

In a long essay on “historical unity,” published last July, [Putin] argued that Ukraine and Russia were a single country, bound by a shared origin. His vision is of a broken world that must be restored through violence. Russia becomes itself only by annihilating Ukraine.

However, when one actually reads both sources, rather than relying on secondhand sources to explain what Putin meant, it quickly becomes apparent that these are blatant misrepresentations of what Putin said. Putin’s essay “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians” is long and convoluted, but although Putin talks about Russia and Ukraine’s shared historic, religious and linguistic heritage, and claims that “modern Ukraine is entirely the product of the Soviet era,” he also stresses that Russia has acknowledged new geopolitical realities:

Things change: Countries and communities are no exception. Of course, some part of a people in the process of its development, influenced by a number of reasons and historical circumstances, can become aware of itself as a separate nation at a certain moment. How should we treat that? There is only one answer: with respect!… The Russian Federation recognized the new geopolitical realities: and not only recognized, but, indeed, did a lot for Ukraine to establish itself as an independent country.

This point was repeated in Putin’s later speech (2/21/22), where Putin blamed the existence of the modern Ukrainian state on Vladimir Lenin and the USSR. Putin’s claim was not that Moscow should continue to govern all of Ukraine, however, but that Russia’s recognition of Ukrainian independence was an act of political generosity, in contrast to what he presented as Kyiv’s ungenerous treatment of the residents of Donbas:

Despite all these injustices, lies and outright pillage of Russia, it was our people who do accepted the new geopolitical reality that took shape after the dissolution of the USSR, and recognised the new independent states. Not only did Russia recognize these countries, but helped its CIS partners, even though it faced a very dire situation itself. This included our Ukrainian colleagues, who turned to us for financial support many times from the very moment they declared independence. Our country provided this assistance while respecting Ukraine’s dignity and sovereignty.

Putin’s efforts to justify Russia’s invasion are not based on events that happened centuries ago; his historical accounts in these two texts, however self-serving, are not linked to attempts to justify violence. Rather, the speech (2/24/22) that declared the “special military operation” did so on the grounds that the “eastward expansion of NATO” that began in 1999 is “a matter of life and death,” and a “red line” for Russia’s security that had been crossed despite several warnings.

He also maintained it was to “protect people who, for eight years now, have been facing humiliation and genocide perpetrated by the Kiev regime” in the Donbas region. Such concerns are generally dismissed as pretextual in the West, but the UN’s count of civilian deaths in the Ukrainian civil war—3,321 as of January 2019 (UN OHCHR, 9/23/21)–is comparable to the UN civilian death toll from the Russian invasion, with a tiny fraction of the international outrage.

The cost of ‘appeasement’ charges

The hyperbolic comparisons between Russia and Vladimir Putin to Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler, as well as constant accusations that anyone who attempts to negotiate with Russia for a peaceful end to the war is engaged in “appeasement,” have cost the world opportunities to de-escalate. The Biden administration has not encouraged the Ukrainian government to engage in serious negotiations with Russia (Jacobin, 5/30/22), no doubt well aware that doing so would bring more Chamberlain analogies.

Adam Johnson and Nima Shirazi, cohosts of the Citations Needed podcast (10/9/19), point out that the emotionally manipulative and thought-terminating comparisons to Hitler and Munich are designed to suggest that

every so-called dictator is a new Hitler and every negotiation, every potential negotiation even, with those countries is a new Munich, is a new abdication of world responsibility that will inevitably lead to what else: a new Holocaust.

The extreme caricatures of Putin as equal to or worse than Hitler are setting up Ukraine and the world for a grim fate. A BBC report (6/20/22) last month featured NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urging the West to “prepare to continue supporting Ukraine in a war lasting for years,” while the head of the British Army, Gen. Patrick Sanders, asserted that the “UK and allies needed to be capable of winning a ground war with Russia.” The frequent Nazi comparisons and Munich references made by Western media paint those who would prefer a negotiated settlement to years of bloodshed, the risk of World War III and nuclear war as “appeasers” of a Hitlerian dictator with genocidal ambitions.

Featured Image: Illustration by The New York Times; Photographs by Clive Rose, Alexander Nemenov and Kirill Kudryavtsev, via Getty Images

https://fair.org/slider/calling-putin-h ... peasement/


50 Sick Headlines About Vladimir Putin's Health

Over the last months the British MI-6 disinformation service had fun with strewing rumors over Vladimir Putin's health, mostly via British tabloids. It used its usual tools - a former MI-6 chief, 'former' MI-6 spies and the ever available 'anonymous' Russian oligarch who lives in London. Like its other propaganda claims these were obvious nonsense but found a reliably echo in the gossip media.

Putin Laughs Off Rumors of Ill Health
Reuters / NYT - Mar 16, 2015
Opinion: Is Putin dying? Is he mentally ill? The emerging field of ‘Putinology’
LA Times - Mar 5, 2022
Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko attacks Putin: 'He's sick, he's an unhealthy man' - EXCLUSIVE
Yahoo - Mar 18, 2022
Putin's hand shakes before he grips chair arm and awkwardly taps his feet during meeting with Lukashenko two months ago in latest sign Russian leader is suffering health problems
Daily Mail - Apr 26, 2022
What’s wrong with sickly Vladimir Putin?
Evening Standard - Apr 27, 2022
Report: Putin faces cancer surgery; his temporary fill in won’t ‘do anything rash’
Boston Herald - May 2, 2022
Is Vladimir Putin sick? Health problems and abdominal cancer prognosis explored amid latest report
Sk Pop - May 3, 2022
Putin 'plans to hand over power as cancer rumours and signs of ill health grow'
Mirror - May 4, 2022
What The Obsession With Putin’s Health Says About The Grim State Of The War
Worldcrunch - May 4, 2022
People think these bruises on Putin's face are proof he's very ill
Indy 100 - May 11, 2022
Is Putin Sick – Or Are We Meant to Think He Is?
NewLines - May 12, 2022
Vladimir Putin 'very sick' with cancer and other illnesses, army boss says
Mirror - May 14, 2022
Russian oligarch secretly recorded saying Putin is 'very ill with blood cancer,' report says
Insider - May 14, 2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘Seriously Ill’, Ukraine Invasion ‘Element’ Of Illness: Report
ABT - May 15, 2022
Vladimir Putin is 'seriously ill', says ex-British spy; Russian Oligarch claims Prez 'suffering from blood cancer'
Free Press Journal - May 15, 2022
Russian President Putin Is 'Seriously Ill', Claim Ex-Spy, Others: Reports
The Quint - May 16, 2022
Former M16 chief backs claims Vladimir Putin is in poor health following reports president is 'very ill with blood cancer'
Sky News ´- May 16, 2022
Putin Is 'Seriously Ill', Potentially Terminal, Ex-MI6 Russia Head Says
Newsweek / MSN - May 16, 2022
Putin Leaving Meetings To Get Medical Treatment, Claims Ex-MI6 Intelligence Officer
Republican World - May 21, 2022
Putin will land in sanatorium and lose power by 2023: ex-MI6 head
NY Post - May 22, 2022
‘Putin will be gone by 2023’: Ex MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove says Russian president will be sent to a sanatorium
Bulldog reports - May 22, 2022
Russia’s Putin will be in a sanatorium and out of power by 2023, ex-MI6 chief predicts
Business Insider / SCMP - May 23, 2022
America’s ‘Biggest Enemies’ – Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping Critically Ill; Suffering From Terminal Brain Disease – Media
Eurasian Times - May 26, 2022
Putin sick with cancer, has three years to live, says Russian spy
News.au - May 28, 2022
MI6 spies claim Vladimir Putin could be dead and a body double is taking his place at public events - Chronicle
May 29, 2022
Timeline shows Putin's alleged health problems after contested Ukrainian claims that he is concealing a serious illness
Insider - May 30, 2022
Russia’s Sergey Lavrov denies Vladimir Putin is ill
SCMP - May 30, 2022
Vladimir Putin may already be dead with body double being used, MI6 source says
Daily Record - May 30, 2022
Is Vladimir Putin Sick? What We Know About the Russian President's Health
Newsweek/MSN - May 30, 2022
Exclusive: Putin Treated for Cancer in April, U.S. Intelligence Report Says
Newsweek - Jun 2, 2022
Ex-MI6 Agent Claims Russia’s President Putin Is A Body Double.
Medium - Jun 2, 2022
'Putin Is Definitely Sick': Brutal Russian Autocrat Treated for Cancer, Survived Assassination Attempt, Intel Analysts Say
CBN News - Jun 3, 2022
Putin health deteriorating FAST: Warning to ‘be ready’ as ‘everyone senses end is near'
Express - Jun 5, 2022
The Many Deaths of Vladimir Putin
CEPA - Jun 6, 2022
Why the world is fixated on Vladimir Putin’s health
Financial Review - Jun 8, 2022
VLAD THE PALER Is Vladimir Putin ill?
U.S. Sun - Jun 10, 2022
DYING DAYS Putin health latest: Sickly tyrant will be ‘incapacitated’ and toppled in coup within three months, claims ex-MI6 spy
Sun - Jun 10, 2022
Putin ill health claims may be Western spy bid to topple despot - expert
Express - Jun 14, 2022
Vladimir Putin seen shaking in latest video
NY Post - Jun 14, 2022
'Hits the Botox heavily' Hypochondriac Putin obsessed with looks - doctor 'never far away'
Express - Jun 14, 2022
Does This Video Prove Vladimir Putin Is Sick with Blood Cancer?
1945 - Jun 15, 2022
Is Vladimir Putin ill?
Economist - Jun 15, 2022
Vladimir Putin is gravely ill and will be 'dead within two years', spy chief claims
Joe - Jun 26, 2022
Vladimir Putin seen gripping table with veins bulging as illness rumors mount
NY Post - Jun 16, 2022
VLAD THE WEAKER Telltale signs sickly Putin is ‘losing control’ after disastrous limping appearance in Iran
Sun - Jul 20, 2022
'PUTIN' ON A SHOW: Sick Vlad Tries to Keep Up Appearances as He Gets Off His Plane in Iran
Hanity - Jul 20, 2022
Is Vladimir Putin dead?
New Statesman - Jul 21, 2022

CIA Director William Burns finally had enough of it. Getting asked and having to answer stupid questions about Putin's health is a waste of time. Official media picked up on it. The narrative is thereby dead.

Vladimir Putin 'entirely too healthy' says CIA chief
Euronews - Jul 21, 2022
Putin is ‘entirely too healthy,’ the C.I.A. director says.
NY Times - Jul 21, 2022
Ukraine war: CIA chief says no intelligence that Putin is in bad health
BBC - Jul 21, 2022

The Russians said 'thanks' to Burns and reinforced his message.

Russia Denies Rumors Putin Is Sick
Forbes - Jul 21, 2022

For incomplete lists of other MI-6 induced nonsense headline storms see:

Russia Is 'Weaponizing' ... Everything
MoA - Mar 3, 2016
How Putin's Russia Weaponizes X
MoA - Dec 17, 2018
Putin Asks And Trump Delivers - A List Of All The Good Things Trump Did For Russia
MoA - Jan 15, 2019
The Man Who Weaponizes And Loses Everything
MoA - Aug 13, 2019
The 'Russian Military Build-Up'
MoA - Apr 2, 2021
How Russia 'Weaponized' 111 Times
MoA - Apr 5, 2021
When China Does Great Question Its Cost
MoA - Dec 27, 2021
China, Where Everything Vanishes
MoA - Jan 29, 2022

Posted by b on July 22, 2022 at 9:14 UTC | Permalink

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2022/07/5 ... .html#more

Links for everything at MoA.
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Sat Jul 23, 2022 1:25 pm


White man’s media: legacy media in the U.S. and UK frames and conditions our thinking and actions
Originally published: Pearls and Irritations on January 11, 2022 by John Menadue (more by Pearls and Irritations) (Posted Jul 21, 2022)

The U.S. Department of Defence maintains, in its own words ‘full spectrum dominance’ throughout the world. Legacy media in the U.S. and the UK has the same dominance. It frames and influences how we think and particularly how governments act.

U.S. legacy media–CNN, Washington Post, New York Times, Fox News and Western news agencies- in association with drivers of U.S. power and privilege, the military, business, think-tanks and security agencies exert dangerous and destructive influence that has contributed to the killing of millions of people. Add to that the way legacy media has helped excuse the way in which the U.S. has attempted and often successfully, to overthrow numerous governments around the world. The ‘indispensable state’ regards it as quite natural that U.S. hegemony should be enforced everywhere.

Just as the British East India Company effectively ran Britain and its empire, so the U.S. military and business complex, along with its elite supporters particularly in the media supports Western hegemony. No U.S. president, and certainly no Australian prime minister or Leader of the Opposition is prepared to challenge the U.S. Imperium.

Australian media tugs the forelock to the Imperium. A person from Mars who reads and listens to Australian media would conclude that we are an island parked off New York or London.

Our media is dominated by the domestic events and issues of interest to UK and U.S. readers–the latest antics of the British royal family, Donald Trump, the Governor of New York or vaccination rates in Alabama.

Much worse the ‘world view’ we get in Australia is a view of the world as seen from London, New York and Washington.

Most of the news we get in Australia about China, Indonesia, India and Vietnam is via Western news agencies. These media snapshots are usually about the exotic and dangerous- a coup here, a flood there. Not surprisingly we remain ignorant and fearful of Asia.

Our ‘colonial’ media structure was laid down long ago. It remains today.

We talk glibly about our future in Asia, but we are stuck in a U.S. and UK media cul de sac.

With the active encouragement of our media, we have been drawn into countless U.S. military disasters not just for the U.S. but overwhelmingly for the people that are attacked. On top of that, we had the war on terror. Now we have the vilification of China, perhaps even a war.

It is not that Chinese behaviour and its human rights record has worsened. What has changed and what is feared is the growing power and influence of China. It is successful. That is seen as a threat to U.S. full-spectrum dominance. That fear of China is reflected in our legacy media in the U.S. and the UK spewing out an endless daily campaign of anti-China stories. And other media follow.

Led by the U.S., our media showed no interest in ‘democracy’ in Hong Kong throughout over a century of British rule. But now that Hong Kong is properly recognised as part of China, the U.S. government, supported by its media, suddenly became concerned about democracy and independence for Hong Kong. They encouraged the 2019 insurrection.

The U.S. has rained death, destruction and displacement on tens of millions of Muslims in the Middle East over the past 20 years. Now the U.S. media shows a remarkable and belated concern about the persecution of Muslims in China. The U.S. record, like Australia’s treatment of Indigenous people, is a blemish for all time. But who seems to care? Certainly not our own media, who waste no opportunity to attack China. We cherry-pick human rights abuses that suit our agenda.

The association of legacy media with the powerful is everywhere. As Alex Lo wrote in August ‘It has long been known that the Department of Defense in the U.S. and other governments such as the CIA, not only support film and cable production in Hollywood but also actively intervene and manipulate their content.’

And in June, Lo described how a long list of former U.S. security chiefs e.g. John Brennan and James Clapper, joined U.S. media–NBC, MSNBC and CNN.

Australian security heads have been leading the demonisation of China with help from the Five Eyes. But we get a double whammy when our derivative media draws heavily on U.S. legacy media that in turn is heavily influenced by former U.S. security chiefs with their ‘expert opinions’.

But Australian media does not have a problem just being dominated by legacy U.S. and UK media. We have a particular problem. Its name is Rupert Murdoch, an American citizen who owns two-thirds of Australia’s metropolitan dailies and more.

News Corp was a key supporter of the Iraq War–the Murdoch War. Of the 173 Murdoch papers worldwide only one, The Hobart Mercury opposed the war. Murdoch told us in 2003: ‘I think Bush acted very morally, very correctly. U.S. troops will soon be welcomed as liberators’. His foreign editor on The Australian, Greg Sheridan, could not contain himself. ‘The bold eagle of American power is aloft, high above the humble earth. For as it soars and sweeps it sees victory, power and opportunity’. He is still in his job. Murdoch prefers loyalty to competence in all those around him, including his family.

Even some of the legacy media apologised for their support of the illegal war in Iraq. But never Murdoch nor for that matter John Howard.

News Corp in Australia for over a decade has also led the campaign of denial on climate change.

The U.S. military/business/security complex exercises destructive and pervasive power. Legacy media supplies a favourable frame for that complex.

Our derivative media ties us to the white legacy media of the North Atlantic. It frames our view of the world.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Jul 26, 2022 3:37 pm

Reporters Without Borders Launches Campaign to Censor Russian Media
Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on JULY 25, 2022
Steve Sweeney

Reporters Without Borders General Secretary Christophe Deloire

A JOURNALIST has accused press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) of “abetting genocide” after it launched a controversial appeal for funds to censor Russian media.

Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett accused RSF of silencing the voices of the Donbass region’s inhabitants.

The group launched an appeal on Friday with an email from Jeanne Cavelier, head of the RSF Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, asking for donations.

She claimed that several Russian television channels, including Rossiya 1, Perviy and NTV, were spreading “disinformation and content that in effect condones war crimes and incites violence and hatred, legitimising the invasion of Ukraine and the Russian army’s crimes.”

When pressed by the Morning Star, RSF was unable to point to any specific examples of such activity by the organisations cited in its appeal.

General secretary Christophe Deloire responded by saying that the channels were “created to destabilise our democracies in a context of information war” and had lied by describing Russia’s intervention as defensive.

“In short, they serve the interests of a repressive, censorious and propagandist state.”

He said that Russian media has challenged the dominant narratives on the bombing of a hospital in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and the massacre of civilians in the town of Bucha and also suggested that the US had funded “a secret network of biological laboratories used to design chemical weapons.”

But journalists say that it is right to scrutinise such incidents and seek to cut through the fog of war.

The appeal called for French authorities to act against Eutelsat, which RSF claims is profiting from broadcasting Russian media outlets and “deriving dividends from disinformation and censorship.”

It accused the satellite operator, in which the French state is a major shareholder, of “acting as an intermediary for the Russian war propaganda apparatus.

“Help us to get Eutelsat to comply with the international convention that requires respect for the right to freedom of expression and information,” it said above a donation button.

Mr Deloire denied that RSF was calling for censorship but accused the Russian outlets of promoting “propaganda and lies,” saying that “Eutelsat should rather broadcast independent Russian channels.”

He insisted this case was different from the state bans on RT and others which RSF opposed, but was about the jurisdiction of governments.

“We call on France and other signatory countries of the Eutelsat convention to impose the respect of the principles of this convention,” he said.

But Ms Bartlett told the Morning Star: “What RSF is actually doing is censoring the people of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics, who have been living under Ukrainian bombing for over eight years.

“Ukraine has increased its shelling in the past four months, heavily hitting civilian areas and infrastructure, including schools, markets and hospitals.

“Russian media and those able to publish reports on sites like RT is giving those terrorised civilians a voice and holding Ukraine accountable for its war crimes,” she said.

“RSF is clearly working hand in hand with Ukraine in obfuscation of its murder of 754 civilians from January 2022 to July 21 2022 alone. That is in addition to the nearly 8,000 civilians alone Ukraine has killed over the past eight years.

“In covering this up, RSF is abetting genocide,” Ms Bartlett said.

RSF refused to comment on reports of journalists deemed to be “pro-Russian,” including Ms Bartlett, being placed on kill lists and declined to speak out about her case.

“Our team did not have the capacity to investigate the case. We need to get sources from all sides, and make sure that they provide information and not lies,” Mr Deloire said.

He denied that such appeals create a climate that puts journalists at risk, after some raised concerns that RSF is “placing a target on our backs.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “denouncing propaganda media is a way to defend the independence of journalists, whatever the editorial lines of their media,​​​​​” adding that RSF does not have any political bias.

The press freedom organisation was founded in 1985 by French journalist Robert Menard and others.

Mr Menard is now mayor of the southern city of Beziers, having been elected in 2014 following a campaign backed by the far-right National Front.

RSF has received funds from US regime change outfit the National Endowment for Democracy and USAID, among others.

It has been accused of targeting countries that the US has criticised or sanctioned as part of a new cold war and regime change efforts, including China, Russia, Syria and Venezuela.

In 2008, a number of its activists were arrested for attempting to disrupt the flame ceremony at the Beijing Olympics.

Difference Group founder Dr Dan Steinbock said that RSF has previously supported coups against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras when those leaders held office.

He claimed that the group has admitted co-operating with the US State Department against Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, while pursuing similar joint interests in Libya, Iran and Iraq.

https://libya360.wordpress.com/2022/07/ ... ian-media/
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Wed Aug 03, 2022 2:55 pm

Polls show almost no one trusts US media, after decades of war propaganda and lies

The CIA has long manipulated the media, spreading disinformation to justify US wars. Today just 11% of North Americans trust television news.

ByBenjamin NortonPublished4 days ago


Very few people in the United States trust the mainstream corporate media. This is confirmed by a July survey from the major polling firm Gallup, which found that just 11% of North Americans trust television news, and a mere 16% have confidence in newspapers.

It’s quite easy to understand why. The US media apparatus has repeatedly shown itself over decades to be completely unreliable and highly politicized.

The corporate media’s treachery has been especially clear in the demonstrably false stories it disseminated to try to justify the US wars on Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria.

This disgraceful legacy continues today, in the proxy war that Washington is waging on Russia via Ukraine. Fake news echoed by the press has served as a powerful form of US information warfare.


CIA plays the media like a musical instrument

A co-founding officer of the CIA, Frank Wisner, famously referred to the media as a “mighty wurlitzer,” a type of musical instrument. He boasted that the US spy agency had so many assets in news rooms across the world that Washington could play the press like a musician, in order to manipulate public opinion.

Revolutionary Black nationalist leader Malcolm X, who was assassinated in an operation backed by US police agencies, recognized the power of the US media in the 1960s, warning, “The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

US media outlets have a kind of symbiotic relationship with the government, and especially with intelligence agencies like the CIA, which act on behalf of Wall Street and powerful corporations. US spies selectively leak stories to journalists, controlling media narratives to serve elite economic interests.

Mainstream news publications frequently promote stories based on flimsy accusations made by anonymous US government officials, without any concrete evidence. In this way, the US national security state can spread propaganda and fake news to demonize and destabilize Washington’s adversaries.

This is not journalism; it’s information warfare. But large media corporations willingly go along with it, because they profit from it.

Many mainstream news outlets have a revolving door with the US government, and are owned by billionaire oligarchs who also have large contracts with US government agencies.

Top newspaper the Washington Post, for instance, is the personal property of Jeff Bezos, the richest man on Earth. Bezos is the founder of mega-corporation Amazon, which has billions of dollars worth of contracts with the CIA, Pentagon, and National Security Agency (NSA).

Billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, owner of the Washington Post, meets with US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at the Pentagon in 2016

The media’s long history of spreading fake news to justify US wars

The North American public has lost confidence in the media in no small part because of its long history of spreading blatant propaganda and fake news in an attempt to justify US wars of aggression.

The media’s history of lying in defense of US wars can be traced back to the very beginning of the country. Newspapers rationalized genocide and ethnic cleansing of Indigenous peoples by European settler-colonialists by claiming the Natives were “barbarians” and “uncivilized.”

In the 1898 war between the Spanish empire and the newly emerging US empire, North American media outlets promoted false stories to justify Washington’s colonization of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. This propaganda came to be known as “yellow journalism.”

When the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, major media outlets scrambled to defend the crime against humanity.

Top newspapers falsely claimed that the atomic bombing was necessary to end the war – despite the fact that the US government’s own Strategic Bombing Survey admitted that this was false, and that the Japanese empire would have surrendered even without the nuclear attack.

The New York Times published a patently ridiculous article titled “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin.” The respected media outlet obediently echoed a US general who “denied categorically that [the nuclear attack] produced a dangerous, lingering radioactivity.”


Then, as the US empire sought to justify its scorched-earth wars in Southeast Asia in 1960s, media outlets echoed fake claims by Washington that Vietnamese communists had supposedly attacked US forces in the Gulf of Tonkin. This was soon proven to be false; it was actually a US act of provocation.

In the 1980s, US media outlets absurdly blamed Nicaragua’s Sandinista government for atrocities carried out by the right-wing CIA-sponsored Contra gangs waging war on the Sandinista Front. Former Contra leader Edgar Chamorro later admitted that the Contras were “a proxy army controlled by the U.S. Government,” describing them as a “Central Intelligence Agency puppet” that massacred and tortured civilians in a “premeditated policy to terrorize civilian noncombatants to prevent them from cooperating with the Government.”

While US media outlets falsely accused the Sandinistas of harming civilians, Edgar Chamorro wrote that the CIA-backed “‘contras’ burn down schools, homes and health centers as fast as the Sandinistas build them.”

This US strategy of laundering information warfare through the press continued in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait. US media outlets promptly spread fake news claiming that Iraqi soldiers had removed Kuwaiti babies from incubators and left them on the ground to die.

This was a complete lie, but was used to justify the US war on Iraq in 1990 and 1991. The fabrication originated with the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador, who spread the false claim in testimony before the US Congress, which identified her simply as Nayirah, without disclosing her familial ties.

The daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador, referred to simply as Nayirah, spreads lies in the US Congress in 1990

Just over a decade later, Washington waged another war on Iraq. In the lead-up to the illegal US-led invasion in 2003, the media spread fake stories about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein supposedly harboring “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs).

This WMD conspiracy theory was also proven to be totally false. But almost no journalists who spread the US government’s fake claims were punished or faced professional consequences. This is because they were obediently serving the interests of Washington’s war machine – and that is the true role of the media.

During the NATO war on Libya in 2011, the press once again repeated fake stories, claiming that leader Muammar Gaddafi gave his soldiers Viagra and ordered them to assault women. This was an utter lie.

Likewise, in the Western proxy war on Syria that began on 2011, media outlets spread false reports blaming the government in Damascus for atrocities that were actually carried out by CIA-backed Salafi-jihadist extremist insurgents.

Some of these falsehoods in the Syria war were exposed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh. Yet despite his impressive credentials, Hersh has been basically blacklisted by the corporate media, because he damaged the reputation of the US empire. Mainstream outlets now refuse to publish the renowned and accomplished reporter.

More recently, US media outlets were exposed for publishing blatantly fake stories about so-called Havana Syndrome, a vague medical condition allegedly affecting US spies and diplomats. Media networks claimed, without any evidence, that Russia, China, and/or Cuba were attacking US officials with futuristic “directed energy” weapons. The CIA later admitted that this was false.

The media spread another ridiculous conspiracy theory during the administration of US President Donald Trump. The press ludicrously claimed for years that Trump was a puppet of Moscow, and that the Kremlin had supposedly helped him win the 2016 presidential election. No concrete evidence was ever presented, because it was false.

This scandal came to be known popularly as “Russiagate.” The fake story was endlessly debunked. But it had a massive effect on US politics, and still today many media figures repeat the nonsensical myth that Trump was a Russian asset.

Russia is one of the US media’s favorite bogeymen. In 2020, the press targeted Moscow with another fake news campaign. Dozens of major media outlets published false reports, based on unsubstantiated claims by anonymous CIA officials, that Russia was paying Taliban militants to kill the US soldiers who had been occupying their country for two decades.

This story was, once again, shown to be a falsehood, but only after it had the intended impact of temporarily blocking the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

Today, in the ongoing US proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, Western media outlets have ramped up their dissemination of fake news to demonize Moscow.

Top publications spread the false claim that Russia killed Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island. Many media networks echoed the myth of a virtuosic Ukrainian pilot known as the “Ghost of Kiev,” celebrating him as a hero, when in reality he didn’t exist. Some major outlets even published video game footage and claimed it showed Russia attacking Ukraine.

NBC News admits that Ukraine’s “Ghost of Kyiv” myth, which was amplified by the media, was false

Mainstream media outlets lie about US-sponsored coups

Any independent journalists in the United States who challenge the lies of the mainstream media are demonized and vilified.

The New York Times attacked me personally because I reported on the objective historical fact that the United States sponsored a violent coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014. A leaked recording of a phone call between top State Department official Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, proves they were planning the putsch against Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

But despite this undeniable fact, the New York Times smeared me in an irresponsible and defamatory article, claiming I was spreading “conspiracy theories” and implying that I am supposedly collaborating with China and Russia.

Whenever the United States carries out a coup d’etat, mainstream media outlets act as Washington’s loyal lapdog, spreading false claims to justify its aggression.

When the CIA overthrew Chile’s democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende in 1973, the press published fake stories to justify it and falsely portray the putsch as a popular uprising.

The media used the same tactics of deception and information warfare to justify the 1953 CIA coup against Iran’s democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddegh, because he tried to nationalize his country’s oil, challenging the interests of British and US capitalists.

Still today, we see the same propaganda and fake news. When the US government and right-wing extremists that it sponsored in Nicaragua tried to violently topple the democratically elected government in 2018, media outlets in both English and Spanish insisted that the violent putsch was actually “peaceful protests.”

The press falsely blamed the Nicaraguan government for all deaths during the coup attempt, ignoring the fact that a huge number of the victims were people who supported the Sandinista Front or members of state security services who were killed by the fanatical coup-plotters.

In a similar vein, the media played a key role in the US-backed far-right coup in Bolivia in November 2019. The press tried to justify the violent overthrow of democratically elected socialist President Evo Morales by falsely claiming that he rigged the election.

This myth originated with the Washington-dominated Organization of American States (OAS), which helped sponsor the anti-democratic Bolivia putsch. The OAS’ false accusations were obediently spread by the media. But these lies were later thoroughly debunked by prominent academics.

An academic expert debunks the lies spread by the OAS, US government, and media to try to justify the 2019 coup in Bolivia

The reason that mainstream media outlets continue to spread these fake reports, based on evidence-free claims of anonymous US government officials, is precisely because they help to advance Washington’s foreign-policy interests. For US elites, the fact that the stories are false is irrelevant.

The professional reputation of corporate journalists is not hurt because they are fulfilling their political role as agents of information warfare, serving the US empire and the billionaire capitalist oligarchs who own the media companies and dictate US government policy.

But for the North American public, it has become clearer and clearer by the year that the media is lying to us.

North Americans don’t trust US political institutions

The United States claims to be a model of “democracy” and “freedom,” defending a so-called “rules-based order” – in which Washington makes the rules and orders everyone around. But the reality is that many scientific studies prove that that US regime is deeply undemocratic and unpopular.

The general mistrust that North Americans have in the media is a symptom of an overall lack of faith in the authoritarian US political system.

A June poll by Gallup found staggeringly low levels of confidence in the US government. A mere 2% of North Americans believe their government does what is right “just about always,” and only 19% think it does what’s right “most of the time.”


Many of these results fall on partisan lines. Liberals have confidence in the Democratic Party and are skeptical of Republicans, whereas conservatives have faith in the Republican Party and don’t believe Democrats.

This extreme partisanism in the United States is partly a result of media conditioning. US news outlets compliantly follow the lines of one of the two corporate parties, the Democrats or Republicans.

Although these two parties are nearly identical in their warmongering foreign policy and their neoliberal economic policy, they are at each other’s throats. These ruling corporate parties constantly squabble over cultural issues in order to distract the US public from the more important problems that directly affect their lives.

North Americans likewise have very little faith in the other institutions that make up our deeply undemocratic society.

Just 7% of North Americans have confidence in Congress, 14% in the justice system, 14% in big business, 23% in the presidency, 25% in the Supreme Court, 26% in large technology companies, and 45% in the police, according to another study by Gallup.

One of the only US institutions that remains trusted is ironically the military, which constantly wages illegal wars around the world, with some 800 foreign bases.

This widespread lack of confidence in institutions in the United States is a product of its ultra-capitalist model.

The USA is a deeply individualistic, consumerist society in which the free market and capitalist profits are valued above everything else. This has led to an atomized culture in which many North Americans feel hopeless, depressed, and lonely. There is very little solidarity and empathy for the many people who suffer from poverty and homelessness.

Corruption is rampant and systemic in the United States. The Supreme Court ruled that corporations are legally considered people. This means there is no limit to how much money large companies and billionaire capitalist oligarchs can spend on politics.

In other words, bribery is essentially legal in the US political system. And candidates who have more money nearly always win the elections.

In the 2016 election cycle, 95.41% of candidates running for the US House of Representatives who spent more money won, while 85.29% of candidates running for Senate with more funding won.


According to any consistent definition of the term, this system cannot be considered a democracy. It is the textbook example of an undemocratic oligarchy and a plutocracy – a government ruled by the rich.

While the United States portrays itself as the paradigm of democracy and freedom, actual scientific studies by academic experts show that the opposite is true: The USA is an authoritarian oligarchy run by a small handful of rich capitalists, plagued by brutal systematic violence, mass repression, and rampant racism.

Yet the US empire seeks to impose its undemocratic model on countries around the world. Washington spends billions of dollars propping up corrupt right-wing dictatorships and bankrolling neoliberal opposition groups that use violence and other extremist tactics to destabilize independent foreign governments – especially socialist or nationalist states that use their natural resources to benefit their populations instead of Western corporations.

Washington does this because the US oligarchy, the wealthy capitalists that truly control the government, want to exploit the resources and labor of the Global South to keep their authoritarian system going.

These are the same plutocrats who own the press. And they use large media companies to spread propaganda and fake news to deceive the public and advance their economic interests.

Polls show that most people in the United States can clearly see through this scam. But because the US system is so undemocratic and repressive, average working people have no real means of changing it.

https://multipolarista.com/2022/07/30/t ... ropaganda/
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Sat Aug 06, 2022 2:12 pm

New Media Are As Intertwined With Imperial Power As Old Media


Alan MacLeod has a new article out with Mintpress News showing how most of the supposedly independent “fact-checking” organizations which Facebook has partnered with to police the information people are allowed to see on the platform about the war in Ukraine are, in fact, funded by the United States government.

“Most of the fact-checking organizations Facebook has partnered with to monitor and regulate information about Ukraine are directly funded by the U.S. government, either through the U.S. Embassy or via the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED),” MacLeod writes.

NED is indeed notorious because, as MacLeod explains, it was set up to do overtly many of the operations which the CIA used to perform covertly, like circulating propaganda in empire-targeted nations, funding foreign uprisings, and facilitating the 2014 coup in Ukraine which set in motion the events that would eventually lead to Russia’s invasion of the nation this past February.

Macleod shows how US government money is funneled into Facebook’s “fact-checking organizations” through NED and other channels, the result being a US government-funded narrative management operation in a social media platform which has almost three billion active users.

This article is just the latest installment in a series of pieces MacLeod has been putting out with Mintpress over the past few months documenting the many strings you can see between major Silicon Valley platforms and the US-centralized empire, which are becoming clearer and more numerous by the year.

Last month MacLeod released a report on the many veterans of the CIA and other branches of the US intelligence cartel who are being hired to high-level positions within Facebook’s parent company Meta which help determine what kinds of information get visibility on the company’s social media platforms. Meta’s “senior product policy manager for misinformation” was hired straight out of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2019 and now helps Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp sort out information from misinformation.

Last month MacLeod also put out an article on the many CIA veterans who have been hired to help Google decide what information gets seen in its searches and on Google-owned platforms like YouTube. Google is easily the single most influential corporation on earth when it comes to public access to information.

In June MacLeod penned an article titled “The Federal Bureau of Tweets: Twitter is Hiring an Alarming Number of FBI Agents,” reporting that “the social media giant has, in recent years, recruited dozens of individuals from the national security state to work in the fields of security, trust, safety and content.”

Even TikTok, MacLeod documents, has begun hiring a bizarre number of former NATO employees to police its content at the same time it has begun aligning with other Silicon Valley platforms in its censorious policies toward content from Russia.

https://twitter.com/AlanRMacLeod/status ... MKXUA1qgZg

MacLeod’s important work adds to that of other reporters like Yasha Levine, whose book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet describes the way humanity’s unprecedented access to information has been intertwined with US imperial power from its very inception.

Silicon Valley is at least as fundamental a component of US imperial narrative control as the legacy media and Hollywood, and is becoming even more so. Together they comprise the empire’s narrative control apparatus, which is just as essential to the functioning of the empire as its military or economic might.

The expansion of human consciousness on issues of political and social justice has brought with it a growing public intolerance for tyranny and oppression, which has made it necessary for the world’s current empire to rule over us by providing us with the illusion of freedom. We are told that we live in a democracy where the people control their own fate, but in reality we are inundated with propaganda from the moment we are born that is designed to psychologically manipulate the way we think, act and vote. As Noam Chomsky said, “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Silicon Valley is filled with spooks and liars for the same reason the mainstream news media support every US war and continually normalize the freakish injustices of our society: because whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Perception is reality, and if you can control how people perceive reality then, as far as their behavior is concerned, you control reality itself.

We will remain trapped with the abuses of the status quo oppression machine until we awaken to this fact.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Mon Aug 08, 2022 2:11 pm

Many movies never reach the screen because the Defense Department’s entertainment liaison office refuses to cooperate, believing the wrong messages are being promoted (Illustration by MEE)

How the Pentagon dictates Hollywood storylines
By Jonathan Cook (Posted Aug 06, 2022)

Originally published: Middle East Eye on July 27, 2022 (more by Middle East Eye) |

In what should have been an extraordinary television confession this month, John Bolton, national security adviser in the previous administration of President Donald Trump, admitted to CNN in passing that he had helped to plot the overthrow of foreign governments while in office.

Dismissing the idea that Trump had attempted a coup at the Capitol with the January 6 riots, Bolton told anchor Jake Tapper:

As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat, not here [in Washington] but, you know, other places, it takes a lot of work.

It was an admission that he and others in the administration had committed the “supreme international crime”, as the Nuremberg trials at the end of the Second World War defined an unprovoked attack on the sovereignty of another nation. But Tapper treated the comment as largely unremarkable.

Washington can do out in the open what is denied to other countries only because of an exceptional assumption that the normal constraints of international law and the rules of war do not apply to the global superpower.

The U.S. is reported to have carried out “regime change” in more than 70 countries since the Second World War. In recent years, it has been involved either directly or indirectly in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine. Bolton himself has boasted of his involvement in efforts through 2019 to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela, trying to install as president Washington’s own preferred candidate, Juan Guaido.

The Pentagon outspends the next nine countries combined and maintains some 800 military bases dotted across the globe. And yet, Congress is poised once again to add tens of billions of dollars to the defence budget.

A new documentary suggests why western publics remain so docile both about the U.S. being in a state of almost permanent war, and about it expending ever-vaster sums on its war machine.

Secret guiding hand
According to Theaters of War, the U.S. Department of Defense does not just subtly influence Hollywood’s depiction of U.S. wars to present them in a more favourable light. The Pentagon actively demands script oversight and dictates storylines. In practice, it has been waging a full-spectrum propaganda war against western audiences to soften them up to support aggressive, global U.S. militarism.

The documentary, based on data uncovered by recent Freedom of Information requests from UK investigative journalist Tom Secker and academic Matthew Alford, reveals the astonishing fact that the Pentagon has been the secret, guiding hand behind thousands of films and TV shows in recent decades.

Many more movies never reach the screen because the Defense Department’s entertainment liaison office refuses to cooperate, believing the wrong messages are being promoted.

Pentagon objections – usually the kiss of death – relate to any suggestion of military incompetence or war crimes, loss of control over nuclear weapons, influence by oil companies, illegal arms sales or drug trafficking, use of chemical or biological weapons, U.S. promotion of coups overseas, or involvement in assassinations or torture. In fact, precisely the things the U.S. military is known to have been doing.

How does the Defense Department exert so much control on film productions? Because expensive blockbusters are far more likely to recoup their budget and turn a profit if they feature the shiniest new weapons. Only the Pentagon can supply aircraft carriers, helicopters, fighter jets, pilots, submarines, armoured personnel carriers, military extras and advisers. But it does so only if it is happy with the dramatic messaging.

As one academic observes in Theaters of War, propaganda works most effectively when it can be passed off as entertainment:

You’re more open to incorporation of those ideas because your defences are down.

How many viewers would take seriously a film if it was preceded by a sponsorship logo from the Defense Department or the CIA? And for that reason, Pentagon contracts usually specify that its role in a film be veiled.

This is why few know that the Defense Department and the CIA have had a controlling hand in such varied projects as Apollo 13, the Jurassic Park and James Bond franchises, the Marvel movies, Godzilla, Transformers, Meet the Parents and I Am Legend. Or how the military regularly gets involved in baking and quiz shows.

The reality, Theaters of War argues, is that many Hollywood movies are little more than advertisements for U.S. war industries.

Selling war

This summer, Hollywood released the long-awaited sequel to Top Gun, a Tom Cruise movie about ace airforce pilots that came to define back in the 1980s how to sell war and make killing look sexy.

Top Gun’s makers got access to U.S. navy aircraft carriers, a naval airbase and a host of F-14s and other jets. As the Washington Post reported: “It’s unlikely the [original] film could have gotten made without the Pentagon’s considerable support. A single F-14 Tomcat cost about $38 million.” The film’s entire budget was $15m.

The Pentagon got plenty in return. Its database records that the film “completed [the] rehabilitation of the military’s image, which had been savaged by the Vietnam War”. It stationed recruitment desks outside cinemas to take advantage of that new credibility.

Top Gun was so successful in marketing war machismo that it was implicated in the Tailhook scandal a few years later, in which more than 80 servicewomen were sexually assaulted by fellow officers at a convention in Las Vegas. That scandal delayed the follow-up, Top Gun: Maverick, for 36 years. Nonetheless, the Pentagon’s conditions for approving the new film were even stricter.

The agreement explicitly stated that the Defense Department would be able to oversee the script, “weave in key talking points”, and censor scenes it did not like. The U.S. military also demanded a veto over actors appearing in the film and an official screening before Maverick could be approved for release.

The Pentagon could punish any violations of the agreement by deleting footage involving its hardware, thereby killing the film. It could also deny “future support”, effectively killing the careers of Maverick’s filmmakers.

There is nothing unusual about Top Gun’s treatment. It is, argues Theaters of War, standard for U.S. blockbusters, the films likely to have the most impact on popular culture and western perceptions of war.

The premise of one of the most popular franchises, Marvel’s Iron Man, was rewritten following Pentagon intervention. The main character, Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr, was originally an outspoken opponent of the arms industries, reinventing his father’s empire so that Iron Man technology could stop wars.

But after Pentagon rewrites, Stark became the ultimate evangelist for the weapons industries: “Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy.” In one early scene, he makes a fool of a young female reporter who criticises his business empire – before bedding her to underscore that she is also a hypocrite.

Military fiasco

The Pentagon has been particularly sensitive to portrayals of the U.S. military following a fiasco in 1993 in which one of its helicopters was downed in Mogadishu. That led to a prolonged firefight that killed more than a dozen U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis.

The following year, the Defense Department insisted on major revisions to the Harrison Ford vehicle Clear and Present Danger – especially in a scene where a Colombian militia overwhelms U.S. special forces. As documents unearthed by Theaters of War show, U.S. officials worried that the Mogadishu events had made the U.S. military “look ridiculous” and officials refused to “cooperate in a movie that does the same thing” in a different combat zone. It demanded changes to make the film “more of a ‘commercial’ for us”.

When in 2001, Hollywood turned its attention to the book Black Hawk Down – specifically about the Mogadishu incident – the Pentagon insisted on heavy script changes that transformed the drama. Just eight years after the actual events depicted, the Defense Department had turned a story of its own incompetence into an all-American tale of military valour in the face of overwhelming odds at the hands of a savage, faceless enemy.

Similar deceptions were achieved with Argo (2012), a film about the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran. In fact, according to Theaters of War, it was the CIA that hawked the book to Hollywood five years earlier on its website in the section “Inspirations for future storylines”. The tale was so appealing to the CIA because it focused on its sole success following the Iranian Revolution. The agency smuggled a handful of U.S. hostages out of Tehran by pretending they were a visiting Canadian film crew.

Censored documents presented by Theaters of War show the CIA’s public relations office reviewing multiple versions of Argo’s script before finally agreeing:

The agency comes off looking very well.

That is because of what Argo ignores: the CIA’s long-running meddling in Iran, including its overthrow of the elected government in 1953 to install a U.S. puppet, which ultimately provoked the 1979 revolution; the CIA’s intelligence failures that missed the looming revolution; and the fact that the six hostages the CIA freed were overshadowed by a further 52 who spent more than a year imprisoned in Tehran. A story of the CIA’s crimes and gross incompetence in Iran was reinvented as a tale of redemption.

The CIA managed a similar public relations coup the same year wth Zero Dark Thirty, after the Obama administration had lost the battle to conceal its routine use of torture in Iraq and elsewhere.

The filmmakers had to acknowledge that the CIA resorted to waterboarding, a torture technique that by then was in the public domain, but under pressure, they agreed to conceal the less well-known fact that the agency also used dogs to torture detainees.

Nonetheless, waterboarding was falsely presented as a vital tool in the CIA’s battle to extract needed information to supposedly keep Americans safe and help hunt down and kill the author of the 9/11 terror attacks, Osama bin Laden. That was such a distortion of the historical record that even the right-wing politician John McCain, a decorated war hero, went public to disparage the film.

Product placement

The Pentagon has such sway over Hollywood that it has even managed to turn around the anti-war message at the heart of a monster movie staple, Godzilla.

Back in the 1950s, it was an allegory about the horrors unleashed by the U.S. dropping nuclear bombs on Japan at the end of the Second World War. But in the 2014 version, Defense Department meddling meant a reference to Hiroshima was excised and Cold War dynamics introduced instead: a lost Russian nuclear submarine triggers a confrontation with Godzilla.

Even more astonishingly, in both the 2014 and 2019 versions, the story is switched 180 degrees. Nuclear weapons become mankind’s salvation rather than a threat; the only possible way Godzilla can be destroyed. Nuclear proliferation sponsored by the Pentagon is no longer a problem. In Godzilla, it is integral to human survival.

Theaters of War also makes a plausible case that the Pentagon has been an important driver behind Hollywood’s move into sci-fi and fantasy territory.

The imaginary worlds of the Marvel universe, for example, offer a pristine showcase, demonstrating the need for the Pentagon’s shiniest weapons against implacable, other-worldly foes. Hollywood and the Pentagon can sweep aside real-world concerns, like the value of human life, the commercial motives behind wars, and the battlefield failures of military planners.

The challenge of superhuman enemies with superhuman powers has proved the perfect way to normalise extravagant, ballooning military expenditures.

That is why the Pentagon regularly insists on product placement rewrites, such as the Incredible Hulk riding an F-22 in the 2003 Hulk film, Superman flying alongside an F-35 in 2013’s Man of Steel, and the glorification of a Ripsaw armoured vehicle in 2017’s eighth instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise.

Paying dividends
Theaters of War concludes that the promotion of U.S. militarism pays dividends. It means bigger budgets for the Pentagon and its contractors, greater prestige, less oversight and scrutiny, more wasteful wars, and more profiteering.

Donald Baruch, the Pentagon’s special assistant for audio-visual media, has noted that the U.S. government “couldn’t buy the sort of publicity films give us”. In laundering the U.S. military’s image, Hollywood encourages not only western publics, but the Pentagon itself, to believe its own hype. It leaves the U.S. military more confident in its powers, less critically aware of its vulnerabilities, and more eager to wage war, even on the flimsiest of pretexts.

With Hollywood’s stamp of approval, the Pentagon also gets to define who are the bad guys. In Top Gun: Maverick, it is a barely disguised Iran supposedly trying to develop a covert nuclear bomb. Russia, China and generic Arab states are other template baddies.

The constant dehumanisation of official enemies, and contempt for their concerns, makes it easier for the Pentagon to rationalise wars that are certain to lead to death and displacement – or to impose sanctions that wreak suffering on whole societies.

A large wall painting of Godzilla is displayed in Tokyo in June 2014 (AFP)

This gung-ho culture is part of the reason there has been no public debate about the consequences of the U.S. pouring billions of dollars of weapons into Ukraine to fight a proxy war against Russia, even at the risk of nuclear conflagration.

As Theaters of War convincingly argues, the Pentagon’s covert influence over popular culture can have a decisive role in raising support for divisive wars, such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. It can make the difference between public approval and rejection.

How different things might be if Hollywood was ring-fenced from Pentagon influence is illustrated by a case study.

The Day After was a 1983 Cold War film made for U.S. TV over Defense Department objections. The Pentagon rejected the script after it depicted a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia following a series of misunderstandings. According to Theaters of War, the Defense Department demanded that Moscow be squarely blamed for starting the fictional war. Unusually, the filmmakers held their ground.

The Day After was watched by nearly half the U.S. population. The president at the time, Ronald Reagan, recorded in his diary that the film had left him “greatly depressed”. It created political momentum that drove forward nuclear disarmament talks.

A single film that stepped outside the Pentagon’s simple-minded “U.S. good guy” narrative generated a debate about whether the use of nuclear weapons could ever be justified.

The Day After was widely credited with slowing down the build-up of the two military superpowers’ nuclear arsenals. And it treated Russians not simply as a foe, but as people facing the same existential threat from the bomb as ordinary Americans. In a small way, The Day After made the world a safer place.

Theaters of War leaves audiences with a question: What might have been possible had the Pentagon not meddled in 3,000 movies and TV shows to promote its pro-war messages?

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Aug 09, 2022 2:06 pm

Patrick Lawrence: Language and Its Enemies
August 4, 2022

Media critic Patrick Lawrence lays out how the aftermath and potential consequences of Pelosi’s Taiwan visit are made obscure by certain media outlets.

Office of U.S. House Speaker, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By Patrick Lawrence / Original to ScheerPost

The provoking and the provoked

I can hardly keep up with the various versions of nonsense coming out of Washington in the matter of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this week. The House speaker’s stopover in Taipei is explained one way one day, another way the next. You expect this from American pols in our post-democratic age: They can fob off the citizenry however they wish because they no longer have to take the public the slightest bit seriously. And at this point I suppose we must expect the governing class’s clerks in the media to reproduce the nonsense, adding a further layer of degradation to our public discourse. Happens all the time.

But what we now have to call the Taiwan crisis is not a happens-all-the-time occasion. For one thing, the risks Pelosi takes in flying to Taiwan—risks the Biden regime shares—are wildly irresponsible, as many have commented. We are now offered public-service videos, such as this one from the New York City government, normalizing nuclear warfare. What is my comparison? The Cuban missile crisis, maybe?

For another, to misinform the American public as a matter of this gravity unfolds is to me just as frightening in the long term. It disarms us. It takes away our ability to see, understand, and respond to events. It deprives language of its power to address power. This is our apple-pie authoritarianism as it is forced upon us.

The speaker of the House, second in the line of political succession, landed late Tuesday evening Taipei time, late Tuesday morning East Coast time. The deed is done. At this writing China’s response to this wanton recklessness has been just as I had hoped – vigorous but responsible. It is now conducting live-fire exercises that take no notice of Taiwan’s various claims to its maritime borders, which China does not recognize but has conventionally observed; it is also imposing various carefully chosen sanctions on cross-Strait commerce. There is apparently more to come, maybe much more, but this is not our topic.

Our topic is how we have been brought to this moment.

The chronology, in brief: Pelosi announces a swing through Asia and includes Taiwan on her agenda. President Biden, lacking the guts to state his own opinion, says the military does not think this a good idea. China confirms this in its own statements. Biden converses for more than two hours with Xi Jinping, during which the Chinese leader reiterates Beijing’s opposition to Pelosi’s plans. Pelosi lands in Taipei.

For many days after Pelosi’s announcement we read that the speaker’s itinerary risked precipitating a dangerous crisis. The leading corporate dailies quoted many officials to this effect. It was implicit in what little Biden had to say on this question. Bad idea, Foolish idea. Pointless idea. Nothing good can come of it.

Then came the Biden–Xi telephone call. Here is the American readout, here the Chinese. The White House put the call across as a touch more than routine. “President Biden has continually emphasized the importance of maintaining open lines of communication to ensure that the United States and China manage our differences and work together on areas of shared interest,” an unnamed briefer told reporters. “This call was part of our ongoing efforts to do that.”

Yes, Taiwan was on the agenda, third of three topics behind climate change and the global impact of the Ukraine crisis.

“Overall, I would say that the conversation was substantive, it was in-depth, and it was candid,” saith the briefing official. Think about those three adjectives and tell me if you can come up with three that are yet more useless. This is the cotton-wool language of obfuscation as we get it daily, pretending to tell us something while telling us nothing.

The Chinese account told us something. The primary topics were two: Taiwan and the responsibility the U.S. and China share, as equal nations, to maintain global stability. In the Chinese readout we find Xi keeping his cool but lecturing Biden in the manner of a principal with a delinquent student. He spoke of the destructiveness of Biden’s China policy and his responsibilities to adhere to America’s standing commitments on Taiwan. To Biden’s open lines of communication, Xi responded pithily that Americans say one thing about Taiwan and the One China policy while continually doing another. This has been a true point for the past half-dozen years. It is exactly what Pelosi’s Taipei stopover is all about.

“Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Xi told Biden in a much-quoted remark. “It is hoped that the U.S. will be clear-eyed about this. The U.S. should honor the One China principle and implement the three joint communiqués both in word and in deed.”

I see only one way to read this exchange. China’s trust in the U.S. has collapsed. I think China has chosen the Pelosi visit as the occasion to draw the line under the Biden regime’s inch-at-a-time shift toward formal recognition of Taiwan and a restoration of full relations. From here on out, Xi as much as said to Biden, we are playing hardball.

What, by contrast, did we learn from our media after the Xi–Biden exchange? The coverage changed dramatically. Gone are reports of the risks Pelosi was forcing the United States to take. Crisis? What crisis? There is no crisis: This is the new line in the mainstream coverage.

Here is the headline on The New York Times’s page one story in its Tuesday editions: “U.S. Warns China Not to Turn Pelosi’s Expected Trip to Taiwan Into a ‘Crisis.’” Now tell me, readers, can you top this for language that is perpendicular with the truth?

Here is the lead, which is a different competition: “The United States warned China on Monday not to respond to an expected trip to Taiwan by Speaker Nancy Pelosi with military provocations even as American officials sought to reassure Beijing that such a visit would not be the first of its kind nor represent any change in policy toward the region.”

This is what Xi was complaining about with Biden: You profess adherence to the One China principle and send the No. 3 official in your government to Taipei on an official visit. But never mind that. All of a sudden, the Chinese are the warned, not the warning. All of a sudden they are the provoking, not the provoked.

Along with chronology, context.

The U.S. has been incessantly provoking China on the Taiwan question since at least as far back as the Obama administration, when the China hawks gained ascendancy on Capitol Hill. Fonops—idiotic Pentagon-speak for freedom of navigation operations—are conducted routinely through the Taiwan Strait. Last summer we learned that the Pentagon had troops on the island training Taiwan’s army.

Two summers ago Mike Pompeo, Trump’s freakishly messianic secretary of state, gave a radically inflammatory speech at the Nixon Library attacking “Communist China” and asserting America’s duty to destroy it, Book of Revelations–style. Now the China hawks are all the way out of the closet. This spring, Robert Menendez and Lindsey Graham introduced the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which, if passed, would openly abandon the One China policy and stop a hair short of full relations with Taiwan as an independent nation. Responsible Statecraft’s excellent coverage of this bill can be read here.

Those provocative, aggressive Chinese, ever intent on creating a crisis, The Times wants us to know. Or think we know. This is what language does in the hands of those corrupting it.

Russiagate redux3

In the annals of our imperial misconduct, there is no shortage of cases wherein the national security state has thought nothing of abusing Americans, on occasion fatally, to keep the public fearful and its power beyond challenge. This is the thing about empire: All culture, all features of the political economy, must serve it.

We now have the case of the African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) and its associated organization, the Uhuru Movement. These groups are a half-century old this year and reflect thought that was current at the time of their founding: Pan–Africanism, an internationalist perspective on race and geopolitics, nonalignment, a Marxian political line. Uhuru is Swahili for freedom.

Among the prominent exponents of African socialism was Julius Nyerere, the gentlest soul among those towering leaders of the “independence era”—Nyerere, N’Krumah, Nasser, and Nehru (my four N’s), along with Sukarno, Lumumba, and various others. I came to admire Nyerere, the president of newly independent Tanzania, during my graduate work in African history and political economy.

And now the descendants of this movement are accused—are you sitting down?—of taking orders from the Kremlin, which has directed it—stay seated, please—to “sow discord,” “heighten grievances,” and “create strife and division.”

And you thought Russiagate had finally gone away.

This new iteration goes like this. It is almost as much fun as some of the old fables—a saving grace.

Last Friday the Justice Department announced that it has indicted one Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov, a 32-year-old Russian, who met members of the African People’s Socialist Party, including Omali Yeshitela, the APSP’s chairman, at a conference on self-determination held in Russia some years ago. Yeshitela has put out a video explaining this encounter during one of his two trips to Russia. From here on out we are wading into that swamp familiar to those who followed the Russiagate farrago beginning to end. Most of what we are told we know about the connections Ionov subsequently maintained with the APSP derives from the 24–page indictment Justice made public last week.

This stuff gets very tiresome. Ionov is alleged to have extensive relations with Russian intelligence. Ionov is alleged to have directed the APSP and the Uhruru Movement, along with other groups, to do all the sowing and heightening and creating mentioned above. Ionov is alleged to have helped run the political campaigns of two Uhuru Movements members as they sought office in St. Petersburg, Florida. Per established custom, we are supposed to accept these assertions as evidence of their veracity because the Justice Department asserted them.

Here are quotations from messages Ionov is supposed to have sent to one of his Russian intel contacts. “Our election campaign is kind of unique.” And “Are we the first in history?” And a reference to one of the candidates as one “whom we supervise.”

Just the sort of thing an operative says to his minder in the mail, wouldn’t you say? So perfectly damning, so let-there-be-no-doubt. It brings back old times. I always loved it when the Russigaters made up the truly impossible quotations. It added a little fun to the drear of it all.

It was heavy going for the APSP and Uhuru after Justice announced the indictment. Dawn raids on the homes of the movement’s leaders, battering rams knocking down doors, broken windows, raided offices—the APSP has a radio station and a newspaper, Burning Spear—handcuffs, battle fatigues, automatic weapons, the whole paranoiac nine. The FBI, which was responsible for all this, sent a drone through Yeshitela’s front door in St. Louis, where the party has its headquarters.

It was after his home was raided, at 5 a.m. last Thursday, that Yeshitela made the video. He is irate, as those taking the time to view it will see. He recounts the APSP’s numerous programs, covering at the local level health, nutrition, training for ex-convicts, sports, education. They build local markets to address the problem of “food deserts.”

“All of this is contrived,” he says into the camera. “It’s a ridiculous charge, a ridiculous claim. We’re supposed to be tools of Russia as if we don’t have minds of our own?”

On the international side, I read the APSP and the Uhuru Movement as of a piece with Paul Robeson’s tilt toward the Soviet Union. “The Russians didn’t enslave us,” Yeshitela asserts. “The Russians didn’t kill Mike Brown. The Russians didn’t overthrow N’Krumah.” The party supports—no apologies from Yeshitela here—the Russian operation in Ukraine, noting the illegality of the Kiev regime.

It seems to me the APSP and the Uhuru Movement have done us all a favor, whether or not we agree with their positions. They shrug in response to all the name-calling, labeling, and canceling that the Russiagate frenzy made a feature of American discourse.

I’ve saved the very best bit for last.

Those phrases quoted above to the effect that the Russians have led a 50–year-old organization with a long record of local activism and thought on the international side to sow divisions and so on? They come from The Times, which quotes none other than Peter Strzok, the discredited FBI official, who was fired after his texts to his mistress midway through the Russiagate mess, indicated the extent of the official campaign to bring down the Trump administration.

Bear with me. The Times, which quotes none other than Peter Strzok: I could not resist writing that phrase again. What are these people thinking, assuming they are?

I have to note in concluding this item that Mr. Ionov resides in Russia and is unlikely to see the inside of a U.S. court. There will be no legal proceeding. It reminds me of those indictments Justice issued years ago against a dozen Russians, including one or two companies, for their alleged role in the Russiagate affair. Remember?

None of those indicted was in the U.S. When one of the companies unexpectedly took the trouble to hire an American attorney and contest the charges, the prosecutors failed to show up in court and the case was subsequently dropped.

Just like old times.


Acouple of gems come our way, worth noting briefly.

Warring sides in conflicts such as Ukraine’s typically have prisoner-of-war camps, or detention centers. This has been so for a very long time: Let us count in centuries.

We now have the case of the…detention center where Russian forces held Ukrainian captives. It was shelled last week, and just who shelled it is currently a matter of great contention. But I have misspoken, The Times’s Carlotta Gall wants me to know. That wasn’t a detention center: It was a penal colony.

Carlotta, really. Get a grip. You’re not walking around in a 19th century novel, and if your intent is to evoke the gulags of the Stalin era, all I can say is shame on you. It was a detention center, and there is a body of emergent evidence, compelling I have to say, that the Ukrainians shelled it to prevent the prisoners therein from recounting their orders to mistreat Russian captives. Get yourself busy on that.

To my knowledge, the Soviet Union and now the Russian Federation never once apprehended an American spook. Not if you go by the major dailies, this is to say. But it is always curious to note how our corporate press navigates this touchy subject so as to preserve the fiction that there are no American spooks in Russia to apprehend.

We do not know precisely who Paul Whelan is. He was serving as a Marine in Iraq in 2007 when he began making multiple trips to Russia for reasons unexplained. He holds passports from four nations. As one does.

And he came by a goodly number of Russian friends, it seems. One of his closest friends was an active-duty intelligence officer of rank. This intelligence officer had Whelan arrested on espionage charges. Whelan’s defense says he was framed—which does not cancel the charge that he is a spy, as he could be an apprehended spy. The Russians say Whelan had a memory key in his pocket with the names of some number of Russian intel people on it. Presumably this can be produced in a court of law.

Now the Americans want Paul Whelan back. The State Department says he was “unjustly detained.” But every American detained in Russia is unjustly detained, so this is not much to go by.

What, then, are we going to call our Paul Whelan? There are a lot of strange details about him and his doings in Russia. But you and I are in no position to call him a spy. I go, then, with The Washington Post. He is “a security consultant.”

That’s different.

Just as the U.S. does not hire mercenaries to fill in the ranks in American military operations. They are “security contractors.” Different, you see.

https://scheerpost.com/2022/08/04/patri ... s-enemies/
"There is great chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent."

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