Our deeds still travel with us from afar; and what we have been makes us what we are.
George Eliot, Middlemarch
We have arrived, in my opinion, upon the moment in the course of human history which marks the nadir of the journalistic profession. I cannot conceive of a situation in which the occupation could become more debased, more wretched than it has become already, and what we refer to as the ‘mainstream media’ no longer makes any effort to tell the truth, to substantiate what it purports to be true with hard evidence or even any evidence, or to disguise its service in the cut and thrust of political bias and character assassination.
Shaun Walker, The Guardian‘s corpulent correspondent in Russia, and his sidekick Roland Oliphant claimed to have seen with their own eyes a convoy of regular Russian Army vehicles and soldiers crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine…but neither of them got a photo or a video clip despite their both supposedly being journalists by profession, who understand the maxim, “A picture is worth a thousand words”. But his dinky little cell-phone camera is ever ready to do yeoman service in the pursuit of mocking Russian food on Aeroflot flights, and he has lots of time to arse about on his Facebook group dedicated to what he feels is a Russian obsession with dill. All of his complaining is backed up, it goes nearly without saying, with photographs. Yet he didn’t get a picture of the stealth-invading Russian battalions even though he knew the subject was hotly debated, and proof would have made his name a household word. Well, he is a household word, although it’s not “Shaun Walker”. But you know what I mean.
It is at this moment that Russia and its president must address the legacy of 1917—the throngs in the streets waving red banners, dragging the emperor from his throne and pumping slugs into him and his kids. “The upcoming centennial of the 1917 revolution that toppled the czar and paved the way for Bolshevik rule promises to put the Kremlin in a tight spot,” predicts the (still-) independent Moscow Times. “At the same time, the Kremlin is unwilling to unequivocally condemn the events the revolution set in motion or its Soviet past.”
and selectively quoting Putin without context or background,
And it is Yeltsin whose deconstruction of the USSR itself is what Olga from the Volga is thankful her red-eyed grandmother did not live to see. (Putin has called it “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”)
so as to imply yet one more time that Putin seeks to recreate the Soviet Union, the author persists with the simpleminded meme that Putin rigged the American presidential election to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning.
He and his fellow western journalists are aided in this bizarre allegation by the USA’s intelligence agencies, who claim to have evidence that points to Russian interference. They can’t show anyone, of course – everything the CIA deals with has important national security implications, and if they told the world how Putin hacked American elections, well….well, he might do it again. Or something.
Consider. What actually happened? Information was released which reported that Mrs. Clinton was using a private email server to conduct government business, as Secretary of State for the Obama government, so as to avoid the law which required all official email traffic to be archived as government property.
Was this true? While I can’t speak to her motivation, her unauthorized use of a private server is a matter of public record, as are testimonials from State Department staff members that they mentioned repeatedly the behavior was not permitted, to which Mrs. Clinton allegedly replied that she had permission. If she said that, it was a lie.
Then information was released which said the Democratic Party establishment was conspiring to rig the Democratic nomination for Mrs. Clinton by manipulating the process against Bernie Sanders, who enjoyed a significant following and who was assessed by polling results to have the best chance of beating Trump. Was that true? Sure was; the DNC chair, Debbie Wassserman-Shultz, resigned in disgrace – Mrs Clinton promptly promoted her to honorary chair of her presidential campaign, and President Obama rushed out a supportive statement as well, demonstrating that political heavyweights don’t really care if you rig elections as long as you’re not Russian.
So what sabotaged the win Hillary Clinton thought she had in the bag was the release of damaging information about her which was true and accurate. It was not a pack of lies, and the suggestion that the truth about such activities should have been kept from voters until after they had cast their ballots would be monstrous. There was absolutely no proof that Russia was responsible for releasing that information, if they even knew it, and they were pretty far down the chain of people in a position to know.
What are the rigging methods in Russian elections of which the Kremlin is always accused by the morally-superior beacon of democracy? Ballot-stuffing. Carousel voting, a term US State Department spokeshole Jen Psaki was quite comfortable using in the most accusatory fashion, although she had to admit when questioned that she had no idea what it meant. Suppression of opposition candidates and advertising time which disproportionately favours the ruling party. If Vladimir Putin can actually tip elections in foreign countries with such confounding precision without access to any of those tools, why would he rely on such quaint and archaic blunt-instrument methods to rig elections in Russia?
Fake news stories in the western media abound, although the west rarely if ever acknowledges them; when FOX News, mouthpiece of the Washington regime-changers, broadcast a story ostensibly about protests in Russia, but featuring footage of rioting in Athens, The Daily Telegraph set a new standard for crawling by positing that the channel had just made an innocent mistake, like Athens is a lot like Moscow and people make that mistake all the time. It then proceeded to excoriate the paranoid Russians for imagining that it was done with intent. Al Jazeera broadcast a fake report of the fall of Tripoli in the west’s successful regime-change war against Gaddafi; the supposed capture of the city by ‘opposition forces’ was actually put together in a studio in Doha, Qatar. I’ve lost track of the number of accounts of Putin’s fabulous stolen wealth which he has squirreled away in secret bank accounts somewhere which nobody can find or prove to exist, yet his status as one of the world’s wealthiest men remains part of the argot of common wisdom.
Well, I spent a lot longer on that than I meant to do; but, damn it, that ‘Putin stole our election’ nonsense just turns my teeth sideways. How could he have done that? Voting machines are not connected to the internet, and there is no realistic suggestion that Russia actually manipulated the vote count. Somebody released true information regarding unlawful and undemocratic behavior by Mrs. Clinton, but not a shred of evidence supporting Russian involvement has been produced, although the CIA maintains that it knows.
Anyway, I wanted to take you through what is described as a step-by-step analysis of a fake news story, an example of Russian trickery, or manipulation by Putin’s international minions. The author is eminently well-qualified to discuss fake news, or at least as well-qualified as one can become in the short interval since caution was thrown to the winds, and fakery in the news went from a hobby to mainstream default mode; he worked for more than three years in Pheme, a multinational online project funded by the European Commission to define, evaluate and model fake news.
Let’s take a look. The story used as an example is a clip about Russian soldiers using the Uran 6 robotic mine-clearance vehicle to demine sites in Aleppo following the victory of Syrian government forces’ retaking of the city. I want you to note at the outset that the author claims the story is completely false.
This post shows a story originating in the Middle East, about Russian soldiers clearing up bombs left in Syria by Obama’s troops. The story was related using first-hand video and personal accounts, and was picked up by major outlets. However, the truth was that this story was completely false — fabricated and framed in such a way that it looked like real news. We’ll pull on threads behind this fake news, and find just one small part of what may well be a large, international network that is feeding our Western media.
Please note also the odd choice of words; “…bombs left in Syria by Obama’s troops”. We’ll see if anyone actually claims that.
Mr. Derczynski acknowledges at the starting line that there is nothing untoward with the original clip – it probably does show Russian soldiers in the performance of their duties in Syria, and the vehicle featured probably is the Uran 6.
Then the token jackass Ukrainian enters the fray, announcing that the item is a fake and the vehicle is actually of Croatian origin. He is quickly shot down by Marcel Sardo. I think most of us know Marcel’s work, and I have found him usually pretty accurate; always, where military hardware is concerned, and he seems to be a bit of an aficionado. The author points out that while there is no reason at this point to believe anything is other than what it seems, in fact this is a common tactic, and the good-cop-bad-cop are often on the same side or are even the same person.
Then the story is picked up by RT, a source Mr. Derczynski tells us many of the Russians he talks with don’t really trust. I think you can probably imagine the Russian circles he moves in. He tells us RT claims the Uran 6 is the same robot the Russian military used to help clear Palmyra of explosives left behind by Islamic State (IS). Still possible this is a real story, he says, although he seems to believe RT is setting the stage for something.
As an aside, Islamic State did in fact take Palmyra, and remained in control of it for long enough to do tremendous damage – some of which appeared to have been wrought just for the sheer deviltry of it and for the grief it would cause, rather than the achievement of a strategic objective. It is difficult to imagine, I think, that the inhabitants of Palmyra left explosive booby-traps for the soldiers who drove out Islamic State – since their rule was unpopular – so it does not seem too much of a stretch that the explosives and mines left behind (a matter of public record) were left by Islamic State. There is apparently nothing thus far to suggest the story is ‘fake news’, although the author is suspicious about the direction it is heading.
And then, BAM! The fake hits us like a runaway locomotive.
Sarah Abdallah joins in on Twitter, attributing the explosives left behind to ‘Obama’s moderate rebels’. Oh no, you don’t, Sarah, you delicious-looking young female trading on your looks and flirting with the camera. This has now just become fake-news propaganda, framing the story so that it reflects badly on the Greatest Democracy That Ever Lived.
Let’s take another pause to reflect. I have no idea if Sarah Abdallah is the real thing, or a Putin shill – I’m not familiar with her and have not seen her before this. But how realistic is her attribution to ‘Obama’s moderate rebels’ of the explosives left behind in Aleppo? Well, the Obama government was fairly well known to be arming the Syrian rebels both overtly (which it admitted) and covertly (which it did not). The U.S. government also admitted, at various points in the conflict, that it had less and less of an idea who was who and who was al Qaeda as things went along. Oftentimes the side the USA supported was blanket-referred to as ‘moderate rebels’ for the sake of optics, but it is well-established that the USA provided not only arms, but satellite radios which would allow rebel commanders to call in air strikes by US military aircraft. The USA wriggled and squirmed and called for endless ceasefires in Aleppo whenever the Syria government forces appeared about to exploit a vulnerability. It seems pretty clear that Washington supported anyone it thought might get the job of ousting Assad done. It is therefore quite conceivable that explosives left behind in Aleppo with the intent of killing or injuring incoming enemy forces were left behind by ‘moderate rebels’ . It is also quite conceivable that some, perhaps many of these ‘rebels’ were supported by the U.S. government.
Other sources go on to say that departing extremist rebels placed explosives even in children’s toys. I have no idea if that is accurate, but considered in the frame of the deliberate murder of many children from the buses leaving Aleppo, lured out with the promise of snacks and then blown up by a suicide bomber, I would have to say it does not seem that far-fetched.
In summary, I see little in this story to support the author’s contention that it is ‘fake news’, and it was not conclusively labeled as such until sources began to attribute the explosives left behind in Aleppo to rebels trained, armed and supported by the USA and its allies. Russian soldiers were acknowledged to be demining the streets and districts of Aleppo, which they need not do if there were no bombs. If we stipulate there were bombs, who left them? The residents of Aleppo? Putin? It seems pretty clear who left them. So the remaining issue is whether they were supported in their endeavors by the USA. And I think the answer must be yes.
I’m sure Russia’s military does public relations, the same as the United States military does public relations – US military forces on deployment regularly turn up cleaning a local monument or painting classrooms in a school, and are duly photographed for a feelgood story back home which creates the impression they are welcomed and fitting in wherever they are, which is not always the case. You can call it propaganda if you like, but not only when Russia does it. I have said for a long time that Russia needs to get serious about image management, and it looks like they are taking it to heart. Refusing to adopt the tools of modern influence-leveraging because they are demeaning and you believe your performance should not need amplification is a little like announcing your national army will continue to use the longbow 100 years after the invention of the musket.