4 April 2014

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Fairest of Them All?

Nationalists beware; every Government has a Public Relations Department.



"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country." -Edward Bernays (Propaganda), 1928


As so many different 'events' grip the public conciousness ranging from the geo-political in the form of Ukraine/Crimea and the Arab Spring to the economic such as the 'Age of Austerity' and market manipulation, even titillatingly popular events such as flight MH370 and the Oscar Pistorius trial, are all grabbing headlines around the world.

Where proponents of certain events and outcomes encourage their progress, opponents resist and reject - often with begrudging stubbornness. Most people would classify themselves as unbiased, balanced and fair - but in truth, most opinions have been heavily influenced by propaganda and public relations. The dividing line that separates people's positions is rarely drawn because of logical, common-sense based critique or debate. Instead, its often dogma and cognitive dissonance that fuels idealistic illusion in people.

To highlight this I've taken a recent 'Economist' article titled '1984 in 2014 - A new propaganda war underpins the Kremlin’s clash with the West' and simply reversed/substituted the emotionally charged sentences. The edited version is just as true(false) as the original.

The point is that every country exerts its influence on media sources with the intention of controlling the narrative and any subsequent emotional responses amongst the wider public. This occurs in every country on Earth but the more richer/powerful ones tend to have more funding with which to sway policy, dictate content, maintain coverage boundaries, enforce publication embargoes and dictate the moral high ground.

'The Economist' article demonstrates that despite the author presumably being experienced and knowledgeable in political affairs, it doesn't prevent the narrative from being completely one-sided and devoid of any rational analysis. The writers' aim was clearly to generate an emotional response amidst the propaganda war being fought by competing factions. 

According to the 'The Economist', its only Russian propaganda that is a danger because Western propaganda is just a myth. Only fascist despots like Putin and Russia Today engage in sneaky propaganda - never U.S Presidents or "reputable" Western news vendors that are always held to account. The Western establishment is civilised, honest and progressive whereas The Russian establishment is savage, dishonest and regressive - this is the picture being painted not only by the Economist but seemingly by all 'reputable' Western news vendors following the Ukrainian conflict. In 2008, the same media storm occurred following the Georgian conflict. When Western, 'Allied' countries engage in violent, destructive and immoral conflicts, the same media storm is focused on supporting the conflict and legitimising it. 

In reality both sides are just as savage/civilised, honest/dishonest, progressive/regressive as each other. To what extent is difficult to tell because truthful reporting has left the building.




Russian propaganda
1984 in 2014






A new propaganda war underpins the Kremlin’s clash with the West



FIREWORKS, concerts, uplifting speeches and patriotic euphoria: the Kremlin is celebrating the annexation of Crimea as though Russia had won the second world war (again) rather than grabbing a piece of land from a smaller and weaker neighbour. The public seems intoxicated by victory in a war that was begun, conducted and won largely through propaganda.

Russians have been subjected to an intense, aggressive and blunt disinformation campaign in which they were bombarded by images of violence, chaos and fascism in Ukraine, sinister plotting by the West and evidence of Russia’s strength and nobility in response. The Russian media have always shaped reality as much as they have reflected it. But in the seizure of Crimea, television played as much of a leading role as the army. Russian television, widely watched in Crimea, bolstered the loyalty of the local population while justifying the Kremlin’s actions at home.

Nobody knows how long Mr Putin has been working on the idea of this homecoming (some say since the 2008 war in Georgia), but the appointment of Dmitry Kiselev as the face of Russian propaganda in December last year marks the moment when he began to execute it. Mr Kiselev’s anti-Western and homophobic rhetoric made him a marginal figure a few years ago. But as the new head of RIA-Novosti, the state news agency, and an anchor on the state news channel, he has become one of Mr Putin’s key weapons (and is now subject to European Union sanctions).The propaganda campaign has seen several stages since the protests on Kiev’s Maidan began, says Lev Gudkov, head of the Levada Centre, an independent pollster. It portrayed Maidan as a conspiracy by the West. It showed the protesters as nationalists, fascists and anti-Semites who had staged a putsch, posing great danger to Russian-speakers. It faked stories of Ukrainian refugees fleeing to Russia (using footage of a border crossing between Ukraine and Poland). The case for taking Crimea, to defend the Russian population from an imagined threat, morphed into Russia’s reclaiming historic lands. Addressing a crowd in Red Square, Vladimir Putin boomed: “After a long, hard and exhausting voyage, Crimea and Sevastopol are returning to their harbour, to their native shores, to their home port, to Russia!”

Russia’s disinformation offensive differs from its Soviet forebear in both style and intensity. Soviet propagandists had none of Mr Kiselev’s exaltation, sarcasm and theatricality. They spoke in grave, deliberate tones, drawing on the party’s lifelong wisdom and experience. The new propaganda, exemplified by Mr Kiselev, seeks to agitate and mobilise the audience, to stir hatred and fear. Wearing a tight suit, he paces up and down, gesticulating and accentuating his words, then drilling them home with a sadistic smile. It is close in style to Orwell’s two minutes’ hate, stretched to more than 30.

The propaganda machine is fuelled by a “cocktail of chauvinism, patriotism and imperialism”, says one journalist. It plays on deep feelings among the Russian public: post-imperial nostalgia for the Soviet Union, an inferiority complex towards the West, and a longing for self-justification.

The coverage relies on the scale of lies and the elimination of other sources of information, says one senior editor. When Ukraine suspended the broadcasts of Russian state TV channels, substituting the liberal Dozhd channel that had been cut off by cable providers in Russia, it was accused by the Kremlin of suppressing free speech. In Russia the state-controlled media creates an illusion of uniformity of thought. Many are scared to voice their opinions not because they may be punished, but because they may be isolated. Any dissenter is described by Mr Putin as a “fifth columnist” and a “national traitor”.

On March 24th the Kremlin made an example of Andrei Zubov, a Russian historian, who was among the first to draw parallels between Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the annexation of Austria and Sudetenland territories in 1938-39. He was fired from his teaching position at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, patronised by the foreign ministry. Mr Zubov’s articles and interviews, the institute said, “contradict Russia’s foreign policy and inflict careless, irresponsible criticism on the actions of the state, thus causing damage to the teaching and educational process.” In an article in Vedomosti on March 1st, Mr Zubov had cited a speech by Hitler that was strikingly similar to the rhetoric used by Mr Putin when he addressed the nation about the annexation of Crimea. As Vedomosticommented in an editorial, the sacking merely confirms the accuracy of Mr Zubov’s parallels.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea has lifted Mr Putin’s approval rating to 80%, up from 65% in January. The number of people wishing to see him re-elected has risen from 32% to 46%, according to Levada, the highest figure since the 2008 Georgian war. The question is how long such ratings will last. Trumpeting Russia’s moral superiority, the Kremlin is preparing ordinary Russians for an economic downturn that it will no doubt blame on America. Yet Mr Gudkov argues that, although most Russians support Mr Putin’s actions, they are not prepared to take responsibility or bear significant costs in lives or money. “Televisionwatching does not imply participation,” says Mr Gudkov. That gives some hope that Russia may not go farther into eastern Ukraine.

Yet patriotic hysteria and jingoism may have reached such levels that any de-escalation by Mr Putin would seem like a defeat. The danger is that he starts to believe his own propaganda and pursues its logic towards renewed confrontation. Ominously, the Kremlin appears to believe that Western sanctions so far leave it room for further adventurism.

From the European print edition


FIREWORKS, concerts, uplifting speeches and patriotic euphoria: the White House celebrated the invasion of Iraq/Afghanistan as though the U.S had won the second world war (again) rather than grabbing a piece of land & resources from a smaller and weaker nation. The public seems intoxicated by victory in a war that was begun, conducted and won largely through propaganda.

Americans have been subjected to an intense, aggressive and blunt disinformation campaign in which they were bombarded by images of violence, chaos and tyranny in the Middle-East, sinister plotting by terrorists and evidence of America’s strength and nobility in response. The U.S media have always shaped reality as much as they have reflected it. But in the seizure of Iraq/Afghanistan, television played as much of a leading role as the army. U.S television, widely watched across the World, bolstered the loyalty of the local population while justifying America's actions at home.

The propaganda campaign has seen several stages since the Arab Spring began, says Glenn Greenwald, writer for the Guardian. It portrayed the Arab Spring as a democratic new dawn. It showed the protesters as liberal, democratic and moderate, posing a threat to tyrannical rule. It faked stories of protesters being shot by government forces, ignored reports of 'agent provocateur' activity and fabricated the actual source of false-flag chemical attacks in Syria. The truth that the U.S backed and supported highly violent and oppressive groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and other militants, with the hope of overthrowing democratically elected governments in Africa & the Middle-East were never highlighted in the media.

The case for invading the Middle-East, to defend the American population from an imagined threat, morphed into America spreading the wings of freedom across the world. Addressing a crowd in Washington George Bush boomed: “After a long, hard and exhausting voyage, Iraq and Afghanistan are returning to their harbour, to their native shores, to their home ports of Freedom & Democracy". "Mission Accomplished!" - he added.

Nobody knows how long the U.S has been working on the idea of this homecoming (some say since WW2 in Europe), but the appointment of Valerie Jarrett as the U.S propaganda Czar in November 2008 marks the moment when it began to execute it. Ms. Jarrett's xenophobic and right-wing rhetoric made her a marginal figure a few years ago but as head of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs, the de-facto propaganda agency, she has become one of Mr Obama's key weapons.

The American disinformation offensive differs from its pre-Cold War forebear in both style and intensity. Historically, American propagandists had none of the neo-conservative exaltation, sarcasm and theatricality. They spoke in grave, deliberate tones, drawing on the party’s lifelong wisdom and experience. The new propaganda, exemplified by Ms. Jarrett, Karl Rove, Hillary Clinton and others, seeks to agitate and mobilise the audience, to stir hatred and fear. Wearing tight suits, they pace up and down, gesticulating and accentuating their words, then drilling them home with a sadistic smile. It is close in style to Orwell’s two minutes’ hate, stretched to more than 30.

The propaganda machine is fuelled by a “cocktail of chauvinism, patriotism and imperialism”, says one journalist. It plays on deep feelings among the American public: imperial nostalgia for the United States, a superiority complex towards the East, and a longing for self-justification.

The coverage relies on the scale of lies and the elimination of other sources of information, says one senior editor. When Iraq suspended the broadcasts of American media and mass distribution of 'educational leaflets', and supporting the liberal Al-Jazeera channel that had been cut off by cable providers in America, it was accused by the White House of suppressing free speech and censorship. In America, the state-controlled media creates an illusion of uniformity of thought. Many are scared to voice their opinions not because they may be punished, but because they may be isolated. Any dissenter is described by Mr Obama as a “fifth columnist” and a “national traitor” - either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

In 2010 the White House made an example of Julian Assange, a Swedish whistle-blower/journalist, who was among the first to draw parallels between America's human rights abuses in its occupation of Iraq/Afghanistan and the actions of other autocratic regimes such as China & North Korea. All in the name of security and democracy.

Assange was forced to reduce the size of WikiLeaks following bilateral government and private sector persecution and was patronised by the U.S. State Department. Mr Assange's articles and interviews, the State Department said, “contradict American foreign policy and inflict careless, irresponsible criticism on the actions of the state, thus causing damage to the teaching and educational process”. The U.S vice President, Joe Biden, went straight to the point and labelled Assange as a "terrorist".

In an article published in the Guardian in 2011 Mr Assange had cited a speech by Adolf Hitler that was strikingly similar to the rhetoric used by George Bush when he addressed Americans about war crimes committed by US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. As 'The Guardian' commented in an editorial, the persecution merely confirms the accuracy of Mr Assange's parallels.

American occupations of parts of Africa & the Middle-East have repeatedly lifted approval ratings for U.S Presidents. The number of Americans wishing to see their President re-elected often rises on the eve of war and conquest.

The question is how long such ratings will last. Trumpeting American moral superiority, the White House is preparing ordinary Americans for an economic downturn that it will no doubt blame on foreigners and immigrants. Yet Mr Greenwald argues that, although most Americans support Mr Obama’s actions, they are not prepared to take responsibility or bear significant costs in lives or money. “Television watching does not imply participation,” says Mr Greenwald. That gives some hope that America may not go farther in the Middle-East.

Yet patriotic hysteria and jingoism may have reached such levels that any de-escalation by Mr Obama would seem like a defeat. The danger is that he starts to believe his own propaganda and pursues its logic towards renewed confrontation. Ominously, the White House appears to believe that Eastern appeasement so far leaves it room for further adventurism.


Objective analysis

The first casualty of war is truth. 

In the propaganda war currently being waged, it seems this tenet is holding true. More worryingly however is the fact that propaganda wars have been fought since the contextualised concept was first created by Edward Bernays in 1928. Given some thought, the sad truth is that most media stories are skewed in favour of the publisher, and by extension the funder of the publisher.

Would you ever see the BBC reporting something critical of the British government? Would you ever see CNN reporting critical stories of the U.S government? The answer is rarely. Any critical stories that do appear tend to be played down, minimised and generally attributed to individual error or incompetence rather than a widespread conspiracy of multiple people/agencies/organisations. The same is true for any country - thus major media outlets in China will not criticise the Chinese establishment, the Russian news networks such as ORT and NTV would never point out horrific acts committed by the Russian establishment.

In order for the facts to dominate the public conciousness and debate rather than obtuse regurgitation of media spun dogma, people must be ready to abandon their addiction to mainstream media and the glossy presentations that tie every story into a pretty little bow. Independent investigation, research and a slice of intuition is required to grasp the true nature of events unfolding before us.

The fact that most people reject alternative explanations of the mainstream narrative is because its more convenient to side with the herd. Only when the desire to know the truth outweighs the desire to fit in, will there be any genuine, truth-centric understanding of economic and political current affairs.



There are some indications that people are gradually veering away from propaganda-driven mainstream media outlets towards more independent reporting in the form of blogs, independent journalists and social media contributors. More than just the same obfuscated news stories are covered and rather more accurately because there is no core agenda to promote. Independent reporters want to report on a major story accurately and in depth because they believe in such concepts as integrity and honesty. They are blogging about it in the first place because they actually care about the topic they're covering. They're not 'in it to win it' but rather to obtain personal satisfaction and achievement that they are conveying hugely important topics with accuracy, for the benefit of society and mankind.

Its the complete opposite for mainstream media sources. They cover stories single-mindedly because all the reporters are subservient to their pay checks and will more often than not tow the line rather than break ranks. The coverage is limited in scope, contained within politically correct boundaries, inaccurate and skewed because of corporate 'responsibilities' and fear of dismissal. There is very little integrity or honesty because those concepts are punished, not encouraged. Where journalism was about investigation and questioning 50 years ago - it is now about fitting in and presentation. Regurgitation has replaced critique and tough questions.

Today's journalists/reporters are de facto mouthpieces for whichever regime has ownership over their employer. The bottom line is that mainstream media outlets are bogged down, tied up and gagged in a flurry of bureaucracy, political correctness, financial incentives, fear and lethargy. If looking at the broad trend, it seems that the more well funded and globally integrated a media organisation is, the more likely it is to become archaic and inaccurate.


Written by George Tchetvertakov