The latest hot topic in the Russian media. Russian politicians are talking about it. Historical precedent and behavior of Western media suggests that they are.
A major topic in the Russian media is mystification with how Putin is portrayed in the Western media.
Wildly popular at home, and seen as a decent, modest, an admirable person, and Russians don’t understand how there can be such a disconnect with Western impressions.
Recently, leading Russian commentators and politicians have been suggesting that this can only be explained by a deliberate campaign to defame Putin, by governments or other groups.
Yesterday, at a briefing to foreign journalists, Sergey Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff, arguably the 2nd most powerful man in Russia, spoke of an “information war” consisting of “personal attacks” on Putin.
The western media hit a new low…
The day before another member of Putin’s inner circle, Vyasheslav Volodin, made similar remarks, telling foreign journalists “an attack on Putin is an attack on Russia.”
The logic, they argue, is that by defaming the leader of a country, you weaken his power domestically by undermining popular support for him, and internationally, by rallying popular opinion to support policies against that country. The ultimate goal, they argue, is to weaken the country itself. They also talk about regime change.
They argue that if one looks at the facts, that there is evidence of ongoing character assassination which cannot be explained by a vague popular zeitgeist in the West, but is more likely the result of a dedicated effort to introduce this defamation into the news flow.
Newsweek has been one of the most virulent Putin-bashers for years
The issue of manipulation of news by intelligence services has been in the news recently with revelations that the CIA and German Secret Service (GSS) have long-running programs to influence how media executives and top journalists convey and interpret the news, including direct cash payments.
Here are some examples they point to:
- Portraying him as a scheming dictator trying to rebuild a repressive empire.
- Claiming he personally ordered the murder of a number of journalists, and personally ordered a KGB defector to be murdered with radiation poisoning.
- Frequently citing unsubstantiated rumors he is having an affair with a famous gymnast.
- Allegations that he has stashed away billions for his personal benefit, without providing evidence.
- Recent article in newsweek claiming he leads a luxurious and lazy lifestyle, sleeping late.
- Recent article in NYT focusing on a supposed personal arrogance.
- Hillary Clinton mentioning in speech after speech that he is a bad guy, a bully, that one must confront him forcefully.
- Frequently using pejoratives to describe his person – “a jerk and a thug” (Thomas Friedman this week in the NYT)
- Mis-quoting him on his regret about the collapse of the Soviet Union.
- Articles about a supposed super-luxury villa built for him in southern Russia.
- The over-the top headlines in the western media (they were worst of all in Germany) portraying him personally responsible for murdering the victims of MH17.
- And soft stuff – magazine covers making him look sinister, monstrous, etc.
RI sat down with The Saker, a leading analyst of Russia in international affairs, and asked him what he thinks:
So, is there any credence to this line of thinking, or is this conspiracy theorists running wild?
There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the US is waging a major psyop war against Russia, although not a shooting war, for now, and that what we are seeing is a targeted campaign to discredit Putin and achieve “regime change” in Russia or, should that fail, at the very least “regime weakening” and “Russia weakening”.
And the Economist has been the very worst of them all…
So this is a US government program?
Yes, Putin is absolutely hated by certain factions in the US government two main reasons:
1. He partially, but not fully, restored Russia’s sovereignty which under Gorbachev and Yeltsin had been totally lost … Russia then was a US colony like Ukraine is today … and,
2. He dared to openly defy the USA and its civilizational model.
… a free and sovereign Russia is perceived by the US “deep state” as an existential threat which has to be crushed. … this is a full-scale political assault on Russia and Putin personally.
So what the Russians are saying, that the constant personal attacks against Putin in the global media are partly the result of deliberate efforts by US intelligence services, … basically, planted stories…
It seems like “Operation Mockingbird” all over again… Are you aware of other instances aimed at Putin?
(Editors Note: Operation Mockingbird was a CIA program started in the 1950s to influence the US media, which was gradually exposed by investigative journalists starting in the late 60s, culminating in sensational televised congressional hearings in 1975 which shocked the nation, forcing the program’s termination. Critics maintain that the same tactics have continued since, under different programs. Wikipedia)
Yes, of course. Since this defamation has very little traction with the Russian public … Putin’s popularity is higher than ever before .., there is an organized campaign to convince them that Putin is “selling out” Novorussia, that he is a puppet of oligarchs who are making deals with Ukrainian oligarchs to back-stab the Novorussian resistance…
… So far, Putin’s policies in the Ukraine have enjoyed very strong support from the Russian people who still oppose an overt military intervention…
… but if Kiev attacks Novorussia again – which appears very likely – and if such an attack is successful – which is less likely but always possible – then Putin will be blamed for having given the Ukrainians the time to regroup and reorganize.
Warm and fuzzy…
So you are saying that if the Ukrainian military strengthens its position enough to deliver a serious blow to the East Ukrainians, the US can use this as a method to strike at Putin’s support base…
Yes, that’s right … there are a lot of “fake patriots” in Russia and abroad who will reject any negotiated solution and who will present any compromise as a “betrayal”. They are the “useful idiots” used by western special services to smear and undermine Putin.
Is it limited to government special ops, or are there other groups who might have an interest in doing this?
Yes, well here is something that most people in the west don’t appreciate… there is a major behind-the scenes struggle among Russian elites between what I call the “Eurasian Sovereignists” (basically, those who support Putin) and what I call the “Atlantic Integrationists” (those whom Putin refers to as the “5th column).
The western media talks about this as the struggle between Russian liberals and conservatives, reformers and reactionaries, right?
Well its sort of like that, but not exactly…
The former see Russia’s future in the Russian North and East and want to turn Russia towards Asia, Latin America and the rest of the world, while the latter want Russia to become part of the “North Atlantic” power configuration.
The Atlantic Integrationists are now too weak to openly challenge Putin – whose real power base is his immense popular support – but they are quietly sabotaging his efforts to reform Russia while supporting anti-Putin campaigns.
Regarding the revelations of CIA activities in Germany, do you think this is going on in other countries, in the US?
I am sure that this is happening in most countries worldwide. The very nature of the modern corporate media is such that it makes journalists corrupt.
As the French philosopher Alain Soral says “nowadays a reporter is either unemployed or a prostitute“. There are, of course, a few exceptions, but by and large this is true.
This is not to say that most journalists are on the take. In the West this is mostly done in a more subtle way – by making it clear which ideas do or do not pass the editorial control, by lavishly rewarding those journalists who ‘get it’ and by quietly turning away those who don’t.
If a journalist or reporter commits the crime of “crimethink” he or she will be sidelined and soon out of work.
There is no real pluralism in the West where the boundaries of what can be said or not are very strictly fixed.
Ok, but is it like what has been revealed in Germany, …similar specific operational programs in France, the UK, Italy, Latin America, etc.
Yes, one has to assume so – it is in their interests to have them and there is no reason for them not to.
As for the CIA, it de-facto controls enough of the corporate media to “set the tone”. As somebody who in the past used to read the Soviet press for a living, I can sincerely say that it was far more honest and more pluralistic than the press in the USA or EU today.
Joseph Goebbels or Edward Bernays could not have imagined the degree of sophistication of modern propaganda machines.
If the US is doing it, can’t one assume other governments are too? Are the Russians doing it against western leaders?
I think that all governments try to do that kind of stuff. However, what makes the US so unique it a combination of truly phenomenal arrogance and multi-billion dollar budgets.
The US “deep state” owns the western corporate media which is by far the most powerful media on the planet. Most governments can only do that inside their own country … to smear a political opponent or discredit a public figure, but they simply do not have the resources to mount an international strategic psyop campaign. This is something only the US can do.
So foreign governments are at a great disadvantage in this arena vis-a-vis the US?
I want to add here a totally shameless plug for Russia Insider. Guys – keep an eye on what RI is doing. Not only has the editor and publisher, Charles Bausman, assembled a first-rate team of contributors (including several I consider as friends), but the format used by RI is an ideal complement to what I try to do here: whereas I tend to privilege long detailed analyses and a few shorter news items here and there, RI offers a steady stream of news items covering a very wide variety of related topics interspersed with always interesting opinion pieces. Frankly, I consider this very good and very needed stuff, and a very effective way to debunk the lies of the Empire’s main stream media. Good guys, doing good things, in a good format. In other words – I consider checking the RI site at least once a day a “must”.
Kind regards to all,