Daily Archives: June 21, 2015

USA | The New York Times “basically rewrites whatever the Kiev authorities say”: Stephen F. Cohen on the U.S./Russia/Ukraine history the media won’t tell you

There’s an alternative story of Russian relations we’re not hearing. Historian Stephen Cohen tells it here
It is one thing to comment in a column as the Ukrainian crisis grinds on and Washington—senselessly, with no idea of what will come next—destroys relations with Moscow. It is quite another, as a long exchange with Stephen F. Cohen makes clear, to watch as an honorable career’s worth of scholarly truths are set aside in favor of unlawful subterfuge, a war fever not much short of Hearst’s and what Cohen ranks among the most extravagant expansion of a sphere of influence—NATO’s—in history.

UK | RUSSIA, UKRAINE AND THE WEST: In Defence of History Against Falsification

According to one dictionary definition the term “propaganda” should be understood as “information, ideas, opinions etc. propagated as a means of winning support for, or fomenting opposition to, a government, institution etc.” There is nothing here to indicate whether the information, ideas and opinions propagated need be true or false.
Thus, to take a simple example,  the US occupation for more than a century of Cuban territory at Guantanamo Bay for use as a naval base, is a fact. To state that fact is to speak the truth. It is also a fact that the treaty by which the US came into possession of Guantanamo was imposed upon Cuba against the will of its people, with the threat that failure to accept it would result in the US occupation of the island. It is also a fact that since 1959 the Cuban government has refused to accept the rent from the US for Guantanamo, claiming, truthfully, that the territory housing the base belongs to Cuba and that the US has no legitimate right to be there. All of this factual information and the truthful expression of opinion by the Cuban government, most recently by President Raul Castro, demanding its return to Cuba, has been reiterated consistently for the past 56 years. The demand for the return of Guantanamo may be regarded as “winning support for” the Cuban government, or “fomenting opposition to” the US government. In that case such a demand could, according to the definition, be regarded as propaganda. It would, nevertheless be a just demand on the basis of a truthful presentation of the facts.
“Propaganda” has a derogatory ring to it. It is usually taken for granted that all propaganda must be mendacious, involving deliberate falsification intended to deceive its recipients and persuade them to accept what the propagandists know to be untrue. It may be readily accepted that in many cases this is indeed what propaganda is about.  But not necessarily in all cases. During the Second World War following the Battle of Stalingrad, the National Committee for a Free Germany, composed largely of captured German officers who had turned against Hitler, broadcast messages to the Wehrmacht calling on them to surrender. One of these took the form of a clock ticking off the seconds with a voice-over in German informing the demoralized German soldiers that one of their number was dying every second on the Eastern Front, and leaving the sound of the clock ticking away. It was frighteningly effective propaganda. At that time, it was also true. Even propaganda involving deliberate falsehoods may be justified at times.
The radical journalist Claude Cockburn recounts (Cockburn Sums Up. 1981) how in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, he filed a news report, purportedly from Tetouan in Spanish Morocco, in which he claimed to witness a full-scale revolt by Moorish soldiers against the Spanish army. It was intended to persuade the government of Leon Blum in France that Franco might lose the war and thus persuade him (Blum) to lift his arms embargo on the Spanish Republicans. No such revolt had happened. Cockburn made it up. After the Second World War he was roundly condemned for having engaged in “Black” propaganda, by Labour MP Richard Crossman. When Cockburn reminded Crossman that he himself had engaged in exactly such propaganda exercises to deceive the Nazis during the war, Crossman’s response was that “Black” propaganda “may be necessary to war, but most of us who practiced it detested what we were doing.” “Was it then possible” Cockburn retorted, “ that throughout the life and death struggle our propagandists had all along taken the view that their paramount duty was to be gentlemen, and not to tell lies, however damagingly misleading these might be to the enemy?” With his unfailing wit he characterized Crossman’s stance as “a comfortable ethical position, if you can stop laughing.”
It is difficult to argue convincingly that all propaganda is bad and morally indefensible. Most people would agree that during the Second World War what Crossman referred to as “black” propaganda was necessary and morally defensible when employed by the anti-fascist forces fighting the Nazis. But all propaganda employed by the Nazis and fascists was indefensible and morally deplorable. It depends entirely on the cause in which it was employed: propaganda in support of barbarism and genocide, or propaganda for humanity and liberation.
Josef Goebbels, Propaganda Minister of the Third Reich, (in today’s parlance Hitler’s Director of Communications), bequeathed to the post-war world one salient lesson which he drew from the development of radio and the cinema in the 1930s. He knew that the most effective propaganda method for shaping public opinion in an advanced, literate capitalist society was one which persuaded people that they were not being subjected to propaganda at all. Most of the films they watched had no overt political content, but crucially, some did; the various news media persuaded most Germans that the racism, ethnic nationalism and anti-semitism they peddled simply echoed their own sentiments of patriotism and natural deference to leaders who deserved their trust and loyalty. German life, despite its evident militarisation, was thoroughly petit-bourgeois. The minority who were not taken in, learned, for the most part, to keep their heads down. Everyone was well aware that there were concentration camps for those who stuck their necks out. Most tried not to think about such things.
Today it is becoming more obvious than ever that we are subjected to a form of propaganda that owes a great deal to the pioneering work of Dr. Goebbels. There is no need for the threat of incarceration for those who refuse to consent to the dominant political narratives of the day. In Britain, despite the likelihood that the forthcoming general election will produce a hung parliament and that there could be something of an electoral earthquake in Scotland, there appears to be little awareness about the increasing gravity of the international situation. Wherever one looks – the Middle East, the exodus from Libya with hundreds drowning daily in the Mediterranean, Greece, Ukraine – there is evidence of deepening and unmanageable crises. But potentially the most dangerous of all is the growing Western rhetoric of revived cold war hostility towards Russia. It is impossible to understand this without looking at the part that the Soviet Union played in the Second World War.
Russia and the Falsification of History
One does not need to be an admirer of Vladimir Putin to recognize that his stand in confronting the Western powers and NATO over Crimea and Ukraine is justified. A few relevant facts, readily available but seldom mentioned in the mainstream media, are worth recording:
There are more than one thousand US and NATO military bases around the world. 737 of them areoutside the USA. Since its establishment in 1949 with 12 founding members, NATO has steadily expanded to a present membership of 28 states. 12 of these are former members of the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe including Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The US has increased its military forces in Poland and NATO’s control over Baltic airspace on Russia’s borders. There are 116,000 US military personnel in Europe.

Ukraine | Draconian bill submitted to Ukrainian parliament

16.06.2015 – Draconian bill submitted to parliament

Three members of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament) introduced a bill on 9 June on “the method of information during anti-terrorist operations.” Its authors include the secretary of the parliamentary committee on national security and defence issues, Ivan Vinnik, who is a member of the ruling Petro Poroshenko Bloc.