Step 1: Disagree with the White House
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
For some reason, this gem from US-government funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty seems to have escaped my attention until now. Who knows why. Maybe I was just lucky.
Wait, what's that? Why yes, I do like to include the "US-government funded" bit when I mention RFERL. I feel it's only fair. We wouldn't want anyone getting the idea that they had no agenda, now would we? It's like with those pesky Putin propagandists at RT, you can't let them think you don't know what they're up to.
So, in the event that you'd like to save yourself the bother of reading it in its entirety, I'll summarize: Stephen Cohen, formerly respected Russia scholar, disagrees with the White House on Ukraine and is therefore a Putin stooge. That's really the long and short of it.
RFERL laid into Cohen for "defending the Kremlin's agenda" in the piece which presents an account of his recent debate with Washington Post columnist (and determined neo-con agenda pusher) Anne Applebaum and former world chess champion player Garry Kasparov.
The piece quotes Angela Stent, director of the Center for Russian Studies at Georgetown University, who explains why Cohen's Kremlin defense crosses the line; because, she says, it's not just that Cohen is saying he understands Putin's motivations, which would be semi-okay (maybe, kind of, sort of), but it's that he actually has taken the position that "Putin is right".
Shock! Horror! Does this mean? No, it couldn't possibly…? Could someone really be suggesting that the White House might be wrong? Stop the presses!
RFERL added that it wasn't surprising to anyone who had been following Cohen's work that his arguments continued to dovetail "a narrative pushed by the Kremlin" — a line which got me wondering why it is that I so rarely see the phrase "narrative pushed by the White House" — and then I remembered that the White House doesn't have "narratives" because of course, it has the truth. Silly me.
Cohen, at this debate with Applebaum and Kasparov, tried to convince his audience that he does not in fact have a "sentimental attachment" to Vladimir Putin whatsoever, but of course, that fell on deaf ears. Again, that got me wondering why exactly those defending Barack Obama's foreign policy aren't required to convince everyone that they don't have some sort of "sentimental attachment" to him personally. Can you imagine a guest on CNN trying to convince the host that although he was expressing support for Obama’s policies that didn’t feel any mushy sentimentality toward the president?
Cohen says his criticisms of White House policy make him a patriot of American national security, which RFERL subsequently twists into a sarcastic jab about how he thinks his shameless Putin loving is "a matter of patriotic duty".
Then rather predictably, the piece devolves into the usual spiel about conspiracy theorists and the not so thinly veiled presumption that those who beg to differ with US policy all fit neatly into that category. See Seymour Hersh for another timely example.
Shortly before the piece wraps up (praise Jesus) RFERL quote Lynn Lubamersky, an associate professor of history at Boise State University, who says that Cohen is a "mouthpiece for a mass murderer" which of course, just beggars belief — and not because Putin is in line for any pacifist of the century awards, but because if Putin is a mass murderer, what exactly is Barack Obama? An anti-war activist?
I'd really like to know, for example, what is it about operating drone programs that kill thousands of innocent people, including hundreds of children — and sometimes entire families — that gets you off the hook when it comes to deciding what constitutes mass murder?
And another question. Why does defending Kremlin policy make you a "mouthpiece" for a murderer, while any neo-con warmonger with five minutes to spare can go on FOX or CNN or the BBC, and not only make excuses for the various mass murders carried out by the White House, but actually advocate relentlessly for even more of them. Why do they retain the title of 'media commentator' while Cohen gets branded an apologist for mass murder?
If you have any answers, send them my way.
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
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