But it's actually a stunning indictment of the complacency and unprofessionalism of the UK's mainstream media
Originally appeared at Sputnik
Labeling Putin’s characteristic walk as “a gunslinger’s gait” the intent is to make the Russian president appear as a shady, unscrupulous “strongman” who has a penchant for toting guns. Dredging up the former Soviet secret service KGB – described as “the feared Cold War agency” – only adds to the purpose of demonizing.
It is no coincidence that the latest media “campaign” – what else do you call it when so many outlets run the same story? – came in the same week that Putin was about to deliver his annual press conference to international journalists on major world events.
It is almost laughable that so-called independent “news” media could give prominence to this non-story. The interesting point though is to study the logistics of how the information was published, the timeline and the sources. For in that, what becomes clear is how Western news media are politically servile.
The concerted way the British press ran with the tawdry story points to a politicized agenda – and in particular orchestration by the American Central Intelligence Agency.
First, let’s look at the “story” for what it’s worth. To pick out one example, the British tabloid Daily Mail ran this headline: “How Putin's KGB firearms training skills left him with sinister 'gunslinger's gait’”.
Several other British newspapers, such as the Daily Express, Daily Star, The Mirror and Daily Telegraph, as well as the state-owned BBC, all ran similar headlines. Notably, too, all the reports were written in very similar style, sharing the same wording and “talking points”.
The original source of the claim was a supposed scientific paper published on Monday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by a team of European neurologists. The lead author of the paper was named as Professor Bastiaan Bloem based at Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Bloem and his colleagues speculate that Putin’s body posture while walking is a result of training from days as a KGB officer. They write:.
“We propose that this new gait pattern, which we term ‘gunslinger’s gait,’ may result from a behavioural adaptation, possibly triggered by KGB or other forms of weapons training where trainees are taught to keep their right hand close to the chest while walking, allowing them to quickly draw a gun when faced with a foe.”
Furthermore, the medics go on to “substantiate” their KGB weapons training hypothesis by claiming that they noticed the same walking style in four other senior Russian officials: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, former defense ministers Anatoly Serdyukov and Sergei Ivanov, and a highly ranked military commander Anatoly Sidorov. All are said to display “gunslinger’s gait” while stepping out.
Trouble is that premier Medvedev has never served in the military, never mind the KGB. Anatoly Serdyukov was also not in the KGB.
But that ridiculously unscientific methodology does not deter Professor Bloem and his colleagues from presenting their paper in a serious medical journal. One wonders how the BMJ even let it be published based on such ropey “science”.
Now here is where it gets interesting. The paper was published in the BMJ on Monday, December 14. Within hours it was then made into a story and published on Tuesday by the US government-owned news outlet, Radio Free Europe (RFE). It is well documented that RFE has close ties with the CIA, and has served as a propaganda outlet since the heady days of the Cold War back in the late 1940s and 50s.
RFE is based in Prague and its daily publishing time is midnight, Central European Time. The Putin “gunslinger” story was thus published by RFE in the early hours of Tuesday, December 15.
Over the next two days, the British media ran with the same story using virtually the same wording and highlighted the same points of Putin walking as if he is holding a gun on his right side, and that this habit is as a result of KGB training.
What is remarkable is that two newspapers, The Guardian and Daily Mail, both even credited the RFE as the source of their articles, without, of course, mentioning to their readers the CIA connections of RFE.
Interestingly, too, the first British papers to publish the article were Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph – both early Tuesday – only hours after RFE. The Daily Telegraph is a well known media outlet for British intelligence propaganda.
In recent years, Western news media have shown a sporadic tendency to engage in negative stories about Putin. And the telling thing is that this negative Western media coverage shows a concerted response.
Newspapers and other news outlets tend to publish the same pejorative stories about Putin at the same time. That indicates a centrally manipulating source.
Some of the news coverage can be put down to “lazy journalism” or herd mentality, where some outlets just regurgitate what they deem to be “in the news” carried by others.
But what is revealing from the latest Putin “gunslinger” smear story is that the triggering media source was evidently and specifically the CIA-affiliated RFE outlet.
In previous bouts of Western media slandering against Putin, such as his alleged millionaire daughter, or his alleged ordering of the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 by Russian-backed rebels, it is plausible to speculate that there was covert media manipulation going on.
However, in this week’s media smear job carried out by British publications, it is clearly traceable that the disinformation came from the CIA operation RFE.
It is easy to dismiss the KGB shooter story as a lot of rubbish with no substance.
Nevertheless, what should be alarming to anyone upholding independent, critical journalism is the odious way that supposedly independent news media are played as political tools to sell a propaganda message.
If in this instance it is clear that British media are so pliable to serve as propaganda outlets to demonize Vladimir Putin what does that say about the credibility of all their other news and information?
What of their coverage on events in Ukraine, Syria, or any other major international development?
As already noted, the CIA-British media smear job about “gun-toting Putin” came out just as the Russian leader was holding a major international press conference. In recent months and especially over the conflict in Syria, Putin has shown himself to be probably the best world leader there is.
His principled military intervention in Syria to defeat terrorists trying to topple the government there is not only succeeding in that purpose, it is also exposing the international state-sponsored links to the terrorism, links that include Washington and its NATO allies, as well as its regional cronies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Putin has proven himself to be a noble world leader – unlike mediocre Western politicians, who are not fit to tie his shoelaces.
Unable to deal with the Russian leader’s growing international stature, Western propaganda through news media outlets has to then resort to what it does best – character assassination.