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The Western Spinners are Losing and They Know It

It's a train wreck

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

When I wrote “Those Horrible Russians are Winning the Information War” I was just amusing myself and having a laugh at the expense of Anne Applebaum. But I hadn’t realised that a whole campaign was beginning!

She was at a forum organised by Legatum; she being the Director of its Transitions Forum which deals with “countries that are striving to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy”. Said forum, “organised by the Legatum Institute, in cooperation with the Atlantic Council and the US Department of State” worried that “Through the manipulation of facts and the integration of outright lies into mainstream narratives, the Russian government seeks to influence public opinion and shape Western politics.” One of the attendees was the US Ambassador to Ukraine (and participant in the infamous phone call setting up the coup d'état, or, as the conference participants would put it, the transition from authoritarianism to democracy in Ukraine.) Anyway, here he is is saying that, although he is fully confident he knows what’s going on in Ukraine, he hasn’t actually been to the east and that “The biggest lie Russia tells is that Ukraine is a society somehow divided”. And that he has no idea who’s paying for the conference.

So it wasn’t just Applebaum, it was a group and one of their purposes was to figure out “what can be done about it”. (Can we take a guess at their answer? Shut them down. Free speech requires that JRL, RT and other deviants be silenced. Truth has only room for One Truth). A campaign will coming to your Local News Outlet soon; watch for it. Here are the first appearances: Legatum again and something longer on “Russian Hybrid Warfare” quoting Applebaum approvingly.

The whole idea is preposterous. Has your Local News Outlet mentioned the evidence that the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Ukrainian aircraft? How about evidence that the “Heavenly Hundred” were actually killed by “elements of the Maidan opposition, including its extremist far right wing”? Any questioning of NATO’s commercially-obtained satellite photos? Mention of atrocities by “volunteer battalions” in the east? No, of course it hasn’t. You can only read about MH17 on sites like, the Maidan killers in academic journals, NATO’s evidence is only criticised on websites, only Russian news sites report atrocities. These are easily dismissed as, in order: crazy conspiracy sites, probably not peer-reviewed, pro-Russian websites and Kremlin funded so-called news organisations. None of it is “real journalism” and therefore none of it is worthy of inclusion in your LNO.

Instead, your LNO has covered Russian submarines in Sweden, Russian air force aggressive flights (but not told you that NATO has quintupled its flights), and the monthly Russian invasion scare. And lots of Hitler-Putin comparisons. This is “real journalism”.

So what's really going on here? Certainly not that your LMO is passively re-printing Kremlin news releases or that the Kremlin’s tactics are working and could undermine European democracy. Quite the reverse. So what are these people worried about?

The answer is pretty obvious when you think about it: they realise their story is failing.

And it may well be that the impetus for this preposterous plaint are the problems the Party Line (and why not use that word redolent of Communist mind-control?) is having in Germany; in that Germany which is certainly the most important part of the European anti-Russia front. First we have satirical pieces like this one in which it’s evident that the audience knows they’re being manipulated. That’s bad enough. But the real bombshell was the revelation by Udo Ulfkotte, a veteran German reporter and editor, that “I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the Bundesnachrichtendienst.” The effect has been dramatic; his book Gekaufte Journalisten (Purchased Journalists) is high on the German best seller lists and the falloff in site visits to German media outlets is immediate and spectacular.

Comments by readers on stories also reveal the failure of the Party Line. I’ll take the first five surviving comments on a Telegraph piece from September “Its time to back away from the Russian wolf” to illustrate my point. 1. Russia is entering economic collapse 2. The author is paid by the Kremlin 3. if Russia had wanted to topple Kiev, it would already have done so 4. Ukraine is unstable and only NATO can stabilise it and “it is not only Putin who is empire building” 5. thanks for countering the standard line. The first two fit the Party Line; the third notices one of its fundamental contradictions; the fourth, while somewhat confusing, starts out well enough but is too even-handed and the fifth is outright scornful. Two out of five; that’s worrisome.

In short, the Party Line is not selling very well. But it’s not because yappy little dogs in the Blogosphere are bringing it down; it’s not because RT is creating millions of Putinbots. These are insignificant against the Western MSM chanting in unison.

Which brings me neatly to the real reason why the Line isn’t selling very well: from FAIR’s dissection of the Washington Post’s coverage of Putin’s Sochi speech. “The thing is, if you're going to say someone is a poisonous liar who traffics in conspiracy theories, then you should show that. That the Post doesn't seem to feel the need to do so either means the evidence isn't there, or that the burden of proof is very low when it comes to official enemies.”

The evidence either isn’t there, or the burden of proof is low. Indeed.

What’s killing the Washington-Brussels-NATO Party Line on Ukraine is not Sinister Putin mind-control but its inherent falsity. Consider some of the things they expect their audience to believe, at one and the same time.

  • That the best way to prevent oligarchs from looting your country is to make one of them president and appoint others as provincial governors.

  • That the only way to transcend Ukraine’s political failures is to appoint a bunch of people who have been in and out of governments for years.

  • That an election that excludes the parties that got 40%+ the last time around is perfectly democratic.

  • That the shoot-down of MH17 is an enormously important story until it suddenly isn’t.

  • That the rebels would shoot down an aircraft flying at 10000 metres heading towards Russia in a straight line.

  • That the Putin who is so determined to re-establish the Empire forgot to grab Georgia in 2008.

  • That people haven’t noticed that it’s NATO that’s getting closer to Russia and not the other way around.

  • That NATO gets its intelligence from tweets, twitters and blurry commercial satellite images.

  • That postponing implementation of the Ukraine-EU agreement is unacceptable right up to the moment that it is postponed.

  • That the fact that Ukraine owes Russia billions for gas it has consumed is evidence of Russian pressure on Ukraine.

  • That Russia is always invading but never actually invades.

  • That all those swastikas and neo-nazi references are just a figment of Putin’s imagination.

  • That artillery shells keep falling on civilians in eastern Ukraine but nobody knows where they come from.

  • That self-determination is perfectly acceptable in Kosovo but absolutely unacceptable in Ukraine.

  • That Nuland and Pyatt didn’t actually plan out the new government.

  • That conferences like the Legatum one are ever going to tell you anything that you can’t already guess.

The Party Line involves just too much doublethink and memory suppression to keep going without turning the volume up ever louder and silencing dissenters. And it’s not just that they have a bad hand of cards, but they're playing them badly: surely they can do better than blurry photographs of combine harvesters.

That’s all. At some level the Legatum people know it and they are getting desperate.

And, by the way, in these days of the Internet it’s much harder to get away with it. Since I began writing this piece, I have learned that Anne Applebaum’s income has greatly increased and something about who is behind Legatum (just the people you’d guess, too).

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