Then and Now.

Written By: - Date published: 11:54 am, April 30th, 2018 - 13 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, accountability, Dirty Politics, International, journalism, Media, Politics, Propaganda, Spying, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

Let me try and compile a short list of alleged “Russian interference”.

There have obviously been  the various claims made around the US election. There have been “bot” accusations made in regard to the Scottish independence referendum. Apparently Catalonia was a “Russian target” too. Wasn’t there something about Germany? France too. Oh, and the Brexit vote and something about European elections. Then there is Italy’s “Five Star Movement”. In all, according to this piece in the Washington Post from January, we’re looking at “mounting evidence of Russian interference in at least 19 European nations.

I guess we ought to throw in some Latin American targets too. I’m sure I read something about Mexico a while back.

But setting aside whatever thoughts around both the veracity and effectiveness of various phishing attacks, and facebook posts, bot accounts and what not other claims, the following caught my eye in terms of lending context to some of the apparently calamitous and dangerous interactions or alleged interactions with “things Russian”.

As stated in the summary of this post, claims have been made that Russian bots backed UK Labour in the 2017 election. Labour’s Shadow chancellor McDonnell’s response to those allegations offers us a reference we might measure current levels of hysteria against.

He points to 1992 and similar “Russia!” smears being pushed at the then UK Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

Shortly before the 1992 General Election, the paper [The Times] splashed its front page with a story about conversations between Neil Kinnock, the then Labour leader, and Soviet diplomats in London. The article consisted of accounts of meetings between Viktor Popov, the Soviet ambassador, and Kinnock during the miners’ strike and cruise missile controversy.

The reality is that there was nothing peculiar in a Labour leader speaking with the Soviet ambassador and the story was quickly dismissed as a pre- election smear.

That excerpt is from a 1995 piece in The Independent that’s titled “The Sorry Tale of Agent Boot“. The principle focus of the piece is around allegations of connections between the then USSR and Michael Foot (another  former leader of the Labour Party).

As with today’s sources on collaboration and dirty dealings between prospective political leaders and Russian connections, the source for the Michael Foot allegations was”an extremely reliable source[…] always accurate to an almost pedantic degree”,[…]: “There was never any serious doubt that what he was telling us was true, but it had to be substantiated.” (emphasis added)

It’s that last bit seems to have been exorcised from the world of journalism these days. Was there any attempt to substantiate claims by Steele that formed the basis of a dossier the Intelligence Community produced and that the media ran with?  If there was, I certainly missed it. Basically, it seems free reign has been given to intelligence agencies wishing to extend their world view and opinions beyond the confines and machinations of their respective agencies.

And as Mikhail Lyubimov, ex-press attach to the Soviet Embassy in London noted in that 1995 piece from “The Independent”

“Gordievsky (the impeccable source back then) is not telling lies. He merely reflects all the ridiculous fuss inside the KGB kitchen and makes it sound very serious. Inside the secret services, and not just the KGB, there is always a lot of fantasy.”

With that in mind, how is it not the beginning of dangerous times when unelected and more or less unaccountable centres of power get to spread their preferred message via uncritical media, and when anyone standing up and saying “Hey! Just a second.” gets labeled, and instantly  lumped in with the Intelligence Community’s “ennemi du juor”?

Maybe it’s not so unreasonable, possibly even helpful, to view it all as some Whaleoil construct on steroids – y’know, same basic dynamics but much, much more powerful. (And with a lot more “buy in”)

(Image “Hysteria”by Cleon Peterson)

13 comments on “Then and Now.”

  1. A pertinent post, Bill, but why confine yourself to recent times?

    There were Russian scares in the 1870s and 1880s. It almost seems like a ‘fall-back’ position for governments when they’ve no moral authority for doing what they’re doing.

    • Bill 1.1

      I guess because the “Russian scare” that accompanied Britain’s colonisation of India and attempted occupation of Afghanistan, isn’t something that’s encapsulated by our lifetimes and memories.

      It was only a short while ago (perhaps an admission of age that 1995 seems recent!) that all this hullabaloo of the past few years would have been mocked and derided all the way to editors reject bin.

      And yet, here we are…

  2. Poission 2

    That, in order to influence public opinion to their ends they have heavily-
    subsidized the public press and stipulated when contracting for advertising
    space with the newspapers that a certain amount be editorial space, the
    literary material for the space being provided from the brewers’ central
    office in New York ;

    That, in order to suppress expressions of opinion hostile to their trade and
    political interests, they have set in operation an extensive system of boycot-
    ting of American manufacturers, merchants, railroads, and other interests ;

    That, for the furthering of their political enterprises, they have erected a
    political organization to carry out their purposes ;

    The propaganda enquiry.

  3. mikesh 3

    Perhaps the Russians should set up an agency to help governments win elections, for a fee of course. They could call it Psephworks Inc. and give Crosby Textor some competition. I reckon it could be “a nice little earner”.

  4. mpledger 4

    Cambridge Analytica

  5. spikeyboy 6

    It remains to be seen how many people are taken in by these claims. Surely the number and frequency of them must make a large number begin to smell a rat. Maybe question and look for alternative sources of news. It is easier with the internet to bypass the gatekeepers and a little harder for information to be controlled.

  6. Philg 9

    This highlights the parlous state of ‘our ‘ MSM in NZ. Increasingly, our ‘news’ isn’t ‘new’ (day’s old) or even valid. RNZ is repeating ‘news’ from CNN! The BBC under pressure to deliver ‘news’. Buyer beware I say. Sky, Herald, Dompost, Newstalk … etc. Stay curious and questioning.

  7. D'Esterre 10

    Philg: “Sky, Herald, Dompost, Newstalk … etc. Stay curious and questioning.”

    It would be to the benefit of us all if they actually started being curious and questioning. I have seen none of that in these outlets; nor yet at RNZ.

  8. Richard 11

    “This highlights the parlous state of ‘our ‘ MSM in NZ. Increasingly, our ‘news’ isn’t ‘new’ (day’s old) or even valid. RNZ is repeating ‘news’ from CNN! The BBC under pressure to deliver ‘news’. ”

    LOL – it’s just like reading the comments at Fox News here!

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