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Series: What is propaganda in 2017 and how did we get here? (1)

Recently I wrote about Cambridge Analytica (CA), I’ve discovered since then that there is a lot more to this story than just marketing tactics and I will be writing a series of articles about it. What has led us to the likes of fake news, alt-facts, disinformation, and propaganda not only in the media but also in social media? Who are the players and who stands to gain? I will explore all of this and more with detailed research in coming days.

Michael Flynn is a retired American army lieutenant general and was the first National Security Council advisor to be appointed by President Donald Trump. He was fired less than a month later this year on February 13th, under a cloud of suspicion relating to what he said on a phone call at the White House to Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak. Mr Flynn told Vice President of the US, Mike Pence, that the call merely consisted of small talk and holiday pleasantries. The White House, upon analysing the transcript of the wiretapped conversation found that he had also had a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia, for interfering in the 2016 election on Mr Trump’s behalf.

The US army was also investigating Mr Flynn about whether he had received payments from the Russian government for a trip that he took to Moscow in 2015. The occasion was the tenth birthday celebration of Russian Today (RT), a television network controlled by the Kremlin. US intelligence agencies have been warning since 2012 that RT is a propaganda arm of the Russian government. Payments like this, without the consent of congress could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which forbids former military officers from receiving money from a foreign government without their consent. The FBI was also examining Mr Flynn’s White House phone calls. This was due to concerns that in his attempts to hide what was said in the call, the Russians could blackmail him by threatening to expose him if he refused.

Mr Pence was angry at Mr Flynn as he had defended him in a number of television appearances about the phone call and he wasn’t impressed with him blaming it on his bad memory. Mr Pence was dubious about the bad memory excuse because of a similar experience late last year when this time, he was defending Mr Flynn’s son on television. He denied that Michael Flynn Jnr, was behind the conspiracy theories, such as Pizzagate about Hillary Clinton on social media. He also denied that Mr Flynn Jnr been given a security clearance. He had been given security clearance even though Mr Flynn told Mr Pence’s team that he didn’t have one.

On March 16th this year, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (House Oversight Committee) reported back to President Donald Trump, Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and FBI Director, James Comey. [PDF] They uncovered documents showing that RT paid Mr Flynn more than US$45,000 for his participation in the birthday celebrations as well as US$11,250 from a Russian charter cargo airline and US$11,250 from a Russia-based cyber-security corporation. They also uncovered a retroactive filing by Mr Flynn on March 7th with the Department of Justice. It disclosed that he served as an agent of a foreign government while advising President elect, Donald Trump. The filing reported that US$530,000 was paid to Mr Flynn for pro-Erdogan lobbying work in Turkey between the months of August and November in 2016. It is of note that on November 8th Mr Flynn wrote an op-ed claiming that the Obama administration and the US media wasn’t being supportive enough of Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is fair to say that most Americans don’t know exactly what to make of our ally Turkey these days, as it endures a prolonged political crisis that challenges its long-term stability. The U.S. media is doing a bang-up job of reporting the Erdoğan government’s crackdown on dissidents, it’s not putting it into perspective. We must begin with understanding that Turkey is vital to U.S. interests.’

Mr Flynn’s lawyers say that they notified the transition team about his lobbying in Turkey but the President and the Vice President say that they knew nothing about it. The House Oversight Committee, requested information as to whether he’d fully disclosed his communications and payments from foreign sources as part of his security clearance, for his return to government. They also requested that the Defense Department take steps to recover all foreign funds accepted in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. On March 31st Mr Flynn told investigators that he was willing to be interviewed about the allegations but only if he received immunity from prosecution.

In 2010 as the top US intelligence officer in Afghanistan, Mr Flynn wrote a report about intelligence acting more like journalists. He lamented that US intelligence in Afghanistan spent too much time on attacking the Taliban and not enough on figuring out Afghanistan’s cultural and social landscapes. ‘Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collection efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intelligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the environment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade.’ And that they overlook data such as polling data, patrol debriefs, minutes from local shuras, and economic statistics that helps them connect the dots. ‘This vast and underappreciated body of information, almost all of which is unclassified, admittedly offers few clues about where to find insurgents, but it does provide elements of even greater strategic importance – a map for leveraging popular support and marginalizing the insurgency itself,’ the report stated.

This sounds very much like the Strategic Communication Laboratories Group (SCL) which specialises in behavioural research and data that drives behavioural change. SCL is the parent company to CA. Five years earlier SCL was reported to be the first private company to provide psychological warfare services, known as ‘psyops’ in the military, at a global arms fair in London. It believed that armies were prepared to pay for their services from a private provider and that it could shorten conflicts.

The US Army definition for Psychological Operations or PsyOps is: “Psychological operations are planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign governments, organisations, groups or individuals.”

Bolstered by the success of CA during the American election SCL has lobbied the US national security services in the Pentagon about how its technology could be used to deter terrorism and to help assess attitudes about immigrants. SCL’s lobbying has been driven by a former aid to Mr Flynn and Mr Flynn is a former adviser for SCL. SCL recently won a defense contract with the US state department “Global Engagement Services” to work on “target audience analysis” (TAA) of young men in other countries who may be thinking of joining ISIS. The founder of SCL, Nigel Oakes also founded the Behavioural Dynamics Institute.(BDi). BDi is the research arm of SCL and its stated goal is ‘to assemble and assimilate the full extent of creative and scientific knowledge on group behaviour and the dynamics of change, and package it into a unified and workable methodological approach to conducting successful and measurable behaviour campaigns.’ BDi has a nine page white paper [PDF] dedicated to TAA ‘if you just want to understand a population, hire an anthropologist. But if you want to change people’s attitudes and behaviours, TAA is essential.’

Marketing has long been used by corporations to influence people’s buying behaviour but what does it mean if government’s use psy-ops to change people’s behaviour?

Tomorrow, I will delve into Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump’s husband, and the role that he played in her father’s election and more.

 


87 comments

  1. wam

    wow TAA plus accidental meta data???
    labor will need to rely on
    a novella shaking every tasteless tag(ansett)

  2. Sean Stinson

    “The White House, upon analysing the transcript of the wiretapped conversation found that he had also had a discussion about sanctions imposed on Russia, for interfering in the 2016 election on Mr Trump’s behalf.”

    For an article about fake news, alt-facts, disinformation and propaganda you sure got off on the right foot.

    I am yet to see the claims of Russia’s interference in the US presidential election substantiated by any actual evidence, and yet these unfounded assertions have been repeated over and over in the corporate media for months, as tho they are true. To me it seems more like a case of “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

    Considering the US has been shamelessly interfering in the elections of other countries for the last 70 years, the hypocrisy is staggering. But by all means, let the Russia bashing continue. Bring on HUAC 2.0, and pass the popcorn.

  3. Matters Not

    will explore all of this and more with detailed research in coming days

    Great! But in undertaking this ‘research’ could you please state where you are ‘coming from’? What ‘assumptions’, ‘theories’, ‘world view’ and the like are you starting from? In short what is your intellectual framework? You know – the starting point that decides that some ‘facts’ are worthwhile, relevant and so on while others should be discarded – because they aren’t – in your view?

    Then there’s the other problem of what ‘meaning’ you will give to those ‘facts’. (But I won’t go on.)

    Looking forward to reading you particular and peculiar construction of ‘fake news’.

  4. Harquebus

    Here is an excellent video on how the MSM manipulates us. It really is an eye opener and I highly recommend it.

    Propaganda and Manipulation: How mass media engineers and distorts our perceptions
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pfo5gPG72KM

    Something that I came across yesterday.

    “Edward Bernays is considered the Father of American Propaganda. His writings on propaganda inspired Nazi Party leader Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment to be really good at his job.”
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/propaganda-and-the-war-on-science/5587252

    Cheers.

  5. michael lacey

    As Ray McGovern ex CIA analyst once said when you lie lie first has more impact and is better received by the public!

  6. Möbius Ecko

    Telling that the two biggest propaganda organisations in the world don’t belong to countries like China or Russia, but are government entities attached to the two democracies of the US and Israel.

    One of the things they produce, and used extensively during the George W Bush administration, is prepackaged news stories. The government hands a commercial news organisation a complete story, pictures, video, interviewer (supposed reporter) and interviewee(s), all government employees.

    Commercial news organisations lap these up as they don’t cost them anything, and they don’t question the validity of the story.

  7. Sean Stinson

    M.E., spot on.

    Further to my comment above, repeating corporate media rhetoric does nothing to challenge disinformation and propaganda. In a previous post I tried to show the how the mainstream media, particularly outlets like the NY Times and Washington Post are used to disseminate propaganda and manipulate popular opinion

    https://theaimn.com/fake-news-soft-coups-truth-behind-urine-gate/

    Just as the intelligence agencies control the media, so the power elites control the intelligence agencies.

    The CIA was created by Wall Street to serve the interests of investment bankers, who work hand in glove with the military to overthrow foreign governments and loot their resources, from the Congo to Indonesia; from the Middle East to Central and South America. It was never intended to provide intelligence to the President. JFK knew this and paid the ultimate price. Trump’s handlers, Flynn in particular, knew this – hence the mass sackings at the State Department, and hence why he MUST be given immunity to testify.

  8. Zathras

    I recall the days when Murdoch’s newspapers would have front page stories from “Our Washington Correspondent” – a mysterious unnamed journalist.

    It turned out that these “news stories” were usually written and issued by The Pentagon.

    Who would have thought it?

  9. Sean Stinson

    Zathras, this is why we need “independent media”, and this is what enrages me so much when so-called “independent media” simply echoes mainstream biases.

  10. Kaye Lee

    I also get frustrated when “independent media” simply echoes the state-owned Russia Today.

  11. Kronomex

    Isn’t propaganda a slang term for a male goose with good etiquette training?

  12. Michael Taylor

    I think we have to keep an open mind.

    Yes, America has interfered with dozens of elections since WW2, but then again so has Russia. If elections don’t go the way they would have liked them to they go ahead and invade the country (think Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia).

    Until recently I had my doubts that Russia had anything to do with the US election – to me there just wasn’t enough evidence – but about a week ago I changed my mind. The evidence against the Trump administration is mounting.

  13. Kaye Lee

    Likewise the recent sarin attack in Syria. The evidence is mounting that Assad was behind it but it seems inexplicable as to why he would risk the inevitable condemnation unless he felt assured that he could deflect the blame and would be helped in doing that by his allies. Or some military commander just decided it was a good idea. The Four Corners program about Syrians being disappeared and torture and deaths in detention was frightening as is the number of journalists and opposition politicians in Russia who are ending up dead.

  14. Sean Stinson

    Right, so when the US stages another false flag attack to justify a preemptive nuclear strike against Russia and China we will all go along for the ride. Honestly, the willful ignorance here is staggering.

  15. Sean Stinson

    Oh Assad must be guilty because 4 corners said so.

    Jezez H. Christ.

    “Those Weapons of Mass Destruction are gotta be somewhere.” – GW Bush

  16. silkworm

    “Likewise the recent sarin attack in Syria. The evidence is mounting that Assad was behind it…”

    Absolute rubbish. There is no evidence at all, only your biased thinking.

  17. Kaye Lee

    My thinking has nothing to do with it. The French have released the findings of chemical testing.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-27/france-tests-show-syria-behind-chemical-attack/8474428

    This gives more detail of the evidence

    https://www.bellingcat.com/news/mena/2017/04/27/revisiting-syrias-2013-sarin-attack-saraqeb-idlib/

    The Four Corners show had nothing to do with the chemical attack. It was the friends and relatives of people who have been incarcerated and killed. They also interviewed survivors of the torture.

  18. Sean Stinson

    Oh the French? well that settles it then. Not like they have any vested interest either way.

    FFS.

  19. Kaye Lee

    There are many players in this whole affair but to suggest Assad isn’t one of them is not realistic. Do you believe that political prisoners are being locked up, tortured and killed in Syria?

  20. Harquebus

    “By Theodore A. Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. Postol’s main expertise is in ballistic missiles. He has a substantial background in air dispersal, including how toxic plumes move in the air.”
    “What is absolutely clear from the videos is that the location of the sarin dispersal site alleged by WHR and the mass casualty site that would have had to be generated if the sarin dispersal actually occurred, are not in any way related to the scenes of victims shown in the other videos. The conclusion is obvious, the alleged attack described in WHR never occurred.”
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-04-19/mit-scientist-debunks-false-flag-nerve-agent-attack-did-not-occur

    Cheers.

  21. Michael Taylor

    What intrigues me about the bombing of Syria is this: The Americans gave the Russians plenty of warning; the Russians surely would have given the Syrians plenty of warning; the Syrians would have surely moved as much stuff away from the targets as they could; the American missiles did little damage.

    My conclusion: if Assad was behind it or not, Trump didn’t care about the gassed children, he just wanted to be seen as tough and to take some of the heat off him.

  22. Sean Stinson

    Michael I agree with this 100%

  23. silkworm

    First the Turks, then the British, now the French have determined that it was sarin that was used in the so-called chamical attack on Khan Shaykun. None of them are believable. All have had a hand in providing assistance to the rebels, ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria. All of them have been conspiring to foment regime change in Syria.

    The Syrians got rid of their chamical weapons in 2013. This was confirmed by Obama.

    When the Libyan government was overthrown, the US illegally took the chemical weapons from Benghazi and shipped them to the rebels in Syria, in anticipation of overthrowing Assad.

    If any chemical weapons were used in Khan Shaykun, they belonged to the rebels, not the Assad government. We should also query whether there was actually sarin used on the so-called victims, and why the White Helmets, who “reported” the incident, failed to use proper equipment in response to the so-called use of sarin.

    I saw the promos of the 4 Corners programme on Syria and I decided it was not worth watching because it was blatant propaganda. I am very disappointed in people who fall for such blatant propaganda.

    Four Corners would be better doing an inverstigation on the fake humanitarian group the White Helmets, and look at their role in working for Western governments in trying to overthrow the legitimate Assad government.

  24. Kaye Lee

    I agree Michael. It was posturing at best as was dropping the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan.

    silkworm, there is a great deal of conjecture that Assad handed over most of his chemical weapons but not all. The fact that he had them in the first place is indisputable. You can’t claim to know the truth any more than I can and you can’t really comment on a show you didn’t watch.

    I find it strange that you think a humanitarian group deserve more attention than the incarceration, torture and murder of Syrian citizens by their own government. They may want regime change, they may produce films to show the tragedy in Syria – but Assad started the problem by locking up anyone who was critical of him.

  25. Sean Stinson

    I didn’t watch it either. In fact i scarcely watch ABC, for the same reason I don’t drink out of the toilet.

  26. silkworm

    North Korea’s recent rumblings are the direct result of American provocations, and these provocations have had the primary purpose of diverting public attention away from Trump’s huge gaffe in launching missile attacks on the Syrian airbase on false grounds. Trump’s attack broke both US and international laws, making Trump a war criminal in his first 100 days in office, a record for any US President. The dropping of the MOAB in Afghanistan was also designed to deflect from Trump’s Syrian gaffe.

  27. Kaye Lee

    Considering your interest in Syria, I think you should watch it Sean. It’s no doubt online. It’s kind of hard to refute though I would be interested in hearing your views after you watched it. There are photographs of rows and rows of dead emaciated prisoners.

    I would suggest that North Korea’s missile tests were what drew attention silkworm though I agree Trump’s prodding is silly.

  28. silkworm

    “The fact that he had them in the first place is indisputable.”

    More rubbish.

  29. Kaye Lee

    silkworm, you yourself said he handed them over. You can’t hand over something you didn’t have. Even the Russians agree that he had them because they oversaw the handover. Sheesh.

    Russia opened up a possible diplomatic solution to the Syrian chemical weapons crisis on Monday with a pledge to persuade the Assad regime to hand over its chemical arsenal to international supervision to be destroyed.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/russia-syria-hand-over-chemical-weapons

    Syria on Monday handed over the remaining 100 tonnes of toxic material it had declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, but the country cannot be declared free of the weapons of mass destruction, the organisation’s chief said.

    The chemicals, roughly 8 percent of a total 1,300 tonnes reported to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), had been held at a storage site which the government of President Bashar al-Assad previously said was inaccessible due to fighting with rebels.

    The security situation in the area has now improved and the containers of chemicals were taken by truck to the Syrian port of Latakia and loaded onto a ship to be destroyed at sea on a specially equipped U.S. vessel, said OPCW chief Ahmet Uzumcu.

    Syria agreed last September to destroy its entire chemical weapons programme under a deal negotiated with the United States and Russia after hundreds of people were killed in a sarin gas attack in the outskirts of the capital, Damascus.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-chemicalweapons-idUSKBN0EY18T20140623

  30. silkworm

    “The fact that he had them in the first place is indisputable.”

    Now I see what you are saying – Assad had them before 2013. I thought you meant now.

    But what are you trying to imply? That he did not destroy them?

    From 2014 until now he has not had them, but Al Nusra has, courtesy of the Americans. Why don’t you admit that?

    It is clear that the Americans, the British, the French, the Turks, the Saudis, the Arab Gulf states, and the Israelis all want regime change in Syria, and have been using underhanded means – funding terrorists no less – to get it. All for what? Syrian oil? A Greater Israel?

  31. Sean Stinson

    silkworm, I’d say dollar supremacy, ie propping up the petrodollar. without which the US economy will tank. Russia is already supplying about 40% (?) of Europe’s energy, so getting oil and gas from the Gulf into Europe is now more of a priority than ever.

    At this point I would argue from geographical determinism. The West (the good old “British” empire of free trade and finance) has had its sights on Eurasia going back centuries. Now China’s One Belt One Road (silk road 2.0) threatens to unify Eurasia and Europe and there’s precious little they can do about it, except launch an all out nuclear war. I wouldn’t put it past them either – Edward VII was prepared to destroy Europe to to protect British trade, which is how we ended up in WWI.

  32. Kaye Lee

    No doubt different players, including many Syrians, want regime change for different reasons.

    What is your proof that America supplied chemical weapons to Al Nusra? How can I admit something I don’t know?

  33. Michael Taylor

    I want a regime change here in Australia. ?

  34. jim

    Whatis Four dead, in Ohio by the government no doubt, imo many more over the years, and do we think that RT isn’t edited by the MSM and it’s government. and even the edited version is seldomly ran but only in the wee hours of the morn.

  35. Sean Stinson

    Kaye Lee, in response to your comment about journalists and opposition politicians in Russia ending up dead, I’d encourage you to read Mike Whitney’s latest on counterpunch.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/28/putins-new-world-order/

    We really need to put an end to this crazy notion that there is some kind of moral equivalence between Russia and the West, before we find ourselves drawn into another war based on fear and lies.

  36. silkworm

    “I want a regime change here in Australia.”

    Unfortunately you won’t get any support from the CIA for that.

  37. Zathras

    So Trump is suddenly distressed about children being hurt in a war zone that’s been going on for years? There wasn’t so much outrage last time it happened in Ghouta during 2013, only open-ended accusations.

    Likewise, where was the outrage over those White Phosphorus bombs being used indiscriminately in Gaza or the continuing legacy of deformed births after the US used depleted uranium weapons in Iraq or those children hurt by the effect of continuing embargos?

    Unlike the brutal attack to free Aleppo from rebels the similar “liberation” of Mosul apparently caused no civilian tragedies at all – at least none worth reporting.

    There may be outrage but it’s definitely selective and opportunistic. Now he’s done it once, chances are he won’t do it again, regardless of further events.

  38. Kaye Lee

    jim, I looked at four links from your google search and found no answer to my question.

    Sean, that article is the most shameful propaganda. They just can’t see how Putin could be a bad guy because they and all Russians love him??? Seriously? I’m not really interested in fan mail for either side. I prefer actual evidence.

  39. Michael Taylor

    Didn’t Kaye say she didn’t know what happened? (Or words to that effect). Then everyone jumps on her and says that this or that happened.

    Well I’m with Kaye. I don’t know what happened either.

  40. Sean Stinson

    Kaye Lee that article is 90% straight from the horses mouth. If you want to rebut it fairly, show me something honourable or remotely sensible that Trump or Obama has said concerning the same issues.

    Otherwise we can play the game of anything you say is propaganda, anything I say is propaganda, as the world marches toward nuclear war.

    I am sick to death of being called a one sided Putin apologist whenever I comment or write on this site. Take a step back and look at the world from a global perspective. Put yourself in the position of someone living in a country that isn’t the US, France, Britain or Australia, and dare i say who isn’t white. Then widen your lens even further to include a historical perspective. Who has colonised whom, and for how long? Who has invaded, bombed and terrorised countries in Africa, Asia, South America, Eastern Europe for 70 years in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’?

    Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. those who do it seems are condemned to go mad, screaming themselves hoarse, waving their fists in the air while others repeat it.

  41. Sean Stinson

    And FFS think for a moment about the question of national sovereignty. Who has the right to march into someone else’s country and overthrow their democratically elected government, or even dictatorship if you like. Was it right that we destroyed Iraq, killed a million people and created ISIS? Was it right that we reduced Libya, by far the most advanced African country, to rubble, leaving it ungoverned, a place where blacks are now sold as slaves in the open market? How is it right that we are doing the same in Syria? How is it right that the US plans on doing the same to the DPRK, Iran, Venezuela, and any country which it labels a “threat” just because it dares practice some form of socialism and puts the interests of its people before the institutions of global “free trade”?

  42. burniebobthe_b_

    Sean Stinson
    Sean you put forward a strong reasoned argument and logic and you have given me a greater understanding of the mess they find themselves in.I don’t view you as an apologist for anyone,just someone who won’t be bullied into backing away from your stance

  43. Michael Taylor

    Who’s bullying Sean? I haven’t seen anyone bully him.

  44. Michael Taylor

    Who has the right to march into someone else’s country and overthrow their democratically elected government …

    As I said earlier, think Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.

  45. Michael Taylor

    Was it right that we destroyed Iraq, killed a million people and created ISIS?

    Definitely not right. Bush, Blair and Howard should be forever condemned.

  46. totaram

    Michael Taylor: “..Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia…” You read about that in the MSM did you? Did you know that the Soviet forces were invited into those countries by the then govts? How come the UN and that great protector of “Freedom and Democracy” did nothing about those things? Did you read about Chile? Oh dear, it was “coup” carried out by the country’s armed forces, which had remained politically neutral for over a century. Nothing to do with the USA, CIA etc. A democratically elected president and his govt. were overthrown by violence and all sympathisers were disappeared. What happened in Ukraine? The same trick. Iraq was a war crime, as the UN specifically refused to condone it. Syria? How did it start? Where did these “rebels” come from? Who funded them and gave them arms? The list goes on.

    Have you read about the United Fruit Company and its shenanigans in central america? That was in the early part of the 20th century. Look it up.

    If you seriously worry about “dictators” like Assad, where were you when el Sissi took power in Egypt? How about Erdogan in Turkey?
    Are the defenders of freedom and democracy going to do anything about him? etc.

    Seriously, we need to get out of being brainwashed by the MSM, not just recently or now, but over the entire previous century.

    I agree that half the time or more often we have no idea what actually happened. And that is where it stays.

  47. Kaye Lee

    “How is it right that we are doing the same in Syria?”

    Isn’t Russia also bombing Syria?

    And Michael, what I said was there was mounting evidence which I linked to. As I have said many many times, none of us can know the truth sitting at our computers at home. I find the certainty of some people really off-putting.

    Sean, stop playing the victim. I have been having a civil conversation sharing my sources. That is not what has been returned. Wea re allowed to disagree without you saying “I am sick to death of being called a one sided Putin apologist “. That is not what I said. I commented on the article you linked to. Though I must say, I have never heard you criticise Putin or Assad in any way. They have done nothing wrong. They have been framed by George Soros and his white helmets. I do find that one-sided especially when you won’t even look at the Four Corners show or comment on incarceration of political prisoners which seems an important contributing factor to unrest and calls for regime change in Syria.

  48. Kaye Lee

    The Russians claimed that they had been invited in by the Amin government in Afghanistan too and that they were not invading the country, except one of their first actions was to shoot Amin.

    As for Hungary, they occupied in 1944 and didn’t leave until 1991. In elections held in November 1945, the Independent Smallholders’ Party won 57 percent of the vote. The Hungarian Communist Party, under the leadership of Mátyás Rákosi and Ernő Gerő, received support from only 17 percent of the population. The Soviet commander in Hungary, Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, refused to allow the Smallholders Party to form a government. Instead, Voroshilov established a coalition government with the Communists holding some of the key posts.

  49. totaram

    Kaye Lee: the Russians are bombing “Syria”, is correctly stated as they are bombing the “rebels” (aka the freedom fighters but called terrorists by the Assad regime)., and they are doing it at the “invitation” of the Assad regime, which continues to be the legitimate govt. in Syria. Anyone else bombing any place in Syria is in violation of international law, not that the protectors of freedom and democracy care about it when it does not suit them. The Trump regime bombed Syria in violation of international law, and everyone knows it. Did our govt. jump up and down about this violation? Spare me!

    I think The Australian govt. (of all persuasions) should keep shut about international affairs unless directly impacted, and stop trying to be Uncle Sam’s deputy.

  50. Michael Taylor

    … the Russians are bombing “Syria”, is correctly stated as they are bombing the “rebels” (aka the freedom fighters but called terrorists by the Assad regime)., and they are doing it at the “invitation” of the Assad regime, which continues to be the legitimate govt. in Syria.

    I’m not comfortable with that. The Turnbull Government is a legitimate government but what if they “invited” another country to come in and bomb a group of rebellious Australians?

    Yes, it’s an extreme and unlikely scenario, I admit.

    But what if Assad had have invited the Americans instead of the Russians? The uproar would be thunderous.

    I wouldn’t be comfortable with the Americans doing it either, by the way.

  51. Phil

    To Kaye Lee and others here arguing about the ins and outs of who did what and who is the worst of the worst in the most contemporary circumstances. Assad this, Assad that, evidence mounting etc etc. France is a member of NATO. US is the primary force behind NATO. US wants, and has wanted regime change in Syria since at least 1949 and has restated that goal in 2017.

    What about a consideration of the history of US involvement in the middle east and its objectives WRT Syria?

    Leading up to 1949, the US already had its tentacles deeply entrenched in the region, for example – as quoted here:

    “By 1949, U.S. officials were not only concerned about Syria’s stance on Israel, border disputes with Turkey, and oil pipelines, but had begun to worry that the left was growing in power and that the government was growing friendlier to the Soviet Union. When demonstrations led to the resignation of the prime minister, the U.S. assistant military attaché, who was in reality a CIA officer, began to meet with the Syrian chief of staff, Husni Zaim, to plan a coup”

    Source: http://us-foreign-policy-perspective.org/index.php?id=328

    Note well the terms -‘oil pipelines’, and ‘the left’ – both matters about which America is eternally ‘itching’ – the first being what always has and always will lead America to destabilise, bomb and kill in order to secure for its own use, and the second a form of government that America refuses to tolerate anywhere on earth.

    Then in 1956 and I quote here from a source to look at – https://worldaffairs.blog

    “The machinery began to get put in motion in early 1956 when the U.S. ambassador was contacted by rightist military officers. Dulles and Eisenhower, concerned that Syria was becoming increasingly pro-Soviet, opened discussions with the British on covert action not only there but throughout the Middle East . Operation Straggle, as the Syrian component was called, envisioned a military coup that would be triggered by various violent activities on the country’s borders, duly fomented by the Turks, the British Secret Service, and the CIA. Key “conservative elements in Syria , dissatisfied with the present situation,” were to be provided with cash and, once more, promises of rapid U.S. recognition. However, the plot was uncovered shortly before it was scheduled to take place and the principal CIA officers had to flee the country”

    A link in this blog takes you to released CIA secret assessment from 1983 on Syria and exposes the raw geopolitics as America sought to manipulate the situation. Once again, destabilisation of sovereign states, hyper-militarism, overthrowing governments, foment to war.

    This was America then and it is America now and we would be exceedingly foolish to believe the propaganda that our media and leaders throw up. Of course America and other NATO members want us to buy their lies – it has ever been thus, all the way back through ancient history. Of course they would want us to see Assad as the devil incarnate, the user of chemical weapons ‘on his own people’ but look to their record before deciding to swallow their line – it might be loaded.

    The definition of propaganda = when government speaks.

    The truth about an attack that we are led to believe (was anyone writing here a present and a trusted impartial source?) happened in Syria and that has been alleged to have involved chemical weapons (photos prove nothing but the power to evoke emotion) will be known in maybe 30 perhaps even 50 years time. Until then, suspend judgement and instead ask ‘who stands to gain’ – US history is relevant.

    I have no truck with the American people, nor with my own people here in Aus – but I am saddened at the willingness of both cultures for their acquiescence to the crude power of right wing authority.

  52. Michael Taylor

    Phil, there’s no doubt that America will always do what’s best for them, and them only. No different to the Russians, actually.

    I trust neither Trump or Putin.

    I don’t trust Netanyahu, or Turnbull for that matter.

  53. Phil

    Exactly Michael – which is why I posted – in the naive hope of steering the debate out of blind alleys and toward a more emphatic and ultimately healthy distrust of the elites in power.

    Nothing that Murdoch publishes warrants public debate – nothing from Fairfax warrants debate and very little, or dare I say nothing (it was not always thus) the ABC publishes warrants public debate – in fact our entire domestic mainstream media is a diversion. The truth, distasteful as it so often is, lies elsewhere – most often a long way back in time since the behaviour of those in power is predictable and monotonously so.

    For those interested in building a personal bastion against the pervasive and necrotic influence of elite power on ordinary lives, can I proffer the writings of Jean Paul Marat – The Chains Of Slavery (1774) – and Etienne de la Boetie – The politics of Obedience?

  54. Matters Not

    Nothing that Murdoch publishes warrants public debate

    Really? So as readers we should either accept what Murdoch publishes or reject same – but not ‘debate’? And we should not debate anything from Fairfax – and little from the ABC?

    Any clues as to what is worth ‘debating’ from the ABC and the criteria one might use to identify these worthwhile ‘debating’ issues? Or does the reader have to rely on the writings of texts – now some three hundred years old? Interesting.

  55. Matters Not

    Sean I’ve been reading some of Mike Whitney’s work. Thanks for the link. Certainly he provides food for thought. As for the link above and the citation:

    In a recent survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Putin’s public approval rating soared to an eye-popping 86 percent

    Reminds me of the election of the Diem Government in Vietnam which was elected by 110% of the voters. Now that was ‘eye-popping’. About as credible as Putin’s 86%?

    Sean have you ever been to Russia? Have you ever been ‘on the ground’ as it were? Been on the metro(s)? Walked on the streets. Sat on the sidewalk cafes? Had the odd drink or two? Spoken to the locals? Got ‘lost’ – both in reality and in pretence to get some idea as to the thinking of the locals?

    Now I don’t have any claims as to being an expert on Russia. I am most certainly not! (Only been there for approx three weeks a few years ago). But the figures cited in Whitney’s work are just ‘incredible’. And while I have time for Whitney’s work, surely his citation lessens his credibility?

    It does for me! In fact, I can’t understand how anyone who argues that black is white has any credibility.

  56. Kaye Lee

    Just to be clear here, I spend my days criticising governments and political parties of all persuasions. I am also aware of the history of colonialism, imperialism, aggression and exploitation carried out by many countries. I do not blindly accept what I read. I look for verification from other sources. I try to see if those sources have a vested interest and look for alternative narratives. I try to separate known verifiable facts from conjecture. And most of all, I am aware that all I can do is weigh up the information. I pass on the information I am reading or seeing but I make no claim to know the absolute truth.

    When it comes to Syria, no-one here can state with any certainty who carried out the chemical attack.

    My problem is when all the criticism and scepticism goes one way. US bad, white helmets bad, NATO bad, western press bad, UK and France bad….Putin and Assad loved by their adoring citizenry, RT giving us the real truth, Syria and Russia bastions of enlightened democracy unfairly maligned by the rest of the world.

  57. Johno

    My god, these threads are always the biggest can of worms.

  58. Michael Taylor

    Without trying to sound patronising, Kaye, I agree with you word for word.

  59. Kaye Lee

    “If you want to rebut it fairly”…..

    “Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. ”

    Fine words from Putin, Pity about the reality.

    Russia placed last out of 55 developed nations in this year’s Bloomberg report on the efficiency of the national health care systems. Things are unlikely to get better anytime soon: Russia’s government recently announced plans to cut the budget for healthcare by 33 per cent next year, bringing annual spending down to just £4.6bn. That’s a level of funding equivalent to spending on health in Latin American or developing Asian countries, according to a recent report by Natalia Akindinova, director at the Center of Development Institute of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics.

    “Russia’s state hospitals and clinics are in a tragic condition, especially in the provinces,” says Gennady Gudkov, an opposition politician and retired KGB colonel. “There is outdated and often nonfunctioning equipment, a lack of medicines and hospital beds, and a shortage of medical specialists. The families of patients are often forced to bring them food. Trump is very wrong if he thinks Putin cares about the Russian people; he only cares about making his friends richer at the expense of the national budget.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/the-horror-of-russian-healthcare-a7443121.html

  60. Michael Taylor

    Well he must be doing something right, Kaye. Someone commented here a few months ago that the average Russian is poorer than the average European, and their life expectancy is lower than the average Eoropean.

    Meanwhile, Putin is a billionaire, as are some family members.

  61. Kaye Lee

    According to the latest WHO data published in 2015 life expectancy in Russia is: Male 64.7, female 76.3 and total life expectancy is 70.5 which gives Russia a World Life Expectancy ranking of 107.

    As for Putin’s wealth…it’s impossible to work out but….

    The most often cited estimate comes from a former mid-level Kremlin adviser named Stanislav Belkovsky. In 2007, he claimed Putin had a fortune worth at least $40 billion—a figure that would put him in the top 10 of Forbes magazine’s ranking of billionaires.

    The Kremlin source based his estimate on Putin’s alleged stakes in several companies, mostly in the oil sector. He said the Russian president controlled 37% of the oil company Surgutneftegaz, 4.5% of natural gas company Gazprom, and had substantial holdings in a commodities trader called Gunvor.

    Later, in 2012, Belkovsky upped his estimate to $70 billion, based on new information from “confidential sources around the corporations,” according to an interview with nonprofit journalism outlet The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

    Among his alleged holdings is a palace on the Black Sea with a reported price tag of $1 billion. And if the rumors are true, the Black Sea manse isn’t Putin’s only palace. He enjoys 20 palaces, four yachts, 58 aircraft, and a collection of watches worth £400,000, according to a scandalous dossier drawn up by a former deputy prime minister in 2012.

    “In a country where 20 million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate,” Boris Nemstov wrote in the document

    http://time.com/money/4641093/vladimir-putin-net-worth/

  62. Harquebus

    “our entire domestic mainstream media is a diversion”; I agree.

    Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index
    https://rsf.org/en/ranking/2017

    N.Z. (13), Australia (19), France (39), U.K. (40), U.S. (43).

    Cheers.

  63. Kaye Lee

    Russia (148) , Syria (177)

  64. Michael Taylor

    At least they’re living longer under Putin than they were under Stalin, so you could say they’ve improved somewhat.

  65. Kaye Lee

    Unless you speak out….

    Here’s a list of all the Putin critics who wound up murdered

    http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/heres-a-list-of-all-the-putin-critics-who-wound-up-murdered/news-story/4e2952b107b0c7159887e303062c9694

    Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was recovering on Friday after being attacked with a chemical dye for the second time this year.

    Mr Navalny was briefly hospitalised after an unknown assailant doused his face with a green dye known in Russia as zelyonka as he was leaving the office of his Foundation Against Corruption in Moscow on Thursday evening. Doctors said the politician suffered “chemical burns” to his right eye.

    The attack on Mr Navalny comes as the Kremlin battles to curb a resurgence in opposition activism in the wake of nationwide anti-corruption demonstrations last month.

    Two independent Russian journalists were also attacked with green dye in separate incidents recently.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/russian-opposition-leader-alexei-navalny-attacked-with-green-dye-1.3065236

  66. Michael Taylor

    Wasn’t Putin a former KGB agent? My, hasn’t he done well for himself.

    He seems to be emulating a former Mexico City police chief in the 1990s, who despite his $17,000 a year salary, had $77,000,000 in the bank.

  67. Kaye Lee

    Male Aboriginals live, on average, 4.4 years longer than male Russians.

  68. Kaye Lee

    jim, the US went to inspect a Turkish strike on Kurds in Syria. There are a large crowd of people and the soldier may not be aware of who they are. The US are certainly collaborating with the Kurds much to the chagrin of Turkey – it could get messy. It seems you are very ready to accept the Russian state media’s spin on it. That’s what really bothers me.

  69. helvityni

    The top 10 countries (Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom)

    1.Norway
    2.Sweden
    3.Finland
    4.Denmark
    5.Netherlands
    6.Costa Rica
    7.Switzerland
    8.Jamaica
    9.Belgium
    10.Iceland

    Kaye Lee, ordinary people have always had tough times in Russia; according to my Russian sister-in-law it’s the vodka that kills their men, but that poverty and suffering has made their women stronger…

  70. Kaye Lee

    Yes helvityni. Russian women live, on average, 11.6 years longer than the men. It’s a big difference.

  71. Sean Stinson

    Don’t forget that Russia was looted and asset stripped in the 90s after the betrayal by Gorbachev. This explains why living standards in many former soviet countries are worse than they were 25 years ago (like everywhere else vulture capitalism has gone unchecked.)

  72. Michael Taylor

    And now Putin’s looting them. But that’s not unique: Trump’s doing the same in America.

  73. Michael Taylor

    Some googling tells me that despite a modest salary equivalent to $110,000 a year that he has a personal fortune worth $70 billion. Insiders report that he syphoned $1 billion that was meant for healthcare to build himself a palace on the Black Sea.

  74. helvityni

    …and here our present day leaders believe in taking it from the have-nots (what’s there to take), and be generous with those who have plenty.

  75. Matters Not

    This is how Putin’s daughter made her fortune.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h1BAq_fcXI

    Her partner survives provided he doesn’t ‘drop’. Word has it she’s been through any number. Probably affects the male life expectancy numbers.

  76. Kaye Lee

    It seems to me there are a few oligarchs making a fortune out of Russia just like everywhere else, not least among them Putin’s buddy Igor Sechin.

    “Though he has worked for the government throughout his career, only switching to publicly traded Rosneft in 2012, he is fabulously wealthy and fiercely protective of his interests. Recently, he took the business daily Vedomosti to court for publishing a story about his palatial home near Moscow, forcing the paper to destroy any copies still in its possession and expunge the offending piece from its website. A similar court ruling forced the weekly Novaya Gazeta to delete an article about Sechin’s yacht, named Princess Olga after his new young wife. Rosneft is now suing another Russian news organization, RBC, for 3 billion rubles — more money than RBC has — because of a story discussing the details of the planned privatization.”

    The privatisation referred to is Qatar’s sovereign wealth and the commodities trader Glencore acquiring 19.5 percent of Russia’s state-controlled oil company, Rosneft. Fancy that – the rivals teaming up. Qatar has wanted a pipeline that would pass through Syria to sell gas to Europe, Russia’s big market. And they so bagged Hilary for her connections to Qatar.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-12-08/why-putin-scores-big-with-the-rosneft-deal

    At the beginning of this month, Rosneft announced they had started drilling the northernmost well at the Russian Arctic shelf. Preliminary estimates suggest that the Laptev Sea’s total potential geological resources could come to 9.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent

    ” The drilling of the well comes as Putin puts the Arctic on top of his agenda. Last week, he first visited the Franz Josef Land and subsequently took part in the Arctic Forum, the grand event in Arkhangelsk.

    In a meeting held during the visit to Franz Josef Land, and in the premises of the Russian Arctic National Park, Putin highlighted not environment and climate change, but the major oil and gas potential of the region.

    The Russian Arctic zone includes energy resources worth up to $20 trillion, he maintained and said that the country’s production on the shelf by year 2030 will amount to 2,2 million barrels per day.”

    https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/industry-and-energy/2017/04/rosneft-spuds-northernmost-arctic-well

  77. Kaye Lee

    In 2011, Exxon-Mobil entered a $500-billion joint venture to drill on the Arctic shelf and Black Sea, and another shale-development deal in Siberia. For his efforts, Rex Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship Prize from Putin in 2013. But these projects were halted in 2014, when the United States and other countries imposed sanctions on Russia for its actions in Ukraine and Crimea.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/tillerson-confirmation-senate-mccain-graham-exxonmobil-russia-putin/512750/

    The plan’s coming together

  78. Michael Taylor

    MN, Putin’s son-in-law became an instant billionaire too. There’s money for everyone!

  79. Kaye Lee

    In 2003 ExxonMobil tried to acquire a stake in Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Yukos, the country’s largest private oil firm, just before the firm was nationalized and Khodorkovsky was arrested and hit with a $28 billion tax bill by the Russian government.

    Then in 2004….

    A mysterious investment group formed just last month bought a majority stake in the core production unit of the Russian oil giant Yukos Oil Co. for $9.3 billion Sunday at a Moscow auction where the state-controlled Gazprom company showed up but then defied expectations and did not bid. Surgutneftegaz were believed to be behind the group, either as the new owner, or the financer of the bid. Putin “effectively” controls 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2004/12/20/a-surprise-bidder-buys-yukos-unit/c2e34682-dc38-472b-923f-e0804dbeb490/?utm_term=.13112a5d7a24

    Trump up a tax bill, nationalise the oil firm in lieu of taxes, then buy it for yourself as the sole bidder. Nice plan.

  80. Kaye Lee

    And then there are the Keystone and Dakota pipelines that Trump approved.

    In the case of Keystone XL, some 40 percent of the pipeline has already been produced by EVRAZ in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is waiting to be laid. EVRAZ is controlled by Abramovich, one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest political allies and confidants. The Russian billionaire was instrumental in the creation of Putin’s political party, Unity, and the depth of his influence has extended to vetting members of Putin’s cabinet. Abramovich is also a close associate of President Trump and his family. Abramovich’s wife, Dasha Zhukova, daughter of Russian oil magnate Alexander Zhukov, was Ivanka Trump’s guest at President Trump’s inauguration.

    http://nativenewsonline.net/currents/putin-ally-trump-family-friend-set-profit-dapl-keystone-xl/

  81. Michael Taylor

    MN, that graph was incredible. Incredibly treacherous, that is.

    But not to worry. Trump voters in the boondocks will love him for it.

  82. Sean Stinson

    HRW – just another tool of western imperialism. Of course, enemies or future targets of the US such as Cuba, Iran, and China are given the “gravest lack of freedom” rating. Meanwhile, the countries who’s mainstream media are largely owned by a very few individuals or companies, US, Canada, UK, Australia, France, have media that are “largely free”. In fact they are largely free to publish seamless and unending propaganda favouring the corporate state. HRW was one of the “watch dog” organizations in Syria that has been repeating the unfounded slanders against President of Assad and his defenders in Syria –all in aid, apparently, of justifying the continued military incursions of the US and Israel. It is HRW that should be under watch by anyone interested in human rights and justice for the people of the Middle East.

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