Tag Archives: Russiagate

Russiagate – Some insights into its origins and results

Chris Hedges interviews Aaron Mate, one of the few independent reporters who was never taken in by the Russiagate hysteria and doggedly followed the evidence. Now vindicated by the Mueller investigation, which found no evidence of collusion, Aaron Mate analyses the origins of the Russiagate conspiracy theory and the way corporate media, and much of the alternative media, handled it. He argues that Russiagate turned out, in the end, to be a great gift to Trump and will help him with the 2020 presidential elections.

I believe this is an important interview which should help clarify many for the problems people have had with US politics over the last few years.

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Russiagate: Lessons for the media. But will they listen?

How is this anything but a form of racism? Racism is never acceptable – and this coming from within the US intelligence community.

Frankly, I don’t think the corporate media will listen. Or draw conclusions from the main finding of the Mueller report. At the moment they seem too busy shifting goalposts and denying they ever promoted a collusion narrative.

This week we have the extraordinary spectacle of Paul Thomas, A NZ Listener journalist, cherry-picking his own articles to deny he ever promoted the collusion myth (See “The Cult of Trump,” NZ Listener, April 13-19, 2019). This “journalist” – and the Listener – pushed weekly articles promoting the myth to the extent of regularly including photographs of Russian President Putin in his articles about Trump. He let his naive partisan anti-Trump rhetoric get away so badly he even wrote an article linking the Christchurch Mosque shootings to Trump (seeFollow the leader, NZ Listener).  At a time when the rest of the nation was grieving.

It seems to me a whole raft of “journalists” abandoned the ethical basis of their profession and simply promoted an “official” narrative handed to them from above. I cannot respect such people.

In contrast, there were evidence-based independent and alternative journalists who got it right. These journalists were ignored, and worse – vilified, by corporate media. We should draw some lessons from their experience.

Fortunately an article in Fair – Tips for a Post-Mueller Media from Nine Russiagate Skeptics – gives a much-needed start to the needed examination. Generally described as “Russiagate skeptics” (not all independent journalist or alternative media followed the evidence) nine of these journalist offer advice to the media.

I will summarise their advice in a single sentence for each journalist but urge readers to read their full comments in the linked article. Their explanations are valuable

1. Encourage debate and dissent, not conspiracy theories and clicks.

—Aaron Maté, journalist, The Nation


2. Stop playing into Trump’s hands and stop smearing reporters.

Matt Taibbi, journalist, Rolling Stone


3. Stop spreading Russophobic paranoia.

Yasha Levine, journalist, S.H.A.M.E. Project


4. Talk to people with an actual understanding of history and Russia, not fake experts and uninformed  pundits.

Carl Beijer, writer


5. Don’t manipulate the truth to justify war.

Rania Khalek, journalist, host of In the Now


6. Be skeptical toward government officials and other authorities.

Branko Marcetic, journalist, Jacobin


7. Focus on the many actual crimes.


Esha Krishnaswamy, lawyer, host of historic.lypodcast


8. Pay attention to whom Trump is actually colluding with.

Kyle Kulinski, host of the Kyle Kulinski Show


9. Stop fear-mongering and engaging in “acceptable” bigotry.

Jimmy Dore, comedian, host of the Jimmy Dore Show


These people need to be listened to.

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Aftermath of the Mueller report – the media starts looking at itself

Once again I am seeing vindication, a bit unexpected I must say because it involves the media analysing its own faults.

The Al Jazeera media programme, The Listening Post, today covered a few home truths about the media behaviour over the Russiagate conspiracy theory. What heartens me is that for the first time I get to see some of the independent journalists I have followed over the last two and a half years. Journalists like Aaron Maté who followed the evidence (in this case the lack of evidence), resisted the pressure to stick with the official narrative – and got attacked for it. Treatment of independent journalists by corporate media over this issue has been disgusting.

For the first time, I get to see a balanced (“balanced” in the sense the views of three Russiagate sceptics and two promoters are covered).

I don’t for one minute think this is anything more than an isolated case of responsible media coverage of the corporate media behaviour and, frankly, hysteria. It is nothing more than a start. A lot more must be done.

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Mueller report to be released mid April – but it will be redacted

I am being urged by some commenters not to feel vindicated yet about the results of the US Special counsel investigation into charges of collusion between the Trump team and the Russian Federation (see Getting out alive – why we should always demand evidence). Perhaps not surprising as there is a small chant going around – “wait till you see the full report.” Although I notice no one was chanting that when the corporate media was going wild with their own conspiracy theories at multiple times over the last two and half years (see Collapse of the “Russiagate ” myth exposes how corporate media has failed).

It looks like the report will be released in mid-April. The US Attorney General makes clear there will be redactions – probably no surprise to the sensible person. But I can see the conspiracy theorists beam in on these to keep their collusion narrative alive. However, I can’t see that particular conspiracy theory will get a lot of traction as it is simply turning the outlandish into a complete farce.

Here is the letter which describes what sort of redactions we can expect:

Interestingly the President will not exercise veto power and the report will not be submitted to him for “privilege review.”

I guess it was too much to hope for though. There will be redaction of sections which “the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods.” Given the role of at least part of the intelligence community in fostering the Russiagate hysteria, I would have thought it was essential to investigate its behaviour.

As I said, too much to hope for.

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Collapse of the “Russiagate ” myth exposes how corporate media has failed

We have had to put up with this emotional rubbish from corporate media for two and a half years. Evidence-less conclusions presented as fact and huge pressure to adopt the narrative they posh. The video may have selected from US TV sources – but it has been wider than that – stretching to all media forms and to other countries.

And some people have criticised me for feeling vindicated because when I pointed out the Emporer had no clothes I was right (see Getting out alive – why we should always demand evidence)!

As for the plea that I wait for the publication of the full Mueller report – isn’t that disingenuous when those making the plea did not wait? They simply succumbed to pressure to adopt the narrative offered and gave in to group thinking? I can’t help raising the question to those making these pleas –  “what will be the deflective argument used when the full report is published?”

No, we have had to put up with this BS for two and half years and corporate media did not wait for evidence during all that time – worse they distorted and misrepresented any evidence to fit it to their own partisan narrative. They used vague references to “anonymous sources” to justify their bias – that must be one of the oldest trick in the propaganda manual.

The few independent journalists who resisted this pressure to conform were vilified. Accused of being supporters of Trump, “Putin’s useful idiots,” etc. They were smeared. Described as conspiracy theorists – by the very media and their stenographers pushing the most ridiculous conspiracy theory of all, the installation of a Manchurian candidate in the White House.

Those independent journalist are feeling vindicated – and they are rubbing it in. I cannot blame them.

Sure, I am always open to new evidence and I am sure the Mueller report will contain a lot of that. But the main message pushed by corporate media over the last two and half years has been destroyed. The report itself says:

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

The corporate media and the stenographers it employees should take a long hard look at itself. Some (anly a few) of them have – even acknowledging the practice of justifying claims by reference to anonymous sources should stop. But I am not holding my breath.

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Getting out alive – why we should always demand evidence

It will never happen. The corporate media will never apologise for the false narrative they have promoted.

Today I am feeling vindicated. And that vindication comes from a very strange source – the US attorney general, William P. Barr. Or, more specifically, his letter to the US Senate released to the public today.

His letter reports the principal conclusions of Special Counsel, Robert S. Mueller on what has been dubbed “Russiagate.” That conclusion shows that the narrative we have been fed by the corporate or mainstream media over the last two years has been false. It has been fake news.

Barr points out that the primary consideration of the Mueller investigation was “whether any Americans – including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the elections, which would be a federal crime.”  He couldn’t be clearer in his conclusions:

“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He quote’s Mueller’s report:

“[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

Barr repeats this conclusion several times in his letter – it is not a slip of the tongue.

Smearing “Russiagate” sceptics as Trump supporters part of the big lie

My feeling of vindication has nothing to do with Trump – I do not support that buffoon and have made that clear many times. I feel vindicated because I saw absolutely no evidence for the narrative promoted by the corporate media and an alliance of US politicians and elements of the intelligence community. (If I had seen real evidence I would have supported the claims). No evidence at all.

But I felt like the small child pointing out the Emperor had no clothes. Simply standing up for the obvious need for evidence led to accusations of being a Trump supporter (even a “neo-Nazi” or a “White Supremacist)” and one of Putin’s “useful idiots.”

But now we know who the “useful idiots” were.

A dangerous narrative

Some commenters might say “so what. No one was harmed and truth will out in the end.” But I always saw this as an extremely serious matter. As Caitlin Johnstone says in her excellent article Russiagate Skeptics Rightly Boast About Being Proven 100% Correct:”

“Russiagate was a pernicious lie advanced by secretive government agencies who’ve been plotting to shove Russia off the world stage since the fall of the Soviet Union, by the Democrats who’ve had a vested interest in avoiding accountability for their failures and malfeasance in the 2016 election, and by the mass media who’ve been reaping extreme profits by peddling the clickbait sensationalist conspiracy theory that the Kremlin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government.”

That lie was extremely dangerous because it increased international tension, brought relations between the two major nuclear countries to the worst state since the cold war, prevented any  progress on nuclear arms control (in fact promoted retreat from arms control), inhibited the fight against terrorism and the solution of regional problems, and enhanced the possibility that regional conflicts could erupt into a full scale nuclear world war.

But the damage was also to our own society. Again, Caitlin Johnstone says it so well:

“These lies have created a highly toxic environment by leeching poison into the natural discourse and halting the progression of our species. Most people who got swept up in the Russiagate fervor were manipulated by their disgust for Trump and their desire to get him out, no matter if it was true or not.”

Demand evidence and question more

Since the US presidential election, I have been amazed at the people who should know better, people I had respected, who have brought this Russiagate narrative – simply and only because of their hatred for Trump. These people turned on anyone questioning the narrative simply because of their own confirmation bias, ignoring the evidence or lack of it.

This experience has taught me something. I should not translate respect for a source based on their evidence-based conclusions in one area to the conclusions in other areas. Every individual or source has feet of clay – we should hold the credibility of evidence well above the status and promoted credibility of sources – especially those of the corporate media.

Caitlin Johnstone again:

“I think the great lesson here is that you can’t out-manipulate the grand manipulators. You have to stick to the truth even when it appears to go against your own self interests because your ego has levers and it can be used to puppet you. If you always value the highest interest over your self interest then you can’t be played. Demand evidence and keep demanding it until you get it. If you do, change your mind, if you don’t, stick to your guns. That’s the only way we’ll get out of here alive.”

There will be no apology

Some elements in the media did sort of apologise when the US presidential election did not go the way they told us it would. They sort of indicated they had learned their lesson and would do better next time.

What a load of rubbish. They immediately fell back into the same old bad habits. The corporate media had got it wrong again and it is the sensible consumer of media output who learned the lesson. The sensible person now uses multiple sources and treats them all critically and intelligently, refusing to accept evidence-free narratives. In this case, it has been elements of the alternative media who got it right – and understandably they are now crowing about it. Caitlin Johnstone supports this crowing:

” It is good that these alternative media figures are puffing their chests and shouting their I-told-you-sos, because you can be absolutely certain that the people who’ve been advancing the Russiagate narrative will never go out of their way to acknowledge the undeniable fact that they have been proven wrong while there were voices standing to their left getting it right. The mainstream narrative will do its very best to pace mainstream attention away from the inconvenient fact that there was abundant evidence contradicting a narrative which monopolized public energy for more than two years while manufacturing support for dangerous cold war escalations and sucking all oxygen out of the room for discussion of progressive reforms, so it is absolutely necessary for those voices who have been vindicated to make noise about it themselves.”

That screeching sound you hear comes from corporate media and the stenographers they employ reacting to the Mueller report by shifting the goal posts in a desperate attempt to avoid public recognition of their culpability in promoting the fake narrative, and to keep that narrative alive in different forms.

I will leave the last word to comedian Jimmy Dore – experience shows he is worth listening to:

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And you thought Russiagate could not get sillier.

It’s true – clouds do have silver linings. If it weren’t for the mindless hysteria of the Russiagate mythology promoted in the USA and UK I would never have heard about this delightful children’s animated video series – Masha and the Bear.

This isn’t the first silver lining I have come across. The mainstream media have now and then offered up lists of automated “Russian bots,” “Russian trolls,  social media accounts promoting “Russian propaganda,” and alternative media sources the mainstream media want us to steer clear of. These lists have given me, and others, media sources and social media accounts which often give information and news of a far higher quality than that promoted by the mainstream media.

In one of these lusts I even came across an amazing Ukrainian pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, who was described as an automated “Russian bot” by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. (The Digital Forensic Research Lab is currently helping Facebook remove “fake” and “inauthentic” accounts – so no wonder there are problems.)

Valentina Lisitsa plays a Rachmaninoff Prelude. She had been identified as n automated “Russian bot” by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

But now the mainstream media has brought Masha and the Bear to my attention (see UK Times: Children’s show is propaganda for Putin, say critics and The Daily Mail: Is Masha and the Bear a Putin stooge? Critics claim cartoon with 4.18m subscribers is made by Kremlin to subvert children). Apparently the child video series is simply another of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plots to spread discord in the West! Specifically by subverting our children! And not just our children – also our adults, according to The Times:

“A spoiled girl and a bear, which certainly symbolizes Russia, penetrate into the immature children’s mind and influence it, while adults obviously fall under the influence of ‘Russian propaganda channels’,”

The authors of these articles found quotable sources in countries bordering the Russian Federation to “prove” their point. They even found an intelligence expert from The University of Buckingham, Professor Anthony Glees, to give “expert” academic backing to their story.

Russia has a deserved reputation for high-quality animations so it is not surprising this series is very popular. It has received more than 30 billion views on YouTube (see How a goofy Russian cartoon bear is conquering the world‘MASHA AND THE BEAR’ TAKES ON THE WORLD and  ‘MASHA AND THE BEAR’ RISES TO THE TOP)

Judging from comments on these articles claiming the child videos are “Putinesque,” readers are laughing. Many comments are from parents whose children regularly watch and love Masha and the Bear.  One commenter attempted to start a rumour that Masha was sighted in Salisbury earlier this year. Another wondered if his son would develop the habit of riding bare-chested on his teddy bear.

Problem is that one should really be concerned when supposedly “reputable” news media publish this sort of rubbish. Perhaps even more concerned that a reputable academic, expert on intelligence and security matters and advisor to governments is promoting this sort of hysteria.

Oh well. At least I have discovered Masha and the Bear and I am looking forward to using these videos in my future babysitting tasks.

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Whose who in the Russiagate affair – an infographic

The Epoch Times Managing Editor, Jasper Fakkert, takes viewers through the infographic prepared by his paper on the “Russiagate affair.” Unfortunately, I cannot embed the video but viewers can see it at this Facebook link

The Epoch Times recently published a very useful infographic for anyone interested in following the “Russian interference/collusion” story which US politicians are currently obsessed with. It is in the article Fusion GPS and the ‘Insurance Policy’ to Prevent Trump From Becoming President.

I have reproduced it below – but click on it to enlarge so you can read the individual entries. I actually printed off an enlarged form to keep as a reference.

Click on image to enlarge

While the infographic provides a good overview and some useful references worth following up there is also a Politico article which you will find useful if you want more detail.  The 270 people connected to the Russia probes provides brief detail and useful links.

The numbers are somewhat inflated – lawyers and contacts help build up the total number. The links are mostly to media articles (which are of course either extremely biased or the gospel truth depending on what biases you wish to confirm).  But some of the links are to documents, in particular, testimonies, which are of far more value.

Natalia Veselnitskaya – met with Trump Jr on June 9, 2016. Image Credit: CNN Poltics.

One testimony that is worth reading is that given by the Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She was the lawyer described by the media as having a central role in the infamous Trump Towers meeting with Donald Trump Jr on June 9, 2016.

Despite its length and her preoccupation with the legal case she was working on, her testimony is very informative and worth downloading.  I always think it best to consult documents like this and not rely on news media reports. In this case, do not expect the media reports to confirm the evidence the lawyer presented to the Senate committee.

Sadly, this example of the wide deviation between evidence and media reports is probably typical of most aspects of this current US political preoccupation.

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Political maturity in New Zealand – at least compared to the US

A moment of clarity in the NZ election negotiations. Credit: NZ Herald.

Maybe it is the social media silo effect but I think a lot of New Zealanders feel proud about the way our recent elections went.

Once again we are a world leader. A new impressive young female Prime Minister. An atmosphere of cooperation – or at least respect all around from (and towards) the winners and losers. And a feeling that our new Prime Minister may have the unifying skills necessary for the job at this time.

But what has impressed me is the beginning of some clarity about the nature and causes of our problems. We are talking about housing and child poverty as indicators of a failed economy and not low inflation, the balance of payments, etc., as indicators of a “successful economy.” No matter how good the “accepted” economic indicators appear to be an economy is not successful if it fails to protect its children and has the degree of homelessness we are seeing.

Winston Peters’ honesty about the causes of our problems being inherent in an economic system oriented towards the interests of dead money and not towards people is refreshing. It’s a long time since we have heard such economic honesty from a politician in our parliament. Also refreshing is the fact that our media (not known for admitting such basic problems) has repeated his statement.

And isn’t it heartening to have a Prime Minister flagging an interest in ministerial jobs aimed at helping children rather than something like finance?

Maturity

Like many, I am cynical of the concept of “capitalism with a human face” but New Zealand at the moment should be seen as a glowing example of how democracy should work. Yet we have the US promoting itself as exceptional, a leader of the free world” and the best example of “democracy.” A self-belief so strong it wishes to impose their example on “less fortunate” countries. And, too often, even New Zealander commentators and journalists get captured by such silliness.

But come on!

Just imagine if Bill English threw his toys out of the cot because his “natural” assumption of power has been denied by the electoral system. Just imagine if he attempted to “explain” his failure by promoting the fiction that the “Russians did it,” or blamed President Putin for his problems. Just imagine if all sorts of attempts were now being made to produce “evidence” of collusion between our new leaders and those horrible Russians. I am sure we could, if we were that childish, find examples of meetings with diplomats, maybe even professional or financial links with someone indirectly connected to a firm which may exist in St Petersburg.

And what about all those pro-Labour and pro-Green”trolls” on social media? Hell, they were all over Facebook and Twitter! Surely that is evidence of manipulation by Russian “troll farms.” And what about the “fact” that the pro-Russian media heavily promoted Jacinda Adern and is glorying in her victory?

OK, perhaps not even Hillary Clinton would accuse the NZ Herald of being “pro-Russian” – but here is the “undeniable evidence” – this story run by Sputnik which, for this purpose, we could describe as being a propaganda arm of the Kremlin!

Oh dear. The “evidence is mounting up.” It’s becoming “undeniable!”

I am glad we live in a country with more political maturity but isn’t it sad that the most powerful (militarily) country in the world is so politically immature. And, also sad when even commentators in New Zealand buy into that immaturity.

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The main stream media is out of touch

I find the US mainstream media particularly boring and uninformative these days. It has become embedded in a partisan political campaign and seems to go into a frenzy over every bit of “evidence” or fake news it can garner, invent, or exaggerate in an apparent attempt to reverse the results of last year’s presidential elections.

I think many people must be heartily sick of this campaign. I would not be surprised if this is encouraging many to turn to alternative news sources and I suspect this media obsession is encouraging an increasing mistrust of the mainstream media.

But it is not just a matter of all the fake news and media lies. This political campaign is diverting media attention away from the things that really concern people. After all, they had their election last year and sensible presidential challenges should be off the burner until 2000. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of problems the ordinary person expects their government, and the media, to come to grips with.

So I am not surprised to see recent polling identifying a huge mismatch between the concerns of the media and the concerns of the public. Jon Gabriel’s Ricochet article What Americans Care About vs. What the Media Cares About illustrates this in the following graphic.

Constraining the President

Frankly, I think this US political hysteria is being produced by an alliance of the media, elements of the intelligence community and the “establishment” in general. For one reason or another, they just can not accept the result of the 2016 election and would like to see that result reversed. At the very least, they are using this artificial campaign to constrain the president in areas like foreign policy where they have big differences.

Perhaps pressure from the neocons and deep state to constrain and control a new president is not new. Certainly, we saw this with President Obama. But the campaigners have resorted to a more public and hysterical pressure in President Trump’s case because he is basically a political outsider. He came out of “left field,” was not part of the “acceptable” political establishment and is a maverick. His personality makes him difficult to control in the normal, behind the scenes, way.

Media does itself no favours

There are a number of objective factors creating turmoil for the mainstream media these days. transfer of advertising to social media, changes in technology and the loss of skilled reporters. But the old, established media is not doing itself any favours by diverting into a blatantly partisan political campaign and resorting to such bias in its reporting. And it harms society by encouraging the growth of neo-McCarthyism and supporting those who are working to reduce international cooperation and the relaxation of tension. That is dangerous for the American people – and in fact for the whole world.

But I guess the upside is that this self-exposure of bias is an education to the public. They may now search for alternatives – and that is a good thing. They will also be a lot more critical of what is delivered to them by the news media – and that is also a good thing.

The reader does need to beware – and to question more.

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