Monthly Archives: March 2015

Swedish media on Russia – cynicism defined

I’ve mentioned our most prestigious daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter quite some times on these pages. DN is a kind of hillbilly version of New York Times, but still pompous and condescending, obviously all too aware of its local significance. Today DN (of course) is leading this country’s witch hunt on Russia and Putin.

DNs editor in chief – Peter Wolodarski – is a fairly young man. He had just become a teenager when Soviet Communism disappeared, yet he reiterates almost verbatim the slander, insinuations, deliberate misinterpretations and all the other characteristics of the (first) Cold War propaganda.

Especially amusing was when he some time ago wrote an editorial piece condemning countries that obstruct international cooperation by regularly vetoing Security Council resolutions, referring specifically to Russia. Now being 74 years old I lived through that period with daily reports on Russian (Soviet) vetoes. They really happened, and the fact that United States had almost the entire UN in its pocket was not considered a proper excuse for Soviet vetoes.

But this is the funny thing: during Wolodarski’s whole life United States have issued by far the largest number of vetoes in the Security Council, no other country even in shouting distance. What happened was that colonialism started to disintegrate in the 1960s, and US’ absolute dominance in UN thus seeped away. So from the mid 60s US took over the lead in the not very honorable competition of veto production, and have kept it since.

Wolodarski’s gaffe is in a way understandable. As long as Soviet provided the vetoes the topic was prioritized news, highlighted in every western media. But when US took over the leading role in issuing UN vetoes the subject immediately lost all media interest. That’s how propaganda works, nothing surprising about that. Wolodarski just copied what he must have read in retrospect, not aware of his present. He fell victim of the propaganda he himself is part of.

DN today is an echo of its earlier version from the darkest years of the last Cold War, the 1950s up to the Vietnam War (not that the Cold War ended then, it just became somewhat moderated). Russia is depicted as a dictatorship ruled by some kind of new Stalin, intimidating Europe and the entire world. Sweden is threatened and must greatly strengthen its military forces. Putin is naturally guilty of most atrocities in Russia, everything from incarceration of pop singers to murdering politicians and journalists. Now DN of course has some journalistic ethics, so accusations like that are printed just as insinuations, though with an unequivocal certainty.

I’ve just read the latest of PW’s weekly epistles on Putin’s lies and Russia’s threats. He writes about the country’s unwarranted feeling of being encircled by western powers. For PW this feeling is “somewhat paranoid”, considering “how many hands have been stretched out to Russia after the Soviet collapse”. (One is not supposed to laugh.)

What did those “many hands” really do? First they helped destroy the Russian production system thoroughly, throwing the country back to the third world from which it came in 1917, creating a social catastrophe of gigantic proportions leading to the death of ten million people, mostly young men.

Secondly those hands helped a few former “communist” thugs to “legally” steal everything of value in the country, further deepening the suffering ordinary Russian endured.

Thirdly the West did what was needed to cover the whole thing up. This has been a success in the “democracies” where one of the worst social catastrophes of all times is completely wiped out of history. It has also left westerners ignorant of Putin’s role in reversing that collapse, thus also unaware of the main reason for his popularity in Russia. We may choose to close our eyes and ears, but the Russians will never forget the capitalist catastrophe of the 90s, not as long as they live and not in generations to come. And they will remember who passably put thing together again.

Russia vs. Citizens United – corruption vs. supercorruption

My paper Dagens Nyheter (Daily News) has an editorial writer who is specialized in writing childish thinking in a causal and appealing style. Now he recently went to the cinema to watch the much praised Russian film Leviathan. His mission was thus to concoct an editorial piece combining his artistic impressions with the more notorious critique of Russian command politics and corruption.

The film obviously draws attention to corruption on the daily basis in Russia. According to my reporter the main character in the story has a dispute with a mayor over some property, and since his adversary has the justice apparatus in his hand the hero is rejected with his complaints everywhere. It seems like a traditional Kafka scenario. This is naturally not very gratifying for Russia, so my informer – the editorial writer – has to show how the officials have tried to hamper the movie in different ways.

It turned out not to be very easy. The film maker Andrey Zvyagintsev was already famous for earlier films, such as his debut The Return, which won a number of awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2003, among numerous other honors. Thus Zvyagintsev was granted money by the Russian Ministry of Culture to make Leviathan. But this, says my informer, was before 2012 which Kremlinologists hold as an important year in Russian cultural decline. Thus it’s in the monolithic system’s expected spirit that the minister himself has criticized Leviathan for not having real heroes and for spitting at Russian politicians.

Then, on the other hand again, this despicable nomenklatura system nevertheless selected the film to represent Russia at the Academy Awards. As a reader one may be somewhat puzzled by the contradictory signals here. But that’s unnecessary, my informer is a master of his art and easily sort things out: We are just witnessing the typical Russian capriciousness! The art of Tautology is namely also on his repertoire, in this case to express a conclusion that becomes true under every possible circumstance.

There was probably very little corruption in Russia before 1990. Then in the following decade the country was completely devastated by the roller coaster called capitalism. The breakdown of social cohesion that followed unsurprisingly prepared the ground for everyday corruption, in the beginning as a means of mere survival. Russia is a country struggling its way up from the chaos it was dumped into in the 1990s. Since Vladimir Putin marked the turning point we may ask ourselves if our hatred of him means that we had preferred a Russia remaining in the third world.

Small scale corruption is a dear subject in my paper. It could of course be a coincidence that such fraud provides the convenient weapons to use against countries and political systems we find most interesting to attack. Anyway, certain kind of corruption, incredibly worse, is typically and almost totally ignored.

I made a search in Dagens Nyheter’s online archive for the concept “Citizens United”, only to find just a couple of mentions and only one short description of that fundamental legitimizing of corruption on a gigantic scale. In Russia one can buy mayors and officers, in USA the already extremely powerful ultra rich and the corporations can buy the entire political monitoring system all the way to the very top. Alas, to survive morally in the West requires a well developed ability to become a hypocrite, that’s for sure.

Sweden is not at all innocent in these respects, even if the amounts of money are smaller. We were for many years criticized by international organizations for having secret lists of contributors to the political parties. Now some kind of compromise has been reached and the debate is silenced. But following the usual pattern we could expect to have the US system of legalized corruption on a large scale here in a few decades. Or – preferably – the US system has come to such an extreme that something radical has to be done there. Those who live will see.

Circle of violence – is it eternal?

One week in 1988 I happened to be in New York. This was the year of the 350th anniversary of the first Swedish colonizers landing in Wilmington, Delaware. As part of the celebrations the Swedish Royal Couple held a luncheon in Waldorf Astoria for prominent Americans with some connections to Sweden.

By coincidence I stayed at the same hotel that day, now waiting in the lobby for a friend who had attended the Royal lunch. When the doors opened a stream of celebrities walked by, among them Henry Kissinger with a newspaper stuck under his arm. He walked in a relaxed manner straight on to Park Avenue, catching a regular yellow cab. No lifeguards, no company whatsoever.

My first reflection was how things can change in politics. Kissinger was a key player in Nixon’s administration when the tensions with Sweden were the gravest ever. Olof Palme had expressed intense critique of USA regarding the Vietnam War, and had gained support from people all around the world. Now Kissinger had become a guest of honor to a country once treated almost like an enemy.

My second reflection was naturally how this man could move around without protection; he was after all by many considered one of the most culpable war criminals alive. One could expect there to be millions of people in Indochina with a fair reason to revenge the death of innocent relatives or friends. All it would take had been for a single one of those to be on Park Avenue with a gun at the right time.

Naturally this came to mind again after 9/11. USA had challenged countries and people for decades, relying on its strength for protection. At the same time it had been an open society vulnerable for all kinds of attacks. The question was rather why it had taken so many years for an atrocity like 9/11 to happen, than why it had happened at all.

Since 2001 security has been upgraded considerably in the West, but there is no ultimate protection in societies like ours. We are reminded of this by an article in New York Times yesterday, reporting about an online threat by the Islamic State to kill 100 US service members whose names, photos and purported addresses are posted on its website. Knowing that ISIS is recruiting fighters in countries all around the world, also in the West, threats like these are obviously not to take easily.

If one wants a definition of a vicious circle it must be this: Imperialist violence created violent resistance, generating even more repressive violence, boosting more counter violence etc., on an ever growing scale. When will we ever learn that the only way to break this circle is to cut it off? And that we are the once obliged to initiate the peaceful way? (Provided the masters of mankind really want the violence stopped, which regrettably can be put in question.)

 

Russia wants united Ukraine – the West doesn’t care?

Russia created a problem for western biased Kremlinologists by submitting a resolution to the UN Security Council calling for the Council to reaffirm “its full respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine”, unanimously adopted on 17 February this year. This initiative contradicts the very basis for mainstream western propaganda, which requires Russian intentions to subdue Ukraine through a war of aggression, even aiming at territorial gains.

During the former cold war every benign signal from the Russians were easily interpreted as a form of insidious and diabolic tactic with hidden, evil intentions. This western habit of reversing messages is no longer feasible to the same extent. There are too many complementary sources of information and debate today, first of all on the ever growing Internet, but also in the mainstream.

It’s interesting in this context to follow the very mainstream New York Times, whose reporting and commentary on the whole is tilted towards anti-Russian views. Still NYT has some objective news reporting never seen in Swedish media, for instance from areas in Ukraine suffering from the shelling by Kiev forces. The tidy Readers Commentaries are often appealing on articles about the Ukraine conflict. In mostly very articulate posts people in general have a much broader and more enlightened view on the subject than the article itself reflects, often with appreciation for the Russian point of view.

What I can find in the NYT online archive, the Security Council resolution was reported only as a ten-line Reuter’s note. Its Swedish analogue, Dagens Nyheter, had a one-line misrepresentation of the resolution in an editorial otherwise venomously despising Russia. It seems that silencing is the only tactic left when the old cold war technique of turning benign into malignant no longer holds. But silencing won’t work either in this new, multifaceted media world.

What basis has western propaganda media had for their view of an aggressive Russia wanting war to subdue Ukraine? It seems that they have tried to conjure up a picture of the old communist wickedness under which to hide and repress everything important that Russia signals. For an un-blinded eye Russia didn’t look extremely pleased with the armed uprising in Donbas. Putin made remarks about Ukrainian unity early on, disavowing the not very happy rebel leaders. As events evolved Russia naturally couldn’t remain idle as Kiev let Nazi voluntaries loose in killing Russian speaking people, and was forced to engage in support of the separatists.

Throughout the whole process Putin and Lavrov has repeatedly demanded negotiations to solve the crisis, something never highlighted in western media. The core interest here has been to speculate (in the old Kremlinologist spirit) about what Putin “really” has in mind, as opposed to what he says. This is an occupation that must have taken scholars, politicians and other pundits man-years of fruitless work.

A criminal investigation starts by looking for a motive. Has Russia anything to gain from a war of aggression towards a neighboring country? As we have seen: then have everything to lose! So why did the war start? The basic analysis is made by Professor John Mearsheimer in Foreign Affairs, who demonstrates unequivocally that the West created the prerequisites through 25 years of systematic provocations against Russia (spending 5 bn dollars, according to Mrs. Nuland).

The problem with Crimea, a natural part of Russia with mostly Russian inhabitants and a large Russian military base, should have been solved 25 years ago by a proactive West. But that was not even considered since the single goal was to cripple the former Russian dominion as much as at all possible. The purpose has obviously been, not to solve any of Russia’s problems, but to create as many as time and money allowed.

It’s a hope for the future and for peace that so many people see through the western propaganda machinery. And it’s inspiring to read the commentary sections in all sorts of papers. What people write there is not picked up from mainstream media; it requires critical thinking of one’s own, a gratifying phenomenon that seems to be spreading. That’s why Kerry and others are talking about “information war”, and that war will in the long run be won by reason, insight and compassion.

EU information war against Russia – a lying contest?

“EU readies action plan to counter Russian media ‘disinformation’” says RT.com Thursday, referring to leaked documents. My “anti-disinformation” paper Dagens Nyheter obviously intercepted the leak and started the counter-attack already on Wednesday. They didn’t assign their sharpest pen for the task so the different lines of thought in his article were not necessarily consistent with one another.

The brave thinker had incidentally found one brilliant crux in the apparent success for Russian propagandists, who namely have discovered the weak spot in western societies: our inclination for the postmodern fantasy that there are no facts, just different narratives. That the absolute truth belongs with western media is obviously an axiom and was not even mentioned. Instead a number of Russian false narratives were lined up. Some examples:

It’s a lie that Russia didn’t plan the occupation of Crimea. It’s a lie that Russian regular troops haven’t been commanded to fight in Ukraine. It’s a lie that the Kiev government ordered the shoot-down of the Malaysian passenger plane. And the scribbler is apparently cocksure that he owns the truth, though he has not a shred of evidence to support it with. He doesn’t even suggest that there is any need whatsoever to supply evidence, or even reasonable arguments.

And this is the center of the real postmodern fog we move around in:

– We “are convinced at heart” that Putin has evil intentions.
– We “know” that Russia is waging a war of aggression on Ukraine.
– We “are certain” that Putin and Russian media are lying about probably all crucial events.
– It took the Swedish foreign minister two hours to definitely “establish” that MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian rebels assisted by Russians.
– Although a steadily increasing number of factors point at the Ukrainian Air Force as the perpetrator, it’s still “self evident” that the Russians are to blame.
– It’s “of course” Putin that lies behind the killings of Nemtsov and the other journalists who met the same fate.
– And if it isn’t Putin personally it’s his “spirit”, and therefor “his name will forever be tied to these murders” as another journalist in the same paper put it.

With their almost pathological capacity of self-justification our journalists cannot even dream of having to prove anything of what they claim. And conversely it’s presupposed that everything that “the enemy” says is a lie, sometimes even when proof is evident.

But the main strategy of monitoring the “truth” in western media is to avoid, repress or silence everything that speaks in favor of “the enemy”, but the more meticulously sort out and magnify every little enemy aberration to be found.

“We are the truth!” is our media credo (with divine inspiration); don’t have us provide any proof of what we claim!

The author I’ve mentioned had the guts to call on – everybody else supposedly – to “pursue the truth” as a means to counter the Russian “Information war”!!

At this point I just had to go for a walk in the sunshine.

Propaganda killing workers rights

There is a saying in Sweden that whatever evolves in USA will eventually reach us, may it take 10, 20 or 30 years. We might think of many American habits as utterly superficial and even childish, but some day they’re all over us.

I’ve been reminded of that recently as a relative is about to graduate from our high school (gymnasium in Swedish). This has always been a solemn day for a young person, ending with a memorable party: dressed-up graduates, a formal dinner and dance. But everyone got to the dinner individually. That’s now transformed into full American prom-style. Today’s students must come in pairs, the girls (usually) picking a partner, styling him in matching colors and accessories; all the US “naiveties” we used to laugh about.

A more serious thought of this kind hits me when I ponder over Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and another one of his blows against working people in his state. I’ve heard that Wisconsin used to be socially well-organized and as much Social democrat as is possible in USA. I like to think that the influx of Nordic immigrants into Wisconsin has something to do with that. But times are a ‘changing.

The scary question now is how long it will take for “Right to Work” to reach Sweden, if ever. The concept itself is disgusting, taken as it is directly from George Orwell’s dictionary. It’s a token of a crushing propaganda victory that reactionary – though elected – leaders are able to humiliate working people not just in action but also in words.

Reactionary victories are nowadays not just multitudinous but perform on two fronts. First the policymakers can enforce far-reaching neoliberal rules, serving primarily the business community, without much popular resistance at all. And then when people occasionally are called to express their opinion at elections they are indoctrinated to vote against their own interests. This trend for the last 30-40 years is the same in Europe as in USA, though not yet as extreme here.

Readers Comments in New York Times on articles about “Right to Work” overwhelmingly points to the circumstance that people seem to vote contrary to their own interests. Orwell had it right here too, as had Herman & Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent. Our western propaganda model is extremely successful and far superior to any state commanded, regardless of the level of oppression in the latter. Or as Chomsky has said: a dictator doesn’t need to bother with sophisticated propaganda since he has a club in his hand ensuring the “success” of his politics anyway.

Recent scholarly work has shown that Soviet state propaganda was a failure. Large segments of the people got their information from western propaganda radio and Samizdat literature (which explains the clueless view many had on western prosperity and happiness). Today western media are trying the same old grip on the contemporary Russian propaganda, pointing to the fact that most television broadcasting is state owned or controlled. The misconception is even greater this time since we have unlimited “Samizdat” available on the Internet, on which Russians are among the most frequent visitors in the world. On top of that we find the most extensive translation operations in Russia, where many western newspapers are found translated on the Internet.

The attack on labor called “Right to Work” is depressing even to write about. Together with Mr. Walkers earlier blow against unions by banning collective bargaining for public employees we have witnessed clear violations of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 23, point 4, which reads: “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” In the spirit of that article trade unions should be free to negotiate with their counterparts with no other restrictions than such negotiations entail. State interference in that process is clearly a violation of the workers human rights.

Here we just may hope for an exception to the rule that every US peculiarity reaches Sweden sooner or later. May it this time prove to be never… ever!

Political assassinations in Russia – and Sweden

Finally Dagens Nyheter got to – almost – say that Putin is a killer. But, all right, even if he didn’t personally order the assassination of Boris Nemtsov it was a “product of the Russian system” with the indisputable purpose to “hit the democratic opposition with a devastating blow”. DN “knows” everything without any knowledge or shred of evidence, in this case as in the downing of MH17, the snipers in Maidan, the Russian invasion, Putin’s intentions and everything else. This flagship in Swedish media thus gladly leaves behind the basic journalistic ethics that calls for factuality in reporting.

One particularly interesting thing DN “knows” is that Putin hasn’t changed his “perception that Ukraine does not have a real legitimacy as an independent country”. This is DNs statement not many days after Russia submitted a resolution to the UN Security Council with the precise call for Ukraine’s unity and national integrity. The resolution was passed, which indeed wasn’t highlighted in DN.

Even in New York Times a reporter expressed some astonishment over this Russian standpoint in UN of Ukrainian unity as if she had never heard of it, though Putin and Lavrov consistently have upheld the same view from the very beginning. They declared in words and showed in action that Russia had no intention of occupying southeastern Ukraine (at first to the obvious disappointment of the separatists).

But, OK, decent western democratic media cannot pay attention to men like those two. Instead they have dutifully published Yatsenjuk’s repeated assurances, groundless and obviously based on his own fantasies that Russia intended to conquer the entire Ukraine. NYTs reporter fell victim of western propaganda, DN hasn’t even noticed anything(?)

Sweden probably outscores Russia for the last 30 years when it comes to assassinations of high profile politicians relative to population. (I suppose we have to ask DN if this is a “product of the Swedish system” or not.) First we had the murder in 1986 of Prime Minister Olof Palme, as much lauded among poor people around the world as he was demonized by the “decent” bourgeoisie at home. The horrible slander and scorn Palme had to endure has no parallel in Swedish politics ever.

Ridiculous rumors about Palme spread like wildfire among the well-offs in Stockholm: he was mentally ill (for visiting his demented mother treated in a hospital), he was a drug addict (“my wife’s sister knows a doctor who treats him for that…”), he was a communist spy, he had extra-marital affairs etc. The fine people’s fantasies were limitless. The following caricature is one of the most benevolent made of him (the really horrible ones, endemic during his lifetime, seem to have disappeared from the Internet):

Palme

Many thought that the hate campaign had triggered someone to commit the murder. Suspicions flew in all directions (I’m quite sure that some believed Soviet Russia could have had a hand in it) and strangely detailed testimonies popped up from all over. The chief investigator followed a Kurdish trail, but choked on it and was replaced. Most popular among a growing number of amateur investigators was a police track, soon supported by a host of incidental “evidence”. And so it went on under intense media coverage. The case was never solved although some circumstances ultimately pointed at an alcoholic and thug, possibly hired by some other criminal.

Victim of the second high profile murder was Anna Lindh, stabbed by a mentally unstable man in 2003. She was also a Social Democrat, active Foreign Minister and much liked by her international colleagues. Any connections between the murderer and any outside monitors were never discovered, and everybody seemed pleased with that.

We have at least a third murder with political motives. A syndicalist, Anders Söderberg, was murdered by neo-Nazis in 1999 for disclosing one of their cronies (which made him lose his job). That makes three political assassinations in thirty years, which would be equivalent to 45 such murders in Russia in the same period. Some expert may pick the winner.

We will never know if there ultimately were political forces behind the murders of Palme and Lindh, and further speculations are pointless. In contrast our main newspaper, supposed to be the most serious, feels obviously free to speculate wildly on their preconceived stereotypes about Russian political murders.

It’s worth saying again: Apparently Vladimir Putin’s real crime in the eyes of DNs journalists and other western ideologues is that he put an end to the capitalist melt-down in Russia, stopped the genocide caused by the same capitalist roll-over, a genocide that claimed 10 million lives of which a majority were younger men leaving children and women fatherless and widows. It took harsh measures to reclaim a small part of the fortunes belonging to the people and stolen by a bunch of cunning apparatchiks. It’s not done with a tea party to passably rescue the complete wreck Russia was in the 1990s.

If some are to blame for the fact that Vladimir Putin is ruling Russia and not someone like Mahatma Gandhi it would be first of all Yeltsin, Gaidar and a group of American economists (with the Swede Anders Ã…slund). Boris Nemtsov was also a player on that team, certainly a reason for his low public acceptance rate now. These ruthless ideologues, purporting to implement “economic rules”, completely destroyed everything, wiped out half the industrial capacity and threw the country back to the third world from where it came in 1917. If our reactionary demagogues now dictating the paradigm had at least an ounce of empathy in their bodies, they would give Russia a minimum of leeway in its efforts to build a modern society again. How they might think that the confrontation they now play hard with will solve anything is a mystery.

To fight terrorism by intensely nurturing it

Last week the usually very mainstream Swedish public service television made an embarrassing gaffe in an interview with the Israeli Ambassador to Sweden. The reporter asked: “Do the Jews themselves have any responsibility in the growing Antisemitism that we see now?” to which the Ambassador immediately answered: “I reject the question altogether. There is no place for such a question to be asked.” He was immediately supported by media in general.

The reporter obviously confused Antisemitism with critique of Israeli politics, a rather ignorant mistake. Antisemitism as such is of course irrational expressions of unfounded emotions, often accompanied by paranoid notions. Hitler’s view is archetypal as he considered Jews to be the lowest kind of existence, hardly human at all, and at the same time a phenomenal force that threatened to conquer the whole world (a type of madness that even couldn’t be called illogical, it would be too kind).

With a small adjustment the reporter’s question would have been more than appropriate: “Does the Israeli government have any responsibility for the increasing terrorism that we now see?”. Questions with corresponding significance could also be directed to many western governments and media. The more so since their reaction now to ISIS military actions and terror operations are dazed: where did these monsters come from?

Noam Chomsky, who has studied the proper documents in depth, reports that US intelligence already prior to the war of aggression against Iraq warned that terrorism would increase in case of such a war. They were more than correct: terrorism mushroomed seven-fold. From then on it has just continued growing.

When it all started is almost a semantic question. The roots can be followed centuries back when the Europeans started to conquer and oppress the rest of the world, with its off-shoot USA eventually taking over the main role as the bully. The only territories in which the conquerors in any sense succeeded were in those where the indigenous people were almost completely wiped out, such as North America. In other areas the imperialists generated a lasting hostility, more or less violent.

After WWII imperialism step by step hit back at the imperialists. It became too costly to uphold, and neo-imperialism came instead, meaning total dominance without occupation but also requiring constant military threat and frequent wars. The oppression created resistance forces and liberation movements fighting for national sovereignty and freedom. From the 1980s most violent actions performed by “rebels” began being labeled “terrorism”.

The present terrorism in the Middle East has a simple genealogy. USA created the Mujaheddin to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. Out of these groups evolved the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Then USA invaded Iraq which intensified recruitment to these terrorist armies. It so happened that an initially unobtrusive religious scholar named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi witnessed the horrible US attack on Fallujah, an experience that is said to have turned him into a dedicated militant. Today he is head of ISIS.

For every terrorist killed by western forces more than one new terrorist is mobilized. Is it pure lack of mathematical knowledge that make some decision makers believe that even more bombs and killings will solve the problem?