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The Unkrainian Weekly’s pro-OUN/B Bias

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

Stetsko and George H.W. Bush

Stetsko's Einsatzgruppe Nachtigall (Nachtigall Battalion) in action in Lvov in 1941

COMMENT: In our ongoing analysis of the Ukraine crisis, we have noted the presence of Michael Bociurkiw astride the “investigation” of the downing of MH flight 17.

In addition to his links to the Malaysian Muslim Brotherhood milieu involved in the “disappearance” of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, Bociurkiw was a writer and Assistant Editor for the Ukrainian Weekly, a newspaper with a very obvious pro-OUN/B bias.

(Bociurkiw is discussed in FTR #’s 803 and 804.)

Representative of The Ukrainian Weekly’s pro-OUN/B coverage is this obituary of OUN/B leader Jaroslav Stetsko (also “Stetzko”). Note that the OUN/B is also known as the OUN’s “revolutionary faction.”

Nowhere in this story do you see anything about OUN/B’s murderous collaboration with the Nazis, nor the fascist nature and Third Reich origin of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations.

Note the article’s bland presentation of Stetsko’s association with the World Anti-Communist League.

(We have covered the ascension of the OUN/B heirs in the Ukraine in a number of programs: FTR #’s 777778779780781782, 783784794800803, 804.)

Stetsko is discussed in–among other programs–FTR #779.

“Yaroslav Stetzko, Nationalist Leader and Former Prime Minister Dies” by Ihor Diaboha; The Ukrainian Weekly; 7/13/1986.

Yaroslav Stetzko, head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (revolutionary faction) and prime minister of Ukraine during World War II, died Saturday at the age of 74 after a prolonged illness. He is survived by his wife Slava, head of the ABN Correspondence. . . .

. . . In February, 1940, following the split in the OUN, Mssrs. Bandera and Stetzko assumed the leadership of the OUN’s revolutionary leadership.

Plans were immediately set in motion to proclaim the establishment of Ukraine’s independence. This was further expanded with other political parties through  Mr. Stetzko’s role in the Ukrainian National Committee.

Independence was proclaimed on June 30, 1941, less than two weeks after Nazi Germany invaded Soviet Russian occupied territories. Mssrs. Bandera and Stetzko, the revolutionary leadership and other nationalistic figures were imprisoned in concentration camps by the Nazis. Mr. Stetzko’ s work on behalf of the Ukrainian nation and its independence continued after the war.

In 1947 he was elected chairman of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, which had its roots in the clandestine Conference of Captive Nations convened by General Taras Chuprynka in 1943. Mr. Stetzko served as its only chairman.

In 1968, Mr. Stetzko was elected head of the OUN(r) central leadership.

Mr. Stetzko’s anti-Communist activity extended beyond Ukrainian affairs. As chairman of the European Freedom Council and a member of the presidium of the World Anti-Communist League. Mr. Stetsko met with international leaders and various statesmen impressing on them the need to wage a freedom campaign on behalf of captive nations.

Among the Western leaders he met were President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush.

The funeral liturgy was to be offered on Saturday, July 12, at the Ukrainian catholic cathedral in Munich. Burial was to follow at the Walfriedhoff Cemetery.

“Is the US Back­ing neo-Nazis in the Ukraine?” by Max Blu­men­thal [Alter­net]; Salon.com; 2/25/2014.

. . . . After par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cam­paign to assas­si­nate Ukraini­ans who sup­ported accom­mo­da­tion with the Pol­ish dur­ing the 1930’s, Bandera’s forces set them­selves to eth­ni­cally cleanse west­ern Ukraine of Poles in 1943 and 1944. In the process, they killed over 90,000 Poles and many Jews, whom Bandera’s top deputy and act­ing “Prime Min­is­ter,” Yaroslav Stet­sko, were deter­mined to exter­mi­nate. . . . .

. . . . In Wash­ing­ton, the OUN-B recon­sti­tuted under the ban­ner of the Ukrain­ian Con­gress Com­mit­tee of Amer­ica (UCCA), an umbrella orga­ni­za­tion com­prised of “com­plete OUN-B fronts,” accord­ing to Bel­lant. By the mid-1980’s, the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion was hon­ey­combed with UCCA mem­bers, with the group’s chair­man Lev Dobri­an­sky, serv­ing as ambas­sador to the Bahamas, and his daugh­ter, Paula, sit­ting on the National Secu­rity Coun­cil. Rea­gan per­son­ally wel­comed Stet­sko, the Ban­derist leader who over­saw the mas­sacre of 7000 Jews in Lviv, into the White House in 1983.

“Your strug­gle is our strug­gle,” Rea­gan told the for­mer Nazi col­lab­o­ra­tor. “Your dream is our dream.” . . .

Discussion

2 comments for “The Unkrainian Weekly’s pro-OUN/B Bias”

  1. “Buoyed by this success, the Ukrainian Weekly now has its sights set on two other Western concert performers deemed overly sympathetic to Russia. The ground war in Ukraine sputters on. The ideological purges here are just beginning”:

    The Star
    Pianist punished for daring to challenge political orthodoxy in Ukraine: Walkom
    Valentina Lisitsa’s views on Ukraine’s civil war are deemed too provocative for Toronto’s tender ears.

    By: Thomas Walkom National Affairs, Published on Tue Apr 07 2015

    Surely it is enough that Canadian politicians have taken sides in Ukraine’s bitter conflict.

    All three major parties in Parliament agree that Ukraine’s central government in Kyiv is heroic and that eastern rebels battling it are mere cats-paws of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Must we now punish any piano player who dares to dissent?

    Apparently, the management of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra thinks we should. It has cancelled two performances this week by U.S. pianist Valentina Lisitsa, simply because it doesn’t like her position on Ukraine.

    To be more precise, it doesn’t like the fact that other people might not like her position. As the TSO noted in a press release Monday, some Ukrainian “media outlets” have accused Lisitsa of using offensive language.

    For Toronto, the press release says, she is just too “provocative.”

    As a concert pianist, 41-year-old Lisitsa is a rising force. When she played at Toronto’s Koerner Hall in 2012, Star critic John Terauds found her Chopin Nocturnes a little slow. But he declared her rendition of five Schubert Lieder “one of the finest shows of great artistry we have heard here this season.”

    She is also a YouTube sensation with devoted fans. So it was no surprise that the TSO booked her to perform Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 this week.

    Symphony managers apparently didn’t realize that Kyiv-born Lisitsa has definite views on political developments in her native Ukraine.

    Nor did they seem to realize that the politically powerful Ukrainian-Canadian establishment finds these views outrageous.

    In a Facebook posting this week, Lisitsa describes herself as someone who initially supported last year’s revolution in Kyiv, saying she hoped the so-called Maidan movement would rid Ukraine of its corrupt, oligarchic ruling class.

    But, she writes, she soon became disillusioned when the same oligarchs commandeered the revolution and, in her words, started to turn Ukrainians against one another.

    Her critics, of which there are many, say she never supported an independent Ukraine and has always been a Russian stooge.

    Neither side has been exactly polite.

    Lisitsa is a dab hand at social media. It has been the secret to her success. As she told the London Telegraph three years ago, without YouTube, she would have laboured in obscurity as “just another blonde, female, Russian pianist.”

    But as the civil strife in Ukraine heated up, she took to Twitter for other purposes. In her words, she was providing the balance that the mainstream media failed to give.

    To supporters of the Ukrainian central government, however, she was an abomination.

    The Ukrainian Weekly, for instance, pointed to a tweet in which she juxtaposed a photo of Ukrainian nationalists donned in traditional, embroidered shirts with another of “spear-carrying, half-naked African villagers.”

    Her aim, the periodical said, was “to make Ukrainian patriotic feeling seem like barbarism and also, with the same brush, to smear Africans.”

    The Ukrainian Weekly was also outraged when, in another tweet, she referred to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as “cluster-bomber in chief.” And the publication was beside itself when she reprinted a cartoon depicting the Western media’s coverage of Ukraine as a daisy chain of individuals with their heads up one another’s rectums.

    Critics also objected to a tweet regarding a battle in Eastern Ukraine in which she wrote “Kiev kills scores of civilians.” And they attacked her for observing that some who support Ukraine’s central government are neo-Nazis.

    In retaliation, supporters of the Ukrainian government picketed her appearance last fall at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall. They carried signs suggesting she was a Nazi and calling her racist.

    Buoyed by this success, the Ukrainian Weekly now has its sights set on two other Western concert performers deemed overly sympathetic to Russia. The ground war in Ukraine sputters on. The ideological purges here are just beginning.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 7, 2015, 5:14 pm
  2. Uh oh. It looks like The Nation is going to get blacklisted if the two trolls its reporting on have their way:

    The Nation
    Neo-McCarthyism and the US Media

    The crusade to ban Russia policy critics
    James Carden
    May 19, 2015 | This article appeared in the June 8, 2015 edition of The Nation.

    As a result of the civil war that has raged in Ukraine since April 2014, at least 7,000 people have been killed and more than 15,400 wounded, many of them grievously. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 1.2 million eastern Ukrainians have been internally displaced, while the number of those who have fled abroad, mainly to Russia and Belarus, has reached 674,300. Further, the United Nations has reported that millions of people, particularly the elderly and the very young, are facing life-threatening conditions as a result of the conflict. Large parts of eastern Ukraine lie in ruins, and relations between the United States and Russia have perhaps reached their most dangerous point since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

    And yet a special report published last fall by the online magazine the Interpreter would have us believe that Russian “disinformation” ranks among the gravest threats to the West. The report, titled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money,” is a joint project of the Interpreter and the Institute for Modern Russia (IMR), a Manhattan-based think tank funded by the exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Cowritten by the journalists Michael Weiss and Peter Pomerantsev, this highly polemical manifesto makes the case for why the United States, and the West generally, must combat what the authors allege to be the Kremlin’s extravagantly designed propaganda campaign. If implemented, the measures they propose would stifle democratic debate in the Western media.

    The report seeks to awaken a purportedly somnolent American public to the danger posed by the Kremlin’s media apparatus. According to Weiss and Pomerantsev, the Russian government—via RT, the Kremlin-funded international television outlet, as well as a network of “expatriate NGOs” and “far-left and far-right movements”—is creating an “anti-Western, authoritarian Internationale that is becoming ever more popular…throughout the world.”

    While it would be easy to dismiss the report as a publicity stunt by two journalists attempting to cash in on the Russophobia so in vogue among American pundits, their thesis has gained wide acceptance, nowhere more so than in the halls of Congress. On April 15, Pomerantsev testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee on the supposed threat posed by “Russia’s weaponization of information.” Committee chair Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel are now expected to reintroduce a 2014 bill to reform the Voice of America, which fell into disarray following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In his opening statements at the hearing, Royce argued that the bill “will help us fight Putin’s propaganda,” though some critics believe it would turn the federal government’s international broadcasting service into “something fundamentally not American.”

    Who Are These Guys?

    Weiss and Pomerantsev are an unlikely pair. Weiss, youthful yet professorial in manner, has become a nearly constant presence on cable news because of his supposed expertise on, among other things, Russia, Syria, and ISIS. A longtime neoconservative journalist, he began his rise to cable-news ubiquity as a protégé of the late Christopher Hitchens. After working with Hitchens, he made his way to the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), a London-based bastion of neoconservatism that, according to a report in The Guardian, has “attracted controversy in recent years—with key staff criticised in the past for allegedly anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant comments.”

    The historian Marko Attila Hoare, who resigned in protest from the HJS in 2012, has written that the organization publishes “polemical and superficial pieces by aspiring journalists and pundits that pander to a narrow readership of extreme Europhobic British Tories, hardline US Republicans and Israeli Likudniks.” According to Hoare, Weiss reinvented himself at the HJS “as an expert on Russia—about which he has no more academic expertise than he does about the Middle East.” Weiss served as HJS communications director before moving on to found the Interpreter under the auspices of the US-based IMR in 2013. Solidifying his mainstream-media credentials, he will join the Daily Beast as a senior editor on June 1.

    Where Weiss’s moderate demeanor belies a deep commitment to neoconservative ideology, Pomerantsev exudes a kind of louche nonchalance. A British citizen of Russian extraction, this rumpled television producer has parlayed his career in the less-than-reputable districts of the Russian media landscape into a role as a kind of latter-day Cassandra, sounding a clarion call about the danger that Russian state propaganda poses to the West.

    An assiduous self-promoter, Pomerantsev chronicled his journey into the belly of the Russian media beast in a recent book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. A launch party in early 2015 at the Legatum Institute, a London-based research organization with close links to the IMR, offered a glimpse of the esteem that Pomerantsev enjoys. At the event, the American director of the institute’s Transitions Forum, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, told the audience that she believes his book is “an extraordinary achievement.”

    Pomerantsev, it turns out, is an experienced lobbyist too. In his book he recalls visiting the British Parliament in 2013 to make the case for “why Europe needs a Magnitsky Act.” The original version of the bill, pushed by British hedge-fund magnate Bill Browder and passed by the US Congress in 2012, imposed bans on a group of Russian officials deemed responsible for the prison death of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky. This in itself is notable, since Browder was an enthusiastic supporter of Vladimir Putin’s decision to jail Khodorkovsky in 2003.

    Like Weiss, Pomerantsev has become a frequent presence in the US media. He appeared on the op-ed page of The New York Times last December to inform readers that at the core of the Kremlin’s information strategy is “the idea that there is no such thing as objective truth.” Two months later, he was the subject of a fawning Times profile in which he described his book as being “about the Faustian bargain made by an ambitious youngster working in Russia’s medialand of opportunity.” In joining forces with the editor of a Khodorkovsky-funded webzine, he seems to have traded one Faustian bargain for another.

    Because of his decade-long imprisonment, Khodorkovsky has attained the stature of a secular saint in some circles. But it should not be forgotten that the oil tycoon made his fortune in a spectacularly corrupt and sometimes violent fashion. Indeed, in 2000, Foreign Affairs described him and his fellow oligarchs as “a dangerous posse of plutocrats” who “threaten Russia’s transition to democracy and free markets” as well as “vital US interests.”

    According to a recent profile of Khodorkovsky in The New Yorker, staff members of a Riga-based news outlet in which he planned to invest objected. “He’s a toxic investor,” said a person “close to the project.” The article added that “his views of journalists haven’t changed much since the nineties, when reporters could be bought and sold, and ‘hit’ pieces could be ginned up for the right price.” Khodorkovsky’s agenda—to bring regime change to Russia—is faithfully reflected in the work of IMR, the Interpreter, and the “Menace of Unreality” report.

    With the report’s publication, Weiss and Pomerantsev have joined the long line of Western journalists who have played to the public’s darkest suspicions about the power, intentions, and reach of those governments that are perceived as threats to the United States. In his seminal essay on McCarthyism, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote that in the worldview of these opportunists, “very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing).” There exists no better précis of Weiss and Pomerantsev’s view of Putin and the Russian government’s media apparatus.

    The report asserts that Putin’s Russia is “arguably more dangerous than a communist superpower.” Any effective response to the virus of Russian propaganda, Weiss insists, must combine “the wisdom of Orwell…with the savvy of Don Draper.” Readers will certainly cede that the duo has led by example, since the report and its set of “modest recommendations” are nothing if not Orwellian.

    The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

    What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.” Weiss, for instance, has asserted repeatedly that Russia is to blame for the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. But would a news organization like, say, The Atlantic or Der Spiegel be “excluded from the community” for writing about a German intelligence report that indicated the missile in question did not come from Russia? Would journalists like Robert Parry be blacklisted for questioning the mainstream account of the tragedy? Would scholars like the University of Ottawa’s Paul Robinson be banned from appearing on op-ed pages and cable-news programs for challenging the notion that there is, in the words of Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, “no civil war in Ukraine,” but rather a war “started and waged by Russia”?

    Weiss and Pomerantsev accuse the Kremlin of “making deception equivalent to argumentation and the deliberate misuse of facts as legitimate as rational persuasion.” Maybe so. But these tactics are hardly unique to the Kremlin. In December, a group of Kiev parliamentarians presented photographs to the Senate Armed Services Committee purporting to show Russian troops and tanks invading eastern Ukraine. Subsequent reports revealed that the images had been taken during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Did the Interpreter denounce the Ukrainian delegation for trying to pass off doctored photos? No. Its warnings about disinformation cut only one way.

    So do its oft-expressed concerns about transparency. Time and again, the authors call on pundits and think tanks to be more transparent with regard to their affiliations, financial interests, and funding. But the Interpreter doesn’t necessarily practice what it so ardently preaches. In addition to the support provided by Khodorkovsky, the publication identifies its other initial source of funding as the Herzen Foundation of London. Weiss responded to a query asking about the provenance of the foundation by admitting, “I don’t know Herzen’s current organizational status, board of directors, etc. You are most welcome to inquire with the Charities Aid Foundation in the UK.” Multiple requests to the Charities Aid Foundation, with which Herzen had claimed to be registered, have all gone unanswered. Indeed, there is no evidence Herzen exists.

    The authors believe active measures must be taken to shield gullible Americans from the depredations of Putin’s propaganda. That American newspapers employ public editors to monitor their news reports isn’t enough; they should also staff “counter-disinformation editors” who “would pick apart what might be called all the news that is unfit to print.” Such professional censors are necessary, we are told, because the Kremlin “exploits systemic weak spots in the Western system, providing a sort of X-ray of the underbelly of liberal democracy.” Worse, the authors charge, are the legions of “senior Western experts” providing aid and comfort to the enemy, whether by appearing on RT, accepting positions on the boards of Russian companies, or simply attending Russian-sponsored forums. “The blurring of distinctions between think tanks and lobbying helps the Kremlin push its agenda without due scrutiny,” they write.

    According to Weiss and Pomerantsev, the most severe threat is the one posed by RT, a network to which they impute vast powers. They are hardly alone. In January, Andrew Lack, then chief executive of the Broadcasting Board of Governors—the federal agency that oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and other US-funded media outlets—likened RT’s threat to those posed by “the Islamic State in the Middle East and groups like Boko Haram.” (Lack was recently named chairman of NBC News.)

    RT is allegedly so skillful at masking its nefarious message that “anyone tuning in would not immediately know it is Kremlin-run or even associate it with Russia,” the authors write—even though the network’s news broadcasts begin with the statement “Coming to you live from Moscow, this is RT.”

    The Phantom Menace

    The leading authority on Soviet and Russian mass media, Duke University professor Ellen Mickiewicz, disputes the entire premise of Weiss and Pomerantsev’s report. She told me that the hypodermic model of media effects (in which messages are “injected” into the audience simply by virtue of being disseminated) was scientifically disproved decades ago. “It’s the most simpleminded mistake you can make in evaluating media effects,” she said.

    Slouching Towards McCarthyism

    One might expect that such neo-McCarthyism, reeking as it does of a barely concealed attempt to censor and intimidate, would have touched off protests, if not condemnation, in the establishment media. But the Interpreter has been given a rapturous reception on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Among its most visible proponents has been the Legatum Institute. As Mark Ames recently reported in the online publication PandoDaily, Legatum is the brainchild of billionaire venture capitalist Christopher Chandler. Like Browder and Khodorkovsky, Chandler made his billions in post-Soviet Russia. According to Ames, he and his brother “reportedly were the single biggest foreign beneficiaries of one of the greatest privatization scams in history: Russia’s voucher program in the early 1990s.”

    To mark the publication of the “Menace of Unreality” report, Legatum hosted a panel discussion that featured such luminaries as Anne Applebaum, US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, former US ambassador John Herbst, and Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Olexander Scherba. All expressed grave concern over the threat that Putin’s propaganda machine poses to the West.

    The event was followed by similar sessions hosted by the Harriman Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy. At the latter event, Weiss and Pomerantsev were joined by Freedom House director David Kramer; a young functionary of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative; and the NED’s International Forum executive director, Christopher Walker, who touted the endowment’s “close ties” with both the Interpreter and the Institute for Modern Russia.

    Two of the report’s most visible supporters have been Applebaum and Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist. Soon after the launch party at Legatum, Applebaum took to the pages of The Washington Post and The New York Review of Books to plug Weiss and Pomerantsev’s crusade. In an essay for the former, she warned that “for democracies,” Russian disinformation poses “a serious challenge.” Russia’s use of what Weiss and Pomerantsev refer to as Internet “trolls” is especially worrying to Applebaum, who fears readers will be unduly influenced by their “negative or mocking remarks.”

    In the end, apart from being a frontal attack on the core tenets of free speech, the Weiss-Pomerantsev crusade lets Western pundits and policy-makers off the hook for their complicity in the Ukraine crisis by discouraging any kind of critical thinking or reconsideration of US policy. The incessant focus in “The Menace of Unreality” on the Kremlin’s media apparatus obscures the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine, as well as the growing danger of a larger US-Russia war. The policy of belligerence toward Russia that Weiss and Pomerantsev so staunchly support has been one of the primary culprits in the Ukraine crisis. The fact that they now seek to silence, smear, and even blacklist critics of that policy makes their project all the more egregious.

    One would have hoped that journalists, of all people, would object to this project in the strongest possible terms. That no one has yet done so is an ominous sign.

    Note that when you read:

    Russia’s use of what Weiss and Pomerantsev refer to as Internet “trolls” is especially worrying to Applebaum, who fears readers will be unduly influenced by their “negative or mocking remarks.”

    Applebaum doesn’t just have concerns about Russian trolls. She has a solution in mind. End internet anonymity:

    Washington Post
    Another reason to avoid reading the comments

    By Anne Applebaum Columnist November 28, 2014

    LONDON

    If you are reading this article on the Internet, stop afterward and think about it. Then scroll to the bottom and read the commentary. If there isn’t any, try a Web site that allows comments, preferably one that is very political. Then recheck your views.

    Chances are your thinking will have changed, especially if you have read a series of insulting, negative or mocking remarks — as so often you will. Once upon a time, it seemed as if the Internet would be a place of civilized and open debate; now, unedited forums often deteriorate to insult exchanges. Like it or not, this matters: Multiple experiments have shown that perceptions of an article, its writer or its subject can be profoundly shaped by anonymous online commentary, especially if it is harsh. One group of researchers found that rude comments “not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.” A digital analyst at Atlantic Media also discovered that people who read negative comments were more likely to judge that an article was of low quality and, regardless of the content, to doubt the truth of what it stated.

    Some news organizations have responded by heavily curating comments. One Twitter campaigner, @AvoidComments periodically reminds readers to ignore anonymous posters: “You wouldn’t listen to someone named Bonerman26 in real life. Don’t read the comments.” But none of that can prevent waves of insulting commentary from periodically washing over other parts of the Internet, infiltrating Facebook or overwhelming Twitter.

    If all of this commentary were spontaneous, then this would simply be an interesting psychological phenomenon. But it is not. A friend who worked for a public relations company in Europe tells of companies that hire people to post, anonymously, positive words on behalf of their clients and negative words about rivals. Political parties of various kinds, in various countries, are rumored to do the same.

    States have grown interested in joining the fray as well. Last year, Russian journalists infiltrated an organization in St. Petersburg that pays people to post at least 100 comments a day; an investigation earlier this year found that a well-connected businessman was paying Russian trolls to manage 10 Twitter accounts apiece with up to 2,000 followers. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Guardian of London admitted it was having trouble moderating what it called an “orchestrated campaign.” “Goodbye ‘Eddie,’ ” tweeted the Estonian president a few months ago, as he blocked yet another Twitter troll.

    For democracies, this is a serious challenge. Online commentary subtly shapes what voters think and feel, even if it just raises the level of irritation, or gives readers the impression that certain views are “controversial,” or makes them wonder what the “mainstream” version of events is concealing. For the most part, the Russian trolls aren’t supplying classic propaganda, designed to trumpet the glories of Soviet agriculture. Instead, as journalists Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss have written in a paper analyzing the new tactics of disinformation, their purpose is rather “to sow confusion via conspiracy theories and proliferate falsehoods.” In a world where traditional journalism is weak and information is plentiful, that isn’t very difficult to do.

    But no Western government wants to “censor” the Internet, either, and objections will always be raised if government money is even spent studying this phenomenon. Perhaps, as Weiss and Pomerantsev have also argued, we therefore need civic organizations or charities that can identify deliberately false messages and bring them to public attention. Perhaps schools, as they once taught students about newspapers, now need to teach a new sort of etiquette: how to recognize an Internet troll, how to distinguish truth from state-sponsored fiction.

    Sooner or later, we may also be forced to end Internet anonymity or to at least ensure that every online persona is linked back to a real person: Anyone who writes online should be as responsible for his words as if he were speaking them aloud. I know there are arguments in favor of anonymity, but too many people now abuse the privilege. Human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, should belong to real human beings and not to anonymous trolls.

    “Sooner or later, we may also be forced to end Internet anonymity or to at least ensure that every online persona is linked back to a real person: Anyone who writes online should be as responsible for his words as if he were speaking them aloud”

    Well, if that’s the case it sounds like it’s only a matter of time before we have to bid farewell to Yahoo’s comments. So long Yahoo comments! We hardly knew thee.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 22, 2015, 6:59 pm

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