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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.)

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® 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.” . . .


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


    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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