Chris Zappone of the Australian newspaper The Age plums the depths of stupefying Russophobia with an opinion piece titled “Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin: Russia’s information war meets the US election.” His message is, basically, next time you encounter a pesky social media troll, know that you have crossed swords with one of Vladimir Putin’s troopers in the information war against the West.
Zappone presents a confused, jumbled mess of “facts” cobbled together and slapped onto paper. A bit like taking a mud pie and just chucking it, hoping some will stick. And let’s face it, when it comes to gaining credibility and sombre faced approval on analysis of Russia’s evil doings, Zappone doesn’t have a very high standard to reach. A bit like randomly throwing mud pies, so too with “investigative journalism” on Russia; no matter how ludicrous, insane or uproariously hilarious, if it’s anti-Russia it flies.
Now if this was just a bit of harmless fun, banter being thrown back and forth with protagonists in good humour trying to outdo each other in banality and hyperbole, then no harm would be done. But unfortunately, this endless, ‘anything goes’ Russophobia has consequences in softening up Western publics to accept sanctions and other anti-Russian measures and, ominously, to prepare us to accept the unacceptable; a possible war with Russia. Zappone and his ilk may deny such intent or even ridicule the suggestion, but the consequences of successful propaganda are real and tangible.
The article is a slovenly piece of worship of the establishment elites that control and neo-liberal crony capitalism which has crippled our societies. The rest of us, whether we are from the left, right, spiraling in the conspiracy ether, or located anywhere else on the political spectrum have no business in offering opinions on or alternatives to our socio-political order.
Zappone has fallen victim to the common journalistic tactic of making tenuous, unsubstantiated or downright fabricated connections between groups of people and events and claiming the actions of one are directed by the other. In other words, Zappone is a bit of a conspiracy theorist, quite ironic having just wasted an article pillorying conspiracy theorists. It reminds me of the Panama Papers, where Vladimir Putin dominated the headlines, not for being named in the papers, but for simply knowing people who were named. So too in this evidence-free piece, Zappone relies on the accumulated weight of Russophobic rantings to compensate for baseless claims of Kremlin-backing for obscure and not so obscure figures.
The central premise — if we can call it that — of the article is that Russia is supportive of Donald Trump becoming the next President of the USA. According to Putin himself, this is because Trump has expressed a desire for better relations with Russia. But that simple and rather innocuous piece of data has been transformed by Zappone into an order by Putin to use armies of social media activists of the snarly, extremist kind of course, to build a groundswell of support for Trump.
This is the reverse of US covert sponsoring of activists, political organisations and NGO’s in places like Ukraine, Syria and Russia itself. However, while we can pinpoint actual entities behind these rather nefarious activities — USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros’s Open Society Foundation etc. — real, tangible Russian entities behind the push for Trump are mysteriously absent. So who is it Mr Zappone? The Security Council of Russia? The Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Perhaps the Foreign Intelligence Service, SVR RF?
This exercise in clutching at straws becomes farcical when a check of the Daily Stormer website, one of the “Russian-backed anti-Western websites” mocks Zappone as a conspiracy theorist, seeming rather amused at the revelation they are a tool of the Kremlin.
Sorry Mr Zappone, but the Kremlin doesn’t need to galvanize any extremist groups in the USA. From the dark days of the Klu Klux Klan to the present array of hate groups, there has never been a shortage of divisiveness, racism and violent fringe movements. The backlash against the mainstream political establishment has magnified due to extreme disparities of wealth and life chances in the US. The US that Zappone clearly seems to believe is a bastion of democracy, has become a corruption cesspit, oligarchs and bankers plundering the society to their hearts (and wallets) content. Such an extreme form of capitalism has provoked extreme responses from people who are angry, struggling to survive and who live in a culture of violence and hate. Enter Donald Trump.
One of the links in Zappone’s article takes us to Russia Today, the bane of Washington neo-cons and a channel which has gained a very healthy following in the West. Zappone has quite deliberately lumped it in with extremist, fringe and conspiracy theorist groups, in keeping with a common tactic of painting all pro-Russian groups as misguided and extreme.
We are told that the Kremlin keeps an iron grip on the media, dissenting voices kept out, leaving us with a chorus of Putin adoring apparatchiks, music to the authoritarians ears. If the Kremlin are Trump groupies and RT is a Kremlin messaging service, then we can expect nothing but Trump adoration on the RT airwaves.
Perhaps Mr Zappone can then explain to us why Henry Giroux was on the Keiser Report basically calling Donald Trump the devil incarnate, a neo-fascist who wants to commit war crimes, a man who is part of, and will represent, the 1% and who has a gift for working the media to his advantage. The Cross Talk program has voices critical of Trump, alongside those who support him. Sounds like good healthy political debate, with a cross spectrum of views. This concept is, of course, alien to much of groupthinkistan Western media, particularly when it comes to Russia. Perhaps our MSM can learn a thing or two about diversity of opinion from the “Kremlin controlled” RT.
So what gets the goat of Zappone and his friends in groupthinkistan when it comes to RT? He disparagingly alludes to “parroting Moscow’s criticism of the US, NATO and the general ills of Western society. ” Henry Giroux said RT asks the questions that matter, which the US MSM doesn’t. RT has been rightfully critical of US foreign and domestic activities on issues such as:
- The criminal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan
- The destruction of Libya
- The CIA hand in the Ukraine coup
- The US and its allies sponsoring terrorists in Syria
- US police brutality
- The corruption of bankers
- Hillary Clinton’s warmongering ways
- Oh look, some of Donald Trump’s outrageous statements.
Recent stories which will have gotten up the nose of the EU and NATO member Turkey were on a deal between the EU and the Libyan coastguard to intercept refugees and return them to Libya. Amnesty International slammed this deal, reporting refugees are detained and tortured by Libyan authorities. The other was a courageous report by Lizzie Phelan on ISIS fighters being treated in Turkish hospitals. She said after the report was aired she wouldn’t be able to safely enter Turkey again. No such problems for our compliant MSM. Holiday in Istanbul Mr Zappone?
Donald Trump taps into misdirected anger. He needs no assistance from the Kremlin, the US is awash with public relations and marketing types falling over themselves to please their paymasters. And the US public needs absolutely no one to let them know how bad things have become. They live it first hand, experiencing a disappearing middle class, astronomical wealth increases among the elite post global financial crisis, deplorable poverty levels, the highest incarceration levels in the western world, one of the highest child poverty levels in the developed world, crumbling public infrastructure, a broken health system and a declining mediocre education system.
It is offensive when this reality is grasped to read Zappone essentially undermining legitimate grievances in the US and many other developed nations for that matter when he says:
“For the US, as with other Western democracies, Russian efforts to raise the volume on extremist groups, supply them with arguments and encourage them to wade into the mainstream helps distort domestic political issues, creates false choices for voters and increases acrimony in an effort to “unpick” the fabric of political unity. Adding to the disorder is the fact that Western nations themselves are going through a period of real political and economic change in areas such as free trade and inequality.”
The truth, however, is that Americans are perfectly capable of raising the volume themselves, targeting their political class and elites who truly are extremists. A recent Gallup poll showed 80% of Americans think their government, banks and corporate media are corrupt. The wretched state of their nation with its myriad of crisis level problems has become impossible to ignore. As for being supplied with arguments, activist groups abound, including workers’ rights, anti-war, marriage equality, health care, immigrants rights, and climate change groups. Notably, groups such as Black Lives Matter (well covered by RT incidentally) have come to the fore, standing up to entrenched racist policing which sees black people dealt with in violent deadly ways. All these movements are propelled by social media activism, a worldwide forum where it is hardly surprising to see views from abroad. This includes the views of Russians, among many others. And sorry Mr Zappone, Russians can, like the rest of us tap out keyboard strokes in support of others without the hand of the Kremlin guiding them.
Another bone I have to pick with Zappone is his reference to these so called Russian backed agitators weakening of the “fabric of political unity.” Is he serious?! The US political system is like a clapped out old pick up, puttering along ready for the scrap heap. If he means the Republican/Democrat two wings of the business party political unity, he used to be correct. But even that has been consigned to history with Trump running roughshod over a bewildered Republican establishment, while Bernie Sanders inserts the word socialist (admittedly with the word democratic preceding it) into the political realm, leaving the Democrats establishment twitching nervously. As for the US public, “political unity” has become a foreign concept, with Trump and Hillary Clinton so widely disliked, that the winner of the presidential race will simply be the one who is least despised.
Zappone totally underplays the ruptures which desperately need to be healed, not just in the US, but also the austerity ravaged EU, with his comment that “Western nations themselves are going through a period of real political and economic change in areas such as free trade and inequality.” Just a change, eh? Well I am relieved; I can change my clothes, my brand of toothpaste and my political and economic circumstances. Damn those Kremlin backed trolls complicating matters! To all those in Greece who thought they had been sold down the river by the IMF Washington Consensus; relax, it’s just a bit of “change.”
Finally, a brief foray into his comments on Alexander Dugin in relation to the war in Ukraine. Zappone says:
“He once posted a fake video about a boy who was crucified by pro-Western militants in the country.”
Now if Dugin is faking videos of Ukraine he should be chastised. Should he choose to post videos of undeniable suffering of innocent civilians in the Donbass at the hands of the Kiev junta, he has no shortage to pick from. For example, the 17 video series titled “Roses Have Thorns” by Watchdog Media Institute. This is a highly recommended series, which if viewed by Zappone, might make him think twice about distorting the war by presenting it through the prism of “Russian subversion.”
So Mr. Zappone can now take his place in the cavalcade of Russophobic fools. Regrettably, this claptrap will be greeted by many readers with stern faces and approving nods, thus marking some success in the hybrid war against Russia. Personally, my recommendation for Mr Zappone is: find a nice big rock to hide under, and stay there for say………..487 years.
Paul is a budding freelance writer who currently works in the welfare industry in Melbourne, Australia.
Areas of interest include: Russia/US conflict, wars in the Middle East, particularly Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, the occupation of Palestine by Israel, the damage to our economies from the global financial markets, the debt trap imposed on states by bankers seeking to privatize assets and “reform” economies while they line their pockets with cash and impoverish local populations.