It’s only propaganda when they do it

A couple of newspaper articles caught my attention this weekend. The first was in The Times, and claimed the following:

President Putin has launched a secret propaganda assault on Britain from within its own borders, The Times can reveal. The Kremlin is spreading disinformation through a newly opened British bureau for its Sputnik international news service, and is infiltrating elite universities by placing language and cultural centres on campuses. Analysts said that the push was part of Russia’s military doctrine, which specifies the use of ‘informational and other non-military measures’ in conflicts.

The Times is particularly alarmed by the fact that, ‘the University of Edinburgh accepted £221,000 from the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) Foundation to host Britain’s first Moscow-sponsored language and cultural centre. The foundation has also opened centres at Durham University, which accepted £85,000, and St Antony’s College, Oxford.’ According to The Times, ‘A Nato source accused Russia of “operationalising information” from within Britain. “The Russian information effort is to muddy the waters, to create uncertainty,” he said.’

The second article was published in Sunday’s New York Times. In this, the former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul claims that ‘Everywhere, autocrats are pushing back against democrats, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is the de facto leader of this global movement.’ America must resist this movement, McFaul says. Otherwise, ‘The threats will grow and eventually endanger our peace, as we saw in Europe and Japan in the 1930s, and Afghanistan in the 1990s.’

What exactly should America do? McFaul suggests:

Just as the Kremlin has become more sophisticated at exporting its ideas and supporting its friends, so must we. We should think of advancing democratic ideas abroad primarily as an educational project, almost never as a military campaign. Universities, books and websites are the best tools, not the 82nd Airborne.

But it’s best not to do this openly, McFaul admits. He says, ‘Direct financial assistance to democrats is problematic: A check from an American embassy can taint its recipients. America’s next president should privatize such aid and help seed new independent foundations.’

So, let me get this straight. Russkii Mir openly provides money to the University of Edinburgh for the study of Russian language and culture. That constitutes a ‘secret propaganda assault on Britain’. Ambassador McFaul proposes giving money to Russian universities through disguised channels and for decidedly political purposes, and that is ‘advancing democratic ideas’. ‘Nuff said!

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17 thoughts on “It’s only propaganda when they do it”

  1. I’m highly confused now… Just last year we were told Russia was weaponizing information yet today it is “operationalising information” from within Britain. So, does this mean an increase or decrease in the alleged threat now facing the “democratic west”??

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  2. Stopfake got 100,000GBP from the British Embassy in Kiev.

    BTW, can someone explain to me how exactly The Times survives? Before it installed its paywall I remember it as a moderate, centrist media outlet, one of the better information sources on Russia (not exactly a high bar but still).

    Since the paywall it only ever seems to produce neocon screeds screeching about Putinist disinformation and Assad’s threat to the free world.

    Why do people pay for it when there are many free alternatives?

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    1. Anatoly Karlin,

      The Times, has been operating at a loss for years if not over a decade. The Times is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and its part of his News Corporation media empire. You have to understand The Times is THE British establishment paper of record. The Times has been kept afloat by Murdoch’s largesse – for the sole purpose of using its “august” status to influence and dominate UK domestic politics. The British establishment has always been hostile to Russia, ergo it is to be expected that THE British establishment paper of record would follow suit.

      I wasn’t aware that STOPFAKE was receiving donations from the UK gov, this doesn’t surprise me at all.

      McFaul is a believer in “American exceptionalism”, like all adherents of this creed – he sincerely believes US hegemony is benign and indeed what’s best for the world and humanity. There are two schools of thought/discipline in the “American exceptionalism” dogma.

      First school, believes in raw US power and domination, these people can be described as neo-cons, they conveniently use the language of democracy, free markets, human rights, humanitarianism etc. But they don’t actually believe in it, hence the reason why they never criticise GCC or Latin American despots. These Middle East tyrannies and former Latin American dictatorships enthusiastically submit and submitted to the US. Dictatorial regimes that acquiesce to the US, are entirely palpable to this school of thought/discipline of “American exceptionalism”.

      Second school, sincerely believes the US is a force for good, no matter what calamities the US causes. This group can be classified as “humanitarian bombers”, “muscular liberals”, “neo-liberals” (can refer to economic ideological preferences too). In short, this group have reinterpreted and applied Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” rationale for imperialism, to justify US hegemony. The US is a civilising force, the primitive and barbaric peoples of Russia, Central Asia, Middle East, Asia and Latin America ought to be grateful to the US and the West for the sacrifices they’ve made in order to bring the light of civilisation to them – instead of being intransigent ingrates.

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      1. I think the second concept is called “liberal interventionism”. But in my mind these are just two lines of propaganda. One for a more overt, might-makes-right kind of western supremacists, and the second for a more sanctimonious (“lefty”) sort.

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      2. I was also not aware that StopFake got money from the UK. I thought they were funded by Soros solely. Oh, well!

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  3. McFaul reckons: “… America’s next president should privatize such aid and help seed new independent foundations …”

    McFaul obviously hadn’t been following Killary’s Clinton Foundation activities or George Soros’s philanthropic endeavours too closely when he was US Ambassador to Russia. Perhaps he was too busy with other things, like grooming wannabe spooks like Ryan Christopher Fogle.
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/14/american-spy-nabbed-in-russia.html

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  4. This is important information for young American citizens who wish to learn Russian, given that all high schools but two (Andover and Exeter) in the UNited States closed their Russian language programs at the end of the Cold War, throwing all their eggs into the “China basket” – and that US universities have become unaffordable in general.

    How is the United States to build a future generation of Russian specialists without affordable programs for young people who wish to learn Russian language and culture?

    And how is the news in the article different from hundreds of American private schools and universities who have in Recent years fallen all over each other to accept generous funds from the Chinese government for building Mandarin language programs?

    Our sixteen year old son, bilingual from birth in French and English and currently working on his Spanish and French, but who has been talking for three years about wanting to “focus on a hard language in college” and specofially Russian in order to become one of our nation’s future Russian specialists, will now be happy to add Edimburgh, Durham, St Andrews Oxford (…and why not the University of Ottawa) to his college search list. Thank you professor!

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