by Finian Cunningham
It would be monumental, but Western states seem to be moving, ineluctably, towards banning Russian news media channels from satellite platforms and the internet. That outcome – albeit with enormous ethical and political implications – seems to be a logical conclusion of the increasingly frenzied transatlantic campaign to demonize Russia.
Washington, London and Paris appear to be coordinating an unprecedented media onslaught that is vilifying Russia for almost every conceivable malfeasance, from alleged war crimes in Syria to threatening the security of Europe, to shooting down civilian airliners, to subverting American presidential elections. And that’s only a sample.
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson declared this week that Russia is in danger of becoming a «pariah state». Ironically, that fate has less to do with Russia’s actual conduct and more to do with the desired objective driving Western policy towards Moscow – to isolate and portray Russia as an international reprobate.
If Russia can be sufficiently demonized in the eyes of the Western public by their governments, then the political context is created for drastic measures, which would otherwise be seen as unacceptable infringements of democratic rights. Measures that go way beyond economic sanctions and into the realm of media censorship. How weird is that? The «free world» which deplores «Russian authoritarianism» moving towards media censorship and policing what it deems as «thought-crime».
European parliamentarians this week voted for a resolution calling for greater «institutional capacities to counter Kremlin-inspired propaganda». The vote was passed by the EU’s foreign affairs committee and will go before the full parliament next month. If it is voted through then, the next step would be institutional mechanisms to block Russian media access.
The hostility towards Russia, as conveyed by the wording in this week’s EU resolution, can only be described as rabid, if not bordering on paranoid. The Russian government was accused of aggressively employing a «disinformation campaign», of «targeting EU politicians and journalists», and of «disrupting democratic values across Europe». In short, Moscow was accused of plotting the downfall of the European bloc.
Of particularly sinister note, the EU foreign affairs committee gave special attention to Russia’s «wide range of tools and instruments such as multi-lingual TV stations and pseudo news agencies to divide Europe».
So, not only is the Russian government being recklessly accused of harboring subversive, destructive designs on European states, its professional news media channels are conflated with an alleged Russian agenda of hybrid warfare. The Russian state is demonized as a foreign enemy, and its news media are part of the hybrid warfare arsenal. In other words, legitimate Russian public information services are in effect being delegitimized by the European parliament.
Astoundingly, professional media channels like RT and Sputnik are actually being referred to as «pseudo news agencies» and «tools of Kremlin propaganda».
The oft-cited issue of these Russian channels being «state-owned» and government-funded is irrelevant. So too are Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, BBC, France 24 and Deutsche Welle, to name a few of the Western state-owned broadcasters. Indeed, aggregate Western government funding for news publishing is many multiples that of Russia’s budget.
The Western drumbeat to delegitimize Russia’s popular news media has escalated in recent months. Last month, for example, the US-led NATO military alliance issued yet another report warning: ‘West Losing Information War Against Russia’.
It is a fair question to ask, what has a supposed military-security organization got to do with espousing on matters of journalism and public information services?
A Voice of America report added: «The West must step up its efforts to combat and counter the information war being waged by its opponents, according to NATO officials. They warn that countries like Russia are exploiting the freedom of the press in Western media to spread disinformation».
Note how it is alleged that Russia is somehow underhandedly «exploiting» Western media freedom. The implication here is that counter-sanctions on Russian media would therefore be justified because of alleged transgressions.
Meanwhile, also last month, the Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper Jr reportedly briefed members of Congress on Russian «information warfare». He singled out RT and Sputnik as media weapons for Russian «information warfare». Their purpose, according to Clapper, was subverting Western societies by tapping into radical groups and sowing public confusion.
This marks a dramatic deterioration in West-Russia relations, whereby Russia’s mass news media are tarred as enemy weapons. Such thinking also betrays how degenerate Western political leaders have sunk into Cold War stereotypes; and how willing they are prepared to go to further antagonize Russia.
Ever since the much-vaunted «reset» friendlier policy towards Russia under US President Barack Obama was abandoned during his first administration, circa 2011, Washington’s hostility and that of its European allies has crescendoed to current levels of apparent hysteria.
Probably the key factor in why Washington jettisoned its reset policy was that it realized Russian President Vladimir Putin was not going to be a pushover like his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who cravenly submitted to American hegemony, whether on matters of geopolitical interests, global finance, or overseas resource-wars. Putin was having none of it. Russia would not be an American vassal state, as European Union states all-too evidently are.
It is because of Russia’s independence and boldness on speaking out against American caprice towards international law, for example in its conduct of illegal wars and regime change machinations in the Middle East, North Africa and Ukraine, that Washington finds such attitude so intolerable.
When asked recently by German media why the West is so hostile towards him, Putin reportedly responded with one word: «Fear».
By that, the Russian leader did not mean that the West was afraid of Russia attacking militarily. He meant that the fear was due to his power of demonstration. A strong counter-weight to US-led imperialistic conduct is a powerful negation of presumed American unipolar supremacy over the world. It means that the world is not a doormat for American subjugation. Russia’s defiance of US hegemony is a harbinger of a multipolar world, one in which America and its European subsidiaries must begin working with other nations as equals and within the mutual confines of international law, not as renegades above the law.
Syria is a classic illustration. Washington and its British and French allies, along with regional client states, presumed that they could pull off another illegal regime-change operation in that Arab country, as they had done previously in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia’s military intervention in support of its Syrian ally was a stark demonstration that the Western regime-change playbook was no longer permitted. Furthermore, Russia’s intervention also exposed the covert criminal involvement of Washington and its partners in using terrorist proxies for regime change.
The same can be said about Ukraine, where Russia’s political support for ethnic Russian separatists has prevented Washington’s coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 turning the entire country into a US puppet-regime.
This is why Washington fears Russia under Putin. It is an obstacle to its full-spectrum global dominance, as envisaged by American imperialist ideologues following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, Russia is more than an obstacle. In its conduct of independent foreign policy, Russia is exposing American crimes of international lawlessness and state-sponsorship of terrorism. And Russia is also exposing the pathetic servility and complicity of European states, the Western mass media and UN institutions in pandering to Washington’s hegemonic ambitions.
Russia’s foreign policy is, of course, wholly legitimate. But from Washington’s point of view it is an intolerable defiance of its tyrannical desires. To that end, Russia must be transmogrified into an enemy state. And the servile European leaders go along with that agenda in order to conceal their own odious complicity.
It so happens that Russian news media have shown commensurate journalist independence and critical examination on major world events, such as what is really going on in Syria and Ukraine. Western governments can be provably connected to covertly supporting terrorist networks for illegal regime change. If that sounds far-fetched and «unfair comment» it is only because Western media have failed to expose their own governments’ bogus claims and pretensions. It nevertheless does not delegitimize the journalism of Russia media. In fact, it makes such journalism commendable.
To say that the Western states are frustrated by Russia is an understatement. They are livid, as can be seen from the way their Syrian regime-change criminal enterprise has been routed. Hence, Western efforts are aimed at accusing Russia of «war crimes» and being comparable to Nazi Germany.
Combine this demonization with sensational claims of Russia subverting Western democracies, the toxic political climate becomes conducive to more far-reaching measures.
This is a recklessly reductionist logic: Russia equals enemy state, and Russia news media are tantamount to enemy propaganda.
As the European lawmakers voting this week on curbing Russia news media suggests, the next logical step is the outright banning of Russian news channels from the airwaves and internet.
But as Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief at RT told Deutsche Welle, the draconian move to ban Russian media only shows how empty Western claims of «free speech» are.
«This is a rather interesting interpretation of the much-touted western values, particularly that of the freedom of speech – which in action apparently means attacking a rare voice of dissent amongst literally thousands of European media outlets,» added Simonyan.
Western governments are displaying the standards of a despot.
Unable to get their absolute way, including violating international law and going to war whenever and wherever they want, they then lash out at resistant nations like Russia, to the point where Russia is being labelled as an enemy state liable for military attack.
And when news media expose these criminal Western double standards and hypocrisies, then such media are also lambasted as enemy propaganda that must be shut off and banned.
Western decadence is truly sinking into the gutter or corruption and absurdity. That is a fate of its own making due to its own internal collapse of oligarchic mis-rule and warmongering. And the Western public increasingly know that, with or without Russian assistance.
Shooting the messenger, doesn’t alter that message.
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