FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Putin’s Ears Must be Burning: a Report on the Banality of Propaganda

by

I sometimes wonder what Путин must make of the Western media obsession with him.

Do his ears burn each day with all the new articles, broadcasts, social media mentions – the myriad voices, guided by the Western political and media establishments, speculating, characterizing, creating – “Putin”?

It is unlikely that Путин is indifferent to the “Putin” spectacle as there are often statements by his proxies or himself that deny or contest reports in the Western press – or, request never-forthcoming evidence to back up incessant and unsubstantiated allegations.

Путин has been meticulously translated into the lifeworld of Western alphabets as caricature, a larger than life, Hollywood nemesis, woven out of an echo chamber of narrative clichés.

As with other mythological creatures, the poets elaborate the “Putin” tapestry by which we interpret the world.  This mythos, distinct from the disinterested integrity of knowledge, operates unconsciously, at the level of mass psychology, amidst the zeitgeist.  In this context, “Putin” becomes a trigger word for a nexus of prescribed, automatic feeling.

In the end, the conjuration of “Putin” is orchestrated according to the desires of the prevailing configuration of Western political power – and not by evidentiary truth.  It is not meant to reveal Путин, but to disseminate “words that kill” that will erase him and his lifeworld.

Путин, although under the persistent threat of erasure, has nonetheless defied Western attempts to control the narrative with traditional publicity, asymmetrical communication strategies and “major power” projections of global influence.  Russia’s intensifying alliance with China and the BRICS nations has moreover provided, for the first time in seven decades, a glimpse of a novel multi-polar, polycentric world order dedicated to peaceful development and respect for national sovereignty.

In a dark propagandistic sense, creatively frustrated journalists in the West have collectively conjured an antagonist, an anti-hero, to become the latest lightning rod for the systematic violence of the capitalist West.  But, this is what they have always done.  Much of what is written about Путин is completely fabricated, and the fundamental premise of the subject is always distrust.  No one believes Путин or is allowed to believe him as Western nations are made to lie according to an established convention, as Nietzsche once quipped.

Those who may have believed Путин have been forced to resign, like Michael Flynn, or, “cut loose”, as with Carter Page.  The questions of “post-truth” and “alternative facts” intimate a deeper philosophical crisis of the meaning and content of truth in the era of global post-modern mass communication.  This is a moment resembling the Glasnost of the USSR, in which the narrative of the Soviet Union comprehensively collapsed under the pressure of eccentric, often nationalistic, narratives disseminated by the West.

The same fate has now befallen the West – and the West is well aware of the fact.

The Путин of public statements, who has repeatedly denied a complex and persistent web of accusations, understands that the storm in a Western teapot, linked with his anglicised name, is just political theatre for domestic thought management.  In other words, the Russia scandal signifies a war between entrenched and insurgent elites within the American establishment.

Yet, as he is directly embedded in the Western strategic narrative, Путин does not have the luxury of dismissing the affair as simply “fake news”.  The stakes of the internecine war in the American establishment signify existential threats to Путин and to Россия.

It must be disconcerting for Путин to witness the self-propelling wheel of his own demonization, a process he has seen so many times before.

The Western media is weaponized against “Putin” to elicit a negative emotional response with the mere mention of his name.  Any gesture of dissent, such as Trump’s question of American innocence, threatens the official narrative and the psychological management of the zeitgeist.  Deviation from the script is met with overwhelming disdain.

The spark for this prairie fire was Trump’s contestation of the “Russia” narrative as it had deteriorated under the Obama administration.  Yet, as the “Obama Doctrine” was merely the latest iteration of the founding strategic vision of the National Security Act, Trump’s contestation struck – perhaps unbeknownst to himself – at the heart of a National Security state awash with questions of its governance, oversight and accountability.

It is astonishing that Trump broke with the chorus and sang the praises of “Putin”.  Yet, the most devastating irony is that the Trump camp had sinisterly fallen in love with the “Putin” of caricature, the demonized image deployed by the National Security poets. It is doubtful whether Trump could ever love the real Путин – he would soon resent Putin’s self-assured resistance to the American hegemonic fantasm and Monsanto’s GMO’s.

The key to Trump’s war with the establishment is that Trump is not a revolutionary.  He is not even a critic of the National Security state – he merely wishes to control it for his own purposes, and with even less oversight than currently exists.  In many ways, Trump’s battle with the establishment resembles two rival gangs vying for control of a restaurant and its menu, whether it will be “Russian” or “radical Islamic terrorism.”

Россия has always been the foremost enemy of the National Security state.  And, Путин is America’s Most Wanted since he has consistently resisted and sought to challenge the post-Cold War narrative of the “Triumph of the West”.  The recent history of the West has abided the undercurrent of Путин’s “No,” from Iraq, Libya, Syria – and, of course, Ukraine.

The safe-haven given to Snowden is certainly also high on the list of reasons Putin is persona non grata for the US national security establishment, as the former revealed many (though certainly not all) of the surveillance programs of the US government – on its own citizens, global populations, and foreign leaders, including those of so-called allies.

Besides Syria, Ukraine is the current radix of conflict between Russia and the West, one defined not only by incompatible narratives, but also by the lack of any mechanism for arbitration of the truth (as in South Africa’s “Truth Commission”).  Instead, the situation is ruled by the “alternative facts” of strategic power, by the overriding imperative of the West to complete the extension of its power – through NATO – to contain Russia.

With the seditious eclipse of truth by power, the very ethos and spirit of the United Nations Charter – the reciprocity between nations – is displaced by unilateralist assertions of power.

The tragedy of Ukraine, like that of Syria, results from the unwillingness of the US to acknowledge in good faith its role in the catastrophe.  This unwillingness is continuously manufactured and enforced by the hegemony of the national security state.

In the terrible face of the national security establishment, the people must demand a politics of truth oriented to the democratic negotiation of a new concept of national security and a mobilisation to end to the national security state and its unaccountable permanent organizations and operations.  America must resist the fatal temptation of empire.

James Luchte is a philosopher, author and activist in the United States. He is also Visiting Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. He is the author of Marx and the Sacred Revolution. His latest book is titled “Mortal Thought: Hölderlin and Philosophy” (Bloomsbury 2016).

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail