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Return of the Evil Empire

You have to hand it to them. The United States media machine is unequaled at producing and disseminating misinformation. It begins in the bowels of the State Department or White House or Pentagon and is filtered out through the government’s front organizations, otherwise known as Mainstream Media (MSM).

In 2014 the U.S. has succeeded in demonizing Vladimir Putin and Russia, precipitating a New Cold War that may yet become a hot one. The evil empire is back. The White House has made proficient use of mass media propaganda to get the job done. First, they’ve controlled the narrative. This is critical for two reasons: one, because it permits the White House to sweep the February coup in Kiev into the dustbin of American memory, never to be seen again. Second, it has allowed it to swiftly assert its claim that Russia is a dangerously expansionist power on the edges of a serene and peace-loving Europe. In other words, the omission of one fact and commission of another.

On the former front, by the State Department’s own concession, it spent some $5 billion in Ukraine, fomenting dissent under the standard guise of democracy promotion. The myriad NGOs beneath the nefarious cloud of the National Endowment for Democracy are little more than Trojan horses through which the State Department can launch subversive activities on foreign turf. We don’t know all the surely insidious details of the putsch, but there are suggestions that the violence was staged by and on behalf of the groups that now sit in power, including bickering neofascists that were foolishly handed the nation’s security portfolio.begging slogans3

On the latter end, a frightful portrait of a revanchist Russia will be presented for public consumption. But consider the context before you consign Putin to the sordid annals of imperial tyrants. A belligerent superpower arrives on your doorstep by fostering a violent coup in a neighboring nation with the obvious intent of ensuring Kiev accepts an IMF deal rather than a better Russian one, and further that Ukraine become the newest and perhaps decisive outpost of NATO. Had you been in his shoes, would you have permitted an illegitimate, Western-infiltrated government to challenge the integrity of your Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol? Doubtful.

Crimeans swiftly organized a secession vote—swiftly denounced as fraud by Western media (with some credence, it should be added). Given their Russian ethnic profile and quite credible fears of oppression from Kiev, whose nationalist bully boys were already posturing about eviscerating Russian citizens rights, Russia’s annexation of Crimea is certainly understandable to minds not saturated in Western propaganda.

And yet the majority of the West, meaning the U.S. and Europe, seem content with this narrative of a recrudescent Russian empire with imperial designs on Europe. The White House has successfully characterized Russia as the Slavic aggressor while sweeping NATO’s undeniably hostile behavior beneath the rug of its false rectitude. Claims of the need to defend another nation’s “sovereignty” are always a bit rich coming from the White House. Yet the rhetoric of outrage streams forth from Washington, and it sometimes seems the principal qualification for a high-level appointment in an American administration is the capacity for a blithe hypocrisy that brooks no irony.

This is no surprise. A sophisticated doctrinal system adept at manufacturing consent will succeed less by what it asserts than by what it leaves out. The facts omitted are always inconvenient ones. Among other missing pieces of the story currently being peddled by the MSM, is the issue of NATO’s raison d’être, which vanished with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the dissolution of the USSR. No matter, it has swiftly refashioned its mandate into a rapid-reaction force ready to descend on flashpoints around the globe, like Serbia and Libya and Afghanistan. Despite promises to the contrary, it has essentially worked to bring all the former Warsaw Pact countries into its U.S.-dominated embrace. The goal is self-evident: put missiles on Russia’s doorstep, the better to alienate Moscow from Berlin and ensure that Washington isn’t left out in the cold by its rivals.

If recent history weren’t sufficient to lay plain NATO’s blueprint of aggression, consider the behavior of its chief spokesman, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a frothing hawk who yesterday announced plans for a large and permanent military presence in Poland and the Baltics. Ready with prefabricated war motifs, Rasmussen said the plan was to deploy, “…what I would call a spearhead within [a] response force at very, very, high readiness.” He generously conceded that such a rapid response unit would require “supplies, equipment, preparation of infrastructure, bases, headquarters. The bottom line is you will in the future see a more visible NATO presence in the east.”

Sounds like war footing. Sounds like chest-thumping, drum-beating posturing. Sounds like NATO baiting the Russia Bear. No doubt it hopes to lure Moscow into aggressive actions with which it can a) quickly smear Putin in the MSM, and b) use to rationalize a massive arsenal in eastern Europe.

Note that Rasmussen’s pronouncement was no doubt timed to coincide with a tête-à-tête

between Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Minsk, Belarus. What purpose exactly did the stillborn summit serve, given the bellicosity emanating from Brussels by one of Ukraine’s leading backers? One supposes the idea was to gain negotiating leverage, as if Russia hasn’t been observing NATO’s covetous moves for the last twenty years.

In a domestic context, this scenario might be described as entrapment. The West seems intent on manufacturing a conflict, if not a war, where none existed. Peace, described as elusive in the press, could be achieved in a matter of days if the White House were so inclined. Instead, it prefers escalation. And sooner or later, Russia will move more visibly to defend the eastern rebellion, stepping squarely into the trap. In fact, it may already have.

Yesterday NATO released U.S.-supplied satellite imagery supposedly showing Russian troops “establishing firing positions” inside eastern Ukraine, a claim instantly ridiculed by Moscow. Naturally, the imagery was obscure. Impossible to verify, but not hard to believe. Despite its own flood of propaganda, it would be credulous not to imagine the Russians supplying arms and tactical support to the so-called “pro-Russian insurgents” in the east. Nor would it be astonishing to see Russian troops cross the border. Again, the question arises: what would you do? Particularly given the Kiev-led brutality aimed at eastern “rebels”? Would you respond like Putin has, or rather more recklessly, perhaps like John F. Kennedy when he heard of Russian missiles in Cuba? Or imagine a pro-Russian Mexican government, installed by a Moscow coup, shelling pro-American citizens near the U.S. border. In imagining how Washington might respond, the words ‘restraint’ and ‘judicious’ don’t come readily to mind.

Little if any coverage is given to another critical piece of real story, namely the obvious economic rivalry underlying the conflict. Ukraine is a major chip in the tussle for access to Black Sea resources, and for primacy in the provision of those resources to European homes. Likewise, the importance of channeling that access and supply through IMF-engineered loans, naturally denominated in dollars and central to the dollar’s now-threatened role as the world’s reserve currency.

Next, the false historical narrative will be distanced from the White House through internationalist channels which, although they are fronts for American power, will be perceived by many as independent judgments that happen to agree with the American assessment. U.S.-controlled NATO, the U.S.-dominated United Nations, and the U.S.-submissive EU will convene to censure Russia, ignore Kiev crimes against its own population, and clamor for more sanctions and a provocative NATO build-up in eastern Europe. Short shrift has been given to the news that the BRICS nations—representing some 40 percent of the world’s population—have declined to join the West in its sanctions regime.

But such history—distant or near—is trampled underfoot, beneath the crushing weight of MSM misinformation, thanks to which we can expect millions of Americans to dutifully wave their star-spangled totems as our ships and drones and battalions reluctantly set off to defend our freedoms once more.

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry. He lives and works in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

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Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire and Imperial Fictions, essay collections from between 2012-2017. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.  

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