It’s Putin and the Russkies wot done it! Really?
Those of us diligently following the poisoning of Colonel Sergei Skripal, the Russian double agent, are terribly confused: everything keeps changing in the British narrative except one thing – Russian President Vladimir Putin definitely did it.
Promoting the Brit storyline has become the first priority of No 10 Downing Street, where Prime Minister Theresa May is fighting for her political survival, and of the Tory Party, the City of London, the intelligence services and, with a mere handful of exceptions, the Tory press.
They have formed an unholy alliance to stiff-arm Western heads of state around the world to join a diplomatic war with Moscow. US President Donald Trump, usually accused of being a soulmate of Putin, has surprised his opponents by supporting the diplomatic war on Russia – and thus earning himself a reported official invitation to the marriage of Harry Windsor to American showgirl divorcee Meghan Markle on 18 May with the chance of a lifetime’s ambition: a palace audience with QE2.
The conservative Australian Government, led by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, is the only regional government to expel Russian diplomats, to join the propaganda campaign against the Russians and to threaten a boycott of the soccer World Cup from 14 June to 15 July. China, North and South Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have refused to join in.
As Canberra author Tony Kevin perceptively commented this week: “Apart from us, not a single Asian, African or Latin American country supported the UK accusations against Russia.”
Media blunders in Skripal saga
The mass media has launched a synchronised hysteria in which facts and fiction are blurred. Here are some of the media’s most egregious distortions:
- Skripal and his daughter Julia were originally “targeted by Putin’s assassins” at a restaurant. Forty-eight hours later it became while sitting on a nearby park bench. Two weeks after the attack the door knob at the front of his home became the would-be assassins’ location of choice. New York Times London correspondent Ellen Barry and Washington bureau chief David Sanger breathlessly told readers: “British officials investigating the poisoning of Sergei V Skripal, a former Russian double agent, believe it is likely that an assassin smeared a nerve agent on the door handle at his home. This operation is seen as so risky and sensitive that it is unlikely to have been undertaken without approval from the Kremlin, according to officials who have been briefed on the early findings of the inquiry. Four weeks after the assassination attempt, British and American officials are turning to the question of whether President Vladimir V. Putin himself was aware of, or ordered, the attack. They say there is no evidence so far of his direct participation but the Russian president, a former KGB officer, is skilled at hiding his communications.” (“Poisoned door handle hints at high level plot to kill spy, UK officials say” by Ellen Barry and David Sanger, NYT, 1 April 2018).
My first thought was that Putin’s skill at hiding his communications is certainly much better than Hillary Clinton’s; she notoriously left tens of thousands of “Top Secret” emails on her private email server and they had found their way to senior members of her presidential election team, staff and Wikileaks.
Then I concluded that the April 1 dateline was a dead giveaway and that the “Old Gray Ghost” was having a laugh at its readers’ expense. But when the story was recycled around the world with ever-increasing enthusiasm I realised that the media’s lie machine was now in over-drive. (“Britain believes nerve agent attack likely had Kremlin approval” CNN, 2 April)
Without a skerrick of evidence from a named official or politician, the media had stepped up its campaign to blame Putin for the assassination plot.
My other favourites are:
- “Nerve gas fed to Russian spy and his daughter” (MailOnline, March 8)
- “Russians spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia could have been victims of a sophisticated plot to kill them both with a poisoned parcel” (Sunday Express, 11 March)
- “Poison was smeared on car door handle” (Daily Mail, 14 March)
- “Nerve agent ‘planted in daughter’s suitcase’: Kremlin hit squad did not come to Britain, intelligence sources now believe” (Daily Telegraph, 16 March)
- “Nerve agent Novichok was ‘placed inside VENTILATION SYSTEM of Sergei Skripal’s car’ ” (The Sun, 18 March)
- “Did Tiny Drone Poison Spy? MI5 fear Russians have new arsenal of weapons” (Daily Star, 18 March)
Novichok agent mystery
The most substantial blow to Mrs May’s narrative was produced by the London Guardian which reported this week: “British scientists at the Porton Down defence research laboratory have not [my emphasis: AM] established that the nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal was made in Russia, it has emerged.
“Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), said the poison had been identified as a military-grade novichok nerve agent, which could probably be deployed only by a nation state.
“The UK government moved quickly to make it clear that the prime minister, Theresa May, had always been clear the assessment from Porton Down was ‘only one part of the intelligence picture’.” (“Porton Down experts unable to verify precise source of novichok”, Guardian, 4 April)
Although “novichok” is a Russian word meaning both newcomer and a deadly chemical agent from the “novichok” family (developed in the old USSR in the early 1970s), the precise agent used in the Salisbury attack has not yet been established. Similar nerve agents are in the chemical warfare arsenals of the UK, the US, Canada and the Czech Republic.
Nor has it been established who conducted the assassination attempt and why.
These days, it seems, if you don’t jump to attention and salute the flag when Washington or London snap their fingers, you are branded as some kind of suspicious character. I’m happy to wear that hat until the final proof of a direct Russian connection has been made public.
Is it too much to ask journalists and scientists, some of them Australian, to behave similarly?
Turnbull, Monash and Ned Kelly
Next week the 30th consecutive Newspoll will show Labor remains ahead of Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition and would win any early Federal Election by a country mile.
The mainstream media will have a field day, baying for Turnbull to be replaced and placing his prime ministership on Doom Watch. The clock is ticking … it’s a great slogan to boost sales and ratings. Rupert Murdoch’s digital news site has already started with a headline story: “Will 30 bad Newspolls topple him?”)
Turnbull himself created this fuss by boldly claiming that one of the reasons for his successful party room challenge against Tony Abbott in September 2016 was 30 consecutive negative Newspolls.
On the eve of Newspoll’s 30th negative verdict on Turnbull, right-wing Liberals and Nationals have formed the Monash Forum, an umbrella group from which they will make war on the PM, Liberal “wets” and National “collaborators”.
The pretence is that the Monash Forum is to rally support for coal-fired power stations and cheaper energy. That is all bullshit. The Monash Forum is merely a cover for Abbott and his cronies to hold meetings to conspire against the Coalition’s current leadership, Liberal and National.
Sir John Monash’s descendants are appalled that the family name has been hijacked by this group of Liberal reactionaries.
Monash, a civil engineer who helped design Victoria electricity infrastructure and Australia’s greatest general who turned the tide in the closing months of World War One, was a proud Jew with the strongest moral and ethical character.
In their statement, Monash’s great-grandchildren state: “We disassociate ourselves specifically from the Forum’s use of the Monash name to give their anti-science and anti-intellectual argument an air of authority, and we ask that they withdraw the name.”
Perhaps one of the most admirable things about Monash is the story that he held Ned Kelly’s horse during the bushranger’s famous raid on Jerilderie, a small NSW town in the southern Riverina just north of the Victorian border.
In 1879 Kelly rode into Jerilderie, relieved the local bank of £2,000, burned mortgages held in the bank’s safe, locked police in their own cells, shoed his horses and sent the bill to the coppers and shouted everyone at the bar (including civilian hostages).
Monash also repeatedly clashed with Rupert Murdoch’s father, newspaper tycoon Sir Keith Murdoch, who spent much of his life slandering the general and attempting to sully his reputation.
Historian Geoffrey Serle’s 1982 biography of Monash described the press attacks on the great general as Australian journalism’s “outstanding case of sheer irresponsibility”.
All this is forcefully covered in Bruce Page’s excellent book The Murdoch Archipelago published in 2003.
The smearing of the UK Labour Party
Israel’s far right coalition government has millions to spend on casting the British Labour Party as “anti-semitic”.
Of course, it is no such thing. Like social democratic, liberal and socialist parties around the world it has become a vocal critic of the increasingly racist policies of Israel.
The aim of the well-paid lobbyists in London and the Israeli Embassy is to equate anti-Israel sentiment with anti-semitism.
Why bother? Well, the fact is that the very future of the Zionist state depends on political, commercial, financial and diplomatic support from Western counties. Israel has Washington politicians, both Democratic and Republican, in its pocket but its support is evaporating quickly in Britain.
First to shove off were the Young Liberals, followed by some Young Conservatives and then Young Labour. At its annual conference in 2017, Young Labour delegates called for banks to be publicly owned, for Britain to withdraw from NATO and they described Israel-loving President Donald Trump as a “fascist”.
In Tel Aviv the alarm bells began ringing louder than ever. An aggressive media campaign was launched against British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, accusing them – and the whole party – of being a cesspool of anti-semitism. The mainstream media, led by The Guardian, The Times, the Telegraph and the red top tabloids, have waged a despicable campaign to paint Corbyn as an anti-semite.
However, it seems that British Labourites don’t want to encourage a foreign takeover of their party. Recent polls show that 80% of members believe the accusations of anti-semitism are being exaggerated to damage Corbyn and stifle legitimate criticism of Israel.
Almost two-thirds (65%) of members believe the Zionist state is “a force for bad” in the world – six points higher than the 59% who think the same of Iran, while 68% consider that the US exercises a malign influence globally.
In a monumental exhibition of hypocrisy Mrs May’s Tories are apoplectic over alleged Russian interference in British politics but quite happy for Israel to mount gross interference against Labour without carpeting diplomats or expelling them.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the racist apartheid regime in South Africa launched a similar extravagant propaganda campaign, called “Muldergate”, against Labour and Liberal politicians and TUC leaders in the hope of silencing them. It didn’t work. When the world eventually turned on the apartheid regime the Afrikaaner campaign came crashing down.
If some people wish to support the murder of Palestinian demonstrators exercising their civil rights in Gaza and the West Bank out of a misplaced loyalty to Israel , let them do so. But let’s be clear: the heartless anti-democrats in Israel and the West who support this racist barbarity are on a hiding to nothing.
Media lies … continued
My criticism of the New York Times, a much-blessed organ of “truth”, has drawn fire from various quarters. I don’t mind: they are just as entitled to their opinions as I am to mine.
The other day I was reminded of the NYT press coverage of the Russian Revolution whose 100th anniversary was celebrated at the end of last year.
Immediately the Bolsheviks established power in 1917 in the name of soldiers, workers and peasants and under the slogan “peace, bread and land”, the British and American governments launched secret warfare against the infant republic.
These became known as the “wars of intervention” and, for a short time, Australian soldiers were drafted into the conflict as well.
In the two years from November 1917 to November 19 the New York Times reported no fewer than 91 times that the Bolsheviks were about to fall or, indeed, had already fallen. Later, after US President Woodrow Wilson, voiced his reservations, senior American and British correspondents in Moscow either reported grossly exaggerated successes by the imperialist armies of intervention or nothing at all.
The fabricated reports were carried in newspapers across Australia.
Clichés that deserve banning
“This is déjà vu for local fire and rescue services who say they have seen this all before.”
- TV report on bushfire damage around Sydney
UK Press Awards
Britain’s Newspaper of the Year is the Financial Times, aka The Pink ‘Un, owned since 2015 by the Japanese corporation Nikkei Inc.
The Lord Rothermere-owned Daily Mail was so furious it published an editorial: “Despite the fact that it is not a British-owned newspaper, it sells fewer copies than The Big Issue and its circulation is sustained by free copies given away in hotels (many of whose guests cannot speak English), the Mail congratulates the Financial Times on being named newspaper of the year. Truly, its objective and impartial reporting on Brexit is a credit to journalism! And what a dilemma for its editor. Should this prized gong take pride of place on his mantelpiece, or his Legion d’honneur from the French government for his services to the EU?”
PS: Will someone phone an ambulance and send the men in white coats around to Northcliffe House in Kensington? A senior Daily Mail writer appears to have lost the plot.