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Fake news and its significance in US – Russia relations – Part II

Russian and American relations are being soured by fake news from each nation, both lying to their respectively uninformed audiences.

Seraphim Hanisch

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In part I of this series we looked at the advent of “fake news” as a distinctly understood entity. In particular we looked at how the fake news narrative went largely unchallenged in America about all things – both inside the country and outside – for decades, despite the advent of conservative talk radio and internet news sites like our own.

In 2016 with the candidacy and election of President Donald Trump, the media spin machine went into overdrive, to coin a phrase, “maximum overdrive“, in which the media machine was now infused with a life of its own, turning against the truth openly, deliberately and with a purpose – to block, impede, prevent and destroy the new president’s career. First it was in the election campaign with the usual political surprises (always, always reveal something sexually shocking in October before an election to throw the trust of people off, so therefore, the locker room talk recording – but wait, that didn’t work) and then the advent of the now over two-year long narrative that somehow, Donald Trump “colluded” with Russian agencies to interfere with and “steal” the election from Hillary Clinton, the anointed president-to-be.

Collusion is not even a crime, but in this regard the idea is to paint a picture of the President as some sort of KGB / FSB informant and therefore not “really” American, but acting according to the will of the puppet master, Vladimir Putin. This is a most sinister insinuation, of course, and even though there has not yet been so much as one single fact that confirms it is true (and a whole LOT of facts that show it is not), the American puppet masters know that the way to scare people or make them uncertain is to instill fear. In this case, fear of Big Bad Russia, which most Americans do not know anything about.

This is an extraordinarily successful campaign. Think about it: the mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC and others are stuffed with hosts that speak very confidently about this matter as though it were true. Rush Limbaugh and others have often commented that it even appears that these anti-Trumpers actually believe what they are saying. In this, the great tactic of Joseph Goebbels has come to act on the news media itself, where the media seems to be personally hypnotized by its own creation. And there is no telling them that this is wrong; not at all.

The false narrative largely stopped President Trump’s agenda for about six or seven months, as even GOP congressional leaders did not want him to be President and were hoping for a way that he would not be. Only when it became evident that Trump was trumping the opposition and that he was not going away did they slowly begin to cooperate.

Debate will doubtlessly rage about this, but fake news comes from the Russian side as well. We reported not long ago about how the state-run news agency Vesti News took a very aggressive stance about an incident where a professional choir sang a song in St Isaac’s Cathedral in St Petersburg about attacking Washington, DC with 100 megaton nukes. The actual story did get picked up by The New York Times, Fox News and other papers and website publications.

It is really nothing short of a miracle that this event did not set off an utter firestorm in the United States, but that week was also overshadowed by other media attempts to besmirch President Trump and smear the Russians, most notably the (also) Vesti report that fantasized about how the Russian forces could deploy the new Zircon hypersonic missile to take out command and control centers in the US. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also provided unwitting shade by dragging the media to cover her amazing speculation that maybe people should not have children because of climate change.

So in this litany of largely non-news and fantasy, a potential blockbuster fake news story got passed over and dismissed by the American people. But the narrative about Russia also was strengthened a bit by anyone who cared to read the choir piece, and we have observed this directly – rank-and-file Americans are vaguely afraid of Russia, and they are afraid of President Putin. That is the mark of a successful disinformation campaign.

It does not matter what the reality is, either. It is extremely difficult to go against the narrative, and truth is all too easily pushed aside for passion.

The disinformation campaign has been answered on many levels.

It is important here to consider the nature of the information society we have now. In earlier times, “news” was what was broadcast by the major television and radio networks, and the major papers. Tabloids didn’t count, and rumor books didn’t count either. But now, social media packs in views far greater in amount than any newspaper, and if a person can make video presentations the right way, their material will be seen – AND accepted all over the world. In such an environment with no verification, anything can be reported AND accepted as truth. It is very important to consider this fact when looking at how fake news operates.

A Russian effort at fake news is shown here in this video clip.

This clip is brilliantly done and staged, and almost everything that its narrator says about the US is incorrect, sometimes catastrophically so. 

But examine the number of views it generated since its posting on February 12 of this year. One month ago, and this eleven minute homegrown effort has almost 300,000 views! We read some of the reactions that people wrote, and they say things that in English, translate like this:

“What can I say?? The country of the mentally ill. Moral freaks”

“The US is an empire of evil and absurdity. Manage this empire of non-humans. Reagan called the wrong country the evil empire.”

“You cannot ask for salt?! [Expletives], America!”

“Horrors! Alex, run from there? why else are you there?” (Alex is the name of the presenter in the video.)

“Here is a fig from me for their democracy. Yes, God forbid that I would live in such a country.”

There are also some comments that point to Russia having enough of its own problems and that comparing Russia’s problems to America’s problems is admittedly useless. However, there was not one comment seen that disputed what the narrator offers as “Ten things that are forbidden in the USA” – most of which are absolutely wrong (unless you go to very specialized places or conditions.)

While the report for many will only be “amusing propaganda from the other side,” the results here matter – just the same as with the American fake news media.

In both cases the objective is to arouse passion, usually negative and either fearful or angry, about the “other side.” In both situations, this effort of using clever props and misinformation is enormously successful. In Alexey’s case, note his setting – he is sitting in a motor home – type vehicle, wearing a bolo tie and a cowboy-styled Western shirt. He is trying to look here like a “real American” – almost like a cowboy. Were he dressed as many Russian men dress in Moscow, the effect would not be convincing enough. The background music is “Auld Lang Syne”, which is not in itself particularly American, but the country-music style in which it is played, is.

The situation regarding American and Russian relations is an absolute tragedy. It is arguable that this gentleman’s channel is one man’s reaction to his own frustration about all the lies American media tell about Russia. That the American media does lie about Russia is one of the reasons why The Duran exists – to counter that narrative with reality. But Alexey Brezhnev does not correct the problem with his own reporting – he exacerbates it. And to his credit, he is a big success – he carries his own channel on YouTube with many millions of views, from which he probably earns his living. He is a master in what he does.

But when it comes to information, his information appears to be very twisted, indeed. If this video we posted is representative of all of his work, then we can begin to see one of the causes of a growing sense of resentment in Russia towards the United States.

When this crisis started in 2014 and in the years immediately after, the Russian people’s reaction to America was a mixture of sadness and bewilderment.

Now, it appears to be drifting into resentment and anger. 

The responsibility lies with anyone who spreads information to be truthful, especially to audiences that are not likely to know the difference between truth and falsehood about any given topic.

Between our two countries there is presently an expanding gulf of very poor understanding, the blame for which lies on each side.

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john vieiraSeraphim HanischOS OSManinTheMoonTom Welsh Recent comment authors
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Tom Welsh
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Tom Welsh

“Now, it appears to be drifting into resentment and anger”.

Not a moment too soon.

ManinTheMoon
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ManinTheMoon

You can’t compare a couple of fringe Russian outlets having a joke at the USA’s expense with the wall to wall anti Russian propaganda to which w are subjected in the West. The sooner Russia gets really angry the better. The West sees conciliatory behaviour as weakness.

OS OS
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OS OS

Alex is not a virtual person, he’s a truck driver and private video blogger, living for about 20 years in Canada and persistently visiting the US as well. Most of what he tells is essentially accurate. To properly understand his speech and accents you need to better feel irony and sarcasm in Russian language.

john vieira
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Both to blame….but do think that the idiot corrupted mainstream media in the west, America in particular, is “way” advanced…

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US continues to try to corner Russia with silence on Nukes

Moscow continues to be patient in what appears to be an ever more lopsided, intentional stonewalling situation provoked by the Americans.

Seraphim Hanisch

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TASS reported on March 17th that despite Russian readiness to discuss the present problem of strategic weapons deployments and disarmament with its counterparts in the United States, the Americans have not offered Russia any proposals to conduct such talks.

The Kremlin has not yet received any particular proposals on the talks over issues of strategic stability and disarmament from Washington, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS on Sunday when commenting on the statement made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who did not rule out that such talks could be held with Russia and China.

“No intelligible proposals has been received [from the US] so far,” Peskov said.

Earlier Bolton said in an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis aired on Sunday that he considers it reasonable to include China in the negotiation on those issues with Russia as well.

“China is building up its nuclear capacity now. It’s one of the reasons why we’re looking at strengthening our national missile defense system here in the United States. And it’s one reason why, if we’re going to have another arms control negotiation, for example, with the Russians, it may make sense to include China in that discussion as well,” he said.

Mr. Bolton’s sense about this particular aspect of any arms discussions is correct, as China was not formerly a player in geopolitical affairs the way it is now. The now all-but-scrapped Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or INF, was a treaty concluded by the US and the USSR leaders Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, back in 1987. However, for in succeeding decades, most notably since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US has been gradually building up weaponry in what appears to be an attempt to create a ring around the Russian Federation, a situation which is understandably increasingly untenable to the Russian government.

Both sides have accused one another of violating this treaty, and the mutual violations and recriminations on top of a host of other (largely fabricated) allegations against the Russian government’s activities led US President Donald Trump to announce his nation’s withdrawal from the treaty, formally suspending it on 1 February. Russian President Vladimir Putin followed suit by suspending it the very next day.

The INF eliminated all of both nations’ land based ballistic and cruise missiles that had a range between 500 and 1000 kilometers (310-620 miles) and also those that had ranges between 1000 and 5500 km (620-3420 miles) and their launchers.

This meant that basically all the missiles on both sides were withdrawn from Europe’s eastern regions – in fact, much, if not most, of Europe was missile-free as the result of this treaty. That is no longer the case today, and both nations’ accusations have provoked re-development of much more advanced systems than ever before, especially true considering the Russian progress into hypersonic and nuclear powered weapons that offer unlimited range.

This situation generates great concern in Europe, such that the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on both Moscow and Washington to salvage the INF and extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, or the New START as it is known.

“I call on the parties to the INF Treaty to use the time remaining to engage in sincere dialogue on the various issues that have been raised. It is very important that this treaty is preserved,” Guterres said at a session of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Monday.

He stressed that the demise of that accord would make the world more insecure and unstable, which “will be keenly felt in Europe.” “We simply cannot afford to return to the unrestrained nuclear competition of the darkest days of the Cold War,” he said.

Guterres also urged the US and Russia to extend the START Treaty, which expires in 2021, and explore the possibility of further reducing their nuclear arsenals. “I also call on the United States and the Russian Federation to extend the so-called New START Treaty before it expires in 2021,” he said.

The UN chief recalled that the treaty “is the only international legal instrument limiting the size of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals” and that its inspection provisions “represent important confidence-building measures that benefit the entire world.”

Guterres recalled that the bilateral arms control process between Russia and the US “has been one of the hallmarks of international security for fifty years.”

“Thanks to their efforts, global stockpiles of nuclear weapons are now less than one-sixth of what they were in 1985,” the UN secretary-general pointed out.

The Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (the New START Treaty) entered into force on February 5, 2011. The document stipulates that seven years after its entry into effect each party should have no more than a total of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and strategic bombers, as well as no more than 1,550 warheads on deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs and strategic bombers, and a total of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM launchers, SLBM launchers and strategic bombers. The new START Treaty obliges the parties to exchange information on the number of warheads and carriers twice a year.

The new START Treaty will remain in force during 10 years until 2021, unless superseded by a subsequent agreement. It may be extended for a period of no more than five years (that is, until 2026) upon the parties’ mutual consent. Moscow has repeatedly called on Washington not to delay the issue of extending the Treaty.

 

 

 

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Trump witch hunt dots connected: CNN to Steele to John McCain (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss documents released which show that Christopher Steele admitted to using posts by ‘random individuals’ on the CNN community website ‘iReport’ in order to back up his fabricated Trump dossier.

President Trump took note of Steele’s use of CNN citizen journalist posts, in a twitter tirade that blasted the British ex-spy for running with unverified community generated content from a now now-defunct ‘iReports’ website as part of his research.

Trump the proceeded to rip into late neocon Arizona Senator John McCain, tweeting that it was “just proven in court papers” that “last in his class” McCain sent the Steele’s dossier to media outlets in the hopes that they would print it prior to the 2016 US election.

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Via The Daily Caller

A federal court unsealed 43 pages Thursday of a deposition that former British spy Christopher Steele gave as part of a lawsuit over his infamous anti-Trump dossier.

To the disappointment of many observers, the full deposition was not unsealed in Thursday’s motion. Instead, portions of Steele’s interview, which he gave in London on July 13, 2018, were unsealed in separate court filings submitted in the lawsuit.

Steele’s full deposition totaled 145 pages. The portions published Thursday focus mainly on questions about the dossier’s claims about Aleksej Gubarev, a tech executive who Steele alleges took part in the hacking of Democrats’ computer systems.

Gubarev has vehemently denied the claim and sued Steele and BuzzFeed News, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.

U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro, who handled the lawsuit, ordered a slew of previously sealed documents to be made public Thursday. Ungaro dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 19 but did not weigh in on whether the dossier’s claims about Gubarev were accurate.

It is unclear whether Steele’s entire deposition will be released. A source familiar with Steele’s interview tempered expectations of any bombshells in the document, saying that Steele avoided going into detail about his efforts to create the dossier and his sources.

A deposition given by former State Department official David Kramer was perhaps the most enlightening document contained in the dump.

Kramer, a longtime associate of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, was BuzzFeed’s source for the dossier. Kramer shared the dossier with at least 11 other reporters, including CNN’s Carl Bernstein. (RELATED: John McCain Associate Gave Dossier To A Dozen Reporters)

Kramer obtained the dossier in late November 2016 after visiting Steele in London. Steele acknowledged that Kramer and McCain were picked as conduits to pass the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey. McCain met with Comey on Dec. 9, 2016 and provided all of the dossier’s memos that had been written up to that point.

“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” Kramer said in the deposition when asked why Steele and his business partners at Fusion GPS wanted McCain to meet with Comey.

Via Washington Examiner

Former British spy Christopher Steele admitted that he relied on an unverified report on a CNN website for part of the “Trump dossier,” which was used as a basis for the FBI’s investigation into Trump.

According to deposition transcripts released this week, Steele said last year he used a 2009 report he found on CNN’s iReport website and said he wasn’t aware that submissions to that site are posted by members of the public and are not checked for accuracy.

web archive from July 29, 2009 shows that CNN described the site in this manner: “iReport.com is a user-generated site. That means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked, or screened before they post.”

In the dossier, Steele, a Cambridge-educated former MI6 officer, wrote about extensive allegations against Donald Trump, associates of his campaign, various Russians and other foreign nationals, and a variety of companies — including one called Webzilla. Those allegations would become part of an FBI investigation and would be used to apply for warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

During his deposition, Steele was pressed on the methods he used to verify allegations made about Webzilla, which was thought to be used by Russia to hack into Democratic emails.

When asked if he discovered “anything of relevance concerning Webzilla” during the verification process, Steele replied: “We did. It was an article I have got here which was posted on July 28, 2009, on something called CNN iReport.”

“I do not have any particular knowledge of that,” Steele said when asked what was his understanding of how the iReport website worked.

When asked if he understood that content on the site was not generated by CNN reporters, he said, “I do not.” He was then asked: “Do you understand that they have no connection to any CNN reporters?” Steele replied, “I do not.”

He was pressed on this further: “Do you understand that CNN iReports are or were nothing more than any random individuals’ assertions on the Internet?” Steele replied: “No, I obviously presume that if it is on a CNN site that it may has some kind of CNN status. Albeit that it may be an independent person posting on the site.”

When asked about his methodology for searching for this information, Steele described it as “what we could call an open source search,” which he defined as “where you go into the Internet and you access material that is available on the Internet that is of relevance or reference to the issue at hand or the person under consideration.”

Steele said his dossier contained “raw intelligence” that he admitted could contain untrue or even “deliberately false information.”

Steele was hired by the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate then-candidate Donald Trump in 2016. Fusion GPS was receiving funding at the time from the Clinton campaign and the DNC through the Perkins Coie law firm.

The series of memos that Steele would eventually compile became known as the “Trump Dossier.” The dossier was used in FISA applications to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

When asked whether he warned Fusion GPS that the information in the dossier might be “Russian disinformation,” Steele admitted that “a general understanding existed between us and Fusion … that all material contained this risk.”

Steele also described his interactions with Sen. John McCain’s aide, David Kramer, whose own deposition showed that he provided BuzzFeed with a copy of the dossier and had spoken with more than a dozen journalists about it.

“I provided copies of the December memo to Fusion GPS for onward passage to David Kramer at the request of Sen. John McCain,” Steele said. “Sen. McCain nominated him as the intermediary. I did not choose him as the intermediary.”

When asked if he told Kramer that he couldn’t “vouch for everything that was produced in the memos,” Steele replied, “Yes, with an emphasis on ‘everything.'”

When asked why he believed it was so important to provide the dossier to Sen. McCain, Steele said: “Because I judged it had national security implications for the United States and the West as a whole.”

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Trudeau’s Top Bureaucrat Unexpectedly Quits Amid Growing Corruption Scandal

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

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Via Zerohedge


Since it was exposed by a report in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this month, the scandal that’s become known as the SNC-Lavalin affair has already led to the firing of several of Trudeau’s close advisors and raised serious questions about whether the prime minister was complicit in pressuring the attorney general to offer a deferred prosecution agreement with a large, Quebec-based engineering firm.

And according to the first round of polls released since the affair exploded into public view…

…it could cost Trudeau his position as prime minister and return control to the conservatives, according to the CBC.

Campaign Research showed the Conservatives ahead with 37% to 32% for the Liberals, while both Ipsos and Léger put the margin at 36% to 34% in the Conservatives’ favour.Since December, when both polling firms were last in the field, the Liberals have lost one point in Campaign Research’s polling and four percentage points in the Ipsos poll, while the party is down five points since November in the Léger poll.

Meanwhile, as the noose tightens around Trudeau, on Monday another of the key Canadian government officials at the center of the SNC-Lavalin scandal has quit his post.

Michael Wernick, clerk of the privy council, the highest-ranking position in Canada’s civil service and a key aide to Justin Trudeau, announced his retirement Monday. Trudeau named Ian Shugart, currently deputy minister of foreign affairs, to replace him.

In a scathing letter to Trudeau, Wernick said that “recent events” led him to conclude he couldn’t hold his post during the election campaign this fall.

“It is now apparent that there is no path for me to have a relationship of mutual trust and respect with the leaders of the opposition parties,” he said, citing the need for impartiality on the issue of potential foreign interference. According to Bloomberg, the exact date of his departure is unclear.

As we reported in February, Canada’s former justice minister and attorney general, Jody Wilson-Raybould, quit following allegations that several key Trudeau government figures pressured her to intervene to end a criminal prosecution against Montreal-based construction giant SNC. Wernick was among those she named in saying the prime minister’s office wanted her to pursue a negotiated settlement.

Wernick has since twice spoken to a committee of lawmakers investigating the case, and during that testimony both defended his actions on the SNC file and warned about the risk of foreign election interference, as “blame Putin” has become traditional Plan B plan for most politicians seeing their careers go up in flames.

“I’m deeply concerned about my country right now, its politics and where it’s headed. I worry about foreign interference in the upcoming election,” he said in his first appearance before the House of Commons justice committee, before repeating the warning a second time this month. “If that was seen as alarmist, so be it. I was pulling the alarm. We need a public debate about foreign interference.”

Because somehow foreign interference has something to do with Wenick’s alleged corruption.

Incidentally, as we wonder what the real reason is behind Wernick’s swift departure, we are confident we will know soon enough.

Anyway, back to the now former clerk, who is meant to be non-partisan in service of the government of the day, also criticized comments by a Conservative senator and praised one of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers.

Wernick’s testimony was criticized as overly cozy with the ruling Liberals. Murray Rankin, a New Democratic Party lawmaker, asked the clerk how lawmakers could “do anything but conclude that you have in fact crossed the line into partisan activity?” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said he seemed “willing to interfere in partisan fashion for whoever is in power.”

Whatever Wernick’s true motives, he is the latest but not last in what will be a long line of cabinet departures as the SNC scandal exposes even more corruption in Trudeau’s cabinet (some have ironically pointed out that Canada’s “beloved” prime minister could be gone for actual corruption long before Trump). Trudeau had already lost a top political aide, Gerald Butts, to the scandal. A second minister, Jane Philpott, followed Wilson-Raybould in quitting cabinet.

Separately, on Monday, Trudeau appointed a former deputy prime minister in a Liberal government, Anne McLellan, as a special adviser to investigate some of the legal questions raised by the controversy. They include how governments should interact with the attorney general and whether that role should continue to be held by the justice minister.

As Bloomberg notes, the increasingly shaky Liberal government hasn’t ruled out helping SNC by ordering a deferred prosecution agreement in the corruption and bribery case, which centers around the company’s work in Moammar Qaddafi’s Libya. Doing so would allow the company to pay a fine and avoid any ban on receiving government contracts. That decision is up to the current attorney general, David Lametti; of course, such an action would only raise tensions amid speculation that the government is pushing for a specific political, and favorable for Trudeau, outcome.

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