Has TIME magazine, the prestigious American publication, been hacked by Russian state cyber-terrorists. Either that or the world’s number-one circulation weekly is infiltrated by Kremlin trolls. That’s got to be «explanation» – which Washington, Brussels, NATO and various Western think tanks will try to spin publicly or rationalise internally.
This «dastardly compromising» of the iconic current affairs magazine follows this week’s news that Russian President Vladimir Putin came top of the TIME 100 readers’ poll.
The New York-based magazine claims to have a worldwide readership of 25 million – the largest among any weekly publication. The TIME 100 annual survey of its readers elected Putin as the most influential world figure in 2015. He bested other world leaders and celebrities, including Pope Francis and American President Barack Obama. Obama’s tally of votes trailed that for Putin, scoring only about a fifth of those won by his Russian counterpart.
But how can that can, this runaway popularity for Putin? After all, according to Washington and its allies, both governmental and in the Western mass media, Vladimir Putin is «evil incarnate».
For more than a year, a relentless Western narrative has vilified Putin as a «new Hitler» threatening the security of Europe and indeed the entire world with his alleged «expansionist aggression» and plans to «resurrect the Soviet Union».
Putin is not only attacking Ukraine; he is scheming to invade the Baltic and Black Sea regions, according to the West. His warplanes are harassing NATO countries and his proxy rebels in eastern Ukraine blew a civilian airliner out of the sky last summer, or so the Western media claim.
This dominant Western narrative – promulgated by TV, radio, newsprint and online – has bordered on fevered fantasy in its unbridled attempt to portray Putin as «an evil genius».
Tellingly, there is scant dissent among the corporate Western news media when it comes to their coverage of Putin. The uniform character-assassination of «the former KGB officer» as the Machiavellian manipulator behind the Ukraine conflict is based on negligible evidence. But what it does indicate, indirectly, is a massive degree of concerted control among the supposedly «free and independent» Western media.
Paradoxically, while the West haughtily accuses Russia of media censorship and control, it is actually the Western media who stand accused of serving as propaganda outlets, peddling a preordained political agenda for Washington and its Western allies. That agenda involves the demonisation of Vladimir Putin and the tacit political destabilisation of Russia.
Nevertheless the relentless Western media campaign to demonise Putin has failed to convince its target audience. The Western public are not buying the hysterical political agenda. Whereas in the «good old days» when Western media could be relied upon by their governments to sway public opinion to support war or sanctions against designated «foreign enemies», that propaganda function has lost its former power to persuade, or more bluntly, brainwash.
Western publics have now alternative media sources, ranging from foreign-based professional news services to a plethora of Western-based internet sites. The alternative scope is often critical of Western government policies and capable of ably exposing ulterior, hidden political agenda. In other words, the alternative news sources are often doing the proper job of journalism that is neglected by Western mainstream media who seem to be preoccupied with advancing the political objectives of their governments – no matter how unethical those objectives are.
Russian news service RT, among others, has garnered a strong following in North America, Europe and around the world because it offers alternative perspectives that challenge the hackneyed Western uniform narrative. On Ukraine, for example, Russian news services have provided coverage that appears to be more in keeping with reality on the ground, compared with the Western media which purvey a preordained political line that seeks to blame Vladimir Putin and Russia for the conflict – despite the dearth of evidence to support such claims.
The test of the pudding is in the eating, so to speak. If Russian information sources are remiss in their coverage, then why are they gaining popularity among Western audiences? Why are traditional Western corporate media channels losing subscribers in their droves? The intersecting trends reflect an unprecedented credibility crisis.
While Western media portray Putin as an arch-villain, alternative media provide reportage and analysis which substantiate the thesis that Washington and its NATO allies are aiming to provoke and destabilise Russia, first through an illegal coup in Kiev last February, and secondly through escalation of NATO forces along Russia’s border. The alternative account stands up to scrutiny with facts and historical analysis. And that alternative account appears to be winning in the court of public opinion.
Over recent months, Western governments have betrayed their frustration with the lack of success in persuading global opinion with their anti-Russian and anti-Putin propaganda, despite the supposed prestige of household Western media carrying «their story». The New York Times, Reuters, AP, CNN, BBC, Deutsche Welle and France 24, among other major Western media outlets, have been shameless in their reflexive, unquestioning demonisation of Putin. They have succumbed to the cynical adage of Mark Twain of «not letting facts get in the way of a good story».
That is why American and European politicians have taken to disparage Russian news media as peddling «Kremlin propaganda». Washington and Brussels are clamouring for millions of dollars to counteract what they claim is a «Kremlin troll army» that has «infiltrated» and «contaminated» public discourse. US Secretary of State John Kerry wants $630 million from Congress to «counter Russian propaganda» while Brussels foreign affairs chief Frederica Morgherini is looking to establish a new Russian-language broadcaster to project the «EU’s viewpoint». As if their propaganda arsenal is not enough already!
As in a debating forum, if one team can’t win the argument based on facts and reason, the next best scurrilous option is to resort to smear tactics against the opposition.
But the massive Western disinformation and smear campaign has simply not had the desired effect. Vladimir Putin has come through his Western trial-by-media with flying colours and stands with a high global public regard – far out-performing Western counterparts in terms of popular respect.
Hence we return to this year’s TIME 100 poll and the selection of Vladimir Putin as the person of the year, according to its readers. The hugely significant fact is that more than two-thirds of TIME’s readers who voted are reportedly based in the United States, Canada and Britain.
Equally significant, the Western mainstream media appeared to largely ignore the «big news» this week of Putin winning the TIME 100 poll.
Rather than addressing that «incongruous» outcome, Western governments will no doubt «conclude» that the result is just further proof that now the mighty TIME magazine has been subverted by the evil genius of Putin and his Red Army trolls.
If you can’t explain reality, then just invent another one. Which gives new meaning to Western «freedom of thought».