The surge of Western propaganda against Russia, and most notably against President Putin, has reached massive proportions. The waves are breaking against the rocks of Russian disregard, but venomous trickles continue to influence the citizens of western countries to hate Russia and its leader – which is precisely what they are intended to do.
The art of propaganda goes back a long way, and is used by the governments, intelligence agencies and media (sometimes all singing from the same song sheet) of many countries. Its effectiveness varies enormously, but one of the main factors in achieving success is that a detectable lie must never be told. Such an error could destroy an entire campaign against the individual or country concerned. So the mind-benders slant round the truth, and, while avoiding deliberate lies (unless they are 100 per cent certain of their success), present attractive items – little bits and pieces – of undeniable truth in such a manner as to ensure that they are regarded by the audience as severely critical of the target.
Let me give an example: There is a very good book called ‘We Danced All Night’ which is a social history of Britain between the First and Second World Wars. It is well-written and most informative, but on the very first page it has a sentence that epitomises the art of propaganda. It wasn’t intended to do so, but it is such a perfect example of disinformative indoctrination that it deserves to be included in all the textbooks on psychological warfare.
It must be emphasised that the book’s author did not intend to malign the person whom he describes; so far as he is concerned, he has innocently conveyed misinformation – information that is unintentionally false – rather than disinformation, which is intended deliberately to manipulate its audience into coming to a false conclusion. But the result is the same.
The exemplar sentence begins: «Duff Cooper, who had spent much of the war working as a civil servant, had escaped the worst privations of wartime...»
(The war referred to is that of 1914-1918; and Duff Cooper was a prominent diplomat and politician.)
From the author’s description of Duff Cooper, it is readily understood by a reader that he avoided military service in the war; that he had not suffered any of «the worst privations» experienced by so many of his fellow-citizens; and that, indeed, the war had passed him by. This is a reasonable conclusion to reach, given the perfectly truthful statement that he had been a civil servant for «much of the war».
But it is entirely wrong, because, as recounted elsewhere, Duff Cooper did not engage in military service at the beginning of the war because he was required to continue working in the Foreign Service, where he was highly regarded. But then – after he was permitted to enlist in the army – he served in the trenches of France, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for outstanding bravery and leadership.
No lie was told in this little cameo. There is not the slightest indication that truth has been manipulated in any fashion. But the most open-minded reader of that book’s first page will be drawn to the conclusion that Duff Cooper was... just a little suspect. The reader can be forgiven for believing that Cooper was a coward who passed the horrible war years in comfort experienced by only a very tiny few. And the person who wrote the words that conveyed that impression can rest content that he said nothing derogatory about Cooper.
Which brings us to the present campaign of deliberate disinformation concerning President Putin.
The latest barrage of vicious propaganda concerns the murder in London in 2006 of a Russian called Alexander Litvinenko. He had been employed by the Russian secret service but changed sides and became an agent of Britain’s MI6 spy agency, after which he defected to London via Istanbul. Ten years after his death, the findings of a year-long official British inquiry into the circumstances of his demise have been released. The inquiry was conducted by a long-serving judge, and important sections of proceedings were held behind closed doors, without publication of allegations that could be challenged by any unbiased impartial observer. Secret people told their stories in secret: they could not be questioned. They will never be questioned.
As the BBC reported on January 21, a public inquiry had been proposed, but the British government refused to permit an open investigation. This decision was welcomed by the security services, the army of highly-paid government «spin doctors» whose propaganda tasks were made easier, and of course by the media, whose proprietors scented a juicy story. And now they have got such a story, because «A number of witnesses who gave evidence during the open sessions of the Inquiry expressed strong views as to President Putin’s direct involvement in Mr Litvinenko’s death».
Without a shred of proof – without one single sentence given in open court that could be in any way construed as indicating that the President of Russia was involved in the killing of Mr Litvinenko – the judge heading the inquiry announced that the murder was «probably approved» by President Putin.
The judge’s report noted «possible motives» for the murder, including Mr Litvinenko’s «association with other Russian dissidents» and «criticism of Mr Putin», whereupon Britain’s media went berserk – vociferously encouraged by its politicians – and the governments of the US and Britain rejoiced that there was so much headline condemnation of Russia’s President.
The objective has been achieved. It was not necessary for public evidence to be given about the affair in order for official condemnation regarding «possible motives» to be accepted as absolute truth. The leaders of the West have convinced their citizens that President Putin is a murderer. Their propaganda war against Russia has received an enormous boost, and distrust between the West and Russia has increased immeasurably.
I began this comment about propaganda by reflecting how a casual observation on the early career of Duff Cooper is an example of how a deep, lasting and destructive insult can be conveyed most effectively even when «There is not the slightest indication that truth has been manipulated in any fashion».
In the case of the anti-Russia campaign, there has been manipulation of truth by employment of such words as «probably» and «possibly» by a respected member of the judiciary whose words were seized upon by the ever-ready anti-Russian media. As Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf, «Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea», and it is apparent that his thesis continues to apply – with the result that the aim of encouraging hatred of Russia and its President has been achieved.