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Moscow officially married two brides

August 19, 2014

Photo: vk.com/davislove

Russia was chastised during the Sochi Olympics for its anti-gay stance.  Many of the US representatives attending the Sochi games were prominent gay figures and Moscow was definitely uncomfortable with that. Russia officially frowns on gays, lesbians, transgenders and transexuals, even though a few Russian officials are reputedly gay.  Deny, deny, deny.  

Imagine my surprise when I read the title:  В Москве официально сочетались браком две невесты, which translates to “Moscow officially married two brides”.

What a shocker.  An official marriage of two women?  

…until you read a bit deeper into the article.  

Official marriage was made ​​possible because one of the brides in fact – a man who has positioned himself as “androgynous” .

Dear reader, I’m not going to dig deeper for corroboration, I’ll accept this sole sourced article.  

Is Russia actually changing?  Technically no, this is a marriage between a man and a woman.  A REALLY different man, but still, technically, a man.  

I’ll accept this tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny step in the right direction for what it is.  A step in the right direction. 

A Brief History of the Russian Media: A complete guide to who controls the Russian news.

August 18, 2014

The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia

A Brief History of the Russian Media

A complete guide to who controls the Russian news.

Recent history of the Russian media shows how the media system was preconditioned by the country’s political development. In the 1990s the Russian media system underwent major transformations following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The media were introduced into new realities: the market economy, the end of ideological control of the Communist Party, political pluralism, the development of new public institutions, et al. Fascinated by the seemingly ideal Western model of the press, Russian media borrowed most of its characteristics: freedom of speech, private ownership of the media outlets, similar legislation, distance from the state, public influence, and a watchdog role.

Still, development of the new Russian media system in the direction of the Western ideal was constrained by the deeply rooted cultural and professional traditions of Russian journalism. “For centuries, journalism as a social institution in Russia has been developing free from economic considerations while the role of the economic regulator has been carried out by the state which in turn secured the paternalistic foundation in journalism… [In the 1990s] the state, while liberating the economic activity in the media, was not ready to relax control over the content. This has produced practically unsolvable tension for the media themselves trying to function both as commercial enterprises and as institutions of the society.” [Ivanitsky]. The role of the state in the Russian media system has been and remains dominant.

After the new Law on Mass Media was adopted in 1991, thus effectively establishing guarantees for independence of the media and the freedom of speech, the first stage of privatization of the media market followed. In the early 1990s, as the country was going through an acute financial crisis, state funding of the media was cut manifold, which, in its turn, led to drastic cuts in circulation numbers and staff. As some scholars note, a whole generation of Soviet journalists were forced to change profession. At the same time, numerous private media companies were created driven by the forces of the free market; many old media outlets were privatized, reformatted and re-purposed.

Continued at : http://www.interpretermag.com/a-brief-history-of-the-russian-media/

The Personal Attack – More Kremlin Troll Army Techniques

August 18, 2014

Kremlin’s Troll Army

This is a continuation of my series about Kremlin Troll Army Techniques, part two.  

These Russian paid trolls were supposedly started around 2005, in order to build the perception of support for certain Russians.  Nashi, which is now a Russian youth movement, was begun.  Now, however, the use of paid trolls has matured and evolved and the use of Nashi has changed to something akin to the Komsomol or Nazi youth movement in Russia. 

Almost certainly you, gentle reader, have encountered Russian paid commenters, trolls, in the comment section of your favorite social media or news site.  I have bumped into them on Facebook, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, LiveLeak, New York Times, CNN, The Guardian (UK) and numerous other sites. 

The techniques of these trolls is generally the same.  If the subject of the article is about Ukraine, for instance, the troll will generally post a statement reflecting a pro-Russian perspective.  Depending on the fluency of the troll’s English, they may or may not have a complete understanding of the subject, so their response may or may not be pertinent.  When I respond, I generally give a fairly neutral statement, reflecting my perspective, which is generally a pro-Ukrainian or Western response. Here is where it gets interesting. 

Occasionally I get a thoughtful response from a pro-Russian.  This is actually exciting, for me.  I appreciate them taking the time to share their thoughts with me, present their version of the truth and, perhaps, just perhaps, I will gain insight into what and how they form their opinion.  Hopefully they will gain a similar experience. This is generally not a paid Russian troll, it is a regular person, from anywhere around the world, having a pleasant exchange of ideas. 

But, more often than not, I encounter paid Russian trolls.  They will generally attack and then pile on, bringing in others, all using multiple accounts.  I’ve been called a fascist, I’ve been called a nazi, I’ve been called an American paid commenter, a punisher, Obama’s stooge, a stupid American, and that is just for starters.  If I continue to respond they will attack more and more forcefully. They’ll cite America bombing Kosovo, how Bush and Powell and company lied to the UN before attacking Iraq, how Americans killed millions in Iraq, how the CIA assassinated this world leader, lead that coup and skewed an election.  The only thing I have not read is how America is responsible for global warming and I’m sure that’s coming. By this time 10 or more trolls are copying and pasting all kinds of comments, fast and furiously.  If I’m still responding, and sometimes I just sit back and read, then they will use every insult known to man, and some I’ve never read before.  I’ve been told that certain parts of my body have more than one use, and I thought I knew the human body.  George Carlin’s seven dirty words are a good start to the language being used, but apparently new words are being invented every day.   It gets really interesting when they swear in Russian or Ukraine and I copy and paste what they wrote into Google Translate, if my Chrome browser doesn’t automatically translate. 

These trolls will attack in waves, I get the feeling they learned from the Chinese in the Chosin Reservoir.   But the Chinese attacked for hours and days, whereas the trolls last about five minutes.  Sometimes I’ll take a break and check my e-mail and return to find all the trolls have moved on.  Then, I’m not sure if I’m masochistic or not, I’ll ask another pro-Ukrainian question, just to see who is around.  Ah, c’mon, they’re being paid and I’m giving them an opportunity to work, yes?  

I’m a co-moderator of a Ukrainian discussion group on Facebook and I’ve recently encountered another twist on this common theme. One of the people in the forum is a Ukrainian woman living elsewhere in Europe who I found out is 1. Real, 2. Intelligent and 3. Introspective.   Almost immediately I was accused by some pro-Russians in the group of having a relationship with her, and they began piling on.  The personal attacks continued to build, so we moderators chose to boot them out and ban them if they were particularly egregious.  A few more pro-Russians tried to use that against us, to distract us from participating in the conversation as well as to discouraging us from participating at all.  Boot.  Ban.  Gone.  Problem solved.  Most of the time a problem can be resolved with a private message, but these trolls seemed to be especially keen on being kicked out of the group.  

What are they trying to accomplish?  Dominance, plain and simple.  If someone with a Western perspective can be drowned out and discouraged from responding, the Russians win.  The perception they seem to want to achieve is that they can say and do what they want, always supporting the Kremlin, Russia and the separatists in Ukraine.  They never accept responsibility for bad actions by the Russians and there is always deniability in everything Russia does.  They mirror the arguments used by the Kremlin, they learn from and use the articles from RT, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS and other Russian ‘news sites’ and they seem to work in shifts.  

How can the West win?  Persistence.  Plain and simple.  Unfortunately the West has the attention span of a gnat, Ferguson, MO has the United States’ attention at the moment, so Ukraine and Russia are on the far back burner on that stove. A long term, coherent and dedicated effort is needed.  

Grave of Ukranian Hero Stepan Bandera Desecrated

August 17, 2014

Grave and desecrated grave of Stepan Bandera, in Munich, Germany

My original intent was to expose what I thought was a Russian disinformation piece, stating that the grave of Stepan Bandera, in Munich, Germany, had been desecrated, according to a Russian website, Tzveda.ru.  The article was posted by a Russian professional friend on Facebook, so I proceeded to do what I normally do, find corroborating evidence.  Trust nobody and verify.  

I couldn’t find a thing.  I searched quite a few German websites.  I did a Google News Search.  I did a search on http://www.newsnow.co.uk/, who specialize in breaking news stories.  Nothing.  How in the heck did a Russian news service scoop the entire world? I had my suspicions and I still have them, and somehow the story got into the hands of a Russian Information Warfare professional and he posted it onto Facebook hours and hours and hours before anyone else in the world published that story – and I was intentionally looking for it.  Conspiracy theory?  It sure smells like it, but I have no proof, only my spidey sense is tingling and I’ve noticed that my spidey sense is hardly ever wrong.   I have a sneaking feeling the Russians were somehow behind this little sidestory but until I hear further, it is only a strong suspicion. 

Back to the real story.  In order for you, dear reader, to understand the significance of this action, you must understand how Stepan Bandera is a certified national hero of Ukriane.  But the people of Ukraine are polarized between the West and the Russian perspective.  Lviv and all of West Ukraine worship the ground upon which Bandera walked, people in East Ukraine or anyone with Russia sympathies hate him.  The Soviet propaganda following his assasination by the KGB in 1959 irrevocably smeared his name for anyone who is pro-Russian.

Stepan Bandera, from Wikipedia:

Stepan Andriyovych Bandera (Ukrainian: Степан Андрійович Бандера; 1 January 1909 – 15 October 1959) was a Ukrainian political activist and leader of the Ukrainian nationalist movement in Western Ukraine which fought for Ukrainian independence.

The life and death of Stepan Bandera is very controversial and I am sure to get flack from many corners, in how I weave this story.  This story involves Nazi Germany, Poland, the Soviet Union, Ukraine and ends in West Germany, now Germany.  To understand Bandera, one must take a deep dive into the history of Ukraine, Soviet collectivism, the great famine of the 1930s – tens of millions of Ukranians died of starvation due to unrealistic Soviet quotas, enforced by the NKVD.  

Bandera worked his way up the ranks of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the OUN.  

…becoming the chief propaganda officer of the OUN in 1931, the second in command of OUN in Galicia in 1932–33, and the head of the National Executive or the OUN in 1933.  (Wikipedia)

They wanted an independent Ukrainian state.  Surprisingly it was the German – Soviet takeover of Poland that brought all the parts of Ukraine together.  Stepan Bandera, however, had worked against Polish officials when Ukraine was a part of Poland, to expose and stop their corruption, their genocide against Ukrainian citizens and other anti-Ukrainian activites.  He was arrested and sentenced to death for terrorism, his sentenced was later commuted to life in prison.  

Here the story gets…  flaky and the stories vary.  Either Bandera was released by fellow Ukrainian nationalists or by the Nazis, to fight against the approaching Soviets.  He was based in Berlin to oversee training of a 7,000 man Ukrainian ‘army’, and in 1941, they moved to Ukraine and declared an independent Ukrainian state.  His relations with the Nazis soured and he was again sent to prison, winding up in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp outside Frankfurt, Germany.  In 1944 he was asked by the Nazis to help wage guerilla warfare against the invading Soviets.  According to various sources, Bandera was also working with MI-6 and the CIA. Bandera continued working against the Soviet and Polish governments, for a free Ukraine, continuing after World War II ended.  Bandera was killed by the KGB in Munich, Germany, in 1959, by cyanide gas.

Soviet agent Bohdan Stashynsky assassinated him in Munich. During Stashynsky’s trial, it was established that the order for Bandera’s assassination came directly from the head of the KGB, Alexander Shelepin.  http://www.ucrdc.org/HI-STEPAN_BANDERA.html

His grave is in Munich, Germany.  

After his death the Soviets went to great lengths to smear his name, associate him with the nazis, call him a fascist and an ultra-nationalist.  The use of this symbolism by the Russians continues today, nothing has been lost during the transition from the Soviet Union to Russia.  

Now his grave has been desecrated by an unknown party, and we can only guess as to the motivation.  The obvious party is the Russians, in yet another psychological blow against Ukraine.  Once again, there is plausible deniabiilty.  

 

 

The Problem With A Russian Expert

August 17, 2014

Stephen F. Cohen recently published a piece in The Nation entitled “The New Cold War and the Necessity of Patriotic Heresy: US fallacies may be leading to war with Russia.” Stephen F. Cohen is Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton University and a Nation contributing editor.  His perspectives are so counter to US mainstream perspectives that he almost proudly cites the labels with which he is branded: 

Putin’s No. 1 American “apologist,” “useful idiot,” “dupe,” “best friend” and, perhaps a new low in immature invective, “toady.”

In the Daily Intelligencer, Johnathan Chait attempts to undermine Mr. Cohen’s article in The Nation’s Stephen F. Cohen Denies Existence of Ukraine“.  After reading Mr. Chait’s article and the article by Dr. Cohen, I find the problem is more basic and deep rooted than Mr. Chait writes.  

Dr. Cohen not only embraces a pro-Russian attitude, he gleefully hawks phrases and ‘facts’ pushed by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine.  A Russian canary, if you will. 

As Russian propagandists are apt to do, Dr. Cohen counters facts with fiction.  If anyone honestly believes Ukraine is undergoing a civil war they are sadly mistaken, but he pushes this Kremlin fallacy.  

Two points are made by Dr. Cohen, which are spot on.  One, America lacks a coherent foreign policy.  Second, and much more important, the US and Russia risk a war which might turn nuclear quickly.  Now to the fantasies.

Dr. Cohen states that the facts are that the US never stopped attacking Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, whereas the facts belie his statement.  Secretary Clinton famously hit the reset button in an attempt to move ahead in relations with Russia.   Putin and the Russians, however, seem to thrive in believing every nation is attempting subterfuge and intend to destroy Russia.  This fantasy gives Russia a common enemy against which the Russian people can unite, create a rally cry and work together.  If Russians do not have a common enemy they might begin to think independently, and that keeps Putin awake at night.  

Dr. Cohen states that Ukraine is not a united nation but “divided by ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, economic and political differences”.  Why thank you, Dr. Cohen, you just described the United States.  We revel in our diversity and so should Ukraine.  

He also states that the EU’s proposal to then President Yanukovych was an attempt get Ukraine to embrace the EU in every way, including adhering to NATO’s security protocols.  Not only is this blatantly false, but when Yanukovych accepted Putin’s conditions, he was forced to enforce several oppressive measures against the protesters in the Maidan, which ultimately lead to his ouster.  

His fourth assertion is that Ukraine is undergoing a civil war.  In my eyes this proves Dr. Cohen denies the truth.  Russia infamously illegally assumed authority over Crimea and through the use of proxy troops is attempting the same in Eastern Ukraine.  Denying that Russia is supplying both people and weapons and other material support to this armed insurgency is tantamount to denialism.  Dr. Cohen even denies the democratic election in Ukraine, electing Petro Poroshenko as President. 

His last and most egregious point is that only Kyiv/Kiev, as directed by the US, can stop the fighting in Eastern Ukraine.  This denies the fact that Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin aka Igor Ivanovich Strelkov worked for the Russian GRU until recently.  This denies the fact that Alexander Yurevich Borodai former Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was until recently a low level political adviser in Moscow and then Crimea.  The list goes on, but as long as Moscow is recruiting and sending these ‘volunteers’ to Eastern Ukraine, Moscow controls them.  As long as Moscow continues sending military equipment and supplies to support this insurgency, Moscow controls them.  As long as Russia fires across the Ukrainian border, in support of this insurgency, Moscow supports and controls them. 

Moscow has been planning and executing this information war for a long time, perhaps years. So called experts, such as Dr. Stephen F. Cohen, have been working on behalf of Russia for decades and are information warriors working on behalf of the Kremlin.  Calling him an “apologist,” “useful idiot,” “dupe,” “best friend” or even a “toady” for Russia does not go far enough.  Let me not mince words, Stephen F. Cohen works promoting Russia, Russian causes and the Russian way.  He is not an expert in my opinion, he is a stooge.

Highly Biased News Media – My Perspective

August 16, 2014

Today, a Russian made a very leading statement:

CNN does not provide accurate news. …  Their audience is those who dislike everything Russian and expect to see everything Russian in a negative way. So I would not trust them.

Another commenter added: 

Take what you think of CNN, multiply by 10 = Fox…

I disagree.  Almost nobody in the US hates Russia. Almost nobody dislikes Russia. BUT, almost everybody in the world distrusts Russia. Almost everybody in the world, hse seen Russia lie, has seen Russian deception, has seen this proxy war, has seen deceptions, abd has seen a flagrant information war.  Most of us have seen Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia taken from Georgia and Ukraine by nefarious means. It is not CNN that does not provide accurate information, it is Russia, Russia’s inflated propaganda machine and especially Vladimir Putin.

Fox is also bad but it shows many stories that CNN does not run, mostly because CNN’s internal politics refuses to allow them to run any story injurious to the reputation of the current White House administration and the Democratic party.

The secret to watching news in the US is to realize that most of the networks support the Democratic Party and Fox supports the Republican party. There are no mainstream networks that are neutral. The Media Research Center published the statistics of highly skewed and very biased coverage by the mainstream media here, here and here (most damning).  I wish I could find corresponding Democratic media studies, but I can’t.

The problem, as far as this I am concerned, is decreasing budgets, and more and more dependency on foreign newscasts, skewing the US mainstream media towards accepting Russia media coverage, which is highly skewed for the Putin Adminstration and the Russian propaganda machine.  When the mainstream media, including CNN and Fox, begin properly investing in foreign correspondents willing to work in war zones and cover the tough stories, they will be dependent on RT, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS and other Russian networks to supply their version of what is happening on the ground.  In other words, Russia’s version of the truth.  

Right now US media is its own worst enemy and there is no incentive to fix themselves.

Techniques of the Kremlin’s Paid Troll Army

August 15, 2014

Kremlin’s Troll Army

I recently received a comment which illustrates a simple but effective tactic of Russia’s paid troll army.

The comment accused me of being one-sided.

Guilty. I give my view, my perspective, my opinion, my words and my experience.

If the commenter had bothered to read more than a superficial few of my blogs, they would have seen me give my informed opinion of other views, other perspectives and perhaps other motivations.

But that is not the point I am trying to make. I am not trying to point out that I do attempt to show perspectives other than my own.

I would like to point out one tactic that Russian paid trolls use.

When faced with an argument they cannot hope to win, divert or misdirect.

Use a spurious argument to direct the other writer onto a path in another direction.  Take the writer in a direction not of his or her choosing.  Distract them from the subject at hand, cause them to not address the problem, but to address another issue.

In Alan Kelly’s book, “The Elements of Influence“, this is known as a Red Herring – an attempt to divert attention.  It is a common idiom or literary device used to mislead or distract a reader, but it is also a common technique of argumentation.  

Why am I writing about this?  Because this is one of the very basic techniques used by the Kremlin’s paid troll army.  If one engages with these trolls online, one must be familiar with what they do.  I hope this is the first of many simple information pieces on the Kremlin’s paid troll army’s techniques.  

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