I read the following article, shaking my head almost continuously.
The article was trying to make a point, but after completing the article, I still couldn’t figure it out. It felt like it was pro-Russian but there was no single glaring word or phrase. It seemed to be a subtle attempt to undermine legitimate efforts at identifying Russian information warfare.
The first example is an incomplete accusation against UK Conservative member of Parliament, Bob Seely for attempting to attack Christopher Chandler for a ‘McCarthyism-style attack’ against Russian information warfare.
The article then cites prominent names who have identified Russian information warfare efforts as collaborating. Peter Pomerantsev, Michael Weiss, Anne Applebaum, and Ed Lucas and are inferred as smearing the good name of Russia in an attempt to… the purpose was unknown, the accusation being
“it lends an intellectual sheen to what amounts to a censorship campaign, but because it further pollutes the already toxic atmosphere that has enveloped the debate over the crisis in Ukraine. Indeed, as one leading political scientist told me: “The atmosphere here in the US created by the Ukraine crisis is poisonous—and I say this having been in academe for 37 years.”
Somehow being an academician for 37 years qualifies the anonymous speaker to diminish their attempts to identify and point out Russian information warfare, including propaganda, disinformation, misinformation, and fake news. Most likely that source would be Dr. Stephen F. Cohen, but the statement would have had to have been made in 2005. Not identifying the source is also common among pro-Russian writers as their credibility cannot be examined, the words could easily be altered.
The only really good thing the article does is consolidate various efforts to identify Russian information warfare efforts,
…a cottage industry of disinformation warriors has emerged, including projects by the Center for American Progress (The Moscow Project); the German Marshall Fund (Hamilton 68); the Atlantic Council (Digital Forensic Research Lab); Coda Story (Disinformation Crisis); the Center for European Policy Analysis (StratCom Project); and the London School of Economics (the Arena project).
The imprecise language he uses, “a cottage industry of disinformation warriors has emerged”. The straightforward interpretation is that they are sources for disinformation, but the case can be made that they identify Russian disinformation. The use of imprecise, vague accusations are often used by more intellectual pro-Russians. I believe it is a deliberate effort to mislead and impugn – to undermine.
So, I went in search of, to explain what felt like a deliberate pro-Russian effort.
I discovered that the author wrote this article, Neo-McCarthyism and the US Media: The crusade to ban Russia policy critics, 19 May 2015. Please note the date. This is when Russian information warfare efforts was in rapid ascendence following the Crimea invasion, the Donbass invasion, the MH17 shootdown, the Debaltseve offensive by the Russians, and as the ground war was grinding to a halt, the information warfare efforts were growing. The funny thing is the US and corporate media was not attempting to ban critics at that time, as the title implies, but according to Carden, Weiss and Pomerantsov are somehow unfairly identifying overwhelming Russian information warfare efforts unfairly. The same information warfare efforts that later focused on the US national election and the French national election. We are only now beginning to understand the depth and breadth of Russian efforts at destabilization. So Carden has a history of needlessly pro-Russian articles which use only a modicum of logic and attack Michael Weiss and Peter Pomerantsov.
I looked at the source of the article, the publication. A quick check with Media Bias Fact Check of the Nation shows a strong bias to the left. I was already familiar with The Nation, however, as Dr. Stephen F. Cohen, nicknamed ‘Putin’s American Apologist’, is married to the Editor & Publisher of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel and has frequently published strongly pro-Putin articles within their pages.
After reviewing the article again with this information in mind, I cannot help but conclude that the author, James Carden, is now carrying the pro-Putin torch with or for Dr. Stephen F. Cohen. Replacing, augmenting, supplementing, his role is not clear, but he obviously hates Weiss and Pomerantsov and has for some years. Perhaps because they continually have proven themselves thorns in the side of Russian information warfare, writ large.
The article does not say Russian information warfare efforts are good, instead, the author attempts to undermine efforts to expose counter-Russian disinformation efforts. This is akin to Russian IW goals against the West. Undermining Western democracy and sowing chaos and confusion only indirectly promote Russian national interests. This is what Carden and Cohen do and will continue doing.
Accusations of Russian Disinformation Are Snowballing
A 2014 report encouraged these allegations; now they’re proliferating ever more rapidly.
Last week, controversy erupted in Britain when a Conservative member of Parliament, Bob Seely, claimed that he had seen intelligence that indicated billionaire investor and founder of the Legatum Group, Christopher Chandler, had links to Russian intelligence.
Steely told the House of Commons, “According to the French intelligence services, as recorded by their colleagues in Monaco … Mr Chandler is described as having been ‘an object of interest’ to the DST [Directorate of Territorial Surveillance] since 2002 on suspicion of working for Russian intelligence services.”
According to a summary of his remarks in the Financial Times, Seely said that “the relevant files had been verified by French, US and UK sources, and seen by four other MPs.”
Was Chandler a Russian asset? No intelligence has been publicly released to support such a claim.
But the fact that such a reputation-shattering accusation can be made by a British MP speaks to the new Cold War atmosphere in which we are now living.
And it is an atmosphere that owes its creation, in part, to Chandler’s own Legatum Institute, which has been at the forefront of fostering a political climate in which accusations of unpatriotic disloyalty can be leveled without the slightest bit of evidence or compunction.
Much of this ugliness dates back to late 2014, when former Legatum senior fellow Peter Pomerantsev teamed up with The Interpreter’s editor in chief Michael Weiss and published a report titled “The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture and Money.” Funded by a think tank led by the son of exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and launched at an event hosted by the Legatum Institute, the report’s fixation with Russian “disinformation” presaged the current obsession over Russia’s alleged information war on the West.
The report was credulously promoted by, among others, the National Endowment for Democracy, Columbia University’s Harriman Institute, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, The New York Review of Books, and The Washington Post (in separate articles authored by former Legatum forum director Anne Applebaum). The Economist’s Ed Lucas praised the report as “a sizzling new report on Kremlin disinformation.”
Yet, in a critical review of the report for The Nation three years ago, I warned:
The “Menace of Unreality” report is dangerous not only because it lends an intellectual sheen to what amounts to a censorship campaign, but because it further pollutes the already toxic atmosphere that has enveloped the debate over the crisis in Ukraine. Indeed, as one leading political scientist told me: “The atmosphere here in the US created by the Ukraine crisis is poisonous—and I say this having been in academe for 37 years.”
Needless to say, since the 2016 election, the atmosphere has only gotten worse.
In the years following the report’s publication, a cottage industry of disinformation warriors has emerged, including projects by the Center for American Progress (The Moscow Project); the German Marshall Fund (Hamilton 68); the Atlantic Council (Digital Forensic Research Lab); Coda Story (Disinformation Crisis); the Center for European Policy Analysis (StratCom Project); and the London School of Economics (the Arena project).
Some of the names associated with these newer projects will be familiar: Legatum alumni Pomerantsev and Applebaum are now with LSE’s Arena project; Lucas is with the CEPA’s StratCom Project; Weiss and The Interpreter are now with Coda Story, where Pomerantsev also serves as editor at large.
Clearly, disinformation warfare has become big business.
Perhaps the lesson of the Chandler episode is that it may be only a matter of time before the disinformation warriors themselves end up on the receiving end of a Russia-frenzy they did so much to unleash.