- Jon Hellevig
- February 10, 2016
Whereof One Cannot Speak, Thereof One Must Be Silent – Or, the Topics That Disappeared from the Anti-Russian Narrative
One of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s most famous philosophical aphorisms is “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. Now, this is a saying that accurately describes the Western propaganda narrative against Russia. They keep treasure hunting for ugly facts about Russia, and whenever anything promising comes up, the global propaganda center is conveyed to evaluate its potential for mass distribution through their worldwide distribution channels. It is in this way we have throughout the years taken part of one more hideous than the other “fact” about Russia. Russia being a huge country in transition, it used to provide a lot of material for this kind of activity. Twisting things around and skewing the angle, the propaganda center has never failed to supply a story empty enough for the trusted Western propaganda machine to reject. During periods of exceptional drought the pure-fiction department has chipped in regaling us, for example, with the global human rights cause next-to-none, the plight of the members of the punk rock group, Pussy Riot. Never mind that this “rock group” never turned out a single recording and never performed before an audience, except at American talk shows and awards ceremonies. The girls received a light sentence of two-year detention in a penal colony. Whatever the reasons it is absolutely sure that there was nothing in the case that merited the Western outcry.
The Sochi offensive
And then, there was the Sochi Olympics, an order had been given to spoil the Olympics at any cost. There was nothing to pick at, the allegations of astronomic corruption did not tally with the results of the transformation of Sochi that everybody could see with their own eyes. As that did not fly, somebody in the creative team hit pay dirt with digging up an administrative rule according to which pedophile propaganda is prohibited in Russia. Great material, they discovered, for denouncing Russia and the regime as homophobic. “Objection: but there is no criminalization of homosexuality in Russia, whereas there are in more than 80 countries. And you know, wouldn’t we expose our head-chopping allies in the Gulf if we play up this theme?” -“Oh, shut up! You know that our Western media and politicians will slant this just as we want. We have our assets that will stoke the flames, get Madonna in and that what’s-his-name, sir something? Can’t go wrong. The G7 will love this topic, just the kind of thing they have been looking for.” Then it started, an interminable media barrage, which run right into the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. Then it was dropped and recycled as a theme for a campaign of harassment of Russian artists in the West. The foreign correspondents in Moscow sighed a relief and could with good conscience return to their favorite pastime in the very clubs and foam-baths that they had sworn did not exist in the homophobic Russia.
Now it was the turn for the coup d’état in Ukraine and the invisible Russian invasion, next giving way to Russians bombing “moderate rebels” in order to “prop up the Assad regime”. Now the hot topics are “Russia’s sinister plans to invade” Latvia, Lithuania, or one or another of those Lilliputs.
Putin as the evil comic strip hero
Then there is the endless list of whacky fantasy stories chronicling the life and labor of President Vladimir Putin casting him in the role of an evil comic strip hero. The astute media observer Patrick Armstrong set out to compile A Brief Compendium of Nonsense About Putin. It did not get as brief as Armstrong first intended, he tells he was forced to “stop at vampire rumors.” The derangements and feats the Western journalist ascribe to Putin contain things like:
- He has Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer of the spinal cord, personality disorders, gayness and Parkinson’s Disease
- He is a psychopath (that is the sociopaths doing the diagnosis)
- He spends so much time with animals…cause presumably people don’t like him too much
- His slouching posture shows that he is envious and resentful of Obama.
- He spends a lot of time on: Weekly meetings with religious leaders to give sermon guidelines; writing editorials for newspapers and TV stations and carefully monitoring media sources to make sure they conform to his decrees.
- Hs the world’s richest man, spends all his time redesigning his many palaces
Most importantly, he commands and daily instructs a global Putin troll army, which encompasses every single person who disagree with Western media and their government on anything.
This would all be truly hilarious, if it wasn’t for the sad fact that this tells so much about the main targets and consumers of this propaganda, the supposedly educated classes of the Western world, which willingly trust all that nonsense.
But some of the stories die in reality checks
Meanwhile, some of the topics that earlier were mandatory references in Western media stories about Russia seem to have hit the wall of reality and disappeared altogether. Precisely because the underlying facts have become too good to be printed. Stories about the ubiquitous Russian mafia; murder statistics; journalists supposedly murdered by the “regime”; demographic crisis; the lousy business climate; Putin supposedly being a far right Russian nationalist suppressing minorities, especially Muslim and Chechen ones; and the collapsing military.
These are precisely the topics whereof you cannot speak in reputable mass media, because they go against the grain; do not conform with the rigid guidelines for the propaganda narrative on Russia, that is, not anymore. You can tell Putin is a UFO or Darth Vader, because here the reader would have to take the media on trust (and the sheeple do trust, don’t they?). But lying is so much more difficult when you move into the realm of statistically and objectively provable facts. Although, we must admit that in the brave new Western media world, the journalists do not seem to be overly burdened with those facts either. Anyway, those topics have disappeared from the Western media like a fart in the Atlantic Ocean. (Maybe, they will now be reminded to bring them back?).
The Russian mafia. Do you remember how the mafia was lurking in every story about Russia? We don’t hear anything about the Russian mafia anymore. How so? What happened? What happened is that Putin crushed it. Crushed it the same way he is now crushing the ISIS, Al Qaeda and other mercenary terrorists in Syria.
“Dying Russia.” The Western media used to love writing about the criminal gangs and the “Colombian level” of killings in Russia back in the good old Russia where the liberals held sway. But as soon as the situation began to improve, the reporting stopped abruptly. There have been no news reports telling about the rapidly improving murder statistics. In 2002, the very beginning of Putin’s presidency, there were 44,252 murders, giving a homicide rate of 30.2 murders per 100 thousand residents. By 2015, the number of murders had dramatically fallen to 8 per 100 thousand, down by one tenth from the previous year and being only a quarter of the levels of murders Russia enjoyed during the liberal hay-days. Table 1 illustrates this rapid decrease in homicide rates with a clear and rapid trend towards further improvement. You would expect that this is newsworthy, wouldn’t you?
In the capital Moscow the situation is even rosier, the homicide rate having fallen to 3.2. Meanwhile in Washington, the capital of the United States, the rate was 18.3. That means you are 6 times more likely to get murdered next to the White House than the Kremlin. Moreover, while the murders are abating in Moscow the trend is the opposite in Washington, which saw an alarming increase of murders in 2015 as reported in this article.
Journalists in the crosshairs. During the last two years, the Western press has been surprisingly mum about another persistent propaganda legend namely, the claim that the Russian government, or “regime” as they want to call it, is trying to silence journalists with all means including contract killings. There has never been any truth to these allegations. I have deconstructed this myth – or more accurately, propaganda lie – in a report, which can be found at this link. The idea has been disseminated by known Western propaganda organizations like Freedom House and Reporters without Borders. Although, they have artfully portrayed the Russian government and personally the President as being behind the killings, they have never actually pointed to any single case where they would even argue directly that the person in question died on orders from on high. Instead, they have by sleight of hand induced the reading public to draw such conclusions. All they’ve done is present a list of journalists (or other media workers) who have lost their life by an external violent force. As we reported above, during the bad old liberal days, a lot of people lost their lives in Russia, people of all walks of life and all professions. Naturally, you would then find among them members of the press. Then what our propagandists did was to list the killed media workers in reports containing a background narrative of a grim Russia with an egregious regime. As in any fiction, they hoped by this to convey the impression that the journalists had died as victims of an oppressive regime. This while the dead journalists in fact where victims of the propagandists themselves, that is, those who had supported – in propaganda and action – the ideological currents that caused Russia in 1990s to fall into anarchy with these dire consequences. – In fact, our above cited report showed that journalists and other media workers seemed to have been statistically underrepresented among the victims, that is to say, media workers seemed to have had a far lesser propensity to fall victims of murders than the population at large.
However, now as the security situation in Russia has so dramatically improved, it has become more difficult to lie. And therefore, the story seems to have been put on the back burner. Another difficulty is that the “wrong countries” now occupy the top spots in the list of killed journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists keeps a global database on such incidents. And their report for 2015 poured cold water on the propagandists, Russia did not make it into the top 20 deadliest countries (Table 2; source Journos). The top spots being allocated to Syria, France, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Iraq, while even the USA made it to the 11th spot. – This makes it kind of difficult, doesn’t it?
The “dying Russian population”. This was one of the staple Russia bashing topics. The West was gloating over Russia’s self-inflicted early demise in a demographic crisis. The CIA issued a prediction where it painted Russia as a terminally ill patient, the country would break up in 10 years (that is by now) with a population 15 million less than it in fact has today.
Alas, the reality proved the propagandists wrong again. The population grew to 146 million, an additional boost provided by 2.5 million Crimeans bursting into the Russian embrace. To the astonishment of them all Russia’s birth and fertility rates exploded placing Russia in the top of the developed world. At the same time public health improved with significant increases in life expectancy. Anatoly Karlin has set out this all very clearly in his article The Normalization of Russia’s Demographics.
And – again contrary to the propaganda myths – Russia became a huge net recipient of migrants, with no real brain drain to the West, as I explained in this article.
Business climate. Russia’s standing in the rankings of its business climate used to be a permanent fixture in the anti-Russian propaganda narrative. With each year’s new report of the World Banks Ease of Doing Business global survey, there was endless ridicule with news stories like “Russia trailing behind such stalwarts of business like Zambia, Philippines and Kosovo” or “Russia at level with Bangladesh and Swaziland.”
But the propaganda press (foreign and domestic) abruptly suspended all reporting on the World Bank rankings in regards to Russia as soon as Russia started its miraculous climb in it jumping from 92nd to 62nd out of about 180 countries in the 2015 rating. The blank silence intensified when the 2016 edition awarded Russia the 51st place.
What really added insult to the injury suffered by the propaganda press, is that the acknowledgement of Russia’s improved business climate directly corresponds with a stated policy goal of President Putin. He declared in connection with his 2012 election victory that he wanted to see significant improvements in the business climate and benchmark these improvements to this World Bank methodology. For this purpose Putin announced a 100 step program and appointed a working group to oversee its implementation. The idea is to reach the 20th place in this ranking. (Personally, I would, however, caution about trusting the objectivity of the ranking as Russia moves further up.)
Anybody can verify for himself that this improvement in Russia’s business climate has received very scant, if any, media coverage the last two years by googling the news.
What about Chechnya and the collapsing army?
There are a lot of other of the imaginative Russia bashing stories that have had to yield to the new innovative ones. Like the allegations that Putin would be a far right nationalist suppressing minorities, especially Muslim ones, and in particular Chechens. As soon as the propaganda center needed to rally – Ukraine style – the Russian nationalists around the liberals having Alexey Navalny deliver rabble-rousing speeches to this scrambled “opposition”, it did not fit in the picture to cast Putin in the same role. And when the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov so firmly brought the Chechen people around Putin, there came the need to drop the old stories of Chechnya down the memory hole, and on the contrary now cast Kadyrov himself as a villain.
Oh, and who remembers the pre-Syria stories about the “corrupt and collapsing Russian army” previously so expertly argued by the ever so predictable Pavel Felgenhauer in diatribes like this: The Failure of Military Reform in Russia and this: Pouring Money Fails to Redress Defense Industry Ills.