However, after Yanukovych's unconstitutional ouster, his supporters, concentrated in Ukraine's ethnic Russian areas, resisted the putsch. But the Western storyline was simply a Russian "invasion." The absence of any evidence -- like photos of an amphibious landing in Crimea or tanks crashing across Ukraine's borders -- didn't seem to matter. Since Americans and Europeans had already been prepped to hate Putin, no evidence apparently was needed. The New York Times and other mainstream publications just reported any accusations as flat fact.
Even the exposure of a pre-coup phone call in which neocon U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland discussed with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt who would lead the post-coup regime and how to "glue this thing" or "midwife this thing" didn't matter either. Evidence of U.S. coup plotting wasn't welcome because it didn't fit the narrative of brave young Ukrainians promoting democracy by overthrowing the democratically elected leader.
Indeed, the leaked phone call, which the Western media attributed to Russian intelligence, became -- rather than proof of U.S. coup plotting -- an example of Moscow's use of "kompromat" (i.e., compromising material) against the "victim," Assistant Secretary Nuland, who was embarrassed because she had also disparaged the European Union's lack of aggressiveness with the pithy remark, "f*ck the E.U."
So, while many of these U.S. propaganda patterns can be traced back to Reagan and his desire to "kick the Vietnam Syndrome," they have truly become bipartisan. Up had become down whichever party was in office with the mainstream media reinforcing the propaganda themes and deceptions.
The Trump Future
One can expect that the Trump administration will come to enjoy its own control over the levers of propaganda -- especially given President Trump's obsession with always being right no matter what the contrary evidence -- but there has been some addition by subtraction in the changeover of administrations.
Donald Trump speaking with the media at a hangar at Mesa Gateway Airport in Mesa, Arizona. Dec. 16, 2015.
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Many of the neocons and liberal hawks who nested in the Obama administration -- people like Victoria Nuland -- are gone. That at least creates the possibility for some fresh thinking on such issues as continuing the "information war" against Putin and Russia. A more realistic assessment regarding the Kremlin may be possible given the fact that Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn are not Russo-phobes and have personal experience with the Kremlin.
But the Democrats -- and even progressives -- appear determined to keep alive the anti-Russian hysteria that reached "group think" levels in the final weeks of the Obama administration and is now being carried forward by leading liberal organizations.
As James W. Carden reported for The Nation, "In the time between the November election and [Trump's] inauguration, the Center for American Progress (CAP) and its president, former Hillary Clinton aide Neera Tanden, have been at the forefront of what some are calling 'the resistance.' Yet one troubling aspect of 'the resistance' seems to be its belief that Trump owes his surprise victory in the early morning hours of November 9 to the Russian government."
Carden cited a session at CAP's Washington headquarters at which Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Tanden hammered home the U.S. intelligence community's still evidence-free claims that Putin ordered his intelligence services to sabotage Clinton's campaign and help Trump. Again, details and nuance were unwelcome and unnecessary since the villains were the thoroughly demonized Putin and the widely despised (at least in Democratic circles) Trump.
But there are multiple dangers from the continuation of this propaganda narrative: the obvious one is the risk that the Washington establishment will make the Putin-Trump "guilt" a certified "group think" rather than a charge that needs careful analysis and that certitude could lead to an eventual nuclear showdown with Russia.
Another risk, however, is that the Democrats will come to believe that Putin's interference defeated Hillary Clinton and thus a desperately needed self-evaluation won't happen.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and astronaut Mark Kelly speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, Arizona. March 21, 2016.
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Even if Putin did have his intelligence agents hack Democratic emails and then slipped them to WikiLeaks (although its founder Julian Assange and an associate, former U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, have denied this), it is clear that the contents of the emails were legitimate and revealed some newsworthy facts about both the Democratic National Committee's tilting the playing field against Sen. Bernie Sanders and what Clinton told Wall Street bankers in paid speeches that she was hiding from the voters. In other words, the emails weren't disinformation; they provided real facts that the American people had a right to know before heading to the polls.