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Hybrid War: Reactive Mismeasures: The New Yorker and the "New" Cold War Propaganda (Part 4)

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Thomas Riggins

This is the fourth part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on a recent article posing as journalism in the March 6, 2017 issue of The New Yorker. I hope to demonstrate that this article is basically a totally mendacious concoction of cold war US propaganda constructed out of unsubstantiated opinions expressed by US government officials and various journalists and others who are hostile to the current Russian government. There are a few paragraphs exempt from this characterization and they are duly noted. I have put a link to the article itself so that my commentary can be compared, paragraph by paragraph, to the original. However, the commentary can be read on its own. I contend it expresses the real meaning of the original paragraph and my evaluation of that meaning. The original is there for anyone to check to see if I have distorted rather than clarified what the paragraph's actual meaning is. It is my position that this article is junk journalism which misrepresents the objective reality it purports to describe and that my commentary points out the misrepresentations and attempts to correct them. I hold that no self respecting journalist would write an article such as this New Yorker piece and palm it off on the public. My commentary is also an object lesson on how to distinguish between reportage that at least attempts to be unbiased and obvious nonobjective propaganda. You will know more about Trump, Putin and the New Cold War from the commentary than you will ever know from the original article.

Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War - The New Yorker

Active measures were used by both sides throughout the Cold War. In the nineteen-sixties, ... Evan Osnos joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, ...

Section Four: "Hybrid War" 37 Paragraphs

1. Russia wasn't very advanced in computer technology. It didn't get on the world wide web until 1990. However, it caught up and by 1996 it had expert hackers and now "cyber tactics have become an essential component of Russia's efforts to exert influence over its neighbors." [The US of course does exactly the same: no great revelation here].

2. Spring 2007, somebody cyber attacks Estonia: news, banks and government sites go down.

3. Russia and Estonia were at odds over Estonia's decision to move a Soviet WWII war memorial (a statue of a soldier) out of the capital's (Tallinn) center.

4. April 27, 2007 the statue is removed. Soon Estonia's sites were flooded with DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) disabling them for two weeks. [Who did it? Angry Russians living in Estonia? The Russian government? Private Russian computer trolls? Political enemies of the current Estonian president?] "Investgators never pinpointed" who did it. In other words, nobody knows who did it so let's blame the Russian government. [This is very analogous to the current blame laid at the feet of Putin for the "hacking" of the DNC and the US elections. The Russians could have done it therefore the Russians did it.] The then Estonian President (Toomas Ilves), who left office last year, is not content to just blame the Russians but believes it was the Russian government + "mafiosos": and why not? Without evidence you can cast blame wherever you feel like.

5. What do the authors of the New Yorker article conclude? Well, they don't know exactly what happened but they do know what the ex-president thinks happened, or rather believes happened, therefore "it was a landmark event: a state-backed cyber-attack for political purposes." And to reinforce their conclusion they quote a Pentagon official who doesn't know anymore about who did it than they do. A shining example of first rate investigative journalism.

6. 2008 Russian tanks crossed over into South Ossetia in the former Soviet Georgia [they don't mention until later that the Georgians open fire first ] and at the same time hackers disabled the Georgian internet. In "defense" circles the Russians were becoming well known for their "ambition, technical acumen, and speed.''

7. The Georgia operation showed that the Russians knew how to coordinate cyber activity and ground operations [could walk and chew gum at the same time].

8. The Russians were, however, upset over the propaganda side of the Georgia operation. Although they released the films proving the Georgians attacked first when these films were presented in the Western media they were made to look as if the Russians attacked the Georgians. The authors remark that "Russian generals took this lesson to heart." As a result they made a study of "information war" and how to use the media more effectively, putting what they learned to use in Ukraine and Syria. I wonder if the authors are aware of the meaning of their own paragraph? The Russians give the proof of who started the fighting in Georgia to the Western "free press" and media and the information is altered to conform to a US disinformation campaign at the time which alleged that the Russians started the fighting. One of the points the authors are trying to make in their article is the Russian press is obedient to Putin while the Western press tells the truth. It reminds me of the German news reels in 1939 that showed Poland invading Germany and starting the war. The author's own words imply the Russians just recently learned "disinformation" from the Western press. [What? All those years under Communism "Pravda" was telling the truth!]

9. The authors report that the US was also successful in waging a cyber attack around this time. In 2008 the US and Israel teamed up and placed a "worm" into an Iranian network to make their "centrifuges to spin out of control" to slow done Iran's "nuclear development." [The US is proud of this achievement yet voices in Congress say it's a casus belli if the Russians spied on the DNC and told WikiLeaks what they found out.]

10. A meaningless paragraph about our so-called "reset policy" with Russia and a quote from the hawkish Evelyn Farkas about "big Russian spies" [they do eat a lot of carbohydrates] and our attempts to work out an "arms control for" cyber activities with the Russians.

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Thomas Riggins, PhD CUNY, is a retired university lecturer in philosophy and ancient history and the former book review editor for Political Affairs magazine.

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