This piece was reprinted by OpEdNews with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
Cross-posted from Consortium News
When specialists with a good sense of history insist that war with Russia is "not unthinkable" precipitated by events in Ukraine, one should take careful note. The "not unthinkable" quote is from pre-eminent American historian of Russia, Stephen F. Cohen, who recently appeared with John J. Mearsheimer, historian of U.S. foreign policy, on RT's Crosstalk.
That Cohen and Mearsheimer are professors should not be held against them. They typify the best; they are not of the ivory-tower type. And, on Ukraine, they are a far cry from the ersatz-professors, the former U.S. officials and the blathering pundits dominating TV and newspapers, including the New York Times which is supposedly pledged to provide "all the news that's fit to print."
Ironically, Kerry was warned three years ago by his predecessor of the steady strides being made by RT -- as well as Al-Jazeera and CCTV (the new English-language programming set up by China). At a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with then-Sen. Kerry in the chair, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lamented that the U.S. is "losing the information war," and added that she finds watching RT "quite instructive."
Are Kerry and Clinton unable to grasp that the U.S. corporate media's regurgitation of the manifold and manifestly deceitful justifications for U.S. actions abroad is the main reason why RT and others are gaining on us? Despite awesome advances in communications technology, it remains difficult to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear, which is often what U.S. policies abroad are, especially to the people of the targeted countries.
It is easy to blame "Russian propaganda" for just about everything, including the public distrust of the endless propaganda pouring forth from Official Washington and its "fawning corporate media." But people tire of the constant spin from U.S. officials and the one-sided coverage by the U.S. mainstream press. I may be naïve about this, but I think people really do prefer the truth.
Yet, it is in vogue to blame Washington's loss of credibility on Kremlin propaganda. At a State Department press conference last Thursday, Kerry lashed out at RT for its coverage on Ukraine:
"The propaganda bullhorn that is the state-sponsored RT program has been deployed to promote -- actually, RT network -- has been deployed to promote President Putin's fantasy about what is playing out on the ground," Kerry said, adding that RT spends almost all its time "propagandizing and distorting what is happening, or not happening, in Ukraine."
After years leading CIA's Soviet Foreign Policy Branch, I know what effective propaganda looks like. The "public diplomacy" effort led by Kerry and his merry propagandists at the State Department is a poor facsimile. True, Soviet propagandists played fast and loose with the truth -- as all propagandists do. But they were pros at it, which led them, inter alia, to avoid embarrassing their government for the short-term gain of 24-hour spin.
President Barack Obama needs to have a counseling session with Kerry, who could not resist the temptation to run with the spurious story on new registration requirements for Jews in pro-Russian eastern Ukraine. Nor could he pass up the chance to be able, finally, to adduce "proof" of Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine by citing photos front-paged by the New York Times, with the photos and story very quickly debunked and retracted. [See Consortiumnews.com's "NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop."]
And he wonders why the U.S. is continuing to lose what Hillary Clinton called the "information war?" As for "state-sponsored," is that not an apt description for what has become of the mainstream U.S. media, given the eagerness of career-minded "journalists" to accept U.S. government handouts as a way to prove their "patriotism" and to shield themselves from accusations that they are pawns of Russian "propaganda"?
Full disclosure: I am a regular guest on RT and an occasional interviewee on Al-Jazeera and CCTV-America. Have I ever been given "guidance" as to what would be acceptable for me to say? No. Am I free to speak on live broadcasts as critically of President Vladimir Putin as of President Barack Obama? Yes. Lately, have I been more critical of Obama and the mischief-making Kerry people than of their Russian counterparts? Yes.
And why is that? Simple. In Ukraine, the U.S. has sponsored one "regime change" too many. And, although this is rather obvious to thinking people, Obama has not yet been able to rein in his neoconservative "regime changers" and do what is necessary; i.e., fold his cards on Ukraine before he makes more of a fool of himself.
And how do Obama and Kerry get a pass from the American people for what they are doing? Because the mainstream U.S. media has left Americans brainwashed. In the biased U.S. coverage, for example, there has been little or no mention of NATO's eastward expansion despite solemn promises at the highest U.S.-Russian level not to do that. Indeed, a cartful of relevant facts that could provide crucial context goes unmentioned. It's simply, "Putin bad; Putin very bad. Shame on him; he sometimes has no shirt on, even on a horse. Bad, bad Putin."
Degraded U.S. Media
It was 51 years ago when I began work in Washington, so I have seen not only a lot of propaganda, but a lot of significant change, as well. By far the most important change I've witnessed is today's near-total absence of a genuinely free U.S. media (elements of the Internet/Web being the sole and salutary exception). There is no way to exaggerate the significance of that sea change.
What has this to do with Stephen Cohen's warning that events in Ukraine could lead to war with Russia, and John Mearsheimer's instructive comments on U.S. exceptionalism? Everything -- particularly since most Americans citizens seem pretty well brainwashed by U.S. government propaganda, even though only a small minority can point out Ukraine on a map. Certainly, the "group think" on Ukraine and against Putin seems almost total among Americans who have access to a TV talk show or a newspaper op-ed page.
True, the corporate media was not able to convince many Americans that the U.S. should attack Syria last summer. Russia is another story, given the animosities engendered by nearly a half century of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow. Thus, it is much easier to conjure up fear and hatred of Russia's alleged "expansionist ambitions." We all remember the "Red Dawn" movie.