This is the first part (of 5 ) of a paragraph by paragraph commentary on an 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.
We begin with section 1. “Soft Targets” composed of thirteen paragraphs.
1.This paragraph alleges that Yuri Andropov, the KGB leader in 1982, tried to negatively influence the election of Reagan (would that he had succeeded) by having his operatives infiltrate the DNC and RNC. The only “evidence” provided is some notes provided by a KGB defector to Great Britain. The notes were his own, hand written and typed, not original nor photo copies and there is controversy over their authenticity. [It maybe true but unproven.]
2. This paragraph mentions that both the Soviets and the US were engaged in activities against each other including subversive work in other countries: typical cold war activities. After the end of the Soviet Union the CIA requested that Russia quit spreading fake news about the US and the Russians agreed. No mention of a quid pro quo was made. In 2000 another Russian defector told the US the Russians didn’t keep their word — that nothing changed. [Probably goes for both sides but unproven]
3. Here we are told Putin often points out the interference of the US in other countries and accuses it of “hypocrisy.” Putin also believes the US has been behind the overthrow of the governments in some former soviet republics. The US has also funded Russian dissident groups and supported anti government demonstrations in Russia. The article doesn’t provide any proof either way. The article lists “nongovernmental” agencies that Putin says are used on behalf of fomenting “regime change.” The nongovernmental “agencies” mentioned are: The National Endowment for Democracy (funded by the US government), Human Rights Watch (independently funded but with many former US officials working for it), Amnesty International (independently funded but with some former US government officials working for it) and Golos (Russian independent election monitoring organization with some US government funding). [Falsely suggests nongovernmental “agency” is not government sponsored].
4. This paragraph tells us that some US government officials reject Putin’s criticism and don’t agree with his implication of moral equivalence. It’s true that the US has been so much more interventionist and ruthless in its foreign policy than anything the Russians have done since the collapse of the Soviet Union that it’s an insult to Russia to compare it morally to the US. [Falsely suggests the US is more moral than Russia.]
5. This next paragraph is just empty propaganda having nothing to do with the 2016 election. It uses loaded terms and tells us what Putin’s inner mental states were: he “loathed” Obama, Obama has an “Administration”, Putin has “cronies”, there was an “invasion” of eastern Ukraine rather than an “uprising” in eastern Ukraine (these are all loaded terms to subliminally nudge the reader towards the US point of view — it’s an excellent propaganda technique used throughout the article). The rest of the paragraph tells us Trump said nice things about Putin in 2007 and 2013, and in 2016 he said Putin was a more effective leader (for Russia) than Obama was (for the US) — probably true: he put his man in place and then came back to power and Obama left behind Trump. [Empty propaganda]
6. Neither the RNC nor the DNC had proper security measures on their computers but John Podesta, HRC’s campaign chairman, should have known better. [True]
7. Quotes from Podesta on how his team goofed and outsiders got into his email. [True]
8. This is a description of the current political divisions in the US and how they provide fertile ground for disinformation (they use the Russian word to seed the coming argument.) The “fractured media environment” seemed ripe for conspiracy theories; climate change = Chinese hoax, Obama’s fake birth certificate; they left out the one about Putin hacking the DNC and our elections. The first two are pretty lame but the author’s seem to favor the last one.
9. Some quotes from Oleg Kalugin a retired KGB general living in the US who wrote two books about Soviet spying and with William Colby, former director of the CIA, created a computer game Spycraft. He said Russia tries to take advantage of American weaknesses. No doubt and vice versa.
10. James Clapper, director of national intelligence, released a report in early January claiming Putin ordered an operation to support Trump, undermine HRC, and cast doubt on the US democratic process. The authors admit the report is “more assertion than evidence.”
11. This paragraph informs us that re the Iraq War the US intelligence agencies put forth assertions that were untrue but they argued over the extent of the untruth. This time they all agreed with the same assertion. This is supposed to make it more credible but it’s still, so far, just an assertion.
12. Clapper makes his assertions to Congress about Putin and adds that WikiLeaks was in on it spreading “fake news” [i.e., willfully spreading known falsehoods in order to deceive] and pro Trump “messages.” [ No proof of any of this was given, nor any information on WikiLeaks shown to be false. The authors fail to draw the obvious conclusion that publishing the truth about the DNC and HRC does not amount to being pro Trump!]
13. A long paragraph reveals that Trump first rejected Clappers’ unfounded assertions but later “grudgingly accepted ” them adding that the Russians had no effect on the election’s outcome. Then quotes are offered by an anti-Putin Russian journalist (Yevgenia Albats) about what Putin “probably” does or doesn’t believe, what he’s interested in and what he “wanted.” Such telepathic transmissions are, however, even less evidentiary than Clapper’s assertions.
This is the end of part one. From reading part one of The New Yorker Article you will not have learned anything at all about whether or not the Russian government or Putin had anything to do with the “hacking” of the DNC or if they interfered with our elections. Maybe we will learn something in part two.
Thomas Riggins is a retired philosophy teacher (NYU, The New School of Social Research, among others) who received a PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center (1983). He has been active in the civil rights and peace movements since the 1960s when he was chairman of the Young People's Socialist League at Florida State University and also worked for CORE in voter registration in north Florida (Leon County). He has written for many online publications such as People's World and Political Affairs where he was an associate editor. He also served on the board of the Bertrand Russell Society and was president of the Corliss Lamont chapter in New York City of the American Humanist Association. He is the author of Reading the Classical Texts of Marxism.