Edward Snowden

Anti-Russia tirade deflects scrutiny of US misdeeds

Graeme Maxton mulls the hypocrisy and danger of American propaganda

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 August, 2013, 4:16am

The mind-modifying machine is being cranked up and the sound of nasty news is getting louder. Russia is being demonised again and for reasons that are less than just.

In the past two weeks, there has been a steady flow of news reports, especially in the English-speaking media, attacking Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

It is troubling for China, which risks being dragged into the bad-news swamp as well

Britain's Channel 4 News programme ran a story about how relations between America and Russia have become "frosty". As well as photos mocking Putin for keeping in shape, the story was illustrated with graphics showing ice forming and then cracking over an old photo of a pensive-looking US President Barack Obama sitting beside a glum Putin. The two articles that followed attacked Russia for its new "anti-gay laws" and examined calls for the country to be stripped of its right to stage the 2014 winter Olympics.

In the US, the chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, has accused Russia of being hostile to the West. Firebrand senator John McCain called for Russia to be punished for its human rights abuses.

CBS, the Huffington Post, Sky News, the BBC, as well as many others, ran stories about Russia's persecution of gays and lesbians, which The Daily Beast says evokes "the waning days of the Weimar Republic - and the coming of the Third Reich".

The reasons for this anti-Russian rhetoric are, of course, pretty obvious. Russia, never having extradited anyone before, refused to bow to US pressure to ship whistle-blower Edward Snowden to Washington so that he could face waterboarding and 100 years in jail alongside Bradley Manning. This led Obama to cancel a meeting with Putin.

It is not just the Snowden story, though. There is Syria as well, where Russia refuses to play ball with the US. There is Iran too, where Moscow repeatedly stands up for Tehran on nuclear issues. And there is also the US humiliation of the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks which showed that American diplomats tried to amend Russian laws in the interests of two US finance companies, Visa and Mastercard.

The fact we all know why this is happening does not mask the dangers, however. Based on past evidence, the flood of anti-Russian news will rise. This is not good. It is especially troubling for China, which risks being dragged into the bad-news swamp as well. After all, Beijing is out of favour with Washington because of its stance on Snowden, Syria and Iran too.

The US propaganda machine is playing with fire. It risks starting another cold war, or at least a long frozen squabble. It risks dividing the world.

Instead of engaging with those who oppose it, be it in Russia, Iran, China or Afghanistan, America wants us all to mock and hate them. This encourages us to forget the real story.

It is, after all, America that is spying on us all, not Russia. It is America that has been violating our rights. It has been American companies, supported by the US government, that have been reading our e-mails, listening to our calls and tracking our movements. It is America's armed forces that have been assassinating people without judicial review, and violating basic principles of justice. It is America that has been locking up people in an obscure military base without charge. It is America that has been supporting the other side in all those proxy wars.

We are being worked up into a froth about Russia and that bad Mr Putin, while the main issues we need to worry about are being brushed aside. It is all hype and hypocrisy.

Graeme Maxton is an author and a fellow of the Club of Rome