Hmm, to have a well-known, hard-nosed reporter like Taibbi file a piece on this topic did sound like a good thing. Unfortunately the expectation that I would find some ironclad, devastating indictment, a lucid pushback against the current manufactured and hypocritical anti-Russian hysteria soon dissolved into something approaching incredulity when my hopes struck a reef on the very first paras:
“In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming (sic) to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.
‘These data theft and disclosure activities could only have been directed by the highest levels of the Russian government,’ he wrote.
Russia at first pledged, darkly, to retaliate, then backed off. The Russian press today is even reporting that Vladimir Putin is inviting ‘the children of American diplomats’ to ‘visit the Christmas tree in the Kremlin,’ as characteristically loathsome/menacing/sarcastic a Putin response as you’ll find…”
“Seeming” to blame the Russians? Seeming?! C’mon Matt. Read your own quotes. There’s nothing tentative about Obama’s accusations. But that is a minor peccadillo compared to what quickly follows, a big dollop of gratuitous shade thrown at Putin right at the outset, a kick in the groin that sets the tone for the rest, a curious mix of petulant jeremiad using Journalism 101 platitudes with repeated instances of oblique approval for the idea that, yes folks, Putin and the Russians could have done it.
For those who understand what’s really going on, how the liberal mainstream establishment has rolled out one of the most outrageous campaigns of defamation and putschist disinformation in modern history against both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, indeed a case without parallel in the entire history of US media, this particular Taibbi piece does not make for enjoyable reading. It is disingenuous, at best.
Above the fray
Compounding Taibbi’s failure to call a spade a spade is his effort to keep his pristine skirts above the fray, a maneuver accomplished by that old liberaloid standby, the “curse on both your houses”. The problem and inherent dishonesty with such curses is that they often do not lacerate with equanimity. One side —usually the weaker and more innocent side—is bound to emerge far more bloodied than the other, and this is precisely what happens in this case. For while castigating his fellows in the Western press for their lax standards, a lot of bla bla bla that professional disinformers will barely notice, Taibbi also manages to lend quite a bit of credibility to the lying side of the equation, which naturally can only add fuel to the Russian hacking story, already a raging, all consuming and dangerous fire. (BTW, it was an inside leak, not a hack.) Further, and for bad measure, judging by his venom against the Russian president, he has also cheerfully joined the Putin lynching mob.
This from the Great Taibbi, the often implacable Dragon Slayer of rightwing excess and chicanery. The man who wrote brilliantly mordant stuff like this:
To hear GOP insiders tell it, Doomsday is here. If Donald Trump scores huge on tonight and seizes control of the nomination in the Super Tuesday primaries, it will mark the beginning of the end of the Republican Party, and perhaps the presidency…But Trump isn’t the beginning of the end. George W. Bush was. The amazing anti-miracle of the Bush presidency is what makes today’s nightmare possible.
People forget what an extraordinary thing it was that Bush was president. Dubya wasn’t merely ignorant when compared with other politicians or other famous people. No, he would have stood out as dumb in just about any setting.
If you could somehow run simulations where Bush was repeatedly shipwrecked on a desert island with 20 other adults chosen at random, he would be the last person listened to by the group every single time. He knew absolutely nothing about anything. He wouldn’t have been able to make fire, find water, build shelter or raise morale. It would have taken him days to get over the shock of no room service.
So how de we explain this? Is it age? Is it that particular liberaloid affliction so well exemplified by Rachel Maddow of seeing only evil in the Republicans and remaining stone-cold blind and indifferent to the numerous crimes and treacheries committed by the Democrats? Is it a great compensation package? Some juicy prospects with a book publisher or television channel? A do o die instruction from on high, in this case from Rolling Stone owner and Hillary sycophant tycoon Jann Wenner? After all, RS did endorse war goddess Hillary Clinton via an embarrassing piece of puffery (“Idealism and honesty are crucial qualities for me, but I also want someone with experience who knows how to fight hard”) penned by the RS publisher himself, who also happens to be Taibbi’s boss. (Hillary Clinton for President, March 23, 2016).
Not easy to explain. Indeed, for a bright guy who lived in Russia for years, it is inexcusable he should not have acquired at least a rudiment of Marxian analysis. If he had, he would have been able to easily sail through the fog enveloping the liberal mind. But it seems that Taibbi reads, listens to and watches only liberaloid material, to the calculated exclusion of anything that might rattle his self-imposed mental cage. Thus, at least in this lucubration, this supposed giant of political perception and commentary comes across as a conformist mouse, a myopic dwarf mouthing off the approved script when compared to anything written by the editors of Black Agenda Report, for example, who tell it like is, and tell it in depth, using irrefutable fact and logic. Granted, Black Agenda Report, and many of the sites (including this one) listed as purveyors of “Fake News” by the shady psyop asset propornot.com, a filthy slander operation given credence thanks to the criminal complicity of Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post, are not exactly huge engines of mass communications. Such sites, ironically carrying the best and most honest journalism around, are part of a long “ghettoized” sector of public opinion, their visibility to the ordinary citizen tenuous at best. But Taibbi is no ordinary citizen and I assume he knows how to dig. What then?
Leave for a moment the idea of Taibbi being exposed to radical thought by tapping the “information ghetto.” Let’s assume he never heard of Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford or Margaret Kimberley; or of Luciana Bohne, Andre Vltchek, John Pilger, Jeff Brown, Diana Johnstone, or Pepe Escobar, all masterful analysts—which is already stretching it a bit. Does he not value the output of true, sophisticated, totally above ground and celebrated great journalists, folks like Glenn Greenwald? Is it possible that Taibbi has not even noticed or paid attention to what Greenwald and his brave colleagues have been saying on The Intercept? What kind of homework is that?
Frankly, I’m at a loss to explain Taibbi’s posture. I guess it goes to show you that bourgeois backgrounds and American cultural and ideological poisons run deep in most people—even those who appear to have escaped the American Bubble— and that such self-injected straightjackets are seldom shed, especially when you occupy a visible, rewarding and prominent spot in the media/cultural universe of the country under examination. In any case, read the rest of this fatuous nonsense here. Note that at no time does Taibbi stop to consider with any seriousness the alternative interpretation, that it was not a Russian “hack” at all, but an internal leak, as pointed out by reliable sources, a leak from someone within the US intel or DNC structures.
But let’s get to some specifics. The excerpts below clearly illustrate the issues that concern me. (I have used red bold to mark off my inline comments and the more questionable passages):
Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.
On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d’etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy. (sic) [Taibbi’s lurid imagination is conveniently oblivious that the only credible coup underway has been organized by the Clintonites and not the Trump side.]
But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.
The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence “assessment” to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power? (He’s on more solid ground here)
It could also be something in between. Perhaps the FSB didn’t commission the hack, but merely enabled it somehow. Or maybe the Russians did hack the DNC, but the WikiLeaks material actually came from someone else? There is even a published report to that effect, with a former British ambassador as a source, not that it’s any more believable than anything else here. (Cavalier dismissal of a reliable witness. If this source is so easily dismissed, why even pretend to have any factual or logical reason to trust anything or anyone and engage in this pretentious “analysis” to begin with? )
We just don’t know, which is the problem.
We ought to have learned from the Judith Miller episode. Not only do governments lie, they won’t hesitate to burn news agencies. In a desperate moment, they’ll use any sucker they can find to get a point across.
I have no problem believing that Vladimir Putin tried to influence the American election. He’s gangster-spook-scum of the lowest order and capable of anything. And Donald Trump, too, was swine enough during the campaign to publicly hope the Russians would disclose Hillary Clinton’s emails. So a lot of this is very believable. (Taibbi’s insulting “grasp” of who Putin is in the current historical scheme of things is on a par with that of a multitude of US presstittes bent on demonizing the Russian leader. Enough to discard Taibbi as a respectable or insightful observer, let alone a sophisticated reporter of Russian politics, except at the most impressionistic and superficial level.)
But we’ve been burned before in stories like this, to disastrous effect. Which makes it surprising we’re not trying harder to avoid getting fooled again. (Yes we have, but such “incidents” are not aberrations; they are the norm).
Burned before? How about most of the time in anything of real interest to the public, and most particularly foreign policy? Facts is, the American media are simply propaganda vectors for the status quo, these days the global Neoliberal project, and just about the only thing you can put your faith on is trivia like football scores, celebrity gossip, ever more ludicrous and self-serving escapist fare, and the weather reports. The rest is 100% toxic.
As BAR’s editor in chief, Glen Ford, has put it with characteristic precision:
From the moment Obama became the protector-in-chief of jihadists in Libya and Syria, virtually all the “news” about the wars in the region has been fake, false, lies. The now indisputable fact that the U.S. has, variously, armed, financed, shielded, transported, trained, directed and otherwise nurtured Islamic jihadists, including al-Qaida, is the truth that cannot be spoken on corporate media. If widely understood and internalized by the public, such a truth would shatter U.S. ruling structures. Therefore, it must be suppressed at all costs. (Locating Fascism on the Home Map, Jan, 4, 2016)
Hard to believe then that a self-professed cynic like Taibbi would apparently still want us to believe there is such a thing as an honest, hardworking mainstream press in the West, a press that supports democracy. If Taibbi is for real on this, then I submit he is clinging to a beatific notion of the American media that carries no substance whatsoever and is in point of fact delusional. As they say in Yorkshire, the proof is in the pudding. How does Taibbi and his ilk explain the scores of international crimes carried out by the US empire, with total impunity (just counting since the end of WW2) in the presence of a solid and incorruptible press? The idea that the US press was all along reporting on little Nuremberg-class crimes like Korea or Vietnam or the toppling of Chile’s duly elected president, the overthrow of Iran’s premier Mossadegh, or the carnage in Central America, the murderous coup in Indonesia (yea the list is tediously long), not to mention the more recent examples of the press’ abject failure, nay, let’s call it by its real name, full complicity in the crimes of empire committed in the Middle East and Ukraine—how can any of this be reconciled with a strong independent press whichmost of the time reports the truth? Do note I say “most of the time” as I do not expect any absolutes, and in any case, “most of the time” straight reporting would make a huge difference. To borrow from Taibbi himself, something here stinks. For if the press was telling the truth all along and the US government still carried out these crimes we must face some pretty unpleasant conclusions:
(1) The US media reported truthfully on all these events and the US public could not be bothered. (2) The US media reported truthfully on all these matters, the American people rose in opposition, but the US government dismissed the popular outcry and did what it was bent on doing anyhow.
If we choose (1), the American people stink. If we choose (2), we don’t have a democracy in America.
Take your pick. Of course, we know the truth, because history has shown us what it is, and it corresponds much more to the second proposition, albeit not for the reason formulated above, because in both cases, the premise—that the US media has reported truthfully most of the time—is false, nonexistent. Both propositions are therefore untestable. Taibbi’s sorry performance in this sordid affair mounted by the Democrat wing of the native plutocracy shows us, I sincerely regret to admit, that he is a lightweight, carrying all the devious limitations of mainstream liberalism. His failure reminds us again how much temperament and not intelligence conditions a man’s views of the world, and that while a liberal and a rightwinger are only separated by a weak stream, the distance between a liberal and a radical is an ocean.
ARE YOU A LIBERAL?
If you’re still buying this ludicrous and insidious Russia hacking story, and the notion that Pres. Putin is a “thug”, you are probably in the grip of liberal media and their treacherous propaganda. First of all realize that NOT being a liberal does NOT make you a know-nothing rightwinger, or a crude reactionary. But being a liberal, following the policies and choices sold to you by the Democratic party and their numerous shills in the media, NGOs, fronts such as MoveOn, Avaaz, etc., makes you unwittingly complicit with the Right’s agenda because in all issues that really matter, issues that go to the true nature of our “American democracy” and the distribution of power in American society, the liberals’ equivocal posture ends up fortifying the country’s drift to the right.
If you understand by “liberal” being a nice and progressive person, then by shopping Democrat you’re shopping at the wrong store. What you need to be is a RADICAL, a person who is not afraid to look at the root of a problem. A “radical” is NOT an extremist, as the word has been stigmatized in US political discourse. And even “extremist” is a term that remains subjective. An “extremist” like that fabled “freedom fighter” is a dangerous fellow to one and a brave and reasonable person to another. All good doctors are “radicals” in their practice, since they look for the actual, root causes of a disease in their search for a cure. Those who only treat superficial symptoms are quacks. Liberals are political quacks. By hijacking the “left” label, Liberals (especially in the US) suck up the oxygen, the political space that rightly belongs to the left. Their myriad failures and hypocrisies—guaranteed considering they rarely mean to effect real changes in society—are therefore understood by the public at large as failures of the “Left”.
Investigative independent journalist John Pilger, who has been fighting the liberal imposture for most of his life, and is worth more in vital truth terms than an entire American network, or the New York Times, for that matter, duly decries the liberals’ role in history:
“Liberals…appropriate the world that ought to represent the best of us: our fearless resistance to self-serving bombast and bullshit and of course great crime. They fix the boundaries of political culture, art, dissent, even idle discussion. Decent, educated people echo the bullshit, without thought and apparently a care. This brainwashing is the true power of our age, just as liberalism itself is by far the most violent ideology; the fusion with Americanism makes it deadly. What brightens my day is that (a) millions understand this and (b) the current panic of the rulers and their managers, which tells us the wind can change without notice. In the Sixties, that happened…”
Self-Diagnosis: How to Tell if You Are a Liberal (This questionnaire obviously applies chiefly to Americans)
1. You remain a mainstream Democrat. 2. You supported and still support Hillary Clinton. 3, You voted for and admire Barack Obama thinking he’s the best thing that happened since sliced bread. 4. You listen to pundits and “news” on CBS, NBC, ABC, NPR, PBS or read The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, TIME, and other mainstream media, nodding in assent and regarding them as generally trustworthy. You are alarmed by websites peddling “Fake News” and want them suppressed. 5. You watch Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver and think they’re clever, well informed and spot on. You also think they’re terribly funny. 6. You still think Rachel Maddow and Amy Goodman are reliable journalists and not compromised imperial shills, the former outrageously so. 7. You believe that Obamacare is a great piece of legislation and that it should not be touched. 8. You read and participate on Daily Kos, but you NEVER heard of or read Black Agenda Report, Consortium News, Global Research, Fort Russ, The Saker, 21st Century Wire, OpedNews or The Greanville Post. (This is just a sampler of reliable information sources.) As well you don’t have a clue who these people are: John Pilger, Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley, Jeff Brown, Jean Bricmont, Gilbert Mercier, Andre Vltchek, Pepe Escobar, Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Paul Craig Roberts, Dady Chery, Stephen Lendman, Finian Cunningham, John Wight, Luciana Bohne, Steven Gowans, or Diana Johnstone. (There are others of comparable worth but I don’t want to overwhelm you.) 9. You believe Donald Trump is the most dangerous and heinous human being that ever existed, and that he is a unique phenomenon with no political antecedents or paternity in existing parties. 10. You think Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama are saintly figures, and that George Soros’ White Helmets should receive a Nobel Prize. 11. You think Putin is a thug and Russia the most aggressive and devious nation on earth. They should be contained! You also believe Pres. Assad is a brutal dictator who deserves to be overthrown for the sake of human rights. 12. You think Charlie Rose is a great journalist. 13. You believe The New York Times and the Washington Post, whatever peccasilloes they may have committed, remain bastions of exemplary journalism.
That should help with your self-diagnosis. Pleading “AYE” to any of these questions should tell you are contaminated with a worldview that is at best grotesquely inadequate and self-serving, and at worst maliciously biased and a threat to real social justice and world peace. Run for the exits! Start re-examining your beliefs. Google the people and orgs we mention above.