Vladimir Putin, West’s bogeyman extraordinaire, sells just about anything
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist. He is the author of 'Midnight in the American Empire,' How Corporations and Their Political Servants are Destroying the American Dream. @Robert_Bridge
George Orwell, in his timeless novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, demonstrated that the most effective method for keeping people under the jackboot of bureaucratic control is to foist upon them an enemy - even an imaginary one - that requires the 'benevolent' intervention of liberty-crushing government agencies and legislation.
Human nature being what it is, however, some less ethical readers interpreted Orwell's message more as an instruction manual than the warning it was meant to be.
Today, consumers across the Western hemisphere are daily subjected to an Orwellian 'Two Minute Hate', where Vladimir Putin - substituting for Oceania's much-reviled Emmanuel Goldstein - is portrayed as a brutal dictator hell-bent on restoring Russia's lost empire. The drugged-up and dumbed-down audience swallows the propagandist's Happy Meal and then asks for seconds.
Exhibit One: In early April, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, addressing a conference in Washington, laid out the top-five strategic challenges facing the Empire in this exact order: “Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism.”
Yes, you read that right. According to the highest ranking US military official, Russia is considered more of a threat to the United States than Islamic State, the terrorist group that beheads journalists, kills babies, destroys ancient architecture and drowns prisoners. The very same goon squad that Putin - with a formal invitation in hand from the Syrian government - obliterated in Syria.
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
― Noam Chomsky
Now, what are the chances that at least one NATO member would stand up and tell the emperor that Vladimir Putin deserves some credit for his courageous actions? Free ice cream in Hades at high noon seems a higher likelihood. That much was affirmed by none other than NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, addressing a security conference last week, remarked“there will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law.”
Considering the chaos the West has been sowing around the world of late, listening to NATO give a lecture on international law is a bit like Jack Daniels endorsing an Alcoholics Anonymous conference. But don’t expect too many Western officials to catch the irony; greed has a wonderful way of obfuscating reality.
Exhibit Two: The Fear & Smear roadshow targeting Russia in general and Putin in particular has forced military spending up 13 percent in Central and Eastern European countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
These NATO fiefdoms are cracking open their tattered purses to buy more military equipment, while participating in massive military games around the Baltic Sea that will only force Russia to respond in kind.
Russia’s envoy to NATO, Aleksandr Grushko, promised a “totally asymmetrical” response if the Western alliance moves ahead with plans to deploy new armored units to Eastern Europe, he said in an interview with TV channel Russia-24.
Due to the advantage (or disadvantage, as the case may be) of vast geographical distance, most Westerners will only ever know Putin's Russia and Russia's Putin vicariously through mainstream media, think-tanks and book publishers; a massive cottage industry that feeds itself on the fantasy that Vladimir Putin – who has never initiated an attack on a sovereign state during his entire term in office - is somehow the ultimate threat to world peace.
Instead of providing gratuitous publicity to any single anti-Russia hack, let’s consider what happens to an independent-minded Western thinker who happens to escape the clutches of the Thought Police.
Exhibit Three:Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton, who was practically tarred and feathered for having the audacity to call a spade a spade when it came to US reporting on Putin.
Writing in The Nation, Cohen ventured off the anti-Russia reservation when he observed that “wanton Putin-bashing is… the dominant narrative in centrist, liberal and progressive media, from the Post, Times and The New Republic to CNN, MSNBC and HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher…”
Cohen then leveled direct criticism against The New Republic’s lead writer on Russia, Julia Ioffe, and her 10,000-word “Putin-phobic” treatise, breathlessly entitled: 'He Crushed His Opposition and Has Nothing to Show for It But a Country That Is Falling Apart.'
Cohen was having none of it. “Neither sweeping assertion is spelled out or documented,” the professor observed, as he went on to demolish this “compilation of chats” and “titillating personal gossip,” which sufficiently demonstrates “Ioffe’s disdain for objectivity.”
Cohen’s critique of Ioffe’s selfie-style of journalism could serve as a ready-made template for any number of other Putin-phobic profiteers – the Gessens, Applebaums and Dawishas - now peddling their damaged goods to an unsuspecting crowd who thinks they are getting the ‘inside story’ on Putin. Little do they realize these cynical, subjective writers have a malicious agenda to hawk and a half-baked product to sell; truth is the very last thing on their minds when deliberating upon Russia and Putin.
Propaganda is as powerful as heroin; it surreptitiously dissolves all capacity to think. ― Gil Courtemanche
But it was this particularly loaded passage in Cohen’s piece, which called out the US media's Russia coverage that really got the dogs barking: Assessing US news coverage of the Ukraine crisis, Cohen concluded that, “American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.”
The subsequent attacks against Cohen for courageously speaking his mind - not to mention the painful truth - were hardly conducive to a healthy, vibrant democracy.
By following such a conformist, herd mentality towards any person who dares contradict the Western narrative on Russia's Putin (and indeed, any other number of sacred dogmas) supports Cohen's argument that the United States today has far more in common with the repressive conditions of the vanquished Soviet Union than does Russia.
This repressive mindset forces the West to support the lowest common denominator, to the point where perverted, anti-Putin groups, like the ‘feminist art collective’ Pussy Riot is considered somehow worthy of commentary, not least of all by Madonna.
This obscene group, which would have remained safely in the shadows of obscurity if not for their penchant for scandalous behavior (Google 'Pussy Riot + sex + chicken parts'), jumped on the West's overloaded anti-Putin bandwagon - together with NATO, the military industrial complex, media and other acts - to lift basement careers.
Overall, watching individuals and groups profit on the imaginary enemy the West has made out of Vladimir Putin is a painful spectacle to watch. It exposes how low people will stoop - even at the expense of making the world a far more dangerous place - to make a buck on cheap, fear-mongering techniques.
Odd coincidence that just when the Pentagon is looking for more money there's a new round of 'Putin might invade the Baltics!' in the media— Danielle Ryan (@DanielleRyanJ) February 4, 2016
The West is suffering from a clear case of Orwellian doublethink, which, as explained by Erich Fromm in the Afterword of 1984, is the act of "holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
On the one hand, Western audiences desperately cling to the idea that their government leaders are working benevolently on behalf of democratic principles, while at the same time those leaders bomb successful sovereign states into failed states.
In the United States, this dangerous ideological phenomenon goes by the name of "exceptionalism."
They also cling to the belief that Vladimir Putin - who has never attacked a single sovereign state during his entire term in office - is the root of all evil in the world, and despite the fact that he just routed Islamic State in Syria after NATO balked on the task.
The only question that remains is how long the West will be able to continue profiting from such a fantastic Orwellian untruth.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.