Menace of hypocrisy: Neocon propagandist frets over Russia’s ‘weaponization of information’

Menace of hypocrisy: Neocon propagandist frets over Russia’s ‘weaponization of information’
There was a strong whiff of hypocrisy in the Washington air on November 13 when the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) hosted a discussion of a report entitled ‘The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money’.

The Menace of Unreality is co-authored by Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief of the Interpreter, and Peter Pomerantsev, author of a forthcoming book asserting that Putin’s Russia is a post-modern dictatorship.

Introducing the discussion, NED’s Christopher Walker noted that the US Congress-funded Endowment hadn’t been involved in the production of the report but that it does have “close ties” to Weiss’s online journal and the New York-based think tank that funds it, the Institute of Modern Russia (IMR).

In the course of their report’s self-righteous criticism of the widespread “opaqueness” about who funds think tanks, Weiss and Pomerantsev disclose, in an aside, that their work is “funded by a think tank that receives support from the family of Mikhail Khodorkovsky.” Their critique of the weaponization of money, however, neglects to mention its funder’s conviction for embezzlement and money laundering.

Peter Pomerantsev, author of a forthcoming book asserting that Putin’s Russia is a post-modern dictatorship (Screenshot from youtube.com)

In Washington, Weiss and Pomerantsev were joined in the discussion of their “counter-disinformation” report by an analyst from the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative advocacy group founded by Robert Kagan and William Kristol, whose earlier Project for a New American Century had played a key role in pushing the lies that led to the US invasion of Iraq.

Inside the report’s cover, which features a reader oblivious to the fact that the broadsheet he’s reading is going up in flames, the Interpreter says it “aspires to dismantle the language barrier that separates journalists, Russia analysts, policymakers, diplomats and interested laymen in the English-speaking world from the debates, scandals, intrigues and political developments taking place in the Russian Federation.”

The similarity between the Interpreter’s stated aspirations and those of the pro-Israel Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) may be more than coincidental. As the liberal Jewish blogger Richard Silverstein observed about a blog in the Telegraph by the Interpreter’s editor-in-chief, “a number of Weiss’claimsare based on the notoriously unreliable MEMRI,” which itself claims to bridge “the language gap between the West and the Middle East and South Asia.”

Michael Weiss, editor-in-chief of the Interpreter (Screenshot from youtube.com)

The bio that precedes that June 2011 Weiss blog describes him as “the Research Director ofThe Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank, as well as the co-chair of its Russia Studies Centre.”

In addition to a who’s who of neocon luminaries like Kagan and Kristol, the Henry Jackson Society’s international patrons include Ambassador Dore Gold, former permanent representative of Israel to the United Nations, and Natan Sharansky, chair of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Weiss’s previous employment at the UK-based, pro-Israel advocacy organization, however, is conspicuously absent from the lengthy “About the Authors” section at the end of the IMR-published, anti-Russia report.

His updated bio, however, reveals that Weiss’ concerns haven’t changed much since his HJS days.

“Weiss has covered the Syrian revolution from its inception, reporting from refugee camps in southern Turkey and from the frontlines of war-torn Aleppo,” the IMR report notes.

A member of al Qaeda's Nusra Front poses with the Nusra flag on top of an infantry fighting vehicle at the frontline near al-Zahra village, north of Aleppo city, November 25, 2014 (Reuters / Abdalrhman Ismail)

As a profile of the neocon Henry Jackson Society observes, its members have been “active proponents of Western intervention in Syria’s civil war.” It singles out a March 2012 piece in the New York Times by Weiss advocating that the US “begin marshaling a coalition for regime change in Syria consisting of countries” like “Britain, France, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.”

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post last year, Israel’s previous ambassador to the US Michael Oren admitted that Tel Aviv “always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go.”

Likewise, one suspects that Weiss’ “set of modest recommendations” on how the West should confront Russia’s supposed “weaponization of information” is motivated at least in part by the challenge Russian media such as RT poses to the monopoly over the narrative of the Syrian conflict coveted by his interventionist friends in the Western media.

Maidhc Ó Cathail, for RT

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a widely-published writer and political analyst. He is also the creator and editor of the Passionate Attachment blog, which focuses primarily on the US-Israeli relationship.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.