Who's the idiot? Henry Jackson Society & the resurgence of McCarthyism

© Konstantin Chalabov
What we are witnessing is a push back against the closed group-think of the political elite, and they don't like it, says Annie Machon, former MI5 officer, who is also joined by Marcus Papadopoulos, Martin McCauley, John Wight and George Galloway.

Individuals who appear in the Russian media and happen to express pro-Russian sentiments, according to a paper unacademically entitled, 'Putin's Useful Idiots: Britain's Left, Right & Russia,' should be singled out, challenged and, where possible, discredited. 

The report by the Henry Jackson Society, which has been described even by the British media as a "neoconservative" outfit, argues that any paid appearances in the Russian media automatically make an individual a 'tool' of the Kremlin and apologists for Vladimir Putin. 

The think tank also suggests introducing new laws  which would force politicians to declare all media appearances they make.

RT spoke with a number of experts for their views on some of the more outlandish opinions found in this report.

Annie Machon, former MI5 intelligence officer.

RT: The report describes all those appearing on Russian media and on RT especially as 'Putin's useful idiots'. Not exactly the language of scientific research, is it? What do you make of that kind of tone? 

AM: First, I’m somewhat concerned that the think-tank that put out the report is actually the Henry Jackson Society, which is a renowned, vaguely notorious right-wing think-tank which evolved in Britain… and one of the initial signatories was the former head of MI6… I think it is just a little spy slang, actually. It is a phrase that is used in the UK too for people who work in the mainstream media, who can be relied on by, for example, the government spin doctors or the intelligence agencies in the UK to peddle a certain line when it comes to certain stories – to spin the story to the benefit of the government or the intelligence agencies. So this is quite a well-known phrase. 

But I will suggest that having the chance to express one’s viewpoints freely is very important across any media internationally. We have to have that plurality of views. If we don’t then it is very easy to get into a sort of very closed group-think. And that is what we’re seeing very much with a number of our governments now. And that is also I think why we see this push back against that closed group-think of the political elite few with things like Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump in the US. People are sick of this closed group-think. They want to get rid of it; they want a plurality of views; they want to have their say. 

Marcus Papadopoulos, Publisher, Editor of Politics First 

RT: How do you think the report will be perceived in the European Parliament, when it is debated next week? 

MP: Well, undoubtedly. I suspect that most parliamentarians in the European Parliaments will be sympathetic to some extent to the contents. But what I would like to say to members of the European Parliaments, and indeed anyone who is reading the contents of this dreadful report to bear in mind this: British people, British commentators, who give interviews to Russian media are not idiots, they are not traitors – they merely happen to disagree with a policy of British government, regarding, for example, Syria, or regarding Ukraine. 

What this report by the Henry Jackson Society is actually doing, it is encouraging hatred of people such as myself and other British people who go on RT. That can lead to tragic events; that can lead to people like myself and others being physically harmed by British nationalists, by religious extremists and by people who are of an unsound mind. We only have to go back to this summer to see what happens to the Labour MP Jo Cox when she was brutally killed in cold blood by a deranged individual.

This is a very crude and very desperate attempt to reprise McCarthyism in our time by a think tank comprised of a collection of… right-wing cranks, rabid Russophobes and unhinged neocons with an ax to grind dredged up from the swamp of mediocrity, which dominates western political culture. They are on the extreme edge of neocon thinking. But in its broader context, this is part of intensification we’ve seen of attacks on RT, beginning a few weeks ago with the peremptory announcement by NatWest that they were closing all RT UK’s bank accounts with no justifiable reason or explanation, with the recent despicable treatment of an RT journalist in Washington by US State Department spokesmen John Kirby, who sought to de-legitimize her when she asked him a question that he was unable to answer; this kind of sewage. We’ve seen the intensification because RT is winning the battle of ideas. It is challenging the mainstream narrative and explaining what is going on in the Middle East and why; what is going on in Eastern Europe and why; what is the root cause of the instability and crisis that affects our world. - John Wight, author and journalist, to RT.

I am saying this candidly, and I will say this openly: If something is to happen to a British commentator, who appears in Russian media - a politician, a journalist, or an academic, etc. - then the Henry Jackson Society would be partially responsible, because they are whipping up hatred towards people who oppose the British government’s line, when it comes to a foreign policy area and they are endangering those people. 

Perhaps the Henry Jackson Society would like to consider the British government as a traitor given that the British government is endangering the welfare and security of British citizens by supporting terrorists in Syria. And perhaps the Henry Jackson Society might like to consider itself as an idiot by failing to highlight the double standards and folly of British foreign policy when it comes to Syria and Libya, for example.

Martin McCauley, author and Russia analyst 

RT: What's your reaction on this report? Are you ready to have your reputation dragged through the mud for sharing your expertise with our viewers? 

MM: The Henry Jackson Society should be taken seriously because they have some very good analysts and some of the things they put out are quite interesting to read. But they are saying that anybody who expresses an opinion on Russia, which they think is pro-Russian, should in fact be identified and shamed. They don’t want anyone to go on television and actually say anything positive about Russia or Vladimir Putin. 

For instance, when I’m on RT, I am not pro-Russian or anti-Russian – I am giving my opinion and I am paid. And I am paid by the BBC, when I do an interview; I am paid by Sky, when I do an interview, and so on. That is quite normal. Politicians are paid as well. Because the more senior the politician, probably the higher the fee. I know some politicians who will not go on TV unless they are accurately rewarded financially.

Therefore, what Henry Jackson is saying is in fact existing practice. If I go on RT my name is put underneath, and everyone can see it is me, I am not hiding behind it. Our politicians who go on television normally have their names underneath and they are not trying to hide their affiliation or who they are, and so on… If you believe in the freedom of speech and an open society, then you allow people to express their opinions, providing they are not hate crimes, xenophobic or anything like that. Freedom of speech is very important in the European Union. 

George Galloway, former British MP and host of RT's 'Sputnik'

RT: Are you ready to have your reputation dragged through the mud for sharing your expertise with our viewers?

GG: Maybe we should put a big red star on our garments in the way that Nazis forced Jews to put big yellow starts on theirs? I have never heard anything so utterly ridiculous. First of all, by definition, anybody that appears on RT that is already a matter of public record, because it’s been on television. Secondly, every politician already has to record their income in the register of members’ interests. But I just make this point, which many of your viewers may not know: British people get sent to prison if they don’t pay the British state broadcaster, the BBC, almost 150 pounds every year – money that many can ill-afford, are forced on paying of imprisonment, to pay for the British broadcaster.

...Henry "Scoop" Jackson himself was a Cold War figure in the depth of the Cold War between the USA and then USSR. He was always advocating more weapons and more war between East and West. That tells you the kind of people we’re talking about here.

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