British neocons take new McCarthyism across the Atlantic

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A neoconservative British lobby group literally wants to blacklist people for talking to what they consider to be undesirable media. McCarthyism has gone trans-Atlantic.

If the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) was on a solo run, their campaign to smear anybody remotely sympathetic to, or even open to engaging with, Russia as “Putin’s useful idiot” might have been easily dismissed as an absurd, paranoid throwback. After all, the organization is of questionable provenance and is named for a hawkish US senator who rarely saw a war he didn’t like. From Vietnam to Cambodia and Iraq, ‘Scoop’ Jackson’s pursuit of foreign misadventures was legendary.

However, this new narrative is anything but a fluke. Because in the past month, both The Times of London and NATO’s Atlantic Council adjunct have pushed much the same message. And all three entities are interconnected when it comes to evaluating Moscow. Indeed, the “blame Russia” crowd seems to move around with great haste on this think-tank fellow/journalist/expert commentator merry-go-round.

A cold front

This autumn, The Times kicked off the current campaign with a series of articles smearing British personalities who have appeared on Russian stations. Interestingly, the apparent driving force behind the coverage, and leader writer at the paper, is Oliver Kamm, who was a founder member of the HJS and a signatory to the statement of principles.

And that proclamation is some piece of work. In it, we learn how the HJS does not regard a large number of states as "truly legitimate." Amazingly, they include two of the world’s top three military powers, namely Russia and China. Their sin? Not being American style “liberal democracies,” which in itself is ironic at a time when the US appears to be questioning its own fealty to unbridled liberalism.

For its part, NATO’s Atlantic Council prefers the term 'Trojan Horses' rather than 'useful idiots,' and it used its November report to slam a particular subset of European public figures, those who do not give unconditional support to the military bloc and its aims. They seemingly include French presidential front-runner Francois Fillon, German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, and British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The simplicity of the defamation is astounding, as the authors refuse to countenance any domestic or moral reasons for why these politicians may not support the further militarization of Europe.

Instead, the only explanation entertained is that they are doing it to suit Moscow.

The introduction to the Atlantic Council’s diatribe is written by Radoslaw Sikorski, the controversial former Polish foreign minister. He happens to be married to Anne Applebaum, who works as a lobbyist for American defense contractors at a Washington and Warsaw-based advocacy named CEPA. She’s joined there by Peter Pomerantsev, who is slated to launch the HJS communique at Westminster on Wednesday.

Also, another person who links the Atlantic Council to HJS is their colleague Michael Weiss. While the activist is now employed to campaign for the former’s interests, he was previously the communication’s director at the latter.

Not to mention the fact that he also edits The Interpreter, a blog dedicated to denigrating Russia, which is a special project of the US government broadcaster RFE/RL Yes. It really is a small world.

New sensation

The HJS report is penned by Andrew Foxall, a former climate change ‘expert’ who has jumped onto the anti-Russia bandwagon in recent years. Foxall’s crude pitch is that somehow the Kremlin is manipulating both Britain’s right and left to control events in the country. Which begs the question of where, exactly, are you allowed to be on the UK political spectrum? Is no one allowed a critical thought that falls outside the bounds of the Foxall-approved centrist establishment?

The title ‘Putin’s Useful Idiots’ is also interesting. Because it’s well known how this phrase is used in the UK to describe people who work in the mainstream media and can be relied on to peddle a certain line when it comes to particular stories, for instance to spin a tale to the benefit of the government or the intelligence agencies. Given that Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6 from 1999 to 2005, was a founder signatory of the HJS, it’s probably fair to say they are fully aware of this association.

Foxall’s advice for how to counter his mythical Russian management of the UK processes certainly seeks to exude the spirit of McCarthyism. He proposes that “activists, journalists, and politicians should point out the pro-Russian connections of individuals and parties across the political spectrum” and “the personal and organizational connections of left- and right-wing politicians and parties and their Russian counterparts should be mapped across Europe.”

Plus, “Parliaments across Europe should amend current legislation or pass new legislation that forces politicians to declare all media appearances they make, whether they receive money for them or not.”

It homes in on people like Nigel Farage, currently the UK establishment’s bête noire, and insinuates how Arron Banks, UKIP’s primary donor, has “colorful links” to Russia. Corbyn and his chief adviser, Seumas Milne, are also harangued for having appeared on RT. As is Ken Livingstone, a two-term mayor of London.

Meanwhile, Milne is further attacked for having attended the Valdai Club in Sochi, an international discussion group designed to promote understanding across borders. The gathering has hosted many influential world figures, not to mention academics from places like Harvard, Stanford, LSE and the Sorbonne. Here it is misrepresented as “an annual propaganda and ego-boosting event.”

Winter campaign

The rather unexpected outcome of the US presidential election had distracted Russia’s 'fan club' for a short while, but the team is now back on the circuit, with gusto. And the same names just keep popping up all the time, repeating their usual dirge of “Kremlin bad; anything west of St Petersburg – good.”

No wonder many Western establishment politicians love these guys. Because with their imprimatur, they don’t have to accept responsibility for their own failings or inadequacies. Instead, they are presented with a ready-made boogeyman on which everything undesirable can pin.

Why should the establishment analyze its own failings when considering why Brexit passed, or Donald Trump is US President-elect, despite their best efforts to ensure the opposite outcome? Why take a sober, internally focused look at the rise of Marine Le Pen in France or increasingly popular alternative political movements in Austria, Italy or the Netherlands? Instead, the anti-Russia lobby groups offer an easier option: “Blame the Kremlin, for everything.”

While musing on 'useful idiots' or 'Trojan Horses,' another expression comes to mind: 'burying one's head in the sand.' While ostriches get the bum rap for the practice, really it is the humans of the media-political establishment variety who have perfected it in recent times. And reports like these are only perpetuating this self-destructive practice.