Archive for the ‘“THE REDS ARE AT THE GATES!”’ Tag


John Chuckman



[Note to readers: this is a collection of thoughts loosely related to the title above rather than a finished essay]


In all American mainline publications, you will find Russo-phobia. It comes in many forms and variations, just as is always the case with propaganda and disinformation.

That sense of its being vaguely “everywhere” should serve as a warning for what is a universal characteristic of a certain kind of propaganda. Call it synthetic gossip.

Such propaganda follows the logic of big advertisers who want you to be as continuously aware of their products as it is possible to make you. That is why the Internet now is plagued by advertising, a longstanding reality of print and broadcast journalism and we see “product placement” in the films we pay to see.

That warning largely goes unheeded, just as for most people advertising saturating everything is just taken for granted as part of the atmosphere, part of the air they breathe.

And being “part of the air everyone breathes” has its real effects. In the early days of television, when advertising began to appear in everyone’s living room, often by the deceptively open and honest face of the star or host of a show, it quickly became apparent how powerful its effects were. Companies noted immediate jumps in sales of advertised products.

It had been so for radio, too, with its intimacy of a friendly, attractive voice listened to closely by families from the comfort of their living-room couches and armchairs, especially at certain evening hours.

But television was even more so with a friendly or sympathetic famous face seen glowing in a dimly-lighted room, almost a form of enchantment. A great deal of early television advertising was of the form of a program’s host or star taking a minute from the work of the program to talk to you directly about something he or she especially liked. Neighborly. Chatty. Cozy.

The approach is no longer “cozy” – Arthur Godfrey or Rod Serling or Bob Cummings taking a moment from his show to focus on you with a friendly word of recommendation – because American society in large part has moved on from “cozy.”

Part of the impact of post-early television technology has been to atomize and de-centralize society, each member of a family, for example, focusing on his or her own interests through various “media’ and devices.

A trace of the early form of personal advertising has survived in the endorsements now so widely used in every written or image format from labels to boxes. Companies pay such people great sums of money for lending their influence with fans or followers to the company’s interest of selling its product.

Advertising works as a form of suggestion in the human mind, and as with suggestion, not everyone is equally susceptible, but virtually everyone is to some degree. That’s why advertising works and why companies spend countless billions of dollars every year to place their “suggestions” “out there,” ideally in forms and in places where the most susceptible population will be exposed.

Propaganda and disinformation work exactly the same way. It is naïve to believe, as I am sure most Americans very much believed during the height of the Cold War, that only in authoritarian states is propaganda used on the people of a country. That belief was itself a suggestion constantly reinforced in television shows, movies, and in magazines and newspapers. It was inescapable.

Over the decades, advertising and propaganda have grown not just in volume but in sophistication and complexity. There is still some room for the simplistic stuff of an earlier time, but the dark arts have largely moved on.

The ideal is to plant a “targeted” suggestion in your mind, one targeted to appeal to your tastes and preferences because such suggestions are the most powerful. And ideally, that is accomplished in a manner so that you are really not aware of what is even taking place.

That is part of why we have in our daily-living environment something almost resembling a cosmic storm among the stars, a storm of cosmic rays and particles of every description bombarding everything entering a region.

That’s a pretty good description of Russo-phobia in the United States. It isn’t just in political speeches, it isn’t just in government and political publications, nor is it only in newspaper articles and television programs, it is virtually everywhere in one form or another, including just the word choices writers and speakers make and the attitudes they strike.

It is the contemporary sophisticated descendent of such rather clumsy propaganda as a television series, “I Led Three Lives” in the 1950s, or “The FBI” of the late 1960s, each episode of which had a brief personal anti-communist message at the end from J. Edgar Hoover himself.

Such shows were only one of countless ways that the “Soviet menace” was made almost tangible inside America. Politicians speeches, newspaper and broadcast story selection and emphasis and editorials kept fueling the fires.

I vividly remember, near the real start of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War, a local newspaper in Chicago, and certainly not the most conservative one, having an editorial with a big bold headline, “The Reds are at the Gates!” That was likely 1964.

Even the assassination of John Kennedy was employed in the cause. Books and articles suggesting Russia was directly or indirectly involved, or that Russian-supported Cuba was, appeared for many years after his death, another measure of the size and intensity of historical anti-Russian activities.

Those suggestions were interesting because the assassination was almost certainly about the opposite of those claims and suggestions. It was about ending Kennedy’s efforts to form new communications with, and policies towards, the Soviet Union and Cuba.

In the case of Cuba, during the early 1960s, an entire industry had become established in the United States to promote hostility and war.

The CIA and FBI had massive investments in everything from radio and newspaper propaganda to gun-running operations, the training of private armies, the writing of manuals, the regular mounting of a range of terrorist operations against Cuba, plus many other activities right down to relationships with mafia interests who were offended by events in Cuba and keen to display their patriotism through cooperation with agencies like CIA and FBI.

All of it was supported by the vast resources of the State Department and other agencies and departments of government. I think few Americans today, younger ones anyway, are aware of the scale of the enterprise. Well, Kennedy very much got in its way, and it was unquestionably elements of that enterprise who killed him.

I do not mean to diverge into the 1960s or the assassination, a subject of great past interest to me.

I’m only touching on the massive legacy of anti-Russian feelings and notions fixed into the very fabric of the country. It still helps support any new anti-Russian initiatives. That always includes the Pentagon and CIA and FBI – it’s just their gut institutional instinct – but it also very much includes American political interests, and from both parties, each party’s emphasis varying over time.

In America it often takes a very long time for the public consensus to reach a conclusion about something you might think should have been apparent fairly early.

But when the establishment sets its mind to doing something, it is virtually impossible to stop it. And it has so many avenues for influencing people and keeping them confused – from corporate newspapers and broadcasters and hack writers and speakers at many institutions to virtually the entire national political establishment of both parties.

Since America is so much less a democracy than many recognize, it really isn’t necessary to fool all the people all the time. Far from it. And the flow of “information” from establishment sources is constant, virtually around the clock. It becomes part of the air you breathe.

Besides, Americans work very hard, and many have little time for becoming informed about such matters as, say, foreign affairs. If they have to trust someone with the idea of truth, it will tend to be the establishment voices easily accessed.

Most hardworking people at any level have little time or inclination to search for and assess different sources of information, as independent or foreign ones. And, truth be told, there are relatively few solid independent voices out there despite the apparent crush we can see on the Internet.

Apart from outfits on the Internet that now function virtually as agents for the establishment – outfits like Facebook, Wikipedia, or Google – the establishment has a good many inauthentic “independent” publications that it keeps going. The CIA always followed that practice with magazines and news sources during the Cold War, and it does still with sites many believe are independent voices.

Major Western European news sources today – as in Britain, France, or Germany – are in virtual lockstep with their American counterparts. If you think the Washington Post is biased – and it is, heavily – try The Guardian or BBC. They are often toe-scrunchingly insincere.

At the higher end of the employment scale in America, up-and-coming corporate and large professional office types work long hours, ten and twelve hours a day is not unusual, and often more than five days a week. It’s just expected of them. It keeps you looking like someone suitable for promotion. And the competition of others looking for promotions reinforces the discipline. When you do get home, there’s all those middle-class obligations, from the kids’ sports teams or music recitals or meetings at school to walking the dog or attending a service club meeting.

At the low end of the employment scale, millions of Americans must work more than one job just to make a go of things. Or, many jobs demand unusual hours and days. On public transit, for example, pretty good-paying working-class jobs, it is common to have “swing shifts,” where you are responsible for two periods each day. Yes, the hours between are free, but they are often effectively not very useful with not enough time to travel home and do anything substantial. These realities of everyday American economic life are I think not widely appreciated abroad.

For all its reputation for individualism, too, the United States in many matters exhibits very little of it. It is a remarkably lockstep society at a certain social level, the level that counts in influencing anything. I’ve never quite understood where that reputation for individualism, as touted in movies or novels, comes from.

The Vietnam War was a decade-long killing spree in defense of an artificially created rump state, South Vietnam, which for its entire existence was run by dictators. Although run by dictators, Americans were steadily given vague assurances that they were fighting for the values of American democracy.

The rump state served almost exclusively the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States. It served as a toehold in Southeast Asia, a kind of colony, a base for American corporations to market their wares. A pied-a-terre for the CIA. Those were the only American values ever really being served.

The big fighting got started not too long after the flimsiest of excuses, the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident in the summer of 1964. It was a non-event, even as described in the news at the time, and later we learned it was truly a non-event with virtually nothing having happened.

But it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in so many other places since, and notably in Syria where non-existent poison gas attacks, supposedly by the government, gave America the excuse to hurl fleets of cruise missiles at people it wanted to hurt anyway, the Syrian Army.

Of course, it was the presence of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” that gave America the excuse to invade Iraq, destroying one of the most advanced societies in the Arab world and ultimately killing about a million people with all the violent aftermath included.

The destruction of Iraq’s basic facilities was so thorough that all these years later many in Iraq do not have dependable drinking water and electricity. The term “Shock and Awe” was coined by the public relations flacks at the Pentagon for the opening massive, overwhelming destruction, a term which gives some idea of the intensity and one, by the way, with clear bloodlines to Hitler’s concept of “Blitzkrieg” (lightning war).

Once America got into heavy fighting in a protracted war, Vietnam became many other things, including a testing ground for new methods of mass killing, an important part of a supply chain into North America for hard drugs, a laboratory for mass CIA terror tactics attempting to influence a population, and a place of endless lies.

While not all the details were apparent to anyone at the start, enough was understood by a good many to question the United States ever seriously entering the war. John Kennedy, who was inclined not to get involved beyond the level of a significant body of military advisors, was replaced by perhaps the most corrupt and ruthless man ever to become President, Lyndon Johnson, who had his chance to be a “war president,” and he wasted very little time getting things moving.

Today, we have among other wars, the war in Afghanistan. The pointlessness of the war in Afghanistan – that 18 years of bombing peasants and strafing wedding parties – was apparent to a good many from the start. I wrote a number of essays on the subject.

At the time of the invasion, I felt it was just a brute need for some kind of vengeance over 9/11, even if they didn’t know who to take vengeance on. I could imagine certain Americans sitting at bars across the country doing a lot of elbow-pumping and hooting and yelling at the first broadcasts of bombs dropping in Afghanistan, something resembling a scene from a big football game.

But the Taliban were not terrorists, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. They are not pleasant people, but that is common enough in poor places where people earn hardscrabble livings. And I think my original view remains valid.

Recent revelations by The Washington Post (which to a certainty reflect someone in high places leaking for political purposes, not the investigative thoroughness of a newspaper which always doggedly supports America’s wars with the same enthusiasm as the late John McCain) tell us that even inside the military, no one understood why the United States was fighting in Afghanistan.

Yet America still fights there.

And will be still after Trump makes his election-campaign withdrawal, whose size is said to amount to a fraction of the troops.

Posted December 29, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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John Chuckman



“I Wrote a Book Exposing Bill Browder’s Deceptions Because He Could Trigger a Major War With Russia

“Having experienced, first-hand, a vicious war in Yugoslavia, caused by the same kind lying Browder engages in, this author felt he had to speak up.”


This is a well-written piece. I hope it stimulates people to read the book.

“Today most westerners seem ready to believe that Putin is a tyrant, that he routinely has critics and political rivals assassinated, that he amassed a vast personal fortune and that he runs Russia as his own personal fiefdom.”

Yes, and why is that? Our newspapers and broadcasts are larded with negative stuff about Russia all the time. I can’t recall a time recently seeing a good story about Russia, a huge country with all kinds of diverse and interesting things going on. Some of the stories reach frightening levels of paranoia, as this, following, not long ago in The Guardian (I could cite many more from that truly threadbare excuse for a newspaper, but this one marks a peak in their relentless efforts):

When it isn’t actual accusations of some unproved event, such as Theresa May’s weird Skripal Affair, it is just a clear assumption and tone that our press – always following our dishonest politicians as closely as baby ducks imprinted to waddle behind their mothers – is speaking about a country that is somehow “other,” a country that doesn’t operate by the same rules good old America does.

But it really shouldn’t surprise anyone who has a little history and who observes and thinks about things.

First, we must always remember that America waged a 24 hour-a-day internal propaganda war for decades on the subjects of Russia and communism. The FBI worked tirelessly on the subject, as did the CIA, and the press simply was constantly putting attitudes and perspectives “out there” instead of news or facts.

I still remember, as a young man in my home town of Chicago, when Lyndon Johnson first started committing men towards what would literally become an American-created holocaust in Vietnam, seeing a disturbing editorial in one of the more “liberal” papers in the city, the Chicago Sun-Times – liberal, that is, only by comparison with something like the Chicago Tribune, an unrelenting advocate for all things on the extreme Right. The editorial was headlined, I still remember, “The Reds Are at the Gates!”

Well, decades of that kind of stuff does leave some toxic residue, even after the world has changed. That’s why Germany carried on a long and intense campaign against Nazism after the Hitler years. But voraciously anti-Russia, anti-communist America never has made any effort to expunge the memories and results of the likes of J. Edgar Hoover and Allen Dulles and James Jesus Angleton.

And, today, America’s establishment has new reasons for not doing so and indeed for re-igniting the old fires. It is determined to dominate the globe and force advantages from other nations as a means of avoiding its inevitable relative economic decline and the future change in political influence that that entails. The Neocon Wars in the Middle East have been only one part of an effort in many directions and through many means, including threats and sanctions and coups and attacking international organizations of every description.

Russia and China, naturally enough, are seen as barriers against this intense new effort, but Russia’s geography, touching, as it does, America’s unofficial satrapy of Europe and with proximity to the Middle East containing America’s much-privileged colony of Israel, plus its capacity to literally obliterate the United States, make it the greatest target of establishment hate. Russia today and a number of other states welcome a coming multi-polar world. America’s establishment regards it only with fear and loathing.

America has done nothing now abroad but bomb and kill people for over a decade and a half. I don’t know the actual number of deaths – American sources are very coy about how many people they kill, as we learned in the First Gulf War where the number of Iraqis killed was never offered, although we know it was huge with B-52s dropping full loads on sand forts in the desert – but I’m sure the total comes in at no less than two million.

They’ve destroyed, or attempted to destroy, a number of societies – Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and others. And they work away at threatening and manipulating still others, everywhere from Iran to Venezuela or Nicaragua. They also tolerate atrocities by Saudi Arabia and Israel, and, to somewhat a lesser extent, by Egypt, because those governments serve and support their overall purpose. Browbeaten governments like Britain and France work as willing helpers while constantly misrepresenting to their own people what it is they actually are doing, as with the cutthroats of ISIS or al Nusra in Syria, whom they have supported and assisted.

And then there are the millions of desperate refugees created by all that destruction, so many they nearly destabilized Europe, and discussion of refugees in the United States, in its politics and in some popular culture, has turned into a national festival of hate, as though refugees did nothing but rob and rape and kill. And I am not exaggerating in the least.

Trump has been a keen promoter of these views and attitudes, but his words do not go out to an unreceptive audience. There are large portions of American society very receptive to such stuff, just as they are receptive to crude stuff about Russia.

And, of course, we have a hi-tech state-operated extrajudicial killing machinery that carries on day and night murdering people no one even knows anything about. The victims are selected by the very folks doing the killing, the thugs and psychopaths at the CIA. And when I say “victims” I’m not even referring to the many innocents killed in the explosions of Hellfire missiles, deemed as “collateral damage,” I’m referring to the targets themselves, victims in every sense of the word, people condemned to be burned alive with no charges or lawyer or trial or rights of any kind.

Now, while all that inhumanity and brutality from their own government goes on, you would be hard put to find large numbers of Americans who know much about it. Their press and politicians never directly speak in such terms. Everything reported is couched in euphemism or they just recite downright lies. And there is the fact that Americans often take very little interest in what is going on abroad – in part because America is itself such a large and noisy and dynamic and time-consuming society. But it is an attitude which very much assists the government in its great volume of dirty work. Surprisingly few people abroad I think appreciate this important fact.

When George Bush was running for president, he once bragged and laughed over telling people he never read the international section of his newspaper. It was the kind of stupid joke you expect from a very stupid man, but the anecdote is notable in that Bush felt very comfortable in making it while appealing for votes. The irony of the presidency now being an office having more to do with events abroad (in the imperial wars and manipulations of others around the world) than events at home is lost on many Americans. Their attitudes are extremely naïve.

There is also the tendency in people – especially people with strong ideological beliefs as many Americans have, which work to insulate the mind against outside influence, exactly the way strong religious beliefs do – to not really see what they are looking at. The best example of many I could cite, is Israel’s current relentless slaughter of unarmed marchers in Gaza. Organized gangs of snipers behind fences, week after week, shoot into crowds of people demonstrating for some rights. Something like 18,000 have been injured and something like 180 killed in cold blood, including women and children and even well-marked medics. Yet, Americans see this atrocity and cling to the narrative that Israel is only defending itself from terror, even showing “restraint,” and their press and politicians faithfully work hard to reassure them of that.

Of course, all of this stresses the importance of the press abroad, Russia’s being extremely important today because the press in American-dominated places like Britain and France reads and sounds a great deal like the press in America, mostly making the same assumptions and promoting the same narratives. It is actually quite a distressing phenomenon to anyone seeking decent information or even a little different perspective on events.

No critically-minded person automatically accepts the truth of everything in the Russian press either. Russia has its own efforts at persuasion and motives for evasion at times, but on many international issues it is clear that some valid information is supplied by Russia. That can be confirmed in many ways, from the voices of truly independent, respectable journalists to the rare authoritative voice speaking out from within a country such as Britain or the United States.

And even where it cannot be confirmed, the time-honored analytical technique of comparing what two very different sources, like the United States and Russia, claim about a story can be quite helpful in revealing roughly where the truth is. After all, that’s precisely what judges and juries in our courts do all the time. It is a valid technique, but you must have that other side of the story to use it.

If you are someone in the United States or Britain, say, who relies, day-in, day-out, on some single news source such as CBS or The Washington Post or the BBC or The Guardian, I can absolutely assure you, at least on the matters discussed here, that you are misinformed.

That’s a sad reflection on our Western society, with its claims to Enlightenment and humanitarian principles, but I can’t think of another broad statement that is any truer. The motives for deception and the size of the stakes for doing so rise tremendously with the dirty work of empire and aggression, the very work in which the American government is now engaged full-time.

Posted September 25, 2018 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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