Streetwise Professor

February 17, 2022

Info Op v. Info Op

Filed under: Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 12:30 pm

The US has accused Zero Hedge of “amplifying Russian propaganda.”

Well, I have to agree. Indeed, you read it here first . . . if you’ve been reading for more than a decade. Because of that ZH has attacked me on several occasions, and blocked me on Twitter eons ago.

But does that mean that you should ignore Zero Hedge, and defer to what the US says, especially the “intelligence community,” and get all of your information from the US government sources and western media that relies on it? Absolutely not.

Alas, the US government–and the intelligence community in particular–is itself a font of propaganda and disinformation. Moreover, much of the mainstream media (especially the WaPo, NBC in all its variants, CNN, and NYT) is little more than a mouthpiece for the US intelligence community. By design. The CIA in particular has used and manipulated US media (often with the latter’s enthusiastic cooperation) for decades.

In other words, the US complaint about Zero Hedge is very much the pot calling the kettle black.

They remind me of the mirror image characters in the old Spy v. Spy cartoon in Mad Magazine:

In other words, pick your propaganda/info op.

In its McCarthy-esque fashion, the administration labels anyone who disbelieves its propaganda is a Russian shill. Recently, when challenged by the AP’s Matt Lee, State Department Spokesman Ned “Pencilneck” Price responded:

“If you doubt the credibility of the U.S. government, of the British government, of other governments and want to, you know, find solace in information that the Russians are putting out, that is for you to do.”

And I actually suggest you do it. As part of its function as a disruptor, Zero Hedge runs masses of material from sources and voices who confront the official, media sanctioned narrative, not just on Russia but on COVID, wokeism, and on and on. It is of wildly varying quality and credibility and viewpoint, but that actually gives it a leg up on the US media, which is monotonously uniform and of unvarying low quality. If you are a discriminating reader you can filter out the Russian disinformation (which as I noted in my 2011 piece is not the totality of its content, but which ZH includes in a mass of other material in class information operation style) and other crap, and get some valuable information that among other things allows you to identify US government and media disinformation. It’s also good to know what message the Russians are trying to send.

And definitely don’t rely on the official or leaked pronouncements of the US government, and especially the intelligence community (but also, alas, public health officials). If you do, you are a sucker.

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  1. In the late seventies my father subscribed to Pravda, the USSR propaganda weekly. He served in WWII as well as being a member of the local conservative party with a strong libertarian bent.
    When I asked him why he said “Just to see what the other side is saying”.

    Comment by Phil S — February 17, 2022 @ 3:52 pm

  2. Professor, did you read my thoughts while writing this? Anyway, thanks!

    Comment by mmt — February 17, 2022 @ 6:04 pm

  3. I think part of the problem is that the USA (her government, media and even intelligence community) are MORE credible than Russia’s… which obviously is not to say that they are entirely credible. So what is the layperson to do? I think many of us choose the US narrative because it is the lesser of two evils. Personally, I don’t have time to trawl through hours and hours of ZH and others (hey, there’s drywall waiting to be installed!), nor do I credit myself with the ability to resist professionally-crafted disinformation. It used to be the job of paid media to do that for us (and I used to subscribe to The Economist for this reason) but it seems now that everybody has given up.

    Comment by HibernoFrog — February 18, 2022 @ 3:23 am

  4. @ HibernoFrog “USA(her government, media and even intelligence community) are MORE credible than Russia’s” – It’s EXTREMELY low bar.

    Comment by mmt — February 18, 2022 @ 8:28 am

  5. I’m not sure that McCarthy was such a bad human. I think that such phenomenon as McCarthyism appeared as a reaction to shocking indifference of American political establishment toward communist infiltration in USA government.
    According to Verona there were hundreds of Soviet spies in government agencies including such big figures as Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Maybe Harry Hopkins was spy too, but there’s no consensus among historians And it’s possible that Dexter White provoked Japan to attack USA because he wanted to help Soviet Union.
    And FDR totally ignored this problem. Even Truman, who was far less sympathetic towards Soviet Union than Roosevelt, defended Hiss when he was accused of espionage for the first time. I think all of this was worse than McCarthyism.

    Comment by mmt — February 18, 2022 @ 8:43 am

  6. *Venona

    Comment by mmt — February 18, 2022 @ 8:44 am

  7. This isn’t Pearl Harbour, when US public opinion turned on a dime, in a day.
    Even tyrants need to soften up the people and prepare them for war, especially those expected to fight it.
    Putin has propaganda powers to bully the 18-30 age cohort out of their mostly favourable image of Ukraine. He hasn’t used them.
    Biden, Johnson and Macron have domestic reasons for bigging up the crisis.
    So I call bullshit on the whole charade.There are other dogs under the carpet that the media don’t know about, let alone tell us about.

    Comment by philip — February 18, 2022 @ 2:26 pm

  8. Vlad’s gone soft. He got the women and children out before blowing up a soviet era car and a small pipeline near the town hall.
    Nothing like that “Chechen” bomb in the theatre. Wuss.

    Comment by philip — February 18, 2022 @ 4:06 pm

  9. Turning out my cuttings drawer I found a 2018 piece by Christopher Bookerthat included this:

    “the one disaster the West has never understood was one entirely of its own making. The one public figure who correctly read the crisis erupting over Ukraine in 2014 was Tony Brenton, our [UK] ambassador to Moscow from 2004 to 2008, who recognised only too clearly that the trigger for that shambles was the hubristic desire of the West to see Ukraine, the historic cradle of Russian national identity, absorbed into the EU and Nato.

    The crisis was set off by the [CIA] coup whereby one corrupt but pro-Russian ruler of Ukraine was replaced by another willing to sign the agreement leading to Ukraine’s EU membership. The response of the Russian-speakers of eastern Ukraine and Crimea was wholly predictable. They wished to be ruled by their fellow Russians in Moscow rather than by some mysterious, alien bureaucracy in faraway Brussels, and were prepared both to vote and to fight for it.

    Why should people with such a fierce sense of national identity have wanted to become part of an empire deliberately set up to eliminate national identity?”

    Comment by dearieme — February 18, 2022 @ 5:05 pm

  10. In an ironic twist, I think you and your blog first came to my attention via a link or mention on Zerohedge, back when I was a mere ‘Regulator On Lunch Break’.

    That really was a long time ago. Surprised they were so petty as to block you and attack you.

    In the interests of transparency I read both you and Zerohedge. I like to think I am able to filter out any pro-government propaganda, in any direction. But it is weird to think that I feel less threatened by Vlad than by the cult-marx nutcases currently making blood-curdling accusations against white people in many majority-European countries. To paraphrase Ali, ‘Ain’t no former KGB colonel ever called me an inherently-racist genocidal coloniser’.

    But in general this is a really weird time. Who ever imagined that there would be such a vicious and drawn-out fight over control of messaging regarding a coronavirus and the means to treat it? As I mentioned to friends recently, the Covid threat is now almost completely over, and there is STILL a vicious bunfight going on over control of how it is perceived and who gets to control the messaging around it. Like almost all of the official messaging we are hearing – re. inflation, Ukraine, elections, school boards, etc – none of this seems in the least reasonable. What on earth is going on in the corridors of power and the backrooms? How are they arriving at these decisions? Just plain weird, and they aren’t telling us the half of it. Having the CIA try to control sensemaking isn’t working out so well.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — February 19, 2022 @ 10:26 am

  11. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break–I agree re weirdness. Hence today’s post.

    I think that the weirdness exists because the ostensible issues (COVID, Ukraine, etc.) are not the real issues. They are just the means by which larger, undisclosed, agendas are being pursued. So what seems irrational/weird when evaluated in a limited frame (e.g., COVID policies) makes sense when one steps back.

    I am reminded of the novella Flatland, describing life of the residents of a plane who are unaware of the existence of a 3rd dimension. Flatlanders perceive many anomalies. Why do circles appear, grow in size, then shrink and finally disappear? The idea of a sphere passing through their plane is alien to them.

    In other words, what we see on the surface is not the entire story.

    Comment by cpirrong — February 19, 2022 @ 12:20 pm

  12. @mmt–Oh yes, McCarthy was not the unhinged, demonic figure that he is commonly portrayed as. He was certainly no angel. (He was from Appleton, WI, where my parents went to college. My dad remembered sitting at a bar on election night–probably in 1952–watching the results, and watching McCarthy pound shots of Scotch.) But he was not wrong about Soviet infiltration of the US government (though he probably erred on some particulars). In retrospect, he was a proto-Trumpian figure who was targeted by the security structures precisely because he realized how compromised they were and because he posed a threat to them as a result.

    Comment by cpirrong — February 19, 2022 @ 12:28 pm

  13. @cpirrong It was interesting to know your opinion. Thanks!

    Comment by mmt — February 20, 2022 @ 5:53 am

  14. Committed Marxists and dedicated proletarian revolutionaries should likewise read the Financial Times.

    Comment by Simple Simon — February 20, 2022 @ 11:30 am

  15. @MMT:
    “It’s EXTREMELY low bar”
    So, you see the problem then 🙂

    Comment by HibernoFrog — February 21, 2022 @ 3:28 am

  16. one thing about ZH, whomever runs it is frigging fast. they are on econ numbers like stink on you know what and articles churn out quickly. The Soviets might have survived if they were that efficient!

    Comment by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures1) — February 22, 2022 @ 10:29 pm

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