The modern political lexicon includes a host of terms that are ironically applied, given how they can be applied to those who use them against others. For numerous reasons, Michael McFaul’s continued standing as a leading Kremlinologist, highlights the ongoing flaws in US policy towards Russia.
The group of American mass media promoted Russia watchers includes an overrated lot, whose shortcomings are downplayed, as they regularly reemerge in high profile settings – typically with little if any substantive opposition. These truly bad actors prop each other, while downplaying their inconvenient (for them) detractors.
As I earlier noted, McFaul lauded The Atlantic for hiring Julia Ioffe. She essentially got a pass after making an inappropriately perverse sexual reference concerning Ivanka Trump’s relationship with her father. The record shows that Politico fired Ioffe over that remark. However, her new and current position at The Atlantic isn’t reflective of a demotion and quite likely a promotion, in terms of stature and earnings, along with her appearances on CNN and MSNBC.
The McFauls of the world don’t seem particularly concerned about the fake news which Ioffe peddles. During a June 3 exchange with CNN’s Brian Stelter, Ioffe said that the Russian government had poisoned the Skripals – something that’s factually quite suspect on the basis of what’s presently known and unknown. Likewise, her other claim (to Stelter) that the Russian government downed a civilian airliner over the former Ukrainian SSR isn’t a conclusively well established fact.
Stelter offered no challenge to Ioffe. Mind you that his media review show on CNN is supposedly an intent to critically review media fault lines.
In Ioffe’s July 2 Washington Post article on the 2018 World Cup, she states (when describing Russia’s victory over Spain): “No one celebrated like this when Russia crushed the competition in the medal race at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 – a victory of which it was later stripped amid allegations of systemic doping. When Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, the celebrations were fraught with anger and political division that broke up friendships and families.”
In point of fact, Russia hasn’t been stripped of its first place tally at Sochi. On this particular matter, Ioffe erroneously went by a prior ruling that was successfully challenged. The put mildly suspect claim of “systemic doping” hasn’t been conclusively proven.
Ioffe’s mantra about “when Russia illegally annexed Crimea” has been stated by McFaul. That characterization is sheer hypocritical chutzpah, given the examples of Kosovo and northern Cyprus. On US TV, McFaul can be defended upon to not challenge the negatively inaccurate comments about Russia.
In a June 27 Brian Williams’ hosted MSNBC segment, McFaul suggested that Putin wins by default by just having a summit with Trump – as if the Russian leader is internationally ostracized, which is clearly not so. Actually, some are reasonably wondering if it’s really in Putin’s best interests to have the meeting, with the kind of anti-Russian and anti-Putin theatrics, that will be evident in the background (Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, et al). Trump’s mass media detractors have been constantly critical of his advocacy for improved US-Russian ties. To date, Trump has fallen short in achieving that desire.
In this particular MSNBC segment, McFaul appeared with Frank Figliuzzi, who falsely presented as fact several (put mildly) dubious and negative claims about Putin. This was a moment for a true adult in the room to caution against Figliuzzi’s reckless innuendo. None were evident in that segment.
US mass media TV news continues to be inundated with anti-Russian propaganda. On the same day as the MSNBC Williams segment with McFaul and Figliuzzi, CNN’s Anderson Cooper hosted Ralph Peters, who pretty much said the same as Fgliuzzi. (I’ve previously discussed Peters’ anti-Russian spin.) On Cooper’s show, Peters called Trump an “infant child.” Never mind Peters’ brashly insulting inaccuracies that are rhetorical empty calories when assessing US-Russian relations.
Peters gave up commenting on Fox News for the absurd reason that it was soft on Russia. His departure from that network came shortly after Fox news host Tucker Carlson had challenged Peters’ views on Russia. In US mass media TV. Carlson remains a rare exception to the one-sided anti-Russian leaning slant of his peers. He can’t be legitimately accused of being soft on Russia. For the likes of Peters, an attempt at even-handedness is misinformation.
Hillary Clinton’s not too distant outburst in Ireland ranks with some of the most inaccurate things said about Putin. According to her “Vladimir Putin has positioned himself as the leader of an authoritarian, white supremacist and xenophobic movement that wants to break the EU, weaken America’s traditional alliances and undermine democracy. We can see this authoritarian movement rippling out from the Kremlin, reaching across Europe and beyond. It’s emboldening right-wing nationalists, separatists, racists and even neo-Nazis.”
Some white supremacist, seeing how Putin has been reaching out to the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea, in addition to Russia being part of the BRICS bloc, that includes South Africa, India, Brazil and China. Putin isn’t primarily responsible for the breakdown in Russia-West relations. Rather, he has sought a policy for Russia to have good ties with the West and others. The relatively small nation of Saudi Arabia outspending Russia on armed forces is one of several examples indicating that the “Russian threat” theme is overhyped BS.
That some extremists in the West might see Putin as a kind of great white hope isn’t his doing. BTW, Russian extremists aren’t so supportive of Putin because they know that he’s the opposite of what Hillary Clinton said.
McFaul, Ioffe, Figliuzzi, Peters and Clinton, constitute a partial sampling of the fault ridden, Russia related commentary.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic. This article initially appeared at the Strategic Culture Foundation’s website on July 12.