Putin And The Press: The Demonology School Of Journalism – OpEd


The major influential western print media are engaged in a prolonged, large-scale effort to demonize Russian President Putin, his politics and persona. There is an article (or several articles) every day in which he is personally stigmatized as a dictator, authoritarian, czar, ‘former KGB operative’ and Soviet-style ruler; anything but the repeatedly elected President of Russia.

He is accused of hijacking Russia from the ‘road to democracy’, as pursued by his grotesquely corrupt predecessor Boris Yeltsin; of directing the bloody repression of the ‘freedom loving Chechens’; of jailing innocent, independent and critical oligarchs and robber barons; of fomenting an uprising in the ‘democratic, newly pro-Western’ Ukraine and seizing control of Crimea; of backing a ‘bloody tyrant’ in Syria (elected President Bashar Assad) in a civil war against ISIS terrorists; of running the Russian economy into the ground; and of militarily threatening the Baltic and Eastern European NATO member countries.

In a word, the media have propagated an image of an ‘out-of-control autocrat’, who makes a mockery of ‘democratic’ norms and ‘Western values’, and who seeks to revive the ‘Soviet (aka Evil) Empire’.

The corollary is that ‘Western powers’, despite their peace-loving propensities and fraternal attempts to bring Russia into the democratic ‘fold’, have been ‘forced’ to now surround Russia with NATO military bases and missiles; to finance a violent coup in the Ukraine (on Russia’s frontier) and arm the Ukrainian putsch government and neo-fascist militias to ‘restore democracy’ and violently suppress ethnic Russian ‘separatists’ in Eastern Ukraine. We are told that US and EU sanctions against Russia were carefully crafted ‘diplomatic’ measures designed to punish the Moscow ‘aggressor’.

In reality, the Western media has relentlessly demonized Vladimir Putin in a campaign to further NATO military expansion and undermine the Russian economy and its national security. The goal is ultimately to force a ‘regime change’, restoring the neo-liberal elites who had pillaged Russia’s economy during the 1990’s and whose brutal economic policies led to the premature death of over 6 million Russians due to deprivation and the collapse of the healthcare system.

Putin: Demon or Realist, Autocrat or Democrat, Vassal or Independent Leader?

The Western media has backed every oligarch, gangster and fraudster who has gone on trial and been convicted during Putin’s term in office. The propagandists tell us the reason for this affinity between the Western media and the gangster-oligarchs is that these convicted felons, who claim to be ‘political dissidents’ and critics of Putin’s rule, have been dispossessed, and jailed for upholding ‘Western values’.

The Western media conveniently ignore the well-documented studies on the source of the gangster-oligarchs’ wealth: The violent and illegal seizure of multi-billion dollars-worth of natural resources (aluminum, oil and gas), banks, factories, pension funds and real estate. During the Yeltsin period the oligarchs controlled thousands of armed gangsters and engaged in internal warfare during which thousands were killed, including top government regulators, police officials and journalists who dared to oppose or expose their pillage and property grabs.

Putin’s prosecution of a mere fraction of the most notorious oligarch-gangsters has won the support of the vast majority of Russian citizens because it represents a return to law and order and the return of stolen public wealth.

Only the Western media has dared to refer to these convicted felons as ‘political victims and reformers’. They did so because the oligarchs had become the most loyal and submissive assets in the US and EU governments’ efforts to convert Russia into an irreversibly weak vassal state.

The Western media constantly refer to President Putin as the ‘authoritarian ruler’, despite the fact that he has been repeatedly elected by large majorities in competitive elections against Western backed and funded candidates. His popularity is attested to by opinion polls conducted by Western agencies.

In 2015, President Putin’s support soared to over 85%. The pro-Western Russian neo-liberal politicians scored in the low single digits according to the same independent polls.

Clearly the Russian public does not want to return to the poverty and chaos of the Western-backed gangster politics of the 1990’s.

Whatever reservations working and middle class Russians have over President Putin’s style of decision-making, they clearly value his crackdown on gangster-controlled elections, Chechen terrorism, and his restoration of Russian military defense of its frontiers, including the annexation of Crimea, following the US-engineered coup in Ukraine.

Every day, the Western media recycle reports of the ‘decline and demise’ of the Russian economy, blaming ‘statist’ mismanagement of the economy by Putin. They claim ‘declining living standards’, the ‘negative growth’ of the economy and the ‘growing isolation’ of an ‘expansionist’ Russia in the face of Western sanctions.

These media claims are laughable. Readily available data demonstrate that living standards of the vast majority of Russian citizens have significantly increased under President Putin’s administration, especially after the utter collapse under the free marketers of the1990’s. Russian workers receive their pay, pensioners their pensions, enterprises their loans – on time. During the ‘free market’ days of Boris Yeltsin, workers went up to a year without pay, pensioners were selling their heirlooms in the street to survive and enterprises paid extortionate interest rates to oligarch-gangster controlled banks! Comparative data, easily obtained, are deliberately ignored by the mass media because it doesn’t fit the demonological narrative.

The mass media present the neo-liberal ‘opposition’ and ‘liberal critics’ as Russian democrats defending ‘Western values’. They forget to mention that these ‘liberal critics’ have been directly funded by Western foundations (National Endowment for Democracy, Soros Foundation, etc.) and Russian non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) with longstanding ties to US and EU governments, intelligence agencies and exiled Russian billionaires. The so-called ‘Russian’ democratic opposition revealed their abject servility to Western interests when they openly supported the Ukrainian coup and Kiev’s bloody assault on ethnic Russian-Ukrainians in the eastern ‘Donbas’ regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and Odessa. Whatever shreds of respectability and credibility the ‘democratic opposition’ retained with the Russian public, up to that point, was lost. They were seen for what they are: propaganda arms of Western imperialism and mouth-pieces for neo-fascists.

The Western mass media charge Putin’s government with the same crimes that their own governments commit. After the US State Department’s Victoria Nuland admitted to channeling $5 billion to fund the 2014 coup in Ukraine and after the Polish regime boasted of training far right street fighters, whose mob violence served as a pretext for the coup, and after neo-fascist coalition partners in Odessa of burned alive four dozen ethnic Russian-Ukrainian citizens opposed to the coup, the Western mass media accused Putin of ‘intervening’ in Ukraine. This was because Russia had convoked a referendum in Crimea, in which over 80% of the electorate voted to secede from the illegitimate Ukrainian coup regime and rejoin Russia.

In truth, the Putin government is a victim of the Western power grab in the Ukraine, with Russia having to absorbed hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russian refugees driven out of the Donbas, yet the Western media portray Putin as the executioner. Meanwhile the Western coup-makers and their far-right allies are depicted as victims… forced to bomb and decimate the Donbas region.

The charade continued. The Western media portray the subsequent punitive, economic sanctions imposed by the expansionist US and EU on Russia as a result of Putin’s ‘aggression’, referring to Russia’s defense of Crimea’s self-determination and the rights of the millions of bilingual ethnic Russian citizens of Ukraine.

The absurdity and convoluted nature of Western demonological propaganda has reached new even more bizarre heights with their hysteria against Russia’s military support of the secular Syrian government against ISIS and other jihadi terrorists.

The Western mass media have launched a global campaign charging that the Russian air force bombs ‘non-ISIS military bases’, presumably the bases of Western-backed ‘friendly’ jihadi terrorists. This ridiculous ‘reportage’ and its accompanying ‘photos’ were published before the Russian air strikes even took place!!

Apparently timing doesn’t matter in Washington’s ‘alternative universe of lies’!

NATO passed its political line to the media that Russian support for the legitimate regime of President Assad must be discredited; that the Russian presence is ‘provocative’ and responsible for ‘creating tensions’ in the region – after years of Western-sponsored jihadi terrorism against Syria!

Obedient to its masters, the Western media breathlessly ‘reported’ that the Russians were ‘really’ engaged in Syria in order destroy the pro-Western ‘fighters’ leaving ISIS alone.

No credible evidence for this propaganda was ever presented. They trotted out aerial photos of wreckage, which had likely been lifted from previous US bombings.

The media’s clumsy execution of the Pentagon’s line managed to embarrass even the US Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, who backed off of such claims and called for an explanation from Russia. Even Secretary Kerry, who now seeks to secure Putin’s military support for the US against ISIS while withdrawing Russia’s political backing of President Assad, has cautioned the media to modify its line, now that the US favors ‘greater coordination’ with Russia – but under US leadership. The media has recently conformed to this line, although it has not managed to explain how Washington could now work with the demonic President Putin.


Western media is engaged in an intense long-term propaganda campaign to demonize President Putin. Its role is to convince world public opinion and world leaders to blindly follow the US and EU, as well as their ‘allies’ and vassal states, in a campaign to degrade and undermine Russia, and consolidate a unipolar empire under US tutelage.

The Western mass media is important; but it must be remembered that the media is an instrument of imperial state power. Its lies and fabrications, its demonization of leaders, like President Putin, are one part of a global military offensive to establish dominance and to destroy adversaries.

The more intense the imperial campaign, the riskier the power grab, the greater the need to demonize the victims.

This explains how the escalation of the rabid anti-Putin propaganda campaign coincides with the single biggest Western power grab – the Ukraine coup (‘regime change’) – since West Germany annexed East Germany, and NATO and the EU incorporated the Baltic States, Eastern Europe and the Balkans into the West’s strategic alliance. The West’s bloody break-up of the Yugoslav federation was part of this strategic program.

The problem with the Western demonization of adversaries, whether it is Russia, Iran and China today, or earlier Cuba, Libya and Yemen in the past, is that Washington and the EU face severe economic crises at home and military defeats abroad by armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.

The US had invested hundreds of billions of dollars to prop up a shaky puppet regime in US-occupied Iraq, yet the US-trained and supplied Iraqi Army fled as the Baathist-Islamist ‘ISIS’ quickly over-ran half the country.

US troops have occupied Afghanistan for fourteen years, losing tens of thousands of lives and limbs and yet the nationalist-Islamist Taliban can easily take over Afghanistan’s third largest city, Kunduz (population 300,000), and occupies three quarters of the rest of the countryside.

Libya and Somalia are a disaster. And still Washington allocates a half billion dollars to train pro-Western mercenaries to overthrow Syria’s President Assad – mercenaries who give up their arms or join ISIS the moment they cross the border from Jordan or Turkey. The US trained mercenaries have handed over untold millions of dollars worth of heavy and light weapons and armored carriers to ISIS and Al Qaeda. The EU and the US face the dismal reality that Libya, Somalia and Syria are over-run by anti-Western Islamic fighters.

In Asia, China is demonized in the Western media, portrayed as being on the verge of collapse, facing a hard landing, even as China grows at 7%. The Western media wring their collective hands over the crisis in China while Beijing finances two new international development banks for $100 billion, raises its contribution to the IMF and brings 50 countries, including most of the EU but minus the US and Japan, into a new infrastructure lending institution.

Two big questions face the US and EU:

Why do the Western media launch a campaign of demonization that doesn’t correspond to reality? What is the goal of such demonization, which objectively undermines the possibility of forming tactical alliances to end the US’ military losses, political defeats and diplomatic isolation? The US needs Russia to defeat ISIS.

For Moscow, the fight against ISIS is crucial to Russian national security: Thousands of Chechen terrorists (some trained by the US) are fighting with ISIS and threaten to return to the Caucuses and terrorize Russia. Unlike the US public’s opposition to Washington’s role in forcing ‘regime change’ in Syria, the Russian public supports Moscow’s military support for the Syrian government because the Chechens’ campaign of terror within Russia, especially the 2004 massacre of hundreds of school children, teachers and parents in Beslan, is seared into their memory – a fact conveniently ignored by Western media when it ‘sympathizes’ with Chechen ‘freedom fighters’.

In reality, Washington should have a common interest to ally with Russia in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. However Obama is committed to ousting Assad (Russia’s ally) to expand US dominance in the Middle East in partnership with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Clearly there are insurmountable contradictions between short-term military objectives (fighting ISIS) and strategic imperial political imperatives (consolidating US-Israeli hegemony over the Middle East and Iran).

Washington has moved to end its isolation in Latin America by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Meanwhile, Washington retains the economic blockade of Cuba and its huge US military base in Guantanamo. Cuba is seen as a tactical political ally in ‘moderating’ the leftist government of Venezuela and pressuring the Colombian FARC to disarm, even as Washington deepens its military presence in the continent.

Obama signed off on a nuclear agreement with Iran (but the crippling sanctions and blockade remain in place) in order to secure Tehran’s support for the war against ISIS in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Temporarily, the Western mass media has ‘toned-down’ its demonological reporting on Iran and Cuba, for tactical purposes.

The Obama regime has adopted a ‘good cop/bad cop’ (or schizophrenic) posture with Russia on Syria – Secretary of State John Kerry speaks of joint co-operation with Moscow while Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter proposes to militarily confront ‘Russian aggression’. The media hasn’t made the switch because they don’t know which orders to obey or which line to ‘parrot’.

In the meantime, the domestic economic crisis deepens, ISIS advances, the Taliban approaches Kabul, the Russians are arming and defending President Assad and millions of refugees, fleeing the war zones, have over- run Europe. European border wars are raging. And Obama wrings his hands in impotence. Demonology offers no allies, no solutions and no positive path to peace and co-existence.

James Petras

James Petras is the author of more than 62 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles in nonprofessional journals such as the New York Times, the Guardian, the Nation, Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Policy, New Left Review, Partisan Review, TempsModerne, Le Monde Diplomatique, and his commentary is widely carried on the internet. For more of his writings, check out the The James Petras Website.

6 thoughts on “Putin And The Press: The Demonology School Of Journalism – OpEd

  • October 17, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Having followed American policy diligently and extensively since the days of the Cold War, I assert that James Petras is writing the exact truth about the Western mass media’s slavish adherence to
    the lies that come out of Washington D.C.
    He does not bring up this particular point, so I will: the origins of our foreign policy (going back to the Cold War) are the neo-Cons who have long been embedded in non-elective positions in D.C. and who have vast influence over whomever is the current incumbent of the Oval Office. It makes no difference whether he be Republican or Democratic. These neo-Cons generally hold dual Israeli/US citizenship, the result of which is that Israel’s needs, desires, and plans get very high consideration. Paul Wolfowitz, for instance, was the deep thinker who helped create the attack on Iraq, assuring us that Iraqis would welcome us by throwing flowers. Overall, the neo-Cons told us they were going to “roll the
    dice” in the Middle East. Well, they did, and we now see the dismal results–much of the Middle East is a disaster area and the fallout from destroying Libya extends as far into Africa as Somalia.
    Beneath these misbegotten policies lies the Israeli plan to create Greater Israel, covering historic Judea, Israel, and Samaria, which the neo-Cons favor, not only because they hold Israeli citizenship but because they see the usefulness of having a client state in the Middle East which the US can use as a base for projecting US power into the area. The Greater Israel project envisions the splitting up of Iraq and Syria into six or so statelets, which will be less oppositional to Israel than the unified states of Iraq and Syria
    were. This Israeli/US project ties neatly into Saudi Arabia’s (with the Gulf monarchies) quest to assert Sunni control over the area by weakening of eliminating the Shia states and eliminating Syria as a secular state, which it has historically been. The Saudi rulers are determined to be rid of al-Assad, whatever the price.
    How the US deal with Iran will affect these plans is, as yet, not known. Iran, a large, powerful, Shia state, is now a wild card Obama has played, perhaps to antagonize Netanyahu and the new Saudi king. I think the deal with Iran has little to do with the nuclear issue and much to do with the power balance in the Gulf.
    Then there is the US-engineered coup of 2/22/2014 in Kiev, aiming to extend the encirclement of Russia by NATO states, in direct violation of the promises made by GHWBush to Gorbachev in 1991 in return for Gorbachev’s agreement to the unification of Germany. No wonder Russia feels betrayed by the West. What was not anticipated, perhaps, by the US is how extensive the terrorist ‘threat’ has become, but it is definitely playing a part in Russia’s decision to act in Syria, which was always a client state of the former USSR.
    The present situation is one loaded with danger for everyone: for Russia, for the EU, for the United States, which, with its usual arrogance, thinks by maintaining Full Spectrum Dominance, and its extensive military bases, and “pivot to Asia,” it will continue to control most of the planet. But the US has indulged in “overstretch” (to use Paul Kennedy’s word) for a long time, and it no longer has the economic power to support it. That may not, however, prevent the US from triggering WWIII. It seems to me that eliminating neo-Con influence should be first and foremost in American thinking, if ordinary citizens think they would like to have their country back.

  • October 17, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    The article is very informative and good read, and I have this comment. The author thinks that US needs Russia to defeat ISIS. This is a wrong statement. US is not aiming at defeating ISIL The US president has indicated that the goal is to contain ISIL, and the boundary of the containment is the current desert, including Anbar and Musil provinces. ISIL creates instability in the region, and plenty of resources are being used for purchasing military weapons and equipment. And most of these materials are US made. As a complement to ISIL, the nuclear agreement with Iran will create more problems for the Gulf countries. These countries will have to spend half of their annual budgets to purchase weapons for protection. Given low oil prices, the countries must draw cash from reserve. So, containment means keeping ISIL in check and magnifying the sales of weapons: cash-generating machine.
    In addition, ISIL is a Trojan horse for intensifying hostility between Arab countries with the hope of dividing Iraq and Syria into very small and weak countries. This policy in turns is consistent with the Israeli policy of dividing the current Arab map into different structure unable to defend itself.
    US does not care about the losses of funds, because the funds go to the military industrial complex which is the dominant institution in the US economy. Russian involvement in Syria means reduction of funds spent to that industry, which will hurt the bottom line of the US military industrial complex. In fact, the US funds spent are just fiat money with negligible cost.
    President Putin aims at defeating ISIL and protecting the Syrian regime. If this success becomes reality, then Syria and Lebanan will be strong countries, and both will be threat to Israel and US interests. Moreover, Iraq may make internal political changes that keep US out of the picture. These outcomes are no so pleasant to US and US media. So, what the media does is to demonize president Putin, which has no ears in battle field, as Iran, Iraq, and Syria support president Putin. It is also to state that the Russian economy is slowing down not to Mr. Putin involvement in Syria but to the decline in oil price and US and European sanctions. Finally, the article is very fruitful, showing how Western imperialism is on the decline.

  • October 18, 2015 at 10:39 am

    Such an enlightened post and comments.I could not agree more. I will have to check into this site more often.

  • October 18, 2015 at 11:52 am

    “Defense of Crimea” I stopped reading about there. Ethnic Russians in Crimea were in zero threat and the operation to seize Crimea was planned well in advance. Normally you have elections 1) before foreign troops invade 2) when you are not being watched by such troops who also are counting the vote. Though Western media sucks so does Putin. He has gotten a lot of good people killed.

    • October 19, 2015 at 4:07 am

      I guess it will probably come as a huge surprise to you, to be told there was NO INVASION of Crimea by Russian troops, as you claim.
      The FACTS are Russia had an agreement with the illegally deposed Ukrainian Government to station troops in Crimea. These troops have been in Crimea for a long time, not as you claim “Invaded”.
      Secondly, being aware of the events in Ukraine where innocent people were being burnt alive, these troops were utilized to ensure the safety of the Crimean citizens.
      Comparing the people killed as a direct result of Putin’s orders, I personly am not aquainted with the record, but would appreciate some heads up in that regard from you please, as you seem to claim you are aware of these, please post the address where I could peruse these details.
      Regards Obuma and America’s murdering of innocent people, WOW, are you that dumb and blind ? Witness the butcherey currently being conducted by the American Government all over the World, no one in their right minds, could compare that to Putin’s. No one.
      My folks had an old saying, “people who live in glass houses, should not throw stones “, and you my friend are throwing huge rocks, watch out for the glass breakage.

  • October 19, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    “Western media is engaged in an intense long-term propaganda campaign to demonize President Putin. Its role is to convince world public opinion and world leaders to blindly follow the US and EU, as well as their ‘allies’ and vassal states, in a campaign to degrade and undermine Russia, and consolidate a unipolar empire under US tutelage.” They’re out to take over the whole world, without a doubt. Of course, doing evil in the name of good makes American evil good evil – and it’s only temporary. Once the American neocons have a power monopoly over the whole world, they won’t have to do evil any more. Then they will be good guys and do good.


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