President Vladimir Putin sees his country in an “information war” with the West. The underlying assumption is that Western media organizations are linked in a vast conspiracy to defame and undermine Russia, so the Kremlin has no choice but to reply in kind. Since the beginning of the month, Russia’s state media holding Rossiya Segodnya has launched an international news agency, called Sputnik, as well as RT Deutsch, a German-language version of broadcaster Russia Today.
The purpose of the media offensive isn’t so much to present an alternative point of view as to create a parallel reality where crackpots become experts and conspiracy theories offer explanations for the injustices of the world. The target audience is Western citizens skeptical of their own system of government. The goal is obfuscation.
– Lucian Kim
In a Reuters article titled British EU exit debate scaring off investment – Hermes funds I hit a line that made me go: say what?
Political rhetoric raising the possibility that Britain may leave the European Union could already be deterring foreign investment and harming London’s financial services industry, a top UK investor said (…) Another effect could be to weaken the allure of the City of London as a base for international financial systems with rival banking and investment hubs New York, Singapore and Zurich likely to benefit.
I was particularly struck by “and Zurich”. So Zurich, also in Europe but not in the EU, will benefit if London is not in the EU? Really?
As reported in most entertaining style by the Guardian, Ed Miliband had rather an ordeal at the hands of Myleene Klass.
Looking at the picture Guido has up, the converse is also true.
UPDATE: Second link seems to have collapsed. Here’s the Twitter post (including the [ADDED LATER: fake] relevant photo) from Mark Flanagan’s twitter feed that Guido linked to.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: In fairness, a lot of people, including Mark Flanagan himself and many who are no friends to Ed Miliband, are saying the picture has been maliciously photoshopped. The transition between hand and wrist does look odd. The more I look at it the more sure I am it’s fake, made by manipulating this picture here. Guido’s link has changed, and the picture no longer appears on his post.
I love the idea that prosperity can be decreed by a G20 communiqué. World leaders in Brisbane have airily committed themselves to two per cent growth. (Why only two per cent? Why not 20 per cent? Or 200 per cent? Who knew it was so easy?) Meanwhile, in the real world, the divergence between Continental Europe and the rest of the planet accelerates.
– Daniel Hannan
On 27 October 1914 HMS Audacious, one of the Royal Navy’s newer battleships hit a mine and sank. The government censored the story and the loss wasn’t officially admitted until after the war had ended. This is about as close as readers of the Times got to hearing about it officially:
The Times 6 November 1914 p4
The point being that the Olympic (sister ship of the Titanic) helped in the rescue operation. Many of its passengers were Americans and some even took photographs. As there was no censorship in America news of the sinking slowly filtered across the Atlantic. There’s a good discussion about the sinking here:
So, why the secrecy? Partly this was because of where the Audacious sank. The fleet was supposed to be in Scapa Flow in the Orkneys guarding the North Sea. However, due to the state of the submarine defences there it was thought prudent to move it to Lough Swilly off the northern coast of Ireland. The navy did not want the idea to get out that the North Sea was an open house.
HMS Audacious sinking
But there may have been another reason. The early months of the war had been a disaster for the Royal Navy. The German battlecruiser, Goeben, had evaded the British in the Mediterranean and went on to play a large part in bringing Turkey into the war. Three cruisers, the Hogue, Aboukir and Cressy had managed to get themselves sunk by the same submarine in the Channel in the space of an hour and a half. At the battle of Coronel a British cruiser squadron had attacked a superior German force with disastrous results. In the southern oceans the commerce raider Emden was making fools of its pursuers, seemingly able to pop up out of nowhere to shell ports and destroy wireless stations. There may have been a desire not to admit just how badly things were going.
In situations like this questions are bound to be asked about the man at the top – or the First Lord of the Admiralty to give him his grand, official title – but it would take another year and more disasters before he would finally be sacked. The chap’s name? Oh yes, Winston Churchill.
Back in the bad old days, Kremlinologists used to try to figure out what was going on in the leadership of the USSR by observing signs and portents.
During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to “read between the lines” and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as “First Secretary”, the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper “Pravda” and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.
To study the relations between Communist fraternal states, Kremlinologists compare the statements issued by the respective national Communist parties, looking for omissions and discrepancies in the ordering of objectives. The description of state visits in the Communist press are also scrutinized, as well as the degree of hospitality leant to dignitaries. Kremlinology also emphasizes ritual, in that it notices and ascribes meaning to the unusual absence of a policy statement on a certain anniversary or holiday.
Brian Micklethwait has often written of the “sovietisation” of various parts of the British State such as state schools and the NHS. To illustrate this process, take a look at the way a “major incident” at Colchester Hospital has been reported.
What major incident you ask? My point exactly: you ask, they don’t answer. Likewise “safeguarding” is repeatedly mentioned. Something needs to be safeguarded.
Late last night or early this morning there were oracular bulletins from the Telegraph and Times, all chock-full of unspecified “incident”. From the Times:
On Wednesday, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected Colchester Hospital’s accident and emergency department and emergency assessment unit and told trust it had concerns over “safeguarding” there.
The major incident is likely to last for a week, and the trust has reminded members of the public to only visit A&E if they have a “serious or life-threatening condition”.
A spokesman for the hospital said the inspection was not the sole reason for the major incident being declared, although it played a role.
All clear now? There was a similarly opaque article on the AOL homepage. It has been updated since, as has the Telegraph one, I think, but the Times, like a good horror movie, is delaying the big reveal.
The BBC followed suit: “Colchester Hospital declares major incident.” The BBC did tell us what sort of general thing might constitute a “major incident” but not about this major incident. As a result everyone thinks it’s ebola and as I write this it’s the most looked-at article on the BBC website.
Stand down. It’s not ebola. The Guardian was slow to get the story but does actually tell it:
A major incident has been declared at Colchester hospital after a surprise inspection this week found patients being inappropriately restrained and sedated without consent and “do not resuscitate” notices being disregarded.
The ward concerned has been closed to new admissions, an emergency control centre has been put in place to address capacity problems, and patients are being urged to go to A&E only if they have a serious or life-threatening condition.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found that the Essex hospital is struggling with “unprecedented demand”, but the Guardian understands concerns were also raised about safeguarding issues relating to inappropriate restraint, resuscitation and sedation of elderly people, some with dementia.
Oh dear, what a let down. Just as it used to in the days of Pravda and Izvestia the secrecy concealed mundanity. It’s just the NHS in crisis again. Can’t they do anything right? The zombies they make aren’t even dead yet.
Hannah Thoburn has an interesting article on World Affairs called Putin the Unifier:
There’s nothing like an invasion to bring a country together. Ask any Ukrainian on any street and they’ll tell you the same thing, almost thankfully: Vladimir Putin has united Ukraine like never before. His actions in eastern Ukraine have proven a kind of catalyst that have forged a nation out of a group of people that once squabbled incessantly about politics, language rights, and tax dollars.
Southern Ukrainians who once sighed in exasperation at the “nationalists from the west” of Ukraine (as the common saying went) are now excited about the election to Parliament of a new, youthful, pro-European party, Self-Reliance, which hails from that region. Perhaps, one woman told me, they can teach us how to begin to “live in the European way.” Some in customarily Russian-speaking areas have taken to purposefully speaking Ukrainian so as to not perpetuate Russian soft power.
This pretty much squares with what I have heard from people I know or correspond with in the Ukraine. They tend to be deeply cynical about domestic corruption and local politicians generally, but all have told me hostility to the Kremlin and pro-western sentiments now largely transcends narrower political groupings, making for some eye widening collaboration amongst very unlikely allies. A guy I know also said much the same thing about many Russians becoming very vocally Ukrainian, with some going ‘deep nationalist’ as only Russians can these days, just not in the way the charming Mr. Putin might have expected.
The correct response to this is…
“I should give a shit why exactly? But please leave your name, address and accomplishments so I can critique your sartorial style in the unlikely event you are ever involved in something never done before in human history.”
But Matt, listen to me buddy… never apologise. Seriously, your friends do not need it and your enemies will still hate you regardless, so either ignore your detractors, or better yet, tell them to shove it.
hat tip: Darryl Watson
This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in – you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass….Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.
– Professor Jonathan Gruber, “one of the key figures in constructing the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare”, via Reason, via David Thomson.
What happens if each of those experts feels entitled, even obligated, to lie just a little, to shade his conclusions to strengthen the support they provide for what he believes is the right conclusion? Each of them then interprets the work of all the others as providing more support for that conclusion than it really does. The result might be that they end up biasing their results in support of the wrong conclusion—which each of them believes is right on the basis of the lies of all the others.
That is one of the reasons I am not greatly impressed by the supposed scientific consensus in favor of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.
– David Friedman
As I am fond of saying, it works like a stock market bubble. There is no need to posit a conspiracy. David Friedman’s view that this is a matter of a build up of many little lies rather than a few big ones is a more realistic as well as a more charitable picture of the mechanism at work.
I am yet more charitable than Professor Friedman. Though I completely agree with him that there are almost certainly many scientists shading their conclusions, it might well be the case that they are not doing so consciously at all. All it would take is for a lot of people with jobs to keep and mortgages to pay each to see which side their bread is buttered when the time comes round to apply for grants. As the American socialist author Upton Sinclair put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” On the unbuttered side of the bread, when a scientist observes that colleagues who raise doubts suffer for it, she would be acting much like the rest of humanity if she, while never aware of feeling fear, somehow finds herself more comfortable out of the intellectual proximity of these pariahs.
In a way the Rosetta scientists had it easy. All they had to do was hit a moving target half a billion kilometres away. Succeed or fail, there is no kidding yourself and no kidding others. Twenty-eight minutes later you and the world will know.
ADDED LATER: Fraser Orr comments:
“The answer to the CAGW people is simple: make a prediction that is falsifiable and can be measured in a reasonable length of time. Give me an example of a significant result where you predicted the future and it came true. Explain why your last fifteen years of prediction have been completely wrong, and if you have a wild ass explanation of something you didn’t factor in, give us a reason to believe that you didn’t forget something else.”
I only just spotted this on CapX and it does help explain why I have a high opinion of ‘Guido Fawkes‘, warts and all: he has been on the side of the angels for a long, long time.
What is amazing is how the “Stab in the back” myth got going.
I’m watching a similar narrative unfold in Russia. The myth being propagated, and lapped up, is that Russia was strong and respected in the days of the USSR and then suddenly a handful of people (who naturally were nothing to do with Russia, really) gave it all up and surrendered unnecessarily. The West rushed in, led by the Americans, with the sole purpose of grinding Russians’ noses into the dirt and dismantling their country. They very nearly succeeded, but fortunately Putin descended from the clouds to save the nation, and is setting about restoring Russia’s place in the world and thanks to him Russia is strong again and will never again be subject to humiliation at the hands of the Americans.
Of course, the reality is that Russia persisted with an idiotic system of economic and political management despite the West telling them not to, and it inevitably collapsed around their ears. Rather than take the women and children as slaves, shoot all the men, and plough salt into the earth the West took pity on their former sworn enemies and offered them well-intended but hopelessly naive advice on how to build a market economy – naive because it failed to take into account the fact that far too many Russians would rather kill each other in order to get filthy rich than do some work and add some value. Having contributed to the almighty mess that Russia became, certain state-backed thugs rose to the top and accepted Putin as their leader who spent about 7-8 years providing some much-needed stability before the oil price rose, stoked his ego, and sent him into the delusion that he is some kind of Peter the Great figure who is destined to restore Russia’s place at the global top-table. Which is a fine aim, but thus far he’s managed to shoot down an airliner, ban the import of Lithuanian cheese, help himself to a peninsular he can only access in summer, and the traffic lights in most Russian towns still don’t work.
As with Germany, the second time around, the West might not be so charitable.
– Jake Barnes commenting on a Samizdata article.