Well known government mouthpiece, The China Global Times, published an op-ed overnight that was shockingly frank about the state of America (in their eyes) and did little to confirm President Trump’s opinion that he and Premier Xi are best-buddies…
President Trump’s Troubles Are Not Going Away
US President Donald Trump appears to be in big trouble. A memo by former FBI director James Comey exposed by The New York Times shows Trump had asked Comey to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn in a meeting on February 14. US mainstream media and the Democratic Party accused Trump of obstruction of justice.
Earlier, US media had reported that Trump leaked highly classified intelligence on the Islamic State to visiting Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, yet Washington failed to share the same information with its allies to protect the source.
As the attacks on Trump ramp up, many are now calling for him to be impeached. According to one poll, 48 percent supported impeachment, while 41 percent opposed. The numbers don’t bode well for Trump.
The American elite still refuse to accept Trump after his 100 days in the Oval Office. He is at odds with the mainstream media; insiders have constantly leaked information to the media. Now some commentators have compared the exposure of the Comey memo to the Watergate scandal. As Congress is under Republican control, few believe there will be a move to impeach the president, but these latest revelations will certainly further erode Trump’s presidential authority.
At the beginning of the corruption scandal, few believed that South Korean president Park Geun-hye would be impeached either. Could this be a reference for Trump’s case? But evidence of Park’s illegal activities was solid, while it will be more complicated to make determinations over whether Trump obstructed justice and leaked classified intelligence.
To impeach Trump will need more evidence from further investigation. To completely discredit Trump among voters, the present scandal is not enough as it does not add to the negative image of Trump. Many just think Trump often speaks off the cuff, which ends up in silly blunders.
If there is a major substantive scandal over and above him speaking out of turn then that will be another thing. But this is not the case at the moment.
Every country has its own troubles. The US model represents Western democracy, but it is crumbling, and the resulting social division has become more and more serious. The US Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigation into link between Russia and the 2016 US presidential election and related matters on Wednesday. More juicy details will continue to appear and the rifts may become wider. Trump will become one of the most frequently accused Americans.
The US won’t be engulfed by chaos if its president is caught in a lawsuit. Someone has pointed out that no matter how chaotic the White House and Capitol Hill are, the overall operation of the US will not be a major problem as long as the enterprises and social organizations in the country are stable. This is seen as an advantage of the American system.
Although American society is relatively stable, the political tumult can’t be taken as an advantage of the US system. The fact is that US politics is in trouble, and the benefits brought by its system are being squandered.
With friends like that, who needs North Korean enemies?
What a joke. There is no democracy in the USA. When did the USA have democracy anyway? It’s all a game of smoke and mirrors created by the corporatocracy and dark forces behind the scene which is propagated by the useless US mainstream media. Go home stupid bloody Yankees and fix your own country!
The Western Deep State wants to introduce “democracy” in Venezuela through political sanctions, financial system hacking, and religious war due to the country’s refusal to surrender control of its vast energy resources to the Wall Street bankers.
These multi-pronged Deep State attacks on Venezuela has been very persistent in the last decade.
As always, the Western media continue to be a critical tool in demonizing Latin American leaders who continue to exercise Bolivarian principles of defiance.
The allegations against Venezuela’s vice-president could not have been more serious. Announcing sanctions against Tareck El Aissami this week, the US Treasury Department described him as a “prominent drug trafficker” who had overseen and even partially owned narcotics shipments from Venezuela to the US.
As governor of Aragua state and minister of the interior, he allegedly oversaw or partially owned drug shipments of more than one tonne from Venezuela, and dealt directly with Mexico’s Zetas cartel and Colombian narco-boss Daniel El Loco Barrera. In January he was promoted to vice-president.
But as bad as that sounds, El Aissami is only the latest – if the most highly placed – in a long list of Venezuelan officials or people close to power who have been tied to drug trafficking.
The consequence of what the media is trying to say is that the people of Venezuela are immature to put in power these druglords and charlatans, and the West is morally right to introduce another Libya-like democracy into the region.
What lies behind the attacks on Venezuela?
April 10, 2017 03:23 by ThePrisma
The destabilizing plan being pursued is not new. Why is there this insistence on thwarting the Bolivarian Revolution? The Venezuelan Foreign Minister has said that “never before in the history of international organizations have we seen unlawful, deviant, arbitrary, biased behaviour.”
Caracas (PL) Venezuela was victorious once again in the Organization of American States (OAS) after it managed to thwart the interventionist and meddling efforts driven by its Secretary General, Luis Almagro.
Bolivarian diplomacy successfully dealt with the plans of a powerful alliance led by the United States Department of State and supported by some right-wing governments in the region, with dignity and integrity. For this, Almagro acted as the right hand of the alliance by aligning himself with the most reactionary groups in the country.
The destabilizing plan being pursued against Venezuela is not new. In June of last year, the head of the so-called “ministry of colonies” – as Cuba’s Eminent Foreign Minister, Raúl Roa García, described the OAS – tried to unsuccessfully activate the Inter-American Democratic Charter, as an instrument of coercion and blackmail, against the Bolivarian government.
On March 14, Almagro presented a report on Venezuela funded by the so-named International Crisis Group NGO which is supported by US oil company Exxon Mobil; and is sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute which has clear interests in Venezuelan energy resources.
This same step had been taken a year earlier, in June 2016, and the results were the same: it did not work despite Washington’s political backing. But some wonder why there is this insistence in thwarting the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.
According to reports issued by the powers that be in Caracas, the secretary general of the OAS maintains close ties with the most reactionary factions of Venezuela’s extreme right, and between 2016 and 2017 met 26 times with representatives of these opposition groups.
It is striking that more than 70% of his messages on Twitter”s social network are aimed at attacking Venezuela, its government and its officials.
Undoubtedly, Almagro took sides with the right-wing groups that are fighting for power against the government presided over by Nicolás Maduro, despite the latter’s victory at the ballot box and the fact that these groups are not inclined towards dialogue as a means of reaching national agreements .
Hence Almagro’s continual “reports”, which were described by the Venezuelan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Delcy Rodríguez, as “a complex strategy of intervention in the medium and short term.”
Why is he insisting on the Democratic Charter?
The Inter-American Democratic Charter, adopted on September 11, 2001, in a special session of the OAS Assembly, held in Lima, Peru, is a mechanism that would be applied in case of a rupture in the democratic institutional political process or the legitimate exercise of power by an elected government, in any of the member states of the organization.
By triggering this, a temporary suspension of the right to participate of an OAS member state can be approved, although to realise this a two thirds majority vote is required.
Exclusion from this inter-American regional process limits the sanctioned government’s ability to take action and it would also be isolated and sanctioned internationally.
Application of the Inter-American Democratic Charter to Venezuela – according to the above thinking and as part of the plan orchestrated by Almagro – could have consequences for other regional organizations, such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of America, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, The Union of South American Nations, Petrocaribe, among others – which promote social integration in the region.
Obviously, that was the task entrusted to Almagro by the US State Department, which, if carried out, could lead to a dangerous destabilization of Latin America comparable with what has already been experienced in the Middle East and in some areas of Eastern Europe.
Venezuela continues to struggle
In a recent press conference, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister stated that “never before in the history of international organizations have we seen unlawful, deviant, arbitrary, biased behaviour. The behaviour shown towards Venezuela really has been unprecedented and unusual, marked by attacks which articulate a plan of intervention. ”
For Rodríguez, with its new interventionist attitude, “the OAS is returning to the darkest pages in its history,” with a shameful record of silence in the face of coup d’états, systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms; and always at the service of the oligarchies and the most reactionary power groups.
The high ranking official explained that the plans that were being plotted against Bolívar’s homeland “via vile blackmail, pressure and extortion” by Washington were known about.
He added that two US congressmen threatened “in a crude, vulgar and brutal way member states of the organisation, sister states that remained standing with their heads held high, their morals to the fore, defending the dignity and also the sovereignty and independence of the Great Homeland.” (PL) *Journalist in Venezuela
Late last year, the banking system of Venezuela was sabotaged when its electronic payment system collapsed.
President Maduro branded the attack an act of international aggression against Venezuela, orchestrated to hurt the people in the country.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Saturday the arrest of those responsible for the banking system sabotage that saw the nation’s electronic payments system collapse in the country on Friday.
Five employees from Credicar, a company in charge of credit and debit card operations in the country, were arrested Friday night. “It was a deliberate action what happened in Credicar, it’s confirmed, and those responsible have been detained,” said Maduro.
While this formula of hybrid geopolitical interventions is familiar to all of the advanced readers of this site, most of the people in the Americas have yet to understand the hidden agenda which motivated the leaders behind the mass actions, which complements the power of Western propaganda which fueled color revolutions in many parts of the world, and within the United States, too.
As typical in any religious countries, Vatican embedded agents has also tried to do their part in instigating rift right at the core of the Venezuelan society. The Catholic priests unleashed their anti-Maduro propaganda to solicit an aggressive response from his die hard supporters.
Collectives are pro-government groups that organize community events and social projects, but they also have been accused of intimidation and violence against those who oppose the government.
“They started to shout insults, then would be calm, and then they would shout again,” said Maria Cisneros, who has attended the church for 20 years. She requested her name be changed for this story out of fear of retaliation.
“These were aggressive people, with aggressive vocabulary, using profanity, and they said all kinds of vulgarities; we felt very attacked,” she said.
The Deep State is also insulated from a possible coordinated retaliation of its sanctions against targeted country because it is only the people of US that will suffer from it, and not the Deep State crowd themselves.
‘Get your dirty hands out of Venezuela’ – Maduro to Trump
Published time: 20 May, 2017 17:23
The United States should “get out of Venezuela,” the country’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, said after Washington slapped Venezuelan top judiciary officials with sanctions to “support” the Venezuelan people.
The new sanctions package, targeting the chief judge and seven other members of Venezuela’s Supreme Court, was imposed by the US Treasury to “advance democratic governance” in the country.
“Enough meddling … Go home, Donald Trump. Get out of Venezuela,” Maduro said in a speech broadcasted live on TV, as cited by Reuters. “Get your dirty hands out of here.”
The Venezuelan president’s tirade echoed a statement issued by the government, accusing the US of intervening into country’s internal affairs and seeking to further destabilize it.
“President Trump’s aggressions against the Venezuelan people, its government and its institutions have surpassed all limits,” the statement said.
It urged the US to focus on sorting out its own internal problems, instead of meddling in Venezuela’s affairs.
“The extreme positions of a government just starting off only confirmed the discriminatory, racist, xenophobic, and genocidal nature of US elites against humanity and its own people, which has now been heightened by this new administration which asserts white Anglo-Saxon supremacy,” the statement read, as cited by Reuters.
The sanctions imposed by the US Treasury include freeze of any assets the eight judges might have in the US, deny them entering the country, and prohibit US citizens to do any business with them. The situation in Venezuela “is a disgrace to humanity” and the country “has been unbelievably poorly run,” Donald Trump said Thursday.
“We haven’t really seen a problem like that, I would say, in decades,” Trump added.
Thousands of anti-government protesters hit the streets Saturday with large crowds marching down the streets of the capital, Caracas, and the city of Christobal in the western Tachira state, which has grown into one of the main centers of the ongoing unrest.
In light of the worsening food shortage in Venezuela, Putin decided to send “several thousand tons of wheat each month to the struggling South American country.”
Russia’s Putin pledges to send food to starving Venezuela
May 19, 2017 Associated Press
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry announced Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised to start delivering food after speaking on the phone with President Nicolas Maduro.
Flour is one of the hardest goods to come by in shortage-hit Venezuela. It is rarely available in regular grocery stores. Instead, people find it on the black market or wait in line for hours to buy two packages each at state-run stores.
The gesture of support for the Maduro administration comes at a key moment. Regional governments have been distancing themselves from the embattled socialist president and calling on him to respect democratic norms.
One by one, these Latin American countries, e.g. Brazil and Argentina, succumbed to the will of the Deep State due in part to the ignorance of the middle class to the above methods that are being used in the region.
At present, only a combined Russia and China intervention might deter a complete Deep State usurpation of Latin America, unless some form of miracle will one day wake up the American “Patriots” to rise up in arms against the latter.
George Bush’s National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice was speaking at the neo-con Brookings Institution when she said the following,
“We didn’t go to Iraq to bring democracy to Iraq we went to Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein… It was a security problem”.
She also stated,
“I would never have said to President Bush (to) use military force to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan”.
The truth is that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was never a financier or exporter of terrorism, it was actually on the front line against al-Qaeda and other Salifist groups which have subsequently taken over large parts of Iraqi territory. Furthermore, Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction of 2003.
Therefore, what is Miss. Rice talking about? When she calls Iraq a threat to security, the only question that follows is, to whom?
Iraq threatened the ability to American financial institutions and arms dealers to expand with impunity because Iraq by 2003 had been cut off from the western financial and corporate apparatus. Iraq didn’t threaten anyone’s security, but it did threaten the expansion of certain western interests in the region. Could this be the ‘security’ about which Miss. Rice spoke?
US politicians and media have evidently become so unhinged from Russian conspiracy theory, they are perhaps best treated with the mockery they deserve.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was in Washington this week to discuss serious global issues with his American counterpart Rex Tillerson. Instead of asking the pair about the Syrian conflict or the danger of nuclear war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula, all the assembled US media was clamoring to know about were the diplomats’ views on James Comey, the sacked FBI chief.
Lavrov couldn’t contain his contempt for such boorish behavior. He shrugged his shoulders and feigned surprise by saying: “You’re kidding me. You’re kidding me.”
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin was interrupted from partaking in an ice hockey game in Sochi by an American reporter who also pressed him for his view on Comey’s firing. Putin replied: “Your question is funny to me.” And he went on to say that the matter has nothing to do with Russia, being internal political business for President Trump and his law enforcement agency.
If the Russian leaders can be accused of anything is that they are being too polite in the face of such nonsense.If someone insists on asking you a stupid question, loaded with prejudice and paranoia, then it is best to simply ignore rather than dignify the nonsense with a considered answer.
For over six months now, since Donald Trump was elected US president on November 8, the US media and much of the other Western media too, have been dominated by claims that Russia “hacked American democracy” to get Trump into the White House.
Not one shred of evidence has been presented to support these lurid claims, which have mutated to also include allegations of Russia hacking into the French and other European elections. It’s all based on speculation, usually by politicians, think-tanks and unscrupulous journalists linked to unelected state intelligence agencies.
This is a relapse of Cold War-style Russophobia, but one which has become totally divorced from any reality. At least in the old Cold War days, Western states could create a semblance of there being a Soviet enemy. It was still overblown propaganda back then, but there was the appearance of ideological enmity between West and East.Today, it is objectively hard to plausibly portray Russia as an enemy state with malicious designs of conquest over the West. That disconnect, however, has not stopped the Western mainstream media churning out propaganda articles warning of the imminent Russian invasion of Europe or subversion of Western democracy.
The trouble is that there is such a credibility deficit to such claims; because they are based on nothing, except Russophobia and a desire by powerful Western state factions to fuel global conflict and massive military expenditure. In short, deep state militarism, propping up bankrupt Western capitalism.There is also a deep inherent problem in Western societies of traditional politics having completely lost legitimacy in the eyes of ordinary citizens. Decades of failed capitalist economics and burgeoning social inequality have fomented widespread disillusionment and contempt for the political establishments. The latter has run out of any solutions to address today’s urgent social needs of decent work, public services and welfare.
So much so that when elections don’t go the way that the powers-that-be want, then there is a tendency to find a scapegoat to explain the breakdown in political order. Russia and its alleged hacking into electoral process is the handy scapegoat for the US and its European allies to blame for what is inherent decay in their own systems.The election of business tycoon Donald Trump defied the political-media establishment in the US. And so his surprise victory has to be “explained” by a nefarious foreign plot allegedly carried out by the Kremlin. A more realistic, accurate assessment is that Trump won simply because millions of ordinary Americans have come to despise the fat-cat politicians who sit on Capitol Hill doing the bidding for corporate lobby groups. But that explanation cannot be admitted by the decadent establishment.
The self-serving paranoia of Russophobia put out by the Washington establishment just keeps digging a deeper hole for itself.
Trump fired FBI chief James Comey this week because the top law enforcement officer was riding a gravy train that is supposedly investigating alleged collusion between Trump’s election team and Russia. There is no evidence for these claims, therefore the probe should be shut down as an obscene waste of taxpayer money. Yet, Comey’s gravy train was set to keep on rolling, on and on.Comey wouldn’t look into investigating Trump’s presidential rival Hillary Clinton for provable violations of government secrecy rules when she was formerly the Secretary of State. But the FBI man wanted to keep stoking the smoke over outlandish claims that Trump is a “Russian agent.”
The whole charade is a ridiculous waste of time and taxpayer money, and Trump is right to call a halt to it by sacking Comey.
Rather than coming to their senses, however, the US media and large sections of the political establishment are doubling down on their paranoia.
Trump is accused of closing down Comey in a cover-up of the “truth” about his alleged Russia links. Comparisons are being made to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon in 1974. Top US media outlets like the New York Times are openly calling Trump a “liar.”
But what “truth” are they talking about? The allegations of collusion with Russia and the latter hacking US democracy are all based on hearsay, conjecture and prejudice. The only reason why this absurd story has kept on running is because of deep-seated Cold War-style paranoia and Russophobia among the American political elite.Trump’s reception of Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov at the White House the day after he terminated Comey was more fodder for the unhinged American media and political class.
Lavrov was right to treat the stupid US media questions about his view on Comey with the contempt that they deserve. Trump was right, too, to exclude the same media posse from the Oval Office where he greeted Lavrov and Russia’s ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
If US media are not capable of holding intelligent questions about real-world pressing matters then they should be shown the door. And if they persist in indulging in paranoid fantasies, then the only suitable reality-check is to hit them with a dose of mockery.
Genuine questions deserve a genuine response. Ridiculous questions that are persistently asked to further a spurious political agenda should be spurned.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
The FBI chief’s statement about Russian threat to US democracy is hot air designed to obfuscate Clinton’s failure, while the attacks on WikiLeaks are fanning the flames of Julian Assange’s mistrial, says former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon.
The FBI chief’s statement about Russian threat to US democracy is hot air designed to obfuscate Clinton’s failure, while the attacks on WikiLeaks are fanning the flames of Julian Assange’s mistrial, says former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday the FBI chief, James Comey, lashed out at WikiLeaks while questioned by senators on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and Russia’s alleged involvement in the US election.
“A huge portion of WikiLeaks’ activities has nothing to do with legitimate newsgathering, informing the public, commenting on public controversies, but is simply about releasing classified information to damage the United States,” Comey said. “It’s intelligence porn,” he added.
The statement comes a day after Clinton accused Comey of playing a role in her defeat in November’s vote.
Comey also claimed Russia is currently actively involved in trying to influence US politics and called Moscow “the greatest threat” to US democracy.
RT: How would you assess the FBI director’s statement about WikiLeaks?
Annie Machon: I think he really has dug himself into a hole in many ways. One, [he is] trying to assess Russia as the biggest threat to American democracy while no proof has been presented publicly about any of these overinflated allegations about Russia trying to hack into American elections. Two, WikiLeaks is by any standards a publisher of information that is very much in the public interest. Not just the recent disclosure about the CIA, not just the disclosures from the Democratic National Committee last year or the Podesta files or whatever. WikiLeaks for the last ten years has been publishing information from around the world about financial corruption, about right-wing extremism, about the Bilderberg Group, about war crimes, about Chelsea Manning’s disclosures, American diplomacy, they publish what they think is in the public interest (which they have to rely on their sources giving to them – OK). So, they are a publisher by any standard. They are just a new hi-tech conduit for publishing as opposed to the old corporate media like the New York Times or the Washington Post.
RT: Senator Lindsey Graham challenged Comey over allegations of Russian involvement in both the US and world politics. “Is it fair to say that the Russia government is still involved in American politics?” asked Graham. Comey responded, “Yes.” How can the FBI chief be so sure?
AM: That is a very good question. Nobody anywhere appears to have seen any hard evidence about the alleged Russian hacking of the American election. This started as a sort of swerve that was put out by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to try and avoid accountability for the fact that she had apparently illegally used a private email server. This was in summer last year. That became information that has been leaked from the DNC, information that has been leaked about the Podesta emails. We suddenly became conflated with “It is published by WikiLeaks” and must have been given to WikiLeaks by Russia. There is no evidence. And then it suddenly became “Russia hacked the election process,”“Russia hacked Vermont’s energy grid.” This has all been disproven time and time again. This is so much hot air designed to obfuscate the fact that Hillary Clinton very badly lost the election last year. Also it is very convenient to try and push forward what is now being openly expressed finally; the American administration’s wish to try and prosecute Julian Assange by any means necessary, be it espionage, whatever it is. He has caused an embarrassment by publishing some of the information about what America is getting up to. So, they just want to get him in any which way, as well as other WikiLeaks staffers. I think James Comey is really sort of fanning the flames of what could be one of the biggest mistrials in history if this goes ahead.
RT: FBI Director James Comey also described Russia “the greatest threat” to US democracy. What are your thoughts about that?
AM: I think that in America some of the greatest threats to their democracy is, first of all, the two-party system which is actually a sham in a sense that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the same government administration will get in. And the fact that most of the candidates who are put up for election to president in the US tend to be very heavily backed by big lobby organizations, by Wall Street. So, vested interests tend to be running a very corporatists state in America.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.
Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer for MI5, the UK Security Service, who resigned in the late 1990s to blow the whistle on the spies’ incompetence and crimes with her ex-partner, David Shayler. Drawing on her varied experiences, she is now a public speaker, writer, media pundit, international tour and event organiser, political campaigner, and PR consultant. She has a rare perspective both on the inner workings of governments, intelligence agencies and the media, as well as the wider implications for the need for increased openness and accountability in both public and private sectors.
Close to 500,000 people have signed a petition, delivered to Congress on Wednesday, that urges lawmakers to take President Donald Trump’s finger off the nuclear button.
The petition supports the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act,” legislation introduced by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would prohibit Trump from launching a nuclear weapon without Congress first authorizing a declaration of war.
“No American president should be allowed to launch an unprovoked nuclear war,” Markey said at the press conference marking the petition delivery. “The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress, and we should not allow President Trump—or any president—to use nuclear weapons except in response to a nuclear attack against the U.S. or our allies.”
More than a dozen advocacy groups helped circulate the petition, from the anti-nuclear Peace Action to the democracy watchdog Public Citizen.
“It’s terrifying that Trump currently has unchecked authority to press the button to launch thousands of nuclear weapons at his command in a matter of moments,” said Tessa Levine, campaign manager for the action group CREDO, which also endorsed the petition. “Trump’s first 100 days have been marked by series of horrifying demonstrations of his recklessness and incompetence, we cannot trust Trump to make rational or informed decisions about the safety of our country and the world.”
Many highlighted the destructive power of modern weapons—especially when handed over to a president with a temper and a shaky grasp of geopolitics.
“Our Constitution created a government based on checks and balances and gave the power to declare war solely to Congress,” said Lieu. “A nuclear first strike, which can kill hundreds of millions of people and invite a retaliatory strike that can destroy America, is war. The current nuclear launch approval process, which gives the decision to potentially end civilization as we know it to a single individual, is flatly unconstitutional.”
“Furthermore, the single individual currently possessing the sole power to start WWIII is Donald J. Trump. The president has demonstrated a frightening ignorance of the nuclear triad, crowed about being ‘unpredictable’ with our nuclear arsenal, and taken to Twitter to make provocative statements about U.S. nuclear posture,” Lieu added. “The fate of humanity just may be at stake.”
Lillyanne Daigle, network campaigner for Global Zero, added, “One modern nuclear weapon is more destructive than all of the bombs detonated in World War II combined—yet there is no check on Trump’s ability to use the thousands of nuclear weapons at his command. His power to do so is absolute, and once he hits the proverbial red button there would be no take-backs.”
“That such devastating power is concentrated in one person is an affront to America’s founding principles,” Daigle said. “The proposed legislation is an important first step to reining in this autocratic system and making the world safer from nuclear catastrophe.”
May 3, 2017Gone but not forgotten: Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s funeral, 2008. EPA/Yuri Kochetkov
“Fake news” may be getting lots of headlines, but it is as old as the hills. Propagandists have relied on false evidence for centuries. Of course, not all propaganda campaigns are dishonest; indeed many efforts at persuading people of things are laudable. But the phenomenon of fake news and the “post-truth” culture in which it thrives are clearly a threat to democracy, and to the public sphere that democracy depends on to survive.
Everyone has a part to play in pushing back. Most of us probably assume that only other people fall prey to false or exaggerated news stories. This is complacent. Media historians emphasise that propaganda often exploits already-existing trends rather than creating new ones, making subtle use of half-truths as well as outright falsehoods – and it can be much harder to unpick half-truths than to demolish lies.
Fortunately, a few decades ago, matters of truth-telling and lying were a major concern for Soviet and Eastern European dissidents living under communism, where propaganda was all-pervasive. Their ideas have long outlasted their times, and today they should interest anyone seeking to challenge dishonesty or speak truth to power, or even simply to live truthfully.
They are all the more relevant because the propaganda techniques currently used by Moscow have roots in the Soviet era, and it is valuable to know how people sought to respond to them then. But their ideas have a relevance well beyond Russia; after all, no country, group or person is immune to half-truths or disinformation.
On these issues, the thinking of Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of Soviet communism’s most trenchant critics, deserves special attention. When Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he built his Nobel lecture around a Russian proverb: “One word of truth outweighs the whole world”. Simple truths, he argued, are always a threat to totalitarianism.
In his 1974 essay, Live Not by Lies, Solzhenitsyn suggested that to end repression, people needed to resist lies and learn to live “by truth”. “Never knowingly support lies,” he declared. While he acknowledged that that could be risky, to put it mildly, he saw it as a kind of minimalist strategy, one within everyone’s reach.
Dissidents and reformers alike read Live Not by Lies as a vision for a different kind of society. One man impressed with Solzhenitsyn’s thinking was the Czech dramatist and future president, Václav Havel. In his 1978 essay, The Power of the Powerless, Havel suggested that people “need not accept the lie”. He imagines a greengrocer who stops putting up slogans he disagrees with and voting in fake elections, and starts to say what he really thinks at political meetings – breaking the “rules of the game” that underpin the system. In finding the strength to follow his conscience, Havel suggests, the man makes an attempt to live “within the truth”.
The notion of “living in truth” points to the idea that being truthful isn’t just a matter of uttering true statements, but also about becoming a truthful person in the fullest sense. Truthfulness and integrity are entwined; religious thinkers sometimes talk of the “spirit of truth” at work within people. The Russian philosopher Semyon Frank, writing from a Christian humanist perspective, once wrote that truth is ‘not a judgement about reality, but the living presence of the reality itself”.
Another relevant text is Fear No Evil, a 1986 memoir by Jewish refusnik Nathan Sharansky. Sharansky was imprisoned for his involvement in the Moscow Helsinki Group, set up in 1976 to monitor human rights abuses. He used to prepare for interrogation by reflecting on the Psalms of David and having imaginary conversations with characters from literature. He was conscious that if he did not develop a rich inner life, he could easily be drawn into compromises he would later regret.
Again, this speaks to our own time, where it is so easy for people to get caught up in the latest news story or media-driven discussion. When we lose our “inner freedom” – another term popular in dissident circles – we become open to manipulation by political, commercial and cultural agendas of all kinds.
Truth for its own sake
Truth-telling is not easy in times when the very concept of truth has been brought into disrepute. Lenin named the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, which is Russian for truth. In practice, this meant the politicisation of truth – identifying as true whatever policy or idea the Communist Party chose to promote. Unsurprisingly, there was widespread disillusionment when the Soviet regime failed to deliver on its promises.
It is hard not to be cynical about people who loudly claim to speak the truth, and understandings of what truth even is have certainly changed over time. But to move from that insight to saying that everyone has their own truth is a step too far. No university would survive on a principle like that, even if the “post-truth” culture, with its implicit connections to postmodernism, has some of its roots in the academy.
Truth is more than a means to an end. There are times when truths need to be expressed, whether or not a positive outcome will be the result. As Anatoly Yakobson, editor of Soviet human rights journal The Chronicle of Current Events, once declared: “One must begin by postulating that truth is needed for its own sake and for no other reason.” Or in the words of famous physicist and dissident Andrei Sakharov: “[A man] may hope for nothing, but nevertheless speak because he cannot, simply cannot remain silent.”
Living in truth doesn’t mean speaking out unthinkingly on every issue. It matters not just what we say, but how we say it. It’s all too easy to become strident or pedantic, forgetting that truths expressed well have the power to unlock hearts and open up conversation. Besides, truth and untruth are often mixed up, and it can take time and care to separate the two.
In these times as much as ever, we must live in truth, and learn to tell the truth in constructive ways. This may seem obvious, but in practice it’s no small task – and democracy depends on it.