Russia part 3 (long)

The bad & ugly

That look on people’s faces when you tell them you’re educating yourself about Russia – it’s as if I said I spend my weekends swimming with piranhas. I don’t have much sympathy for those who can afford to travel and visit events and still do it. For those who may be able to afford some time on the internet, they can hardly be blamed if all they do is look at social media and google.

The wilful ignorance of politicians, academics who abuse their positions of public service to generate propaganda especially on social media. Aleppo for example. I started following  @Vanessa Beeley on twitter who wrote about a recent visit to Aleppo. I can’t use Patrick’s brilliant post enough but I learnt a lot during the crisis camp haiti hack we did about basic intelligence gathering and odd snippets from elsewhere in my life. This is enough to at least raise question marks about sources, timing, frequency. For example in a military crisis where suddenly there is a lot of focus from mainstream media, US & UK foreign offices on East Aleppo, you naturally can ask yourself, why East Aleppo, what is happening elsewhere that you rather we didn’t focus on and especially when you consider who Syria’s neighbours are and US influence in some of those neighbours countries…

And this is not paranoid fearmongering. General Sir Rupert Smith explains this on the whole of p287 of the Utility of Force about Iraq and the media

“…Above all one must never forget that the interest of a journalist of producer which is usually genuine – is driven by a need to fill spaces with words and pictures. I used this for my understanding in the Gulf in 1990 when considering my method for conducting operations against the Iraqis. I realised the need to make particular arrangements for handling what I called ‘presentation’ in order to ensure the continuing support of our people and allies, to impart to the enemy a specific impression we wanted him to have and for my command to feel it was well presented”1

So the mainstream media will impart what military commanders want them to impart ultimately and it’s not impossible if you accept the idea of war among the people, that Vanessa Beeley’s accusations of the NATO White Helmets being terrorists operating as humanitarians for media purposes could be true. Mainstream media and military operations have always operated that way. So all the ranting against Russia without even the slightest questioning of sources is pure propaganda. And vice versa. If people refuse to even consider the possibility that they might be wrong and don’t bother to educate themselves to find out if they were, it becomes much more tiring and tedious.

The good

I attended a Russian folk singing performance at Pushkin House – beautiful singing, they sang Russian songs, a Ukrainian song that every Russian knows, songs from Russians who lived in Romania and elsewhere.

Currently reading an art history book of a visit to Russia in 19th century by a snobby British art critic who is very critically rude (like a stereotype art critic) and doesn’t like most of the art of St Petersburg or much in some European schools of their time. Have barely started the book but it’s very educational as in another British establishment view from that time.

Just finished A history of twentieth century Russia (1st edition) by another Oxford academic – Robert Service, which goes up to 1997. One of my favourite snippets was a woman handing out protest leaflets in Red Square. When some officials from the Kremlin questioned her and asked her about the leaflets they found that there were pages with nothing on them. When asked why – she said – what is the point of writing anything, everybody knows !

Also reading bits or all of books or articles on health and also about other countries in central Asia and Europe including The Foreign Policy of the European Union (2nd edition, Keukeleire & Delreux) some of which I knew but quite a lot I didn’t and it situates the Brexit and other discussions more easily in the current climate.

Will be a bit of reading pause for a while as try to reactivate brain with various different pharma legislation and procedures.

Haven’t yet progressed with learning Russian any further but is particularly useful for reading social media and a couple of emails I am intending to write, my local library has some options and may do an online course. Will decide either way in next few days.

Have started this journey and will keep going.


1. Smith R (2008) The Utility of Force – the art of War in the Modern World, Vantage books edition

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