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US: censorship and corruption walking hand in hand

Russophobia has turned into a smokescreen in the United States that camouflages crackdown on free speech and money laundering…

18.01.2019 12:51 Ivan Vasilevsky, journalist

US: censorship and corruption walking hand in hand

The US State Department released a report in early December containing information about a substantial increase of funds earmarked for shaping a public opinion in Russia loyal to Washington. Unscrupulously ignoring the fact of evident meddling in domestic affairs of a sovereign state, the Americans admitted: over the past year alone, the financing of programs on allegedly fighting against ‘Russian disinformation campaigns’ rose by a third to the tune of $14.4 mln.

Two weeks later representatives of the US foreign service announced Washington’s intention to launch an ‘information offensive’ against Moscow. Despite the rollout of 46 programs on combating ‘Russian propaganda’ in 16 European countries already spearheaded by the White House, the State Department is set to strive for expansion of authorities of the Global Engagement Center that focuses on countering ‘fake news widespread by Russia.”

“We’re going on offense against major state adversaries in the propaganda and disinformation realm. Russia looms large in our priorities and after that, China and Iran,” a high-ranked official of the Center Daniel Kimmage emphasized.

Meanwhile, the US politician ‘tactfully’ elided a massive scandal that erupted around the US Global Engagement Center he promoted. Senior officials of the State Department came in for a lot of flak from the side of a substantial part of Washington’s political world for extremely inefficient utilization of $120 mln allocated for the fight against ‘Russian propaganda’.

“The State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million to effectively fight Kremlin-sponsored disinformation. Not one of the 23 analysts working in the department’s Global Engagement Center speaks Russian, and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts. There are now thousands of former Russian journalists who have been exiled or fired who are doing counter-Russian stuff in exile who we could help,” The New York Times’ political observer Gardiner Harris wrote.

It appears the doled out funds ended up in the pockets of key defenders of the American democracy from ‘roguish’ Russian hackers. Apparently, that was the reason why representatives of the State Department could not be bothered to furnish specific information about alleged progress in combating Putin’s ‘trolls’.

Moreover, certain western experts interpret the policy of driving ‘anti-Russia hysteria’ as a clear urge of American neoconservatives to scare their political opponents. “American elites overall continue to make Russia out to be an ‘insidious aggressor’ standing against the whole ‘free world’. If, however, anyone takes another position, he is accused of lies, authoritarianism, rudeness, and contempt. And every effort is made to intimidate them and put to silence,” a German political expert Karl-Juergen Mueller noted.

Executive Vice President of Washington-based Eurasia Center Earl Rasmussen echoed that sentiment. He suggests that under the cloak of fighting against ‘Russian propaganda’ the White House is virtually imposing tough censorship inside the country, fundamentally reviving the McCarthy era. 

“This is done in the name of combating ‘fake news’ or countering alleged ‘Russian propaganda’. These actions directly influence one’s access to information, essentially censoring for the good of the public. It is a direct attack on the most fundamental right of a free and open society – the right of free speech.  We have been gradually witnessing the erosion of the underlying principles of democracy. The threat is not from any foreign power, it’s from within,” the US political analyst stated.

Journalist Rainer Shea also shares Rasmussen’s qualms, branding the actions of the US administration and special services a threat of imminent totalitarianism.

“US officials have not said whether the Global Engagement Center is targeting Americans, making its already dubious pretense of “fighting foreign propaganda” a potential cover for spreading propaganda in the homeland. Meanwhile, amid pressure from the intelligence agencies for online companies to censor disfavored content, corporate censorship has reached unprecedented levels. The most alarming recent trend has been the mass social media purges of disfavored content,” the expert said.

Amid that background, we are witnessing the US becoming increasingly reminiscent of the legendary Oceania described by the English author George Orwell in his novel “1984”. Making the Americans believe that they live in ‘the freest country’, the ruling elite has long turned Russophobia into a means to retain political power and hold financial strength.

 

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