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A Lesson in Moscow About Trump-Style ‘Alternative Truth’
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MOSCOW — I wanted to better understand President Trump’s America, a place where truth is being ripped from its moorings as he brands those tasked with lashing it back into place — journalists — as dishonest enemies of the people.

So I went to Russia.

It was like a visit to the land of Alternative Truth Yet to Come. But it also gave me a glimpse into how our new national look is playing in the global information war, where competing narratives are clashing along a sliding scale of fact and fiction.

I had picked a ghoulishly perfect week to swing through President Vladimir V. Putin’s Moscow, where spring was struggling to break out over the low-slung, slate-gray cityscape.

Mr. Trump had just ordered a Tomahawk strike against Syria’s Shayrat air base, from which, the United States said, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had launched the chemical weapons attack that killed more than 80 and sickened hundreds.

As soon as I turned on a television here I wondered if I had arrived through an alt-right wormhole.

Back in the States, the prevailing notion in the news was that Mr. Assad had indeed been responsible for the chemical strike. There was some “reportage” from sources like the conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones — best known for suggesting that the Sandy Hook school massacre was staged — that the chemical attack was a “false flag” operation by terrorist rebel groups to goad the United States into attacking Mr. Assad. But that was a view from the fringe.

Here in Russia, it was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.

On the popular Russian television program “Vesti Nedeli,” the host, Dmitry Kiselyov, questioned how Syria could have been responsible for the attack. After all, he said, the Assad government had destroyed all of its chemical weapons. It was the terrorists who possessed them, said Mr. Kiselyov, who also heads Russia’s main state-run international media arm.

One of Mr. Kiselyov’s correspondents on the scene mocked “Western propagandists” for believing the Trump line, saying munitions at the air base had “as much to do with chemical weapons as the test tube in the hands of Colin Powell had to do with weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Media, Donald Trump, Russia, Syria 
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  1. El Dato says:

    Emerging from The Warp can cause dizzyness and confusion.

    President Vladimir V. Putin’s Moscow

    literally Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s Berlin!

    spring was struggling to break out over the low-slung, slate-gray cityscape.

    City 17. You will like it here.

  2. Is this parody or for real? Everything he cites the Russian press as saying seems to me far more believable than the “alternative” version purveyed by the NYT and other such “respectable” sources.

    To put it mildly, anyone with half a brain would be willing to accept that it was far more likely that the alleged chemical attack was the work of the not-so-moderate rebels, rather than the Syrian Government which had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, from such an attack (assuming that it still had chemical weapons, which even the US previously admitted was no longer the case). That those fighting Assad do indeed possess stocks of chemical weapons is no secret. Regarding Isis, for example, you can learn from Newsweek today (April 17) via Yahoo News:

    ISIS Militants Launch Multiple Chemical Weapons Attacks On Iraqi Troops

    The author tells us that

    Back in the States, the prevailing notion in the news was that Mr. Assad had indeed been responsible for the chemical strike.

    Of course this was and is the prevailing view, a convincing testimony to the effect of the “fake news” that is reported as “fact” by the mainstream media.

    The author asserts that those who questioned the Assad-did-it narrative were only on the alt-right “fringe”. But this is absurd, as anyone who looks at a non-alt right site like can easily confirm. And of course a highly respected MIT scientist, Theodore Postol, has published not one but two notes effectively showing that the White House “Intelligence Report” about the incident was rubbish (“obviously false, misleading and amateurish”) — but you are unlikely to read about this in the NYT.

    I live outside the US and also have the time and energy to investigate alternative sources. What amazes and pains me is that many friends of mine (US, UK) have swallowed hook, line and sinker the official story, not only about this incident but the general story about what is going on in Syria (and elsewhere, notably vis-à-vis Russia).

    • Replies: @Altai
    , @Jus' Sayin'...
  3. Altai says:

    many friends of mine (US, UK) have swallowed hook, line and sinker the official story, not only about this incident but the general story about what is going on in Syria (and elsewhere, notably vis-à-vis Russia).

    It’s unreal to me after everything that has happened the last 15 years that anyone who lived through it could not have learned a thing. It seems to be getting more blatant too. Now the BBC is pushing neocon talking points harder than most US outlets.

    Don’t ever trust a western news outlet whenever it goes on a months long crusade to ‘expose’ a certain regime that is alleged to be doing exactly what our ‘allies’ do and get no coverage about. I knew little about what was going on in Syria years ago but when the BBC started telling me how horrible ‘barrel bombs’ were over and over, night after night, making sure to mention Assad in every sentence, my bullshit detector sprang up and I looked at the alt media I trusted. (Which I trusted as taking the narrative from them I was able to better predict and understand the world and this simply can’t be said for mainstream media)

    I know a guy who thinks of himself as worldly but reads WaPo and Der Speigel daily. He doesn’t understand how I can’t believe how good Obama handled the US economy and how low US unemployment is. Any attempt to explain that US unemployment numbers post-1994 are not what he thinks it is is met with a dismissive as though I am full of bullshit.

    I think it might also be generational. I grew up in my teens with Iraq and the explosion of alt middle east commentators and journalists who posted to the net what they’d never get cleared in the MSM. You know exactly the deal with everybody, the anti-war left, the ‘alt-right’, the counter jihadis and the important motivations and differences between them that colour their commentary on different events, but it still didn’t change the fact that what they were posting was news and information that was being deliberately obscured. But for a lot of people in their 40s and older everything non-MSM looks like InfoWars and is scary.

    It must be scary to be plugged into the MSM today. A kind of learned helplessness like this.

    • Replies: @El Dato
    , @Ivy
  4. I know it’s bullshit. I read it in the New York Times.

    The NYT is an enemy of the human race.

    Assad didn’t do it. Just like he didn’t do it last time. Just like he will not have done it next time.

  5. El Dato says:

    Nice short film. However, I cannot agree that people are in some kind of “oh dear” mindset. On the contrary, they are easily instrumented into supporting any random “something must be (militarily) done” call for action. Maybe a direct consequence of post-Gulf War 1 triumphalism, when the US was great again and apparently had left behind of trauma of Vietnam for good (that was an actual talking point, believe it or not!). With the Soviet Union no more, poised to rework the world in its own image, the US was!

    It all went south of course. We got the Yougoslavia catastrophe. Taking sides along with Europeans acting according to reflexes harking back to 1914 and dropping bombs didn’t go all that well. When bombing started, Serbia was as MSM-tarred as Syria is today. We got 10 years of suppressing Mr. Hussein. Something was happening in Russia and maybe Chechnya and Georgia but no-one was all too certain what or why. We got the surprise Hutu-on-Tutsi massacre after which liberventionists were clamoring that “something should have been done”. There was some “cruise missile diplomacy” (i.e. Clinton bombs Sudan). There were noises from Afghanistan with military commanders in particular Ahmad Shah Massoud fighting someone called “Taliban” but nobody cared about that. There was the marginally interesting Israel-Palestinian conflict with neverending talks and the Israelis starting to behave like jerks after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. We got first “hard” terrorism hits: A bombing in the WTC basement, a sarin gas attack in Tokyo, a diplomatic mission in Africa and of course the OKC bombing. Well, I guess those years of practically pre-Internet chaos were when “liberventionism” gelled.

    After the 9/11-Anthrax events it was of course full neocon time and everyone was on the same track for foreign land adventurism. By hook or by crook.

    • Replies: @Altai
  6. The US media should have learned something about the Iraq war, but it still hasn’t. It blindly supports every stupid foreign policy decision wrapped in humanitarian clothes while being unwilling to honestly tell the American people that its a proxy war where all the actors in it are evil. That no one knows for sure what happened because it wasn’t investigated. The media in Russia may be a tool of the Kremlin but the US media is the tool of the war profiteers. There is no way to get around that no matter how Rutenberg tries to frame it around what he thinks is the correct opinion.

    Also VIPS had American intelligence contacts in the Middle East who said the Syrians hit something that had chemicals in it. Everyone has their anonymous intelligence sources. Assad isn’t going anywhere there could have been a proper investigation. The US media salivated at the bombing of Syria. The US media is the American Empire’s id. It tells it to do stupid stuff that is going to get it killed. The US media loves to play nuclear chicken with Russia. I suppose psychopaths need a lot of stimulation and what could be more stimulating than a risk of nuclear war.

    If the US media was doing its job it would not just be after Trump’s relationship with Russia. It would be after the whole American establishments cozy relationship with Israel and Saudi Arabia. They’ve turned the US into a banana empire. Of course the US media is tied to weapons producers and Israel gets a welfare check to buy American arms and Saudi Arabia buys American arms. Also Israel no matter what it does is protected because of guilt (which will be its undoing because its bad behavior is not being checked). If Russia bought American arms I bet the US media would love Putin. The US media then would take it upon themselves to support Putin against his enemies.

    Israel wants the Syrian war to go on forever. The Saudi and Iranian proxies aren’t saints. There are no good guys yet removing Assad is the preferred outcome for the US media. Its irrational unless you realize who its working for. Its not the American people. Its not even working to keep the US Empire in a position of strength. It demands obedience to the whims of the Empire’s global subjects and its domestic war industry. That is what this Russian crap was about Trump. Maybe they tried to interfere. People were going to vote the way they voted anyway because Trump struck an emotional cord with his larger than life personality and the Democrats conspired against the candidate that could have beaten him (Bernie) while making sure no one that could win would run for the Democrat nomination. Also the Israelis are right wing and they get away with stuff the Alt-right could never get away with in the US (and I hope wouldn’t want to engage in). What they do to the Palestinians is straight out of Nazi Germany before the holocaust (which is coming for the Palestinians). They loved Trump and voted for him. US media doesn’t make a big deal about this. Any reporter who did would risk losing their job.

    The good thing about the US corporate media is that it is being put behind paywalls. I just use software to block these sites so I don’t even bother wasting my time by clicking and then having to click back. I get “the line” from sources not behind a paywall. Only an idiot would pay to be lied to on behalf of groups that do not have the US interest at heart. By being whores for war profiteers and their global allies the US media makes Russian government controlled media seem great in comparison. There is no reason why the US should be a whore for unsavory governments and organizations across the world. Its 20 trillion in debt and the US media uses verbal abuse and praise to manipulate the President into making war, while framing the war into simplistic and cartoonish terms. There are some that are extremely wealthy. The Europeans could handle their own security but manipulating the US to do it is easy because of the US media and easily malleable politicians.

    How about the US media find some poor defenseless country and harp up a war and bleed the US Empire dry of its wealth in a fruitless quagmire and call it a day? Some of us do have a self preservation instinct and fighting Russia for the mess in Syria is stupid. If it was me I’d try to get the defense companies to focus on space and space mining. Whoever controls outer space will control humanity’s destiny. But go ahead bleed the US dry on these short sided money grabbing crusades so other countries can take over outer space instead.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  7. I began to question what appeared in the MSM in the 1990s and found other sources, including those on the internet, which were much more truthful. There are still people, usually 60 plus, who obtain nearly all their news via the MSM. They are spectacularly ill-informed and often very ignorant.
    Those under 40 who rely on the MSM for news are an order of magnitude worse.
    These are the people we must overcome if we are to win.

  8. Zzz says:

    At first I thought it’s satire but then I noticed it’s NYT. We have funny term – manyamiroque. And grotesque language is almost comical.

  9. Altai says:
    @El Dato

    That’s the point, once you have a world without context you can have Ivanka Trump talking about children without the public being able to ask or think about what side is likely to do what and why. (And hey, if the media doesn’t explicitly say who killed all those civilians on the buses, you won’t remember how to feel about it except, ‘Oh Dear’) You have learned helplessness and a theory of triage. Oh look bad stuff going on in the middle east! You know how the middle east is, always a war going on, no stopping it. But we should go in there and ‘topple cruel dictator’/’save the children’/’enforce redlines’/’find the presidents head’ and restore order!

    Curtis did make a sequel to Oh Dearism that deals a bit more with this. The concept of non-linear warfare is quite similar to the 4D chess theories of what the hell Trump is doing. There’s no way this will be clean and easy enough, (It’ll risk a nuke being used, though likely intercepted by defences, do you even want to go there? Not to mention the humanitarian disaster and blood bath for Nork conscripts, we’ve been trained to think of them as hapless naive victims, with their decades old hardware and lack of threat, it won’t look good.) even with 3 carriers running in tandem and the rest of the US pacific air bases, I have to assume he is just doing this for show. Maybe he thinks if everybody thinks you are crazy and impulsively aggressive, they’ll back off. Worked pretty well for the Kims!

    • Replies: @El Dato
  10. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    He accuses Alex Jones of believing Sandy Hook was a hoax as if that proves anything…Jones may be somewhat kooky, but Sandy Hook WAS a hoax…

    Watch this video…

    If you need more to convince you I’d be surprised. It is pretty much a given that they were trying to get gun control legislation through and they thought this was what worked in Australia and Scotland, so why not give it a try.

    It’s very telling that none of the media even bother looking into this. I’m less upset that people would attempt to pull something like this off than the fact that we no longer have anyone with credibility who will look into it – to get to the truth whatever that may be.

    This is actually a good video to show people who still believe that media and government are still legitimate — Maybe try this one before doing a loud, bug-eyed rant about how 9/11 was a false flag … and the Holocaust is somewhat exaggerated!

  11. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Bashar al-Assad is a much more reliable and truthful source for information on what is going on in Syria. Skip the media hirelings and try to find out what he has to say. It’s too bad but everything has gotten too corrupted in America.

  12. bjondo says:

    The Western JSM is the hoax.

  13. anonHUN says:

    Reading the full article is more interesting though.

    “Information from the Kremlin or from the White House, it’s not for us verified information,” he said. “We don’t place our trust just on their word.”

    It’s a lesson American reporters should have learned long before Mr. Trump came along, especially after Iraq.

    Journalists in Russia like Mr. Muratov haven’t lost sight of that lesson because they can’t afford to. Neither can we.
    Well, yeah…

  14. El Dato says:

    These are far from perfect (and if you go down the logic ladder, self-defeating?) still good.

    Also: – “HyperNormalisation”

    Goes a bit hither and thither. Still good. Interestingly Curtis leaves Chernobyl out as THE trigger for Soviet Collapse.

  15. Ragno says:

    Sorry, but the legendary NYT magic spell – that once practically dictated policy to Presidents – is now broken. Thank God.

    No matter which Sulzberger is now in charge – Punch, Pinch or that new Mexican one, Ponch – it’s always the same pile of duranty being served up, only now everybody can see (and smell) it unmistakably. Pass.

  16. “Back in the States, the prevailing notion in the news was that Mr. Assad had indeed been responsible for the chemical strike.”

    And Gloria Borger and Wolf Blitzer told him.

  17. utu says:

    The most important point is that Russia’s media have no means or no desire to create news and do independent investigations. Instead they depend on outlets like that of Alex Jones which is a shame. Is it because Russian media are inept and indolent or are they sabotaging Putin’s agenda? Or perhaps Putin’s agenda is not to win the information war with the West.

  18. Svigor says:

    Substitute “The Narrative” for “truth” and you get something relatively accurate, e.g.,

    MOSCOW — I wanted to better understand President Trump’s America, a place where truth The Narrative is being ripped from its moorings as he brands those tasked with lashing it back into place — journalists — as dishonest enemies of the people.

  19. Svigor says:

    (assuming that it still had chemical weapons, which even the US previously admitted was no longer the case)

    Yea but we know from Konspiracy Kooks that the US gov’t never tells the truth; why should we believe them on this one? Oh, wait, because it’s the Konspiracy Kook narrative? I think there’s a good chance they’re right, mind you, but it’s amusing when Konspiracy Kooks cite the US gov’t on something, because it fits their narrative.

  20. Ivy says:

    Short-wave radios remain useful to find news as presented in other countries to other audiences. There are also many news aggregators to sort through to find those that may be more credible. Having options for news used to be a luxury and is now a necessity.

  21. hyperbola says:

    The whole world has known the NY Times lies about the mideast ever since the PNAC zionists suckered Americans into being bled for the war in Iraq.

    The New York Times’ role in promoting war on Iraq

    Nothing the sect at NY Times says about the mideast is credible. They are simply more propaganda in favor of further bleeding Americans for the benefit of a racist mideast sect.

    The Unfolding of Yinon’s “Zionist Plan for the Middle East”: The Crisis in Iraq and the Centrality of the National Interest of Israel

  22. @for-the-record

    Thanks for a great analysis. The gullibility of the American people with regard to the neocon establishment’s insane and unreal narrative, particularly as it is packaged and marketed by the USA’s fake news MSM, is probably the greatest current threat to world peace.

  23. Wally says:

    Zionist Rutenberg said:

    “Here in Russia, it was the dominant theme throughout the overwhelmingly state-controlled mainstream media.”

    But no mention of the state controlled BBC.
    No mention of the US taxpayer being forced to fund PBS.

    No mention of Obama’s ‘ripping truth from it’s moorings’.
    But hey, Obama did ‘win’ a Nobel Peace Prize.

    have a look:

    Obama the War Criminal
    Butcherer of women and children.

    Dems Supported Punishing Sanctuary Cities When Obama Ordered It

    Obama’s Feds Tried to Hack Indiana’s Election System While
    The attacks are the second confirmed IT scanning assault by DHS officials against states that resisted Obama

    Undercover video shows Democrat operatives admitting they incited violence at Trump rallies

    America’s deportation champion was President Barack Obama, who expelled 2.2 million immigrants and their family members in eight years, or approximately 275,000 a year. In his first month in office, President Trump has deported just one percent of Obama’s monthly average.

    Obama signed into law the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act” (H. R.158), specifically barred nationals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan from entering the U.S. without first submitting to interrogation and specialist vetting—including face-to-face interviews in their home countries before setting off.

  24. Jake says:

    Wasn’t there a journalist from a major US publication who wrote a similar piece in the early 2000s, after 9/11 but before we attacked Iraq? The journalist noted that while everybody in the US knew that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, in Russia the press doubted he had any.

  25. Anonymous [AKA "igybundy"] says:
    @Johnny F. Ive

    Oh I think the good and bad guys are easily discernible.. Those crucifying christian babies are not the good guys.. Those using Christians in setups to blame the victims are not the goof guys, those cutting off heads of POW’s are not the good guys. I could write a dozen more on it.

    And yes it is very easy to find out the good guys in this. The US is definitely not in the good guys corner in this and has not been for over 200 years. Not only good guys but the side of humanity. And if humanity dies out, the US would be mostly to blame for that as well.

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