Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Guardian Just Doesn't Get It

The Grauniad's Jonathan Steele has produced a frankly silly article in yesterday's paper in which he basically decides that the Ukrainian revolution is an evil CIA plot. Steele has already been roundly cursed by the blogosphere for this particularly dodgy argument:
"Nor is there much evidence to imagine that, were he the incumbent president facing a severe challenge, he would not have tried to falsify the poll."
So - Yushchenko's a total bastard because we don't know that he wouldn't steal an election if the situation arose, and therefore it's far better to let the government - ah - steal an election. (Note as well that Steele seems to be demanding that Yushchenko prove himself innocent.) Further on, he snarls about the US "provocatively" funding exit polls:
"More provocatively, the US and other western embassies paid for exit polls, prompting Russia to do likewise, though apparently to a lesser extent.

The US's own election this month showed how wrong exit polls can be. But they provide a powerful mobilising effect, making it easier to persuade people to mount civil disobedience or seize public buildings on the grounds the election must have been stolen if the official results diverge"
Well, a credulous mind might have thought that stealing the election was the provocative bit. The final exit poll results in the US election weren't actually wrong - they reflected the overall result exactly. And the argument that the ones that did diverge were wrong assumes that the election itself was entirely honest. We are told that "Intervening in foreign elections, under the guise of an impartial interest in helping civil society, has become the run-up to the postmodern coup d'etat, the CIA-sponsored third world uprising of cold war days adapted to post-Soviet conditions". We aren't told, however, what form this adaptation takes. If Steele is right, and the whole thing is a giant conspiracy, it would appear that this adaptation consists in getting rid of the torture, killings, tanks on the streets and ensuing military dictatorship - or in other words, the CIA-sponsored third world uprising pretty much in its entirety.

But the sloppy logic doesn't end there. In the next paragraph, Steele accuses the US of pursuing a geostrategic encirclement of Russia by trying to pull Ukraine into the orbit of the West. What is the alternative policy he offers Ukrainians, then? Er - to offer the Ukraine membership in the EU. To recap, the enlargement of NATO and the EU is an evil western plot against Russia. To resist it, you should join - the EU! Leaving aside the small matter that the evil fascist CIA stooge Yushchenko's declared policy is to join the EU, I wonder what the explanation of this bizarre sentence is?
"Some protesters have been chanting nationalistic and secessionist songs from the anti-semitic years of the second world war."
Secessionist? I assume secession in the second world war would mean secession from the Soviet Union. Well, Ukraine seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991 to become an independent state. What could be more absurd than to rail at the citizens of that state for singing songs about being, er, an independent state? What the hell is wrong with it?

But the Guardian can always find space for this kind of stuff. In fact, its comment page betrays a bizarre obsession with the views of people like Neil Clark and other intellectuals who hold a torch for vicious little tyrants like Alexander Lukashenko and Slobodan Milosevic. Again and again, we find the same old charges. It's all the work of the CIA! And they are really Nazis! Today's paper contains an article by John Laughland (who not so long ago published this apologia for Russia's war in Chechnya in the Grauniad) in which he claims to have met two neo-Nazis in the Kiev crowds. Two of them! Just think! He continues by referring to Yushchenko and his allies "standing up for the Socialist Party newspaper after it ran an anti-semitic article". So obviously they must be all Nazis. Or perhaps they stood up for it because they didn't believe in press censorship, but that is clearly a wild and unlikely idea not even worth mentioning. Even if they actually said so at the time:
"Yushchenko, Moroz and their oligarch ally Yulia Timoshenko meanwhile cited a court order closing the paper as evidence of the government's desire to muzzle the media"
Mr. Laughland clearly has dead certain evidence that this view is not worth a moment's consideration. Why he doesn't share it with us is his affair. But the Guardian seems to have practically no quality control when it comes to these people.
Mr. Laughland has previous for calling people Nazis when they don't agree with him:
"Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda wizard, was also persuaded that technology brought peoples together and made borders anachronistic a thought which is common among modern pro-Europeans."
This quote comes from his book The Tainted Source, written while he worked for Bill Cash's European Foundation, a rightwing thinktank. Fortunately for the Guardian's credibility, there's always Francis Wheen around, who brought this up in the paper.

Check out Neil Clark on the death of Zoran Djindjc:
"At the same time, there is evidence that underworld groups, controlled by Zoran Djindjic and linked to US intelligence, carried out a series of assassinations of key supporters of the Milosevic regime, including Defence Minister Pavle Bulatovic and Zika Petrovic, head of Yugoslav Airlines."
What evidence? It doesn't appear, and later Clark mentions a figure of 30% unemployment without mentioning that this was actually better than some periods under Milosevic. Or you might try this weird excursion into sportswriting. In the past, Mr. Laughland claimed that nobody was really killed in Kosovo, but even after the Grauniad's Nick Cohen publicly bust his chops about this bizarre lie they still find no problem in running as much of his nonsense as they can fit in. The Guardian now has the absurd situation of printing great chunks from Neeka's Backlog about the revolution in the News section while the Comment section pours vitriol on her and everyone else involved. There is clearly a split in the newsroom here, and one side needs to get its quality control sorted.

Meanwhile, at the front, Foreign Notes's mother-in-law has joined the revolution. I wonder if she's really a CIA agent too? Post-Modern Clog has more Steele-bashing, with the advantage of actually being present in Kiev rather than Farringdon Road.

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