How Der Spiegel accuses Russia of Hybrid Warfare and using the Lisa case to “destabilize [Germany and the] West” without any reflection on its own, more powerful role in censorship, mindless groupthink and shaming reasonable discourse in helping destabilize Germany.
February 6, 2016
Der Spiegel is the German equivalent of the Guardian in the UK: an outlet that on the face of it seems to challenge its Government and indeed Western Foreign Policy with fiercely principled independent coverage. Scratch the surface and it quickly collapses to being exposed as just a mouthpiece of another faction of the Western elites who will postpone their occasional squabbling with other factions, to circle the wagons to attack their common enemies, Russia for example.
In doing so they will recycle the same old cliched narratives and fearmongering common to all elites. The latest hysterical Russophobic garbage is titled “Russia’s Propaganda Campaign Against Germany” and by-lined by no less than 16 intrepid souls at the end of the piece, like end-credits of a blockbuster movie (which it resembles in hype and sensationalism. Hopefully no animals were harmed in the making of this epic. )Apparently an entire journalistic platoon is required to gin up manufactured outrage accusing all the usual villains, Russia, Putin, Lavrov, RT of a deep hybrid propaganda warfare to “destabilize Western societies”.
This grim scenario is written without any irony or self-reflection, and any mention of the overwhelming reality of decades of the long and better funded hybrid warfare by the West, led by the Government whose military permanently occupies Germany, the United States.
Before discussing the Lisa case, some essential background.
Brief Historical Facts of US Government Led Propaganda
In an unprecented era of openness in the United States following the Watergate scandal, the 1975-6 Church Commission Senate hearings looked at intelligence gathering activities of the CIA and NSA. While parts of the hearings are still classified, the existence of a long-rumored propaganda effort whereby elements of the Western journalistic community – American and European – were not just coopted but in many cases were on the active payroll of the CIA to spread propaganda and disinformation in the foreign press about US Government enemies abroad was revealed. This program called Operation Mockingbird and the damning evidence that over 400 journalists, columnists and media executives over 25 years – including those of the New York Times, TIME, Reuters, AP among many others- had not just secret ties with the CIA but were on its payroll was written up by Carl Bernstein – one half of the famous duo who helped expose Watergate – in a October 1977 article called The CIA and the Media. It was the NSA Spying scandal of its day.
Indeed, similar to deflecting concerns in the last few years about laws to prevent NSA spying on its own citizens violating the US 4th Amendment, the US Government passed a law in 1948, the Smith-Mundt act partly to ensure that US Government propaganda and disinformation targeted at foreign audiences did not result in Americans being propagandized. Specific entities set-up and funded openly by the United States Government with the express purpose of information warfare, like RFE/RL in Europe, a freely admitted propaganda organization, were restricted from broadcasting in the United States.
Thus the European citizenry were propagandized by the US Government with more ostensible protections to its own citizenry against such propaganda. This is similar to how the NSA can spy on the rest of the world but has some restrictions it is supposed to follow for US citizens.
US Government Hybrid Warfare
The United States Government practices full spectrum hybrid warfare using its vast resources and reach, using as cover otherwise helpful sounding aid programmes like USAID; National Endowment for Democracy; think tanks like Freedom House; human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch; to influence, publicize and amplify the message of its choice – whether to reward loyal vassals or punish or warn recalcitrant “regimes”.
The US Government consults with Hollywood on portrayal of its enemies as revealed in the SONY leaks case (but obvious to anyone used to seeing how cartoonishly its enemies of the moment are portrayed in blockbusters). Sops like Nobel Prize Winners and the over-hyped TIME “Person of the Year” are rewards by the Western elites on the “right people” (or in the case of TIME, occasionally to highlight notoriously “wrong people”).
This hybrid warfare approach has been used successfully to destabilize Latin America and the Middle East for decades; and as a prelude to economic and ultimately military actions against the most resistant governments and societies. (Pick up any book by Noam Chomsky for example to read this in in pitiless detail with footnotes.)
Indeed the Snowden documents revealed the NSA/GHCQ’s role in ensuring the effective demonization of its targets: to discredit, to deceive, disrupt, deny, denigrate, degrade, deter using psychology among other expert advise.
It is undeniable that the biggest target of US Government Hybrid Warfare along with its various proxies in the West is Russia. Every single article in mainstream media in the West doesn’t just criticize but demonizes Russia and Putin till no rational debate is possible, a fact commented on regularly by several American dissident outlets (The Nation, Counterpunch, Consortium News, Antiwar.com, Global Research etc) and reknowned investigative journalists like John Pilger, Robert Parry, Patrick Armstrong and by Foreign Policy experts like Stephen Walt, Stephen Cohen.
US Government Influence on the German Press
It is generally accepted that Germany has little control over the large permanent presence of the United States military on its territory, which conducts everything from rendition flights to drone attacks in and over Germany territory in contravention of various European Human Rights laws. Germany is less a sovereign power than a vassal state with as much independence as its masters see fit with powerful institutional ties at the Military, Government, Business and Cultural level giving enough leash to give an illusion of a free society, and tightly snapped back when the need arises.
The NSA revelations against Germany showed that not just “ordinary” citizens but the Chancellor herself and the entire political leadership on all sides was being thoroughly monitored. Despite a public outcry for appearance sake, the US Government refused to include Germany inside its exclusive Five-Eyes Anglo club showing Germany its place in the grand scheme of things and the tapping case was ignominiously dropped by the German Government (though to save face. Germany was allowed to kick the CIA station chief out for another to take his place, and reports that Merkel refused a late offer from the US to look at being part of a Five-Eyes like club). The net of all this public posturing is: Nothing has materially changed.
A book by Udo Ulfkotte a famous former editor of what even Der Speigel admits is the respected national daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung confessed in a best-selling book in Germany “Bought Journalists” how he and various other journalists were paid by the CIA to publish disinformation directly handed to them against various targets including Russia. He further alleged that the discussion of this widespread practice was taboo.
Predictably this revelation has been declared in Germany (when rarely discussed in the media) as worrying: but not because of the truth of it (which is never investigated) but that many people in Germany obviously (literally) buy this “conspiracy theory.” That’s the concern.
Given Ulfkotte’s current Islamaphobic views among other far-right sentiments, he’s an easy target to dismiss as indeed Der Speigel briefly did in a larger piece on Islamophobia in Germany.
This ploy of dismissing accusations of covert Government malfeasance as “Conspiracy Theories” by focusing on some unpopular positions of the accuser no matter how otherwise credible his accusation is, is standard. Most covert activities of the Government ARE by definition conspiracies. The extent of the NSA spying network involving hundreds if not thousands of personnel acting covertly in concert for covert aims is by definition a conspiracy. Denying the existence of at least some of these conspiracies because they are “Conspiracy Theories”, rather than judging the likelihood of them being true, is a ridiculous argument. (Apparently “Conspiracy Theories” are only deemed true when they apply to Russian or Putin’s behavior.)
Indeed these allegations of strong Government influence on German media was given an unexpected fillip when Dr. Wolfgang Herles a former head of public broadcaster ZDF, casually admitted live on radio on February 1 that the topics that could be discussed in the (Government funded) media were circumscribed by the Government talking points and an understanding that they would align with the views of the ruling Chancellor.
These allegations by those who have safely left the media industry of the possibility that some key media personnel may have closer ties to various Government organizations than they would publicly admit, are not vigorously discussed in Germany (or in the larger West) and if so are done dismissively in the context of crazy “Conspiracy Theories” poisoning the minds of gullible Germans.
Islamophobia, Racism and the Refugee Crisis: The Narratives
It is undeniable there are large number of Germans (and indeed in the West) who are Islamophobic and have racist attitudes towards darker-skinned “foreigners”. It is also undeniable that the presence of large numbers of refugees – poor, desperate, frustrated, war-torn and unfamiliar with the cultural norms of the lands of their new refuge – is going to cause a natural tension with the locals. It is also unsurprising that a raucous fraction of young men – at a biological age where male Homo Sapiens anywhere in the World irrespective of race tend to have the most testosterone (scientifically responsible for more aggression and sexual arousal) – with no stable jobs and little left to lose, brought up in sub-cultures with deeply conservative attitude towards women where uncovered women let alone ones in bikinis are seen as “asking for it”, have been committing everything from sexual harrasment to rape.
However, the false choices offered in the “liberal” Western press – including Der Spiegel – is that only two narratives are possible:
Narrative 1: You accept refugees, equality of peoples and don’t discuss the negative aspects of taking in refugees from the economic to the criminal
Narrative 2: You discuss the criminality of the refugees and are thus Islamophobic and racist.
Either you follow/support the first narrative (and are Enlightened) or the second (Far-Right Fascist). Free choice!
Anyone arguing that there needs to be a frank conversation about the evidence on the ground that some, not all, young men from refugee nations are more likely to commit crimes – including rapes, sexual harassment – while at the SAME TIME decrying blanket racism and Islamaphobia and the need to help refugees, does not seem to have a place.
Thus according to media like Der Spiegel, if you are an enlightened German or European you will shut up about refugee crimes and indeed shut down any discussion of it or be called out as an Islamophobic fear-monger.
In other words, for ostensibly noble reasons, Der Spiegel, and the Government sponsored (both domestic and US) media are deeply opposed to any attempts at exercise of free speech to discuss the negative effects of refugees. There has been a disturbing use of hate laws in Germany to shut down social media sites for not just extremist views but reasonable concerns given the preponderance of evidence. It looks less like protection of immigrants rather than censorship of debate, similar to how attempts are made to disallow open discussions on NSA spying as “threats to National Security.”
This is not dissimilar to the “allowed” Western narratives on Russia. Either you are part of “Free Europe” and condemn everything about Russia demonizing Putin as the anti-Christ every chance you get; OR you’re a fascist and Putin-lover and possible Kremlin troll intent on destabilizing the West. Any call for even reasoned discussion about refugees or Russia or Putin is obviously the work of sinister agents.
This obvious pressure to follow neat Good/Bad narratives – whether on refugees or indeed Russia – has resulted in a spectrum of mainstream German establishment – Politicians, Law Enforcements and most damningly the Media – either being directly censored as alleged, or practice self-censoring and groupthink which is the same difference.
And the public who are not stupid are obviously getting sick of being pushed into neat little “Either you are with us or a racist, Islamophobic and/or Kremlin tool.”
Cologne and Self-Induced Destabilization
Ordinary Germans were facing the consequences of their Government’s policies increasingly being managed by an elite (aligned with geo-strategic goals managed from Washington) and supported by a media which shamed those who desired an honest discussion.
The New Year’s Cologne sex attacks changed all that.
It was not the scale of the crime itself but the fact that the police at the highest levels tried to cover up or downplay the involvement of refugees. (Indeed even the initial Der Spiegel report takes care not to directly describe the attackers preferring the reader infer from selected quotes that the attackers allegedly made).
Then more prior suppressed news was revealed of other refugee crimes in Germany as well as in Scandanavian countries that were months and years old. What was most damning in all these cases was the role of the Police and local politicians to play down the role of refugees in reported crimes, so as not to upset the Central Government’s pro-refugee narrative.
So the worst fears of the public who was bearing the brunt of the policies, that the Establishment – the Government, Law Enforcement and Media – were conspiring (either actively or via a shared ethos) to suppress “unfavorable” news that would challenge the Chancellor’s Immigration policies seemed to be true.
The wall of silence had burst and the outrage hereby confined to homes and small communities became national. Merkel who had been rewarded by the Western elites with a fawning TIME “Person of the Year” and favorable coverage for keeping an Iron hand over Europe and the all too crucial alliance with the ring-masters in Washington, started getting attacked, her popularity dropping. It was not just 16 year old girls in heartfelt videos on YouTube (censored on Facebook in Germany) that were challenging Merkel but even Der Spiegel finally weighed in about what Merkel calculus was.
Enter “Russian Propaganda”
Despite the multi-billion dollar Western information disemmination industry – from overtly Government funded to those run by business oligarchs with deep ties to the Western elite – much of mainstream Russian media – including its widely broadcast International channel RT – remains outside Western control. There are no cosy private meetings by Western Government officials with Russian media executives to set the tone of what to cover and how, or at the least suggest it. (Note: there are many Russian media outlets supported by the tiny but influential Russian Western liberal factions who are in turn funded by Western organizations who ultimately have close ties to the US Government).
Facing news blackout on certain topics or alternatively daily blathering about the Evil Russians, a large segment of Germans – those who are good decent Germans who are against extreme Islamophobia and fascism but who feel their stories are not being told – prefer to get their information from alternative sources. RT is one such source that clearly shows and pursues a narrative that’s outside what is acceptable in the German media whether on refugees or Russia.
In particular the role of the Western and allied militaries for destabilizing previous relatively stable regions resulting in the very refugees pouring into Germany is not airbrushed as it is the West (whose monotonous mantra is that all crises can be solved by regime change either via “revolution” or by invasion, a fact that flies against facts on the ground).
Western Elite Hysteria
Western elites faced with this self-induced disillusionment of their peoples caused by treating them as gullible imbeciles versus people who are experiencing for themselves things that cannot be hidden; and confronted for the first time in the last few decades, by a powerful media – still orders of magnitude weaker than their own bullhorn – that they cannot control or influence, have gone into conniptions.
While there are many Western dissident outlets and personnel saying the same thing (some noted above), they are poorly funded and given scant attention (unlike dissidents in “Enemy” countries who are lionized and funded by Western elites).
But RT – which is less strident than many Western dissident outlets – and many Russian domestic channels are slick, well presented with clearly articulate, logical points of view, with correspondents on the ground and videos of places and things suppressed in Western media.
Crazed with fear about losing control of the Narrative (and of course as aways seeing an opportunity to increase budgets using hysteria they ramp up) the Western elites have responded with dark tales of Russian hybrid warfare destabilizing the West that must be fought by increasing their already sizable budgets. (If you were a Western media executive you’d be stupid even from a self-preservation point of view not to fan the hysteria and demand a larger budget to fight the Enemy).
The Der Spiegel article written by a platoon of journalists is one such attack on Russia .
The Lisa Case
It is with this background, we come to the basic facts of the Lisa Case which even Der Speigel describes with some accuracy.
Lisa was a 13 year-old Russian German girl who disappeared for a couple of days. She came back with tales of being gang raped by immigrants. Her aunt distrustful of the German Politico-Police-Press establishment based on the conspiracy of silence described above went to the Russian media. Russian channels which maintain an interest in the diaspora and where tales of refugee violence are not censored naturally picked it up. Obviously given the salacious material and human interest story, much like the Bild or the Daily Mail would, it was picked up.
Given the now factual cover-ups and refusals of the German Establishment to give credence to refugee attacks, the Russian Foreign Ministry was obviously concerned especially given the alleged victim’s family had directly contacted the Russian embassy. (Given that for example the West doesn’t trust the Russian establishment either, the reverse would have also happened).
Der Spiegel either conveniently forgets or is naive to the famous dictum that all politics is local. Given mainstream Russian interest in Lisa, the Foreign Ministry naturally had to naturally be seen as protecting Russians abused abroad. If a German girl had alleged rape in Omsk the same in reverse would have happened.
It appears through subsequent police reports in the media that Lisa had lied to her relatives about forced rapes – though given her age is below the age of consent, what would be considered statutory rape in the United States is being investigated as child abuse. The Russian Foreign Ministry in its latest briefing on February 4th indicated that it was still waiting for an official note from the Germans (as part of any exiected due diligence).
So the story of Russian Foreign Ministry concern should be a minor one compared to the actual Lisa case and the depth of distrust, frustration it unleashed and revealed in Germany.
Der Spiegel Hysteria
Instead of reflecting on its and the German Establishment’s part in weakening the German state through censorship of alternate views, obfuscation of events, and mindless groupthink in demonization of enemies of State leaving many of its citizens looking for alternative voices and avenues, Der Spiegel in an egregious case of transferance doubles down and blasts Russia with both barrels trotting out all the well worn tropes and tired narratives to blame Russia for trying to destabilize the West.
That the Der Spiegel piece itself is one long propaganda effort is best exposed by its very last paragraph before credits roll. It is reverently saved for the head of a military organization that has been responsible for bombing countries that in no way posed a threat to it and contributing to the large scale deaths and misery that led to the mass of refugees that have destabilized Germany in the first place. This last paragraph, given all the history of Western hybrid warfare, current establishment censorship in Germany is to be apparently read with utmost wide-eyed seriousness without stifling incredulous laughter since it comes from the NATO Führer himself!
You can almost hear the clicking of heels of the Der Spiegel platoon. Jawohl!