If Luke Harding’s wild-eyed narcissism was less in tune with the current western agenda then his editors at the Guardian might be taking him aside and quietly suggesting counselling and medication. But things being as they are, his narratives of battling Demon Russia and its Empire of Evil tend to make the front page, however rabidly insane, libellously mendacious or simply cringeworthy they may be.
But yesterday the Guardian unleashed this:
Absorb the headline and the intent behind it. Something of a tour de force of moral bankruptcy even for the team that brought you the Polonium story. We don’t just get racism, warmongering and towering falsehoods here. No – we can also experience the exploitation of 20 year old Richard Mayne’s short life and tragic death and his family’s pain! So sit back and enjoy as Harding rushes in where the sane and ethical might fear to tread, boldly turning one family’s unspeakable tragedy into grist for his own Putin-hate mill.
You see, happily for Luke and the pro-war agenda, Richard was killed on board MH17, and his parents blame Vladimir Putin…
Amid their grief, the Maynes came to a grim conclusion: Richard had been murdered. The man whom they believe murdered him is Vladimir Putin. It was Putin, they believe, who gave orders for the Russian military to cross the border, setting in train a series of consequences, including the shooting down of MH17 and 10,000 dead in the conflict.
Let’s be crystal clear at this point. No one can blame this family for their anger. They’re desperate and grief-stricken and need someone to be punished for the crime that took their son. The fact Putin is their target is an understandable human response, and no one could condemn them.
But even in a world of wall-to-wall media deception there’s something freshly disgusting in the way this piece weaves saccharine “sympathy” for the tragically bereaved into a simplistic narrative of polarity and hatred, likely to produce nothing but more death, and more grieving families like the Maynes.
Here are just a few examples, starting with the least egregious:
In the previous week, the Russian defence ministry had provided the rebels with an array of heavy weaponry: tanks, artillery pieces and mortars. Plus undercover soldiers disguised as “volunteers”.
If Harding had prefaced this claim with “it’s rumoured” or “it has been claimed” he would be doing something closer to journalism. And if he also mentioned the counter-claims that NATO is supplying the Kiev government with weapons, or the evidence for NATO-backed mercenaries fighting for the Kiev government, or the claims of the Kiev government’s war crimes against its own people (including the use of white phosphorous, which is banned under UN rulings), there’d be something approaching balance here.
But of course none of this has any direct evidential bearing on the fate of MH17 anyway, since tanks, artillery pieces and mortars were not in any way involved in shooting down that plane. Harding is merely trying to evade the facts and plant a perception of guilt by associated ideas. But it gets a lot worse.
The Buk arrived after Ukrainian war planes started bombing rebel positions and government troops were taking back territory. Suddenly, Ukrainian military aircraft were being blown from the sky.
Note how he completely elides the fact that a Dutch Intelligence report stated only the UAF had the operational capacity to shoot down a jet liner at 20,000+ feet, and the only Ukrainian planes “blown from the skies” were taken down at comparatively low altitudes by ManPads or “light” anti-aircraft guns not BUK. If his sentence ran something like: “unverified claims have been made that a BUK arrived some time before July 17, but the only planes known to have been downed by the rebels before or after this date were brought down using portable Manpads or light SAMs”, it would be broadly definable as honest.
And then we get this:
Certainly, Russia has done everything it can to cover up the crime. The Kremlin used its UN security council veto to stop an international investigation similar to that carried out following the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing.
Getting into his stride, Luke abandons implications and guilt by juxtaposition in favour of his old standby – the outright lie. Let’s take a moment to appreciate how completely unfazed he is by the total absence of evidence anywhere that Russia covered up anything, or by the small detail that Russia did not veto an “international investigation”, at all but in fact supported UN Resolution 2166 that called for “efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines”. What does Luke think the Dutch Safety Board international investigation was if not – well, an international investigation? Is he not aware Russia supported it and supplied it with evidence?
We can be charitable and assume Harding means the proposal for a UN tribunal. Russia did veto that, it’s true, because – it argued – this was unprecedented and also premature to begin a second international investigation while the first was still underway. But this is not the same thing at all as vetoing an “international enquiry,” and Harding is surely aware of that. His narrative here amounts to a total reversal of known and established facts.
But he ain’t done yet…
Last October, a Dutch safety board report confirmed that a Buk missile launched from rebel-controlled territory hit MH17…
Is Luke trying to make us think the DSB directly blamed the “rebels” for shooting down MH17? Because to the unwary it might read as if that is what they did. But of course it isn’t, and Luke knows it. The DSB report concluded a BUK was probably responsible for the destruction of MH17 (though this is by no means conclusive), but it did not say which side had fired the missile because it could not pin down the probable launch area in a narrow enough corridor to make such a statement feasible. The claim of “rebel-conrolled territory” is word-fog designed to create the illusion of accusation where none exists.
The Buk’s crew appear to have fired on MH17 by mistake. At 5.50pm Moscow time, their leader Igor Strelkov, a veteran Russian intelligence officer, tweeted that his men had shot down another Ukrainian transport – or “bird”, as he put it.
All we need to do is note the weasel-words “appear to.” Another Harding trademark. They translate as “I want you to believe it but I have no evidence whatsoever that anything even remotely resembling this actually happened”. Admire also how he breezes right past the fact the DPR denied this tweet, and the account it emanated from, had anything to do with Strelkov at all:
— max seddon (@maxseddon) July 17, 2014
You don’t have to believe it, Luke, but you do have to report it, particularly when you are building your story around the need of a bereaved family for justice.
I could go on. I could talk about Harding’s complete elision of the numerous uncertainties and controversies still surrounding almost every aspect of the incident in favour of a groundless certitude. His refusal to acknowledge the fact there is still no agreement over what shot MH17 out of the sky, never mind who (was it a BUK, as the corporate media claim, not a BUK, an SU-25, definitely NOT an SU-25, or something else again? ). Or his absolute refusal to even acknowledge the fact the UAF is known to have had over 20 working BUK, while the rebels are only rumoured to have had one. Or the virtual impossibility of an untrained amateur crew being able to use one “acquired” BUK to take down anything. Or the Russian satellite data, all but ignored by western media, that seems to suggest very strange shenanigans immediately prior to the takedown of the plane. Or the numerous questions and accusation hanging over the DSB’s final report.
But you probably get the picture. The depth of the lie here and the fragility of their control over their own narrative is evidenced BTL. The comments were opened for less than three hours and at close the final page looked like this:
Other comments were simply airbrushed away in totality (we’ve all experienced that). One reader even tells us his account of 18 months standing was permanently disabled simply because he pointed out that Eliot Higgins’ work has been described as “propaganda.” Harding, of course, is known to fear the comments section and rumoured to police it ferociously, demanding the instant banning of anyone who critiques him.
But however much he silences his critics BTL, the question still remains – what is Harding doing here? And, even if we accept he’s too lost in his narcissistic persecution complex to understand concepts of right and wrong or truth and fiction, what is the Guardian’s excuse? The Mayne family, like so many others, are looking for answers and solutions, not lies and propaganda. They want to know who killed their son. Who really, actually killed their son. because it’s the only thing they can do for him any more; the only act of caring and protection left available to them. And for that they need and deserve more than being used as the unwitting attack dogs for undeclared and lunatic agendas. They deserve the respect of honesty and full and truthful disclosure.
If they’d been given that would they still be blaming Vladimir Putin? Or would their anger be directed against other – possibly more deserving – targets, such as the media that has lied and continues to lie in the service of obscuring truth and promoting war?
I can’t tell and wouldn’t presume to dictate. But if one of my children had died so abominably I hope I would find someone willing to help me find the culprits rather than use me as a poster child for their own personal hate campaign.