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RussiaGate as Organised Distraction

Prof. Oliver Boyd-Barrett, via Organisation for Propaganda Studies

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For over two years RussiaGate has accounted for a substantial proportion of all mainstream US media political journalism and, because US media have significant agenda-setting propulsion, of global media coverage as well. The timing has been catastrophic.

The Trump Administration has shredded environmental protections, jettisoned nuclear agreements, exacerbated tensions with US rivals, and pandered to the rich.

In place of sustained media attention to the end of the human species from global warming, its even more imminent demise in nuclear warfare, or the further evisceration of democratic discourse in a society riven by historically unprecedented wealth inequalities and unbridled capitalistic greed, corporate media suffocate their publics with a puerile narrative of alleged collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

The RussiaGate discourse is profoundly mendacious and hypocritical. It presumes that the US is a State whose electoral system enjoys a high degree of public trust and security. Nothing could be further from the truth. The US democratic system is deeply entrenched in a dystopian two-party system dominated by the rich and largely answerable to corporate oligopolies; it is ideologically beholden to the values of extreme capitalism and imperialist domination. Problems with the US electoral system and media are extensive and well documented.

US electoral procedures are profoundly compromised by an electoral college that detaches votes counted from votes that count. The composition of electoral districts have been gerrymandered to minimize the possibility of electoral surprises. Voting is dependent on easily hackable corporate-manufactured electronic voting systems.

Right-wing administrations reach into a tool-box of voter-suppression tactics that run the gamut from minimizing available voting centers and voting machines through to excessive voter identification requirements and the elimination of swathes of the voting lists (e.g. groups such as people who have committed felonies or people whose names are similar to those of felons, or people who have not voted in previous elections).

Even the results of campaigns are corrupted when outgoing regimes abuse their remaining weeks in power to push through regulations or legislation that will scuttle the efforts of their successors.

Democratic theory presupposes the formal equivalence of voice in the battlefield of ideas. Nothing could be further from the reality of the US “democratic” system in which a small number of powerful interests enjoy ear-splitting megaphonic advantage on the basis of often anonymous “dark” money donations filtered through SuperPacs and their ilk, operating outside the confines of (the somewhat more transparently monitored) ten-week electoral campaigns.

Regarding media, democratic theory presupposes a public communications infrastructure that facilities the free and open exchange of ideas. No such infrastructure exists.  Mainstream media are owned and controlled by a small number of large, multi-media and multi-industrial conglomerates that lie at the very heart of US oligopoly capitalism and much of whose advertising revenue and content is furnished from other conglomerates.

The inability of mainstream media to sustain an information environment that can encompass histories, perspectives and vocabularies that are free of the shackles of US plutocratic self-regard is also well documented.

Current US media coverage of the US-gestated crisis in Venezuela is a case in point. The much celebrated revolutionary potential of social media is illusory. The principal suppliers of social media architecture are even more corporatized than their legacy predecessors. They depend not just on corporate advertising but on the sale of big data that they pilfer from users and sell to corporate and political propagandists often for non-transparent AI-assisted micro-targeting during ‘persuasion’ campaigns.

Like their legacy counterparts, social media are imbricated within, collaborate with, and are vulnerable to the machinations of the military-industry-surveillance establishment. So-called election meddling across the world has been an outstanding feature of the exploitation of social and legacy media by companies linked to political, defense and intelligence such as – but by no means limited to – the former Cambridge Analytica and its British parent SCL.

Against this backdrop of electoral and media failures, it makes little sense to elevate discussion of and attention to the alleged social media activities of, say, Russia’s Internet Research Agency. Attention is being directed away from substantial, and substantiated, problems and onto trivial, and unsubstantiated, problems.

Moreover, in a climate of manufactured McCarthyite hysteria, RussiaGate further presupposes that any communication between a presidential campaign and Russia is in itself a deplorable thing. Even if one were to confine this conversation only to communication between ruling oligarchs of both the US and Russia, however, the opposite would surely be the case. This is not simply because of the benefits that accrue from a broader understanding of the world, identification of shared interests and opportunities, and their promise for peaceful relations.

A real politik analysis might advise the insertion of wedges between China and Russia so as to head off the perceived threat to the USA of a hybrid big-power control over a region of the world that has long been considered indispensable for truly global hegemony.

Even if we address RussiaGate as a problem worthy of our attention, the evidentiary basis for the major claims is weak. The ultimate unfolding of RussiaGate discourse now awaits the much-anticipated report of Special Counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller. Mueller’s indictments and investigations have to date implicated several individuals for activities that in some cases have no connection whatsoever to the 2016 Presidential campaign.  In some other instances they appear to have been more about lies and obstructions to his investigation rather than material illegal acts, or amount to charges that are unlikely ever to be contested in a court of law.

The investigation itself is traceable back to two significant but extremely problematic reports made public in January 2017. One was the “Steele dossier” by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele. This is principally of interest for its largely unsupported allegations that in some sense or another Trump was in cahoots with Russia. Steele’s company, Orbis, was commissioned to write the report by Fusion GPS which in turn was contracted by attorneys working for the Democratic National Campaign.

Passage of earlier drafts of the Steele report through sources close to British intelligence, and accounts by Trump adviser George Papadopoulos concerning conversations he had concerning possible Russian possession of Clinton emails with a character who may as likely have been a British as a Russian spy, were instrumental in stimulating FBI interest in and spying on the Trump campaign.

There are indirect links between Christopher Steele, another former MI6 agent, Pablo Miller (who also worked for Orbis) and Sergei Skripal, a Russian agent who had been recruited as informer to MI6 by Miller and who was the target of an attempted assassination in 2018. This event has occasioned controversial, not to say highly implausible and mischievous British government claims and accusations against Russia.

The  most significant matter raised by a second report, issued by the Intelligence Community Assessment and representing the conclusions of a small team picked from the Director of Intelligence office, CIA, FBI and NSA, was its claim that Russian intelligence was responsible for the hacking of the computer systems of the DNC and its chairman John Podesta in summer 2016 and that the hacked documents had been passed to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. No evidence for this was supplied.

Although the hacking allegations have become largely uncontested articles of faith in the RussiaGate discourse they are significantly reliant on the problematic findings of a small private company hired by the DNC. There is also robust evidence that the documents may have been leaked rather than hacked, and by US-based sources.

The fact that the documents revealed that the DNC, a supposedly neutral agent in the primary campaign, had in fact been biased in favor of the candidature of Hillary Clinton, and that Clinton’s private statements to industry were not in keeping with her public positions, has long been obscured in media memory in favor a preferred narrative of Russian villainy.

Why then does the RussiaGate discourse have so much traction? Who benefits?

First, RussiaGate serves the interest of a (1)corrupted Democratic Party, whose biased and arguably incompetent campaign management lost it the 2016 election, in alliance with with (2)powerful factions of the US industrial-military-surveillance establishment that for the past 19 years, through NATO and other malleable international agencies, has sought to undermine Putin’s leadership, dismember Russia and the Russian Federation (undoubtedly for the benefit of western capital) and, more latterly, further contain China in a perpetual and titanic struggle for the heart of EurAsia.

In so far as Trump had indicated (for whatever reasons) in the course of his campaign that he disagreed with at least some aspects of this long-term strategy, he came to be viewed as unreliable by the US security state. While serving the immediate purpose of containing Trump, US accusations of Russian meddling in US elections were farcical in the context of a well-chronicled history of US “meddling” in the elections and politics of nations for over 100 years. This meddling across  all hemispheres has included the staging of coups, invasions and occupations on false pretext in addition to numerous instances of “color revolution” strategies involving the financing of opposition parties and provoking uprisings, frequently coupled with economic warfare (sanctions).

A further beneficiary (3)is the sum of all those interests that favor a narrowing of public expression to a framework supportive of neoliberal imperialism. Paradoxically exploiting the moral panic associated with both Trump’s plaintive wailing about “fake news” whenever mainstream media coverage is critical of him, and social media embarrassment over exposure of their big data sales to powerful corporate customers, these interests have called for more regulation of, as well as self-censorship by, social media.

Social media responses increasingly involve more restrictive algorithms and what are often partisan “fact-checkers” (illustrated by Facebook financial support for and dependence on the pro-NATO “think tank,” the Atlantic Council). The net impact has been devastating for many information organizations in the arena of social media whose only “sin” is analysis and opinion that runs counter to elite neoliberal propaganda. The standard justification of such attacks on free expression is to insinuate ties to Russia and/or to terrorism.

Given these heavy handed and censorious responses by powerful actors, it would appear perhaps that the RussiaGate narrative is increasingly implausible to many and the only hope now for its proponents is to stifle questioning. These are dark days indeed for democracy.

Oliver Boyd-Barrett is Professor Emeritus at Bowling Green State University. He is author of the forthcoming book RussiaGate and Propaganda: Disinformation in the Age of Social Media (Routledge).

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vexarb
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vexarb

Cut’n’Paste from the Saker, has some relevance to this closing decade of collision between the “irresitable armed” NATZO juggernaut and the rock that was in the middle of the road: “James Speaks on March 12, 2019 · at 3:11 pm EST/EDT From where I am standing Trump’s decision-making on foreign policy has all the hallmarks and foresight of a thuggish drunken sailor. Trump’s style is that of a NYC real estate developer, that is bluff and bluster, keep them off balance because the adversary is also bluff and bluster. The art of the deal. _Nasrallah is a man whose principles… Read more »

Portonchok
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Portonchok

Dear Admin,
why are all the comments in italics? It’s very tough to read more than a line or two.

vexarb
Reader
vexarb

And while the sheeple are diverting their junk-fed brains with Russiagate, a minor site announces the real news:

https://www.almasdarnews.com/article/breaking-syrian-army-launches-massive-assault-on-southern-idlib/

Dan
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Dan

On the money. Thanks, Vaska.

vierotchka
Reader

I cannot plough through the comments – they are in all-italics which hurt my old eyes (I also have age-related macular degeneration in first stage). That is such a pity, because comments on Off-Guardians are very interesting and informative. Please change them back to normal text.

Robbobbobin
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Robbobbobin

The all-italics come and go. It’s a long term cyclical thing.

James O'Neill
Reader

A depressingly accurate analysis of the downward spiral of what we were once pleased to call western democracy. I would just add one quibble. You refer to the “assassination” attempt upon the Skripals. If the object was to kill them,, then it could have been done in multiple ways that were far easier, less public, and more effective. There is a good body of evidence to suggest that their death was not the objective. Skripal was likely involved in the production of the Steele dossier. He had expressed a desire to return to Russia. He simply knew too much, so… Read more »

Portonchok
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Portonchok

Lots of analysis, lots of comments, but it’s all about Operation Beluga. Simples. You’re welcome.

Fair dinkum
Reader
Fair dinkum

‘Climate cataclysm is coming, climate cataclysm is coming!’
Funny.
That doesn’t rate a mention by the presstitutes.

Robbobbobin
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Robbobbobin

Although anthropogenic global warming is a real problem and Russiagate is not-so, they share a common characteristic of human beings that the “presstitutes” and the engineers of Russiagate have exploited so well: the psychotic, complacency-driven myopia of almost all human beings. Climate-cataclysm is not the real problem and–to any rational analysis–never has been, since even before Arrhenius first predicted a link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and average global temperature. The problem was and remains one in which anthropogenic climate cataclysm is a part, but perhaps neither the most significant nor the finally anthropoterminal part, just the first part to… Read more »

dhfabian
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On one “side issue” mentioned here, concerning the fate of the Democrats: It’s no longer possible to fix the party. Trump will most likely be re-elected in 2020, and there will presumably be another surge of anti-Russian propaganda after the election. Russia is the Democrats’ scapegoat of choice. The reason Democrats are almost certain to lose has been repeatedly raised, yet dismissed as irrelevant. Years of research have consistently confirmed that most voting choices come down to economic issues. Democrats split apart their own voting base in the 1990s, middle class vs. poor, and the Obama years confirmed that this… Read more »

Jen
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Jen

“… Although the hacking allegations have become largely uncontested articles of faith in the RussiaGate discourse they are significantly reliant on the problematic findings of a small private company hired by the DNC. There is also robust evidence that the documents may have been leaked rather than hacked, and by US-based sources …” This small private company, Crowdstrike, was founded and is headed by Dmitri Alperovich, a Fellow at The Atlantic Council (which some of us may recall pays Eliot Higgins to run his Bellingcrap propaganda outfit) which itself has received donations from Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk. Pinchuk has donated… Read more »

Gezzah Potts
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Gezzah Potts

Profound article Oliver. Lies, lies, and damn stinking lies on a daily basis. I cannot even stomach the so called media anymore, nor the craven presstitutes who write or report for such contemptible organisations. Its all like a Punch & Judy show. Keeping the masses entertained and ‘informed’ with banal bumfluff and trivialished tosh, and the repeated inventions of the next bogeyman to keep people fearful and under the thumb.

mark
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mark

It is worth considering a brief listing of some of the obvious hoaxes and false flags of recent years, in no particular order. 1. Skripal 2. Litvinenko 3. Russiagate 4. Corbyn’s anti Semitism 5. Worldwide anti Semitism hoaxes, US, France 6. Iraq WMD 7. David Kelly 8. White Helmets 9. Syrian Gas attacks 10. 9/11 11. Most of the past “terrorist” attacks in the US, UK, Europe 12. The “mass shooting” incidents in the US 13. MH17 14. Russian sports doping. There was a large UK content in at least 9 of the above 14 cases. 1,2,3,4,6,7,8,9,11.The UK Establishment/ Spooks… Read more »

milosevic
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milosevic

I recommend careful study of the following article, which was written over sixteen years ago. I think that it would have to be acknowledged as being remarkably prescient, and it is still highly informative. 9/11 In Context: Plans and Counterplans The provocation on 9/11 was simply the biggest Special Operation of all time. It was the logical, even predictable, outcome of the development over more than half a century of a clandestine (or “deep”) political system where the most powerful members of the capitalist ruling class vie for real power. Just as a wide range of familiar means of government… Read more »

Antonym
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Antonym

The Wahhabi fundamentals should praise you for letting them off the 9/11 hook. You’re also letting them off hundreds of other terror hooks all over the Globe like Mecca , Paris, Bali, Mumbai etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Islamist_terrorist_attacks . I hear they are swimming in oil money.
The Wahhabi can build on a long history of Islamist violence starting with their own war lord Prophet.: basically the opposite of a Buddha, a Jesus or a modern Gandhi.

Shakar! Keep the focus on the Jews!

milosevic
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milosevic

consider Syria: obviously, the Chosen People aren’t going to do the dirty work themselves; that would be beneath them, and possibly dangerous. The smart thing to do is to recruit some stupid goyim, in the form of DAESH, to do it for you. The stupid wahabi death squads probably don’t even know who they’re actually working for. Perhaps they assume that the constant stream of money, guns, and drugs is a gift from Allah.

Robbobbobin
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Robbobbobin

“…launch a cruise missile at a largely empty section of the Pentagon…”

How do you explain the large airliner-sized tail (as deconvolved par moi from the last image of the gas station video)? Carnival float cardboard cutout decoy decoration?

Tim Jenkins
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Tim Jenkins

@Robbobbobin

At the 10:00 minute mark, Gen. Stubblebine starts to talk about the Pentagon image that got altered, after he went public: he describes the picture as imagery that “got a new suit”,

when before, what he could see was a missile !

The interesting thing about the General is, that it was his wife that finally got him to question himself & others cognitive dissonance and inability to believe that his government could be implicated in a cover up. 😉

Tim Jenkins
Reader
Tim Jenkins

@Robbo

He’s also done another far more detailed analysis, somewhere on you tube.

Not a plane Robbo, logic dictates: elsewhere, Gen. Stubblebine even admits to seeing the photo you refer to, BEFORE it was tampered with and there was no tail section: the tail section was inserted after he began to question the material released to him.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

I think it’s possible for reasonable people to disagree about what, if anything, crashed at the Pentagon. (unlike the WTC, where only unreasonable people disagree that two Boeing-767-sized aircraft were involved.)

The above article was written in 2002, when 9/11 research was at a fairly early stage, and almost everybody who disbelieved the Official Story also disbelieved that a large airliner had crashed into the Pentagon. If that particular detail of the Official Story turns out to be true, that hardly invalidates the rest of the article.

I don’t think I’m familiar with the “gas station video”. Do you have a reference?

mark
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mark

If you look at the blurred image that was produced, it seems pretty obvious it was a cruise missile of some sort. Looked smaller than a Tomahawk.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

I think the concensus is that the alleged video from the Pentagon parking lot is simply fake, and therefore of no evidentiary value. (If it were real, why wouldn’t they also release the hundreds of other security camera videos that they must have?) If you’re referring to something other than that, I’d be curious to see the reference.

vexarb
Reader
vexarb

Milosevic, that is a WOW find! Dated 2002 yet reads like it was written tomorrow. Deserves what you say, careful study, because if our present knowledge of 911Truth was written by someone in .li in 2002 then maybe our future is written there too.

Wilmers31
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Wilmers31

That is very likely, the distraction operations will continue. People usually like to attack the person who is President when it is the whole system that needs attacking. Much ado was made about Skripal but the many innocent people who become victims of knife attacks in Britain do not feature. Then PM May deleted 21,000 police positions so crime is taking over the streets. Their mendacity mandates that it’s about ‘austerity’ when in effect it is about war preparations (euphemism: security). They have an aircraft carrier now – and crime in the streets. Now they want to domineer us with… Read more »

mark
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mark

5G is said to be very dangerous to humans because of microwave radiation. Don’t know much about it though.

0use4msm
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0use4msm

Good article, though it ought to have included a dishonourable mention of Bill Browder, considering how influential the Magnitsky Act was in stirring up anti-Russian hysteria in the Obama era, and all to cover up Browder’s own crimes committed in Russia.

Maggie
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Maggie

ouse4msm,
Bill Bowder, who gave Hilary Clinton 400 million dollars, moved to Russia in 2000 and renounced his US citizenship. Vlad threw him out of Russia because he had been laundering money 1.5 BILLION dollars through the HSBC Bank and owed 23,000 thousand dollars in taxes. So Bowder who is big buddies with the other vampire Soros, has been out to get Putin ever since, and accusing him of the very crime he himself has been committing since 2000.
So Browder doesn’t have ‘much’ of a self interested axe to grind?

BigB
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BigB

Mark; Ouse4msm: Mark: you missed the Zionist element in 1. Skripal. Which was Bill Browder pushing his Magnitsky sanctions pseudo-narrative through the Labour Party, from day one. As soon as the announcement was made by Johnson: Thornberry and Cooper were on their feet pushing the Buzzfeed “From Russia with Blood” dossier about the “killing fields of the South East” [Abbott]. Which raises the possibility that 1,2,3 on your list were the same extended operation [Operation Beluga – to discredit Putin …according to ‘Superflic’ Capitaine Paul Barril]. Steele is implicated throughout. There is a loose association of ex-MI6 operatives clustered around… Read more »

mark
Reader
mark

Dear BB, You’re right of course. That was an arbitrary list of 14, and all were pushed by the Zionist MSM. I was just thinking out loud trying to identify the main players on a nuts and bolts basis. I think the UK connection is more significant than most people realise. Though you could argue 9/11, which was clearly a Zionist operation, far outweighs the rest. There was no real shock effect on the powers that be in the UK after these various bizarre events, just a ready made narrative being put out with a slick PR campaign being cranked… Read more »

BigB
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BigB

Mark; Milosevic: I have no reason to suppose that Quiglley’s Anglo-American (AZC) Milner Group of globalists, or Docherty and Macgregor’s ‘Secret Elite’ – who planned and precipitated WW1 – are not alive and well …as a modern iteration grouped round Dearlove (John Scarlett will be lurking in the shadows to, I presume). However, that is supposition. That is why Britain is so secretive: filing Whitehall menus for 90 years. We are only just finding out about WW1! The really good stuff gets ‘water damaged’: never to see the light of day again. We’ve been caught ‘parallel archiving’ before (over the… Read more »

milosevic
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milosevic

I think the UK connection is more significant than most people realise.

see this article for a historical episode of Foreign Meddling in US elections:

Ron Unz — Alexander Cockburn and the British Spies

dhfabian
Reader

I file the daily anti-Israel rants win the same drawer as RussiaGate. The most striking aspect of the anti-Israel rhetoric is that it is utterly disconnected from facts and logic. America simply refuses to accept responsibility for the misery this country so persistently causes.

milosevic
Reader
milosevic

utterly disconnected from facts and logic

(waiting for Mossad trolls to arrive — three, two, one …)

Gezzah Potts
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Gezzah Potts

Milosevic: Jesus hell’s bells Milosevic, I came here too OffG to get away from the Zionist trolls! Don’t want them infesting these pages with their deluded rants. Tho I’m sure you, Mark, BigB, and a couple others would sort them out! As I cannot tolerate or stomach MSM anymore, neither can I stomach seeing the face of that murdering war criminal. I choose not to hit the play button. Thanks for the link anyways

Robbobbobin
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Robbobbobin

“…I cannot tolerate or stomach MSM anymore, neither can I stomach seeing the face of that murdering war criminal.”

So don’t look at the face of the majority Israeli electorate. They won’t care.

However much it has been and is being gerrymandered to fit the narrative of Zionism, within that constraint, the illegitimat e gerrymander also known as “The State of Israel” runs a pretty open social democracy. Bibi has consistently got the job by gaming the system in ways that are constantly used and approved by “social democrats” and their ballot-box supporters everywhere.

vexarb
Reader
vexarb

Courtesy of Truther sites such as OffG on the www people have an alternative to bloating their brains by absorbing MSM mental corn syrup, such as RussiaGate. Even an Armchair Analyst can get to the truth faster than the MSM can pour out lies. From SyrPer: “Armchair Analyst #288605 After waiting for the Idlib offensive to happen [to clean out the last ISIS terrorists from Syria], for what felt like an eternity, I gleefully followed events on LiveUAmaps, and saw how Idlib has got completely covered with air-and-artillery strikes by Syria and its Allies. The locations — mostly along the… Read more »

intergenerationaltrauma
Reader

An excellent analysis. One can easily argue that the current outbreak of so called rampant – “anti-Semitism” – now being endlessly peddled by MSM is simply another manifestation of the “distraction” propaganda narratives used to silence dissent and shut down critical thinking among we “plebs.” Just as challenging the Russiagate nonsense resulted in accusations of being a “Putin Puppet,” or “Russia-bot,” now simply questioning wealth distribution, amoral neoliberal economic madness, or the role of banks in our criminal economic model is enough to get one labeled an “anti-Semite.” One needn’t even mention, the unmentionable words – “Israel,””Zionism,” or “Palestinian rights”… Read more »

tutisicecream
Reader

And Branson will hold flash concerts that nobody shows up for. …
Yes the oligarchy are all in it together.

Gezzah Potts
Reader
Gezzah Potts

Tutisicecream: I wonder what the bastard would show up wearing? A pussy riot hat? Of course they’re all in it together Tuts. Its called class warfare.