You may recall the AT’s article on the revolutionary propaganda flagger by an organization known as PropOrNot, comprised of ex-military and US intelligence experts, who have taken it upon themselves to expose and combat the epidemic of Russian propaganda on the internet. After reaching out to them a couple of times, PropOrNot finally agreed to a brief interview with the AT, for which we are grateful. Below is the transcript of our interactions.
|First of all, let me thank you for the courageous work that your team has done to expose the deep seated Russian ties within the Trump administration, and the epidemic of fake news emanating from the Kremlin. If you could answer the following questions for our readers, it’d be much appreciated: … [Questions in bold below]|
Those are good questions:
1. First off, it seems that Trump has finally given in to the overwhelming demand for action against Assad and war with Russia from the American people. Do you see this as a sign that Trump is breaking ties with Russia, and how do you see this playing out over the next couple of months?
The strike on the Shayrat airbase was symbolic, not substantive. It did not affect the military situation on the ground. By itself, it could easily be a diversion intended to distract from Trump’s flagging poll numbers. The causal arrow here can point multiple ways: Putin could be willing to give up Assad to bolster Trump, or Assad could be playing spoiler with Russia. The most interesting indication yet is Nikki Haley’s recent statements treating Assad’s removal as inevitable:
“There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime,” Haley said, while reiterating that defeating Isis was still the number one policy goal. “If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”
“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen.”
Hassan Hassan suggests that Assad may have been deliberately baiting the US to escalate against him, in order to widen the distance between Moscow and Washington: “I don’t rule out the possibility that this was a message from the regime to Russia itself,” the former regime insider said. “They are worried that the Russian policy in Syria does not serve their interests and want to show to the Russians they can be spoilers.”
Our position is simple: Assad’s removal must be unconditional. Putin must not be allowed to use it as a bargaining chip to get much more significant things he wants, like preventing Trump’s impeachment, or lifting the West’s sanctions on Russia.
2. Which websites do you think are the most powerful outlets for Russian propaganda, apart from RT?
In the US, Infowars and Zerohedge are among most significant Russian propaganda outlets. Drudge Report also acts as a large-scale “repeater” of Russian propaganda, linking to Russia Today, Sputnik, and darker-gray propaganda sites on a regular basis.
3. To what extent does Russia control what prominent figures in the alt right movement say, and do you believe that many of them have been bribed or blackmailed by Putin?
We don’t generally accuse particular Americans of being knowing agents of the Russian Federation. That responsibility lies with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. However, a large number of alt-right figures certainly act like agents of the Russian Federation, and it beggars belief that they could be ignorant of how their actions further the interests of Putin’s regime. Whether knowing or unknowing, it’s their actions that matter.
Richard Spencer’s fondness for Putin, ties to Russia, and alignment Putin’s pet fascist philosopher Alexander Dugin, for example, have been extensively documented:
Matthew Heimbach is also notable in this regard:
Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin’s Russia as “the axis for nationalists.”
“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now,” Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination.”
However, Russian propaganda effectively targets both the far right and far left, and there are plenty of left-seeming Americans whose actions seem to consistently and one-sidedly further the interests of Putin’s regime:
4. Some people seem to have concerns about the ramifications of engaging Russia militarily. Could you explain to those people why their fears are unfounded, and why war with Russia is justified?
Russia doesn’t want full-scale war with the United States any more than we do. That would achieve none of their strategic objectives. There are very few such scenarios where they wouldn’t just outright lose. Russian propaganda constantly suggests that doing anything they don’t like would instantly result in “WW3”, but that has always been ridiculous: Ukraine is fighting them, right now, with tanks. No WW3.
However, Russian military doctrine includes the integrated use of espionage, hacking, propaganda, assassination, sabotage, uniformed forces, and more, within an escalating continuum of military operations. They would consider their own use of espionage, hacking, and propaganda to be an act of war if effectively done to them, and internally, their leadership considers themselves at war with the United States.So while full-scale war with Russia is off the table, Russia is already at war with us – just in very specific and semi-deniable ways. It behooves us to recognize that and act appropriately. For example, we should impose sanctions on Kremlin-controlled propaganda outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik. We should also modernize and enforce the Foreign Agents Registration Act, along the lines of Sen. Shaheen’s proposal (https://www.shaheen.senate.gov/news/press/shaheen-introduces-bill-to-investigate-russian-propaganda-outlet-rt-news-as-a-foreign-agent). There are a lot of other things we should do as well, but those are a decent start.
This fascinating analysis of current affairs reveals that Zerohedge, a site I have long been a member of, is in fact one of the main outlets of Russian propaganda! It’s scary to think about it, but all those years when I thought I was just reading far right bigotry, I was actually reading propaganda emanating straight from the Kremlin, which was either unknowingly repeated by useful idiots, or worse, this was the primary purpose behind much of their writings! My eyes have been opened to the extent of Russian propaganda on the internet, and I will be forever grateful to concerned citizen groups like PropOrNot for making me aware of this growing and ever present threat. We at the AT thank PropOrNot for their outstanding public service, and would like to express our sincere gratitude for their incredible contributions to national security and world peace. Godspeed to you PropOrNot, and may you continue to expose Russian influence and propaganda wherever you may find it.