Monday, 9 January 2017

Toomas Karmo (Part A): Peacework and Propaganda

Quality assessment:

On the 5-point scale current in Estonia, and surely in nearby nations, and familiar to observers of the academic arrangements of the late, unlamented, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (applying the easy and lax standards Kmo deploys in his grubby imaginary "Aleksandr Stepanovitsh Popovi nimeline sangarliku raadio instituut" (the "Alexandr Stepanovitch Popov Institute of Heroic Radio") and his grubby imaginary "Nikolai Ivanovitsh Lobatshevski nimeline sotsalitsliku matemaatika instituut" (the "Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky Institute of Socialist Mathematics") - where, on the lax and easy grading philosophy of the twin Institutes, 1/5 is "epic fail", 2/5 is "failure not so disastrous as to be epic", 3'5 is "mediocre pass", 4.5 is "good", and 5/5 is "excellent"): 4/5. Justification: Kmo had time to do a reasonably complete and (within the framework of the version 3.0.1, 3.0.2, 3.0.3,  .. process) reasonably polished job.

Revision history:
  • 20170110T1733Z/version 3.1.0: Kmo corrected a further inaccuracy in his recapitulation of the problem with Corsica's "Observatory Hill" advertising, taking out his problematic sentence "And (here again the developer's copywriter says dangerously little) it is not being expended on the developer's 32-hectare parcel at all, but entirely on the adjoining 45 remnant-park hectares." Kmo added a bit of detail to his account of Advertising Standards Canada, softening "Surely those guardians of advertising ethics will be interested only in breaches of 'Tell nothing but the truth,' being by contrast relaxed over 'Tell the whole truth'" by adding " - if they really go after breaches of 'Tell the whole truth', they will be forced to investigate perhaps the majority of all Canadian advertisements."- Kmo reserved the right to upload minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as here-undocumented versions 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3, ... . 
  • 20170110T1622Z/version 3.0.0: Kmo corrected (1) a not-quite-accurate recapitulation of the problem with Corsica's "Observatory Hill" advertising, and (2) a mistaken hyperlink to the List-of-203-servers article cited by Mr Bruce Beach. He reserved the right to upload minor, nonsubsantive, purely cosmetic tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as a series of here-undocumented versions 3.0.1, 3.0.2, 3.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170110T0547Z/version 2.0.0: Kmo finished converting the point-form outline into coherent prose, and was therefore ready to embark on a process of polishing. He reserved the right to upload minor, nonsubstantive, purely cosmetic tweaks over the coming 48 hours, as a series of here-undocumented verions 2.0.1, 2.0.2, 2.0.3, ... . 
  • 20170110T0004Z/version 1.0.0: Kmo had time only to upload a point-form outline. He hoped to convert this outline to coherent prose in multiple successive uploads, finishing this process at some point in the coming four hours. 

[CAUTION: A bug in the blogger server-side software has in some past weeks shown a propensity to insert inappropriate doublespacing or inappropriate interparagraph whitespace at some points in some of my posted essays. If a screen seems to end in empty space, keep scrolling down. The end of the posting is not reached until the usual blogger "Posted by Toomas (Tom) Karmo at" appears. - The blogger software has also shown a propensity to generate HTML that is formatted in different ways on different client-side browsers, perhaps with some browsers not correctly reading in the entirety of the "Cascading Style Sheets" which on many Web servers control the browser placement of margins, sidebars, and the like. If you suspect "Cascading Style Sheets" problems in your particular browser, be patient: it is probable that while some content has been shoved into some odd place (for instance, down to the bottom of your browser, where it ought to appear in the right-hand margin), all the server content has been pushed down into your browser in some place or other. - Anyone inclined to help with trouble-shooting, or to offer other kinds of technical advice, is welcome to write me via]

One of America's justly celebrated thinkers is Henry David Thoreau. Perhaps the most moving quarter-hour I have spent on my minor North American travels was in 2008, on the shore of Walden Pond, at the foundation stones of the celebrated cabin. 

But there are others. 

Everyone knows of Dr Martin Luther King.  Many know of Helen and Scott Nearing, and on the Catholic side of Dorothy Day and the Berrigan brothers. Some of us will have read a little on the recent political witness of "Granny D", legally "Doris Granny D Haddock" (1910-2010; she undertook her 5100-kilometre walk, to highlight the problem of campaign-finance abuses, in high old age, setting out on  1999-01-01 and finishing on 2000-02-29).  

It might prove appropriate for me to comment on this blog, some day, on at least some of these public thinkers. Today, however, I call attention to a public thinker at least as important as any of those I have just mentioned, the "Peace Pilgrim". In real life, the "Pilgrim" was Mildred Lisette Norman (1908-1981). Her book, describing her spiritual and physical odysseys, is available in multiple languages, free of charge, from One of the Pilgrim's core ideas is that working for peace is an ordinary duty of the citizen - not unlike, I would say, the straightforward, reassuringly banal, duties of paying taxes, reporting observed crime, and voting. Under the guidance of this idea from the late Pilgrim, I offer an extended - 

perhaps two-part - comment on the  2017-01-06 Director of National Intelligence (and National Intelligence Council) report, ""Background to 'Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections': The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution", as downloadable from


The "Background" essay is clear and interesting. In the end, however, it leaves one marginally less confident in the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA than before.  

The big problem is not its syntax failure (on p. 13 in the PDF numbering, we find, ahem, "comprised of", where "comprising" is needed), or its overall paucity of detail. (It is right for security agencies to suppress operational specifics.) The problem is, rather, that the word "propaganda" is used repeatedly in that short document, without definition. It occurs fully seven or so times, in an essay comprising - I have just managed to use the often-abused  "comprise" idiom correctly, ahem - around 20 typeset pages.  

In "propaganda" we have one of the classic terms of unreflective abuse, like "fascist" in European and Canadian café culture, and like "liberal" in big swathes of the USA. 

Those of my readers who are unfamiliar with the USA may find it remarkable, but it is true: in many American circles, about the dirtiest thing you can say in a political discussion is "Oh, those people are liberals." (Nowadays, this gets applied by some Republicans to some Democrats - for instance, in cases where the Republicans pride themselves on their pragmatism and their closeness to the labouring poor,  while their Democrat adversaries are financially well off in a kind of Martha Stewart and L.L. Bean style, and heighten the conversational tensions by professing their pacifism and environmentalism in a confrontational tone.)

Like "liberal" in parts of the USA is, again a little surprisingly to the non-American ear, "socialist'". To make someone look bad, you can in some American circles say, "Well, it looks to me like you want socialist medicine" or "You have a socialist position on property taxes" or the like - odd though such an attempt at political insult would sound in Canada, let alone in Europe. (In Canada and Europe, this sounds puzzling in the way the "French taunting", from castle ramparts, does in the old Monty Python quest-for-the-Holy-Grail film: "You son of a hamster....I fart in your general direction...") 

I am unfortunately old enough to recall the 1960s hysteria around "propaganda". 

"You DEVIL," yelled my dear Mum in English, tearing into me in Nova Scotia, as I tuned Dad's transistorized two-bander to the Voice of America's incomprehensible Russian-language shortwave broadcasts. As I realized some years or decades later, in hindsight, she was doing a raw translation of the normal, and in our home unthinkable, way of losing your temper in Estonian (as when you have missed your train or forgotten your password). I suspect the transmission was hitting the small antenna on its first ionospheric skip after radiating from a tower in Greenville, North Carolina. Mum's thought was that only wicked, wicked people would listen to "propaganda". She was so worked up at the moment as not to notice that the Russian voice was actually advocating for Uncle Sam, perhaps by praising Saigon and deprecating Hanoi. 

Or again Mum's Mum, my dear Grandma! 

The year was 1967, the month April or May. Expo 67 had just opened in Montréal. Grandma was among the visitors in that first exciting week or so. Mum, Dad, and I went over to the Montréal International and Universal Exposition/Exposition Universelle et internationale de première catégorie somewhat later, in the high summer. 

Grandma's perhaps weekly letters from her home near Montréal to Mum in Nova Scotia tended to get read out at the kitchen table, for the benefit of Dad and me. 

So there was Grandma, describing in Estonian one of the great wonders of our, or indeed of any, age: "Well, so much for proua Zimmerman's coffee party. Then I went over to Expo 67, to get a first look. I did zacka-zacka, and I saw zooble-zooble, and [as it might have been; this letter is not, alas, preserved in family archives] for lunch I had a paper plate of zimble-zimble for just two dollars. Then I went into the Soviet pavilion, where I watched some good propaganda films." 

To say that Mum was upset would be to understate the case. 

Dad  normally referred to Grandma in Estonian as the Ämmaproua (ämm is "mother-in-law", making Ämmaproua "Madame Mother-in-Law", or better still making it, auf Deutsch, "Frau Mother-in-Law"; Dad was really nice, however, and bilateral relations between him and Grandma were always fully cordial). I am grateful that Dad, at least to the best of my recollection, said little or nothing at the kitchen table when this particular diplomatic bomb burst over the three of us. 

I for my part thought, "Wicked, wicked Grandma." And I guess I continued to think that thought for quite a few years - although I now realize that Grandma, as was usual with her, had done and said the exactly right thing. It was the same as Grandma back in the Hitler war. When approaching a Nazi checkpoint with Mum, and without documents, she had said, "Now, don't worry, we'll just tell them the truth"; although this advice had driven my future Mum (then aged 26) frantic with terror, Grandma and Mum in fact passed through their checkpoint unscathed, as I guess Grandma had foreseen. 

Since I am already digressing, I may as well digress further, and assure my readers tonight that, Mum's annoyance over the Russian-language American shortwave broadcast notwithstanding, (1) Mum was in fact  always kindly, having inherited a positive outlook both from her Mum and from her own upstanding civil-service Dad, and (2) I did not in fact spent my entire Cold War as a soppy little milquetoast. Dad eventually graduated from the feeble transistorized two-bander to a four-band, valves-without-transistors, Hallicrafters S-120. This second rig, although still poor, sufficed for the usual European broadcasters. And so I spent more than a few happy sessions monitoring Radio Moscow in English, ear close to loudspeaker, reassuring myself that yes, those Moscow people really do aspire to enslave us. Tema kuuleb Londonit, Dad would say to Mum, with evident pride - "He is listening to London." And so I would indeed be, when Mum and Dad had not yet gone to bed, and my shortwave-monitoring activities were a matter of mild, affectionate, unworried parental interest. 

So yes, "propaganda". The word, to reiterate, is often emptied of content, as "fascist" often is here in campus-and-café Ontario, and as "liberal" and "socialist" often are in parts of America. "Propaganda" as a word in the 1960s was abusive Orwellian Newspeak, like "thought-crime". And unfortunately, it has tended to stay that way. 

In particular, the word is glaringly empty of content when used not in casual writing but where careful words assume life-and-death importance, as at We do not want agencies as vital as the CIA, FBI, and NSA, within so vital an ally of both Estonia and Canada as the USA, to discredit themselves by slipping into Newspeak. 

On such a NATO matter, the National Intelligence Council now needs to work with two or three professional analytical philosophers, brought in on a brief government secondment. Now needed are two or three analysts of the calibre of legal philosopher Dworkin or political philosopher Rawls. 

Don't look at me, people. I cannot fit into your slot, having left the world of professional analytical philosophy back in 1991. But a handful of the top schools, such as Harvard or Princeton or Stanford, will have the requisite analytical expertise, in two or three top minds. 

In default of real experts, I do tonight (and, I hope, next week, as "Part B") toss out a few suggestions, so as to get the analytical process at any rate started, making thereby my own little contribution to the Pilgrim's programme of peace. 


Analytical work is sensitive to the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions. For the truth of "This animal is a mammal," the truth of "This animal is a beaver" is sufficient, and yet is not necessary. Conversely, for the truth of "This animal is a beaver", the truth of "This animal is a mammal" is necessary, and yet is not sufficient.  Similarly, it is sufficient, and yet not necessary, for an integer's being a multiple of 5 that its decimal representation end in the digit 5. (25 is a multiple of 5, but so also is 20.) Conversely, it is necessary, and yet not sufficient, for an integer's having a decimal representation ending in 5 that it be a multiple of 5. (It is true to say "If the Mystery Integer's decimal representation ends in 5, then the Mystery Integer is bound to be a multiple of 5," and yet false to say "Only if the Mystery Integer's decimal representation ends in 5 is the Mystery Integer bound to be a multiple of 5.")

We begin our analysis of the concept of propaganda by asking: Are there any conditions which, while perhaps not necessary for an article's being propagandistic, at any rate do succeed in being sufficient?

One sufficient condition for an article's being propagandistic is that it seriously breach the precept "Write nothing but the truth." 

From the Hitler war, we have the 1944 Soviet broadcasts in which Estonians were told there was no need to flee before the incoming Red Army, because "The British have landed in Tallinn." 

As a (putatively truthful) exposé of some contemporary untruthful writing, we have the the 2016-12-05 BBC report at, headlined "The city getting rich from fake news". I quote this in part, as I hope is licit under the "Fair Use" provisions of copyright law: 

Goran - not his real name by the way, he's not confident enough to reveal that - is one of scores, or probably hundreds of Macedonian teenagers who are behind a cottage industry in the small city of Veles /.../ 

Goran began putting up sensationalist stories, usually plagiarised from right-wing American sites, last summer. 

After copying and pasting various articles, he packaged them under a catchy new headline, paid Facebook to share it with a target US audience hungry for Trump news and then when those Americans clicked on his stories and began to like and share them, he began earning revenue from advertising on the site.

Goran says he worked on the fakery for only a month and earned about 1,800 euros (£1,500) - but his mates, he claims, have been earning thousands of euros a day.

Goran-style purveyors of fake news were helpfully called to account last month by Pope Francis, speaking to the Belgian Catholic weekly Tertio (as reported at 

And I have a tempest in my own little teacup at the moment, involving the would-be developers of 32 hectares out of the 77-hectare legacy David Dunlap Observatory and Park, a mere 25-minute walk from my lodging. As I pointed out to Advertising Standards Canada, in a 2016-12-20 communication reproduced on this blog, there is a prima facie problem, requiring an Advertising Standards Canada probe. The would-be developer uses advertising language that applies the name of the (32-hectare) projected subdivision, "Observatory Hill" (as promoted, for instance, at to the adjoining 45-hectare remnant municipal park (which is legally not "Observatory Hill", but "David Dunlap Observatory Park"). Additionally, the developer writes of a municipal planetarium as a decided-upon amenity, where the only existing municipal proposal concerns a planetarium feasibility study. 


However, the dissemination of fake news, i.e., the breach of "Write nothing but the truth", is merely one sufficient condition for an article's being propagandistic. A different sufficient condition is an article's breaching, in some serious way, the complementary injunction to "tell the whole truth". 

The would-be DDO developer gets this one wrong too, albeit in just a small way. The advertising copy I dissect in my 2016-12-20 blog posting correctly asserts that 54 million CAD is slated for maintenance and development at the remnant David Dunlap Observatory, while not stating the source of the 54 million CAD. An incautious reader might make too much of the writer's reticence, mistakenly thinking the developer to be expending 54 million CAD. The money is in reality being spent by the municipality.

The developer is an entity named Corsica. Corsica was created in 2008 by an entity then known as Metrus Development. In 2015 April, however, Metrus Development rebranded itself as DG Group, with Web outreach at (The "DG" is surely a salute to the controlling family, the DeGasperises. One or two DeGasperises and one Muzzo - not the Muzzo prominent tonight at, but his paternal uncle - jointly comprised the publicly listed directors of Corsica when I last checked the relevant government database.) A few months ago, the site had on its homepage a haunting photo of twilight wetland, perhaps to deflect reader attention from the Group's controversial projected wetland activities, as criticized by conservationists at As at UTC=20170109T215322Z, however, there is instead a haunting photo of a forest snowscape, with a walker and a dog. The text, I think, read the same a few months ago as it reads now, as at UTC=20170109T215322Z:



For over forty years, DG Group has been a leader in planning and developing properties in a sustainable manner. In recognizing the link between creating progressive communities and nurturing a healthy environment, we have helped develop vibrant living places across Southern Ontario for future generations. Through continual innovation and constant collaboration, we remain committed to our original philosophical goal in bringing life to land.

Here the whole truth is not being told, although I am powerless to complain to Advertising Standards Canada. (Surely those guardians of advertising ethics will be interested only in breaches of "Tell nothing but the truth," being by contrast relaxed over "Tell the whole truth" - if they really go after breaches of "Tell the whole truth", they will be forced to investigate perhaps the majority of all Canadian advertisements.) No doubt there are environmentally cautious projects in the DG Group portfolio, just as explained further down on, or on pages linked to that homepage. There is also, however, the contentious matter of the 45-hectare remnant David Dunlap Observatory Park and its adjoining 32-hectare Corsica "Observatory Hill" subdivision - those two abutting, and distinct, things being now, to the detriment of national heritage, in process of getting carved out of the pre-2008 77-hectare David Dunlap Observatory and Park.

(An aside: to be prudent, I would now respectfully ask the Corsica lawyer, Mr David Bronskill ( and the Corsica project manager, Mr Michael Pozzebon (, to alert me if anything I have herewith written is tortious. I do think that my quotation from passes the copyright-law "Fair Use" test. And I am confident of having even in my rather vigorous criticism stayed within the the scope of the defamation-law "Truth Defence", let alone of the broader and easier "Fair Comment Defence". Nevertheless, I am happy to hear any protests, acting as appropriate on them and sharing them with my blog readership. - Let us now take it, Mr Bronskill and Mr Pozzebon, that I am legally in the clear if I do not hear from you by 2017-01-18, either in the style "We at Goodmans as representing Corsica find your remark about prootin-lootin-tootin  tortious, because tsplonkov-shplonkov" or "We at Goodmans as representing Corsica need more time to analyze your work, notably your honka-ponka and your zooble-rooble, before deciding whether tort is present or absent.")

This must now suffice for tempests in teacups.

On the broader world stage, a striking breach of "whole truth" has just come into view, on one of the few topics on one of whose facets I am reasonably well informed. For my noticing the breach, I am grateful to the newsletter I mentioned on this blog on 2017-01-02 or 2017-01-03, under the heading "Troll Farms (55 Savushkina Ulitsa?) and Mainstream Media". I mentioned last week under that heading, cryptically, "an author on only the fringes of respectability, active in the Ontario 'prepper' community". My opaquely cited writer is (of course) Mr Bruce Beach, out in Melancthon Township some 100 or 150 kilometres to the approximate northwest of Toronto, in his capacity as editor of the free-of-charge "SAFE Ark Two Newsletter".

Last week I discussed the wesite, with its list of 203 putatively pro-Putin, and putatively propagandistic, news servers. (Admittedly, that site, no less than, leaves the key term "propaganda" undefined. But ordinary-citizen readers like me have the list as something to work on, and by investigating it week upon weary week, little by little, we can eventually hope to reach our own conclusions.)  I indicated that some high percentage, perhaps even half, of Mr Beach's recent newsletter links have directed readers to servers on the worrisome list of 203.

Mr Beach's most recent newsletter was published on 2017-01-08. Here we find many links, but as bright good fortune would have it only one leading to a server in the worrisome list. That link, on the other hand, is to something quite dark - to, and specifically to a story at, at two different times (I have checked it more than once) headlined "Is Obama intent upon waging a military operation on Russia's border prior to the end of his presidential mandate?" and "Political Insanity: Outgoing President Obama’s “Operation Atlantic Resolve” against Russia: US Sends 3,600 Tanks Against Russia – Massive NATO Deployment Underway". Mr Beach unfortunately makes too much of this, hinting that it might presage some epochal military crisis, overshadowing all the other (reasonably sane) concerns in his 2017-01-08 newsletter.

The body of the article refers, correctly, to the prospective US force deployment to a number of countries, of which the one duly known to me is Estonia (with Estonia not, I admit, explicitly mentioned, but folded into "the Baltics"). While I would recommend that my readers examine the entire article, I do quote from its introductory note here, for flavour, under the "Fair Use" provisions in copyright law. I leave the editors' punctuation unchanged, even though a correction from full stop to question mark is necessary at the end:

This military onslaught could potentially create a fait accompli.

Are these deployments of US tanks and troops part of Obama's "act of retribution" against Russia in response to Moscow’s alleged hacking of the US elections, which according to the director of National Intelligence James Clapper constitute an "Existential Threat" to the Security of the US.

What is left out is that the current deployments, at least as far as Estonia is concerned - although I am not properly informed on other NATO countries, I cannot imagine Estonia's position to be exceptional - are just the latest in a sequence of deployments, some of them admittedly recent, but others going back years. Separate from the American operation here being reported is a 2016 UK announcement of the deploying of  800 or so troops to Estonia, with armour. Estonia has been in NATO since 2004. The air defence of our republic has long been anchored in NATO (and yet in non-Estonian) deployments of equipment and personnel at the  Ämari air base near Tallinn. One of Estonia's responsibilities is to host the base. Perhaps (I speculate) in part as compensation for this expenditure, Estonia, even while allocating to defence the NATO-prescribed 2 percent of GDP, maintains no real fighter-aeroplane capability of its own. The sea defence of our significantly maritime republic has likewise long been anchored in NATO, in ways which crucially involve also non-Estonians. Estonia does not look after its own maritime defence as a whole, but concentrates on mine hunting, thereby offering NATO a helpful specialization in exchange for NATO's broad naval umbrella. 

And there is also (though I cannot, I repeat, claim to be well informed on things outside Estonia) a 2016 Canadian NATO announcement of a deployment to Latvia. 

By leaving out context, the article creates the false impression of a dramatic new European development, distinctively involving the USA. 

Admittedly, there is also here a whiff of a breach against "write nothing but the truth." The intro-writer's phrase "military onslaught" is properly used for a raid or invasion, as opposed to a mere precautionary deploying of personnel and equipment. The relevant truths here (again, left out in a transgression against "tell the whole truth") are that NATO, mindful of Georgia, Crimea, Donbass, and Syria, fears a Black-Sea push-to-the-west scenario in the Nordic-Baltic or Baltic-Mitteleuropa sectors; that NATO is making its deployments to keep such a push from occurring; and that NATO has for its part no intention of either raiding eastward or invading eastward - realizing (even if we forget the so-necessary moral condemnation of aggression) that each of those two things is both politically impossible and militarily pointless.

An isolated example? 

I have not much time to work on media problems. Nevertheless, I have applied to this same server what I call the "Francis Test", searching for coverage of another of the few topics reasonably familiar to me, the Holy See. The result is revealing. At is a piece headed "'Washington’s Pope'? Who is Pope Francis?". This article I have in fact also lately seen, in some version or other, on one other server in the list of 203 servers. The body of the article reads, in part, as follows, at  (here again, I leave questionable punctuation, this time involving  the placement of quotation marks around five words where probably just two were intended, unadjusted):

Pope Francis is said to have brought "Liberation Theology into the Vatican", in the footsteps of Francis of Assisi.  While highlighting his commitment to peace and social justice, the Western media fail to mention that Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis I) has been a staunch supporter of  US imperial interests in Latin America for more than 30 years.

Being in general moderately distrustful of the Holy See, I investigated the current Holy Father's background in a half hour or so of googling at the time of his election, independently of my reading this week in  The media consensus seemed to be that Pope Francis did a lot to protect the Church against the Argentine dictatorship. If the reporter thinks that "staunch supporter" is correct language, she or he has at least, then, to state the other side of the case, documenting - as the mainstream press does - something of how the current Pope (the then Jose Bergoglio) confronted the Argentinian authorities. 

I hope that the people at "SAFE Ark Two Newsletter" will not be too hard on me for criticizing them tonight. Their unreflective link to is the result not of malice, but simply of a paucity of scholarly resources. The newsletter editor, Mr Bruce Beach, has (I am 90 percent certain, on the strength of about three days spent with him, over two separate 2012 visits) no significant personal European connections - I think not even any European language apart from English. The key to understanding things like NATO is cross-cultural experience. I have a little of this through my first-language fluency in Estonian, and through my recently acquired (flaky) reading capability in German. Further, I can table my pair of 1972-and-1974 stints as a volunteer worker at the Abbaye de Clermont historical-conservation project in the Mayenne - stints meant to purge my French of at least its grosser blemishes and grosser hesitations, in an environment where, helpfully, the people in charge had no English. One cannot tackle European affairs with anything much less than this. 

Before quite leaving the tonight-vexed topic of the "SAFE Ark Two Newsletter", I would like to recommend it as a resource for the professional security analysts. It is not that Mr Beach's weekly assessments are all necessarily credible, or even that he gets all basic things right - his keyboarding, I note this week to my grief, manages even to turn "Reuters" into the falsely apostrophized "Reuter's". Rather, what makes him worth reading, or at any rate archiving, is his pulling together many news servers far removed from the mainstream, through his heavy personal course of non-mainstream Web reading. Mr Beach is fortunately able to put in the hours needed to learn what servers the various fringe journalists, whether or not pro-Putin, and whether or not propagandistic (and whether propagandistic in pro-Putin ways or propagandistic in other ways, including anti-Putin) are currently operating. I would urge the security professionals, should any have managed to read this far in tonight's posting, to add their inboxes to Mr Beach's almost-2000-strong newsletter subscription list. That small task can be done, and Mr Beach's general philosophical stance explored, by visiting


Does any world-news journalist, in a time of conflict, ever quite avoid breaching the "whole truth" rule? A commenter named "Esn" has suggested this week, on Mr John Michael Greer's, in a comment timestamped by Mr Greer's blogger software as "1/8/17, 12:31 AM", that just about everything published on the Donbass-Crimea situation leaves relevant points out. Whether "Esn" is right or wrong, I do not know. Back when I amused myself by listening to the Voice of America in Russian, my Russian was nonexistent. (This was, to be sure, a point of recurrent annoyance. Thanks to a couple of historical contingencies - Grandma, as an orphan, had been educated in a Russian Tsarist-era gümnaasium, or more formally гимназия, and Mum had as Grandma's little child grown up in the border town of Petseri - Mum and Grandma were both fluent in Russian. This meant that when they were together they could, and did, conduct private conferences on all manner of things   - my own affairs, very notably - in effortless encryption.)

Even now my Russian is close to nonexistent, despite my efforts to take appropriate remedial action with an appropriate textbook, or "utshyebnik/учебник". - I nowadays think of this word as denoting a difficult thing on one's plate that one has, when aged four and a half, to be prodded by Mum into eating - Kallike, lõpeta oma utshjeebnik korralikult ära, ja siis ma annan Sulle magustoitu - "Darling, finish off your учебник, and then you can have your dessert."

To make an already bad situation worse, my own contacts with the Ukrainian diaspora are limited, and are far from recent. I think I have just once or twice attended an actual Ukrainian-diaspora cathedral service, back in the Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko era. That was when a Ukrainian friend and I would speculate about possible KGB surveillance in the Monash University residential college in which we both found ourselves in the alarming position of "tutors", or keepers-of-order. Our countersurveillance target, a visitor to Monash from the USSR, was notably morose. We, and indeed some of the other college tutors in our little cohort, were much struck by our seemingly unhappy guest's eyeing me at breakfast one morning, when I was reading the Financial Review: "Ahhhh....," the guest said to me, in what Hollywood would use for Soviet English, "Fee-nyenkial Re-VYEW. Razzer SPYEHH-shya-lized." (It thereupon became common among us tutors, collectively, to refer to that singularly dull bit of the Australian press - useful, however, if you are making a little money on yellowcake-mine shares, which to my shame I now have to admit doing - as the "Fee-nyankial Re-VYEW".)

And commiserating with each other on the respective experiences of Estonia and Ukraine, my friend and I would again and again raise glasses in our routine toast, and I think also managed to train some of the other tutors in our cohort.

You have to start this toast by saying, "Plague and confusion on the current regime in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics." Your mate in the pub or Senior Common Room adds "PLAGUE". And then you solemnly finish off, "CONFUSION", as your glasses are simultaneously drained.

In Estonian - but I think we largely or entirely operated in English, and neglected to do the really right thing, namely to go по русски - this becomes

Taud ja segadus Nõukogude Sotsialistlike Vabariikide Liidu kehtivale rezhiimile.



Further, I recall a Melbourne Ukrainian-diaspora theatre production, in English, with one especially truthful line: "Vee haff long memories ... in Yoooor-upp."

Modest though these Ukrainian contacts were, I have gleaned enough from them to realize that Ukraine is a nation with sufferings as terrible as, or more terrible than, Estonia's - the failed national aspirations of 1918-1922 (where Estonia in 1919 attained independence: Estonia's own land operations had in 1918 been crucially supplemented by a prophylactic Royal Navy operation, blocking a projected Red assault on Estonia's north coast); the 1932-1933 Holodomor (this artificial famine has no modern Estonian parallel); and in more recent decades, the familiar twofold story of repression at home, with passionate (and on occasion commensurately bitter) cultural conservation abroad.

With tempers running so high,  I am somewhat inclined to be sympathetic to Mr Greer's commenter "Esn", while still not really knowing whether "Esn" is right.

The pessimistic Ukrainian appraisal of "Esn" makes me wonder more broadly whether, perhaps, all serious conflicts reach a point at which the available journalism declines into propaganda. What, for example, happened in the American Civil War? Did Horace Greeley forever get the whole truth out at the New-York Tribune? Or did he eventually, as his long war ground on, cave in to expediency?

I am equally at a loss to know how well the BBC performed in the Hitler war. The mere fact of government secrecy, or even of government mendacity, does not in and of itself cause a news outlet working outside government to lapse into propaganda. From a whole-truth standpoint it is enough for the journalists to write, truthfully, "Cabinet sources declined comment" or  "The Air Ministry figures, which we are unable independently to confirm, assert a loss yesterday of 43 Luftwaffe machines."

Perhaps someone has studied this BBC question carefully. In case nobody has tackled it yet, I remark that much can be achieved by analyzing BBC bulletins on just a small number of points, which I here highlight as having had the potential to be embarrassing to His Majesty's Government:
  • the fall of France
  • the Oran assault
  • Mr Churchill's detentions of suspected Nazi collaborators in Britain
  • the Dresden and Hamburg firestorms
[To be continued next week, I hope, as "Part B". I shall perhaps be (1) proposing the disjunctive criterion "EITHER telling something other than the truth OR not telling the whole truth" as a criterion both necessary and sufficient, and (2) raising the troublesome question whether an editorial, as opposed to a news report, can ever be propagandistic. (Did the Lord Haw-Haw radio opinion piece of 1945-04-30 attain the dismal dignity of propaganda, or was it merely a perverse here's-how-I-see-it? At the moment, I am inclined to the second of these competing appraisals.)]  

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated. For comment-moderation rules, see initial posting on this blog (2016-04-14).