Misreporting Ukraine: The Scourge of Conspiracies
Posted on September 4, 2017 by mbarker2012
Billions of people live on Earth, nearly all of whom are united in trying to make good of the utterly bankrupt political system that dominates their lives. So in a world where the economic demands of a tiny elite regularly trump the living needs of the majority, ordinary people will always yearn for ideas to help them make sense of daily injustices that take place: this much is obvious. Nevertheless, all too often people have become isolated from the type of mass-based political organizations that might act to promote democratic solutions to their serious concerns. Under such circumstances, it makes sense that some people will grasp at the ideological comfort provided by conspiracy theories to understand the world around them; with many individuals gravitating towards the type of explanatory frameworks that are able to point the finger at the evil plots hatched by “all-powerful” nefarious elites.
Conspiracies, as-a-rule of thumb, also tend to ignore or diminish the political significance of the millions of acts of collective resistance that have and continue to be made by ordinary people in the fight for a better world. This latter point is important in contributing towards the maintenance of an unjust status quo. Moreover such conspiratorial turns tend to be welcomed by ruling capitalist elites, who prefer a populous that is misinformed about (1) the overstated power of certain evil individuals to carry through their heinous deeds, and (2) the alleged powerlessness of ordinary people. By contrast, socialist ideas arguably provide the most suitable way of firstly comprehending why inequality and exploitation remain so rife, and secondly, figuring out how our class (the working-class) can collectively respond to the ruling-classes daily intrigues. This is why proponents of socialist ideas are so maligned by capitalist politicians and their willing cronies.
It is a rare day indeed that the daily positive outcomes of working-class struggle are portrayed favourably (if at all) by Hollywood or in the mainstream media. One powerful antidote to this systematic erasure of ordinary people from our own history is Scott Noble’s documentary series Plutocracy: Class War (2015-2017) – which can be viewed online. Another similar historical film that reveals the warts-and-all of our mis-rulers is Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of the United States (2012). Stone’s own well-funded and publicized efforts having likely reached a somewhat larger audience than Noble’s inspiring and largely underfunded work. The critical difference between these two documentaries projects however is that Noble worked on a shoestring budget to present history from the perspective of ordinary people (following in the tradition of historians like Howard Zinn), while Stone’s middle-class predilections led him to present a less empowering, but still informative, “big man” rendition of the dynamics of progressive social change.
Stone himself is of course is a longstanding critic of the machinations of America’s bloodthirsty elite, and his best-film to date in this regard was Salvador (1986) which depicted the grim realities of the murderous US-backed civil war that was then going on in El Savador. Likewise his recent film, Snowden (2016) does a great service to society by exposing the undemocratic surveillance apparatus that over many years has been constructed by elites to service their own interests. But Stone is by no means perfect, and legitimate criticisms of his politics should be made, especially because of the way in which parts of his work has helped to legitimize a conspiratorial outlook in the broader public’s mind.
On this front I should make it clear from the start, that it is the secretive bent of the US government, combined with the mainstream media’s relentless promotion of conspiracies, which should ultimately be held to blame for the popularizing of all manner of conspiratorial disinformation. That said, Stone’s breath-taking blockbuster film JFK(1991) although certainly being very entertaining, gave a good helping hand to the evolution to what might be called a “deep state” worldview amongst his global audience. Stone’s intention may well have been to simply shine a critical light on an important historical controversy — which he achieved – but we should bear in mind that in doing so, other less progressive-minded individuals who were involved with the films production were also able to promote their own less democratic agendas. For example, one of the key advisors to the production of JFK was Fletcher Prouty (the model for the film’s character ‘Mr. X’) who then used the release of the film to promote his own right-wing conspiraciesthat sought to draw a clear line between “deep state” covert operations and his own virulent anti-Semitism.
In writing the script for JFK, Stone also openly drew inspiration from Jim Marrs popular book Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy (1989). This relationship is worth reflecting upon because after JFK was released Marrs devoted the rest of his life to an unhealthy obsession with popularizing all manner of whacky conspiracies — publishing a deluge of best-selling books with mainstream publishers on the existence of UFOs and aliens. Marrs last book, published shortly before his death in August this year, was titled The Illuminati: The Secret Society That Hijacked the World (2017). In this book, Marrs wrote that “the curtains of Illuminati secrecy parted somewhat in 2009, when TrineDay published a book… [that] presented what well may be the most thorough and authoritative overview of the Order yet produced.”
For those in the dark about the activities of TrineDay, it should be noted that this independent publisher was launched in 2002 to publish the back-catalogue of one of the godfathers of the right-wing conspiracy theory movement, Antony C. Sutton. Of more relevance to this essay though, TrineDay recently published a book written by Oliver Stone’s eldest son, Sean Stone, which, recycled various conspiracy theories from the likes of Sutton and Lyndon LaRouche, and was published in 2016 as New World Order: A Strategy of Imperialism. Marrs, like Sutton and Sean Stone, holds firmly to the reactionary belief that social change is so manipulated by ruling-class elites that even the Russian Revolution of 1917 was orchestrated by Wall Street financiers!
In stark contrast to his son and his conspiratorial friends, Oliver Stone has a basic understanding of history and the contributions made by ordinary people striving to create a better world. Thus in the first episode of his Untold History documentary, Stone lays out the non-conspiratorial reasons for the development of the Russian Revolution, and lays bare the furious and murderous response of international elites (including the US) to the revolution’s success. But while Oliver Stone’s understanding of how progressive social change happens is a million times better than his sons, Oliver has not been immune from promoting his own conspiratorial narratives about elite manipulation of revolutionary uprisings. And in this respect Oliver’s projection of the recent popular struggles in Ukraine as being made in the USA fall neatly into line with the misplaced views of many in the employ of Putin’s international media outlet Russia Today (RT) which includes his own conspiratorially-minded son, Sean, who happens to co-host his own RT show focused on criticizing US foreign policy.
Oliver Stone’s failed attempt to capture any semblance of truth within his latest documentary Ukraine on Fire (2016) seems to have been led astray by the problems of his own “big man” approach to history, which leads him to focus on the very real conspiracies of the super-rich and their intelligence agencies while overlooking the influence of the grassroots struggles of ordinary people. Hence in Stone’s view the Ukrainian people are unwitting stooges of a well-planned foreign intervention which was cunningly masterminded by American elites and carried through by violent gangs of Ukrainian fascists and neo-nazis.
Other similarly floored documentaries that have been criticized for their misrepresentation of the democratic opposition movement in the Ukraine as fascists include the French production Ukraine: the Masks of the Revolution (2016), and the earlier, more infamous, pro-Putin documentary Barkhat.ru (2007) which in a similar way vilified the democratic opposition movement that rose up in 2004 during Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. The latter film was produced by the vicious state propagandist Arkadii Mamontov and featured an interview with the conspiratorial western “journalist” F. William Engdahl – a man who seems to believe all democratic uprisings are fermented by all-powerful elites. While, Stone’s film featured its own western source, Robert Parry, who, in contrast to Engdahl, has well-established credentials in America as a progressive journalist. That said, in recent years, Parry, seems to have become overawed by the increasingly powerful propaganda function served by his own country’s media. This in turn has meant Parry has adopted a more conspiratorial view of his own government’s global meddling in the Ukraine, which sadly, has seen his analyses on this subject matter fall more into line with the likes of Engdahl than with legitimate historians.
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