Russia Caused Far Right Nationalism (if you believe the media)
I know it's difficult to pull away from the Epstein
murder suicide (which Russia caused by the way if you believe MsNBC), but I saw a story in the NY Times today that blames Russia for the rise of right wing nationalism everywhere, even in Sweden.
Of course, Trump is blamed as well, because he and Putin are best buds. And what they want, apparently is "far-right wing nationalism" to spread across the entire globe.
To dig beneath the surface of what is happening in Sweden, though, is to uncover the workings of an international disinformation machine, devoted to the cultivation, provocation and amplication of far-right, anti-immigrant passions and political forces. Indeed, that machine,, underscores a fundamental irony of this political moment: the globalization of nationalism.
The central target of these manipulations from abroad — and the chief instrument of the Swedish nationalists’ success — is the country’s increasingly popular, and virulently anti-immigrant, digital echo chamber.
A New York Times examination of its content, personnel and traffic patterns illustrates how foreign state and nonstate actors have helped give viral momentum to a clutch of Swedish far-right web sites.
Russian and Western entities that traffic in disinformation, including an Islamaphobic think tank whose former chairman is now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, have been crucial linkers to the Swedish sites, helping to spread their message to susceptible Swedes.
Beyond the fact that these bare-faced allegations in the Times article about Russia's influence in spreading right wing nationalism are not supported by any, well, facts, is the reality that Sweden, just as in the United States has a long history of nationalist and nativist movements. The nationalist party in Sweden is the Sverigedemokraterna, ort Sweden Democrats. According to Wikipedia, it was formed in 1988, or more than 30 years ago. Not surprisingly, with the increase in immigration, especially refugees from the Middle East, the party has shown significant growth over the last decade, similar to the rise in strength of nationalist parties and movements in other European countries such as France, Austria, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany. An article in The Harvard Political Review, dated February 11, 2017, sums up nicely the factors that have led to the ascendancy of right wing nationalism in Europe.
These right nationalist campaigns, including those of Brexit and Trump, have run on two fundamental ideas currently trending in many western countries: uplifting the poor working class in a crippling globalized economy, and constricting immigration from the Middle East. Although the political clashes in culture and economics seems to be the major driving forces of the rise of the far right, there is another factor at work. The economy and immigration concerns have only been political speaking points disguising the true catastrophe of modern politics: the loss of the general public’s trust in institutions.
Two and a half years later, however, The New York Times is having none of those squishy nuanced arguments. It focuses its narrative primarily on Putin and Russia as the source of rising right wing nationalism.
At least six Swedish sites have received financial backing through advertising revenue from a Russian- and Ukrainian-owned auto-parts business based in Berlin, whose online sales network oddly contains buried digital links to a range of far-right and other socially divisive content.
Writers and editors for the Swedish sites have been befriended by the Kremlin. And in one strange Rube Goldbergian chain of events, a frequent German contributor to one Swedish site has been implicated in the financing of a bombing in Ukraine, in a suspected Russian false-flag operation.
The distorted view of Sweden pumped out by this disinformation machine has been used, in turn, by anti-immigrant parties in Britain, Germany, Italy and elsewhere to stir xenophobia and gin up votes, according to the , a London-based nonprofit that tracks the online spread of far-right extremism.
So, at last, buried deep within the Times story, is the source for its claim that Russia is behind everything. So, what is the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), and who is behind it?
If you go to Wikipedia, you find it was founded by George Weidenfeld, a famous London publisher, lifelong Zionist and friend to, among others, Angela Merkel, Kurt Waldheim (yes, that Kurt Waldheim) and too many Israeli politicians and military figures to count. When he died in 2016, he was granted the singular honor by Israel of burial at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. Before his death, he founded a chair for Israel Studies at University of Sussex, for the purpose of countering criticism of Israel.
Weidenfeld died at the age of 96 in 2016. During the last few years of his life, he emphasized that he regarded Israel studies as explicitly political.
Teaching the subject, he said, was “very important” in universities “with an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic presence.” Weidenfeld’s comments indicate that he conflated criticism of Israel as a state with bigotry against Jews.
ISD partners with and receives funding from a number of private social media multinational corporations, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft. It also has ties to numerous governmental agencies around the world, including the US State Department, a plethora of NGOs and several US and UK neoliberal think tanks, like the Brookings Institution, as well as charitable foundations ranging from The Carnegie Corporation to the Open Societies Foundation (founder: George Soros). All in all, ISD is deeply tied to groups promoting the global status quo. Many of them also take a confrontational stance when it comes to Russia, while ignoring any bad actions by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and, of course, the United Sates.
Obviously, it's become a reflexive response by the corporate and legacy media in the US to blame Russia for all our troubles regarding race and political polarization, as if none of these problems existed before Trump assumed office. Certainly, I agree Trump's actions have enabled right wing extremists and exacerbated racial tensions in our country, but neither he nor Russia created the problems of racism and xenophobia that have been with us since the beginning of American history. To continue to harp on Russia as the sole bad actor in foreign and domestic affairs around the world is ludicrous, especially as it ignores the underlying factors that are driving right wing nationalism: increasing poverty, massive wealth and income inequality (which has arguably surpassed the levels that existed prior to the Great Depression) and the increasing efforts in the media to divide people from one another along racial and ethnic lines.
No one who benefits from these levels of income and wealth inequality wants to point out the real reason why populist/nationalist movements are attracting more and more followers. As always, it's the economy, stupid. A 2016 study conducted by the IMF, hardly a bastion of radical leftists, makes this point very clear:
Instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality and have not delivered as expected, according to a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Neoliberalism, a policy model that advocates the control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector, has been a dominant ideology since the 1980s. It rests on two main planks. Firstly, by increased competition that is achieved through deregulation and the opening up of domestic markets and, secondly, through privatization and limits on the ability of government to run fiscal deficits and accumulate debt, the paper – dated June 2016 - explained. [...]
The IMF authors also state that the costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent and such costs epitomize the trade-off between the growth and equity effects of some aspects of the neoliberal agenda. They further argue that increased inequality in turn hurts the level and sustainability of growth.
Obviously, that isn't the reality that the powers that be in our country want to promote - not at all. It might give people the idea that, instead of living in a democracy, we are actually governed by puppets of wealthy and powerful corporations that are squeezing us dry to benefit their bottom lines. Those in control of our two major parties much prefer disinformation, such as the promotion of the conspiracy theory that our former Cold War adversary bears most, if not all, of the blame for everything bad happening in our country, from the election of Trump to gun violence to political polarization. Telling the truth would be harmful to their interests. These same powerful and wealthy interests would risk the takeover of governments around the world by fascist and right wing authoritarian regimes, rather than change existing policies that favor unfettered capitalism and globalism, policies that are literally threatening our future on this planet.
In short, expect more truthiness like this from the Times and other media outlets when it comes to explaining the causes of right wing nationalism here and abroad:
As the 2018 elections approached, Swedish counterintelligence was on high alert for foreign interference. Russia, the hulking neighbor to the east, was seen as the main threat. After the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 American election, Sweden had reason to fear it could be next.
“Russia’s goal is to weaken Western countries by polarizing the debate,” said Daniel Stenling, the Swedish Security Service’s counterintelligence chief. “For the last five years, we have seen more and more aggressive intelligence work against our nation.”
But as it turned out, there was no hacking and dumping of internal campaign documents, as in the United States. Nor was there an overt effort to swing the election to the Sweden Democrats, perhaps because the party, in keeping with Swedish popular opinion, has become more critical of the Kremlin than some of its far-right European counterparts.
Instead, security officials say, the foreign influence campaign took a different, more subtle form: helping nurture Sweden’s rapidly evolving far-right digital ecosystem.
Oh those subtle Russkies! How they manage the time to destroy the democracies of every country on earth is beyond me, but then, I'm not a reporter for The New York Times.