From Russia with LOLs

So one of the outcomes of the RT debate has been some astonishing assertions that Russia is a democracy. This comes from the same thinking that My Enemies Enemy is my Friend. It’s the same place we get some weird apologists for Assad popping up. So, one minute you’re wanting self-determination for Scotland, the next you’re excusing away repression, propaganda or ethnic cleansing.

So is Russia a democracy and is RT a broadcaster worth associating with?

For some background this is good from Martin Docherty-Hughes (the SNP MP for West Dunbartonshire) from May last year “Kremlin’s RT and Sputnik are tools for disinformation”.

One of many good points he raises that must be confronted by pro-Putin pro-RT nationalists here is: what is their attitude to national independence movements inside Russia itself?

“The Kremlin also seeks to get its own narrative across through directly-funded news services such as RT, formerly known as Russia Today; and Sputnik, an agency which has started broadcasting an English language radio station based in Edinburgh.

This brave new world of the Russian media is well depicted in Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, a spellbinding look at the system created by Putin to support his illiberal democracy.

Pomerantsev, an Englishman, found himself working as a TV producer in Moscow, where media bosses were keen to use his London experience to create a uniquely Russian style: his conclusion is a rather depressing one, especially for those who hope we may be able to see a loosening of Mr Putin’s grip: “This isn’t a country in transition, but some sort of post-modern dictatorship that uses the language and institutions of democratic capitalism for authoritarian ends.”

AND

“It is true that if you go onto the RT website, and can click past the exaggerated stories of the refugee crisis in Europe; the maliciously fabricated ones about those of the Muslim faith raping ethnic Russians in Germany; or the truly bizarre reports of a genocide being perpetrated by the Ukrainian Government against its own people in the Donbass, it is possible to find a couple of stories which give a supportive slant on Scottish Independence.

Therein lies the problem. We can’t as Scottish Nationalists kid ourselves the support RT and Sputnik show for our cause is for any other reason than it misguidedly thinks that it will undermine Western institutions, and fundamentally the international rule of law: somewhat short-sightedly it has to be said, given an Independent Scotland would be an enthusiastic member of both the EU and Nato; and given the contribution that small, Northern European states have made to European security, through agreements like the Helsinki Accords, or in organisations such as the UN.”

AND

“What you won’t hear on the new Sputnik station, of course, is any examination of the situation of national independence movements inside Russia itself: difficult as that may be given the potential prison sentence that awaits anyone expressing a belief in independence from the Russian Federation. You won’t see much of an examination into how Russia’s LGBTI community reacts to its Eurovision entry, given the punishments that await anyone “actively promoting a homosexual lifestyle”.

He concludes:

“These are the groups inside Russia who I’d love to say I was speaking to if I went on RT or Sputnik, but I don’t ever think they’ll ask me for comment. Recent tensions between Russia and the West have underlined the need for a dialogue between the populations of our common and diverse Europe, and the proud and diverse culture and communities of Russia: but I remain to be convinced this will ever be the right forum to do that: instead of being a tool for dialogue, RT and Sputnik are a tool for disinformation. These channels are happy to go with a lie if the lie fits; or with the truth if that truth proves to be inconvenient to Western institutions.”

But what of the claim that Russia is a democracy?

The Russian politician Boris Nemtsov and the commentator Kara-Murza have defined Putinism in Russia as:

“a one party system, censorship, a puppet parliament, ending of an independent judiciary, firm centralization of power and finances, and hypertrophied role of special services and bureaucracy, in particular in relation to business”.

In December 2007, the Russian sociologist Igor Eidman (VCIOM) categorized the Putin regime as:

“the power of bureaucratic oligarchy” which had “the traits of extreme right-wing dictatorship — the dominance of state-monopoly capital in the economy, silovoki structures in governance, clericalism and statism in ideology”. [1]

In 2000, Russia’s political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky called Putinism “the highest and culminating stage of bandit capitalism in Russia”. He said: “Russia is not corrupt. Corruption is what happens in all countries when businessmen offer officials large bribes for favors. Today’s Russia is unique. The businessmen, the politicians, and the bureaucrats are the same people.” [2]

Freedom of Press

In order for you to have a functioning democracy you need a free and open press.

In 2013 Russia ranked 148th out of 179 countries in the Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders. In 2015 Freedom House report Russia got score of 83 (100 being the worst), mostly because of new laws introduced in 2014 that further extended the state control over mass-media.

Freedom House reports on the new laws:

“Two new laws that took effect in 2014 significantly extended state control over the online sphere. Federal Law No. 398, signed by President Vladimir Putin in December 2013, came into force in February 2014, allowing the prosecutor general’s office to bypass the court system and order—via the state telecommunications regulator, Roskomnadzor—the blocking of websites that disseminate calls for mass riots, “extremist” activities, and participation in illegal assemblies. The law was regularly invoked against independent and opposition websites in 2014, as were older laws that allowed blocking on a variety of other grounds. In the first half of the year alone, Roskomnadzor blocked more than 85 websites for containing “extremist content” based on orders from the prosecutor general’s office. In March, access to opposition leader Aleksey Navalny’s blog, hosted on the website of the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy, was blocked after Roskomnadzor notified internet service providers that the blog contained banned information. Ekho Moskvy removed the blog, and access to its website was reestablished the following day. Also that month, the prosecutor general issued an order to block access to three websites known for carrying opposition views: the news site Grani.ru, the online magazine Yezhednevny Zhurnal, and Kasparov.ru, the site of opposition activist Garry Kasparov. In July, officials used the online extremism law to block mention of a planned march supporting Siberian autonomy. In May, Putin signed Federal Law No. 97, nicknamed “the bloggers law,” which requires any blog or website with more than 3,000 daily viewers to register with Roskomnadzor as a media outlet.”

Irony is crushing sometimes.

There are many examples of attacks on press freedom but lets take just one, the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

She was a human rights activist who reported on political events in Russia, in particular the Chechen War, for which she became famous to many and a thorn in the side to the Russian authorities.

Anna was arrested by Russian military forces in Chechnya and subjected to a mock execution. She was poisoned on a plane flying from Moscow via Rostov-on-Don and was threatened and intimated for years.

On 7 October 2006, she was murdered in the elevator of her block of flats.

In May 2007, after her death Random House published Politkovskaya’s A Russian Diary, containing extracts from her notebook and other writings subtitled A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia.

You can’t describe any of these facts and then expect to be taken seriously describing Russia as a functioning democracy.

The Ministry of Justice maintains a list of “extremest materials” which are illegal to share. These include an image of Putin as a “gay clown” which was added earlier this year as item 4071, as a result of a 2016 legal case against social media activist A. V. Tsvetkov.

An Amnesty International reported in 2009, that:

“Human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers who spoke openly about human rights abuses faced threats and intimidation. The police appeared to be reluctant to investigate such threats and a climate of impunity for attacks on civil society activists prevailed.” The Amnesty International reported also a “climate of growing intolerance towards independent views”. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia is a more dangerous place now than it was during the Cold War. Only Iraq and Algeria outrank it on the list of most life-threatening countries for the press.”

Freedom of Assembly, Homophobia and Human Rights 

Human rights are severely under assault in Russia. Political repression and violence are rife. In 2015 the opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was murdered some 500 metres from the Kremlin walls.

In June 2013 the national parliament (the State Duma) unanimously adopted, and President Vladimir Putin signed, a nationwide law banning distribution of materials promoting LGBT relationships among minors.

The law doesn’t explicitly mention the word “homosexuality” but instead uses the euphemism “non-traditional sexual relationships”.

Under the statute it is effectively illegal to perform any of the following in the presence of minors: hold gay pride events, speak in favor of gay rights, or say that gay relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships.

Marianna Muravyeva, a law professor at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, says that aside from the government completely discarding human rights rhetoric, the most significant legal change is the “gay propaganda” law and “legislation against those who insult the feelings of believers”.

What you can see is a convergence of bandit capitalism and strict religious orthodoxy. It’s telling that Pussy Riot were imprisoned after their Punk Prayer for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

As with almost all authoritarian states, violence is codified and directed towards women as a form of social control.

Earlier this year the Russian government decriminalised domestic abuse. Global Voices reported:

“The Russian federal government is very close to decriminalizing several kinds of domestic abuse, reclassifying “violence that doesn’t cause significant injury” as a misdemeanor. According to criteria laid down by Russia’s Health Ministry, the draft legislation will decriminalize beatings within families that result in “minor harm,” like “small abrasions, bruises, superficial wounds, and soft-tissue damage.”

Last Friday, the State Duma approved the final draft of the legislation.”

They continued:

On Jan. 27, hours after the Duma passed the final draft of the decriminalization bill, the pro-Kremlin tabloid “Life” shared a bizarre video on social media, titled “He Beats You Because He Loves You,” reviewing the “top five ways to commit domestic violence without leaving any traces on your loved ones.”

You can’t describe any of these facts and then expect to be taken seriously describing Russia as a functioning democracy.

There is nothing of this that is of “the Left”. To criticise Russia is not to criticise “the Left”.

Russia is a right-wing authoritarian state running a chaotic corrupt turbo-capitalism.

But what of Russia’s foreign policy and black ops?

Twitter Bots

Matt Burgess here in Wired outlines what they call the “first evidence that Russia used Twitter to influence Brexit”.

He outlines how Russia-based Twitter accounts that targeted the US presidential election were also used to create divisive and racist rhetoric in an attempt to disrupt politics in the UK and Europe:

“A network of accounts posted pro and anti-Brexit, anti-immigration and racist tweets around the EU referendum vote while also targeting posts in response to terrorist attacks across the continent. The accounts amplified their own messages to reach a greater audience and their impact raises questions about the full extent of Russia’s propaganda campaign. In a small snapshot of what is likely to be a much bigger issue, 139 tweets from 29 accounts show Russian trolls using hashtags related to the Brexit vote, pictures of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, anti-Muslim language around European terror attacks and racial slurs against refugees.”

That might not convince you on its own. If not here’s J.J.Patrick’s research:

“Over the course of 2017 the Russian hybrid offensive on the West, which specifically targeted the Brexit referendum and the election of President Trump, has been extensively investigated and confirmed. From Sweden to the online world of Social Media this is the whole story and a growing archive” See ‘Brexit, Trump, Russia the Whole Story’ [3]

That might not convince you on its own. If not here’s Jonathan Chait’s research for New York magazine:

“We don’t have proof that all these figures were acting together. But it certainly appears that Cambridge Analytica was heavily involved with trying to get Clinton’s stolen emails, and was aware that Russia had engineered their theft, and played an important role facilitating cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign.” More here: “Cambridge Analytica Denies Working With Russia, Unconvincingly“).

Not a Democracy

The deluge of evidence about the actions of Russia to effect the outcome of the Brexit referendum and the US election will continue, and as they do it will become not just increasingly absurd to call Russia a democracy, it will become increasingly offensive to do so.

Reviewing Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible Tony Wood writes:

“As Pomerantsev points out, one key to the success of this new authoritarianism is that “instead of simply oppressing opposition, as had been the case with 20th-century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting them and rendering them absurd”. The clearest example of this is the creation of a political system that has the appearance of democracy – regular elections, multiple parties, a free media – without any of the substance: the elections are rigged; the parties are all under the president’s control; the media do what their owners tell them, and the owners obey the Kremlin. It’s this mismatch between form and content that has earned the Putin regime the name “virtual” or “imitation democracy”.

The case for Scottish independence cannot be strengthened by association with, or apologism  for repressive states.

The argument for self-determination for Scotland, the argument for democracy which I passionately believe in, cannot be advanced by defending anti-democracy.

 

 

Notes

[1] (in Russian) Популяры вместо оптиматов. Оппозиция в России может быть только новой и левой. Vremya Novostei № 230 14 December 2007.

[2] Putinism: highest stage of robber capitalism, by Andrei PiontkovskyThe Russia Journal, February 7–13, 2000. The title is an allusion to work “Imperialism as the last and culminating stage of capitalism” by Vladimir LeninArchived July 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

[3]  https://www.byline.com/column/67/article/1936

Comments (110)

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  1. William Ross says:

    Mike

    Very well done. This had to be said. It is the opposite of “fake news”

    William

  2. SleepingDog says:

    I think that a BBC documentary recently pointed out that the initial Bolshevik social reform legislation brought in sweeping equality rights and decriminalised homosexuality by revoking Tsarist laws, decades before these changes were made in British law. And of course the Bolshevik state press sometimes revealed truths that, say, the British were keen to suppress (like secret treaties). It seems clear that the current Russian authorities, legal inheritors of the USSR, are not keen to embrace some of the more progressive elements inherited from a totalitarian regime. I see no necessary connection between broader human rights and democracy either.

    Still, the implication that there are actual, functioning democracies that Russia can be compared with (rather than an ideal) needs some consideration. Also, whether many countries now exist in a state of undeclared or unresolved war (similar to but more pervasive than the Cold War), during which democratic norms like a free press are usually curtailed.

    1. James_mac says:

      Considering roughly 80 states currently ban homosexuality, which Russia most certainly does not – Russia is hardly an outlier even in terms of EU countries

      It is difficult to work out who gets killed by who in Russia and the extent to which the central government is complicit in these crimes.

      The fact is:

      1. Very few pundits here and certainly those with strong opinions on the country, can read or write in Russian despite the fact all documentation of these crimes are exclusively written in Russian.
      2. The number of wars within Russian territory and close to it means there are countless groups with an incentive to kill people.

      The fact of the matter is that Putin was voted in. You can moan about that and claim the system is rigged. It is largely to the same extent as many other countries. Yeltsin was elected first time round in similar circumstances to Putin.

      Of course, Putin was elected after a series of Western mistakes through-out the 1990s that resulted in things like gangs fighting each other in the streets of Moscow, Harvard academics laundering millions of dollars and a massive housing crash. But hey-ho, those damn Russians dont understand democracy.

      1. “It is difficult to work out who gets killed by who in Russia”.

        Brilliant.

        1. James_mac says:

          It wos Putin. A english-speaking blogger said so.

        2. John McGowan says:

          Mike, your article is excellent and not one of those posting here can challenge anything you say. However, you are wasting your time if you think you can change this lot’s minds for as Orwell once put it logical arguments bounce off their heads like peas off a steel helmet. The same can be said of Salmond himself, for he has at his disposal a whole number of pat arguments which amount to saying that he is justified in debasing himself before Putin because some people in other parties have done so. How complete ans expression of his political and moral bankruptcy! But Sturgeon too neatly sidestepped the issue by taking refuge in a form of weasel words which stopped miles short of openly criticism her bosom buddy. This too is shameful. And to those who will jump to the great man’s defence I say I will eat my words when Salmond carries an interview with the widow of Alexander Litvinienko or when he makes even the mildest criticism of the gangster regime in charge of the Kremlin. One lives in hope…

          1. James_mac says:

            Orwell would have liked your article. We have reached a new nadir in stupidity.

  3. Cath says:

    It’s a terrible article, in so many ways its hard to know where to begin. As someone who’s actually lived in Russia – including having drunk in a gay bar and enjoyed an evening watching Russian men in skirts singing Abba songs – I’d love to give a far longer response but I can’t be arsed being classed as some kind of Russian bot or pro-Kremlin propagandist, which is all that will happen.

    So instead, I’ll say just this: many of us are capable of watching RT just as we watch Fox News, CNN, the BBC etc: critically. That’s what having a free media is about. Allowing different points of view to be aired and challenged. Would I far rather see Salmond’s views aired on the BBC, STV or Channel 4 rather than RT? Yes, for sure. That’s rather over to our media to explain why it wasn’t allowed there, is it not?

    1. Which bit of the article are you challenging Cath?

      1. James_mac says:

        The idea that Russia is particularly homophobic when 80 countries outlaw homophobia and many regions in Europe dont make it pleasant being gay (as was Britain in the early 1990s).

        The fact that there are certain areas of policy that could land you in prison including sedition, but Russia is far from an authotarian state.

        The fact that many of the murders in Russia of journalists and others rarely have a clear suspect. Nearly all documentation of them are in Russian and in many cases the culprits are convicted. Those outraged at Russia have little interest in the language or culture.

        The numerous foreign policies by the west that has aggragavated the situation since the collapse of the USSR from Harvard academics laundering money when advising on capital market deregulation to the situation in Ukraine which even Corbyn criticised before he was Labour leader.

        The fact Yeltsin was elected much like Putin was, but we dont care

        The whole jingoist tone as if going to ramping up tensions with Russia is justified over arresting three young women who had an impromptu rock concert in the equivelent of Westminster Abbey. As if they would not get the book thrown at them here.

      2. Cath says:

        I’d honestly love to write a whole essay about what’s wrong with it, but I’m not about to put myself forward for that role of being called a Putin stooge, or whatever will happen from that. And it will. Plus I’m no expert on Russia: I’m just someone who lived there for 2 years and was pretty shocked by just how much we’re told about it is totally wrong.

        And that’s largely my problem with it. It condemns RT as “Russian propaganda” which anyone who watches news with a critical mind knows RT is. But it fails to grasp the fairly obvious point that in “information warfare” that works both ways. And huge amounts of this article are simply regurgitated propaganda the other way. Being gay isn’t illegal in Russia. Domestic violence is not legal nor even close.

        I grew up in the 1980s and vividly recall the abject terror that was instilled into us of “the Ruskies, the evil empire” etc, etc. Remember we even needed songs to tell us they probably loved their children. And that was when they were a terrible, repressive country we needed to free *with* our far better Western capitalist model. Well, we won the cold war, and now we’re being told we we need to free them from capitalism!

        Yes, the government of Russia is beyond corrupt, and their brand of turbo-charged capitalism where the politicians, media and businessmen are one and the same is on a grander scale now than even the US, where – remember – Trump is president, or the UK where Murdoch and others hold such sway. That’s Russia: it does everything on a bigger scale. (Do you know, by the way, that Heinz has a massively bigger variety of products in Russia than in the UK too? And their shopping malls dwarf the biggest western ones). But just as no one in their right mind here would want Russian propaganda and interference, neither do normal people there want ours. It doesn’t help anyone.

        And if we did genuinely want to look at human rights abusing governments, why no moral panic about Saudi Arabia, which is far worse, yet is an ally of the UK? I’m really disappointed in Bella especially, because it comes down to critically assessing what you read and hear, which is what supposedly intelligent commentators are supposed to do. This article just doesn’t do that.

        1. Bob costello says:

          Well said Cath, i think your comments go a long way to put this in to perspective Glass houses and throwing stones comes to mind.

        2. I didn’t cover Saudi Arabia because this was an article about Russia (!?).

          I’m not sure what you are arguing Cath? That, homophobia isnt a big problem in Russia in the laws I outlined? You dont seem to be doing that. Have I got something wrong about the domestic abuse legislation> I dont think I have.

          1. Cath Ferguson says:

            “Have I got something wrong about the domestic abuse legislation I dont think I have”

            Really? You honestly believe “Earlier this year the Russian government decriminalised domestic abuse” is correct. Can I ask where you sourced this “fact”?

            When this was bizarrely big news – considering it was a fairly technical shift *back* from criminal to civil law, after family groups forced a backdown from harsher laws Putin brought in last year – the very worst of our media, places like the Telegraph and Daily Mail – were certainly trying to make it sound like domestic abuse had been legalised. But the more decent ones, eg the Guardian, baulked from going that far with the propaganda.

            The Guardian gives a pretty reasonable overview of what is, in Russia, a debate not dissimilar to the should the government ban smacking kids and what’s the best way to stop domestic abuse ones over here.

            https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/07/putin-approves-change-to-law-decriminalising-domestic-violence

        3. Pogliaghi says:

          Cath, your playing whataboutery (I can’t dismiss, say, feminists by pointing out women’s right are worse in Saudi Arabia) and victimization (“I would furnish an argument but I’d be dismissed Russian stooge”) is rather typical of an RT watcher. It’s not just information one gets from channels like RT or FOX. But apparently also a set of techniques to aid one’s confirmation bias.

          Are you seriously, by the way, claiming that because there are gay bars in metropolitan Russia that means the Russian state or civil society can’t be homophobic? That’s a pretty patronizingly low-bar standard by which to judge LGBT rights.

          1. Cath says:

            I’m not particularly “an RT watcher”, as I don’t have a TV. My knowledge of Russia comes from having lived there for 2 years, experienced it, and spoken to a lot of people while there.

            And to be quite frank, it’s not RT that’s the issue. Making this all about Russia, RT and its domestic violence laws is bonkers. It’s about what happens here and *our* democratic deficits. And the major point stands for those who think Salmond shouldn’t be on RT: why isn’t it possible for him to be anywhere else? Why won’t the BBC, STV, Channel 4 or any other UK channel broadcast a show which is about Scottish politics? When Scotland is in a position where a very popular, democratically elected ex-leader isn’t able to air a chat show because it may show the a position supported by around half of Scotland, because our media won’t allow position to be aired, *we* have a problem with democracy.

            It’s one thing going to RT for the other side of the debate on international affairs – that’s a choice you can make or not make if you prefer just hearing one side. When we have to go to it for Scottish politics, there’s something far wrong here. And that should bother all of us.

        4. Jo says:

          Thanks for excellent posts.

    2. Jim says:

      Well said, Cath. The article could easily have been in the Telegraph.

        1. Jo says:

          You’ve been pretty offensive too Mike by labelling anyone who disagrees with you as pro-Putin or pro-propaganda. You’re also throwing Syria and Assad into this piece and being incredibly naive there too. You do realise we trained rebel groups there and armed them despite some being linked with ISIS and AQ? Syria was just about more illegal regime change. But you’re ok with that because you’re anti-Assad. Jings! It wasn’t until Russia went into Syria that we saw progress and the West’s agenda was screwed! Good, I say. For it was a filthy agenda and one not related to democracy!

          It is absolutely possible for those who support the SNP to disagree on this piece just as we did on the last one you wrote along similar lines a few days ago. Please don’t suggest that those who are troubled by some of the things you are saying are somehow not fit to support independence. Now THAT is offensive.

          1. Okay. I give in. Russia in Syria’s a blessing. Fill your boots.

    3. Karen says:

      The point is, we know what Russia is. The press is forever telling us. We know what the BBC, FOX NEWS etc are. Let us make up our own minds instead of telling us what to think. We’ve been feed crap by our own media for a long long time. We learn to smell BS a mile off. The choice of platform is not ideal, but it is a platform. One we have not had before. Everyone’s a bloody critic these days.

      1. Cathq says:

        Exactly this. Anyone who thinks what our own media has told us about Iraq and Syria was fair, balanced and not propaganda in any way, and therefore no one needs to look anywhere else, like RT or Al Jezeera to see what the other side is deluded. Of course, “the other side” is also biased and contains propaganda. But even before I looked at any other side on Syria, I knew we were being lied to. I knew because our own media was contradicting *itself* and the narrative made no sense.

        The internet gives us a great chance to rise above national propaganda and see the other side of arguments which our own – and I say “our own” meaning all of us – UK, US, Russia etc – doesn’t cover. The countries which are real problem ones for democracy and human rights are the ones who are fighting that and clamping down on it. Russia isn’t, at least at the moment. I can tell you that from 2 years there, where I was perfectly able to watch UK TV and consume UK media and have frank, open discussions with people there.

        What percentage of people there actually watch it compared to those who’re happy just to swallow their own propaganda, I have no idea. I’m more concerned about the number of supposedly intelligent people back home who seem happy to do that.

  4. Mrs Eleanor Ferguson says:

    All the disinformation that has been pumped out by the mainstream media means that I don’t care about RT and what it’s objectives are. It will not affect what Alex Salmond has to say and we might actually get some truth and balance for a change.
    The hypocrisy that some people have shown is breathtaking considering that many of them have been on the same station.

    1. Is there a fact in the article you’d like to take issue with Eleanor?

      1. Eleanor Ferguson says:

        I don’t think it really matters whether the article is accurate. In fact I’m sure it will be.
        However I have been so fed up with all the anti SNP bias in the MSM that I think it will be refreshing to hear Alex Salmond’s voice without the usual distortions and I don’t think the politics of the station are relevant in this case.

        1. Clive Scott says:

          I’m with you Eleanor. Russia keen on destabilising the UK? – big deal, so am I – I want Scotland to leave rUK. RT promotes Russian interests? Big deal – what state sponsored media outlet doesn’t support the interests of its paymaster? BBC anyone?

          Delighted that Alex will have a platform for his views and hope he goes on to become chairman of Johnston Press in due course so he will have another one.

          1. Pogliaghi says:

            The problem with nats saying “Russia is our friend” ((C) Richard Spencer, 2017 — btw for all you tribalism fans..) is that Russia cares *far more*, post-Brexit, about its primary objective of destabilizing the EU than it does about the relatively insignificant UK. From the perspective of a lexit nat or right wing euroskeptic nat, this is fine; but those are perspectives from the schismatic side of an issue, Europe, which is actually hobbling an effective future independence campaign, when it ought to be motivating it.

        2. “I don’t think it really matters whether the article is accurate. In fact I’m sure it will be.
          However…”

          Eleanor I think that’s what they’re calling post-fact politics.

          1. Blunt Gaper says:

            There,s some good stuff on RT. I particularly like Cross Talk with Peter Lavelle and of course don,t forget Max Keiser.Great stuff.

    2. John McGowan says:

      So there is no difference between Russian and the UK is there? I’m not going to try and convince you you’re wrong for anyone who can make such a stupid comment is beyond the reach of rational argument. You take for granted the freedoms we enjoy here, freedoms generations of ordinary men and women have fought to wrest from the grasp of the elite, and are so blinded by you loyalty to Salmond that you ignore the brutal nature of Putin’s oligarchy. Your view can be summed up as “Millions voted for Putin so we should lay off him and more importantly Salmond” . Is that it? Would you have applied the same argument to Hitler? Millions voted for him. Your bogus comparisons between democracy there and here are so nauseating, so ignorant of the reality faced by millions of ordinary Russians, that it makes me want to wish you had to live there. Meanwhile, why don’t you try your arguments on the family of Alexander Litvinienko?

      1. jeouf says:

        Remember professor David Kelly, anyone?

        1. James_mac says:

          Not to mention Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who if he ever returned from Russia, would likely be held for years without a trial by jury for the crime of whistleblowing.

          There is plenty of interesting debates to be had about reflectively analysing the Russian state. The sad truth is, while excessive, Russia is still very much a European country with a large number of depressing overlaps with what goes on in the old great powers of the West. If anything, we should be striving to be more liberal by learning from Russia not listening to hawkish elements in our press that genuinely believe we should be thankful Yes supporters were not beaten by UK security services, and SNP politicians are not killed.

          To be fair, Mike does not do any of that, I just think this article could have been better – by his own high standards.

      2. Eleanor Ferguson, says:

        Wow-well that’s me told. My reply simply reflected how fed up I am with all the talk about Alex Salmond’s show which it seems is to be condemned because it is produced by a Russian company. Presumably if it had been produced by a Spanish company for instance, there wouldn’t have been such a furore even though the Spanish goverment has been acting appallingly recently. If British companies had taken the programme there wouldn’t be a problem but in case you hadn’t noticed, there seems to be a plan to airbrush Scottish politics from the airwaves. Alex Salmond has a totally independent programme reflecting his views and no-one elses. It is not ideal that it is on this particular channel, but instead of just being allowed to get on with it, there is a huge outcry often from people who have themselves been on the station,meaning that people who would have been fine appearing, now don’t want to be associated only because of all the fuss. I also pointed out that the Westminster Government are pretty awful too when it comes to human rights. That was dismissed as irrelevant compared to Russia, but I suggest that if you were a disabled person living in England you might have quite a different view. Catastrophic human rights abuses according to the UN. I wonder why people are not out on the streets protesting about these abuses.I am so grateful that my daughter is so disabled that her benefits can’t be cut,but the situation in England is dire with years of progress being rolled back and talk of saving money by having institutions for the disabled again. That is just one of the instances of the British goverment’s many sinister policies and so I don’t think we’ve got much room to criticise other governments.
        Is it too much to hope that we could actually just tune into the programme and judge it on its merits without the hysteria?

  5. Jim says:

    The purpose of a piece of writing often isn’t stated. Here, we have a long article which is ostensibly about attacking Russia in lacking democratic credentials and RT in being its mouthpiece. Of course, what the article is really about is an attack on (words from a previous article) Alex Salmond’s “morality”.
    The unsaid contention is that because Salmind’s company is selling to RT, and RT is a mouthpiece for Russia, and Russia isn’t a democracy, then Salmond is a bad dude.
    Before you pop up and ask what isn’t factually correct in the article, I’m not getting into that. Although there is a lot to argue with including definitions of democracy.
    What I am going to ask is whether Bella is going to vet every single donation it receives for the political stance of its donors. For example, I have been a life long supporter of the IRA and the armed struggle in Ireland. I had many years contacts with the communist movements in Eastern Europe in the 1980s. I still have close contact with people in Bulgaria, the former Yugoslavia and former East Germany. I now have contact with many Iranians after recently visiting there.
    Mike, you happily accepted my money for Bella; you still happy to keep it? Have you vetted the views of everybody who donated to Bella? Are they all “approved” by you?
    There are much better targets than your Daily Telegraph style article attack on Salmond. It’s not clever. There are better targets out there.

    1. Hi Jim – the article is really NOT an attack on Alex Salmond its a very specific attack on the people that have used the RT controversy to gloss over – or to pretend that Russia a democracy. Its clearly demonstrably not.

      In this context I really dont understand your point about me vetting people who are donating (for which I thank thee).

    2. I’d be interested also Jim to hear your view s on how and why Russia is Left wing, which presumably partly what has annoyed you?

      1. Jim says:

        I didn’t say, or imply, that Russia is left wing. You are raising a straw man.
        There is only one reason that you are writing this article now. It IS, despite your protestations, an attack on Alex Salmond.
        My points re you vetting Bella’s donors is straight forward. This article is an attack on Salmond for taking money from people with allegedly dodgy views. I am saying that if Bella takes money from me, then I don’t expect that people will assume that Bella has any sympathy with my views. So, why should Bella attack Salmond for selling his product to RT? Do you know exactly who donates to you? Do you know their views? How much re you implicated in the politics of the people who donate to you?
        Don’t kid yourself on that this is anything other than an attack on Salmond.
        If I want to read this type of shit, I can read it in the Telegraph where it belongs. And yes, that is meant to be an insult. Get your priorities right and attack the real enemies.

        1. Bob costello says:

          I have to agree with this comment, to me this Bella piece was indeed an attack on Salmond without outlining the advantages of getting this show out there., I feel also that in the interest of balance there might have been comment on the rather unwise intervention by Nicola Sturgeon. I am of the opinion that what she said was unnecessary and unwise and I really think it is time for both her and her husband to be replaced at the top of the SNP as they are responsible for the present state of the independence movement and indeed the SNP.

        2. This article is not an attack on Salmond – who as afar as I know hasn’t taken any money from anyone with ‘allegedly dodgy views’ – its an attack on the propensity of some in politics to twist the truth to suit their own agenda. In this case I am challenging the notion that Russia is a functioning democracy and that somehow by pretending that it is furthers Scottish independence.

          Can you explain to me how

          a) Russia is a functioning democracy and
          b) and how pretending that it is furthers Scottish independence?

          I obviously don’t veto anyones views as you know but if you are so disgusted by this article I’ll return your donation. Everyone who disagrees with any particular article we right can then demand a refund and we can all agree to just read news and opinion content we already agree with.

          1. J Galt says:

            Even better Bella can you tell me what a “functioning democracy” is and where I can find one?

          2. J Galt says:

            Presumably Ancient not modern!

          3. Yes. But no vote for women and slaves.

          4. J Galt says:

            You see these perfect democracies are very elusive.

          5. Indeed they are. Not sure that pretending Russia is a democracy helps this though

          6. Yes, elusive, therefore fuck human rights (?)

          7. SleepingDog says:

            @J Galt, perhaps these functional (rather than perfect) democracies are such dangerously good examples that they are immediately attacked by forces within and without.

            Historian Keith Lowe in a chapter on “Democracy in South America” in his book The Fear and the Freedom looks at the Venezuelan Trienio period 1945 to 1948:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Trienio_Adeco

            Transitioning to full civic representative democracy from a military dictatorship with low levels of literacy and a divided, stratified society was a challenge, but they seemed to have made rapid progress, only for another coup to end the experiment three years later. I guess there are similar cases throughout history.

            On a smaller scale, some anarchists might claim that local autonomous zones or regions may establish significant democratic practice at least on a temporary basis. There are also some organisational or informal group democracies (I have participated in technical standards groups conducted along strict democratic lines).

            So enough is generally known about the functioning of these groups to abstract patterns and identify good practice and problem areas (corruption, unproductive infighting, slides towards hierarchies).

  6. Rob Ross says:

    International democracy is leaking profusely at this moment in time. Fake is irreversibly becoming the word of the decade. We’re probably already so used to it that it makes no dint on anyone’s armour any longer.

    Enhancing democracy might well be the way to go, but then you’d have to ask if the ruling classes, of whatever political leaning, would be willing to work towards that. It’s mighty suspicious how you can do all your banking online, yet there isn’t even a hint of participatory democracy being promoted by any political party.

    Perhaps the platform and not the content is the real issue here?

    1. SleepingDog says:

      @Rob, there was apparently an interesting session of participatory democracy in the Irish Republic’s Citizen Assembly recently on tackling climate change:
      https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/

      I have also heard some political commentators suggest that the concept of consent rather than voting in 5-yearly elections is more relevant to (some) questions of how democratic a state is. For instance, in some way, the perceived withdrawal of popular consent could force an election on a “failing” government, even in an authoritarian state which holds elections.

      1. Rob Ross says:

        I’ve checked it out and taken note, Sleeping Dog. It looks v interesting. Many thanks

  7. David Gill says:

    The length of your article (diatribe) echoes your previous article….perhaps I should have written ‘rant’…11th November 2017. It would appear that the length of your various articles provide a barometer of how much / less you feel about a subject.
    However just writing at length does not provide a qualified analysis of the subject.
    I do not recall you ever commenting on how the USA / UK governments have been responsible for the killing of millions of citizens over the last 60 years, much less the abhorrent colonial policies of the UK over the centuries.
    I would urge you to look deeper into the ‘whys? of Russia’s policies today, and I am not speaking about the TV network, and the reasons for taking the course of actions that are generally castigated by the governments / msm of the West.
    If not I am sure ‘The Guardian’ will welcome you with open arms as a commentator on current affairs!

    1. Hi David
      you’re right I’ve never written a critical word about the utopias of the USA or the UK.

      Do enlighten me about the whys of the Russian govt as outlined in the article. I’m fascinated.

  8. James says:

    Hi,

    Can I interest you in a collection of memos by the group called ‘Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity’ (VIPS)?

    Their years of experience working in the Intelligence community – and their knowledge of the workings of those in the corridors of power – has resulted in a body of work that should be read by everyone.

    Check their credentials first, then have a browse: https://consortiumnews.com/vips-memos/

    Thank you.

  9. Bob costello says:

    I agree with Jim and Cath . This piece by Bella makes me feel uncomfortable as up to now I had looked upon Bella as committed to independence., I am not so sure now . In any conflict (which is what the road to independence is) there are not always clearly defined parameters between friends and enemies but you take the best from all parties involved and use it to your advantage. I have watched RT for some considerable time and I have not found them to be rampant propagandists for the Russian Government., I have found however that they do ,unashamedly try to counter the obvious anti russian propaganda willingly distributed be most Western news outlets.
    I am concerned with getting the message out concerning Scotland’s independence in an even fair manner. Something which is almost impossible when battling against the likes of the BBC and the many unionist newspapers. This show by Alex gives us the chance to even up the playing field somewhat. The prospect of this together with Alex’s possible chairmanship of Johnston press, absolutely terrifies the unionist camp.
    I talked to Alex on Saturday at Jeff Duncans remembrance. He is delighted with the fact that RT will not in any way edit or interfere with his programing of the show , he is also looking forward to the possibility of chairing the Johnstone group of newspapers , a group which has something like 190 titles.
    As I say, is is rather disappointing to see Bella attempting to jump on a very wobbly band wagon for condemnation of what is in reality a master stroke of political awareness. It is just a great pity that Nicola Sturgeon is not blessed with the strategic skills of her predecessor .
    Can I ask Bella if they are still pro-independence.

    1. “Can I ask Bella if they are still pro-independence.”

      Yes.

      Can I get this straight. In order to be pro independence we know have to pretend that Russia is a democracy? Is that right?

      1. Bob Costello says:

        No , I don’t think any one suggested that but with more than half the contents of Westminster made up of unelected law makers , do you think the uk is a democracy? I suspect you might say no , therefore between two non democracy’s where do you think Alex Salmond will get the best chance of speaking for Scotland and quite possibly making the case for independence? Is that not why we are discussing this on this site ?

  10. Gordon says:

    I think this article is a good summary of the situation. Points are well made.

    Without getting into the whole moral, political discussion on whether Alex Salmond should have gotten involved with Russia Today, for those interested in Scottish autonomy, Scots independence and making our country a better place, it is a huge distraction and one which could be seen coming.

    Thirdly, how many people actually watch Russian TV.

    1. Bob Costello says:

      Lots. and there will be lots more when Salmond starts his show ., That’s is the function of media ,to get a message out there and to date we have been struggling on that level. So Alex Salmond pulls of a fantastic coup and we get all this very unnecessary negativity. Mind you ,as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity

  11. MBC says:

    I think we have to wait and see. I feel uncomfortable with it but everything is so weird right now. Any port in a storm, they say.

  12. Jim says:

    Just a point on your use of sources.
    Your second reference is an article from The Russia Journal. I presume that you know them and who founded and owned The Russia Journal?
    If you don’t, just to let you know that you’re using the organ of one of Putin’s biggest cheer leaders in your defence; Ajay Goyal. Ajay lauded Putin’s campaign against the oligarchs at the time this article was written. Later, he spoke vociferously in defence of the Russian involvement in reasserting its influence in Crimea. He offered his pal Putin hearty support for the intervention in the Ukraine. And yet this proponent of “repression” was more than happy to give editorial space to a critic of his friend. No free speech here…..
    So, what about the actual author, Piontkovsky? A well known virulently U.S. supporting political comentator who is paid by Radio Liberty. Yes, Radio Liberty, the American state’s foreign propaganda service. You happily criticise RT as the mouthpiece of a repressive state and have the cheek to cite in your defence a paid apologist for the U.S.A. whom Putin’s pal was happy to publish.
    Get a grip Bella.

  13. punklin says:

    Mike I think the article is too selective and judgmental. The sources and quotes may be irrefutable but Russia is an extremely complicated society which has undergone turbulent and relentless changes since pre-Tsarist times that we in the west can only struggle to understand.

    The standard response of the British government since at least the mid 19th century has been to veer between deliberate Russiaphobia and reluctant acceptance. We’re definitely in the former phase just now to divert people’s gaze from our own atrocities.

    It’s important not to echo too readily this approach in trying to understand Russia today (or Today).

    Realpolitik question: having hawked his pitch to UK platforms unsuccessfully, should Alex Salmond have said No to RT?

    1. Hi Punklin, there may be ant attempt by some to use Russophobia to distract from the Wests corruption, atrocities and wider political and economic crisis its true. But that doesnt mean that Russia is a functioning democracy an that somehow by pretending that it is furthers Scottish independence.

      Realpolitik answer: we should be building new media platforms that are of better quality than the existing media and have higher standards than the existing media, and we can do this.

      1. jeouf says:

        And preach to the converted? We can’t compete with the BBC.

  14. Eleanor Ferguson says:

    I think several people have touched on the truth of our own situation. I have been more aware over this past couple of years that we are heading for almost a dictatorship! It’s bad enough that we always get the government that England votes for,but now that government wants to press ahead with what most people realise ,will be a catastrophic act of self harm and will blatantly lie, make up or resurrect ancient laws, try to diminish the powers of the devolved parliaments, in fact anything to bulldoze it through. In the meantime they are committing grave human rights abuses against the most vulnerable -four reports from the UN that the Goverment “doesn’t recognise” and grinding our poor down. We are being taken for fools as we suffer more and more while they and their friends squirrel away their money and deprive us of the money we need. Who are the people giving to foodbanks, charity and Children in Need? Ordinary people not the super rich. It is becoming very clear that the whole country is going to suffer with Brexit so why is it going ahead. Some people must be doing well out of it but it’s not the”ordinary people”. That’s what I call sinister and maybe,put in context, the Russians are not that different!

    1. Rob Ross says:

      Absolutely. This is a more constructive way to look at our ‘fake’ and ‘declining’ democracies. I too believe that most of today’s democratic regimes, particularly those that subscribe to neoliberalism, have ‘declared war’ on the poorer and working classes. Independent regions, or nations, within a federal Europe may be the best way to fight this modern form of tyranny that is taking shape before our eyes. I also think that our spokespeople should use whatever platforms are available to present their case.

      1. Yes and we spend 99.9% of our time challenging neoliberalism and the social and political crisis of the UK and USA (mostly). But how on earth does this justify ignoring or excusing human rights in Russia?
        The idea that this is some zero sum game in which pointing to very obvious flaws in Russian democracy somehow means sticking up for capitalism or the corruption of Western countries is just astonishing. It doesn’t. here’s a newsflash: both are bad. That’s possible.

        1. John McGowan says:

          What do you say to people like Karen whose defence of Salmond is to claim that we here are heading for a dictatorship if not already living in one? Such people have completely lost their bearings, have no sense of proportion or understanding of the difference between democracy and dictatorship and have to resort to puerile comparisons to justify their stance. In a way they remind me of the leaders of the German communist party who, in their ultra radical phase, refused to draw a distinction between NAtional Socialism and Social Democracy, said Hitler the Social Democrats were just the same and called on their followers to refuse to make common cause with the SPD in the face of Fascism thus paving they way for their own obliteration. Of course, those were events of historical character and not a piddling little affair like this, but the point stands that the likes of Karen are incapable of distinguishing between one thing an onother

          1. J Galt says:

            The German Communist Party in the 1920/30s represented a system that had already slaughtered millions in the USSR, fear that such a slaughter would take place in Germany if they came to power is what drove many into the clutches of the NSDAP.

            Two slaughter systems – take your pick!

          2. Karen says:

            John, I did not say we’re living in a dictatorship. Get your facts right before you even mention “the likes of” me. I said I found it deeply depressing. Now John feck off and give me peace. No point in a comments section if it’s full of sycophantic folk who jump on a comment about how a particular article makes a person feel. Absolutely pointless.

  15. Graham says:

    I really despair when I read some of these comments. I supported the fundraiser because I felt BC has some really thoughtful articles (John S Warren is always good) and I hoped there might be some intelligent discussion. But when you get people carping about who’s the baddest in a bad world as if that negates the issue being discussed here, or they question whether BC supports Independence or say this could have been in the Telegraph and don’t address any of the substantive issues or offer evidence, even when asked to, then I think we’re wasting our time reading the commentary.

    1. Bob Costello says:

      I think the issues contained in the piece have been discussed and as I was the one that asked whether BC was still on side with independence I would reiterate that the impression I got from the piece was that although , no doubt accurate in the assertions as to whether the allegations made could lead one to agree that Russian politics are far from totally democratic , I could not see the point from an independence view of the anti Salmond slant and I do realise that on balance this will be a big plus for the independence movement. I can also see the validity of the comment regarding Telegraph as it also concerned impression and I would not have thought that , that comment required any “evidence” or clarification.

    2. Jim says:

      My “evidence” that this article could have appeared in the Telegraph depends primarily on a critique of the sources that Bella has used in this article. Primarily, they are the same sources that would be used in a pro-U.S. attack on Russia in any main stream media outlet. They do not fit with a radical left critique. Look at the author’s sources:

      Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov’s main claim to fame was in masterminding Yeltsin’s wholesale privatisation of Russia’s assets. His success in this had two main outcomes: the impoverishment of tens of millions of working class Russians and the enrichment of a new class of Oligarchs. The enrichment no doubt extended to Nemtsov and his family. Nemtsov’s family. Source #2, the Russian “sociologist” Igor Eidman. Eidman was Nemtsov’s cousin benefiting from the family wealth generated by Nemtsov’s privatisation programme.

      Source #3 Kara-Murza. Kara Murza is a paid staff member of Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s propaganda platform. Khodorkovsky benefited in the $billions from Nemtsov’s privatisation agenda becoming, at one point, the richest man in Russia. Khodorkovsky now only has a current estimated wealth of $500 million as a result of Putin’s anti-oligarch campaign, plenty of dollar grudges against Putin.

      Source #4 Andrei Piontkovsky. As I pointed out earlier, Piontkovsky is a paid mouth piece of the American state. He is paid to appear regularly on the U.S. propaganda station, Radio Liberty, spouting virulently pro-capitalist, pro-American diatribes. Piontkovsky is so right wing, he makes Ruth Davidson look like Jeremy Corbyn’s best pal. Does Bella seriously want to be taken seriously using Piontkovsky as a source?

      Source #5 Freedom House. Freedom House is a U.S. Government funded mouthpiece, founded to promulgate the U.S. position abroad. The Financial Times has reported on how Freedom House received clandestine finance to destabilise the government of Iran. Freedom House intervened consistently in Ukraine with financial support almost exclusively in support of anti-Russian, Victor Yushchenko. Freedom House is an arm of the U.S. state.

      Freedom House ranks Russia’s political rights on the same level as the United Arab Emirates, which, according to Freedom House, is a federation of absolute monarchies with no hint of democracy anywhere in the system. Freedom House also ranks Russia’s civil liberties on the same scale as those of Yemen. In Yemen, according to the constitution, Sharia law is the only source of legislation.

      Bella’s sources are entrenched in a critique that is from a pro- rapacious capitalism, pro-privatisation, pro-U.S., pro-oligarch point of view.

      1. “They do not fit with a radical left critique”.

        So to get this straight defending women’s rights, gay rights and human rights when they are explicitly under attack isn’t part of a left critique?

        I wonder if I gave you a different set of sources whether you’d accept the argument and the problem?

        You don’t seem to be challenging any of the facts presented, only the sources. This is the same for each of the commentators denouncing me for this article.

        Bob Costello “no doubt accurate in the assertions”.

        punklin: “The sources and quotes may be irrefutable but …”

        and so on…

        You said earlier that Russia was not left wing. So what exactly is the problem here and why has it sent you into a meltdown?

        I completely fail to see why we need to defend Russia, a right wing authoritarian state?

        Why is pretending it’s a democracy useful in any way to the people of Scotland?

        1. Jim says:

          Hiya again,
          The sources that someone uses indicate where their argument is based philosophically.
          My argument is basically:
          – many of your sources are neo-liberals at best and at worse, they are paid mouth pieces of the U.S.
          – the sources I have challenged have presented opinion, not fact.
          – the fact that Bella uses sources that helped to financially rape Russia does Bella no credit.
          – you assert that this article has nothing to do with Salmond; well, it’s a pretty big coincidence then, that it is printed now.
          – why publish it now? Who benefits?
          – you use straw men arguments claiming contributors have said that Russia is left wing and Russia is a democracy
          – I have said neither and I’ve struggled to find more than one or two people over both articles who come close to making such claims.
          – What I have said is that Russia is as much of a democracy as the UK, U.S., Spain etc. Take from that what you will.

          Alex Salmond isn’t the enemy. Wings over Scotland aren’t the enemy. Frankly, neither is Russia.

          1. You have me bang to rights. I’m secretly a massive fan of oligarchs everywhere.

            Got the memo.

            To suggest Russia (or possibly anywhere) has worse human rights records than other places renders you a traitor to the cause of independence. Dont challenge anything. Salmond is a tactical genius. Wings is the Delphic Oracle and Russia is just fine.

            I will stay silent from now on. There is an orthodoxy to be preserved.

            Thanks for the feedback.

    3. Colin Mackay says:

      I agree but wouldn’t despair Graham. The exact same things happens every time anyone challenges something not immediately onside with whichever hero of the hardcore Indy crowd it involves. Putin’s Russia? Aye fine, if they are supporting Indy! The Sun, aye fine as long as they are supporting Indy! SNP want to give tax cuts to massive corporations, aye fine, you can’t argue with the SNP!

      Every time there are similar outraged comments to these pieces decrying ‘traitor!’, ‘Bella no longer supports Indy!’, ‘could have read it in the Telegraph!’. Nine times out of ten you won’t read any reasoning, constructive arguments or factual evidence to support their incredulous response. Came to the conclusion a long time ago that there is an element of the movement that treats it as a faith and will gladly defend *any* kind of challenge to their chosen ones. Indy first, everything else second I think is the mantra. I think the fact that the same people get so fired up about a topic that probably 98% of people in the country aren’t going to care about says a lot about it.

  16. James D says:

    Is Russia a “functioning democracy”? Well, at least they are trying –

    http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Russianpoliticalsystem.html

    Are they succeeding? Perhaps not yet.
    Is the UK a “functioning democracy”? As far as Scotland is concerned, it clearly isn’t.

    “The case for Scottish independence cannot be strengthened by association with, or apologism for repressive states.” – You might not like it, but that is entirely without evidence. The UK, for example, has no problem with this.

    “The argument for self-determination for Scotland, the argument for democracy which I passionately believe in, cannot be advanced by defending anti-democracy.” – Nobody is defending anti-democracy, they are defending Alex Salmond’s decision to appear on RT and are unconvinced that it will damage the cause for independence and believe it might just help. How many more sticks can they beat us with before the effect is negligible? Alex Salmond is already (apparently) worse that Mugabe!

    Why does the YES movement have to be perceived as squeaky clean and pure as the driven snow when our opponents most certainly aren’t?

    1. The Yes movement doesn’t have to be perceived as squeakily clean but there is a political lesson about means and ends that still matters, to me anyway, it clearly doesn’t matter to many but that doesn’t change my position.

  17. Jim says:

    The author of this article suggests that “we should be building new media platforms that are of better quality than the existing media and have higher standards than the existing media.” Perhaps then, he believes that this should apply to Bella Caledonia and the sources that it uses? Bella contends that it is a radical, left leaning platform. Why then, has it consistently used virulently right-wing, pro-oligarch, pro-privatisation, U.S. paid mouthpieces as its sources in much of this article? Let’s look at a selection of the sources that the author has used in this article:
    Source #1, Boris Nemtsov. Nemtsov’s main claim to fame was in masterminding Yeltsin’s wholesale privatisation of Russia’s assets. His success in this had two main outcomes: the impoverishment of tens of millions of working class Russians and the enrichment of a new class of Oligarchs. The enrichment no doubt extended to Nemtsov and his family. Nemtsov’s family. Source #2, the Russian “sociologist” Igor Eidman. Eidman was Nemtsov’s cousin benefiting from the family wealth generated by Nemtsov’s privatisation programme.
    Source #3 Kara-Murza. Kara Murza is a paid staff member of Russian oligarch, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s propaganda platform. Khodorkovsky benefited in the $billions from Nemtsov’s privatisation agenda becoming, at one point, the richest man in Russia. Khodorkovsky now only has a current estimated wealth of $500 million as a result of Putin’s anti-oligarch campaign, plenty of dollar grudges against Putin.
    Source #4 Andrei Piontkovsky. As I pointed out earlier, Piontkovsky is a paid mouth piece of the American state. He is paid to appear regularly on the U.S. propaganda station, Radio Liberty, spouting virulently pro-capitalist, pro-American diatribes. Piontkovsky is so right wing, he makes Ruth Davidson look like Jeremy Corbyn’s best pal. Does Bella seriously want to be taken seriously using Piontkovsky as a source?
    Source #5 Freedom House. Freedom House is a U.S. Government funded mouthpiece, founded to promulgate the U.S. position abroad. The Financial Times has reported on how Freedom House received clandestine finance to destabilise the government of Iran. Freedom House intervened consistently in Ukraine with financial support almost exclusively in support of anti-Russian Victor Yushchenko. Freedom House is an arm of the U.S. state.
    Freedom House ranks Russia’s political rights on the same level as the United Arab Emirates, which, according to Freedom House, is a federation of absolute monarchies with no hint of democracy anywhere in the system. Freedom House also ranks Russia’s civil liberties on the same scale as those of Yemen. In Yemen, according to the constitution, Sharia law is the only source of legislation. Really? Not the Russia that I know.
    Is Russia a democracy? It is a democracy in the same way that the U.K., Spain, the U.S. and Iran are democracies. Take from that what you will.
    Bella; up your game. If you contend that you are a radical, left platform, stop using sources that are so immersed in paid U.S. stooges, designers of privatisation and oligarch’s lackies. You might face less criticism if your sources weren’t the same ones that Western main stream media uses.

  18. Mathew says:

    Perfectly clear and well argued article. Russia is not a democracy – never has been.
    Stating this does not weaken the case for Scottish Independence.
    Nor is it an attack on Alex Salmond.
    I agree with Graham above – some deeply depressing comments follow the article.

    1. Thank you. This shouldn’t be controversial.

  19. Andrew says:

    Good and timely piece on Russia. One can be pro-peace and still very concerned by the brutal and corrupt Putin regime and the pain and suffering they inflict on Russians. Never mind their invasion of Ukraine or other foreign adventurism.

    The funniest comment was the suggestion Bella has been soft on the UK’s corrupt embrace of the brutal Saudis.

    1. Jo says:

      There you go again! Russia didn’t invade Ukraine! The existing Ukraine government was taken down in a coup supported and recognised by the west. The people of Crimea set up their own referendum and voted to remain with Russia! It was their choice. Were they not entitled to do that Mike or is it just when a referendum happens in Catalonia that it counts? Are the wishes of the people of Crimea irrelevant? If so, why?

      1. Pogliaghi says:

        Ditto.

        Before calling people stupid, try looking at a map of Ukraine and a map of deployments in Ukraine. Putin is invading Donbass, which isn’t part of Crimea, and pushing beyond it. Note this is the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Yugoslavian war.

        “The people of Crimea set up their own referendum and voted to remain with Russia! ”

        Wonderful. Annexing former territories and common linguistic regions with tanks, followed by plebiscites.. What shall we call this benign policy.. maybe “anschluss”?

  20. Liam says:

    Absolutely nailed the analysis of Russia, Mike.

    As for the comments below the line – sheesh! It’s a depressingly familiar litany of whataboutery and false equivalence.

  21. Karen says:

    I found the article itself deeply depressing. I felt the same sinking feeling I get when reading most articles on politics in our mainstream media. I haven’t found much in the way of people insisting Russia is a functioning democracy. We know it isn’t. Neither is the UK as it is. I think the point is being missed completely in the article, despite it’s great wealth of sources. Scotland’s potential Independence will get a far fairer hearing on RT than it ever did or will on platforms from UK. You can slate barbaric Russia all you like Mike but UK is corrupt and elitist but far better at hiding it. I enjoy most of your articles and share many Mike, but not this one. It seems to be driving home your own anti-Russian viewpoint while having a wee swipe at Salmond for his ‘choice’ of platform.

    1. Karen I have spent most of the last decade – as you know – pointing to the corruption and elitism of the UK. That’s a simple fact. I don’t have an “anti-Russian” viewpoint I’m {kinda} against abuse of human rights, gay rights and women’s rights. Are you not?

      None of this should be difficult.

      1. Karen says:

        I didn’t say it was difficult Mike. With respect, I said it was deeply depressing. I have no difficulty with your viewpoint. I don’t refute that Russia’s treatment of gays is abhorrent nor do I ignore women’s rights.

        Would you have preferred Salmond had a platform on the BBC where child molesters were ignored for a few decades? Again no difficulty here Mike. I simply didn’t enjoy this one at all. I would expect this of perhaps the Herald (1 reason I cancelled my subscription) or Scotsman.

        We have been told for decades how despicable Russia is. Frankly, I find UKGov and our media just as abhorrent. So while it is your viewpoint and I respect your right to have it, I don’t have to agree with your slant on Salmond using that particular platform. Many thanks for replying Mike.

        1. Grafter says:

          Well said Karen. This article is worthy of any Telegraph, Mail, or Express scribbler.

        2. John McGowan says:

          You really have left reality behind by equating the UK with Putin’s authoritarian regime and the BBC with RT. This is hysterical ultra leftism and reveals a mind rendered incapable of discernment because of its childish emotional enslavement to the idea of indepednece and a dog like devotion to Alex Salmond. But just on your point about the media show me one instance of RT criticising Putin and his gangster cronies and I’ll take back what I have said. On the other hand the BBC which of course reflects in part the outlook of the state – how could it be otherwise in a bourgeois democracy – has to pay lip service at least to the idea of pluralism. So while it clearly has a conservative bias it also has a great deal of editorial leeway to criticise government and the state and to expose wrong doing by those in power. Is it perfect, no,but is it the kind of caricature you paint it, is it to be seriously equated with RT? Only a fool would claim that. You are guilty of overegging the pudding and as a result render a disservice to your own cause.

          1. Karen says:

            My husband says you’re a fucknugget. No clue what that is, but there you have it.

            As for you taking back what you said, too late, you lied and did exactly what the BBC does, took something I said and added someone else’s comments as if they were mine and twisted it to suit your narrative. No wonder you’re so far up the UK’S arse, you’re not thinking clearly. It would do you good to level the same sort of scrutiny at the UK as you do at Russia. You’ll find clarity, I promise. I did. I used to sound a bit like you, however I never used personal attacks to belittle the opinions of others or bully them into agreeing with me.

            Fool, you say, well I didn’t pay someone else to do my degree for me and while I will always be learning, I don’t need to prove my intellect to you or anyone else on Bella.

            So in closing, if you need to name call to back up your point it (kinda) lessens the impact you’re trying to make. You’re still coming across as a wee sycophant. Stop with the arse kissing. It’s awful. Rest easy in the knowledge that you did nothing to change my opinion of UK, Russia, Salmond or Putin. You did however reinforce that you are an absolute bully. Now, I’m done. For Good.

          2. “if you need to name call to back up your point it (kinda) lessens the impact you’re trying to make” says woman calling someone a fucknugget?

          3. Karen says:

            Jeez Mike. I told him that’s what my husband said. You as editor should be able to take criticism without resorting to calling people stupid. Do I still contribute to Bella on a monthly basis or did I stop that? If you can’t take it what’s the point of being editor? I should not have resorted to the name calling as John did. You however are not beyond reproach. Stupid? Get a grip. I suffer from severe depression which is possibly one of the reasons why I found your article deeply depressing and definitely skewed by your own viewpoint regardless of your protestations.Your article has absolutely nothing positive in it. I had no intention of revealing personal info to you guys but thought I’d better put context into it. I should not have had to. I’m going to work now, so stop pissing me off.

  22. Scott Egner says:

    I’m under no illusion about Russia. No it’s no democracy. I have been reminded of that persistently since my modern studies class many years ago.
    I’m not justifying or denouncing salmond for his chat show. I don’t like chat shows and probably won’t watch it anyway.

    What has taken me be surprise is the level of derision by our beloved billionaire funded media journalists here when you tell them you watch the odd show on RT. I’m not interested in the daily news on RT – of course it will be pro-Russia – so I wouldn’t tune in. I do however watch the economic content on RT which is vastly superior to what you will see on the BBC. it won’t see the light of day in the mainstream and this is why we are staring down the barrel of another financial crisis with barely a whimper from joe public.

    The ‘danger’ of these economic ideas becoming widespread and the public waking up is an end to neoliberalism and a reform of the banking system – something that would benefit everyone and actually most likely lead to a more cohesive UK. If putin’s rouble is doing that should I throw these shows under a bus through principle? I am reminded that people are being killed in this country by economic ideology every single day.

    What makes furious is that there is not one bit of introspection amongst our so-called journalistic profession. They mock and sneer rather than perhaps asking, what did we do or not do that led to this?

    If they are so proud of their free press, the easiest way to prove it is to devolve our TV licencing. Of course that will never happen

  23. Karen says:

    I’m not stupid but thanks for your input.

  24. John McGowan says:

    Karen, feel free to use as strong a language as you like and to back up your case as vigorously as possible, I for one don’t take offence and am amused as your husband’s term – new one to me! But we all have to be aware that such forums are a place for a vigorous exchange of opinions and have to expect to get a certain level of criticism. I would say simply that the views you express on Putin etc at shared by a lot of others here and my opposition is not aimed at you personally but at the views themselves. I stand by my views on Salmond, who only has himself to blame for putting his head on th block like this. What else did he expect his opponents to say, well done old fully back your compromising your integrity by getting into bed with Putin’s propaganda mouthpiece?

    1. Karen says:

      Cheers John. I laughed when my husband said it. It was new to me too. Point taken. Wish I’d read your response sooner. Didn’t want to read any more Bella comments after this, but I am glad I did. We can agree to disagree.

      1. We can. Lets keep the heid (me included).

        1. Karen says:

          Aye. Sorted.

  25. Kat says:

    Has Bella Caledonia officially joined the MSM by delivering a scathing Russia bashing piece to please the corptocracy in the hopes of getting some decent funding? Are they doing a Huffingtong Post and looking for a buyer to make them all rich and turn this outlet into another mouthpiece for the establishment? This peice is little more than the western pot calling the russian kettle black in order to distance the independence movement from the SNP. It makes no sense, skews facts to suit its narrative and props up the unhinged lunacy of returning to the “good ole days” of the cold war.

    Propaganda is everywhere and there is no getting away from it, even on supposedly new alternative media sites. There isn’t a single functioning democracy on this planet because every government is beholden to financial and business markets. Every few years (or less) we kid ourselves on when we vote that we have a democracy, then turn a blind eye to the actions of those we elect. We give them far too much credit for getting elected than they deserve. Very few of them ever actually fight for the 99% or refuse to join the establishment train. Worse still they have convinced us that our democracy is the best thing since sliced bread so we much insist on every other nation having the same. Is it not time for some radical political change that creates true democracies instead of arguing whether other countries have one or not?

    1. “Has Bella Caledonia officially joined the MSM by delivering a scathing Russia bashing piece to please the corptocracy in the hopes of getting some decent funding? Are they doing a Huffingtong Post and looking for a buyer to make them all rich and turn this outlet into another mouthpiece for the establishment?”

      Without a doubt. We expect instant payment. I think we’ll be rolling in it VERY soon.

      1. Kat says:

        Hmmmm……Your derision has a whiff of guilt about it.

    2. Bob Costello says:

      Well said Kat

    3. John McGowan says:

      Go to Google and type in the name Sergei Magnitsky and read about his murder at the hands of Putin’s regime. After you’ve done that come back here and tell me if you still subscribe to the views you posted above. I extend this challenge to all of you who have written here defending Putin or claiming that his “democracy” is no better and no worse than our own. Anyone capable of believing that automatically disbars himself from being taken seriously in any political forum. I await your “whatabootary’ replies with interest.

  26. David Edmunds says:

    Deep disappointment is what I felt when I read the article; when we have a situation in the US where it is almost dangerous to say something nice about Russia, surely it is not the time to join the Russophobia bandwagon. Even in the UK we have a mostly unfounded anti Russia hysteria, monstrously hypocritical accusations of electoral interference and dangerously bellicose speeches from politicians and others who should know better.

    The last thing we need is one of the better quality journals to sign up to this dangerous, very dangerous meme.

  27. John McGowan says:

    Those of you calling on Mike to go easy on Russia are making the mistake of confusing the kremlin regime with the Russian people. Why should the left pull its punches when talking about such a repellent figure as Putin? Attacking him and his clique is the first duty of any socialist and it should not be conflated with an attack on ordinary Russians, those who suffer at the hands of a brutal gang of gangsters and exploiters. Is this not elementary common sense? Or is someone going to tell me that an attack on Theresa May and her clique is the same as an attack on ordinary English workers? What sentimental drivel some of these posts are, though I think I can detect the stench of old Communist Party “Tankies” here.

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