This year the conference attempted to balance a confrontational tone with offerings of cooperation, in particular on counterterrorism, which was the overall theme for the event. But judging from much of the discussion, the real topic should have been information warfare, which not only made its debut at this conference, but permeated many of the talking points. “Fake news,” “post-truth world” and numerous other terms in the modern discourse on information warfare were sprinkled throughout speeches, with a separate panel dedicated to the topic. “Information war” had clearly arrived in a big way, and not just because nobody could stop looking at their smartphone during the conference.
Sally Yates didn’t reveal much that was new in her testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee. But she has arguably invented an entirely new genre of political spectacle: the news remix. Taking elements already well known to the public, Yates added a personal touch of drama and defiance, and the result was a fresh spate of headlines.
You can’t admit you’re failing in a lost cause, you need to scare Washington, to make them think they’ll be in trouble if they don’t fork over the public’s money. As you can guess, finding that bogeyman isn’t exactly rocket science.
Donald Trump’s election has elicited impassioned affirmations of a renewed commitment to unvarnished truth-telling from the prestige media. The common theme: you know you can’t trust him, but trust us to keep dogging him on your behalf. The New York Times has even unveiled a portentous new promotional slogan: “The truth is now more important than ever.” For its part, the Washington Post grimly warns that “democracy dies in darkness,” and is offering itself as a source of illumination now that the rotund figure of the 45th president has produced the political equivalent of a total eclipse of the sun. Meanwhile, National Public Radio fundraising campaigns are sounding an increasingly panicky note: give, listener, lest you be personally responsible for the demise of the Republic that we are bravely fighting to save from extinction.
If only it were so. How wonderful it would be if President Trump’s ascendancy had coincided with a revival of hard-hitting, deep-dive, no-holds-barred American journalism. Alas, that’s hardly the case.
Sharon Tennison on checking our beliefs and Oliver Stone’s upcoming “documentary” “PUTIN”
Dear Friends,Polls and news indicate that Americans see VVPutin as a grave danger to the current world order and Russia as the greatest threat to our nation. If this is so, it may be because of the repetitious hammering of these points day and night in mainstream TV and print news by people who have not set foot in Russia for years, if ever. But are they accurate?Tomorrow, May 10th, 30 business and professional Americans travel to ten cities across Russia to checkout these assertions. Our first day’s meetings in Moscow include a sit-down with former President Mikhail Gorbachev, then a range of experts and specialists over the next four days days ending with Vladimir Pozner, Russia’s iconic TV personality (who doesn’t support a number of Putin’s views). The 30 delegates were asked what questions they would like to have answered by each VIP. The questions were then sent to each of the presenters, including President Gorbachev––in an attempt to get maximum learning extracted from each meeting.After Moscow, we go to 10 regional cities from Novosibirsk out in Siberia and south into the Crimean cities plus several others, where we will meet with business and professional counterparts and a range of local people including Russian Rotarians in most cities. This trip has no cultural program. It was created solely to meet Russian citizens at all levels and holding discussions to learn their attitudes and concerns regarding relations between our countries. We can’t predict outcomes of our venture with the supposed “enemy” people, but are eager to get this experiment underway. What will happen, if due to direct exposure, we find ourselves shifting some of our beliefs? Who knows?Changing beliefs is extremely difficult for individuals and nations; both have so much invested in what has been believed and promoted as truth in the past. History is replete with peoples and leaders who promoted beliefs that bore no relationship to the truth during their eras. It has taken years for some of these truths to surface – but many will remain occluded forever.However, today is decidedly different: communications are instant and out in the public. Tweets carry short truths (or untruths) around the world in seconds. More people are realizing that something is amiss and are questioning. Then along comes giants like Oliver Stone who labors to get current beliefs examined and truths unveiled for public consumption––so they can be debated in public forums across the time zones. I’ve not seen Stone’s “Putin” documentary, but it may corroborate my experience and research into the topic. With luck, Stone’s “Putin” could burrow into Americas’ belief systems and cause many (like our group) to begin making personal inquiries.Our world has come to an unprecedented crisis of late over unverified accusations and highly questionable policies. To our embarrassment, VVPutin has checkmated a number of them, i.e., for one, getting Assad to give up his chemical weapons to avoid U.S. air strikes on Syria. This fact and others, make Putin enemy #1 for those intent on regime changing and maintaining unipolar world status––which can no longer be assured except through subjugation and worldwide military might.Stone’s documentary comes at a prescient moment: aggressions, tensions and ungrounded beliefs have fulminated against Putin and Russia to heights previously unknown. At the same time, we in America are in a slow decline and searching for ways to guarantee our hegemony.As a nation we need to realize that eventually all Great Powers rise, plateau and again take their place among other nations; and others rise … this is inevitable. We watched the British Empire go through this process in the 20th century. How we deal with this dilemma in the near future will be the measure of America’s real worth to the world at large and to ourselves. Fortunately there are no nations around that aspire to unipolarity, but many that hold a glimmer of hope for multipolarity. The critical thing for us in America is to make our own nation as good as possible, from the inside out––regardless of unipolar or multipolar status. We must again believe in and promote truth, fair play and seek the common good for our planet––of which we have lost sight in recent years. Yes, we will need to shift economic expectations and begin to reassess our “beliefs” about who and what we are as a nation.Friends, think about what “beliefs” really are: they are not some holy writ! Beliefs are ephemeral. They are made up of subconscious impressions and fears from childhood, heroes from history and comic books, good or bad parenting, our levels of education, the TV we watched, the mindsets of others in our lives, fears and apprehensions we hold deep in the gut … and above all our decades of “self talk.”Our beliefs are burp-ups, distillations from our unconscious. Some get melded into political “beliefs” which we tend to consider them sancrosanct. We hold onto these beliefs tenaciously as though they are inspired utterings. We are willing to lose friends, and some in our Congress are ready to promote a nuclear war over them. It’s quite insane come to think about it!As for Stone’s latest documentary, let us heed his advice: “It’s very important that we hear what Putin has to say,” compared to what is being conjured up about his character in U.S. mainstream media … all of which drifts into the inner vaults of our unconsciously-held belief systems, whether it is fake news or somebody elses’ exaggerations or rumors.Excuse my harping on “beliefs” — but as I see it, they are central to today’s extremely dangerous international dilemma.Watch for reports coming out as we travel across Russia, hopefully gathering information that will be useful for us all.