Noticed by Stanley Dundee:

2020-06-01: Putin's Long War Against American Science, by William J. Broad

Spreading Disinformation and Fostering Public Cynicism

Note: sarcasm doesn't always travel well on the internet, so I will indicate accordingly. All unattributed quotes from Broad.

A longtime friend from my college days who has become quite concerned over my lack of respect for establishment media has urged me to read a recent New York Times (NYT) article accusing arch-villian Russian president Vladimir Putin of a new nefariousness: a war on American science. I normally make a point to avoid the NYT, according to the principle that exposure to a stream of lies is spiritually toxic no matter how well inured you might be. But I have enormous respect and affection for my old friend, despite a gulf of disagreement which will soon become apparent. So this notice is dedicated to him, although I doubt he'll find it helpful.

The article in question, by prize-winning NYT science reporter William J. Broad, lays out its thesis near the top:

An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade. . . . The Russian president has waged his long campaign by means of open media, secretive trolls and shadowy blogs that regularly cast American health officials as patronizing frauds. Of late, new stealth and sophistication have made his handiwork harder to see, track and fight.

In deference to the core democratic value of relying on demonstrable facts as a basis for decision-making, one might expect some actual evidence to back such a damning accusation. But in the great tradition of 21st century establishment media, all we get is expert opinion, US goverment (USG) assertions, and innuendo. We get numerous experts opining on impact. We get State Department allegations. We learn that during Putin's youthful service in the KGB, the KGB may have run a successful disinformation campaign casting the deadly virus that causes AIDS as a racial weapon developed by the American military to kill black citizens. There's a smear of RT's 2009 promotion of the conspiratorial views of Wayne Madsen in which Mr. Madsen called attention to the worldwide network of biological warfare laboratories run by the US military.

We get an allusion to the Gerasimov doctrine (repudiated by its creator in 2018), in which public messaging may serve as a means of stirring foreign dissent. How sinister. I find it a great relief that our noble leaders in the US oligarchy would never resort to public messaging in stirring foreign dissent. Projection, anyone?

Broad tells us a shadowy group of trolls in St. Petersburg began using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to fire salvos of junk information at millions of Americans. The very same trolls that Robert Mueller declined to prosecute when their lawyers showed up in DC and asked to see his evidence, perhaps? Broad imputes troll motives: The goals were to boost social polarization and damage the reputation of federal agencies. What powers of journalistic mind-reading he brings to bear! No wonder the NYT commands so much respect. Mueller's trolls were found to have been largely ineffective. But Broad's trolls have been harmful, according to unnamed researchers from UCLA:

. . . the false narratives around AIDS had fostered a lack of trust among African-Americans that kept many from seeking medical care. Their 2018 study, of hundreds of black men in Los Angeles who have sex with men, reported that nearly half the interviewees thought the virus responsible for AIDS had been manufactured. And more than one-fifth viewed people who take new protective drugs as human guinea pigs for the government.

Would those black men concerned about their use as human guinea pigs not have a powerful historical precedent in the notorious Tuskegee syphilis experiment?

Broad flatly asserts Mr. Putin has worked hard to encourage Americans to see vaccinations as dangerous and federal health officials as malevolent. Those journalistic super-powers again, looking into the heart of the Kremlin where the evil genius is at work. Any evidence? Well, there were some tweets originating in St. Petersburg. Twitter trolls promoted an anti-vax black minister, subsequently echoed by RT. And was this despicable effort successful? Broad marshalls the damning evidence:

Mr. Putin's disinformation blitz has coincided with a drop in vaccination rates among children in the United States and a rise in measles, a disease once considered vanquished.

Anti-vaxxers may be shocked to learn that they were puppets of Putin. But does coincidence establish causality? That's the kind of journalistic sleight of hand that wins Pulitzers, I guess.

Broad's not done yet. Coronavirus disinformation is laid to Putin, His sneaky trolls are better hidden and more stealthy. Excepting the ones that have evolved to become more open. However, I'll refrain from further detailed consideration, since I'm bored and somewhat soiled from this exercise, and perhaps you are too. What's entirely lacking is any sort of actual evidence. The kind that's based on facts, not assertions.

Establishment expert opinions and USG spokesholes just don't command the respect they might once have had, especially regarding geopolitics. The credibility of our political leadership, intelligensia, and media stenographers over the last couple of decades has been abysmal. There's been too many lies to just accept officially-approved narratives at face value. Consider: Iraqi weapons of mass destruction? Syrian chemical attacks? MH-17? DNC hacking? Russiagate collusion? Skripal poisoning? And so on. I've refined my trusted sources over the decades to those who have been right at least some of the time, and who acknowledge their errors when they're wrong. I mostly ignore credentials and prizes in according trust to would-be authorities. The conspiracy theorists are doing quite well! Establishment figures, not so much.

If you want me to accept a narrative as credible, I will require evidence less ephemeral than expert opinion, imputation of motives (mind-reading), and coincidence. Show me things like memos, emails, transcripts of speeches, attributed documents, credible witnesses, plausible means. Until then, perhaps public cynicism is exactly the correct response to spreading disinformation by NYT science reporters working the geopolitics beat.