Smearing Michael McFaul

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No sooner did McFaul assume his post this January than Russia’s state-owned Channel One ran a slanderous program claiming that he had come to Russia to organize a “revolution.” (This even as Russia actually did stir up revolutions to destabilize out-of-favor-regimes.) The welcome campaign continued when McFaul met with opposition leaders at the embassy. Although the meeting was a mere diplomatic formality, the government tried to capitalize on it for propaganda purposes when the opposition leaders were ambushed by pro-government apparatchiks posing as television reporters as they walked out of the meeting. Footage of the encounter was then posted on the Internet with the implication that the Russian opposition was being orchestrated by the United States, a crude propaganda tactic dating back to the Soviet days.

And the government smear machine was just getting into gear. In February, Russia’s YouTube channel featured video of an anonymous pollster showing passersby on Russian streets a photo of McFaul and a Russian pedophile and asking them to choose which was the pedophile. The video showed everyone pointing to the picture of McFaul. The stunt bore all the hallmarks of the pro-Putin youth group Nashi, which has used similar tactics to destroy the reputation of government opponents. In this case, of course, the target was the U.S. ambassador. If the government thought this was “beyond the boundaries of diplomatic etiquette,” it didn’t say so.

The government’s refusal to condemn the scurrilous campaign against McFaul and the U.S. is hardly surprising, since similar attacks have issued from none other than President Vladimir Putin himself. As mass anti-government protests have erupted over the past year, drawing thousands onto Moscow’s streets for the first time since the dying days of the Soviet Union, Putin has been at pains to portray the demonstrators as “lackeys” in an ongoing U.S. plot to destabilize Russia. When last year’s fraudulent December 4 parliamentary elections drew thousands to Moscow’s frozen streets, Putin claimed that the State Department was instigating the protestors. Putin went so far as to accuse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of directly inciting the protesters, claiming that she was “giving the signal” for the demonstrations. In another context, that may have been an extraordinary charge. For Putin, reflexive anti-Americanism is par for the course, a useful way to drum up popular support.

Seen in this light, the government’s feigned distress at McFaul’s comments is really just the latest in a series of clumsy propaganda attempts. The irony is that in turning its ire on McFaul, the Kremlin is antagonizing a potential ally. So far from seeking to undermine the government, McFaul is the architect of the Obama administration’s “reset” policy of repairing relations with Russia. The fact that McFaul, for all his good intentions, is now the target of government smear merchants is an indication of how well that policy is working.

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  • koran kid

    Barry Mydrone, the reincarnation of Bugsy Malone as a community rights activist suddenly catapulted off the streets of Chicago into the White House, against Vlad the Merciless, the reinvention of Ivan the Terrible as one time KGB hit man and Moscow mafia boss who managed to bribe his way into the Kremlin, both gangsters at icy heart, who love to whack their enemies. It must be like in the scene in the Sting on the golf course, 'take a long look at that man, Basher Assad, if he and any of the other robin hoods hear that I've been duped by a simple puppet dictator like Bakiyev, I'll have every marxist revolutionary from the Caspian Sea to Wasington DC trying to muscle in on my Russian installed dictator racket.’ Common likes? Summary executions handed down from on high. Common hates? Freedom fighters, who sniff out their type, and expose them for what they are. Shared and pointed insult? Polish concentration camps. Common fears? Same as you and me. We all have to die, then what? Hey, I’m the first out of the blocks to see Barry and Vlad’s Merciless Productions Hollywood blockbuster of Laskin’s book The McFaul Guy, if he comes to a sticky end. He should keep his trap shut. But who should really be shixxing their pants? Anyone in Georgia who gets the thumbs up for market based democracy from Donald Trump!

  • Ghostwriter

    I wonder how long will it before the Vladimir Putin fan club comes here to "explain" their point? Probably not long.

  • Serafino

    The busybodies of the Russian Government should mind their own domestic business and stay out of the US affairs. We were never friends and never will be. Half of the Russian population, according to the Russian independent press, is anti-Putin yearning for a decent, reasonable administration. Putin, meanwhile, sends his goons to collect public opinion among female voters about his sex appeal while laughing all the way to the bank. Unreal.

  • htmlcolorname

    Mike epitomizes America's democratic spirit, free inquiry, unfettered debate, and respect for the right to question authority.

    Poppycock. Why'd he try to have the Exile banned from Johnson's Russia List, then ? Was that American Democratic spirit, free inquiry or unfettered debate ?

    This isn't so much of an article as it is a blow-job in writing.

  • wctaqiyya

    So, Jacob Laksin is upset because the Russian dude complained about how the Americans paid a bigger bribe? So what? I'm afraid I see no white hats being worn in this scenario. Americans are constantly paying bribes overseas and meddling in the affairs of all sorts of countries. I won't shed any tears for Obama, Hillary or their flunkies. I don't have any tears for the Russians either.

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    seems the Russians have no sense of humor.

  • fammy nur

    This is politics, I personally do not really understand politics. But I understand that someone who go into politics must have strong mental and careful in speech. If one person in the name of an institution can not maintain his/her talking or responding to a statement by the reckless (especially on behalf of the state), it will be very dangerous.


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  • flea bites

    Yes ! Russians have no sense of humor.