Opinion

John Lloyd

Meet Vladimir Putin’s homophobic, vitriolic, charismatic master of propaganda

John Lloyd
Jul 24, 2014 20:54 UTC

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Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has soared at home in the wake of his actions in Ukraine – and the masterful spin his intervention has been given.

The joy that greeted Putin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in March was due, at least in part, to a propaganda system less complete but more virulent than its Soviet predecessor.

At the center of the system is a remarkable journalist called Dmitry Kiselyev. A long-time and popular presenter on the state-owned Channel One, Kiselyev has “put the nation on a diet stripped of critical voices and soaked in patriotism.”

In December 2013, Putin put Kiselyev in charge of a big media-holding company, Rossiya Sevodnya (Russia Today), which replaced the relatively balanced RIA Novosti news agency. It’s separate from the country’s TV news channel, also called Russia Today, which broadcasts to the world but is milder in tone and more closely allied to the narrative lines put out by the state.

Kiselyev has boasted that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the U.S.A. into radioactive dust.” He said it with a mushroom cloud in the background. He heaped abuse on the Ukrainian government, its armed forces and the country itself – “there is no Ukraine, it is only a virtual concept, a virtual country … now it’s a failed state.”

As Israel attacks Gaza, Jews elsewhere feel an impact

John Lloyd
Jul 16, 2014 20:37 UTC

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As the death toll in Gaza rises, so does anger against Israel — and sometimes, by extension, Jews — in Europe and elsewhere.

We should mark how unique this is. There’s a very large, and often very rich, Russian community in London — and there are no attacks on Russians or their mansions, restaurants or churches because of the Russian seizure of Crimea and sponsorship of uprisings in eastern Ukraine. 

People from Sri Lanka didn’t live in fear when their government was pounding the Tamil Tigers into submission, with thousands of deaths. Chinese visitors are undisturbed by reaction to their government’s suppression of dissent in Tibet and its jailing of dissidents. And quite right, too. Who knows what Russians, Sri Lankans or Chinese abroad think about their governments’ actions?

Here’s who should be watching the watchers

John Lloyd
Jul 9, 2014 17:39 UTC

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The files stolen from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden, the quiet American who has turned the security world inside out, drip out week by week – in The Guardian, on the new website The Intercept, financed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, in the German weekly Spiegel and in the Washington Post. The last of these outlets had the latest installment on Monday. It told us that “ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike” had been swept into the NSA’s computers in far greater numbers than foreigners reasonably suspected of possible terrorist links.

The leaks present the most profound challenges to free societies, because freedom is not a steady state — once acquired, never lost — but rather one that constantly waxes and wanes, loses and gains.

The first of these challenges is to journalism itself, and it’s twofold. Snowden, the journalist Glen Greenwald who is an  associate in publishing the files and others in the “radical leaks” community, such as Julian Assange, believe that the extent of the surveillance and the power it gives to the state to oppress citizens is so great that only their form of journalism is capable of exposing the danger and rousing people to opposition. Greenwald writes in his memoir, No Place to Hide, that journalism must be “an act of aggression against the government.”  He thinks that the check the Fourth Estate is supposed to provide to government “is only effective if journalists act adversarially to those who wield political power.” The largest dereliction of journalistic duty is to be “subservient to the government’s interests, even amplifying rather than scrutinizing its messages and carrying out its dirty work.” His view is  an angry, uncompromising challenge to the values and practices of the mainstream media.

Could Vladimir Putin give peace a chance in Ukraine and beyond?

John Lloyd
Jul 3, 2014 17:46 UTC

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What would it take for Russia to walk a way from violence and seek peaceful coexistence with its neighbors? It’s certainly hard to see a way out right now.

The dogs of war in the east have been let slip again. On Monday, Petro Poroshenko, the recently elected Ukrainian president, said a 10-day unilateral truce with the separatist, pro-Russian forces in the eastern part of his country had ended: Force would now be required to “free our lands.”

Ukrainian units were moved in to try to bring the cities and areas controlled by the heavily armed separatists under control. By Tuesday morning, the Ukrainian military was reporting air and artillery strikes.

Are we at war? And why can’t we be sure anymore?

John Lloyd
Jun 30, 2014 06:00 UTC

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron poses for group photograph taken with G8 leaders at the Lough Erne golf resort in Enniskillen

The question — “Are we at war?” — seems absurd. Surely, we would know it if we were. But maybe we’re in a new era — and wars are creeping up on us.

In the decade after the collapse of communism, the United States and its allies seemed invulnerable to challenges, from military to technological to economic. All changed in the 2000s, the dawning of the third millennium: an Age of Disruption. Russia, under a president smarting publicly at the loss of the Soviet empire, has now delivered an answer to decline: aggressive claims on lost territories.

China, admired for its free-market-driven growth since the 1980s, is feared for the strategic expansion that now accompanies it. This happens in its own region: a dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over disputed ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands remains tense. It is also at work far beyond — in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America — where it seeks energy and natural resources.

If Prince Charles becomes King Charles, will his kingdom leave him?

John Lloyd
Jun 19, 2014 10:22 UTC

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla arrive for the second day of the Royal Ascot horse racing festival at Ascot, southern England

Could Prince Charles finally get his crown? And if he does, could it mean the end of the United Kingdom?

Abdication in favor of the younger generation seems to be something of a trend in Europe — if two cases can be considered a trend. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands abdicated last year so that her son, Willem-Alexander, could bring some youth and vitality to the largely ceremonial role.

More recently, King Juan Carlos, widely credited with having assisted the end of the Franco dictatorship in Spain in 1975 and with puncturing a rather feeble coup attempt in 1981, vacated the throne in favor of his son, Felipe. The announcement was followed by large demonstrations calling for an end to the monarchy entirely, with Cayo Lara, leader of the United Left Coalition, quoted as saying, “We are not subjects, we are citizens.”

Corruption predates the World Cup, but it doesn’t have to live past it

John Lloyd
Jun 12, 2014 16:07 UTC

An aerial shot shows the Arena Fonte Nova  stadium, one of the stadiums hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer matches, in Salvador

Crooked sports didn’t begin with FIFA or the World Cup. The truth is, the fix has been in since the beginning of time.

The first recorded example was Eupolos of Thessalia, who bribed three of his competitors in a boxing bout to take a dive during the Olympic Games of 388 BC. It must have been a big bribe, since one of those fudging the match was the formidable Phormion of Halikarnassos, the reigning champion.

Still, it seems no ancient example can stack up against the $30 billion-worth of corrupt dealings allegedly associated with the Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi resort earlier this year. Eupolos was doing it for personal, rather than national, glory. The stakes today have everything to do with national pride.

When the U.S. needs support, Europe pleads poverty

John Lloyd
Jun 4, 2014 15:15 UTC

The United States has troubles. This was the subtext of President Barack Obama’s speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point last week. The latest trouble is the raw ambition of Russian President Vladimir Putin to dominate as much of the former Soviet Union as he can.

This trouble is, of course, in Europe’s neighborhood; but the United States is managing the crisis. Nevertheless, while America is powerful, it needs help. It is unlikely to get it from Europe.

The United States has long supported the European Union’s stated aim to integrate the continent into a single entity. The idea has been that a more united Europe will be a more powerful Europe, and thereby become a greater help in maintaining the United States as an “indispensable nation” — a phrase President Obama borrowed from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in his speech on foreign policy at West Point.

European dream may be among dead in political earthquake

John Lloyd
May 27, 2014 19:21 UTC

French National Front party deputies Gilbert Collard and Marion Marechal-Le Pen attend the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris

Earthquakes struck all over Europe this past weekend, as the votes for the European Parliament came in.

Parties on both the left and the right wanting to loosen ties to the European Union had notable victories in the UK, France, Spain and several other nations.

The results have gravely wounded the European project, which is to move the 28 EU member nations to an “ever-closer union.” The project may, indeed, have been killed. Here’s why:

Will India’s Modi resist the lure of nationalism?

John Lloyd
May 20, 2014 21:12 UTC

Nationalism is in vogue in the world’s largest states.

President Vladimir Putin has called upon the specter of nationalism in staking Russia’s claim to Crimea and as a justification for destabilizing Ukraine’s east. He and the Russian military have acted to protect and, where possible, bring “home” his nation’s ethnic kin.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a World War II shrine, in spite of predicable outrage in China. While, in China, President Xi Jinping has emphasized nationalist themes in advancing his “Chinese dream.”

Now India has elected Narendra Modi as prime minister by a landslide. He’ll be sworn in next week. The streets will be packed, the media will be hysterical, markets will rise, and the hopes of the poor will soar.

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