The house!
The restaurant!
The luggage!
The car!
The front door!

Finding a nerve agent is hard.

And that’s ok – I don’t know anything about this stuff, so maybe it’s really difficult to do.

But if that’s the case, presumably the people that are experts, know this.

So when use of a nerve agent is suspected, maybe the first thing they would recommend is that we………….start an investigation?

Instead of what we did.

Which was to call a press conference and accuse Russia of an act of war.

But that’s not what I care about, at least not here.

What I care about is how our media have reported this case.

When it was said it was the house, they reported it. And that was fine, I guess.

Then when they said it was the restaurant, they reported it again.

Without question.

And then again and again and again they just…………reported it.

No questions, no criticism, no skepticism, no laughter, no mockery, no disdain, no calls for people to be sacked.

Which after all is their USUAL process, right?

But on this occasion they just repeated what they’d been told, over and over again.

They just parroted the government line. Repeatedly.

A government which has been caught lying about this kind of stuff quite a lot over the years. I presume we all remember the dodgy dossier?

So, what………..our media are just government mouthpieces now?

They have become PR agencies for the State?

Nerve agents worry me, but that worries me more.

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32 COMMENTS

  1. If there’s anyone out there who really believes there was a chance this nerve agent attack wasn’t Putin’s goons sending a loud and clear message to his opponents (and then ‘denying’ it with a broad grin and a wink) … please contact me, as I own a very nice bridge that I’m reluctantly forced to put on the market.

      • I travelled extensively in the USSR, though I’ve never lived or worked in Russia. I’m open to alternative explanations of the facts that aren’t bonkers conspiracy theories (“it was fuggin’ MI6” © Mo Fayed), but so far I haven’t seen one.

        All you need do is explain – who, apart from Putin’s Russia, would benefit from this attack to an extent that would outweigh the devastating effects of being found out? No doubt there were others who would shed no tears over the death of Skripal, but why would they choose such an outre method (oh, of course, it was to “make it look like Russia” for reasons unexplained).

        • There is a real possibility this was carried out by a rogue element of the Russian government beyond his control. There is a lesser possibility it was done by another country, hoping to finger Russia. Either is as likely as Putin “sending a message” to his opponents.

          • I could accept that someone within (or some segment of) the Russian semi-state apparatus might feel that they could get into Putin’s good books by carrying out an unauthorised overseas assassination. But why would they choose such a cumbersome and potentially (fingers crossed for his survival) ineffective method, rather than simpler and more obvious options? Whereas Putin has form (with Litvinenko) for using a method that makes it crystal clear that only a state actor could be responsible.

  2. The reason we used to teach impartial investigative reporting was to keep political factions from “weaponizing” reporting, in their win-at-any-cost ethics. Now we teach Grievance Studies and reporter as community activist.

    But “no mockery, no disdain” – That is not what we want. CNN’s Jake Tapper covers the White House not so much to discover any facts as to get in everyone’s face.

  3. Count me in amongst your potential bridge buyers, then. It’s becoming increasingly less clear who was responsible. For a start, one would expect “Putin’s goons” to be rather better at this sort of thing. Not leave the target alive, collateral damage & fingers pointing at Putin. If anything, the general incompetence has all the hallmarks of a SIS operation. Although heaven knows whose interests they work for, these days. Long time since it was the UK’s.

    • To what end would the SIS (for heaven’s sake) carry out such an operation? To increase sanctions against Russia (hard to go much further than we already have)? To destabilise him at home (that’s worked well, hasn’t it)? Whereas the downside – if it were ever revealed to be SIS/CIA/Mossad/Illuminati – would be catastrophic.

      I’m not sure there’s been much evidence that this was incompetently handled. Lethal dosage for such chemical weapons isn’t exactly well established – they were designed for use in munitions, not assassinations. But those who did it would appear to have got clean away, which argues for a certain level of competence.

      I realise there’s no hard evidence pointing directly to Putin (and it’s unlikely there ever will be), but some circumstantial evidence can be very strong, like finding a trout in your milk, as Thoreau put it. Putin had means, motive and opportunity – he’s made it clear that he’s prepared to attack perceived opponents abroad, and done so in the case of Litvinenko. Even Inspector Clouseau could work this one out.

    • Given that the family of agents were developed in the Soviet Union and the *other* confirmed producer – once they had been debated – is Iran, it’s a short list of folk who could have access to the stuff (assuming, of course, it really is a Novichok family member)

      I also wonder how much of the media reporting is of official statements, how much is of “we got a few drinks into a policeman and he told us that…” and how much is of “someone says they saw someone in protective clothing swabbing the air vents of a car”.

      Being of an certain age, I remember the first night of Gulf War 1 back in 1991 when 24-hour news was still relatively new: much excitement that it had kicked off, but other than the word from Brent Sadler in Baghdad most of it was repetitive “I’m at an airbase in Saudi Arabia and lots of VERY LOUD jets are taking off every so often but nobody will actually tell me anything…”

    • If Porton can identify Novichok so quickly they must have a sample. After all they are the defence against chemical agents and it is their job to know what the threat is. None of the MSM seems to have asked about that. It would muddy the waters, because there is no reason to think ONLY Russia could do it but that is the narrative being pushed. I’d guess Porton has it, and Fort Detrick and any number of other players if they wanted. The problem here though is not whodunnit but why no other explanation is even considered. It fells like we are getting the bum’s rush.

      • The composition of the Novichok family of agents is now public knowledge. It’s been said that most university chemistry departments could produce it. But (as with explosives), the problem isn’t in producing it – it’s producing, transporting and delivering it without killing yourself and a lot of bystanders.

        Putin gains from this act by sending a message to opponents overseas and allowing his propaganda machine at home to portray him as a strong leader standing up for his country. He clearly has no great concerns about the diplomatic blowback. Whereas other state actors see no benefit (they’ve nothing against the individual, and little to gain from further blackening Russia’s international reputation – as if that were possible) – while if it was ever discovered that they had been responsible, the damage would be huge.

        • A popular strong leader in a country where strong leaders are valued and who has control of the elections doesn’t stand in need of an image boost. Sending a message to opponents? They all know he can get them any time. It seems to me that this was meant to be clandestine, a street collapse billed as a heart attack or an undiscovered home collapse . Maybe it would have been missed if the daughter had not been there too. As it was it failed both to be undiscovered and to be lethal. Not to say that you can’t conclude Putin did it on a balance of probabilities but it just does not fit so well as to preclude other possibilities. Which the MSM ought to have considered, not just make it a patriotic requirement not to question.

  4. This is pretty much what the American media did after the Las Vegas shootings, they just repeated whatever the government authority figure told them that morning, consistency or even curiosity be damned.

    The best way to view the mainstream media these days is as the propaganda arm of the ruling classes. That is certainly consistent with what is described in this post.

  5. Huh? I’d rather reporters repeat (report?) what they have been told alongside who actually told them that, than have them try and do some deep level analysis and jeremy paxman on a plain news article. I mean yes its an investigation, if you are going to report it just report what’s happening, the findings and the conclusions and the reaction come when its complete.

  6. Quentin says: If there’s anyone out there who really believes there was a chance this nerve agent attack wasn’t Putin’s goons sending a loud and clear message to his opponents

    I believe there’s a good chance Putin had nothing to do with it.

    So far, all the British press has offered us is faith-based reporting. We’re supposed to just take the word of people who lied to us about Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya when they rolled out their latest politically convenient narrative.

    The possibilities as I reckon them are as follows:

    * Putin ordered the hit for inexplicable Slavic reasons of his own. He presumably had the means and opportunity. The problem with this theory is motive, which nobody has convincingly described. Russia probably doesn’t want more sanctions. Why risk so much over one ex-spy they freely traded away years ago?

    * Putin didn’t order the hit, but someone in the FSB/Russian mafia (to the extent those are different organisations) wanted Skripal dead for their own reasons. The CIA has a long history of going off the reservation, it’s naive to assume Putin has more control over his own Deep State than the President of the United States does.

    * A third party country did it. Best I can tell, several countries would have the means to manufacture Soviet-era nerve agents. To be sure, this is the tinfoiliest theory, but then Dr. David Kelly is still dead, isn’t he?

    We’re being asked to choose between competing conspiracy theories. I can’t see that the British government’s conspiracy theory is more credible than the others.

  7. I could accept that someone within (or some segment of) the Russian semi-state apparatus might feel that they could get into Putin’s good books by carrying out an unauthorised overseas assassination. But why would they choose such a cumbersome and potentially (fingers crossed for his survival) ineffective method, rather than simpler and more obvious options?

    You’ve complicated your own question by begging another: I’m not saying anyone did it to get into Putin’s good books, if a rogue element of the Russian state did this it would not have been for this reason. Whoever did this wanted it to look as though it came from Russia. I think this would serve people wanting to disrupt Russian relations with other countries (or force Russia into taking a more hardline stance) more than it would serve Putin, especially at this juncture. I can’t think of a single reason why Putin would want Skripal knocked off *and* use a method that would lead back to Russia.

    Whereas Putin has form (with Litvinenko)

    Which we don’t know either. Granted, I believe it was Putin but nothing was ever proven and the inquest results were nowhere near as unequivocal as the article of faith on this matter that most people have now adopted. But killing Litvinenko with polonium doesn’t do much to support the notion Putin killed Skripal with nerve agent: it’s a different man, a different time, and a different method. Why not use polonium again if that’s Putin’s calling card?

  8. “Putin ordered the hit for inexplicable Slavic reasons of his own.”

    All of this speculation is essentially the same argument as asking why terrorists (like the IRA) use such ineffective and transparent methods. Why do terrorists attack airplanes, where all the security is? Why do terrorists go to all the difficulty, risk, and expense of acquiring guns and bombs when there are far easier, more effective, and more available means of killing lots of people? (Like nail up the fire exits and set fire to somewhere – cost: a hammer, nails, and a box of matches…) Why did the IRA go to all the trouble of planting a bomb, and then phone the authorities to tell them it was there?

    Was it because they had been infiltrated by the security services, who steered their co-conspirators towards easy-to-trace, easy-to-control methods? Are terrorists actually secretly run by the authorities, to scare the public into accepting more security controls and monitoring? The conspiracy theories you can generate are endless.

    But there’s a more straightforward explanation, which is that all terrorism is done for political effect. The idea is to make enough of a bloody nuisance of yourself to motivate concessions to get you to stop, without going too far and motivating and politically justifying a military counter. Given that the fundamental aim is to extract political concessions for your cause, there is absolutely no point in doing it if nobody knows it was you that did it. There’s no point in using basic methods anyone could use if your aim is to demonstrate how militarily powerful and dangerous you are. But at the same time, you want to get away with it, which in this case means leaving enough ambiguity that it can’t be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”. (And if somebody else did it, they’re probably ticked off that Putin is stealing all the credit for it.)

    It doesn’t actually matter for these purposes if the Skripals survive – it would arguably be worse, given that they’re likely to suffer permanent neurological damage. The point is that people step more warily and less aggressively around someone with the reputation for being an unstable nutter with homicidal tendencies who doesn’t care what people think. I’ve met quite a few people who played up the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” aspect of their character for effect – it’s very common behaviour in gangs.

    “A government which has been caught lying about this kind of stuff quite a lot over the years. I presume we all remember the dodgy dossier?”

    Yeah. I remember how it was mainly the usual anti-West pro-Islamist dictator-defending Galloway crowd who lied the most about it, afterwards. The right-on lefty campaign to blacken its reputation succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The result being that no Western government now is going to dare topple any further tyrant dictators by force for the foreseeable.

  9. Niv thinks it was Putin who did it. The logic is bizarre. The IRA terror campaign in London in the 1990s was ineffective in terms of death but it was very inconvenient in terms of the train cancellations and the ring of steel. It did not result in an ambiguous death threat of this nebulous kind. So nebulous as not to constitute a threat.

  10. Why do terrorists attack airplanes, where all the security is?

    They largely don’t, these days. They plough lorries into pedestrians, strap nail bombs to their backs and go to concerts, try to murder people on the Tube. Going after planes is so 2001.

    But you’re assuming Putin, the democratically elected leader of a major country, has the same mentality as terrorists do. Maybe he does – I don’t know the guy. But this seems like a yuge big assumption. It runs into the same problem of *why?* Putin isn’t an insurgent, he’s establishment.

    It’s an unsatisfying explanation to claim “well he just wants people to be afraid of him”. Because he’s not some random jihadi nutter, he’s been in power for about 20 years now. He has a lot to lose by publicly murdering people.

    Are terrorists actually secretly run by the authorities, to scare the public into accepting more security controls and monitoring? The conspiracy theories you can generate are endless.

    Well, it turned out the Loyalist terrorists actually were, if not run by the British security services, often in close cooperation with them. The unpleasant fact about conspiracy theories is that people conspire to do unpleasant and illegal things every day.

    • Putin can essentially be thought of as capo di tutti capi of the Russian mafiosi. He has a record as long of your arm of dealing with political opponents, inquisitive journalists (and simply people whose wealth he fancies taking) by assassination, throwing into jail on trumped-up charges or simply ‘disappearing’ them*. In doing so, he’s simply following in the footsteps of every Russian ruler since the first tsars.

      This doesn’t mean he can ignore public opinion (any more than can a mafia boss in Sicily) – on the contrary, he cultivates it quite assiduously, greatly assisted by the fact that he has complete control of the media.

      * I expect this is rarely by direct orders, rather by his lieutenants, keen to ingratiate themselves. The Salisbury episode could have been (as others have pointed out) a similar case.

      • Putin also operates a vast bureaucracy. The assertion that Putin authored the assassination is not rebutted by the fact that the chemical was different and the attack was uncharacteristically ineffective and unsecret, as these might have been the consequence of the agency that carried out his orders. Putin would not have specified what agent (both meanings) to use.

    • “But you’re assuming Putin, the democratically elected leader of a major country, has the same mentality as terrorists do.”

      at the same time as

      “Well, it turned out the Loyalist terrorists actually were, if not run by the British security services, often in close cooperation with them.”

      One of the most characteristic features of the lefty “anti-war” Galloway crowd was the way they would protest the innocence of, and give every benefit of the doubt to rulers like Stalin, Putin, Assad, Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, and so on, but believed the British and American governments capable of any nefarious atrocity, without question.

      It was an extremely odd contrast, that I thought very revealing of their deeper motivations.