Psychoanalysing NATO: Projection and Gaslighting

Patrick Armstrong
https://www.strategic-culture.org/images/news/2018/07/03/or-41014.jpg

PART I: Projection

“NATO” can be a rather elusive concept: Libya was a NATO operation, even though Germany kept out of itSomalia was not a NATO operation even though Germany was in it. Canada, a founding NATO member, was in Afghanistan but not in Iraq. Some interventions are NATO, others aren’t. But it doesn’t really mean much because NATO is only a box of spare parts out of which Washington assembles “coalitions of the willing”. So it’s easier for me to write “NATO” than “Washington plus/minus these or those minions”.

We are told – incessantly – that Putin is “Winning the Information War“, “We have no counterattack to Russia’s information warfare“. Nonsense. The real information war is being conducted by the British Army’s “77th Brigade“, the soldiers of Fort Bragg, NATO’s Centre of Excellence in Tallinn. Or by the BBC, RFE/RL, Deutsch Welle, AFP et al; each of whose budgets is many multiples of RT’s. They manipulate; they dominate; they predate; Moscow is a minor newcomer.

I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist or any other kind of psychist, but I cannot fail to notice the projection and gaslighting practised by Washington and its minions. They accuse Russia of doing things that they actually do – projection – and they manipulate our perception of reality – gaslighting. I will discuss gaslighting in the next essay.

Wikipedia defines projection as

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually intolerant may constantly accuse other people of being intolerant. It incorporates blame shifting.

Another source calls it a “defence mechanism”:

Psychological projection involves projecting undesirable feelings or emotions onto someone else, rather than admitting to or dealing with the unwanted feelings.

Interference: Russia! Russia! But NATO actually does it

Russia, we are told, interfered in the US presidential election. And Brexit, and France, and GermanyHungaryGreecepopulism, and and and. The American story has metamorphosed from its initial version which was supposed to have been an attempt to elect Trump into an attempt to sow division in US society. The NYT attempts to explain how both stories fit together. The absurdity of the charge was shown when the 3500 or so Facebook ads paid for by the so-called Internet Research Agency were revealed: they were all over the place. Even more amusingly, Mueller, who no doubt thought he was safe to indict a Russian companyis trying to get out of having to prove it now that the company’s lawyers have shown up. If the matter ever does come to trial it will likely show that the whole operation was a scam designed to create interest groups to sell advertising to. (Which would explain why the majority of the ads appeared after the election: the election was the bait to create the groups.)

This is projection at its most obvious: the USA is by far the world champion at interfering in other people’s elections. No less an Establishment outlet than the Washington Post (one of the principals in sustaining Putindunnit hysteria) listed many in: “The long history of the U.S. interfering with elections elsewhere“; but piously insisted “the days of its worst behavior are long behind it”.

A quick diversion from the sordid reality of the rigged Democratic Party nomination – “don’t blame us for doing it, blame Russia for revealing it!” – attributed to Russia what it denied in itself. The actual interference, we now learn, was not by Russia on the outside but by, among others, FBI officials on the inside.

A textbook illustration of blame shifting, isn’t it?

The Russian threat NATO created

NATO expansion is all projection: NATO expands to meet the threat its expansion creates. NATO justifies itself by pretending to solve the problems it creates: Canada/Libya leads to Libya/Mali leads to Canada/Mali. When the documents about the broken expansion promise were published, we saw that NATO’s own “false memory syndrome” had been projected onto Moscow.

This NYT headline from last year perfectly shifts the blame: “Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression“.

NATO blames Russia when its fake news fails

Does anyone remember Gay Girl in Damascus tweeting about the horrors of life in Syria under Assad? Not gay, not girl, not Damascus. How about Sarah Abdallah, who, the BBC tells us is “a mysterious and possibly fictitious social media celebrity [who] tweets constant pro-Russia and pro-Assad messages“. But she actually exists. But the champion of champions is surely Bana from Aleppo whose English abilities declined so dramatically when she got out (and few wondered how, in a destroyed city, her Internet service could be so good). Aleppo has mostly disappeared from the West’s news outlets but here is AFP’s coverage a year later (a less NATOcentric view here). Even with the obligatory propaganda twists – “pro-regime residents back on the streets” – it’s obviously a better place after the “Assad regime” reclaimed it than it was when Bana wanted to start World War III. Believing Gay Girl, believing Bana, denigrating Sara is projection: because projectors live in a world of falsehood, they assume that everything they do not fake themselves must be faked by someone else.

And we’re still waiting for Kerry’s “we observed it”, a coherent Skripal story (here’s one but it’s not the authorities’), actual evidence of the Russian “invasion” and many other things that we were told were anything but “fake news”. Believing NATO’s stories requires crimestop: if you doubt 76 missiles hit this site (here’s just one), then you must be a Russian troll or a victim of Russian fake news.

Don’t look here, look there: our fakery is real, their reality is fake.

Russia challenges the ideas NATO puts in your head

The concern over Russia’s influence in the West has grown considerably in the past few years, particularly the Russian regime’s use of information technologies to malign unfriendly Western politicians and undermine the Western public’s faith in democracy.

Russian bots everywhere influencing, dividing, affecting. But the real bots are NATO’s: from Operation Mockingbird in the 1950s, through Udo Ulfkotte’s Bought Journalists to today:

The 1,200-strong psychological operations unit based at Fort Bragg turns out what its officers call ‘truthful messages’ to support the United States government’s objectives, though its commander acknowledges that those stories are one-sided and their American sponsorship is hidden. (New Yorker, December 2005).

Our vision is to be the main source of expertise in the field of cooperative cyber defence by accumulating, creating, and disseminating knowledge in related matters within NATO, NATO nations and partners. (NATO, October 2008)

A contest to re-design the USAF Cyberwarrior Badge (2010)

Three years later the accusations have not been substantiated, but they have served their purpose nonetheless: NATO dispatched cyber warfare experts to Estonia shortly after the events of 2007 and on May 14, 2008 the military bloc established what it calls the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) in the nation’s capital of Tallin. (2010)

The British army is creating a special force of Facebook warriors, skilled in psychological operations and use of social media to engage in unconventional warfare in the information age. (Guardian, January 2015)

Members of the Military Information Support Task Force-Central influence and persuade targets or intended audiences within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility to reject those enemy narratives and violent extremist ideologies in order to establish conditions for long-term regional stability. (CENTCOM, April 2017).

The Army announced on Wednesday (Nov. 29) that a team of its researchers would work alongside scientists from Ukraine and Bulgaria to ‘understand and ultimately combat disinformation attacks in cyberspace. (November, 2017)

Clearly NATO is projecting what it is actually doing onto Russia.

“Hybrid war” was invented by the Russian who’s reacting to it

In 2014 NATO worried about “hybrid war”, apparently something Russia practised. This writer tells us it is sometimes called the “Gerasimov doctrine” after an article written in 2013 (note the date) by the Chief of the Russian General Staff.

According to Gerasimov, the lessons of the Arab Spring are that if the ‘rules of war’ have changed, the consequences have not – the results of the ‘colored revolutions’ are that a ‘thriving state can, in a matter of months and even days, be transformed into an arena of fierce armed conflict, become a victim of foreign intervention and sink into a web of chaos, humanitarian catastrophe and civil war.’

In short the theoretical foundation of this supposedly amazing, tricky, sinister and almost invisible Russian way of waging war originates in a paper written about Western-inspired “colour revolutions”. Like the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia (ten years before Gerasimov’s paper), the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine (nine), the 2005 Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (eight). Once upon a time to get rid of a ruler you didn’t like, you invaded his country and, months later, fished him out of a hole and hanged him. But it’s much cheaper to invest money ($5 billion in Ukraine we are told) to organise protests and overthrow him. And, as we have seen in Ukraine, sometimes it becomes a real shooting war, with real dead bodies and entrails. Sometimes the one thing, sometimes the other; but it’s all conflict, and it’s all “hybrid”. It’s “hybrid” because it uses many methods to bring about the desired regime change: propaganda, manipulation, protest and, occasionally, a little judicious bombing or sniping.

So how ironic – how “hybrid” – to accuse Gerasimov of inventing something that began years earlier. His so-called textbook of Russian “hybrid war” is actually a response to the real “hybrid war” that Washington practises.

Projection: accusing Russia of doing what you are actually doing.

We bomb hospitals by mistake,Putin does it on purpose

Putin and Assad allegedly mercilessly bombed Aleppo – we heard about it for months. “Carpet bombing“. “War crimes“. The boy in the ambulance. Humanitarian convoys intentionally hit (although Bellingcat has become sloppy with his faked evidence). The implication was that Russia just threw lots of bombs around while NATO was precise, surgical.

We heard rather less about Mosul or Raqqa. Although that may change: even the managed Western media/human rights apparat has noticed the stunning, indiscriminate destruction.

Islamic State fighters have now essentially been defeated in Mosul after a nine-month, US-backed campaign that destroyed significant parts of Iraq’s second largest city, killing up to 40,000 civilians and forcing as many as one million more people from their homes.

In Raqqa: 20,000 bombs, 30,000 artillery rounds, altogether, about one per five pre-war occupants! Amnesty International condemned the NATO bombing of Raqqa: “we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen“.

But, as “The Persistent Myth of US Precision Bombing” shows, the US military has always pretended “surgical precision” while scattering prodigious numbers of bombs. “America has no idea how many innocent people it’s killing in the Middle East” said the Independent in 2017. Even the Establishment-friendly NYT concluded that the US military greatly understated the number of civilians it kills – reporting maybe as few as 4%! At least eight wedding parties. But the quantity of bombs dropped makes a mockery of “precision”: by its own count 114,000 weapons since 2013 on Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Who can believe there are a hundred thousand pinpoint targets in those countries? “The detonation of the bombs as they hit the ground appears to be pretty huge.” In Afghanistan the USAF is now bombing to “shape the terrain” – geological bombing.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble.

A tour through the rubble in Mosul.

To say nothing of the sustained destruction of a clearly marked and identified hospital in Afghanistan. (A mistake, for which no one was punished.)

Projection again: don’t look here, look over there.

The USSR did lots of things in its time – influencing, fiddling elections, regime changes, fake news, projection and so on. But the Communist Party was the “leading and guiding force” in those days; today it’s the opposition; the Comintern is gone but Mockingbird is not. Things have changed in Moscow, but NATO rolls on.

Which, when you think of it, is the problem.

If NATO accuses Russia of something, NATO is actually doing it

I leave you with this simple rule of thumb:

Every time NATO accuses Russia of doing something you know it’s doing it itself.

And reflect on this: NATO and its propaganda minions are so unimaginative that they cannot imagine Russia doing anything but what they are doing. That’s why they are surprised all the time.

PART II: Gaslighting

Author’s Note: Because “NATO” these days is little more than a box of spare parts out of which Washington assembles “coalitions of the willing”, it’s easier for me to write “NATO” than “Washington plus/minus these or those minions”.


Home Secretary Sajid Javid has called on Russia to explain “exactly what has gone on” after two people were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent in Wiltshire. (BBC)

The Russian state could put this wrong right. They could tell us what happened. What they did. And fill in some of the significant gaps that we are trying to pursue. We have said they can come and tell us what happened. I’m waiting for the phone call from the Russian state. The offer is there. They are the ones who could fill in all the clues to keep people safe. (UK security minister Ben Wallace)

Leaving aside their egregious flouting of the elemental principle of English justice, note that they’re uttering this logical idiocy: Russia must have done it because it hasn’t proved it didn’t. Note also, in Javid’s speech, the amusing suggestion that Russia keeps changing its story; but to fit into the official British story “novichok” must be an instantly lethal slow acting poison which dissipates quickly but lasts for months.

This is an attempt to manipulate our perception of reality. In a previous essay I discussed NATO’s projection of its own actions onto Russia. In this piece I want to discuss another psychological manipulation – gaslighting.

The expression comes from the movie Gaslight in which the villain manipulates her reality to convince his wife that she is insane. Doubt the official Skripal story and it is you – you “Russian troll” – who is imagining things. Only Russian trolls would question Litvinenko’s deathbed accusation written in perfect English handed to us by a Berezovskiy flunky; or the shootdown of MH17; or the invasion of Ukraine; or the cyber attack on Estonia. Only a Russian troll would observe that the fabulously expensive NATO intelligence agencies apparently get their information from Bellingcat. Argumentum ad trollem is everywhere: count the troll accusations here or admire the clever anticipatory use of the technique there.

This is classic gaslighting – I’m telling the truth, you’re the crazy one.

We may illustrate the eleven signs of “gaslighting” given in Psychiatry Today  by   Stephanie A. Sarkis with recent events.

They tell blatant lies.

The Skripals were poisoned by an incredibly deadly nerve agent that left them with no visible symptoms for hours but not so deadly that it killed them; at least not at Easter; nor the policeman; a nerve agent that could only have been made in Russia although its recipe was published in the open media; that poison having been administered on a doorknob that each had to have touched at the exact same minute that no one else touched; a nerve agent so deadly that they only bothered to clean up the sites 51 days later. And so on: a different story every day. But your mind must be controlled by Putin if you smell a falsehood at any point. And, now we have it all over again: apparently the fiendishly clever Russian assassins smeared the doorknob and then, rather than getting out of town ASAP, sauntered over into a park to toss the container. (Remember the fiendishly clever Russian assassins who spread polonium everywhere?)

And, speaking of proven, long term, repeating liars: remember when accusing the British government of complicity in torture renditions was a conspiracy theory? Well, it turns out the conspiracy was by the other side. “Conspiracy Theorist” is the perfect gaslighting accusation, by the way: you’re the crazy one.

They deny they ever said something, even though you have proof.

The Skripal case gives a perfect illustration: here’s the UK Foreign Secretary saying Porton Down told him it was Russian (“absolutely categorical”) And here’s the UK Foreign Office disappearing the statement: We never said Porton Down confirmed the origin. It’s rare to get such a quick exposure of a lie, so it’s useful to have this example. Here is an obvious fake from BellingcatAlready the Douma story is being re-polished now that the OPCW has said no organophosphates.

Most of the time it takes years to reveal the lie: gaslighters know the details will be forgotten while the impression remains. 64 years later we learn the “conspiracy theorists” were right about the CIA/UK involvement in the Iran coup. It’s rather amazing how many people still believe the proven liars this time around.

They use what is near and dear to you as ammunition. 

Russians cheat at the sports you follow, scatter nerve agents and radioactive material in places you could be in, sneak into the voting booth with you, blow up airplanes you might be on and tear up the “very fabric of our democracy.” Your favourite actor tells you “we are at war with Russia“.

And the children! The boy on the beachThe boy in the ambulanceBana from AleppoMiraculous recoveries.  Dramatic rescues with camera! Dead children speaking. And finally, the little girl, Trump and the Time cover.

If it’s a child, they’re gaslighting you.

They wear you down over time.

Skripal story fading? How about a CW attack in Syria? No? Back to MH17: same story with one new obviously suspicious detail. Pussy Riot is forgotten and Pavlenskiy an embarrassment, but “Russian bear in Moscow World Cup parade video sparks PETA outrage“! This is what is known as a Gish Gallop: the gaslighter makes 47 assertions, while you’re thinking about the first, he makes 20 more: in former times it was recognised by the the folk saying that “a fool can ask more questions than ten wise men can answer”. But the fools quickly come up with more: dead dogs in Russia: without tuk-tukswith tuk-tuks; your choice.

You are worn down by ten new fake outrages every month: all expressed in simplistic terms. How much context is stuffed into this imbecilic headline? The Plot Against Europe: Putin, Hungary and Russia’s New Iron Curtain. How many thousand words, how many hours to discuss it intelligently? Too late! Time for “Trump and Putin’s Too-Friendly Summit” (NYT 28 June). Forget that! “Sexism at Russia World Cup the worst in history as female fans and broadcasters are harassed“. (Telegraph 30 June). Gone! “We already gave Syria to Putin, so what’s left for Trump to say?” (WaPo 5 July) Stop wondering! “Amesbury poisoning: Here’s what we know about the novichok victims” (Sky News 6 July). No! Trumputin again! “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?” (NY Mag 8 July). Gish Gallop. The sheer volume of easily-made accusations forces two conclusions: they’re right and you’re wrong (smoke: fire) or, more simply, eventually you – you crazy one! – give up.

Their actions do not match their words.

They bomb hospitals on purposewe bomb them by accident. Discussed further here but the essence of the point is that

it would be physically impossible for Russia to be more destructive than NATO is.

If you want a single word to summarize American war-making in this last decade and a half, I would suggest rubble.

They throw in positive reinforcement to confuse you.

There are direct rewards of course: cue Udo Ulfkotte; many benefits to swimming with the stream; swimming the other way, not so many. It’s only after they retire that British generals question the story, the cynic observes. German generals too. Maybe even US generals.

But for the rest of us, NATO bathes us in gush: “NATO’s Enduring Mission – Defending Values, Together”Together, our values: we – you and I – have the good values. NATO loves to praise itself “the Alliance also contributes to peace and stability through crisis management operations and partnerships.” Remember Libya? “A model intervention” said the NATO GenSek of the time. Here is the view on the ground. Most of the “migrants” tearing Europe apart are fleeing the destruction of NATO’s wars. NATO backs (plus/minus minions) the intervention in Mali, a country destabilised by its destruction of Libya. Cue the positive reinforcement: “Projecting Stability: an agenda for action“. In NATOland the gaslight burns bright: “Nato chief: Vladimir Putin ‘weaponising’ refugee crisis to ‘break’ Europe“. NATO keeps pouring butterscotch sauce on the rubble: “NATO is based on some core values – democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty” (25 June).

All I can say, over and over again, is Libya. NATO destroyed Libya, weird as it was, killed Qaddafi, weird as he was, and smugly congratulated itself: “NATO’s Victory in Libya: The Right Way to Run an Intervention“. Ubi solitudinum faciunt pacem appelant. But should that thought occur to you, you’re part of “Russia’s secret plan to destroy EU and NATO“.

They know confusion weakens people.

Remember PropOrNot? Sites that do not agree with the Establishment are Russian bots! Authenticated experts! 100% reliable! The WaPo published the list; when under attack even from proponents of the Putindunnit hysteria, it feebly backtracked: it “does not itself vouch for the validity”. Vermont power grid hack? WaPo fell for that one too. Confusion from the endless Gish Gallop about Putin: in December 2015 I compiled a number: Aspergers, pychopath, slouching and on and on and on.

You may be confused but the gaslighter isn’t: Russia’s to blame for whatever-it-was!

They project.

NATO projects all the time and this headline from the NYT is classic: “Russia’s Military Drills Near NATO Border Raise Fears of Aggression“. I discuss NATO’s projection here.

They try to align people against you.

NATO exerts a continual pressure for unanimity. Again, the Skripal story is a good example: London accused Russia and, “in solidarity“, Russian diplomats were expelled all over the world. Allies took its word for it. Now the doubts: in Germany especially. Sanctions must be imposed on Russia because we must be in solidarity with Kiev. “Solidarity” on migrants. “Solidarity” is perhaps the greatest virtue in NATOland. We will hear more pleas for solidarity as NATO dies: when mere “solidarity” is the only reason left; there’s no reason left.

They tell you or others that you are crazy.

It also must be said that when elected officials — including members of Congress — and media platforms amplify propaganda disseminated by Russian trolls, they are aiding the Russians in their efforts.

The goal is to undermine democracy. So you want America to look unstable and Americans not to trust each other.

An “existential threat posed by digitally accelerated disinformation“. So no forgiveness to you, crazy Putin trolls. And don’t dare doubt that American democracy is so feeble that it can be directed by a few Facebook ads. Never forget that NATO’s opponents are crazy: Putin is a “madman“; Qaddafi was “crazy“; Saddam Hussein “insane“; Milosevic “rabid“. Only crazy people would defend crazy people.

They tell you everyone else is a liar.

Honest people don’t have to tell you they’re trustworthy, and neither, once upon a time, did the BBC. The Atlantic Council smoothly moves from “Why Is the Kremlin So Fixated on Phantom Fascists?” in May 2017 to “Ukraine’s Got a Real Problem with Far-Right Violence (And No, RT Didn’t Write This Headline)” in June 2018. But it still calls Russia the liar: “Why the Kremlin’s Lies Stick” (May 2018). The Atlantic Council hopes you’re dumb enough not to notice that Russia hasn’t changed its line but the gaslighters have. (Remember O’Brien and two plus two?)

Russian Federation is not the USSR.

I said it the last time: the USSR did lots of things in its time – influencing, fiddling elections, fake news, gaslighting and so on. But, in those days the Communist Party was the “leading and guiding force” but today it’s the opposition. Things have changed in Moscow, but NATO rolls on.

Some hope.

While many people are still taken in by the gaslighters, there are hopeful signs. Once upon a time Internet versions of the mass media allowed comments. Gradually, one by one, they shut down their comments sections because of “trolls”, “fake news” and offended “standards” but really because of disagreement. Perhaps the most famous case is that of the Guardian: an entire website, has been created by people whose comments were rejected because they violated “community standards”. I always read the comments in the Daily Mail, especially the best rated, and on the Skripal stories, the comments are very sceptical indeed of the official story. For example.

This is rather encouraging: for gaslighting really to work, the gaslighter either has to be in such a position of power that he can completely control the victim’s surroundings or in such a position of authority that the victim cannot imagine doubting what he says. Those days are gone.

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