US claim of ‘Russian Bounty’ plot in Afghanistan is dubious and dangerous

6 July 2020 — The Grayzone

Max Blumenthal breaks down the “Russian bounty” story’s flaws and how it aims to prolong the war in Afghanistan — and uses Russiagate tactics to continue pushing the Democratic Party to the right (inc. transcript)

Multiple US media outlets, citing anonymous intelligence officials, are claiming that Russia offered bounties to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan, and that President Trump has taken no action.

Others are contesting that claim. “Officials said there was disagreement among intelligence officials about the strength of the evidence about the suspected Russian plot,” the New York Times reports. “Notably, the National Security Agency, which specializes in hacking and electronic surveillance, has been more skeptical.”

“The constant flow of Russiagate disinformation into the bloodstream of the Democratic Party and its base is moving that party constantly to the right, while pushing the US deeper into this Cold War,” Blumenthal says.

Guest: Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone and author of several books, including his latest “The Management of Savagery.”

TRANSCRIPT

AARON MATÉ:  Welcome to Pushback,  I’m Aaron Maté.  There is a new supposed Trump-Russia bombshell. The New York Times and other outlets reporting that Russia has been paying bounties to Afghan militants to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.  Trump and the White House were allegedly briefed on this information but have taken no action.

Now, the story has obvious holes, like many other Russiagate bombshells.  It is sourced to anonymous intelligence officials. The New York Times says that the claim comes from Afghan detainees. And it also has some logical holes.  The Taliban have been fighting the US and Afghanistan for nearly two decades and never needed Russian payments before to kill the Americans that they were fighting; [this] amongst other questions are raised about this story.  But that has not stopped the usual chorus from whipping up a frenzy.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC:  Vladimir Putin is offering bounties for the scalps of American soldiers in Afghanistan.  Not only offering, offering money [to] the people who kill Americans, but some of the bounties that Putin has offered have been collected, meaning the Russians at least believe that their offering cash to kill Americans has actually worked to get some Americans killed.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN:  Donald Trump has continued his embarrassing campaign of deference and debasing himself before Vladimir Putin.  He had has [sic] this information according to The Times, and yet he offered to host Putin in the United States and sought to invite Russia to rejoin the G7.  He’s in…his entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale.

CHUCK TODD, NBC:  Let me ask you this.  Do you think that part of the…that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?

SENATE MINORITY LEADER CHUCK SCHUMER:  I was not briefed on the Russian military intelligence, but it shows that we need in this coming defense bill, which we’re debating this week, tough sanctions against Russia, which thus far Mitch McConnell has resisted.

Joining me now is Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone, author of The Management of Savagery.  Max, welcome to Pushback.  What is your reaction to this story?

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  I mean, it just feels like so many other episodes that we’ve witnessed over the past three or four years, where American intelligence officials basically plant a story in one outlet, The New York Times, which functions as the media wing of the Central Intelligence Agency.  Then no reporting takes place whatsoever, but six reporters, or three to six reporters are assigned to the piece to make it look like it was some last-minute scramble to confirm this bombshell story.  And then the story is confirmed again by The Washington Post because their reporters, their three to six reporters in, you know, capitals around the world with different beats spoke to the same intelligence officials, or they were furnished different officials who fed them the same story.  And, of course, the story advances a narrative that the United States is under siege by Russia and that we have to escalate against Russia just ahead of another peace summit or some kind of international dialogue.

This has sort of been the general framework for these Russiagate bombshells, and of course they can…there’s always an anti-Trump angle.  And because, you know, liberal pundits and the, you know, Democratic Party operatives see this as a means to undermine Trump as the election heats up.  They don’t care if it’s true or not.  They don’t care what the consequences are.  They’re just gonna completely roll with it.  And it’s really changed, I think, not just US foreign policy, but it’s changed the Democratic Party in an almost irreversible way, to have these constant “quote-unquote” bombshells that are really generated by the Central Intelligence Agency and by other US intelligence operations in order to turn up the heat to crank up the Cold War, to use these different media organs which no longer believe in reporting, which see Operation Mockingbird as a kind of blueprint for how to do journalism, to turn them into keys on the CIA’s Mighty Wurlitzer.  That’s what happened here.

AARON MATÉ:  What do you make of the logic of this story?  This idea that the Taliban would need Russian money to kill Americans when the Taliban’s been fighting the US for nearly two decades now.  And the sourcing for the story, the same old playbook:  anonymous intelligence officials who are citing vague claims about apparently what was said by Afghan detainees.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  This story has, as I said, it relies on zero reporting.  The only source is anonymous American intelligence officials.  And I tweeted out a clip of a former CIA operations officer who managed the CIA’s operation in Angola, when the US was actually fighting on the side of apartheid South Africa against a Marxist government that was backed up by Cuban troops.  His name was John Stockwell.  And Stockwell talked about how one-third of his covert operations staff were propagandists, and that they would feed imaginary stories about Cuban barbarism that were completely false to reporters who were either CIA assets directly or who were just unwitting dupes who would hang on a line waiting for American intelligence officials to feed them stories.  And one out of every five stories was completely false, as Stockwell said.  We could play some of that clip now; it’s pretty remarkable to watch it in light of this latest fake bombshell.

JOHN STOCKWELL:  Another thing is to disseminate propaganda to influence people’s minds, and this is a major function of the CIA.  And unfortunately, of course, it overlaps into the gathering of information.  You, you have contact with a journalist, you will give him true stories, you’ll get information from him, you’ll also give him false stories.

OFF-CAMERA REPORTER:  Can you do this with responsible reporters?

JOHN STOCKWELL:  Yes, the Church Committee brought it out in 1975.  And then Woodward and Bernstein put an article in Rolling Stone a couple of years later.  Four hundred journalists cooperating with the CIA, including some of the biggest names in the business.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  So, basically, I mean, you get the flavor of what someone who was in the CIA at the height of the Cold War…I mean, he did the same thing in Vietnam.  And the playbook is absolutely the same today.  These…this story was dumped on Friday in The New York Times by “quote-unquote” American intelligence officials, as a breakthrough had been made in Afghan peace talks and a conference was finally set for Doha, Qatar, that would involve the Taliban, which had been seizing massive amounts of territory.

Now, it’s my understanding, and correct me if I’m wrong, that the Taliban had been fighting one of the most epic examples of an occupying army in modern history, just absolutely chewing away at one of the most powerful militaries in human history in their country for the last 19 years, without bounties from Vladimir Putin or private-hotdog-salesman-and-Saint-Petersburg-troll-farm-owner Yevgeny Prigozhin, who always comes up in these stories.  It’s always the hotdog guy who’s doing everything bad from, like, you know, fake Facebook ads to poisoning Sergei Skripal or whatever.

But I just don’t see where the Taliban needs encouragement from Putin to do that.  It’s their country.  They want the US out and they have succeeded in seizing large amounts of territory.  Donald Trump has come into office with a pledge to remove US troops from Afghanistan and ink this deal.  And along comes this story as the peace process begins to advance.

And what is the end-result?  We haven’t gotten into the domestic politics yet, but the end-result is you have supposedly progressive senators like Chris Murphy of Connecticut attacking Trump for not fighting Russia in Afghanistan.  I mean, they want a straight-up proxy war for not escalating.  You have Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, someone who’s aligned with the Democratic Party, who supported the war in Iraq and, you know, supports just endless war, demanding that the US turn up the heat not just in Afghanistan but in Syria.  So, you know, the escalatory rhetoric is at a fever pitch right now, and it’s obviously going to impact that peace conference.

Let’s remember that three days before Trump’s summit with Putin was when Mueller chose to release the indictment of the GRU agents for supposedly hacking the DNC servers.  Let’s remember that a day before the UN…the United Nations Geneva peace talks opened on Syria in 2014 was when US intelligence chose to feed these shady Caesar photos, supposedly showing industrial slaughter of Syrian prisoners, to The New York Times in an investigation that had been funded by Qatar.  Like, so many shady intelligence dumps have taken place ahead of peace summits to disrupt them, because the US doesn’t feel like it has enough skin in the game or it just simply doesn’t want peace in these areas.

So, that’s what happened here.  That’s really, I think, the essential backdrop for the timing of this story.  It really reveals how completely decayed mainstream media is as an institution, that none of these reporters protested the story, didn’t see fit to do any independent investigation into it.  At best they would print a Russian denial which counts for nothing in the US, or a Taliban denial which counts for nothing in the US.  And then…and this gets into the domestic political angle because so much of  Russiagate, while it’s been crafted by former or current intelligence officials, depends on the Democratic Party and it punditocracy, MSNBC and mainstream media as a projection megaphone, as its Mighty Wurlitzer.  That took place in this case because, according to this story, Donald Trump had been briefed on Putin paying bounties to the Taliban and he chose to do nothing.  Which, of course Trump denies, but that counts for nothing as well.  But, again, there’s been no independent confirmation of any of this.  And now we get into the domestic part, which is that this new Republican anti-Trump operation, The Lincoln Project, had a flashy ad ready to go almost minutes after the story dropped.

THE LINCOLN PROJECT AD:  Now we know Vladimir Putin pays a bounty for the murder of American soldiers.  Donald Trump knows, too, and does nothing.  Putin pays the Taliban cash to slaughter our men and women in uniform and Trump is silent, weak, controlled.  Instead of condemnation he insists Russia be treated as our equal.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  I mean, maybe they’re just really good editors and brilliant politicians who work overtime.  They’re just, like, on meth at Steve Schmidt’s political Batcave, just churning this material out.  But I feel like they had an inkling, like this story was coming.  It just…the coordination and timing was impeccable.

And The Lincoln Project is something that James Carville, the veteran Democratic consultant, has said is doing more than any Democrat or any Democratic consultant to elect Joe Biden.  They’re always out there doing the hard work.  Who are they?  Well, Steve Schmidt is a former campaign manager for John McCain 2008.  And you look at the various personnel affiliated with it, they’re all McCain…former McCain aides or people who worked on the Jeb and George W. Bush campaigns, going back to Texas and Florida.  This is sort of the corporate wing of the Republican Party, the white-glove-country-club-patrician Republicans who are very pro-war, who hate Donald Trump.

And by doing this, by them really taking the lead on this attack, as you pointed out, Aaron, number one, they are sucking the oxygen out of the more progressive anti-Trump initiatives that are taking place, including in the streets of American cities.  They’re taking the wind out of anti-Trump…more progressive anti-Trump critiques.  For example, I think it’s actually more powerful to attack Trump over the fact that he used, basically, chemical weapons on American peaceful protesters to do a fascistic photo-op.  I don’t know why there wasn’t some call for congressional investigations on that.  And they are getting skin in the game on the Biden campaign.  It really feels to me like this Lincoln campaign operation, this moderate Republican operation which is also sort of a venue for neocons, will have more influence after events like this than the Bernie Sanders campaign, which has an enormous amount of delegates.

So, that’s what I think the domestic repercussion is.  It’s just this constant…it’s the constant flow of Russiagate disinformation into the bloodstream of the Democratic Party and its base that’s moving that party constantly to the right, while pushing the US deeper into this Cold War that only serves, you know, people who are associated with the national security state who need to justify their paycheck and the budget of the institutions that employ them.

AARON MATÉ:  Let’s assume for a second that the allegation is true, although, you know, you’ve laid out some of the reasons why it’s not.  Can you talk about the history here, starting with Afghanistan, something you cover a lot in your book, The Management of Savagery, where the US aim was to kill Russians, going right on through to Syria, where just recently the US envoy for the coalition against ISIS, James Jeffery, who handles Syria, said that his job now is to basically put the Russians in a quagmire in Syria.

JAMES JEFFREY:  This isn’t Afghanistan.  This isn’t Vietnam.  This isn’t a quagmire.  My job is to make it a quagmire for the Russians.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  Yeah, I mean, it feels like a giant act of psychological and political projection to accuse Russia of using an Islamist militia in Afghanistan as a proxy against the US to bleed the US into leaving, because that’s been the US playbook in Central Asia and the Middle East since at least 1979.  I just tweeted a photo of Dan Rather in Afghanistan, just crossing the Pakistani border and going to meet with some of the Mujahideen in 1980.  Dan Rather was panned in The New York…in The Washington Post by Tom Toles [Tom Shales], who was the media critic at the time, as “Gunga Dan,” because he was so gung-ho for the Afghan mujahideen.  In his reports he would complain about how weak their weaponry was, you know, how they needed more…how they needed more funding.  I mean, you could call it bounties, but it was really just CIA funding.

DAN RATHER:  These are the best weapons you have, huh?  They only have about twenty rounds for this?

TRANSLATOR:  That’s all.  They have twenty rounds.  Yes, and they know that these are all old weapons and they really aren’t up to doing anything to the Russian weaponry that’s around.  But that’s all they have, and this is why they want help.  And he is saying that America seems to be asleep.  It doesn’t seem to realize that if Afghanistan goes and the Russians go over to the Gulf, that in a very short time it’s going to be the turn of the United States as well.

DAN RATHER:  But I’m sure he knows that in Vietnam we got our fingers burned.  Indeed, we got our whole hands burned when we tried to help in this kind of situation.

TRANSLATOR [translating to the Afghan man and then his reply]:  Your hands were burned in Vietnam, but if you don’t agree to help us, if you don’t ally yourself with us, then all of you, your whole body will be burnt eventually, because there is no one in the world who can really fight and resist as well as the…as much and as well as the Afghans are.

DAN RATHER:  But no American mother wants to send her son to Afghanistan.

TRANSLATOR [translating to the Afghan man and then his reply]:  We don’t need anybody’s soldiers here to help us, but we are being constantly accused that the Americans are helping us with weapons.  What we need, actually, are the American weapons.  We don’t need or want American soldiers.  We can do the fighting ourselves.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  And a year…or several months before, the Carter Administration, at the urging of national security chief Zbigniew Brzezinski, had enacted what would become Operation Cyclone under Reagan, an arm-and-equip program to arm the Afghan mujahideen.  The Saudis put up a matching fund which helped bring the so-called Services Bureau into the field where Osama bin Laden became a recruiter for international jihadists to join the battlefield.  And, you know, the goal was, in the words of Brzezinski, as he later admitted to a French publication, was to force the Red Army, the Soviet Red Army, to intervene to protect the pro-Soviet government in Kabul, which they proceeded to do.  And then with the introduction of the Stinger missile, the Afghan mujahideen, hailed as freedom fighters in Washington, were able to destroy Russian supply lines, exact a heavy toll, and forced the Red Army to leave in retreat.  They helped create what’s considered the Soviet Union’s Vietnam.

So that was really but the blueprint for what Russian…for what Russia is being accused of now, and that same model was transferred over to Syria.  It was also actually proposed for Iraq in the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998.  Then Senate Foreign Relations chair Jesse Helms actually said that the Afghan mujahideen should be our model for supporting the Iraqi resistance.  So, this kind of proxy war was always on the table.  Then the US did it in Syria, when one out of every $13 in the CIA budget went to arm the so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria, who we later found out were 31 flavors of jihadi, who were aligned with al-Qaeda’s local affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and helped give rise to ISIS.  Michael Morell, I tweeted some video of him on Charlie Rose back in, I think, 2016.  He’s the former acting director for the CIA, longtime deputy director.  He said, you know, the reason that we’re in Syria, what we should be doing is causing Iran and Russia, the two allies of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to pay a heavy price.

MICHAEL MORELL:  We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria.  We need to make the Russians pay a price. The other thing…

CHARLIE ROSE:  We make them pay the price by killing…killing Russians?

MICHAEL MORELL:  Yes.

CHARLIE ROSE:  And killing Iranians.

MICHAEL MORELL:  Yes, covertly.  You don’t tell the world about it, right?  You don’t stand up at the Pentagon and say we did this, right?  But you make sure they know it in Moscow and Tehran.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  What he means is by basically paying bounties, which the US was literally doing along with its Gulf allies, to exact the toll on the allies of Assad, Russia.  So, let’s just say it’s true, according to your question, let’s just say this is all true.  It would be a retaliation for what the United States has done to Russia in areas where it was actually legally invited in by the governments in charge, either in Kabul or Damascus.  And that’s, I think, the kind of ironic subtext that can hardly be understated when you see someone like Dan Rather wag his finger at Putin for paying the Taliban as proxies.  But, I mean, it’s such a ridiculous story that it’s just hard to even fathom that it’s real.

AARON MATÉ:  Let me read Dan Rather’s tweet, because it’s so…it speaks to just how pervasive Russiagate culture is now.  People have learned absolutely nothing from it.

Rather says, “Reporters are trained to look for patterns that are suspicious, and time and again one stands out with Donald Trump.  Why is he so slavishly devoted to Putin?  There is a spectrum of possible answers ranging from craven to treasonous.  One day I hope and suspect we will find out.”

It’s like he forgot, perhaps, that Robert Mueller and his team spent three years investigating this very issue and came up with absolutely nothing.  But the narrative has taken hold, and it’s, as you talked about before, it’s been the narrative we’ve been presented as the vehicle for understanding and opposing Donald Trump, so it cannot be questioned.  And now it’s like…it’s a matter of, what else is there to find out about Trump and Russia after Robert Mueller and the US intelligence agencies looked for everything they could and found nothing?  They’re still presented as if it’s some kind of mystery that has to be unraveled.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  And it was after, like, a week of just kind of neocon resistance mind-explosion, where first John Bolton was hailed as this hero and truthteller about Trump.  Then Dick Cheney was welcomed into the resistance, you know, because he said, “Wear a mask.”  I mean, you know, his mask was strangely not spattered with the blood of Iraqi children.  But, you know, it was just amazing like that.  Of course, it was the Lincoln project who hijacked the minds of the resistance, but basically people who used to work on Cheney’s campaign said, “Dick Cheney, welcome to the resistance.”  I mean, that was remarkable.  And then you have this and it, you know, today as you pointed out, Chuck Todd, “Chuck Toddler”, welcomes on Meet the Press John Bolton as this wise voice to comment on Donald Trump’s slavish devotion to Vladimir Putin and how we need to escalate.

CHUCK TODD, NBC:  Let me ask you this.  Do you think that part of the…that the president is afraid to make Putin mad because maybe Putin did help him win the election and he doesn’t want to make him mad for 2020?

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  I mean, just a few years ago, maybe it was two years ago, before Bolton was brought into the Trump NSC, he was considered just an absolute marginal crank who was a contributor to Fox News.  He’d been forgotten.  He was widely hated by Democrats.  Now here he is as a sage voice to tell us how dangerous this moment is.  And, you know, he’s not being even brought on just to promote his book; he’s being brought on as just a sober-minded foreign policy expert on Meet the Press.  That’s where we’re at right now.

AARON MATÉ:  Yeah, and when his critique of Trump is basically that Trump was not hawkish enough.  Bolton’s most…the biggest critique Bolton has of Trump is, as he writes about in his book, is when Trump declined to bomb Iran after Iran shot down a drone over its territory.  And Bolton said that to him was the most irrational thing he’s ever seen a president do.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  Well, Bolton was mad that Trump confused body bags with missiles, because he said Trump thought that there would be 150 dead Iranians, and I said, “No, Donald, you’re confused.  It will be 150 missiles that we’re firing into Iran.”  Like that’s better!  Like, “Oh, okay, that makes everything all right,” that we fire a hundred missiles for one drone and maybe that…wouldn’t that kill possibly more than 150 people?

Well, in Bolton’s world this was just another stupid move by Trump.  If Bolton were, I mean, just, just… watch all the interviews with Bolton.  Watch him on The View where the only pushback he received was from Meghan McCain complaining that he ripped off a Hamilton song for his book The Room Where It Happened, and she asked, “Don’t you have any apology to offer to Hamilton fans?”  That was the pushback that Bolton received.  Just watch all of these interviews with Bolton and try to find the pushback.  It’s not there.  This is what Russiagate has done.  It’s taken one of the most Strangelovian, psychotic, dangerous, bloodthirsty, sadistic monsters in US foreign policy circles and turned him into a sober-minded, even heroic, truthteller.

AARON MATÉ:  And inevitably the only long-term consequence that I can see here is ultimately helping Trump, because, if history is a pattern, these Russiagate supposed bombshells always either go nowhere or they get debunked.  So, if this one gets forcefully debunked, because I think it’s quite possible, because Trump has said that he was never briefed on this and they’ll have to prove that he’s lying, you know.  It should be easy to do.  Someone could come out and say that.  If they can’t prove that he’s lying, then this one, I think, will blow up in their face.  And all they will have done is, at a time when Trump is vulnerable over the pandemic with over a hundred thousand people dead on his watch, all these people did was ultimately try to bring the focus back to the same thing that failed for basically the entirety of Trump’s presidency, which is Russiagate and Trump’s supposed―and non-existent in reality―subservience to Vladimir Putin.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  But have you ever really confronted one of your liberal friends who maybe doesn’t follow these stories as closely as you do?  You know, well-intentioned liberal friend who just has this sense that Russia controls Trump, and asked them to really defend that and provide the receipts and really explain where the Trump administration has just handed the store to Russia?  Because what we’ve seen is unprecedented since the height of the Cold War, an unprecedented deterioration of US-Russia relations with new sanctions on Russia every few months.  You ask them to do that.  They can’t do it.  It’s just a sense they get, it’s a feeling they get.  And that’s because these bombshells drop, they get reported on the front pages under banners of papers that declare that “democracy dies in darkness,” whose brand is something that everybody trusts, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein, and everybody repeats the story again and again and again.  And then, if and when it gets debunked, discredited or just sort of disappears, a few days later everybody forgets about it.  And those people who are not just, like, 24/7 media consumers but critical-minded media consumers, they’re left with that sense that Russia actually controls us and that we must do something to escalate with Russia.  So, that’s the point of these:  by the time the disinformation is discredited, the damage has already been done.  And that same tactic was employed against Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, to the point where so many people were left with the sense that he must be an antisemite, although not one allegation was ever proven.

AARON MATÉ:  Yeah, and now to the point where, in the Labour Party―we should touch on this for a second―where you had a Labour Party member retweet an article recently that mentioned some criticism of Israel and for that she was expelled from her position in the shadow cabinet.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  Yeah, well, you know, as a Jew I was really threatened by that retweet [laughter].   I don’t know about you.

I mean, this is Rebecca Long Bailey.  She’s one of the few Corbynites left in a high position in Labour who hasn’t been effectively burned at the stake for being a, you know, Jew hater who wants to throw us all in gas chambers because she retweets an interview with some celebrity I’d never heard of before, who didn’t even say anything that extreme.  But it really shows how the Thought Police have taken control of the Labour Party through Sir Keir Starmer, who is someone who has deep links to the national security state through the Crown Prosecution Service, which he used to head, where he was involved in the prosecution of Julian Assange.  And he has worked with The Times of London, which is a, you know, favorite paper of the national security state and the MI5 in the UK, for planting stories against Jeremy Corbyn.  He was intimately involved in that campaign, and now he’s at the head of the Labour Party for a very good reason.  I really would recommend everyone watching this, if you’re interested more in who Keir Starmer really is, read “Five Questions for [New Labour Leader] Sir Keir Starmer” by Matt Kennard at The Grayzone.  It really lays it out and shows you what’s happening.

We’re just in this kind of hyper-managed atmosphere, where everything feels so much more controlled than it’s ever been.  And even though every sane rational person that I know seems to understand what’s happening, they feel like they’re not allowed to say it, at least not in any official capacity.

AARON MATÉ:  From the US to Britain, everything is being co-opted.  In the US it’s, you know, genuine resistance to Trump, in opposition to Trump, it gets co-opted by the right.  Same thing in Britain.  People get manipulated into believing that Jeremy Corbyn, this lifelong anti-racist is somehow an antisemite.  It’s all in the service of the same agenda, and I have to say we’re one of the few outlets that are pushing back on it.  Everyone else is getting swept up on it and it’s a scary time.

We’re gonna wrap.  Max, your final comment.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  Well, yeah, we’re pushing back.  And I saw today Mint Press [News], which is another outlet that has pushed back, their Twitter account was just briefly removed for no reason, without explanation.  Ollie Vargas, who’s  an independent journalist who’s doing some of the most important work in the English language from Bolivia, reporting on the post-coup landscape and the repressive environment that’s been created by the junta installed with US help under Jeanine Áñez, his account has been taken away on Twitter.  The social media platforms are basically under the control of the national security state.  There’s been a merger between the national security state and Silicon Valley, and the space for these kinds of discussions is rapidly shrinking.  So, I think, you know, it’s more important than ever to support alternative media and also to really have a clear understanding of what’s taking place.  I’m really worried there just won’t be any space for us to have these conversations in the near future.

AARON MATÉ:  Max Blumenthal, editor of The Grayzone, author of The Management of Savagery, thanks a lot.

MAX BLUMENTHAL:  Thanks for having me.

Aaron Maté is a journalist and producer. He hosts Pushback with Aaron Maté on The Grayzone. He is also is contributor to The Nation magazine and former host/producer for The Real News and Democracy Now!. Aaron has also presented and produced for Vice, AJ+, and Al Jazeera.

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