The Left and the Right through Russian political and information operations

Introduction

The following includes three articles previously published at Hatewatch to much controversy. The major thrust of the work resides in its detailed analysis of syncretic, right-left networks engaged in pro-Kremlin information operations. When right and left-wing activists threatened to sue the Southern Poverty Law Center following publication of the third piece, the publisher retracted the article based on the impossibility of confronting the volume of counter-information against it.

The articles received acclaim from experts on fascism like Andreas Umland, the SPLC’s own David Neiwert, and the editors of Routledge’s Fascism and the Far Right series, and was promoted by the bureau chiefs of the New York Times and the Washington Post on social media. However, the influence networks that I detailed in my analysis, set to work, are unfortunately quite powerful—which is why I risked my entire career to expose them.

It would be impossible to innumerate the ways that the contents of my work was proved by the backlash it caused. In order to deny their collaboration with one another and with Russian disinformation, right-wing and left-wing activists collaborated behind a lawyer linked to Sputnik whose previous clients included alt-light Cassandra Fairbanks. One of the central figures in this legal posturing, Max Blumenthal, then went on RT to denounce my work as “not the work of one man” but a “cabal” of interests. Another steering committee member of one of the collaborating groups I identified, Navid Nasr, derisively put my name in antisemitic “(((echoes)))” on social media. His group did not disassociate itself from him or his comments.

In ensuing weeks, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against the civilians of a rebel-held area of eastern Ghouta, and the exact networks I identified activated in haste. Some even dared to articulate the “interesting” formation of a right-left consensus in denial of Assad’s rather obvious and evidenced chemical weapons use. When I had the occasion to write about this fiasco for the Israeli daily, Haaretz, those who had denied the existence of the networks and tendencies that I described in my work simply used the SPLC’s retraction of my articles to discredit me without commenting on the veracity of my work or the manifestation of my observations in real time. Shortly thereafter, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal published a damning article by professors from Harvard and the University of Washington showing that the same pro-Kremlin conspiracy theories find amplification through a circulation through the same networks I had identified. 

It is worth noting here that the groups that rallied to discredit me were not limited to those which I had identified, but extended to pundits like Glenn Greenwald, Mark Ames, and Yasha Levine. Ironically, Greenwald has regularly defended Nazis’ rights to freedom of speech, including ahead of the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right demonstration, and defends Julian Assange, who allegedly trafficked espionage from the GRU to the public. Meanwhile, Ames and Levine ran a Moscow tabloid that prided itself on relocating based on lax libel laws. Those would-be civil libertarians who argued against the pursuit of the Russia investigation delighted in the retraction of my articles based on the specious claim that I had libeled people by stating exactly their involvement with pro-Kremlin influence operations. 

Following the urging of friends and their support over the past several months, I have decided once again to throw caution to the wind. Since the retraction of my article, Blumenthal has gone after other journalists, sending legal threats to publications such as the Guardian and BuzzFeed. In one case, he helped lead a targeted media campaign against a journalist in Nicaragua, who was then arrested by the murderous state, threatened with torture, and eventually deported. However, the truth must out. I cannot live in fear of legal reprisal from leftists any more than I can of the Nazis whom I have exposed in kind.

In time, I will gain enough perspective to formulate larger conclusions about this phenomenon. I recommend reading Moishe Postone’s History and Helplessness, because Postone issues a far better analysis than I could ever attempt. Suffice it to say that the increase in tensions between Russia and the West since the latter recognized Kosovo’s potential for independence in 2007 has led to an increase in leftists viewing Russia as a plausible alternative to “Western capitalism.” This renewed form of “campism” has been supported, in kind, by Russia’s media complex, which facilitates the convergence of 9/11 Truthers, fascists, and men of the Western hard left.

These ersatz pundits have toed the Kremlin’s line on everything from support for the illegal occupation of the Crimea and Donbass to the atrocities of the Assad regime, denying that the Kremlin helped perpetrate the downing of flight MH17, denying evidence in the Skripal case, and of course denying documented chemical weapons use by the Assad regime. Moreover, they have attempted to play down Chinese repression of the Uighurs, for the dense notion that China’s purported “workers state” either compares favorably to the US or serves as a deterrence to US hegemony, which would inexorably pervert the land. Perversely, the same people engaged in such sinister efforts had cowed leftists into rejecting “lesser-evilism” with facile interpretations of Trump as the candidate of “détente” with Putin.

“Question more,” say the acolytes of RT and its position that “everything is possible and nothing is true” to grab a phrase well used by Peter Pomerantsev. Yet does that include the injunction, itself? The demand to question contains precisely its antipode—”do not question us, because we care nothing for the truth.”  Questioning facts presented by a group grounded in denial is impossible. We must respond in defense of the truth and, by extension, of integrity. That means refusing disintegration and moving in progressive unity toward universal human freedom and equality.

It is in pursuit of these principles, and following on the encouragement of my friends, that I republish the fruits of my own labor, silenced by the very processes and networks that it identified, which denied their own existence all along. I hope that the reader finds these works free from sectarian antagonism or personal belligerence. It is, instead, in the spirit of inquiry and justice that I renew this investigation into red-brown networks.


 

I. “The far-right influence in pro-Kremlin media and political networks”

In an editorial published on Monday, January 15, Russia Insider, one of the most important pro-Russia news and analysis hubs in the West, declared, “hostility to Putin’s Russia is largely a Jewish phenomenon.”

Penned by founding editor, Charles Bausman, the 5,000-word editorial drew positive responses from a number of important sources. Alt-Right.com announced “Russia Insider Decides to Go Alt-Right,” while Unz.com proclaimed that Bausman had “named the Jews” and far-right Congressional hopeful Paul Nehlen called it an “excellent article” and “a useful jumping off point for the ‘discussion’ we must have[.]” The ensuing attention and compliments indicate the prevalence of far-right politics amid pro-Kremlin media and political networks.

Bausman’s antisemitic screed first lists well-worn euphemisms used by antisemites in lieu of naming Jews, including ‘Zionists’, ‘elites’, ‘global elites’, ‘globalists’, ‘neocons’, ‘liberal interventionists’, ‘the war party’, ‘the Israel lobby’, ‘the deep state’, ‘bankers’ and ‘new world order’.

Indulging his theory, Bausman blames Jews for the Bolshevik terror, remarking that “much of the Bolshevik leadership was Jewish, in particular, Trotsky,” along with members of the secret police. He claims “cursory evidence” supports this theory, adding that “Henry Ford was heavily influenced by this view,” and “the German National Socialist movement became radically more antisemitic in reaction to this interpretation.”

The antisemitic conspiracy theory alleging that Jews used the Soviet Union to undermine the Russian “ethnos” is prominent among so-called “National Bolsheviks” — fascists who insist that an ultranationalist version of the Soviet Union would restore ethnic Russianness through a return to traditional society. Leading “National Bolshevik,” Aleksandr Dugin, has spearheaded influential initiatives to support Kremlin-centered “geopolitics” oriented toward a “Eurasian” spiritual empire stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Dugin has featured as a prominent figure among the pro-Kremlin far-right, including the alt-right, as well as news sites like Fort-Russ, RT, and Russia Insider.

Continuing in this vein, the editor of Russia Insider declares, “We follow the Alt-Right media and republish the occasional article, and they are invariably very popular on Russia Insider — largely, I think, because they are offering a fresh point of view, and talking about vitally important issues others refuse to address.” Bausman praises, in particular, racist alt-right podcasts like “Fash the Nation” and Richard Spencer’s “Alt Right Politics.”

Bausman’s editorial prompted a cautiously complimentary letter-to-the-editor from Gilbert Doctorow, a retired Brussels-based businessman who writes for Consortium News and cofounded the revived American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA).

Doctorow has been featured as a writer for Russia Insider since the site’s early days in 2014, penning such articles as “Twilight of the Gods: George Soros in Brussels,” and Bausman’s antisemitic editorial clearly reflected on Doctorow’s own career. In response, Doctorow wrote to Russia Insider, “for the sake of argument I will concede to you [Bausman] the point that Jewish controlled media have been a big factor in the hate-Russia mania that sweeps America today.”

“The overriding point that I wish to make here is that the anti-Russian rant from Jewish politicians and media moguls are only one of several contributing factors to the Russia-bashing that is going on,” Doctorow continued.

Arguing that Jews abandoning the Soviet Union in the late-19th Century and again in the 1970s held a grudge against Russia for their own inability to climb the financial ladder in the U.S., Doctorow’s letter proceeds, “In the big picture, the Jews are only one of several ethnic-religious groups or nationalities who left what was the Russian Empire or the Soviet Empire, and have been making trouble for Russia ever since. Therein lies the problem.” Doctorow’s letter concludes, “I stress that the issues raised in your [Bausman’s] editorial essay are serious and demand multi-disciplinary and multi-sided examination.”

The American committee

In 2014, Doctorow agreed to help jump-start the long-dormant American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA) with original member, NYU and Princeton University professor emeritus and contributing editor of The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen. Originally a group of academics, leftists, politicians and business leaders supporting Nixon’s policies of détente with Russia, the ACEWA’s new manifestation currently includes on its board such prestigious figures as Chuck Hagel, former ambassadors Jack Matlock and William vanden Heuvel, and Senator Bill Bradley.

From the start, the ACEWA afforded Doctorow the pretext to bring far-right and left-wing politicians together for public gatherings. On December 2, 2014, Doctorow launched the European branch of the ACEWA at the Brussels Press Club with a Round Table that included two left-wing members of the European Parliament and far-right Front National MEP Aymeric Chauprade.

Then Marine Le Pen’s advisor on international relations, Chauprade had recently returned from Crimea where he served as an election “observer” for the Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections led by Belgian fascist Luc Michel and joined by fascists Enrique Ravello and Valerio Cignetti. Far-right monitoring group Berliner Osteuropa-Experten called the ACEWA’s European launch, “a little Querfront.”

Registering as an ACEWA lobbyist in the European Union on March 1, 2015, Doctorow hosted another Brussels Round Table the next day featuring co-author of the controversial text, The Israel Lobby, John Mearsheimer, as well as editor and publisher of The Nation, Katrina Vanden Heuvel and her husband Dr. Cohen.

The YouTube video of Mearsheimer’s speech appeared with a bullet-point summary on Russia Insider, which declared, “We owe a special thanks to Gilbert Doctorow, our invaluable RI [Russia Insider] contributor and moderator of this round table, for providing us with the video material.”

Two weeks later, Doctorow flew to Washington, D.C., for the U.S.-Russia Forum as a representative of the ACEWA. There, in the Central Hearing Facility (Room 216) of the Hart Senate Office Building, immediately following a speech from Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak, Doctorow appeared on a panel with Cohen and Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to decry anti-Putin sentiment.

After a short coffee break, the audience returned to the illustrious room to see Katrina vanden Heuvel moderate a panel on alternative media featuring the late Robert Parry of Consortium News, which is apparently Russia Insider’s fiscal sponsor. In the next time slot, Bausman took to the podium to give a presentation boasting of Russia Insider’s three million views per month during its first six months of existence. Today, both the homepage and the speakers’ page of the Russia Forum’s website feature Basuman’s photo in the banner image.

That September, Doctorow was back in Belgium, where he chaired another ACEWA Round Table featuring contributions from EU politicians and such academics as Richard Sakawa, a participant in Russia’s elite Valdai Discussion Club, and The Israel Lobby’s other co-author Stephen Walt.

As the U.S. presidential campaign of 2016 heated up, the ACEWA argued that Trump proposed a “new détente-like relationship” with Putin’s Russia, while deriding Clinton’s platform. On July 12, Doctorow’s branch of the ACEWA screened a film against the anti-corruption Magnitsky Act at the Brussels Press Club featuring a Q&A with the film’s director, Andrei Nekrasov, as advertised on the ACEWA website.

Following Trump’s election, Doctorow’s signature appeared on a letterpublished in The Nation with Noam Chomsky, whom he had criticized in a 2014 Nation article for being too slow to embrace Putin’s Russia, and four prestigious members of the European political community calling for a new détente in Europe. Doctorow left the ACEWA around March, 2017 to pursue other interests. He has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Ongoing relationships

Until January 19, 2018, the ACEWA’s website carried some 66 articles by Doctorow crossposted from websites like Consortium News and the Washington Times. The most recent piece from Doctorow was posted at ACEWA less than a month before time of writing. As of January 19, 2018, however, Doctorow’s content appears to have been scrubbed. Nevertheless, the overlap between articles posted by ACEWA and Russia Insider remains significant, and Consortium News remains one of the 14 sites shortlisted under the ACEW’s “additional resources.”

In a phone conversation with Hatewatch, Cohen said that he “kept up a personal correspondence with [Doctorow] about things that interest both of us, mainly Russia,” and that Doctorow resigned from the ACEWA “because he found it constraining,” not due to any “specific policy disagreement” or “anything personal.” According to Cohen, antisemitism never arose as an issue in his experience with Doctorow or in Doctorow’s role regarding the ACEWA.

However, along with his confab with Chauprade at the ACEWA’s launch in Brussels, Doctorow’s writings while representing the ACEWA indicate that his relationship to the far-right remained relatively consistent, insofar as he supported neo-Eurasianist geopolitical strategy against the North Atlantic as a ballast of national interest against the “tyranny” of “universal values.”

Doctorow’s piece published at Consortium News on June 3, 2016, for instance, lauds a former-member of Poland’s fascist Association for Tradition and Culture “Niklot” named Mateusz Piskorski as “an outstanding spokesmanof the minority view and founder of the Zmiana (or Change) party.” According to researcher of far-right networks, Anton Shekhovtsov, Zmiana is an attempt to “combine Polish right-wing and left-wing extremists,” and one of its leaders, Bartosz Bekier, also heads up Poland’s fascist Falanga.

Also a veteran of the far-right Self-Defence party, Piskorski’s European Center for Geopolitical Analysis is connected to Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Union, a relationship consummated as early as 2004 during Piskorski’s efforts to “oversee” elections throughout Eastern Europe. More recently, he joined Chauprade in Michel’s fascist-laden, Russia-funded Eurasian Observatory for Democracy & Elections, overseeing the illegal Crimean “referendum.”

James Carden, editor of the ACEWA’s website, stated by email, “The ACEWA, its website, and Stephen F. Cohen have had no direct relationship with Russia Insider and/or with Charles Bausman.” However, Doctorow’s relationship with Russia Insider while operating as ACEWA’s European coordinator belies this denial, as exhibited by the video that appeared on Russia Insider of ACEWA’s Round Table with special thanks to Doctorow.

Far-right and pro-Putin networks

As the diagram below shows, when the site metrics search engine Alexa runs an audience overlap comparison using only Russia Insider, their apparent fiscal sponsor at Consortium News, Bausman’s friend at pro-Russia site, The Saker, and ACEWA-linked magazine, The Nation, three different audience clusters emerge: (1) a largely direct Russian propaganda cluster; (2) a mostly U.S.-based cluster of conspiracist sites and syncretic left-right geopolitics sites; (3) a more mainstream cluster of sites thought to be far more credible than the latter two.

Doctorow’s activity as a writer and political operative indicate a capacity to triangulate a syncretic left-right movement against liberalism based on trans-national connections between media and politics. However, he, Consortium, and Russia Insider intimate the broader problem that the conduits of “geopolitical” ideology from Russian media to pro-Russian sites and the U.S. mainstream can serve as a Trojan horse for fascist tendencies and sympathies.

Pro-Putin networks like RT and Sputnik, which have played host to far-right commentators like Dugin, Richard Spencer and German neo-Eurasianist Manuel Ochsenreiter serve as vehicles for far-right ideologies laundered into US news and commentary sites under the auspices of geopolitical commentary. Unfortunately, the Left has not launched a serious effort to disconnect from collaborations with far-right groups in the context of networks that support and are often supported by Putin’s Russia. This situation has caused influential bodies like the ACEWA to facilitate the growth of transnational, far-right politics and, more specifically, the fascist neo-Eurasianist movement.


 

II. The Internet Research Agency: behind the shadowy network that meddled in the 2016 Elections 

Special counsel Robert Mueller, Jr., indicted 13 agents from the Saint Petersburg based Internet Research Agency last Friday, but the shadowy figures behind the organization remain obscure.

Tracing those involved leads to an intriguing web of far-right paramilitary groups, think tanks and institutes directed by a trans-national, far right network of oligarchs, politicians and media figures.

The Internet Research Agency was founded and led by Evgeny Prigozhin, a catering industry mogul known by some as “Putin’s chef.” Prigozhin met Putin as his financial success through the St. Petersburg gambling business brought increased influence and lucrative state contracts. Two years after conceiving of the Internet Research Agency during the protests of 2011, Prigozhin opened the “Kharkiv news agency” in opposition to the 2013 Euromaidan movement.

Prigozhin is also tied to the conception and funding of a semi-private military company called “Wagner” known to have operated both in Ukraine and Syria under Dmitry Utkin, a man notorious for his “adherence to the aesthetics and ideology of the Third Reich.” Wagner Private Military Company is said to be co-sponsored by the Russian Ministry of Defense and to have participated in the military occupation of Crimea. The U.S. sanctioned Prigozhin in 2014, stating, “a company with significant ties to him holds a contract to build a military base near the Russian Federation border with Ukraine.”

Analysis by U.S. Strategic Command from 2015, revealed that Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency was an important site in a larger network. Its $1.25 million per month budget and some 80 employees helped its “Translator Project” act as a force multiplier for a host of pro-Kremlin sites, articles, and people linked to syncretic think tanks and institutes bridging far-right interests from Russia to the U.S. as an extension of “hybrid warfare.”

Perhaps most interestingly, the Translator Project allegedly set up fake far-right and left-wing groups like “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist,” “United Muslims of America” and “Heart of Texas,” advertised them, and deceived hundreds of thousands of people into joining them. In one astonishing case, unwitting members of a Russian troll page were led to stage an armed, Islamophobic protest in Houston.

The Strategy: Managed Nationalism and Hybrid Warfare 

A clue as to the strategy of the Internet Research Agency can be found among the leading members under indictment. Around the time their employee Anna Bogacheva allegedly visited the U.S. in 2014 to gather intelligence, she registered a PR firm called IT Debugger with Mikhail Potepkin, a former leader of the violent, far-right youth brigade, Nashi.

Developed along with several other youth brigades linked to the Kremlin during a short period between 2004 and 2005, Nashi formed part of what then-First Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Vladislav Surkov called “managed nationalism.” Concerned about a possible “Color Revolution” in Russia, Surkov hoped to simulate an opposition movement and keep the public under the Kremlin’s control.

“Managed nationalism” and Surkov’s analysis of “network structures” paved the way for a strategy penned in 2013 by Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of Russia. Now known as the Gerasimov Doctrine, The New York Times called it “RT, Sputnik, and Russia’s new theory of war.” In Gerasimov’s words, “The focus of applied methods of conflict has altered in the direction of the broad use of political, economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary measures—applied in coordination with the protest potential of the population.”

By the time Hillary Clinton received the official nomination of her party, strategy papers produced by the Kremlin-linked think tank Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) had specifically called on the Kremlin to dedicate such “applied methods” to “a propaganda campaign on social media and Russian state-backed global news outlets to encourage U.S. voters to elect a president who would take a softer line toward Russia than the administration of then-President Barack Obama,” according to Reuters.

An Elite Club”

Longtime political operator in the Russian far-right, Aleksander Dugin, has worked for most of the past three decades to develop syncretic, left-right cooperation among anti-liberal opposition groups throughout the world. His influence on, and involvement in, “managed nationalism” and the Gerasimov Doctrine is consistent with his agency in the network that influenced the 2016 elections.

Shortly after Gerasimov published his doctrine, Dugin’s efforts came to a head. He sent his associate Georgiy Gavrish a memo listing a number of pro-Russia political leaders on the European far right and left. Intent on making Moscow the “New Rome” of a spiritual empire of federated ethnostates from Dublin to Vladivastok and stretching south to the Indian Ocean, Dugin’s main aspiration lay in consolidating support networks for the Kremlin and developing ideological unity for his “Eurasianist” geopolitics.

Dugin’s efforts produced a “think tank” called Katehon with influential board members including a senior member of Putin’s Yedinaya Rossiya party and Leonid Reshetnikov, then the leader of the RISS. Reshetnikov is infamous for complaining in February 2016 that WWII was “orchestrated” by “the upper crust of the Anglo-Saxon elite” and is believed by officials to have sponsored a coup attempt that October to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

Another member of Katehon’s board, Lyndon LaRouche associate Sergei Glazyev, co-founded the far-right Rodina (Motherland) Party with Dugin, which in 2014 to 2015 led conferences and coordinating groups including members of the racist “alt-right” and the U.S. left that helped prepare the networks Dugin sought.

At the helm of Katehon’s board sits Dugin’s associate Konstantin Malofeev. Known as the “Orthodox Oligarch” for his far-right political positions and proximity to the Russian Orthodox Church, Malofeev was sanctioned by the U.S. for allegedly bankrolling the pro-Russia separatists in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea where Wagner Company operated. Aleksandr Borodai, the first prime minister of the Donetsk Republic, and Igor Strelkov, its first minister of defense, served as Malofeev’s former PR man and security chief, respectively.

The U.S. Connection 

Many of the crucial connections between the Katehon network and the Western far-right can be found through their mutual commitments to the anti-LGBQT hate group, World Congress of Families. When Stephen Bannon delivered a speech on the merits of Dugin and fascist occultist Julius Evola in June 2014 to high-level members of the World Congress of Families in the Vatican, he effectively endorsed the guiding “Eurasianist” spirit behind Katehon.

Bannon’s speech came in the middle of a four-year period during which Robert Mercer paid him to work for an anti-Clinton group. Also the primary funder of Breitbart News, Mercer was a member of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP), which supported Trump staunchly during the 2016 elections and is heavily involved in the World Congress of Families.

The CNP has a long history of bridging U.S. and Russian far-right interests, dating back to when its founder Paul Weyrich and executive committee member Robert Kriebel helped launch the career of pro-Russia lobbyist Edward Lozansky — a man who would take a leading role in feeding the troll armies of the far right nearly 30 years later.

Deeply connected to the U.S. far-right, Lozansky founded a dubious think tank eventually named the American University in Moscow “on the same floor as the Heritage Foundation.” Through his organizations, Lozansky has hosted conferences and an annual event known as the World Russia Forum. Featuring speakers like Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions and Dana Rohrabacher, the World Russia Forum and Lozansky’s Russia House enjoy a high profile inside the Beltway of Washington, DC. However, there is a more obscure side to the Russia Forum and its related American University in Moscow.

Lozansky’s Syncretic Fellows 

Lozansky’s American University in Moscow has become a crucial hub for the cultivation of editors and journalists behind key “fake news” sites propagated by the “Translation Project.” The list of “Fellows” at his institution is a rogues gallery of syncretic pro-Kremlin spin doctors:

Other pro-Kremlin Fellows listed by Lozansky’s American University in Moscow, Darren Spinck, James Jatras and Anthony Salvia are partners in pro-Kremlin groups like the American Institute in Ukraine and the PR group, Global Strategic Communications Group, which sold its services to Rodina during a period when Rodina’s deputies signed a petition to ban Jews from Russia and the party was proscribed from the Duma elections for virulently racist campaign ads.

Aside from contributing to Global Independent Analytics with Armstrong, Jatras also served as a witness for the defense at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic and is featured on a number of YouTube videos posted by Katehon.

The Red-Brown Creep 

Lozansky has a long and extensive relationship with Dugin, hosting him at influential conferences in 2004 and 2005, along with red-brown propagandist Aleksandr Prokhanov, Rodina leader Dmitri Rogozin, and other éminences grises of the U.S. and Russian far-right.

In September 2008, Lozansky joined Dugin for a conference with murky figures such as Israel Shamir, a Holocaust-denying antisemite who would later become the Russian emissary for Wikileaks.* Within a few weeks, Dugin and Lozansky appeared together on the TV program “Three Corners” for a discussion on the merits of “soft power.”

“In our world (we are talking about the information space) ideas can also play a bigger role,” Lozansky cautioned, “even more important than guns and missiles.”

A week after the Crimea crisis touched off in April 2014, Lozansky’s heavy frame was hunched over a long conference table across from Dugin in a cramped, stuffy conference room. They were discussing the role of media in the “New Cold War.”

The next September, Lozansky moderated a roundtable discussion at the World Russia Forum to consider a “Proposal to Establish ‘Committee for East – West Accord.’” Co-moderated by American University in Moscow Fellow Gilbert Doctorow, the roundtable featured leading Duginist Andrew Korybko, as well as a number of professors from U.S. and Russian institutions. The U.S. side of the Committee would be spearheaded by professor and contributing editor of The Nation, Stephen F. Cohen, along with an influential board including former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former ambassadors William vanden Heuvel and Jack Matlock.

That month, Cohen’s associate Doctorow helped editor Charles Bausman create the antisemitic website Russia Insider. Soon after, Doctorow joined alternative journalism site Consortium News, which accepts tax-deductible donations for Russia Insider as a fiscal sponsor. Doctorow and Lozansky went on to write three articles together in the Washington Times. Russia Insider features a contact form to get in touch with Lozansky through their website. However, when Hatewatch wrote to Lozansky using Russia Insider’s contact form, we received no response. Within 24 hours, Lozansky’s website, RussiaHouse.org, mysteriously went dark.

An Information Shell Game 

While the Kremlin’s propagandists disseminate half-truths, distortions and lies, they rely on sites like Consortium News, Russia Insider, Global Independent Analytics and The Duran to adopt their narratives and “launder” them so that “the original source… is either forgotten or impossible to determine,” according to expert on the far right Anton Shekhovtsov’s latest book, Russia and the Western Far Right. This project utilizes what national security site War on the Rocks calls “‘gray’ measures, which employ less overt outlets controlled by Russia, as well as so-called useful idiots that regurgitate Russian themes and ‘facts’ without necessarily taking direction from Russia or collaborating in a fully informed manner.”

By election season, the network of “less overt” sites had developed behavior patterns and positions spurred on by the troll factory: they supported the illegal Crimea referendumdenied the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and denigrated Syria’s humanitarian White Helmets. They also often operated as connectors to far-right sites like Breitbart News and conspiracy-theory site, Infowars, which crossposted more than 1,000 RT articles between 2014 and 2017 and published two interviews with Dugin last year.

Such apparent unity of action and intent may have also occurred because the “fake news” sites boosted by the Translation Project have significant audience overlap, as well as institutional crossover. For example, the syncretic site 21stCenturyWire crossposts stories from Consortium News and features interviews with its founder, the late Robert Parry. Created by former Infowars associate editor, Patrick Henningsen, 21stCenturyWire’s archived stories trade in antisemitic Soros and Rothschild conspiracy theories and a battery of Kremlin-supported stories maligning the White Helmets in Syria.

Regarding 21stCenturyWire’s stories, analytics engines found “evidence of coordination of timing and messaging around significant events in the news cycle” among “many known pro-Kremlin troll accounts, some of which were closed down as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the US election.” Given its Kremlin support, it is unsurprising that 21stCenturyWire hosts an alt-right podcast called Boiler Room, as well as an interview with Dugin, himself, while publishing Korybko as a “special contributor.”

There are many more similar sites on the web and, despite the indictments of 13 members of the Internet Research Agency, the echo chamber of cutouts, fake profiles, front groups and conspiracy sites that duped hundreds of thousands of people across the political spectrum shows no sign of relenting. In the 48 hours before time of writing, Russia Insider, 21stCenturyWire and Duginist site Fort-Russ were all trending domains and URLs on the Russian “botnet.” Only an informed public will be able to take down the crisis of “fake news” and its illiberal progenitors.


 

III: The Multipolar Spin: How Fascists Operationalize Left-wing Resentment

During his recent tour of Europe, disgraced former Trump strategist Steve Bannon declared “Italy is in the lead.” Amid the historic resurgence of the Italian far right that returned right-wing populist Silvio Berlusconi to prominence, Bannon fantasized about “the ultimate dream” of unifying the anti-establishment Five Star Movement with the far-right League (formerly the Northern League) through a populist movement. Bannon’s international vision of nationalist populist movements is locked into the Kremlin’s geopolitical ideology of a “multipolar world.”

The League is tied through a cooperation pact to Putin’s Russia, and its deputy in charge of relations with foreign parties, Claudio D’Amico, explicitly called for a “multipolar world” in Katehon, a think tank created by fascist ideologue Aleksandr Dugin. Following the ideological line Dugin put forward in his text, Foundations of Geopolitics, Katehon calls for uniting a “Eurasian” bloc in constant struggle against “Atlanticist” countries. For Dugin, the “21st century gamble” is to create a “multipolar” confederation of “Traditionalist” regional empires united under Russian sovereignty that will overthrow the “unipolar” empire of “postmodern” democracies.

Shortly after Putin’s election in 2000, the Kremlin released a set of foreign policy guidelines calling for a “multipolar world order” against the “strengthening tendency towards the formation of a unipolar world under financial and military domination by the United States.” Escalating with the Ukrainian Orange Revolution in 2004, the Kremlin’s production of soft-powernetworks throughout Europe and the United States involves- think tanksloansforumspropaganda outlets and cooperation agreements with far-right parties like the Austrian Freedom Party and the League. From Russia to Iran to Western Europe and the U.S., this international movement uses conspiracy theories and “gray material” to warp the political spectrum into a populist referendum along “geopolitical” terms set by fascist engagées.

Red and brown polarities

As a recent major report on syncretic networks exposed, the modern fascist movement’s obsession with geopolitics emerged in force amid the post-Cold War antiglobalization movement. In 2002, a front group formed out of the U.S.-based Workers’ World Party known as the International Action Center joined forces with the Assisi-based “Campo Antimperialista.” As Duginists infiltrated the Campo, opening a journal called Eurasia that garnered the influential involvement of Campo participant Costanza Preve, the International Action Center continued their cooperation.

Soon, a similar Russian group called the Anti-Globalist Resistance began to repost the Campo’s dispatches. Sharing support for Milosevic with the Campo and the International Action Center, the Anti-Globalist Resistance emerged simultaneously with the same tendency to fight globalization by linking far-right to hard-left. In 2008, they brought the Campo to Moscow for the third “All-Russia Anti-Globalist Forum,” introduced by long-time U.S. fascist Lyndon LaRouche. The next year’s conference included Duginist leaders like Leonid Savin and retired General Leonid Ivashov, along with LaRouche and Holocaust denier Israel Shamir.

As their work continued, the Campo and Anti-Globalist Resistance drew more anti-globalization activists into their syncretic orbit. In 2012, a group came together at a Campo Antimperialista event in Assisi and developed what would become the Syria Solidarity Movement. The movement’s steering committee came to include top figures from groups from the U.S. hard left, including the Workers World Party, its affiliate, ANSWER and a spinoff of the latter group called the Party of Socialism and Liberation.

After changing their name to the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, the group drew people from the Syria Solidarity Movement’s network to a conference called the “Right of Peoples to Self-Determination and Building a Multipolar World” in 2014. A delegate from the International Action Center attended, along with delegates from another Workers World Party front group called United Anti-War Coalition, including an editor with the Black Agenda Report named Margaret Kimberly. Among the conference’s other attendees were Michael Hill of the neo-Confederate League of the South and the Texas Nationalist Movement, as well as the far-right Republika of Srpska and National Bolshevik Italian Communitarian Party.

The following year, the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia met with a purported Cherokee Nation elder named “Mashu White Feather” and a representative of the Uhuru Movement, also connected to the Black Agenda Report. They then organized a state-funded conference that drew members of the fascist Italian group Millenium, Mutti’s associate Antonio Grego, and a leading member of the far-right Rodina party, as well as representatives of separatist groups like the Texas Nationalist Movement and the Catalan Solidarity for Independence party. The now-notorious troll factory, the Internet Research Agency, would later invite the Texas Nationalist Movement to join an armed, Islamophobic protest launched by the fake “Heart of Texas,” while also inciting counter-protestors.

The Syria connection

The Syria Solidarity Movement lists on its steering committee a host of syncretic figures like DuginistNavid Nasr and an Australian representative of the fascist-modeled Syrian Social Nationalist Party affiliateMussalaha. Before a report revealed her associations with Global ResearchRon Paul and the right-wing British Constitution Party, conspiracy theorist Vanessa Beeley held a position on the steering committee as well.

As an editor at the alt-right-associated conspiracy theory site, 21stCenturyWire, Beeley’s repeated conspiracy articles attempting to link the White Helmets to al Qaeda and George Soros earned her a visit with Assad in Damascus and senior Russian officials in Moscow; however, they have been thoroughly debunked. A defender of right-wing Hungarian president Viktor Orban, Beeley promotes antisemites like Gilad Atzmon and Dieudonné, even speaking at a conference hosted by the latter in partnership with notorious Holocaust denier Laurent Louis. Regardless, the Syrian Solidarity Movement and the associated Hands Off Syria Coalition recommend Beeley’s work.

This network map shows the tangled web of associations stemming from the Workers World Party

Along with members of the Syria Solidarity Movement, delegates who attended the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia’s “Multipolar World” conference sit on the Hands off Syria Coalition’s steering committee. Showing its commitments and affinities, in January 2016, the Hands Off Syria Coalition published a “Multipolar World Against War” statement signed by the leader of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, Alexander Ionov.

Similarly, the Hands Off Syria Coalition website publicizes self-described Marxist, Tim Anderson, who has an interesting record of attending far-right conferences. In 2015, Anderson attended the far-right Brandherd Syrien Congress, and the next year he was at Defend Our Heritage’s Leura Forum, chaired by a leader of far-right party Alternative for Germany. Following that, Anderson’s pet project, Center of Counter Hegemonic Studies, convened a conference that brought in Paul Antonopoulos, an editor for the Duginist website Fort Russ.

The Hands Off Syria Coalition advertises Anderson’s book, The Dirty War on Syria, which is published by syncretic conspiracist site Global Research. Multiple “Research Associates” of Global Research sit on the “scientific committee” of the Campo-linked Duginist journal Geopolitica, and the site lists as its “partner media group” the Voltaire Network. Publishing LaRouchite and Duginist articles, the Voltaire Network boasts the Syrian Social Nationalist Party’s Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs as its Vice President. One of the Voltaire Network’s leading contributors is Mikhail Leontyev, an associate of Dugin who has moved from prominent media personality to the role of spokesman for Russian state oil company, Rosneft. The Syria Solidarity Movement publishes Voltaire Network articles by founder Thierry Meyssan, a contributor to Campo-linked journal Eurasia who associates with Holocaust deniers and open fascists, among others.

Hands Off Syria Coalition steering committee member Issa Chaer joined Meyssan on a panel at the Second New Horizon conference in Iran in 2012. Conference speakers that year included World Workers Party member Caleb Maupin, Holocaust denier Kevin Barrett, and Duginists like Voltaire Network associate Mateusz Piskorski, German editor Manuel Ochsenreiter, Leonid Savin, and Claudio Mutti the leading fascist infiltrator of the Campo Antimperialista.** The banner image for last year’s New Horizon features Aleksandr Dugin.

Multipolar propaganda

According to the metrics search engine BuzzSumo, most of the leading articles with the terms “multipolar world” and “multi-polar world” in the title come from an interconnected network of sites, including Global Research, The Duran and Sign of the Times. With an estimated six million unique daily views per month, the biggest and most influential in this network is the Russian state-run media site Sputnik News.

Billing itself as pointing “the way to a multipolar world that respects every country’s national interests, culture, history and traditions,” Sputnik frequently publishes PiskorskiOchsenreiter, Mutti’s fellow Campo infiltrator Tiberio Graziani, commentator Andrew Korybko and Fort Russ editor Joaquin Flores. Furthermore, Sputnik has joined RT in consistently using dubious sources affiliated with the Syria Solidarity Network to attack the White Helmets and throw doubt on the Assad regime’s war crimes, for instance its use of chemical weapons.

A syncretic hub on Sputnik, anti-imperialist John Wight’s podcast, “Hard Facts,” promotes the same figures associated with the pro-Assad network in the West, including Beeley, Anderson, and Nasr. Perhaps most interestingly, Wight also hosted trans-national far-right figure, Edward Lozansky during the 2016 election and again early the next year.

With more than 30 years of involvement in the U.S. and Russian far right, Lozansky is perhaps most known as the creator of the American University in Moscow. Boasting a number of Fellows involved in pro-Kremlin media outlets like The Duran, RT and Russia Insider, the American University in Moscow appears to be an ideological center in the concerted social media campaign associated with the Internet Research Agency to boost anti-Clinton, pro-Kremlin propaganda in the U.S. Lozansky also hosts conferences with known fascist ideologues and an annual “Russia Forum” featuring far-right politicians and left-wing media operators from Russia and the U.S.

During both of his pro-Putin, pro-Trump interviews with Lozansky on “Hard Facts,” Wight advocated “a multipolar alternative to the unipolar world,” insisting, “we’re talking about a struggle for a multipolar world to replace the unipolarity that has wreaked so much havoc since the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.”

The most important anti-imperialist hub on Sputnik, however, is hosted by Brian Becker, whose fellow party member and brother sits on the steering committee for the Syria Solidarity Movement. The leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Becker regularly hosts Fellows of the American University in Moscow on his Sputnik podcast, “Loud & Clear.”

“Loud & Clear”’s Lozansky-affiliated guests include far-right PR man Jim Jatras, Mark Sleboda of the Dugin-founded Center for Conservative Studies, the Ron Paul Institute’s Daniel McAdams and Alexander Mercouris of the syncretic conspiracist site, The Duran. The program also provides a platform to a variety of explicitly far-right guests, including Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, antisemite Alberto Garcia Watson, alt-right figure Cassandra Fairbanks and militia movement leader Larry Pratt.

Aside from marginal guests, Loud & Clear can bring on some heavy hitters. During his two appearances on “Loud & Clear” in late 2017, bestselling author Max Blumenthal called the red-brown radio show “the finest public affairs programming” and declared, “I am increasingly turning to RT America for sanity.” No stranger to Sputnik, Blumenthal also went on “Hard Facts” that August, claiming that notorious ISIS militant Mohammed Emwazi was ushered into the Syria conflict by the CIA via a “rat line” from Saudi Arabia.    

The above Venn diagram shows the tangled associations of hard left and far right

 

 

 

Highway to the Grayzone

Around the same time he went on “Loud & Clear,” Blumenthal appeared on Tucker Carlson’s FOX News show to defend RT — his second time on the far-right show that year. Blumenthal’s RT appearances have been praised by white nationalists like Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr., who murdered three people outside of a Jewish Community Center in 2014, so his courting of the right on FOX drew considerable backlash.

Two months later, Blumenthal offered up a staunch defense of “Russia’s position in the world” to author Robert Wright in an interview on bloggingheads. Admitting that Putin’s Russia remains far from left-wing, Blumenthal justified support for the country’s authoritarian conservative government as “part of the multipolar world.”

“If you believe in a multipolar world,” Blumenthal told Wright, “you believe in détente, you believe in diplomacy.” He specifically mentioned Becker’s Party for Socialism and Liberation and groups like it, arguing that they “tend to get all the major issues right regardless of their ideology or agenda.”

Blumenthal was not as clear of a spokesperson for Kremlin geopolitics before he appeared at the same RT gala as disgraced former National Security advisor Michael Flynn and the Green Party’s Jill Stein in December 2015. During that occasion, he joined a panel called “Infowar: Will there be a winner” alongside Alt Right anti-Semite Charles Bausman of Russia Insider. A month later, Blumenthal’s pro-Kremlin position crystalized with the founding of the Grayzone Project.

Grayzone is a collaborative project also featuring journalist Benjamin Norton, who cosigned the Hands Off Syria Coalition’s points of unity statement along with Beeley and others. After going on “Loud & Clear” with Duginist Mark Sleboda and Infowars regularRay McGovern, Norton plugged the Party for Socialism and Liberation on a podcast episode titled “Hands off Syria.” With other Grayzone contributors, Norton has been criticized for downplaying warcrimes and helping publicize false theories about rebels contaminating Damascus’s water supply.

When reached for comment by email, Norton retorted, “I know your goal is to outlandishly smear anyone who opposes US imperialism and is to the left of the Clintons as a ‘crypto-fascist,’ while NATO supports actual fascists whom you care little about.”

Grayzone is perhaps best known for Blumenthal’s controversial two-part article attacking the White Helmets, which brought accusations of plagiarism from Beeley. Grayzone contributor Rania Khalek had, Beeley insisted, “pumped me for information on the [White Helmets] and then Max wrote the article.”

While Blumenthal may have repeated some of Beeley’s theories, Beeley cannot be seen as a credible source. Regardless, Khalek has since used a questionable interview sourced from Beeley as evidence that the White Helmets “were deeply embedded in al Qaeda.”

Grayzone recently announced their move from independent news site AlterNet to The Real News Network, a left-wing site with a penchant for 9/11 truther inquiries. Neither Blumenthal nor Khalek responded to efforts to reach them for comment.

Right uses left

Through its amplification of an interlinked, multi-centered network organized around institutions like Lozansky’s American University in Moscow and the Voltaire Network and conferences like Moscow’s “Multi-Polar World” and Tehran’s “New Horizons,” syncretic networks associated with Dugin’s Eurasianist ideology have combined distortions and ambiguities into a geopolitical narrative meant to confuse audiences and promote authoritarian populist opposition to liberalism.

The “gray measures” used to deny the Kremlin’s influence operations may seem dubious when delivered through channels like Sputnik that are, themselves, political technologies of far-right political influence. When cycled through “narrative laundering” of secondary and tertiary networks enhanced by trolls and coordinated influence operations, however, propaganda is “graywashed” of its dubious sources and presented as cutting-edge journalism.

As shown with Figure 3, think tanks like Katehon and connected Russian Institute for Strategic Studies develop strategies for media spin and online promotion through influence groups and botnets. These think tanks engage in feedback loops with Russian state media channels and linked syncretic news sites, amplified through social media with the help of botnets, and eventually reaching more legitimate sources often freed of their dubious sourcing. The results are explored by a recent study from Data and Society called Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online: “Online communities are increasingly turning to conspiracy-driven news sources, whose sensationalist claims are then covered by the mainstream media, which exposes more of the public to these ideas, and so on.”

  A conceptual model made in Vensim intended to present the workings of “Graywashing.”

The problem with multipolarism, aside from assuming polarity as a useful prescription, may be that it supports not the emergence of Russia as a world power but the rise of the Kremlin’s authoritarian conservative political ideology. In this, multipolarists tend to support other authoritarian regimes and movements from Iran to Syria to Italy. Although anti-imperialists may believe that these measures land them on the right side of history, taking stock of the fascist movement suggests that the strategy of opposing a liberal order through red-brown populist collaboration makes the left a willing accomplice.

Alexander Reid Ross is a Lecturer in Geography at Portland State University. The Portland Mercury listed his latest book Against the Fascist Creep as one of the top books of 2017.


Patrick Simpson and Grant Stern contributed research for this article.

The author would like to thank Professor Wayne Wakeland of Portland State University for his assistance with the development of the Vensim diagram.


Errata

* The original article listed Avigdor Eskin and Alain de Benoist as present. Though the website appeared to be a conference program, their appearances were listed at different conferences.

** The original article listed Tim Pool as an Alt Right journalist present at the New Horizon conference. Pool was listed in multiple panels and round tables in the conference program, but denies having attended. He also denies the Alt Right label, despite having reported for Infowars on non-existent “no go zones” in Sweden. Infowars is among the most popular sites on the Alt Right, invited Dugin for two extended interviews during 2017, and regularly platforms the right-wing extremist Proud Boys and others.

 

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