📌 We know that many of our readers would like to see some short, pointed posts here. So, in contrast to the longer, more analytical articles we usually publish – normal for an academic institution – an Oberg Comment is a short text by the editor of The Transnational, Jan Oberg, which alerts you to one or two main points, offers some informative links for self-study or is simply a recommendation or “MustRead/Watch” with lasting educative value. Since they will be max 600 words, they are also easier to use for the media. We hope you will like the format too.
May 19, 2020
On March 21 this year, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) published an article headlined Coronavirus in Russia: How Putin’s disinformation efforts could backfire at home and written by Judy Twigg, professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Take a look and get a sense of its quality, balance and bias. Having read it, I submitted the following comment underneath:
I’m dismayed by this article. While there is no doubt that Russia is (mis)using information, this sort of thing must be seen as a tool, or weapon, in a conflict – a conflict Russia has with the 29-member NATO alliance. It is normal praxis for such high-ranking, respected and reliable media as yours to not talk about “the other” side’s weapons but looking at armament dynamics on both (or all) sides of a conflict formation.
Just pointing fingers at one and keep quiet about the other side risks to appear as little but deception, fake/omission and part of a propaganda exercise.
The only decent approach within a conflict (and peace) approach that the BAS usually adheres to is a comparative analysis. This cannot apply only to the weapons aspect of the conflict but must apply to all tools – also civilian ones – such as information, public relation, influencing media etc.
Your editors cannot possibly be ignorant about the much much larger efforts (and resources used) by the US and other Western countries since 1945 and to this very day.
Concerning the topical corona situation, there are tons of analysis and journalistic reports on how the US and other Western/NATO countries are engaged in a concerted effort to spread negative vibes about China, Russia etc including their help – which has now also, for bad but necessary reasons, reached the US.
The mention of Iran, in particular, is appalling. The harm the US has done since 1953 to that country, the systematic almost daily demonising of it, its culture, politics and society – as well as the Trump administration’s departure from the JCPOA (well covered by you), the illegal primary and secondary sanctions and the new sanctions in spite of the manifest suffering of millions upon millions of suffering Iranians hit by the Corona – well, do you really believe that whatever this tiny country is trying to do in the information field is worth mentioning in a serious journal such as yours?
Be careful not to lose your balance and normal comparative analytical decency – the alternative is that you slide to become an apologetic publication for US policies rather than what you have always been – one of the finest of your profession.
I know you are not sliding on all scales but we, your readers, should point it out even if it is your first step in the wrong, fake/omission, direction.
Best – Jan Oberg, dr.hc., peace and future researcher
TFF research director
It’s only normal that there may be a moderator who looks through all comments coming in. So I waited several days, checking back – but my comment never appeared.
Consequently, I wrote an email to BAS’s submissions editor and asked what had happened. No answer. I did it again some days later. Also no answer.
Then I sent a complaint and urged them to reply – this time to high-ranking people responsible for the Bulletin: editor-in-chief John Mecklin, communications director Janice Sinclaire, communications coordinator Gayle Spinazze plus the Admin and Submissions editors.
I am still without any reply. The BAS does not want to reply, it cannot be that no one has seen my repeated mails in their inbox – at some point and even in Corona times.
The Bulletin subscribes to the Institute for Nonprofit News’ (INN) standards of editorial independence, it says here.
If you study their latest Annual Report 2018 and see the extent to which this is an American bulletin in terms of leadership, staff, experts and funders, you may certainly only hope that that independence can be maintained against all odds and that the article I commented on was a one-time slip.
I would keep an eye on The Bulletin in the future and wonder whether its old staunch impartiality principle is actually slipping – not the least in times when the US investment in the military in general and in nuclear weapons in particular signals a never-seen desire to be perversely superior in the future and the Trump administration pursue confrontation with not only Russia but also China, Iran and even allies in Europe.
The slippery slope to untrustworthiness begins with the first step.
If you found this relevant and informative, please reward TFF with the equivalent of a cup of coffee…