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US-Imposed Media Sanctions: PR Windfall or Last Days of Alternative Media Outlets?
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US-Imposed Media Sanctions: PR Windfall or Last Days of Alternative Media Outlets?

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Experts:

It is an understatement to say that America is sanctions crazy these days. But the motivation for these is highly suspect, and if it doesn’t stop and consider what it is doing the US government will end up shooting itself in the foot.

The most recent victim of sanctions is not some third world country, Iran or a competitor state. It is not even a Tin Pot dictator, as in Saudi Arabia, but USA Really - a fringe alternative media outlet alleged to be connected to Russian intelligence services and The Kremlin.

As it says in the official citation by the US Treasury Department, sanctions are being imposed on:

  • USA REALLY, St. Petersburg, Russia; Moscow, Russia; [CYBER2] (Linked To: FEDERAL NEWS AGENCY LLC).  
  • MALKEVICH, Alexander Aleksandrovich, St. Petersburg, Russia; DOB 14 Jun 1975; POB Leningrad, Russia; Gender Male; Passport 717637093 (Russia); National ID No. 781005202108 (individual) [CYBER2] (Linked To: USA REALLY).

Not even Tom Clancy could have made this stuff up in one of his tit-for-tat spy novels. USA Really and others have been declared off limits to US citizens, who cannot write for it, receive payments from it or encourage its continued existence in any way. 

After hearing this news Jeffrey Silverman, once a contributor to USA Really, wrote me a plaintive little note: “Wanna start writing articles? I don't know if I can legally work for them anymore, as I am a US citizen, and the US government can make BIG problems for me, as they have so many times in the past.”

Silverman has reason to be concerned. As he detailed in USA Really and other media outlets over the years, he was denied Veterans benefits and other social support he is entitled to for many years.  And only recently had his US passport restored after it had been revoked for over a decade. He has another citizenship, of the Republic of Georgia, but this would not protect him in these circumstances, despite the fact it was the US Government which initially sent him to Georgia to represent its tobacco growing and geopolitical interests. 

Silverman has asked US Citizen Services in Tbilisi for clarification of his position, but as yet has not received an answer.  After all those years struggling to get his passport back, he has now become a non-person again – unless someone wants to torture him or put him on assassination lists, as the US Government has done in the past as a result of his reporting.

Silverman’s path has crossed mine on several occasions. I have contributed analysis to many of his investigations over the years. These include the Khurcha Incident in Georgia, in which the government fired rockets at its own citizens to detract attention from its ongoing electoral violations, the exposure of a network of Bio Labs in the former Soviet Union and putting names, faces and dates to illegal international arms trafficking deals. 

I know what he does that makes the powers-to-be in the US so upset, because I’ve helped him do it and will continue to do so. It is called TELLING THE TRUTH - which for a country like the US, which claims to stand for democracy, rule of law and justice, should be a positive thing, not something to be suppressed at all costs.

Not My Problem

I am not a US citizen, so I should not be subject to any sanctions … that being so, I am happy to help Mr. Silverman out. If they come after me for doing it, it wouldn’t be the first time – my communications have been monitored (isn’t that right, Patrick Worms, former Saakashvili spin doctor who never has the guts to speak to me in person?) and who had my family members beaten up.

But so far I´ve got off lightly compared to other associates of his, such as Roddy Scott (murdered for getting too close to US terrorist training in Pankisi Gorge), Vakhtang Maisaia (jailed for 20 years in a secret trial for allegedly helping the Russians, the evidence being messages he could not possibly have written and a joke badge acquired from a tourist shop) and Malkhaz Gulashvili (sentenced to prison in absentia, later giving himself up to save his family, on charges of “crossing the Georgian border”, meaning to leave the country with documentation rather than enter it without).

Sound extreme to you? That’s how they get away with it. Look at what people are facing in the USA itself, right now, for trying to exercise their free speech rights.

A school teacher in Texas was recently fired for failing to sign a statement which said that they fully supported Israel, and would not participate in sanctions and boycotts against the Jewish State. As an American Muslim, the teacher found this position impossible to support, as anyone has every right to, for any reason. But the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave is even more of a Hollywood fantasy now than it was when Jimmy Cagney made “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to avoid getting blacklisted for his support of labour unions.

One reader of USA Really, Geoff Young, a Democratic candidate for Governor of Kentucky in 2019, shared his understanding of the plight of this former resident of Kentucky, who wouldn’t even be able to vote for him:

“I think that USA Really is a site with some good articles and opinion pieces. Although I don't know all the details of this particular case, and although I'm not a lawyer, it seems to me that the executive order was unconstitutional and un-American, and the US Treasury Department is acting illegally to censor free speech and to persecute a legitimate news organization. I hope USA Really and the Federal News Agency win in court. The US is becoming more and more like a police state."

Officers of the Court of Public Opinion

Even if you think it is legitimate to shut down news sites considered to be pro-Russian, why USA Really? Its articles are almost all sourced or inspired from other journals, not originally produced by its own staff. Those same staff member also write for other outlets, and sometimes receive US salaries from these.

Far from aiding and abetting the Russian government, USA Really is bringing all these pieces together for a US audience, which clearly includes law enforcement bodies. So if these authors are traitors, the US now knows exactly where to find them, and who else is paying them. USA Really might argue that it is providing a public service by gathering all these deviants together and giving them all the equivalent of yellow stars.

But what has happened to Jeffrey Silverman, and so many others working in the alternative media, shows that the US government is afraid of such sites as USA Really and many others. It also shows that the political elites who have the greatest responsibility for upholding it do not regard their fabled Constitution as worth the paper on which it is penned.  This, rather than anything actually reported in USA Really, is the great secret they are so afraid of being reported to the public, because they cannot defend themselves against this accusation.

Speaking Out Two Sides of the Mouth

News of the sanctions is all in the flagship newspapers, and all over the internet, even on Russian sites. The US government has succeeded in making a statement, but seems incapable of seeing that the statement is about itself.

We have reached the point my generation thought we would never reach - when Americans are just as afraid of BIG BROTHER as the residents of the worst dictatorships. As one of Silverman’s own media studies students has pointed out, media consumers are partly responsible for this problem because they let their opinion formers get away with too many things. But how many of those consumers would actively advocate living in a USA which makes a virtue out of doing everything its Constitution says it should never do?

USA Really is an easy target, as it is run from Moscow. But a number of media firms are run from the Canary Islands or Liechtenstein to avoid paying taxes, and those missing taxes make a difference to the lives people actually lead, not their country´s geopolitical position.

Only one serious attempt has ever been made to stop this – the EU Tax Avoidance Directive, which comes into force in 2019. This is what led so many British newspaper owners to campaign for Brexit. Brexit is supported by the government of the same USA.

Four Russian media outlets have been blacklisted by the US for alleged involvement in attempts to interfere in foreign elections. They are the Nevskiye Novosti news agency, the Federal News Agency portal, the Economy Today business news agency and the USA Really English-language website.

According to the US authorities, all of these have "sought to interfere in political and electoral systems worldwide." Isn’t that what the US does routinely in country after country – bringing down governments, rigging polls and candidacies, using aid to bribe governments and electors? If it thinks there is something wrong with that, surely it should stop doing it itself?

You Said It Mate

For every action there is a reaction. As Tass New reports, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced in the wake of the sanctions that “Moscow will work out measures if necessary on the protection of Russian media subjected to illegal sanctions on behalf of the United States.”

Of course the Russians will call these sanctions illegal if they affect their own news outlets. But what else calls them that? The US Constitution!

Jeffrey Silverman, as a decorated US Army Veteran, Georgian Bureau Chief for Veteran Today, took an oath to uphold that Constitution and defend his country “from all enemies foreign and domestic”. By definition, “domestic enemies” are those who try and undermine the US Constitution. So I will write for USA Really myself, though I have never contributed to it before, until US citizen Jeffrey Silverman is treated like one, as he has every right to expect.

Author: I.G. Chopan