Saturday, March 21, 2015

Soft power outage

Some time ago John Kerry complained RT had acquired too much global influence. For those coming out of hibernation this time of the year, RT is the Russian virtual mammoth Putin has unleashed to spew conspiracy theories and other propaganda in response the Western media’s carefully balanced news coverage. So I decided to check it out. The first segment that came up showed an RT correspondent asking a US state department communicator a simple question: why has the US condemned Russian military exercises within its own territory as destabilizing, while failing to recognize that NATO’s military deployments along Russia’s borders could have the same effect? Instead of giving a simple answer (like: Russia borders Ukraine), the State Department official got into a casuistic argument over what exactly his office had said in response to Russian saber rattling. So how could the free world counter Putin’s propaganda blitz? I was going to say: start by subjecting Sate Department spokespeople to some sort of psychometric test. But this, of course, would be a bit insensitive. So perhaps hire the creative personality that coined the phrase “soft power outage”?

Speaking of insensitive, there was another segment – this time on Euronews – that caught my attention. It showed a giant German military plane which had come to pick up the remains of the German tourists killed in Tunis the other day. The plane sported a large “Luftwaffe” sign, and the kind of rectangular cross German panzer and stuka bombers made so famous during WW II. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, “Luftwaffe” is a generic German word for “air force,” and throwing such a household brand name on the dustbin of history probably seemed unwise. But why, then, not go all the way and restore to the German armed forces the name they so proudly carried until May 1945 – “Wehrmaht” (which translates merely as “defense force”)? Frankly, it’s hard to see any logical reason.