Monday, July 24, 2017

Let it be written; let it be mocked

Your weekly reminder to question the “who” and “why” of everything you read. Don’t assume alternative news outlets are all garbage, and don’t assume mainstream brands deliver brilliance to your brain.

A classic case of being very careful with what you read comes to us today from Reuters. Having that stamp should not give news or opinion any more credence than anything else. Same from BBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc.

First, always check if you are reading straight news or opinion. Yes, that can be difficult in some places, but in other cases like Reuters, they will give it an “Opinion” stamp as they did here.

Then look at the author. Give your head an extra tilt if it isn’t a regular opinion writer – as a lot of the stuff out there is all about something else but providing an opinion or viewpoint. You can figure that out on your own – but case in point is Peter Apps’s dogs breakfast from July 18th. There is so much wrong here, but let’s look at the Top-5;

This month’s G20 meeting in Hamburg showed Western countries still struggling for a strategy to stop suspected Russian meddling in their politics and hacking their elections.
Style note: anyone thinking Russia “hacked” the election – as in they got in to systems to change votes - is either grossly mal-informed, or is a hack – or both. Russia and the Soviet Union before it, tried to influence or generally jackass elections in the West. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have done the same in their elections and that of their allies. You will never stop meddling any more than you will stop spying.

This summer has seen NATO conducting cutting-edge anti-submarine and electronic warfare exercises in the North Atlantic, near daily flights by surveillance aircraft operating in the Baltic and a host of other war games from the Black Sea to the Arctic.
”Cutting-edge?” As defined by whom? Air & Surface ASW and to a lesser extent EW have been starved of funds more than any other area since the end of the Cold War. Most equipment are based on or are themselves a generation or more old. They are no more cutting edge than a 1995 Mercury Mountaineer is the cutting edge of SUV design.

The effectiveness of Moscow's techniques shocked U.S. strategists, many of whom had come to believe Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya-style insurgent foes were all they would ever confront.
Who? Give me some names. The latest iteration of the COIN vs. Conventional intellectual debate is well over a decade and a half old – and the pro-COIN side lost. I don’t know a single professional who was “shocked” by what Russia has done recently. Impressed? Sure, but shocked? No. This hyperbole gives the Russians too much credit, and makes the West look like a bunch of buffoons. Though there might be cases for each in detail, in general? Silly.

Growing numbers of Western strategists believe Putin hopes Russia’s propaganda and political disruption efforts may ultimately cause both NATO and the European Union to collapse. Few see that as likely - but countries most vulnerable to Russia, such as the Baltic states and Finland, are taking few chances.
Again, who? Names. Only fringe types or carnival barkers see an ultimate collapse of both NATO & EU due to Russia. Both are under stress, but it is almost entirely due to internal conflict and contradictions, not outside pressure from Russia.

That may not be enough to stop Russia launching a surprise assault on a slice of NATO territory. However, even that would likely just further intensify Europe’s commitment to defending the rest of its territory.

The fact is that Europe is now better defended than at any point in decades. If Russia feels threatened by that, then Putin has only himself to blame.
Come on! “…likely just further intensify…” – GMAFB, that would be war.

As for the last paragraph, define “decades.” 30 years ago was 1987. Just look at what NATO was then. 20-years, 1997. Look at the size of the Royal Navy compared to now, just as an example.

Beyond silly, and it would be funny if so many people didn’t give the Reuters name such props.

Don’t get me wrong, I love opinion bits – as a blogger it is pretty much all I do – but this article is something I wouldn’t publish as a guest post on my homeblog it is so disjointed and unsupported by any objective review of facts concerning its core points.

This is pretty ballsy stuff for a well-biased blogger who can’t even copy-edit his own stuff, I know - but question everything you read, regardless of where it is. Sure, in The Economist you don’t know who the author is – but everywhere else you can – and you should take that in to account. You can get some good stuff from some, but don’t assume quality or insight just because of the URL.

Watch out for those who shop around cobbled together articles that are really just self-promotional items that are meant to signal that, “We need to listen to this person.”

Well, hogwash.

Find out who manages to get Peter’s stuff on Reuters? Sure, that is a good idea. If this can get published at a major institution …. well.

Peter should be smarter than this, and given his CV, I expected better from him. That’s OK though – he gave us a good example; question everything you read.

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