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Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

Wow!!! Words fail me. I was thinking this was a parody of actual real journalism and there would be a punch line at the end. Guess I was wrong.

The author basically strung together a bunch of deep state, neo-liberal talking points and mushed them into an essay. There’s the obligatory binary – if you don’t support NATO you are therefore pro Putin.

There’s a smorgasbord of tropes:
*Russian disinformation
*Russian propaganda
*Rampant right wing radicalization
*Corruption allegations
*Victor Orban smears
*Threats to democracy

Even if you strongly support everything the US and NATO are doing, it should be hard to take this essay seriously. I’m glad Unherd published this. It serves as a reminder of junk journalism.

Amy Harris
Amy Harris
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Well said! It is utter junk! Another Soros stooge. They are all clones with nothing original or thoughtful to say.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Have you considered:
Whether Russia is making a major effort to influence local opinion and whether Russian propaganda has had a major effect on Slovakian politics?

Whether Fico actually is corrupt and connected to the local Mafia?

Whether the speculation on Fico’s future policies is realistic?

Whether the view of popular opinion is correct?

Even if you do not like any of these points, they are all possible, at least in theory.

Do you have any evidence that they are wrong?

Last edited 6 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I know nothing about Slovakia, but this isn’t journalism. It’s emotion and innuendo, which immediately makes it all unbelievable. It’s a propaganda piece that Victoria Nuland would write.

I won’t bother listing all the offensive statements, but here’s a sample. These are all evidence free statements from the first five paragraphs. They are either wrong on their face, very unlikely or unknowable.

“
forced to choose between supporting the EU-Nato alliance or Putin’s invasion.”

“She has fallen out with her sister who backed Moscow in the war with neighbouring Ukraine.”

“
and a further inroad for the continent’s rampant radical-Right.”

“
Fico posed as a “Third Way” progressive centrist in the vein of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair
”

“
Fico has shrugged off attempts to tie him to the contract killing.”

“
he then exploited the struggles of his successors to cope with the pandemic, inflation and soaring energy prices.”

I could literally highlight something from every paragraph of this smear job. Fico could be a very bad man for all I know, but this isn’t journalism.

Last edited 6 months ago by Jim Veenbaas
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Ian Birrell clearly does not like Fico, and it shows. But near as I can see the facts presented are pretty clear in each of your examples, and whether you agree with the attitude or not the article does tell you about the situation in Slovakia Slovenia. Personally I rather like the combination of facts with an clearly stated opinion – much like the Economist does it. It can make it easier to see where people are coming from

It would be easy enough to rewrite all your examples to have the opposite slant but the same factual information. Just a couple:

– “Forced to choose between solidarity with their Russian neighbours and the encroachment of the US and their NATO stooges”
– “Another victory for the anti-elite movement in Europe”
– “Fico has successfully defended himself against attempts to frame him for complicity with a Mafia hit”
You can probably do them better yourself. I would say this compares quite favourably with a lot of the COVID coverage. At least here there is information, instead of simply recycling the standard anti-Lockdown, anti-vaccine assumptions. It takes both sides to make an Unherd.

Last edited 6 months ago by Rasmus Fogh
Andy White
Andy White
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Slovakia (not Slovenia)

b blimbax
b blimbax
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“It takes both sides to make an Unherd.”
Yet the article is so laughably one-sided.

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I know nothing about Slovakia

You clearly don’t, indeed I wonder if you could find it on a map. It’s not a smear job if it’s true, and true it is.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Add to that
“the 2014 theft of Crimea” A simplification and a gross overstatement
“Slovakia is a big success for Russian propaganda with the Slovak audience very susceptible to its disinformation”. Put another way Slovakia has been a huge failure for Western propaganda with the audience very resistant to the West’s disinformation

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

How did it happen that Russia’s entire Black Sea fleet is stationer in Ukraine.. it seems a little odd don’t you think? I wonder if we refer to history will that help?

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I subscribe to a Substack where the American author actually lives in Hungary and what he describes is much different than the media description. Additionally anyone who still describes Clinton and Blair as moderates is not to be trusted as truth tellers.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

He who asserts is required to offer evidence – he who questions it is not.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Too true, sadly..

b blimbax
b blimbax
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

You overlooked the reference “to Russia’s despot.” But thank you (and thanks to many other commenters) for the comment, it saved me the trouble. This is one of the most ham-handed, slanted, cherry-picked pieces of writing I’ve seen on UnHerd, even if it is written by “an award-winning foreign reporter and columnist.” The lack of objectivity is hard to miss.

Amy Harris
Amy Harris
6 months ago

“…the country has become a test-bed for Kremlin disinformation.”

Is it not also a test-bed for NATO disinformation?

That the “war in Ukraine didn’t start yesterday or last year. It began in 2014 when the Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started to murder Russian citizens in Donbas and Luhansk” is TRUE. Just because “nasty Putin” said it doesn’t make it not true.

This piece reeks of ignorance, arrogance and prejudice. Ugh! Its so one-sided, it’s textbook propaganda.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
6 months ago
Reply to  Amy Harris

“It began in 2014 when the Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started to murder Russian citizens in Donbas and Luhansk” is TRUE.”
================
Says you lol. How do you know?

T Bone
T Bone
6 months ago

There’s a contradiction in progressive Imperialism. On one hand Democracy=good but Populism=bad.

The only way to resolve the contradiction in their dialectic is through what amounts to “Approved Populism.” So if progressive outsiders work to discredit Populism in any nation that doesn’t conform to progressive values, how can progressives say they believe in Democracy if they clearly think any vote they don’t approve of is Anti-Democratic Populism?

If you say you stand for Global “Democracy” than you would respect the right of other countries to choose their leaders without interference.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

Well said. I have been questionning the Populism=bad thing for about a year on UnHerd. I really believe that it’s a snobbish thing. If somebody is elected without a deep plan, then it must be bad. If people like the candidate and vote accordingly, that must be bad.
Today, politicians are just crowd-pleasers who respond to sound bites. They are all populists or trying hard to be populists and that is what democracy means.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Precisely, time for Lawrence FOX to be PM, and Nigel FARAGE to be Foreign Secretary.

Caradog Wiliams
Caradog Wiliams
6 months ago

Not going to happen though because Nigel Farage, especially, is one of the most hated men around. Michelle Dewberry would be better but those in the south might not be able to understand what she says.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
6 months ago

Hated by who? The ‘media mob’ of emotional spastics, who are NOT worth even a Tinkers’s cuss!
The ‘twits’ to use your choice of words, would follow him to the ends of the earth, as you well know.
As or Dewberry* has she never heard of elocution lessons? Or forgotten what GBS said about speech?

(* Is she the one who famously lost her self control the other day? Or am I mistaking her for another? There are just so many these I can’t keep up!)

Last edited 6 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

You forget GBS was a Paddy Charlie!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

..and Charlie Stanhope to be Chancellor of the Exchequer no doubt. We’re onto ye Charlie…

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
6 months ago

I’d pay for a ringside seat at that particular circus of incompetence. Mind you, Far-rage would need to be elected first, and he’s failed on 7 previous occasions, so good luck with that one

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

No.. that is Direct Democracy. What we have is Representative Democracy, a very different system.. You vote on characteristics and promises and, hopefully a look at ‘form’ as well, individual and collective (party)..
Sadly, too many are swayed by good looks, rhetoric and false promises.. and not enough by hard facts, ie current and recent ‘form’ and sound, costed policies.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Hardly anybody nowadays understands the difference between direct / plebiscite and representative democracy. A familiar Brexit rage-point (one of many) is that a representative democracy does not function as a plebiscite democracy. They think it ought to, lol, which shocking ignorance reveals much about the calibre of people who supported Brexit.   

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

How about “Reasoned, Informed, Justifiable, Moral Populism”? Sadly, the pop bit of populism is too often unreasonable, ill-informed, immoral and unjustifiable.. Wouldn’t it be great if, as well as casting your vote you had to say why you voted for one over the other?

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

An abysmal article. If anything it made me hope that the populist wins so the smug gets drained out from that country and its effete political-NGO-activist ruling caste.

D Walsh
D Walsh
6 months ago

I wonder who pays the bills at the Institute of Public Affairs ?

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

The EU would be my guess, seeing as Slovakia is a member and receives a lot of money from the bloc for development. What’s your point?

D Walsh
D Walsh
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

George Soros is a bigger danger to Slovakia/Europe/US than Vladimir Putin

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

I’m no fan of Soros or his politics, but I’m not going to compare a man using his wealth to buy and influence politicians to one who happily fires cruise missiles into tower blocks full of civilians

Last edited 6 months ago by Billy Bob
Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

What about district attorney’s who let criminals walk? Soros got them elected, he’s behind every nefarious NGO who wreak havoc in the west. He throws a different kind of bomb but no less dangerous to the hapless populations who suffer them.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
6 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

Sure, and the EU is a tyranny, and mask wearing is tyranny. Meanwhile. rockets into civilian areas and drunk Asian-“Russian” rapists terrorising civilians, well, nothing to see here, as far you’re concerned. Change your mirror mate, it’s not working.  

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago
Reply to  D Walsh

According to their website, top of the list is the Open Society Foundation owned by one Mr Soros.

https://www.ivo.sk/3809/en/about-ivo/who-support-us

The list is a veritable Who’s Who of usual suspects.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

This is absolutely hilarious.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
6 months ago

This reads like typical EU/NATO propaganda—-the word choices, the phrasing, the “some people say” accusations and assertions. Even if largely true about Fico and Russian influence, it is so obviously written to manipulate rather than enlighten, it loses all credibility.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
6 months ago

Germany has found itself burning even more coal as it waters down its industrial Net Zero to nothing. British armchair warriors aside, the rest of Europe wants this war over by Christmas. I’d say Western Europe but the Polish seem to have given up on it too, polling much like the American public.

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
6 months ago

Like him or hate him, the election of Fico could potentially speed up an end to this terrible war. I never ceased to be amazed at how “environmental activists” and others are on the side of the EU and NATO. In any case, there is a hysteria in the West about “misinformation” which makes me rather suspicious. Is all the misinformation necessarily coming from the axis of evil?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
6 months ago
Reply to  Dick Barrett

As always, the only way to end a war quickly (trerrible or not) is to surrender to the other side.

David McKee
David McKee
6 months ago

Ian Birrell and I do not see eye to eye over Brexit, but we can park that. He has a reputation for being a damn good journalist and an honest man. So I am inclined to take his report of modern-day Slovakia seriously. Bratislava, the Slovak capital, might only be a short hop from Vienna, but it crosses a huge fault-line in Europe’s history. Eastern Europe is a very, very different place from Western Europe. If you doubt that, google ‘Father Tiso’ and see what went on there within living memory.

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

You beat me to it.
Yes Father Tiso.
I guess Slovakians just like being ruled by dictators or their helpers.
There is possibility, not mentioned in article, that Slovakians might feel that their minority in Ukraine is mistreated?
This is the main reason why Hungary is so reluctant to help Ukraine.
Still, with many Hungarians I know complaining about treatment of their minority in Slovakia, I am not sure how this supposed Hungarian alliance will work.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
6 months ago

.Which part of…
“The war in Ukraine didn’t start yesterday or last year. It began in 2014 when the Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started to murder Russian citizens in Donbas and Luhansk,”
… is inaccurate? Is it reneging on the “not an inch Eastward (NATO) or the breaking the Minsk Accords? I don’t really expect propaganda on Unherd, treferred to yes but regurgitated, no!
Can we focus on undeniable facts and draw our own conclusions please?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
6 months ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You mean like the undeniable fact that Russia grabbed legally Ukrainian territory and launched a major war to get even more?

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
6 months ago

“ It started with Ukraine but developed to divide society over democracy, the West, Nato or the migration crisis.”

My suggestion to Ian Birrel and other writers and politicians of a left liberal bent is this. Stop blaming Russia for your mistakes and ideology. If Russia is amplifying the migration crisis, then you know what to do. Stop the migration crisis. If Russia is appealing to people disgusted with the new rejection of gender then you know what to do. Stop rejecting biology. If Russia is propagandising people disgusted with the continuous and ugly attacks on European culture and white people in general then you know what to do. Stop doing that.

And while we are at it, what is democracy worth if it doesn’t guarantee freedom, in particular freedom of speech?

Ranting about authoritarianism in Hungary isn’t going to work, now that you want to jail people for believing in scientific facts.

You know what to do Ian, and you can do it as an insider – changing opinion dinner party by dinner party if you must.

Jeff Dudgeon
Jeff Dudgeon
6 months ago

Will Fico’s ally and former presidential candidate Maros Sefcovic be recalled from Brussels to become the new Foreign Minister? If so, we might get relief from his torturing of the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Guy Austin
Guy Austin
6 months ago

Reading all the comments above I wonder if I’m the only person thinking we have been swamped by comments from Russian agents?

Philip Barnard
Philip Barnard
6 months ago
Reply to  Guy Austin

You are not. The pro-Putin bias of the comments is palpable.

Amy Harris
Amy Harris
6 months ago
Reply to  Philip Barnard

I don’t see a single “pro-Putin” comment. I see many “anti shoddy journalism” comments and a few “anti NATO/Soros propaganda” comments but no comments that are directly “pro-Putin”. Could you point them out?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  Philip Barnard

Anyone who questions the regime narrative is automatically a Putin supporter. Good to know. What if someone believes the west needs to support Ukraine, but thinks the military industrial complex in the US has deliberately squashed negotiations to sell more weapons, and have sacrificed thousands of Ukrainian lives in a proxy war with Russia?

Amy Harris
Amy Harris
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Exactly this!!

Andrew F
Andrew F
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Unfortunately, you might be genuine doubter, but most comments are along the lines:
“if only Ukraine surrendered all would be well”
There can be no negotiation with genocidal Russian imperialism.
My problem with West response is that many more weapons should had been sent much earlier.
If Ukraine chooses to negotiate, it is their choice.
I see no sign of that.
Russia can end the war quickly by withdrawing from Ukraine.
Appeasing dictators like Putin only delays inevitable.
Just remember Munich.