Monday, 9 April 2018

Skripal reporting descends to the surreal

The case of the poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter has been a focus of constant attention in the corporate media. From the outset, the reporting has been reckless, irresponsible and hyperbolic. As the weeks have past, it has become increasingly absurd.

Last week, the head of Porton Down, the British state's biological and chemical weapons organisation, flatly contradicted Boris Johnson's assertion that Porton Down had confirmed that Russia was the source of the military grade nerve agent that was used to poison the Skripals. This immediately resulted in the media resorting to anonymous sources in an attempt to bolster the official narrative. The anonymous sources were able to prove that Johnson was right after all. The poison was produced in Russia, according to anonymous sources. How fortunate for Boris - no need to resign for lying.

Well, once the media has access to anonymous sources, it is open season. Anonymous sources suddenly had lots of stories. According to anonymous sources, Russia had a secret programme for the production of the military grade nerve agent and had practised using it for assassinations. They even have the manual where the Russians had written it all down. (No, you cannot see the manual: it's secret.)

The anonymous sources also revealed that the Skripals are still in serious danger from Russia, so MI6 and the CIA are going to provide them with new identities and move them to America for their safety. Conveniently away from any pesky questions; much as "Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey" has conveniently disappeared.

The anonymous sources further revealed that the British had intercepted a message from Syria to Moscow on 4 March, which said that "the package has been delivered" and added that two people had made their "egress". You can read this second rate spy fiction here.

The Skripal case never made any sense. But the longer it has gone on, the less sense it has made. It is a narrative that has no basic facts. It is full of lacunae. It is characterised by inconsistencies and contradictions. The alleged facts change by the day. And yet one is supposed to believe that every claim and representation, is fully consistent with every changing claim and representation. This surreal nonsense looks like nothing so much as a dramatisation of Orwell's Minitruth. We even had the Foreign Office delete its own tweet in order to hide its earlier lies and defend its deletion with new lies.

You're not supposed to be able to remember what they said yesterday. You're just supposed to accept what they say today.

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