The Propaganda of all propagandas

Professional manipulators inundate Washington with lies about Delyan Peevski and Telegraph Media

How do you fight Kremlin propaganda? With Kremlin propaganda. No, this is not a joke, but a reality. A fierce, snarling reality (far from a Bulgarian invention) of efforts being made to manipulate public opinion, not only in the country, but on the other side of the Atlantic as well. The latest example comes courtesy of a newly-minted report from the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD).

The so-called document entitled Kremlin Playbook was presented last week at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and purports to analyse the mechanisms of Russian influence applied in Balkan countries since 2014. The section dedicated to Bulgaria, which was authored by two members of the CSD team, alleges that “several of the most widely-read Bulgarian dailies including […] have been streaming pro-Russian propaganda with distinct focus on the righteousness of the Russian foreign policy in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, the importance of Russia-led energy projects for Europe, Bulgaria and the SEE region, and the ridiculing of Euro-Atlantic values.” Among the daily newspapers cited in this category are Telegraph Media publications Telegraph and Monitor, even though the only true words in this sentence are “most widely-read” and “dailies”.

The editorial policy of our publications has always been clearly stated, with EU and NATO values and market economy principles being at the heart of it. Our readers are perfectly aware of that, as is anyone at least moderately knowledgeable about the media environment in the country. It also becomes pretty unmistakable after even a cursory glance at the content of our publications both over the past five years, which is the scope of the so-called study, and going much further back in time. The authors, however, are clearly not guided by or interested in the truth. Neither have they provided evidence to support their assertions, because they have none. They rely on the tried-and-tested mechanism of fake news to pass their fabrication as truth. As source they cite another report prepared by an obscure NGO called Human and Social Studies Foundation. However, that particular document never mentions the Telegraph Media publications. Apparently, the CSD authors trusted that no one would go to the trouble of checking the basis of their claims. This is deductive reasoning on our part because all our attempts to contact them to ask about the basis of their claims have been to no avail.

Obviously led by the same confidence that the lack of facts would be overlooked, said “experts”, true to themselves, peddle the hackneyed (and disproven hundreds of times) talking points about the publisher of Telegraph Media – lawmaker of the opposition party Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) – saying that he was involved in the “rise and fall of CorpBank”. What is absurd about this is that the latest regurgitation of this lie came on a day when it was revealed that thanks to the amendments put forward by Peevski and his fellow MRF lawmakers Yordan Tsonev and Hamid Hamid, the CorpBank bankruptcy administrators have been able to return BGN 1bn in assets to the insolvency estate of the lender, whose failure was engineered by the indicted banker Tsvetan Vassilev. As mentioned earlier, facts are treated as irrelevant in this pseudo-report. This is why its authors find it convenient to cite as source the internet platform CorpBank Files – the website inadvertently exposed the alliance between the indicted oligarch Tsvetan Vassilev and another indicted oligarch and publisher Ivo Prokopiev several years ago by running an interview with the banker hiding in neighbouring Serbia conducted by a journalist from Prokopiev’s flagship media outlet, the weekly Capital. Here lies the key to understanding the manipulation concocted by the CSD “experts”. Their report mentions nothing about the partnership between Prokopiev and Tsvetan Vassilev or the dozens of articles featured in the former’s media outlets that have served the interests not only of the banker, but his mentors too – prominent among those is the Russian oligarch and Kremlin ally Konstantin Malofeev. Not a small number of those texts promote the theses that are being spread by Vassilev and his partner, arms dealer Emiliyan Gebrev, in their bid to take control of the military plant Dunarit to benefit their business union with Malofeev. But the readers of Kremlin Playbook have no way of knowing that because such information is inconvenient to the authors and apparently to their bosses. And it is easy enough to guess who is included in that latter group – their names are conspicuously absent from the so-called report. The CSD team is also a good indicator. Among the main experts in the centre (even though he is not listed among the authors of the “analysis”) is none other than Chavdar Chervenkov, former interior minister in an interim cabinet, long-time prominent official of the Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Bulgarian Armed Forces (i.e. military intelligence) under dictator Todor Zhivkov and head of the agency in the early years of Bulgaria’s transition to democracy. His biography makes two things abundantly clear. First, Chervenkov is inarguably versed in the Kremlin propaganda, although fighting it is hardly in his repertoire. Second, he is a former head of the political cabinet of Boyko Noev – a defence minister in the government of former PM Ivan Kostov and a family friend of Emiliyan Gebrev playing the role of the main spokesperson for the behind-the-scenes clique trying to steal Dunarit. Coincidence? We think not. As it is hardly a coincidence that people who make a living writing analyses stuff those with Kremlin propaganda all the while pretending to combat that same phenomenon. Through their voices and the lies they utter, a certain group of indicted oligarchs with strong Russian ties hopes to cover up their communist identities and pose as people with US allegiances.

The Kremlin Playbook “corrected” with more lies

A day after it was exposed of peddling shameless fabrications about the media landscape in Bulgaria via a report entitled The Kremlin Playbook, the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) corrected its lies… with more lies. This in itself proves that the NGO is really playing the role of a professional propagandist. After the truth came out, the CSD edited its report by removing the names of the publications it had libeled. At the same time, the organisation continued to spread manipulations, leaving in a sentence claiming that “the most widely-read Bulgarian dailies have been streaming pro-Russian propaganda”. No evidence provided. As is the case with some of the other lies with which the Bulgarian section in The Kremlin Playbook is riddled. A large majority of those parrot talking points against Telegraph Media publisher Delyan Peevski about imagined Russian ties and non-existent involvement in the “rise and fall of CorpBank” – talking points that have been disproven dozens of times by reality and facts.

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