Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Ben Macintyre: The Toxic Cloud Of Lies Over Chernobyl

I’m watching the HBO series Chernobyl, a well-made dramatization of the horrific Soviet nuclear disaster at Chernobyl.   

The Australian published Ben Macintyre’s London Times column on the Soviet lies and cover-up of the Chernobyl disaster.

A few days after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, The Washington Post received a sensational leak from an unknown source: a letter from the US Information Agency to a Republican senator, advising him to exaggerate the number of casualties from the explosion at the nuclear plant in Ukraine.

The Information Agency had been established by Eisenhower to influence public opinion abroad. The senator, David Durenberger, was chairman of the select committee on intelligence. The leaked letter proved that the US was attempting, in the words of its author, to “make the Chernobyl disaster into an effective propaganda campaign” by falsely asserting the accident had already claimed up to 3,000 victims. It was a shocking attempt to embarrass the Soviet Union, mislead the public and make political mileage out of terrible human tragedy.

Except the letter was a KGB forgery. This was a calculated attempt by Moscow to plant fake news and make western anxiety over the nuclear disaster appear artificially inflated as part of a cynical Cold War ploy on the part of America. “Service A” of the KGB, the Soviet intelligence unit specializing in the deception technique known as desinformatsiya (disinformation), had obtained the letterhead of the USIA and then written a fake text underneath with a bogus signature. The Post spotted the ruse and killed the story before it could run.

The forged letter was just one element in the vast toxic cloud of falsehood, half-truths and censorship that spread from the Soviet Union in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. The gripping HBO-Sky series Chernobyl follows the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, reflecting the best and worst of human nature, but its central theme is the official degradation of truth and what happens when the state deliberately and systematically deceives its citizens. Soviet Russia responded to the horror of Chernobyl by trying to contain the story inside a concrete casing of lies.

Chernobyl helped to destroy the Soviet Union but the techniques of desinformatsiya have been inherited and refined by the modern Russian state, while fake news, and false allegations of fake news, have poisoned modern politics.

You can read the rest of the column via the below link:


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