The New York Times published a ridiculous article smearing me with misleading claims, and even used an image of my face menacingly crossed out by a red line.
The newspaper dismissed my factual statement that the United States sponsored a violent coup d’etat to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, calling this objective truth a “conspiracy theory,” while deceptively erasing the overwhelming evidence that I presented.
Ironically the Times itself, back in 2014, reported some of these facts that it now disparages as a “conspiracy theory,” as I document below in this article.
The Times’ hatchet job violates basic journalistic practices. The newspaper did not even reach out to me with a request for comment, while it defamed me and published a photo of my face.
The smear piece is a case study in the US newspaper of record’s propaganda techniques. And it is part of a transparent drive to advance the US government’s new cold war on China and Russia.
The fact that the New York Times collaborates closely with the US national security state is well established. The newspaper has publicly admitted to sending sensitive stories to the US government for approval before publication, to ensure that “national security officials” have “no concerns.”
Prominent former New York Times reporter James Risen wrote in an exposé that the newspaper’s editors are “quite willing to cooperate with the government,” and that there has been an “informal arrangement” in which US officials “regularly engaged in quiet negotiations with the press to try to stop the publication of sensitive national security stories.”
The Times also has a long, inglorious history of attacking anti-war voices in the United States, while spreading demonstrably false claims from anonymous government officials to justify Washington’s wars, from Vietnam to Iraq, Libya to Syria.
I don’t need to remind anyone of the Times’ leading role in amplifying lies about supposed “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) in Iraq.
But there have also been many lesser-known fake news stories disseminated by the US newspaper of record, like when it blamed Vietnamese communists for the Gulf of Tonkin incident, or falsely claimed that Iraqi soldiers took Kuwaiti babies out of incubators to die, or amplified the lie that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi gave Viagra to his soldiers and encouraged them to sexually assault women.
Then there are the more recent examples of the Times willingly spreading US government disinformation, from the debunked Russiagate conspiracy theory to the completely manufactured “Bountygate” scandal, to the equally ludicrous fake news farce known as “Havana Syndrome” – the notion that mass hysteria suffered by US spies was secretly caused by futuristic Russian, Chinese, and/or Cuban “microwave weapons” or “radiofrequency energy” ray guns.
The newspaper’s April 11 report, titled “China’s Echoes of Russia’s Alternate Reality Intensify Around the World,” follows in this same propagandistic vein.
The article was written by Paul Mozur, Steven Lee Myers, and John Liu. The Times apparently needed three reporters to file this story, but not one of them could be bothered to reach out to me for comment.
If they were students in a college journalism 101 class, they would have failed their assignment.
The director of the CIA, William Burns, confirmed in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this March that Washington is engaged in an “information war” against Russia.
Former top State Department official Eliot A. Cohen likewise stated clearly that, in Ukraine, the “United States and its NATO allies are engaged in a proxy war with Russia.”
This New York Times smear piece must be understood in this context: The newspaper of record is acting as a tool of US government information warfare, a hatchet man for Washington, launching neo-McCarthyite attacks on independent journalists who dare to challenge the official NATO propaganda line.
China’s officials and state media are increasingly parroting Russian propaganda on the war in Ukraine, undercutting U.S. and European diplomatic efforts, even after the killings in Bucha. https://t.co/yHPqg1nNXD
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) April 11, 2022
The article accuses China of helping Russia amplify purported “disinformation” over the war in Ukraine. And it singles out this present author, independent journalist Benjamin Norton, smearing my factual statements as so-called “conspiracy theories.”
The newspaper published the following passage:
Russian and Chinese state media have also increasingly drawn on the opinions of the same group of internet celebrities, pundits and influencers, featuring them on their shows as well as in YouTube videos. One of them, Benjamin Norton, is a journalist who claimed that a coup sponsored by the United States government took place in Ukraine in 2014 and that U.S. officials had installed the leaders of the current Ukrainian government.
He first explained the conspiracy theory on RT, although it was later picked up by Chinese state media and tweeted by accounts like Frontline. In a March interview, which China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, trumpeted as an exclusive, Mr. Norton said the United States, not Russia, was to blame for Russia’s invasion.
“Regarding the current situation in Ukraine, Benjamin said that this is not a war caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but a war planned and provoked by the United States as early as 2014,” an unnamed CCTV narrator said.
For starters, the specific RT interview that the Times referenced was a discussion I had with left-wing American comedian Lee Camp, and it was actually conducted on February 23, a day before Russia invaded Ukraine (although it was not published until February 25).
Camp has a long history as a grassroots activist in the US anti-war, anti-racist, and environmentalist movements. The notion that he was secretly being controlled by the Kremlin is laughably preposterous.
Camp had repeatedly emphasized for years that he had total editorial control over his show – until YouTube erased his hundreds of episodes in an authoritarian purge of undesirable “Russia-linked” journalists.
The New York Times has already faced backlash for spreading ridiculous, defamatory claims about Lee Camp as well. It was only a matter of time until it came after me, in its war on progressive independent journalists.
The most cartoonishly nonsensical claim in the Times’ smear piece is the idea that the US government organizing a coup in Ukraine is an outlandish “conspiracy theory.”
Anyone vaguely familiar with the elementary history of US foreign policy knows that Washington has sponsored coups d’etat around the world – from Iran in 1953 to Guatemala in 1954, Congo in 1960 to Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965 to Chile in 1973, Haiti in 1991 to Haiti again in 2004, Venezuela in 2002 to Ukraine (the first time) in 2004, Honduras in 2009 to Bolivia in 2019, and so, so many more.
Then again, the New York Times has a long history of echoing disinformation from anonymous US government officials in order to deny and whitewash these coups, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that it remains in denial about the 2014 US-backed putsch in Ukraine.
After absurdly accusing me of promulgating a “conspiracy theory,” the Times embedded a screenshot of a March 11 tweet from China’s news program Frontline, with an image of me. The newspaper added a red line, crossing out the tweet – and my face.
The Times did not actually embed the tweet, so its readers were not able to watch the video clip to hear my full comments.
The newspaper also conveniently failed to mention my citation of the leaked recording of a 2014 phone call in which US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland discussed who the prime minister of Ukraine’s post-coup government would be, and who did indeed become prime minister a few weeks later.
These omissions show how disingenuous the corporate media’s propaganda is. Legacy publications like the New York Times believe their audience is so foolish and so susceptible to foreign supposed “disinformation” that they will not even let readers listen to a 30-second video of an independent American journalist and make up their own minds.
In the clip, I made the following, 100% factual comments about the Ukraine crisis:
They [Western governments] promised this [not to expand eastward after the reunification of Germany] to the Soviet Union multiple times; we have the documents showing it. And NATO lied.
And we also have a recorded phone call, from the top US diplomat Victoria Nuland, in which she actually handpicks the top officials of the Ukrainian government that took over after the 2014 US-backed coup.
This coup in Ukraine is what started a civil war in the country, and now they act as though they have nothing to do with it, and Russia is the only aggressor.
According to the New York Times, these objectively true statements – that Western governments repeatedly broke their promise to Moscow not to expand eastward, and that Washington sponsored a coup in Ukraine in 2014 – constitute a dangerous “conspiracy theory.”
As of the publication of this present article, April 14, this Frontline video has only 158 views, 10 likes, and three retweets on Twitter. But the US newspaper of record wants its readers to believe that this little-seen clip of me stating undeniable facts about the recent history of Ukraine endangers the very fabric of American society.
"We've a recorded phone call from @UnderSecStateP in which she actually handpicked top officials of #Ukrainian gov't took over after 2014 #US backed coups.The coup in #Ukraine is what started a civil war in the nation&now they act as if they've nothing to do with it."#IntoUkraine pic.twitter.com/obGXnmzM9i
— Frontline (@Frontlinestory) March 12, 2022
It is an uncontroversial matter of public record that the US government sponsored the 2014 coup in Ukraine.
The 2014 phone call between Victoria Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, is a smoking gun.
In the leaked recording – a transcript of which was published by the BBC – Nuland and Pyatt can be heard discussing who would be the new prime minister of Ukraine’s upcoming post-coup regime.
“Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, the governing experience,” Nuland said, referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, showing her cozy relationship with the right-wing, pro-Western Ukrainian politician by shortening his surname.
Mere days after the US-backed February 22 coup, Yatsenyuk became prime minister of Ukraine – just as Nuland had insisted he should.
Yet the smoking gun evidence of a top State Department official and US ambassador discussing who the prime minister of Ukraine would be was overshadowed by another comment Nuland made in the phone call: “Fuck the EU.”
That single line inspired condemnations by European governments, and got much more attention than the fact that US diplomats were caught hand-picking the leaders of the upcoming Ukrainian coup regime.
U.S. Diplomat’s Remark on European Union ‘Unacceptable,’ Merkel Says http://t.co/ZkqyjLBENe
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) February 7, 2014
In fact, US government officials confirmed the authenticity of this leaked phone call in none other than the New York Times itself.
In a February 6, 2014 report, the Times admitted that the recording of the call was posted on Twitter “just as Ms. Nuland was in Kiev meeting with Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders.”
Then on February 10, the newspaper published a softball article on Nuland, in which the hardline right-wing hawk shrugged off the scandal and proudly confessed, “I’m well known as the least diplomatic diplomat there is.”
But now, in 2022, the Times acts as though acknowledging these events that the newspaper itself reported back in 2014 is indulging in a dangerous “conspiracy theory.”
The New York Times claims the fact that the US government sponsored a coup in Ukraine is part of an “alternate reality.” But the historical record shows that the Times is the one living in an alternate reality, where the US government’s crimes don’t exist, and the Kremlin alone is responsible for all evildoing in the world.
The reality that the violent 2014 overthrow of Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a coup d’etat has also been obliquely acknowledged by the New York Times.
In a February 22, 2014 report on his violent ouster, the Times quoted Yanukovych saying, “I am a legitimately elected president. What is happening today, mostly, it is vandalism, banditism, and a coup d’état.”
The newspaper presciently titled that article “With President’s Departure, Ukraine Looks Toward a Murky Future.” The country’s future was indeed quite murky.
On February 27, 2014, the Times followed up with a report on “Crimea, where a heavily ethnic Russian and Russian-speaking population mostly views the Ukrainian government installed after the ouster last weekend of Mr. Yanukovych as the illegitimate result of a fascist coup.”
A few weeks later, in a March 17 report on the rebellion by Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of the country, the Times admitted, “Many Ukrainians, who saw demonstrators in the capital chase President Viktor F. Yanukovych from office last month in what some in this country regard as a justified uprising and others call a coup, wondered what part of Ukraine might remain, day by day, under the interim government’s control.”
Of course I am far from the only journalist who has pointed out the US government’s role in the violent 2014 coup in Ukraine.
Back at the time, some of this was acknowledged even in mainstream outlets.
In an April 2014 article titled “It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war,” published in top British newspaper The Guardian – the UK’s equivalent of the New York Times – columnist Seumas Milne noted that prominent US politicians like Senator John McCain were in Kiev’s Maidan Square in 2014, working alongside far-right extremists.
Milne recalled that “the Ukrainian president was replaced by a US-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover,” and “the US ambassador haggled with the state department over who would make up the new Ukrainian government.”
— Seumas Milne (@SeumasMilne) May 1, 2014
The Guardian admitted these undeniable facts back in 2014. But now in 2022, according to the New York Times, this objective history is a scandalous “conspiracy theory.”
These views have also been expressed by renowned University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer, a mainstream political scientist who is highly respected in his field.
Mearsheimer’s 2015 University of Chicago lecture “Why is Ukraine the West’s Fault?” went viral in the wake of Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, and has roughly 25 million views as of the publication of this present article.
In that 2015 lecture, Mearsheimer repeatedly referred to the overthrow of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 as a coup. He added that there were “significant fascist elements among the protesters, who were armed, [and] there is killing on the Maidan.”
“If you have a coup in Kiev, and some of the people who come to power have fascist tendencies or are fascists, however you want to define that term, it’s going to have really huge consequences,” Mearsheimer said.
The scholar argued that the three “deep causes” of the crisis in Ukraine were NATO expansion, EU expansion, and US government “democracy promotion” programs – read: regime change.
“It just shows you how discombobulated American foreign policy is these days. And of course the Ukraine crisis is just one of many messes that we’ve made,” Mearsheimer summarized, referring to the US government.
Mearsheimer reiterated these points in a 2014 article, “Why the Ukraine Crisis Is the West’s Fault,” in Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the powerful US government-linked Council on Foreign Relations – the furthest publication possible from “Russian propaganda.”
From the archive: In a 2014 essay, John Mearsheimer criticized the United States and its European allies for “moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests”—laying the groundwork for a crisis in Ukraine.https://t.co/owFlFTWntP
— Foreign Affairs (@ForeignAffairs) February 11, 2022
But the New York Times dismissed this as a crazy “conspiracy theory.”
Mearsheimer in fact reiterated his analysis in a presentation on March 2, 2022, emphasizing the role of the United States and NATO in causing the war in Ukraine that was escalated by Russia’s February 24 invasion.
Mearsheimer explained that the crisis “was precipitated in large part by a coup that was supported by the United States that took place in Ukraine and resulted in a pro-Russian leader, President Yanukovych, being overthrown and being replaced by a pro-American prime minister.”
Mearsheimer was joined in this March 2 event by longtime former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, a specialist in Russian affairs. McGovern agreed that the US government sponsored the 2014 coup in Ukraine, pointing to the infamous phone recording of Nuland and Pyatt.
The US government stenographers at the New York Times would like their readers to believe that these undeniable facts are a loony “conspiracy theory,” and that anyone who mentions them is guilty of regurgitating “Chinese and Russian state propaganda.”
But many countries across the Global South recognize the role of the United States and NATO in starting the war in Ukraine.
The president of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, blamed NATO for the violence in Ukraine, in comments to his country’s parliament on March 17: “The war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa blamed NATO for the war in Ukraine and said he would resist calls to condemn Russia, in comments that cast doubt over whether he would be accepted by Ukraine or the West as a mediator https://t.co/y1plRKUHRG pic.twitter.com/7tr3pvDS3M
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 17, 2022
Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales, who was himself overthrown in a US-backed far-right coup in 2019, declared publicly that “the US uses Ukraine to militarily, politically, and economically attack the people of Russia.” He condemned “the interventionist expansionism of NATO and the US,” warning that its “hegemony of weapons and imperialism puts world peace at risk.”
Brazil’s left-wing Workers’ Party made similar comments. And The Guardian reluctantly acknowledged that many leaders across Africa are “calling for peace but blaming Nato’s eastward expansion for the war [in Ukraine], complaining of western ‘double standards’ and resisting all calls to criticise Russia.”
According to the New York Times, all of these Global South nations are engaged in an elaborate “conspiracy theory.”
Perhaps even current CIA Director William Burns himself could be accused of being complicit in this “conspiracy theory.”
Back in 2008, when he served as US ambassador to Russia, Burns published a confidential embassy cable in which he warned that NATO expansion to Ukraine would cross Moscow’s security “redlines” and “could potentially split the country in two, leading to violence or even, some claim, civil war, which would force Russia to decide whether to intervene.”
Was the former US ambassador to Russia and current CIA director guilty of spreading “Putinist disinformation” by acknowledging that Moscow might have to respond to Western military encirclement?
(It is worth emphasizing that we only have this document thanks to whistleblowing journalistic publication WikiLeaks, whose founder and longtime editor Julian Assange is a political prisoner, persecuted by the US government for daring to expose its crimes. The New York Times has been complicit in the information warfare campaign waged by Washington in order to vilify Assange and justify this gruesome campaign of political persecution.)
Outside of the bubble of Western chauvinism that the New York Times exists to reinforce, the vast majority of the world’s population clearly sees that the United States and NATO are responsible for the war in Ukraine.
But it is quite clear to me what the Times’ goal was in its deceitful April 11, 2022 smear piece: By including me in this article on so-called “disinformation” supposedly spread by Chinese and Russian media, the US newspaper of record is trying to get me banned on social media.
Over years of work I have managed to build a relatively substantial platform for my independent journalism. Large corporate outlets like the New York Times, which willingly collaborate with the US government, see me and other independent journalists as a threat to their chokehold on media.
So these legacy publications want to create some kind of justification for Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to purge me and other independent journalists who expose the role of Washington in causing the war in Ukraine.
Their goal is authoritarian: they want control over all media, an iron grip on people’s access to information. They don’t believe in the freedom of the press or expression; they believe journalists or media outlets that expose inconvenient facts about the US government should be silenced and destroyed.
They are guilty of the very same authoritarian crimes that they project onto Washington’s geopolitical adversaries.
The Washington Post’s editorial board made this goal explicit in an article it published on the same day, April 11, calling on social media platforms to ban Chinese news outlets, supposedly for amplifying Russian “disinformation.”
Like the New York Times, the Washington Post enjoys a close relationship with the US government. The latter also happens to be owned by hundred-billionaire oligarch Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon has massive contracts with the CIA, Pentagon, and other agencies that make up the US national security state.
The extreme neo-McCarthyite campaigns being driven by the Times, the Post, and many more corporate media outlets demonstrate how the mainstream press is a key instrument of Washington’s information warfare.
As the United States escalates its new cold war on China and Russia, leading newspapers are dropping any pretense of fidelity to basic journalistic principles and enlisting as loyal foot soldiers in the information war. Those of us who are independent journalists who refuse to dutifully toe the US regime’s line are in their crosshairs.