The Burden Of Proof Is Always On The Ones Making The Claim (Even If It’s About Russia)

 by Caitlin Johnstone - 19 Feb 2022

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Well you’ll be shocked to learn that, while the Ukraine invasion we’ve been told for weeks was happening any day now still has not occurred, the US and UK have declared that Russia attacked Ukraine in an invisible and unverifiable way for which the evidence is secret.

“The White House blamed Russia on Friday for this week’s cyberattacks targeting Ukraine’s defense ministry and major banks and warned of the potential for more significant disruptions in the days ahead,” AP reports. “Anne Neuberger, the Biden administration’s deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technologies, said the U.S. had rapidly linked Tuesday’s attacks to Russian military intelligence officers.”

“Technical information analysis shows the GRU was almost certainly involved in disruptive DDoS attacks,” adds a statement from the UK Foreign Office.

No evidence for this claim has been provided beyond the assertive tone with which American and British officials have uttered it, but that likely won’t stop arguments from western narrative managers that this “attack” justifies immediate economic sanctions.

You’ve probably also heard by now that President Biden announced at a press briefing that Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine and violently topple Kyiv “in the coming days,” citing only “intelligence”.

“What reason do you believe he’s considering that option at all?” a reporter asked Biden after his speech.

“We have a significant intelligence capability, thank you very much,” the president answered, and made his exit.

As we were reminded earlier this month in an interesting exchange between State Department spinmeister Ned Price and AP’s Matt Lee, US officials firmly believe that simply placing assertions next to the word “intelligence” should be considered rock solid proof that those assertions are true, and the press are expected to play along with this.

And indeed, a large percentage of the political/media class is responding to Biden’s unevidenced claim that Putin has decided to launch a full-scale ground invasion of Ukraine as though that invasion is actually happening.

There are also accusations of false flags amid the fighting in eastern Ukraine and numerous other claims about what Russia is doing as it prepares for this invasion it’s supposed to launch, and it’s all just being blindly accepted as objectively true in mainstream political discourse. Nowhere is it questioned. Nowhere is the fault of the US and NATO in creating these tensions between Russia and Ukraine ever reported, nor are the geostrategic benefits the US hegemon stands to reap from this standoff. Few even bother trying to articulate what Moscow would gain from invading Ukraine, except the occasional infantile “they hate us for our freedom”-style think piece about how Putin just can’t stand democracy.

If online you question the veracity of any of these claims in light of the extensive history these institutions have of lying to us about just this sort of thing, it’s treated as a freakish and bizarre interjection that is at best misguided and at worst proof that you’re an agent of the Kremlin. I haven’t received so many notifications from people calling me a Russian operative since 2018, which to me is funny because everything I was saying about western Russia narratives in 2018 has since been completely vindicated.

And I think it’s important while this all unfolds to take a moment to remind ourselves that the burden of proof is always on the party making the claim. This is a basic principle we all hold true in matters of logic and debate and in the legal system, and really anywhere that disputed claims are scrutinized, and it doesn’t magically stop being the case just because a claim is spoken in an assertive tone by powerful people about a country they don’t like. If you make a claim in an irrelevant time-wasting Twitter argument you’ll immediately be asked for proof that it’s true, but if the most powerful government in the world makes an incendiary claim of potentially world-shaping consequence we’re all just expected to accept it, even though that government has a proven track record of making false claims.

The onus is not on anyone else to prove that the US and UK governments are lying when they make these claims, the onus is on the US and UK governments to prove that they are telling the truth. At some point after Donald Trump’s election it became a mainstream liberal doctrine that you can say whatever you want about Russia no matter how outrageous and suffer no professional consequences if it proved completely false, and nobody’s really been pushing back on that. So many people built entire careers out of suggesting for years on end that the entire Trump family was going to be dragged out of the White House in chains for Kremlin collusion, and when this failed to prove true everyone just acted like it was fine and continued on with their careers.

But it’s not fine. It’s not okay that this bizarre cold war hysteria environment has melted everyone’s brain over the last five years. It’s not okay that the most basic standards of logic and evidence have been flushed down the toilet. It’s not okay that we now have MI6 spooks and CIA mouthpieces openly acknowledging that the government is using the western press to wage an information war geared at undermining Russia when both the government and the press are supposed to be simply telling us the truth.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Ukraine. What I do know is that it would be good to drag the Overton window of acceptable debate kicking and screaming back to the point where the burden of proof needs to be met even, and especially, by the world’s most powerful people. And where, if that burden is not met, their claims are treated with all the disdain they deserve.


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