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Press Review October 31, 2002
Vladimir Socor: Hound for Hire
By Philby Burgess Browse author

Vladimir Socor -- ever hear of him? I doubt it. Socor is one of the semi-anonymous propagandists whose job it is to keep feeding ignorant Western consumers lies about Russia, cooked to the taste of their rightwing American sponsors. His name has been creeping up more and more lately, as if someone is trying to raise the bar on official American Russophobia another level, using Socor as the eager ladder-boy. It's not easy to learn anything about people like Socor. But then, the obscurity and minginess of the breed is an essential part of its usefulness. Does a hound in a pack of hunters have a biography, a personal history, a psychology?

It's simply a dog, bred to hunt the game its masters choose. Socor is a hound of this sort -- what might be called a Russian-hunting dog. He is connected to at least two far-right "think tanks" of the sort which specialise in funding ideologically-driven journalists. One of these, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, is -- despite its grandiose title -- little more than a slush fund which shovels flipping great wodges of cash toward any journalists sleazy enough to take money from the Mellon-family heir who bankrolls it and other far-right organs. This institute is based in Israel but has offices in Washington when the address serves the writer well. The IASPS is widely despised among Israeli journalists for its habit of hiring the sleaziest, least principled reporters in town to put a pro-free-market spin on any story. Radical Chicago-style free market ideology never found the same sort of fanatical following in Israel as it did in America, making the institute rather a queer phenomenon.

The other teat at which Socor is known to suck is the Jamestown Foundation, another extreme-right slush fund run out of Washington and widely considered to be a fully-funded subsidiary of the good old CIA. The Jamestown Foundation was founded in 1983 to bankroll anti-Soviet defectors in their new capacity as counter-propagandists, and its board of directors today includes Tom Clancy, fetus-fetishist Henry Hyde, and Polish nationalist Zbigniew Brzezinski -- three utterly potty Russophobes who rue the end of the Cold War no less than Kipling mourned the loss of empire. In case you find this description overbearing and opinionated, I'll quote from the Foundation's home page on the web: "It is now widely acknowledged that the insights of those assisted by Jamestown were a priceless contribution to American policies that led eventually to the downfall of the dictatorships of the Soviet Bloc." (I must add, however, that as a professional I do feel a certain respect for the Jamestown Foundation, which was one of the few institutes to provide any critique of the Clinton administration's Russian policies during those oppressively giddy years, whatever its motivation.)

The Jamestown Foundation's pet scheme at the moment is the "Chechnya Project", which enables groups like this to pretend, by focusing on the one military adventure remaining in the supine Russian state, that Russia is as big, bad and slavering a threat as ever. So naturally, good employees of the Foundation such as Socor are at their most enthusiastic when playing up Russia's demonic intentions in Chechnya.

The Foundation's profile of Socor says only that he's a native of Rumania. Most of the bitterly anti-Russian journalists who publish with these rightwing lobbies are from the small countries surrounding Russia, and they are animated by a deep hatred of their former conqueror. Imagine that a victorious Russia hired hundreds of stringers from Cuba, Nicaragua, or El Salvador to contribute reports on the USA, or that Russian papers went, for their UK news, to a staff composed entirely of Catholics from Northern Ireland.

It isn't surprising that reporters like Socor, who spent their youth cursing the Russians, jump enthusiastically at the chance to have their views disseminated all over the West -- particularly when they are paid to do so at a level they could never have imagined. Men like Socor have fallen into what must be, for their sort, a kind of vindictive bliss: paid huge sums (by their standards) to broadcast the old village hatreds -- as long as those hatreds continue to serve American interests.

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