Sputnik: The latest batch of documents suggests that the Integrity Initiative played a role in forming media narratives surrounding the Skripal case. Are you even surprised about it?
George Szamuely: It's exactly what one would have thought. The Integrity Initiative is really all about mobilising public opinion against Russia, mobilizing Russophobia and smearing any opposing voices to the existing Russophobic narrative.
That's exactly what I would have expected. The moment the Skripal story broke that, the narrative would be shaped by the Integrity Initiative. And all of the themes, that we become familiar with, "the Russians did this, Russian used a weapon of mass destruction in the UK", all the themes that we were familiar with in the media, were determined, it is clear from the documents, by the Integrity Initiative.
Sputnik: It's almost as if the general public are totally disinterested and rather bored with it. Would you agree with that or are there still some facets or pockets of interest in this subject? What do you think?
George Szamuely: Well, I think the problem is that it's not getting any play in the mainstream media and so the British public and the US public or the public in general, really doesn't know very much about it. So, if you don't hear about something, then you just don't know about it, so you can't discuss it. So I don't think it's a matter of being bored, it's just the matter of not knowing about it.
And this is the most effective kind of censorship, namely that you just don't pay any attention to something and therefore it just doesn't exist. So, the few of us, as you say, like you and me and a few media outlets, who have publicized it [and] written extensive reports about their activities, simply just don't get sufficient play as far as the wider public is concerned.
The one good thing, however, is that Russophobia still remains a kind of minority elite prejudice. It hasn't really spread to the public at large, so although the mainstream media bang the drum consistently about the evils of Russia, the evils of Putin, it's still a prejudice that prevails only among this elite opinion.
Effective, of course, because it's the elite, but it's not shared by the public at large as we saw during the World Cup, when people happily went to Russia and enjoyed themselves thoroughly and didn't for one minute think that the Russian people were monsters.
Sputnik: Will this revealed data just be swept under the rug and then forgotten in 6-8 weeks? Is that your assumption?
George Szamuely: Well, I think it will probably be kept under wraps. I don't think it will be forgotten by the people, like us, who pay attention to these things, who write about these things, and who focus attention on these things. We will certainly keep talking about it and keep pointing out the rather sinister nature of this.
Where I think it might have some resonance, I'm not saying it definitely will, but I think it might, it is the issue of using public money, taxpayers' money, to smear political opponents, because that really is something that is strictly forbidden. You can't use government money in order to attack political opposition leaders.
It's clear that's what the Integrity Initiative's did, namely that it smeared Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, calling him a tool of the Kremlin, Putin's useful idiot and all this ridiculous nonsense. It's an amazing phenomenon that this scandalous misuse of public money has not received the attention that it should receive.
But, it may be that at some point it will acquire some amount of resonance. I mean, if certain politicians within the Labour Party keep harping on about it, maybe it will get some sort of airing. But, short of that, probably the mainstream media will do their best to just keep it under wraps forever.
Sputnik: We know that the UK is spending taxpayers' money to vilify Russia, I wonder how much in percentage of this trillion of debt the Americans have, in terms of paying to vilify Russia. Do you have a point of view on that?
George Szamuely: Well of course, just before Obama left office, he actually allocated a huge amount of money — I mean we're talking about millions of dollars — towards "countering Russian propaganda", which means that this substantial sum of money is going into the pockets of very many people and who now invested interest in continually fostering hysteria about Russia.
In the case of the US, the sums of money are even greater than what the British government has done. But what the British government has done is not in the substantial sum, I mean, if we're talking about half a million dollars in one year — that's a lot of money. That's a lot of salaries to pay.
This is a way to get these constant Russophobic stories into the media. And this undoubtedly has an effect. So, once you have so many people who have a salary, a financial interest in generating Russia hysteria, well what are you going to do? You're going to have Russia hysteria!
The views and opinions expressed are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.