A Reply to my Critics

04 april 2024 | John Laughland

The last week has seen a barrage of attacks against FVD accusing the party of being an agent of Kremlin propaganda.  All fact-free, of course.  John Laughland has been one of the main targets.  What has struck him this week, apart from the malevolence of the attackers, is the fact that they repeat the same old stories. They go online, find what they want, and recycle it.  Very ecological!  Nothing said in the last week has not been said before; on the contrary, it is all obsessive repetition. To illustrate the point, we are publishing a text John Laughland originally wrote in March 2020, four years ago, after Tom-Jan Meuss of NRC Handelsblad published two articles attacking him, in September 2019 and March 2020.  There really is nothing to add to this text.  It is four years old now but what it says remains as true of the recent attacks as of the older ones.  No doubt we will be able to re-reprint the same text next year, and the year after that, because, like children, our enemies never tire of hearing the same fairy tale told over and over again.


24 March 2020 

When we survey the ruins of European civilisation, one of the things which stands out - in addition, of course, to the collapse in education, and of law and order - is the terrible corruption of journalism. The internet has massively inflated the quantity of written words available and thereby debased the value of the basic commodity.  Journalism is no longer about communicating truth or even thought, but instead is but an instrument in the hands of people of bad faith to wield power for political ends. 

In the case of the recent attack on me by Tom-Jan Meuss, the goal is to get at Thierry Baudet by destroying me.  His article is only the latest example of this trend of ever-rising journalistic stupidity.    I have never met Tom-Jan Meuss - and he has certainly never made any attempt to meet me or even to contact me, which tells us a lot about his journalistic ethics. Yet I feel I know him already. This is because his article is only the last in a long line of identical attacks against me, starting perhaps with the one by David Aaronovitch in The Guardian in 2004. 

These attacks have been repeated identically over the years, using the same untruths, distortions and outright lies as those deployed by Meuss.  The authors of these attacks think (or at least pretend to their readers) that they are clever and that they have uncovered original information; in reality, they merely copy the articles of earlier liars from the internet.

Although the attacks started in 2004, they picked up in pace while I worked for IDC from 2008.  Usually, as in Meuss’ case, the attack would come out of the blue without the so-called ‘journalist’ having made any attempt to get in touch beforehand. In the rare cases where there was contact, the interviews were just set-ups.  On not one single occasion - and Meuss is no exception to this universal rule - has there ever been a single quotation from me, or a single attempt to engage with any of the arguments or even questions I have advanced in 30 years of writing books and articles. 

Instead, there is just condemnation and insults.  The goal of such writers is not to refute but to destroy.  They do not allow facts to get in the way of what they think is a good story.  Their story-telling recalls the stories parents tell to their children - always the same, always reassuring, always with the same ending.  Anything else would, it seems, disturb and upset the readers.

Let us take the claim that the Institute I worked for from 2008 - 2018 was funded by the Kremlin.  It was not.  It was funded by Russian companies who gave money to the work of our president, a well-known Russian historian and public figure, because they supported what she stood for.  For over 10 years, we denied to various journalists that we were state-funded, but they never took No for an answer.  Eventually, when the Institute ran into financial difficulties,  our president used her personal contacts within the Russian government to try to find new sponsors.  She failed, even though one of those contacts is Sergei Lavrov, whom I personally chaired at a meeting in the UN while we were going through a severe financial crisis.  If Sergei Lavrov could not pull a few strings to help us out, this is surely proof that IDC was privately funded.  But has a single journalist ever reported on the reasons for the closure of IDC?  Not one.

This is because the accusation of Kremlin funding is not intended to be an affirmation of truth.  It is intended only to be an insult, saying I am an intellectual prostitute. It is also to present all other conservatives who reject the EU or NATO or other aspects of Western political correctness as stooges of Russia, a country of which they have convinced themselves that everything is controlled by Putin but which generally they know nothing about.  Meuss and his colleagues, as terrifyingly narrow-minded liberals, do not accept that anyone can arrive at an anti-liberal position without being dishonest or stupid. Liberals today do not realise how much they resemble Jack D. Ripper in Dr Strangelove, foaming at the mouth about how Russia is poisoning our precious bodily fluids.

Their blindness causes them, incidentally, to miss a very interesting story, which is how little soft power Russia wields.  Apart from RT, the surprisingly successful TV station, Russia does not have any soft power at all.  It does not fund any think-tanks or NGOs; it does not seem to have many lobbyists in the West.  This distinguishes it from other former Soviet states like Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Azerbaijan.  Why is this so?  Do not expect Meuss or his friends to answer this question because even to put it would deprive them of ammunition against people like me.

Yet when I read articles like Meuss, I am overcome more by sadness than by anger.  Sadness for myself, who as a man with a wife and children is more real than Meuss seems to allow.  Sadness because it seems that this unfair attacks will never end.  But sadness, too, because they drive home the horrible power of lies and accusations, against which defence always seems somehow inadequate.  Mentez, mentez, il en restera toujours quelque chose.

The sadness extends, further, to an existential realisation that this battle is one between intelligence and stupidity, and between the demonic and brutal power of accusation and the delicate and difficult task of defence.  When Meuss writes that I have defended Slobodan Milosevic, he displays not only his ignorance but also his lack of civilised values.  He not only hides from his readers the fact that the arguments I deployed in my books - which I assume he has never read - have been subsequently used to exonerate Milosevic, posthumously, by the same Tribunal which originally indicated him, as by the International Court of Justice; he also works on the unspoken assumption that defence itself is dishonourable.  This is the end of the rule of law as we know it.

The same goes for his claim that I ‘dispute’ the genocide in Srebrenica.  He links to a lecture I gave in 2010 but he evidently has not read the text - or, if he did, he has not understood it.  Perhaps the technical arguments about international law were a little too academic for him.    Re-reading the text, I cannot find any sentence which disputes the genocide. Instead, I discuss the origins of the accusation, the way the conviction was obtained, and its implications for international law.  Meuss is evidently unfamiliar with the widespread existence in legal literature of articles dissecting and discussing legal decisions.  He certainly seems unfamiliar with the practice of disagreeing with them.

It is in these moments that I think of my late uncle who, after a brilliant career as a barrister became a judge at the Old Bailey. He was mainly known for defending people many thought were guilty.  These included a young black man accused of a particularly brutal murder, a case so famous at the time in Britain that the very thought of defending him seemed shocking. But defence, especially of unpopular causes, is a key part of the very fabric of civilisation: it is what separates us from the lynch mob.  Today’s journalists like Meuss provide the rope, build the scaffold and encourage the mob to kill.  Those of us who are prepared to sacrifice our careers by standing up for the accused, asking difficult questions, or drawing uncomfortable conclusions, are what holds back - at least for the time being - the barbarians at the gates.


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