The Danish journalist Iben Thranholm is branded as a “pro-Russian propagandist” by EU task force EastStracom.
Mrs. Thranholm, you are accused to be a “pro-Russian propagandist” by the EU task force East Stratcom. How did you find out about that?
Recently Marie Krarup, a member of the Danish Parliament for the Danish People´s Party, contacted me to say that the EU task force EastStratcom has placed me on a list branding me as a pro-Russian propagandist and is accusing me of spreading Russian disinformation. EastStratcom never informed me about their decision nor did they approach me with any questions before they put me on the list.
What exactly is EastStratcom?
The task force was set up in March 2015 by the European Council to implement an action plan on strategic communication to address what it labels ”Russia’s on-going disinformation campaigns” to prevent Russia from interfering into European democracy to destabilize it. To this end, it “publishes two public weekly newsletters to stay up to date with the latest disinformation stories and narratives”. The idea is also to strengthen and promote a pro-EU narrative especially in Eastern European countries. With elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands coming up, the European Council wants to spend even more resources on monitoring Russian disinformation to protect European democracy, which they do believe could be in danger because of Russian disinformation.
What makes you in the eyes of the analysts of East Stratcom a “pro-Russian propagandist”?
That’s a good question, because obviously there is no connection between what I wrote in the article that landed me on the list and Russia. It dealt with the way the elite abuse arguments of Christian charity to abandon identity registration of who entered which country and adopting a blanket open-border policy when the tsunami of refugees and immigrants flooded across Europe’s borders in 2015. I wrote: “Europe is like Judas, betraying its Christian tradition with the traitorous kiss of false compassion in order to obliterate the last vestige of Christian civilization in Europe. True charity always springs from a higher moral absolute, a clear distinction between right and wrong, good and evil. False charity offers compassion for the criminal and not the victim. No charity for the woman who is victimized by rape but pity for the perpetrator, the rapist. Such pity is a gross perversion.” And: “In spite of their use – or rather abuse – of ‘loving one’s neighbour’, politicians are devoid of the Christian basis for distinguishing good from evil. Our politicians promote the forces of evil and utterly abandon their victims. This is merely an extension of the policies of the West in the Middle East since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Western politicians consistently identify evil as good, and good as evil. They unleash destructive forces to rampage unimpeded and oppress good wherever the West enters the scene with its military or economic warfare. The fierce hatred of the Western political elite for Christianity has robbed Europe of its moral compass. Using Christian arguments for waging war on Christianity and Christian culture is a vile demonic parody. From a spiritual perspective, it is clear that Europe has made an unholy alliance with Islamism in order to annihilate its Christian civilization. This diabolical scam wears a cloak of goodness and humanitarianism, but it is really a manifestation of moral decay and false altruism that threatens to bring about Die Untergang des Abendlandes, the end of Christian Europe”.
Iben Thranholm on RT.
At a consultation in the parliamentary committee meeting, the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelsen, alleged that my article contained lies and myths that fitted into a Kremlin narrative of the decline of the West, and that my arguments bore no relation to reality. One may agree or disagree with this interpretation. The question is whether this makes me a Russian agent or an enemy of the state? The task force offers no proof of an agreement between the Kremlin and me. For the good reason that no such contract exists. It is an allegation, pure and simple.
At the consultation, the minister refused to take a position on the matter of principle involved in placing participants in the social debate on the list. He merely dismisses my statements as lies. But is he to tell what is the truth in this case? Anyone who has followed me as commentator and op-ed writer for at least the last ten years or more, will know that I have criticized European leaders consistency for their abandonment and of Europe’s Christian roots and culture. I really don’t need to the call the Kremlin to teach that perspective. I learned it from living as Christian in Europe and my writing are about the need to rebuild the Christian culture to save our civilization. That such a Christian message is now seen a as threat to European democracy, is actually very thought-provoking.
What do you think makes criticizing mass migration and Islamic extremism a sign of “Russian propaganda”?
It seems that any political opinion that is not in line with the politically correct policy of EU and their definition of democracy now tends to be labeled pro-Russian. Instead of accepting that many people in Europe think that EU’s immigration policy with open-borders has failed and that they therefore should change this policy, they blame it all on Russia. The political elite is playing a kind of spin-doctor game. They want to regain control of the narrative and the communication by shouting “fake news”, “liars” and label their opponents as pro-Russian propagandists. The EU’s new tool against political opponents is to link them to Russia. This is the new strategy to undermine and destroy your opponent. Instead of taking responsibility for their own failures, they accuse Russia.
You are from Denmark. How is the Danish political landscape when it comes to the EU, NATO and the relations with Russia?
The Danish government is very hostile towards Russia. The Danish Minister of Defence, Claus Hjorth Frederiksen, just warned that Russia is poised to attack Denmark. He claims that Russians hackers are ready to target hospitals and power grids in Denmark and have positioned missiles that are now within range of striking Copenhagen. According to Claus Hjorth Frederiksen, Denmark faces “a serious threat” from both hackers and missiles. The defense minister wants to see both the nation’s military and anti-hacking defenses upgraded.
Of course, that leaves many Danish people with the sense that Russia is an enemy. Despite the fact that Denmark has been among the most Euroskeptical countries in Europe, Denmark’s support for remaining in EU has risen since the UK voted to leave. A total of 69 per cent of Danes now endorse the country’s membership of the union, according to a Voxmeter poll. The morning that Brexit was announced, Danish prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen ruled out the possibility of the country holding a vote on EU membership despite protest from Eurosceptic politicians. Yet, there is an ongoing debate on Danexit and some pundits argue that its only a matter of time before Euroscepticism will take over again. Denmark has several major Eurosceptic parties, including the Red-Green Alliance and the Danish People’s Party and has negotiated several op-outs from the EU over the past decades. I would say there is a fifty-fifty chance for a “Danexit”. If France and the Netherlands decide to leave, its likely that a majority of Danes then might want to follow. The mentality now is “wait-and-see”.
Concerning NATO, there is hardly any skepticism. Since Denmark is a very small country and would have difficulties to defend itself in case of war, roughly 80 percent of the five million Danes support NATO. The Danish Armed Forces’ relationship with NATO is seen as a the cornerstone of Danish security. For the Danes, the main player in European security is NATO, not the EU. A pro-Western/pro-NATO rhetoric is dominant in Denmark.
What kind of consequences could “lists” such as the “Russian agent” list of East Stratcom have for journalists like you?
The consequences may be dire. To be labelled as pro-Russian propagandist in a country where the government warns that Russia is ready to attack, means that eventually any positive comments on Russia are perceived as unpatriotic and treacherous. As for my own case, if the conflict with Russia escalates, the state will have the right to imprison me as an enemy of the state. Many opinion leaders and colleagues have composed and published an open letter criticizing the ministry. Social media have been brimming with support, but my government remains stubborn in its accusation that my writings are pro-Russian propaganda. This means that – in case of war with Russia – I am not certain to be under the protection by the state of which I am a national.
Do you see it as a violation of freedom of speech and press freedom?
No, actually not. That’s the tricky part. We are facing a new situation where censorship and violation of freedom of speech is more subtle and sophisticated and perhaps even more dangerous. No government would be so stupid to openly declare any restrictions on the freedom of speech. Instead they labeled what they don’t want to hear and don’t want the people to know or get influenced by as fake news, hate crime or Russian disinformation. In this way it’s possible to undermine truth and your opponents and yet preserve a semblance of the idea that no freedom of speech has been violated.
I find it very alarming that the parliamentary chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), Thomas Oppermann, has asserted that Facebook should be required to remove fake news within 24 hours or face fines up to €500,000. Morally speaking of course it is abject to tell lies, but who is going to decide what is fake news or the truth? The government? A Facebook board? A Ministry of Truth? The danger of manipulation and suppression of truth is immense. Fake news is a fabrication to regain control of the narrative, not to serve the truth. Today’s battle is about truth more than any political ideology. We are in a spiritual war. In the 1940s, George Orwell wrote “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”. This is our precise position today. Alexander Solzhenitsyn also said, ”truth can and will destroy the New World Order and Satanism”. Journalists must therefore accept it as a badge of honor and courage when the establishment brands them as liars and pro-Russian propagandists, for this is very likely the evidence that they are speaking the truth.
You define yourself as a dedicated and practicing Christian. How is the situation in today’s Europe for a Christian journalist?
It is increasingly difficult to get published in Europe. For years now I have had to work as an independent journalist. No editor will take on the risk of employing a person who is open and outspoken about his or her Christian faith, let alone Catholic faith, the way I am. Christians are socially marginalized, derided, and viewed with suspicion if not as actually mentally disturbed. The few Christians left are either secularized – gone native by agreeing with the establishment – or have taken a vow of silence for fear of the “police of political correctness” . They have next to no impact on European culture.
Christians in the West also suffer from persecution. It is a hidden psychological persecution which of course gets no attention from mainstream media. There are certainly jobs you won’t get if you are outspoken about a pro-life stance and criticize legalisation of same-sex marriages. I know a lot of Christians who feel compelled to stay silent about faith to avoid confrontations and hostility even from their normal social circles. At dinner parties many Christians suffer aggressive verbal attacks if they talk about their beliefs. Colleagues might turn their back on them for their “extreme views”. Next step is to criminalize Christians values as opposed to human rights as a hate crimes.
Iben Thranholm examines political and social events with focus on their religious aspects, significance and moral implications. She is one of Denmark’s most widely read columnists on such matters. Thranholm is a former editor and radio host at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), at which she created a religious news program that set a new standard for religious analysis in the newsroom. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East, Italy, the United States and Russia to carry out research and interviews. She has been awarded for her investigative research into Danish media coverage of religious issues.