Several years back–in the pre-Trump era–a friend attended a forum at the Brookings Institution on
the subject of US-Russian relations. During the question and answer portion of the event, she asked a question about American and European meddling in Ukraine, leading to the ouster of the Yanukovych government and the subsequent Russian re-annexation of the Crimea. She cited the open admission by then-Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, about the US having spent $5 billion to build the democracy movement in Ukraine, suggesting that the Russians may have had cause to view the Ukraine regime change events of 2013-2014 as a Western effort to drive a wedge between Moscow and Kiev, and possibly deprive Russia of its only Black Sea naval facility..
One of the speakers responded to the question by declaring that the questioner was clearly presenting a narrative that had been "written in Russia." The panelist went on to elaborate that the real issue is "which side controls the narrative." At no point did any of the panelists challenge any of the facts presented in the question. Those facts, or any other facts challenging the conclusion that the entire Ukraine crisis was strictly the work of imperial adventurers in Moscow, were simply to be dismissed as "their narrative."
Control over the narrative has more and more replaced truth seeking. It is the old Goebbels dictum: If you repeat the same lie over and over enough, it becomes the truth.
Recent examples abound, but the golden egg prize goes to the claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 Presidential elections to secure a victory for Donald Trump. This narrative was presented in January 2017, after the Trump victory but before his inauguration, in an intelligence community assessment. Go back and re-read that 25-page "narrative" today and you will be shocked. It contains no evidence, but relies on a pseudo-psychological profile of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was presumed to have been angry at Hillary Clinton since 2011 when she made some nasty personal comments about him. "Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him."
The assessment accused Putin of–heaven forbid–seeking a partnership with the United States to defeat the Islamic State: "Moscow also saw the election of President-elect Trump as a way to achieve an international counter-terrorism coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)."
Originally, the document was presented as an all-intelligence community consensus document, prepared by representatives of the 17 organizations that comprise the US Intelligence Community. Later it was acknowledged that the report was prepared by two analysts.
They cited the CIA and the FBI, headed at the time by John Brennan and James Comey, as having "high confidence" in the judgment that the Russians attempted to interfere in the 2016 election. The NSA, the agency with the greatest technical capacity to "read Moscow's mail," gave only "moderate confidence" to the judgment of Russian interference.
In a methodological annex to the report, the authors acknowledged that they had no facts to back up their conclusions:
"Estimative language consists of two elements: judgments about the likelihood of developments or events occurring and levels of confidence in the sources and analytic reasoning supporting the judgments. Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents…"
The authors of the assessment claimed that there was much more evidence in the classified version of the report, but that intelligence had to be withheld from the public.
Last month, at the behest of President Trump, CIA Director Mike Pompeo met with a former NSA official, William Binney, who had conducted his own investigation of the allegations that Russian hackers had obtained Democratic National Committee emails, showing a systematic campaign by the DNC to secure Hillary Clinton the nomination over Senator Bernie Sanders. Binney concluded that the emails had been obtained by someone working at the DNC headquarters and were "leaked, not hacked." Now, former acting DNC Chair Donna Brazile has come out with a detailed, fact-filled book-length account, confirming that Hillary had, indeed, rigged the primary outcome to secure the nomination by buying off the DNC in 2015.
Binney's report got marginal coverage in some left-of-center and right-of-center publications, but no one in the Mainstream Media (MSM) touched the story–because it contradicted the narrative.
If someone in the USIC had a sense of humor, they would have probably named this "narrative control program" "Operation Gossamer Shield." Gossamer is defined as: "a fine, filmy substance, consisting of cobwebs spun by small spiders… Used to refer to something very light, thin, insubstantial or delicate."