In Canada, Fascism and the new far right, Nazism, Nazism and World War Two, Radhika Desai, Valdai Discussion Club

Radhika Desai: Western Press Uses ‘Ankle-Biting Yappy Dog’ Pseudo-Academics to Silence Critics
26 Oct. 2023 Sputnik globe on Radhika Deasi speaking out

Professor Radhika Desa, courtesy University of Manitoba

by Fantine Gardinier

A prominent Canadian academic has come under fire in the Canadian press for attending the Valdai Forum in Russia. She told Sputnik that the Western press uses government-funded “lapdog” academics to smear the reputations of those who criticize Western policies and highlight how they have discredited themselves.

After University of Manitoba professor and geopolitical economist Radhika Desai accepted an invitation to attend an academic event in Russia, she was attacked in the Canadian press for allegedly “spreading disinformation.” Her crime? Asking Russian President Vladimir Putin about the Canadian Parliament’s decision to honor a Ukrainian Nazi last month.

The Valdai Forum is an event hosted every year in Sochi by the Valdai Club, a Russian think tank and discussion forum that focuses on geopolitical and economic issues. Putin has made a habit of speaking at the event, as he did earlier this month.

Desai, who accepted an invitation for her and her husband to attend the event, used the opportunity to ask Putin a question about the Canadian government honoring a Nazi last month. Yaroslav Hunka, a veteran of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, the fanatical Nazi paramilitary organization that helped perpetrate the Holocaust, was honored as a “Ukrainian hero” by Canadian lawmakers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, because his unit fought against the Soviet Union – who in Western parlance are often reduced to “the Russians” – in World War II.

Following mass outrage, Trudeau apologized for the honors, claiming he was unaware of Hunka’s Nazi connections, but not before trying to parry the accusations by labeling them “Russian disinformation.” House Speaker Anthony Rota also resigned from his post over the affair.

Putin said the incident shows “the kind of people we have to deal with … in certain Western countries.”

Canadian state media has led the repeated and widespread attacks against Desai in the time since, claiming she “helped Moscow’s propaganda efforts against Ukraine” by highlighting how Kiev and its Western sponsors continue to uphold Nazis and their collaborators as heroes worthy of respect, admiration, and emulation.

Desai told Sputnik that the Western media deliberately obscures facts in order to provide cover for their governments, which have “discredited” themselves.
“Well, what I say is that, first of all, this guy says that I’m siding with a warmonger,” she said of one critic cited in Canadian media, who claimed to be a former student of hers. “But you know, he’s siding with the warmongers because who has started this war? It is the West, led by the United States, followed by loyal lapdog poodle countries like Canada – at least our government, our governments have done this – they have essentially fomented this war. Because right from the beginning, right from the point where the Soviet Union disintegrated, they have essentially been on a campaign to try to subordinate and, if possible, break up Russia. And essentially, once it became clear that the Russians were not having any of it under President Putin after 2000, there has been a mounting campaign of hostility towards Russia, which has resulted in this current war. As [American political scientist John] Mearsheimer says, this conflict is the West’s fault, it is directly the result of the incessant eastward expansion of NATO. We know all these things.”

“But of course, the whole point of the kind of news and scholarship that is produced these days by so much of the mainstream is just totally decontextualize everything. And once you decontextualize it, it becomes easy to manipulate. And then who is the warmonger completely changes,” she emphasized.

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Desai said it was “a great honor” to be invited to attend Valdai, noting that Russia is “in the eye of the storm that is changing the world,” referring to the emergence of a multipolar world order amid the West’s attempts to keep itself at the center of global affairs.

“And that means that the discussions that are going on there about what is driving multipolarity, what are the new problems and opportunities it is creating for different countries in the world,” she said. “There are people from all over the world there and the discussions there are really fascinating – and of course, far above and beyond what mainstream media in the West and even mainstream scholarship in the West is producing.”

“We claim to have free speech and academic freedom and freedom of association and all of these wonderful things, but the fact of the matter is, particularly in recent years, the spectrum of debate has been massively narrowing. In fact, you know, funnily enough, I was just watching the speech given by the German Die Linke leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, announcing the fact that they are leaving the Die Linke party because it is no longer the political home that it once was for them, because Die Linke has become part of this narrowing of opinion. And you know, as part of the four main items that they listed, one of them was to broaden the spectrum of opinion. That is to say, we are living in a world where if you disagree with the authorities – of course, they can’t persecute anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. Well, what they do is they organize people, including people who work in government-funded think tanks and think tanks financed by the military-industrial complex and so on. These are the people who try to name and shame you. That is how they essentially try to make you out into a pariah,” Desai said.

Desai noted that in the articles used to attack her, Canadian state media cited under-qualified academics as a counterweight to her, calling them “a very useful instrument” for “taking down” critics of Western imperialism. She specifically focused on Marcus Kolga, the head of a website called “DisinfoWatch,” which describes itself as “a leading Canadian foreign disinformation monitoring and debunking platform” and who is among Desai’s attackers in the Canadian press.

“I don’t know that much about Marcus Kolga, although I have read some things that other people have written that he works for this McDonald-Laurier Institute and he has a fairly senior apparently academic position there, but he has nothing more than a B.A. in political science from some American university. So he does not have a graduate degree, he does not have a Ph.D., but he is certainly a very useful instrument.”

“So these are the sorts of people, they are basically the front line of defense of the government – the front line of attack, I should say – the sort of little ‘ankle-biting yappy dogs’ who kind of try to take you down. You know, they work on Twitter and blah, blah and so on. And of course, our media, the CBC, goes to them to ask them, rather than asking serious scholars who may have studied Russia, who may have written books about Russia – or about world affairs, for that matter – instead they go to them.”

Untold Story of How Canada Became a Safe Haven for Ukrainian WWII-era Nazis

“And indeed, the other thing is it is also an interesting question who funds the McDonald-Laurier Institute? Because again, from what I read, they recently have not put up any – you can’t find any funding information.”

“But Kolga similarly attacked my friend and very well-known politician and public figure in Canada, Dimitri Lascaris, because he decided to undertake, on his own accord, a trip to Russia to investigate what was going on. And upon his return he tried to do a series of speaking tours, essentially kind of creating people-to-people contacts, you know, engaging in exactly the sort of dialog we need to have with the Russians, which is why Alan [Freeman, Desai’s husband] and I went to Valdai. So Kolga went after him. And Dimitri actually did a lot of research and discovered also that the McDonald-Laurier Institute – for the years where information is available, which is until quite recently – has some big corporations and also the [Canadian] Department of National Defense as its big funder. So you can imagine how – we say that we have independent media and independent research institutes and so on. There’s nothing independent about these people.”

Desai said that most Western governments “have thoroughly discredited themselves, but the media chooses not to pay attention to that, but instead to focus on attacking those who point it out.

“The big story is not our parliament. I mean, there were more than 400 people in that room, not one person said, ‘Wait a minute, what are we doing? Are we doing the right thing?’ Everybody went off and applauded this guy. And the fact of the matter is, there’s no way the government didn’t know. Our deputy prime minister is Chrystia Freeland: Chrystia Freeland has herself been exposed to have not only – I mean, nobody can help who their parents or grandparents are – but she continues to express admiration for her maternal grandfather, who is known to have been part of this Bandera group” of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, similar to Hunka, Desai explained.

Ukrainian Nazi Hunka Charged in Absentia With Genocide – Russian Investigators


“So she and not only that, she has a Ph.D. in Russian and Slavic studies, so there’s absolutely no way the government didn’t know about what it was doing. Of course it knew what it was doing, but it was trying to push the envelope. We live in such dangerous times. Our governments are not only allying with fascists in Ukraine, for example, but they want us now to accept that this is perfectly fine. The fascists are actually just, you know, agreeable people who we can be proud of relying on and be proud of having descended from and these sorts of things.”

“So we are living, as they say, in very dangerous times. And that’s partly why I think it’s very important for us to insist that there’s absolutely nothing wrong about going to Valdai, absolutely nothing wrong in engaging in academic discussion – and by the way, also absolutely nothing wrong in asking President Putin this question. Why? Because Russia is perhaps the country most wronged, or among the handful of countries most wronged, by what this parliament has done. So in that sense, asking -because you know, the whole gesture was entirely to legitimize the crusade against Russia that Canada, along with the rest of the West, is participating in. So in that sense, asking President Putin his views on this, there was absolutely nothing wrong about it. He is the president of the country whose contribution to winning the Second World War is being erased by the Canadian Parliament. And instead, we are praising those who were allied with those whom our soldiers, Canadian soldiers, American soldiers, were giving their lives to fight.”


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