Propaganda Priming our Population for War with Russia: The Case of “Quirks & Quarks”


On Saturday, April 21, Canada’s science radio show, “Quirks & Quarks,” interviewed Edward Spiers who is a professor of strategic studies at the University of Leeds in the UK.  The topic was gas warfare.  The interview sounded very much like “Quirks & Quarks” had been recruited to the US-UK propaganda campaign to arouse our populations for war with Russia.

Talking about the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, “Quirks & Quarks” should have asked:

“Novichok in its pure form is one of the most poisonous chemical warfare agents ever invented. So, how did it happen that the Skripals could go out to lunch after exposure to Novichok, and how did it happen that they survived?”

Or asked:

“Prime Minister May declared that only Russia can make Novichok; but Cornell University Professor of Organic Chemistry, David Collum, has strongly asserted than any university chemistry department could make that compound. Who is right?”

Talking about the alleged April 7 gas attack in Douma, “Quirks & Quarks” should have asked:

“Considering that veteran British and German journalists had interviewed people in Douma and found it doubtful that there had been a gas attack, on what evidence do you sitting in Leeds conclude that there had been a gas attack?”

I am referring, of course, to Robert Fisk, the British war correspondent, who speaks Arabic. He reported in The Independent on April 17, the Tuesday before “Quirks & Quarks” Saturday broadcast, that there seems to have been no gas attack in Douma.  People interviewed in Douma said it was staged by the militants now being driven out of the city.

Independently, Uli Gack, a senior German journalist, also went to Douma and reported Friday, April 20,on German national TV, ZDF, that there seems to have been no gas attack. The pictures and videos had been faked then uploaded to social media.

In fact, the photo posted by “Quirks & Quarks” with the text of their interview seems to show a baby crying because it had water thrown on it and is being awkwardly held to display its distress to a camera.  The baby is not foaming at the mouth and is not limp or comatose from nerve gas, as many news reports have claimed.

Talking about the events in Douma, “Quirks & Quarks” might also have asked:

“If senior journalists from The Independent and from ZDF Heute could go to Douma and interview people there, why couldn’t the investigators from OPCW?”

The “Quirks & Quarks” show stated the surmise, which is heard by most of the audience as fact, that Syria and Russia have been blocking an OPCW investigation.  In fact, Syria and Russia had been requesting an OPCW investigation.  The OPCW’s April 18 news release, three days before the “Quirks & Quarks” broadcast, stated that the delay was caused by the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), not by Syria or Russia. The news release explained that under a negotiated truce agreement with the militants to allow them to peacefully depart from Douma, the Syrian Army agreed not to enter and secure the city. Hence the UNDSS was cautious.

And for both the Skripal poisoning and the alleged poison gas in Syria, “Quirks & Quarks” should have asked about motives.

“Why would the Russian government attempt to poison Mr. Skripal in the UK when they could have given him a death sentence when he had years earlier been convicted for treason and imprisoned in Russia?”

“Why would Russia allow Syria to use poison gas on militants when Russia was negotiating a truce with the militants allowing them to leave Douma?”

When horrific events of chemical warfare are blamed on Russia, and plausible motivations are not queried or explained, then the inference of the accusations, even if unstated, is that Russia does evil things, against its own best interests, because Russia is irrationally evil.  The further inference is that the only way to respond to evil nations is to destroy them.  War.

People would have to be blind not to see that the US, UK and their NATO allies have for several years been 1) mounting a propaganda campaign against Russia, 2) moving war logistics and missile systems to the Russia border, and 3) engaging in economic warfare against Russia.  These actions are always presented as reasonable, pre-emptive reactions to so-called “Russian aggression”.  NATO leaders, posing as benevolent adults, condescendingly say they take these actions to punish Russia for its bad behavior and intransigence.  Russians, however, perceive these actions as preludes to war on Russia. US, UK and NATO accusations and acts of propaganda and economic warfare are experienced by Russians as existential threats.

History shows that Russia will defend itself, no matter what the cost. The war machines of Napoleon and Hitler were invincible everywhere, but were defeated by Russians at enormous cost. The Russians fought the Ottomans for 2 centuries (1568-1786) to put an end to their repeated attacks on Russia from staging areas in Crimea. After the Russian Revolution (1919-1921), more than a dozen nations, including the US, UK and Canada, invaded Russia and all were driven out. Given the current modest size of the Russian population (less than Nigeria) and the Russian economy (less than South Korea), Russia will have to defend itself using nuclear weapons.  And the Russian government has said so several times.

What is most dangerous about the “Quirks & Quarks” show is that it appears to audiences everywhere, that polite, reasonable, unbiased Canadians, and that factual, unbiased science both support the line that Russia is aggressive and evil. As a piece of prewar propaganda, the “Quirks & Quarks” presentation would have been a major success if it were done intentionally.

Science ethics and journalism ethics require that presentations of science consider the consequences, ie, the uses and abuses, of science. Inducing nations to a war that will likely lead to nuclear war, that is unethical science journalism. Where there is uncertainty about events, the bias in reporting should be towards reducing belligerence not towards inducing belligerence.

The “Quirks & Quarks” host and staff apparently had not prepared well for their interview on gas warfare.  The job of science journalism includes current understanding of the topics and events, includes skepticism, includes requests for evidence, and includes ethical considerations.  The “Quirks & Quarks” host and staff did not do their jobs.

If “Quirks & Quarks” would like “balance” in its science reporting, it could interview Cornell’s Professor Collum.  Or, it could interview an expert on propaganda about the primacy effects of first explanations, even if false, for dramatic current events.  Or, since we seem to be preparing our populations for war with Russia, “Quirks & Quarks” could  interview some experts on what happens to a city hit by a nuclear explosion.  Or, what it will be like to die in the nuclear winter that will follow even a small nuclear war.

Or, maybe “Quirks & Quarks” could do an internal investigation and report to its audiences how it happened that it perhaps unwittingly engaged in anti-Russia propaganda, presented as factual science.

About the author: Floyd Rudmin is a 72 year old retired professor of social psychology. He lives in Canada and is a loyal listener to “Quirks & Quarks”. He became active against nuclear weaponry when his daughter was born in 1979. He now revives that concern because of four grandchildren.  They deserve a future, as do all children. Professor Rudmin can be reached at

[email protected]


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