The idiocy of Maidan supporters

One of the most amazing thing about Maidan supporters is how they are so convinced that they are the polar opposites of Russia’s pro-government “vatniks,” when in fact they are of the same mentality. They call their right-wing fascists “patriots” and say the real fascists are in Russia. Reverse the nationalities and you’ve got a Russian arguing against Ukraine.  There’s no significant difference, and both sides love lying to uninformed Westerners to attract them to their cause.  Today I found a great picture that illustrates this.

Ukraine has had to deal with an avalanche of fake photos and news coming from Russia’s press and the Russian internet. Here’s one example:

russianfake

Here, a Russian anti-Maidan site photoshopped Hitler onto a pro-nationalist banner, left from Stepan Bandera. In the minds of many, Hitler is synonymous with fascism in spite of the fact that his was one among many fascist movements of the era and quite unique from them as well. Ukrainian nationalists learned long ago, in fact in some cases before the war ended, that openly siding with Hitler would hurt their cause. This is why you’d never see them make a banner like that.

Of course this is just another Russian trick to make people think that Maidan is closely associated with right-wing extremism.  Except…

russianfakereal

Here’s the real photo. No Hitler! So it doesn’t have any Nazis on it, just right-wing fascist Nazi collaborators! It’s a good thing they didn’t put Yaroslav Stetsko on it. Some Westerners might find out and Google the name.

As is typical for Maidan supporters, the logic is as if to say: “Hey! There’s no Hitler on that banner! It’s Mussolini! Get it right!”

An interesting read

“Putin’s Coup” by Ben Judah is a long but interesting analytical piece. I highly recommend taking the time to read the whole thing, and for sake of brevity I have organized my commentary into a modified form of the dreaded listicle format.

Preliminaries

The article is largely based on the opinions of one Radek Sikorsky, ex-Polish foreign minister. Sikorsky believes Europe will be facing a more “menacing” Russia in the future. I, for one, maintain some skepticism because this opinion is coming from a Polish politician and to be honest, Poland has an obsession with Russia similar to Russia’s obsession with America.  They have a stake in getting the world to see Russia as they do. In reality, Russia is not nearly the threat they claim. Like a belligerent drunk man flailing his arms around wildly, he could be mildly dangerous to anyone within reach, but eventually he’ll lose his balance and collapse, prompting him to piss himself and vomit.  It’s important to note that the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq stretched the logistical resources of the best-funded military in the world to the brink back in 2007-2008. That being the case, what chance does Russia have militarily? The occupation of the Crimea has already put Russia’s economy on the road to ruin, and any attempted offensives elsewhere will simply hasten the government’s destruction.  Russia simply doesn’t have the military to keep this up. It’s strategy of “secret” wars in the form of supposedly local insurrections failed to fool anyone and failed to achieve  its objective in the Donbas region.

So as you read the article, try to take some of the more alarmist claims with a grain of salt.

Class action

The article suggests there may have been a break between Putin and some of Russia’s top oligarchs, with the president consolidating power via control of the state security services, i.e. the FSB and military intelligence, the GRU.  It is generally accepted that Putin’s model of statecraft involved kicking out the old oligarchs and bringing in a new, loyal batch. The deal was simple; line your pockets all you want, but stay out of politics and keep your hands off the media.  Now there’s apparently a notion that this relationship may be over due to Russia’s rapidly declining economy, particularly due to the sanctions. Indeed, some of these oligarchs have been the target of sanctions. Now there is a contradiction because the oligarchs obviously want to keep their hold on power, but Putin needs to keep playing this role of the patriot in order to ensure support. While some measures have been taken to bail out the oligarchs, Putin cannot risk spoiling the whole game by openly siding with the businessmen over the welfare of the population as a whole.

Obviously one answer to Putin’s problem would be to basically do what this article suggests he’s already doing- keeping the oligarchs in check and building a more conventional dictatorship ruled by members of the military and state security establishment.  The problem with this theory is that while Putin may indeed attempt to transform the country in this way, it won’t last much longer after he does so. State workers and generals are not a class, and we live in a class-based society, specifically a capitalist society. He cannot do away with the oligarchs entirely, and that creates another problem because the people he would depend on, high ranking FSB, military, or GRU personnel could very quickly come to the realization that Russia’s oligarchs can offer them a life of luxury, whereas Putin cannot.

The article mentions how thousands of police and security workers are no longer allowed to leave the country, a provision once limited only to people working in certain sectors of the defense industry. Indeed I myself have met such people who are forbidden to go abroad. Any expansion of this provision would obviously be aimed at keeping Putin’s new power brokers loyal to him. What is possible, however, is that they will look at the oligarch class and eventually understand that these businessmen will handsomely reward them if they work to overthrow Putin.  With Putin, they’ll have a nice house, a dacha, and perhaps some luxury cars, but they’ll be trapped in Russia where all that could be taken away at a moment’s notice.  With the oligarchs, they will have a shot at the real life of the Russian elite in the 2000’s- Swiss chalets, vacations in the south of France, emigration to London.  All it will take is for the right “siloviki” to start talking to the right businessmen, possibly friends of Putin, and the emperor could be brought down. Of course Putin must be aware of this himself, which is why he won’t be able to trust this new power base of his.  Unlike in the past, the rewards for supporting Putin are rapidly diminishing.

The article offers as evidence of this break between Putin and the oligarchs a quote from an unnamed Kremlin adviser about how the London-loving businessmen are going to be a thing of the past. Alexander Dugin is credited with forming this ideology. There are a couple problems with this, however. First of all, Dugin has been ranting against globalization and the West for years, in spite of the fact that the whole time those London-Moscow oligarchs were enjoying the favor of Putin. Men like Dugin are tasked with distracting Russian youth from this fact, the fact that every Russian with power does his utmost to distance himself from Russia, be it with the products he consumes or where he spends his free time.  Second, Dugin was recently fired from his post at Moscow State University, under rather unclear circumstances. This means there’s a possibility that his rhetoric against Russia’s rich and powerful overstepped an invisible line, and thus the relationship between Putin and his oligarchs isn’t as strained as some might believe.  Only time will tell.

Media, censorship, and control over the internet

The article brings up a whole slew of recent legislation aimed at more closely controlling media in Russia. I have to take issue with one line, however, where the author said this:

Draconian laws have been passed enabling the regime to arrest anyone for anything said online. 

Pro-Kremlin hacks will jump all over that, if only because it’s easy to find all kinds of anti-government, pro-Ukrainian material all over Russian social networks and other Russian sites. Their typical position can be summed up by the following formula: “Russia’s not a dictatorship because it allows all these anti-government views, but if the government wants to censor any of those views at any time, this is perfectly fine because we’re in an information war!”

In truth the laws banned things such as publishing material suggestion greater federalization or autonomy for regions in Russia, in other words advocating the same thing the Donbas rebels initially demanded and eventually got. I believe the author here was referring to laws banning “extremist” material, which is problematic because “extremism” is rarely defined in Russia.  All kinds of racist and antisemitic material is tolerated, so long as it is pro-government or anti-opposition.  By contrast, liberal, pro-European material could be called “extremist” because it is probably the work of paid-agents trying to start an Orange Revolution to overthrow the Russian government.

Once again the fear of internet censorship is raised, but to be fair to Putin he hasn’t gone that far yet. The main fear is that when he needs to censor or block the internet, he will.  In the mean time, I don’t think crying wolf helps anything. As I said before, this only helps the Kremlin’s useful idiots.

China fantasies, again

The article offers disturbing quotes which demonstrate how powerful people in Russia are deluding themselves into thinking they can replace Europe with China.  Once again we are given more hard evidence as to why this is a pipe dream. As plenty of people have pointed out before, China’s relationship with Russia is a dominant one. Obviously China views the US as a competitor, but the relationship between the US and China has been mutually beneficial thus far. China simply has no good reason to ruin that just to maintain the fantasy of Russia’s ideologues.

Conclusions

There is a very real danger that Putin’s system, in desperation and in dire need of a loyal support base, could go off the rails and begin turning into a dictatorship more along the lines of Iraq or Syria. Putin fans are so fond of quoting polls showing his approval rating at about 84%, but if we ignore the fact that this is already starting to wane, there’s the more important fact that there is a huge gap between what Russians say in public to pollsters, and what they actually do. The approve of the annexation of Crimea, but they’d still rather vacation in Europe, Turkey, or Egypt. They say they support the state, but they’re still mad about tax increases and the robbing of their pensions. They also continue to receive most of their salary under the table to avoid paying taxes.  Putin’s system still suffers from the paradox that the economy can only survive via turning a blind eye to tax evasion. With 80% of the wealth being concentrated in Moscow and with Moscow being the only opportunity for social advancement, the economy would simply collapse if everyone were made to pay their taxes on salaries and apartments.

Obviously through its state media organs and various astroturf organizations, the Kremlin will continue to encourage people to endure any hardship lest big bad America destroy this paradise on Earth. But the Soviet Union was unable to last under similar conditions in spite of having a much better economic and political foundation.  In the USSR, there were still many bureaucrats and KGB officials without a real experience of Western life, much less luxury. That’s not the case today. Russia’s upper-class and super-rich have not only experienced life outside of Russia, but they have in fact experienced an elite lie beyond that which ordinary Americans, Britons, or Europeans could ever imagine. Eventually, to save his own ass, Putin will have to ask a portion of these people to forego all of that. They will do it for a while, especially when they don’t know who they can trust. In the long term though? Fat chance.  Rich Russians love them some iPads, BMW, country houses in France, London flats, and New York penthouse apartments.  Russia’s oligarchs can reward those loyal to them with all of those things and more, Putin cannot. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion.

As for opposition in Russia, it’s still pretty much bankrupt in terms of leadership and ideology. Alliance politics, whereby you unquestioningly side with anyone or anything that also opposes your target, still seems to be the order of the day.  A great deal of anti-Putin rhetoric comes from right-wing nationalists who have once again fallen out of love with their leader. Thus while the regime will not last much longer, there is a real danger that some demagogue will use similar rhetoric to swindle the masses and secure his place at the trough.  Western well-wishers need to be aware of this and encourage Russian oppositionists to exclude groups which divide the people and preach what is essentially the same rhetoric the Kremlin has endorsed for years. Otherwise the collapse of the Putin regime could indeed lead to a much worse situation.

Foot in mouth

So I was browsing this VK group and found this video. Some Ukrainian or pro-Ukrainian Russian posted a video comparing Ukrainian fascists at a march in Kharkiv to Russian fascists at the annual 4 November “Russian March” and some other cossack march.

For me this video is useful because it shows that yes, the new Ukrainian regime does in fact support and arm radical nationalists, but at the same time it shows how the Kremlin approves of open fascist organizations as well. In other words, if you’re taking one side or the other thinking that your chosen camp is “anti-fascist,” you have no clue what you’re talking about.

Of course if you understand Russian you will quickly realize that this wasn’t the point the author of the video was trying to make. He was trying to suggest that these Ukrainian “patriots” are disciplined and orderly, whereas Russian fascist throw up Roman salutes and basically act like a bunch of monkeys. The truth is that both sides have their uniformed, orderly, government-approved marches, and both sides consist of monkeys who think they are special because they were born into a certain family. Nationalism is taking credit for things you did not do, hating people you haven’t met for no good reason, and wanting privileges just because you were born into this or that socially constructed national group.

In any case, even though the author had another purpose in making this video, it sure was useful to me. It shows how Euromaidan supporters engage in apologetics for right-wing extremists, it shows that in spite of the Svoboda party not winning big in the Ukrainian elections, the new government does much to coddle and support nationalists, and it shows the ridiculous whataboutist arguments Maidan supporters resort to when someone brings up the topic of fascism.  It is very important for Westerners and people from other successful countries such as Zimbabwe to let both Russians and Ukrainians know that we aren’t going to buy their excuses for their government supported fascist movements. If Ukraine wants to claim enlightened “European” values, let them demonstrate it.  If Russia wants to condemn Ukraine for tolerating fascists, maybe the government should stop promoting its own brand of fascism.

The Entrepreneur

Upon returning from work, Madison opened her front door and was shocked to see stacks of cardboard boxes lining the foyer. The stacks nearly reached the ceiling and snaked through the corridor toward the kitchen. What on Earth was going on?  Without bothering to take off her coat, she walked into her now-smaller kitchen and found her husband Jeff sitting at the table with one box partially opened.

“You’re home already,” Madison asked, still in a state of confusion.

“Oh yes,” her husband replied, “I didn’t go to work today. I had to stay home to sign for the shipment. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything but I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“Surprise? You mean all these boxes? What are all these for?”

Jeff suddenly leaped out of his wooden chair and opened the box on table, revealing its contents.

“This is our ticket to financial freedom! This is the end of our dead-end jobs! We’re going to start our own business, and we’re going to be rich!”

Madison was a bit concerned, but she managed to maintain her composure.

“What kind of business is this,” she asked, hoping with all her might that he hadn’t fallen for some kind of pyramid scheme.

“T-shirts, hats, and bumper stickers,” said Jeff.  “We’re going to sell ‘em!”

“But why would we get rich selling those things?”

Jeff looked as if he were talking to a complete idiot.

“Alright let me explain. So I was browsing the internet and I saw this news item about how in Russia, they’re selling all these anti-American souvenirs. They’re selling t-shirts about the sanctions…”

“What sanctions,” Madison asked, cutting him off.

“I was thinking the same thing, but then I Googled it and found out that our government has put sanctions on Russia. Something about a place called Dumbass in Ukraine and annexing their cream I think. Anyway it’s not important. The important thing is that there are sanctions on Russia.”

“What do we get from Russia?”

“I don’t know, probably vodka or something. The thing is, in this story I saw online, it shows how Russians are selling all these anti-American t-shirts making fun of the sanctions. A lot of people are putting anti-American stickers on their cars too. Apparently it’s a big business over there.”

sanctionstshirt

Madison was just as confused as ever.

“Okay, but how does that help us start a business here?”

Jeff wagged his finger like a madman and slapped the box on the table.

“Think about it! All the pundits say it’s a new Cold War! If the Russians are making all this anti-American merchandise, Americans will want to answer back as soon as possible. Tit-for-tat! There’s going to be a boom in anti-Russian merchandise, and I’m getting in on the ground floor!  As soon as Joe Sixpack has had enough of Russia’s bullshit and decides he’s going to show his patriotism, I’m going to be there to sell him an anti-Russian t-shirt or bumper sticker!  Just look at this one!”

Jeff held up a t-shirt depicting a bald eagle sodomizing a bear. The text on the shirt read, “How do you like those sanctions?”  Madison gasped in horror.

“That’s disgusting! Nobody’s going to buy that!”

“But it’s just like those anti-American memes from Russia! Americans will want to hit back! No matter, I’ve got plenty of more family friendly designs!”

“Jeff, stop for a second. Are you sure Americans even care enough about Russia to buy any merchandise, let alone buy enough within a short enough amount of time so as to make us rich?”

“Of course they will! Did I mention this is a new Cold War? Come on, honey! You do watch the news, right?”

“Well I do, and there are a lot of stories about Russia. It’s just that I don’t think anyone really cares. Nobody I know ever talks about it. What about at your office? What about your friends.”

At that Jeff became completely silent.

“Hmmm…To be honest, I can’t remember anyone talking about Russia at work. But I’m sure that’s going to change in the next few days. I’m sure if I just casually bring up Russia in a conversation, everyone will be talking about it.  New Cold War!”

He shook his head, as though he were shaking off any doubts Madison’s question might have raised.

“Trust me. This is going to work. Americans are going to buy my anti-Russian merchandise like hot cakes. These shirts will be flying off the shelves. Our whole life is going to change!”

Madison sighed, and then managed achieve a nervous but genuine smile.

“Okay,” she said. “Just tell me how much you spent on this.”

“Honey,” Jeff started as he took her in his arms, “I’ve spent most of our savings on this. But don’t worry, we’re going to make that back tenfold. Americans are going to want anti-Russian propaganda, and I’m going to be the first guy out there, feeding that demand. Monday morning I’m going to hand my boss my letter of resignation. From then on, I’m going to be a full-time businessman, dealing anti-Russian merchandise! Our whole lives are about to change.”

ONE MONTH LATER…

"Goddammit, Jeff! I told you Americans don't care about Russia!"

“Goddammit, Jeff! I told you Americans don’t care about Russia!”

Your Russian Zen Koans for the Day

Surround yourself in total silence. Sit in a relaxed and comfortable posture. Now contemplate the following until you achieve enlightenment:

Sanctions will only make Russia stronger, but Russian sanctions on Ukraine will destroy that country.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but the West is bad for levying sanctions on Russia and other countries.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, yet all countries which have sanctions against them are either underdeveloped or not economically significant.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but the government still warned the West against levying them.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but Russia’s counter-sanctions are damaging the European and American economy!

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, even though this hasn’t actually happened at any time in history.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but liberal opposition leaders who had been calling for Western sanctions against Russia for years are filthy traitors!

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but beer coaster coffee cups.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger, but scissors don’t chainsaw cotton candy trees off the side of a refrigerator.

Sanctions will make Russia stronger…

Sanctions will make Russia stronger…

Sanctions…

Stronger…

They will hurt the West more than Russia!

They are counter-productive!

They will make Russia stronger, but don’t you DARE levy sanctions against us!

Sanctions glappa nogawa seliu blarta fleerep!

fantasy_land-1552821

Your guide to Gamergate – A FAQ for normal people

Q: What is Gamergate?

A: Gamergate is a manufactured, bullshit “scandal” specially constructed for and by total dipshits with nothing of value to offer the human race.

Q: How did Gamergate begin?

A: Some woman broke up with a guy, and instead of being an adult about it he started whining about her on his personal blog. Part of that whining included the accusation that his ex supposedly had “romantic” relations with video game journalists so as to garner positive press for her own game. Legions of socially-inept morons, convinced that women use their vaginas to control men, decided to get justice the only way they knew how- by sending death threats to their target and attempting to destroy her life online. Gamergate believers concocted a vast, elaborate conspiracy theory as to how women and feminists are creating a secret network aimed at destroying their precious video games.

Q: What exactly are Gamergaters afraid of?

A: It’s hard to say exactly, but it seems their main fear is that the industry will come under the influence of a handful of feminists. At this point, they will stop making highly profitable games such as Battlefield or Call of Duty and instead create feminist-themed games where the only protagonists are female and the menstrual cycle is an in-game feature.  Firearms and swords will be replaced by a pointing finger which “calls out” misogynistic enemies and instructs them to “check their privilege.”  This is only the tip of the iceberg. Once the feminist tentacles manage to fully isolate the balls of the gaming industry, thus shriveling them to the point of decay, game developers may integrate future titles with special vaginally-based ID systems. Males will still be allowed to play, but any female player will have the power to instantly remove them from any multiplayer game. Obviously, much is at stake!

Q: But surely these individuals represent only a minority of gamers!

A: Probably, but the thing about vocal active minorities is that they can do a lot of damage. Euromaidan certainly proved that. So long as the majority doesn’t actively come down on lynch mobs like this, or their sympathizers, they will continue to wield a lot of influence. When we hear about the government collecting our metadata, engaging in censorship, and detaining people based on classified evidence, our response is typically outrage. Yet we say nothing when anonymous individuals accountable to no one accuse, try, convict, and sentence people online, over the stupidest, most trivial non-scandals.

This sort of lynchmob activity has become well known in the gamer community, and it certainly isn’t limited to issues like sexism:

Q: Okay, what can I possibly do to differentiate myself from these Gamergaters?

A: Inform people that they are morons. If you see someone on the Gamergate bandwagon, make sure you inform them of how idiotic and ridiculously immature they sound. Some of these people actually wake up when they realize how stupid their tantrums look to normal people. Granted, many do not, but if some of these people start to notice a pattern by which every time they bring up their conspiracy theory they receive a slew of negative reactions, they might reach an epiphany. Far more importantly, do not let video games become such a focal point in your life that you are willing to destroy someone’s life via the internet, or tolerate those who do. They just don’t fucking matter that much.

Still not sure what it means to be too into video games? Watch this sad pathetic video:

Do not be that guy. His parents failed him. His teachers failed him. The media failed him. Society failed him. And now he is a failure. Is this who you want to be?

Q: But what about Anita Sarkeesian, the “pop culture critic” and author of Tropes vs. Women in Video Games?

A: I actually have a lot of criticism of Sarkeesian’s work, but sadly we can’t have a debate about that because the immediate reaction she has received toward much of that work has been white hot hatred in the form of death threats and rape threats. So those who engaged in these harassment campaigns attempted to censor Sarkeesian and failed, but they succeeded in censoring any rational debate.

Q: But Sarkeesian is a fraud and people give her all this praise because they see her as a victim!

A: Yeah, people tend to be hesitant to criticize someone receiving numerous death and rape threats simply for voicing their opinions. Maybe if people had responded in a more rational and civilized way, a public debate would ensue and Sarkeesian’s patrons would realize that being a self-proclaimed “pop culture critic” doesn’t mean anything or denote any actual expertise, and they’d also look at her work on video games more critically.

Q: Where exactly do you stand on Sarkeesian’s work regarding women in video games.

A: For the record, I feel that if I were given far fewer resources and ordered to produce a video series about sexism in video games, I would probably do a better job. For one thing, I wouldn’t spend nearly an entire video talking about every aspect of the “damsel in distress” trope, nor would I use pretentious-sounding concepts like the “subject object” relationship. Numerous games feature male characters in need of rescue, and obviously characters who need to be rescued cannot act for themselves, otherwise we wouldn’t have a game. Sarkeesian doesn’t seem to understand the concept of supporting characters vs. protagonists; in fact it seems like she doesn’t understand what “tropes” really are. If she did, she’d realize that the easiest, simple solution to shallow, passive female characters in games is to simply make more female protagonists, because the protagonist should always be the most developed character. I could also easily point out some games with good portrayals of females, as well as ones which showed great potential in this respect, yet totally blew it.  I could do all that for nothing more than the cost of a decent video camera.

Let the reader take note that all the above criticism is about her work, not her as a woman or even as a person. Let the reader also take note that while I did feel that some of her claims were ridiculous or inaccurate, at no time have I experienced rage or any strong emotions in response to anything Sarkeesian has ever said.  Even when she makes numerous factual errors about certain video games, I do not get upset. Why? Because they’re fucking video games, that’s why. 

Q: What do you think is the solution to this sort of thing, ultimately?

A: Don’t take pop culture topics so damned seriously. Speaking for myself, I am totally fed up with people’s “fandoms” and the spread of phony “nerd culture.” I get that you might be upset when someone joins your particular fandom after it became mainstream and their knowledge of the subject might be nothing compared to yours. But how important is that really? When you go plastering your fandom over all your social media what did you expect to happen?  Personally I don’t give a fuck about your Minecraft, your Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, or your stupid comic books that you only started reading once Hollywood began flooding our cinema screens with superhero flicks.  Yes I love movies. Yes I love video games. I have strong opinions about both. However, I save my emotion, indeed my passion, for serious causes, be they political or personal.

In short, realize that while your fandom is everything within its own community of fans, either online or off, but the rest of humanity isn’t necessarily interested. Many fans simply do not realize that their behavior online can often be just as annoying as a person proselytizing their own religion.

The spread of fandom is little more than a marketing scheme, like so many that came before. Consumers are encouraged to distinguish themselves by dedicating themselves to this or that particular fandom, and dedication means buying a lot of shit. At the end of the day that is the extent of your loyalty. You buy these games, you sometimes buy merchandise associated with them, you go to events and buy stuff.  There simply is no deeper relationship between you and Mario, your slash fiction and Rule 34 art aside.

Q: Wow that’s a lot to think about. What should I do now?

A: Not knowing your current status it is hard to say, but I recommend going outside at the nearest possible opportunity and spending at least several hours in that state, preferably interacting with other human beings should they be available.

Defender of freedom!

Defender of freedom!

Evidence

Recently an e-mail exchange with an idiot who shall forever remain anonymous has made me think about an interesting trait of pathological liars.  Since I won’t be sharing the contents of that exchange, I will direct the viewer to the Youtube channel of Don Shipley, retired Navy SEAL. I’m sharing this with the readers because Shipley has a very entertaining hobby- he busts people who go around claiming to be former SEALs and posts the results on the internet.   Below you can see one such example:

As one might expect, most of these phony SEALs exhibit very similar behavior. Many of them, for example, react with confusion when he asks them for their BUD/S class number, as though they never thought such a question would come up.  Another common thread is that when they get evasive, Don tells them how he’d react if someone doubted that he or one of his colleagues were ever SEALs. He could rattle off his class number, the names of instructors, events during training, people in his class, teams he served with, and so on.

In the exchange I had, I asked the individual repeatedly whether he’d ever been to Russia and whether he spoke Russian. He avoided answering both questions numerous times until he finally made a pathetic attempt to “prove” he knew Russian; he wrote one basic word. He also claimed he’d been in Russia before me. He didn’t say when or in what capacity, and thereafter he claimed he wouldn’t read any more replies to his message.

I have to wonder if people like that actually think their lies are convincing. If he had answered the first time I asked I probably would have taken his word. All he had to say is something like “I spent about a year and a half in Russia from 2002-2004 studying the language,” and that would have been convincing enough for the sake of argument. I’ll usually take someone’s word if they claim to speak or at least understand Russian, but for proof one could simply link me to a video in Russian with their own commentary on the content or perhaps cite a Russian quote out of some Russian-press article and give me their own opinion about it. I typically hate typing in Russian but if someone doesn’t believe I understand it they’re welcome to write to me exclusively in Russian. My point is that I was willing to take this guy at his word until he started getting real evasive and basically turning every question into “NO U!”  The dude had a free pass and he blew it.

Suppose I was living back in the US, and after a year or so I’m telling someone about my experiences in Russia. Someone overhears me and says, “You lived in Russia? That’s bullshit!”  First, I can obviously speak Russian at a high level, but to be fair that is theoretically possible to do in the US if you are extremely dedicated. I could offer to bring my passports next time so they could see my multiple visas. But probably the best proof I can offer on the spot is simply rattling off such a myriad of details and encyclopedic information about Russia and various locations in Russia to the point where my doubter would regret ever bringing up the topic in the first place.  If the price is right, I’ll happily go on stage and lecture about Russia for hours on end, with little details, anecdotes, commentary, and the like.

What I would not do, is get defensive and start demanding that my questioner prove his credentials. I realize that an American living for nearly a decade in Russia with no obviously discernible reason may not be an example of an extraordinary claim requiring extraordinary evidence, but it is certainly out of the ordinary to some extent.  Therefore such questions are not particularly threatening to me, since any reasonable person would conclude I’m telling the truth based on the details I give and the fact that I could explain the same things in Russian.

When a person is bullshitting, they usually get defensive. Aside from total sociopaths and pathological liars, they realize that they’ve walked into a minefield when someone asks their BUD/S class number or other detailed questions. They know there are things about the life they’re claiming which they do not know. That’s why they get defensive and vague.  I could rattle off all sorts of details from my time in the military which may seem totally innocuous to a civilian, but anyone in the military would say, “Yeah, the poor bastard’s telling the truth.”

Of course his records are "classified." Where did he go to basic training? Same place in Full Metal Jacket. What was his BUD/S class number? There is no number; he was hand-selected for special black ops training.  Why are you asking so many questions? Have you no respect for a VETERAN?!

Of course his records are “classified.” Where did he go to basic training? Same place in Full Metal Jacket. What was his BUD/S class number? There is no number; he was hand-selected for special black ops training. Why are you asking so many questions? Have you no respect for a VETERAN?!

So let this be a lesson to you next time someone is telling you a story that doesn’t seem to add up. People who have actually done things, often extraordinary things, don’t typically get upset if their listeners are a bit skeptical.  Bullshitters evade, get defensive, and after much squirming come up with vague answers which are typically impossible to verify. It’s just like that neckbeard you know who brags about his romantic conquest of “this one chick,” an incredibly promiscuous young woman who always lives “in another town” and who has an insatiable lust for hefty young men of questionable hygiene and poor social skills. Young people should definitely take this lesson to heart as they enter college, the military, or the workplace. You’ll run into a lot of these types in life.

PS- Please don’t ask about the identity of the individual whose e-mail prompted this. While I may not respect the person, I do respect their privacy and I decry the stalkerish tactic of “calling out” private individuals on the internet.