Patriot profile

Unfortunately I’m in the process of finding and moving to a new flat, which has made it difficult for me to update frequently. Nonetheless, I thought I’d share a rather amusing story with you. Back in December of last year the Russian government discussed a new project which would require the heads of state owned enterprises to make their yearly earnings open to the public. Not a bad idea since, you know, they run companies that are supposedly publicly run.

Well as anyone with even a passing familiarity with post-Soviet Russia could guess, those personal friends of Putin heads of the major state-owned industries such as Rosneft, Gazprom, and the Russian Railways were not too happy about that. Most outspoken was Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, who said that he would resign if he were forced to make his income public.

As it turns out, the baby’s getting his bottle. With a little mental gymnastics, the government has found a way to explain why the heads of state-run companies shouldn’t be required to divulge their annual income. I’m sure this was totally based on a logical reexamination and in no way caused by Yakunin and perhaps some other company heads whining to their friend Putin about the new law.

Just in case you’re not too familiar with Mr. Yakunin, he’s the guy who recently went on a conspiracy theory laden rant against the West while admitting that his elder son “happens” to live in London with his children. He wears a  A.Lange & Söhne watch valued at $31,000. As for his automobile, if you guessed that he drives a Volga or some other Russian-manufactured car you would be disappointed. He has a bullet-proof Audi A8 L.

It’s also worth noting that this all comes at a time when the Russian Railways are shutting down numerous international and domestic routes, as well as commuter trains. Some time ago over 300 commuter train routes, which are vital to many people in Russia, were cancelled. This was enough to provoke a rise out of Putin himself, who demanded that they be restored immediately. To date it’s not clear if all the cancelled routes were restored.

Now you know why they’re constantly screaming about Western conspiracies, Ukrainians, and gays.

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Highlights(of idiocy)

You just can’t make this shit up, people. Today Irina Yarovaya, Duma deputy and head of the state anti-corruption committee, claimed that the fight against corruption could be a threat to state sovereignty. Below is my translation of her statement from the article I read.

“We are very concerned about what is happening in Ukraine, where under the guise of fighting corruption the entire system of state power was smashed,” the deputy said.

Got that? Corruption wasn’t the problem. The problem was that people got angry and used that as an excuse to effect radical change. One would think that Russian leaders, always so terribly concerned about the endless threats to their sovereignty in spite of over 15 years of rule by a supposedly brilliant leader for which there is no replacement, would want to do everything within their power to fight corruption. That is the rot which creates unrest among the populace and opens up all kinds of avenues for those sneaky NGOs who pay people a few hundred rubles to face police batons and tear gas and try to overthrow their own government, right?

You’d think that, but alas, you are wrong. No the real threat is people complaining about corruption and wanting the government, and perhaps specifically the government’s anti-corruption committee, to do something about it. Sovereignty to the Russian government means letting their semi-feudal elite siphon Russia’s natural wealth into their pockets with impunity, and any attempt to make them stop is an anathema to them.

Oh hey, on an entirely unrelated note, did you know that Yarovaya’s daughter is quite the successful businesswoman? How successful, you ask? Well as it turns out, she managed to purchase a flat in the center of Moscow for nearly $3 million dollars at the age of 17! Turns out her mother forgot to declare that according to Russian law, a pretty run-of-the-mill thing for Russian politicians and officials. But don’t you dare violate Russia’s precious sovereignty by pointing that out!

Next up is a story about some Russian nationalist figures who have long been associated with the fascist “Russian March” traditionally held on 4 November. I’m only bringing it up because these dipshits are being investigated for extremism because they allegedly made public statements insulting Islam and Caucasian people. First of all, my reaction is: No shit they’re guilty. Problem is there’s no way the government couldn’t have known about this for years. In fact the Russian March has long been tolerated and supported by the government or people close to the government. Many of the march’s participants cross the government’s line at times, but this is a state which has long seen the value in angry young men with a propensity toward violence, not to mention hatred and xenophobia.

The only reason I’m bringing this up now is because it serves as a good example of what I wrote about in my recent piece regarding the recent international fascist conference in St. Petersburg. Here Russia is inviting dozens of right-wing European Islamophobes to its second city and telling them that it is the salvation of European civilization. Meanwhile these same European fascists who scream about political correctness dominating their own countries generally have far more freedom to express their racist and xenophobic screeds against Islam than they would in Russia. Lucky for the Kremlin, most of these European dipshits don’t speak Russian, so it’s unlikely that they’ll find stories like that one.

That’s pretty important considering the only reason why the Russian government has become so protective of Islam as of late has nothing to do with trying to promote tolerance or harmony between peoples, two concepts which are diametrically opposed to the power structure’s cynical ideologues. Instead it has everything to do with Putin’s paralyzing fear of offending head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who considers himself quite the pious Muslim and defender of the prophet. Kind of ruins that image of the tough, bare-chested “manly man” those conference goers gushed over, doesn’t it?

How NOT to stand up for principles

Remember a few months back I wrote about how I turned down an easy $185-200 for a voice over job because it was for a RenTV hate documentary all about how kids in Europe are being taught that they can choose their gender and sexual orientation? Well today we have a classic case of doing it wrong when it comes to standing up for your principles.In my case, there were basically two options, insofar that I disagreed with the content and purpose of the slanderous documentary. The unprincipled route would have entailed going ahead and doing the work, supposing that it was unlikely that anyone would ever find out anyway. I happen to believe that moral principles are about what you do when no one is watching, or at least when you think no one is watching. Hence I turned it down.

To understand today’s case, however, we must imagine another, absurd option. Suppose I actually agreed with the content of the video, i.e. I really believed that Europe is run by perverts who want to force post-modernist theories of sexuality on the youngest children possible for…reasons. Suppose after turning down the money, I went on to blog about the experience, condemning the attempt to buy my services while admitting in the same post that I agreed with all the talking points from the documentary nonetheless. To most people this would seem idiotic. If you agree with the content, and if you regularly write the same talking points, you might as well take the money. If there was some wealthy individual who almost entirely agreed with everything I write, and they were willing to pay me to write it without question, I would most likely not turn down that offer either.

Apparently David Swanson doesn’t understand this, as he is today’s case of doing it wrong. Swanson is some kind of anti-war blogger who recently claimed that he was approached by an official from the Russian embassy and offered money to publish some pre-written articles on his blog. Swanson makes a big deal about being a “journalist” and refused the offer. Then, in the same post, he writes this paragraph.

Many of us are well aware of the lie that NATO and the U.S. told Russia upon the reunification of Germany to the effect that NATO would not expand eastward. We’re outraged by the expansion to your borders. We condemn the U.S.-backed violent coup in Kiev. We denounce the Nazi and foreign-imposed government of Ukraine. We oppose the U.S. arms shipments, the U.S. “National Guard” now guarding the wrong nation, the war games, the baseless characterizations of Russia’s behavior, the lies about your aggression.

Congratulations, Mr. Swanson. You just wrote exactly what that Russian official wanted you to write, only you did it for free. That paragraph alone makes you qualified to be a regular guest on RT.

Hell, if I already agreed with all of those talking points, several of which are laughably wrong, I’d have my own show on RT. It would have some stupid, Alex Jonesey-sounding name like Through the Looking Glass or Behind the Curtain, and every episode I’d prattle on about how the neoconservative ex-Trotskyites and their international “bankster” minions want to overthrow the Russian government so they can get its oil and impose their neoliberal economic system. As the Joker says in The Dark Knight: “If you’re good at something, never do it for free.”

I may seem hard on the guy, but I think that if his story is told in good faith, there is hope for Mr. Swanson. Russia attracts the support of people like him due to two factors- lack of critical thinking skills and more importantly, lack of knowledge about Russia. Regardless of your specific beliefs, the more familiar you become with Russia, the more you realize that it doesn’t coincide with them. In this case, if you’re anti-war, you’re supporting a nation which annexed part of another sovereign nation, invaded that same nation, starting and maintaining a conflict that has now killed around 6,000 people while displacing tens of thousands more. Why? All because some people didn’t want to join Russia’s Customs Union, a free trade initiative that would have been most favorable to its biggest member. If the US were doing something like this, you can bet Swanson would be all over it. So would Chomsky, Pilger, and Oliver Stone.

What is more, we’re talking about a country whose leader said on camera that he was considering using nuclear weapons, ostensibly against Kyiv, if the annexation of the Crimea didn’t go well. Russian propaganda regularly features nuclear threats against the United States and Europe.  This material is primarily aimed at the regime’s base, bitter, cynical people who feel utterly humiliated by their government yet are too afraid to rock the boat. Therefore the idea of nuking countries where people live better or at least ensuring that Ukraine is worse off than Russia makes them feel warm and fuzzy. Or perhaps that’s just the cheap alcohol. Either way, this is no place for pacifists. The treatment of the country’s minuscule anti-war movement makes that clear.

So the way I see it, Swanson might be at a crossroads. If everything happened as he tells it, it’s possible that he might start to ask questions when he sees other bloggers regurgitating Russian talking points. Could they be paid too? Or if they aren’t getting paid, are they taking advantage of free press junkets funded by the Russian government? Are they getting air time on RT? What are the actual politics of these people? Do they speak out against wars only when the US is involved? Have they ever criticized Russia’s interference in other sovereign nations?

If he asks these questions and gets real answers, he will see that not only is the Russian government no better than that of the US, but that it is actually worse on a number of levels. Aside from openly and officially promoting militarism, war, and conquest, the Russian government treats its own citizens as cattle, robbing them of their natural wealth and giving them staggering wealth inequality. The Russian government doesn’t care about the sincerely-held beliefs of American anti-war activists. To them, they are national traitors just like those few anti-war activists in Russia. The Americans just happen to be useful traitors. There is no solidarity, no principle. In fact there’s no concern for the young men who will have to fight in these wars. Most of these Russian propagandists avoided their military service, and the sons of the elite study or live abroad, often in the same countries they condemn on a daily basis.

Yes, there might be some hope for this one yet.

Irreconcilable Differences

It seems a lot of Russia watchers are scratching their heads in wonder about St. Petersburg’s recent international fascist shindig. Their puzzled questions usually run along the lines of: “How is it that a nation which suffered so much at the hands of fascism became such a haven for right-wing extremists?” Or: “Why do they constantly scream about fascism in Ukraine when their government tolerates and encourages ties to open fascist parties in Europe?”

Sure, those questions are valid. Sadly, answering them, and particularly the former, is a massive task which could fill volumes. What is more, some people might not be too happy with the answers. As for the second question, the answer is similarly complicated, but manageable. The short answer is that people high up in the Russian government think that promoting these parties, who tend to be very anti-EU and anti-NATO, will somehow benefit Russia. The idea isn’t to turn EU nations into Russian allies, but rather to create enough dissent and discord within the union and NATO so as to weaken any attempt at collective action against Russia’s geopolitical goals. That’s just a fancy way of saying they want to keep Europe and the US divided so as to preserve what my friend at Russian Avos called their “rot,” a situation more like the mid-2000’s when Russia’s oligarchs squirreled their money away in London and bought real estate in the south of France, and all the while nobody investigated where it came from or raised much of a fuss about Russia’s human rights record. Russia’s leaders say that Russia just wants to be “left alone,” but in reality what they mean is they want to be left alone so they can continue stealing from their people and enjoying their luxurious lifestyle at their expense. That was the short answer.

Personally I think the reason most Russia-watchers are so floored by these contradictions is due to the fact that while they possess a great deal of knowledge about Russia and in some cases Eastern Europe, they know very little about fascism as a political ideology and the obscure history of Eastern Europe’s fascist movements. Thanks to concepts such as “totalitarianism” and the Snyder-esque revision of history, many people don’t understand where fascism came from, why it existed, what it might look like today, and how fascists got on in Europe back in the 30’s and 40’s. This is largely due to the need of liberal capitalist governments to conceal the link between capitalism and fascism by associating it instead with Communism, but that’s another article entirely. As someone with tons of background knowledge in obscure right-wing movements of the past and present, I figure the least I can do is help some of my fellow Russia-watchers understand some of these contradictions they see when it comes to Russia and fascism.

Meet Engelbert Dollfuss, the dictator with the least intimidating name ever.

With a name like Engelbert Dollfuss, you'd better dress for success.

With a name like Engelbert Dollfuss, you’d better dress for success.

Dollfuss was the right-wing dictator of interwar Austria, prior to its annexation by Germany. He was the representative of what some called Austrofascism, which some people might confuse with Australofascism. Being the dictator of his own country, he wasn’t too keen on giving it up to his northern neighbor, Adolf Hitler. Thus he banned the Austrian Nazi party.

Wait? What? A fascist banned a Nazi party? Oh yes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dollfuss got a guarantee of independence from fascist Italy. Yes, that’s right, fascist Italy was guaranteeing fascist Austria’s independence from Nazi Germany. Italy still had bad blood between them and the Austrians, but Mussolini and his crew understood that it was better to deal with a small, independent Austria instead of a huge Greater German Reich on its borders.

Nazis being Nazis, Austria’s Hitler fans weren’t too happy about their party being banned. In July of 1934, a group of pro-Nazi agents made their discontent known by shooting Dollfuss and attempting to start a coup. The coup failed, but Dollfuss was dead nonetheless. One factor contributing to the government’s ability to avert the coup was the personal support of Mussolini. The Italian dictator openly blamed Germany for the assassination, and part of the Italian army was mobilized and deployed along the border in case of a German invasion of Austria. Only later did Italy begin to align with Germany via measures such as the Anti-Comintern pact.

Of course this is hardly the only example of inter-fascist rivalry. For example, three of Germany’s allies were Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. Hungary had a beef with both of those countries. This came to a head in August of 1944 when Prince Michael of Romania overthrew its pro-Axis government. The pro-allied Romanian army then went into action against the Hungarians to reconquer that part of Transylvania which had been awarded to that country in 1940.

What we learn from this is that close cooperation between radical nationalists from different countries is prone to break down due to irreconcilable contradictions. As radically different as the United States, British Empire, and Soviet Union were from each other, they were able to find common cause and compromise. Fascists cannot deal with ambiguity and compromise. The hero of one fascist country or organization is another’s villain. When they ally, it’s usually a matter of political convenience, but it always breaks down due to the compounding contradictions.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Russia and its right-wing fans today. Ideologically, the European and American right-wingers ought to side with Ukraine’s fascists, i.e. Praviy Sektor and the Svoboda party. These are hardcore anti-Communists who smash Lenin statues and burn Soviet flags. They promote “Christian values” and European supremacy. They often contrast “European” Ukraine with “Asiatic” Russia, as the latter is a multi-ethnic country with a large indigenous Muslim population combined with immigrants from Central Asia. Almost without exception, European right-wing organizations and parties are unequivocally anti-Muslim. For them, controversies over cartoon mockery of the prophet Mohammed and the Charlie Hebdo massacre are rallying points. By contrast, Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor issued a blanket warning against publishing any caricatures of Mohammed after the massacre, reminding all media outlets that this was a violation of Russian laws against “extremism” and that publications had been sanctioned in the past for such offenses. Shortly thereafter, Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov had a massive rally in defense of Mohammed in Grozny, at the expense of the state. To date, no Russian leader or major government figure has put forth any strong statement in defense of free speech when it comes to the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

For many European nationalists, Russia’s cult of the Second World War is an anathema. How can a “patriotic” Hungarian with heroes like Ferenc Szálasi ever acquiesce to friendship with a nation that glorifies the destruction of the fascist Hungarian state, and whose leader lays a wreath at the memorial of Soviet soldiers who died in suppressing the Hungarian uprising of 1956? How can they claim to be defending Europe from Muslim hordes, when their “ally” Russia relies heavily on Chechen and other Caucasian Muslim forces to conquer territory in Ukraine? Everything dictates that they ought to be on the side of Ukraine’s true Bandera fans, yet they aren’t.

The answer lies in a combination of the Ukrainian nationalist historical narrative and their alignment. Ukraine’s nationalists decided to align themselves with the pro-EU Euromaidan movement, seeing the EU as being the polar opposite of Russia and its proposed Customs and Eurasian Unions. In this sense, the nationalists’ thinking was identical to that of pretty much everyone else in Eastern Europe: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Who needs critical thinking?” Of course not only was Euromaidan pro-EU, but the EU and US were both pro-Euromaidan. Most European and American far-rightists see their countries as under occupation by corrupt governments doing the bidding of mysterious cabals of conspirators. Therefore whatever their government and “mainstream” media appears to be supporting should be opposed from their point of view. This is what leads them to listen to Russia’s propaganda in the first place. They have been duped into believing that Russia is preserving those views and ideals which they believe their own countries have forgotten. As such, victory for the EU and US in Ukraine had to be opposed at all costs, no matter how many Lenin statues got toppled.

One can see a similar parallel situation on the lazy left. Many leftists looked at what side the US was supporting, and then without having any background knowledge about Ukraine or Russia, they spun a tale about how Yanukovych was overthrown because he stood up to NATO, the EU, the IMF, neo-liberal privatization schemes, and yes, even Monsanto. Leftists in Ukraine who oppose Russia and its schemes were and still are totally ignored. To the far right, Yanukovych, like Russia, is standing up to the Zionists, the international bankers, and the liberals. Those nationalists who supported Euromaidan are either ignored, or they are written off as being useful dupes of the grand conspirators.

Of course ideology is only one factor driving the right’s flock toward Russia. The other side of the equation is material. Russia has money to sponsor think tanks, media outlets, and conferences like the one in St. Petersburg, which was by no means the first of its kind. Russia funds press junkets and even lets the neo-fascists pretend they are important by using them as “election observers” in the Crimea and Donbas. Ukraine’s nationalists, while certainly well-funded and organized compared to other groups, simply do not have this capability. At best, Ukrainian nationalists could probably count on support from far-rightists in the Baltic countries, Croatia, possibly Romania and Poland. This list is based on historical hatreds and/or current disputes with Russia. The love affair between Hungary’s fascists and the Russian government tells us we can no longer rely on historical rivalries, however.  All in all, what we see in Ukraine is a situation where European and American neo-fascists chose to bet on the bigger dog, i.e. Russia, even if doing so means holding their nose and ignoring some inconvenient facts about their new ally.

At first glance, this might seem like a grim outlook, as it posits the idea that fascists from around the developed world are putting aside their differences and teaming up with Russia. While I won’t say there is no cause for alarm, there is a silver lining here. True, the far right is getting better at networking, but they also may be turning to Russia out of desperation as well. What is more, their propaganda and that of the Russian state are not compatible. Russia’s domestic propaganda organs cannot lash out at Muslims thanks to the state’s subservience to Ramzan Kadyrov in Grozny. At the same time, European nationalists cannot embrace Muslims in their own countries; this would be surrender.

Far more importantly, Russia’s image as a bastion of traditional values and hope for the West is nothing but a sham. In fact it’s a laughable sham. Much of Russia exists in near-third world if not actual third world conditions. It’s very hard for a believer in European supremacy to look at Russian society and decide that this is not only European, but actually the embodiment of “true,” unspoiled European values. Indeed the more one gets to know Russia, the more such fantasies fade.

Now this of course doesn’t necessarily mean that nationalist parties will abandon Russia, per se. Years of study and experience have taught me that virtually all far-right organizations are run by con men at worst, and highly dishonest individuals at best. They will work with Russia because it’s convenient, and they get to feel big and important. But over time they will get infected by Russia’s cynicism disease. Their idealistic young followers will become disillusioned as their leaders “sell-out” to that corrupt, “Asiatic” nation.  Those that are not disillusioned and see the error of their ways will most likely become burnt out, essentially removing them from the board just the same.

It’s not that people shouldn’t be concerned with Russia’s fascist internationale; we certainly should do what we can to fight it. In fact much of that work means confronting our own governments and media for creating the conditions in which fascist ideas germinate. That being said, we don’t need to worry about Russia welding these disparate groups together into some kind of new Axis that will cover the world in darkness for ages to come. The nationalists have drunk from Russia’s chalice, not realizing that it is tainted with the very same poison that is killing Russia. However morally wrong they may be, fascists and their fellow travelers on the far right are people who deeply want to believe in something. Now they are in a marriage with the government that believes in nothing. It won’t last.

Overload

It’s been a hard week. On the personal front, my job situation is still up in the air. As far as I know I still have a good shot at my dream job, but I’ll have to wait nearly two months to find out for sure. It was a real Catch 22 situation; if they had needed me at the earlier time, I’d have had about a week to run all over Moscow tying up all sorts of loose ends, but at least I’d definitely have the job. As it stands now, I have plenty of time to take care of those things and work at the same time, but I can’t be certain if I’ve got the job. As if that weren’t enough, I just found out I will have to find a new apartment after five years of living in a very convenient location. Donations to my crowdfunding campaign will mitigate this somewhat, but with only two weeks to go I don’t believe there will be enough money for any radical expansion of Russia Without BS in the near future.

As bad as that might seem, it’s not particularly cause for alarm. I think most long-term expats, excluding those who have access to massive amounts of funds, will agree with my assessment that living in Russia long term as a foreigner is essentially a series of one major crisis after another. You’re lucky if you manage to go six months without some major issue cropping up, usually involving your visa, living arrangements, or employment. You come to expect it, and thus you’re always stuck, perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop. When it does, it’s almost a relief.

What is hard to deal with though, is the increasing unreality of politics in Russia. In the past week or so, we have seen the following stories:

FSB aggressively interrogates a 14 year old girl for wearing blue and yellow ribbons to a rally commemorating the illegal annexation of the Crimea.

Dutch investigation finds fragment from a Russian-manufactured Buk surface-to-air missile in the wreckage of MH17. Russia denies it, claiming the fragment is from a model of Buk that Ukraine uses. But wait. I thought Russia’s story was that the Ukrainians shot MH17 down with a SU-25 ground attack aircraft! The last three hypotheses, all of which were put forth without any verifiable evidence, claim that MH17 wasn’t shot down with a Buk SAM system. Oops. Also, Russia claims that the rebels got all their weapons from Ukrainian stocks. It’s a verified fact that the rebels had shot down planes several times prior to the downing of MH17. Oops again.

The president disappears and possibly confirms that Russia is actually run by a Chechen warlord. This is one of the great ironies of Russia. They’re putting out all this propaganda about taking on the US, NATO, etc. and yet when it comes down to Moscow vs. Grozny, the latter wins.

The pièce de résistance, St. Petersburg hosts a conference of Russian, European, and American fascists and other right-wing extremists. Of course nobody there gets investigated, arrested, or questioned about “extremism,” the Russian authorities’ favorite word, because this meeting was sanctioned by the government and people with ties to the Kremlin or its proxies in Ukraine were in attendance. Did anyone get arrested or detained? Of course! Three people demonstrating against the conference were detained by police. It’s official, folks, Russia is by definition a fascist country. You can tick off virtually every single box on any commonly accepted checklist of fascist features.

For the record, this is by no means the first far-right conference held in Russia with the blessing of the authorities. In the past they used to held at least one conference called the “White World Future” conference. American neo-Nazi David Duke was one of its speakers. So what makes the St. Petersburg conference different, then? Well for starters it’s the first majorly publicized fascist gathering since Russia started constantly babbling about fascism and neo-Nazis in Ukraine and Europe back in late 2013. The views of Ukrainian nationalist groups such as Svoboda or Praviy Sektor are by no means radically different from those of Russian nationalists or their European guests. Also, as Russia continues to flop and flail around, it has been similarly babbling more and more about its “victory” in World War II. While Dozhd TV got into trouble for asking the stupid question as to whether the Soviets should have surrendered Leningrad to the Nazis, the Russian government openly invites fascists into the city they weren’t able to take by force.

Was there any explanation for this contradiction? Well let’s look at an excerpt from Max Seddon’s article, which quotes a Russian attendee.

“Everything that’s happening in the Donbass is anti-fascism. Everything that Ukraine does is fascism. There’s no other fascism in the world,” said Alexei Zhivov, leader of an obscure organization called the Battle For Donbass.

Well there you have it, dear readers. Here is a grown man with the mind of an adolescent boy. As it turns out, this basically describes most of Russia’s elite, leadership, and intelligentsia.

Speaking of powerful men with childlike minds, Russian oligarch Vladimir Yakunin gave a lecture where he introduced numerous conspiracy theories and railed against globalization and capitalism. Yes, a Russian oligarch complained about capitalism. Indeed, he was put in charge of the Russian Railways, which is ostensibly state-owned, yet he and the company rely on the global capitalist financial network to accumulate and secure their ill-gotten gains. This man, who owns massive estates, even admitted that his son and granddaughter “happen” to live in London, one of the hubs of this evil Anglo-American financial empire. This man is a patriot.

In a rare twist, an Orthodox website got a warning from Russia’s censorship agency, Roskomnadzor. Their infraction? They mentioned that a man committed suicide because he could no longer tolerate the pain of his medical condition. Why is that, you ask? This article explains how bureaucratic controls make it nearly impossible to get proper pain medications for people suffering with conditions such as cancer. As is always the case, the Russian government would rather prevent people from talking about the problem rather than fix it.

So there you have it, dear readers. That’s all within the space of a week, give or take. Why don’t I write a comprehensive analysis of the connection between neo-fascism and the Russian government, using the St. Petersburg conference as a basis? Why don’t I poke more holes in Yakunin’s theories and lampoon his hypocrisy? To be honest, I simply can’t. Not now.

If I were getting paid to write about these things, it would be easier. It would be doubly easier if I weren’t living here while doing it. As I said before, my current employment issues, living arrangements, and financial obstacles are nothing special, but when they are totaled together with what can only be called a tsunami of galactic stupidity, something just snaps in your mind and you fall into this malaise. This is the effect of unreality in large doses.

I think it will pass soon, even as Russia continues to descend into madness. At the very least, I’ll get the job I’ve been angling for and that will get me out of Russia for some time. Of course in an ideal world, I’d leave Russia permanently and never think about this place and its politics again for the rest of my life. But if I have to continue writing or speaking on these issues in exile for the sake of supporting myself and my family, so be it.

Behold the Great Russian Empire, and Despair!

On Friday Meduza published a story about a 14-year old girl who was questioned by the FSB because she wore Ukrainian colored ribbons to a government-sponsored rally commemorating the illegal annexations of the Crimea. Here’s an excerpt that gives you the gist:

“During the interrogation, Federal Security Services wanted to know how she met the other young people who brought Ukrainian national symbols to the rally with them. The interrogators allegedly aimed to get her to confess that she was paid to wear the ribbons.”

This is one of those golden moments I cherish because it so perfectly shatters Russophilic worldviews. Here we have a 14-year-old girl, being interrogated somewhat aggressively, by a national intelligence agency, for ribbons. And do not think the fact that she was indeed wearing those ribbons to make a political statement mitigates this idiocy one bit. In other countries local police might question a person attending a public event with a provocative sign or t-shirt, but it’s unlikely that they’d be hauled in for questioning by a national intelligence or security agency, much less bullied into a confession.

So yeah, there you have it. This is the nation that is supposedly rising in power as the United States and Europe are supposedly decaying. This is the great Russian empire, that makes the world tremble! This is the bastion of moral values, true freedom!

Please, Max Kaiser, tell us how Russia is pulling ahead of the West and the US is on the point of economic collapse. Tell us, Tim Kirby, about how Russia has real freedom of speech. All you war nerds who masturbate to facts and figures about intercontinental ballistic missiles, please tell us how strong the country that fears mimes and 14-year-old girls with ribbons is. Every goddamned day, an army of bloggers and instant “political analysts” sing the same chorus, nearly verbatim, about how Russia is a rising power, the West is collapsing, and claims about Russia’s poor human rights record are just propaganda. And yet just about every week there’s another story about some Russian politician or police agency shitting a brick over the colors blue and yellow or some other idiotic, trivial example of “extremism.”

Of course when you do bring up these things, most of the “political analysts” will tell you how the dastardly, decaying West is secretly funding all this activity, and the state is right to do this because they have to protect themselves. I feel compelled to ask why such a powerful state is so worried about its citizens being paid off, to wear ribbons no less, by nations which are supposedly in such obvious decay. Are so many Russians not aware as to how great their country is, and how terrible the West is? It’s not like the media ever shuts up about it. Why can’t Russia, this great superpower, just pay people in Western countries to bring down their governments? Why couldn’t they pay for an anti-Maidan movement to stop Maidan in its tracks in Ukraine? Surely that would have been much cheaper.

What vatniks and their “political analysts” want is to have it both ways. They want to claim that Russia has risen, or that it is rising, and the West is in mortal decline. At the same time, they also will go through great mental gymnastics to justify all the state’s petty, restrictive actions as necessary. Why necessary? Well that’s because this great new empire can easily be toppled if the US and Britain somehow manage to hand out 300 rubles to a crowd of young people and tell them to go overthrow their government. I’m terribly sorry but that dog don’t hunt. Stable, successful countries aren’t afraid of 14-year-old girls and performance artists. They cannot be toppled by handfuls of people being paid a one-time equivalent of roughly six to eight US dollars.

Breaking the Stupidity Barrier

So one year later, the Crimea is now a police state like the rest of Russia. There are plenty of articles you can read on the subject, but I think this one by anti-dill crusader Shaun Walker covers it pretty well for the purposes of my own commentary on the topic. I chose it because Walker highlighted a key incident from the recent trial of three men  who were arrested for publicly celebrating the birthday of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko.

“During the trial, the Ukrainian flag was described as “extremist”, “provocative” and “forbidden” by police witnesses. In her verdicts, Urzhumova said that, as Ukraine had not existed as a state at the time Shevchenko wrote poetry, the Ukrainian flag could not have any link to him.”

Let me start backwards by addressing the point about the Ukrainian flag. Russia is a country that can’t shut the fuck up about the Second World War, and yet Russia didn’t exist as a state when the Nazis surrendered in 1945. Therefore the Russian flag and in fact Russia can have nothing to do with Victory Day. I could continue with dozens of examples, but I think it’s perfectly clear how insanely idiotic the Russian government and its judicial system are from that example alone.

To address the first point, I want to issue a challenge. All you RT fans. All you Chomskyites and Pilger readers. You have been made aware that three people were arrested and sentenced for holding the flag of a recognized state, a state which is not officially at war with Russia, according to Russian leaders’ own strenuous insistence. Below you can even witness what happened at the event. Note that some people who appear to be part of the Ukrainian celebration are holding Russian flags too.

Now considering what happened and what you witnessed, please explain to me how there’s no free speech in the West, or how it’s no better in America. Please tell me about how oppressed you are under Obama’s police state. There are plenty of things to protest in the West, and you have far more right to protest them. So get out into the streets and fight, but don’t give me a load of shit about how Russia’s no worse.

Walker also recounts Putin’s appearance in a long documentary about the annexation of the Crimea, admitting that he and his government planned it themselves as opposed to the lie about responding to the wishes of the Crimean people. Putin also said in the documentary that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons in case the annexation didn’t work out well. Yup, he was ready to murder millions of people in case there was resistance to his illegal annexation of a resort area. Think that’s bad enough? Well as my friend at Russian Avos points out, Putin probably never considered using nukes over Crimea; he just said that for the domestic audience. In other words, millions of Russians think it’s okay to murder millions of people and render untold square miles of Europe uninhabitable because Crimea is “theirs.”

Think that’s an exaggeration? Recently a friend of mine told me how he asked a student if they felt that 6,000 lives was a good price for the Crimea. She answered that it was worth it, because “the Crimea is Russian.” Keep in mind that many of the people who think this way have never been to Crimea. Many had no plans to visit. Many cannot visit the Crimea. Whatever the case, prior to the annexation all a Russian citizen had to do if they wanted to visit the Crimea was take their domestic passport. Their domestic passport. In other words, visiting Crimea for a Russian citizen was like someone from Minnesota driving down to Arizona for the winter.  But that wasn’t “theirs.” Now it’s “theirs,” even if they can’t afford to go there or don’t even want to.

In any case, Russia has decided to declare war on reality, and as history has proven numerous times, reality will win.