Russia prepared to recognize upcoming Tatarstan referendum

Tatarstan_flag_Kazan

MOSCOW- Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced on Tuesday that his government was prepared to recognize an independent Tatar state in the event of a yes vote in that territory’s upcoming referendum. The referendum on independence was announced on Monday after armed men calling themselves the “People’s Liberation Army of Tatarstan” seized key government buildings and police arsenals in and around the regional capital of Kazan.

“Obviously we believe in self-determination and the preservation of language, which are two of the demands the rebels have mentioned,” Lavrov told reporters at a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It would be ridiculous for us to support measures such as the referendum in the Crimea or the federalization of Ukraine while denying those same ideas in our own country,” the minister added.

The uprising in the Russian Federal subject of Tatarstan started one week ago in Kazan and quickly spread to other cities. Local Tatar TV stations showed videos of cossacks and Russian nationalists holding rallies in Moscow, claiming that they would soon be on the way to Tatarstan to “Russify” its institutions and population. In response, the Tatar-speaking population formed “self-defense” groups and started raiding police and military depots in the region. Some Russian sources have repeatedly alleged that Turkish special forces personnel have been arming and training the rebels, a claim which Ankara has repeatedly denied. Russia’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that it was satisfied with Ankara’s explanation.

Tatar rebel in Kazan.

Tatar rebel in Kazan.

President Putin has yet to comment on the uprising, but Dmitry Peskov did field reporters’ questions at an impromptu press conference held on Monday.

When asked about the possibility of a Russian military campaign to put down the rebellion, Peskov called the idea “preposterous.”

“You must be confusing us with the Ukrainian government,” Peskov said. “We are not going to mount some kind of punitive military campaign against our own people even if they start an armed uprising with the help of foreign military forces and outside funding, all for the purposes of separating part of our country or at best, radically changing our constitution.”

Meanwhile in Kazan, the self-proclaimed “Khan” of the provisional government, Marat Abdullaev, announced that the referendum on independence would be held in three weeks.

“Soon we will make our voice known as one people,” Abdullaev told reporters while holding a Turkish license built G3 rifle. “We shall decide whether we wish to become a part of the Turkish Republic, or if we want full independence with the option of joining Turkey at a later date.”

Some sources have alleged that these are actually Turkish special forces troops rather than local militias. Both Ankara and Moscow agree that there are no Turkish troops in Tatarstan, and that the armed men in this photo bought their uniforms from local surplus stores.

Some sources have alleged that these are actually Turkish special forces troops rather than local militias. Both Ankara and Moscow agree that there are no Turkish troops in Tatarstan, and that the armed men in this photo bought their uniforms from local surplus stores.

Meanwhile spokespeople from the US State Department could not be reached for comment, but a receptionist told our correspondent that upon hearing the news numerous US diplomatic officials began drinking heavily, having “existential crises,” and “generally questioning the very concept of reality itself.”

When asked to comment on the State Department’s strange response to Russia’s reaction, Lavrov told reporters that he was surprised by it.

“What is so strange about our response to this crisis in Kazan? It’s almost as if they are shocked that Russia’s position could be so consistent, and I find that personally offensive.”

Russia: Fantasy and Reality

One of the most bizarre things about Russia is how much concern there is here for Eurovision in spite of the country’s official policy of homophobia. I remember back in 2009 there was a scandal in Moscow because then mayor Luzhkov promised to forbid a gay pride parade that was scheduled to accompany the music event. My reaction was one of confusion- Didn’t he know that Eurovision itself is basically a gay pride parade? I’m not alone in saying this either; that year’s winner Alexander Rybak apparently called Eurovision the “biggest gay parade” during an interview with the Norwegian press. It’s also worth noting that the reason Eurovision even came to Moscow that year was thanks to the victory of Dima Bilan.

Living in Russia means dealing with these bizarre contradictions and the cognitive dissonance they engender. Of course Russia could always just stop watching or even stop airing Eurovision, and they could stop providing contestants as well, but instead of doing that people prefer to obsess over it and then scream about Europe “losing its values” when a “woman with a beard” wins the contest. As it turns out, this year’s Russian Eurovision entry by singer Polina Gagarina provides a glimpse into another example of a massive chasm between Russian reality and fantasy.

In her song “A Million Voices” Polina sings a hopeful, upbeat anthem pleading for global unity as one human species. Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself:

I confess- I tricked you. What you see there is the “alternative” version of the official video, which can better be called the “reality” version. In the original video, we get the fantasy version of Russia, a country that wishes nothing but peace and harmony to the rest of the world. The truth is that while Polina sings, pseudo-intellectuals teach Russian students and schoolchildren about Western conspiracies against Russia and the need for a new Cold War to create a “multi-polar world” in which countries and their populations are just pawns in a game of chess between great powers. Russian TV personalities and even Putin himself engage in flippant talk about military invasions, conquest, and even nuclear annihilation, and Russians are encouraged to revel in the thought of nukes devastating Washington, New York, and London without considering what this will result in for Russia. Whatever nation doesn’t seem interested in Russia’s desire for a perpetual Cold War is deemed to be a puppet, in fact a whore, of Washington.

At Eurovision Gagarina sends a message of peace, but the rest of the year Russia produces crap like this infamous video, which insults numerous peoples both inside and outside of Russia, and when people react in the most predictable way, they’re accused of being “Russophobes” and toadies of Uncle Sam. Am I, are we, being unfair? How should the world react to this kind of behavior? We all remember a rising tide of anti-American sentiment during the adventures of the Bush administration. Was that not a natural reaction to the swaggering attitude and policies the administration engaged in? Should Russia not be judged by the same standards?

There are some who say things like Eurovision shouldn’t be political. It’s just a song, and Polina Gagarina, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, has nothing to do with the annexation of the Crimea or the war in Ukraine. But that’s just it- Polina isn’t responsible for the crimes of her government, but those crimes tarnish everything associated with Russia. It is foolish to expect otherwise.

When I started this blog, I wanted to dedicate some of it to dealing with cultural myths and stereotypes. I wanted to write about some non-political articles about mundane aspects of life in Russia, including some areas where Russia actually beats the pants of the US.This was the point of introducing “The Good Stuff” category. Of course long-time followers might have noticed a distinctive drop-off in “Good Stuff” articles. It’s not that I ran out of good things to write about. Internet service in Russia is far superior to the monopolistic system that exists in the US, based on what I’ve gathered from American media, friends, and family.

The problem is that since about 2013, the Kremlin has increasingly taken a turn toward the dark side, to the point where it’s hard to write some humorous, Buzzfeed-like story about Russian cuisine or culture without feeling like a propagandist lying by omission.

Again, there are those who say, with quite a bit of justification, that there ought to be a way to write about Russia without bringing politics into the discussion. Yes, this should be the case, but it simply isn’t, just as one cannot listen to Polina’s song of peace and unity and not automatically juxtapose those hopeful lyrics with the bloody business of the Kremlin and the hateful work of its media machine.

And that, dear readers, is one of the worst crimes of the Kremlin. Their actions, be it stealing from their own people and suppressing any attempt to hold them accountable, or invading a neighboring county and sustaining a war there using some of the poorest, downtrodden people in Ukraine as a prop, stain everything that is associated with the name Russia. It isn’t fair, but it is logical, and the responsibility for this must be laid at the feet of the oligarchical elite in Moscow.

Russia is full of people who really do have a progressive, hopeful outlook like that expressed in Polina Gagarina’s song. Perhaps Gagarina herself believes in that worldview. The problem right now, however, is that in today’s Russia such people are increasingly branded as traitors and foreign agents, while thugs, pseudo-intellectuals, and utter morons are glorified as heroes in state-run media. If the Kremlin is so concerned with Russia’s reputation, they need to think as to what part of Russian society they are going to suppress and which side they are going to favor, and they need to enact policies which attract admiration rather than waging cowardly hybrid war.

Till then songs like “A Million Voices,” much like Russia’s 70th Anniversary of the Victory in WWII, which was symbolized by the white dove of peace, remains nothing but childish fantasy contradicted by bloody, dark reality.

Ukrainian frustration

If anyone wants to know why I can sometimes become so angry when it comes to Ukrainian issues, I finally managed to develop a way to explain it without writing pages upon pages. Here we go:

Vishivankas? Great. It’s a good folk style and I wholeheartedly support the popularization of any form of menswear that makes neckties and impossibility. Death to neckties.

Long mustaches? Sure. I’m on board.

Chub (Ukrainian traditional cossack hairstyle, sometimes called a ‘forelock’ in English)? Well I’m jealous because thanks to mother nature I can’t really grow one, but again, it’s something that become very popular. Let us encourage this cultural appropriation abroad.

Cossacks? Well let’s not romanticize them, like certain neighbors do, but we cannot deny that Ukraine’s modern roots spring from Cossack culture.

Taras Shevchenko? Of course! Even if we ignore the importance he played in developing the modern Ukrainian language, how could anyone condemn such an incredible mustache in today’s hipster-dominated world?

Ukrainian independence? Of course! Who wants to be dragged down by the crumbling wannabe empire?

Ukrainian territorial integrity? Absolutely.

Ukraine in Europe? Obviously there are controversial aspects of this and it shouldn’t be seen as some sort of panacea, but there are certainly worse things that could happen to Ukraine.

The OUN, UPA, and Bandera? Absolutely not. These movements and their leader never represented Ukraine, they were never supported by anything beyond a small minority of Ukrainians and they did nothing to achieve Ukrainian independence or improve Ukraine. Ukraine has no such lack of heroes that it must make them out of these losers who were products of an era when fascism was the norm for Eastern and Central European political movements.

ЩОООООООООООООО?!

ЩОООООООООООООО?!

“HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT? ARE YOU SOME KIND OF RUSSIAN TROLL OR FSB AGENT? DON’T YOU KNOW THAT ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING NEGATIVE THAT HAS EVER BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT THE OUN, UPA, OR STEPAN BANDERA WAS REALLY FALSIFIED BY THE NKVD, KGB, FSB, AND THE JE- ER…POLES?! THESE ARE SYMBOLS OF OUR UKRAINIAN HERITAGE AND ANYONE AND EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTS UKRAINE MUST PAY HOMAGE TO THEM TO PROVE THEY ARE NOT AGENTS OF THE KREMLIN!”

And now you know why I get pissed off at Ukraine from time to time.

The Apple doesn’t fall far from the baum

Anne Applebaum is a favorite target of Team Russia. She’s the type of person you’ll be compared to if you challenge them. Savvy Russia watchers trying to maintain objectivity might present a spectrum where you have Applebaum on one side and say, Stephen Cohen or Mark Ames on the other. The other day, however, I was just doing a little double-checking and I decided to look into the political ideology of Applebaum’s husband, Radoslaw Sikorski.

Sikorski came up in an article I read by concern troll Putin apologist Mark “I talk about the 90’s more than Buzzfeed” Ames. Long-time Ames readers will be relieved to know that it bears the standard mark of every Ames article, i.e. a long description about the horrors of 90’s Russia which, judging by his writing in The eXile,  were pretty enjoyable for him and his expat buddies. Ames refers to Sikorski as a “neocon,” quite possibly because to Putin apologists, anyone who opposes them is a “neo-liberal neocon.” But knowing what I know about Applebaum, and knowing a little about Polish politics, I had a hunch about Sikorski that I had to look into.

Every article is a winner!

Every article is a winner!

As it turns out, Sikorski is indeed a member of a right-wing party called The Civic Platform. Looking at the party’s ideology, a number of points jump out. It is clearly socially conservative, opposed to LGBT rights, women’s rights, stem cell research, separation of church and state, and a number of other typical conservative bugbear issues. So basically Ames was right. What’s the big deal?

Well it doesn’t take much familiarity with Russian politics to understand that virtually every point of the Civic Platform’s ideology, save for their free-market dogma, would be heartily embraced in Putin’s Russia. Even in spite of Russia’s higher tolerance for state involvement in the economy, Russia has a flat tax, which is one of Civic Platform’s planks. Outside of the realm of economics, Civic Platform would fit very well into Russian politics with its insistence on imposing religion and religious ideas via the state, disdain for equal rights, and unhealthy fixation on gays.

Now here’s another interesting similarity. Conservatives tend to talk tough about dealing with sexual predators while looking the other way in real life. In Russia, the most recent example of this was the polygamous marriage of a middle-aged man to a 17-year-old girl in Chechnya, which was followed by vigorous apologetics and endorsements by some of Russia’s top officials. In the case of Mr. Sikorski and his wife Applebaum, the same phenomenon can be seen at work. In spite of Civic Platform’s advocacy of chemical castration for pedophiles, both Sikorski and Applebaum were known for their rigid defense of child-rapist Roman Polanski. Again, conservatives the world over love to engage in wish fulfillment fantasies about what they’d supposedly to do to pedophiles and child abusers, but when it actually happens they either try to quietly sweep it under the rug or justify it somehow.

So in the end what we see is that much like in Ukraine, many of Russia’s opponents share the same backward, reactionary mentality of the Kremlin’s political system. As such, both sides are sitting in glass houses. One thing that many Ukraine supporters have consistently failed to understand when I point out my concern over the far right in that country is that for me, there is no significant difference between the backward thugs of Svoboda or Praviy Sektor and Russia’s “Anti-Maidan” or Eurasianist movements. They all have the same backward, anti-scientific, ruling-class serving ideology just with different symbols and myths. The results for society are the same. Put more colloquially- Same shit, different wrapper.

One could say that Applebaum and her ilk fit the same maxim. Her pro-Kremlin opponents will point out that she is in favor of neo-liberal economics, yet as I have pointed out plenty of times, Russia has achieved neo-liberal results if not worse in spite of non-neo-liberal policies. More over, the success of both economic policies relies on promoting anti-critical thinking, reactionary ideology that distracts from class interests and directs people toward scapegoats. The ultimate result is that society suffers and the rich elite wins.

I think we would do the world a service if we openly admitted that all these right-wing propagandists and political figures, regardless of their faction or flag, are in fact a plague on humanity and largely responsible for the conflict going on in Eastern Europe today. They are the one’s who decry sober analysis and demand that all spectators belong to a camp, giving up logic and critical thinking as a condition of membership.

Star Wars fans, this is an intervention

Hello, Star Wars fans. Please come in and have a seat. Take a seat right over there…

Okay I’m sorry, that was a bad joke I know. This is not the time for that. But really, please sit down. I’m here with all your loved ones and the people who care about you. This isn’t about judging anyone; we’re concerned about you and we want you to sit down and see how your behavior is affecting us.

Recently, the world was stunned by the trailer for Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I saw it myself. We all did. And I have to say, it doesn’t look bad. It wasn’t too cartoony, I didn’t see any little kids, this might not be terrible. It could even be very good. But see then I saw you guys and you were doing this:

And see that’s when I couldn’t take it anymore. Don’t you remember? Don’t you remember how you sounded so many years ago? Do you really not remember? Then let me remind you:

Yeah, that was you back in 1999. Now do you remember?

Alright, look, I realize that The Phantom Menace trailer, in its time, might not have told you anything about how terrible the film was going to be. We were innocent in those days; we trusted trailers to be honest and Star Wars movies to be groundbreaking- history in the making. I can’t say that I hated it when I saw it- I figured this was Star Wars, made by George Lucas- he must know better than me. Instead of hate I just felt this, uneasiness. I balled my inconvenient questions up and suppressed them for over a decade.

Then again many of you were much bigger Star Wars fans than I ever was. Don’t you remember the disappointment you felt? Can’t you feel those deep wounds? We’re talking about films which were so terrible, you can suddenly come up with new plot holes even as you explain the plot holes you already know about. Just the other day I was trying to explain the problems with the prequels to my wife and I suddenly remembered that Chewbacca meets Yoda in Episode III. Okay, fine, how did this conversation not happen on the Millennium Falcon in Episode IV:

Chewie: MRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!

Han: What’s that Chewie? Yeah he is a Jedi knight. Did you hear our little debate about blasters vs. lightsabers just now?

Chewie: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARAAAAH!!!

Han: Really? No kidding? Hey Mr. Kenobi, Chewie here says he met a Jedi master once, back on his home planet. He says you wouldn’t forget something like that because some time later all the Jedi were wiped out and they’ve been almost unheard of for so long that knowing a Jedi is a pretty big deal these days.

Obi-Wan: Really? Who was that Jedi master? Was it?

Chewie: MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARH!!!

Han: Uh…Yoga. No, Yoda! Does the name Yoda ring a bell?

Obi-Wan: Of course! He’s the most important Jedi master ever. He trained me! Hey Luke, Yoda’s this important Jedi master that you will definitely have to meet at some point if you plan to continue on the path of the Jedi knight. Just one thing though, he’s a little green guy with point ears, so you know, don’t go looking around for some kind of great warrior or something.

Seriously, how did that not happen? How?

You see what I mean? Now look, I know you see a lot of classic Star Wars imagery in these trailers and you’re excited. But you have to remember that sometimes it’s a trick to garner your loyalty by using nostalgia. The prequels did that all the time.

Granted, these are sequels so if they aren’t great, at least they won’t be ruining films you loved. Who knows, maybe they can even undo some of the damage from the past. For example, some character could say something like: “Midi-chlorians? Nonsense. That was a myth in the Old Republic, specifically spread to limit the number of Jedi and make sure we got only the best. More Jedi would have meant more potential Sith, so the old masters devised a way of making the worthy believe their force sensitivity was something unique to them. After the rise of the empire and the extermination of the Jedi, there was simply no point in maintaining the charade…” We can only hope. Hope is all we have.

The issue, dear Star Wars fans, is that I remember what you went through that last time, and I can’t bear to see you go through it again. We can’t bear that. Well, actually, yeah we can bear it. That would be hilarious.

Alright then, go nuts!

Matchmaker!

When I started this blog, it was not initially intended to be very political. It was about shattering myths about Russia, and some of those myths were cultural ones. I decided from the beginning that unlike so many examples of expat literature, this blog would not contain any lengthy posts about Russian women. Everything I have to say about the stereotypes regarding Russian women is more or less encapsulated in my landmark post, entitled “The Loser Carousel.”

Now one thing about the Loser Carousel is that sometimes it can be hard to reason with guys who are on it, or guys who are watching it and think it seems like a fun ride. The hard part is getting concrete examples of these guys in action  to show them what’s wrong with their thinking and more importantly, demonstrate how painfully identical these dorks sound. Thankfully, a friend of a friend posted a message she received from a perfect specimen and gave me permission to use it. What follows is his message:

Hi, you wouldn’t happen to know a nice pretty russian girl who want to come to america would you? See, it’s not I don’t like American girls or that I am some creepy guy, but generally speaking American women seem to be lacking in many things. Mostly manners. They are not lacking in a grandiose feeling of self entitlement. I mean they can stay drunk for 4 years of college, and all the Greek lifestyle that goes with it. But still think they should have a Dr. or nurse when they can’t even read. I mean, I assume they don’t read or have a very hard time with it due to the amount of time it takes them to respond to a message. Either they can not read it, or they are sounding out the letters. It Surely can not be they are all just lacking manners.

Having said that, may I ask you a question? Well, I have to preface it first. People sometimes look at me like I am nutso for saying I think I may just find a Russian woman. Now to the question. Why do so many affluent men and actors have Eastern European and Russian women as spouses? Clearly if they are “whores” as people like to ‘joke’ about then….well, that doesn’t make sense. There are plenty of pretty whores here. So what quality do the women from Eastern block countries have that women here lack? Or, if you yourself think they are “whores”. What makes them better whore? lol

Now while I’m guessing the original recipient of this message wasn’t able to help our poor Romeo here, this message is most welcome for me. You see, for quite some time my wife has been trying to play matchmaker for this girlfriend of hers, henceforth known as “S-“. We haven’t had much luck in this field, but it looks like we might have found a break here.

Now I just have to practice delivering my pitch to S- and anticipate what questions she might have. I think it will go will go something like this.

Hello S-, I know that it’s usually my wife trying to hook you up with eligible bachelors- well, my friends that is. But you also know that this hasn’t been working out as they are always either engaged, in a relationship, or leaving the country soon. Well now I’ve got good news for you because as it turns out, there’s this guy in America who is looking for a “pretty Russian girl.” As you know, both my wife and I find you very attractive, so much so that I think we both felt very hopeful after hearing that Chechnya’s leader and deputy Mizulina both endorsed the legalization of polygamy in Russia (Topical humor! Relax, we’re all close friends here!) I kid! I’m joking! When you look at me all angry like that it means it’s a joke!  But getting down to business, let’s talk about this fine young gentleman.

As he says, he’s looking for a pretty Russian woman. What’s he look like? Well I don’t know. Is he good looking? Again I can’t say for sure, but to be honest I have to wonder because this is a guy who basically admits that he cannot find a woman in his own country, which has a population of nearly 323 million at the moment. Obviously they are not all female and I haven’t crunched all the demographic numbers but I think it’s safe to say that the quantity of available heterosexual women in the United States must be somewhere in the tens of millions. It’s kind of odd to imagine a very attractive man being so unable to find a suitable woman given such numbers, especially when he says that American women are “whores” who are drunk all the time. Whore implies that they are not too picky when it comes to sex partners, but it seems they aren’t choosing him for some reason. In fact, he says that they don’t even respond to his messages online, but he attributes that to American women not being able to read. Weird.

Can you believe this didn't work for him? Me neither!

Can you believe this didn’t work for him? Me neither!

Anyway, he doesn’t seem to be good looking but to be fair, we can’t prove that. What? Yes it does seem kind of creepy that he’d send a message like this to a complete stranger, a woman no less. It would seem that way but the thing is that in the message he said he wasn’t a creepy guy, so I’m sure he’s legit. Yeah, I have to say that like the looks thing, it makes you wonder why he has such problems with American women if he’s good looking and not creepy.

Oh wait! I remember what he said! Yes, apparently the problem is American women. All of them? Yes, all of them, apparently. To be sure, his complaints seemed a bit strange to me, but you have to remember that I haven’t been to America since early 2013, and that was like two weeks. This guy’s been there the whole time. Things change rapidly.

What are his specific complaints? Well it’s really weird, but he says American women lack manners. I know, that sounds kind of weird. I’m not sure what he meant. Yes! You’re right, many Russian women, Russian people in fact, lack manners too, especially in Moscow. But what I’m thinking is that he’s actually saying all American women are like this. Like, every single goddamned one of them, or something. Yeah, I know, it’s shocking.

What does he mean by lacking manners? Well he says that they are perpetually drunk through four years of college, living the “Greek Life.” Oh the “Greek life?” That refers to these things called fraternities and sororities. Women can join sororities. Fraternities, insofar as I understand, are support groups for young men experiencing masculinity issues. From what I’ve read they work through these issues by engaging in controlled homoerotic rituals in a safe environment, or something like that. At least that’s how it seemed to me based on how they’re portrayed in the media and on Wikipedia. Anyway, I found that sorority thing odd because, you know, first of all not all Americans even go to college, so obviously all those women don’t take part in “the Greek life.” Then you’ve got to count all the women who do go to college but never join sororities, often because they have no desire to.  It’s also kind of odd how he says nothing about the male part in all these college shenanigans, seeing as how as they say, “it takes two to tango.” It’s almost as if he has some kind of double standard when it comes to male and female behavior, but there I go rambling again.

What’s so bad about all that drinking and partying in college? Well I think he’s trying to say that American women in college get really drunk and have lots of wild sex. With him? Well, I don’t know, but it seems to me like that probably isn’t the case. I mean if he were having all kinds of wild sex in college, you think that after getting out and settling down into the real world some years later, he’d probably find a compatible woman to start a relationship with. Or at least he’d have some kind of stable girlfriend action. I’m sure it’s not his fault though. I mean he said it’s because they lack manners so I’m guessing that what happened, and probably still happens, is that instead of him being rejected by these drunk, impolite, whorish American women, he actually rejects them. In fact he complained about them not being able to read. That suggests that through college he rejected their drunken advances to concentrate on his studies, and now he has problems relating to such women, well all American women according to him, because they don’t share his level of literacy. Strange because I don’t remember hearing about any major drop in female literacy in the US in recent times, but I do miss a lot of news there.

Why yes, S-, it is odd how he’s so upset about that kind of sexual behavior. You’re absolutely right, there are plenty of Russian women who act in the same manner, sometimes even earlier in life, as there are in many other countries as well. I’m not sure why, but for some reason he seems to think the American women are worse in this respect, because he is forced to continually push them away lest he have a drunken whore with no manners as a partner. Alas, I digress. Where were we?

Oh yeah! The problems with American women. One thing he mentioned is that they have a major sense of self-entitlement, which I took to me- Whoa! Calm down, S-! I know, I know, that does seem rich coming from a guy who asks a total stranger to bring him a “pretty Russian girl”, sight unseen. I was struck by that as well. Don’t worry, you’re preaching to the choir here. He does really sound self-entitled, very much so. But then again he sounds creepy and yet he says he’s not, so maybe he just forgot to mention that he’s also not self-entitled.

So what’s he bring to the table, you ask? Well actually I don’t know. It’s really weird how in his whole message he doesn’t seem to give us any information about why a “nice pretty Russian girl” would be interested in him. He doesn’t say anything about his looks, whether he’s in shape or at least makes an effort, whether he’s funny- it doesn’t seem like it from his writing. It’s almost as if he believes he is…entitled…if you will, to the love and affection of an attractive young woman, as opposed to understanding that a sexual relationship is a matter of compromise and each person bringing something to the table.

Wait a second! I think I know what his qualities are! Remember he’s upset at American women because of their lack of manners and drunken behavior, right? So we can infer that he has manners, and values them quite highly. What is more, he condemns American women for drinking and not being able to read. Thus we can also infer that he doesn’t drink until the early hours of the morning, and he at least knows how to read. I guess he’s trying to say he’s polite and well-read.

Uh huh. Right. Yeah actually you’re right, I was thinking the same thing. That does sound kind of lame. I wouldn’t say it’s a negative thing to be polite and have manners, but I mean like you said, that’s kind of the bare minimum, right? You learn half this stuff in kindergarten. Yeah, sure you’ve got manners, but there’s another guy out there who’s got manners and he’s super good-looking and funny. Another guy’s got manners and he’s into all the same stuff you are. To be honest I share your frustration. What does this guy have besides manners and not being a total alcoholic? Never mind that for now, let’s move on.

So he was talking about how apparently lots of affluent men and actors have Russian wives, yet strangely I couldn’t pick a single example off the top of my head. You couldn’t either? Yeah I know, it’s weird. What’s that you ask? Is he an affluent man or movie star? Well again he didn’t say. You know judging by this guy’s style, I think that would have come up. In fact, if he were a celebrity, I’m sure the woman he sent this to would mention that. It would be news. So no, sorry, he’s not a movie star. But he’s polite, I guess. I mean, if you don’t see bearing really personal details about your problems messaging random women you don’t know to a random woman you don’t know as being impolite, then his manners are probably impeccable.

What else did he say? Well he’s been telling people that he “just may just go and find a Russian woman,” but when he does they just look at him like he’s “nutso,” that means crazy. Yeah, you know, when I said that you kind of had a strange look on your face. In fact I’ve noticed that all through this description your facial expression could best be described as “baffled, with a touch of disappointment.” But honestly I’d probably react the same way if someone told me he was going to go to a foreign country he knows nothing about to “find” a woman of a particular nationality as though he were buying a dog or some other domestic animal. I’d even go so far as to say this sounds sort of…well…self-entitled. But I’m sure that’s not the case. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s American women’s fault this guy can’t have a healthy long-term relationship.

Anything else? Oh yeah, he said that a lot of people joke about Russian women, i.e. you, being whores, but he says there are whores in America too. Yeah, the American whores, the ones that don’t have sex with him, I mean the ones he doesn’t have sex with on principle, and who don’t return his messages. That does seem odd. He doesn’t want to have sex with them but they don’t even answer his messages? It almost makes it seem like he is trying to get with them and they are rejecting him, but that can’t be right.

Aaaaaanyway, so what he was trying to say is that he hears you are all whores, but there are whores in America, so he thinks you might be better whores. What do you think, S-? Would you call yourself a whore? Do you think you’re superior to an American whore? Hey! HEY! Don’t get mad at me. I’m just telling you what the guy wrote. I’d be offended too. I could totally understand it if you didn’t find any interest whatsoever in this fine young gentlemen.

Actually…You know what? I’m beginning to think this guy is creepy and that he is self-entitled to a considerable degree! In fat, this guy sounds like a total douchebag! I bet he doesn’t even have manners either! He’s probably been reading about Russian women from other losers who “find American women lacking.”

Forget about him, S-, you don’t need to bother with “men” like that. I certainly don’t need to tell you that there are so many other single men here, both foreign and local, with so much more going for them than that guy on every level. I’m sorry I even brought it up.

Now that I think about it, I think I won’t tell S- at all.

Gullibility

So this morning I saw this amusing tweet from Runet Echo’s Aric Toler.

Indeed. Maybe there are MH17 “truthers” who don’t believe 9/11 was an “inside job,” but vice versa? I doubt it. But there’s something that makes MH17 trutherism even dumber than 9/11 trutherism. What is it exactly?

Well first of all, 9/11 involved a lot of things which ordinary people never think about. Many of us are not familiar with the science of architecture, piloting aircraft, and dozens of other complex fields of study that come into play when investigating a terrorist attack of that nature. For many people, the simple politics of it were overwhelming. One major problem with 9/11 is that it was so unprecedented and complex that many people missed or confused the basic facts of the case. More often than not it seems like this lack of basic knowledge left many people vulnerable to conspiracy mongers. For example, how many times have you heard someone talking about how fire from jet fuel couldn’t have melted the steel beams in the World Trade Center? Problem is, nobody ever said that’s why the towers collapsed. It’s not part of the “official story” and never was. Because of its unprecedented, extraordinary, and incredibly complex nature, one can at least understand how these conspiracy theories got started.

Another aspect of the 9/11 theories is that while they often tend to assert phony “evidence” like the aforementioned claims about jet fuel, each purveyor of a 9/11 theory, at least each one with a book to sell, has his or her own explanation. One guy says it’s “micronukes,” another says “death ray with no planes,” another says remote control planes, and so on. My experience has been that the audience for these claims is rarely picky- they’ll cheerfully talk with adherents of other, contradictory hypotheses all the time. If you’re selling a book or trying to become an internet celebrity, however, you need at least a superficially consistent story, and that is why, for example, there are three versions of Loose Change, with major revisions.

MH17 is another matter though. First of all, you had a plane flying over a war zone and it got shot down. It’s not complicated at all, really. Civilian airliners aren’t equipped to deal with any sort of anti-aircraft weaponry, thus if they get targeted and hit, they’re going to suffer catastrophic consequences. So the “plane got shot down” side of the equation is pretty straightforward.

The problem is that unlike the 9/11 truth community, whose con men authors attempt to build and popularize their own proprietary hypotheses, MH17 conspiracy theories basically come from one source, or I should say sources all controlled by one government, and yet they are as rapidly changing as they are contradictory. Within days we already had a theory that it was Ukrainian ground fire aimed at shooting down president Putin’s plane, then an SU-25 based on the story of a non-existent Spanish air traffic controller, then Russia’s ministry of defense pinned it on both Buks and SU-25s at the same time, then there was the infamous satellite photo, and so on. This parody blog tells the “real story” of MH17 while detailing almost every Russian-produced conspiracy theory on the topic to date.Even when independent pro-Kremlin bloggers write their “analysis,” you can rest assured they’re working off of RT and other Russian sources. None of those people ever go outside the house and actually investigate something, nor do they bother calling anyone.

So if you’re looking at the two sides of the debate, here’s what it looks like with 9/11 and MH17. For 9/11 I picked a sample truther theory, in this case Dr. Stephen E. Jones. I chose him because he is one of the few who actually attempted to make a coherent alternative hypotheses (ridiculous though it is, if you know anything about thermate), and he tried to give his theories and air of academic quality.

9/11 “official story” : 19 hijackers, after years of planning, managed to take control of four aircraft taking advantage of FAA training which instructed flight crews to comply with all demands in case of a hijacking. They crashed their planes into the WTC towers, the Pentagon, and the fourth plane crashed into a field after passengers tried to storm the cockpit. The WTC towers collapsed due to structural damage to their load-bearing cores, and their steel beams were weakened and sagged under the weight of the upper floors. This led to a pancake collapse.

9/11 Stephen Jones edition: The buildings were brought down by controlled demolition, there were precursors of thermate in the rubble. (PROTIP: Thermite and thermate are very simple compounds and their ingredients are used in dozens of products you might find in a home or office building.)

Obviously Jones had more to say and you can read all about it on his Wiki page, but basically you have two explanations, both of which are complicated and are likely to get into fields which the reader might not have any experience in. Now let’s look at MH17. Note that unlike with 9/11, all alternative stories can be traced back to the Kremlin via its state-owned media and other organizations.

MH17: Ukrainian, German, Dutch, American “official story”: Rebels, who had shot down several Ukrainian planes before, mistook MH17 for a Ukrainian military plane and shot it down with a Buk SAM system. There has been some confusion about whether the particular Buk system in question came from Russia or whether it had been captured from a Ukrainian army depot or base. Keep in mind Russia claims the rebels got all their weapons from Ukrainian depots, bases, and arsenals.

Russia’s version…er…versions: The Ukrainian army fired at MH17 from the ground because they thought it was Putin’s plane. No wait! This Spanish air traffic controlled who will later turn out not to exist monitored an SU-25 following MH17. No wait! Look our ministry of defense has shown how it could have been SU-25s or Buks, but Ukrainian Buks, of course! No wait, an anonymous eyewitness serving at a Ukrainian airbase in Dnepropetrovsk somehow managed to witness the whole thing, and says a pilot named Captain Voloshin shot the plane down. Not that we’re going to look into this Voloshin guy any more, of course. No wait! An engineer from MIT who doesn’t exist sent us a satellite image from a random foreign satellite that managed to capture the whole thing on film! Turns out it was a Ukrainian SU-27, not the SU-25 that looks totally different. No wait! A Dutch investigator said a fragment from a Buk missile used only in Russia was found in the wreckage? Nonsense! That fragment is from a Buk missile that Ukraine uses! It’s a Buk again! Oh wait! Zakharchenko says he say two SU-25s shooting at MH17 as it was over 30,000 feet in the sky! It’s planes again! No wait, it’s a Buk again! Goddammit can’t you see it’s anybody but us?

Obviously the purveyors of 9/11 truth claims often change their stories in ways that are sometimes contradictory, but as I said before, they try to maintain their overall hypothesis because it’s theirs. There have been particularly amusing examples of fights within the 9/11 Truther community between con men scholars with competing theories, often resulting in opposing sides accusing each other of being shills, disinformation agents, and so on. If Stephen Jones kept changing his 9/11 hypothesis on an almost weekly, occasionally daily basis, even people inclined to believing in conspiracy theories would probably pass him up for someone who seems more consistent.

Not so with Russia’s MH17 story. The Kremlin’s propaganda strategy isn’t concerned with credibility, only confusion. Put simply- If you believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, you should probably examine your critical thinking and read all the evidence again, making sure you actually know what the “official story” says. If you buy into MH17 conspiracy theories well, there’s just no good way to put this so I’ll just keep silent.