Let’s make some movies!

So Meduza released this article about the Russian Ministry of Culture’s draft document indicating what sort of films they intend to fund in 2015. According to the article, the document says priority for funding will go to films about the following themes:

-Success stories that inspire people (in areas such as manufacturing, entrepreneurialism(sic), and civic activism);

This generally gets you arrested or exiled unless you are a close personal friend of Putin, and then sometimes that doesn’t even save you.

“The roles of Crimea and Ukraine in the 1,000-year history of the Russian state;”

Let’s see…The Crimea basically became part of the Russian empire in 1795 or thereabouts. The empire, the beginning of the state of “Rossiya,” is usually dated to about 1721, and it ended in 1917, meaning it lasted less than 200 years, much less than the United States. The modern Russian state has been around for a whopping 24 years.

“Russian military glory (its victories and victors);”

No Russo-Japanese War, WWI, or Crimean War. Got it.

“Film adaptations of Russian literary classics;”

Because we don’t have enough of those, and we’ve never managed to produce any decent literature in almost a quarter of a century.

“Modern-day heroes in the fight against crime and corruption;”

These people end up dead, or in jail. Or dead in jail. Which Russia do these ministry of culture flacks live in? Oh right, the one behind four-meter-high green metal walls with 24/7 security.

“A society without borders” (success stories from from individuals with disabilities);”

Dude in a wheelchair wins the US green card lottery and books it.

“Historical anniversaries (such as the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, and the 25th anniversary of the August 1991 Putsch);”

Sorry, but October revolution contradicts the glory of the Great Russian Empire and will offend believers.

“Family values as the foundation of Russian society; and
Russia as a multiethnic country.

charliesjaguars

spiritualvalues2

russianfascists

Shut the fuck up.

A Smoking Gun?

Recently, Interpreter mag released a translation of a document published in Novaya Gazeta, which was supposedly leaked to them by a source in the Kremlin. The document was drafted prior to the flight of Yanukovych on 22 February 2014, and supposedly shows how the Kremlin planned the dismemberment of Ukraine  before that so-called “coup d’etat” took place.

It has been theorized before that Russia had a contingency plan for the annexation of the Crimea. It has even been suggested that Yanukovych may have been threatened with this to change his mind about signing the European Union association agreement. It is clear, however, that something went seriously wrong with the plans for the Donbass.

It should also be noted that the authenticity of the documents has not been established. If Novaya Gazeta gets subjected to some pretty serious raids in the next few weeks, that might be a clue as to their authenticity. It’s been argued that the document seems to be describing the actual events that played out, with only minor variations. This is a good point but it must be taken with a grain of salt. Like Biblical prophesy written after the events, it could have been written much later than it was purported to be, with the “plans” written to fit the outcome.

That being said, there are some details in this document which make it seem authentic. For example, it says that protesters were under the control of Polish and British intelligence, not the CIA or US State Department. That seems oddly specific; someone trying to frame the Kremlin would have undoubtedly used their narrative, which always implicates the US. The document also makes no reference to specific nationalist groups or neo-Nazis. It seems a fake document would include some specific instruction to “portray all Maidan forces as neo-Nazis and fascists.” The fact that this isn’t brought up suggests that it was written by a person with a specific, limited brief, who knew that questions of propaganda would be left up to others.

Another interesting aspect that appears in the commentary, is the lack of any mention for concepts like Novorossiya or concern over the safety of Russian speakers. Again, this looks like the person writing this was dealing with very practical matters within their sphere of work. I’m sure there are people in Putin’s inner circle who do personally believe in this geopolitical, revived Russian empire bullshit, but whoever wrote this was all business. A hoaxer might not have been able to resist the urge to use Russian propaganda memes in the document, as a way of “debunking” those that appeared on TV screens and the internet since the flight of Yanukovych.

The commentary after the document also mentions the cynicism of the writer. Maidan is portrayed as European “intrigue,” then the writer recommends getting involved in that “intrigue.” This fits the kind of 19th century imperial mentality that seems to dominate Russian politics.

When it comes to authenticity, one must consider what the purpose of the document is. Could it have been fabricated simply to lead one of Russia’s few remaining independent media outlets on a wild goose chase, or possibly discredit them later? Or, as it seems to put heavy blame on people like Borodai, Strelkov, Dugin and Malofeyev, could this leaked document be the first move in a campaign to pin all responsibility for Ukraine on those individuals? Strelkov already took huge responsibility on himself in an interview in Russia. He’s also had people suggest that he might make a good replacement for Putin in the future, which is a great way to get someone arrested or killed. With this in mind, it’s worth noting that none of these people were present for, or even associated with, 21 February’s anti-Maidan march. One would think these people would be lauded as heroes at such a march, yet they were curiously absent. Also absent was another Russian political figure associated with Novorossiya, Sergey Kurginyan.

Unfortunately the Byzantine nature of Russian politics forces everyone to play these guessing games. All conclusions here ought to be taken with a grain of salt, and people should keep this document in mind as events play out in the next few months.

 

 

Not the only game in town

One thing I have firmly believed long before starting this blog is that facts and education can also be entertaining. Pages upon pages of dry, academic analysis can be useless if they don’t accurately represent facts on the ground, while a short, satirical piece can not only contain profound truth, but also effectively communicate it to a wider audience. In fact that is the subject of an upcoming article of mine, where I showcase the explanatory power of the “vatnik” meme.

I also believe that absurd ideas and policies merit absurd treatment. Not every ideology or theory deserves to be treated as though it has merit. For example, the Kremlin’s Duginist Eurasianism, stuck permanently not in the 20th century but in fact the 19th, does not deserve to be taken any more seriously than a theory that revolves around a gumdrop-based manorial feudal economy. If 19th century imperialism and spheres of influence float your boat, go play Victoria II. If you think that shit’s going to fly in the 21st century, take a fucking walk.

The same goes for all this talk of “hybrid war” and Russia’s propaganda offensive. I’ve said this plenty of times, but Russia’s threat to Europe is essentially that of a staggering drunk man flailing his arms around. You can’t simply ignore him, but you don’t have to pull the fire alarm and evacuate the whole bar. That’s why you have a bouncer.

The best defense against Russia is on the domestic front- Listen to and take care of the working people. Media companies need to be more objective and more skeptical to official sources from their own governments. Police state policies need to be thrown out. When Western governments fail to live up to the standards they preach, they create weaknesses for Russia’s propaganda machine to exploit. In short,taking care of their own citizens is like strengthening the body’s immune system.

Of course this answer isn’t satisfying enough for some people. Should we really not counter Russia’s propaganda? Nobody is saying that this is a bad idea, but how it’s done is very important, and that’s where humor comes in.  Rather than portraying Russian foreign-audience propaganda as this brainwashing hybrid warfare superweapon, we should mock it. Why not? It’s funny.

Russia’s media heads want to be taken seriously, so don’t. They love the idea that they are feared, that they are having a measurable effect in Western politics. They aren’t, so not only should we not react with fear and act like this bullshit is working, we should openly laugh at their follies. Never miss a chance to remind them that they are the laughing stock of the world media.

As it turns out, I’m not the only person who thinks so.  Just take a look at this satirical article. Well, perhaps it’s not entirely satirical. It does say this:

One of RT’s favorite employees, UK citizen Graham W. Phillips, was arrested by Ukrainian authorities. He is noted for being a sex blogger, having police action taken against him back in England, and claims so outrageous that even RT had to retract them. Mr. Phillips is now at large, involved in a relationship with an underage girl, spending time with child soldiers and being trained in the use of firearms. 

I have no doubt that Mr. Phillips is in a relationship with an underage girl. The traditional moral warrior cossacks of Novorossiya are no less willing to pimp out Russian girls than the mainstream Kremlin elite is. Judging by his own words, Phillips is the kind of guy who, were he in the United States, would have found himself sitting in a suburban kitchen opposite Chris Hansen.  Hard-hitting journalism, that factoid is.

I hope to see more pieces like this in the future. In fact, things like RT, Voice of Russia, and Sputnik need to become worldwide memes if anything. It’s reassuring to see this kind of satirical work. It means that though I may go, others will take my place.

Throwing in the towel

Well as is typically the case when you live in Russia, there must be a dire personal crisis every few months. It seems I’m being let go in March. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but the economy being what it is I cannot afford to go around trying to build up my teaching contacts again, as if that would help at all during this crisis.

I believe that the only thing I can do at this point is pack it in and leave as soon as possible. I’ll continue with the blog as long as I’m here, and I may continue it “in exile” for a while, but unless there’s any money in it I doubt it.

To be honest I’m tired. I’ve come to realize that everything I do here is pointless- this is not the real world. I cannot raise a family here. There are no causes I can fight for, no banner I can rally to. I am already living in exile, in a sort of bubble, and have been for many years. While I have achieved a great deal, especially considering my humble background, I cannot advance any further so long as I am here.

Though this isn’t exactly goodbye yet, I want to thank all the readers and commentators who put this blog on the map. This blog got me published, on TV, and a job in a field that I never would have been able to get into without it. While I may be losing that job, I would have been far worse off without it. This blog made me a professional writer, and your attention and support is the reason I kept at it.

The Indiegogo campaign is still active; your support will help Russia Without BS stay in business as long as possible. Of course I appreciate your words of support as well as any job offers, recommendations, or requests for information.

I don’t know when the end will be, but I wanted you, the readers, to know ahead of time that it’s coming. Sooner or later this was bound to happen.

Thanks again for your attention and support.

bearvodka

Death by Idiocy

The rise of Russia’s internet troll farms and global propaganda offensive created a rather amusing paradox. Upon learning about how the Russian government began paying people to troll social networks, first in Russian, then in English, beginning roughly after 2011, I thought it was somewhat curious that the Russian government would rather spend money paying people to shout down those who complain about domestic problems rather than just take that same money and spend it on fixing the problems. In other words, instead of just fixing the goddamned roads or post offices, they’d rather pay thousands of students to pile on any Russian who comments about the problems with the roads or post office, telling them to go to the West if they hate Russia so much.  In 2014, Russia’s domestic and foreign-language media famously received a massive budget increase, dispelling any doubt that the regime is more inclined to cover up or distract from its problems rather than solve them.

As foolish as this path is, Russia has the resources to pull this off, at least for a couple years. This won’t save the Russian regime, and in fact it will probably make the fall even worse, but Russia’s got some cushioning in the form of large foreign currency reserves, natural resources for export, and manpower. What if Russia didn’t have all those things, however? What if Russia were much smaller, engaged in a war with a much more powerful opponent, and its army was in shambles from the get-go? Well in that case it would be simply madness to piss away what little resources the country had to wage a propaganda war with a far better provisioned opponent. What country would do such a thing?

Meduza: Ukraine is now recruiting an ‘iArmy’

Shit.

Here’s a quote found in the article and on the site in question:

“Last year we were able to create a powerful army that protects us courageously in the territory of Donbas. Now it’s time to fight back the Russian invaders on the information front.”

Uh…No, no you didn’t create a powerful army. In the immortal words of colonial marine private Hudson, “Hey, maybe you haven’t been keeping up on current events, but we just got our asses kicked, pal!” Did these people not just see what happened in Debaltseve last week?

As if the internet troll army weren’t a stupid enough idea, Ukraine’s ministry of information actually plans to do battle with Russia’s TV empire as well, wasting what little resources the struggling nation has on such projects as a state-owned channel aimed at foreign audiences called Ukraine Tomorrow. Yeah, I got it. That would be amusing were in not for the fact that almost half the fucking country is in ruins, another part has been annexed, and what’s left is facing dire economic straits with no sign of relief.

Russia can afford to dabble in fantasy for at least another year or so. Ukraine simply cannot. Attempting to wage this propaganda war is essentially playing Dungeons & Dragons while the house is on fire. When you add to this some recent idiotic laws such as the banning of Russian films and the arrest of journalists, including a sports reporter, for treason, it seems that Ukraine’s leadership is driving the country to become exactly that which they claim to oppose. One way or another, directly and indirectly, they are transforming Ukraine into Little Russia.

Endurance Test

How long can you watch Tim Kirby doing an interview with this Euro-fascist without rage quitting?

I made it to about 11:30. What did it for me is when he talked about how his opinions in America were comparable to those of a raving homeless guy, but then suddenly he moved to Russia and they were all right and he “fit in.” That reminded me of this exchange from an episode of  The Simpsons:

Lisa: Dad, here’s a thought. If you just gave Mom credit, maybe she could help you.

Homer: Sweetie, you don’t understand. If I can do this myself, then all those lies I told will be true. Don’t you want Daddy’s lies to be true?

I shouldn’t have to tell my readers that the most important thing is whether or not one’s beliefs are true, not whether they happen to be accepted in a particular geographical area. If you have strong views in favor of female genital mutilation, you’re unlikely to get invited to many social occasions in the US or most industrialized countries. In Somalia or Sudan, you’d fit in quite nicely. Horrible ideas don’t stop being horrible just because a lot of people agree with them.

Also I’m not going to get into it here, but let me just say I think Kirby overestimates the extent to which he “fits in” here. We Americans tend to forget that fitting in isn’t simply a matter of your own tastes and feelings, but also the feelings of the group into which you are supposed to assimilate. I suppose that’s a topic for another article though.

I invite all readers to watch that video and post your times to see who can stand it the longest.

Another news roundup

Today I have three articles to recommend, though only two of them deal with Russia and Ukraine.

The first is on Open Democracy and is called “Bikinis and babas: the gender subtext of clichés about Ukraine” by Heather McRobie. I am really glad to see this issue getting more and more attention. Off the top of my head I can think of two examples of these demeaning stereotypes which made big news in the last few years.

The older story dates back to the beginning of the Libyan uprising, which suddenly put Gaddafi in the spotlight after more than a decade of near-irrelevance. Apparently one of Gaddafi’s private nurses was Ukrainian. So naturally it was assumed by some media sources that the woman must be a mistress. It’s simply not possible for a Ukrainian woman to work for someone important and not be his personal courtesan.

The other story is more recent, and if I remember correctly it was first reported by the BBC. The story was about how prostitutes in Murmansk were raising their prices due to the falling value of the ruble. Of course thanks to the fall of the ruble, lots of retailers and services were raising their prices. Many importers of high-end brands like Apple, BMW, and Land Rover temporarily suspended their sales and deliveries so as to revise their prices. The latest iPhone, for example, went from something like 35,000RUB to almost 60,000. I remember how one restaurant, lacking the time to print new menus, simply taped over the prices and scribbled new ones. In short, there were many examples of rising prices and people expressing concern about this, but because this is Russia, there had to be a story about prostitutes, even if it meant going to an out-of-the-way place like Murmansk.

Think it stops in Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet Union? Think again. Just look at Poland’s entry to Eurovision last year:

Fucking POLAND! One Slavic country that actually achieved some success on its own. One country that managed to avoid an association with sex tourism. And they go and put this shit on display in Europe. Luckily this video shouldn’t have too much impact on Poland’s reputation when it comes to sex tourism, because as we all already know, Eurovision is only watched by women, gay men, and Russians.

This is why I downplay my Slavic, Polako-Ukrainian heritage when I travel abroad to some countries. You mention Ukraine or Russia and the first thing out of some men’s mouths is “beautiful girls,” the “compliment” that is really an insult. That’s all one can associate with Russia and Ukraine. It’s not like anything important happened in these parts in the past two hundred years or so. I might also add that for decades the girls were no less beautiful, but this suddenly became noticeable to many foreign men only after a massive economic catastrophe which forced many women into prostitution or quasi-prostitution to survive. The women trafficking and mail-order bride industry drove the stereotype home. In short, Slavic beauty in the eyes of many men has nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s about accessibility and dominance. Women who easily reject them and feel no compulsion to settle for someone out of economic need or political repression become “stuck-up, Westernized bitches” in the minds of many men.

So kudos to McRobie for bringing this issue of gendered stereotypes in Eastern Europe out into the open and explaining it in such terms. On with the next article.

As we all know, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine. As it turns out, the Donbass region just happens to have a historical community of hard-fighting, military-aged Chechens, Ingushetians, Yakuts, and Buryats- it was practically a mini-Soviet Union all this time! But for those of you Russophobes who believe whatever the Western media tells you, there’s this article about Russian conscripts complaining about being compelled to sign contracts and being sent to Ukraine the Rostov region, where some have been injured or even killed in mysterious training accidents for which nobody has been held responsible.

Of course this article is nothing but propaganda- The U.S. State Department must be going around and paying these women to lie about their sons, if they ever had sons. This is a tried and true technique of the CIA to overthrow governments!

Lastly we have an article that has nothing to do with Russia or Ukraine, but rather ISIS. The article provides some interesting insight on ISIS, but as is typical it glosses over a couple points which go much further toward explaining the terrorist phenomenon than any analysis of Islamic theology does. Take a look:

Where it holds power, the state collects taxes, regulates prices, operates courts, and administers services ranging from health care and education to telecommunications.

Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.

The last one really makes you think. What is it that really attracts people to movements like ISIS? Are they really into the religious self-denial, restrictions, and self-denial? Or is part of it coming from a desire to free themselves from our market-dominated society, wherein they work most of their life, for little reward, often simply to stave off starvation? Perhaps if Western governments better addressed these needs, and supported regimes which did the same, it would severely hamper the recruitment efforts of groups like ISIS.

Naaaaah…Let’s just label them crazy fanatics and keeping bombing them. That can’t possibly fail!