The Circular Firing Squad

A circular firing squad is one of the best terms for describing the purveyors of conspiracy theories. Anyone familiar with the communities which spring up around particular theories has probably noticed that many of the competing alternative hypotheses are actually contradictory and mutually exclusive. The Twin Towers could not have been brought down by remote-controlled planes, planes firing missiles, some kind of space weapon, and “micro-nukes” at the same time.  Similarly, Holocaust deniers cannot claim that millions of Jews didn’t die if they simultaneously claim that they actually did die of an undocumented typhus outbreak rather than gas chambers. Of course most of the time these contradictory theories are peddled by different individuals, but experience shows that in their own forums you will rarely see debate between these mutually exclusive theories. If you find a 9/11 truther discussion group and advance one particular hypothesis, it is unlikely that you will be rejected unless that hypothesis involves 19 Al Qaeda terrorists who managed to pull of a major attack after years of training and planning.

Russia’s increasingly desperate propaganda has become a circular firing squad. We are commonly told that Maidan was entirely the work of the West. I’ve heard plenty of Russians say that the people on Maidan came out simply because they were paid around 100-200 hyrven(roughly $8-$16 at the moment). Apparently this was preferable to making far more money at their jobs. But then this raises a question. Why couldn’t Russia just pay people the same amount, if not a bit more, to create an anti-Maidan movement from the beginning? We’ve been told that Putin raised Russia from her knees and made her a superpower again. Can this new superpower not manage to match the monetary contributions for a group of people whose price is so low? They cannot claim any principle of non-intervention either, because we’ve seen that Russia is willing to seize part of Ukraine’s territory and fund an armed insurgency there. How can your principles prevent you from paying people to create a massive protest movement if you have no problem arming people to seize a part of a foreign country? If Russia is now a rising superpower standing up to Western hegemony, why is it utterly unable to raise popular movements in its neighboring countries? Surely that would come in handy in places like the Baltic countries or Georgia, would it not?

This ridiculous contradiction, whereby we’re told Russia is “defying” the West yet can’t seem to manage to attract any countries which have a choice to their camp fits nicely next to the recent government rhetoric about the need to protect the Donbass residents while simultaneously swearing up and down that it isn’t supporting the rebels who are allegedly protecting them. Russians are not stupid as the elite believes. Fear and the desire to feel patriotic has managed to get many people to shut up about their daily grievances at home, but nobody here is truly fooled by this. The problem is that the media’s lies are compounding on top of one another at a rapid pace.

During the Iraq debacle we saw a procession of different lies. First and foremost was the alleged threat Saddam posed to the world with his WMD arsenal. If that didn’t convince you, they backed that up by suggesting that Saddam might supply such weapons to terrorists. Lastly, Saddam was an evil dictator who killed his own people. As the war dragged on with no sign of the weapons, the humanitarian, liberation lie was advanced and the clear and present danger justification was discarded. It was never about WMDs, you ignorant hippie! It was about liberating the Iraqi people. Of course all of these justifications were lies, and not terribly good ones either. The idea that Saddam Hussein would launch an attack on the US or its allies even if he had functional WMDs was ludicrous on the face of it, and prior to the campaign to sell the war Colin Powell was famously quoted as saying Iraq had been effectively neutralized and was not a threat to its neighbors.  The idea that Hussein was going to give weapons to Al Qaeda terrorists was ridiculous because Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda hated him and his regime. Saddam was no longer involved in state-sponsored terrorism and hadn’t been for some time. And of course it wasn’t about liberating people, because there were plenty of other countries the US could have “liberated.”

Flimsy as all these lies were, they were not contradictory in and of themselves. The contradictions were to be found in the apologetics from war supporters who discarded each rationale as was necessary and acted as if it was always about whatever justification they had settled on for the moment. The Kremlin on the other hand is flying by the seat of its pants and saying whatever it takes to “win” at any given moment, with foresight limited to five minutes into the future. Russian speakers are in danger in the Crimea! We must defend them! What? No those aren’t our troops! Those are local militias wearing the latest Russian gear! But are troops are allowed to patrol the streets and take over Ukrainian military bases! But we don’t have any troops there! And on it goes.

When you weave such a web of lies that the statement you say one day directly contradicts what you said the day before, you’re obviously in a desperate situation.If the Kremlin doesn’t take the initiative to defuse this crisis and continues to toy with its own people’s minds, they are eventually going to lead the country to a conflict it cannot possibly hope to win, and which will ultimately lead to ruin.  Those Russians whipped up by the patriotic fervor and years of nationalism and glorification of conquest, empire, and dominance will not quietly tolerate what will inevitably be seen as a major betrayal on the part of the Kremlin. With no real electoral system to speak of, I don’t like to imagine what the results will be.


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