Do you remember that classic episode of The Simpsons, entitled “Bart of Darkness” in season 6? In it, Bart is unable to enjoy the family’s new swimming pool after breaking his leg. He sits by the back door, pathetically asking his friends to sign his cast in vain. Eventually he manages to catch his best friend Milhouse and practically forces him to sign the cast. Milhouse then exclaims that he must go because he thinks he left his glasses by the pool. When Bart points out that Milhouse is actually wearing his glasses, the latter famously replies, “No I’m not,” and promptly leaves. That is what it’s like being lied to in Russia, particularly by the government or its supporters.
Some of the readers might remember that a few years ago, Russia decided to
blow invest about $1.55 billion on two French-built helicopter carriers. These additions to the Russian fleet will do absolutely dick in terms of actually giving Russia a true, blue water navy, but at least they’ll be able to say they have helicopter carriers I guess. Anyway, thanks to the Ukrainian crisis and the EU sanctions, the deal has been temporarily frozen. The Russian government’s response?
Of course they can. That’s why they’ve been talking about this deal since 2010 as far back as I can remember. If that’s the case, why didn’t they just do that in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, on paper Russia probably has this capability, and assuming not too much money gets skimmed off the top, it could be cheaper. I’ve also noticed that the latest damage control revolves around claiming, against compelling evidence, that France only built the hulls and maybe the basic necessities, while all the electronics are made in Russia. This is equally hilarious to the original claim because it would be implying that Russia can produce all these specialized electronics but not a ship hull. Anyway, the issue here is a certain style of lying which is frighteningly common in Russia and Ukraine(yes, it’s used by supporters of their government too).
The last example I encountered, one which I could have used to explain to outsiders, was regarding the issue of the electronic payments system in Russia. Like many countries, Russia was using Visa and Mastercard to process certain transactions. Apparently there’s also this European system called SWIFT. Well Visa and Mastercard pulled out of those Russian banks(not due to sanctions but because of ridiculous conditions the government tried to put on them), and recently there was talk of cutting Russia off from SWIFT. Naturally as soon as the mess started, people in the Russian government declared that Russia would develop its own payment system. Then it was said that it in fact already had its own payment system, and it only had to “flip the switch.” Next it was said that it could develop that payment system in six months. They have about four, maybe five months left to meet that deadline. I realize this is totally anecdotal, but I don’t remember hearing a single word about a Russian proprietary payment system as an alternative to SWIFT, Visa, and Mastercard prior to the time when the latter two pulled out of Russia. Kind of seems like big news.
We’ve all told lies before. We’ve pretended to be sick to get out of work. We try to come up with an excuse as to why we’re late. In Russia, however, you just say the opposite of whatever the accusation or claim is. Did the boss say you showed up two hours late for work? No you didn’t. You were on time. In fact, you were early! Did he say that he called you? No, you never saw any missed calls. He came by your desk? You must have been in the bathroom. He checked twelve different times? You were in the bathroom twelve times. Is he still angry at you? Why? Why is he being so rude to you? Why is he getting upset? You were on time!
Now obviously I need to fulfill my obligatory catalog of American politicians’ lies, otherwise one might assume that I actually believe everything the American government says. Let’s do that, because to understand this you really have to see the lies compared side-by-side.
Remember the Iraq War? Some of the claims were flat out insane. In one case President Bush claimed at a press conference that “according to British intelligence,” Iraq was supposedly capable of launching an unconventional attack on the US or her allies within 45 minutes of the troops receiving the order. On the other hand, Bush and co. busted their ass to create this shotgun effect with their claims. So they don’t have nukes? Well they want to get them! Sure we know they destroyed over 90% of their chemical weapons almost immediately after 1991, but what about what’s left? Then the invasion came and Fox news tried to sell us the idea that Iraqi troop depots full of gas masks and chemical suits were evidence of WMDs. Later they would again claim, without evidence, that the Iraqi military had designated “red lines,” and that should they be crossed they were to unleash their chemical weapons. Obviously that didn’t happen and the story was false. As months dragged on it became clear that there were no WMDs. Any time it looked like they were close to something, any time they found a rotting box of mustard gas mortar rounds from 1991 buried in the desert, some right wing pundit would jump on it. The White House, however, was forced to trade talk of 45 minute attacks on the US and “mushroom clouds” for some word salad along the lines of “we found evidence of plans to develop weapons of mass destruction research programs.” As for Hussein-Al Qaeda relations, Bush himself was forced to admit on camera that there was no connection.
Of course none of that mattered because it was never about WMDs or Al Qaeda in the first place! It was about freeing the Iraqi people! Why don’t you want the Iraqi people to have freedom? Besides, now Al Qaeda is in Iraq and they are attacking our troops. Better to fight them in the streets of Baghdad than Boston! We have to finish the job for the sake of the troops! Why do you hate the troops? Remember that? Seriously do you remember that shit?
Of course liberal Democrat lies are slick. They have to be slicker because they tend to appeal to young professionals, college students, and other educated people. You can’t just win their hearts by prefacing your opinions with, “Well, as a Christian…” I guess the best example I can think of for liberal lying concerns the run up to the 2008 presidential race and then the parade of excuses which die-hard Democrats started throwing out when Obama turned out to be a total bust. Prior to Obama’s election, he was being compared to FDR. People were praising Obama and supporting him for promises he never even made. I remember that some of these people pretended to care about the concerns of people such as myself. “Of course we will have to hold him accountable,” they would tell me. Then Obama got elected and it turned out exactly as I said. In the discussion on health care, single payer was shut out of any discussion from the beginning. Nobody made Obama or the Democrats do that. They had a lock on Congress until 2010. Of course if you brought up issues like Obama’s broken promises, the same people who couldn’t talk about them without tears in their eyes and a warm glow about their faces suddenly became cold hard “realists” who know how the system works. You were suddenly the hippy who thought that Obama could just take his seat in the Oval Office, snap his fingers, and make all your problems go away. Poor, naive idealist, possibly high on pot. Have you never heard of something called Congress? Of course these people were realists all the way to 2012, when they held Obama accountable by pledging their undying support for him. This is how you lie as a liberal, and damn if it isn’t slicker than snake snot.
Russian lies don’t work that way. There is no concern over how believable the lie is. All the liar knows is that an accusation has been made. That means he needs to say the opposite of whatever was said in the accusation. If you say that, you win. It’s sad because this actually gets down to the personal level. I remember a certain woman who continually lied to me about her non-existent school. If I said, “You don’t have X,” based on my inside knowledge of the situation, her reply would be, “But I do have X!” In fact I’m convinced that if I told her that I was sure she wasn’t caught behind a McDonald’s giving oral sex to strangers, she’d inform me that I was quite mistaken; in fact she blew dozens of guys. I’d really like to believe that this is an example of the state’s values filtering down into every day life and not something inherent in the culture.
The thing is, Russians are not dumb. Nobody believes this shit. All these lies do is create more of those inconvenient questions. America is on the point of collapse? So then why is it necessary to increase censorship to fight its propaganda? Poor, crumbling America isn’t censoring Russian sources. Democracy is a meaningless choice? Then why does the Russian government get upset when people accuse it of not being democratic? Russia is a rising superpower that doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her? Okay why the constant denials of Russian military involvement Eastern Ukraine then? Crumbling America wouldn’t deny sending troops to help out an insurgency. This shit gets reported in the news all the time. Eventually these questions pile up until everything comes crashing down.