Faith Healers, Frauds, and Flim-flam

I have to admit I’m experiencing no small amount of schadenfreude at watching the pro-Kremlin “political analysts” and “geopolitical experts” squirm and sweat more and more as the Russian economy continues its meltdown.  Up till the last few months of 2014, these guys had it easy. Many of Russia’s economic woes were more or less unknown to anyone who wasn’t specifically looking for them.  Perhaps even some of these Western-based “experts” were or perhaps still are unaware of Russia’s underlying economic problems, which were stewing long before 2014, the sanctions, the plummeting price of oil, and the collapse of the ruble. This meant that at worst, their predictions about the abandonment of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency, its subsequent collapse into worthless paper, and the meteoric rise of a new Russian superpower at the head of an anti-American BRICS alliance simply hadn’t yet come to fruition. They could always throw out some random figures and say that the rapture would come next year.

Now those days are long past, gone for the foreseeable future. It’s clear to everyone the world over that Russia’s economy is fucked. Even president Putin himself implicitly admitted this in his 2014 year-end press conference. At the end of December it was, “The ruble should remain stable so long as the oil price doesn’t continue to fall.” A couple weeks later and it…continued to fall, taking the ruble down with it. Every year these people told us that the collapse of the dollar was immanent, and then the ruble collapsed instead. Russia was supposed to be ascendant, while the US was on the verge of economic ruin. Now even a superficial look at both countries reveals quite clearly which one is currently on the brink of financial ruin and crisis.

I cannot stress enough how badly these people have fucked up. You make a prediction; it doesn’t come true. Fine, maybe it will come true later. Fortune tellers bank on that all the time. But it’s a very different story when you make a prediction and then the opposite happens. In other words- This isn’t like predicting the rapture and then seeing the appointed day pass without incident. This is predicting the rapture, and then being publicly visited by a physical manifestation of Odin or perhaps Quetzalcoatl, informing you and your followers that Christianity is the wrong religion.

As it becomes more and more difficult to deny Russia’s rapidly deteriorating condition, there has been a significant shift in tone from Team Russia’s cheerleaders in the West. They continue to harp on any negative news they get out of the US or EU, but when it comes to Russia they’re suddenly talking more and more about China and India. Oddly enough they aren’t ditching Russia for China, which would actually be a very logical choice given the circumstances. No, instead of picking a winner they are busy swallowing the Kremlin’s line about how China, India, Turkey, and perhaps in the future Botswana, Turkmenistan, and Burkina Faso will all save Russia. Yes, you foolish dupes of the Western media! This is all part of Putin’s brilliant gambit! He’s playing the long game! His masterful, Machiavellian plan involves getting Russia into unequal agreements with much more powerful economies that continue to carry on massive trade with the West! He’ll bide his time and then…spring the trap! You’ll see! You’ll all see!  You fools! This is all part of the plan! You fell for Putin’s clever ruse! 

Seriously though, don’t expect these people to disappear any time soon, especially those who work for publications or websites that are backed with Kremlin money. For one thing, most of these people continue to support the narrative because in spite of their formal education or their age, they still know very little about how the world works or the countries they are supposedly “analyzing.” This is why some of them seem to have fallen for the Russian media’s implication that China or India’s agreements with Russia somehow represent those two countries’ turn away from the West. These countries still carry on lucrative trade with the US and Europe, and that plus Western investment is worth far too much to them to throw it all away in favor of making Putin’s dream of a Russian empire come true. They also continue to pay for their Russian energy in dollars, in spite of Russian pleas to use local currencies which go back for years. These “geopolitical experts” and “analysts” never see any of that. They look at a map like it’s the board game Risk, and when Putin pays a visit to China or India they imagine these countries are now in one camp.

Another reason why these people will not disappear is because there are certain factors which make it possible to continually make incorrect predictions without getting caught. In his book The Faith Healers, former “conjurer” James Randi, the bane of psychics, frauds, faith healers, quacks, and parapsychologists the world over, explained why alternative medicine quacks and faith healers can have long, lucrative careers no matter how many patients fail to recover or even die. Without getting into too much detail, he explains how many conditions, including terminal ones, often have ups and downs until the patient either gets better or dies.  This means that depending on when the healer or quack initiates the treatment, they can use several explanations to demonstrate the efficacy of their methods. They are as follows:

Healer initiates treatment, patient recovers:  “The treatment works!”

Healer initiates the treatment, patient’s condition doesn’t change: “The treatment has stabilized the condition.”

Healer initiates treatment, patient gets worse: We may have applied the treatment too late to save the patient.

Team Russia’s Western cheerleading squad have a set of similar variables. I can already see how the Russian media and some of the Kremlin’s astroturf movements on the net celebrate every tiny increase in the ruble’s value, every little uptick in the price of oil, all in spite of the general downward trend of both. Expect this kind of off-and-on celebration from the geopolitical wonks from now on, seeing as how their sources all ultimately lead back to the Russian press. If exchange rates and the price of oil remain more or less the same for 48 hours, they’ll tell us that the situation has stabilized.  What is more, unlike the faith healers and alternative medicine quacks, these people can also fall back on other excuses, such as “The CIA’s behind it,” “You must work for the State Department,” and “Do you think the dollar will last forever?!

Truth be told, many of these people won’t stop because they are simply too invested in the fantasy, which in some cases is a part of their identity.  They need Russia to be that ally that supposedly stands up to their own government. Some of them actually moved to Russia and they need to justify betting on that horse. The mental heuristic in this case resembles that which causes PC users to tangle with Mac users, and Xbox fans to fight it out with Playstation partisans. We make certain decisions, often for unknown and emotional reasons, then we’ve got to justify those decisions after the fact.  The more you’ve invested into that choice, the more stubbornly you will defend it.

Since they’re not going anywhere in the mean time, we might as well amuse ourselves as they go through their mental gymnastics, explaining how each new fall for the ruble is merely a “tactical retreat,” and how every state visit Putin makes means another country ripped out of the “Anglo-American” sphere of influence and seated firmly in Russia’s camp of allies.  At the same time every piece of bad economic news from the US or European Union, no matter how insignificant, will be portrayed as the harbinger of the economic apocalypse. When you point out Russia’s failures, expect them to start talking about China versus the United States, as though China is somehow a substitute for Russia or that China’s success somehow negates Russia’s disaster. Push them a little more and they’ll most likely start blabbering about Zionist conspiracies, gold, and freemasons.  It’s going to be hilarious.


17 thoughts on “Faith Healers, Frauds, and Flim-flam

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      The funny thing is that there is a multipolar world, in a way, it’s just that Russia isn’t really one of those poles. At least not one of the more important ones.

    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      “Some analysts disagree and contend that Putin does, in fact, have a long-term strategy. In a recent piece titled “Global Aikido: Russia’s Asymmetrical Response to the Ukraine Crisis,” Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the journal Russia in Global Affairs, argues that Putin may be relying on his training in judo in an attempt use the strength of the U.S. against it.”

      As a person with some Judo experience and far more theoretical knowledge I can tell you that what Putin has been doing is the opposite of basic Judo. In fact I often wondered how it never occurred to him to apply those principles of “the flexible way” to politics.

      “n this argument, Western actions against Russia can backfire to Russia’s long-term advantage. Western dominance of the economic order, Lukyanov points out, is premised on the West’s role as an honest broker and one that lets the laws of the free market reign. But politically motivated financial sanctions against such a powerful country could expose that premise as flawed, accelerating efforts by non-Western countries (led by China) to come up with alternatives.”

      These other BICS nations all trade more with “the West” than each other, and they have no reason to give up that sweet deal so as to help Russia become another “pole” in the world. Now of course China has a new neo-colony, as they are fully aware Russia has no alternatives.

      ” addition, Russia could be well-suited to unite its right-wing counterrevolution against the liberal West with a left-wing antiglobalist movement, offering an ideological alternative to the West.

      “The world as a whole is growing increasingly tired of the lack of alternatives to the U.S.-centric order,” Lukyanov writes. “If a real confrontation begins, Russia will seek to use objective weaknesses of the world leader. If Moscow sides with advocates of a revision of the current international system, which it has never supported before, this may significantly change the global balance of power.””

      Again, fantasy. First of all, a LOT of that part of the world that is sick of US dominance(assuming its as strong as it was in the past) is also anti-Russian. And those guys don’t fuck around.

      Second, as usual they overestimate the efficacy of their propaganda, and this is combined with a lack of knowledge about the political systems they’re looking at. Not to mention the fact that any sincere conservative who gets a look at Russian society will realize right away that it’s no bastion of morality and traditional values. All you need is a account to realize that.

  1. Asehpe

    Western press is often also less than well acquainted with the countries they write about and their political systems (some exceptional journalists nonwithstanding). But never to the extent you see in Russia. I wonder how much publicity those “sessession requests” that many Southerners filled in with the White House after Obama’s reelection received in the Motherland, and how many ‘America specialists’ leapt with glee, claiming more evidence of the imminent collapse of the US.

    I suppose there’s no difference between news and entertainment in Russia. The news are just another way to entertain the public by feeding them what they want to hear (after the Kremlin made them want that, of course — I remember when Estonia was puiblic enemy #1, then it was Latvia, and then Poland, and now it’s Ukraine…)

    1. Estragon

      Anything, however ridiculous or implausible, which looks like a secession movement in the USA gets plenty of play in Russian media. It’s actually kind of entertaining. In 2009 the “America expert” Igor Panarin predicted the US would break up in 2010. He even outlined exactly how. Recently on RT I watched bits of a documentary on the Hawaiian independence movement. They love that kind of stuff.

  2. jonathan

    I think you need to start popularizing the use of the word “злорадство” (zloradstva) – instead of schadenfreude in English language 🙂

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      That does sound a bit better, because schadenfreude is supposed to be “shameful joy,” whereas I’d translate zloradstvo as “evil joy.” Evil sounds better.

  3. jonathan

    Want cheering up? This is article is pure comedy gold:

    “2010 is of course long gone, but the US is still alive and kicking. Is it time to dismiss my 2010 hypothesis as irrelevant? Apparently, no.”

    “My forecasts seem to be coming true. ”

    “Remarkably, a number of analysts in the United States share this opinion. Gerald Celente predicts a disintegration of the US in 2012, while Stephen Cohen projects a similar outcome for 2013.” ROFL!!

  4. jonathan

    😉 He’s your bog-standard Russian nationalist peddling utter nonsense under the guise of a university title… the type of analysts RT have a big boner for.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I did read his biography after Estragon pointed him out, and the scary thing is that he actually worked for the KGB, meaning that it was kind of his JOB to know about the US. I’m guessing there must have been at least a couple decades near the end of the Cold War when the US wasn’t in danger at all.

    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Even years ago I suspected that many of these guys just said: “Okay, our country fell apart. Now it’s time for the US to fall apart.” Nobody takes into account the vastly different economic, legal, and social conditions of the two countries. “States” in the US aren’t like union republics in the USSR.

      1. Estragon

        Yes, exactly. And US states aren’t ethnic units, so local ethnic nationalism isn’t a factor (or not a very big one). They also don’t get that separation of powers makes it impossible to carve up the USA in a way similar to the USSR, where the Communist Party leadership did so against the wishes of most of the population.

  5. Pingback: Grasping at straws | Russia Without BS

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