Monthly Archives: June 2015

Hell freezes over

What better way to commemorate the US Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage than to take a look at the reaction of Russian TV host Dmitry Kiselyov after hearing the news? Man he must have had a field day with this, seeing as how he’s always trying to portray Western society as degenerate and perverse. Listening to him and some other Russian propagandists, you’d think every major street in America has a gay pride parade every weekend. I’m sure he must have blew his top on his last show. Let’s see what he said.

“One of the most controversial conservative pundits in the Russian television, Dmitry Kiselyov, has unexpectedly stated his support for same-sex civil unions.”

HA HA! He- Wait. What? He said what?!

“On his TV show this week, Kiselyov told viewers, “We can manage to make life easier for adults who want—both informally and formally—the responsibility of taking care of each other. In the end, love works wonders, and who’s against that?” Kiselyov also stated plainly, “The LGBT community is a fact.”

What is going on here? Did Victoria Nuland give him a cookie? Did someone put Russophobia drugs in his tea? How did this happen?

All joking aside, I actually commend Kiselyov not only for what he said, but for not using what would have been a perfect opportunity to stoke not only more homophobia, but more anti-American hatred as well. Kiselyov is by no means a little guy, but his position is also another reason why his statement could be considered bold, especially in these times.

Yes, everyone remembers what this man has said before about LGBT people. Yes, he is part of a propaganda machine that will no doubt continue to put out homophobic propaganda to distract from the failures of the corrupt government, but it’s hard to believe that Kiselyov would take such a risk of saying such a thing, especially considering his audience, if he didn’t have some sincere feelings backing those words.

And yes, those words are a far cry from taking a firm stand on equality, but few heterosexual people my age can honestly claim they were for total LGBT equality all their lives. I was raised in a conservative, religious environment. I wasn’t exposed to Westboro Baptist Church-levels of hatred and I never obsessed over the issue, but to say my views were enlightened or progressive would be an utter lie. I harbored negative opinions about gays and their rights in spite of the fact that for many years I lived in a neighborhood with a very large, noticeable gay presence, and I even worked a summer job at a gay-owned business. Years later I would kick myself for being so stupid as to harbor negative thoughts towards people who had never once done anything remotely negative toward me. Looking back it seemed like wanting to see people treated like second-class citizens because they happened to have green eyes or brown hair.

I know I said and wrote a lot of horrible things back in those days and I’d hate to be judged by those words instead of what I believe since I learned the truth about issues like this one. We cannot rule out the possibility that Kiselyov might be going through his own transformation, trying to express a sincere opinion and still remain safe. When it comes from Kiselyov, we should not give into the crushing Russian cynicism and give the man credit, with caution of course.

I have to admit I want to believe he’s being sincere. I want to believe love wins.

We Report, You Question More

So lately I learned that some people are really upset about my attitude towards RT. While I believe my attitude toward the network is justified, it’s necessary to go back into Russia Without BS history and examine how and why that stance changed over the years.

First of all, I started this blog in the early autumn of 2013. I mentioned RT in the original FAQ because insofar as the blog was intended to critique media coverage about Russia, that question was bound to come up. Even before that, RT was being dismissed as a state-run propaganda channel in a manner that was rather blunt and ignored very important nuances.

My best friend had been working at RT for quite some time back then and believe me, he was no Putin supporter. He explained how at RT they would not make things up, nor were they ordered to do so, but rather they would jump on certain stories while ignoring others. Stories that made the US or its allies look bad were always welcome, but stories about problems in Russia or the opposition tended to get a cooler reaction. That being said, this doesn’t mean they went unreported in general, it just means the reaction to a story about a protest in the US and an opposition protest in Russia would be totally different.

Realistically speaking, at that point RT didn’t really diverge from practices that are very common in the news media. When it comes to covering Russia for example, Western outlets typically focused on more sensationalist things such as bombastic quotes from nationalist figures, military parades, and prostitution and/or mail order brides. Naturally many editors must be thanking their lucky stars over Russia’s recent attempt to portray itself as menacing with bombastic rhetoric and provocative military exercises. Even with all that, a story about prostitutes in some regions raising their prices due to the falling ruble still made big headlines in the English-speaking news media. The fact that lots of companies were raising prices on everything, you know, because that’s what inflation essentially leads to, just wasn’t interesting enough. When it’s Eastern Europe, you’ve always got to mention prostitution or desperate foreign men seeking brides.

The fact that RT would often have some weird guests on the air also doesn’t set it apart from many Western outlets. CNN, to use Team Russia’s favorite whipping boy, gave a whole show to Lou Dobbs, who not only had guests that were tied to white supremacist groups, but also mainstreamed the “birther” conspiracy, which claimed Obama’s presidency was illegitimate due to his not being a natural born citizen. CNN’s Crossfire originally starred Pat Buchanan, and apparently now has folks like Newt Gingrich and S.E. Cupp. Glenn Beck also got his start in TV on CNN. Piers Morgan interviewed Alex Jones. Ann Coulter still gets regular appearances on TV. I want to make the list longer but I’m trying to limit it to faces that appear on all networks as opposed to say, Fox News.

In short, RT definitely doesn’t have a monopoly on giving a platform to fringe figures or letting people speak with authority on issues they know nothing about. There was a time, and I would say it was before 2013 and especially before Euromaidan in Ukraine, when you really couldn’t honestly say that RT was significantly different from some of the major “Western” American media networks. What happened is that since then, not only did RT change, but the whole Russian media underwent a change. Some outlets such as RT, The Moscow News, and the English version of RIA-Novosti were too objective and thus had to be replaced by “information warfare”-outlets or at least get in line with such tactics. This is where it started to kick into high gear and RT jumped the shark.

Incidentally I have a theory as to why this happened at that moment. If you observe RT, you’ll notice that it can be rather balanced on issues that aren’t a priority for the Kremlin. They’ll even report on serious problems in Russia, as I’ve pointed out in the past. Where it goes haywire is when the Kremlin is trying to prop up its line on the international stage. This is why the most egregious examples of propaganda tend to revolve around topics like Ukraine.

Of course when you point out the network’s bias, the response from supporters is usually- So what? The “mainstream” media is just as biased! Well no, no it isn’t, and when it is, it’s for different reasons most of the time. For example, according to Team Russia, the “Western media” was covering up the nationalist presence in the Maidan movement. I find this hard to believe, because if they actually knew there was such a presence they would have made more of an effort to take photos that excluded nationalist flags and symbols. If anything they unwittingly exaggerated the nationalist presence. Unwittingly is the key word here because one main reason Western reports weren’t chock full of talk about nationalists is that most of their writers and reporters don’t know dick about Ukrainian history and the history of Ukrainian nationalism. I bet if they thought anything at all, they probably assumed the red and black flags belonged to anarchists. Loads of reporters have to do short, routine stories about what’s going on in the world, and for them it’s just easy enough to say that there’s this continuing protest in Kyiv, and it’s all because these people want to join the European Union. Incidentally, Russian propaganda didn’t dispute that point, whereas many Maidan participants would.

Okay, so the people whose job is to write short stories about international news are just ignorant, but what about the correspondents who live in those countries? Are they biased? You certainly do get the occasional self-righteous correspondent who comes here with preconceived notions and then seeks only to confirm them *COUGH!* LUKE HARDING! *COUGH!* Excuse me. That does happen, but the recent crop of correspondents I’ve seen working for outlets like ViceThe Guardian, etc. are pretty objective. I know this because I see them getting continually attacked by people on both sides of Russia vs. Ukraine, upset because these reporters won’t confirm their personal narrative of the conflict. It’s not just private media either. Voice of America is literally state-run and yet they made stories like these, showing both sides of the Donbas conflict and showing the suffering of civilians on the rebel side.

Another important point to consider is the fact that many pro-RT critics of “the mainstream” media are happy to use “mainstream media” articles to back up their claims. But if that media is so biased, and deliberately so, why would those articles ever get published? Going back to claims about the Western media covering up the nationalist element in Maidan, I have, since the riots broke out, kept track of every mainstream outlet article about the far-right in Ukraine I happen to run across. They come from a diverse spectrum of outlets, such as the BBC and The Guardian, and even the rabidly anti-Kremlin publication The Interpreter. Mark Adomanis has written on the subject, as have Leonid Bershidsky and even extremely pro-EU, liberal writer Anton Shekhovtsov. Add to this list of journalists Christopher Miller, Mark Galeotti, Simon Ostrovsky, Oliver Carroll, Alec Luhn, Anna Arutunyan, and Natalia Antonova. Why them? Simply because I have seen all of them get labeled as Kremlin propagandists because they failed to strictly uphold some people’s narrative on the Ukrainian conflict. If the allegations of a deliberate anti-Russian information war were true, these people shouldn’t have jobs. All of them routinely go “off script,” typically with no consequences beyond some angry Canadian Ukrainian on Twitter calling them a Kremlin whore.

Still, there are some who insist that the Western media doesn’t give enough credit to “the Russian side.” Well, the problem with that is twofold. First of all, there is never just one Russian side. They tend to shotgun their claims, throwing out multiple, often contradictory explanations and hoping that one sticks. Their coverage on MH17 is a perfect example, and this is just dealing with RT, not other state-owned outlets or the Russian domestic press, which have put out even more theories. Second, look what happens when you try to confirm stories from “the Russian side.”  Correspondents who know Russia and see stories such as the “Crucified boy of Sloviansk” aren’t obliged to take these stories seriously for the sake of artificial “balance.”

What this all boils down to is basically this: No, RT is not like the “mainstream media,” with one exception- Fox News. Allow me to demonstrate.

-Fox News does not claim to be a conservative network. Instead it claims the rest of the media, which it often refers to as the “mainstream media,” is biased. Sound familiar?

-Fox News will put almost anyone with a conservative message on the air, often allowing them to speak on topics they know little, if anything about. “Joe the Plumber” comes to mind. At RT, any guest that can regurgitate what they read on Sputnik News can get the title of “political analyst” and speak with authority on any subject, including countries they’ve never been to. And before any RT fans balk at that, I learned this from former employees at RT, one of whom told me that “political analyst” is a sort of generic title whenever they have someone who lacks any real credentials. Here are a couple articles about RT’s guests with unusual theories, and one about a very mislabeled guest. What is more, RT has actually misrepresented guests quite frequently when it comes to Ukraine.

-Fox News will make scandals out of certain issues while ignoring others, often asserting that the other networks aren’t reporting on the scandal because of their liberal bias. This is similar to any number of claims about the “biased, Western, mainstream media.”

-Fox News is known for having a severe lack of decency at times, for example demonizing unarmed black youth who are shot by police. By comparison, RT published this conspiracy theory about the Charlie Hebdo massacre within about a day of the attack.

-Fox News has been known for its worshipful coverage of certain figures, for example George W. Bush and especially Ronald Reagan.

*See footnote for full documentary

RT does the same with Putin.

-Fox News is clearly biased in favor of conservative republicans, so while they’ll have “opposing views,” these are usually people who aren’t really very well known on the left. Often times they cave into the conservative host, thus demonstrating the correctness of the conservative talking points.

RT doesn’t even go that far, which is one reason why Ofcom took the network to task in the UK. On RT you can have guests who say Euromaidan was engineered by the CIA to spread liberal, left-wing values, and you can have a left-wing guest that says it’s all about spreading fascism and neo-liberal economic policies, but I’ve yet to see any conversation with, for example, actual, verified Maidan participants, particularly from the more popular segments of the protests. Just as Fox News viewers tended to believe that Saddam Hussein was linked to 9/11 in spite of the fact that the network didn’t explicitly make this claim, it would seem a lot of RT consumers seem to have bought into the “fascist coup d’etat”/”illegitimate junta” claims. I also see a lot of concern for the bombing of civilians in the rebel occupied regions of the Donbas, but nothing about those civilians on the government-controlled side who were shelled by the rebels. Incidentally, those people were, up until last year, also “poor persecuted Russian speakers” and residents of the rebel “republics.” VOA apparently has no problem showing the story of those who have suffered at the hands of the Ukrainian armed forces. Why can’t RT show the same on the other side?

I could go on, but I think the reader gets the idea. While there are key differences, Fox is the closest analog to RT- they have an agenda, though Fox claims it’s “fair and balanced” in response to liberal media bias and RT says it’s just an “alternative, Russian point of view(or 37 alternative points of view),” again all in opposition to a conspiratorial media bias. Both networks are often the odd one out when it comes to their coverage, and yet this is used to prove that they are somehow providing truth that the establishment doesn’t want you to know. I must digress a bit here, but I find it funny that the network of the neocons and the people who constantly drone on about neocons are so remarkably similar in every way. Hey, “political analysts,” perhaps the “mainstream media” said no WMDs were found in Iraq, but Fox was just trying to provide an alternative point of view! Is that so bad? Question more!

In conclusion, I have been extremely fair to RT since long before I started writing. I’d even considered working there in the past and I still know people who work there or used to work there. Call me a Kremlin whore all you like for admitting that. I condemned those hypocrites who attacked former employees of the company, and I staunchly oppose those who say that any CV with RT on it should be immediately discarded. Sure, you can say that even those people who work behind the scenes are contributing to the final product, but how far are you willing to take that? Are we going to start condemning the secretaries, the janitors, and the IT people who work for that outlet? Are you really sure that your employer isn’t involved in anything unethical or questionable, or investing in companies that are? The fact is that RT does have a lot of employees who don’t agree with its message or practices. You can condemn them all you like, but just be sure to leave them a few suggestions as to where they might seek better employment. This is the kind of condemnation that could actually extend to almost any person employed in Russia.

As for those who produce the content, as far as I know there still is a lot of editorial leeway on most issues, which means critics should save their criticism for those who willingly promote propaganda when they do not have to. For the rest, I’ve been told many times, by multiple people, that the network changed. If I noticed the same changes from the outside, it stands to reason that they are right. I sympathize with them because in a way, the same thing happened with Russia. People have treated me with suspicion because I live here and tend to vehemently dispute certain talking points on the “Western” side. As the situation seems to get worse with no end in sight, I begin to wonder how I’ll be received abroad, especially back in the US. How do I explain to people that it was a completely different country up until a couple of years ago? In 2006 choosing to live in Russia was a totally apolitical issue.

At the end of the day, if RT isn’t taken seriously its management and news makers have nobody to blame but themselves. If they truly have real editorial freedom, they ought to be able to correct a lot of the practices they’ve been busted for. Maybe get some rational pro-Ukrainian people on there for once and stop selling the myth of the “fascist junta,” seeing as how Russia has recognized the Ukrainian government since at least the election of Poroshenko, whereas by contrast the Russian government does not recognize the separatist republics in the Donbas and often refers to them as “self-proclaimed.” Maybe stop implying that people only get out in the streets and protest because the US instigates it. RT was actually nominated for an Emmy award due to its coverage of Occupy Wall Street. Were those people paid to protest? Did the Russian government engineer that? Were they all on drugs?

Nobody can claim RT isn’t aware there’s a problem because if that weren’t the case, they wouldn’t filter out some of the Russian domestic media’s wackier claims, particularly those that involve made-up stories or poor Photoshop-altered images. Someone there must know about the concept of journalist integrity and credibility. If they really have as much editorial freedom as they claim, let them take advantage of it and clean the place up. Otherwise, well, let’s just say: If the shoe fits…

*Outfoxed – The must-see documentary.

Appetizers

I’m working on a bigger piece today, but since it will take a while I just wanted to get a couple things out there.

You know those annoying sites that expect you to pay to read something on the internet? Arrogant bastards the lot of them. Today, however, I discovered a WSJ article which manages to provide some entertainment just above the cutoff which demands your submission. Check it out:

“Russia’s assault on Ukraine over the past year has made it clear that President Vladimir Putin is out to reassemble as much of the former Soviet Union as he can, having once called its collapse “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Is that clear? Then why isn’t he annexing the Donbas territories occupied by the rebels and his forces? That is conceivably the closest he can get to reassembling the former Soviet Union. As is often the best evidence for this overused cliche, he cites the infamous “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” quote.

Now to be sure, Putin’s quote is idiotic in some ways, considering how the USSR collapsed in the 20th century and there were a few other geopolitical catastrophes that happened in that same century. Catastrophes which, incidentally, claimed far more lives and caused far more destruction than the collapse of the USSR. That being said, there certainly were massive negative aspects of the collapse of the USSR which Westerners often don’t acknowledge, one of them being Putin and his system.

Looking back (and I might be changing my opinion on this matter), I think this was another example of Putin speaking to his base. The clue, which I wouldn’t have paid as much attention to when I first heard of the quote, is the word “geopolitical.” Putin’s speaking to those vatniks whose lament about the loss of the Soviet Union is tied to the loss of perceived Russian power, insofar as the USSR gradually turned from an internationalist movement into a sort of neo-Russian empire. Apart from cheap food prices and “stability,” these people have no desire to repair or construct a socialist society. That this was the case in the 70’s and 80’s is in fact the reason why the USSR collapsed in the first place, but they aren’t aware of this because they put all the blame on America and Gorbachev, even if they were the ones dealing on the black market, avoiding work, and stealing from their workplaces.

What the base wants is to be feared. They want the right to force their language on all former Soviet territories and dictate the history of the people in those countries. They’re happy to live in shit so long as they are sure some Ukrainian or Caucasians have it worse. They get upset whenever they see those people striving for something better.

This is all very tragic because this worldview actually rejects almost everything positive the USSR ever contributed. You don’t see these people fighting to save and advance science in Russia, for example. No, let’s just build more churches and “spiritual patriotic education centers!” Never mind the fact that Russia is currently the only country with the capability of putting humans into space, meaning the would actually have a head-start in this cutting-edge scientific endeavor…

Anyway, this is turning into a rant so let me say this: No, Putin is not trying to restore the Soviet Union. He’s doing exactly what any capitalist regional power would do, only in a more heavy-handed fashion due to the fact that he’s guided by the bankrupt, long-obsolete theory of geopolitics.

As for Bulgaria, which the article is about, they ought to think twice about accepting help from Russia. All you have to do is deviate just a little to go from “brother people” to “filthy whores of the West.”

And now for some good news!

Recently I saw this excellent article that was shared by Maxim from Hromadske.tv. It’s about a tendency that I’ve been referring to as “Little Russia,” mainly because I know the people responsible for this tendency hate that term even more. The author calls it “Ukrainian exceptionalism.” I might not agree with all the points 100%, but what I really like is how the author pointed out this:

“Likewise, among Ukraine’s friends abroad there is precious little tolerance for views that dissent from the dominant party line that Ukraine’s current government is the best it has ever had, and that the West must provide not only political and financial support, but also supply it with lethal weapons to fight the Russians in Donbas.”

I’m not going to argue over the question of providing weapons to Ukraine, but I highlight that quote because it points out that many of the most hysterical “defenders” of Ukraine in fact live abroad. Probably the worst among them are the “Ukrainian” diaspora. I put that in quotes because many of them are several generations removed, can’t speak a sentence of Ukrainian, and in any cases have never set foot in Ukrainian. Even if by some DNA test you could prove that I have no Ukrainian heritage, I’d still be more Ukrainian than them in a practical sense, AKA the sense that actually matters.

Also I like how it critiques the idiotic line about how “Ukraine has the right to define its heroes.” Okay then, who is Ukraine? Why should people whose movements or organizations never garnered the support of more than a fraction of the Ukrainian populace be enshrined as untouchable heroes? Of course many of these types, sensing that you’re talking about Bandera, Shukhevych, etc. will say something like, “Oh no, most of us don’t even care about that! You’re really exaggerating the popularity of those organizations!” Bullshit. Watch what happens if you say anything bad about them, in particular if you say they don’t deserve to be Ukrainian heroes. If they’re not such a big deal, those Saturn V explosions of butt-fury wouldn’t occur.

Lastly, there’s a famous saying that is generally rendered: “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” This applies to history of nations as well. Just as Russia’s “political scientists” and experts can concoct explanations as to why the independence of Ukraine and the Baltic states is illegitimate, how the transfer of the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR was illegal, how the reunification of Germany was an “annexation,” how MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian Buk SAM and/or a Su-25, or how the moon landing was faked, Ukrainian and diaspora intellectuals can concoct their fairy tales about the Ukrainian Insurgent Army’s heroic campaign against the German occupiers, also known as the partisan war the Germans some how forgot to document. They can also weave taller tales about how the UPA saved Jews as opposed to killed them, how the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Bandera had nothing to do with the pogroms of 1941 and subsequent mass killings of Jews, and how the Poles of Volyn were actually armed and thus the ethnic cleansing campaign of 1943 was actually a symmetrical war as opposed to deliberate genocide. They, like their Russian counterparts, can fell acres of forests to print tens of thousands of tomes “proving” all that, but the rest of the world doesn’t need to bow to Ukrainian history any more than it needs to bow to Russian history. History entails criticism. Nations that prefer to construct a soothing fantasy narrative will, in the long run, fall behind if not fail.

That’s all from me at the moment. It’s definitely worth the read.

Inconvenient questions about Color Revolutions

Here’s another interesting article about the Kremlin’s obsession with “color revolutions,” which some people have taken to calling “Maidans.”

I’ve written plenty on this topic before, but once again there are some questions that people should really start asking about color revolutions, especially if they take the Kremlin’s side on this topic.

1. Pro-Kremlin sources accuse the West and particularly the US of orchestrating the Arab Spring uprisings. They seem to forget that numerous Arab Spring uprisings occurred in regimes which were either US allies, or allies with US allies. Some of these included the Mubarak regime of Egypt, which was a long-time recipient of massive amounts of US aid, and then you have those uprisings against the Iraqi government, Bahrain, Jordan, just to name a few. See for yourself.

Now if you followed those protests closely, you could definitely notice a wide difference between the way the US acted towards regimes it favored versus those it was either unfriendly to, or which it considered expendable. It is naive to think that the US had no strategic interests in favoring some protest movements while favoring its allied governments against others. That being said, however, why did those other protest movements happen at all then, especially in light of the US winding down its military presence in the region? If it’s all about knocking over Libya, which had been extremely cooperative with the US up to at least 2010, and Syria, due to its connection with Iran, why not just foment uprisings there?

“But wait,” a Putin fan says. “Maybe some other Kremlin fans and the state media are saying all the protests were orchestrated by the US, but I’m not. Those protests in Iraq, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. were genuine!”  Ah alright then- so why didn’t the US just suppress those uprisings? I don’t mean via the government either. Remember, the US supposedly has the ability to conjure government-toppling protest movements out of thin air. How is it possible that they cannot also sabotage and deflate actual, grass roots protest movements? Can they not use their NGO’s, politicians, and biased journalists to discredit, divide, and confuse such movements? If not, why not? Seems to me it’s harder to organize such a revolution than it is to squash one before it gets off the ground.

2. Speaking of orchestrated protests, we’re constantly hearing about the “BRICS alternative.” What’s that “B” stand for? Brazil! And what country has had a series of ongoing protests against their government, some of which with a noticeable right-wing presence? Brazil! Somehow the government hasn’t been overthrown, in spite of the alleged incentive for the US to knock the “B” off of BRICS, which would actually reduce it to ICS, seeing as how Russia no longer meets the original criteria. Perhaps the government’s response has more to do with this than just a lazy CIA agent not monitoring the protests closely enough.

3. Why haven’t they managed to overthrow the government of Belarus? It’s not like Lukashenko has been much harder than Yanukovych. And given all the economic horrors Belarus has been going through in the past few years you’d think they could have pulled a Minsk Maidan off a long time ago. In fact, why didn’t they orchestrate concurrent color revolutions in Ukraine and Belarus at the same time to throw off any Russian response? I mean we’re talking about the omnipotent CIA, the NED! Why can they always accomplish some things so easily, and yet totally screw up other things?

4. Why didn’t the US pull off a color revolution in Russia years ago, even more than a decade ago, during America’s drunken regime change bender? Yeah, sure, the truth that no Kremlin fan wants to admit is that the US and Russia were actually buddy-buddy during that time, but still, that should have been an opportune time as Russia was in some ways weaker then (especially militarily), and there was a lot more personal freedom, the bane of the regime’s existence.

5. Speaking of which, if the US orchestrated protests in 2011 and 2012, which contrary to The Moscow Times article I linked in the beginning, weren’t actually suppressed that brutally, why didn’t the US then orchestrate more protests in late 2013, concurrent with Euromaidan? Think about it- In 2012 the government started cracking down on protests and dissent, but it was still nothing like in 2014. So the Ukrainians rise up, and that’s used as a spark to trigger the new round of protests in Russia. After all, Putin’s approval ratings prior to the Crimean annexation were still in the toilet. What’s that you say? The Russian protest movement wouldn’t have got off the ground because of the supposedly anti-Russian nature of Maidan in Ukraine? Well about that…

6. Kremlin supporters called Euromaidan a neo-Nazi coup. Here’s a question- Since the US and other Western governments certainly aren’t fans of Nazism and openly decry racism, why did the revolution they orchestrated have any significant presence of far right extremists at all? I mean all these things are orchestrated by NGO’s, the NED, the CIA, and the US State Department, right? At the very least, they should have been concerned with how their own populations might react to knowing their government was endorsing radical far-rightists, if not neo-Nazis. They’d have to have been fully aware of how the Russian media would report it, and they would have been aware of the Russian media’s foreign language reach.

So when organizing Maidan, i.e. paying people, giving them cookies, and putting drugs in their tea (all real Russian claims), why didn’t they talk to the violent thugs and tell them not to carry or display any of their nationalist insignia? If you can orchestrate protests of this scale, why would you ever leave such a gaping hole in your narrative like this? I mean I didn’t even get my news on Euromaidan from Russian press, and yet in the beginning I still saw it as a largely right-wing dominated movement just based on the Western coverage alone. What was stopping the CIA or Nuland or whomever from immediately scratching the nationalist Tyahnybok from the opposition coalition and ordering all the nationalists who were allegedly the main force behind the “putsch” to conceal their politics? Is it just me or are these conspirators both super-geniuses and super-morons at the same time?

And not to dwell on Maidan too much, but what about those snipers? The “alternative” explanation provided by Russia’s media always insists that the conspirators were in on this somehow. They supposedly fired into the crowds, ostensibly to provoke them and escalate the violence. But how did they know that would be the result? What if the sniper fire and escalation caused people to disperse and go home? What if Yanukovych panicked and called out the army? What if he got really upset and started making peace offerings right there?

You see where this is starting to look like a poorly-written screenplay?

7. Why is it these color revolutions seem to work best in developing countries or those suffering from a lot of corruption and which have rotten political situations? In countries with functioning democratic systems, large protest movements are eventually courted by political parties. Even when those parties fail to deliver, their entrance into the fray typically leads to electoral victories which take the wind out of the movement’s sails. The anti-war movement in the US post Bush is a perfect example of this.

Turns out when you don’t give people this pressure  release valve, you make “color revolutions” the only possibility for change.

8. Why doesn’t Russia fund color revolutions to defend itself, instead of threatening everyone with nukes and invasion? How about this: Instead of annexing the Crimea and starting a war in the Donbas, Russia should have been able to wage a successful counter-protest movement/presidential election in May of 2014. They’d have had plenty of people to do it with. As it turns out, annexing Crimea and trying to annex the Donbas is what shaped the post-Yanukovych government. We’re constantly being told what a rising superpower Russia is, yet not only can it not openly admit to using its military to support an insurgency, it can’t even manage to pay people to protest and topple their governments as the US apparently can.

9. Why doesn’t the US ever sponsor color revolutions in developed liberal democracies when they pose a problem for US interests? For examples you could have Germany and France when they opposed the invasion of Iraq. Speaking of which, Canada refused to back the invasion as well. The US couldn’t do anything about that? Or why not Norway? It’d be nice to back a new government that would privatize Norway’s lucrative assets and get rid of that pesky ethical investment policy that governs their sovereign pension fund and excludes investment in so many major US companies.

You know, it’s almost like people in those countries have their own ideas and political movements, as well as reasonably functioning democratic systems. Thus the US State Department conspirators know that such efforts would inevitably fail.

10. This one’s addressed to you, anti-color revolution warrior. Why do you assume that people who protest have no agency, and that they are just puppets of the US? Do you have beliefs and values? Have you ever been involved in activism on behalf of those ideas? Would you like to be dismissed as an agent of a foreign state? Why should you be allowed to dissent while others have to tolerate corruption and incompetence indefinitely just because their nation is supposedly a disputed square on your grand chessboard view of the world?

The truth is that often times protests are influenced by slick PR and government-funded NGOs, and many of those NGOs are going to be peddling ideas which, while they may be packaged with genuinely positive ideas, may also contain core ideas that are designed to advance the interests of American or European businessmen first and foremost. That being said, grass roots movements still exist and when foreign observers don’t listen to those activists and write them off as dupes, it means those not-so-altruistic NGOs or politicians will maintain control over those movements. In the case of Maidan, so much of the international left, including myself I’m sad to say, bought into the “neo-Nazi dominated” narrative that we didn’t investigate and communicate with the movement to see what it was really about. Worse still, most international leftists have no familiarity with Ukraine or Russia, and as a result they became mouthpieces for Russian propaganda. This in turn strengthened the right’s hold in Ukraine, where a lot of people who weren’t necessarily hostile to left-wing ideas became so after seeing much of the world left repeating Russian propaganda talking points.

If color revolutions are a dastardly plot of the West to expand to new markets and dominate the world, maybe we ought to start asking why they always seem to show up  and succeed in certain countries but not others.  What is more important, maybe instead of just taking whatever we see to be the opposite side of any given color revolution, we should examine the real causes of each specific case. If more people did that, they might have more respect for foreign protesters and their motives, and maybe that would motivate them to activism in their own countries.

In reality, the Kremlin’s fears about color revolution have nothing to do with valuing national sovereignty or defending the Russian people from foreign domination. It has everything to do with the desire of Russia’s masters to stay in power and not be held accountable to their people. Since this means they can’t have free and fair elections, they need to maintain an increasingly authoritarian system- the kind that can only hypothetically be overthrown by a popular revolution if not a military coup. The fact is that its governments like these that make color revolutions.

Now will Russia’s regime change with such a popular revolution? No. I think we’re past that point. In fact, I think we’re at a point where that would have been a desirable outcome, and now the transition will actually be worse. The system has so destroyed civil society, interest in politics, and trust between people that not only is it impossible for a popular revolutionary movement to form, but it will be impossible to form a coherent political system after the regime falls.

Why will it fall? My money is on Putin somehow becoming incapacitated or suddenly dying. He’s the lynch pin of the system so when he’s not there, the scramble for Russia’s resources and control will begin, and the infighting will be nasty, especially with people like Kadyrov being involved.

Till then, however, the Kremlin keeps obsessing over color revolutions, which is really funny considering how they’re always touting Putin’s high approval ratings, now supposedly at 89%. Better safe than sorry must be their motto.

My First Troll Attack

So it turns out that a troll farm, though perhaps not the infamous one in St. Petersburg, has targeted this blog. The bombardment of poorly-worded nonsense comments appeared on this post, which is, appropriately enough, about the subject of pro-Kremlin trolls. Interestingly, however, the comments all focus on reporter Adrian Chen and Lyudmila Savchuk, who successfully sued the Internet Research, the most visible and famous troll farm. I highlight that point because the blog post really isn’t about either of those subjects; it’s about how sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between a paid-troll and some run-of-the-mill American dumbass.

It would seem to me that the bombardment of comments mentioning Chen and Savchuk, complete with hashtags, is probably part of some harebrained propaganda effort aimed at those two, wherever mentions of their name or articles about them appear, rather than some kind of direct attack on Russia Without BS. I say this in spite of the fact that one Russian troll, possibly based in London, did attempt to create mischief here a couple days ago.

If you look at the article in question, you will see that I let a few of the comments through, when it was not clear that there was any kind of pattern. The rest I marked as spam, but here you can see the comments dashboard with their info and messages:

Note they imply that Chen and Savchuk got the Internet Research company shut down. I have seen no evidence of this, in spite of the fact that Savchuk's suit was, as far as I know, successful.

Note they imply that Chen and Savchuk got the Internet Research company shut down. I have seen no evidence of this, in spite of the fact that Savchuk’s suit was, as far as I know, successful.

That last one is indicative of the kind of pride and diligence that these people, paid by the government, put into their craft.

That last one is indicative of the kind of pride and diligence that these people, paid by the government, put into their craft.

As the reader can see, some of the names have the same IP address. Many have Russian email accounts. Where they do not, they have Russian IPs.

Why hi-diddly-ho, neighborino!

Why hi-diddly-ho, neighborino!

trollattack3

As I wrote before, I don’t know exactly what their game is with this latest scheme. I’m sure it all makes perfect sense in the minds of the managers who came up with it. One talking point seems to be the idea that the troll factor has been shut down. I have seen no concrete evidence that this is the case. Furthermore, I’ve seen evidence that Internet Research isn’t the only company engaged in this.

Given the low volume of comments here, it’s entirely possible that this whole operation, at least on this blog, was carried out by one person, two at max. Once again, I think this is part of a bigger campaign, probably to convince English-speaking comment readers to think that the whole troll operation is over. Of course doing that while making the same boneheaded mistakes and using the same laughable techniques only goes to prove that the operation is clearly ongoing.

I can’t help but feel sorry for these people. It would be much better if they could get a real job and the money spent on this operation could be spent on fixing dilapidated roads or better yet- flood relief for southern Russia.

UPDATE: Apparently my suspicion that this is part of a wider attack on any media mentioning the troll factories has been confirmed. Check out the comments in this whataboutery-laden article and you will see some of the same fake names and hashtags in near-identical comments.

UPDATE: Similar trolling comments appear on this story about Savchuk.

Maidans everywhere!

So just as I and many others predicted, Russian officials and media sources have already started comparing Electro Yerevan to Euromaidan, and alleging that it’s orchestrated by the United States. It can’t possibly be the 16% increase in electricity prices, as the protesters claim. Surely they are on drugs; drugs that make you protest.

Would that it were only the paranoid Russian officials making this claim, however. Sadly, anti-Kremlin types have also been feeding the fantasy by comparing the protests to Maidan in spite of the fact that these protests have very little in common. For one thing, the cause is really clear and concrete- electric bill hikes. What is more, some sources have told me that in Armenia most people actually believe the Russian version of events when it comes to Maidan. Obviously people might use these protests as a forum for many other grievances, a common practice in many protest movements the world over, but I highly doubt any significant number of people decided to overthrow their government over something as simple as electricity prices.

I guess it’s inevitable that such obsession with “Maidans” is going to cause the Kremlin and its media minions to see every organized protest as a Maidan, including protests aimed at governments Russia sees as hostile. What I find funny, however, is that they never seem to wake up and learn why you don’t see these government-toppling protests in the US, UK, or even basketcase EU countries like Greece. It’s almost as if they have some kind of…immune system against things getting out of hand.

This isn’t too hard to figure out. Take the US for example. You have the Tea Party and Occupy. What happened with both of those movements is that they each had a connection to mainstream politics, though this was certainly more the case for the former. Even with Occupy, however, the Democratic party tried to siphon off votes. Virtually every election you see this debate between radical leftists, the debate as to whether voting makes a difference. A large chunk of people will always find some key issue that makes it worth voting- it could be fear of the opponent’s Supreme Court nominees, food stamps, or reproductive rights. Regardless of how one feels about these arguments, this kind of thing happens, and it works.

Put simply, liberal democracy has a release valve for venting pressure. Also the relative lack of censorship is a second release valve, one which is probably much more important. Sure, life can really suck for a lot of people in the States; it did for me. The nice thing, however, is there are just endless ways for you to vent this rage with impunity so long as you don’t commit any illegal acts like threatening bodily harm to public officials. In fact, the Russian government ought to be aware of this given their associations with groups like the Texas secessionists. Somehow the fact that this group is actually allowed to freely disseminate its message is totally lost on the “geopolitical experts” who think they’ve found a useful 5th column in the States, and it is precisely that freedom that keeps groups like that from getting any serious influence.

Russian society doesn’t have that release valve, which is part of the reason why its elite are constantly quaking at any protest movement that successfully removes a government. Hopefully Armenia isn’t like that. It would be better if Electro Yerevan doesn’t turn into a Maidan. So long as the government is cool-headed and makes an effort to respond to protesters’ just demands, and so long as they don’t take boneheaded advice from their Eurasian Union partner, this protest movement could be over in days. That being said, those of us not on the Kremlin side don’t do anyone any favors by comparing this to Maidan.

Calling it

So in case you’re not aware already, there is a mass demonstration taking place in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The initial cause of the protest was apparently a 16% hike in electricity prices. As was the case with Euromaidan, police cracked down hard on the protesters (actually much faster than they did in Kyiv), which brought more people out today. It is also worth noting that Armenia is a member of the so-called Eurasian Union.

Now that you know the true cause of the protests, sit back and laugh your ass off as pro-Kremlin media and Team Russia bloggers tell you that this is a CIA-financed “color revolution” aimed at wrenching Armenia away from its “brother nation” Russia, which incidentally maintains a military base on its soil and has been making all kinds of deals with genocide-denying Turkey as of late.

Naturally the people can’t be upset about electricity prices. Surely some American funded NGOs are paying them to go out and get hosed down by water cannons! Why can’t they be more like Russians, and just sit tight and grumble at steadily rising prices while calling it “stability?” This is what vatniks and their Western fellow travelers actually believe.

So mark my words- if the protests continue and worsen, Global Research will churn out a long, rambling piece detailing all the clues tying this protest to the CIA.