Those of you with enough morbid curiosity to watch the Kremlin’s bizarro-world reality show in the Donbas might already be familiar with the “American volunteer” who goes by the name of “Texas,” supposedly because he’s from the capital, Austin. I don’t for a second believe this man is “fighting” at all, knowing the nature of pro-Russian propaganda and its habit of using reality TV techniques to create “heroes.”
So who is this American volunteer who so willingly makes himself a mouthpiece in a conflict he clearly does not understand? Well when I first saw him in a video he describes himself as a “Communist,” one with a long history in the movement. He claims he came to Donbas to fight “Nazis,” but if you know your DNR/LNR facts, the rebels have their share of “Nazis.” Not only does he not seem to show the slightest grasp of Communist theory (which only makes him fit in even better with other pro-Russian “Communists”), but my connections in American Communist/Leftist circles haven’t managed to find anyone who knew “Texas” or knew of him. A lot of the language he has used on social media debunks the idea that he was ever a Communist or leftist. For example, in this video, he refers to Obama as a “monkey.”
From the moment I heard of this guy something was very fishy. Turns out I was right. Remember yesterday’s post about how pathetic the Russian “information war” really is? Well here’s another example of how they tried to create another fantasy that quickly unraveled.
“Texas” is in fact Russell Bonner Bentley. Here is his Facebook page, and here is some more info that includes his associations with far rightists such as the German Manuel Ochsenreiter, and everyone’s favorite American Duginite, Mark Sleboda. I’m sure anyone with more knowledge of the European far right can look at those names and find even more fascist friends of the guy who says he came to Donbas to “fight fascists.” Conspiracy theorist Pepe Escobar is there, as is RT Crosstalk host Peter Lavelle. But it just gets better and better.
Turns out Bentley is a convicted drug dealer/smuggler. Here’s a news story about his sentencing, and here are the court documents. To be totally fair, the drug he was convicted of smuggling was marijuana, so it’s not like he’s Scarface or something. It’s just another example of Russian propaganda making a “hero” out of someone who doesn’t deserve it, and using them to regurgitate their propaganda. This also says a lot about the kind of people who are attracted to the Kremlin’s cause. Put simply- they aren’t exactly winners. Oftentimes these Russophiles support the Kremlin specifically and paradoxically because they benefit from the effects of corruption and degeneracy which Putin’s system maintains. Occasionally you get someone who’s at least clever and senses the government’s willingness to throw money at any foreigner, particularly a Westerner, who is willing to repeat their message. All you have to do is show up and write a few paragraphs, liberally sprinkling in words like geopolitics, neocons, neo-liberal, BRICS, and color revolution. Incidentally, I don’t think Russell is one of those people.
The only thing that really pisses me off about this guy is that he appears in videos and calls himself a Communist. He clearly isn’t a Communist and most likely never was, and yet he had to say that, thus giving ammunition to status-quo supporters who have been working very hard for the past decade or so to equate the far left and far right. Russia, of course, has done a fine job of helping them in that effort as well. If Russell hadn’t made these claims, I would have dismissed him as another confused American right-winger and I wouldn’t have even cared to learn anything about him.
Sadly for Russell, there’s a lot of rumors flying around that the DNR and LNR are not doing so hot, and might not last to the end of the year. Remember that Russia is basically footing the bill for virtually everything in these quasi-states, and the Kremlin knows that there’s bad economic news on the horizon. Let’s hope that in the event of a collapse, the Russian authorities at least remember to grant “Texas” a Russian visa so he can fly back home to anonymity from Moscow rather than get left behind in Dontesk to explain himself to the Ukrainian authorities.