Children in charge

Let’s start with a little story time. A long time ago, when I was probably about seven, I had a little spat with some of the neighbor kids that shared the same after-school babysitter. At some point I unleashed my nuclear option at the time- I flipped them the bird. The two kids immediately said that they’d tell my mother that I’d used the rude gesture when she arrived to pick me up. Yeah, pathetic little snitches, I know. Of course this was a pretty serious threat in those days so I had to come up with a plan.

The first part of the plan was a little hazy, but I think I remember trying to spot my mom’s approaching car and get into it in the driveway, hopefully avoiding the two tattle-tales. As I remember this part of the plan worked, but for some reason she actually had to go visit the babysitter’s apartment, and that’s when I needed a Plan B. With the tactical thinking of a seven-year-old Sun Tzu, I came up with a brilliant gambit. I informed my mother that these two kids, who she would probably see in the apartment, were planning to lie to her about me, claiming that I gave them the middle finger. Jimmy, you magnificent bastard!

Of course this was met with skepticism.

“Why would they tell me you flipped them off if you didn’t do that?”

“We were arguing, and then they said they’d do that,” a basic paraphrase of my defense.

“Okay but why would they say you did that?”

So. After Action Review time. Clearly the preemptive denial was a bad idea, because in the mind of an adult it’s suspicious when their child says that other children are planning to falsely accuse them of some very specific offense. A better plan probably would have been to keep my mouth shut until my mother finished whatever business she had with the babysitter. For one, the children might have given up on their snitching plans, given their typically short attention spans. But had they told, I could have just feigned exasperation at their claims, as though I had no idea what this so-called “middle finger gesture” meant. It could have failed, but it had a much better shot than my proactive course of action.

The lesson learned? If you’ve done something bad, and you know someone’s about to expose it, don’t call attention to it and deny it in advance. This only invites suspicion. Of course I learned that at the age of seven, but what happens when you have a country whose leadership displays the mental age of a seven year old? Well you get this.

If you follow Russia on Twitter, you’ve no doubt heard about Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov’s recent warnings about a pre-planned “information attack” that was going to be launched by the “Anglo-Saxon” media (these guys?) against Russia and in particular, president Putin. Since then there has been some speculation as to exactly what Peskov was referring to, but today we see one possible example. Reuters, which has already broken a major story about corruption and Putin’s daughters, recently published another story that deals with corruption and the president’s family.

Typically the response of any Kremlin official to any revelation of their corrupt dealings is to blame America, specifically the State Department. Investigations such as that published by Navalny about the dirty deeds of prosecutor Chaika and his son are alleged to have been “ordered from abroad,” which of course means America. Naturally nobody ever comes forward to try an debunk any of these charges, nor do they ever present evidence that people like Navalny are working in conjunction with the US State Department or intelligence services, something that should be a piece of cake for the FSB. This time, however, the game plan had changed. Peskov and some other Russian “experts” were openly predicting an “information attack” against president Putin, as though everyone in Russia doesn’t already know that there’s corruption surrounding the president. In other words: “The West is going to say a bunch of mean things about our Glorious Leader and corruption, but don’t believe him because it’s just an information attack.” It didn’t work for seven-year-old me, and it hasn’t worked for the Kremlin either.

I could just end it here, but there are a couple more examples in that TASS article which demonstrate what I mean when I say that the country is in the hands of people with the minds of children. In that article, the author makes the case for their US government-ordered “information attack” by drawing a link between the Center for Public Integrity and one of its funders, the MacArthur Foundation. In the minds of pro-Kremlin “experts,” all you need to do is find a link between one thing, another thing, and then yet another thing that has some connection to the US State Department and then- BINGO! The whole investigation is nothing but a government-sponsored information attack!

In adult land, however, it’s worth taking a look at what this mysterious Center for Public Integrity organization actually is. The Center for Public Integrity was founded by ex 60 Minutes producer Charles Lewis, and its stated mission is “to reveal abuses of power, corruption and dereliction of duty by powerful public and private institutions in order to cause them to operate with honesty, integrity, accountability and to put the public interest first.” Hmmm…I don’t see anything about “fuck Russia” in there. But let’s dig deeper, starting with their home page. As of the time I was writing this, I didn’t notice any stories about Russia on the entire front page.

What are most of the stories about? The vast majority are about problems with American politics, and they certainly live up to their claims of being non-partisan. In fact, the CPI achieved fame early on for exposing the Lincoln bedroom scandal under the Clinton administration, and Bush’s insider trading in connection with Harken energy. How did I know about that, you ask? I’ve known it for years, ever since I watched this documentary that heavily features commentary from Charles Lewis and material from the CPI:

 

Yeah, there’s a real neocon film for you! That’s exactly the sort of thing the State Department would be associated with. Of course I’m just kidding. It’s obvious that this 2003 documentary, which is extremely critical of Bush’s Iraq invasion among many other US government policies, must have been nothing but an early information attack constructed by Vladimir Putin’s fledgling propaganda machine. They were just jealous because of America’s successful conquest and pacification of Iraq!

Obviously I jest, but that does seem to be the way many of these pro-Kremlin people think. Because their media system is largely a state-controlled top-down structure that sees information war and propaganda as its mission, a priori deciding that objective reality doesn’t exist, they assume, or I should say project the same idea onto the rest of the world’s media. They actually believe that journalists all around the world deliberately make up negative stories about Russia, when “negative” includes anything that contradicts the Kremlin’s narrative, and of course their editors are happy to publish those phony stories without question. Why not? This is how it works at First Channel; it must be how it works everywhere! It has to be, because otherwise feelings of guilt and uneasiness might arise. Best to believe everyone’s doing the same thing.

Let’s get one thing straight. There is bias in foreign media when it comes to Russia. If you pitch two stories to an editor, one about the vibrant new life one sees in Moscow’s new pedestrian areas and the other about some random Russian politician’s empty threats about nuking some country, we all know which one is more likely to get published. Add to this a very bizarre obsession with prostitution and mail order brides, particularly in the British press. But on the other hand, if you come to an editor and say you have a story about Russian soldiers butchering children in Donetsk, and when they ask you about your source and you reply that it’s just “some guy” but that the story should be published because it makes Russia look bad and we’re in an information war, you’ve got until the time that editor realizes you’re not joking before getting sacked. You’re done. Forever. In the Russian state media, however, this just doesn’t happen. If your story turns out to be bogus, you just shift the burden of proof to the viewers and say they must show that a certain little boy wasn’t crucified in Slovyansk.

It’s child-like thinking, and it’s just another reason why people really need not panic about this Kremlin propaganda offensive. It’s own internal contradictions essentially guarantee its demise, especially considering how much money is being spent on such an ineffective project. Any dissent within the system will almost inevitably be seen as disloyalty, and as is the case everywhere else in the power vertical, flattery and sycophancy get rewarded. The best they can do is confuse and spread cynicism, and if they’ve had any success at all it is largely due to the failure of Western governments. What sort of leaders let themselves be bested by children anyway?

Then again, maybe we got Peskov wrong all along. Maybe there is a bullshit story about Putin coming out of the West. Perhaps he was referring to this story that claims Putin is now dating Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng. But hey, if it’s true I say good for him. Deng really sticks up for her man:

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11 thoughts on “Children in charge

  1. Strykr5

    I find a very interesting contrast between the propaganda techniques you describe and those of the other powerful autocracy in the reigon:China. While the Russian apparatus loudly condemns it’s critics and let loose a slew of excuses,slander,threats and alternate theories, the Chinese state is largely sterile and apathetic to criticism of deep problems present in the country, preferring to gloss over the major issues and bombard the public with national achievements such as being the second largest economy in the world, successful space program, and objectively effective poverty reduction themes. It wants it’s citizens to embrace commercialism and capitalism, too busy enjoying the economic prosperity, jobs and material wealth to care about human rights and political freedom. The average Chinese citizen is therefore content with the status quo of an autocratic government as long as he gets to live in a comfortable apartment, work in a white collar office job and gets to go to Starbucks every day. This is quite a difference from the nationalismain drilled into the Russians on a daily basis and reminds me that there are many means of controlling a population.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      There’s a rather simple reason for this- China has accomplishments. Of course it has a lot of problems too, many worse than those of Russia, but until recently they were really kicking ass in economic terms.

      Russia had a similar scenario in the mid-2000’s: Enjoy consumerism and don’t rock the boat. However, too many Russians had too many ambitions, and they’d spent enough time abroad to understand that Putin’s system doesn’t work in the long term.

      Reply
    2. Jim Kovpak Post author

      I might add that it would seem the Chinese leadership, at least on some level, understands that prosperity is the best way to maintain control. In fact they might have known this ever since Deng took over.

      Putin’s circle doesn’t understand this. They think that propaganda and confusion will keep the population under control.

      Reply
  2. Callum C.

    The use of the word “Anglo-Saxon” is interesting in this context. It’s actually a common term in French political discourse, where it serves as a pejorative for the English-speaking world, similar to the word “Anglosphere”, but generally with more negative connotations. It served historically as a way for the French to transfer all their anti-British stereotypes onto the Americans.

    You tend to hear the word come up when a French politician is criticizing a piece of economic policy he/she doesn’t like, and wants to dismiss it as being “too British” or whatever. If you actually spend time learning about France, you’ll quickly notice that the French have some completely different assumptions that Brits or Americans about the role of the state, the position of language, what data you can and can’t collect from citizens, etc. The French are massive statists who regard the idea of federalism as anarchy, and French census agencies are prohibited from collecting information on ethnic origin, for example.

    As an aside, some people in Britain seem to be engaged in a parallel process of transferring their anti-French stereotypes onto the EU.

    It’s sort of interesting that Russian politicians have borrowed the term to describe their ideological opponents. Maybe they see it as a “sneaky” way to divide the West between the US/UK and continental Europe. I’m sure Peskov et. al. feel really clever using it.

    That being said, it seems that a considerable amount of the support (an particularly the useful kind of support) for Russia in Western countries comes from Francophones, Germans, and other non-Anglophone cultures. There are various reasons for this, so maybe Russia isn’t being completely stupid.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Wait a minute. How can you suggest that France, Britain, the US, and Germany are actually different, unique cultures? Don’t you know that they are part of the West, and thus have a monolithic culture that is totally different from Russian culture? But Russian culture, which is not Western, is actually true Western culture and Russia will surely save the West after its impending collapse…which is due for next month I’m sure.

      Reply
      1. Callum C.

        Ah, but by using a word that hardly anyone in the West who isn’t French understands, Russia is cleverly separating degenerate, gay Europe from the evil, Imperialistic US and its British and Canuckistani masters. Surely, without the evil Anglo-Saxon Atlanticists to poison their gullible, childish minds, these submissive Jew-loving homosexuals will realize that Russia loves them and only wants to help them by “fixing” their countries. They’ll surely all fall in line.

  3. Pingback: “Information attacks” | Russia Without BS

  4. gbd_crwx

    Could this information attack they speak of, possibly be this news that broke on the bbc aboyt an hour ago that a friend of Putin is part of a money laundering ring?

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Where there’s smoke… | Russia Without BS

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