The Fallout

After the first full day of Panama Papers coverage we can finally get an idea of the reactions from around the world. Much of the Russian state-run media has preferred the “no news is good news” approach, and avoided reporting on the leak. A few have preferred to do some damage control, alternatively pointing out that the leaked documents show no direct link to Putin (nobody ever said they did) and claiming that it was a Western “information attack.” Of course that begs the question as to why there is no direct link to Putin himself if this is nothing but a contrived, nonsensical propaganda attack designed to smear the Dear Leader. And were not the same Russian officials claiming that an intentional information attack on the Dear Leader was in the works almost a week before the papers were first released?  Oh wait. Shit. I forgot I’m talking about people with the reasoning ability of six-year-old children. Never mind.

On the topic of Putin’s wealth, Mark Galeotti has stepped forward to explain what this really means in the context of the Putinist system. I think this was extremely timely and necessary because when the leak first happened, I was afraid some people would get the idea that this means “Putin has $2 billion;” it doesn’t. As Galeotti explains, you have to follow the power, not the money. Putin certainly has access to vast amounts of wealth, but he has very little capacity to enjoy it. Without power, it can all be taken from him in an instant. If you understand this, you will go far toward understanding why the system operates the way it does and Putin’s behavior. Another reason to read Galeotti’s explainer is that he puts things into perspective by pointing out the massive loss Russia suffers due to high level corruption. It is this corruption that has a serious detrimental effect on the country as a whole and it is driving the country to ruin with no signs of changing.

By far, the greatest reaction to the leak has come from none other than RT, which promptly lost its shit and published what has got to be one of the most hilarious “news” stories I’ve ever seen. I write “news” because it’s important to note that the following story appears in the news section of the site and not the Op-Edge editorial section, where one normally finds wacky conspiracy theories and fawning, even disturbing praise of the Dear Leader Vladimir Putin.

To fully appreciate this masterpiece we must start with the headline, which explains what RT thinks is the real story here:
‘Goebbels had less-biased articles’: Public slams MSM for Putin focus after Panama papers leak

Hmmm… So the real story isn’t the leak itself, but rather that there has been some kind of backlash from the “public” against the MSM, also known as the “mainstream media” or “any media that happens to contradict the Russian government’s official narrative.” Well then, what is the source for this alleged “slam?” Comments and tweets.

No I’m serious. Go look at the article. They’ve collected a handful of negative tweets and Facebook comments that were left in response to certain outlets such as the BBC, and used these as evidence that the “public” is slamming the MSM over their alleged biased coverage of the leak. For example, here’s an excerpt explaining the source of that “Goebbels had less-biased articles” quote:

“A Facebook user accused the BBC of “anti-Russian propaganda” and complained that “Joseph Goebbels had less biased news articles,” in regards to the fact that the BBC published an article about Putin, despite the Russian leader not being named.”

Yes, “a Facebook user,” in this case apparently named Christopher Huddleston. Yes, the Christopher Huddleston! As for the praise of Goebbels, knowing RT’s fanbase it might not have been an attempt at hyperbole; he might just be an admirer of Joseph Goebbels. Who knows, who cares? The point is that RT actually resorted to cherry-picking social media comments to concoct a hilarious story about a non-existent backlash against the “mainstream media,” which incidentally might not be the best angle of attack when you work for a government that is known for pissing away money on internet comment trolling.

Just imagine what it would look like if I made a reaction story based on say, the comment section of Yahoo! News:

‘The Musslum Kenyian Marxist usurper Obummer is taxing white people into slavery’: Public slams MSM over handling of bake sale story

Of course the laughably desperate author of the piece does attempt to make some form of argument, but spliced in between random tweets and comments from people who may or may not be paid trolls or insane, the whole effort fails miserably.

perfectlycalm

How RT feels about this insignificant leak

First the author starts things off with two lies, one big, one little:

“The world’s media has been pointing at one person following a massive documents leak from a Panama law firm. But that person, President Vladimir Putin, wasn’t even mentioned in the data leak. Sections of the public are not happy at the media coverage.”

No, silly, the world media hasn’t been focusing on one person. While some articles were published focusing on the Putin-related story, plenty of others have been released exploring the other angles. These stories came out near-simultaneously. Second, while Putin isn’t necessarily mentioned in the leak, people very close to Putin are, and that is basically the whole Putin angle of the story. In a sense this is nothing new; it’s long been established that Putin’s close friends are insanely wealthy and above the law. They receive very lucrative favors from the state and this is no secret either. Just ask Arkady Rotenberg.

Secondly, it was the presidential administration itself which made this all about Putin in the first place, starting even before the leak was published. Even after it was published and dozens of stories emerged about other world leaders, Peskov rammed his foot right in his mouth by claiming it was aimed at Putin personally.

This kind of whining is ridiculous because Putin’s fan club just loves to attribute everything good to Putin. He saved Russia! He improved living standards! He beat back ISIS! But the second someone brings up anything negative and dares question if there’s some connection to Putin and his 16-year rule over the country, the whole line flips 180 degrees. “Why must you blame Putin for everything? The weather was bad today- it must have been Putin’s fault!”  It’s getting old, Putin fanboys. Real old.

Part of the nitpicking in the RT article centers on the fact that some of the stories about the leak featured Putin in their cover image, even when the story wasn’t specifically about him. Putin is, however, one of the most recognizable and arguably most powerful world leader implicated by the leak. Richard Nixon, by the way, didn’t break into the Watergate hotel. But what image do you think would we see heading an article about the Watergate break-in? The fact that RT went full-on foam-at-the-mouth screeching about this minor point just shows how super-sensitive they are about any perceived slight against their Dear Leader, and it also dispels any doubt that they are a legitimate news organization rather than a propaganda organ.

As I have stated before, the “MSM” has released numerous stories about other people implicated in the leaks. Here the New York Times gives a general run-down with the all the major suspects we know about so far. Oh wait, hold on, RT and its fans like to compare themselves to the BBC. So that means the BBC must have been running hysterical reaction stories downplaying the involvement of PM Cameron’s father in the scandal, or perhaps just ignoring it like the other Russian state media outlets. Nope. The BBC and the rest of the British press is having a field day with the story, because in Britain criticizing your leaders isn’t seen as treason.

ukmedia.png

Remember, RT’s just like the Western press! Image courtesy of Noodle Remover

Not satisfied with throwing a tantrum in print, RT has apparently been engaged in similar antics on-air:

rtidiot

Oh really? Name them.

Ah yes, RT’s “experts” weigh in. Some might actually have credentials, and others might just be random bloggers, as is typically the case. The implication that the ICIJ, the people who compiled the story, are the “same people who ‘saw’ WMD in Iraq” is laughable beyond all imagination and shows that their “experts” literally have no idea who and what they are talking about. Allow me to explain.

In the end of that hilarious article we see how RT, along with some of the Russian media, is trying to smear the ICIJ and CPI (Center for Public Integrity) as being part of a government conspiracy. They have also linked the organization to George Soros, a common bugbear for the Russian government. First of all, linking George Soros and the Bush administration’s drive for war is just plain stupid, seeing as how Soros was a well-known opponent of the GOP. Second, the CPI has received funding from Soros but not only do they disclose this, but they also included Soros’ political donations in a large report they compiled on campaign finance.

What about Iraq? Oh yes, let’s see how the ICIJ, an organization created by the CPI, consists of the “same people” who “saw” WMDs in Iraq. The CPI compiled a list of 935 false statements made by US leaders and their allies on the topic of Iraq. You can read it about it to your heart’s content here. They also launched an investigation into war profiteering by allies of the Bush administration thanks to contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. When has RT managed to produce a real investigation of such malfeasance in its entire history? The truth is we don’t need RT as an “alternative” to the “MSM,” because we have organizations like the CPI, which is dedicated to real journalism and questioning leaders as opposed to worshiping and zealously defending a president.

Look, RT people. I know some of you read this blog. Some of you have contacted me in the past. I have a simple request. Please, either anonymously in the comments or via email- justify this. Explain this. Don’t claim you’re just like the “Western” or “mainstream media” because first of all, that’s demonstrably false and beyond debate at this point, and secondly you can’t claim to be a truer, more objective alternative to the “mainstream media” and then claim to be exactly the same when it suits you.

Please write in and try to justify this because as I write, just over 20 million Russian citizens live under the poverty line, up 2 million in 2015. Russia’s minimum wage after a recent hike is $110 a month, which is still below the subsistence rate. Thousands of Russians work without receiving salaries for weeks and in some cases months. Meanwhile your organization has received several hundred million dollars over the years with virtually no accountability or oversight, much of it going to foreigners with no journalistic abilities or expertise whatsoever.

Please, justify that. Explain it to me as though you’re explaining it to one of those Russians getting by on about $140 a month. Imagine you’re justifying it to a group of workers who have endured several months of salary arrears. Hell, break it down as though you were telling a group of orphans in a group home about the importance of “information war.”

Whatever you do, please try to give a coherent explanation as to why anyone should take your network for a serious news organization and not what it apparently is, a personal PR firm for Putin and a propaganda outlet for the Russian government. How many times have you made fun of that “propaganda bullhorn” label, and how many times have you then gone and produced material that shows you’re exactly that? Wouldn’t it be better if you just flat out admitted it openly?

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18 thoughts on “The Fallout

  1. Tom (@tompixelo)

    I actually foolishly engaged in a few Kremlin supporting useful idiots (all British/European) when they started bleating about how unfairly the “MSM” is bullying poor apparently sensitive and weak putin. They didn’t like it much and pretty much behaved exactly as you described in your article.

    The lies and disinfo from RT and the rest of the tools of the Kremlin disinfo machine are understandable, but why do these people in the West love parroting them?

    I asked them why they don’t go live in Moscow if the West is so awful, which they had no answer to. I think they prefer to enjoy the West and complain about it comfortably from within.

    Here’s my tweet to RT when they posted their whining about the UK media supposedly bullying poor Putin and ignoring Camerons dad:

    Incidentally, they ignore the fact that Cameron’s dad was hiding his (very modest compared to Putin’s circle) wealth which he had accumulated by being a stockbroker. Putin and his inner circle’s wealth is stolen money from the state. There’s a difference. One is much worse than the other.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Usually the basic motive is the idiotic idea that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” These people have a really simple way of defining friends and enemies. Back before RT and Sputnik, some groups actually made this definition on their own. They looked at the alarmist rhetoric in the Western media and decided that Putin must stand for the opposite of whatever their government supposedly represents.

      Another funny argument is: “Why doesn’t the media focus on OUR corruption?!” Start asking them about what they’re referring to, and many of them can’t even tell you or explain in detail. The fact is that the media gives a LOT of coverage to domestic political scandals and corruption, but these people rarely bother to even check.

      Reply
      1. Paul Canning (@pauloCanning)

        I got the same rant at me on Sunday night from an American – whilst RT UK was completely ignoring the story! RT could say the sky is green and these people would still defend them, say they’re better than CNN/BBC etc.

        RT are still spinning here.

    2. foarp

      Offshoring earnings isn’t even (necessarily) illegal. It’s when the amount that you are offshoring is so huge that it points to corrupt earnings that it automatically points to wrongdoing.

      Reply
      1. Tom (@tompixelo)

        Yes that’s something they gleefully gloss over.

        The amount Putin’s circle have stolen is in the 100s of billions of dollars. (The same dollars that are supposed to be collapsing any time soon).

        Cameron’s Dad (who is dead) was using these schemes to avoid tax on about 20 million USD, which was legitimately earned and fairly publicly scrutinisable.

        Also, the whining about “But putin isn’t even mentioned!!!” carefully ignores the fact that Cameron isn’t mentioned directly either, his dead father is. His dead father had a legitimate reason to be in the possession of a 20 million dollar fortune from his time working in finance.

        Putin’s cello playing associate has no honest reason to be the conduit for several billion dollars. Its stolen money, with the blessing of, or on behalf of Putin.

  2. what to do today

    I think, with all due respect, you are underestimating the likelihood that Peskov’s front-running the release was planned. They’re not trying to convince anyone except True Believers, and they only need to know that Russia is Under Siege. Laying the groundwork by calling it an information attack (in advance, before anyone had heard of it) guaranteed that Putin and Russia would be front page, which they could then hold up to prove that Russia is Under Siege.

    You have to admit – grudgingly – it’s not a bad tactic. They can’t stop the news from coming out and won’t respond to the substance, so they decided to make the very existence of the news proof of what the True Believers need to believe.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      This may be a case of crossed wires. Since most of the media didn’t mention the leak, the smartest thing to do would have been not to mention it at all. Then if there was any widespread attention to Putin, start firing back by pointing out that he isn’t specifically named and so on.

      Oddly enough, Dmitry Peskov IS apparently named: https://www.occrp.org/ru/panamapapers/persons/

      Reply
      1. what to do today

        I think you’re offbase on this. You’re assuming that they wanted to minimize attention to Putin (and/or thought that was even possible). In part, they decided that the best defence is offence, and in part, perfectly happy with VVP being on the front pages.
        They were never going to respond to content in any substantive way. And the belief (largely true) is that the core base of Putin support will believe the spin that Putin being mentioned first/at all/’excessively’ is … Putinphobia (the new buzzword, which closely follows on Russophobia), and proof that the whole thing was engineered to take down Putin, Russia under siege, etc. The fact that so many other countries and dictators etc are in the papers is just collateral damage (and cue the voices to say that they are all enemies of US, or no longer useful, and hence part of a great campaign, etc). No amount of evidence, no outright implausibility of faking so much will convince them. “It’s normal” will work, since few people will understand that it’s not owning an offshore that’s the issue, but that having a series of trades that never lose (amongst other patterns) and ability to buy big blocks in untraded companies like Kamaz is basically proof of corruption.
        No, bringing out the charge of ‘information attack’ in advance was likely part of a deliberate plan. It shores up the base and almost everyone else was already lost to them anyway.
        And it’s working, basically.

  3. Pingback: Not suspicious at all… | Russia Without BS

  4. Gabriel Gerard

    I can’t believe Wikileaks took Putin’s side on this issue. It’s kind of disgraceful, actually.

    Reply
    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      They’ve been in the Kremlin’s pocket for some time now. In their defense they try to point to older leaks about the Russian government, but if you understand how their propaganda system works, you’ll know that this is no bar to employment with the Kremlin. Many of the biggest Putin fanatics today used to be liberals or opposition figures. Oftentimes you’re not even expected to explain why you switched sides; you just do it and receive your payment.

      Reply
      1. Gabriel Gerard

        I read an article a while back that stated Assange’s father (or possibly his brother) organized a pilgrimage to Damascus to express solidarity with the Ba’athist regime, so his support for Putin doesn’t surprise me. It doesn’t make it any less despicable, though.

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