Monthly Archives: June 2016

BREAKING: Batman fights drug dealers in Moscow suburb!

I don’t normally do breaking news here but what I have just learned is unprecedented. Prepare to witness the greatest thing in 21st century Russian history. This may very well be the salvation of Russia. Today he fights minor criminals on the streets. Tomorrow he may go after the criminals in the Kremlin. He is vengeance. He is the night. He is…BATMAN! 

No I’m serious. There’s a guy beating up drug dealers in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and he’s dressed as Batman. Here’s an excerpt from Meduza:

“Law enforcement officers told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that, earlier this month, a taxi driver in the Khimki area witnessed a man dressed as Batman exit a building that later proved to be a drug den. The taxi driver says the Batman threw some kind of fire bomb at the ground and then disappeared into the shadows (see the video below). Police officers soon arrived, entered the building, and soon walked out escorting two men in handcuffs.”

He even uses smoke bombs, as you can see in the video:

 

This is simply awesome. In fact, on this occasion it might be good to talk about Batman’s relations with Russia. First of all, Batman in Russia is approximated as Бэтмен, which would sound something like “betmen” in  English. This is interesting because the actual word for “bat” in Russian is летучая мышь (lyetuchaya mysh’), meaning literally “flying mouse.” Obviously they went with “Betmen” because it sounds better than saying “Flying Mouse Man” in Russian, whereas Spider-Man is known as Человек-паук (Chelovek pauk) or “Man spider.”

The prospects of a real Russian Batman are quite interesting indeed. After all, in the past few years the kind of crime once associated with Russia’s “Wild 90’s” has started to rear its ugly head once again. Not only that, Russia has a perfect rogue’s gallery of supervillains for Batman to battle on a regular basis. Here’s a few I just thought of off the top of my head:

Mr. Big: His nickname being a subtle joke about his tiny stature, Mr. Big is the head of the Kremlin Kriminal Krew (KKK). His skills in judo more than make up for his lack of social skills and generally bizarre demeanor. Over the years Mr. Big has become more and more disconnected from material reality, blaming all his problems on gremlins he calls “foreign agents.” Often unable to appear in public for unknown reasons, Mr. Big often prefers to speak through his press secretary Dmitry “The Mustache” Peskov.

The Joker: Originally a TV host named Dmitry  Kiselyov, working for Putin’s regime caused him to undergo a psychotic breakdown. Now he is obsessed with fighting what he calls an “information war,” and to that end every week he assaults Russia’s television audiences with lies so ridiculously hilarious they can actually cause rational people to laugh themselves to death.

The Rotenberg Gang: Two brothers, two partners in crime. Thanks to their relationship with the biggest crime boss in Russia, these two oligarchs are able to rob the whole country blind without jimmying open a single door or pulling a gun.

Mesmerizer: The secret alter-ego of ex-railroad magnate Vladimir Yakunin, the Mesmerizer can stun and totally disable people by lecturing them about convoluted Western conspiracies against Russia.

Ms. Two-Face: The Joker’s female sidekick with a passion for culinary arts and whataboutery. She runs Russia’s foreign language media empire with the help of her gang of ludicrously overpaid expats. Flips a coin to decide whether to claim her TV channel is “no different from Western networks” or “more objective than the mainstream media.” Her only weaknesses are accurate TV ratings reports and financial accountability.

The Worst Person in the World: Born Pavel Astakhov, The Worst Person in the World AKA Captain Cocksplat defends domestic abusers, condemns disabled orphans to woefully underfunded facilities rife with abuse and exploitation, and defends polygamous marriage of teenage girls to middle-aged men.

The Mountain Wolf: The only man in Russia that strikes fear into the heart of Mr. Big. So much fear, in fact, that Mr. Big routinely pays the Wolf millions of dollars from the state budget. The Mountain Wolf is a flamboyant villain, sporting gold-plated pistols, flashy cars, and an incredibly expensive cat.

Gummy Bear: By day he’s mild mannered Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev. By night he…sleeps. Sometimes he plays badminton. He likes his iPhone.

As you can clearly see just from this preliminary brainstorming session, Russian Batman will have his hands full with these and dozens of other villains who belong in Arkham Asylum, or failing that, the bottom of an abandoned mine somewhere near Vorkuta.

I’m sorry but I just can’t go on writing anymore- this is simply too awesome.

Russian Batman. He’s the hero Russia needs.

 

 

Blind spot

So this morning I was reading a very timely and necessary article criticizing liberal tolerance for violent fascist groups. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the debate and don’t have time to read that article right now, it goes something like this:

Fascist: “We’re going to take control of your country and then use the state to suppress people we don’t like by force.”

Radical leftist:”I’d like to see you try, punk!”

Liberal: “Both sides are wrong! There’s no difference at all!”

In case that’s not clear enough, you could phrase it as liberal tolerance for intolerance. This sounds like a joke but it’s actually a very simple concept. Tolerance means that if you’re following the law and not harming anyone, you should have all the rights and freedoms of any other citizen. But what happens when you have someone who doesn’t want to follow this simple rule? They want to place restrictions on certain groups of people based on factors that have nothing to do with their individual behavior. They want to privilege certain groups while persecuting, maybe even eliminating others. And all the while, they want to use state power, i.e. a monopoly on legal violence, to enforce this system. This is something that should not be tolerated, and nobody should feel obligated to do so.

All in all it was a good article, until I got to this point…

“The current Ukrainian government used nationalists as shock troops to depose Viktor Yanukovych.”

Uh…No. No it did not. For one thing, the current Ukrainian government didn’t exist in any form until after Viktor Yanukovych deposed himself by running away. Second, the nationalists had their own parties, both of which found themselves shut out of the government as soon as new elections were held. And lastly- radical nationalists were a minority in the Euromaidan protests, which they did not initiate. A very loud minority capable of garnering more media attention, but a minority still. And I might also note that this is phrased in a way that makes it seem as if Yanukovych hadn’t deserved being driven out of power after years of rampant theft and an attempt to severely curtail people’s civil rights.

Overall I get the point the author was going for in that paragraph (you really have to read the context), and on that point I agree- reactionary right wing politics are on the march all over the world. I don’t think the author had any intention of deliberately spreading Kremlin propaganda. I think the problem is that even after two years of being in the world spotlight, Ukraine is still a media blind spot, more obscure and inaccessible in some ways than Russia.

Russia is obscure largely due to physical accessibility (you need a visa just to visit) and the language barrier, but anyone wanting to write about Russia will find their work much easier for a number of reasons. First of all, there are plenty of Russia experts out there but few Ukraine experts. Among the latter, you’re bound to encounter a few, shall we say, eccentric academics from time to time. Russian politics, as bleak as they can be, are simplified by Putin’s dictatorial system. Russia’s ruling class is for the most part rallied around Putin, the head of the state which serves as their feeding trough for wealth. By contrast Ukraine’s ruling class is fractured into groups with competing interests. Lastly, learning the Russian language is no small feat, but there are far more resources for doing so compared to Ukrainian. Although knowing Ukrainian isn’t necessary to communicate in Ukraine if you already speak Russian, it is essential for monitoring the Ukrainian press as well as chatter on social media.

With Western media attention leaving Ukraine even as fighting continues to escalate in the Donbas, we can be sure that coverage will continue to repeat the same cliches we’ve come to know and hate over the past few years. “Ukraine is a divided country consisting of the Ukrainian-speaking West and Russian-speaking East, Ukrainians literally died to join Europe,” and so on.

The Mandatory Brexit Article

Everyone knows the best way to start off anything is with an explicit disclaimer, so here it goes.

I’m not for Brexit. I see a lot of problems with the European Union but I haven’t really seen much in the way of solutions from so-called Euroskeptics. You could rightly say that were I a UK citizen, I probably would have voted Remain. So again- I’m not in favor of Brexit. 

That being said, I think a bit of an autopsy is in order, and unlike most commentators who seem to be harping on about how “the racists won” and “Putin is celebrating,” I think it makes a lot more sense to discuss the failures of the pro-EU side lest this same pattern be repeated across Europe. If that sounds like rubbing salt in Remain’s wounds, too bad. On this blog I constantly write about how the Russian government has no accountability and doesn’t brook internal dissent and many of you cheer me on for it. Now I’m applying the same logic to the EU and the Remainers. Deal with it.

The REAL culprit

First of all let me say that I know who’s really responsible for this disaster, if only indirectly. I learned about him in 2008. Here’s your scapegoat right here, Remainers:

captaineuro

Captaineuro.eu

Yes, this is a real thing that exists- Captain Euro. Take Captain America and make him about 1,000 times lamer. How lame exactly? This says it all:

renzi

I’m not well versed on Italian politics but I do know this: If you are “working” with Matteo Renzi, if you are doing anything at all with Matteo Renzi, you are lame, period. Case in point.

In fact, to truly measure exactly how lame Captain Euro is, let us compare him to Captain America.

Biography

Captain America: Born Steve Rogers, a morally upstanding young man from Brooklyn who wanted nothing more than to serve his country in WWII but could not due to his physical weakness.

Captain Euro: Son of an ethnic German Croat who was dogged to his dying day with accusations that he had been a member of the notorious anti-partisan 7th Waffen SS “Prinz Eugen” division. The father maintained that he had only served as a divisional staff clerk.

Origin story

Captain America: Thanks to an experimental serum, Rogers gains super strength and regenerative properties.

Captain Euro: Professor of paleontology who had to have one of his knees replaced with a “metal alloy joint” after a car accident. I’m not even joking here. Read it for yourself. No, the joint isn’t made from the strongest material on Earth. No, it doesn’t allow him for fire missiles out of his leg. But the biography assures us that he remains in “peak physical condition…” for a professor, I guess.

Motivation

Captain America: Motivated by hatred of bullies, Nazis, and supervillains.

Captain Euro: Was apparently motivated to “fight” for European unity after witnessing the horrors that befell Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. Somehow missed the fact that both the 90’s Yugoslav wars and the ethnic violence which took place in WWII-era Yugoslavia can be traced to heavy-handed attempts to force several different nationalities together into one country without taking into account those nationalities’ specific concerns.

Special abilities

Captain America: Super strength and athletic endurance. Literally punched out Adolf Hitler, who later elected to commit suicide rather than face the shame of living after being so humiliated in front of his most trusted SS guards.

Captain Euro: An extensive knowledge of trade law and legislative procedure.

Equipment

Captain America: A shield made of the strongest metal on Earth which also returns to his hand like a boomerang in violation of all known laws of physics.

Captain Euro: Vespa scooter. I already told you the artificial knee joint doesn’t do anything. Don’t have a pen with you? Captain Euro’s got you covered.

Allies

Captain America: The Avengers, a group of the most powerful superheroes on Earth.

Captain Euro: Faceless bureaucrats.

Likelihood of hanging out with Matteo Renzi

Captain America: “I don’t know who that is but he sounds lame.”

Captain Euro: “We’re going to the street food festival later this afternoon. I call him ‘Matt,’ actually.”

***

Alright, you get the idea. This may be a joke, but it is a joke that contains a key truth as to why Brexit succeeded, at least in my opinion.

The anti-establishment campaign

In the wake of Brexit’s win one phrase I’ve often seen is “anti-establishment campaign.” It’s being brandished about as if the Brexit crowd somehow cheated by framing their campaign in such a way. The obvious problem is that when EU supporters point this out, they’re essentially identifying themselves as the establishment or pro-establishment.

It is a fact that many ordinary people who support the EU are well aware of its problems. They express disagreement with some of its policies and acknowledge that some of its practices are ridiculous. On the other hand, the EU’s most fervent defenders often come off as ridiculous romantics or authoritarian schoolmarms ready to scold anyone who expresses dissent toward the idea of “Europe.” Timothy Snyder is a good example of the former, while Anne Applebaum is the latter.

Snyder, somewhat odd for an American, has such glowing praise for “Europe” as the salvation of humanity you’d almost think he’s Captain Euro’s secret identity. Applebaum, on the other hand, chides the Greeks to accept austerity because their country’s economic woes are their own fault. It doesn’t matter that at times these people make valid points. What matters is how they are perceived as a whole.

Snyder, Applebaum, and much of the pro-EU crowd often come off as though they’re proud to be part of “the establishment,” as though there’s nothing wrong with this image. It’s like some kind of Christian youth group telling teens about how “cool” it is to obey your parents and practice abstinence until marriage.

Meanwhile you’ve got Russia and the Euroskeptics playing the role of the rebellious bad boys. It doesn’t matter that Russia is ruled by an authoritarian regime far more restrictive than any European democracy however flawed. It doesn’t matter that dissent, which is seen as rebellious and admirable in Western countries is considered treason in Russia. It’s the image that matters.

The irony here is that it really isn’t hard to deflate Russia’s carefully-constructed rebel image- all it takes is more education on Russian politics and comparing the reaction to dissent in the West to that it Russia, something I do all the time here. Unfortunately many of the EU cheerleaders prefer to defend the status quo and establishment outright. Is it really so surprising that they lost?

The Putin factor

Probably one of the dumbest, most inexplicable tactics of the Remain supporters was to tie in Vladimir Putin with Brexit. Basically the propaganda went like this: “Russia is supporting Brexit! If you vote Leave, Vladimir Putin will be happy! You don’t want to make Vladimir Putin happy, do you?!”

There are several things wrong with this argument. The first is that most of the people who voted for Leave probably never really gave a fuck about Vladimir Putin or Russia. See unemployment, lack of opportunities, and austerity tend to make it difficult for people to care about issues far beyond their immediate surroundings. Yes, they are extremely cynical. You know what is also cynical? The free-market-uber-alles policies that came to dominate most of the industrialized world since the 1980’s. When your society celebrates making profit above all else without any regard for the consequences, don’t be so shocked that the people on the receiving end suddenly don’t care too much about the human rights of people in far away countries. Add to that a long, avoidable war which was sparked by the most cynical manipulation, and you get an audience willing to listen to anyone who gives a voice to their anger.

It seems the Remain campaign’s rhetoric about Putin was supposed to work something like this:

“What? Vladimir Putin wants Brexit? He’s a right muppet! I’m switching my vote to Remain!”

In reality probably went more like this:

“What? Vladimir Putin wants Brexit? We have an ally abroad! My government seems not to like him so he must be wonderful!” 

All the rhetoric about Putin and Russia did nothing but cement a relationship between the former and the Euroskeptics, who seem to be doubling down on their love for the midget. This also helps the Kremlin media, which can use this hysteria as “proof” that they are having an impact, thus justifying their over-inflated budgets from which they can siphon off money.

For those flogging the Putin-Euroskeptic connections, here’s a reality check: The European Union had major problems before Russia’s “soft power offensive” in recent years, before RT was founded, even before Putin became president. Many of these far right parties existed long before then as well, and their arguments were the same. Rather than address the roots of this problem and find the factors leading to the rise of the far right, it would seem that the establishment preferred to turn a blind eye and then, when it became clear how influential these parties had become, blame Russia.

As for the real relationship between Putin and the European Union, it’s a bit complicated. On one hand, Russia’s elite wants to continue squirreling away its stolen wealth in the West. I’m sure a number of them also want to have nice places to “retire” to when Russians get fed up, grow spines, and the lynch mobs start converging on Rublevka. Yes, instability in the European Union will help make this possible as smaller countries with economic woes will be more receptive to working with corrupt Russian officials.

One the other hand, Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is integrated into the global economy and what power it amassed in the 2000’s was based on this fact. Burning down the EU is essentially they same as railing against the US. It will eventually come back on Russia. Instability in the EU will lead to economic crisis which means less investment.

Of course this situation will be bad for everyone all around, but the bottom line is that Putin doesn’t “win.” He never “wins.” He just loses more slowly, usually thanks to his opponents blunders.

Blaming democracy

The EU has often been accused, either rightly or wrongly, of being anti-democratic. It certainly doesn’t help when some Remain supporters have come out in denouncing referendums. This has been accompanied by typical liberal elitism, blaming the unwashed masses for being “uninformed” and easily duped by demagogues without any self-awareness as to what they were specifically doing to appeal to those same masses and to counter the rhetoric of said demagogues.

First of all this is ridiculously hypocritical. After all, Ireland approved the Lisbon treaty after holding a second referendum. Was that the will of the people or the unwashed masses being duped by demagogues? My point is that even when you’re right, you can’t start demonizing democracy just because it doesn’t go your way. And do I even need to point out that we wouldn’t be hearing any of this anti-referendum rhetoric had Remain won? Jesus, it’s Eurovision all over again!

True, democracy without law can degenerate into mob rule, but that’s not what happened here. The Brexit referendum was conducted in agreement with British laws and regulations. It was announced far in advance and carried out according to plan. These facts alone make it very different from some other “referendums” in recent years. It’s also worth pointing out that Maidan, which EU cheerleaders love to condescendingly mischaracterize as “Ukrainians dying to join Europe,” could rightly be called “mob rule.” In this context it matters little that Yanukovych basically drove the situation to that point; what matters is you can’t condemn Brexit and praise Maidan just because one went the way you wanted and the other didn’t.

Sadly the ruling class and specifically the right-wing of that class has a major advantage in capitalist society. They are able to take advantage of liberal inability to solve the contradictions of their capitalist system in order to whip up hysteria against the political establishment. If they are successful, as with Brexit, they’re able to get liberals themselves railing against democracy. Whichever way things go, democracy loses and the world moves closer to authoritarian society. Cynicism strangles ideals.

It’s so common these days to see people making anti-democratic arguments based on oblivious statements like “people are stupid.” Well let me ask- what have you done to inform people? What are you doing in your daily life to dispel myths and misconceptions that people have about politics, economics, history, and so forth? Yes, there are masses of so-called “low information voters” out there. But here’s the thing- people are only going to be informed about politics if they are made to feel responsible. If you don’t encourage them to vote, support a candidate, join a party, or otherwise participate directly in politics, they aren’t going to take the interest because many of them are too busy working 9-10 hours a day just to make ends meet. That’s thanks to your system.

As an American, I’m floored that liberals can’t understand Trump’s popularity when they did virtually nothing to remedy the needs of America’s working class- they simply assumed they had their support and that was the end of it. Now they expect someone working at Subway to dig into world politics and understand why Donald Trump can’t actually deliver on any of his idiotic promises, or understand why those promises are idiotic in the first place.

You can talk about human rights, European unity, and rule of law all you like, but the problem is that millions of citizens cannot eat those things. They cannot live in “European values.” It doesn’t matter what your intentions were. It doesn’t matter that you think you were doing what’s best for them. All that matters is how your actions and words are perceived by others- the only thing we can actually see in the real world.

In the end, there are two paths lying in front of EU supporters. One path is that of finger-pointing and blame shifting. “It was Putin! It was those dastardly demagogues! Our people are too stupid!” The other path is that of responsibility, reform, and making good on those values Europe supposedly stands for. Brexit is a historic blow and a major defeat for the idea of a united Europe, but it was a defeat rooted in arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence. Defeat, however, has a certain positive quality- it’s highly educational, much more so than victory. So the EU can either learn from this defeat and change its ways for the better, or it can keep making blunder after blunder until it falls apart.

 

 

 

 

 

The deafening silence

If you’re a British reader still reeling from Brexit, I’ve got something that might cheer you up on this otherwise sad day. As it turns out, you’re not the only country that’s taken a swan dive into the abyss; we’ve been on our way down for some time and now we’re accelerating our descent.

Today Russia’s Duma just voted on an “anti-terrorism” legislation package that is one of the most repressive laws since the fall of the Soviet Union. In the end some of the most odious measures were removed, but what got in is bad enough.

In truth there’s nothing really shocking about this. In the past couple years we’ve already had numerous Russians sentenced to jail for things like retweets and “likes” on social media, all under the intentionally vague, always hypocritical charge of “extremism.” As Russia’s crisis deepens with no end in sight, the elite knows that it must squeeze more wealth out of a shrinking supply, all the while suppressing the ordinary working people who face the consequences of the regime’s irresponsibility and blatant criminality. One needn’t look much further than the bill’s originator- nutjob deputy Irina Yarovaya. Like Putin and many of his friends, she has good reason to preempt public dissent.

Hey, speaking of using terrorism as an excuse to pass draconian laws, I happen to know a certain TV network that prides itself on exposing the diabolical machinations of out-of-control governments. They constantly feature guests that insist that information should be free, that governments are manufacturing false pretexts to justify repression. They championed Edward Snowden for exposing government spying on private citizens and even gave a talk show to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I bet they’ll be all over this! 

Oh…That’s it? Just one news story? Oh. Okay.

Funny how it omits some of the nasty bits of the bill that still made it in, such as the increased punishment for “extremism.” But let’s be fair- this was a news story in the Russian Politics section of the website. If we want to see the Russian government get taken to task for cracking down on its citizens’ civil liberties, we need to go to the Op-Edge section! This will be good…

Uh…Alright. I see an article about how the FBI uses terrorism as an excuse to spy on people’s private lives. That’s a little bit hypocritical, isn’t it? Let’s keep digging.

Oh look, here’s an a hypocritical article bashing “multiculturalism,” suggesting that Britain might start to tolerate bigamy among Muslims. This is hypocritical because Russia in fact allows bigamy, as the infamous case of a middle-aged Chechen policeman legally marrying a 17-year-old girl (possibly against her will) taught us last year. The marriage was publicly defended both by Russia’s children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov and “family values” Duma deputy Elena Mizulina. So if you’re keeping score, Russia allows teenager-old man bigamy whereas according to the article itself, any bigamy is still a criminal offense in the United Kingdom.

I guess I’ll have to keep digging to find an evisceration of Yarovaya and her tyrannical anti-terrorism law.

Uh…Okay. Here’s an article complaining about the rehabilitation of Nazism and antisemitism in Europe. That’s a bit hypocritical given RT’s propensity for featuring and often misrepresenting neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.

Speaking of antisemitism, just a bit further on we get a bizarre Op-Edge by Sam Gerrans, a clear nutcase who once penned an Op-Edge featuring the old “Jewish Bolshevism” trope, one of the cornerstones of Nazi propaganda. Looking at Gerrans body of work, I can’t help but note an odd mixture of severe sexual issues, ironically juxtaposed with anti-Islamic rhetoric which could get him dinged for extremism in Russia. In this particular Op-Edge, Gerrans rants about pedophilia, suggesting that the media is subtly trying to make it seem acceptable. Don’t laugh- he may have a point. Someone should find out what TV shows Putin has been watching:

putin-boy-kiss

Mainstream media! What have you done?! 

As I am not a student of psychology working on a doctoral thesis on repressed sexual issues, I decided to move on from Gerrans and continue searching for an Op-Edge that would take the Russian government to task for its lack of transparency and respect for civil rights and privacy.

I’m starting to get a bit desperate though. Hey! There’s an article about Julian Assange! Maybe this champion of transparency will…Oh…Wait…No. It’s just an article defending him.

Okay what else is there?

Let’s see…An Op-Edge by the legendary Robert Bridge! Let’s look at the description…

“With US military bases breeding faster than McDonald’s franchises, and 28-member NATO smashing up against Russia’s border…”

Actually US military bases have been closing and personnel are still being cut- right out of the gate this is literally the opposite of true. Shit. Well maybe there’s something here…

This headline says “Foreign investors are interested in connecting with Russia.” Wait a minute…I thought Putin is a bulwark against globalization and Russia doesn’t need foreign investors. Here’s a story about the dangers France faces from Islamic terrorism, but they still publish articles from Pepe Escobar, who said the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France were nothing but a false flag! Fuck! There must be something here! This is RT! The network that dares us to QUESTION MORE! After everything they said about the PATRIOT Act, Snowden, the NSA, and the FBI, there must be some article condemning Russia’s recent draconian anti-terrorism law! 

I scrolled down for several pages but couldn’t find anything even mentioning the anti-terrorism bill. You know, looking back, I noticed that I couldn’t find anything critical of the Russian government or its foreign policy at all. Virtually everything was about how unfair the world is to Russia, and how incompetent America is. This is kind of weird because in other international news outlets it’s not hard to find articles criticizing the policies and actions of their politicians, challenging their claims, and so on. Sure, some publications tend to lean toward one party or another, but in general all but the absolute rags will at least provide some diversity of opinion. There’s something…different about this channel.

You know, it’s almost like they don’t really believe in all that talk about transparency, civil rights, and privacy! It’s almost as if they flog Snowden not because they believe that governments using terrorism as a reason to spy on millions of innocent people is inherently bad, but rather because Snowden’s revelations indicted the US government.

No, I mustn’t give into such paranoid fantasies. I’m sure that RT’s near silence on this issue is just some horrible oversight, no doubt due to the budget cuts they’ve had to endure in 2015. I’m sure someone will get right on an Op-Edge taking Yarovaya and the whole Duma to task for passing such legislation. In fact, I bet they’ll have this article up so quickly that I can actually hold my breath while I wait for it. I think I’ll do that now.

 

 

 

Moving up

You’ve probably noticed that I don’t post frequently these days. In truth I am working on other articles and projects which happen to make me money. Honestly this year hasn’t been too good to me, but if Eminem has taught us anything, it’s that when you think you’re almost done you’ve got to reach deep down to tap that inner strength and give it one last shot.

 

In the spring of 2015, it looked like everything would be lost. I had no job, few prospects, and nothing but my savings to rely on. I made a crowdfunding campaign with a rather ambitious goal, hoping it would help me expand the RWOBS brand into new media. In the end, it fell far short of its goal, but it paid one month’s rent at a very critical time. And you know what? That made all the difference in the world.

The money I’d saved on the rent allowed me to plan the first of three trips to Ukraine that I made in 2015. After that trip, during which I visited the embattled Donetsk oblast, I got the attention of Cracked.com, and returned in August to see life on the very front line itself. In that time I managed to get published and cited in more publications, and made three more TV appearances. So that $400 or so went a long way.

Now I’ve got more supporters and collaborators and I’m looking to go from blog to vlog. Russia Without BS already has a Youtube channel, but I need some equipment to make high-quality videos and other recordings. That’s where you come in. Check out the new campaign for details.

Remember- RT is one of the most popular channels on Youtube (though nowhere near as popular than Pewdiepie). Are you going to let them occupy Youtube? Or will you support partisan leader Kovpak in the war against bullshit? Let’s do this! Let’s annex reunite with Youtube!

 

Face to Face

I love conversion stories. Perhaps that’s because I’ve had so many myself. I consider it ridiculous that we live in a society that condemns people who change their minds as they learn more, while people who double down on their ignorant beliefs in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary attract throngs of followers. This is why I loved this story from Cracked about a chap who was a professional 9/11 truther who had a change of heart. In it, you can watch a documentary featuring the subject, which helps explain why he changed his mind. In short, it wasn’t just meeting experts on architecture and controlled demolition; I felt they left out a lot of arguments that eviscerate the 9/11 conspiracy theory. But one thing that did apparently have an effect on the subject of the article was meeting the families of 9/11 victims face to face.

I found that to be rather interesting because there have been many times when I’ve encountered pro-Kremlin Westerners attacking journalists and experts whose work contradicts the fantasies they have about Putin’s regime. The case of MH17 is a perfect example. These people are so happy to dismiss as propaganda the work of professional journalists from different countries, working for different publications, who actually went to the very sites in Ukraine that are associated with the downing of that civilian airliner. I got to wondering whether these people would be so bold as to call such individuals “presstitutes” to their faces. I’ve met some of these reporters and I’d really like to see how these idiots would talk if they were lobbing their accusations directly at their target, in person, instead of over the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those journalists would physically destroy such detractors, only that it’s a little harder to accuse someone of lying for simply doing their job when you actually have to talk to them face to face instead of nitpicking something they wrote. What can you possibly say back to such detractors? “I’m really sorry the Russia I live in every day doesn’t conform to the fantasy version of Russia you’ve created in your head for some unknown reason, but I’m not going to go to my editor, my employer, and hand in a story that has no evidence for it and shit tons of evidence against it. I’m really, really sorry.”

Now as some readers might know, Oliver Stone is supposedly going to release what could be called the Loose Change of Maidan. The trailer already exists, but I’m not going to post it here and give the dickhead views. So far the title is Ukraine on Fire, which makes me wonder if it was named thus truly because Stone wanted to accuse the US of burning down Ukraine, or because he was secretly hoping that people searching for Winter on Fire would find his film by accident. Whatever the case, neither film will really help outsiders understand Ukraine or Maidan, but Stone’s conspiracy film is no doubt going to be based largely around his interview with ex-president Yanukovych, a totally unbiased source on Maidan. The narrative will no doubt be that the US government decided to overthrow the government of Ukraine because a president who had never been particularly hostile to the US decided to suspend the signing of an EU trade agreement he had personally arranged. It’s practically Chile all over again!

It makes me wonder though, if it would help Stone to actually speak to Ukrainians, and not just those involved in Maidan. Maybe he could speak to people who suffered from Yanukovych’s corruption, people whose healthcare system collapsed while the money it  depended on was siphoned off and deposited in Western banks. Maybe he could talk to the many women and young girls who ended up in prostitution out of sheer desperation or in some cases human trafficking, a problem that didn’t start with Yanukovych, but one which he certainly did nothing to solve. Maybe he could talk to some of the victims of the beating on the original Euromaidan. He can ask them why they decided to take US State Department money to…uh…pressure the government into signing the deal they had arranged.

I must admit that when Maidan first happened, I had a lot of negative thoughts towards it in spite of my opposition to Kremlin propaganda. My background and disconnection from Ukraine led me to focus on those things which I found most threatening, like the far right, instead of looking at the bigger picture, that what far right involvement existed had a lot to do with the fact that Yanukovych and his clique’s brazen corruption had essentially united a vast swath of Ukrainian society against him. In this way it was like the Moscow protests I’d witnessed in 2011, which also had a far-right component which was not representative nor anywhere close to a majority of the protesters.

During my three trips to Ukraine in 2015, the first such trips in five years at that point, I met both organizers and participants in Maidan. While I never bought into the bullshit story of the State Department paying people to protest, talking to these people face to face only made the idea seem even more absurd, as absurd as someone suggesting that I protested the invasion of Iraq because I’d received money from the Hussein regime. I was particularly floored when I learned that some Ukrainians had apparently been told that the red and black OUN flag was in fact a historical Ukrainian cossack flag (it’s not) and not a proprietary symbol of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Suddenly I thought of all those crowd shots with all those red and black flags and I wondered how many people waving those flags actually knew what they stood for? Could they really be blamed? How many Americans still defend the Confederate flag, ignorantly insisting that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Americans should know better, whereas most Ukrainians, due to the nature of the Soviet education system and the rather poor alternative that took its place, have a defense.

It’s not that Stone wouldn’t be able to find people involved with Maidan with horrible views. I’m sure he could and he probably should, for the sake of balance. But the fact is that this man wants to tell us the “truth” about what happened in Ukraine and I seriously doubt that he’s ever really spent significant time talking to ordinary Ukrainians. People like Stone need to keep a certain distance from their subjects, so as to protect their oversimplified worldview. Ukrainians aren’t people like him, people angry with their government who might want to do something about it. They’re just pawns and dupes who will sell their country to the American New World Order for twenty bucks, even if it means being beaten, gassed, and even shot until they overthrow their government. Sure, he could meet with an organizer or two and then rationalize dismissing them by labeling them as agents of the State Department. But what’s the probability you’re going to run into such an agent if you go into a random restaurant in Kyiv and start talking to young people there?

By meeting people who suffered from 9/11, that truther from the documentary learned that his conspiracy theories weren’t a victimless crime. He was spitting on the graves of people’s relatives, people he’d never met and never known, and yet he basically thought they were hapless dupes fooled by the state into thinking they’d been killed by terrorists instead of some government plot. Stone and those who think like him are doing the same thing to the people of Ukraine. The US-backed coup narrative is not just another conspiracy theory. It has led to some of the worst bloodshed in Europe since the Yugoslav Wars of Secession in the 1990’s.

Sadly I doubt he’ll actually go and speak to the sort of Ukrainians I mentioned just as he won’t be talking to any ordinary Venezuelans about the achievements of “Bolivarian socialism” or Russian opposition supporters about Putin’s great alternative to Western hegemony. Humanizing these people in his own mind would then require him to draw conclusions. He might have to actually envision a world where having a beef with the US government doesn’t necessarily make a leader a hero of the people. He might realize that many of these leaders don’t actually provide a viable alternative to the American or Western system, that in fact their proposed  “alternatives” tend to be worse, and that his primitive “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worldview is laughably unrealistic. Worst of all, having realized all this Stone might be forced to form a coherent, consistent political worldview and engage in real activism toward changing the American system rather than professional conspiracy mongering.

 

 

 

 

Losing it

One of the things that floors me is how people in the West not only seem to be more susceptible to Putin’s cult of personality, but they actually end up projecting their own values and ideas onto him. This is a topic I’ve dealt with before in this parody article. Or if you prefer a fresh case study, take a look at this idiotic article on an extremely sketchy website. It just so happens that today, shortly after I discovered that article, a friend of mine hit the mother lode of insane bullshit. And I do seriously mean insane. As you shall soon see, the only way the author could be sane is if they are deliberately lying, and to lie on that level would suggest they might be a sociopath, i.e. insane.

Behold, as former-civil-servant-turned-conspiracy-crank Paul Craig Roberts writes an article that displays so much admiration, if not awe of Vladimir Putin, that one gets the impression that Roberts was actually masturbating furiously while writing it. Now there are plenty of other reasons to dismiss Roberts as an insane crank. Here’s the latest, for example. But for the sake of argument I’m only going to deal with his insane love affair with the midget.

No, I don’t plan to debunk this line by line. For one thing, Roberts’ article is basically a short intro with what he claims are Putin’s “remarkable remarks” (brilliant writing there) from a past Valdai forum. But I’m going to highlight one key part because it demonstrates what I’ve been saying about people projecting their ideal onto Putin with no background knowledge of Russia or its president. Here it is right here, in all its tin-foil covered glory:

In my opinion, Putin is such a towering figure that Washington has him marked for assassination. The CIA will use one of the Muslim terrorists that the CIA supports inside Russia. Unlike an American president, who dares not move among the people openly, Putin is not kept remote from the people. Putin is at ease with the Russian people and mingles among them. This makes him an easy target for the CIA to use a Chechnya terrorist, a Jihadist suicide bomber, or the traditional “lone nut” to assassinate Putin.

Alright let me get that assassination prediction out of the way. This was written in 2014. Since then, a Russian politician was gunned down literally about one hundred meters from the Kremlin wall. So far only patsies have been found, with no investigation into who could have ordered it. In the beginning, Russia’s Investigative Committee implicated pretty much everybody but the most likely suspects. According to them, Boris Nemtsov might have been killed by Praviy Sektor, the Ukrainian SBU, or the liberal opposition, all of whom are apparently capable of carrying out such an assassination right next to the Kremlin. See Roberts got it wrong- the evil CIA global conspiracy never targets its enemies. No, they just pay people to stir up trouble and then kill them, thus bringing more people to their cause- oh wait. This never actually happens. But in any case the CIA just keeps doing it. So much for that Putin assassination.

Now let’s get to the meat of this paragraph of incomprehensible stupid. American presidents don’t “move among the people openly,” and Putin “mingles” among the Russian people. Uh…No. No he does not. Putin has photo ops with some ordinary (carefully hand-picked people) from time to time and he does a call in show once a year to take specially planned calls. Other than that, Putin doesn’t even come into the Kremlin very often in recent years. On his third inauguration in 2012 the streets of Moscow were closed off for miles around. It turned out to be all for naught, however, since the thronging crowds failed to appear.

Hell, just look what happens when Putin is allowed to mingle with “the Russian people.”

putin-boy-kiss

“Good afternoon sir! I’m going to ask you to stand up and take a seat…right over there.”

And as if that weren’t bad enough, look what happened when Putin later tried to explain himself:

“‘He seemed very independent and serious… I wanted to cuddle him like a kitten and it came out in this gesture. He seemed so nice,’ he said.”

But yeah, mingling. Right.

What I’m getting at here is that the facts mentioned above are all well-known and there are few Kremlin officials or supporters who would even attempt to deny them. Nobody will deny that the Russian Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is tasked with protecting the president much like the American Secret Service, also has another mission which is to scour the country for signs of unrest and smooth them over, particularly before official visits. In fact I recently learned that on at least one occasion when the president was visiting RT’s offices, other workers were effectively locked in their offices for security reasons. And of course, few will deny that the Kremlin pays people to show up for its various rallies and demonstrations. They might deny that threats are used against state workers in order to get them to attend such events, but the evidence that they do is far to great to ignore.

I could go on, citing example after example with link upon link, but I think this will suffice in order to make my point, which is that Paul Craig Roberts basically knows dick about Vladimir Putin, a man whom Roberts seems to worship. There is only one other possibility- Roberts does know more about Putin’s actual routine and yet is deliberately lying about him. Either way it’s bad, but to be honest I think my initial conclusion is correct. Roberts doesn’t know anything about Putin so he basically fills in the gaps with his own ideal fantasy president.

Does the reader appreciate how bizarre this is? Here’s a guy that assumes that any world leader who appears to be on the “mainstream media’s” shit list must be a wonderful, wise, and great leader. He knows nothing about him and yet without even bothering to check he invents a fantasy of this incredibly accessible president who “mingles” openly among his people. He’s just a few steps away from believing in Santa Claus.

This thing totally baffles me because I simply cannot get into the heads of people who do this. I don’t know who the president or prime minister of Indonesia is at the moment. What if I looked them up, and then simply because they are not my country’s leaders, began to project all my political ideals onto them without having visited Indonesia or without even doing cursory research on their background and political history? What if I just decided that they were radical socialists who believed in the same values I believe in, and I explained away the lack of Western media coverage as a hostile media blackout? Would that not be insane?

And yet as I have shown in the past, Westerners, even educated ones like Paul Craig Roberts, do exactly that all the time with Putin. What does it take to sit down, put your ideas into Putin’s mouth, and write a “speech” where the president of a country you obviously know nothing about just happens to feel passionate about the same things you believe in? I mean on some level you have to be conscious of the fact that you’re making this up, right? Or in the case of Paul Craig Roberts, he must be cognizant of the fact that he hasn’t really devoted any time to learning some of the most basic facts about Putin, which are widely available. But then again, I’m sure any article or work that fails to represent Putin as the savior of Russia if not the entire world will be instantly dismissed by Roberts, who knows better than to listen to “presstitutes.”

Still, is there really no pang of doubt? Then again, we’re talking about a guy who believes 9/11 was an inside job, and who believes there are conspiracies behind both the Sandy Hook and Orlando shootings. So uh yeah…He’s lost it. But the scary thing is he’s by no means the only one.