Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Sinister Urge

Vox had a pretty good explainer breaking down Louis “I literally claimed to have fried my brain” Mensch, John “Srebrenica never happened BTW here’s a photo of my dick” Schindler, and some other shlub I’ve thankfully never heard of. If fate has been merciful to you and you are not familiar with these internet personalities, I’ll give you the gist. Basically ever since the election of Orange Man, certain people have made a career out of not only claiming that the Russians collude with Trump or that they interfered with the election (both claims with some evidence), but that Trump’s election was in fact the result of a secret Russian operation which, according to some “woke” Twitter pundits, may have spanned decades, all the way back to the late Soviet era.

Being Vox, they naturally had to include a large portion detailing a psychology experiment that would supposedly help explain why people, even super-smart liberals, would fall for conspiracy theories. I’m not disputing the experiment, of course, but I think there’s a much simpler explanation and it’s not one most liberals would like to admit. I strongly suspect that many liberals have long held an urge to immerse themselves in the conspiratorial thinking that was once largely the domain of the right. Maintaining the veneer of rationality is in some way discomforting to them.

I remind the reader that in a recent post, I pointed out how most people don’t have a coherent, consistent political worldview and don’t care whether or not they do. The same goes for a lot of self-identified liberals. Liberals have always had a few conspiracy theories to their name. Bring up Monsanto and you’ll often see what I mean. Bill Maher, a liberal’s liberal, is anti-vaccine because “Big Pharma!” For many liberals, I suspect that the appearance of being rational is more important, and it’s not hard to appear rational when your opponents often sound like random word generators spitting out an incoherent stream of “Where’s the birth certificate?!” and “Benghazi!!!

But liberals have a huge problem- despite the fact that their values are largely more popular (based on surveys), the fact that their views largely dominate pop culture, and the “fact” that they are so much smarter than those hordes of ignorant rednecks who didn’t even go to college (I know, right?! LOL!), liberals have basically been losing on every front for the past eight years. As some talented observers have noted, eight years of Obama didn’t really bring much meaningful change. The most significant change was increasingly right wing Republicans virtually dominating the federal government and state governments as well. This wasn’t supposed to happen! The data failed!

Nothing serves as a premise for an overarching conspiracy theory like a good back-stab legend. When you’re too afraid to be honest with yourself and you’re convinced that you’re more intelligent and savvy yet you still lose again and again, you become vulnerable to conspiracy narratives. Losing the 2016 election to an elderly sociopath with the mental capacity of a toddler should have been a sobering moment for the Democratic Party. Plenty of supporters have been telling them exactly that. However they are repeatedly being dismissed for their disloyalty to the Eternal First Female President and their apostasy from the true faith of the Holy Data and the Holy Model. Naturally, many who keep the true faith are more than happy to latch onto a soothing, yet implicitly frightening explanation- that Russia is manipulating US politics from afar. Like any conspiracy theory it is paranoid, but the world of fear it offers is preferable to admitting one’s ignorance or one’s mistakes.

If the “Zionist Occupied Government” explains why the superior vanguard of “the White race” largely consists of petty criminals, con-men, perverts, and people who can’t maintain a relationship, the Russian Trump operation explains why those super savvy liberals just can’t stop failing. Funny though- Russian election meddling, at most, only explains the presidential election. I’ve yet to see these geniuses explain Democrat losses in the house and at the state level. But what would I know, I was probably added to the roster of “Team Deza” long ago.

And speaking of “Team Deza,” there are a couple more factors that make conspiracies very attractive to some Democrats. One is the new jargon. Kompromat! Dezinformatsiya! Chekist! Game theory! Nothing makes some liberals happier than dropping jargon and factoids at parties to sound like they actually know what they’re talking about: “So like, yeah, like, Vladimir Putin is a Chekist, which is like a type of Chechen Russian that kills LGBT people. And, like, he got kompromat on Trump and Flynn, so they have to keep putting out Kremlin dezinformatsiya, which is like information that’s like, not real, like disinformation, so like we’re basically living under this…Cyrillic autocracy controlled by Vladimir Putin! Might as well cover the White House in Kremlin minarets, right? This cheesecake, by the way, is literally amazing!

If it’s not the jargon, then it’s the same thrill some people apparently get from role-playing online. Long ago in discussion forums I learned that some conspiracy theorists aren’t there to just share and discuss their theories and other views. They are online to actually live out the conspiracy. If they encounter someone who questions their theories or whom they just don’t like, they will allege that this person is some kind of “disinfo agent” working for the Mossad, CIA, or whomever. Now savvy liberals can sound smart as they engage in the same behavior, accusing people of being “Kremlin trolls.” We can’t forget that much like many conservatives, plenty of liberals live dull, pointless late-capitalist lives and thus may be starving for excitement. Imaging you’re unraveling a Russian intel op can be a cheap alternative to video games, and unlike with video games, this makes you look like a mature, politically-minded adult.

So while psychological research on conspiracy theories is interesting and explanatory, I think the best shorthand answer as to why so many Democrats are “falling for fake news about Russia” is, apart from simple partisanship, a strong desire to let go and indulge in the comfort of conspiracy theories. For some people it’s more comforting to imagine that the world is controlled by shadowy forces who always win than to admit their own failings. Moreover, the conspiracy exempts the believer from any concrete actions. There is no point if the puppet masters are in control the whole time. There are clearly significant numbers of liberals who want their own Alex Jones, and now they have it in the form of Louise Mensch. Simple as that.

 

 

Serhii Plokhy’s The Gates of Europe – A Great Introduction to Ukraine

I wanted to do a short post that was positive for a change, so I thought the book review I’d been planning to write for months would naturally be the most appropriate.

Some months ago I finished Serhii Plokhy’s The Gates of Europe – A History of Ukraine, and it is absolutely masterful. It’s strongest features? First, it is written by a Ukrainian historian. No, I’m not saying this like Viatrovych fanboy who says “Ukrainians should write Ukrainian history!” But when studying a country it helps to spend some time reading the work of that country’s historians to get their point of view. While outsiders’ detachment may help free them from potential biases, that same detachment can also cause them to miss or devote less time to those things in the country’s history which don’t necessarily catch their interest. A native historian can give you an idea of what local people find significant about their country.

Secondly, Plokhy strikes a good balance between detail and pacing. One thing about general histories is that they can sometimes be either too light, not delving deep enough into some important events or phenomenon and lacking crucial nuance, or they do the opposite, forcing you to slog through excruciatingly-detailed descriptions of sometimes minor events over the course of centuries. Naturally when I saw the book opens with the region of Ukraine during Antiquity I feared it would be the latter. Yet the author moves at a lively pace, moving more quickly over those parts which aren’t as crucial in the history of Ukraine. And speaking of crucial parts in Ukraine’s history, the book is also very recent, giving the reader key details about events such as the Maidan “Revolution of Dignity,” the Russian annexation of Crimea and the invasion and occupation of the Donbas region.

Having deliberately saved the best for last I can now tell you the greatest feature of Plokhy’s book- it truly brings the Ukrainian people, stretching back to the ancient Rus, to life. It does this by properly reclaiming Ukrainian historical figures whenever they lived, even if they died long before the ethnogenenis of the Ukrainians. Plokhy shows the Ukrainian people, particularly from the early modern era onward, as a coherent nation even though it lacked its own state.

Another great aspect of this portrayal is agency. For much of my life I’ve noticed the tendency of some Ukrainians or well-wishers to portray Ukrainian history as one of victimization and domination. In Plokhy’s history, different groups of Ukrainians act, and sometimes it doesn’t go well for them, but they are responsible. They are not simply acted upon. Even in the Soviet era, a period of Ukrainian history that some nationalists like to declare totally invalid, Plokhy shows that Ukrainians could be both victims and perpetrators, ruled and rulers via their dominance of key cadres after the Stalin era. Rather than treating the centuries of foreign domination in Ukraine as a black hole in which Ukrainians were simply objects and not subjects, he presents the long march toward Ukrainian statehood in a progressive way, from possessions of the Commonwealth and the Russian Empire, to a short-lived series of states in the revolutionary interwar period, to a unified Soviet republic and founding member of the UN, to an independent state suffering from Russian neo-colonialism, and finally to a state up in arms to overcome that neo-colonialism. Regardless of nation state status, Plokhy’s Ukraine has never died.

If I had to note some flaw I could say the book does skimp a bit when it comes to pointing out the role of the OUN-B nationalists and their role in the Holocaust (it does, however, clearly mention the ethnic cleansing of Poles), but if you look at the actual amount of text dedicated to those nationalists in general this is not particularly surprising or egregious. I think sometimes some of my Ukrainian readers infer that I insist every mention of interwar Ukrainian nationalists must necessarily include the laundry list of atrocities committed by some nationalist groups. I suspect this is because of the legacy of Soviet propaganda plus the Yanukovych administration, which often put up monuments to “victims of the Banderites” in places where no Banderites or any other nationalists even operated, such as the Crimea. This is simply idiocy.

Beating the dead nationalist horse is not my aim at all; I don’t really see them as being very relevant to Ukraine today. I’m far more opposed to the whitewashing, glorification, double-standards, and pseudo-history concerning the OUN and UPA. I’m sick of seeing them shoehorned into Ukrainian politics and Ukrainian history whether as heroes or villains. Thus Plokhy’s book truly shines because he gives the nationalists exactly the amount of text they deserve for a movement which never attracted more than a minority of Ukrainians as a whole, many of whom joined only under duress and not out of ideological fervor. The legend of the nationalists, which has been inflated by Soviet and Russian propaganda on one hand and the Bandera cult on the other, gets deflated to its proper place in Ukrainian history by Plokhy. So in the end, the one “flaw” really isn’t a flaw at all, or at least it is a totally defensible one.

In conclusion I highly recommend The Gates of Europe as an essential introductory general history of Ukraine. I think any Ukrainian or person of Ukrainian heritage reading this book would be proud to see that Ukrainians made important contributions in the history of the region and even globally despite lacking a nation state for much of their history.

 

Gotcha!

 

If I had to name one of the saddest, most useless tactics in the toolbox of Democrats/liberals, it would be those “Gotcha!” moments- pointing out the hypocrisy of their right wing and far right wing opponents. Take a look on Twitter some time and see liberal responses to President Pumpkin-face’s dainty curtsy for the Saudi King to see what I mean:

For the readers that aren’t aware, during his first Middle Eastern trip in 2009, Barack Obama made a shallow respectful bow upon greeting the Saudi monarch. The conservative mediasphere when nuts. Naturally they aren’t doing that now in response to Trump and if you managed to corner any conservative and demand an explanation they’d probably give you a rambling response about how Donald was just making it easier for the King to put the medal over his head before changing the subject to something else entirely.

Knowing this, however, I’m pressed to imagine exactly what liberals think would happen by pointing this out. Are they expecting to see conservatives respond with something like: “You know you liberals have got a point there! We made such a big deal of Obama just trying to show some courtesy to an important ally and friend of the Bush family, and it was all over nothing! I hope you can forgive us for flying off the handle that time! We’ll try to be more consistent with our outrage in the future!”

The point here is that just as basic facts don’t sway opinions for most people, pointing out even the most glaring hypocrisy can be just as useless. Even when that non-scandal with Obama took place in 2009, I predicted that there would have been outrage either way. That is to say if Obama hadn’t made any bow and just greeted the Saudi King as Westerners greet one another, Fox News and the army of conservative pundits would have screamed themselves red in the face about how the President disrespected this “valuable ally” and important partner. I’m sure some of them would have certainly declared the slight so serious as to jeopardize the War on Terror and by extension, America’s security.

These people weren’t genuinely angry about Obama being seen as submissive to a foreign leader (because normal, informed people don’t see the gesture that way at all), the point is that it was Obama, leader of the opposing team, and thus everything he does or doesn’t do is terrible and with malicious intent. And in spite of all that vaunted formal education, liberals totally missed this point and seemingly built an industry of cataloging each and every single time conservatives contradicted themselves, as though any of these people even cared about being consistent. The pundits who produce this manufactured outrage on the right are well-paid to do so. They aren’t so much as representing a coherent ideology as they are serving their purpose, which is getting masses of people to vote for the GOP and, quite often, policies which actually go against their own self-interest. I’m not saying that none of those pundits and columnists have some genuine, sincerely-held beliefs, but rather that they aren’t terribly concerned with being morally or ideologically consistent.

Realistically speaking, most people don’t have any coherent political worldview. The severe limitations on political participation and the pressures of capitalism mean that even in the most developed liberal democracies, the majority of people just “aren’t into politics.” With so many people posting political memes and sharing political stories it might seem that they are, but if you really look at what’s being shared most of it is simply bullshit. It’s clickbait, typically designed to provoke outrage or to stroke the reader’s ego for being on the “right” side. In other words- this isn’t politics but entertainment, in some cases highly-addictive entertainment. As such, it sort of resembles another form of popular entertainment- professional sports.

If you watch professional sports, you’ll notice that even casual fans balk at referees when they call fouls or penalties against their team. Sometimes, after watching the replay, they’ll acknowledge that the call was justified, but more often than not the immediate reaction to a call against a fan’s team is “bullshit!” When you’re rooting for a team, what matters is that they win. I’ve never heard of a sports fan who worries that their team might push the rules or even break them without getting caught. For a more extreme example of this just look at last year’s doping scandal in Russia. There people flat-out broke rules in a big way, and yet a good portion of people just alleged that there was an anti-Russian conspiracy and that Western athletes were getting away with the same thing (they weren’t, actually).

Obviously the world of sports doesn’t translate over to the world of politics very well. Here it’s supposed to be about ideas, values, worldviews. If you’re trying to convince people that your side is morally right (as has been the case for a long time now), you ought to be consistent in regards to your values. Ought to be is the key phrase there. In reality we’ve long passed the point where consistency matters. And yet you still have liberals saying things like “How can you be so opposed to abortion and not want to help poor women who keep the babies as you demand? Sounds like someone’s a hypocrite!” Poor liberals. As a great baseball player once put it- they think it don’t be like it is, but it do.

I must confess that I’m guilty of playing the “Gotcha!” game with hypocrisy. Who isn’t? It’s one of the easiest games to play. It’s not entirely useless either. Part of the reason why it matters to me is that I actually care about having a morally consistent worldview, and that worldview has actually evolved radically over time as a result. Plus pointing out hypocrisy is useful for youth and people who are politically undecided. If you’re not really that involved, you might steer clear of a movement which demands ideological conformity yet openly betrays its own values. In this sense it is like fact-checking, which is still useful and important even if it doesn’t actually help persuade people on a large scale.

But that being said, pointing out hypocrisy can’t really be a winning or even effective strategy, and it certainly can’t be a replacement for having one’s own internally consistent set of values. American Democrats spent years relying on snark and the “Gotcha” approach, trusting that the glaring hypocrisy of the right would attract more people to their side. In the end, it was their own hypocrisy of claiming to care about the working class and the poor while constantly kowtowing to super-rich donors that was one of the most decisive factors in their pathetic defeat.

 

 

 

A Primer on Russia’s Presidential Election

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in! I’ve decided to write one more article about Russia-related stuff (for the foreseeable future) just because I recently saw another example of a trope that never seems to die and I don’t think I’ve ever actually dedicated a whole post to it. Before I proceed let me point out that I’m not trying to single out any particular author here. I’ve seen this trope and variations thereof many times over the years, and in my less-informed days I’d actually voiced similar arguments. With the disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump in.

Among Western Putin apologists there’s a grand tradition of smearing Western Russia correspondents by pedantically homing in on any mistakes, real or imagined, in their work. The idea is that they’re actually ignorant about Russia, that they have an axe to grind against poor wittle Putin. To be fair, some journalists, usually those not actually based in Russia, can display horrendous ignorance about the country. Case in point:

However, when attacking long-time Moscow correspondents, the grievances are typically unfair, inaccurate, nitpicky, or all three at the same time. When there’s a major election in Russia, Putin’s pedants rehash the same trope every time- they complain that the Western media gives so much attention to non-systemic opposition candidates who in fact are very unpopular and have no chance of winning.

In support of this claim they will provide plenty of legitimate opinion polls. Rest assured you can usually take these polls at face value; they’re typically correct. It’s no secret that opposition politicians in Russia are incredibly unpopular, indeed far less popular than the two leading systemic-opposition parties the “Communist” Party of the Russian Federation (I can’t put enough quotes around the word “Communist” in their name) and the equally inappropriately-named Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. So why does the Western media focus so much attention on politicians who have no chance of winning and are almost unheard of outside of Moscow? Apparently someone actually needs to explain this, so here goes…

First let me say that the inspiration for this comes from a tweet thread by David Filipov, Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, in which he addressed this very question.

In case that didn’t make it painfully clear to you, let me break it down to preschool level.

In an election, a real election, candidates are supposed to compete. That means they actually want to be president. Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky have no plans to be president of Russia. If you deny the existence of systemic opposition in Russia you are either ignorant or a liar- period. While there is sometimes opposition at the local level and in the Duma, none of the systemic opposition parties pose a threat to Putin and his favored United Russia party. None of them plan to do anything to change the system that basically lets Putin do what he pleases as long as he wants.

Those opposition candidates, in spite of their minimal popularity, actually do want to change the system in some way. They actually intend to be real politicians. It’s kind of the media’s job to interview candidates, ask them about their ideas, why they want to be president, a representative, or whatever. Unless we’re talking about the Russian state media, of course.

And speaking of state media, it might be time to ask why these politicians are so unpopular. Apart from occasionally appearing on talk shows while they are mercilessly shouted down by other guests, most major opposition figures in Russia almost never appear on TV unless it’s in a bullshit story alleging that they’re working for the CIA, Soros, the YMCA, or whatever other organization the Kremlin is scared shitless of this week. All the while they and their volunteers are routinely harassed and their offices searched or closed under suspicious circumstances. Meanwhile the perpetrators are either never found or are promptly released.

Remember that the Putin apologists who constantly whine about the Western media devoting so much attention to minimally-popular opposition candidates are at least tacitly asserting that Russia has a functioning democratic electoral system. If they aren’t, I don’t know why they even bother, but let’s assume for the moment that they do. If this is the case, why are Russian elections so bizarrely different from those in other democratic states? Why are the second and third most popular presidential candidates not even interested in actually becoming president? Hell, one of them (Zhirinovsky) actually called for elections to be abolished and for Putin to be given the title of “Supreme Commander.” Can anyone imagine a Republican in the US suggesting such a thing for Obama? Can you even imagine them just calling for Obama to be able to run for a third term? The scandal would be at least equal to the one surrounding the Trump administration at the moment.

So please, Putinist pedants- stop pretending Putin’s regime is just a little quirky or just as democratic as other states and wringing your hands while presenting polls to show how unpopular candidates like Navalny are. We all know they’re unpopular, and anyone who knows about Russia’s political an mass media system knows why. To para-phrase Filipov, if you think there’s another candidate Russia correspondents should be spending more time covering, please name them and explain why. What is newsworthy about them? And to extrapolate from that- if you’re not happy with the stories that Western journalists cover, maybe you should provide examples of the stories you think should be covered and again, say why. I’ve often written about my complaints about some of that coverage and I give my reasons.

Otherwise, I suggest you drop that trope and stick to your whataboutism. At least there you’re more likely to come up with a decent point from time to time.

The Pinnacle of Manliness

I originally was going to write this as a sort of palate cleanser before returning to the usual topic of Russia’s wacky adventures in fantasy land, but to be honest I’m thinking I’d rather be writing stuff like this than covering Russia and Ukraine. I’ll address why in a later post, rest assured, but for now let’s just say that it is repetitive, boring,and depressing. So with that in mind, here’s something completely different.

As we are constantly told by the media and totally well-adjusted adult Youtube personalities, there’s a “masculinity crisis” in America, or the West in general. The alt-right, “Men’s Rights” movement, and the general “anti-feminist” community we see on the internet all seem to think so. PUAs (Pick Up Artists), Red Pillers (dumb fucks), MGTOW (You don’t even want to know)- all of these masses of mostly millennial males are struggling with this crisis of masculinity. Some in rather bizarre ways, such as the so-called “Proud Boys” which have a rule against masturbation. Hilariously, or perhaps tragically, all these defenders of traditional masculinity seek to end that “crisis” by demanding more of the same thing that caused it in the first place, but that’s a subject for a very long post if not a book.

Recently I heard a rather hilarious reading of a conservative’s column about this subject courtesy of the Chapo Trap House, and it made me recall a similar article I’d riffed on years before I even started blogging. It also brought back some memories of other things I’d read and I began to notice a curious, if not ridiculous theme in this genre of writing. If I could put this theme into words, I’d call it “bullshit masculinity,” and I would define it as people lamenting the “loss of traditional masculinity” and then presenting personal examples that set the bar ridiculously low.

To demonstrate what I mean I’ll start with the example of that article I riffed on years ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t find my original note and don’t remember the author’s name, but it was about why soccer is somehow destroying America. In case anyone is already wondering, yes, he basically steals jokes from that episode of King of the Hill about American football versus soccer. The only difference is that the TV show was being somewhat ironic and the jokes were actually funny. But conservatives do seem to have trouble mixing up fiction and real life, after all.

So the author’s gist is how soccer is all about not playing to win, participation trophies, standard millennial hate before it was mainstream. He’s obviously going to compare it to a more wholesome, American sport, and for added surprise, it just happens to be one that he played in high school!

If you’re guessing he played American football you’d be wrong. Boxing? Not even close. Basketball? Nope.

Baseball. He played baseball.

Yes, that sport where players spend long periods of time just standing around or sitting in a dugout.

In a pathetic attempt to make his readers think baseball is hardcore, he talks about how the opposing teams infielders would be screaming “Ey batter batter!” like…get ready for this awesome metaphor…”Buddhist monks on steroids.” And he warns you that if you weren’t careful, the pitcher might just brush you with a fastball to remind you that you’re not playing a kids game. This is a game of true men. A game of sweat glistening off the iron biceps of men who can admire that in a totally heterosexual way, whether on the field or in the locker room, away from prying eyes of those ever-nagging women.

Moving on to the article read by the Chapo crew, this particular author laments that based on one study, male grip strength is significantly weaker among millennial males. By extension we’re supposed to believe that millennial males are weaker than previous generations, including those generations’ females.

So now you’re ready to here his personal anecdotes about all the manly things he did back in his proper childhood, right? Well get ready for a letdown. Apparently his examples consisted of helping his dad change the oil on their car and carrying firewood around. And I was really hoping for tales about underground vale tudo matches in the favelas of Rio.

Aggiunta olio motore

CAN YOU DO THIS, YOU MILLENNIAL BETA SJW CUCKS?!! CAN YOU?!

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Guy makes a career off of complaining about the decline of traditional masculinity, and then tries to make the rather mundane tasks he did seem like the equivalent of storming the beach at Normandy or being an MMA fighter. Sure there are people who pull this shtick who have done some objectively hardcore shit in their lives. Chris Sajnog shoehorns laments about gender and masculinity into a book he wrote about how to shoot better, but in Chris’ defense, he’s an actual retired Navy SEAL. He’s not some guy writing, “Man these so-called young men today are all a bunch of pussies! If only they knew the kind of shit I saw when I worked the grill at McDonald’s during the lunch rush!”

I’ve even seen this kind of thing pop up when reading articles by expats extolling the virtue of Russian or Ukrainian women. According to them, these women appreciate traditional masculinity, and make you feel like a real man! And how do they do this, you ask? By letting you buy them stuff for no reason. Yes, you’re supposed to feel like a real man by holding the doors for a woman you know nothing about, and then paying for her dinner, movie ticket, or whatever. That’s what passes for “chivalry” these days. You know back in the day you had to hold your vanquished enemies for ransom, among many other duties, to be considered chivalrous. Nowadays guys who can’t even ride a damned horse say they have chivalry because they bought some woman named Olga an overpriced meal. If only Godfrey of Bouillon could have a word with them.

The last breed of these morons consists of those who exalt things like the military and combat experience yet never served. I remember one piece by one of these “manosphere” dorks that was all about how the lack of major wars is somehow leading to a decline in masculinity. I just had to skim a few paragraphs before I had the guy pegged. I sent him an email telling him I was a journalist who’d worked in a warzone and I was interested in his experiences of combat. He replied quite promptly- never served in the military. I guess he doesn’t need all that character building; he’s already a real man because he writes about it.

Look, defenders of “traditional masculinity,” I ask you kindly- if you want to write an article lamenting the supposed decline of manliness, don’t try to pass off your mundane sports, household chores, or automotive maintenance skills as hardcore pillars of the masculine ideal. If you’re ashamed because you never boxed or worked as a lumberjack or whatever you see as being more objectively masculine, feel free to express your regrets about that. Or maybe just shut the fuck up and join a gym or better yet, join the military so you can see how glorious war really is. When you pull this bait-and-switch nonsense, inflating common tasks as though they were rites of passage for Viking warriors, you’re just screwing with your readers and wasting their time. Not to mention the fact that I haven’t done any Brazilian jiu-jitsu training (or any other martial arts training) since 2014 and yet I’m confident I could easily choke out almost each and every one of these Youtube stars who make hours upon hours of pedantic ranting videos blathering about how weak and “beta” males are these days.

So in conclusion let me just say this in short, staccato sentences to make things perfectly clear. Concepts about what is masculine have varied throughout time and by culture. Traditional masculinity is rooted in patriarchy. Patriarchy privileges males but at a high cost. Many of these whiners want those privileges without the responsibilities and negatives. Moreover, the generation before you had it tougher. Their parents had it even worse. No matter what sports you play or what you’ve done, take a look at how Roman soldiers or Mongol warriors lived sometime. Nothing you do will ever make you more “hardcore” than that. Rejoice that you live in a world where you don’t have to live that way.

Postscript

I’m pretty much done talking about the social network ban in Ukraine. Apparently I did not sufficiently hammer home the point I was trying to make in my last post. My anger in response to this isn’t about what the government did, but rather at the vastly more effective things they don’t do instead. Imagine you’re proud of how you finally trimmed the hedge on your front lawn, but meanwhile half your house is on fire. This would suggest you have a problem with priorities.

I’ve read more refined arguments for the ban since the last post, and while some of them are quite compelling (and some sites and services I agree should be banned, like Kaspersky Labs), but I feel they still fall short because at the end of the day, the ban doesn’t even fucking work. No seriously, it doesn’t. Here’s an excerpt from the link:

“Ukrainian experts also say that blocking the Russian sites is currently technically impossible. The chairman of the Internet Association of Ukraine, Alexander Fediyenko told “Interfax Ukraine”: “As of today, it can not be done.” He also added that the implementaion of the block would take time and large sums of money to upgrade equipment and make network topology changes.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian wireless operator ‘Kyivstar’ and telecom firm ‘Ukrtelekom’ have started preparations to implement the bill. ‘Ukrtelekom’ Director of Corporate Communications Mykhailo Shuranov told Hromadske that it could take from couple of days to a week.

Russian social Media VK has already shared instructions on how to bypass the block to its 20 million users.”

And in case anyone is wondering, I’ve been able to access all of the major blocked sites since this thing went into effect. Obviously a lot of babushki might not be able to figure out how to get around the ban, but the dangerous potential agents of the Kremlin certainly will.

There’s also another disturbing aspect of the ban, which comes right from the mouth of Poroshenko himself:

“I can tell that right after Russia stops its aggression against Ukraine, after the last soldier leaves the sovereign and independent territory of Ukraine, we will be ready to reverse this decision,” he (Poroshenko) said during the press-conference in Strasbourg.”

Think about that for a second. Apart from the fact that Putin, and indeed any likely successor is almost certainly not going to give back the Crimea of his own accord, does this seem just to you? Let’s just huff some paint for a second and imagine Putin did give back the Crimea and pulled all his overt forces out of Ukrainian territory- what then? Everything goes back to normal as Poroshenko promises? Ukrainian and Russian businessmen start making deals on the back of their respective populations again? Russia just gets to invade and occupy the country, kill over 10,000 people, and then just go back to the old status quo without so much as a slap on the wrist? And what would Ukraine get out of this fantasy Russia to guarantee its future safety, a peace treaty recognizing Ukraine’s borders? Yeah those have been so effective in the past! I’m all for reconciliation between Ukrainians and Russians as people, but I think it ought to be painfully clear that there can be no reconciliation between Ukraine and the current Russian regime even if it did reverse all of its actions since 2014.

That out of the way, let me remind readers that I am no naive liberal (or even a liberal at all) who believes in the childish idea of absolute free speech, nor do I believe that all human rights can be granted absolutely at all times (some internationally recognized human rights are actually contradictory, in fact). I’m not so much concerned about some middle-aged person in Kharkiv who will be inconvenienced in accessing their Odnoklassniki account (note that they can still access it) as I am about the idea of alienating millions of Ukrainian citizens while handing the Russians a point in the battle for the narrative in this conflict. This is doubly egregious when this action won’t even do what it’s supposed to do. This is incompetence, plain and simple.

 

War By Other (Ineffective) Means

I don’t normally do two posts in one day, but since I learned about the Ukrainian government’s recent decision to block Yandex, VKontakte (VK), and certain other Russian social networking sites, I can’t keep silent. I don’t really use VK or Yandex anymore, but for other reasons I won’t get into, this really struck a personal chord with me.

Suffice it to say that I have, in recent times, become intimately acquainted with Ukraine’s still Soviet Union-like bureaucracy. At times it has proven even more backward than that of Russia. I will also state that this kind bureaucracy exists in a sphere that is vital to Ukraine’s national security and its ability to defend itself against a certain foreign invasion and occupation (none of this knowledge is even remotely secret or even obscure, just so you know). Without going into detail I will say that Ukraine’s war effort is concretely hindered by such backwardness, just as it is hindered by endemic corruption. So imagine my rage when the latest “patriotic” outburst from the authorities is not in fact a sweeping reform meant to clean up this clusterfuck or any major corruption issues, but rather a very Kremlin-like decision to ban several social networks, including ones people use for their email.

First let me smack down a few arguments I’ve heard in favor of the ban.

Yes, VK and the other social network are potential security risks (at the user level) and yes, they can be a vector for Russian propaganda. On the other hand, both of these work both ways. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) investigators have used sites like VK to determine the location of Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory, along with other vital pieces of information. VK is still being used by OSINT gatherers because even now it seems the Russian military has not yet developed the concept of OPSEC. And as for the propaganda and Kremlin-linked pages, these also provided crucial information to Ukrainian and pro-Ukrainian activists and investigators, who not surprisingly often do a far better job than the governments’ organs. That’s basically over now.

And speaking of propaganda, the Russian press is having a field day with the news. While Russia has banned thousands of sites, they’ve only banned one social network so far, and it’s the one everyone hates- LinkedIn. But this recent move must have Russia’s state media bosses popping champagne, because this fits their narrative perfectly.

Remember the main message of Kremlin propaganda. It isn’t that Russia is so great or better than the West. Rather it is that everywhere else is just as bad, and that trying to make improvements will just destabilize your already-bad situation and make it worse. Moreover, the Russian state media insists that things like freedom of press and freedom of speech are just illusions. This is why one favorite trope of Russian propaganda is to publish videos which were supposedly “banned in the US!” The bottom line of almost everything they put out is that everybody’s bad, so why bother striving for something that’s just a mirage? The Ukrainian government has pulled some pretty Kremlin-like moves before, but nothing like this to date, and this can’t even really be called Kremlin-like since the Russian government hasn’t even reached that point yet.

Another argument is that this is justified because there is a war. Very well- fight the war then. Launch an offensive, shore up positions, and/or reach out to the population to mobilize them for defense. Do something other than piddly bullshit that just makes you look worse and doesn’t actually hurt Russia in any way. This is what Ukrainian politicians are doing in order to avoid actually fighting the war. Doing that might force them to curtail or *gasp!* cease their own personal enrichment. Thousands of ordinary Ukrainians have made sacrifices, even the ultimate sacrifice in this war, but the leadership sure as hell doesn’t want to sacrifice anything.

I might also add that VK and other Russian social networks haven’t been doing anything now that they weren’t already doing since the war began in the spring of 2014. If it’s right to ban them now and this banning is necessary for the war effort, why wasn’t this done back in 2014, 2015, or even 2016? Why hasn’t all trade with Russia been subject to sanctions since 2014? I’ll tell you why- because this excuse is bullshit.

Having got those objections out of the way, let me say that while my loyalty to Ukraine’s cause is unshaken, I am now more convinced than ever that Ukraine’s “leadership” is in no way serious about fighting this war. They’d rather go to the West with their hand out in hopes that if they look pitiful enough big-brother NATO will step in and solve the situation somehow. I say “solve” because what I think they’d much rather see Russia just go back to the status quo border-wise so they can continue making lucrative deals with their Russian counterparts while simultaneously reaping the benefits of European Union integration. I don’t trust any of these people any further than I could throw them.

Am I shouting “ZRADA!!!” (Treason!)?  No. To accuse them of treason is to suggest that you had some faith in them in the beginning. I don’t put any faith in politicians or governments; I’ve put my faith in the Ukrainian people and their repeatedly-demonstrated abilities for self-organization. I can only hope more will realize their own powers and abilities and reject the narrow range of views proffered by these clowns who call themselves leaders.

I think this just shows how precarious the situation is for those inside and outside of Ukraine who truly want the country to succeed. It is a constant struggle against foreign aggression in front and mind-numbing incompetence and corruption in the rear. For my part I’ll keep fighting the good fight, but I won’t be doing it on VKontakte, that’s for sure.