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.



26 thoughts on “The Sinister Urge

  1. What do I know

    Hope you don’t mind if I ask you a question that may clarify somehow the discussion of certain topics:

    How would you define liberalism?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      If we go by really basic definitions, liberalism is an ideological current that champions the liberty and rights of individuals.

      But when I say liberals here, I’m speaking more of Democrats in America.

  2. What do I know

    I had that feeling, that for an american audience liberalism is understood broadly as a synonym of Democrat party and its worldviews. I have to make an abstraction because I understand the ideology that stands up for laissez-faire, limited state intervention, individual rights, separation of church and state and that put enphasis on contract inviolability. I’m not saying that my definition is better than yours and I certainly don’t wish to turn this into a semantic dispute. I simply want to use this as a preamble.

    I don’t know exactly with which political ideology Democrats would match better in Europe, but I feel somewhere in between what I call demo-christianism and social-democracy.

    If you allow me to go farther on that paralelism, I would find the causes of the decline of american liberal Democrats very close to the ones that are dragging that ideology to the dirt elsewhere in Europe. Take the PS in France, labour in the UK, PASOK in Greece, PSOE in Spain and even socialdemocrats in Germany or in Holland, they all have left the field open for others (sadly most of this others are just old-school conservatives). Only exceptionally in Portugal, Italy and the nordic countries seems that this ideology manages to resist the wave.

    I agree about what you say on your post about how Democrats are failing to face the real causes of their collapse and you are more than right that they are not mainly in Russia, but I’d like to know if you agree that this phenomenon can be part of a bigger picture that affect a big part of the so called “West”

    1. gbd_crwx

      The social democratic parties have traditionally been the parties of industrial workers and as the de-industrialisation of “the west” have continued it makes somewhat sense that they will have less votes. Proportional election systems which doesn’t punish psrty splits as much as FPTP-systems also plays a part I guess.

      1. What do I know

        I think certainly social democratic parties managed to hold together supporters with very different worldviews, basically those about union rights and industrial workers first, then ecologist, then softer or pragmatical Marxists, internationalists and all kind of progressives (all those who are all for social issues, pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, pro-equality and so on)

        The same way that conservatives hold grasp of an equally diverse block with free-market liberals, demo-christian, nationalists and post-fascists.

        I believe the last crisis managed to shake the internal contradictions of the first group and that put an end to their unity, paradoxically the conservative block is mainly holding very close together and therefore are getting all the spoils. I don’t know much about it, but I believe that is somehow similar to what happened in america.

  3. gbd_crwx

    Good post, I have been thinking along the same lines. I just after the election there seemed to be some insight that just because you are white working class doesn’t mean you are automatically priviledged and wanting to have a reasonable chance in life (“like before”) doesn’t necessary mean that you want back the bad things from old too.

    On that note too, I think Russia managed to influence the election somewhat, but only because the failings of the Democratic party made it vulnerable for it, A contest against Donald Trump shouldn’t be a tight race.

    Bill Maher is an Anti-vaxxer?

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      He may have quit, but I haven’t heard of it. He was still an anti-vaxxer when he received something called The Dawkins award, named after Richard Dawkins.

  4. Callum C.

    Schindler is a Srebrenica denier? I didn’t know that. I always found him to be by far the more rational of that particular axis (though I also had no idea who the third guy was).

    He does seem to have a bit of a weakness for embarrassing himself around women though. Like, well, associating with Louise Mensch at all.

    1. Jim Kovpak Post author

      Yeah he’s not insane like Mensch, but he’s had his moments (not including the dick pics). Schindler’s ideology is basically identical to a MAGA chud or Putin supporter, but Putin is foreign and he sees Trump as a willing dupe. Were it not for that he’d probably be fine with Trump, especially considering how much time he spent making a big deal out of Hillary’ emails.

      I think above all he is loyal to his old institution, the NSA, more so than he is to his country or any kind of values.

      He has also repeatedly labeled Ariana Gic a “Kremlin troll.” While Gic has some major issues (subscriptions even), one thing she is definitely not is an agent of the Kremlin.

      1. Callum C.

        Yeah, while I tend to believe that Russia very much is trying to wage some kind of political or informational war on the US (based on the fact the people like Mark Galeotti also say this), I think Schindler falters a bit on bridging the gap between attempts by Russia and actual impact on the US. I would imagine there was some impact, but these things require a bit more than imagination.

        One of the biggest obstacles I have about listening former spies is the habit they have of seeing conspiracies everywhere. Especially when some of the logical steps behind those conspiracies may or may not be based on something that said ex-spy can’t talk about (or may or may not be made up, depending on the individual).

        On the other hand, ex-spies at least usually make their conspiracy theories interesting and plausible, which makes them much more fun than the usual Alex jones nonsense. So there’s that at least.

        I personally believe that the biggest thing to come out of the Trump-Russia thing will involve their shared predilection for fraud and financial crimes.

  5. Bubka

    “Srebrenica never happened” is Sorosesque BS that ignores the questions concerning a breakdown of those:

    – killed in fighting

    – collateral damage

    – the war crime of summary execution.

    Never mind the earlier atrocities committed there by Muslim warlord Fikrat Abdic and his goons. The body counts in that area don’t take into consideration the points raised in this note.

    FYI, Schindler is an establishment twat, who has played down some of his earlier comments that happened to be accurate.

      1. Jim Kovpak Post author

        I don’t put a lot of hope in Navalny, but he’s done a lot of good work, especially recently. The violent attacks against him and his staff have been increasing in intensity, which tells you he’s doing something right.

  6. A.I.Schmelzer

    I am reasonably certain that I made Schindler shut down his blogs comment section, by rebutting some of his very historically unusual claims about who started the Polish Soviet War during the Russian civil war.

    Concerning Srebrenica, I am not partial to the “black evil serbs vs. innocent muslims” portrayal, my understanding is that roughly the following happened:
    1: The area was pretty poor, end of the USSR send down a lot of economic shockwaves. Result were even less resources, breakdown of societal trusts and eventually the formation of blocks based on ethnicity and religion (you cant opt out of your ethnicity, so such blocks are more solid then political ones in most cases).
    2: People shot each other, competition for resources turned violent, destroying rather then capturing resources became the norm, vicious feedback loop was established.
    3: Oric leads his goons on a looting/raiding/raping rampage in the surrounding Serb countryside.
    4: Surrounding Serb countryside forms its own militias and raid back.
    5: People in Srebrenica not associated with Oric forms their own bands to defend their turfs against Serb militias looking for vengeance. Some of these lead by Yugoslav peoples army officers. Oric manages to coopt or replace this other leadership so that everything depends on him.
    6: Bosnian serbs get additional manpower, meanwhile, Bosniak leadership sees Oric as a potential threat (succesfull warlords being always threatening to the center) and recalls him to Sarajevo for “deliberations”.
    7: Serbs get wind of that, and basically march into Srebrenica unopposed.
    8: Serbs are pretty surprised that Orics goons are still in Srebrenica. Militias promptly start to execute them. I have also heard admissions that there were orders to execute YPA personel that fought with Orics as traitors. These came from people very sympathetic to the Serb side.
    9: Bosnian population interprets this as an incoming genocides and puts up last minute resistance.
    10: Which hits regular YPA units who were not involved in executions (yet) and assumed that Srebrenica had capitulated. At the same time, Bosnian militas try to run, some on their own openly bearing weapons and having uniforms, some hiding with civilian refugee columns, order was given to stop this run.
    11: Lacking professional manpower, more of the militias were brought in from the outlying hills. It now descended into a complete massacre, because the militias hated the Bosniaks a lot more then the regular YPA did.

    This thing can happen in any society, which is why it should be studied. Srebrenica was a peacefull town not a long time before this. I positively hate idiots who claims this on some kind of “incomprehensible ancient hatreds” which would only affect some “Slavic primitives” and certainly not good enlightened “liberals”.

  7. A.I.Schmelzer

    Edit: With “these” in These came from people very sympathetic to the Serb side I mean the people making the admissions, not the officers who were ordered to be executed.


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