Author Archives: Jim Kovpak

About Jim Kovpak

Journalist, translator, actor, humorist

Role Reversal

Now that Russian propaganda and fake news has become the hot topic ever since Westerners learned it can affect their countries and not just Eastern European nations they don’t really give a fuck about, you’d think they’d take some time to strengthen their own practices in order to differentiate themselves from Russian and other state-owned propaganda outlets.

Well you’d be wrong. The New York Times, which seems to see itself as a bastion of true journalism, has elected to serve up “alternative facts” by hiring a climate change denier. Better sign up a Holocaust denier and a flat Earther to make sure we get all sides of the story, right?

And when it comes to other publications, it almost looks like they checked out the worst Russian state outlets like TV Zvezda and got jealous. Check this shit out.

dumbasses

Yes, apparently the “OK” sign is now a “white power sign” because the ADL says so. Look, as much as I loathe Cernovich (don’t really know Fairbanks but working for Sputnik is bad enough), the guy says more than enough heinous, idiotic shit on Twitter. There’s no need to imagine that he’s giving a secret white power salute. In fact, I don’t even think they were going for the “OK” sign. It looks to me more like they were trying to emulate their god-emperor Trump and his habitual hand gesture. I mean he only does it almost every goddamned time he gives a speech.

 

And it’s no secret that the particular gesture in question has become widely associated with Trump. Here’s Trump’s biggest fanboy Milo Yiannobodygivesafuck emulating his master’s mannerisms:

fuckhead2

“Wow! What a daring provocateur with such original fresh, controversial opinions and a British accent to boot! We have no choice but to fall all over ourselves to offer you free air-time and speaking engagements!” -Liberals

So uh yeah- I don’t think that’s a neo-Nazi code sign there. If only there were some other way to determine that these people are racists. Like…If they perhaps wrote their opinions on various topics and then published them somewhere for the whole world to see. Then we could bust them- preferably by giving them free media coverage with headlines like: “Meet the Fresh New Face of Ethno-nationalism.” Were it only that easy! I guess we’ll have to squint closely at their photographs and see if they’re wearing New Balance sneakers or straight-laces. But that’s why they call it investigative journalism, right?

 

Update

Not that this blog is about to go all “Fuck Alex Jones,” but there’s a fitting update to the last post about the conspiracy-peddling con-man and his custody trial. SPOILERS- He lost.

And justly so, seeing as how all non-brainwashed people realize that Jones never actually had any children. The “kids” were in fact just crisis actors paid by George Soros. Another NWO false flag psyop has been foiled thanks to the jurors, who have apparently taken countermeasures against the effects of fluoride and chemtrails. They won’t be turning into gay frogs anytime soon!

The moral of the story- be careful about what you pretend to be.

Jones Justice

It’s really hard to avoid Schadenfreude over the recent legal travails of conspiracy con-man Alex Jones. For those of you who have haven’t been following the news, Jones is in the middle of a serious custody dispute with his ex-wife, and she’s alleging that he is mentally unfit to care for their children. Her evidence? Well for starters…

 

Jones’ now-famous defense is that he is “playing a character” on his show, which he likens to “performance art.” Essentially his wife had him forked, to use a chess analogy- if he sticks by his beliefs, he could be labeled insane or mentally unstable at best, but in order to defend himself against such allegations he has to basically admit that he has been totally full of shit for years. Of course he immediately made a b-line for the latter because this time, his personal interests were on the line, and given the money he’s made hawking bullshit products over the years, it’s clear that personal material interests trump everything else for Jones.

This really comes as no shock. Many of Jones’ fans, and many Americans who aren’t, pull the same routine all the time. I’ve often written about how so many conspiracy theorists will talk your ear off about the coming catastrophe or impending martial law and then piss off to Wal-Mart to pick up snacks for the big game on Sunday. People go out to the shooting range to practice for the “WTSHTF” (When-the-Shit-hit-the-Fan) event, and then they spend the rest of their time playing video games, posting shit on Facebook, and going to the Church potluck. Jones just did the same thing here- he immediately jettisoned his beliefs when it became necessary. And this isn’t even the first time.

As everyone knows, Jones went full-Trump supporter this election. Prior to Trump’s run, Jones has often claimed that elections in the US are decided in advance and president’s are “chosen” by the elite. You’d think a man so skeptical of power as Jones would call out Trump’s populism as just another Bilderberg/NWO plot. But no, for all his talk about “liberty” Jones likes Trump, so there’s no way he could be just another slick-talking reptilian shapeshifter! How quickly he went from “the government’s trying to kill you with fluoride” to “all hail President Trump!”

We see a similar thing in Russia- lately several Ukrainians have asked me if Russians really believe the things they see about Ukraine on their television channels. I tell them that they basically believe and don’t believe at the same time. It’s the acceptance of key talking points while rejecting the level of belief that demands action. Sure, they’ll readily accept all the stories about how Ukraine is a failed state, but marauding neo-Nazis slaughtering poor Russian-speaking children? Very doubtful. Were that the case, Russia would have far more volunteers going to fight in the Donbas without having to offer them cash incentives which may be three times higher than their normal monthly salary.

The same goes for Russian approval for Putin. It’s really easy to tell a pollster that you approve of Putin and his policies, but one can’t help but notice how many people shirk their patriotic duty by engaging in petty corruption rather than sucking it up and enduring even poorer living conditions for the sake of the Motherland. It’s also telling that all these pro-Putin rallies and projects always require money from the government. How much can someone really support Putin if they can’t bring themselves to attend a rally without the promise of 350 rubles after 40 minutes? The Russian-speaking internet is filled with photographs showing stacks of protest signs that were immediately discarded by paid attendees who had fulfilled their part of the bargain.

Back to Jones, I’m not sure if there’s even a good reason to suppress the Schadenfreude. I mean divorce and custody battles are always messy, but we’re talking about a man who said than the parents of kids who died at Sandy Hook were basically lying, and that their kids were fine. If Jones truly, sincerely, deeply believed that the US government is trying to implement the kind of tyranny and genocide he preached about for years on a daily basis, then that almost, ever so slightly mitigates what he said about the Sandy Hook parents, among other victims of tragedies labeled false flags by Jones in the past. After all, if you lived in 16th-17th century Europe and everyone truly believed that witches cause crop failures and the death of children in infancy, how could you justify not burning witches?

But the fact is that Jones didn’t really believe any of that and he has now tacitly admitted- nay, he insists– that he didn’t. And since he’ll never be made to give back the untold wealth he has gained by fleecing the naive and ignorant, maybe losing contact with his kids is the closest to justice we’ll ever see. At least when his kids turn 18 they’ll have the option of contacting and visiting their dad (assuming Obama doesn’t order his deep state operatives to take him out with a high-altitude particle-beam drone, of course), unlike some other parents.

 

 

 

Everyone We Don’t Like Is Hitler

 

So it seems the Kremlin has already begun its mudslinging campaign against anti-corruption blogger and presidential candidate (for now) Alexei Navalny. Of course it seems a bit early and quite frankly unnecessary in a country that hasn’t had a free election in many years if it ever had one at all, but given Navalny’s role in prompting last month’s mass protests you can understand why the powers that be are starting to take him seriously.

As is laughably predictable at this point, the video compares Alexei Navalny to…get ready for it…HITLER!!! 

 

That’s right, they skipped over the old “foreign agent” child’s play and went full Hitler, something usually reserved only for Ukrainians. A few minutes into the video called to mind something I wrote in the early days of this blog, when Russian Nazi-labeling went nuclear. As for the reaction to the video well, the like-to-dislike ratio says a lot:

Now what, you ask, is the basis for calling Navalny Hitler? Well one of the biggest criticisms of Navalny (often coming from other Russian liberals or their supporters) is his ties to Russian nationalists. His links are rather tenuous and he’s not connected to the most odious groups (unlike, say, the Presidential Administration), but he has participated in the nationalist Russian March and he has hitherto refused to give any sincere apology for this past activity. That being said, the film in question sometimes exaggerates or cherry-picks some of Navalny’s quotes to make him seem much worse that he really is on this issue.

Of course Navalny’s nationalist leanings (as well on his weaselly stance on Ukraine) should continue to be targets of criticism, but the fact is that the Kremlin is not qualified to make such criticism.

First of all, Navalny’s sin when it comes to nationalism is a simple product of populism. There’s a large demographic in Russia, especially in Moscow, that is receptive to nationalist ideas of various strains. But why does that demographic exist? Where did all these Russians get the idea that Russians are the rightful rulers of the country and all non-Russians need to know their place? They get it largely from the Kremlin media and various politicians.

If we ignore for a second the fact that Kremlin-owned press like RT and Sputnik have published the work of anti-Semites and neo-fascists (one of which served as a guest commentator), domestic state media often decries “tolerance” and “multiculturalism.” Even the KPRF, the so-called “Communist Party of the Russian Federation,” once pushed for officially recognizing ethnic Russians as the nation-forming nationality of Russia, essentially giving them a special place of honor.

Most infuriating is the part in the video where it talks about Navalny’s xenophobia during his run for mayor in 2013. The video correctly points out that Moscow has a very diverse, multi-national population. On this particular occasion, multiculturalism and diversity are portrayed as positive. Yet the rest of the time, the Kremlin’s media says diversity is destroying Western Europe. What is more, the Russian government actively aids xenophobic far-right parties in Europe. In other words- the Kremlin actively supports and praises individuals and political groups which espouse views far more xenophobic than those expressed by Navalny. In fact, in my own experience I’ve noticed that many of the Putin-supporters who are so quick to drop the Nazi label actually hold key views in common with the Nazi party or their fascist fellow-travelers. Anyone who knows Kremlin propaganda knows that in their parlance, “Nazi” has nothing to do with fascism or the beliefs associated with it; it simply means you oppose the Kremlin.

hitlerbook

Required reading for the Russian state TV journalist

This is why it’s so hard to take these morons seriously anymore, and this is why the video garnered so many dislikes and negative comments. The whole gay Hitler one-two punch works great on elderly people in provincial Russia, but it’s become nothing more than a joke to the younger generation of Russians who prefer Youtube to the traditional tube.

But hey- you’ve got to give them a hand for trying to make this election interesting at least. Now it’s only a matter of trying to predict what the next anti-Navalny video will allege. Will they keep pushing the Hitler meme, possibly trying to link Navalny to Russian WWII Nazi-collaborator Andrei Vlassov or perhaps Hitler himself? Or will they change things up by accusing Navalny of being gay or working for the US State Department? Stay tuned!

Didn’t I Warn You?

So today I woke up to find out that His Orangeness launched a series of cruise missile strikes against Assad’s military airfields in Syria.

I must say this was a bit unexpected, but look who we’re talking about here. But then again, I did predict something like this, as one Twitter follower reminded me:

That old tweet of mine was based on Trump’s assertion that he’d shoot down Russian planes for buzzing American ships in the Black Sea, something which, incidentally, isn’t really justifiable. So yes, I’m going to gloat about predicting this, because in general the situation developed more or less as I thought it would, if only a bit more quickly.

If you had been reading my blog during the run-up to the election, I wrote about how the idea of a grand bargain and partnership between Putin and Trump was highly unlikely. Trump might personally deal with Putin, if only because he loves people who flatter him, but contrary to the beliefs of Trump supporters, he is only a man with limited powers in a big, institutional system. Far more important is the fact that Trump’s whole campaign was based on this idea that America sucks, and he’s going to make it great again. When it came to foreign policy, the line was that America was weak, “always losing,” etc., and this was emboldening America’s enemies. One Trump ad even pegged Putin as one of those enemies.

Trump’s tough-guy routine and his tough-guy wannabe supporters pretty much guaranteed that he would clash with Putin over some issue at some point. It was inevitable. As I’ve written plenty of times before, there really is no foreign policy the United States can pursue that would appeal to Russia save for total isolationism, which looks like submission in the minds of Trump and Trumpkins. Since the latter are basically of a similar mindset, submission is anathema, and any military action is better than none at all.  It’s also interesting to note that the Trump State Department has had tough words for Putin over Ukraine, though I doubt the US will back those words with deeds apart from very incremental targeted sanctions. From the look of things, Putin still has a free hand to wreak havoc in the Donbas.

Still, this Syria operation is a major propaganda defeat for Putin. Remember, the Russian state media worked people into a euphoria over Trump in the weeks running up to the election. High profile personalities in Moscow’s circles of power cheered his victory, including the aforementioned Margarita Simonyan, head of RT. Pro-government astroturf activists actually threw a victory party for him in Moscow. And, although we cannot say that Russia swayed the election in favor of Trump, they certainly tried.

Now what have they got for all that ass-kissing? If we were to adopt the hilariously self-owning terminology of the alt-right, I’d say they got cucked. Hard. Truly this is the Great Cuckening. Up till now, Putin was winning in Syria propaganda-wise, and propaganda is everything to his regime. The United States and the rest of the West appeared impotent. They couldn’t establish a no-fly zone, they couldn’t save Aleppo, and Russia was dictating events on the ground in spite of some setbacks. This proved Russia was a great power capable of projecting military force and of course Putin is the wise chess player orchestrating it all. Then suddenly Cheeto Benito comes in from out of nowhere and bombs the shit out of Assad’s airfields. Those super-deadly S-300 SAM systems the Russians sent were useless. Supposedly the US warned Russia ahead of the strike but that’s even worse. The Americans tell the Great Leader Putin that they’re about to plaster his ally with Tomahawks and all he can do is maybe plead with them a bit before giving in and hanging his head in shame. That doesn’t go over well with the fanboys, be they vatniks in Russia or alt-righties in the West.

putincuck

Even worse for Putin is the fact that there’s not much he can do about this. I’m afraid at most he’ll try to ratchet up the violence in Ukraine, knowing that the US isn’t nearly as interested in Eastern Europe, but he’s already suffered a minor defeat there now that Ukraine got visa free travel to the EU. Chicken Littles are already screaming about how we’re on the eve of WWIII, but what they fail to realize is that Putin’s military, compared to the US and the rest of NATO, is a paper tiger. He could cause a fair bit of damage early on, but he wouldn’t be able to sustain such a war and his ruling class won’t allow it. And with Putin’s upcoming election and rising protest sentiments, the Kremlin media’s going to be scrambling to spin this and other inconvenient facts.

While I don’t trust Trump’s ability to solve the issue of Syria any more than I trust in his abilities to understand the basic duties of his office, this latest action shows how a moronic elephant bumbling around in a china shop can sometimes produce some positive results.

 

A Big Deal

In case you haven’t heard yet, yesterday Russia experienced its largest protest action since 2012. Sanctioned and unsanctioned anti-government protests took place in over 80 different cities all over Russia. Over 700 people (including American Guardian reporter Alec Luhn) were detained in Moscow, where the march went ahead without official sanction.

Of course if you watch any news besides Russia’s major state-run networks, you probably already know about the protests.

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Moscow

Now I had planned to write an explainer about the significance of these protests, but as it turns out, Mark Galeotti handled that:

 

I have a few points I’d like to add to Mark’s, but before I do, check out that massive collection of Osprey military history books on the right. That’s an impressive collection. This is a measure of wealth among military history nerds. A friend in the States is hanging on to my Osprey collection (which is about the same size as what you see there) so that, as per tradition, they may be buried with me when I die so I’ll have something to read in the next life. For as it says in The Havamal, “Cattle die, kinsmen die, you yourself must die. But I know of one thing that never dies- the fame of a dead man’s Osprey book collection.”

Now getting to my own points about the protests, I think the first thing to keep in mind is that the Moscow march was unsanctioned and it happened anyway, drawing as many as 20,000 people. This makes it smaller than some of the recent sanctioned opposition marches, but huge by unsanctioned protest standards. I can’t stress this unsanctioned part enough. People tend to get carried off by police even during sanctioned meetings in Moscow. If a meeting is unsanctioned, it’s possible to get hauled off by police just for getting too close as you pass by. The implication is that if the meeting is unsanctioned and you go to it, they have every right to take you (they actually don’t, according to the Russian constitution). Yet in spite of this threat hanging over everyone’s head, about 20,000 Muscovites decided to roll the dice. This is very important. It shows that there is a growing number of Russians who refuse to submit so easily.

Another interesting point is how the Russian state media almost totally ignored the protests. While yesterday’s events were unfolding in the center of Moscow, several state news outlets were covering the exciting story of a cow in the US that led police on a wild chase after it had escaped. This is curious because you think it would have been a great time to deliver a call to arms to the alleged 96%, the die-hard pro-Putin majority who support the Glorious Leader out of sheer patriotism and who don’t want to see him toppled by a US-sponsored “Maidan.” But alas, they decided to cover almost anything but this, including a helicopter crash in Ukraine. Of course.

Lastly, I’m now in a position to better gauge Ukrainian reactions to the protest, and while some of my friend were at firs highly skeptical and critical of the protests before they took place, that attitude changed somewhat when they saw how many Russians came out in spite of the threats and arrests. Ukrainians are understandably upset because most Russian opposition figures, including Alexei Navalny, typically tip-toe around the question of the Crimea and the Russian occupation of the eastern Donbas. What I would remind them is that first of all, there’s often a big difference between Russia’s opposition leadership, which has many ideological problems beyond the Ukrainian question, and the rank-in-file. Anti-war messages and Ukrainian flags were more visible at the past two Nemtsov memorial marches. In fact, this year’s march apparently had a lot of Crimean Tatar flags, which is even more controversial as it directly highlights the Crimean issue.

Ukrainians have every right to feel betrayed by the Russian people, including opposition supporters, but there comes a time when you have to ask yourself whether you’re going to remain bitter towards everyone or start forging ties with those who are closest to your side. Let’s not forget that at Maidan, a number of political groups with horrible ideas were tolerated and even respected because the brutality and corruption of the Yanukovych regime deliberately forced disparate groups into one camp. If it is wrong to associate Maidan as a whole with those marginal groups (a mistake I was once guilty of), it is surely wrong to pretend that Russians willing to risk arrest and much worse for the sake of standing up to the regime are no different from a pro-Putin vatnik just because they haven’t yet accepted the reality about the Crimean annexation and occupation. These are the people who you can actually dialog with, but not if you just dismiss their protest offhand, the way you were all dismissed as neo-Nazi Banderites by the Russian media back in 2014.

One more important thing to keep in mind on this point is that while it is true that many anti-Putin Russians still hold imperialist views on the Crimea, you’re unlikely to find any who support the war and occupation in the Donbas. In fact, I’d say very few Russians in general actually support the war in the Donbas. While it is important to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity in total, it is the Donbas that is literally bleeding Ukraine at the moment. A new democratic regime in Moscow may be unlikely to hand over the Crimea without a struggle, but they’ll happily end the war in Ukraine to stop wasting state resources and lift the most hard-hitting sanctions. Also, if Putin feels threatened at home he will have to cease or at least greatly scale back his military adventures, and that includes in the Donbas.

So from the Ukrainian point of view, it’s important to realize that a seed has been planted and it needs to be nurtured. Just three years ago it seemed like all resistance in Russia was dead and buried. Now Putin and his cronies are waking up to reality- that the opposition they thought they’d all but stamped out is not only alive, but actually growing and spreading in places they never expected. Given the fact that non-political labor protests and strikes have been increasing throughout provincial Russia in the past few years, it’s only natural for them to eventually become politicized as more and more formerly regime-loyal people wake up and realize that the problem isn’t the “bad boyars” but the Putinist system itself.

It may go slowly or quickly, but one thing’s for sure- it’s only downhill from here for the Kremlin regime.

 

 

 

 

An Onion of Stupid- The Philosophy of Fakes

One need not spend much time analyzing fake Russian news stories to notice that many of them were made with virtually no effort. Such fake stories are so horrendously bad that they fit the definition of “not even wrong,” which is what you call something that would require considerable improvement simply to achieve the status of “incorrect.” As such, dealing with such fakes is an exercise in philosophy. You must question and debunk every angle, and some answers only raise more questions.  To a thinking person, a fake story on this level is like an onion of stupidity; peel back one layer and there’s another below it.

As a case study let us look at a recently debunked fake story from the outlet that excels in producing effortless fakes- Zvezda, the Russian Ministry of Defense network. At first glance, it’s a pretty straightforward fake story. It posits that Ukraine has become so impoverished that it is threatened by mass hunger. So much so that people are actually stooping to the level of trying to steal bread crumbs from pigeons.

Let us begin with the general theme of the article, the skin of the stupid onion, if you will. We should already be suspicious about the fact that this article is about mass hunger in Ukraine. See, Russians have a habit of not caring about real mass hunger in Ukraine stretching back to tsarist times. That they are suddenly concerned now sets off alarm bells.

With that out of the way, we can get down to the juicy inner layers. Not the basic facts about the story, mind you, as StopFake has already debunked it. No, let’s ask the philosophical questions here. For example, the basis of the story is this photo of a woman who we’re supposed to believe is trying to steal breadcrumbs from a flock of pigeons. But without any context, does it not look like she is the one who is, in fact, feeding the pigeons? This is still too superficial, however, let us dig deeper.

What we need here is a thought experiment. Suppose we accept the premise that this woman is actually trying to steal crumbs from the pigeons. This one singular account is being used as proof of widespread hunger in Ukraine. But there’s a flipside the wily authors never thought of! Those crumbs did not get there by themselves; someone threw them. That means that Ukraine has at least one person so well-off that they can afford to simply throw bread away on the street. Surely if one person so hungry they need to steal from pigeons can be extrapolated as mass hunger in Ukraine, then one person who can afford to toss bread to pigeons can be similarly extrapolated to support the idea that Ukraine is full of people so wealthy that they are literally able to throw food away without care. Truly in a starving country there would be few willing to throw out still-edible bread.

So which is it? Crushing poverty and famine or middle class wealth and food waste? Truly the woman reduced to snatching crumbs from pigeons is canceled out by the person whose economic situation is good enough to allow throwing food away.

But we can go even deeper! The story goes on. In StopFake’s debunking story, we see that Russian media outlets also alleged that Ukraine is going to implement ration cards for basic food products. However, much of Russia is known to suffer from Soviet nostalgia, and the Soviet Union was forced to turn to rationing several times in its existence. During the Second World War this was quite understandable, but what about during Perestroika in the 1980’s?

Given that Russian families currently spend around 80 percent of their income on basic essentials like food, it seems like it isn’t Ukraine that needs to worry about rationing.

This is all good fun, but seriously speaking- what is the point of such blatantly fake stories? Readers who are less familiar with the Kremlin regime’s tactics and narratives might have trouble understanding why these media companies keep employing writers who put so little effort into their stories. This is what someone who cares about the concept of credibility thinks when confronted with blatantly falsified stories which are ridiculously easy to debunk. There is a strategy behind this, however.

First, one must understand that in the top levels of the Kremlin press there are people who believe that objective truth doesn’t exist. More importantly, they have convinced themselves that all media works this way, especially that media which criticizes the Kremlin or questions its claims. These people want to continually popularize that same worldview among the Russian population, hence stories like these.

It’s not that Russians actually believe these obvious fakes; they’ll often tell you they don’t. But what the Kremlin wants them to think is that all media is the same, and if the Russian state press makes up poorly veiled fake stories, then the foreign media must be doing the same thing. This process is duplicated by the Kremlin in other realms as well. For example, they do not deny that there is massive corruption in the Russian government- they just insist that it’s the same in every country. Censorship in Russia? Here’s a story about censorship somewhere in the West! The message is that free press, democracy, rule of law, etc. don’t exist anywhere.

When you look at it that way, that is when you finally peel away all the layers of the stupid onion, you begin to understand the function that even the most laughable phony story serves.