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On the Homefront

Long time readers are well aware that when this whole “Russian information warfare” panic kicked off in 2014, I steadfastly insisted that the best remedy to this and other hostile state propaganda was for governments to focus on their own behavior and engage with their own citizens to address grievances and correct past wrongs. The reason for this is very simple. The US government, for example, cannot control what the Kremlin or its proxies such as the “Internet Research Agency” (better known as “the Troll Factory”) do. RT, Sputnik, and dozens of other pro-Kremlin propaganda sites are going to keep spinning their yarns and exporting them abroad. Sure, they can be made to register as foreign agents so they have to disclose their funding and Facebook or Twitter can try to crack down on fake pages and bots, respectively, but ultimately the only person who can stop this activity is Vladimir Putin or someone designated to do so by him, and I see no evidence to suggest this will happen anytime soon. Thus the only thing in the equation that the US government can actually control is its own behavior.

Extrapolating from this, we must admit that the interest in bullshit “alternative news,” whether it is produced in Russia or at home (and to be sure a lot of Russian propaganda is just rehashed, regurgitated American bullshit) is largely driven by actions carried out by the US government in recent decades. Actually it would be better to say it is a result of actions and inactions- actions like invading Iraq and inaction when it comes to helping ordinary Americans struggling with foreclosure, student loans, unemployment and underemployment, healthcare, etc. By addressing both of these issues, the US government could rebuild its credibility after so many foreign policy disasters and rebuild its trust with voters by addressing their needs as opposed to those of the top richest people in the country. But you already see the problem with this, right?

Put simply, it is not in the financial interest of the people who run this country to adopt this view when it comes to countering hostile propaganda. And it is their financial interest that matters above all. It is far easier to just throw a couple bucks at Molly McKew types, whose whole approach centers on loudly screaming about Russian influence and propaganda and producing no actual solutions apart from maybe censorship of certain internet platforms or useless symbolic actions that do nothing to stop the flow of propaganda or reduce its audience. Is there anything that could wake these decision makers up?

Well maybe this will.

It’s a story about a man who was enthusiastically willing to spy for the Russians and was caught by an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian handler after turning over vital technical data about satellite technology. According to the report, suspect Gregory Allen Justice “was assigned to a team working to build and test U.S. military satellites, including projects for the Air Force, Navy, and NASA that involved satellites with communication, navigational, and observational technology. The trade secrets and other technical data he had access to as part of his job related to areas such as satellite operations testing, firmware installed on satellites, and anti-jamming technology.”

Gee that kind of looks like the thing you wouldn’t want a hostile state to get their hands on! Why would Mr. Justice do such a thing?!

Justice explained to his “handler” that his motivation for his activities was to pay his wife’s medical bills (and indeed, our investigation revealed that his wife was suffering from a variety of medical issues and he had told her she had to cancel some of her appointments). But our investigation also revealed that the $3,500 Justice received—plus approximately $20,000 of his own money—went toward gifts of cash and merchandise for an online girlfriend he had never met in person.

As we see here, Mr. Justice’s claim about paying for his wife’s medical bills was just a lie. But something like this could just as easily be true for many Americans. As I wrote in yesterday’s post, people do not simply give up and die most of the time. Desperation leads to desperate measures, and the next contractor who’s being crushed by medical bills, mortgage debt, or student loans might be inclined to do some work for a hostile foreign power in exchange for relief. In this case, the FBI was doubly lucky- that their undercover agent reached him first, and that the guy was apparently in love with some kind of cam girl or email scammer.

So if we’re looking at ways the US government can engage with citizens and prevent them from selling their services to hostile foreign powers in order to keep their heads above water, what could they possibly do to prevent a real case of espionage driven by medical bills. Yes…What is to be done? What could we possibly do about that?


Problem solved.


Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

So recently I read this piece about Glenn Greenwald. Personally I’ve never had much of an opinion about the guy, but I think this description near the beginning of the article kind of sums him up:

Greenwald is predisposed to righteous posturing and contrarian eye-poking — and reflexively more skeptical of the U.S. intelligence community than of those it tells us to see as “enemies.”

The thing about Glenn though, is that when you look at his complaints about the Russiagate scandal, they’re not terribly irrational. Here’s his quote on the subject:

“When Trump becomes the starting point and ending point for how we talk about American politics, [we] don’t end up talking about the fundamental ways the American political and economic and cultural system are completely fucked for huge numbers of Americans who voted for Trump for that reason,” he says. “We don’t talk about all the ways the Democratic Party is a complete fucking disaster and a corrupt, sleazy sewer, and not an adequate alternative to this far-right movement that’s taking over American politics.”

This is entirely fair and in many ways mirrors my own position on the subject. What I don’t get though, is why he, like some other commentators, has to constantly leap to Russia’s defense the second anyone mentions anything related to Russiagate?

What exactly is the harm in acknowledging that there are other governments out there which do bad, and occasionally worse things than your own? What is he afraid is going to happen? If he admits that yes, Russia did act to negatively influence our domestic politics, does he fear that he’ll suddenly be on the cover of TIME  magazine as America’s newest neocon pundit? Does he think that some neocon cabal is just waiting for him to say something they can use to greenlight their secret plan to invade Syria and Russia simultaneously?

Realistically this is much bigger than Glenn Greenwald. I think this case just speaks to a larger problem of tribalism in politics, and the fear that any concession will be seen as weakness. To be fair, it’s not just an irrational fear. In the information space today, concession can be capitalized upon by bad actors to “win” internet debates. This video gives an example of how this works:


Going all-in on offense has a proven track record, especially today. But you also sometimes have to ask who these arguments are actually convincing. Alt-right and “anti-SJW” Youtubers have managed to garner large audiences by using this tactic, but who are they really getting? I’d reckon the majority are teenage to early twenty-something males who are gullible enough to be duped by endless videos telling them that Anita Sarkeesian is going to ruin their precious video games by lobbying the government to require all video game protagonists to be mixed-race body-positive females with colored hair. Of course Fox News has also managed to do well with a certain demographic- old people who are going to die soon.

My point is that integrity and consistency may also have qualities of their own, and even better- attract better, more reliable people. I realize it’s easy to be pessimistic these days, but at the same time the overwhelming fakeness of our politics these days, coupled with the polarized tribalism, may eventually reach a peak where increasing numbers of people start to rebel against joining a tribe and parroting one line in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Of course what would I know? I’m no where near as successful as Glenn Greenwald. But on the other hand I’ve often been complimented for my balance and objectivity, even by people who strongly disagree with my politics. A lot of my friends and colleagues are also praised for their refusal to join a team. Hopefully in the future, more people burnt out on tribal politics will start seeking out nuance, if only to escape the cynicism of those dead-end politics.


This Is Completely Normal!

Anyone else out there following Russia’s upcoming nail-biter of a presidential election? If not, don’t worry- it seems a lot of Russians are apathetic too, and that’s a problem as Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidky points out in a recent article. Of course that’s not necessarily the part of the article I wanted to focus on, but rather this paragraph here:

Putin doesn’t appear to feel any need to campaign. His election website, as perfunctory as if he were running for a municipal council seat, has just gone live, and it doesn’t even contain a program or any promises — just some questionable statements on how life in Russia has improved under Putin (“The illegal cutting of trees has practically stopped”; “Russian universities have entered the BRICS Top-50”). The site also reports that it only took a week for the Putin campaign to collect 30 percent more than the 300,000 citizens’ signatures necessary to put him on the ballot — an impossible achievement for any other candidate but not for the president: Reports come in from different parts of the country of students being pressed into collecting the signatures and workers told to sign for him at work (the campaign has even rejected the signatures harvested at two factories in Kurgan in the Urals).

The Western Putin fan club just loves claiming that Western Russia journalists don’t really understand Russian politics simply because they often focus on the activities of non-systemic opposition figures like Alexei Navalny (who is not in the running this time anyway). They continually point to the polls of Russia’s loyal opposition such as the KPRF and LDPR, along with the poor polling of the non-systemic opposition, and gleefully lecture us about the latter’s minimal popularity as though we, and those Western journalists, aren’t fully aware of these facts. They’d have us believe that Western focus on people like Navalny would be like America’s media focusing on Jill Stein or Gary Johnson in 2016’s presidential election. In reality, however, journalists follow Russia’s opposition not because it is big or has any realistic shot at winning, but rather because it is the only faction actually opposed to the Kremlin and Putin.

Reading that paragraph above, it is clear that Russia is not a normal electoral democracy. Apart from the fact that the President changed the constitution so he could come back for another pair of six-year terms, he’s running in an election with virtually no campaigning, no promises, no platform. To the extent that he’s campaigning, he’s harping on “accomplishments” from the mid-2000s, during the oil price boom. Does that sound at all normal for a system that is supposedly no less democratic than what exists in the West and other developed countries? If 2016 did anything positive, it was shutting up the cynics who called American elections predictable (ditto Brexit, Corbyn, etc).

Of course I know many Putin fanboys who, if pressed, will more or less admit that Russia’s elections are not fair and the system is biased towards Putin. Usually they deflect by asking “Who else is there?” But you see- that’s the problem. If Putin were ever a good leader, even during the years when things were on the up and up, he would have at least had the prescience to understand that he’s not immortal and he should probably construct Russia’s state institutions so as to ensure stable, democratic succession long after his death, incapacitation, or retirement. In general, he would use his authority to build a system based on rule of law and some kind of values as opposed to a cult of personality surrounding himself. He barely toyed with the concept back in 2008 when he let Medvedev take the reins, but he was so paranoid and concerned with image that he decided to come back to the presidency early.

The ultimate result of this is that wherever you fall on the spectrum of Putin/anti-Putin, there’s really no getting around the fact that sooner or later Russia is fucked, and there’s really nobody to blame for that but Putin. Therefore I can’t really understand why he still has Western admirers today. I do get the ones who just hate their own governments, have no experience with Russia, and just absorb a steady diet of bullshit from RT, Sputnik, and pro-Kremlin sites. But I don’t get the people who work for outlets like that and continue to defend the man and his system. Even if we foolishly attributed all the positive things in the mid-2000s to Putin, all of that has either been negated or on the chopping block to be negated within the coming years. All I can think of is that the Western apologists do it for the money. Those who don’t are complete idiots. There just is no other explanation.


When It Rains It Pours

Woooooow! What a day! It all began this morning when a friend abroad sends me a link to a 5,000-word article on the cancer-AIDS site Russia Inisder, written by its editor Charles Bausman. What exactly inspired Bausman to write 5,000 words? What topic drove him to expound at such length? Why it’s the “Jewish question,”  of course! Or to use Bausman’s words, the “Jewish problem.” Seriously, check out this excerpt:

Discussion of the Jewish problem (and ‘problem’ is the right word here) is obviously not going to be the focus of Russia Insider – we try to be primarily about Russia, but I am willing to give space to this issue, and not just as it relates to Russia. I invite all writers, including from the Alt-Right, to get in touch with me directly at with article ideas, proposals, or anything else, and yes, we will publish articles which use (((echoes))).

And because this is Bausman, that paragraph soliciting for articles is followed by:

It is my great regret that we are not in a position to pay authors for articles. If anyone reading this is in a position to help provide funding to pay writers on this important subject, that would be helpful, because it immediately raises the quality and depth of the writing. If you are interested, please get in touch with me directly.

Bausman’s “coming out” was apparently cheered by the pedantic neo-Nazi pseudo-intellectual Anatoly Karlin, whose own article was also published on Russia Insider. Using his incredibly high IQ, Karlin deduced that Russia watchers of Jewish descent reacting negatively toward an anti-Semitic screed must be strong evidence in favor of that screed’s central thesis. Imagine that- people of Jewish descent reacting negatively to something openly attacking them! Of course he also totally ignores the reactions of non-Jewish Russia journalists when making that point, but who are we to question the logic of such high-IQ individuals? And while it is not central to Duh Russophile’s piece, I have to quote the bizarre passage where he cites himself, if only to demonstrate how laughably fucked up these people are.

In my view, the reasons are ultimately psycho-sexual. Male Jews nowadays have it good in Russia, with many Slavic girls attracted to their wealth, intelligence and impeccable charm (if not their looks). But the position of Jewesses is the inverse. They find it hard to compete with those same Slavic chicks who tend to be both hotter and much more feminine than them; nor, like Jewish guys, can they compensate with intelligence, since it is considered far less important for women.

Well there’s a fine line between genius and madness, right?

Another Russia Insider contributor with a really creative alternative version of history published a warning to Bausman, approving of the discussion of the “Jewish problem” so long as he remembers to use nice language. He also reminds him to make sure to scapegoat some other nationalities for the “Russophobia” in the West, because of course nobody ever has a justifiable criticism of Russia. They’re all just irrational haters.

It should come as no shock that the site hasn’t taken down their numerous articles ranting about neo-Nazis and alleged anti-Semitism in Ukraine.


Do a search for “Ukrainian Nazis” and strap yourself in for the ride! 

Gee, Charles, what’s your beef with those neo-Nazis in Ukraine? They just shed that “Jewish taboo” as you call it, right?

In all seriousness, however, long-term Russia watchers know there’s no real contradiction here. Russia’s regime is far right, and it caters to the far right. More importantly, in the bizarro-world D&D game that is Russia’s propaganda narrative, being a neo-Nazi has nothing to do with holding Nazi beliefs but rather whether or not you support the Kremlin and its foreign policy goals. If you’re a far left Marxist (*ahem*) but you oppose Russia’s actions in Ukraine, you’re a “Nazi,” whereas if you are a literal fascist or neo-Nazi but you support those goals, you are not only not a fascist but you can even portray yourself on Kremlin media as an “anti-fascist!”

Of course this is something I’ve routinely pointed out dozens of times, and apart from Bausman’s foray into full-on Nazism being a great opportunity to say “I told you so” to some people on the left,  neither this piece nor Russia Insider is the real reason for this post. After this post blew up a tiny portion of Twitter, a follower introduced me to this link, which is basically a massive catalog of collaboration between the far-left and far-right. More specifically, it is a thorough investigation of so-called “red-brown alliances,” laying the foundation with a historical examination of the ideological background of such collaboration, then proceeding with a thorough examination of contemporary examples of this far-right/far-left collaboration.

If this sounds like “horseshoe theory,” it’s not. In fact, many rank and file leftists are totally unaware of these connections and would never work with some of the people named in this investigation if they knew what they were really about. But that’s just the thing- modern far-rightists often conceal their political identities, and instead latch on to some populist cause that also happens to animate leftists. They may present themselves as “anti-establishment,” “anti-capitalist,” “anti-war,” and the far-right entryist’s favorite cover, “anti-Zionist.”

Two things bear mentioning about this list before you check it out. First of all, it is packed with links and archived versions of said links. You can’t accuse the author of not backing up their claims- that’s for sure.

But more importantly, especially for leftists, is to note the common thread that is tying nearly all these people together- Russia, and most notably, Alexander Dugin and his Eurasianist movement. While Dugin’s actual influence in the Russian government are often overestimated, his influence in Russia’s foreign propaganda efforts is well-established. I would not be surprised to find that many of the Dugin-linked groups in the West reached out to him and his “philosophy” rather than vice versa.

This investigation only hammers home the point that the Western left (hell, any left) needs to take Russian influence operations seriously. Not only because this association with far rightists could be used by the establishment to discredit leftists, but first and foremost on principle alone. There is no legitimate reason why leftists should be forging alliances with the far right anywhere. We should not be sharing a platform with them or repeating the talking points and advancing the foreign policy goals of an imperialist, colonialist, reactionary regime that openly supports our enemies in our own homelands. Obviously we cannot stop such groups from claiming the same position as us on certain issues, but that doesn’t mean we need to embrace them or their benefactors- instead we should call them out wherever we catch them.

Moreover, the left needs to expose parties that engage in red-brown alliances in the name of “anti-imperialism.” Apart from the fact that many such organizations are in fact pro-imperialist so long as the empire in question is not American, it’s been my observation that those who embrace these connections with the far right or with reactionary regimes only end up going further in that direction instead of staying on left territory.

I’d suggest bookmarking that link and even downloading a copy of it should the site ever go offline. Hell, here it is again just in case you haven’t opened it yet. The key to fighting red-brown alliances is proper political education, but the first step is knowing that they exist, have been around for quite some time, and are an ever-present threat to revolutionary progressive politics.



Now THAT’S What I Call Russophobia! Vol. II

I have often written in the past (or at least I’m pretty sure I have) that most of the time what pro-Kremlin Russians call “Russophobia” is bullshit. In almost all cases, the Russophobia they’re talking about is in fact a natural and logical reaction to Russia invading someone’s country, claiming their nationality and language are fake, and generally acting like imperialist assholes. This, of course, doesn’t mean there aren’t real examples of Russophobia, if defined as an irrational fear of all things Russian.

The first and most harmful incarnation of real-world Russophobia is the attitude held by Russia’s elite toward their own people. According to this attitude, the vast majority of Russians are passive cattle, lazy incompetent, and somewhat criminal. The whole country would descend into utter chaos without the rule of a strong leader and his elite. This is called Russian “civilization,” although for some reason the strong ruler and his elite always seem to prefer the fruits and sometimes surroundings of “degenerate” Western civilization, particularly London, New York, Miami…you get the idea.

The other type of real Russophobia is…well…this:

If you’re wondering what those enlightened, woke liberals are responding to, it’s this story:


First of all- this isn’t news, nor is it exclusive to Russians. Here’s an article about birth tourism in the Marianas islands from 2013. Birth tourism in the United States appears to be popular with the Chinese as much as it is with Russians (wealthy Russians, that is). Basically NBC News found a way to work the Trump/Russia angle in order to present an old story as news. They could have just as easily written about the global network of international dating sites, some of which are basically designed to help foreign men and women find a path to legal immigration via marriage.

Of course it’s not the story itself that is real Russophobia, but rather the reactions of some of the “woke liberals” who called Trump a bigot while clearly possessing the very same xenophobic nativist attitudes as his supporters. And just in case any of my Ukrainian readers think this doesn’t affect you- forget it. These are exactly the kind of people who say things like “Ukraine? Isn’t that like, a state of Russia or something?” All Slavs are “Russian” to these enlightened individuals, so you’re just as screwed whether your name is Oleg or Oleh.


This is the future liberals want! 

Of course in reaction to the idiotic ravings of “Resistance” liberals about “little agents” being born in the US, I’ve seen some leftists bend over backwards to “apologize” to Russians as a whole. Don’t bother. This kind of gesture will just get picked up by low-level Kremlin propagandists and twisted for their purposes. It is enough to say that there are plenty of Russians inside and outside of Russia who reject the imperial myths and propaganda of the corrupt regime in the Kremlin, which is itself objectively anti-Russian and leading the country and its colonized peoples to inevitable chaos and destruction.

Sometimes folks who are not familiar with my background or work accuse me of Russophobia because I do things like make fun of vatniks– make no mistakes, however- being a vatnik, like supporting the Putinist regime in general, is a choice. To me, riffing on vatniks is no different from riffing on the vast demographic of American morons, many of whom are directly responsible for electing a complete and utter spongebrain clownshoe as president. In fact, in the past I’ve even made the argument that Russian vatniks are in many cases more intelligent and dignified than our homegrown self-proclaimed “patriot” class.  In short, I make a distinction between Russians and their governments and over the years I have, to the best of my ability, tried to make my writing reflect this with terms like “pro-Kremlin” or “pro-Putin” instead of “pro-Russian.”

While Russian interference in the 2016 election is an established fact (debate surrounds the extent and efficacy of that interference), and the Trump family and campaign’s Russian connections do smack of conflict of interest and at least attempted shady deals, it is entirely fair to say that a significant portion of the American opposition to Trump has taken the basic facts and run them into the end zone of conspiracy theory for a touchdown of stupidity (yeah I haven’t been writing for a while, bear with me). The fervent hope that any day now the Russia investigation will reveal some smoking gun that magically makes Trump go away has made many of these people positively deranged. And now, it’s bringing out their racism as well. But of course that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise- they learned from mother.


Countering Russia’s Cyberthreat

Nowadays we hear a lot about the need to counter Russia’s information and cyber-warfare. We hear very few actual solutions, however. Most of the time it’s just “more fact checking!” or “more cyber-security!” I’ve only seen one suggestion as to how to fight back, and it was predictably lame (in involved exposing Vladimir Putin’s hidden fortunes, as though ordinary Russians aren’t well aware of his wealth). I’m here to change that. There are ways to fight back against information threats from Russia and other world powers, and I’m going to lay them out here.


Russia’s “troll factory” has gotten a lot of publicity in recent years. What you don’t hear people talking about, however, is counter-trolling. Think about it- not only does the US have more resources to spend on troll factories, but American comment trolls are far more vicious and most of all- pedantic. Could you imagine St. Petersburg operatives trying to troll a conversation on Twitter, only to be mass attacked by sixty professional basement-dwellers all beginning their responses with “ACTUALLY…?”


If you’ve ever dealt with Russian paid trolls, you know that they can never really uphold any semblance of a real “debate.” Our home-grown variety can at least accomplish that much. Plus, they have a lot of refined tactics, such as “sea-lioning,” the act of asking endless entry-level questions while hiding behind a mask of “civility.”


Wondermark by David Malki. Origin of the term “sea-lioning.”

Just imagine the confrontation:

RUSSIAN TROLL: Obama used the CIA to overthrow the legitimate government of Ukraine and replace it with Nazis!!!

AMERICAN TROLL: Excuse me, but do you have evidence that the previous government of Ukraine was “legitimate,” as you say?

RUSSIAN TROLL: Viktor Yanukovych was elected! He was legitimate!

AMERICAN TROLL: So according to you, being elected means someone was legitimate. How do you define elected or legitimate?


AMERICAN TROLL: Yes I’m serious. I’m trying to have a serious debate about the definition of political legitimacy. I feel this is a perfectly fair question and I don’t see why we can’t have a reasonable debate about it.

RUSSIAN TROLL: Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine!

AMERICAN TROLL: I see. And do you have any evidence that this “Ukraine,” as you call it, actually exists? I’ve never seen it.

RUSSIAN TROLL: AH HA! So you acknowledge it is fake country!

AMERICAN TROLL: Hmmm…Curious how the US government could overthrow the government of something you claim is a fake country.

RUSSIAN TROLL: What are you even talking about?!

AMERICAN TROLL: Actually I’m asking the questions here if you don’t mind. I have reasonable questions and have asked them in a civil manner. There’s no need to be upset.



Wikipedia defines shitposting as “the act of posting large amounts of content of “aggressively, ironically, and trollishly poor quality” to an online forum or social network, in some cases intended to derail discussions or otherwise make the site unusable to its regular visitors.”

This might make you think shitposting is bad. Under the right conditions, it can be quite amusing. Here are some examples:






Pic a fandom or subject and chances are there’s a Facebook group for shitposts dedicated to whatever it is.

Now imagine large communities of professional shitposters making deliberately poor photoshop memes about Putin and his cronies. Oh wait…They’ve kind of done that. Meet Pynia.



“Why do they call Putin Pynia?”



Now just imagine that, but like, times one million, drowning in shitposts forever.


These are just two possible ways to fight back against Russia’s information war. Yeah, they’re not particularly good ways and are in fact deliberately stupid for the sake of parody, but lately this is the topic where people with incredibly stupid suggestions get a lot of attention and in some cases, money. Because after all…



Eric Garland’s Merry Meltdown Christmas Special!

It’s a Christmas miracle! Santa dropped off an early present and now I’m passing the joy along to you!

Fast Company recently published an article about fake news in 2017, in which it criticized the “work” of Deza Destroyer Eric “Game Theory” Garland. Naturally, Gardland didn’t like it one bit. What ensued next was a Twitter meltdown of epic proportions, culminating in this masterpiece:


You will rue the day you crossed this Deza destroyer! Face the wrath of GARLAND! To fuck away from, Vlad!

Naturally Twitter responded, and every time a new twist on this memorable threat was posted, an angel got its wings. Enjoy.


I hope you enjoyed Garland’s Merry Meltdown. I have been informed that recently, US President Donald Trump legalized the phrase “Merry Christmas” via executive order, therefore I am wishing you all a Merry Christmas without fear of legal repercussions!