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BREAKING NEWS! Someone compares contemporary Russia to a non-Russian historical precedent!

I’m quite certain I’ve said this before at some point, but one of the most irritating cliches when it comes to Russia coverage is the unspoken rule that modern Russia can only be understood through its own history. We get inundated with articles debating whether Putin is a new Tsar and if so, which one. Is he Andropov? Is he like Brezhnev? Is Kadyrov following in the footsteps of Ivan the Terrible, or could he be a new Stalin-like figure on account of his Caucasian heritage? Is Russia’s current economic situation reminiscent of the 90’s, Perestroika, or the Brezhnev stagnation?

The same rule applies to potential solutions.  Russia needs a Peter the Great to re-open relations with the West! Who will be the “Gorbachev” that re-introduces “democracy” to Russia? And so forth. In fact, the rule is often adhered to not only by Western observers, but also pro-Kremlin people as well. After all, Russian chauvinists shudder at the idea that their country, so unique, esoteric, and utterly mysterious, could ever be compared to another nation at any point in history.

Well guess what- someone actually ventured to break the cycle, and how! In this article, Sumantra Maitra dares to compare Putin to Aurangzeb, the last Mughal emperor of India. You may disagree with the analysis, but they deserve credit for daring to suggest that no, Russia is not so ridiculously unique that we can’t find better explanations by looking at other historical precedents in other countries. Personally I’ve always found Putin to be more of a Mobutu than a Russian Tsar or Soviet premier.

Sometimes I wonder how people would react if we applied this rule to other countries, specifically Western European nations, the UK, or the United States. You say Trump is like Hitler or Mussolini? Preposterous! Go find an American analog. Off the top of my head I’d say George Lincoln Rockwell, assuming you’re married to the whole Nazi comparison. Comparison that liken the American experience in Afghanistan to the Soviet one? Impossible! You must choose something American, like the Seminole Wars. It doesn’t matter how different these situations actually are, all analysis of American politics must be based on American history and no other country is comparable!

I hope I’m not a lone voice suggesting that firstly, not all analysis of Russia should be based on finding alleged parallels in Russian history, and secondly, comparisons should be based on what really fits, not what happens to be the closest historical parallel in Russia’s history. Some might claim that since the Kremlin leadership seems to have a similar worldview, whereby history is used to explain every action, it makes sense to use the same technique. That’s credible for sure, but to be fair the historical knowledge of Putin, Lavrov, and other assorted Kremlin cronies is horribly incomplete. They focus on “Russian” victories of the past while ignoring the key defeats, and especially the reasons for those defeats. If observers do the same, I think there’s a danger that their analysis will inevitably suffer as the whole practice starts to resemble a trivia contest.

So just a humble suggestion- maybe it’s time for some journalists and analysts to follow in the footsteps of Maitra and expand their horizons, looking for parallels outside the narrow focus of Russian history.

Alexei Kovalev: Why I’ve got no love for Margarita Simonyan

 

Translated from the original by Jim Kovpak

Frequent readers have no doubt noticed my, shall we say, “special” feelings toward Russia Today (RT) and MIA Rossiya Segodnya chief editor Margarita Simonyan. I’ve decided that it’s finally time to explain them in more detail, and frankly I just wanted to get it off my chest.

First I must say thanks to Margarita. I am sincerely grateful to her, because she (or more accurately her deputy) freed me from a difficult dilemma. I could remain in a good position within my agency (I was head of a department within RIA), but under her direction- not a good trade-off. Or I could leave with pride, slamming the door on my way out.  I never had to make that choice. As soon as Margarita was firmly established as the head of a new agency (and consequently, as my boss) in early 2014, she immediately fired nearly all of the old management, including myself. To be sure we were not formally dismissed, but rather our contracts were not renewed after all RIA employees had been cut following the decision of the liquidation commission. But I’ll spare the reader the technical details.

kovalevid.jpeg

It all happened very calmly, prosaic even.  One day in April of 2014 I come to work in the orange newsroom on the second floor of a building on Zubovsky boulevard, and there sitting in the office of my now-former boss was one of Simonyan’s deputies. I say hello, introduce myself, explain that my contract has expired, and I ask what we’re going to do about it. They tell me there is nothing to do; they have no intention of renewing my contract. There is no other way. Thank you and goodbye. Then as is typically the case when employees are dismissed, I went through the clearance procedures, got all the necessary signatures, and received my severance compensation according to the labor code.

In short I have no claims against Margarita Simonyan or her subordinates, nor do I have any tales of personal vengeance (this does not mean however, that other ex-employees of RIA don’t, as I have heard. Perhaps I was just lucky). And dear readers, I must say I really abhor these personal attacks on Margarita, about what she eats or whom she allegedly sleeps with. What disgusts me the most are the xenophobic attacks directed against her nationality. I don’t care how much she gets paid, how she spends her personal money, or whose children she allegedly bears. And all these stupid jokes about beavers have been done to death. This beaver has become an obsession to some of you out there. I also love cooking and am no stranger to culinary experimentation. I’d try eating beaver meat and I don’t see any joke in this.

So here’s what I really don’t like and in fact despise about Margarita Simonyan- her duplicity, hypocrisy, and constant lying. Margarita is an extremely intelligent person with a well-tuned moral compass. The only pity is that she shows this in all the wrong ways. In every interview Margarita loves to lecture about journalistic ethics, addressing both her Russian colleagues and Western counterparts. The problem is that all her moral preaching would best be applied to herself. Besides that, she’s continuously lying. I’ve already written so much about that and still she continues to lie. It’s almost like some kind of disorder. Moreover I can perfectly see that Margarita or at least her employees have read all of this. Links from Noodle Remover routinely go through RT corporate email. For every post I can see where visitors are coming from.

I know that she’s lying; she knows that I know, and so on. And yet it goes on as though nothing has happened. Take any of her interviews, TV appearances, or commentary- wherever you look you’re sure to find a ton of lies so primitive that they can be easily refuted within a few minutes search on Google. Here’s a fresh example that illustrates what I’m referring to.

Margarita went on the program “The Right to Know” on TVC (aired 6 February), and at 24:48 she said the following:

“We do what is interesting for the audience. Here’s an example: when the Occupy Wall Street protest started, we were the first to tell people in the States about it. For two weeks even the key news agencies were silent about this.”

 

I honestly don’t know how she manages to pull this off every time. A simple search on Google news for the two weeks following the beginning of Occupy Wall Street in New York reveals plenty of coverage of the event from all the major US and international publications. This is directly from the first day, 17 September 2011, when the first protesters appeared in New York’s Zucotti park:

occupy.png

 

Here we have an example from the Fox News channel, which Margarita loves to contrast to RT. There are photographs from the Associated Press:

 

occupyfox

 

Are those not “key news agencies?”

Here’s RT’s own page from the first day of Occupy. Not a word about the protests.

rtpage.png

 

And these examples were just from one broadcast. Again, we’re talking about lies which can be easily refuted by a simple internet search. Here’s something I found entertaining when I was sitting on the second floor of the building on Zubovsky boulevard and Margarita was on the fifth:

“If the US media coverage of Manning were at least 10% of their coverage about our Pussy Riot, I’d believe in democracy.”

“Margarita, you can’t do anything without this, can you? NYT: Bradley Manning: 3,520 results. Pussy Riot: 2,170 Results.”

 

“A British blog has published research on why RT is beating the BBC. I will tweet a few quotes.”

“Here’s the BBC’s coverage from the first day of Occupy London. Who beat whom?”

You get the idea. I have a whole collection of these. It all ended when she blocked me on Twitter (and then fired me- ha ha!).

banned

Then there was the time when Margarita wrote a column complaining about the British communications regulator Ofcom:

ofcom

“There are direct threats to revoke our license. Recently we have had nine warnings from the British media regulator. They do not like us at all. I would understand if they found we had broadcast actual lies, incorrect facts, or something concretely wrong. But they didn’t find any of that. Indeed they don’t have to. It’s enough for them to accuse us of lacking objectivity. For example, in the case of Ukraine, from Ofcom’s point of view our television channel “did not adequately reflect the position of the provisional government in Ukraine.” Or in the case with our coverage of Libya, there was an accusation that NATO’s point of view was not presented. As if the BBC ever “adequately reflects” the Kremlin’s point of view on anything.”

“I would understand if they found we had broadcast actual lies, incorrect facts, or something concretely wrong. But they didn’t find any of that.” What do you take us for, Margarita? Not only did they find brazen lies, but there was even the modern blood libel of the so-called “crucified boy.” RT itself admitted as much when they deleted the episode of Truthseeker which contained the story from their site. Here is the relevant quote from the Ofcom newsletter, in which the claims against this (and several other episodes) can be found, along with RT’s reaction.

ofcom2

“Horrific and wild claims” – this, among other things, and the title “Eyewitnesses: KIEV ARMY LITERALLY crucify babies in captured towns and forced their mother to watch” (i.e. the very same “crucified boy” story from First Channel).

truthseeker

 Caught in a lie, they were made to remove it and ordered to issue an on-air retraction. They still haven’t done the latter, meaning that Ofcom’s complaints have the status of “upheld,” meaning they are still active. This, according to Margarita, means that the British regulator just “doesn’t like” RT at all.  As if it wasn’t bad enough that RT lied, Margarita went and lied to RBK about the incident in an interview, where she claimed the story had never been aired.

Interviewer- How does the situation with the sanctions and Ukraine influence the development of RT and Rossiya Segodnya?

Simonyan- On the whole, the situation in the mass media does influence our development. I don’t need to mention, perhaps, the fact that there isn’t one significant Western media outlet that hasn’t written us off as scoundrels. Anyone writes anything about us, and then it goes down in print and the rest reprint it. The biggest problem is that 99% of the mass media lies. For example, Anne Applebaum wrote about RT and said that this is the mass media that aired the story about the crucified boy. But we didn’t have any crucified boy!

Margarita loves to attack the “mainstream media,” hypocritically accusing them of lying. Her favorite example is the story of how the New York Times actually provoked the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This story was based on the fact that in 2002-2003 the paper put out a lot of material which supported the claim that Saddam Hussein had a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. These articles were later cited by Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice as a casus belli for the invasion, yet it was later revealed that much of this material had come from unreliable sources- for example, the biased founder of the anti-Hussein Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi.

nyt

What Margarita is silent about is the fact that the New York Times has admitted their mistakes in this matter numerous times (on their site there is a whole section dedicated to refuting their earlier articles about Iraq), the reporter who wrote those articles was fired after the scandal in spite of the fact that she was a Pulitzer prize laureate, and still the New York Times’ general reputation was irreparably harmed by the incident. And what about RT and the “crucified boy?”  Simonyan is simply lying, and the host of the Truthseeker program, Daniel Bushell, is still quietly working at RT.

In principle, a pathologically lying journalist is not a unique phenomenon. We’ve encountered them long before Margarita came along. There are several famous, or infamous stories such as that of Jayson Blair, a reporter for the New York Times, and Stephen Glass from The New Republic, who began with inventing small details and then ended up fabricating entire stories and interviews with non-existent people. If you watched the acclaimed TV series The Wire, you might remember that we meet such a character in the final season. The collective image of the reporter is that he is a resourceful liar.

thewire.jpeg

The Wire, HBO

The moral of that story, of course, is that such cases represent a pathology, and they are used as a negative example of how not to be a reporter. And of course in the history of journalism there doesn’t seem to be a single known case where a pathological liar was the head of a country’s largest news outlet.

This is the most horrific thing about this situation. RIA used to have a reputation not only in Russia or the Soviet Union, but in fact the whole world, for being one of the most reliable sources of information. This reputation was built up over a whole decade. Then Margarita, a pathological liar, came to RIA and it began to assault audiences with the most outlandish, primitive nonsense, “hanging noodles on your ears” as the Russian colloquialism goes. The problem is that RIA is not only the main source of information for its own audience, but also for other publications as well. If RIA publishes something, then it’s true, and one can publish their own news citing them as the source. The main news service of a country couldn’t be lying, could they? Oh wait…

***

Here’s another example of duplicity- Margarita simply idolized Julian Assange. She calls him her friend, he had his own TV show on RT, and almost every day the channel reports on virtually every step taken by this courageous fighter against the American intelligence community in the name of freedom of information. It leads to curiosities such as this:

crowd.png

“A crowd waits for Julian Assange to emerge from the Ecuadorian embassy in London”

The tweet with this photo and the headline about the “crowd” was later removed, but the message was clear- Assange is a hero if not an idol. However, if Assange were just an ordinary employee of RT and not a star personality and a personal friend of the chief editor, and he had tried to tell the world what goes on behind the scenes at the TV network, he would have received the following letter from the management:

letter

“Colleagues!                                    

I want to direct your attention to the mandatory rules of proper behavior on social media. I remind you that every one of us has signed a labor contract and a confidentiality agreement. In accordance with both of these you do not have the right to distribute or discuss information about your work with the channel or co-workers in open sources during the time you are employed by the channel and for the three years after you leave. Any social network, regardless of the type of account (e.g. one with highly restricted access), is considered to be an open source.

We have been forced to enact such policies after numerous occasions when posts from employees were used by malicious people in order to spread lies about RT and those who work there.”

 

All employees at RT are forced to sign something called the “non-disparagement agreement.” This means that they are not only obligated to refrain from discussing the channel while they work there, but up to three years after they leave. It’s interesting to think about what Julian Assange would have to say about this. And there is something to talk about. Paranoia reigns at RT, where denouncing and intimidating dissidents is encouraged. This is what I’ve been told by one of a few former employees who spoke to me on the condition that they remain anonymous:

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“The silence is easy to explain. Employees who write about forbidden topics, even under invented names, are later called in for a discussion about values. I personally know one of these people. Margarita Simonyan loves Assange, who sits in London and slings mud at America, scoring points for RT. But she does not tolerate Assanges in her ranks. So you must understand that you are talking to people that have the basement of the Lyubyanka looming before them.”

Julian Assange, who regularly appears on the channel, might be curious to find out that Russia Today is one of the most opaque media outlets in the world. The fact is that most of the state media in Russia, such as “MIA Rossiya Segodnya,” VGTRK, and others are legally classified as Federal State Unitary Enterprises (FGUP in Russian). Therefore they regularly complete and detailed accounts on their activities. All this data is publicly available- you can find out how they spend each and every kopek they get from the Ministry of Finance under the heading “Mass Media.”

Russia Today is a different case. The owner of RT is an ANO, “Autonomous Non-commercial Organization” i.e. a non-profit or charitable organization, called TV-Novosti (news). Here’s what kind of subsidies the richest non-profit organization in Russia receives:

accounts

Where any of this money goes is utterly incomprehensible. How much, for example, was spent on the luxurious RT office in London, the one with a view of Big Ben? Nobody knows. But these are our taxes. After much head-butting against the Ministry of Justice, to whom all Russian non-profit organizations including TV-Novosti must report, lawyers from “Team 29” managed to get some kind of report from RT, but it looks like some kind of ambiguous mockery. The report on the expenditure of 11 billion rubles is just one page with two lines:

accounts2

1.1.1 Founding and broadcasting for television channels in English, Arabic, and Spanish. 1.1.2 Founding and broadcasting of a television channel in the French language

Such a report to the Ministry of Finance from any other non-profit organization in Russia would have earned them a fine, but Margarita got away with it. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars which belong to us are cast into a bottomless pit which requires more and more. Margarita constantly moans about how most of her expenses are in foreign currency, and the dollar is growing so please give more. But what she does with that money she does not want to tell us for some reason. If only some story about some shadowy Israeli attorney and millions of dollars deposited in Luxemburg bank accounts would leak out. If only there were some Assange or Snowden to tell us the whole story. But Assange is a hero only on the air at RT, and behind the scenes of the network Margarita wages a ruthless struggle against Assanges.

***

This is why I don’t like Margarita Simonyan. It was not because she fired me; as I mentioned in the beginning I was actually grateful to her for that. It is because she is a pathologically lying, dishonest, and duplicitous person who is a disgrace to the profession of journalism and who is destroying the once-great reputation of the best news organization for which I was proud to work.

About the author- Alexei Kovalev was head of InoSMI for RIA-Novosti before the latter was liquidated in 2014. He currently heads up the project Noodle Remover, which scrutinizes propaganda and bad journalistic practices in the Russian media. 

Merry Christmas! Your present: Pro-Kremlin Op-ed Template

Recently in the process of writing an article I was overtaken by morbid curiosity and actually started reading some Sputnik articles. Then I became even more masochistic, and I went over to look at RT’s Op-Edge section. I’ve noticed that nearly every story you run across can essentially fit into one of a few categories. You have your stories about what a great leader Putin is, and how the West is unjustly demonizing him. Then you’ve got your stories about how the Western media lies about Russia all the time. Then there are a lot of stories about how the EU is bound to collapse any moment, just like it has been poised to do for at least a decade now according to doomsayers. Lastly, there are stories about how the US has fucked up the Middle East. At least there’s some truth to those, though it’s usually coming from a ridiculously one-sided, hypocritical position.

After subjecting myself to reading a few of these, I decided to make a special template that you can use to make your own pro-Kremlin op-ed piece. Simply fill the gaps with timely details where necessary.

The Western media lies about _____________

Recently the Western media has been crowing hysterically about something Putin or Russia did. Of course they would say that- the Western media always lies about Putin and Russia. Obviously their whole “story” is nothing but information warfare and totally untrue.

We know their claims are untrue because they are contradicted by official statements from the Russian government, which denies them completely. Also, here are some opinions from people we labeled as “political analysts” and other Russian state-owned media which also contradict the claims made by whatever we are arbitrarily dubbing “the Western media.”

Of course if their claims were true, they would still be justified because the US did something like this one time, and that was bad. Putin’s actions are no different than that example, except that it is morally right when Russia does it whereas the US was still morally wrong for doing the same thing.

Also I have to wonder why the Western media even covered this, while not covering this long list of other things that don’t involve Russia. Could it be they have a deliberate agenda to accuse Russia of things she did not do, or if she did them, things that were totally justified?

Here I’m going to pick out the most ridiculous Western commentator I can find, and then I’m going to take his most inflammatory, idiotic comment about Russia or Putin. I’m going to easily debunk this low-hanging fruit, then I’m going to insinuate that his or her opinion represents the entire Western media consensus as a whole, even though a casual Google search would reveal plenty of differing opinions among what I arbitrarily label the Western or mainstream media.

Here’s an example of an article I found in the same “Western media” which supports my point of view. I’m going to focus on this and use this to vindicate my claims, totally oblivious to the fact that if my “information war” claims were true, this kind of diversity of opinion shouldn’t exist in the Western media. I’m also going to ignore the obvious fact that I’m more than happy to cite Western media and believe it so long as it appears to be supporting my point of view.

Now here’s where I explain the reasons why the Western media is constantly lying about Russia. Of course I’ll attribute it to the information war, which certainly exists as dozens of countries and their public and private media are directly manipulated against Russia by the United States. But that’s not the only factor.

The truth is that many Western journalists don’t know much about this subject, unlike me. In order to show my expertise, here are some random historical facts or some things I got verbatim from some Russian “geopolitical analyst,” which incidentally show no special insight into the topic in question, nor do they suggest that I have any more background in the subject than the Western journalists I’m attacking.

Now I’m going to go off on a tangent about some pet cause of mine, and in the process I’m going to praise Putin for his wise leadership compared to my own leaders, whom I can’t stand. I’m going to advance a false dichotomy whereby I label anyone who doesn’t agree with me and my slavish devotion to Putin as a “neocon” or “warmongerer.”

Lastly, here’s an oblivious paragraph where I again decry the mass of organizations I’ve arbitrarily lumped together as the Western media, and then hilariously lecture them on the importance of ethics and independence in journalism. I will bristle at the idea that someone might label me a paid Putin propagandist, simply because I’m paid by the Russian government and I constantly write fawning praise of Vladimir Putin while always taking the Kremlin’s side in any foreign policy dispute.

THE END

 

I’m on Crack…ed.com!

So if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’re already aware that I’ve been in Ukraine again. This time it was for a definite project and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went.

"We're here to save you from the fascists!" -Vatniks

“We’re here to save you from the fascists!” -Vatniks

Unfortunately it means I’ll have a lot more work to do in the next month or so, and thus blog posts might be a bit scarce.

On the upside, I’ve finally made my Cracked.com debut. This is the beginning of a career no longer tied to writing about Russia.

9 Year Anniversary Extravaganza

9 YEARS IN RUSSIA!

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

In honor of the 9-year anniversary of my move to Russia, I present my readers with…This long political rant:

Oblivious

These days there’s this idea that Russians miss the Soviet Union, as though they are Communists, as though this is what they actually wanted. Obviously when given the chance, the Russian people, like people in the other union republics, utterly failed to put up any fight to preserve either the union itself, just as they failed to do anything about the system which had long since ceased to be anything remotely resembling socialism in a Marxist sense. In reality the rising Soviet nostalgia, nurtured by the state media and state-connected organizations, is totally disconnected with socialist politics or even the actual Soviet Union itself. Instead, the Soviet Union has been reimagined as another Russian empire, and the message of the state is that Russian imperialism is just and right. This has great appeal for a population living nearly a quarter of a century under humiliation, especially when post-Soviet Russia shows little capacity for achievement in recent years.

Yet while we must not nurture modern Russian fantasies about how the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t their fault, or that they were wholly unaccountable for what happened next, we also need to stop doing things like what former US Ambassador Michael McFaul did in this tweet today:

Now I don’t mean to sound like Mark Ames here, but the fact is that while Russia and other Soviet republics were already suffering in the throes of Perestroika, the 90’s, especially the early 90’s, were no picnic for Russia and other former Soviet republics, to say the least. In fact, when Ames talks about the crime, violence, corruption, and prostitution of the 90’s, he’s not wrong nor lying. The only problem is that he used all that to build a career for himself, and then shits on anyone who wants to deal with Russia’s problems now, many of which are rooted in the 90’s.

I apologize for the digression but the point here is that McFaul’s comment is akin to the sentiments of many a clueless Westerner, who expect Russians to celebrate the destruction and humiliation of their country. I am not speaking of the break-up of the Soviet Union here; I’m talking about the literal destruction of the Russian Federation, what can best be described as Russia’s “rightful territory” (though that’s debatable).  Obviously some of these Westerners visited or lived in Russia at the time, and some of them might have been here even earlier, during Perestroika. These types might tell you that “it wasn’t so bad,” well that might have been the case- for them, and perhaps the well-to-do Russians they knew. The fact is that for millions of ordinary people, it was total chaos. All the while the economic advice from the West was neo-liberal to the core. Privatize everything as quickly as possible. Suffering be damned! Let the market decide everything, even if most of your majority population has little to no knowledge about markets and capitalism. No time to teach them!

Then you also have Western politicians and many journalists turning a blind eye to the violence of Yeltsin’s regime. I’m not just talking about the organized crime ties of his backers, but literal violence against his own people. For before he initiated a campaign of butchery in Chechnya which would later catapult Vladimir Putin to prominence, he used tanks and snipers against his own people in his own capital, all for the sake of defending his violation of the constitution. By comparison, the police response to the 2011-2012 protests don’t even register; they were even more reserved than Berkut during Euromaidan.

I could go on with more examples but I think the point is clear. This kind of behavior is precisely one of the reasons why you hear Russians say things like “The West only likes us when we’re weak! Better for them to fear us!” It’s not a paranoid Russian fantasy that foreign media coverage of Russia seemed to immediately change in tone once Putin was in charge. Putin was trying to project the image of a strong Russia, and the Western media was happy to oblige him, telling us how we should fear what he was doing.

The same phenomenon explains the renewed interest in the Soviet Union and Stalin, who has been stripped of his Marxist credentials and made into a Russian Orthodox nationalist. The thing about Russian liberals, almost from the beginning, is that they seemed to love talking about the horrors of “Stalinism” more than anything else. When people were suffering, not knowing where their next meal would come from, when their daughters were disappearing abroad into sexual slavery- the liberals and their foreign backers want to talk about the purges of 1937. It’s not hard to see where this leads in a country dominated by the politics of opposites. “If these same people constantly talk about Stalin, then Stalin must be the anti-liberal! He represents everything they hate, and they represent everything we hate! Glory to the Great Orthodox Russian Nationalist hero, YAROSLAV (Just you wait.) STALIN!”

This is how rudimentary politics is in these parts; it’s not just Ukraine. You attribute certain things to your opponents and then you automatically take on the opposite of everything you perceive to be on “their” side. There’s no middle ground, there’s no underlying principle or ideology guiding your decisions or choices. Take the outrage at the toppling of Lenin statues in Ukraine. Most Russians don’t know jack shit about Lenin, and even less about his ideology or what “Leninism” is (HINT: It’s largely related to organizational methods for Communist parties). Many Russians actually curse Lenin as a German agent, even an American agent, who destroyed their wonderful empire. Lenin is blamed not only for things such as the execution of the royal family, but I’ve even heard Russians claim that he “invented” Ukrainians, and gave them some of the best “Russian” territory. Incidentally, that territory was called “Novorossiya,” and if they were going by ethnic maps of the era Ukraine could have been a lot bigger today, including such cities as Voronezh, Belgorod, Kursk, and possibly the Kuban. Incidentally Lenin’s nationalities policy that is so-hated by Russian neo-imperialists and vatniks alike today was inspired by the work and arguments of none other than…Josef Stalin, but I’m digressing again. The bottom line is that you have this surreal situation where most Russians think nothing of cursing Lenin for the destruction of their empire, church, etc., but a Lenin monument gets smashed in Ukraine and suddenly their butts emit more thrust than the N1 moon rocket.

With Stalin it’s a bit different, largely due to the WWII cult, but the fact is that Russian love of Stalin is highly exaggerated. For one thing, the rabidly anti-Communist, anti-Stalin books of Viktor Suvorov (real name: Vladimir Rezun) are easily found in virtually any Russian bookstore, something I’ve noticed since I first moved here. Other works commonly found in bookstores big and small are the memoirs of various German generals and officers from the Second World War. These books seem to have gained quite a following in Russia, largely because to their audience here they seem like new, forbidden knowledge. I’ve even found works of the Holocaust denier Joachim Hoffman prominently displayed in some of Moscow’s biggest bookstores, including his book honoring Vlassov’s Russian Liberation Army.

What can explain these bizarre disparities, whereby Russians curse Ukrainians for toppling statues of the man who supposedly created Ukrainians? Simple- Ukrainian nationalists are Banderites, and they hate Lenin and the Soviet Union. Ergo statues of Lenin and Stalin are the polar opposite. Maybe more importantly, they enrage Ukrainian nationalists, who are the only Ukrainians worth considering at all, from a Russian point of view. In fact, you could almost say that this is really just trolling politics. Many Ukrainians only tolerate or wave UPA symbols because they know the reaction it will get from vatniks in Russia. They know nothing of the real history of that organization. By the same token, vatniks know that Stalin and Lenin are tools with which to troll their Ukrainian opponents. Thus the memes go back and forth on the internet, interspersed with numerous pornographic images (I’m not even kidding here).

Lastly, one needs to understand that a lot of the darker aspects of Russian politics stem from the kind of ideological garbage that poured into the country from the outside during the 90’s. Russian nationalist groups trying to create a synthesis between ethnic nationalism and the Soviet Union as a Russian empire actually pre-date the fall of the USSR, but after that fall, pretty much every reactionary, right-wing ideology or conspiracy theory flooded into the country. Again Westerners didn’t help. “Throw off all the vestiges of Communism! Bring back the old Tsarist flag! Yes! More religion! Build more churches! The Communists suppressed the poor persecuted church!” and so on. I’ve always found it odd how Western writers seem so perplexed about the prominence of far right ideas in Russia and Eastern Europe. Excuse me, but for roughly 40 years we bombarded them with propaganda that portrayed every Nazi-collaborating fascist as a tragic “freedom fighter” who really fought “against Stalin and Hitler,” sometimes in the ranks of the Waffen SS, no less! The rush to portray anything and everything associate with Communism and socialism as the ultimate evil also led to people questioning the original ideals of Communism, such as anti-racism, internationalism, secularism, science, and women’s rights. If you were led to believe those things were associated with Communism, and Communism is the worst evil imaginable, why would you have any regard for those values under liberal capitalism? Every fascist the world over, from the very beginning, sees such values as creeping Communism.

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in...New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It's a BIRD, goddammit!) are

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in…New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It’s a BIRD, goddammit!) are “associated with fascism.”
To their credit, Vlassov’s army did actually turn on the Germans to help the Czech resistance liberate Prague. Very different from Bandera, whose forces collaborated with the Germans after he had been arrested and imprisoned by them.

If Westerners want to actually help the situation, there are a few things we can do in discussions with Russians on these topics:

1.      Do not do what McFaul did. Acknowledge that Russia, like many other countries, suffered greatly due to the collapse of the Soviet system. This is not a defense of the system, which was already moribund at that point. It’s not about questioning the independence of any former Soviet republic either. The question of the economic and political system is separate from the question of independence of union republics.

2.   Don’t let Russians off the hook, letting them blame all their problems of the 90’s on a handful of “traitors” and the West, but also acknowledge that the West did play a role in the horrors of the 90’s. A lot of it was neglect- lack of concern or criticism over Yeltsin’s actions, giving him a blank check to do as he pleased. This didn’t just hurt Russians. It actually hurt a lot of foreign investors who wanted to do business in Russia.

3.   Again, it must be understood that celebrating the humiliation of Russia doesn’t mean you can’t say it’s good that the USSR broke apart. The humiliation in this case was not exclusive to Russia. Sure, today the vatniks long to be feared and to push smaller countries around, but that’s because the original humiliation was never solved, in the right way. That could have been solved if Russia had transformed into a proper democratic state, with separation of powers, rule of law, and most of all- a strong welfare state funded by its vast natural resources. The potential of this state would have been immense, and if it existed today I doubt any Russian would give a shit about Ukraine signing an association agreement with the EU or the fact that it had the Crimea, something Russia only gave a shit about in 2014. Countries that do well, whose governments provide their citizens with a high standard of living, generally don’t harbor dreams about recovering lost territories.

Fight the myth that “The West only likes Russia when it was weak!” First of all, Russia is weak today. Yes, yes it is. It’s economy is smaller than that of Italy and falling fast. It has no plan for what to do after Putin, lynch-pin of the system, is gone. Its attempts at sabre-rattling have only led to catastrophic air crashes and billions of wasted rubles. At best it can intimidate its much weaker members, and that’s about it. To the rest of the world it’s essentially a laughing stock as it babbles on about WWII, “historical justice,” and the so-called BRICS alternative while investing even more in US treasury bonds.

Second, it’s not that people in the West, particularly America, liked or hated Russia during the Yeltsin period- they didn’t care. Nobody cared. So much historical revisionism has taken place in modern Russia that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking there is some 150 year history of animosity between the United States and Russia. This is sheer idiocy that ignores tons of historical evidence to the contrary. Real hostility towards the Soviet Union, apart from Wilson’s intervention and a lack of recognition until 1932, didn’t begin until after 1945. During the interwar period the USSR was not seen as a threat. How so? Well the two main concerns for the US military during that period were Japan and…”The Red Empire,” a military designation for the United Kingdom. Yes, Great Britain. Perfidious Albion. Old Blighty. And I might add that part of the increased hostility during the Cold War stemmed from the fact that unlike the interwar period, the USSR actually gained the ability to strike the USA, and vice versa.

Most of all, Russians seem to have totally forgotten that this was an ideological conflict. Sure, plenty of Cold Warriors would sometimes use “The Russians” or “The Russkies” as shorthand for the USSR, but their real animosity was towards Communism. This is why they spent so much time attacking domestic dissidents and opponents as Communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee wasn’t trying to determine if people had hidden Russian ancestry, but rather if they were Communists or associated with Communists.

Lastly, it was not the US that weakened or humiliated Russia. It was people like Yeltsin and people who benefited from his system. Many Russians were complicit in this. Nowadays its Putin and his elite.

4.  Support and spread the truth, that a strong Russia doesn’t mean an empire that bullies other countries. Japan and Germany are both “strong” today. So are Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Austria. Strength can be measured in what the country produces, how the government treats its citizens, its living standards, etc.  It’s hard to say whether we’ve hit a point of no return here, but Russia still has a potential edge in two fields- IT and space exploration. Imagine where it would be were it not for boondoggle projects like Skolkovo and someone stealing $127 million from the space program.

5.  Stop insisting that Russia adopt the new European-contrived (for lack of a more concrete term) version of history. For one thing, it’s not accurate and rewriting history is bad no matter who does it. Worse still, it sends a message to Russians that it is perfectly fine to rewrite history to legitimize political goals. To this end, stop looking the other way when countries like Ukraine engage in this practice. Just because someone is the underdog in a fight doesn’t mean we should rewrite human history for their benefit. And might I add on that point- if you criticize people like me who prefer Ukrainians to take a particular position on Bandera and the OUN, who are you to insist that Russians adopt every point of your historical narrative? After all, do they not need to build a narrative for the sake of cultural cohesion? In truth the Russian identity isn’t that much more solidified than that of Ukraine. Technically there is no “Russia,” if you think about it. So is anyone ready to apply Anne Applebaum’s logic, that this is fine if it builds national unity, to Russia? I sincerely hope not.

Readers and other writers often talk about how shocked they are to see educated, seemingly worldly Russians mouthing the Kremlin’s line as of 2014. This is due to numerous factors, but one factor is the complete failure at setting up a real dialog in all these years. From my observation there as been a lot of reluctance to accept any Russian argument (not necessarily pro-government arguments either) on any subject, particularly when it comes to history. This is often contrasted with a willingness to pick up and disseminate some of the most egregious examples of historical revisionism when they come from other countries. The lack of inconsistency and the refusal to actually listen leads to a sense of exasperation: “They oppose everything we say! They must really hate us!” That, in turn, has led many of these people, who are quite valuable, to side with the Kremlin. If it isn’t that alone, it’s certainly a contributing factor.

In short, anyone who’s actually interested in supporting democracy and generally improving Russia needs to learn to stop being oblivious to this reality. We cannot get sucked into the politics of opposites, where we choose a camp and any criticism within that camp is taken as treason. Russians, even quite liberal ones, have always complained about being lectured to. And let’s be honest, there are some who have certainly been doing a lot of lecturing. So much lecturing, in fact, that they forgot to really explain what the democratic position truly is. This has left many prey to a system that is adept at the tactics of populism.

GUYS IT’S TOTALLY NOT KREMLIN-FUNDED!

Anyone remember this hilarious article about a propaganda-filled press junket to Moscow? Well guess what- Russia’s doubling down with a new press junket to Donetsk! Check it out:

A private Russian citizens’ initiative whose goal is to provide information about the Ukraine war not covered in the western media, is organizing a press tour to the Donbass and Moscow in the second half of March. The invitation is open to all journalists and bloggers, mainstream and alternative.

Hmmm… A “private Russian citizens’ initiative.”  That’s interesting. I’m sure there is no reason why I should be suspicious that his might be another government-backed propaganda ploy. After all, Russia is just full of well-funded citizens’ initiatives which have the money to pay for things like this. Oh…Wait…No.  Well maybe I’m wrong. Let’s take a look.

I am acquainted with the company organizing the tour, Europa Objectiv, and their CEO Andrei Stepanenko, and can confirm that they are a legitimate group and reliable people. They publish a German language news site providing news and analysis about what is going on in the Ukraine. http://www.europaobjektiv.com. Andrei asked me to share this information with our readership. Here is the announcement on their site in German.

They stress that they are a completely private initiative not funded by the Russian government, and from what I know about them, I believe this to be accurate, however, I should add the disclaimer that I cannot, obviously, confirm this absolutely.

There are a lot of these citizen initiatives in Russia, often organized by Russians frustrated with government policies they see as too hesitant, and many of them really are what they say they are. In the end analysis, I don’t think this is a critical issue. Participants should be aware that this group has a point of view they are trying to share, and factor that in to their reporting.

Wow. Trying hard enough there, buddy? At first I was skeptical but then he assured me that they really are what they say they are and it’s not a critical issue anyway. So yeah, I’m totally sold that there’s a well financed group in Russia with enough money to hook up something like this and that it is organized by people who are frustrated with the “too hesitant” government.  Totally plausible.

Looking at the German site, it’s pretty obvious that this is one of those possibly far-right wing pro-Russia organizations. Isn’t it a happy coincidence that their ideology just happens to line up with that of the Kremlin, in spite of the fact that it is totally not funded by the Russian government in any way?

What follows comes from the organization’s letter about the tour. Let’s take a look at their itinerary.

On the first day you will be able to meet with prominent Russian political scientists, experts on Ukraine, politicians, and hear their opinions on Ukraine crisis.

Oh wow, prominent Russian political scientists and experts on Ukraine! I wonder if this includes any of the brilliant minds who predicted that America would collapse years ago, or that the Ukrainian language was invented by Poland and Austro-Hungary! I’m sure we’ll get a broad range of opinions on the topic and by no means hear a litany about how the Ukrainians, who don’t really exist of course, are nothing but whores who sell-out to the West instead of standing up for themselves by becoming part of a new Russian empire.  Sounds to me like the guests will be in for a round of lecturing by “geopolitical experts,” also known as the people who don’t actually understand how the world works.  Be sure to bring your Geopolitical Expert Bingo Cards!

geopoliticalbingo

On the second day you will be able to see the exclusive video footages, photo and audio recordings captured by Russian journalists since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, which have never been broadcasted by the western mass media. Furthermore we’ll organize the meeting with the authors of these materials. You can freely use them to create your own materials.

Gee, I wonder if some of that material has never been shown in the West because it was obviously faked, just like the “satellite photos” that showed a Ukrainian Mig-29 shooting down MH17, or the footage of the woman who claimed that she saw Ukrainian soldiers crucify a young boy, or dozens of other fake photos, stories, and videos.

Naaaah. It must be because the entire Western media is controlled by Barack Obama. Think I’m joking? Keep reading.

Stage 2 – Donbas – (2 days, by request)

– we plan to meet with representatives of Donbas militia troops

– you will be able to talk to local citizens

– authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic take over security issues and the possibility of maximum freedom of movement in Donetsk. As well as in Moscow “Europa Objektiv” will make video and audio recordings, these footages you can also use to create your own materials.

Obviously they will choose which citizens and militia members you can talk to. With no Russian skills, it will be next to impossible to know whether you’re talking to a local or someone from Russia. The Russian press has already been busted for using actors or actresses to pose as ordinary civilians. I’m sure this time they’ll do nothing of the sort.

The aim of the press tour:

– to provide exclusive video and photo materials for alternative mass media in Europe

– to enable journalists to witness the truth about the events taking place in Donbas, to communicate with the victims of the war in the East Ukraine, to make your own decision about the reasons of the war in the contemporary Europe, to show the world community the facts, that are hidden by the mass media controlled by the current U.S. administration: the bloody revolution on the Maidan in Kiev, glorification and rebirth of the fascism in Ukraine, the reasons of the rebellion of the civil population in the East Ukraine.

Yup, this is just to give journalists a totally objective view. An objective view of the bloody Nazi Maidan revolution that led to the crucifixion of Russian infants all the way to Kharkiv, that is! Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that these people can’t even try to hide their agenda even as they are claiming that they just want people to make up their own minds? What do you think these people would say if the EU or US funded a press junket to Kiev and the Ukrainian cities that have suffered shelling at the hands of the separatists? I can tell you their pitch would be a lot less blatant and yet these geopolitical jackasses would still be screaming “IIIIIIINFOOOOOORMAAAAAATIOOOON WAAAAAR!”  

Seriously- “Bloody” Maidan revolution? Most of the blood spilled was that of the protesters, and even that was no more than maybe 100 people. And remember what I said about Obama controlling the media? Well there it is in black and white. They say that the Western media is hiding facts at the behest of the Obama administration. That’s right, Obama controls not only private news corporations in the US, but he also controls outlets like The Guardian and the BBC.

Below I’d like to include a list of articles which apparently managed to slip past Obama’s censors.

Which Ukraine? by Sophie Pinkham in The New Yorker

Thousands of Ukraine nationalists march in Kiev  AFP

The untold story of the Maidan massacre by Gabriel Gatehouse BBC

Remember, readers, the Western media doesn’t report on this stuff! It’s all controlled by the White House! It doesn’t fit the narrative.

One year on: where are the far-right forces of Ukraine? Channel 4, UK

Ukraine’s Struggle Endangers Its Democracy Matthew Kupfer

The Western media never criticizes Maidan or the Ukrainian government! Obama won’t allow you to read that!

Is western media coverage of the Ukraine crisis anti-Russian?  various authors, The Guardian

Ukraine conflict: ‘White power’ warrior from Sweden By Dina Newman

REMEMBER! THE WESTERN MEDIA DOESN’T TALK ABOUT THE FAR-RIGHT AT MAIDAN! OBAMA WON’T LET THEM!

Ukraine arrests St. Petersburg sports columnist for treason

THEY NEVER REPORT ANYTHING BAD ABOUT THE KIEV JUNTA!! WHY CAN’T THEY BE MORE OBJECTIVE?!

Three by Christopher J. Miller

Rockets reportedly kill fleeing civilians in eastern Ukraine; Kyiv, insurgents swap blame

Civilians Caught In Crossfire: Safer to stay home or leave?

Ukraine denies using artillery in cities despite mounting evidence

OBAMA DOESN’T LET ANYONE REPORT ON THE SUFFERING CIVILIANS IN THE DONBASS!  YOU CAN’T GET THIS INFO ANYWHERE ELSE!

Okay I think I’ve made my point there. I could go on, posting dozens of articles from other Western media sources which either take a critical look at the Ukrainian government or report on the suffering of civilians in the separatist controlled areas. What I can’t do, however, is find any articles by any pro-Kremlin outlet which gives us a more even-handed narrative of Maidan or criticizes the annexation of the Crimea and the separatists. What you will also not find coming from the Western media are phony eyewitness stories told by actresses or deliberately photoshopped or misrepresented photos.

So yeah, please tell me how this is all about letting journalists make up their own mind. These people don’t even try.

UPDATE: Today the hard-hitting journalists at Russia’s Life News brought us a breaking story about black mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side. According to these totally believable reports, they were drunk and dancing on top of their tanks. Totally not racist.

Life News is not state run, but it is owned by a die-hard Putin supporter and close friend of the Kremlin. Keep this in mind next time you read something about a Russian “private citizens’ initiative” that has plenty of money to throw around.

Bearded Badass Financial advice

First of all, I’d like to thank my recent donors. Every time someone donates to Russia Without BS, Dmitry Kiselyev sheds a tear…

coincidence

In last night’s article I talked about the financial advice of Mr. Money Mustache. As one reader pointed out, it’s definitely good for long term life planning, but not so great in the short term, a sentiment I wholly agree with. Now that the economic collapse is eight years behind us, I think we can safely say that more Americans have long since begun to rethink habits such as racking up massive credit card debts or borrowing money to buy SUVs. Still, I’m sure there are many who could actually benefit from his thrifty advice.

In the past when I saw millennials bemoaning their financial situation, I thought I could perhaps offer some advice from my personal experience. The problem is, however, that much of my “success” was due to market-determined factors which had nothing to do with any kind of long-term planning or clever financial strategy. In fact, when I explain what got me so interested in Russia and compelled me to move here, I describe it as a sort of teenage delusion. In other words, a delusion happened to put me in a certain country at a time when investors from all over the world were dumping money by boatload into it, and the demand for private English teaching and TOEFL consulting was high. In fact, I actually became aware of this much later than others, and had I taken full advantage of that fact I might have saved up much more money by now. Just to give you an idea of what one could make, as recently as the spring of 2014, I was making roughly the equivalent of $600 from one client. Excluding travel time this worked out to three hours a day, twice a week. Not bad at all.

Obviously those days are long gone, and while most people would say this is driven by politics and specifically those of Vladimir Putin, one cannot ignore the influence the economy has had on Putin’s recent decision making. In other words, the market once favored Russia, then it stopped. This is why my experience doesn’t make for good financial advice. It would amount to “Find a country that is experiencing a boom right now, where there is a demand for English teachers and a small population of super-rich assholes who will pay exorbitant prices to send their precious little snowflakes abroad to study at an overpriced American university. Oh yeah, pray that country’s government isn’t a dictatorship run by a delusional man whose policies are concocted by pseudo-intellectual hacks who base their advice on real time strategy games.”

Of course the work abroad approach is not entirely useless. A TEFL-TESOL certificate to teach English as a foreign language is laughably easy to obtain. I could have got mine online without leaving the States. Most of what you actually need to know you learn on the job; if you have a natural talent for languages or just a really high command of English, you’ll do fine. The trick, however, is turning a TEFL job into a strategy for financial freedom.

As a rule, TEFL jobs don’t pay much, but they will usually pay slightly more than the average salary of the country you’re in. That being said, don’t expect to get ahead via a huge salary. What you want to look for is places that provide free accommodation or at least decent rent reimbursement. Not having to pay rent can make an otherwise paltry salary go much further.

Another advantage of teaching abroad is that some schools offer annual bonuses and flight reimbursement. One of the schools I worked for in Moscow had something like a $900 flight reimbursement per contract for teachers from the US and Canada. Since I only went back to the US one time back when I worked on contract for them, that money just went right into savings.

The best thing about working as an English teacher abroad is that you generally aren’t expected to work very long hours. This is especially true when you’ve been doing this for a few years and you don’t need any preparation time. The advantage to this is twofold. First, if you aren’t making massive amounts of money, at least you’re getting a decent salary for doing very little work. More importantly, that extra time gives you opportunities to find private clients, and that’s where the bulk of your money comes from. Eventually once you become adept enough at gathering private clients, you may be able to become fully self-employed, assuming you can handle any visa or work permit requirements that particular country might have. The time you spend working for a school to get the free accommodation and bonuses is like time you save up for your initial “capital” that will allow you to go fully freelance.

The added time also means you won’t be limited to doing one job. On several occasions I’ve been asked to do voice over and dubbing work. It’s never really reliable, but pretty much every time it was a good chunk of money for virtually no work. The first time I did it I think I spent a total of 30 minutes actually doing the dubbing work, an for that I was paid $400 in cash. Actual US dollars, that is. Of course that’s just Russia. I’ve heard English-teaching expats in China getting all sorts of acting parts in TV shows, commercials, and films, almost without looking. Foreign media producers will often need native speakers to dub commercials, films, TV shows, etc. I remember hearing about one teacher who got to dub the lead role in the Russian film Admiral, for example. I guarantee you he was very well compensated for that.  Aside from voice acting I’ve also had plenty of translation and proofreading jobs as well.

Expat communities often get a bad rap for being full of horny middle aged men and other social defectives, but in my experience there are often separate, very different expat communities which rarely overlap. Some of those communities are full of creative types who are full of plans and just looking for someone to help with some kind of project. Think Youtube channel, ad revenue, travel websites, etc. Whatever the case, you will often meet people, even from your own country, whom you would never encounter in your life at home. This broadens your experience exponentially and gives you a lot of good ideas.

I’m also by no means the only person who’s gone from English teaching into journalism. While RT’s going insane and rapidly losing its ability to attract foreigners with the promise of high, often above-market salaries, there are other options. I’m told China’s CCTV is quite generous and very accessible for people just breaking into the business, for example. China also happens to have very high demand for English teachers, by the way.

If there’s one more thing I could recommend, something I couldn’t do, it would be setting aside some money in mutual fund or similar investment before you move abroad. Add money to it while you can once you get settled in a country. This way you’ll at least have some kind of nest egg should you decide to return. Another thing I personally didn’t have time to take advantage of was the ability to study abroad. Higher education is generally cheaper outside of the US, and in some cases there are opportunities to study for free. Why not pick up a master’s while you’re working abroad?

There is a joke among TEFL teachers that it isn’t a real job. True, we all see our share of people who are doing it to fund their backpacking trek across the Old World or middle-aged men riding the loser carousel, but people who take it seriously manage to lead pretty kickass lives. For most of the time I spent working in Russia I can say with confidence that I generally made more, sometimes much more money when I worked in the States in my old job. Of course that old job was dirty, backbreaking labor in one of America’s most boring cities. Years later I might have been making as much as $1000 less per month, yet I was working maybe 15-18 actual hours a week, paying zero rent, and collecting bonuses. More importantly, I was living in a completely different country. In the States, the concept of vacation was practically unknown to me. In two years of working abroad I had visited six different countries.

Look at it this way. If you’re looking at working 40-50 hours a week for roughly $2000 a month in your American home town or making $1500 a month plus free or subsidized accommodation while working maybe half of the hours in an exotic foreign country, is that not worth the difference? In all likelihood you’ll probably be able to save more from that $1500 than the $2000-2500 you get commuting to the daily grind in the US. I realize plenty of readers may make much more than that, but I’m looking at that angry millennial who is working off their debt in Starbucks or Best Buy.

The capitalist is admired for investing his capital where it brings the most returns. Why shouldn’t workers do the same with their labor power? Take advantage of globalization. Read up on the job, research the countries, make a plan, and escape.  Go! 

Just don’t go to Russia.

Oh RT! (cue laugh track, credits)

Are you ready for WACKY HYJINKS with the funniest guys East of the Baltics? Better tune in to RT this week and see what CRAZY ideas they’ll come up with next.  For example, if you follow the news on president Putin’s official websites, you probably already know that Putin, in a special phone call to French president Hollande, personally gave his condolences to the families and friends of the victims in Wednesday’s Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack:

Vladimir Putin expressed his sincere condolences to Francois Hollande and the people of France following the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office.

The President of Russia condemned this barbaric act and expressed hope that its perpetrators will be found and receive the punishment they deserve. Mr Putin asked Francois Hollande to express words of deep sympathy and support to the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured.

Francois Hollande thanked Vladimir Putin for his expression of friendship.

Russia’s foreign ministry also made a statement of condolences to the victims and the people of France. The link is only in Russian at the moment, but it stresses the need for “active cooperation in the fight against the threat of terrorism.”

The tone of Russia’s state-run media is a bit different, though. Literally the day after the attack, RT published this piece, entitled: “Who profits from killing Charlie?” As you might have guessed, less than a day after the attack “Pepe” Escobar, internet detective extraordinaire, has decided this attack looks a little too convenient to be a run-of-the-mill terrorist operation. No, even though the journal apparently received threats for years, in spite of the fact that their offices had been firebombed for the same reasons associated with the fanatics responsible for Wednesday’s shooting, this whole thing is just a little too coincidental! I mean come on, people who continually issued death threats and committed acts of arson eventually ended up making good on their promises of blood? Nice try, liberal media.

Obviously I’m not going to spend time debunking this idiotic theory, especially since not all the details in the case are even known. I do want to highlight a couple of things, though.

Pepe’s thesis

A pro-style jihadist commando attack in Europe’s heart. Cui bono?

Careful planning and preparation, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, balaclavas, sand-colored ammunition vest stuffed with spare magazines, army boots, easy escape in a black Citroen…

And the icing on this particularly lethal cake: faultless Paris-based logistical support to pull it all off. A former top French military commander, Frédéric Gallois, has stressed the perfect application of “urban guerrilla technique” (where are those notorious Western counter-terrorism “experts” when one needs them?)

I’m looking at this and can’t even find a place to start. There is simply too much raw, concentrated idiocy contained in these two paragraphs. I will say this though, if you ever want to plan a terrorist attack and pull it off with efficiency, at least 90% of the information you need is right in front of your face. You’re on it now, this thing called the internet. Other than that, you can train in the woods with airsoft weapons, or as it might be the case in this situation, you can go to some foreign country and join an insurgency already in practice. Every day thousands of people around the world are engaging in paramilitary training, sometimes just for fun. Also in light of the fact that Russian officials have been using this as an example of why the West shouldn’t see Russia as the main threat, wouldn’t the most obvious conspiracy theory say that the Russians were behind the attack? Cui bono, remember?

I’m going to stop now. There is no point in arguing with someone who produces such stupidity within the first few lines of his article. I know he already decided this was a “false flag” before the blood dried. That’s how these people work. They’re so much smarter than all us dupes who believe the “mainstream media.” If only we just accept their alternative explanations and spread them around, then…something would…happen. Remember  when they said 9-11 was an inside job and published hundreds if not thousands of books on the subject since 2001? Remember how radically this message changed our society, spurring people on to revolution? Okay, in more than a decade that revolution still hasn’t happened. But with this new false flag theory plus the 9-11 inside job claims, 2015 could be the year for radical revolution! Please just listen to me! I’m important! I know what’s really going on!

Seriously, fuck that guy. His article isn’t even the first example of Russian conspiracy theories I’ve seen on the net, blaming the attack on the US to “punish” Hollande for backing down on sanctions. No doubt other state-owned media outlets in Russia have already allowed this theory to leak out. All this is going on while Putin and Lavrov express their “sincere” condolences to the French people and the families of the victims. That shows you how trustworthy they are.  And before you object to that, yes, Putin has a direct line to all state run media in Russia via his personal press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

Since this is all rather depressing, I’d like to point out some highlights found in the comments section, always a gathering of great minds on any RT article. It’s sure to lift you up after reading that depressing garbage they subjected us to.

This comment is from a user named “justiceforall,” but I think the real culprit is “doge.”

“Wow

RT Amazing journalism.

This is the new Intercept!!”

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

WOW! Much journalism! Such recovery will take 2 years but is inevitable because the global economy will grow!

Like on most sites, comments can be voted up or down by other readers. That one had a rating of +1. Keep that in mind.

This next comment is a spam message that managed to get by their mods. It had a negative rating of -2:

I was without work for 6 months when my former Co-worker finally recommended me to start freelancing from home… It was only after I earned $5000 in my first month when I actually believed I could do this for a living! Now I am happier than ever… I work from home and I am my own boss now like I always wanted… I see a lot of unhappy people around me, working the same old boring job that’s sucking the life out of them day by day… Everytime I see someone like that I say START FREELANCING MAN! This is where I started

✒✒✒✒✒✒✒✒ w­w­w­.J­o­b­s­7­0­0.­c­o­m

If he/she works from home, who are all those unhappy people they see around them? Their partner and children? I’m calling bullshit.

The next comment actually displays critical thinking and a concern for journalism.

International news sites have a duty to provide factual news articles with evidence and sources. RT is not a tabloid a columnist can just spurt an entirely opinionated article on. Granted western media isn’t unbiased and doesn’t always give the facts. But ignoring facts completely and having an article like this which is only fit for a tabloid, discredits this site (I am an avid reader).

If this article provide some factual basis, evidence or quoted sources, and was less rambling. It would be acceptable, as it is, this article isn’t worthy of RT and should be trashed.

What rating did other readers give that comment? Minus 9.

Fuck RT.

Ivan The Spiritual Jack of All Trades! Episode I: The Vet

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One day Ivan decided he wanted to open his own veterinary practice.  He truly loved animals. He easily could have gone to school to get qualifications, but that was too long, too much work, and he preferred to spend his money on video games and fancy objects.  Despite the fact that he had access to plenty of funds, he preferred to build his practice on the cheap. Thus he gathered the materials he figured he’d need to start his veterinary practice.  He found a rusty hacksaw, a filleting knife, a cutting board, some ibuprofen for anesthesia, and some duct tape.  His garage would serve as his office.

One day a young girl came with her mother. The girl was carrying a fat orange cat.  The mother looked around the garage with great skepticism and then asked Ivan, “Is this really a veterinary office?”

“Of course it is, ma’am! It’s the best veterinary office you’ll ever find in fact,” Ivan replied.

“But this doesn’t really look like a typical veterinary office.”

Ivan didn’t like that comment.

“What do you mean it doesn’t look like a typical veterinary office? You mean it doesn’t look like a typical Western veterinary office?”

“Western? Well I guess you could say that. But I’m sure they have those kinds of veterinary offices in Japan, Korea, or China too.”

“I assure you that this veterinary office is not only equal to any Western, particularly American veterinary practice, but it’s actually better,” Ivan proclaimed haughtily.  “You see, those Western veterinary offices might look clean and sterile, but they are cold and soulless.  In fact that’s precisely why I believe that the whole Western veterinary industry will soon collapse. I predicted that years ago.  My veterinary practice has soul! It is advanced…spiritually!

The mother and daughter exchanged confused looks at one another.

“Well okay,” the mother began, “Do you at least have proper, up-to-date surgical equipment?”

“Of course,” Ivan answered, gesturing toward his operating table. “State of the art! Just like a Western veterinary office! Especially an American veterinary office, which will surely fail some day due to its lack of spiritual values!”

“Err…Is that a hacksaw?”

“Did I say state-of-the-art? No I meant to say spiritual. My equipment has all been blessed with holy water, and you can see I’ve got some icons on the table behind the cutting board, next to that roll of duct tape.  So are we going to work together…or do you not appreciate spiritual values, possibly because you don’t have a soul?”

“Wellll,” the mother began hesitantly, “I’m in a big hurry. Muffins needs to be spayed. I figured this place would be cheaper.”

“You figured wrong. It is actually unbelievable expensive,” Ivan happily replied. “But you can pay after the operation is done.”

The mother attempted a reassuring glance at her daughter, who reluctantly handed the cat over to Ivan.

“Don’t worry, little girl,” Ivan said.  “I will take care of your cat just like a Western doctor! A soulless, decadent Western doctor who is also probably gay.”

“What was that?!” The mother cried.

“Nothing, nothing.  Just come back in two hours and your cat will be fixed.”

Two hours later…

Upon seeing “the patient” both mother and daughter screamed, the latter running from Ivan’s “office” in tears.   There, on the cutting board atop Ivan’s “operating table”  was Muffins, or shall we say the remains of Muffins. What was once a cat now looked something like a carved up Thanksgiving turkey with orange fur matted down with dried blood.  Internal organs were strewn about the table and floor.  The filleting knife was still stuck in the corpse of the cat, and the abdomen was hastily covered in twisted duct tape.

“Wha…What did you…d-do?”  The mother barely managed to get the words out.

“I spayed your cat, just like you asked. That will be $5000 now!” Ivan’s face beamed with pride.

“B-but…She’s dead! You butchered our cat! You’re a monster!”

Ivan became enraged.

“Who is paying you to say that? Is it the US State Department?! Your cat is alive, spiritually! I did a good job, spiritually! You, with your foreign mentality, cannot possibly fathom the depth of the true veterinarian’s soul! Do you think other veterinarians are better?  Look at this!” Ivan produced a newspaper clipping from his pocket.

“This is a story about an American veterinarian who got sued by one of his clients because their dog died in his office.  Why don’t you complain about him?  You see veterinarians have problems everywhere, but especially in America, and I’m better than those veterinarians because I have soul! I have spiritual values!”

“You’re insane,” gasped the mother.  “Absolutely insane!”  She tried to back out of the garage but suddenly she doubled over and began vomiting on the floor of the garage.  Luckily the state of the garage floor was such that her massive puddle of vomit was hardly noticeable amid the other debris and substances caked on top of the concrete. Still wretching, she stumbled to her car and somehow managed to drive off.

Ivan looked satisfied. They’re all out to get me, he thought to himself.  They are jealous of my traditional, spiritual veterinary skills! Just then Ivan turned toward you, the reader, and scowled.

“You just read an amusing story which involves the brutal killing of a cat! Is that what you soulless Westerners do for entertainment? You think killing cats is funny?  I bet you do! You have no soul! That’s the only reason why you don’t find me to be a sympathetic protagonist! You’re probably gay too.”

 

THE END?