A Message to My Readers

This is going to sound a bit strange and unnecessary, but bear with me.

We unfortunately live in an age of cowardly internet bullying, hacking, internet stalking, and similar despicable behaviors. In the social media sphere, many people join “tribes” based around a personality or issue, and oftentimes people get some kind of catharsis out of venting their hate on their enemies or at the outrage of the week. If you want to see how insane things have become, just try leaving a negative comment on a video put out by a popular Youtube star and wait for the torrent of abuse to rain down upon you. This is just a small fraction of the amount of hate that can be generated online.

I’m writing this because recently I learned that there is a possibility that what I thought was an innocuous tweet a long time ago may have been seized upon by some social media users, who allegedly decided to harass that individual in real life with threatening behavior. I doubt that the behavior was specifically triggered by my tweet (which certainly didn’t condone anything of the sort), and for all I know the individual could be mistaken as to whether I had anything to do with what happened, but as long as their is even the slightest possibility that someone used something I wrote to aid in the harassment of others, I have to speak out against it because that is the right thing to do, and because many years ago I myself was the victim of an internet stalker who could have caused me serious problems. Though I managed to resolve that situation, you cannot know how unpleasant an experience even that can be, even without having anonymous people call you and harass you.

On Twitter and on this blog I have often criticized many public figures and their ideas. I would hope that my readers would be smart and decent enough not to take this criticism as a license to go engage in immoral and often illegal acts against such people. If you also have a problem with what they write, keep your arguments online and in the open. And if you are a fan of this blog, realize that you are doing me no favors by engaging such behavior on my account. But again, I’m really hoping that none of my readers are the type of person who would do so in the first place. That being said, I’ve often had a problem with overestimating people’s decency and competence. Also when you have a growing audience, it’s only inevitable that you begin to acquire fanboys who live vicariously through your brand and make it part of their identity. Such impressionable types are usually the sort that engage in doxxing, brigading, etc.

I hope that all this was a totally unnecessary precaution. I hope that my readers are smart enough not to engage in this kind of craven behavior and that the sick individuals who caused these victims such anguish had never seen what I wrote, but rather found their victims through other publicly available information. But solely because that remote possibility exists, I felt compelled to write this statement and I already apologized to the victims for the harm they suffered at the hands of anonymous cowards with no conscience or basic decency.

 

 

 

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Millennials Don’t Know About the Horrors of the Thirty Years War, and That’s Bad!

Today’s post is a guest column from the Heritage Foundation’s Glen Billings*

The 23rd of May next year will mark the 400th anniversary of the Defenestration of Prague, an event that many see as the spark which ignited The Thirty Years War, Europe’s most destructive war prior to the two world wars of the 20th century. In fact, it was considered to be the worst catastrophe ever to befall Germany until the Second World War. And yet few millennials know anything about the suffering and pain caused by this pivotal conflict.

In a recent survey conducted by the Victims of Religious Wars of the Early Modern Era, 54% of millennial respondents said that they preferred to live under the rule of a Holy Roman Emperor than in our free market capitalist system. A further 45 percent said they “mostly agree” with the Catholic League, and one out of five millennial respondents said they considered Imperial military leader Albrecht von Wallenstein to be a “hero.”

This is extremely disheartening to see in our modern era, in a time when proponents of restoring the Holy Roman Empire and spreading the Catholic faith by fire and sword are experiencing a surge in popularity and influence not seen in nearly four centuries. If youth are not made aware of the slaughter, the looting, the destruction of towns and villages, the witch hunts, pestilence, and famine that were caused by that horrendously bloody conflict so long ago, it isn’t a stretch to say they might fall for the false promises of Catholic populists who claim to have all the answers. We could very well travel down that same road again, and the results will not be pretty.

Wallenstein / Gem. nach Van Dyck - Wallenstein / Painting by Van Dyck - Wallenstein / D'ap. Van Dyck

I see so many ignorant teenagers at the mall wearing t-shirts with this tyrant’s face on them. They have no idea. 

American youth, not being European, are particularly at risk, which is why the same public education system people like me constantly deride and try to defund on a regular basis needs to step up to the plate and do a better job of educating our youth about the horrors of the Thirty Years War and the ideas that led to it. I would suggest making room in the course syllabus by removing more trivial episodes in history, such as the genocide of the Americas’ indigenous peoples, slavery, European colonization of Africa, the Civil Rights struggle, the Vietnam War, and especially that Iraq War people keep bringing up for some incomprehensible reason. Youth need to be taught what matters, and what matters is that we live in a great, prosperous liberal democratic free market capitalist Republic which is the best system on Earth and always will be till the end of our sun and human life itself.  And we have the Peace of Westphalia to partially thank for that.

If we fail to learn from history, we are sure to repeat it. The sad thing is that modern youth live in such wonderful prosperity, with unprecedented stability and real prospects for a satisfying life, and yet so many of them seem to desire the religious persecution and authoritarianism of the Holy Roman Empire. They may soon get just that.

 

 

 

 

*Real author’s note. Glenn Billings does not actually exist and is a fictional character. Therefore this entire piece is SATIRE and you cannot possibly criticize it or make any judgments about me or my values based on the content of what I write. This is an entirely rational thing to believe. 

A Warning to Leftists

I’ve often said in the past I probably wouldn’t bother with RT or Sputnik if they would just more or less openly come out as far right media outlets. If they simply came out and resembled something more akin to the ultra-reactionary Tsargrad TV, for example, it wouldn’t merit the same kind of scrutiny any more than all the other right-wing crap that floods the internet. My problem with outlets like RT is that they often try to court the left as well, and for a long time they have managed to take advantage of the Western left’s unfortunate propensity to believe anything that seems to be the opposite of what they perceive to be the narrative of their own governments.

In the left’s struggle on the home front, this is a great boon to the ruling class and their army of pedantic pundits. Jamie Kirchick types can seize upon any perceived connection between a leftist group and Russian state-owned media. They can expand the guilt by association even further by pointing out all the far right, fringe figures on the same network- “See?! Horseshoe theory is real!” Sure, this is often a fallacious or at best unfair characterization, but politics is rarely about what’s fair, but rather what is effective. For a leftist to associate with RT or literally anything associated with the reactionary Russian government is to essentially join in a deliberately constructed red-brown alliance with fascists and other assorted reactionaries, and there will always be a neoliberal status-quo apologist more than happy to seize upon any such connection to distract from the weakness of their own arguments.

Unfortunately, to this day many leftist parties and organizations which should know better fall for Russia’s lures for the stupidest reasons. Probably the most ridiculous example concerns Russia’s so-called “election observers” in the Donbas and Crimea. These were recruited from a list of mostly far right and even neo-Nazi parties in Europe, but on each list you see a couple representatives of leftist, even Communist parties. Clearly something is very wrong when a member of the Communist Party of Greece ends up associating with representatives of the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, but to date I haven’t noticed any of these parties raising this issue.

The good news is, however, that word is spreading. Leftists are starting to catch onto Russia’s attempts at co-opting and exploiting their movements for propaganda purposes. And the more they discover and learn to react to this the more they will begin to question the Russian government’s narrative on other issues, such as Ukraine and Syria.

My optimism comes from a recent article by one of the Occupy Movement’s leaders who told The Guardian about Russian attempts to co-opt both Occupy and subsequent protest movements. What’s even better is that the author proposes a way to fight back against these approaches:

“Genuine social protests tend to boomerang around the world. So let’s ensure that foreign governments fear that the protests they create abroad will return home. To protect against fake activism in America we must insist that every protest be globally oriented.

That means exporting our protests to every country, especially those suspected of supporting, co-opting or controlling our movements. If Russia wants to create civil rights protests in Oakland then they must be prepared to deal with those same protests back into Moscow. From this point forward, our best defense is a global offense.”

Occupy, for all its faults, was to some extent a global phenomenon which also roughly coincided with larger protest movements in other countries, including Russia (the Occupy title was used on a small scale for some peripheral protest actions in 2011-2012). International solidarity with Euromaidan could have led to a revitalization of the Occupy movement or something much better, but alas- leftists, largely due to ignorance of the region and its politics, bought into a Russian narrative hook, line, and sinker. Had more of the left reached out to Ukrainian protesters they could have learned a lot and gained much inspiration, but due to the aforementioned ignorance and old knee-jerk biases they dismissed the protesters as hapless dupes of Soros and the CIA. By the same token, Ukrainians who looked beyond their borders saw leftists falling for the Russian line, and many of them were turned off by the left in general for this reason. Why would you respect people who, knowing nothing about your country, enthusiastically repeat fabricated claims that would be laughable to anyone who lives in Ukraine or in some cases merely visited? As such, the opportunity to globalize Maidan was missed. Let’s not make that same mistake again, because the idea of an American Maidan is sorely needed now more than ever.

Every leftist must be made aware that the Russian government is not on your side, and they never will be. They don’t care about your cause or your values; if anything they may even despise and actively suppress them in Russia. They also don’t care about your reputation or credibility on the home front. The Kremlin is concerned only with maintaining its own power and wealth. Furthermore, every leftist needs to be aware of Russian sources or organizations which claim to be independent of the state. More often than not, these organizations are nothing but fronts, and their actual policy positions and narratives coincide with the Kremlin’s foreign policy.

To determine whether a Russian (or in some cases Ukraine-based) organization is worthy of consideration, I present the following checklist. It is designed so that even people without a background in the region’s politics can benefit from it.

The most effective way to find out if an organization or source is pro-Kremlin is to check their positions on certain key issues:

-Do they support the annexation of Crimea or talk about it as though it were legal and just? Do they only refer to it as a “reunification?”

-Do they only refer to the war in Ukraine as a “civil war?”

-Do they demand “peace” in Ukraine, but only direct this demand at the Kyiv government? Do they say that Kyiv should recognize the self-proclaimed “republics” in Donetsk and Luhansk or do they say they must engage in direct negotiations with them (this could be seen as de facto recognition)?

-Do they refer to Euromaidan as an American-funded coup of some kind?

-Do they condemn Russia’s foreign policy in Ukraine and/or Syria? How do they condemn it? Do they call out Putin?

-Check out their web-page and especially their social media pages on Facebook and/or VK. Do you see any reactionary memes, avatars, etc?

-When discussing the war in Ukraine, do they constantly talk about Ukrainian far right groups without mentioning the far right organizations fighting for Russia’s side?

-Do they openly call for Putin’s replacement and condemn fake opposition parties like the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF)?

-Can you find any evidence that this group has worked with a pro-Kremlin group (cossack organizations, the Night Wolves biker gang, the “Anti-Globalist Movement,” etc.) before?

-Do they condemn “both sides” in Ukraine on an equal basis?

-How often do you see the work of people from this organization on RT, Sputnik, or other pro-Russian sites like Fort Ross, Russia Insider, etc.? If you’re not sure whether a particular source is pro-Russian, you can look over their content and check it with many of the items on this same list.

-Do they talk a lot about self-determination and support independence and separatist movements in almost any country except Russia?

As you can see, pro-Kremlin people or front groups typically don’t contradict certain key narratives of the Kremlin, particularly those related to foreign policy. This is the thing to key in on. If you get multiple hits on this checklist, and especially if there is a pattern of such behavior, you’re probably dealing with either a Russian government front organization or just a genuinely pro-Kremlin individual. Avoid them like the plague, otherwise they’ll stain your organization or individual work via association. Never accept an offer of an interview from outlets like RT or Sputnik. The association with far right cranks and conspiracy nuts, plus the Russian government itself, will far outweigh any benefits their platform could provide. Most importantly, spread this warning and advice (mine and that of the linked article’s author) to your comrades and friends.

Struggle for yourself and your values- not for the Kremlin.

 

 

The Tip of the Iceberg

I think it’s pretty clear now that the only reason we’ve been hearing so much about Russian election interference is because Hillary lost, and so many Americans need a convenient explanation that doesn’t require them to face the ugly truths in our society.  I’m sure the DNC hack, arguably the most influential aspect of the interference and the one which could have actually swayed votes away from Clinton, would have remained news for a few months and perhaps the related sanctions still would have been implemented, but apart from that I don’t think you’d see much more. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the chuds who are currently being indicted and investigated never came under any scrutiny, free to work their next con.

But of course Hillary did lose, and now we’re scrambling to track down every conceivable example of Russian interference. Some folks are going far above and beyond the call of duty as well.

russophobetweet

Now this is what Russophobia looks like. 

Unfortunately, for all the talk about Russian information operations in the US, few actual solutions have been proffered, and some of what has been suggested could be dangerous. It seems in the hysteria, some people have lost their ability to extrapolate and imagine how their remedies against foreign propaganda could one day mutate into suppression of internal dissent. But I can still extrapolate, and I’ve recently come to realize that Russia’s influence operations and the overhyped response to them could lead to something far, far worse.

As it stands now, a significant portion of Americans, especially in leadership positions, seems to believe that Russia successfully swayed the 2016 election. Perhaps their belief is not strong enough to get them to push for invalidating the results, but people seem to have no qualms about voicing this opinion. That means, for all intents and purposes, that the Russian tactics- the trolls, the bots, the fake pages, etc. were seen as effective.

What’s so scary about that? Well I can guarantee you that the PR industry and the rest of corporate America is watching. If they believe that these tactics are effective enough as to allow a country like Russia to sway a US presidential election, they’re likely to start adopting them. Since these will most likely be native US companies, they won’t be subject to the same scrutiny or regulations as foreign entities like the Russian government. Everything will most likely be well within the limits of the law. And it’s going to be terrible.

Remember back in 2008-2009 when people were talking about “astroturf” organizations behind the Tea Party movement? That was nothing. Some of these organizations were funded by people with deep pockets, but the people who showed up to the rallies were their on their own volition, driven by their own beliefs, however disconnected from reality they might have been. But what comes next is going to make astroturfing look like child’s play.

We already have rent-a-crowds in America. The decline in stable employment and lack of living wages means this could increase in the future, turning our political system into something resembling that of Russia or Ukraine. But imagine what it will be like when American lobbyist firms start adopting the online tactics of the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, better known as the infamous Troll Factory.

Just imagine what it will be like when numerous corporations and lobby groups are implementing the same tactics for disparate or similar goals, year round. It will be almost impossible to say for sure what’s real, just like in Putin’s Russia. The worst is yet to come, my fellow Americans.

Precious Bodily Fluids: Putin’s Descent Into Madness?

UPDATE: I must apologize for the lack of activity here in the past few weeks. One of those weeks I was away from the computer, and recently I’ve been busy with my new work. What that means, thankfully, is that very soon there will be no more impediment to the podcast. The third episode will be released, and I’ve talked to some people who will make great editions to our podcasting team. Of course more donors on Patreon or the GoFundMe would certainly help speed things up, but things are generally getting better. All I have to do is avoid getting caught in one of our nation’s near-daily mass shootings. 

With that update out of the way, today’s post is about how Vladimir Putin might possibly be losing his mind. You might think this isn’t such a big deal, what with the President of the United States clearly suffering from either dementia or late-stage syphilis, but whereas Trump has minders to keep him somewhat in line with snacks and jingling keys, Putin’s authority is near absolute. In the US, government officials scramble to clean up Trump’s messes and prevent next week’s scandal (often unsuccessfully), whereas in Russia, officials are sycophants all competing to be Putin’s best bootlicker. That’s why it’s a bit of a problem if Putin, now aged 65 with nearly 18 years in power, loses his mind. And lately it looks like that might be the case.

On 30 October, Putin claimed that foreigners were collecting “biomaterial” from Russian citizens. As Meduza reported, Putin asked members of the Presidential Human Rights Council (yes, he has one of those) the following:

“Why are they(foreigners -J.K.) going to different ethnic groups and to people living in different geographical locations across the Russian Federation? That’s the question. Why are they doing this? And they’re doing it purposefully and professionally. We’ve become the subject of such strong interest.”

For their part, the Pentagon apparently does have something to do with collection of biomaterials for some kind of study, but it is not focused solely on Russia and is not nearly as sinister as Putin suggests. Of course this being Russia, it hasn’t stopped the bootlickers in Russia’s government from rapidly developing new legislation to protect Russia’s precious biomaterial from evil foreigners. Also in case you think the president’s words were taken out of context, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed Putin had received the information on biomaterial collection from his intelligence services, and he also claimed that the people involved in this collection were NGOs and other “organs.”

Now all Dr. Strangelove jokes aside, this isn’t exactly an isolated incident with Putin. It is interesting to note that in Mikhail Zygar’s excellent book All The Kremlin’s Men, it notes how right around the time Putin switched to the position of Prime Minister, he seemed to have “become an expert on everything.” He began commenting on and giving advice on all kinds of matters far outside his field.

At his December 2014 annual press conference, Putin dropped this bomb of wisdom on the crowd:

“Sometimes I think, maybe it would be better for our bear to sit quiet, rather than chasing around the forest after piglets. To sit eating berries and honey instead. Maybe they will leave it in peace. They will not. Because they will always try to put him on a chain, and as soon as they succeed in doing so they tear out his fangs and his claws. Once they’ve taken out his claws and his fangs, then the bear is no longer necessary. He’ll become a stuffed animal. The issue is not Crimea, the issue is that we are protecting our sovereignty and our right to exist.”

In the same press conference, Putin referenced an urban legend about how former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright supposedly thought that it was unfair for Russia to own Siberia’s vast mineral wealth. I say thought, because the origin of the legend was a Russian general claiming his operatives read Albright’s mind.

And of course these incidents can all be added to Putin’s rather bizarre behavior ahead of his almost inevitable fourth term in office as president, which seems about six years too early.

Realistically speaking, I don’t think Putin is suffering from dementia or any other specific mental disorder. To me his behavior seems to be the result of so many years of almost uncontested power and being surrounded by sycophants. It’s only natural that after you’ve spent nearly twenty years having everyone, including a massive state media machine, telling you how great you are, you’re going to start believing your own hype. At the same time, knowing that you’re surrounded by sycophants who are almost certainly all lying to you is also going to take its psychological toll. Apart from all that, it seems like Putin is just out of ideas. He’s reinvented himself so many times and now he doesn’t know who to be next. And he’ll have six years to think about it.

It’s unlikely that Putin will take to Twitter and start ranting and raving like his US counterpart, but as he grows more isolated and disconnected from reality, there is cause for concern. Unlike the US, which was designed to go from president to president without a revolution, Putin’s political technologists deliberately manufactured a system based around him personally. In the process they sowed the seeds of paranoia and cynicism among the populace while destroying independent civil society. That means, in so many words, Après Putin, le déluge.

But if life after Putin seems scary, you might be getting ahead of yourself. If Putin retains power while his mental state begins to degenerate, the transition itself is going to get pretty ugly.

 

 

Thou Shalt Not Horn in on thy Neighbor’s Racket

In case you haven’t heard, the Russian news outlet RBK has published an extensive report on the so called “St. Petersburg troll factory,” and in particular its English language department. Among the new revelations is information about how the so-called “Internet Research Agency” reached out to around 100 US-based activists to help carry out their propaganda. We do not know much about these activists, save for a few who came forward to Buzzfeed. According to that article, local American activists were contacted by people who had “African-sounding” accents and did not reveal any connection to Russia. As such, it appears as though they were unaware of any manipulation.

Obviously this is a major coup, since it would be one of the first concrete examples we have of Russian agents (not necessarily connected to the intel services, of course) manipulating American activists to unwittingly help in propaganda operations (at least these few we know about were unwitting). You think every info-warrior in the States would be jumping up and down with glee, but no. It looks like their self-appointed leader is upset.

mckewrant

 

Upset much?

It’s pretty easy to see what happened here. Molly McKew is building a career off her supposed information war expertise, and yet at the same time she has provided virtually zero insight and sells a fairy tale about a supposed Russian hybrid warfare doctrine which doesn’t exist (and thus could lull decision-makers into thinking they know the Kremlin’s plans when they don’t). Now along comes this Russian outlet which sheds far more light on the project and also reveals how haphazard and weak it is.

It’s just like those comic book nerds who feel threatened when they encounter female comic book nerds, especially those who display more knowledge about their favorite franchises.

HELP US!

So here’s the latest news- Meanwhile in Russia episode III is basically in the can, but we’re going to need to pay for hosting in order to upload it and all our following episodes to Soundcloud and hopefully other platforms in the future. Plus we’ll have to pay Zencastr in order to take advantage of its great features.

As always we have the Patreon account, or if you prefer to give a one-time donation, there’s our GoFundMe page.

Here’s a sneak peak from episode three: