Tag Archives: EU

Your liberal order sucks

A lot of folks seem to appreciate my tough love for Russia. Specifically, when I point out that the negative attitude many countries have towards Russia and the preference its neighbors have towards the West isn’t in fact due to some kind of American mind-control conspiracy but rather the behavior of the Russian government and the society it has built over the years. Essentially it’s a matter of projection- they can’t face their own problems so they imagine that they must be coming from outside. Well guess what, me hearties- this doesn’t just apply to Russia.

Today’s one of those days when I have to write a post that gives you an idea as to why I’m not getting invitations to speak at conferences. Honestly I’ve been trying to write this post for some time now, ever since Brexit. I’ve written about Brexit before, but I wanted to go beyond that particular event and tackle the Chicken Littles clucking about how the “liberal order” is being destroyed and of course it’s all Putin’s fault. For all you defenders of the “international liberal order” out there let me dump the bucket of ice water on your head. Your liberal order is failing because quite frankly, it sucks, and people are getting tired of it. Even its many accomplishments are negated by the fact that many in your societies can’t even appreciate and enjoy them, and this is largely due to your corporate-dominated, largely unregulated, for-profit media.

The reason I’ve been holding off on this article for a while is because I was reading a lot of other articles for inspiration and I couldn’t decide which one or ones to comment on. Luckily, this week I found one that seems to fit the bill perfectly. The headline says it all- the EU had it coming. Sure, you can blame it on right-wing nationalism and xenophobia; It’s a step in the right direction as opposed to blaming Putin. But did it ever occur to anyone to ask why nationalism and xenophobia were on the rise in the first place?

Sure, in a modern capitalist society people want a sense of identity, to be a part of something like a nation. But there’s a much more important factor I believe- nationalism implies, if not flat out declares, that members of the “nation” will get preferential treatment. Resources, jobs, social spending, they’ll all be spent on members of the nation instead of immigrants or foreign superstates. This is has serious appeal, regardless of whether or not right-wing demagogues ever deliver on their promises or have any actual coherent plan at all (HINT: They don’t). Take it from my personal experience- people don’t become far-rightists overnight. It starts with alienation, lack of purpose and hope for the future, and most of all, the idea that other, undeserving people are getting something that “should” be rightfully yours. It comes from a desire to avoid being on the bottom of society, incidentally the part of society many liberal pundits have no connection to.

Alas, the “end of history” crowd, the capitalists, the investors, the politicians, and the professionals who served them were not concerned about this social phenomenon. Indeed many of them at one time or another dabbled in racism, xenophobia, nationalism, or right-wing populism of some sort. As far as they were concerned, there was no alternative to their enlightened, perpetual rule, and because modern globalization was good for them they assumed it must be good for everybody.Much like American Democrats in the early 90’s, they seem to have decided that the working classes would have no choice but to accept them regardless of their platform.

And speaking of working classes. I also find it rather amusing that around the time of the economic crisis it really seemed to me that the European ruling class in particular embarked upon a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria rivaling that of the Cold War if not exceeding it at times. I’m not sure what the exact motives were here, but there is great irony in watching their liberal order get assailed not by leftist and Communists, but rather by far right-wing extremists who mouth the same arguments and liken the EU to the Soviet Union.

Speaking from a materialist point of view, I acknowledge the superiority of the liberal order, or at least the ideal version of it that its advocates put forth. I will not deny any of its real accomplishments. Nor will I deny its superiority to the non-alternatives we’ve seen so far. That being said, it is a highly flawed system and it is starting to crack under the weight of its own contradictions. If you are unable to convince large swaths of your own population that your system is superior to the alternatives, that’s your failure. You need to own it and stop blaming Putin like some kind of Eurovatnik.

Personally I don’t think you can ultimately resolve those contradictions. I think the whole system needs to change. If we don’t build a real alternative, then a continent of corrupt kleptocracies and national rivalries might just be the outcome. Sure, Mr. Putin and his gang of thieves, should they still be around at the time, will certainly take advantage of the opportunities such an outcome would provide. But they won’t be able to claim credit for destroying the EU. Only Europeans are capable of doing that.

 

 

Advertisements

The Mandatory Brexit Article

Everyone knows the best way to start off anything is with an explicit disclaimer, so here it goes.

I’m not for Brexit. I see a lot of problems with the European Union but I haven’t really seen much in the way of solutions from so-called Euroskeptics. You could rightly say that were I a UK citizen, I probably would have voted Remain. So again- I’m not in favor of Brexit. 

That being said, I think a bit of an autopsy is in order, and unlike most commentators who seem to be harping on about how “the racists won” and “Putin is celebrating,” I think it makes a lot more sense to discuss the failures of the pro-EU side lest this same pattern be repeated across Europe. If that sounds like rubbing salt in Remain’s wounds, too bad. On this blog I constantly write about how the Russian government has no accountability and doesn’t brook internal dissent and many of you cheer me on for it. Now I’m applying the same logic to the EU and the Remainers. Deal with it.

The REAL culprit

First of all let me say that I know who’s really responsible for this disaster, if only indirectly. I learned about him in 2008. Here’s your scapegoat right here, Remainers:

captaineuro

Captaineuro.eu

Yes, this is a real thing that exists- Captain Euro. Take Captain America and make him about 1,000 times lamer. How lame exactly? This says it all:

renzi

I’m not well versed on Italian politics but I do know this: If you are “working” with Matteo Renzi, if you are doing anything at all with Matteo Renzi, you are lame, period. Case in point.

In fact, to truly measure exactly how lame Captain Euro is, let us compare him to Captain America.

Biography

Captain America: Born Steve Rogers, a morally upstanding young man from Brooklyn who wanted nothing more than to serve his country in WWII but could not due to his physical weakness.

Captain Euro: Son of an ethnic German Croat who was dogged to his dying day with accusations that he had been a member of the notorious anti-partisan 7th Waffen SS “Prinz Eugen” division. The father maintained that he had only served as a divisional staff clerk.

Origin story

Captain America: Thanks to an experimental serum, Rogers gains super strength and regenerative properties.

Captain Euro: Professor of paleontology who had to have one of his knees replaced with a “metal alloy joint” after a car accident. I’m not even joking here. Read it for yourself. No, the joint isn’t made from the strongest material on Earth. No, it doesn’t allow him for fire missiles out of his leg. But the biography assures us that he remains in “peak physical condition…” for a professor, I guess.

Motivation

Captain America: Motivated by hatred of bullies, Nazis, and supervillains.

Captain Euro: Was apparently motivated to “fight” for European unity after witnessing the horrors that befell Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. Somehow missed the fact that both the 90’s Yugoslav wars and the ethnic violence which took place in WWII-era Yugoslavia can be traced to heavy-handed attempts to force several different nationalities together into one country without taking into account those nationalities’ specific concerns.

Special abilities

Captain America: Super strength and athletic endurance. Literally punched out Adolf Hitler, who later elected to commit suicide rather than face the shame of living after being so humiliated in front of his most trusted SS guards.

Captain Euro: An extensive knowledge of trade law and legislative procedure.

Equipment

Captain America: A shield made of the strongest metal on Earth which also returns to his hand like a boomerang in violation of all known laws of physics.

Captain Euro: Vespa scooter. I already told you the artificial knee joint doesn’t do anything. Don’t have a pen with you? Captain Euro’s got you covered.

Allies

Captain America: The Avengers, a group of the most powerful superheroes on Earth.

Captain Euro: Faceless bureaucrats.

Likelihood of hanging out with Matteo Renzi

Captain America: “I don’t know who that is but he sounds lame.”

Captain Euro: “We’re going to the street food festival later this afternoon. I call him ‘Matt,’ actually.”

***

Alright, you get the idea. This may be a joke, but it is a joke that contains a key truth as to why Brexit succeeded, at least in my opinion.

The anti-establishment campaign

In the wake of Brexit’s win one phrase I’ve often seen is “anti-establishment campaign.” It’s being brandished about as if the Brexit crowd somehow cheated by framing their campaign in such a way. The obvious problem is that when EU supporters point this out, they’re essentially identifying themselves as the establishment or pro-establishment.

It is a fact that many ordinary people who support the EU are well aware of its problems. They express disagreement with some of its policies and acknowledge that some of its practices are ridiculous. On the other hand, the EU’s most fervent defenders often come off as ridiculous romantics or authoritarian schoolmarms ready to scold anyone who expresses dissent toward the idea of “Europe.” Timothy Snyder is a good example of the former, while Anne Applebaum is the latter.

Snyder, somewhat odd for an American, has such glowing praise for “Europe” as the salvation of humanity you’d almost think he’s Captain Euro’s secret identity. Applebaum, on the other hand, chides the Greeks to accept austerity because their country’s economic woes are their own fault. It doesn’t matter that at times these people make valid points. What matters is how they are perceived as a whole.

Snyder, Applebaum, and much of the pro-EU crowd often come off as though they’re proud to be part of “the establishment,” as though there’s nothing wrong with this image. It’s like some kind of Christian youth group telling teens about how “cool” it is to obey your parents and practice abstinence until marriage.

Meanwhile you’ve got Russia and the Euroskeptics playing the role of the rebellious bad boys. It doesn’t matter that Russia is ruled by an authoritarian regime far more restrictive than any European democracy however flawed. It doesn’t matter that dissent, which is seen as rebellious and admirable in Western countries is considered treason in Russia. It’s the image that matters.

The irony here is that it really isn’t hard to deflate Russia’s carefully-constructed rebel image- all it takes is more education on Russian politics and comparing the reaction to dissent in the West to that it Russia, something I do all the time here. Unfortunately many of the EU cheerleaders prefer to defend the status quo and establishment outright. Is it really so surprising that they lost?

The Putin factor

Probably one of the dumbest, most inexplicable tactics of the Remain supporters was to tie in Vladimir Putin with Brexit. Basically the propaganda went like this: “Russia is supporting Brexit! If you vote Leave, Vladimir Putin will be happy! You don’t want to make Vladimir Putin happy, do you?!”

There are several things wrong with this argument. The first is that most of the people who voted for Leave probably never really gave a fuck about Vladimir Putin or Russia. See unemployment, lack of opportunities, and austerity tend to make it difficult for people to care about issues far beyond their immediate surroundings. Yes, they are extremely cynical. You know what is also cynical? The free-market-uber-alles policies that came to dominate most of the industrialized world since the 1980’s. When your society celebrates making profit above all else without any regard for the consequences, don’t be so shocked that the people on the receiving end suddenly don’t care too much about the human rights of people in far away countries. Add to that a long, avoidable war which was sparked by the most cynical manipulation, and you get an audience willing to listen to anyone who gives a voice to their anger.

It seems the Remain campaign’s rhetoric about Putin was supposed to work something like this:

“What? Vladimir Putin wants Brexit? He’s a right muppet! I’m switching my vote to Remain!”

In reality probably went more like this:

“What? Vladimir Putin wants Brexit? We have an ally abroad! My government seems not to like him so he must be wonderful!” 

All the rhetoric about Putin and Russia did nothing but cement a relationship between the former and the Euroskeptics, who seem to be doubling down on their love for the midget. This also helps the Kremlin media, which can use this hysteria as “proof” that they are having an impact, thus justifying their over-inflated budgets from which they can siphon off money.

For those flogging the Putin-Euroskeptic connections, here’s a reality check: The European Union had major problems before Russia’s “soft power offensive” in recent years, before RT was founded, even before Putin became president. Many of these far right parties existed long before then as well, and their arguments were the same. Rather than address the roots of this problem and find the factors leading to the rise of the far right, it would seem that the establishment preferred to turn a blind eye and then, when it became clear how influential these parties had become, blame Russia.

As for the real relationship between Putin and the European Union, it’s a bit complicated. On one hand, Russia’s elite wants to continue squirreling away its stolen wealth in the West. I’m sure a number of them also want to have nice places to “retire” to when Russians get fed up, grow spines, and the lynch mobs start converging on Rublevka. Yes, instability in the European Union will help make this possible as smaller countries with economic woes will be more receptive to working with corrupt Russian officials.

One the other hand, Russia is not the Soviet Union. It is integrated into the global economy and what power it amassed in the 2000’s was based on this fact. Burning down the EU is essentially they same as railing against the US. It will eventually come back on Russia. Instability in the EU will lead to economic crisis which means less investment.

Of course this situation will be bad for everyone all around, but the bottom line is that Putin doesn’t “win.” He never “wins.” He just loses more slowly, usually thanks to his opponents blunders.

Blaming democracy

The EU has often been accused, either rightly or wrongly, of being anti-democratic. It certainly doesn’t help when some Remain supporters have come out in denouncing referendums. This has been accompanied by typical liberal elitism, blaming the unwashed masses for being “uninformed” and easily duped by demagogues without any self-awareness as to what they were specifically doing to appeal to those same masses and to counter the rhetoric of said demagogues.

First of all this is ridiculously hypocritical. After all, Ireland approved the Lisbon treaty after holding a second referendum. Was that the will of the people or the unwashed masses being duped by demagogues? My point is that even when you’re right, you can’t start demonizing democracy just because it doesn’t go your way. And do I even need to point out that we wouldn’t be hearing any of this anti-referendum rhetoric had Remain won? Jesus, it’s Eurovision all over again!

True, democracy without law can degenerate into mob rule, but that’s not what happened here. The Brexit referendum was conducted in agreement with British laws and regulations. It was announced far in advance and carried out according to plan. These facts alone make it very different from some other “referendums” in recent years. It’s also worth pointing out that Maidan, which EU cheerleaders love to condescendingly mischaracterize as “Ukrainians dying to join Europe,” could rightly be called “mob rule.” In this context it matters little that Yanukovych basically drove the situation to that point; what matters is you can’t condemn Brexit and praise Maidan just because one went the way you wanted and the other didn’t.

Sadly the ruling class and specifically the right-wing of that class has a major advantage in capitalist society. They are able to take advantage of liberal inability to solve the contradictions of their capitalist system in order to whip up hysteria against the political establishment. If they are successful, as with Brexit, they’re able to get liberals themselves railing against democracy. Whichever way things go, democracy loses and the world moves closer to authoritarian society. Cynicism strangles ideals.

It’s so common these days to see people making anti-democratic arguments based on oblivious statements like “people are stupid.” Well let me ask- what have you done to inform people? What are you doing in your daily life to dispel myths and misconceptions that people have about politics, economics, history, and so forth? Yes, there are masses of so-called “low information voters” out there. But here’s the thing- people are only going to be informed about politics if they are made to feel responsible. If you don’t encourage them to vote, support a candidate, join a party, or otherwise participate directly in politics, they aren’t going to take the interest because many of them are too busy working 9-10 hours a day just to make ends meet. That’s thanks to your system.

As an American, I’m floored that liberals can’t understand Trump’s popularity when they did virtually nothing to remedy the needs of America’s working class- they simply assumed they had their support and that was the end of it. Now they expect someone working at Subway to dig into world politics and understand why Donald Trump can’t actually deliver on any of his idiotic promises, or understand why those promises are idiotic in the first place.

You can talk about human rights, European unity, and rule of law all you like, but the problem is that millions of citizens cannot eat those things. They cannot live in “European values.” It doesn’t matter what your intentions were. It doesn’t matter that you think you were doing what’s best for them. All that matters is how your actions and words are perceived by others- the only thing we can actually see in the real world.

In the end, there are two paths lying in front of EU supporters. One path is that of finger-pointing and blame shifting. “It was Putin! It was those dastardly demagogues! Our people are too stupid!” The other path is that of responsibility, reform, and making good on those values Europe supposedly stands for. Brexit is a historic blow and a major defeat for the idea of a united Europe, but it was a defeat rooted in arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence. Defeat, however, has a certain positive quality- it’s highly educational, much more so than victory. So the EU can either learn from this defeat and change its ways for the better, or it can keep making blunder after blunder until it falls apart.

 

 

 

 

 

Yup, they mad: Russian foreign language media can’t take the heat

RT has been feeling the heat as of late, from critics in the West to Russians fed up with seeing so much of their state’s wealth pissed away on propaganda aimed at foreigners. The response to these critics has come largely in the form of anonymous hit pieces on RT’s website, as well as from RT chief Margarita Simonyan herself on her Livejournal account.

I’ve read plenty of these responses and they’re typically filled with bizarre logic, unsubstantiated claims, and insinuations about the motives of their critics. Personally I’ve found RT’s reactions to be rather amusing because they present a paradox- RT is supposed to be so successful, yet it has to constantly run articles about how popular it is, while its staff, including senior people and even the network’s own chief apparently spend considerable time attacking critics.

Imagine, if you will, that this entire blog was about how much CNN sucks. I highly doubt anyone from CNN would post a special op-ed on their website attempting to refute my claims. I’m quite certain the head of the network wouldn’t bother. I’m damned sure they wouldn’t attempt to smear me as some kind of paid agent, perhaps working for MSNBC. Naturally this is quite laughable, because big successful networks, even those which suck like CNN, don’t feel the need to defend themselves against such criticism.

Now lately I’ve been thinking of making a rule, more accurately a hierarchy, which describes the quality of Russian foreign language media. It goes RT>Sputnik>Russia Insider. And now days, if RT does something stupid, Sputnik’s going to lower the bar considerably. And that’s exactly what they did in this article.

In case you hadn’t heard, or in case you just don’t use Twitter, there was a parody account based on Sputnik that became famous for being near-indistinguishable from the real thing. If you want to see how indistinguishable, try your hand at this quiz. Recently the parody account was shut down for violating certain regulations in Twitter’s Terms of Service agreement, but it was quickly resurrected under a different name.

So what did the real Sputnik do? Well Sputnik is just so successful and widespread that they just had to dedicate an entire article to the parody account, claiming that it is proof of Sputnik’s popularity. This was a real genius move, as it duly informed otherwise unaware readers that there was a parody account. That in turn begs the question as to why there is a parody account in the first place. But that parody account was shut down and the article mentions this, right? Yeah, and it also mentions that it was restored. Just look at this:

“In what could be testament to the growing popularity of this website, Sputnik nevertheless attracted not one, but several parody accounts.
Unfortunately for the people running it, the account violated Twitter’s impersonation guidelines and was deleted, although a new one soon popped up.”

Hmmm…Your serious news site has, according to you, several parody accounts, one of which was so similar it was taken down for “impersonation.” So yeah, that could be a testament to the growing popularity of your website. But it could also be that your content is so redonkulously batshit insane that numerous individuals derive great entertainment out of satirizing it. Again, it begs the question as to why this site has so many parody accounts and why are they often difficult to distinguish from the real thing?

It gets even better though. Sputnicians vow to get to the bottom of this:

“Out of genuine curiosity, we here at Sputnik decided to carry out one of those “open source investigations” employing “digital forensics” to find out, with varying degrees of certainty, who is behind the account.”

Yes, the super popular serious news site conducted an “open source investigation” into the people behind these parody accounts. In other words, they’re doing the same thing they claim is utter bullshit when Bellingcat does it. But then again, they’re not really using the methodology of Bellingcat, which becomes apparent when you see the results they came up with.

“The preliminary results turned out to be pretty uninteresting: an American expatriate in Kiev, who also has some sort of vendetta against Russia’s president; a Finnish systems administrator, who has too much free time at the community college where he is employed; a Russian blogger, who in the recent past was involved in the killing and dismemberment of cats.”

An American expat in Kyiv with a “vendetta against Russia’s president.” I don’t know who this could be, but leave it to Sputnik to call criticism of their glorious leader a “some sort of vendetta.”

Next there’s the systems administrator who “has too much free time on his hands.” First of all, he’s a systems administrator, so the fact that he has time to tweet stuff from work shouldn’t be too surprising. Also it’s a little rich accusing him of having too much free time when these people are claiming they did an actual investigation into the people behind a Twitter account. Maybe they ought to be sending out some people to run down the story behind that hand grenade attack (originally thought to be an IED) at a bus stop on Pokrovka last night.

Lastly I don’t know about the cat-killing Russian blogger, but since no names are given for anyone and only the slightest details appear, we can’t really trust that bizarre claim. If the guy actually killed and dismembered cats I’ll be the first to condemn him, but as it is this just isn’t convincing.

And so those are the results of their big investigation. The article ends with the typical RT-style gloating and obliviousness to irony.

“It may seem like a worthwhile pursuit for three strangers, bored on the Internet, to entertain pundits, in essence becoming a second-rate version of them. Let’s hope that they learn the rules on trademarks and impersonation, or at least gain aspirations to go beyond small-time Internet fame.”

Once again, Sputnik is so successful, unlike these dorks with too much free time on their hands, that it must do an investigation, write and copy edit an article, all in order to not really expose three people who might be behind a Twitter parody account. Not website mind you, Twitter account.

This is all pretty funny because unlike RT, Sputnik doesn’t really have as much reason to panic and defend itself with bizarre polemics and hit pieces. RT has suffered budget cuts and scrutiny over its performance and expenditures. Sputnik on the other hand received an increase in funds. Sputnik is far cheaper than RT as well. Dumping RT entirely would save the Russian government massive amounts of money, and Sputnik would be more or less just as effective. RT’s responses to critics are stupid and often inaccurate, but it’s logical as to why they engage in these tactics. They are indeed exaggerating their popularity and they require a massive budget. What is more, RT’s responses aren’t aimed at parodies but rather serious pundits, analysts, and journalists. The information war narrative remains intact.

Parody is another matter however. The fact that Sputnik found this matter so important as to write an article about it, risking the inevitable discovery of its parody accounts, is because parody and satire are extremely effective. Before I explain why, let’s look at what isn’t effective.

Remember how we heard about the “weaponization of information” and how the EU countries needed countermeasures? There were numerous conferences, meetings, and lectures on this topic. The EU’s solution was to create a sort of “mythbusters” outlet that would debunk Russian propaganda sources. Now this thing actually exists, and here’s what it looks like. Wow.

I found some interesting resources in this and previous releases, but that’s me, a writer, long-term resident in Russia, in short, someone who deals with this kind of crap on a near-daily basis. If you’re a layperson or new to the game, it seems this wouldn’t be very informative. And if this is supposed to convince Russians living in Baltic countries as one of the stated goals was, forget about it. Comments like “No evidence for these allegations given” aren’t going to convince any of them.

The infuriating thing is that this project must cost money, and I shudder to think how much was spent on it. Compare these reports to Stopfake, which survives off grants and consists of about a dozen or so people. Which would you rather read? Which is going to give you more context and background? Stopfake shows what self-organizing people can do on their own initiative.

Just as Stopfake is more effective than dry, state produced reports and documents, parody is effective because it totally deflates the Russian propaganda machine, any propaganda machine really. Already some Russian foreign language media outlets have hurled themselves across the line into self-parody. Russia Insider, for example, did it with this gem about Putin’s Christ like qualities.  RT did it by publishing articles from that very same author, as well as whatever the hell this is supposed to be. Sputnik’s people must have been rightly scared at the idea that their brand was becoming indistinguishable from a parody account. What if someone more educated on Russian propaganda and the Kremlin’s political ideology were to create another parody? What if dozens of such people did?

RT, Sputnik, and the rest are very effective at attracting disaffected Westerners who don’t know much about Russia, its system, or its media. Russia’s propaganda machine paints itself as a voice of truth, a revolutionary voice against Western hegemony. Yet this image is as shallow as a teenager wearing a Che shirt and having no idea who he is. What is more, these people might have their convictions, but when they see that the Russian outlets are all followed by clusters of parody Twitter accounts or websites they’re going to start wondering how trustworthy these sources are. People don’t want to look stupid and thus they’ll be less inclined to associate with sources whose content is routinely mocked.

Panicky speeches about the “weaponization of information” and “information war” in conjunction with “hybrid warfare” only help people behind the Kremlin’s media. If they can show Western academics and leaders in hysterics over the information war, this not only confirms that the information war is a real, objective fact, and that the Russian efforts in information warfare are effective and thus worthy of their inflated budgets. On the other hand, if the Kremlin wants to see results and those results are laughter and mockery, the higher ups might be more than happy to pull the plug on an expensive budget item. Domestic propaganda in Russia is crucial, but foreign language propaganda is expendable.

So don’t panic. Point and laugh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other side of the coin

One difference between me and the so-called “mainstream” talking heads who specialize in Russia is that I don’t take sides. I try to maintain my own line, changing positions only when the available facts compel me. Yesterday I wrote a rather long piece about the efforts of the West to combat Russia’s self-declared “information war.” I think to the critically thinking reader, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t give Western governments a blank check. On the other hand, some people, especially those from my neck of the political woods, might have seen me as having a soft spot for Western governments. Today I wanted to address some potential objections coming from that side.

Any time one talks about potential objections or counter-arguments, there’s a danger of creating a straw man argument. Thus in this case, if I happen to be constructing a straw man I’m going to be as favorable as I can. He’ll be straw with some kind of wire skeleton for reinforcement, perhaps anchored in the ground via a steel picket. He won’t be knocked down so easily. Let us meet our new and improved straw man 2.0 of the future!

Let us imagine that our hypothetical objector acknowledges that Russia’s government has serious problems. They do not doubt that the government is corrupt and authoritarian. What is more, they don’t deny that Russia is putting out a lot of propaganda, often of laughably dubious quality. They agree that outlets like RT give a platform to cranks and crackpots, and they don’t want to be associated with those people. At the same time, they think the fact that RT still gives a platform to activists who might never be featured on mainstream news organs in their own country means that it serves as useful purpose, if only indirectly. Apart from that, they might genuinely wish that outlets like RT would clean up their act and try to do legitimate reporting.

Apart from this, they might rightly ask whether outlets such as the National Endowment for Democracy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and various Western financed NGOs are also engaging in propaganda. Sure, Russia’s information war is really all about the Russian government’s agenda, but aren’t those Western outlets just doing the same for their own governments, who incidentally hold their purse strings?

Posing such questions to some talking heads will often result in instant dismissal for whataboutery, “false” or “moral equivalency,” or accusations of being a useful idiot. I personally have found this behavior to be infuriating for as far back as I can remember. There really does seem to be this attitude among certain pundits and state officials, particularly in the US, whereby one categorically refuses to brook any criticism of the US government. Often times their resistance involves a lot of whataboutery itself. These people at least appear to think that all discourse should be limited by boundaries that they set. This is extremely arrogant and often drives otherwise reasonable people to embrace increasingly radical narratives until they go off the scale and end up in conspiracy land. I on the other hand, prefer to deal with these people and their objections before that happens, particularly because in my youth I went over that edge and was lucky enough to come back.

Is all propaganda the same?

Let’s start with the question as to whether RFERL, NED, and other NGOs or think tanks put out propaganda, and let’s get right to the point. Yes, these are propaganda organs. They’re not going to be hard on the US government or EU governments, if at all. They are more likely to focus on problems in regimes unfriendly to those governments than problems in their own countries or those regimes on good terms. Having put that out there, there are some very big caveats to consider.

First of all, Western propaganda and PR is not the same a Russian propaganda. Western propaganda organs, of any time, care about being believed. They care about their credibility. They’re not likely to falsify information or make up stories, because that hurts credibility. If they’re going to lie, it’s going to be via omission, or just a slanted point of view. These media organs and think tanks often rely on academics with reputations to consider. If we were to personify them, we might imagine them as a slick car salesman. The propaganda is his sales pitch. He’ll leave out details that might harm the pitch, he’ll exaggerate the necessity of some extra options, but he’s not going to tell you this car won’t have a single problem for the next decade, nor will he claim that it gets 200 miles to the gallon. When you walk on the lot, you expect him to do the former, but if he does that latter you will know he’s lying and you get out of there.

By contrast, Russian propaganda does’t lie, rather it spreads bullshit. The difference is crucial. Russia’s information warriors, or at least their bosses, don’t care how believable their concocted stories are. The goal is to confuse, make people question reality, and to spread cynicism. Evidence, or even coherence isn’t important when it comes to their claims, because you’re not really expected to question any of them. If you try, they’ve most likely already moved on to the next wild claim. Here the best personification of Russian propaganda would be the guy who walks around wearing a military uniform and patches that he bought at a surplus store, telling people about his heroic exploits in spite of the fact that he never even attempted to join the military. We’re talking about that really tragic case who can’t help but spout off about his secret missions and “confirmed kills” even after learning that you were actually in the military, possibly because he just assumes that everyone else lies like him. “Oh you were in the army? Me too! What did you do? Signal? Oh yeah I was Special Delta Forces Team X-Ray, 43rd Silent Sniper Division. I killed 300 ISIS jihadis last summer. Would have been more but the army decided I was getting too dangerous so they gave me a discharge. I started putting on this weight as soon as I got out!”

Russian propaganda, personified

This difference is extremely crucial. Firstly, if you’re one of those people wishing that RT would clean up its reputation and try to establish some kind of credibility, forget it. This is not why they exist. Their task is to essentially try, as futile as it is, to apply the tactics of Russia’s domestic media on a world audience. It’s not about creating some kind of “debate” with Western propaganda organs. What is more, all those conspiracy theories attract a lot of views; they are essentially RT’s answer to the Western corporate media’s celebrity gossip. They’re not going to give up the goldbugs and assorted conspiracy nuts and replace them with respected, dissenting Western academics so as to carry on a sort of debate with their rivals in other countries, if only because any such intellectual who is honest isn’t going to refrain from calling out the Russian government when they do the exact same thing that Western governments do, or worse.

If you’re still not convinced of the essential difference between these two kinds of outlets, let me put it this way. In spite of being published in several publications, in spite of being on TV, and in spite of getting endorsements from some pretty important Russia-watchers who are internationally renowned, I’m quite certain that I have pretty much zero chances of getting hired by an outfit like RFERL, or some DC think tank. By contrast, I know that if I so desired, I could not only get a job at RT easily, but I could possibly get my own show. I know this because plenty of friends and acquaintances who work there have either recommended that I do so, or have said that it is entirely realistic. If for some reason I couldn’t work there, I could definitely get on as a guest. All I have to do is bash America and the EU and refrain from saying anything negative about Russia and its shrinking circle of allies. Piece of cake. The same goes for other pro-Russian insta-think tanks or online publications. It would be too easy- “Washington said X about Russia. That’s hypocritical because(insert bad thing the US did, even if it is over a decade old).” Just repeat several times a week. The sad thing is how many bloggers actually do the same for free.

Ceding the moral high ground

Another key difference between Russian and non-Russian propaganda these days is that Russian propaganda is far more cynical, whereas its opponents’ propaganda is at least morally superior. Democracy, human rights, and personal freedoms are at least positive values. Russian propaganda doesn’t actually advocate such values. All it does is points out weaknesses in the liberal system, and with a cynical eye roll says, “Is this democracy? Is this what they mean by human rights?”

This tactic is ridiculous for a number of reasons. One reason is that in order for RT to even find out about a lot of these lapses in respect for human rights, they rely on sources within those countries, often activists and dissidents. That then leads us to question how dissidents are treated in Russia. The likelihood that the US government will concoct some kind of bizarre criminal case against someone like Abby Martin or Lee Camp is pretty much nil. In terms of charging them with “extremism,” it’s legally impossible.

This leads to the next reason why this kind of criticism is so ridiculous, namely the fact that in most cases, Russia is a bigger offender than the country that is being criticized. I consider it an indisputable fact that there are serious problems in the American system of democracy. Personally I don’t consider it true democracy, but that’s a whole different essay. Yet in spite of that, I’m sorry but it is far more democratic than Russia. I hate Hillary Clinton’s sense of entitlement and the fact that this half of a super-rich power couple is likely to have the nomination and possibly White House delivered to her on a silver platter, and that this is so because the only alternative in the presidential race will be a conservative Republican. But you know what I would hate even more? I’d hate to have Hillary run the country for the next 15-years, taking the media under the control of her administration, removing the right to elect state governors, and portioning out positions and jobs in return for loyalty. I’d hate it if every time I raised an entirely legitimate criticism of Hillary, people would react by telling me there is no one else qualified to lead the United States and then calling me a national traitor who hates America. That would, for lack of a better word, totally suck.

This is what makes these hypocrisy arguments so hypocritical. They attack others for failing to live up to their ideals, which is legitimate, but the argument is coming from those who not only fall further below the bar, but who don’t even really care about those ideals at all. It seems like the only reason the Russian government ever uses words like democracy or human rights is for propaganda purposes. It also seems they believe all other states and individuals have the same point of view.

I could go on with this point, but the bottom line here is that cozying up to Russia’s side in the information war means ceding the moral high ground. One of the most tragically comic things about modern Russia is how even when someone hands them the moral high ground, they always have to screw it up somehow. Witness the curiously selectively-applied Magnitsky act, to which the Russian government responded by launching an attack on their own orphaned children. Or look at their response to Western sanctions against their elite- pay them off with the people’s money and then deny them food imports. If Western governments don’t have the moral high ground in a particular spat with Russia, rest assured that the Kremlin will readily abandon it to them through its impulsive, act-before-thinking behavior.

Right by default

In order to demonstrate one last point about the difference between Western and Russian propaganda in this information war, and why the latter is absolute poison especially if you are opposed to the former, we need a thought experiment.

Imagine, for example, an alternate reality where Yanukovych flees Ukraine, but Russia doesn’t annex the Crimea or sponsor an uprising in the Donbass. In fact, imagine that Russia actually dials back its propaganda and activity in Ukraine, with their logic being, “Wow, look how mad we made those people! We really crossed a line.”

Now the world is looking at Ukraine. It’s still run by oligarchs. The Rada is still a boxing ring. Emboldened nationalists actually do go around and start beating people and violently disrupting events put on by any group or organization they don’t like. The government, taking advice from the EU, implements austerity. While the businessmen and their foreign partners party away at the finest clubs in Kyiv, ordinary people suffer. Corruption continues to flourish.

Who would the industrialized world be looking at, in that case? I know which country we wouldn’t be looking at- Russia. Sure, they were backing Yanukovych, but Yanukovych has been gone for over a year. If Russia stood back, all eyes would not only be on Ukraine, but the EU as well. We would be having a conversation about austerity and creditor-friendly economic policy, as with EU member countries like Greece, Italy, Spain, or Portugal. We’d be looking at the very real involvement of European or US-funded NGOs in Maidan and asking why these organizations encourage such movements without fully warning their supporters and audiences of the potential costs. We’d want to know why and how so many people had been led to believe that a trade agreement with the EU would almost effortlessly lead to higher standards of living in their country. We’d demand an explanation about the nationalist violence and question the idea that the Ukrainian national identity should rest in the hands of such people. We’d blame them for dividing the country during such a difficult time.

We’d probably be doing all of that and more in our parallel universe, but alas, we are not. We’re not doing that because Russia had to come to the rescue by illegally seizing part of Ukraine’s territory and starting the first major war in Europe since 1999. This sure makes it easy to blame any if not all economic hardships on Russia, and to some extent it’s justifiable to do so. Russia is waging its information war on Ukraine as well, and since as I mentioned they have absolutely no concern for credibility, the sheer wackiness of their propaganda leads many people to assume that anything remotely critical of the Ukrainian government is probably either a product of the pro-Kremlin media or at least based on their material. Some people may fear voicing their viewpoint could cause them to be associated with the Russian side, thus killing their credibility or respectability. In other words, Russia made life very easy for genuine Western propagandists. They can dismiss counter-criticism as whataboutery, even when the criticism is in fact valid, they can dismiss arguments as Russian propaganda, and they can insinuate that their opponents are paid information warriors for the Kremlin.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is just a repetition of the same thing I’ve been saying for the past year or so. If you oppose the things your particular Western government is doing, don’t think taking Russia’s side will help. They don’t care about your cause, they don’t believe in aspiring to higher forms of democracy or respect for human rights, and they’re only going to use you for their purposes drag your movement or cause down into the mud. Even if we just assume everything is in fact equal when it comes to the two sides both disseminating propaganda, one side’s propaganda is highly effective while the other doesn’t even know what it’s doing. The sheer idiocy of much Russian propaganda actually gives its Western counterpart more credibility.

I think many of us still have this mental heuristic, whereby when we read something critical of Russia we experience anything from discomfort to rage if we don’t see some kind of tit-for-tat comparison with problems in America or the leading European countries. Yet when we read articles about, for example, American problems, whether its unarmed black men being shot dead by cops or the power of money in our political system, we never feel this yearning for a paragraph about Russia and its problems. Thus I know why many people reading this may experience unease admitting that yes, sometimes, their governments can be on the right side of an issue, and that sometimes the propaganda they sponsor is true. It feels like selling out. So how do we deal with that feeling?

I found the answer is quite simple. Realize that Russia is the reason for their opponents triumph. The very heads of Russia’s various state-run news media outlets have themselves eschewed the idea of objective reporting, and in fact they have routinely and openly dismissed concepts like objective truth altogether. So whose fault is that? Did Timothy Snyder make them do that? Did RFERL make them decided that objective truth doesn’t exist? Did the National Endowment for Democracy force Russian TV to air a program with laughably phony satellite photos showing MH17 being shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet, or did they make Russian journalists report the death of a girl who never existed? Please, browse Stopfake.org as much as you like and find me a single example of the Western media, government-sponsored or private, forcing the Russian press or its allies to concoct one of these fabricated claims.

Whatever you think of your government or other Western governments, the facts of the case are clear. Their propagandists actually care about credibility. Russia’s information warriors did not and still do not. They made an a priori decision that everyone lies and thus they were therefore justified in lying. As a result, they look like complete idiots to all critically thinking people, while even unsubtle NATO or EU propaganda looks perfectly logical by comparison. Once you realize that the disparity is Russia’s fault, you’ll no longer feel like you’re selling out just because you happen to accept the same facts that NATO governments have been disseminating. Russia did all the work for them by forfeiting credibility, making its opponents right by default.

The Art of Propaganda War

Ever since the conflict in Ukraine there has been increasing talk about how NATO countries need to counter Russia’s “information war.” That Russia is actually waging such a conflict is beyond debate; they openly admit this. The questions, to my mind, revolve around how effective this would be compared to other measures that Western governments could be taking.

Before answering such questions, it’s important to consider who is proposing this anti-propaganda and why. Ukraine, for example, has a very obvious reason. It is literally under attack not only militarily, but also in the information sense, and it is this propaganda that has played a large role in Russia’s so-called “hybrid warfare” campaign against that country. Propaganda has long been aimed largely at the Russian-speaking population, convincing them how much better life is in Russia and how the new government in Kyiv is run by anti-Russian fascists. This is what gave Russia the popular support it needed in the Crimea and Donbass to carry out its military objectives. The other aim of Russian propaganda is to sow discord and distrust among the rest of Ukraine’s population, especially those who have grievances with Kyiv’s government. Ukraine’s efforts to counter the propaganda include grassroots efforts like Stopfake.org, but they also include rather questionable(in financial terms) government-sponsored projects such as the “internet army,”

The question of countering Russian propaganda has most notably been raised in the EU, particularly in Baltic countries which still have significant Russian populations. These Baltic governments look at what happened in Ukraine and fear, somewhat needlessly given their NATO membership, that the same could happen to them. Even if these countries are not in any mortal danger, Russian propaganda can rile up these populations and cause a fair bit of trouble for their governments.

Lastly, powerful NATO members like the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK all have their own motives for countering Russian propaganda, if only to suit their foreign policy goals. To pretend as though these countries don’t have ulterior motives would be simply naive.

Obviously we can see that different countries have different reasons for opposing Russia’s information war, and their tactics are likely to differ accordingly. They also will differ in quality due to disparities in financial resources, but also national values. Ukraine’s government, for example, has decided to fight back in the worst, most ineffective way, literally borrowing the techniques of the Russian government and in some ways, exceeding them. Countries like the US, on the other hand, have far more in terms of resources to produce slick PR campaigns. Against this background information we may proceed to question the efficacy of this counter-propaganda effort in general.

I’m going to come right out and say it. I don’t think these programs will be effective. I think they will end up wasting a lot of resources without achieving any significant impact, and this is largely because I don’t think the people who are calling for this counteroffensive truly understand the information war they want to wage. In general I think there are three effective means of “countering” Russian propaganda. The first is grassroots campaigns like Stopfake. The second would be disseminating simple fact sheets to refute popular Russian-inspired myths, such as NATO’s “promise” to Gorbachev not to expand in 1989. The last would be any effort similar to Stopfake, i.e. cataloging the lies of the Russian media.

As an example of the latter, we may take the example of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Someone curious about the case might do a Google search, unwittingly click over to a pro-Kremlin site, and see an “alternative hypothesis” which convinces them that it is more likely than the “official story.” What that reader doesn’t know, is that Russia has thrown out numerous alternative claims, many of which are contradictory, none of which are based on any hard evidence, and some of which rely on deliberately falsified evidence which has long sine been debunked. If that reader were first confronted with one big list of Russian alternative claims, it would be more readily obvious as to who is lying.

Getting back to the topic of not understanding Russia’s information war, those who want to counter Russia’s offensive seem to suffer from ignorance about the aims of their opponents and the target audience. Judging by their words, when the Russian press says one thing, they will play the role of “Mythbusters” of some sort, refuting and debunking each claim. There are several problems with this. The first is the question of whom they intend to fight. Russia’s information war isn’t waged strictly by their TV channels and radio stations. It involves bloggers, some of whom are foreign, as well as legions of paid “trolls” who deluge social media with comments and images. At least a portion of those trolls, often unconvincingly pose as non-Russians and speak other languages such as English. Adding more confusion to the mix, some actual foreigners, including Americans, Britons, etc., have been seduced by Russian propaganda and will chime in on social media or write blogs that regurgitate the Kremlin’s line. One of the most effective aspects of this technique is that it enables Russia to engage in propaganda that reaches all kinds of political tendencies with plausible deniability. For example, a blogger or site visitor can disseminate antisemitic memes that say Ukraine is controlled by Jews, or racist memes that say Europe is full of Arabs and Africans, and this can’t be laid at the feet of the Russian government because there’s no concrete link.

On the question of the target audience, the problem seems to be that those in favor of a counteroffensive think that it will be a debate. If the Russian government makes an outrageous claim without evidence, a European or American source can just refute it by posting actual evidence. This approach ignores the epistemological aspect, i.e. how the audience for Russian propaganda thinks and acquires beliefs. Russian propaganda isn’t aimed at convincing anyone that a particular narrative is true or false; it’s about making them question reality itself. Even if they disagree, it demoralizes them because they think they can never prove what they do believe. With everyone else, the idea is that you can only be sure of one thing- it’s never Russia’s fault, so don’t criticize Putin. Pretending that this kind of war can be won simply by point-counterpoint is ridiculously naive.

On the topic of efficacy, if we’re speaking of the ethnic Russian audience, the question is quite simple. Russia’s press is their “team.” Just because Latvia, Estonia, or even worse, the US, produces material in the Russian language doesn’t mean it’s going to resonate with Russian-speakers; this will simply be dismissed as propaganda from the other team. Again, this doesn’t mean that these countries shouldn’t make factual information available in Russian, it just means that they have to be more realistic about the efficacy of such efforts, and allocate resources accordingly. In general, however, this kind of propaganda is likely to appeal only to those Russians who already basically agree with it.

There may be a “swing” demographic,consisting for example of Russian-Ukrainians who despite the Russian government, want to remain in Ukraine, but do not like the rehabilitation and promotion of figures like Stepan Bandera and the UPA(Ukrainian Insurgent Army). Sometimes this demographic might be ignored, because some of the things they say sound like they were inspired by Russian propaganda, and sometimes that may be the case. However, as I’ve said before, it’s a really bad idea to pigeonhole people based on hearing a few points that sound a certain way. Doing so is likely to push people who could go either way into the opposite camp. Sometimes the person’s opinion is based on something other than material from Russia. Other times it may simply be a mistake based on that person’s lack of information at the time. And lastly, there are those rare “busted clock” moments when perhaps some information from Russia contains a kernel of truth. This needs to be taken into account when dealing with Russian speakers.

As for the foreign audience, government-sponsored material is unlikely to have much of an effect. Russia’s propagandists understand the effectiveness of conspiracy theories and delivering information as secrets “they don’t want you to know.” Very often, the quickest, easiest way for pro-Russian propagandists to smear something is to try to associate it with the CIA or the National Endowment for Democracy. Buzzwords like “mainstream media” are also very effective for ending debate. This being the case, official information from NATO, the US government, or any other Western government will inevitably be dismissed out of hand.

For these people the thought process is linear and ridiculously simple- “I don’t like my government. My government lies. My government doesn’t like the Russian government for some reason. The Russian government must be good; it is resisting my government. My media seems to agree with my government. Russia’s media is saying the opposite. Russia’s media must be telling the truth.” Obviously there will be nuanced differences according to each individual, but this is the basic formula.

Countering this thought process is going to be a lot harder for Western governments, because it requires them to take many actions they seem reluctant to implement. To be sure, there are some easy methods. One which I already alluded to above consists of cataloging all the various lies of the Russian media and organizing them together by topic. Since the Russian media doesn’t seem to have any concern as to how believable their individual claims are, the “condensed version” of their alternative narratives, complete with outlandish claims and amateurish forgeries, look simply ridiculous. Mockery is a very strong weapon, because while many people have a strong desire to believe they know something the masses don’t, the desire not to look stupid is often stronger.

Of course the main methods for countering Russia’s foreign-language press will be much tougher for a lot of governments to fathom. For one thing, it means promoting critical thinking in schools. That might seem obvious to some people but judging by the discourse I see in the US I don’t think we’ve advanced very far on that front. This is problematic for any government, not so much because it concerns money for education, but rather because few governments on Earth have a strong incentive for a critically thinking populace. If we teach Americans to be skeptical of 9/11 conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine propaganda, they can just as easily use the same skills to unravel ideas like trickle-down economics, massive military spending, and the supposed need for powerful domestic surveillance programs.

Another reason why governments might prefer to waste money on propaganda aimed at foreigners rather than focusing on their home audience is that the most effective way to deny Russia a supply of useful idiots is to handle problems at home. When confronted with these issues, many American politicians, officials, and pundits will immediately degenerate into the childish whataboutery usually associated with the pro-Kremlin side. Yes, we all realize that many of the issues that Americans raise are worse in Russia, just as they are much worse than that in dozens of other nations. But as I would say to any pro-Kremlin hack engaging in the same tactic, none of that matters to the person living in your country, be it in the US or Russia. When you tell an American concerned about wealth inequality or NSA spying that both these issues are much worse in Russia, you may be factually correct, but this is utterly worthless to an American’s point of view. Few of these people have any plans to even visit Russia, much less live there. All they know is that RT dedicates far more time to talking about issues like this than their own media, thus it speaks to them. That the network has cynical motives is utterly irrelevant.

The last tough-to-swallow pill for Western governments is owning up to, apologizing for, and rectifying past actions which have destroyed their credibility and public trust in the government. If you brace any conspiracy theorist, they’re bound to rattle off a litany of other conspiracy theories to support the one they’re currently propagating. Mixed in with the fabricated ones there will always be true conspiracies. In the case of the US the list is long and extensive. The coup to restore the Shah in Iran, the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, NATO’s stay-behind program, the lies that led to and prolonged the Vietnam War, COINTELPRO, Watergate, the overthrow of Allende in Chila, support for the Afghan rebels, Iran-Contra, and of course the shame of the early 21st century, the Iraq War, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to indisputable deeds of the US government and some of its allies. Continued unqualified support for repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia send the message that this 20th century behavior is ongoing.

These days when politicians attempt to one-up each other in superficial displays of patriotism compete to show whose belief in American exceptionalism is more absolute, it seems that the political and media elite has no idea how alienating this is to millions of Americans. Most Americans would probably prefer to see their government admit past mistakes and say what it plans to do to avoid them in the future, not unwavering belief in American exceptionalism, which is quite frankly, a childish, stupid belief anyway.

In short, though they may be reluctant, and though I am skeptical as to how receptive Western governments will be to this advice, the best antidote to Russian foreign-language propaganda is quite simple- take care of your own people. See to their needs first and foremost. When Americans see their leaders talking almost every day about what must be done to help the people of Ukraine, they have a legitimate right to ask what the government plans to do for them. Within the borders of the US, welfare state politics is practically an anathema and the free market must decide all. Though when it comes to foreign policy, it is often those very same anti-welfare politicians who are the first to propose government handouts to foreign nations and their citizens.

However important Ukraine is, and I for one support Ukraine’s struggle myself, American politicians don’t realize how they help the Kremlin by ignoring the demands of their own citizens. For you US politicians, it says in preamble to the Constitution you swore an oath to defend, that it is ordained to, among other things, “promote the general welfare.” Do your goddamned job, and the rest will follow. RT’s audience will shrink back to what it was in its early days, that is to say, virtually non-existent.

In a recent conversation about the war in the Donbass, a military expert told me that in his opinion, Ukraine’s mistake was not actually implementing full mobilization. Poroshenko talked about it plenty, but apparently did not carry it out. In a similar fashion, Western governments may be doing the same with their information war. It’s easy to throw money at some think tanks and PR agencies to produce some slick ad campaigns and videos that refute the lies of the Russian press. It’s also easy to overreach and produce propaganda that contains its own lies or half-truths, thus alienating more people and driving them into the Kremlin’s camp. If Western governments actually intend to wage this war, they will have to fully mobilize, and that means tough sacrifices, such as listening to their own people more than they do lobbyists and the super wealthy, as well as admitting their failures both past and present. If they refuse to do so, they have no right to complain when Russian propaganda runs circles around them, and quite frankly they ought to be replaced.

BREAKING NEWS! Putin announces new sanctions against EU/US, says Russia will no longer export long-winded, hypocritical moral lectures about traditional Christian values to the West.

A recent export ban announced by the Kremlin will make it impossible for the US and its EU allies to receive moral lectures on the failure of their democracy from people like those shown here.

A recent export ban announced by the Kremlin will make it impossible for the US and its EU allies to receive moral lectures on the failure of their democracy from people like those shown here.

MOSCOW- In a recent press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will forthwith cut off all exports of self-righteous, hypocritical lectures. The full list is said to cover such subjects as “speeches about how the West has turned its back on traditional Christian morals and is on the path to destruction,” “self-serving speeches about Russia’s spiritual values and its historical mission,” and projections that “the West is doomed to collapse soon due to its tolerance and lack of traditional values.”

“It’s none of my concern as to where they get their self-righteous, hypocritical lectures from,” the president was quoted as saying when asked what this would mean for the nations targeted by the embargo. “Maybe Iran will have pity on them and pick up the slack. I frankly do not care.”

Foreign policy experts predict worse is to come as the open-ended presidential order leaves room for expansion in the future. Richard Bennett, head of the Passive-Aggressive Russian Rhetoric department of Columbia University, explained why this could mean trouble on the horizon.

According to Bennett, “Putin has the ability to expand these measures at his own discretion at any time. This means that we could see more items added to the ban list. In that case the West might face a total loss of inaccurate comparisons, chest-beating tirades about how Russia has “risen from her knees,” and public oaths to defend Russian soil from a potential NATO invasion made by teenagers whose parents bought their way out of the army.” Bennett’s calculations about the impact of further additions to the ban list were even more grim. “Some nations might find that their entire source of rants about same sex marriage and gay parades will dry up overnight. This could lead to hoarding and black market activity, not to mention the total ruin of firms whose entire business model relied on importing those products.”

TEXT: "Ukraine for European Values!" According to experts, should the ban list be expanded, nations targeted by the measures will no longer have access even to comics such as this one which reduces "European values" to same sex marriage.

TEXT: “Ukraine for European Values!” According to experts, should the ban list be expanded, nations targeted by the measures will no longer have access even to comics such as this one which reduces “European values” to same sex marriage.

 

Bennett went on to explain that absent this flow of embarrassing, impotent rage, both the US and EU might have to “go shopping” for new sources of utterly ineffective, passive-aggressive hostility. Immediate reactions pointed toward China, but when asked about the matter, Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a categorically negative answer.

“China will never replace Russia’s role as an exporter of hypocritical rants and passive-aggressive angst to the West,” the Chinese leader told reporters during an interview which happened to coincide with Putin’s recent announcement. “Here in China we are far too busy with trivial matters such as improving our economy, building our infrastructure, and raising people out of poverty by the millions. We cannot possibly take up Russia’s mantle in that sphere.”

Responses from US president Obama and EU leaders have been sporadic at best, but the White House did issue a statement assuring American citizens that if need be the United States has virtually “limitless reserves” of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. In the event that it becomes necessary to rely on those reserves, federal agencies have announced outreach programs to the nation’s Tea Party organizations and fundamentalist Christian churches, aimed at consolidating and stockpiling their hypocritical, self-righteous diatribes in order to offset any losses caused by the Russian ban.