Tag Archives: Euromaidan

Face to Face

I love conversion stories. Perhaps that’s because I’ve had so many myself. I consider it ridiculous that we live in a society that condemns people who change their minds as they learn more, while people who double down on their ignorant beliefs in spite of concrete evidence to the contrary attract throngs of followers. This is why I loved this story from Cracked about a chap who was a professional 9/11 truther who had a change of heart. In it, you can watch a documentary featuring the subject, which helps explain why he changed his mind. In short, it wasn’t just meeting experts on architecture and controlled demolition; I felt they left out a lot of arguments that eviscerate the 9/11 conspiracy theory. But one thing that did apparently have an effect on the subject of the article was meeting the families of 9/11 victims face to face.

I found that to be rather interesting because there have been many times when I’ve encountered pro-Kremlin Westerners attacking journalists and experts whose work contradicts the fantasies they have about Putin’s regime. The case of MH17 is a perfect example. These people are so happy to dismiss as propaganda the work of professional journalists from different countries, working for different publications, who actually went to the very sites in Ukraine that are associated with the downing of that civilian airliner. I got to wondering whether these people would be so bold as to call such individuals “presstitutes” to their faces. I’ve met some of these reporters and I’d really like to see how these idiots would talk if they were lobbing their accusations directly at their target, in person, instead of over the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying those journalists would physically destroy such detractors, only that it’s a little harder to accuse someone of lying for simply doing their job when you actually have to talk to them face to face instead of nitpicking something they wrote. What can you possibly say back to such detractors? “I’m really sorry the Russia I live in every day doesn’t conform to the fantasy version of Russia you’ve created in your head for some unknown reason, but I’m not going to go to my editor, my employer, and hand in a story that has no evidence for it and shit tons of evidence against it. I’m really, really sorry.”

Now as some readers might know, Oliver Stone is supposedly going to release what could be called the Loose Change of Maidan. The trailer already exists, but I’m not going to post it here and give the dickhead views. So far the title is Ukraine on Fire, which makes me wonder if it was named thus truly because Stone wanted to accuse the US of burning down Ukraine, or because he was secretly hoping that people searching for Winter on Fire would find his film by accident. Whatever the case, neither film will really help outsiders understand Ukraine or Maidan, but Stone’s conspiracy film is no doubt going to be based largely around his interview with ex-president Yanukovych, a totally unbiased source on Maidan. The narrative will no doubt be that the US government decided to overthrow the government of Ukraine because a president who had never been particularly hostile to the US decided to suspend the signing of an EU trade agreement he had personally arranged. It’s practically Chile all over again!

It makes me wonder though, if it would help Stone to actually speak to Ukrainians, and not just those involved in Maidan. Maybe he could speak to people who suffered from Yanukovych’s corruption, people whose healthcare system collapsed while the money it  depended on was siphoned off and deposited in Western banks. Maybe he could talk to the many women and young girls who ended up in prostitution out of sheer desperation or in some cases human trafficking, a problem that didn’t start with Yanukovych, but one which he certainly did nothing to solve. Maybe he could talk to some of the victims of the beating on the original Euromaidan. He can ask them why they decided to take US State Department money to…uh…pressure the government into signing the deal they had arranged.

I must admit that when Maidan first happened, I had a lot of negative thoughts towards it in spite of my opposition to Kremlin propaganda. My background and disconnection from Ukraine led me to focus on those things which I found most threatening, like the far right, instead of looking at the bigger picture, that what far right involvement existed had a lot to do with the fact that Yanukovych and his clique’s brazen corruption had essentially united a vast swath of Ukrainian society against him. In this way it was like the Moscow protests I’d witnessed in 2011, which also had a far-right component which was not representative nor anywhere close to a majority of the protesters.

During my three trips to Ukraine in 2015, the first such trips in five years at that point, I met both organizers and participants in Maidan. While I never bought into the bullshit story of the State Department paying people to protest, talking to these people face to face only made the idea seem even more absurd, as absurd as someone suggesting that I protested the invasion of Iraq because I’d received money from the Hussein regime. I was particularly floored when I learned that some Ukrainians had apparently been told that the red and black OUN flag was in fact a historical Ukrainian cossack flag (it’s not) and not a proprietary symbol of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Suddenly I thought of all those crowd shots with all those red and black flags and I wondered how many people waving those flags actually knew what they stood for? Could they really be blamed? How many Americans still defend the Confederate flag, ignorantly insisting that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Americans should know better, whereas most Ukrainians, due to the nature of the Soviet education system and the rather poor alternative that took its place, have a defense.

It’s not that Stone wouldn’t be able to find people involved with Maidan with horrible views. I’m sure he could and he probably should, for the sake of balance. But the fact is that this man wants to tell us the “truth” about what happened in Ukraine and I seriously doubt that he’s ever really spent significant time talking to ordinary Ukrainians. People like Stone need to keep a certain distance from their subjects, so as to protect their oversimplified worldview. Ukrainians aren’t people like him, people angry with their government who might want to do something about it. They’re just pawns and dupes who will sell their country to the American New World Order for twenty bucks, even if it means being beaten, gassed, and even shot until they overthrow their government. Sure, he could meet with an organizer or two and then rationalize dismissing them by labeling them as agents of the State Department. But what’s the probability you’re going to run into such an agent if you go into a random restaurant in Kyiv and start talking to young people there?

By meeting people who suffered from 9/11, that truther from the documentary learned that his conspiracy theories weren’t a victimless crime. He was spitting on the graves of people’s relatives, people he’d never met and never known, and yet he basically thought they were hapless dupes fooled by the state into thinking they’d been killed by terrorists instead of some government plot. Stone and those who think like him are doing the same thing to the people of Ukraine. The US-backed coup narrative is not just another conspiracy theory. It has led to some of the worst bloodshed in Europe since the Yugoslav Wars of Secession in the 1990’s.

Sadly I doubt he’ll actually go and speak to the sort of Ukrainians I mentioned just as he won’t be talking to any ordinary Venezuelans about the achievements of “Bolivarian socialism” or Russian opposition supporters about Putin’s great alternative to Western hegemony. Humanizing these people in his own mind would then require him to draw conclusions. He might have to actually envision a world where having a beef with the US government doesn’t necessarily make a leader a hero of the people. He might realize that many of these leaders don’t actually provide a viable alternative to the American or Western system, that in fact their proposed  “alternatives” tend to be worse, and that his primitive “enemy of my enemy is my friend” worldview is laughably unrealistic. Worst of all, having realized all this Stone might be forced to form a coherent, consistent political worldview and engage in real activism toward changing the American system rather than professional conspiracy mongering.

 

 

 

 

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Useful Idiot of 2014: Oliver Stone

It has been a long, difficult year. I had considered creating some kind of year-in-review post for today, but that would require going back over dozens of bad memories. How fortunate it is that in absence of any planning for some sort of competition, a last-minute candidate for Useful Idiot of the Year has appeared just in the nick of time! Running unopposed in the first ever competition of its kind, “filmmaker” Oliver Stone handily scores this year’s title!

Stone, of course, has a history of pseudo-left politics. I say “pseudo” because its more like leftish populism than anything concretely revolutionary. Just change the narrative a bit here or there and you’ve pretty much got the same ideology that is espoused by far-rightists everywhere, including those of Ukraine and Russia. Stone is also a perfect example of the failure of “anti-hegemony” politics, the idea that there’s this monolithic “West” led by the US, and Russia, China, and a few other states somehow constitute a “resistance” to the Western capitalist hegemony.

In a recent Facebook post, Stone revealed that he had interviewed former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The whole thing is par for the course. Maidan was a CIA coup, the CIA was behind the snipers shooting protesters, and so on. Let’s take a look.
Interviewed Viktor Yanukovych 4 hours in Moscow for new English language documentary produced by Ukrainians. He was the legitimate President of Ukraine until he suddenly wasn’t on February 22 of this year. Details to follow in the documentary, but it seems clear that the so-called ‘shooters’ who killed 14 police men, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians, were outside third party agitators. Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions– with CIA fingerprints on it.

Ah yes, what more objective source could you find than Viktor Yanukovych? Indeed, Yanukovych was the legitimate president, until he suddenly left on 22 February and then was legitimately stripped of his power by the parliament that was left behind. Indeed you could have questioned the legitimacy of the interim government on certain grounds, that is until they had elections in May and especially after they had parliamentary elections in October.

There is nothing to suggest that the shootings which occurred were the work of “outside agitators.” He cites “many witnesses,” but only names one man who wasn’t in a position to know unless he specifically ordered the police to use live rounds. Stone doesn’t give us any evidence, just innuendo. I find it ridiculous how people who have no problem accepting the fact that American police, in such a litigious society, routinely shoot young, unarmed black males, and yet the same people think that Eastern European paramilitaries would never open fire on massive protests which had been increasingly violent for some time.

The only “evidence” Stone offers is comparisons to actual, historical coups.

Create enough chaos, as the CIA did in Iran ‘53, Chile ‘73, and countless other coups, and the legitimate Government can be toppled. It’s America’s soft power technique called ‘Regime Change 101.’

Stone forgets that these were things which happened during the Cold War, when the US actually had a real opponent and much of Europe was for some of that time, a collection of puppet states. That simply isn’t true these days, when Germany leads a bloc of its own and China is a major rival to the US. Furthermore, Iran and Chile didn’t involve various NGOs or civil society initiatives. Both involved direct CIA involvement in connection with members of the military. Lastly, Mossadegh in Iran and to a greater extent Salvador Allende in Chile were both too far to the left for the US. Mossadegh famously wanted to nationalize the Anglo-American oil company while Allende was essentially a socialist. Yanukovych was neither of these things. He had no social platform other than doing what was best for Viktor Yanukovych and his friends. He was no enemy of the IMF and one way or another he would have had to impose some form of austerity on his own country. This is exactly what I mean when I say that anti-hegemony types are fighting a non-existent conflict. There is no resistance bloc against global capitalism. These people are only backing the losers in the game.

In this case the “Maidan Massacre” was featured in Western media as the result of an unstable, brutal pro-Russian Yanukovych Government. You may recall Yanukovych went along with the February 21 deal with opposition parties and 3 EU foreign minsters to get rid of him by calling for early elections. The next day that deal was meaningless when well-armed, neo-Nazi radicals forced Yanukovych to flee the country with repeated assassination attempts.
Stone is apparently considering a career as a comedy writer. First of all, Yanukovych fled after making that agreement on 21 February. I’ve seen no evidence of any assassination attempt on him and while some radicals had indeed obtained firearms, nobody in their right mind would call them “well armed.” Another important point about this agreement is that the leaders of the opposition parties did indeed sign it, but they clearly couldn’t control thousands of people on the streets. The fact that the new government continued to have problems with Maidan supporters and organizations throughout 2014 shows how limited their control was then.

A dirty story through and through, but in the tragic aftermath of this coup, the West has maintained the dominant narrative of “Russia in Crimea” whereas the true narrative is “USA in Ukraine.” The truth is not being aired in the West. It’s a surreal perversion of history that’s going on once again, as in Bush pre-Iraq ‘WMD’ campaign. But I believe the truth will finally come out in the West, I hope, in time to stop further insanity.

Let’s see here- Russian troops actually occupy the Crimea, and in a short time a referendum with no status quo option declares Crimea independent, then a part of the Russian Federation. How many US soldiers went to Ukraine in that time? How many are there now? Imagine Stone’s reaction if a brigade of American soldiers had arrived in Kyiv around February 21st to “defend protesters from potential reprisals by Yanukovych’s military.” Imagine against that background, the protesters seized government buildings and held a referendum to oust Yanukovych’s government. Do you think Stone would be fine with that? Of course not. What each and every one of these anti-hegemony dipshits fail to understand is the concept of principle. Are you against big, powerful nations using their military and economic leverage to push around smaller nations, or are you only against it when that nation is the US? This is why I became so alienated from much of the left this year- I opposed American imperialism because it was imperialist, not because it was American. Stone, of course, doesn’t have any principles. Rather than actually address problems in America and do something about them, he prefers to engage in conspiracy theories and pretend he has a friend in Moscow. And he speaks about stopping insanity.

One final point I want to make here is on this bullshit about how this “isn’t aired in the West.” I have nothing but contempt for people who hide behind phrases like, “this is something they don’t want you to know,” “everything you know is a lie,” or “this is the politically incorrect story.” These are all psychological ploys to make the audience more pliable to what they’re about to hear. Nobody wants to think they’ve been duped, and everybody rightly suspects what they receive from the media. The problem is, though, that while the Western media certainly didn’t report Stone’s fantasy version of events, you cannot say that the West was all-in for Maidan. Many Western publications and journalists published critical articles about Maidan, ranging from exposures of the right-wing elements in the protest to questioning the protesters’ belief that a European Union trade agreement would truly improve their situation. I have referenced and featured several of these articles on this blog throughout this year. Sure, you could say that on the whole, Western coverage was biased in favor of Maidan. But compare that to the pro-Russian coverage of Maidan, from internet sites like Globalization Research to RT.

Where have you ever seen a single article on any pro-Russian source which even begrudgingly concedes any point to the Maidan movement as a whole? Even from the beginning, when I was quite hostile to the Maidan movement, there were two points I could not even assail them on. One was the fact that Yanukovych was indeed incredibly corrupt and brought nothing positive to Ukraine. The other was that regardless of the politics of any specific group within the movement, at least these people were standing up for themselves. They thought they had been wronged by their government, so they stood up to that government and changed it. Contrast that to Russia where everybody drops their pants, bends over, and begs the government for “stability” they never receive in exchange for their dignity and freedom. Tell me where I can see even that modest nuance in the pro-Russian press when it comes to Maidan. According to them, it was all Nazi, all CIA-backed.
The problem with Stone is that he has the same thought process as many of the people who immediately threw their unqualified support behind Maidan. Stone doesn’t have any real background knowledge on Ukraine or Russia. He doesn’t know what the Yanukovych government was like, or what the Putin government is like. All he knows is that the Western media generally said that this movement was good and this president was bad. Ergo in typical lazy leftist fashion he decides that the movement must be backed by the CIA and Yanukovych’s regime must have been positive. Of course any time you ask one of these dupes about what such and such a regime was supposedly doing to piss off Washington so much, the answer is always that they are “resisting.” How they are resisting or why that is even positive is never mentioned. Nazi Germany was “resisting” Washington. ISIL is “resisting.”

I have a real problem with this tactic of labeling movements as CIA putsches as well. Readers of this blog will note that while my opinions about Maidan changed over time, mostly due to Russian reaction, I never suggested that the protest movement consisted of paid CIA shills. For one thing, I am very familiar with Ukrainian nationalism and I knew that nobody needed to pay those assholes to come out and run amok. And while NGOs no doubt had an influence on many other protesters, it’s important to realize that these organizations don’t pay people to protest, nor do they force them. Most of the time these Western NGOs exist because local governments don’t fund or encourage civil organizations. Some of these organizations are dedicated to one particular social ill, e.g. women trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are more or less non-political but must seek foreign funding as the government essentially ignores them if not eyes them with suspicion. Naturally these people will gravitate to political movements. What anti-hegemony types, lazy leftists, and naive populists can’t understand is that people listen to the message of these NGOs because their own governments offer virtually nothing positive or at best, fail to deliver on their promises. NGOs can shape and channel movements, but they do not conjure them out of thin air.

When you’re an outsider it’s easy to misunderstand people’s motives, so let me put it to you in this way. Did you protest against the Iraq war? Yes? How much did Saddam Hussein pay you? Were you at Occupy, or did you at least support the movement? You know RT did a lot of coverage of Occupy. Perhaps you were paid by the Russian government. Did you protest over Ferguson? How much did you get paid from that? You know some witnesses think that Darren Wilson might have been an outside-agitator working for Russian intelligence. I have criticized Maidan and the US on this blog. Do you suppose I get paid by the Kremlin? How does it feel to have not only your motives, but your very free will questioned by armchair geopolitical wonks? Is it not absurd? Are you not angered? The Kremlin loves to spread this cynical idea because that’s how it has operate for years. It conjures political movements out of thin air and it pays people to come to rallies. It has no other way of attracting support.

Oliver Stone, like many populists and phony leftists, is offering activists nothing more than a fantasy, a dead-end. Rather than actually stand up to power and fighting for justice, the Stones of the world would have us believe that we should sink all our energy in to supporting these alleged islands of “resistance” to the capitalist hegemony. So we follow their advice, and eventually this or that regime collapses due to its own incompetence and corruption. Then it begins again so we can turn another corrupt, bumbling dictator into the next Che Guevara. Isn’t this starting to get old? Does it not seem odd to anyone that the answer to America’s problems with student loans, police brutality, racism, and workers’ rights is to be found in Russia, where conditions are far worse? Does it not seem a bit more subversive to actually start doing something about that instead of carrying a torch for regimes you’ve never lived under?

Meh. What do I know? I need to cash my paychecks from the CIA and FSB so I can go party tonight.

Oliver Stone, you win 2014’s award for Useful Idiot of the Year.

2014, fuck you.