Ever notice how people will use certain phrases to preface an opinion or statement, and when they do you can almost predict what will follow?
Most people know this example:
“I’m not racist but…(INCREDIBLY RACIST STATEMENT)”
Here’s one you’ll get from conspiracy theorists:
“Here’s something the mainstream media doesn’t want you to know about…(TOTALLY BULLSHIT CLAIM OR CLAIM THAT IS REAL BUT THE “MAINSTREAM MEDIA” REPORTED IT EXTENSIVELY)”
This one’s limited to certain political circles but it’s still a good example:
“Despite its flaws…(HORRIBLY TORTURED MENTAL GYMNASTICS IN DEFENSE OF A TERRIBLE REGIME)”
Lastly one of my favorites from regime supporting Russians:
“I don’t watch the state TV…(LONG LIST OF RUSSIAN TV TALKING POINTS)”
Well readers, I believe I’ve found a new one, and it goes like this- when a Russian politician or diplomat begins a sentence with “We never said…” rest assured that they almost certainly said exactly the thing they claimed they never said, or they may have even gone further. Thus far I only have two examples, but they are major ones and these people are getting so predictable that we should probably look forward to hearing more.
The first example came from Putin, at his yearly press conference last December. At the previous year’s press conference Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsymbaliuk asked Putin how many soldiers and mercenaries he’d sent to Ukraine. Putin flat out denied everything, though implicitly admitted the existence of “volunteers” who supposedly couldn’t be called mercenaries because they were not being paid. The latter is bullshit on both counts; they certainly are paid one way or another, and even if they were not paid any sort of salary they’d still rightly be called mercenaries. This year Putin made what amounted to an admission, with the following quote:
“We never said there were not people there who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere.”
In fact Putin and many others had made this claim and gone even further, denying that they were organizing, financing, and arming the “rebellion” in the Donbas in any way. The only thing they would admit to was sending “humanitarian aid.”
Recently we got another example of “We never said,” this time from the Russian foreign ministry on the topic of Syria. Special thanks goes to Twitter user and geo-locator Reggae Mortis for catching these lies and making these pictures:
The fact is that the Kremlin and its media have continually spread the talking point that the “moderate rebels” are a Western-concocted myth and that the opposition to Assad consists of radical Islamists, first Al Qaeda and then ISIS. However, at times when they need to point out what a great power Russia supposedly is, they will allude to their cooperation with those very same moderate rebels who supposedly don’t exist in an attempt to show the West that they should cooperate with Russia.
I think we can expect more of this in the future. Western leaders will accuse Russia over something they are obviously doing, Russian leaders will feign total bafflement, asking for proof long after plenty of proof has been provided, and then later they will make an admission prefaced by “We never said…(THING THAT THEY CERTAINLY SAID NUMEROUS TIMES).” The worst thing about this tactic is that it actually tacks on another massive lie onto the one in question. If Putin had admitted to some kind of military personnel in the Donbas, serving in a military sphere, he wouldn’t have been lying then, and the “We never said we didn’t have…” statement wouldn’t have been a lie either.
Here we have an interesting difference between politicians from functioning democracies and the Kremlin. In the former, there’s this concept of credibility; you want your lies to sound believable. Or, even better, you lie by omission by using really obtuse or contrived language. This isn’t necessarily good per se, but when you hear this you know that they are lying or otherwise distorting the truth and more importantly, you know that they know it. They care about making it difficult or impossible to debunk their lies. In that way they show some respect for your intelligence.
With the Kremlin (and no doubt a lot of other similar regimes in the world), this concern for credibility doesn’t exist. In fact, looking at Kremlin media it would seem there is no concept of credibility at all. For example, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov recently expressed a very creative interpretation of the Budapest Memorandum, the 1994 agreement which guaranteed Ukrainian territorial integrity in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons (yeah, they had those). The problem with this is that the full text of the Budapest Memorandum is available online for anyone to see, and it’s not particularly ambiguous. Indeed, the article I linked to above notes this as well:
“What does it say about the mendacity of Russian diplomacy and its contempt for international opinion when the foreign minister says something that can be proven wrong with less than 30 seconds of Google fact-checking?”
I’ll answer that question. It says they live in a fantasy realm. They are disconnected from reality, from the very concept of reality, and therefore any attempt to negotiate with them in good faith is really pointless unless you take this into account. Otherwise you’ll constantly find yourself being dumbfounded as they tell you they never said something they actually did say, sometimes word for word, numerous times.