I’m coining a new term. Kovpak’s Law. Mark the date. What is Kovpak’s Law? Well it’s similar to Poe’s Law, which states that without knowing the author’s intent, it is difficult if not almost impossible to tell the difference between an extremist viewpoint and a parody of said viewpoint. Kovpak’s Law is a variation on this which states:
Some Kremlin propaganda is so bad that one cannot determine whether it is the product of gross incompetence or intentional sabotage from within.
In my studies I have learned that there is strong evidence of deliberate but subtle sabotage within the Kremlin propaganda machine. It is quite possible that many Russian students and young people working in media or pro-Kremlin youth groups may resent their bosses and their mission and thus have set about to sabotage the message in various ways. At times the various fuck-ups in Kremlin propaganda are so great as to suggest that there was some effort behind them, as in this case of a propaganda art exhibition. The saddest thing is that you almost feel sorry for their bosses, because the Kremlin pours a lot of money into these efforts and due to their lock-step mode of thinking they are unable to create any semblance of quality control within their ranks.
One might ask why I’m choosing today to unveil my new “law.” Well as it turns out, we actually have a new case study that concretely demonstrates the law in action. Take a look at this video:
Now I already know what you’re thinking- it’s fake. Of course it is; it’s been traced to the Savushkin Street Troll Factory. What interests me, however, is how badly it was faked. I’m not going to go through the many obvious mistakes and inconsistencies, but rather I want to focus on the areas where it almost seems they made an effort to screw this up so badly.
First let’s take the text. Most Russians with even an intermediate level of grammar could write better than this. It shouldn’t be hard to find a few who are advanced, who can then watch some actual gun reviews and then come up with something far more believable. And speaking of watching gun reviews, note how the video makes it seem as though the point is to prove that “American weapons are the best ever.” In truth American gun enthusiasts, including if not especially veterans, love many Russian or Soviet weapons. Saiga shotguns, last time I checked, are respected. The Kalashnikov is highly regarded and there are plenty of Americans who will defend it online indefinitely. Nothing about the theme of this video makes any sense whatsoever.
The accent. Come on- really? I get that they hoped using a dark-skinned man would make it easier to believe that this video was made by Americans, but in many places it sounds as if the voice was added later and it appears to have some kind of African accent. Do you know what I would have done if I were making such a video? I’d get the best English-speaking Russian I could find and give him a name tape that has some Slavic surname on it. I’d trick an expat into recording a clip for me where they say something like: “Hey KOWALSKI! Just shoot the fuckin’ thing already!” Bingo- he’s the child of Polish immigrants. Accent explained. Too far fetched? In basic training there was a Ukrainian immigrant in my company. Later in AIT I ran into a soldier from some Eastern European country, most likely Russia, Belarus, or Ukraine, who had an obvious Slavic accent. Hell, there was an army recruitment commercial with an “immigrant” from Ukraine. Sadly I couldn’t find that commercial on Youtube, but I did find this story about an immigrant from Ukraine in the US army. Then again, this could be a genuine screw-up because in my near-decade stay in Russia I still encounter a widespread belief that Slavic Americans do not exist.
Now let’s talk about that uniform. It is no trouble to get NATO uniforms in Russia. In fact, they are quite popular and a lot of militaria shops actually advertise that they have NATO gear. I didn’t go over the video with a fine-toothed comb, but the most obvious inaccuracy is the helmet and the uniform, which has long since been retired by the US army. For him to be wearing that uniform the video would have to be from 2003 or earlier.
The real kicker, however, is that it would have been really easy to get realistic “American” soldiers, both for the shooter and the guy in the background who is inexplicably wearing a red and white keffiyeh. Russia has a huge airsoft community which includes all manner of reenactors. It wouldn’t take me too long to get authentic-looking US army Rangers in full battle rattle shooting at a Quran. Hell, you want authentic-looking military personnel shooting at religious literature? In the same amount of time I can get you Vietnam-era US army Special Forces shooting at a Bible. I can get British Commandos lighting up the Book of Mormon. I can get the Waffen SS to shoot at the Bhagavad Gita. Or maybe you’d prefer 1980’s Delta Force shooting a copy of Dianetics? Name your price.
Again I come back to the language. America is full of jackasses who make a big deal about publicly destroying Qurans. At no point does this “American” jackass mention that he is shooting a Quran. In the beginning he says “It is not a weapon. Strike a book.” Later he says what sounds like “I shoot this book here.” Again, even an intermediate speaker of Russian could do better than this, at least when it comes to writing. It’s almost as if someone wanted this to sound like bad English, and if that was the case- mission accomplished.
The text says that the Saiga 410k fires the same round as the Kalashnikov rifle. Of course it does not. Saiga mainly makes shotguns, and the 410 is a shotgun. There is no way an American soldier would mix up shotgun shells of any gauge and the 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm Kalashnikov rounds. Saiga shotguns can often be found in Russian shooting ranges, of which there are several within short distance from Savushkin street in St. Petersburg. And lookie at what we have at one of those ranges- the last weapon is a Saiga 410k. The choice of the Saiga also seems odd, as if it wasn’t what they originally wanted but rather was the only weapon the range would allow them to use.
The “soldier” complains about accuracy and claims to have made a bet against another soldier for $10. Yet when he fires the weapon he is essentially firing from the hip. If I’m going to make a bet with somebody about whether a weapon is accurate or not, I’m going to be the one who fires it, and if I did let them fire it I’d never agree to let them shoot from the hip. All US army personnel must qualify in Basic Rifle Marksmanship and re-qualify with their assigned weapons every six months thereafter. Also, isn’t it odd how they’d make a bet about the accuracy of a shotgun?
At the end of the day it’s clear that the people in charge either gathered the absolute worst, most incompetent people for this job, or the people responsible for the video made a deliberate decision to make it as laughably bad as possible and thus expose it as a fake. In either case it gets disseminated and the makers get paid by the government because in the minds of those in charge of this idiotic failed strategy, it doesn’t matter how fake it is. It’s disinformation! It will confuse Russia’s enemies! I can almost see the guy in charge waving his hands around menacingly as he explains this to his superiors, who then shake his hand and assure him that the money will keep flowing.
Personally I wonder where this will lead to next. Will they start breaking the fourth wall in the future? Will there ever be a point where someone gets publicly fired after putting out a video so unbelievably idiotic that nobody can claim it has some kind of information war value? This video makes you wonder what it will take for the whole ineffective, wasteful operation to get shut down.