Tag Archives: US

Welcome to Camp Reality!

Post dedicated to John, who came up with the name Camp Reality.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re from an authoritarian country whose dictatorial leaders rob the population of the nation’s natural wealth, squirreling it away in Western banks and real estate. It’s so bad that you had to leave your homeland. But, as it turns out, the regime you fled publicly attacks the United States and blames economic problems on being “surrounded by enemies?” Now, every time you try to explain the plight of your people to American leftists who are in many cases fighting for the same social justice you’d like to see in your country, you’re accused of being a secret millionaire, billionaire, or a dupe of the CIA. You try to explain why the sources they are using are worthless and you suggest other info, but they act as though their access to internet makes their opinion equal to yours, even if they’ve never had so much as a passport. Is there anything you can do? NOW THERE IS! 

You can recommend your friends take a very special summer vacation to Camp Reality (TM)! At Camp Reality, they won’t be able to hide from the truth using the internet and confirmation bias to pick sources of information which confirm their worldview. No, here at Camp Reality, they’ll get the most realistic hands-on experience of living under a 21st century authoritarian kleptocratic regime! Inspired by the groundbreaking work on racism by Jane Elliot, Camp Reality teaches people who live in the privileged West who like to live vicariously through countries, regimes, and people they may never have encountered in person what it’s actually like to live under those regimes they have deemed to be “anti-imperialist” simply due to public rhetoric and propaganda.

After signing an extremely detailed 45-page legal waiver which temporarily suspends any rights they might have under their own government, entrants to the camp will have their choice of three different “difficulty levels” based on three different types of real-world authoritarian regimes.


Level 1: Easy Mode

This mode is designed to replicate conditions in a 21st century soft dictatorship, specifically the Russian Federation. In the early days you’ll experience chaos as corrupt officials and police either fail to protect your property or actively help criminal groups. After week one, attendees may breathe a sigh of relief when a new leader promises to bring stability. All seems well and you’re prospering until you start to realize that the old gangsters have just been replaced by new ones, and now the state becomes more and more overbearing. Eventually the “economy” starts to decline, the leader changes the constitution so he doesn’t have to leave office, and suddenly you can be facing criminal charges for sharing a joke on social media. If you speak out, you’ll be deemed a traitor who hates your country, often by simulated leaders whose own simulated family members live in luxury in Europe. Hopefully your business doesn’t get raided by someone connected or wiped out when the leader starts a needless war and invents “counter-sanctions” in response to the sanctions he provoked with his own short-sighted actions.

Level 2: Hard Mode

This mode is modeled after countries like Venezuela. Your leader endlessly rants about “Yankee imperialism” while his cronies skim money out of the state oil company and stash it away in Yankee banks and real estate. After a while, the store shelves are empty and you’ll spend at least one whole week trying to scrounge for food. You’ll get a chance to tell simulated Western social media users about the conditions in your country, only to be told that you’re just some “millionaire who lost his land” or a dupe of the CIA calling for military intervention for “regime change.” These people will then bombard you with articles from “your” country’s state media and the state media outlets of government friendly regimes to tell you what’s really happening.

Level 3: NIGHTMARE! 

This mode is based on Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime. We ask that attendees choosing this mode please read the legal waiver very thoroughly and wear comfortable, NON-FLAMMABLE clothing.

After surviving attending Camp Reality, your friends and family members will have learned a valuable lesson in empathy and how social justice without internationalist solidarity can often be a slippery slope to fascism. But don’t take our word for it, read these testimonials from actual attendees of Camp Reality!

“Since I came of age around 2003, I used to compare every international crisis to the Iraq invasion of that year. After attending Camp Reality, I learned that not every regime the US government criticizes is really just trying to fight for its people against the influence of transnational corporations. As it turns out, some regimes really do just suck, and criticism from the US government isn’t the same as openly advocating for a massive invasion as the Bush administration clearly did in late 2002 to early 2003!”    -Carla, 32,  Hard Mode


“I used to think the only reason Western media was so critical of Putin is because he made Russia strong again and he opposed NATO. After spending a month in a simulated regime modeled after Putin’s I realized that NATO encirclement was really just an excuse for authoritarian measures and for why my country lagged behind Europe despite massive wealth in natural resources. I also learned that when I posted about this online, I was accused of being a traitor and a Western agent even though I really just wanted to see my country succeed. I think the best touch was how when I brought up problems, people would tell me about something terrible in America as though that had any relevance to the issue I was trying to discuss. It’s the same thing I used to do online!”   –Ryan, 26, Easy Mode


“Oh God! Oh God! I…I…I can’t….I don’t even…Who, who are you? Am I safe? Is this safe?!”    –Meghan, 28, NIGHTMARE!

So why delay? Tell your insufferably edgy little shit of a cousin to put their money where their mouth is today and send them to CAMP REALITY!

Ukrainian Armed Forces Receive Deep Concerns From US, EU Members

YAVORIV- The Ukrainian Armed Forces have just received the first shipment of “deep concerns” as part of a multinational military aid package in response to last Sunday’s incident in the Kerch Strait, where Russian coast guard ships attacked and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels along with their crews. Almost immediately after the incident was reported, representatives from the US and several of its NATO allies immediately announced their intentions to send aid to Ukraine in the form of both “concerns” and later “deep concerns” in order to counter Russia’s actions.

One State Department official told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration had also considered sending “grave concerns,” but this was later canceled so as “to avoid provoking escalation from the Russian side.” Meanwhile, experts disagree on whether the White House’s response was adequate or too provocative given the danger of opening another front in the conflict between the government in Kiev and rebel separatists in the east who are extremely well supplied, wear uniforms and equipment almost identical to that of the Russian armed forces, have more tanks and armored vehicles than some NATO countries, and whose leadership has historically contained a conspicuously high number of Russian citizens since their movement suddenly appeared in the spring of 2014.

“Deep concerns are not nearly enough if you want to send the right message to Putin,” said Anders Auslander, a fellow at a DC-based think tank.

“The only way you are going to raise the costs and deter him from further aggression is to equip Ukraine’s military with extremely grave concerns. There’s simply no other way.”

Other experts, however, suggest that even mild concern could provoke all-out war, possibly drawing the US and its allies into the conflict.

“We have to see things from Moscow’s point of view,” says Steve Kuhn, a professor of Soviet-Russian history.

“For years they’ve been watching as the US and NATO constantly express concern about Russia. If you want to start World War III, I can’t think of a better way than to arm the Ukrainian nationalists with more concerns, especially deep concerns.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian military personnel are struggling to distribute the concerns and train personnel on how to use them while they are on full alert for a possible Russian ground invasion.

“I don’t understand how we’re supposed to use these,” says Roman Bondarenko, 27, a lieutenant in one of Ukraine’s mechanized infantry brigades.

“All these shipping containers with NATO markings arrived at the rail depot, but when we opened them they were empty. Nothing but air.”

Serhii Hopko, 19, is a soldier in Bondarenko’s platoon who also expressed his disappointment with the latest shipment of NATO military aid.

“We hear reports that the Russians are moving tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to the border, and we’re supposed to fight with this,” he said, gesturing to the empty shipping container behind him.


KIEV- US Air Force crews unload the first shipment of deep concerns to aid Ukraine’s military in the face of renewed threats from Russia over access to the sea of Azov

Meanwhile, Russian officials slammed the decision to aid Ukraine’s military with deep concerns as “irresponsible” and a “clear provocation.”

“This simply shows that our Western partners are not interested in creating lasting peace in the Donbass, but rather irresponsibly encouraging the Poroshenko regime to escalate the war further,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page.

Zakarhova also warned that Russia would be forced to take “appropriate, and proportional measures” in response to the new aid package. While it is not entirely clear what those measures might entail, military analysts and open source investigators have been monitoring Russian military activity in the region and believe they have already seen signs of a response.

“Based on intelligence provided via satellite imaging, social media, and other open source information, it would appear that Russia is already responding to NATO’s concerns and deep concerns with additional main battle tanks and attack helicopters,” said one Pentagon analyst.

Gross incompetence

Besides oil an gas, other major exports for the Kremlin include whataboutism and other logical fallacies. This story, however, concerns domestic consumption of whataboutism. Meduza reports on a recent photo exhibition* by  the pro-Kremlin group “Network,” entitled “Where a Lie Leads.” The theme “exposes” the lies and crimes of the US government, featuring 11 cases in the past 100 years. Yes, because in Russia it’s courageous to make exhibits about the wrongdoing of some other country but never your own government, no matter how many times it changed in the past century.

The first thing that struck me was the handful of examples. William Blum documented dozens of examples in his book Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since WWII. Or perhaps you’re more into the misdeeds of “Perfidious Albion?” Well then there’s The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire by John Newsinger. Not scathing enough? Why not look up Mike Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts, or if you prefer to focus on American history, there’s always James Loewen’s Lies my Teacher Told MeWant to know about the lies and delusions that got America into Vietnam? Try Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie. Hell, although it isn’t really political and doesn’t point a finger at just one country, probably one of the most eye-opening book I’ve read in my adult life is The Road to Hell by Michael Maren. It will forever change your perspective on the topic of foreign aid.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on the Russian media or their ideologues to educate you on any of these subjects, because they are totally incompetent in both the history and the execution. “Where a Lie Leads” is a perfect example of how little effort these people put into their work. Let us count the ways.

The article begins with an exhibit on the American intervention in Russia during the civil war. According to the report, the exhibit ignores all the other intervention armies from other countries such as Japan, Great Britain, and France. It also deliberately misconstrues some quotes to make it seem like American troops were committing atrocities in Russia.

What the article unfortunately fails to point out is why American troops, along with the other intervention armies, were there in the first place. The intervention was an attempt to prop up the provisional government that had been displaced by the Bolshevik revolution. Apart from the fear of Communism, the Entente powers were most concerned about the Bolsheviks knocking Russia out of WWI. Therefore intervention on the side of the Whites to restore the provisional government was largely geared towards getting Russia back in the war…because they were alliesYes, remember that? The United States and Russia were allies, going back much further than Russia’s alliance with Great Britain. Russia sold Alaska to the United States to keep it out of British hands. The Russian navy also patrolled the coasts of the US during its civil war, with standing orders to attack British or French ships and assist in the Union blockade of the South should either of those countries extend recognition to the Confederate States.

And what right do these people have to complain about Americans coming over to fight some Bolsheviks? After all, the Dear Leader Putin himself recently condemned Lenin for destroying the precious Russian empire, where each and every illiterate communal peasant, no matter how poor and no matter how many children lost before the age of five, could beam with pride at the idea that “they” exercise authority over Poles or Finns, and of course Ukrainians were forbidden to print literature in their own language. Then again, I’m quite confident that every vatnik who dreams of this golden age is quite certain that if he were alive then, he wouldn’t be an illiterate peasant like most of the population back then. No, he’d be some cossack officer, possibly related to the nobility, and his life would resemble a Tolstoy novel in the early 20th century.

Whatever the case, many years ago I heard teenagers tell me how they’d been taught that the Russian empire was on its way to become like the United States in terms of economic development, until WWI and Lenin came along and ruined all that. Patriarch Kirill had commented on this same alternative history theme at least once, to the best of my memory. So these people really ought to be cheering the Americans for trying to save their country from an ignominious defeat, right? Whatever the case, I doubt the exhibit even mentions the reason why the US, along with Britain and France, ultimately pulled troops out of Russia along with their support for the Whites. This was due to mass strikes and protests by American, British, and French Communists in their home countries. In the US there was a general strike where the workers refused to load or service ships sending troops or arms to Russia. You’re welcome.

The worst failures of the exhibit come from the photos themselves. A photo (graphic) that was supposed to be from the American intervention in Nicaragua in the 1920’s was actually from the Rwandan genocide in 1990’s. Let that sink in- they didn’t accidentally use a  photo showing an atrocity committed by US-backed Contras in the 80’s. It’s not that they got a photo from the wrong country. They got a photo showing an atrocity committed in another country, on another continent, in a war the US had nothing to do with. How does one fuck up that badly? Please somebody answer that question for me! You want a grisly photo of an atrocity carried out in the 1920’s intervention in Nicaragua? Here you go:


NA64 (3)Pennington

US National Archives

Not only is that photo more accurate, you know, being from the same continent and all, but it’s also way more graphic. And if you’re wondering where I found out about this photo, I first saw it in a book I purchased from a large chain bookstore in 2004. It’s called Addicted to War, and you can actually look through the 2004 edition here. One page even mentions the US intervention in Russia. Like the books I mentioned above, one may dispute certain claims or interpretations of historical fact in Addicted to War, but once again I must drive home the point that the Western media and Western sources do a far better job exposing the crimes of their own governments than Russian media does. In fact, the latter often has to rely on Western sources when they report on these things, no doubt in large part because they can’t be bothered to do any actual research.

Ah but it gets even better, folks. Remember this iconic photo from the Bosnian War?


Photo by Ron Haviv

The photo depicts members of the infamous paramilitary unit known as Arkan’s Tigers (officially: Serb Volunteer Guard) kicking Bosnian Muslim civilians in Bijeljina. For some unknown reason this photo was used in a section about the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, which of course was related to the war in Kosovo, not Bosnia. Just imagine for a second that this photo was used in a NATO exhibit to justify the 1999 bombing campaign. Assuming someone actually gave enough of a shit to check, you can bet some pro-Kremlin blogger or columnist would have been howling mad over this lying propaganda. And hey, justifiably so, but when it comes to NATO propaganda, they tend to have much higher standards than the Kremlin media. And if they hadn’t bungled Kosovo enough, they actually posted a photo of an Albanian woman whose home had been destroyed by Serbian forces, not NATO. Again, how hard is it to find something like this? There’s no Russian language version of the page, but there are Serbian and Ukrainian versions. What’s the matter? Can’t understand any of the language of your “Slavic brothers,” vatniks?

In the end I think it’s important to realize several key points here. First of all, the best sources on the crimes of Western governments are almost invariably going to come from Western sources. One reason why this is the case is because in democratic societies, there’s this idea that individuals aren’t representatives of their government.  If anything they are supposed to be a check on state power.Even many of the people who write for Russian media at least claim to be doing so due to a disagreement with their respective governments’ policies.

Likewise, however naive it might seem, the basic idea of journalism is that a free press is also a check on power, and its job is to question authorities. By contrast the Kremlin media chiefs and “political technologists” just arbitrarily decide that they’re in an “information war,” and this justifies not caring about credibility or verifying sources, and in some cases, fabricating stories out of thin air. Yes, thank you, we all know that the mainstream media has in the past failed to properly cover certain stories, with dire consequences. And yes, they will probably do it again in the future. But just because a system is flawed due to the contradictions between the ideal of journalism and the reality of a capitalist, profit-driven system doesn’t mean we should reject it entirely in favor of propaganda outlets that deliberately distort stories or fabricate entirely.

This case also demonstrates how fears of Russia “weaponizing information” are largely overblown assuming you’re not in Ukraine, Georgia, or some Baltic state. The fact is that no matter how many times they embarrass themselves, these propagandists seem to have a compulsion to do everything half-assed. Hell, it’s more like quarter-assed or even tenth-assed. Yes, they are on an all-out offensive, but from what I’ve seen recently China has Russia beat in terms of propaganda, even right down to the whole “troll army” concept. And perhaps the reason why some American leaders are panicking about Russian information warfare is because they’ve largely been giving China a free pass on all kinds of heinous behavior over the past few decades.

Ultimately this “information war” is doomed to fail (indeed I’ve argued that it already has) for several key reasons. One is because they don’t care about credibility. They think there’s some kind of inherent value in confusing the enemy with disinformation, something they did for decades during the Cold War. That might sound pretty serious were it not for one inconvenient detail- they lost the Cold War. Second, the system is largely based on sucking up to superiors and showing what a great team player you are. There’s little to no room for dissent. If there were, we’d probably see much more varied propaganda coming from the Russian side, and some of it might actually have some quality. I estimate that we don’t see that because internal criticism is either ignored, dismissed, or maybe even subtly punished. Anyone claiming that RT would achieve far more if it were more objective and paid more attention to accuracy and sources probably won’t be taken seriously. The demise of The Moscow News and the RIA-Novosti English service teaches us about how much objectivity and diversity of opinion is respected in Kremlin media.

The last point is a minor one, but when I look at something like this story all I can think is how cowardly these people are. Here they are, in Moscow, no doubt with some form of funding or support from the state, showing their bravery and principles by condemning the United States. This would make sense in a country that is allied with the US, especially if it were participating in some US military operation at the time. But in that country and in the US itself, it is generally accepted that courage lies in standing up to one’s own government when it is wrong. We tend to admire journalists who expose wrongdoing and whistle-blowers, not government spokespeople or lobbyists. And when it comes to Western correspondents who criticize Russia, I don’t know a single one that sticks up for human rights violations in Ukraine, in the US, Saudi Arabia, or whatever. Principle is what matters.

Just a closing thought on that last note- I might have mentioned this anecdote before, but I was 17 I once wrote a final project in high school called “American War Crimes” (complete with a “political cartoon” for the cover that I made in MSPAINT) for my international relations class. It was after I’d been to Russia the first time, discovered Chomsky, and was fully into that ultra-edgy phase that every white American male seems to hit and hopefully, grows out of later down the road.** I saw some kind of inherent value in going against “the establishment,” and I knew enough to anticipate that it would be controversial, so I devoted a lot of time on the then-slow and crappy internet (search engine of choice: Alta Vista) trying to find the best sources I could. In the end the paper got a B, from a teacher who used to work for the US Department of State no less. It was certainly no worse than this exhibition. And if I could somehow find a copy of that paper after nearly twenty years…I could probably get it published in Russia Insider.


*Unrelated note: I don’t usually give dating advice but I remember that on many occasions Russian women would invite me to some photo exhibition for a date. Never accept such an invitation. These are all incredibly boring and you’ll either be saying “This one’s nice,” 40 times, or you’ll end up trying to sound like you actually know something about photography, e.g. “I like how the lighting in the foreground contrasts sharply with the shadow in the background, creating a subtle interplay of color. He certainly used the right lens for this shot!” Further romantic activities are highly unlikely to take place afterwards, unless your date has a fetish for men trying to hide how bored they are.

**Yes, I was listening to Rage Against the Machine all the time too.

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.