Tag Archives: vatniks

Dignity. Get some.

We all love those stories about America’s impending collapse, which has been “just around the corner” for the past three decades or more, depending on who you talk to. But quite frankly, dear readers, there are times when I’m not sure how the country keeps chugging along. This is one of those times. Watch the video below. Do not turn away. Look at it


“Oh but I don’t have audio right now,” you say, making up excuses to avoid watching this political train wreck, one in which a train full of kittens and puppies slammed into another train carrying human babies and shock-sensitive explosives which were inexplicably packed in razor blades and nails. Not a problem! Go on and read the transcript here.

So now you don’t have time to do all that reading? Gotcha covered again! Here are a few choice extracts!

“How about the rest of us? Right-winging, bitter-clinging, proud clingers of our guns, our God, and our religion, and our Constitution.”

Confused? Not quite clear enough? Here’s a clip of just that part, looped over and over so it can sink in. Whatever you do, whether you read the transcript or watch the nightmarish abomination, keep in mind this was aimed at people who are fond of saying “Speak English or GET OUT!”


I think what you need to realize at this point, dear reader, is that you will not escape from this. You will experience it. We cannot move on and discuss the ramifications of this until you have. So conquer your fear, let it pass through you, and when you turn around you will see that it has faded and you remain, mentally scarred but tougher for having lived through this moment.

Why am I going on about this so much? Well on Sunday I was at this benefit concert and I was discussing the topic of vatniks and their closest American equivalents with some Russians. I had seen this video late, maybe a couple days prior, and as my wife was still up when I got home, I came to a certain realization while we were discussing these topics.

When I watch that video, when I read that eldritch horror of a “speech,” I come to a dark epiphany of sorts, whereby I realize that in some ways, America’s answer to the vatnik is actually quite inferior to the Russian variety in a very crucial way, and the difference is quite sad for America.

To explain let us make an analogy based on the Palin speech above. Suppose we have some political figure in Russia, not a candidate but some celebrity drumming up support for the Dear Leader Vladimir Putin. We’ll call this hypothetical celebrity Boris. In spite of being considerably wealthy thanks to his service to the state, Boris makes public appearances dressed like a stereotypical Russian gopnik, right down to his knock-off “Abbibas” track pants. He comes up on stage, squats, and begins to speak in between sips of Jaguar alco-energy cocktail and spitting out sunflower seed shells. He tells his audience he’s a real Russian, as Russian as Russian can be, and real Russians, who love cheap vodka and carpets on their walls, support Putin. Then he puts on some Russian pop music and starts dancing like this:


I’m telling you right now that I have faith in the vatniy-est of vatniks to say that I don’t think they’d buy it. I mean they might not start throwing things at the stage but probably everyone in that audience is going to suspect that this is some liberal oppositionist who is mocking them. Acting in this way and then saying that he’s like them would be seen as insulting to their intelligence, and make no mistake, being a vatnik and being highly intelligent are not mutually exclusive. Vatnost is about lack of critical thinking, sound reasoning, or moral issues, but it does not exclude education or higher than average intelligence.

Our hypothetical Boris the “real Russian” would be rejected because he represents a part of Russian society that vatniks would rather not pay attention to. The Russian society that the vatnik aspires to is one in which people are religious and virtuous. Their heroes are romanticized portraits of cossacks, tsarist officers, or heroic Red Army soldiers. They believe that their literary classics are far more important than foreign literature. I’m sure your average vatnik could easily recite Pushkin and probably a few lines from other works of Russian literature. And while they lack any ability to come up with a coherent interpretation of history, they do display a marked ability to rattle off isolated yet more or less correct historical factoids, something that few Americans conservative or otherwise could be asked to do.

Now let us contrast that with the key Trump/Palin demographic, which I’m sure shares considerable overlap with the target audience of Larry the Cable Guy, truck nuts, and TapouT t-shirts. The idealized “real American” to these people is a white, gun-toting, Gawd-fearin’, salt of the earth”redneck.” I put that in quotes because the fact is that many of these people aren’t rednecks by definition. They’ll talk about “small town America” even though they’re from massive cities and live in suburban McMansions with SUVs or minivans. And take a look at the gun-toting ones. Guns aren’t cheap, and neither are the bells and whistles that a lot of these guys purchase for their precious firearms. Granted, these types also like to make fun of rednecks, but they also see them as a key part of “real America.” If you want an entertaining take on the weird relationship between conservatism and “rednecks” I suggest watching this two-part video some time.

This seems weird to me because with the way the right idolizes the “self-made” businessman, in reality the super rich, one wonder why they don’t promote that aesthetic and image among their target demographic. It would seem that rather than glorifying the image of BBQs, guns, and country music, they should be convincing America’s working poor whites to spend what little money they have on cheap suits and encouraging them to emulate hedge fund managers, bankers, and other so-called “job creators.” Instead of a guy who was born and raised in the suburbs of a major city pretending he’s into fishing, they ought to be smoking cigars and saying things like “Yeah you’ve gotta buy low and sell high to make it in this market!”

What about admiration and promotion of classic American literature? Forget it. “Hemingway can go back to England! Anyway all you really need to read is the Holy Bible, but that’s really thick so you need a pastor or Bible group leader to read it to you a little bit at a time so you can understand it good!” And recite lines of poetry? You’re basically asking to be labeled a “faggot.” Historical facts? “Son all you need to know is that George Washington and Robert E. Lee whupped those tea-suckin’ British asses when they tried to to take our guns in World War II. The only historical facts that matter are sports stats!”


Source: A great way to troll your conservative family members.


Once again we see a divide where Russian vatniks come out on top, because nobody can accuse them of being anti-intellectual as so many American conservatives are. Russian vatniks will reject academic research that contradicts their views, but they don’t tend to criticize intellectualism or academia in general.

Hell, Russian vatniks…pardon the pun…trump their American counterparts even in the realm of music. Remember this old gem?

The thing about this song is that it’s really only bad if you know Russian. To untrained ears and eyes this just looks like some kind of traditional folk song.

Now compare that to…whatever the fuck this is supposed to be:


I think the best reaction to this video when it first came out was that of Ed from Gin & Tacos, who said “Prussian Blue added a third kid, I guess.” It’s also worth noting that the Russian song is, to the best of my knowledge, original, whereas this horror show butchers a historic American song. That and social services didn’t whisk these poor girls away to a foster home as soon as this performance is over, because something tells me that these girls have at least a 50% chance of getting fatally shot when daddy has a “gun cleaning accident” in his living room.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, or rather what I want to ask so many of these working class conservatives, is simply: “Are you really buying this? Don’t you see that they are mocking you, that these people have nothing in common with you and don’t really understand you? Have you no dignity?” Just look at this excerpt from Palin’s “speech” and tell me this isn’t ridiculously condescending if not incredibly dishonest, both in its description of Trump and its implication that Palin and her family are working class.

“He’s not an elitist. And yes, as a multi-billionaire, we still root him on, because he roots us on. And he has, he’s spent his life with the workin’ man. And he tells us Joe six packs, he said, “You know, I’ve worked very, very hard. And I’ve succeeded. Hugely I’ve succeeded,” he says. And he says, “I want you to succeed too.”

She actually uses the term “Joe six packs,” a term which is often used by elitists to describe the unwashed masses. This is hardly the first time they’ve done something like this either. Remember “Joe the Plumber?” Reader, I was raised in a conservative family and had very conservative views for a good part of my life, yet for some reason I never wanted to be seen as a “Joe Six Pack.” I’ve never accepted the idea that poverty and and a working class background must be synonymous with stupidity and ignorance. That was, and still is insulting to me and it’s insulting to millions of other people regardless of their political beliefs. When I see things like that speech it just looks like some kind of bizarre minstrel show lampooning class rather than race, and I wonder what comes next. Maybe one day Palin or the next huckster will be even more condescending, throwing their elbows back and forth while pronouncing the following:

“Hey y’all rednecks, hillbillies, country bumpkins, and blue collar Joe Six Pack slobs! If y’all believe in the Good Book, guns, and making America great again, y’all best vote for Donald Trump! He won’t let them Mexicans replace your football with that pansy-ass soccer! He’ll cut yer taxes to zero so you’ll never run out of cheap beer while you watch the game! So whaddaya say, all you Gawd-loving, gun clinging, Moozlim-hatin’, Bahble-thumpin’, stump jumpin, cousin-banging, wife-punchin’, meth-makin’, teenager impregnatin’ hicks?! Has Trump got y’all’s vote? YEEEEE HAWWWW! HYUCK YUCK!!! THE SOUTH SHALL RISE AGAIN!”    

And now I wonder if the same audience that cheers Palin and Trump heard such a speech, would they react any differently to that which Palin actually gave at that event? Would they, like a Russian vatnik, suspect that someone is trying to mock them and patronize them? Or would they continue to clap and pledge their undying support?

For truly the vatniks of Russia pledge their support to Putin, but Putin and his crew, at least overtly, tell their constituency that they are a great nation- cultured, advanced, morally superior. There are many other factors which explain vatniks’ apparent though passive support for the system, but if we ignore those for a moment it isn’t hard to imagine why people would rally around a leader who strokes their ego. In reality the Russian elite has nothing but contempt for their people, but they at least make some effort to hide this in their public statements.

By contrast America’s conservative elite give us these caricatures who tell working people that real hard-working Americans are obsessed with guns, religion, and BBQs.  Then they use those votes to enact ever more policies that worsen the lives of those same people they mock, right to their faces no less. So sure, the vatnik is submissive and puts up with a lot of humiliation while the American equivalent will be out in the streets protesting things that aren’t even happening (e.g. “death panels”), but on the other hand they will basically endure the most cynical mockery from their own “heroes” without batting an eye.


Making vatniks look good

I’m happy to announce that my debut article for Russia! magazine, on the topic of vatnost, has been republished. Unfortunately I’m too swamped to make a proper update today, but I did read a few articles on We Hunted the Mammoth and I wanted to say a couple words about them.

We Hunted the Mammoth is dedicated to monitoring and lampooning the so-called “Men’s Rights” or “Red Pill” movement. More specifically, it often focuses on the more extreme, far more disturbing movement known as “MGTOW” or “Men Going Their Own Way.” Luckily this bullshit hasn’t really caught on in Russia in spite of the already-existing baseline of misogyny in Russian society which is sadly common in many countries. That being said, there is a connecting thread, as the Red Pillers and MGTOW types are often closely connected to the Loser Carousel and sexpat/mail order bride culture.

What I can say about these people is this- Holy…fucking…shit. These “people” are literally among the worst you will ever encounter. They rate somewhere on par with pedophilia advocates. We’re talking about people who can apparently learn about a young woman being brutally murdered and then speculate as to how it was probably her fault. One thing is for sure, it’s always feminism’s fault in every case, no matter how horribly the male in the story was acting.

For any of you guys out there who might encounter these creeps, do not for a second be fooled by their talk of “masculinity” and standing up for the rights of men and boys. These cultists are backbiters who relentlessly attack any man who refuses to join them in their pity party, constantly whining about how terribly women treat them. And the projection! These dudes project so much they ought to open a goddamn IMAX theater.

These people make vatniks look virtuous by comparison. I mean vatniks wish for nuclear war (seemingly unaware that it will kill them too), but wishing death in a nuclear holocaust is a bit different than fantasizing about brutally beating, raping, and/or dismembering women, which seems to be a pretty typical topic for these jerkoffs.

There’s something tragically ironic about “men” complaining about other men today, when if anything, they are examples of the problem with men these days. Baby boomers raised a generation of insanely entitled dickheads and now we’ve got to live with it. Yeah, keep on bashing millennials you self-absorbed post-WWII cocksocks- thanks for ruining the economy and unleashing your special wittle snowfwake crotchfruit on the rest of society.

If any of these types are reading this, before calling me a “mangina,” or “white knight,” your standard go-to insults for any man who is not ridiculous insecure about his masculinity and thus unwilling to join in your little cry-about-women cult, please understand this- Do NOT come to Russia. Tell all your loser friends too. You’re not going to find your sex robot here (yes, apparently some of them actually dream about creating a perfect sex robot). All the things in America you think you’re escaping from will find you in Russia tenfold. You will still be a loser, only a loser with far less money and living in shit weather. Please, stay home. Seal yourself inside your computer room by bricking up the doorway. Those evil women will never get you in there.

Vat or Not?

Recently I was reading some feedback on my article about vatnost (Russia! is going through a site overhaul so here’s the cached link), and I noticed a curious misunderstanding some Westerners have when it comes to the concept of vatniks and vatnost. To some, it seems that vatniks are just the Russian equivalent to, for example, American conservatives. One reader made a direct link between vatniks and the Tea Party movement, for example. To be sure, I myself have made such comparisons in the past, but I would never imply that they are identical.

Still, there is a valid question which arises any time we speak of vatniks or the mentality of vatnost. Are vatniks and vatnost actually unique to Russia? In fact we could ask a number of more specific questions, for example: Is there such a thing as a Ukrainian vatnik, and if so how do they influence the relationship between Russia and Ukraine? These are all perfectly good questions that deserve concrete answers. Here at the Dmitry Kiselyov Institute of Vatnik and Vatnost Studies (Институт Исследования Ватников и Ватности имени Д.К. Киселева, ИИВВДК) we endeavor to provide those answers using the most rigorous scholarly methods.

Pictured here: An actual vatnik, donated by the Institute from its own collection.

Pictured here: An actual vatnik, donated by the Institute from its own collection.

Is there such a thing as a Ukrainian vatnik? Yes! Meet the Vishivatnik.

The term Vishivatnik refers to the vishivanka (spelling varies), which is the term for embroidered shirts and blouses that are traditional clothing from Ukraine. Now some might dismiss the vishivatnik as a tit-for-tat meme cooked up by pro-Russian trolls; while such a meme exists, the real vishivatnik appears to have been created by the same people who popularized the vatnik meme, meaning Russians (and possibly Ukrainians) who are most of all opposed to Putin and his system. I strongly suspect that there is Ukrainian involvement in the creation of the vishivatnik, and that he may be a creation of Ukrainians who are pro-Maidan but openly concerned about some of its more negative elements.

Ukrainian vishivatnik argues with traditional Russian vatnik. Each speaks his respective language, but their words are essentially the same- they each blame one another for  their respective countries' woes, and they are raging xenophobes and homophobes.

Ukrainian vishivatnik argues with traditional Russian vatnik. Each speaks his respective language, but their words are essentially the same- they each blame one another for their respective countries’ woes, and they are raging xenophobes and homophobes.

What are the features of the vishivatnik? Well for one thing, all of Ukraine’s woes, big and small, are blamed on Russia and in particular, the Soviet Union.  Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, but things didn’t get too much better so that means the country was still ruled by Russia. The Orange Revolution of 2004 was supposed to change that, but somehow president Yushchenko’s constant efforts to whitewash and glorify the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Stepan Bandera inexplicably failed to resolve Ukraine’s economic and corruption problems- so that means it was ruled by Russia then as well. Of course when Yanukovych was in charge Ukraine was ruled by Russia, even though it was Yanukovych who initially set Ukraine on the path to the very same EU association agreement which ultimately sparked Euromaidan.  Then of course Yanukovych punked out and ran to Russia, but guess what- Ukraine is still ruled by Russia!

The vishivatnik is a practitioner of what I dub “voodoo politics.” That is to say he might not necessarily be a nationalist, but he believes that paying homage to the cult of Stepan Bandera and the OUN is an essential requirement for being pro-Ukraine, if not Ukrainian itself. Thus, acceptance of the myths concocted by “scholars” such as Volodymyr Viatrovych, a major backer of Ukraine’s recent historical revisionist laws, is seen as a solution to the problem of Russian “5th columnists.” If you fail to at least tolerate and voice approval the diaspora-concocted, Disney version of Ukrainian nationalist history, you’ll be suspected of having pro-Moscow sympathies.

How does this mesh with vatnost in Russia? Well for one thing, vatniks believe the world revolves around Russia. America is the great puppet master pulling the strings, so that when other countries refuse to approve of Russia’s actions, they’re part of the conspiracy. For example, this is why most countries don’t recognize the Russian annexation of the Crimea- America is forcing them to withhold recognition. But wait a second- staunch Russian allies, members of the Eurasian Union, in fact, also don’t recognize the annexation. Belarus doesn’t, neither does Kazakhstan. None of the so-called BRICS countries other than Russia recognize it either. Is Belarus controlled by America? Is China?

In similar fashion, the vishivatnik believes in a massive worldwide conspiracy against Ukraine which is orchestrated by Moscow. Polish testimony about the ethnic cleansing suffered at the hands of the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in 1943 is nothing but lying propaganda. Or wait, maybe those Poles deserved it, because they were nationalists! Or perhaps those UPA units that committed atrocities were really NKVD men in disguise, unless the victims were actually working for the Communist regime, of course. Modern-day Poland is spreading a Communist myth about the ethnic cleansing of Volyn, because we all know how much Poland loves Moscow and the Soviet Union! All documents which reveal the fascist ideology of figures like Stepan Bandera and the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists are forgeries! Even the internal documents maintained by the American CIA after the war are obviously Communist forgeries. The KGB must have been in control of the CIA at the height of the Cold War! Accept this unless you want to be branded a tool of Moscow!

Here we see the same general theme as with the Russian vatnik. Separate, often radically different states and governments have been engaged in a conspiracy to malign and slander a heroic, tolerant, liberal democratic nationalist movement (the only one of its kind at the time!), and this conspiracy has now stretched on for nearly a century. Why? Because Moscow is somehow manipulating the entire world into crushing Ukraine’s glory, which of course can only be achieved when there’s a monument to Bandera in every Ukrainian city.

There we see the commonalities between the mentality of the Russian and Ukrainian vatnik strains, but we must also look at what sets them apart. The vishivatnik is typically of a younger generation. Russian vatniks tend to be older. There is a far more glaring difference, however, in the way that vatniks and vishivatniks relate to dissent and political change. The Russian vatnik scorns people who protest or organize to air grievances against the government. This is rocking the boat. This threatens their precious stability (which isn’t stable at all, as it turns out). Stop demanding things from the government! What? You’re not? Then stop demanding that the government leave you alone so you can do things yourself! Shut up and stay home, you filthy 5th columnist! Don’t you know they rape dogs in Europe?

The vishivatnik, quite admirably in fact, does not hold this mentality. Vishivatniks were a part of Maidan, for example. They have not been kind of the present government either, sometimes threatening another Maidan when they don’t get their way. In fact, Ukraine’s recent anti-Communist laws may in fact be an attempt to throw a big bone to that demographic. Just as Russia distracts people with tales of how bad life is in Ukraine and non-stop WWII imagery, the vishivatnik can be sated with the sight of a toppling Lenin statue, or a law which bans any criticism of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, which is incidentally a movement that never garnered the support of anything but a tiny minority of Ukrainians, even in its strongest regions. In short, the vishivatnik, despite so many negative qualities and despite being a drag on Ukrainian society as it struggles to enter the 21st century, at least possesses one very admirable trait- a favorable view towards standing up to power and authority.

The Russian vatnik doesn’t get out in the streets, except for maybe 250-300 rubles at a time. Moreover, vatniks are almost explicitly against protesting and disrespect for authority on principle. When they do mobilize, it is always against authorized targets. These targets will either be distant, like the United States, or they are extremely marginalized and unprotected Russians such as gays and lesbians, or members of the opposition. In other words, the vatnik is usually a bully, picking on the defenseless and weak, and in this he is encouraged by his government which gives signals as to what targets are acceptable for venting rage. The vishivatnik can also be a bully sometimes, and their worldview is very similar to that of Putinist Russia, but at least he doesn’t demand people shut up and stay home for the sake of some non-existent “stability.”

Denims? American vatniks? 

In the beginning of this article I alluded to the idea that the Russian vatniks are analogous to American conservatives. In an earlier article (link in the beginning), I coined the term “denims” for these folks, rooted in the idea that denim is more commonly associated with America. Truth be told I’m not married to the name, and I’m open to suggestions. But while there is much similarity between Tea Party types and Russian vatniks, the differences are profound and in fact much deeper than those we see between the Russian and Ukrainian vatnik varieties.

For one thing, Russian vatniks are usually very impoverished. We typically associate American conservatives with “rednecks,” but this is a very poor stereotype. In fact, many hardcore conservatives and Tea Party types are basically middle class to upper-middle class types who are feeling the squeeze and directing their rage towards the wrong targets- minorities, immigrants, etc. They tend to have all the trappings of American consumerism, in some cases they lived far beyond their means. Now they have failed to achieve their dreams and they look for a scapegoat. So while the Russian vatnik says, “Shut up and be happy living in mud,” the Tea Partier is basically saying, “Don’t touch my stuff!” The vatnik is happy to live in filth in a decaying village or town, so long as he believes the world fears Russia and he gets to hear how Russia is humiliating its neighbors. This won’t do for the American conservative. Though they love lecturing and insulting the poor, they won’t settle for less just because America has a powerful military. They want, no need, a jet-ski, and they can’t afford it because of all those damned illegal immigrants!


Another aspect of the American conservative is the disdain for “government handouts” and state control. Of course they tend to be oblivious to the real nature of government intervention, as they always consider government intervention that benefits them personally to be righteous and just, whereas any support or subsidies that don’t benefit them will be labeled as wasteful. The Russian vatnik wants government handouts. They’ll exchange their freedom and rights in the vain hope that some day the Russian state will intervene and roll the price of sausage back to Soviet-era lows.

Freedom itself is just an illusion to the Russian vatnik, whereas your average conservative can’t shut up about “Muh freedums!” Naturally American conservatives, and on occasion even libertarians, can be really hypocritical about what freedoms they support. They want the right to own almost any kind of firearm with virtually no restrictions, yet they want to restrict women from having abortions and getting birth control. They insist that any attempt to keep them from shoving their religion down people’s throats, often on the public dime, constitutes an attack on their freedom of conscience. They’re happy to lobby the government to prevent the building of mosques, though. In spite of all this, however, freedom is a major theme among American conservatives. In fact the problem is that they rarely appreciate how much freedom they have, and this is why they will liken things such as Obamacare as “Stalinist tyranny.”

In general, talk about freedom or rights sails right over the heads of vatniks. The freedom to protest or publish something is seen as useless, whereas having a low-paying but stable job that buys black bread and pelmeni is crucial. In a way, this comes down to the difference between negative freedoms, i.e. that which you are allowed to do, and positive freedoms, that which you can actually do. The problem is, that modern-day Russia lacks a lot of negative freedoms and it provides little in the way of positive freedoms. Many people in this country just barely get by on tiny salaries and pensions. With increasing crackdowns on negative freedoms, they aren’t even allowed to organize and voice their complaints about this situation without fear of harassment or arrest.

One might be tempted to believe that both American conservatives and vatniks are very religious, but this is an illusion. Far more vatniks profess orthodoxy than actually go to church. Even then, they tend to display poor knowledge about their faith and it has little bearing on their actions in the real world. By contrast American conservatives tend to be far more sincere and knowledgeable about their religion, and that religion does guide their every day actions. Yes, they view porn, have pre-marital sex, and occasionally get caught with a gay prostitute, but on the whole if you meet a church-going American conservative, you’re unlikely to run into him at the local strip club any time soon.

The reader may note that here we focused on the differences between American conservatives and vatniks first. What about commonality? I feel that is to be found in the patriotism factor. For the American conservative, the country is like a father figure, and they look up to him as a young boy idolizes his dad. When exposed to facts that reveal dad’s flaws, conservatives get upset. That history book is “political correct!” The “libruls” are re-writing our history! We need patriotic history classes! The American conservative simply cannot fathom that self-criticism and a realistic view of the past is actually positive and in fact crucial for a country to succeed. The conservative doesn’t want that. He wants a simplistic, fairy tale narrative that reassures him of his worldview. Critics are traitors. I don’t think I even need to explain how this is nearly identical to the patriotism of the vatnik or even the vishevatnik.

Conclusion: 50 shades of grey, cotton-stuffed material

As we see from this brief survey, Russian vatnost has analogs, but it still maintains its uniqueness.The common thread is ignorance, binary thinking, the ability to hold mutually exclusive ideas, and personal insecurity, but the outward expression varies depending on the country. In some cases, the vatnik merely exceeds other nations’ own incarnations. For example, the Russian vatnik’s ability to hold mutually exclusive, contradictory ideas simultaneously is simply uncanny. For example, Lenin was a German agent sent to destroy Russia…But Ukraine is run by fascists because they knocked over some of his statues. Or for an even better example: Russia didn’t invade the Crimea, but then it did, to save the people from what happened over a month later in the Donbass, but Russia isn’t doing anything to save those people, who are being slaughtered and starved to death. And in spite of that, Putin is still a great leader, even though he is essentially letting poor Russians be murdered en masse by Ukrainian Nazis. If we had an Olympic event for mental gymnastics, the Russian vatnik would take the gold every time.

I have written on the idea that understanding vatnost is key to understanding Russia. Some have seen this as a silver bullet approach- read about this meme and you’ll suddenly “get it.” That was not my intention. There is obviously a lot more to Russia than vatnost, and more importantly, there are many Russians who revile vatniks and vatnost. After all, these ideas were produced by Russians. However, the understanding of vatnost is essential when trying to interpret and predict the reactions of the Russian public to foreign and domestic policies. Smaller neighbors of Russia such as the Baltic countries and Poland definitely need to study this phenomenon. Poland in particular needs such a lesson, as recently there were stories about Poles forming volunteer militias against a potential Russian invasion. Lithuania has also made more extensive preparations. There’s nothing wrong with strengthening national defense within reason, but these public moves only bring joy to vatniks. “They’re afraid of us! We’re a superpower! We’re an empire! Thank you Putin!”

Governments and individuals need to understand vatnost so they can implement policies with integral anti-vat aspects. Instead of feeding the vatnik ego, they should stress the irrelevance and failure of Putin’s state. Statements should be carefully worded so that they don’t come off as fearful or panicky. And most of the time the best statement is no statement at all, to remind the vatniks how irrelevant their country has become, and how that is Putin’s doing. To that end, it might be a good idea for European governments to fund the creation of a special think tank to focus on these matters- The Vatnost Policy Centre.

Denims: American Vatniks.

Yesterday I warned Americans about the danger of Russian-style, post-modernist “unreality” taking hold in America if fear-mongering confidence men like Glenn Beck are not opposed. Today I encountered a piece from the heartland which shows you that America is not too far removed from Russia when it comes to poor critical thinking skills.


Oh yes, it’s that time again.

If America has any edge on Russia in terms of political theatrics, it’s that the American Republican party is pretty good at keeping the real nutcases bottled up in state legislatures while only letting more moderate types ascend to the House and Senate in DC. Sure, there are exceptions, such as when it comes to reproductive rights issues, and the party has been steadily moving to the right. However, for the foreseeable future we can rest assured that the honorable Cody “Bubba” Jerritt, whose pet projects include returning to the gold standard, proclaiming Jesus Christ the “True King of America”, and automatic secession from the USA in the event of an invasion by UN troops will never manage to escape Alabama. He’d be defeated in the primary and forced to go back home to his home town of Methlabburg.

Of course if you give these people enough time to stew and spread their message, they could one day gain more influence on a national scale, much the same as the religious right achieved during the Culture Wars of the 90’s and under the Bush years. What is more, is that even if they can’t influence power at the federal level, it doesn’t mean they can’t totally wreck things in their states. There’s a reason why reactionaries throughout American history tended to be advocates of states’ rights after the Civil War. At the state level they can bully and intimidate people with impunity unless the federal government steps in.

Who are these people? Well today’s item is about dipshits in Oklahoma who are upset about the “political agenda” in their public school history curriculum. What political agenda you might ask? It’s not patriotic enough! Apparently, deliberately molding and shaping a history curriculum so as to make it more “patriotic” is not a political agenda at all. Except when other countries do it, of course.

Let’s check out a few horrifying excerpts, shall we?

An Oklahoma legislative committee overwhelmingly voted to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History class, persuaded by the argument that it only teaches students “what is bad about America.” Other lawmakers are seeking a court ruling that would effectively prohibit the teaching of all AP courses in public schools.

Hmmm…This sounds really familiar. When I was a young lad we had conservatives complaining about “politically correct” textbooks that were supposedly denigrating America’s great white heroes. Incidentally, I never encountered any of those books. All my textbooks were pretty much “Hooray for America.” James Loewen used twelve commonly-used history textbooks as the basis of his book Lies my Teacher Told Me, which was first published in 1995. All of these books were overly patriotic and totally glossed over numerous negative chapters in American history. Based on this, it is highly unlikely that these AP courses are using the works of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky in their syllabus.

Fisher said the Advanced Placement history class fails to teach “American exceptionalism.” The bill passed the Oklahoma House Education committee on Monday on a vote of 11-4.

I always find it funny when people act like failing to believe or in this case teach American exceptionalism is a negative thing. To the rational person, this is like complaining that the schools don’t teach Holocaust denial, racial science, or the divine right of kings. Basically this Fisher fellow is upset that the schools won’t teach kids that Santa Claus is real.

Here’s another pair of ominous excerpts:

The RNC said a new framework for the exam “reflects a radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.”

Under the changes proposed in Colorado “students would only be taught lessons depicting American heritage in a positive light, and effectively ban any material that could lead to dissent.”

Only two eagles? Godless Communists!

Only two eagles? Godless Communists!

People who follow the circus that is the Russian Duma ought to take these quotes to heart. Americans would be naive indeed to believe that the mentality of the Russian vatnik cannot be exported. Russia has a large population of people who are cynical, bitter, eager to blame others for their problems, and perpetually outraged at their inability to achieve their dreams. America has a population with the same mentality, even if it is smaller or less intense due to a higher standard of living. Setting these minor nuances aside, rest assured that there are more than enough people in the US who would happily wield the power of the government, even the federal government, in order to suppress by force of law any viewpoints which they do not like. The only difference between the US and Russia in this respect is that in America you have far more resources and freedoms at your disposal to fight those people, be it on the streets, in the school boards, in the state legislatures, and so on.

America’s vatniks, whom we should call denims perhaps, can only win if good people let them. Do not just dismiss these cranks by saying this is just “flyover country.” Today that may be true. Five to ten years down the road it could be another story as repeated victories “mainstream” these idiotic beliefs. Russia’s problem is vatnost; America’s biggest threat may be denimism.

Though you hate them so, Vatnik, know that you have legions of brothers across the sea. They'd hate you too if the could find you on a map, but they consider teaching the existence of other countries to be a liberal, pagan conspiracy.

Though you hate them so, Vatnik, know that you have legions of brothers across the sea. They’d hate you too if the could find you on a map, but they consider teaching the existence of other countries to be a liberal, pagan conspiracy.

PS- For those of you who don’t like the term denim to refer to American vatniks, rest assured I’m not married to that name. If you have a better suggestion I’d like to hear about it in the comments.