In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the months of October and September in the seventeenth (and final?) year of The New American Century.
PUTIN, PUTIN EVERYWHERE!
PUTIN OF THE EVIL SCARY DEATH EYES
The Economist, one of the reliable goto sources for anti-Russian extrusions, sums up evil-eyed Putin:
Every week Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, finds new ways to scare the world. Recently he moved nuclear-capable missiles close to Poland and Lithuania. This week he sent an aircraft-carrier group down the North Sea and the English Channel. He has threatened to shoot down any American plane that attacks the forces of Syria’s despot, Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s UN envoy has said that relations with America are at their tensest in 40 years. Russian television news is full of ballistic missiles and bomb shelters. ‘Impudent behaviour’ might have ‘nuclear consequences’, warns Dmitry Kiselev, Mr Putin’s propagandist-in-chief—who goes on to cite Mr Putin’s words that ‘If a fight is inevitable, you have to strike first.’
(Editors note: shouldn’t you mention that he used to be in the KGB?). Even its readers don’t buy it – look at the most recommended comments. Soon The Economist will excrete a piece arguing that, for the sake of free speech and other Western values, those who disagree with Big Brother (aka purveyors or dupes of Putin’s “hacking and disinformation campaign“) should be silenced.
PUTIN AND THE AMERICAN ELECTION
The big story before the election, as Clinton was floundering, even in the polls that overstated her numbers, was that Putin was interfering in the US election. The Administration “officially accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the 2016 elections, including by hacking the computers of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations” and counter attacks were promised. Newsweek, a few days before the election, explained “Why Vladimir Putin’s Russia Is Backing Donald Trump” (no doubt a teaser for its Madame President edition). The Washington Post again hammered away at the meme: “Putin’s hope to ignite a Eurasia-style protest in the United States“. (Top comment “we need to deliver trump such a blow on november 8 the whole world will see the sane and reasonable are really still in charge here.”) Although more sober voices argued that there was no serious evidence of Russian involvement and the FBI found “no link between Trump and Russia”, the story had wide coverage: 6 million Google hits. Wikileaks was part of Putin’s conspiracy: by publishing revelations of malfeasance (and the author doesn’t doubt their truth) the media was forced to, well, how else to put it, reveal the malfeasance. That mental incoherence somehow proves “why Putin’s plan is so devilish: He’s undermining the credibility of two key American institutions in one go.“
There was, of course, a giant logical problem with these Putin-is-trying-to-get-Trump-elected conspiracy theories using fake news (if I may emphasise): it put into peoples’ minds the idea that the election could be rigged – into 41% of American voters’ minds, to be exact. And Trump himself started saying that the election might be rigged and that he would reserve judgement on the results. This was not the purpose of the fake news, and the purveyors of these conspiracy theories had to try and walk the story back: the WaPo ran a piece to reassure the punters, “Reminder: There’s almost no chance our election can get hacked by the Russians“. The NYT incoherently squared the circle by saying it won’t be “rigged” but it could be “hacked”.
So as the election began early on 8 November the story was that Putin had but couldn’t and you should either be scared that he had or reassured that he couldn’t; in any case he wanted you to vote for Trump.
The election happened but the expected result did not. Leaving the readers of the WaPo, NYT at al concluding that Putin had indeed finagled the result. Now what? Nuke Russia? Declare the election null and void? Or fess up that the whole story was an invention to divert attention from the Clinton machine’s corruption of the process? The cover story had dangerous implications.
Fortunately, the White House has been responsible and acted to reverse the Russia-did-it meme. Not only did President Obama personally begin the transition by meeting with Trump but the White House stated that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people” (of course, having got out on the limb in the first place, it couldn’t avoid mentioning “Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election”). But the next day a spokesman walked the story back even farther: he repeated that the results reflected the will of the people and added “The federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day… We believe our elections were free and fair from a cybersecurity perspective.” I suppose that’s as close as we will get to an official admission that the Russia hacking story was fake news. To nail the coffin lid tighter, Five Thirty Eight had an analytic piece showing that “Demographics, Not Hacking, Explain The Election Results“.
As a final gasp we have this (WaPo of course): “If you’re even asking if Russia hacked the election, Russia got what it wanted: It’s all about sowing confusion and doubt”. So, even if the whole conspiracy theory was assembled out of fake news it’s really true.
“So we’re just going to forget WikiLeaks and Russia helped Trump?” Well, if the story is bunkum – and most of the readers seem to think so – then maybe we should just forget about it.
Because the WaPo was one of the principal purveyors of the fake news based conspiracy theory about Putin hacking the US election it is fitting that it should be the principal purveyor of the next chapter in the Putin Derangement Syndrome saga. (I have italicised these expressions to make the point that the real fake news is produced in locations rather closer to Washington than the Kremlin.)
The flood of ‘fake news’ this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation.
The authority for much of this is an outfit called PropOrNot (website) whose criterion is absurdly widespread: “it does not matter whether the sites listed here are being knowingly directed and paid by Russian intelligence officers, or whether they even knew they were echoing Russian propaganda at any particular point“. In short, anyone who disagrees with the site. People like Ron Paul, Drudge or ZeroHedge. I won’t bother to criticise this latest fake news based conspiracy theory because Matt Taibbi has done it better than I could. “The ‘Washington Post’ ‘Blacklist’ Story Is Shameful and Disgusting“. The story is collapsing: when even The New Yorker trashes it (“a close look at the report showed that it was a mess“) it’s gone. Or, at least, this version is; I don’t think we’ve heard the last.
I can’t resist referring to a piece I wrote a couple of years ago on the motivation for this stuff: “The Western Spinners are Losing and They Know It“. The whole idea of Putintrolls writing content for our news outlets is preposterous:
Has your Local News Outlet mentioned the evidence that the Malaysian airliner was shot down by a Ukrainian aircraft? How about evidence that the “Heavenly Hundred” were actually killed by “elements of the Maidan opposition, including its extremist far right wing”? Any questioning of NATO’s commercially-obtained satellite photos? Mention of atrocities by “volunteer battalions” in the east? No, of course it hasn’t. You can only read about MH17 on sites like globalresearch.ca, the Maidan killers in academic journals, NATO’s evidence is only criticised on websites, only Russian news sites report atrocities. These are easily dismissed as, in order: crazy conspiracy sites, probably not peer-reviewed, pro-Russian websites and Kremlin funded so-called news organisations. None of it is “real journalism” and therefore none of it is worthy of inclusion in your LNO.
They’re losing and they’re trying to stop criticism and alternate points of view. It tells you where the truth lies: in the Old Days the Soviets jammed our broadcasts; we didn’t worry about theirs.
PUTIN’S WORLDWIDE MIND CONTROL
And its not just the spinning that’s coming apart: Brexit, politicians open to Russia winning in Bulgaria and Moldova, the Trumpquake, the Italian referendum and many many other signs of dissent. In a few years, the assertion that all these disparate but linked events were a Kremlin conspiracy will be seen as entirely laughable. But not (quite) yet. Russia is “brainwashing” Europeans says Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius: “In conventional warfare there was artillery attack before the real battle… Now there is no need to use artillery. You can brainwash.” As a former high official in the Communist Youth League of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (Google it), he should have insider knowledge about brainwashing. A German newspaper worries that Russian “cyber attacks” may affect Germany. Putin is about to win the French presidential election: “France’s next president is likely to be part of a new, hardline Moscow-Paris-Washington axis: supporting Russia’s Vladimir Putin, appeasing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, and turning geopolitics away from liberalism and human rights”. Amazing how influential RT and Sputnik are isn’t it? And on such a modest budget too.
Disclaimer. I confess to relying on a lot of sites on PropOrNot’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Why? Because after years – not years, just the last 12 months will do – of Putin’s gunslinger walk, secret love children, billions stashed in Panama, Russian submarines in Sweden, “last hospital in Aleppo” destroyed over and over again, Putin “probably” dunnit, verdicts based on social media, “moderate rebels”, “Crimea’s ‘new normal’ of repression”, Russian sports cheating and “barrel bombs” I have come to a simple conclusion:
“Fake news” from these sites is more reliable than “real news” from the WaPo and its tribe.
MISCELLANEOUS SCARY THINGS
“Putin tells budding geography students that ‘Russia’s borders don’t end anywhere’ amid growing tensions with the West and NATO“. Actually he said граница (singular) and he’s pedantically correct – the border – the edge – of Russia (or any other country) is continuous. The kid answered the question “where does the Russia-US border end?” correctly but it was not the question Putin asked.
“THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING Vladimir Putin’s nuclear warships pictured steaming towards the English Channel as Royal Navy prepares to scramble fleet“. Well, they didn’t invade the UK after all.
From The Guardian, another evergreen source of all things scary: “Aleppo, Ukraine, cyber attacks, Baltic threats: what should we do about Putin?“. “Putin, like a marauding Red Army tank, has no reverse gear”. “Assuming Trump loses, a Clinton administration has three possible courses of action….”. But he didn’t lose and other possibilities appear.
As an entry in the Putin Derangement Syndrome Scary Headlines that Have Nothing to do with the Content Category we have “Vladimir Putin’s secret CLONE ARMY of designer attack dogs taught to sniff out explosives.” Not so scary and not so secret either: the three dogs were cloned by a South Korean professor who presented them to the police in Yakutia where he is doing research.
And finally, the clear winner in the Putin Derangement Syndrome Return of Cthulhu Category from the UK’s Daily Express: “Is 14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin? A KILLER giant squid that can hypnotise its prey and paralyse humans at a distance of 150 feet using poisonous venom is being developed as a secret weapon by Vladimir.” The short answer is “no”. Note to editors: research Lake Vostok and the plot of The Thing in Wikipedia. Mercifully, not even the WaPo or The Economist have seen fit to repeat this piece of fake news.
Will this be the last of my Putin Derangement Syndrome series? I don’t think so, the illness is too strongly held but I do hope that it will diminish. In the meantime, I leave you with this quote so easily applicable to the Putin Derangement Syndrome condition.