Remember the Spinal Tap scene where the witless band member explains that because their numbers go to 11 they can always get that little bit extra? Putin Derangement Syndrome went past 11 a long time ago: we need a whole new set of superlatives, “craziest” just won’t do any more
After writing this compendium of nonsense about Putin from Western sources in 2015, I ran a short series on Putin Derangement Syndrome; I gave up when Putin Derangement Syndrome and Trump Derangement Syndrome merged into a crescendo of craziness, far past what I could have imagined.
(And Trump Derangement Syndrome is also past 11 – “Why Ivanka Trump’s new haircut should make us very afraid“.)
In the past, American hysteria campaigns against the enemy-of-the-moment ended when their target did. Noriega went to jail, Milosevic died in jail, Hussein and Qadaffi were killed, bin Laden was killed, Aidid – but who remembers him? The frenzy built up and up and stopped at the end before it got to 11. But Putin is still there and growing stronger by the moment. And the frenzy therefore has to go past 10, past 11 and ever upwards. One of the craziest (to say nothing of disgusting) things was this absurd cartoon from the (formerly) staid NYT. But that was a whole year ago.
No longer bare chests, Aspergers, big fish, gunslinger walks – in 2015 they were laughing; today Putin has super powers. Two events sent it past 11. Somebody leaked e-mails from the DNC showing that it was rigging the nomination for Clinton and she lost a 99% certain election. Immediately, her campaign settled on blaming Russia for both.
That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [9 November 2016] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument. (From Shattered, quoted here.)
The bogus – bogus because most of the people on his team were part of the conspiracy and knew there was no collusion – Mueller investigation dragged on until – despite the endless “bombshells” – it finally stopped. But the crazies insist… not guilty but… not exonerated! And Trumputin’s principal conspiracist rants on.
Wikipedia tells us that “A conspiracy theory is an explanation of an event or situation that invokes a conspiracy by sinister and powerful actors, often political in motivation, when other explanations are more probable.” The CIA, referring to the Kennedy assassination, is said to have coined the expression in 1967. The “trusted source” media (an description it likes to award itself) is dead set against “conspiracy theories” and quick to denounce them as crazy, prejudiced and criminal. For example, Trump’s statement that Mueller was a hitman, is a “conspiracy theory” as are Trump’s ideas about the Bidens and Ukraine.
Everything I mention below comes from “trusted sources”. Therefore we must assume that all of them – Putin wants Trump to buy Greenland, Russians want to get Americans arguing about pizza, Russians have no moral sense and all the rest – are not “conspiracy theories” but honestly “more probable”.
- When Trump suggested buying Greenland it wasn’t for all the reasons that he and other Americans might have… no! Trump wanting to buy Greenland is yet another sign of Putin’s puppetry. Paul Robinson has read this so I don’t have to and he rightly points out that the author has shown no connection. But Robinson doesn’t get it: the author just knows that Putin’s super powers have created a mind-meld with Trump and that anything he does is what Putin would want him to do. There is no limit to Putin’s powers. (Except in Ukraine and Georgia – for some reason, he can’t get them to go along with him. Evidently, they have some secret shield that stops Putin’s death rays.) The Trumputin mind-meld that makes a US purchase of Greenland actually a Russian purchase is the new high point on the dial, knocking into second place Russia’s responsibility for the Great Hawaiian Pizza War that DHS warned us about; which, in its turn, knocked out Maddow’s Russia will freeze you.
- Watch out for Putin’s agents – one may be right beside you: “In an age where governments sow global political instability by exploiting social media and interpersonal trust, it’s more important than ever to be skeptical of people you connect with — not only online, but in line at Starbucks.”
- “A Kremlin-Linked Firm Invested Millions in Kentucky. Were They After More Than Money?” To ask the question is to answer it, isn’t it? “[T]hey warn the deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America, one that exploits the U.S. free-market system instead of its elections”. So not only do Putin’s super powers threaten our brains but his hands are in our pockets too.
- Epstein suicide… how predictably Russian. No. Predictably American, actually.
- We are told that Finland is “winning the war on fake news” (all of it from Russia of course) by getting students to take their “laptops and cell phones to investigate their chosen topics“. Probably not a very good idea: imagine the reaction of an intelligent child faced with the meandering official Skripal story and Rob Slane’s questions. Much better to teach children that Big Brother loves them and only lies truthfully.
- Tulsi Gabbard questions Washington’s addiction to regime-change wars and actually met Assad. This makes her not only Assad’s “mouthpiece” but (because all enemies are connected) the “New Darling of ‘Russia’s Propaganda Machine‘”.
- An old favourite, the palate cleanser between Russian scare stories so to speak, is that Russia is doomed. “The Best Way to Deal With Russia: Wait for It to Implode” could have been written, with a few detail changes, by any Western pundit at any time (here’s Time in 1927). Bryan MacDonald has coined a clever neologism Russophrenia: “a condition where the sufferer believes Russia is both about to collapse, and take over the world”. A sort of geopolitical Schrödinger situation in which the cat is either alive or dead according to whether the writer wants to frighten or reassure his audience.
- Russians are aliens which whom it is impossible to deal. Do not hope to appeal to Russia’s better nature. It doesn’t have one. Russians “are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever“. “Russians cannot tell good from evil.” “As we all know, the instigator of aggression in Europe today is Russia“.
- And don’t let the facts confuse you: what Moscow has done is no guide to what it could do: “Russia has generally followed international law and procedure in establishing the limits of its extended continental shelf. Russia could choose to unilaterally establish those limits if the procedures prove unfavourable and could utilize its military capabilities in an effort to deny access to disputed Arctic waters or resources”. USAID must counter “Malign Kremlin Influence” (and you thought USAID was about being “the world’s premier international development agency“). The astute reader will, of course, have noticed that all this is projection. Serious observers have long understood that when Washington and its minions accuse Moscow of something it’s an admission that they are already doing it
- Anything and everything can be spun into the crazy web. Epstein? Putin controls all. Trump, Zelensky and Biden? Just something else to make Putin happy. Republican Senator doesn’t do what you want? He’s Moscow Mitch.
- Russia, Russia, Russia, unchanged since whenever: “A Post-Soviet ‘War and Peace’: What Tolstoy’s Masterwork Explains About Putin’s Foreign Policy“. Of course that’s a famously long novel, full of impenetrable Russian names and, because Putin has probably read it, something no self-respecting American would want to read (gotta watch these tricky Russian novelists – propagandists every one) so here’s the short version: “In the early decades of the nineteenth century, Napoleon (like Putin after him) wanted to construct his own international order…”
Mere evidence – for example that the DOJ Admits FBI Never Saw Crowdstrike Report on DNC Russian Hacking Claim… or No Evidence – Blame Russia: Top 5 Cases Moscow Was Unreasonably Accused of Election Meddling or U.S. States: We Weren’t Hacked by Russians in 2016 or The Myth of Russian Media Influence by Larry C Johnson.. or Biden admitting to doing what USA Today insists is nothing but a conspiracy theory invented by Trump – makes no difference. The dial is turned up one more and we are solemnly and (incoherently – Paul Robinson again) warned that Russia might/could meddle in Canada’s forthcoming election.
Anti-Russia prejudice can have unhappy consequences. We have just learned that Putin phoned Bush a couple of days before 911 to warn him that something long-prepared and big was coming out of Afghanistan. Other Russian warnings had been dismissed by Condoleezza Rice – supposedly a Russia “expert” – as “Russian bitterness toward Pakistan for supporting the Afghan mujahideen”. One is reminded of Chamberlain’s dismissal of Stalin’s attempts to form an anti-Hitler alliance because of his “most profound distrust of Russia” (see Habakkuk comment). In some alternate universe they listened to Moscow in the 1930s and in the 2000s, but, in the one we live in, they didn’t. And they don’t.
Or maybe (foolish optimism!) this is starting too end: after all, it’s been a complete failure. I especially enjoyed the NYT, that bastion of the Russian-conspiracy/Putin-superpowers/Trump-treason meme, solemnly opining: “That means President Trump is correct to try to establish a sounder relationship with Russia and peel it away from China. But his approach has been ham-handed and at times even counter to American interests and values.” Ham-handed! – here’s the NYT’s view of the Trump-Putin “love affair” again if you missed it the first time. And now it’s Trump’s fault that relations with Russia aren’t better! French President Macron has recently said that “I believe we should rebuild and revise the architecture of trust between Russia and the European Union.” And Trump rather brutally delivered the message to Ukraine’s new president that he ought to talk to Putin.
Well, we’ll see. Russophobia runs deep and the Russians have probably got the message. As long as we’re stuck in a mindset of “Nine Things Russia Must Do Before Being Allowed to Rejoin the G7” it’s not going to change. An arrogant invitation is not an invitation.