The US Missile Strike on Syria: a Theatrical Production for the Simple-Minded?

(I advanced this theory on Andrew Korybko’s show on Sputnik this morning.)

When I first heard that the US had attacked the airfield in Syria, my heart sank. I had hoped that US President Trump would avoid the endless wars that are bringing us all to Armageddon. This action made me fear that either he had been lying to us all along or that the war party had seized control.

But, as I read further and thought more, another possibility occurred to me. The first thing I wondered was why 59 cruise missiles? There simply aren’t 59 thousand-pound warhead targets at that or any other Syrian airfield. Examination of videos and photos showed little damage (and clearly no fear of sarin or other nerve agents either, as people wandered around without any protection). Had I wanted to stage a loud and exciting (“beautiful” missile launches at night) show with minimum results I would have done something like this. Was it a show, theatre. Art of the deal?

Then I asked myself: if this were a show, for whom was it a show and to what purpose? That led me to consider Trump’s biggest problem. It is that a significant portion of US “elite opinion” regards him – or pretends to regard him – as an illegitimate president. To bring him down, they tried recounts, appeals to “faithless electors“, the 25th Amendment; all failed.

All they were left with was the Russia story and that was being pumped out at full blast. Pumped out for months, since July in fact. Never mind the absence of evidence; it was pumped out ever louder and ever louder; pumped out to such an extent that it was hampering Trump’s program; his foreign program in particular but also his domestic program. It was amorphous and self-replicating at the same time. Did Putin secure Trump’s victory by hacking voting machinesby revealing DNC skulduggery… by some mysterious but never explained influence… by thousands of Putinbots spreading “fake news”… by broadcasts by RT and Sputnik which produce emanations that “undermine democracy“… were the Russians blackmailing him?

What exactly? Nothing that could be pinned down. Like trying to nail Jello to the wall. The allegations were vague, elusive, yet all-embracing. Nothing you could actually test. Shining the light of reason and fact on a particular detail was useless: the accusation skittered away into the shadows like a cockroach: voting machines, propaganda, influence, putinbots, association, something, nothing. But the sum effect, day after day, week after week, month after month, was that no one should take Trump seriously, no one needed to take him seriously, for he was Putin’s stooge and, sooner or later, would be forced from office. Soon gone. Not my president. It’s now April 2017 and this stuff has been festering away since the DNC cheating was revealed in July 2016. Nine months. It is not going to go away by itself. Neither is it going to go away for lack of evidence. It’s deeply embedded in the fantasy world (in this site’s universe, Clinton won) and too much has been invested in it.

In the real world, there is no rational way to stop the accusations.

59 cruise missiles later, all that has evaporated, Trump’s former critics are fawning and slobbering: “America is back, and you’re not allowed to do whatever you want” and “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” simpered two former critics. Generally popular – if only rather shallowly – too. No more Putin puppet. And so on – here is a compendium of drool. So, if the strike were a piece of theatre designed for domestic consumption, it hit the target. A “precision strike” indeed. (By the way, Scott Adams, who has read the Trumpian tea leaves very accurately, agrees that it was theatre.)

But the strike was of questionable morality and legality, to be sure; it was potentially dangerous and many argue that now that Trump has given in once to the War Party, he will find it harder to resist the next time. While it is true that supping with the Devil requires a long spoon, I think Trump has neutered his enemies. The next time there’s another (faked-up – and this attack was obviously not Damascus’ doing) event, he can call fake and what will they do then? Retract their fawning praise? Say he “became” President in April but “ceased” to be in July or August? Or (and I admit the probability of this is vanishingly small) when the truth does comes out, could Washington even apologise and pay compensation to the victims? If that were to happen – and I agree it would be a first – it would be a stunning blow to the War Party. In short, I don’t think the game is over and I don’t think the curtain has come down on the theatrical production.

What will Moscow’s reaction be? Well, if the theatre theory is correct, very little because Moscow was in on the deception to some extent. So, the test will be whether the incident is passed off with some minor harrumphing all round (the story of the Russian-Iranian “red line” is not true). We’ll have a better idea when the results of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Moscow visit emerge. Does Putin also believe it was theatre? Perhaps he does; this is what he said yesterday:

many European countries adopted an anti-Trump position during the election campaign. Syria and Russia, as a common enemy, provide a wonderful platform for consolidation.

Every decent theory must be falsifiable. I will agree that this theory – the theory that the US strike was really domestic theatre – would be falsified if the story, reactions, statements and so on keep building. We should know either way in a month.

But, so far so good: the G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting yesterday passed off with minor harrumphing and none of the sanctions UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wanted. In fact the final 30-page communique managed to set a new record of logical incoherency by both blaming Damascus and calling for an inquiry to find out who was to blame:

We are shocked and horrified by the reports of use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib on 4 April… The subsequent US military action against Shayrat Airfield was a carefully calibrated, limited in scope response to this warcrime and was directed against Syrian military targets directly connected… We express full support to the OPCW Fact Finding Mission investigation and stress that if the Fact Finding Mission concludes that chemical weapons have or have likely been used, the OPCW – UN Joint Investigative Mechanism should immediately carry out its investigation in accordance with its mandate to identify the perpetrators.

As to Washington’s touching concern about “crimes against innocents“, it is appropriate to note that one of the West’s favourite goto sites, the UK-based Syrian Network for Human Rights and a much-quoted source for accusations that Damascus routinely uses CW, declared that the USA and its allies “killed 260 civilians, including 70 children and 34 women” in Syria last month. More than ISIS did, it says.

As to whether the attack will have much effect on Pyongyang (some think it was the real audience), I am inclined to doubt it. The national mythos in North Korea is resistance – resistance to the Japanese in the first half of the Twentieth Century and defiance of the USA and its allies in the second half; all firmly based on the memory of the ultimately successful resistance to Hideyoshi’s invasion in the 1500s. It seems unlikely that the leadership will be much impressed by anything Washington does this century. And, as this report suggests, it isn’t.

As to its effect on Beijing, again I suspect not very much: the Chinese leadership is neither as gullible nor as easily impressed as US media personalities. Beijing might decide that that trying to influence Pyongyang would be more cost effective than another Korean War; on the other hand, it might decide that a USA bogged down in an unwinnable war (just what would “victory” look like anyway?) would be to its advantage. We shall see.

But its effect on the talking heads and media never-Trumpers at home was profound.

Really Stupid Things Said About Russia

Moscow is being forced to play these aggressive and risky games out of desperation. The country is in bad shape and it is getting worse. [Not according to Bloomberg which says it’s out of the recession.] The once great superpower now has an economy smaller than Canada’s and it continues to shrink. [This is just stupid and a byproduct of exchange rates. Russia is one of the very few “full service” economies in the world. Canada is not one of those]. Even though they spend 5 per cent of their GDP on defence, Russia’s military forces have grown so rusted out they can barely get their last aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean and back without breaking down. [Even so, it got where it was going, did what it had to do, and got home again]. Even the ragtag Ukrainians have fought them to a standstill. [They wish – they’ve been beaten by a civilian militia]. Diplomatically, Moscow has never been so isolated and powerless. You can count its friends on one hand, and it’s not an impressive list: Syria, Iran, Belarus. [Oh, and China too.]

Russia’s coming attack on Canada by Scott Gilmore, MacLean’s, 8 March 2017.

[My comments]

Putin Derangement Syndrome December 2016-January 2017

In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the last month of the seventeenth and first month of the eighteenth years of The New American Century.

THE SYNDROMES CONVERGE

trumputin

PUTIN STEALS/HACKS/CONTROLS US ELECTION. OR SOMETHING.

The dominant story through December and early January was that Putin had “hacked”, or controlled the outcome of or influenced the outcome of – exactly what was never precisely expressed – the US presidential election. Even so, the result had not been affected or so we were assured by the White House itself in “What Obama Said to Putin on the Red Phone About the Election Hack“: President Obama picked up the “red phone” and warned Putin to stop. “Did the message work? ‘Look at the results,’ said an Obama administration official. ‘There was nothing done on Election Day, so it must have worked.'” As ever, the WaPo led the charge and the day after the election told us “Secret CIA assessment says Russia was trying to help Trump win White House“.

But when we finally saw the “secret assessments” they proved to be laughably damp squibs. The DHS/FBI report of 29 December 2016 carried this stunning disclaimer:

This report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.

Perhaps the most ridiculous part of the DNI report of 6 January 2017 was the space – nearly half – devoted to a rant about the Russian TV channel RT. A report that had been published four years earlier. What that had to do with the Russian state influencing the 2016 election was obscure. But, revealingly, it also said this:

We also assess Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence.

In other words, DHS told us to ignore its report and the one agency in the US intelligence structure that would actually know about hacking and would have copies of everything – the NSA – wasn’t very confident. Both reports were soon torn apart: John McAfee: “I can promise you if it looks like the Russians did it, then I can guarantee you it was not the Russians”. (See 10:30). Jeffrey Carr: “Fatally flawed“. Julian Assange: not a state actor. Even those who loath Putin trashed them.

The last gasp was the “golden showers dossier”. Commissioned from a former UK SIS officer by one of Trump’s Republican opponents and then taken over by a Democrat supporter, this collection of bottom-feeding stories had been floating around for months looking for a taker. Allegedly a record of compromising material on Trump collected from an improbably wide circle of informants it was finally published by Buzzfeed. In my opinion, it is good that Buzzfeed did so, otherwise it would have remained a poisonous rumour in the background. Once in the open, it was swiftly savaged. John Helmer probably did the best job of taking it apart, “Scott” examined the Ukrainian connection as did George Eliason. (In my opinion, many of the stories in the dossier had the sloppy quality of SBU inventions.) Finally, not even Newsweek, the source of many a PDS panic itself (“How Vladimir Putin Is Using Donald Trump to Advance Russia’s Goals“) bought it: “Thirteen Things That Don’t Add Up in the Russia-Trump Intelligence Dossier“.

So, altogether, the two intelligence reports sagged on internal evidence and the “golden shower” dossier was pretty much laughed out of court. It is not, therefore, surprising that we have heard little more since the first half of January. But more on this curious pause later.

But the memory of this (hopefully) short-lived pundit cottage industry lingers: “Russia’s American coup: The U.S. is finally waking up to the fact that it has been turned into a subordinate ally to Russia, thanks to Putin and Trump“; “The Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S.“; “Trump refuses to face reality about Russia“; “Today, as the U.S. grapples with a Russia with resurgent global ambitions, with a Kremlin that hacks our emails, manipulates our news—and, according to the CIA, actively worked to elect Donald Trump“; “Donald Trump: The Russian Poodle” and “Is Trump a Russian Stooge?“.

OTHER ELECTIONS TOO

The allegations (and I think we may confidently say unfounded allegations – the intelligence reports are deeply unconvincing) have sparked off similar excitement in other countries. Not content with the hacking – or whatever it was – of the US election, we are told that Putin wants more. In Germany: “Putins hybrider Großangriff zur Bundestagswahl 2017; Propaganda-Feldzug sogar mit Sexmobs” (Putin’s hybrid major attack on the Bundestag election 2017; Propaganda campaign even with sexmobs). Anne Applebaum eagerly picked up the theme: “In 2017, the Russian government will mount an open campaign to sway the German elections.” But why stop at Germany? “Is Putin’s Master Plan Only Beginning? With three consequential European elections occurring in 2017, the former K.G.B. officer has more potential to undermine free societies than he could have ever fathomed during his Cold War days.” And so on: lots of this out there. Complete nonsense: anyone who thinks about it knows the globalists’ election reverses are not because Putin seduced their subjects from proper deference, but because they have had enough.

It’s absolutely absurd how ready people are to say that Russia controls everything – in the most recent of a very long series, a couple of days ago the the UK Defence Minister went on a rant about how Russia is “weaponising information“. RT’s and Sputnik’s budgets are a fraction of the BBC’s let alone all those of the other Western state-run outlets. Western news outlets have a world-wide presence that utterly dwarfs RT; their audience is many times greater no matter how RT boasts about its YouTube hits. And yet Western politicians expect their listeners to believe that, somehow, Putin has wormed his way into everybody’s head, directs voting at a distance and is on the very edge of ruining everything. Derangement indeed.

MISCELLANEOUS SCARY THINGS

Immortal Vladimir Putin? Russian leader visits anti-ageing pill factory“.

Vladimir Putin’s Face Appears to Contain More Botulism Than Drug-Store Sushi

From Russia With Hate: Vladimir Putin’s Newest Export: Terrorists“.

Russian treachery is extreme and it is everywhere.”

‘Vlad Will Smash Britain In One Day!’ Russians plot to turn UK into Siberian-style labour camp.

Why 2017 is the most dangerous year for Britain since the Cold War: With the US and France both set to be run by Putin acolytes, it will fall to us to defend the Baltic states if Russia strikes. Yet we’ve cut our military to the bone…” “The Kremlin had succeeded where foreign invaders had failed since the Norman Conquest of 1066. Britain had been not just defeated, but crushed…”. Encouragingly, the best-rated comments are contemptuous of what he’s saying.

And who can forget the WaPo, formerly leading the struggle against “fake news”, now trying to “retire” the term, telling us that a “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say“? This sample of fake news hilariously survives with an Editor’s note appended: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.” That particular piece of PDS didn’t even survive a day.

THE FUTURE

In September I wondered, given that Western demonisations of enemies typically stopped upon their overthrow, how intense they would become when they couldn’t get at their latest target. Would the accusations get crazier and crazier? Well, they did get crazier and crazier. But we are entering a rather interesting phase in which we will learn whether two forms of Derangement Syndrome can co-exist.

Since Trump was inaugurated on 20 January, I have noticed that Putin Derangement Syndrome is being pushed aside in the punditry by a crescendo of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Just as Putin has been diagnosed at a distance, so has he: “Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill? 3 Professors Of Psychiatry Ask President Obama To Conduct ‘A Full Medical And Neuropsychiatric Evaluation'” and his signature gives cause for concern. “As Trump prepares his kissy face for Putin, a glimpse into the dictator’s soul“. PDS is replete with such remote sensing of Putin’s inner self. The student of PDS will recognise the magazine covers about Trump of which the standout is Der Spiegel’s (no small purveyor of PDS itself) showing Trump decapitating Lady Liberty à la Daesh. Since under-estimating Trump was so successful, why not continue to? Some writer thinks he’s just a puppet of Steve Bannon. But maybe they’re converging: “Manchurian Presidency: Why Angry White America Fell for Putin“. But the most beautiful example of convergence, one that brings everything together is: “The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin“!

So, will Putin Derangement Syndrome be replaced by Trump Derangement Syndrome? Or are we entering a new state of delusion in which separate derangement syndromes converge and Putin, Trump, bin Laden as well as lesser figures like Milosevic and Gaddafi are revealed to be all part of a single Hidden Masters Derangement Syndrome?

 

 

Putin Derangement Syndrome October-November 2016

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.

FAKE NEWS

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.)

Here’s the ur-source, the Washington Post 24 November 2016:

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.

THE FUTURE

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.

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Media Bias

(Response to a question from Sputnik inviting my comments on a poll finding that 80% thought the US media had been biased in the election.)

Why as few as 80%? The bias and general worthlessness of the MSM as a source of information has been apparent for years. In this particular case, as Wikileaks shows, the owners of the US media had invested in a Clinton future and the Clintons had invested in the media. One of the reasons Trump won was that the more the MSM reviled him, the more support he gained: if the liars accuse him of something, he must be innocent of it.

The principal difference between the Eatanswill Gazette and the NYT, the WaPo, the Economist and the rest of them is that the first freely admitted its bias.

What to do? Turn off your TV, cancel your newspaper subscription and let them go bust faster. Oh, and shut down all the “journalism degree” mills.

Let the new rise from the compost of the old.

Who’s in Charge in Washington?

(Question from Sputnik. Something or other is happening somewhere or other in the interstices of the American political machine regarding Syria. But something else is happening somewhere else. What do I think?)

The problem with the question as posed is that it assumes that there is somewhere one can find, if only one can dig deep enough, can detect the last vital piece of information, can parse a Delphic utterance, A Plan in Washington about Syria.

Well, I no longer believe it: I don’t believe that anyone is in charge in Washington. The Saker introduced me to a new Russian word the other day: недоговороспособны – incapable of making agreements. He suggest that the US Administration is paralysed by the election and the possibility of a President Trump. Perhaps he’s right as to the reason, I don’t know, but I agree with the diagnosis: I can’t see any sign that anyone is in charge in the “exceptional nation”.

Consider that US Secretary of State John Kerry, after lengthy and tedious negotiations, signed on to a cessation of fire agreement in Syria. In a properly-run country that would be a done deal. A week later, a Syrian Army position is attacked by the US military (with a highly improbable involvement of allies. Several of whom do not even operate the A-10s and F-16s used). By accident of course: another “regretful” error from “the greatest military in the history of the world“. These “errors” all go the same way, don’t they? real errors, one would think, would be more evenly distributed, wouldn’t they? Just before that news had stopped reverberating, an aid convoy was attacked. On cue, NATO’s go-to “independent” fact checker produces a photo that, he says, proves Russia did it. In fact, to anyone who can think for a moment, the photo is obviously faked and actually proves that neither Russia (nor Syria) attacked the convoy. The carelessness of the faked-up accusation is another indication of the incapacity to either make or deliver on an agreement by Washington.

The US foreign minister signs an agreement that the US military blows up and a (clumsy) fake atrocity is produced to divert attention from that. Then US Secretary of State John Kerry says he’ll never speak to the Russians again, but soon does so.

So what are we to conclude?

This does not sound like a country with an orderly and effective chain of command.

Недоговороспособны – incapable of making agreements.

Indeed.

Putin Derangement Syndrome September 2016

In which I collect all the examples of this strange mental defect that have caught my attention in the month of September in the seventeenth year of The New American Century.

THE TRUMPUTIN CENTAUR

putin-trump

(Not a very original idea, actually)

PUTIN WILL HACK THE ELECTION

“The official cautioned that the intelligence community is not saying it has ‘definitive proof’ of such tampering, or any Russian plans to do so.” But mere lack of evidence shouldn’t stop endless headlines and all-round panic, should it?

Never fear, the US Congress may investigate. Or at least Warn Putin’s Hackers To Stop Meddling. (Of course, if they were really afraid, they might introduce paper ballots or voter identification or some other means of making the flimsy US voting system a little harder to game.)

Applebaum explains that, either way, Putin has it covered: “4. The Russians attempt to throw the election. They might try to get Trump elected. Alternatively — and this would, of course, be even more devastating — they might try to rig the election for Clinton, perhaps leaving a trail of evidence designed to connect the rigging operation to Clinton’s campaign.” She’s not alone: “If Mr. Trump wins, Russia wins. But if Mr. Trump loses and people doubt the outcome, Russia also wins.”

Assuming, of course, Putin hasn’t poisoned Clinton first. No evidence, just speculation, but it can’t possibly do any harm to get the story out there. (And don’t forget the added verisimilitude that Will Smith played him in the movie.) Is Trump in on the plot too? Could be.

While Clinton isn’t prepared to agree that the New York City bombs were an “attempt by ISIS or ISIS sympathizers, or really any other group, maybe the Russians, to influence the presidential race in some way and presumably try to drive votes to Donald Trump”, she did helpfully point out that “a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard from Donald Trump has been seized on by terrorists, in particular ISIS.” And of course, more than once she’s suggested Trump is channelling Putin.

But cheer up, Putin’s DNC Hack Will Backfire because the Kremlin isn’t very good at meddling in other countries’ elections. (So why all the headlines and passionate calls for investigation then?)

TRUMP IS PUTIN’S TOOL

Trump will bring fascism which is somehow related to “Putinism” says the husband of Clinton’s possible foreign minister. Savage bear illustration warning!: Timothy Snyder agrees that Putin, or somebody he’s strongly influenced by, is a “fascist”.

Clinton’s running mate tells us that this is just one of a number of very, very troubling instances where Trump’s coziness with Putin… blah blah, very very blah blah.

This month saw the opening of a whole website melding Putin Derangement Syndrome with Trump Derangement Syndrome: putintrump.org. “The stakes are enormous. Voting Trump / Pence in 2016 could lead to a Putin / Trump world in 2017.” The Dangers of the Putin-Trump Relationship “In this current cycle, Glaser is funding a new kind of political effort: a website—PutinTrump.org—intended to highlight the connections between the Republican presidential nominee and Russia’s authoritarian president.” The founder of the site is a big donor to the Democratic Party. (The Clinton campaign is, after all, the fons et origo of the Russia hack story. And for pretty obvious reasons too: to divert attention from the real scandal. And maybe worse.)

But, there is some hope: Julia Ioffe believes that somehow, Russia’s ban of Pornhub reflects badly on Trump.

MISCELLANEOUS

Maybe Putin & Co aren’t fascists at all: someone at MSNBC thinks it’s “authoritarian, communist Russia”. And note the cute hammers and sickles at putintrump.org. Does that make Trump a secret commie?

Krauthammer is distressed by people who think Putin plays by the rules: “It makes you want to weep. This KGB thug adhering to norms? He invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, bombs hospitals in Aleppo — and we expect him to observe cyber-code etiquette? Of course, like most of his columns, he’s really bashing Obama: Putin and Xi are just convenient sticks to hit him with.

Obama solemnly informs us that Putin is no more genuinely popular than Saddam Hussein was. Another example of many that show the stunning ignorance in his Administration about Russia. A long and, if you think about it, frightening list of delusions.

The reluctance of some Balkan countries to jump on board the NATO bandwagon is due to Russia’s years-long plot to influence Balkan politics and nothing to do with memories of NATO’s wars there.

But I think this month’s outstanding example of sheer silliness is this one. “What is behind Vladimir Putin’s curious interest in Mount Athos?“. Not much of a mystery: there has been a Russian monastery there for 800 years, Russian governments traditionally supported it, Putin is a believer. But no: must be a “listening post or centre for intelligence gathering” or some other “secret agenda”.

I’ll be away a lot of October and November so you’ll have to wait a while for the next one. By then we’ll know if Putin gamed the US election so that either Trump or Clinton won. But you know… either way… Putin wins!

Bellingcat proves the Russians didn’t do it.

http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2016/09/bellingcat-proves-the-russians-didnt-do-it.html

The Bellingcat site has a piece entitled “Confirmed : Russian Bomb Remains Recovered from Syrian Red Crescent Aid Convoy Attack” which includes this picture as well as several others. You may look at the others, but this one picture is apodictic proof 1) that the Russians (or Syrians) didn’t do it and 2) that Bellingcat is a loyal servant of the Borg.

syria-aid-convoy-bomb

He spends a lot of efforts to establish that the metal piece is the tail piece of a Russian-made OFAB 250-270 Fragmentation High Explosive Bomb. No argument there, I’m sure it is. Said bomb has 92kg of explosive. Which is quite a lot.

  • If said bomb had exploded in this not very large room, all those cardboard boxes would be torn to pieces and burned. To say nothing of a lot more damage to the room itself. Therefore it did not explode in that room.
  • If said bomb was a dud and did not explode, where is the rest of it? Therefore the bomb was not a dud.
  • Therefore the bomb piece was put there to make it look as if the Russians had done it. (And not very competently either: note that it is supposed to have come through the ceiling and neatly placed itself underneath some undamaged cardboard boxes.)
  • If it is necessary to produce a fake picture, then the Russians didn’t do it.
  • QED

And, as a bonus, by perpetrating this fraud, Bellingcat has also proved that he is a stooge of the war party.

A lot to deduce from one photo, isn’t it? It used to be that it took more effort to disprove Bellingcat’s fakes. He’s losing his touch.

First You Ride the Meme and Then the Meme Rides You

What follows was put into my head by a piece claiming that in Syria “Russia [was] using advanced weapons system developed through a secret agreement with extraterrestrial visitors“. I’m not suggesting that anyone take this seriously but notice the assumption that Putin is in the superhuman category. Its creators are losing control of Putin Derangement Syndrome.

At first Putin was a figure to be mocked. He overcompensated for being short by taking his shirt off on all possible occasions, by catching large fish, finding amphoras and wrestling tigers. The high point of the mocking period was the Olympics: he’d squandered billions building a site where the water was brown and the doorknobs fell off.

But then the quick little regime change in Ukraine went sour and Putin became evil. As one of Canada’s professional Ukrainians put it “My Ukraine: A personal reflection on a nation’s dream of independence and the nightmare Vladimir Putin has visited upon it.” Ukrainians just wanna have fun but Putin turned the dream into a nightmare. Remember Olga Znachkova who didn’t want the Eurasian Union but wanted frilly undies instead? Evil Putin stole them too. “Smart but truly evil man” says Madeleine Albright (of all people). Too evil for derision but still limited in his effect: a “regional power” acting out of weakness.

But PDS has evolved far past any localised evil, let alone mockery. In my Putin Derangement Syndrome collection in August there were two principal themes. The first was that Putin had the very same uncanny influence over Donald Trump and Jill Stein that he had had over Bernie Sanders; in other words, he has such a grip on the American election that Hillary Clinton is the only truly American candidate left. The second theme was the extraordinary ability of RT and other Russian media outlets to shape people’s thoughts; far exceeding the effects of the much (much) better funded Western outlets. Putin has the power to cloud minds at a distance: he operates at a more than merely human status and he’s using that power to reshape the world.

This is an illuminating case study because it shows that propaganda can take off on its own and exceed the intentions of its originators. The US establishment is fond of demonising its enemies – in recent times we have seen it happen to Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, bin Laden and many others – but those hate campaigns, once they had whipped up war support, ceased and were forgotten (anyone remember Aidid?). Washington’s current trouble is that it has never tried the technique against someone whom it can’t get at, against someone who is not cowed and, worst of all, against someone who outwits it at every stage. The propagandists have no idea of what to do except turn the volume up higher and higher. So the rhetoric builds and builds, more and more extreme, larger and larger until it bursts into full-blown psychosis and panic.

Putin is already the Moriarty, the Voldemort of the US propaganda machine: the hidden power behind everything bad. Will we see Putin the extraterrestrial agent or Putin the Antichrist, already out there in the crazy fringe, start to appear in the NYT or WaPo as they are compelled to account for the next ratcheting up of hysteria?

Economist cover sometime next year: Cthulhu Returns!

cthulu-putin