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25 things revealed about Vladimir Putin by Oliver Stone in the Putin Interviews

Russian President Vladimir Putin over the course of the Putin Interviews gives an insight into his personality such as he has never done before.

Alexander Mercouris

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I have now watched the first three episodes of the Putin Interviews, which is sufficient to give an overview of the series.

In my opinion it is by far the best and most interesting series of programmes which have appeared on Western television about Vladimir Putin.

I would say that claims that Oliver Stone fails to raise ‘difficult subjects’ with Putin are simply untrue.  All the usual stories about Putin – his KGB past, his reputed homophobia, his ‘billions’, his ‘murders’, his ‘aggressions against Georgia and Ukraine’ etc – are all there.

There is also one telling moment when Stone and Putin strongly disagree with each other.  This is in relation to a recent Russian law that requires Russian internet providers to store data for longer than previously, and to hand it over to the Russian security services if requested following a court order.

The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has denounced this law as a ‘big brother’ law.  Stone clearly agrees with him and tells Putin as much.  Putin predictably enough doesn’t agree.

The key difference between Stone and other Western interviewers is that Stone doesn’t try to get the better of Putin by bullying and hectoring him.

This more conventional approach in my experience invariably ends in disaster, resulting in the humiliation of the Western interviewers rather than Putin, as Putin invariably turns out to be far better informed about the facts than the interviewers are and is by now well practised in dealing with the absurdities they throw at him.  The recent Megyn Kelly fiasco is merely the latest example.

By contrast by letting Putin talk and by conducting what are in effect long conversations with him, Stone let Putin speak for himself, in this way revealing the man. For anyone who really wants to get to know Putin – as opposed to the comic strip villain of the Western media – these programmes are both essential and compelling viewing.

Given that we are talking about is 20 hours of interviews distilled into four programmes each lasting more than an hour, any selection of key points or highlights must be arbitrary.  I make no apology for the fact mine are.  Here they are

(1) Putin came across to me as a very Russian man.  I have seen him twice in person (at the SPIEF plenary sessions in 2014 and 2016) and I have watched many of his interviews, but I have never previously sensed this so strongly.

Putin’s initial reticence in dealing with a Westerner, his readiness to speak more freely as his trust grows, his extraordinary directness, and his worldliness, are all in my experience very Russian, as is his habit of sometimes giving terse or monosyllabic answers – “yes”, “no”, “not quite like that” etc.

In all other respects Putin as he appeared in the Putin Interviews is Putin very much as I have come to know him: humorous, extremely polite, very self-controlled (he barely reacted when Stone told him of the comparison Hillary Clinton has made between him and Hitler) and completely on top of his brief.  He never evaded any questions or appeared at a loss for an answer on any question of substance.

(2) Putin’s combination of directness and worldliness is almost certainly the quality that Western leaders who have to deal with him find most unnerving.  Not only is his conversation totally free of clichés – so unlike Western political rhetoric today – but he even says at one moment “I know how the world works”.  At another point he jokes that if Russia had the same resources for intelligence gathering as the US does “probably we would be as bad as they are”.  I cannot imagine any Western leader making a joke like that, especially on camera.

Western leaders – who know that Putin in his cynical assessments of their motives is invariably right, but who are never able to admit as much probably not even to themselves –  must find this both infuriating and alarming, and this surely is one reason why they both fear him and dislike him so much.

(3) Putin has become completely disillusioned with the US.  He makes it quite clear throughout the interviews that he feels that the US took Russia for a ride at the end of the Cold War, and has never stopped being hostile to Russia even as Russia reached out to it.  With hindsight he is astonished at the misguided trust Russia placed in the US and in its promises – for example not to expand NATO eastward – and though he clearly wants ‘dialogue’ with the US, the possibility of mutual trust and genuine friendship between the US and Russia at least whilst he is President is surely gone.

(4) Following from (3), Putin – speaking before the US election – made it quite clear that he had no expectations of any significant improvement in relations between the US and Russia regardless of who won the election on the grounds that whoever is President the US ‘bureaucracy’ (by which Putin clearly means the US political class) is single-mindedly committed to its policy of hostility towards Russia.  He provides a striking example of this by telling a story of how the CIA sent Russia a defiant letter saying it would continue its contacts with Chechen terrorists notwithstanding the disapproval of US President George W. Bush.

Putin said these words before the US election and before the Russiagate scandal well and truly got off the ground.  Reflecting on this scandal since then, Putin must feel that his words of cynicism about the US have been completely vindicated.

(5) Though Putin appears at times unwilling to discuss the motives behind US foreign policy – at one point he jokes that he will explain it all at great length and in great detail after he retires – it is in fact obvious that he feels that the so-called ‘unipolar’ moment following the end of the Cold War went to the US’s head, and caused it to embark on a megalomaniac policy of world domination.

He sees in this the cause of all the major problems in international relations, including the catastrophic breakdown in relations between Russia and the US, the chaos in the Middle East, and – as he said at length – the rise of violent Jihadism and the crises in Ukraine and Syria.

He says that as a result of this policy the US is making repeated mistakes and is becoming less efficient because this policy is unachievable and is causing the US to lose touch with reality.

(6) It is clear that for Putin the US anti-ballistic missile programme is a very big deal, and that he considers that it is clearly aimed at achieving US military dominance over Russia.  However he seems fully confident of Russia’s ability to counter this programme at a fraction of its cost.  He clearly sees this programme as another manifestation of the lack of realism of US policy and of its hegemonic drive.

(7) Notwithstanding his conviction that the US’s policy of achieving world domination is unachievable and unrealistic, Putin is seriously troubled by the fanaticism of those driving it.  When Stone tells him that the neocons scare him Putin replies that they scare him too.  It is the only moment in the Putin Interviews when Putin admits to fear.

(8) Putin takes great pride in Russia’s sovereignty and independence – by which he of course means its independence from the US.  He contrasts this with the way the US’s ‘allies’ have in effect made themselves ‘vassals’.  He points out that what this actually means is that the US has no real ‘allies’ at all.

Though the Putin Interviews never touch on relations with China, it is almost certainly a contrast with Russia’s alliance with China that Putin is making.  Pointedly, he says that ‘true’ allies never spy on each other, as the US spies on its ‘allies’ in Europe.

That incidentally provides confirmation that Russia and China do not spy on each other.

Putin points out that it is because Russia is sovereign and independent that it was able to give refuge to Edward Snowden.  He says that very few countries in the world today are truly sovereign and independent in the way that Russia is, and that Snowden was very lucky to find himself in one which was and which was therefore able to protect him.

(9) Putin also takes great pride in his success in turning round Russia’s economic situation.  He points to the transformation in real incomes in the period since he became President.  He also contrasts the heavy indebtedness of the US economy with the lack of indebtedness of Russia’s.  The first three episodes of the Putin Interviews which I have seen unfortunately touched very little on Russia’s internal situation or how Putin sees it, and this in my opinion is a major omission of the programme.

(10) Putin does however touch on some of the internal structures of Russia’s government and political system.  He refers to the Security Council – Russia’s most important policy making body – pointing out that it meets regularly every week.  There is even a brief photograph of it in session.

This is a unique reference to this key Russian institution in any Western discussion of Russia or of the Russian political system.

Contrary to Western myth the programme shows that Putin works very hard, consults widely with his officials – Stone is astonished at the number of ministers and officials who report to Putin on any particular day – and that the way the top levels of the Russian government work, far from being personalised and informal as the West imagines, are in reality highly structured.

(11) With respect to (10), Putin is however quite clear that Russia today is a democracy.  This is of course the most contentious topic of all, with the Western media and the Western political class passionately disagreeing (it is now standard practice in the British media to refer to Putin as “the dictator of Russia”).

Putin ridiculed suggestions that the Russian government controls the entire Russian media or is even able to do so, referred to Russia’s multiparty political system and corrected Stone on the alleged difficulty of registering a political party in Russia.

Western viewers might be surprised to see Russian television film incorporated in the programme showing Russian political leaders – Zyuganov, Mironov and Zhirinovsky – engaging in fiery denunciations of Putin, in Zhirinovsky’s case in the presence of Putin himself.

(12) One of the central stories of the Putin mythology – believed in even by many of Putin’s admirers as well as his detractors – is that shortly after he became President he called all the oligarchs together to a meeting and told them that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses provided they did not interfere in politics.

Putin alludes to this meeting but gives a different account of what he said at it.  He claims that he told the oligarchs that they would be allowed to retain their properties and businesses, even if they obtained them illegally, provided that in future they obeyed the law.

I have no doubt that this is what really happened at the meeting, and that the story of Putin striking a bargain with the oligarchs in which he in effect coerced their loyalty by threatening to take their property if they were disloyal to him is false.

(13) Putin gives a unique insight into his style of work.  Not only is he very much a hands-on manager – Stone makes a highly pointed contrast to the lackadaisical style of management of former US President Ronald Reagan – but in the numerous meetings Putin convenes to discuss problems he is not satisfied and dislikes ending meetings until a solution is found.  He compares himself to a painter who dislikes getting up from a painting until the painting is complete.

By Putin’s own admission that means that meetings almost invariably overrun their times.  Putin is notorious in the West for his habit of turning up late to appointments.  This style of work provides the reason why.

Though it must make heavy demands on the officials who attend these meetings, this style of work does have the immense advantage of producing decisions which can then be acted on.  With Putin there is evidently no question of the can being kicked down the road.

(14) Putin takes obvious pride in the effectiveness of both Russia’s intelligence services and its military.  Though he has apparently been the target of no fewer than five assassination attempts he trusts his security services to keep him safe.  Though he was careful on camera to say nothing that might ruffle feathers, he is clearly amused – and proud – of the fact that Russia is able to field highly effective armed forces at only a tenth of the cost of those the US and at less cost than those of Saudi Arabia.

(15) Putin places a very high value on frankness and honesty, and expects his own honesty to go unquestioned.  When Stone floated the possibility of Russia releasing the CIA’s letter discussed in (4), he said his word about it should be enough.  He also hinted at the very great weight he is known to place on personal loyalty when he said that it is not right for him to discuss the faults of his predecessors – Gorbachev and Yeltsin – in the case of Yeltsin undoubtedly in part because Yeltsin was once his boss.

(16) Despite the extraordinary tension in international relations, Putin overall comes across very much an optimist.  He clearly believes that the ‘correlation of world forces’ is moving in Russia’s favour, and he repeatedly accuses Western leaders of short term thinking and of failing to see the direction of events clearly.  Though Stone never asks him to enlarge on this, it is clear that the reason for Putin’s optimism is the continued decline of US and Western power, the corresponding growth of Russia’s power, and above all the rise of a new centre of power in China.

Quite clearly, though he believes Russia is going through a difficult period at the moment, in the not so long term Putin expects the international situation to stabilise on Russia’s terms, and foresees a world in 20-30 years which is radically different from the world as it exists today.

Whilst these were for me the main points to come out of the Putin Interviews, there were also some interesting pieces of trivia, of which the ones that stood out for me were the following

(17) Putin’s office suite in the Senate Building in the Kremlin is located the same room as the one used by Stalin for his Kremlin office from 1939 until his death in 1953.  Our sister publication Russia Feed has provided the extract from the Putin Interviews in which Putin shows Stone round his office.

Pictures of the office when Stalin used it are surprisingly hard to find on the internet – the reconstruction at the Stalin Museum in Gori which is often shown is either wrong or must be of another office – but a very accurate reconstruction appears at the beginning of this episode of the Soviet spy drama Seventeen Moments of Spring.

To Russians of a certain generation Stalin’s Kremlin office is as famous as the Oval Office in the White House is to Americans, and its appearance is familiar to them from countless films, such as the Fall of Berlin (made in 1949 during Stalin’s lifetime) or from the Liberation series made in the 1960s.  The windows of this office overlook Red Square, and according to legend one of them came to be called in Stalin’s lifetime “Stalin’s window”.

I had suspected for some time that Putin’s office occupies the same room as Stalin’s office because of the obvious similarity in general dimensions and layout.  Putin has now confirmed it.

The fact that Putin’s office is located in the same room as Stalin’s office is not Putin’s choice.  The office suite in the Kremlin he uses was originally created for Boris Yeltsin, and Putin has simply taken it over.  Also, as Putin has pointed out, the room has been been reduced in size since Stalin’s time through the creation of a reading area cut off from the main office by a partition wall.

(18) Putin’s father appears to have been a much more important person in Putin’s life than had been previously realised.  Putin has a picture of him in naval uniform in his Kremlin office and is clearly proud of his father’s record in the Second World War when his father fought in an NKVD special forces unit on the Leningrad front.

Putin’s father is known to have been a staunch Communist who contrary to myth rose to a fairly senior position in the Leningrad Communist Party.   Though Putin attributes his decision to join the KGB to the influence of films like Seventeen Moments of Spring, I cannot help but wonder whether his father may have played a role in it.

The Putin Interviews by contrast have nothing to say about Putin’s grandfather, in some ways an even more interesting person than Putin’s father, who at the time of the 1917 Revolution was a chef in St. Petersburg’s Astoria Hotel, and who subsequently worked as a chef for both Lenin and Stalin.  He lived into the 1960s, and Putin is known to have known him.

(19) Despite being the son of a committed Communist, and despite having surely been a committed Communist himself when he joined the KGB and worked for it, it is clear that Putin is no longer one and that he feels no lingering loyalty towards the Communist Party or its cause.  Though he says little that is critical of the Communist period, he refers in the Putin Interviews to the “so-called 1917 Revolution” and speaks of the basis of Soviet society as having been inefficient and incapable of reform.

Putin is known to have left both the KGB and the Soviet Communist Party at the time of the August 1991 coup attempt against Gorbachev.  He gives no indication of when he lost his Communist beliefs, but it was probably at this time.

(20) Though Putin is now divorced he still wears his wedding ring.  Like many Russian men he wears it on his right hand, and his watch on his right wrist.  Here is a portrait of Tolstoy also wearing his wedding ring on his right hand.

(21) Putin is clearly a practising and even devout Orthodox Christian.  There are icons in his office and his official residence at Novo Ogaryovo contains a whole Orthodox chapel. It is not however a subject he is much given to talking about.

Putin does not say when he converted to Orthodoxy but his comments appear to link it to his loss of belief in the Communist Party and its cause.

(22) Putin is obviously one of those people who is not well in his physical or mental health unless he is physically active.  Not only does he exercise intensely every day but many of the interviews with Stone were carried out walking, with Stone trying to keep up.

Whilst this constant physical activity – including daily sessions at the gym and in the pool, judo sessions, horse riding on the estate at Novo Ogaryovo, driving his own car, and playing ice hockey – no doubt helps Putin relax and keeps him fit, it must also seriously increase the risk of physical injury, especially as he grows older.  It seems that he no longer has a personal trainer to warn him off exercises that might be dangerous, and that he has already on at least one occasion fallen head first from his horse.  However if anyone in Putin’s entourage has warned him of the risks he is running with all this activity the Putin Interviews give no hint of it.

(23) Putin was prepared to give very little information about the tangled circumstances of his rise to power.  Indeed he claims to be as mystified by the fact that Yeltsin chose him for his successor as everyone else.  He also says that he initially refused Yeltsin’s request that he become Prime Minister of Russia, something which may explain the strange and hitherto unexplained brief premiership of Putin’s immediate predecessor Sergey Stepashin.

However the fact that Putin by his own admission was seriously concerned for his own safety and for that of his family, and that he was worried of what might happen to him if Yeltsin dismissed him, points to a serious political crisis which he is clearly not willing for the moment to talk about.

(24) On the subject of Soviet history, the only previous Soviet or Russian leader of whom Putin speaks with straightforward disapproval is Nikita Khrushchev.  In this Putin echoes what in my experience is the well nigh universal view of Khrushchev in Russia.  Khrushchev has a far lower reputation in Russia than he does in the West.

(25) Certain of Putin’s humorous comments to Stone are being reported in the West as sexist and homophobic despite Putin’s strenuous attempts to appear neither.

I doubt most Russians would see them that way.  On the contrary most Russians – men and women, gay and straight – would take the way the West has reported these comments as further proof the West has lost its sense of humour.

For the record, on the subject of homophobia, I think Putin is basically right when he says in the Putin Interviews that Russian society far from being homophobic is on the contrary basically tolerant and liberal, and that it is indeed altogether more socially liberal than it is widely believed to be in the West.

Those were for me the most striking things to come out of the Putin Interviews.

Western viewers will no doubt be struck by the fluent and forceful way Putin spoke about the Chechen, South Ossetian, Ukrainian and Syrian crises and wars, all of which he discussed at length, and about which he offered a Russian perspective which Western viewers scarcely ever hear.

However the details of these crises and wars – and the differing points of view about them – are subjects with I am very familiar.  For me Putin said nothing about them which was new.

It is Putin the man I was interested in, and it is on this subject that I have chosen to concentrate here.

Though inevitably there is much about Putin that remains unknown, Oliver Stone is to be congratulated on his success in making this very proud and very private man – who is not even prepared to disclose the names of his grandchildren – open himself up to the extent that he did, and as he has never done before.

The Putin Interviews offer us at one and the same time the best biography there is of Putin, and the clearest and most accurate picture of the sort of man he is, of what he believes in, and of how his mind works.

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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