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Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin: Potential Partners – Not Allies or Even Friends

Far from being Putin’s Stooge Donald Trump is a pragmatic realist. However that is not enough for the Beltway’s insiders who have a pathological hatred of the Russian leader.

George Szamuely

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Reporters and pundits covering the presidential campaign of Donald Trump have been torn between two conflicting narratives: The first is that Trump is a reckless amateur and, as president with his finger on the nuclear button, he would bring the world to the brink of catastrophe. The second is that Trump is a cat’s paw for Russian President Vladimir Putin and, as president, he would, advertently or inadvertently, work to implement Moscow’s agenda for world domination.

The first narrative is a familiar one. Past Republican presidential candidates—Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan—have all had to fight off accusations that, if elected, they would waste no time before launching World War III. The second narrative however is somewhat unusual. It is not often that Republicans are accused of acting as witting or unwitting tools of the Kremlin—at least not by so-called liberals.

For it is liberal media outlets that are the most enthusiastic purveyors of this tale of Putin, the manipulative mastermind, and Trump, his would-be hand puppet. Most of these stories depict Trump as a buffoonish narcissist, easily susceptible to the empty flattery doled out by a predatory Putin. In a story titled “Putin’s Puppet,” Franklin Foer in Slate claimed that Putin “has a plan for destroying the West—and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump.” Foer set the Red-baiting tone by announcing that Trump’s campaign is “the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace’s communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948….A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.” Trump’s ambition doesn’t go beyond fulfilment of a “longtime dream of planting his name in the Moscow skyline.” Putin’s dream is far more sinister:

If Putin wanted to concoct the ideal candidate to serve his purposes, his laboratory creation would look like Donald Trump. The Republican nominee wants to shatter our military alliances in Europe; he cheers the destruction of the European Union; he favors ratcheting down tensions with Russia over Ukraine and Syria, both as a matter of foreign policy and in service of his own pecuniary interests. A Trump presidency would weaken Putin’s greatest geo-strategic competitor. By stoking racial hatred, Trump will shred the fabric of American society.

“Trump is Vladimir Putin’s stooge,” Jonathan Chait claimed in New York in a story headlined “Why Is Donald Trump a Patsy for Vladimir Putin? The New York Review of Books also chimed in: Under a Trump presidency, “American policy to [sic] Europe will be guided by Russian interests,” wrote its resident “Russia expert” Timothy Snyder. Until “the rise of Trump the idea of an American who would volunteer to be a Kremlin client would have seemed unlikely. Trump represents an unprecedented standard of American servility, and should therefore be cultivated as a future Russian client.” Putin likes “weakness, which is what Trump offers…. an American president who shuns alliances with fellow democracies, praises dictators, and prefers “deals” to the rule of law would be a very easy mark in Moscow.” For Putin, “Trump is a small man who might gain great power. The trick is to manipulate the small man and thereby neutralize the great power. In another article, Snyder claimed that the Russian elite is rooting for Trump because of “their conviction that Trump will destroy U.S. power.” 

Most media outlets however didn’t waste time hiring experts. Standard-issue political operatives sufficed. Time ran a column titled Meet the Tyrant Donald Trump Loves the Most by Elise Jordan, speechwriter to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who now serves as MSNBC’s in-house Republican, ready at the drop of a hat to express the appropriate outrage at the latest pronouncement of Donald Trump’s. The Russian leader, according to Jordan, “senses that Trump’s rise portends weakness for America. No wonder Putin is openly excited by the prospect of facing off against an ignorant reality star whom he could easily dominate in the international pecking order.” Trump’s “attacks on strong women, [echo] Putin’s pathetic attempts at machismo.” Jordan’s fact-free rant culminated in the prediction that “It’s not too far-fetched to imagine Trump going full Putin and starting a war with Mexico, like Putin’s Crimea grab, if they don’t build the wall.” (Well, actually, it is too far-fetched. Trump has explained in some detail how he would persuade Mexico to pay for the wall. He said he would threaten to cut off the flow of money immigrants send back to Mexico via remittances. He would rescind the threat if Mexico made “a one-time payment of $5-10 billion” to pay for the border wall. Whatever one might think of the advisability or feasibility of this plan, it involves no threat of war.)

Another political operative who weighed in on the Putin-Trump relationship, this time at Politico, was one Evelyn Farkas, a former official in Obama’s Pentagon. Her screed, Trump and Putin: Two Liars Separated at Birth?, was notable in that she appears to hold Americans in as much contempt as she holds the Russians. The Russian people’s indifference to truth, she wrote, has enabled Putin “to secure and retain power, to run the Russian Federation as an autocratic, Mafia-style capitalist state, to pursue a neo-imperial foreign policy for its own sake.” As for Trump, “he is fostering and exploiting indifference toward truth in the service of fear, hatred and a mishmash of poor foreign and domestic policy ideas.”

Not terribly sophisticated but media outlets that make their living through clickbait were even less sophisticated. Salon, for example, has run innumerable stories suggesting a homoerotic relationship between the Russian leader and the American businessman. Donald Trump’s revealing man-crush on Vladimir Putin screamed a typical headline. The man-crush is mutual apparently. On another occasion, we were told that Putin has a “man-crush on Donald Trump.” On yet another occasion, Salon spoke of a “bromance”: “Donald Trump is a big fan of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Big fan. Huge fan.” Just in case readers still didn’t get the message, two days after the appearance of that story, Salon ran yet another  story on this theme, headlined Donald Trump’s got Putin fever. This was soon followed by yet another story telling us that Russian president Vladimir Putin has continued to sing Donald Trump’s praises.” Trump “can’t help but gush with praise at those who use violence to oppress their people,” Salon claimed more recently, “At the top of the list, of course, is Vladimir Putin, who Trump repeatedly swoons over like he’s a 12-year-old at a Justin Bieber concert.” Putin is aware that “Trump goes to sleep snuggling a photo of the Russian dictator every night, and are seeking ways to support Trump’s run, knowing that nothing would destabilise the United States and strengthen Russia’s position like a Trump win.”

Even the New York Times has picked up on the bromance” theme, running a story titled “Vladimir Putin Praises Donald Trump, Sealing a Long-Distance Bromance.” “Bromance” also featured on CNN. Many of the articles prominently feature a recently-painted mural on the wall of a bar in Vilnius, Lithuania, showing Putin and Trump locking lips.

The $1-a-word-anti-Putin-diatribe crowd would not be left out of the mix. The ubiquitous Julia Ioffe offered her usual venomous observations, this time laced with erotic suggestions: Russians were supposedly “salivating at the prospect” of a Trump presidency. There is “something Russian about Trump the man: he likes gold-plated opulence and surgically-perfected Eastern European women.” Anna Nemtsova wrote in The Daily Beast  that “The Kremlin hates everything about America except for Donald Trump.” Ivan Krastev in a New York Times op-ed titled “Why Putin Loves Trump,” explained that Putin’s “enthusiasm” for Trump was “rooted in the fact that they both live in a soap-opera world run by emotions rather than interests.”

What is remarkable about this abundance of lurid verbiage is the flimsy foundation on which it is based. Trump and Putin have in reality exchanged nothing more than a few pro forma compliments. Trump’s “man crush” is nothing more than an acknowledgment of something that even Putin’s critics don’t dispute: The Russian is a strong leader. “I’ve always felt fine about Putin. He’s a strong leader. He’s a powerful leader,” he told a TV interviewer. In addition, Trump has said many times that he believed—or hoped—that he would get on well with Putin. During the second presidential debate in September 2015, Trump declared that he “would get along with Putin.” But then, he added, “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.” He returned to this theme in another presidential debate: “Wouldn’t it be nice if actually we could get along with Russia?”

It is extraordinary that a statement promising improved relations should cause so much fury. In his National Interest-hosted foreign policy speech on April 27, 2016, Trump again reiterated that the United States and Russia “are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests. Russia, for instance, has also seen the horror of Islamic terrorism. I believe an easing of tensions, and improved relations with Russia from a position of strength only is possible, absolutely possible.”

Putin, for his part, has also not gone beyond expressions of hope that the next U.S. president would seek better relations with Russia. To be sure, Putin has expressed himself positively about Trump. In December 2015, after pledging to work with “whomever the American voters choose,” Putin described Trump as “a very lively man, talented without doubt.” Putin went on, “He’s saying he wants to go to another level of relations—closer, deeper relations with Russia. How can we not welcome that? Of course we welcome that.” Of course, they do. After enduring years and years of verbal abuse from U.S. politicians and pundits, particularly at election time, Russians are understandably happy to hear that there is one political candidate who appears to be free of the usual animus toward Russia. Trump responded to Putin’s words by saying that it was “a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond. I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”

In June 2016, Putin again pointed out that “We don’t back anyone, it’s not our business.” He however welcomed Trump’s promise to “restore relations with Russia.” While Russia would work with anyone the U.S. voters choose to lead them, his hope was that “this individual will want to improve relations with Russia and help build a more secure world.”

Interviewers have repeatedly baited Trump over his positive words about Russia. How could Trump not be appalled by a man who “kills journalists that don’t agree with him”? Trump responded, not unreasonably, that “our country does plenty of killing too.” This comment led to predictable spluttering and howls of outrage. Failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney tweeted: “Important distinction: thug Putin kills journalists and opponents; our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

The terrorists and enemy combatants to whom Romney referred evidently include members of the media. At least 16 journalists have been killed by U.S. armed forces in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Trump could have mentioned—but didn’t—the April 2003 bombing of Al Jazeera’s Baghdad headquarters that led to the killing of its correspondent Tareq Ayyoub. That same day, the United States shelled the Palestine hotel in Baghdad, home to most of the foreign correspondents in Iraq, killing two cameramen, Reuters’ Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso of Spain’s Telecinco. The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed many other such incidents: There was Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, who was killed by machine gun fire from a U.S. tank on Aug. 17, 2003, while he was filming near Abu Ghraib prison. There was cameraman Ali Abdel Aziz and reporter Ali al-Khatib, both of the United Arab Emirates-based news channel Al-Arabiya, who were shot dead near a U.S. military checkpoint in Baghdad in March 2004. Then there was Asaad Kadhim, a correspondent for the U.S.-funded Al-Iraqiya TV, and his driver, Hussein Saleh, who were killed by gunfire from U.S. forces near a checkpoint close to the Iraqi city of Samara. There was also Maha Ibrahim, a news producer for Iraqi television station Baghdad TV, who was shot and killed on June 25, 2005, by U.S. forces as she drove to work with her husband, also an employee of the station. Then there was the notorious videotaped 2007 Apache helicopter attack that led to the deaths of two Reuters news correspondents. 

Moreover, in 2015, the Pentagon published a law of war manual in which it declared that “journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorised to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.” In other words, not only are journalists to be considered legitimate military targets but, if captured, they would not be entitled to any protections under the Geneva Conventions.

To return: While Trump has promised to seek better relations with Russia, he has not yet indicated awareness of Russia’s security concerns, particularly those arising from NATO’s eastward expansion. On Ukraine, for example, Trump has not addressed the 2014 armed overthrow of the legitimate, elected government in Kiev and the role this played in the subsequent conflict in Ukraine. While Trump has eschewed the usual noisy Washington bluster that blames Putin for the spectacular failure of the policy of trying to muscle Ukraine into the Western alliance, Trump’s criticism of Washington’s Ukraine policy has not gone beyond demands that other countries take the lead: “I think maybe we should do a little following and let the neighbors take a little bit more of an active role in the Ukraine.” Americans have been the most aggressive on Ukraine, he complained in on another occasion. Why can’t others do a little more? “I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean, Ukraine’s very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States.”

On the question of Ukraine’s membership of NATO, Trump has not gone beyond saying that he doesn’t care about the issue. “Whether it goes in or doesn’t go in, I wouldn’t care. If it goes in, great. If it doesn’t go in, great.” On Crimea, Trump has been non-committal, declaring it to be Europe’s, rather than America’s, problem. Trump has not been an enthusiastic about providing arms to Ukraine. Recently, the Trump campaign succeeded in making sure that the Republican platform rejected calls for sending lethal weapons to the government of Ukraine.

Trump’s approach toward Russia is in line with the general thrust of his proposed foreign policy. The only question he deems worthy of asking is: “What’s in it for us?” In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, he wrote that “Pulling back from Europe will save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use.” These days, the gravamen of his complaints about NATO is that its members are getting a free ride. Only four NATO member-countries, besides the United States, are “spending the minimum required 2% of GDP on defence.” The United States spends “trillions of dollars over time on planes, missiles, ships, equipment, building up our military to provide a strong defence for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defence, and if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.”

However, there are more serious problems with NATO than other countries not pulling their weight. NATO’s reckless policies such as involvement in the war in Syria, overthrow of the legitimate government of Libya and the provision of weapons and training for the government of Ukraine, have seriously jeopardized the security of Western nations. Trump has studiously avoided asking the more fundamental question whether it is the continued existence of NATO that poses the most serious threat to world peace. 

To be sure, alone among today’s politicians, Trump has urged a reconsideration of NATO’s mission. NATO is obsolete, he has argued, unwilling to address the issues of today such as migration and Islamic terrorism. “We have the threat of terrorism and NATO doesn’t discuss terrorism,” he has  said.  “NATO’s not meant for terrorism. NATO doesn’t have the right countries in it for terrorism.” NATO needs to change. It will either be “readjusted to take care of terrorism or we’re going to have to set up a…new coalition, a new group of countries to handle terrorism because terrorism is out of control.”

Trump follows the unthinking consensus on missile defence. He has echoed the familiar neo-conservative complaint that Obama has supposedly “gutted” the program and “abandoned our missile defence plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.” Trump appears to be unaware of the components of the U.S. missile defence plans that have been implemented in recent years. In 2009, Obama announced the deployment on AEGIS warships of interceptors against short- and medium-range missiles. The following year NATO announced deployment of SM-3 missile interceptors. This land-based missile defence system became fully operational in May 2016, much to the annoyance of Moscow. NATO has already begun construction of an additional anti-missile platform in Poland. Today, NATO defensive shield includes a command-and-control center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, a radar installation in Turkey and four ships capable of identifying enemy missiles and firing their own SM-3s based in Rota, Spain.

Trump, in other words, has deviated fairly mildly from Washington foreign policy orthodoxy. That is has elicited such a frenzied response illustrates the extent to which the U.S. foreign policy elite, especially its liberal wing, is committed to continuing, and even escalating, the conflict with Russia. Not only that, given the elite’s almost hysterical animus toward Putin, it is likely to be working overtime under a Clinton presidency trying to effect regime change in Moscow. Trump as a businessman has imbibed none of the pathology of the U.S. policymaking elite. Before entering politics, Trump was a builder who naturally saw Russia as an enticing source of business opportunities. As a neophyte politician, he is understandably baffled why he is expected to begin mobilising the nation to confront Russia. Trump may not have fully grasped that for U.S. policymakers the natural order of things is U.S. hegemonic rule over the entire planet. The role of the much-touted U.S. “friends and allies” is to serve as cheerleaders for U.S. rule. Russia however stands in the way. Hence, the extraordinary vitriol directed at Moscow.

As far as U.S. policymakers and their media acolytes are concerned, the goal of a liberal, rational foreign policy is to contain Russia and to sponsor opposition to its government. However, this policy, consisting as it does of NATO expansion, missile defence systems on Russia’s borders, growing NATO military presence in Eastern Europe, regime change operations in Russia isn’t terribly rational. In fact, it’s downright dangerous. Trump is one of the few politicians in the United States who has expressed concern about where this policy is leading. However, now that Trump is the official Republican presidential nominee, will he have the strength to resist the entreaties of his new Republican allies to provoke conflict with Russia?

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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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