“A concept is a brick. It can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.”
I often have to wonder if the media of the western democracies spends more time watching what’s going on in its own countries, or what’s going on in Russia. Because the minute something goes down in Russia, the western media is on it like a fox on a mouse, like Rush Limbaugh on an unsupervised cheeseburger. And the first question the western media asks itself as it’s putting the story together for its audience of desperate housewives, harassed junior executives and the great amorphous trusting blob of the workforce is, “How are we going to spin this so the Russians sound like the shitheels of the universe?”
You certainly don’t have to take my word for it: how many times, just in the last decade, has the west – represented for the purposes of its values by its media – discovered a sudden espoused camaraderie and good fellowship for rebels, elsewhere than in the western democracies themselves? The west loved them some Syrian rebels so much it did not even notice they were offshoots of the same group that drove airliners into the World Trade Center in 2001. One man’s terrorist is another man’s Swiss Army knife – it just depends on the situation. And terrorists – oops; I meant, “moderate rebels” – are often very useful for stirring up trouble in countries the west has made enemies of through its pigheaded behavior, prejudice and general assholery.
Consider the recent and convenient example of the arrest, trial and sentencing of the Russian group calling itself – or being referred to in the news as – Network. I’ve selected coverage by The Guardian, but western reporting on the group and its tribulations at the iron hand of monolithic Moscow is pretty uniformly on the side of those poor boys, so misunderstood. Let’s take a look – everyone’s outrage filters set to maximum? Let’s go.
Right out of the gate, the British newspaper labels the group “Anti-fascists” rather than anarchists, although they refer to them as anarchists in the body of the article; this is targeted at ‘busy’ people who only skim headlines, and the message is that if you don’t support the accused, you like fascism. Is the Russian government fascist? It might be helpful to look at the definition.
Fascism: a political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country and race, and in which political opposition is not allowed.
Well, that basically tells me nothing, since barring the final parameter, it sounds like every government that has ever been – let’s look at the current British government, captained by the blonde buffoon, Boris Johnson. Is he a very powerful leader? He certainly thinks he is, and he managed to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union albeit nearly half his electorate was vigorously opposed to it. That sounds powerful enough to me – and what kind of a ridiculous qualifier is that, anyway? What leader of what government is going to suggest he is a milquetoast rather than a powerful leader? Christ, Juan Guaido figures he is a powerful leader, and he’s head of a government that doesn’t even have a country. Next!
State control. Every western government employs state control to one degree or another. If you think that is inaccurate – and presuming you live in one of the western democracies – try an experiment. Start small; name a territory within the current boundaries of the region in which you live. If you want to be even more modest, pick just the street you live on. Announce to your city council that you are taking over your street in the name of the people and freedom, and henceforth you and individuals named by you will run it as a republic, and that its citizens will be answerable to you. I promise you that you will see an example of state control just about as quickly as you can deal with it.
Extremely proud of country and race. Boy, howdy; who isn’t? And I’d just like to insert here, if there’s anyone more hypocritical than the British, I have yet to see it. Perhaps I’m just reacting to the fact that the smarmy article defending those poor antifascist boys in Russia is in a British newspaper, but that’s as may be – the British continue to piss me off with their insufferable smugness. Here’s David “call me Dave” Cameron, former failed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, on being proud of being British.
“In the wake of Ofsted’s findings, Mr Cameron said “British values” included: “A belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law.”
These were “as British as the Union Flag, as football, as fish and chips,” he wrote in the newspaper article.”
Let’s be clear here, so there are no misunderstandings – every leader in every single political milieu invokes nationalist values when his or her ratings are going to hell, and he/she needs to rally the voters ’round the flag. It is as much a part of politics as the ballot box.
Is that why Putin exhorts Russians to be proud of being Russian and to hold tight to Russian values and culture? Because his ratings are in the toilet? Well, what do you think? According to NDTV, Putin’s popularity rating ‘hovers around 70%’. Because it is obligatory for any English-speaking news resource to remain relentlessly negative on Russia, it hastens on to “..Putin seems to have understood that many Russians are displeased.” Are they really? What would the impression be of any western politician who had popularity ratings of around 70%? That many of his voters were displeased? Let me ask you another question – just how stupid do you think people can be and still make it unescorted to the corner store to buy a newspaper?
This month, February 2020, Boris Johnson is reckoned to be wildly popular in his home country. His ratings have ‘soared’, to a point that….47% of his electorate approves of his performance. Is that more than 70%? Less? Tick.tick.tick – would you like to buy a vowel?
How about that other straw-haired sideshow, Donald Trump? Well, this is a constantly-updating poll, so it might well say something different at the time you check it, and you’ll just have to take my word for it that the King of America is currently (as of writing) polling at…43.8% approval. Is that more than 70%? Less? Surely we’re not going to be served up with that absurd argument that of course Vladimir Putin is popular with his electorate – all his poll results are achieved at the point of a Kalashnikov? Anyone who still believes Russia is led by a tyrant who scores great ratings because his electorate fears his senseless brutality needs to have his pillow checked for loose teeth underneath it.
Putin does not need to call up imaginary threats to Russian culture or ethnicity; the threats are real enough. But he likewise does not need to wrap himself in the Russian flag like some kind of interpretive burrito, because he commands the respect and support of his people, the very great majority of them.
Which brings us to the last qualifier: “political opposition not allowed”.
In the 2018 Russian Presidential Election, there were 8 candidates on the ballot. The Russian president is directly elected, so theoretically it could be any of those candidates – they do not have to be the head of a powerful political party. Vladimir Putin was widely expected to win, and he did. That’s what advance polls said, and so far as I am aware, advance polls are pretty democratic, since they reflect who decided voters will cast their vote for. Do we have advance polls in western elections? We sure do – monotonous and constant.
In the British General Election, there were 10 candidates on the ballot, so Britain is obviously freer and more democratic than the Russians, innit? Although the results shook out pretty much the same – there was the winner, with 43.6% of the vote, a single strong opponent with 32.2%, and a motley pack of losers with dramatically less support, some so insignificant that only 5 parties appeared on the division-of-the-vote pie chart, while the remainder were lumped together in the dismal 8.7% garnered by ‘all others’. Boris Johnson was widely expected to win, and he did. He didn’t even need a Kalashnikov, or a chainsaw, or a bottle labeled “Novichok” or anything else that frightens the British people shitless.
How about America, the Shining City On A Hill? I think that’s actually Gondor, but never mind. In the Presidential Election of 2016, there were an incredible 17 candidates – Christ on a skateboard, is that ever a democracy! But really there were only two: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and nobody else was even close; because those two were their party’s nominees, their standard-bearers, and I don’t know that there has ever been a US election in which a Republican candidate won who was not the Republican nominee, for example – in this election, you knew if you voted Democrat, you were voting for Hillary Clinton. Occasionally when someone who was expected to win the overall election did not, that loser throws some other candidate under the bus by claiming they were a ‘spoiler’ who thwarted the people’s will. I cannot remember a time when the victor in the US Presidential election was not either a Republican or a Democrat. But somehow that is the very essence of democracy, while consistent United Russia victories rather than the Russian people voting in Yabloko, or some other liberal US-State-Department supporting cast, is the inspiration for agonized screams about carousel voting and ballot-stuffing. Every time.
Well. I didn’t mean to get started. Anyway, back to The Network. The Russian government says they planned attempts to overthrow the government. The west, backed by Human-Rights group Memorial (unfailingly pointed out as the oldest human-rights group in Russia) claims they were tortured into confessing. It doesn’t come right out and say they never did anything, but it is careful to refer to them as ‘activists’ and ‘antifascists’, and to imply they were arrested for their ‘activism’. Is there a line between activism and plans to overthrow the government? I’m sure there is, but The Guardian clearly doesn’t see it.
A quick sidebar here: Memorial – yes, yes, I know, the oldest human-rights organization in Russia – was, toward the end of last year, fined for the 19th time for failing to label its online content as produced by an agent of a foreign government. Memorial accepts foreign financial support, and defiantly refuses to stop.
Memorial director Arseny Roginsky, quoted by the Russian news website Vesti, said it was “a complete check on everything concerned with our sources of funding”.
He insisted that the NGO law “will not change our position at all”. “We won’t refuse foreign donations, nor will we register as a ‘foreign agent’,” he said.
This might be a good place for a sidebar to the sidebar, because at least some people have probably forgotten what the law on Foreign Agents said. It says that if your activities are political in nature, but you do not accept foreign financial support, by all means carry on untroubled. If you accept foreign funding, but your activities are not political in nature, ditto. If your activities are political in nature and you accept foreign funding, you are a foreign agent. Your activities will be scrutinized by the national investigative services, and you must label all your products, real and virtual, as having originated with a foreign agent. Memorial refuses to do either.
And yet somehow, they’re all still alive. Here’s an idea – why doesn’t Putin just go in and kill them all? After all, it’s what he does with everyone who opposes him. Jesus Christ, must I think of everything?
No, of course not – instead, Memorial has been fined 19 times, obviously since 2013, because the NGO law did not exist before that. That’s an average of nearly 3 times a year. Equally obviously, the punishment is not onerous enough to get it to obey the law. The west pretends to revere the law, as long as it gets to make it up for everyone, including purpose-designed exceptions. The cheek of the Russian government, to think it can regulate conduct in the country it governs!
Presidential Human-Rights Council member Pavel Chikov complains, “it goes full circle across the whole spectrum – they’re trying to find as many violations as possible”. Yes, by golly, that is ignorant – in real law-abiding countries, the investigative services skip right over things that do not reflect well on the lawbreaker. Memorial’s fines are evidently paid by its foreign donors, so why should they worry?
Donors like the United States, in which more than half the country still recognizes and imposes the death penalty – 23 people in 8 states were executed by lethal injection in 2017. In Russia in 2017 there was no death penalty, just as there has not been since August of 1996.
Well, what is an anarchist, anyway – perhaps it’s harmless!
Uh, oh; guess not. According to Merriam-Webster, an anarchist is;
- a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power;
- a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy especially : one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order.
Mmmmm….rebels against any authority or ruling power, uses or advocates the use of violence to overthrow the established order. Certainly sounds an individual who would be welcome in the west, what? Especially if the Russian government tortured him. And of course they’re telling the truth; that’s a peculiarity among accused violent criminals – they are incapable of telling a lie.
Fun as this is, we’re simply going to have to cut to the chase – anarchists are not welcome in the UK. In 2014, a British court sentenced former British soldier and fifth-generation Army man Ryan McGee to two years imprisonment…for making a nail bomb. He didn’t blow anyone up – in fact, the bomb he made was never detonated. The court accepted that he was not a terrorist, nor harboured any intent to assist any terrorist group. So…uh…what was his crime?
Well, he was interested in the English Defense League. Not a member, mind you; just interested. He kept a sketchbook filled with drawings of guns and knives (duh. Army.) and paramilitary soldiers. Right-wing groups such as the KKK, the National Front and BNP were mentioned. He watched a video of men being executed under a swastika flag. He was a teenager when these events occurred, 20 years old when sent down for a deuce. Oh, and he admitted to having read “The Anarchist’s Cookbook”. Thank God he lived in a free country – he might have been tortured!
British soldier Aidan James was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment for “attending a place used for terrorist training in Iraq, because the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) had been present.” According to the Daily Sabah (because no mainstream news outlets are eager to talk about the subject), the United States of America supplied PKK affiliates with 3000 truckloads of arms and ammunition ‘of the latest technology’. No proof that they actually used any US-supplied arms, though, I guess, so the worst they could get would be two years in an English prison. American support for the group, however, is not in doubt despite the reluctance of western establishment media to discuss the matter – it simply referred to them as ‘the Kurds’ without making any distinction who was PKK/YPG and who was not.
And you know what? Anarchists are not welcome in the United States, either! See, anarchists refuse to accept any governing authority, and are committed to overthrowing it. The governing authority in the United States is the aptly-named United States Government, and it’s actually a crime to let overthrowing it make it outside your silent fantasies. True story – Title 18, Advocating Overthrow of the Government, from Chapter 115; Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities. Gee – they make it sound sort of…bad.
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or
Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or
Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both…
Oh, there’s more stuff you can’t do, if you were looking into a career as an anarchist – no recruiting of new members, no expansion of existing clubs, classes or assemblies. Timothy McVeigh was an anarchist, and the US Government executed him, in 2001. Except they studiously referred to him as a ‘militant’ or a ‘domestic terrorist’. He deserved it – he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring 684 more. But if you read over his history, he was an anarchist – he despised the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) particularly, but his issues were with his government and its authoritarianism. Still the US government never refers to him, now or since, as an anarchist. Because they’re noble. When they’re in other countries.
“The prosecution accused the men of allegedly planning attacks, but gave little concrete detail about when or where they would take place.” Dear me; where have I heard that before? Oh, I remember – Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, when he could not define ‘imminent’. Pompeo claimed the USA had to assassinate Iranian General Soleimani because he was planning ‘imminent’ attacks against American targets – the U.S. just didn’t know when or where. You could look up “imminent” yourself, but I could save you some trouble by telling you there is no provision for ‘but I don’t know when’ in it at all.
We could have covered this whole story in one paragraph, although I had a lot more fun doing it the way I did – cathartic, writing is. What the whole thing boils down to is that the west chooses to believe the word of accused criminals that they were tortured in order to extract confessions. And bemoans the fact that they are going to jail anyway. This is, I’m afraid, not a surprise in any way – despite considerable empirical evidence that the government of the Russian Federation is democratically elected and in most ways is no crueler or more authoritarian than those of ‘enlightened’ western nations, the west uniformly chooses to believe the very worst of it, and to announce with absolutely no knowledge of the proceedings that those convicted of any crime which is political in nature are innocent, and the charges against them fabricated.