Brute Force and Ignorance,
Just hit town,
Looking like survivors,
From the Lost and Found.
Brute Force and Ignorance,
Have come to play,
A one-night stand at eight o’clock,
Then they’ll be on their way.
From, “Brute Force and Ignorance“, by Rory Gallagher
Whooo! Rory Gallagher – remember him? Don’t be surprised if you don’t, because he was probably the best blues guitarist you never heard of. Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal just before the nineteen-fifties and rock & roll took off like a scared cat, a teenage Rory Gallagher stayed up late to listen to Radio Luxembourg because he couldn’t afford records. He played entirely by ear, couldn’t read a note, but he could play anything that had strings on it. In 1971, influential British music magazine Melody Maker voted him International Guitarist of the Year, ahead of Eric Clapton, with whom he shared both influences (Big Bill Broonzy, Leadbelly, Muddy Waters) and a soulful blues style. In 1995 he was dead in a London hospital, of liver complications, when he was just 47.
Anyway, this post isn’t really about Rory Gallagher, except perhaps in the sense of what a prophet he was. Because we have entered – are firmly established, in fact – into an age in which a significant group of people in the English-speaking world are proud to be ignorant. George W. Bush was the first president who routinely cited his low academic standings – because he thought it made him sound folksy and one of the little people – and a startling proportion of the general public is now apparently quite happy to be misled by “experts” who don’t know what the hell they are talking about.
It’s still important to the decent, hardworking people who constitute The General Public that they support Doing The Right Thing. The deceitful and manipulative folks who run some of the world’s most powerful countries know this, and so The Things They Want To Do for their own reasons are pitched to The General Public as Doing The Right Thing. Since the world’s leaders only speak directly to the electorate when they’re looking for your vote and perhaps once a year for a State Of The Union Address, they use selected “experts” and analysts to softball-pitch their selected narrative to The General Public – which must be called deliberately ignorant to a large extent, because it unquestioningly accepts the narrative just as if it had never been lied to before, and never will be again. Doing The Right Thing makes them feel good, and they’re proud of it.
In order to be Doing The Right Thing, it is necessary for you to believe Russia is an isolated and reviled international pariah which has invaded its neighbour – Ukraine – with heavy armor, artillery and hundreds of thousands of uniformed soldiers in the country on state orders, and which shot down MH-17 so that it could blame it on innocent Ukraine (among other wild justifications). It is a country which makes nothing and is totally reliant on energy exports; backward, barbaric, uncultured and unlettered, deceitful and underhanded.
An excellent example to start off with is Forbes, featuring the clownish oaf Paul Roderick Gregory. Mr. Gregory was one of the first to latch on to the scoop that Russia had inadvertently published the figures of its dead in the “Eastern Ukrainian Campaign”, in a small, innocuous business newspaper called Delovaya Zhizn (Business Life). Then, the story goes, the government frantically deleted the information, but not before some sharp-eyed truthseekers had pounced on it and exposed it to the world. Yahoo – staunchly Russophobic in its news content – jumped on it as well. Social media dismembered it in hours and revealed it as a fake, while the purported representative of Business Life claimed the site had been hacked from a Kiev-registered IP on August 22nd, and the bogus data inserted long enough to be captured, then erased. The excitement the story caused in the media was something to see, and the Twitter storm – led by luminaries like Michael McFaul drawing attention to it for all they were worth – was furious while it lasted. Once it was exposed as a fake, the story just kind of…went away. Nobody said sorry.
No western news story on Russia or Ukraine is complete without the insertion of the phrase “Russian aggression” like a trademark, and an assertion that Russia has large numbers of military troops in Ukraine although it cynically denies it. News sites regularly claim there is “pretty overwhelming evidence” that Russia and Putin are lying, but none of them ever cite any, and the United States refuses to release any satellite imagery confirming the purported troop movements or transit of armored columns. It must be sensitive about Putin’s feelings, and is protecting him. Ha, ha.
Here’s another comical one – Amanda Taub, at Vox, says a video clip showing Putin and Medvedev working out together showcases Russia’s “fear and insecurity”, which compel Putin to reassure the nation that he is still physically at the top of his game. It includes a gratuitous swipe at Putin’s sweatpants as “unflattering”; Putin is 63, and Ms. Taub, a former human-rights lawyer who appears to have little to crow about in the unflattering department, looks to be about 30 years younger than that. One wonders what she will look like in sweatpants in 30 years. Putin’s popularity is “slipping”, Ms. Taub would have us know – yes, only 72% of Russians said they would vote for Putin in a current election (the poll was in August), and his approval rating is only 83%!! Thus the he-man stunts: Putin must show Russians that he’s still tough enough to bully people, and hopefully get his cratering ratings back on the upswing. To put that in perspective, Barack Obama’s approval rating for the same period was 46% , and David Cameron’s ratings as PM are about the same.
The EU Observer cites Pavel Felgenhauer as a “Russian military expert” who is dicing with death just speaking with a western magazine, since he could be construed as “aiding and abetting the enemy”. Pavel Felgenhauer, once a regular columnist at The Moscow Times, has thoroughly earned the low opinion in which he is held by other analysts, many of them skilled bullshitters themselves. His golden moment came when he successfully predicted the 2008 war in Georgia. Few remember that he also said that it might not happen until 2010, and that Georgia would win it. Outside this one shining moment of prescience, Pavel Felgenhauer is an affable idiot who loves attention, and what he knows about the Russian military you could put in your coffee without noticing any change in the flavour. In 2011, he argued that the MISTRAL assault carriers Russia was buying from France would be employed to guard the Sea of Okhotsk to keep it safe for nuclear submarine operations against the U.S. Pacific Fleet. He claimed to have learned this from “A high-ranking source in the General Staff”. Of the Angolan navy, perhaps – Russian staff officers know better than to discuss anything with Felgenhauer, who will only balls it up anyway. But all his sources are like that: “Oh, a little bird told me”, wink-wink, implying Cosmic Top Secret information, keep it under your hat, old man, when in fact it is pure fantasy. Felgenhauer simply thinks of something that would be an exciting development, and then pretends someone told him about it.
It is only and exclusively in the field of political analysis – with perhaps the occasional exception for “Does this suit make me look fat?” – that leaders will pay someone to tell them exactly what they want to hear, regardless of whether there’s any truth to it. Nobody would pay an auto mechanic to tell them whatever they wanted to hear: say, Sonny – if I put aluminum-alloy wheels on it, will it increase my horsepower? Absolutely, Mr. Obama. How about an accountant? I was wondering, Tiffany; if I withdraw $15,000.00 from my RRSP to gamble in Las Vegas, will it count toward my taxable income for this year? Certainly not, Mr. Cameron; you go on, now, dear, and have fun. As if.
CNN’s “Banned! 10 Things You Won’t Find in Russia” is, unsurprisingly, horseshit. The law forbidding “gay propaganda” does not “mean anyone campaigning for LGBT rights or equating straight and gay relationships can be prosecuted. ” It is quite specific that it may not be pitched to minor children, but the United States has become so chuffed with itself over how gay-friendly it is that it seems to think nobody is too young to learn how to do it the gay way. How about three – is three too young, do you think? Thinking about sending your gender nonconforming three-year-old son to Crossdresser Camp? I wonder if the other boys in his class – when he’s, say 12 – are going to be as supportive? Gay adults can do as they please in Russia, as they always could, and homosexuality was legal in Russia ten years before the USA got around to saying it was okay to be gay.
Anonymous blogs are illegal – oh, dear. That should be of great concern to the civil libertarians who are sharing their phone conversations with the NSA, have been for some time before it was revealed, and the NSA refuses to stop, while the government refuses to make them. National security, you know. Think about that next time you’re discussing your hemorrhoids with your doctor on the telephone.
Western food is banned; quite a lot of it, anyway. Why is that, CNN, again? Because of sanctions imposed against Russia. Why? Well, because the Russians shot down MH-17, of course! And before anyone calls tit-for-tat sanctions “childish”, yes, they are. But you’re talking to the country that changed the name of the American street on which the Soviet Embassy was located to “Andrei Sakharov Street”, just for spite. The Wall Street Journal called it “simple but inspired“. They were half-right: it was simple. Stay tuned for the U.S. Embassy to be on “Edward Snowden Boulevard”.
Foul language is banned from films and television. Oh, no. How could anyone sit through a movie in America if it was not non-stop swearing from start to finish…kind of like conversation is in the USA. Ridden a city bus lately? Honestly, America has become the proverbial caricature of itself, so obsessed with slagging off the Russians in an attempt to humiliate them that it portrays being The Sopranos from sea to shining sea as some kind of virtue.
Drug related websites. The mind reels. Where is I gonna get my hit on, iffen I can’t fin’ my on-line dealer? CNN….man, I just don’t know. I used to think, when I still watched CNN, probably about 10 years ago, that Wolf Blitzer was the worst thing about it. But now you is on a ho’ notha level. Freedom…is drug-related websites.
In fact, lacy feminine undergarments are not banned at all. As the article points out, material that is next to the skin must be at least 6% cotton. Doesn’t mean it has to be all cotton, and the rest can be any material. You can get lingerie in Moscow. You just can’t get it in this size. There…ummm… doesn’t seem to be any significant demand for it. Another benefit of banning western food.
The Independent (owned by a Russian oligarch – oops! “Tycoon”, I meant, which is how western newspapers sucked up to Poroshenko the Billionaire after he took over the presidency of Ukraine) reports, completely gratuitously, that Moscow is “the world’s unfriendliest city“; so designated by a survey conducted among the readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine! Which had a total circulation, in 2011, of just under 971,000. Ha, ha!! Jesus, listen to yourselves, will you? More than twice as many people read Rolling Stone, Bon Appetit and Golf Digest as read Travel & Leisure. Take a flying leap at a rolling doughnut, Travel & Leisure! Who gives a toss what you think? We’ll see all 971,000 of you in Galway, Ireland (rated the “friendliest” city), and you’d probably all fit.
Timothy Snyder, eminent historian and defender of the Maidan, tells whoever will listen that Kiev is the only bilingual capital in Europe. Mind you, he also says Ukraine is a country of 50 million people, when he’s actually spotting them about 10 million. Ukraine lost around 3 million people in 2014 – and you know where they went – and the population currently stands at just under 43 million according to the state statistics service. But what’s a couple of million more or less? We routinely hear how a million or two well-educated and talented people rush for the exits in Russia every year, but by some miracle the population is increasing! The babushkas must be knitting new Russians in the basement at night, like the Keebler elves.
There’s no need to dissect Snyder’s embarrassing knowledge deficit further – my colleague, Paul Robinson, does a wonderful job of that – but suffice it to say Kiev is far from the only bilingual capital in Europe. More importantly, Snyder is playing up the distinctive nature of Ukrainian as if being able to switch between Russian and Ukrainian is an accomplishment on a par with speaking French and English. Russian and Ukrainian are both East Slavic languages descended from a common root – the language of the medieval Kievan Rus – and are mutually intelligible; that is, the two have sufficient common elements that if you can speak one fluently, you will be able to understand much of the other.
Get the picture? Western leaders, through the western media, rely on feted “experts” who do not know if their ass is bored or punched, but who nonetheless blather whatever their paymasters want to hear – and what they want to hear, pretty consistently, is that Russia is barbaric, weak and surly, reeling from sanctions which are wringing its economy like a dishrag. They want to hear that its population is steadily declining, thanks to its increasingly unpopular and unstable president. Timothy Garton Ash regularly paints a bloodcurdling – if you’re a Russian – picture of a tottering giant about to topple. Edward Lucas, narcissistic British bonehead, rails against Putin’s non-existent determination to bring the Baltics under his dictatorial command. Craaazzzy Annie Applebaum, Mrs former-Polish-political-wunderkind, snaps at her own entrails in a Russophobic delirium. Julia Ioffe. Luke Harding. Shaun Walker and Roland Oliphant. Simon Ostrovsky of Vice News. Rainbow-Brite Hater Jamie Kirchik of The Daily Beast. Too many to name them all, each pumping out soporific smoke that reassures westerners of their ongoing moral superiority and perspicacious judgment. All of it totally manufactured nonsense, delivered with a straight face in an atmosphere in which nobody wishes to challenge their accuracy, because it just feels so good to let go and believe.
I’m not arguing this so the west will come to its senses and try to repair the damage it has done to international relationships, entirely owing to society’s own myopic stupidity and epic eagerness to be fooled. It’s much too late for that; Russia has reached the realization that it cannot be a partner to the west so long as Russia insists upon making its own decisions and following its own policies. Consequently, it is decisively turning away from the west and reordering its markets, its institutions and its partnerships. Some business relationships might recover, but the west will not be trusted again for a generation at least. Because you can’t trust someone who will not listen to reason.
I’m arguing it because the rest of the world is looking aghast at the west as if it had gotten drunk at their kids’ birthday party and made an ass of itself, and it’s embarrassing.