“The mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children.”
How appropriate, to say nothing of au courant, to kick off this post with a quote from weaponized his own popularity. Except it is somehow a secret. What a good thing that we have Newsweek to brief us on how that works, because at the outset I confess I am puzzled as to how secret popularity could function as a weapon.Breton; a French poet, writer, and author of “The Surrealist Manifesto”, he is best remembered as the founder of Surrealism. And oh, Mama; surreal is what we have for you today. Yes, having weaponized everything from refugees to referendums, Putin has finally rolled out his magnum opus: he has
I hate to give away right at the beginning how numbingly idiotic the piece is, but I am afraid most of you would guess as soon as you learned that the primary source upon which Newsweek relied for its breathtaking Kremlin insights was that old ‘Kremlin insider’ himself – Gleb Pavlovsky. Epiphany Number One: the overriding reason the west has Russia so wrong is that it keeps tapping the same sources for instruction and inspiration – Fiona Hill, Clifford Gaddy, Gleb Pavlovsky, Yulia Latynina, Stanislav Belkovsky, Edward Lucas, Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, Garry Kasparov, the late and mostly unlamented Boris Nemtsov…a phalanx of sycophancy that always tells it what it wants to hear. Thou, O Queen, art fairest still. Gleb Pavlovsky affects to know everything that goes on in Russia as if it were all unfolding to his own plan, and nobody ever seems to notice when he is catastrophically wrong or that he has been predicting Putin’s collapse for a decade. Here he is, running his mouth in The Guardian, four years ago: “[Putin] thinks man is a sinful being and it is pointless to try to improve him. He believes the Bolsheviks who tried to create fair people were simply idiots, and we wasted a lot money and energy on it … So Putin’s model is that you need to be bigger and better capitalists than the western capitalists. And more consolidated as a state: there must be a full, maximum unity of state and business.”
For Pavlovsky, United Russia’s collapse in the polls in December was obvious. “It was nothing more than a telephone system for conveying the Kremlin’s orders. It transmitted a signal. It has absolutely not independence and can not act on its own. It needs full instructions – 1,2,3,4,5. If 3 and 4 are missing, it stops and waits for instructions.”
The masses, in Putin’s mind, cannot be trusted to rule. Pavlovsky said: “What is the Putin consensus? It is a construction of a pact between the ruling elite and the main groups of society in which society is guaranteed a degree of social distribution and an elite which feels free to move across borders. This state has no ideology. It will be a state without ideas oriented on common sense, the average man, the citizen. Nonetheless the masses must not be given access to power.”
The Putin consensus began when Putin decided he was the sole bearer of that guarantee and he controlled the whole situation. But it ended at precisely point he decided to return to power as president: “That was his mistake. His decision to return was a certain delusion of grandeur, ” Pavlovsky said.
Just pause for a moment with me, and ponder the irony of a Newsweek article on Putin’s weaponization of his massive popularity, in which it relied heavily on a source who only four years ago announced that Putin’s return to the presidency was based on delusions of grandeur. That was quite the fucking mass delusion, wasn’t it, considering the complaint now is that he’s too popular, it simply can’t be real?
You know, it’s bad enough to start out being not particularly good at solving global puzzles. But how much worse you make it for yourself by ruling out all sources of information whose product is unpleasant to hear, because it conflicts with your vision of yourself as all-seeing, all-knowing, a benevolent giant who is forever a force for good. What you are left with is rows of bobble-headed yes-men who just tell you whatever will keep the NED cheques coming. The west did pretty much exactly that with Mikhail Dmitriev, when he authored the famous ‘Dmitriev Report’. Published in 2011 – and actually titled “Political Crisis in Russia and the Possible Mechanisms of its Development” – it told the west that Russians’ trust in the government was falling sharply and that the trend appeared irreversible. This generated nearly as much excitement in the west as reading that the face of Ronald Reagan had appeared in the burn patterns on a tortilla. But when Dmitriev later co-authored “A Farewell to Poverty” with Svetlana Misikhina, in which the two reported that the Putin government had eradicated poverty in Russia for the purposes of statistical significance, he got the ‘Mikhail who??’ treatment.
Well, no use preaching to The Church Of I Know Everything. Let’s have a look, and see what Newsweek‘s complaint is.
Well, basically it seems to be that Putin’s popularity is all a sham. He’s not really popular, and he knows it. So whenever his pseudo-popularity looks to be fading, he holds the Olympics or starts a war with somebody. Then his ratings ease back up into comfortable territory. Remember, this is someone who works for a polling agency who is telling this to Newsweek.
You know what? Putin should tell Obama how that works. Because Obama is forever starting a war with somebody, tidying up the remnants of a war he inherited from the previous administration, threatening to start a war with somebody or just showing up with his planes and Special Forces somewhere that a war is going on to which the United States was not invited, and announcing that they are playing, too, because the USA called dibs. And his ratings are still in the tank. So obviously it is not as easy as just throwing a big spectacle or a tantrum for the folks whenever they start to mutter, there must be a trick to it.
Putin’s ‘reiting’ – which is merely a Russian rendering of an English word, although Newsweek manages to invest it with the mystery of code – ‘rules supreme over all of the nation’s political and economic decisions.’ So when Putin’s rating dips, he does not dare to make decisions which might bring the people into the streets with torches and pitchforks (I know, we’ve heard that a million times, but it’s still funny for me), and instead picks a fight with someone or holds an impromptu Olympics which was actually awarded to Russia years ago. Anyone buying this?
Putin’s rating – excuse me, ‘reiting’ – touched 61% in November 2013. Quick as a flash, Putin annexed Crimea, and his cratering reiting rebounded. What a planner, if you’ll excuse me a moment of frank admiration; Putin had to arrange for the Maidan protests to spin out of control into violence, forecast the rise of the opposition in Kiev – considering Tiahnybok and Klitschko were next to invisible before that- position snipers on the rooftops and flood Kiev with western politicians, all to provide the flashpoint which terrified Crimeans into abandoning the sinking ship! I submit he deserved good reitings after such a masterpiece of manipulation.
The Kremlin has spawned a vast new monitoring body with the aim of spotting and crushing dissent. Let’s call it “Tentacle”, or maybe “The Burning Eye”. Well, we might, except it already has a name – according to The Moscow Times, it’s Putin’s ‘secretive’ Federal Guard Service (FSO). Its job is to conduct non-stop polling to determine levels of discontent, and dole out subsidies to areas the polls show are discontented. Sinister.
Let’s look at it as if it were in, sayyyy….England. “Her Majesty’s Government announced today the creation of a new domestic polling service, under the supervision of the Foreign Office. The purpose of this new office will be to constantly sample the public mood, establishing areas in which ineffective economic policies or uneven distribution of government subsidies have resulted in pockets of discontent, so that aid can quickly be channeled to address the problem”. Gee – that sounds completely different, doesn’t it? It’s all in how you spin it. Newsweek – and The Moscow Times – want you to see it as just more oppression and totalitarianism. This is a technique from journalism known as “Having Your Cake and Eating It” . If the government is too much of a busybody, it’s authoritarian and oppressive. If it isn’t, it’s out of touch with the people. There is no middle ground.
I propose we do an exchange, to promote understanding. Putin will show Obama how to start wars and gain good reitings. Obama will explain to Putin that if you want to gauge the public mood, there’s no need to stand up big agencies to do polling. Just have your intelligence service record their phone calls or watch them through their laptop webcam, and you will know exactly what they’re thinking, with the plus that they are more natural because they don’t know they’re being monitored. That’ll bring down that old ‘terror of the state’ barrier, at the same time resolving the innate dilemma of a ‘secretive’ service which conducts public polling.
Epiphany Number Two: you will never overthrow or successfully promote regime change in a country which is proud of its institutions and traditions by writing lies about it. You cannot make Russians feel ashamed of themselves by inventing horrible things they have done and then saying they ought to be ashamed of themselves, see, because they know you are lying. Battalions of Russian soldiers have invaded Ukraine. Russia was hiding Saddam. Russia shot down MH-17. Russia manipulated Brexit. If you oppose Putin, you will disappear. You can’t be gay in Russia. Navalny is popular in Russia, so the government had to crush him. Putin owns large blocks of shares in Russian energy companies and a string of palaces. Russian athletes can’t win a medal unless they are doped up. All these are ‘truths’ the western media has fed to its readers and demanded they internalize, or be branded a ‘Putin apologist’.
Vladimir Putin’s reiting is a reflection of Russians’ confidence in his leadership, and faith that he will continue to lead the country in the right direction, spotting pitfalls before the country can tumble in and dodging western sandbags dropped in its path, all without whining for mercy or prostrating himself in obeisance. Barack Obama’s reiting, and the evident pre-distaste for Hillary Clinton, are a measure of the American peoples’ fear that American leadership is increasingly dysfunctional, directionless and self-absorbed.
Where is America’s Vladimir Putin, the leader who will restore American pride and confidence, national direction and unity, and remake America’s poisoned relationships with the world’s nations? You can only rewrite reality for so long before the power of illusion fades.