I’ve encountered a lot of interesting people in my seven years of blogging. But none have been as flamboyant as the infamous La Russophobe. Here’s an email that I received from Ms. Zigfeld this evening that proves why:
Dear Sean,In a recent blog post, you called for Yulia Latynina to lose her job. Not that, of course, you have even 10% of the kind of influence that would be needed to make that happen, or that she or her employer even know who you are, but I think that if you review these posts calmly you’ll perhaps see they are childish, bitter, petty and ought to be beneath you. They make both you and your university look bad. The mere fact that you have the time to devote to such drivel does so, to say nothing of the wretched content. Yulia risks her life exactly the way Politkovskaya did, and she is published by editors who are among the bravest and most important of any editors of any newspaper at any time in world history. Your comments are grossly disrespectful of their judgment and the risks she is taking. You are not qualified to pass judgment on them, to say the least. Worst of all, you didn’t even see fit to call for Zhirinovsky to lose his job, which clearly establishes that this is a personal thing you have with Yulia. She didn’t even make a factual mistake, she just expressed an opinion that turned out to be bogus, and she owned up to it. It’s not a basis for her to be fired, just that simple.So here’s what: I’m giving you one week to reconsider, apologize for going too far and admit she should not be fired. If you don’t, I’m going to call for you to be fired. In my view, I have more ammunition that you did in regard to Yulia. And I’m for sure way more powerful than you are.Regards,Kim
As the great Stan “The Man” Lee often says, “Nuff said.”
Here’s a screen shot as proof of the missive’s authenticity. I’ve removed our respective emails.
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- By Sean — 3 years ago
One of the outcomes of the Maidan Revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the ensuing war in the Donbas has been a marked explosion in Russian propaganda. So much so that dissecting it has become a genre in and of itself. Indeed, over the last two years an entire discursive universe has emerged to analyze, adjudicate, and combat Russia’s “weaponization of information.”
Alexey Kovalev’s “Hello, is this Noodle Remover?” is a recent example of this effort sniff out the stink in the Russian media’s bullshit. And what large steaming piles of bullshit he’s found.
Below is a translation of one of his posts (I originally saw it on Maximonline.ru. My translation is of that text) that caught my eye. Links between the Kremlin and American and European rightwing groups has been well documented. So that fact that neo-Nazis, LaRouchies, and other fringe rightwing characters find their way on Russian television is that surprising. Perhaps what is novel about Kovalev’s post is that the circle he uncovers all seem to be one degree or so from the Kremlin.
This is not to say that Russian television has the monopoly on the tin foil hat brigade rolodex. Anyone with enough patience to look askew at Fox News will notice Birthers, 9/11-Truthers, and other conspiracy mongers gracing their screens. Nevertheless, what attracted me to this particular post are the wacky neighbors Russian state media has cozied up with (I have somewhat of a strange fascination with cultists of the Right and the Left) and how this confirms my belief that Russian propaganda is so propagandistic—turned all the way up to 11—that it’s essentially a (unwitting) parody of itself. It’s all very meta.
Hello, is this Noodle Remover?
These experts appear on domestic Russian channels like the Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) and for the foreign market like RT and Sputnik. They are used for legitimizing propaganda talking points abroad: You see, we didn’t come up with all this about America being treacherous. Even American experts say so.
There’s quite a small set of people who migrate from story to story where they are introduced as “experts,” then “analysts,” and then as “journalists and writers.” Even though they aren’t considered experts in their own country. In Russia, this could be the speaker of parliament, the heads of large state-owned corporations, or someone who serves in some other high governmental post and as such spin the most elaborate conspiratorial nonsense for the public. And it will be printed in the state media, and no one will raise an eyebrow.
But in the West, unlike in Russia, the idea of a reputation still carries some weight. And even if people hold some very fringe views or flirt with conspiracy theories, they try to keep it to themselves if they want to serve in high office. Those who can’t manage to keep their love for tin foil hats quiet are left with only a small number of websites for their small circle of adherents or channels like RT where their fantasies are broadcast live to a considerably larger, though on a global scale still marginal, audience. So first they make it on RT, and then from there they land on Vesti as “experts” who on closer examination turn out to be village idiots, swindlers, and outright Nazis.
Where do they get all these people? Does some unknown VGTRK editor sit there and come up with some reputable foreign expert to put on air to talk about American plots?
Let’s try to sort this out with a Vesti story on “armchair experts” as an example.
Take, for example, William Engdahl [3:40 in the Vesti report] who says that “the US government has concocted a entire plot to demonize Russia.” Engdahl is the author of numerous books, articles and speeches about the dangers of GMOs, that global warming is a myth, and that the CIA is behind every incident in the world, from the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran to the Egyptian Revolution in 2011. He often appears on RT, and in particular on the program Truthseeker in July 2014, the same episode about “crucified children” that was eventually taken off the air after numerous viewer complaints.
In addition, Engdahl is a regular contributor to the Centre for Research on Globalization and frequently publishes on the website globalresearch.ca. Noodle Remover has already written about why this site is a valuable source for various “analysts” and “political scientists” for Russian television. And Michel Chossudovsky, the Centre for Research on Globalization’s founder, is on the scientific council of the Italian magazine Geopolitica, whose editor, Tiberio Graziani, in turn, sits in the high council of the International Eurasian Movement, whose leader is Aleksandr Dugin. If you don’t already know who this is, then read on, so I don’t have to tell you. In general, in just a few years this multifaceted personality has morphed from a “nutty professor” into one of the most influential Russian public intellectuals with a huge impact on domestic and foreign policy. There’s perhaps nothing that demonstrates Dugin’s attitude toward Russia’s leadership than this quote from 2007. His views haven’t changed much since:“There are no more opponents to Putin’s policy, and if there are, they’re mentally ill and need to get their head examined. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute, Putin is indispensable.”Alexandr Dugin, the leader of the Eurasian Movement, at a reception for Izvestiia newspaper September 17, 2007.
There is an Italian magazine for far right intellectuals that supports Putin on the principle “the enemy of my enemy” (the main criteria is to be against America), and there on the scientific council is Engdahl on the next line after Dugin. We can assume that Engdahl is personally acquainted with Dugin and through him he enters the minds and offices of the highest managers, including the heads of VGTRK, and not put on air on the personal initiative of some junior editor.
It seems that generally European right-wingers, neo-Nazis, Eurosceptics and various conspiracy theorists in Dugin’s orbit are the main source of “experts” for Russian television. And not just for television. Take for example, Manuel Ochsenreiter, who appears regularly on RT and Russian television channels as a “journalist.”
Of course, the journalist Ochsenreiter is more specifically the editor of the far right journal Zuerst!, which has been involved in several scandals in Germany (for example, the publisher Bauer dropped the magazine due to its sympathy for Nazism). Moreover, Ochsenreiter isn’t just a frequent commentator on Russian television; he was an “observer” to the “elections” in the Luhansk People’s Republic, which is defending itself against the aggression of the fascist junta. All with the help of a real German neo-Nazi, who publishes a German magazine about the glorious victories of the Wehrmacht.
This is literally the cover of the magazine Deutsche Militärzeitschrift, which Ochsenreiter edited until 2011.
Continuing with the Vesti story. Jeffrey Steinberg comes on next after Engdahl [at 3:51]. Steinberg is an author for Executive Intelligence Review which is published by the so-called LaRouche Movement. This “movement,” to put it kindly, is actually just a bunch of LaRouchies—a quasi-fascist cult with fairly seedy rituals (read about “ego-stripping“, for example). Their views are also purely cultish and conspiratorial. LaRouchies, for example, are completely nuts about the British royal family, which, in their view, are to blame for all of mankind’s troubles, Queen Elizabeth II personally controls the drug cartels, and so on. Jeffrey Steinberg, for example, claimed in an interview that Princess Diana didn’t die in a car accident but was killed by British intelligence on the orders of Prince Philip (Conspiracy theories that Diana was murdered and didn’t die in an accident are popular). EIR magazine regularly publishes covers like this:
As you probably guessed, American magazines with such covers and viewpoints, while they aren’t illegal to publish (try to imagine something like this in Russia), don’t enjoy a massive following, to put it mildly.
Are they active in Russia? First, there’s a LaRouche office in Russia—the so-called Schiller Institute. And the Executive Intelligence Review has a Russian website with all the same stuff as the original only it looks even more insane in Russian:
British agents and advocates for genocide organized the American imperial coup in Ukraine. My God. However, they just didn’t show up yesterday. Lyndon LaRouche himself has been regularly interviewed on RT since 2008.
But he also didn’t appear out of thin air. The thing is, Lyndon LaRouche isn’t the personal and longtime friend of just anyone, but of Sergei Glazyev, the adviser to the President on regional economic integration. Here’s LaRouche and Glazyev together at a joint press conference in 2001:
And here’s a personal congratulation from Glazyev to Lyndon LaRouche on EIR‘s Russian site:
As you can see, these “experts” and “analysts” on the Russian television aren’t picked out of thin air or by the whim of broadcast news editor, but from the friends of those in the highest levels of the Russian government. Dugin, Glazyev, and the Rodina Party have close ties with the European and American far-right, neo-Nazis and other yahoos, who are dragged on television as influential Western political scientists and journalists when they really aren’t. And they are so very pleased when they’re let on television. Even if they’re introduced as important people in Russia and not back home. The Rodina Party, which Glazyev belongs, is also a major supplier of a variety of hand-fed “experts” for television. For example, Vesti has constantly quoted John Laughland at least since 2002:
Now Laughland is cited as the “Director of Studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation.” The respectably named Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, or the Institut de la Démocratie et de la Coopération is headquartered in Paris. Only Laughland is not really he director of this institute nor is any Monsieur for that matter. It’s Natalia Narochnitskaya, a former Duma deputy from the Rodina party from 2003 to 2007. Putin personally appointed her as director.
Narochnitskaya has also been good friends with Laughland for ages.
The Institute for Democracy and Cooperation is an NGO officially established and financed from Russia. So, if you see such experts on television, don’t be fooled by the Institute for Democracy and Cooperation and Mr. Laughland criticizing NATO, America and democracy. It’s all for the homeland. In such cases don’t let your noodles hang on your ears and stay by the phone.
PS: Noodle Remover thanks Anton Shekhovtsov, whose profound research has provided a lot of useful leads on the links between the Russian political establishment and the European and American far-right.
- By Sean — 5 years ago
One of the more curious and controversial aspects of the Volgograd bombing was how quickly the Russian media released the passport of Naida Asiyalova, the suicide bomber. Life News tweeted an image of Asiyalova’s passport within hours of the bombing. The state channel NTV also broadcast the image. The photo, which quickly appeared throughout Russian media, immediately raised eyebrows. Why did Asiyalova have her passport on her if she was going to carry out a terrorist attack? And more importantly, if the passport was found at the blast site, then why was it undamaged? And what’s up with a picture of her in a hajib!?
As David Burghardt wrote in the Moscow News:
Though there was literally nothing left of the suicide bomber and the bus was practically gutted by the explosion, the alleged suicide bomber’s passport found on the scene miraculously survived without any damage whatsoever: No torn or burnt pages, no blood, no visible clue that that particular document was even on the bus. The pages of the passport are still bright and shiny as if it had never been in an explosion. Considering the fact that she had her passport on her, one would expect that it would have had some form of damage to it.
Another curious thing about Asiyalova’s passport is that her photograph shows her in a hijab, a head covering worn by Muslim women. This is an official document and Russia doesn’t allow headgear for pictures in passports (just as any other country). So how did that picture end up in that passport? How did that passport survive the blast? Was this the actual suicide bomber?
Good questions. Burghardt wasn’t the only one. Russian bloggers asked even more pointed questions based on close scrutiny of the image. Slon.ru povided some answers. One of which settled the hijab mystery. Since 2003, Russia allows people to take passport photographs with hajibs as long as the face is visible. Still, it’s pretty clear that this hajib photo was placed up top of another photo.
As for why the passport wasn’t damages in the blast, well, perhaps because it wasn’t the Asiyalova’s actual passport. At least it wasn’t the passport found at the blast scene. Clearly this first passport was doctored.
This is “real” one:
So why the initial fake passport? True, the Russian media is under the same pressures media from other countries. They have to get information out fast, and the fastest juiciest news the better. However, Life News is an animal on its own. It’s known for its half-truths, police connections and general subterfuge. It’s well known that the siloviki use Life News to generate black PR to smear oppositionists. Clearly they–Life News and/or the police wanted to get “proof” of Asiyalova’s identity out there. But why? I’m sure there’s a much more surly back story to all this. But on the surface in releasing this counterfeit passport, Life News, the cops, or whoever once again undermined what the Russian police have little of: public trust. Could’ve that been the point?
- By Sean — 8 years ago
Solidarity may be band of “scrubby little opposition organizations [that] have no future,” but if things keep going the way their going, Boris Nemtsov will be wining and dining on American think tank honorariums, hobnobbing with US politicos, and testifying in front of Congress for years to come. Wait, haven’t they done a bit of this already?
Well, let’s just say that Nemtsov’s future is looking a bit brighter thanks to his efforts to paint himself as a repressed dissident. On Tuesday, Nemtsov reported that the cops seized another 100,000 copies of Putin. The Result. Ten Years. in Smolensk. I’ve already noted how the cops seized 100,000 copies of the Nemtsov and Milov report last week in St. Petersburg. The act was clearly a way to prevent activists from distributing the screed to potential investors at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. A few activists from United Civil Front did worm their way into the forum, but were promptly arrested.
In inquiring about the report, the Smolensk authorities explained that they were just doing their St. Petersburg colleagues a solid, but denied taking any copies. “After the detention of copies in St. Petersburg, our Petersburg colleagues asked for us to check whether the publisher’s seal was from Smolensk though the report’s publisher is from Moscow. We asked the head of the printing press [about this],” said Nikolai Turbovets, First Lieutenant of the Smolensk police. But apparently, unlike their Petersburg counterparts, the Smolensk authorities just did an inquiry. “No copies were confiscated and no one was arrested,” an employee of the Smolensk press told Kommersant. However, the source thinks that this was only the beginning. “I think that the copies will be seized after the hoopla dies down. We will be connected with the publisher in the next few days.” The unnamed employee went on to add: “There is a general feeling that now without these copies Boris Nemtsov will receive some excellent PR.”
Given this, it is no surprise that Nemtsov has exaggerated with how things went down. Nemtsov insists that the copies were indeed taken and not returned, while Olga Shorina, Solidarity’s press secretary, says that the copies are at the Smolensk printing press’ offices but they have been “sealed” by the cops thereby preventing their distribution.
Confiscated or not confiscated. Sealed or unsealed. The fact is that the authorities are playing right into Nemtsov’s hands by giving him far more PR than his little “report” deserves. And he’s lapping it all up as people bum-rush him for his autograph. Another Russian oppositionist with the rock star looks without the rock star talent. Oh well, it’s not like talent matters anyway.
The thing I can never wrap my head around is why the police care about people like Nemtsov. Are they really that paranoid? Do they think that they are scoring brownie points with their superiors? Or are they just flat out stupid? Now granted, there is no contradiction between any of these. If anything is to be learned is that paranoia, sycophancy, and stupidity go hand in hand.
True, after a few weeks or so all of this will die down even if the cops declare Nemstov’s “report” to be extremist. Just how soon, though, will depend on Nemtsov himself. Being the slick willy that he is, I’m sure he’ll have no problem finding the gumption to parlay this into at least a few American taxpayer funded first class transatlantic flights, black tie dinners, photo-ops, and speeches detailing the gruesomeness of the Putin regime. If the FSB really puts the screws to him, maybe he can even get a movie option or two so he could tell his “story” in celluloid fashion. George Clooney as Nemtsov? I could see it. And if all goes really well, Borya will be able to dethrone Khodorkovsky as the reincarnation of Sakharov. We all know how Americans like “freedom fighters.” After all, the Russian authorities have provided him a trough full of greasy, scandal laden vittles. All Nemtsov has to do is bury his snout in it and start slurping.
With all this said, I can’t help wondering if the real loser in all this is Nemtsov’s co-author, Vladimir Milov. He basically shot himself in the foot by announcing his departure from Solidarity a day after the cops seized his report. I mean, didn’t Russian Dissident School teach him that you don’t take a principled stand on anything unless it boosts your public profile? Sure Solidarity may be filled with egomaniacs, but said egomaniacs command the flashbulbs of Western correspondents. Now poor Milov doesn’t have a pot to piss in, let alone a platform from which to piss in it.