Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Trying to manage chaos

Vladimir Putin’s media yes-men are in a strange situation where things seem easy and difficult at the same time
8 December, 2016 - 10:26
Sketch by Viktor BOGORAD

This year marks a period of plummeting economy for Russia, along with the shattering fiasco of Project Novorossia [New Russia], the apparent cul-de-sac in the war against Ukraine, and a series of corruption scandals on a mind-boggling scope. Vladimir Putin and his inner circle are unable to formulate a plan of action in order to solve these problems.

For Putin’s Russia this year has been full of hopes inspired by two major events in the West: Brexit in June and Donald Trump’s victory in November. Two other events are likely to take place before the end of the year: Italy’s referendum on December 4, in case Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s domestic ideas fail to find support, followed by his resignation, and early elections, with populists Beppe Grillo, of the Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, of the Lega Nord political party, standing a fair chance of winning the race. Both are Euroskeptics and Vladimir Putin’s potential allies.

December 4 is also the date of presidential election in Austria, with rightist populist Norbert Hofer leading the race. This man is openly opposed to the European Union and an outspoken supporter of the Russian president.

The next year may witness events that will play into Vladimir Putin’s hands. Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom stands a real chance of winning the parliamentary election in the Netherlands, scheduled for March 15, 2017, and the leader’s Euroskepticism and pro-Putin stand are common knowledge. Finally, the presidential election in France, to be held in April, that will be a field day for Vladimir Putin’s media, considering that the Kremlin will welcome both Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon. The latter has made it clear that he won’t mind France quitting the EU the way Great Britain did, and that France must be on friendly terms with Russia, with all sanctions lifted.

All these events are regarded by Vladimir Putin’s exalted supporters and even opponents as proof of the man’s enigmatic luck. Whereas his supporters are euphoric, his opponents are gloomily pessimistic.

Spinoza wrote in Tractatus Theologico-Politicus: “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.” Vladimir Putin’s enigmatic luck is probably due to his being the only Russian head of state to have managed to put to good use the most powerful, cosmic, power known as chaos. None has managed this before him, not even the terrorists who lack the resources of a big country. As it is, all [European] political leaders have been banking on Vladimir Putin, regardless of their ideological preferences.

Adolf Hitler’s Weltordnung (world order) was very different from that visualized by Sir Winston Churchill. What was to come to pass after the [alleged] triumph of communism across the world would have been very different from what the West has been trying to accomplish in the course of globalization. However, there is something in common between these ideologies, namely that each focuses on an action plan aimed at establishing a world order, implying law and order.

Vladimir Putin can’t possibly have an ideology of his own because it is impossible to generate a program designed to build chaos. Chaos needs no programs, and so Vladimir Putin has none. His repeated mantras about a multipolar world are timid calls for putting this planet in a state of chaos.

His media yes-men are in a strange situation where things seem easy and difficult at the same time. Things are difficult because people tasked with, and used to, feeding the masses propaganda – whether communist or liberal – so long as they are paid for it, suddenly found themselves in ideological off-road conditions. For the past 17 years they appear to have been unable to find their bearings, so much so, some them would pause in the middle of another political propaganda show, groping for words, looking upward, where their political deity supposedly was, as though lamenting inwardly, “My Master, give me Your ideology, for I am at sea without it!”

On the other hand, creating chaos is an easy, even entertaining task. All one has to do is shed one’s cultural skin and vent one’s primeval instincts, yelling, spitting, flailing one’s fists, even crowing and barking. What’s happening on the Russian television channels is strongly reminiscent of those when-the-cat’s-away-mice-start-to-play nights spent by teenagers in the Soviet Young Pioneers’ R&R camps, knowing their Komsomol “team leaders” were throwing another booze and screw party and were sure to leave them alone until the bleary-eyed hung-over morning – that they could hurl pillows at each other, jump on beds, and do other things strictly taboo under camp regulations. Events highlighted by the Russian media past week included two physical assaults on a Ukrainian expert and one on a Polish journalist, broadcast live. Then there was LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky with his Soviet-Young-Pioneers-era joke about Grandma Merkel soiling her pants in a corridor while having three johns made of gold.

Vladimir Solovyov’s notorious Soiree on Russia Channel (November 30, 2016) focused on finding the reasons behind the Great Russian quest for national pride. The show lasted for more than two hours and it transpired, among other things, that Russia is an extremely attractive country, that all want Russian citizenship, but that Russia won’t grant it to all applicants. As proof, Vladimir Solovyov cited the open letter Paul Craig Roberts, who had served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan, had published, addressing Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for Russian citizenship and a sum in hard cash to help him along, now that The Washington Post “has blown my cover and exposed me as a Russian agent” planning a revolution conspiracy in the US [a request that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said would be considered if Roberts files all the necessary documents. – Ed.].

After citing this burlesque, Vladimir Solovyov proceeded to list the individuals who had been handed Russian national passports by Vladimir Putin personally, among them Gerard Depardieu, Steven Seagal, Roy Jones, and gleefully asked the audience: “What do all these people want here? Why this sudden desire to live in Russia?” Dmitry Kulikov in the audience was the quickest on the uptake. He explained that they had discovered they were at odds with the Western ideology, so they wanted Russia, realizing its historical truth. Konstantin Zatulin murmured darkly that all that being at odds had everything to do with tax returns, but his remark was rejected as cynical, casting aspersions on Russia’s newly admitted citizens and patriots.

As further proof of Russia’s attractiveness, the US journalist, Michael Bohm, and his Polish counterpart, Jakub Korejba, were presented as desirous of Russian citizenship, both long known as pro-Russia hack writers, serving as extras during Russia’s political talk shows, posing as a dumb American and/or Pole in the street (with the latter making it even worse with his overblown self-dignity).

Everything happening on Russia’s television channels is designed to muddle the audiences – and they use everything, including a burlesque message from an ex-US official, tours by ex-rock stars, two foreign media men with dubious records wishing Russian citizenship, being paid for playing extras in Russia’s political shows. Vladimir Solovyov and his team obviously had nothing else to make one feel proud of being a citizen of Russia.

By Igor YAKOVENKO, special to The Day, Moscow
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