At a glance.
- America does not own Ukraine's farmland.
- Controlling telecommunications infrastructure as a way of controlling narratives.
- Sources of inspiration for supporters of the special military operation.
- Simple mistakes that are unlikely to fool anyone (but then you never know).
- And neither mistake nor disinformation, but simply the madness of crowds.
America does not own Ukraine's farmland.
PutinDirect shared this video of President Putin's explanation of the world's factitious concern about Ukrainian grain exports. The Americans own the Ukrainian farms, and so the grain being blocked is really American grain, and the Americans have stirred the world up over interdicted shipments as a maneuver to unlock the profit they're missing. "Americans are very pragmatic people," Mr. Putin explained. "When we talk about grain shipments out of Ukraine, do you know who's doing the shipping? American companies. They are, for the most part, the owners of that grain. As it turns out, Ukrainian lands were sold to Americans long ago, and this is their grain that they're now moving. So that's why there was so much talk about this."
Controlling telecommunications infrastructure as a way of controlling narratives.
Russian telecommunications outfits have established services in territories occupied by the Russian army, but these are overt operations intended to replace Ukrainian providers with Russian ones. WIRED reports that, as Russia's battlefield fortunes have experienced reversals, the telcos have retreated with the troops. The point of setting up Russian services to replace Ukrainian ones is at least twofold. It helps normalize the Russian occupation, acclimating the population to accepting it as an accomplished, permanent state of affairs. Equally importantly, it increases the Russian ability to control what Ukrainians say, show, see, and hear. It's the 21st Century's analogue of the 20th Century's invasion and coup playbook: seize the radio stations.
Sources of inspiration for supporters of the special military operation.
Vladimir Solovyov’s Rossiya-1 talk show had an instructive episode back on April 26th, when it had become clear that the invasion of Ukraine was not going to be a march of flowers.
Margarita Simonovna Simonyan (head of RT) delivered a long account of how she saw the special military operation. “I guess something needs to be said about the current state of the war, whether it was or wasn’t declared against us by NATO, NATO troops, and Ukraine, about the special military operation, as we call it. I won’t talk about it right now, because this is not the time for uplifting statements.”
“...My conscience and knowledge about what’s going on won’t allow me to say more. And to say the opposite and express criticism, that’s even worse, because that would mean undermining the authority of those guys fighting and shedding blood for us, every day, every hour, for all of us. To say something contrarian and criticize in this moment and in this situation would play into the hand of our enemy. I won’t do that, and no one who considers himself a patriot who loves his Motherland would ever do that publicly. All this week, when the situation is so difficult, a song keeps playing in my head. ‘Budyonny, our dear brother, all the people are on our side. Don’t hang your heads down, and keep moving forward.’”
The song she can’t get out of her mind is “The March of the Red Cavalry,” and the dear brother is Marshall Semyon Mikhailovich Budyonny, a Soviet cavalry commander who fought in the Civil War, the Polish-Soviet War, and the Second World War. He’s a curious but instructive source of inspiration for Margarita Simonovna. A hero of the Civil War and a man who remained close to Stalin, Budyonny participated in Stalin’s purges of the Red Army during the 1930s. He favored horse cavalry over armor and was a disastrous combat commander against the German invaders, losing more than a million soldiers in the encirclement of Kyiv before being replaced by Marshall Timoshenko. Stalin fired him but, with a curious tenderness Stalin didn’t often show, Budyonny wound up reassigned for the duration of the war to rear area commands. In any case, his forces around Kyiv apparently kept their heads up and moved forward into the German envelopment. Marshall Budyonny, unlike too many of those with whom he served, survived the war and died in his bed, in 1973. Back to Ms. Simonyan.
“The order is to keep your head up and move forward, because if you hang your head down, and stop moving forward, it’s absolutely clear what awaits us then. And I don’t mean it as hyperbole or a metaphor, but in a direct sense, everything as described in Hitler’s table conversations, written down by his aides and secretaries. With a lot of gusto he described in great detail how he saw our place on earth. It was a plan to turn us into yahoos, like in Gulliver’s land of horses? There were yahoos, abominable creatures, resembling human beings, but in reality nothing like us. They can’t read or write, they can barely talk. It was written in Hitler’s table conversation, that it would be good for us to lose our language, communicating with the use of signs and gestures. These are masses that couldn’t be called a people, not even a population, denied basic rights, from vaccination to education. He didn’t want us to be educated. However, as Hitler planned, they would constantly play cheerful music for us. That’s exactly what it says: to keep us in a good mood so we would be satisfied with our enslaved existence. If you think that sounds wild, remember that it isn’t. Let’s remember that in the early and mid-90s this is exactly what happened. There was fun and music everywhere, but nothing to eat. No education of any kind. It’s still not restored, not even close to being restored.”
“This is undoubtedly what awaits us in the future if we back down. Are we ready to live that way? Maybe not tomorrow, not the day after tomorrow, but certainly the day after that. Are we ready for our children to live this way? Let’s not think that this is just some local conflict. For the rest of the world, this is a local conflict. There are plenty of conflicts like this every year. When we’re being asked where and how our special operation will end, it will end when all the ‘nerus,’ all the ‘vyrus,’ everyone who wants to turn us into yahoos, everyone who directs and brainwashes them, will suffer well-deserved infamy and shame. It may take three months, three years, or thirty years. What other choice do we have?”
“Nerus” and “vyrus” are strongly pejorative terms.
The talk show’s host, Vladimir Rudolfovich Solovyov, offered a gloss on Ms Simonyan’s words, briefer and more direct. “What choice do we have?” he asked, rhetorically. “Reduce the world to dust. Just not yet. And we will go to heaven. We, the righteous, will go to heaven. They’ll just croak. This is an optimistic outlook.” It would be unwise to take his references to heaven as a sincere avowal of faith; he seems an unlikely candidate for martyrdom.
Simple mistakes that are unlikely to fool anyone (but then you never know).
No one who wished to pay their final respects to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth this week would think the queue began in Leed, still less in North Carolina or California, so this mistake was surely a harmless one, but anyone interested in the transmission of error might find the case interesting. The Telegraph reports that the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport decided to use an app, What3Words, to make information about where the lines began, the better to help mourners plan their visit. "The app, called What3Words, uses a combination of three words to pinpoint a grid address anywhere in the world. Its map is broken up into 57 trillion three-metre squares, each with a unique identifier made up of three words." The idea behind What3Words is to provide a "more intuitive" alternative to numerical systems like latitude and longitude, or alphanumeric systems like UTM grid coordinates. That it may well do, but the design also renders the system vulnerable to simple typographical errors, like typing "grid" for "grit," which in this case would send you to Yosemite instead of Blackfriars Bridge. In fairness to What3Words, it's also possible to mistype or transpose a digit in a numerical system, but it does seem that ease-of-use can translate to persistence-of-error.
And neither mistake nor disinformation, but simply the madness of crowds.
One would have thought this advice unnecessary, but the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found it necessary to issue it, which means that, well, someone somewhere was cooking chicken in Nyquil. The FDA scolded, "A recent social media video challenge encourages people to cook chicken in NyQuil (acetaminophen, dextromethorphan, and doxylamine) or another similar OTC cough and cold medication, presumably to eat." It's a bad idea. "The challenge sounds silly and unappetizing — and it is. But it could also be very unsafe. Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and change its properties in other ways. Even if you don’t eat the chicken, inhaling the medication’s vapors while cooking could cause high levels of the drugs to enter your body. It could also hurt your lungs. Put simply: Someone could take a dangerously high amount of the cough and cold medicine without even realizing it."
Blame it on the influencers who issue the challenges. But also note the way in which manifest imbecility gets transmitted. It needn't be a recipe for chicken braised in Nyquil. It could just as easily be a waning that someone's out to turn us into yahoos. Cf. Margarita Simonovna.