Tangled-web Dep’t

Julia Ioffe: Vladimir Putin is now the partial captive of his own lunatic media. (I would add: So is the GOP.)

Julia Ioffe, reporting on the insane theories about the Malaysian jetliner peddled on Russian TV and in Russian newspapers, points reports that Vladimir Putin is now caught in a trap of his own making.

Russian mass media is now dominated by an extreme-nationalist lunatic fringe, built up by Putin and his cronies but no longer under their detailed control. And the alternative reality presented there influences not only mass public opinion but also elite opinion, since to stay in touch people with real decisions to make have to pay attention to the prolefeed. If Putin wanted to act responsibly, he’d be swimming against the tide. Yes, it’s his tide, in the sense that he made it, but Ioffe – quoting a Karl Rove/Mark Penn figure named Gleb Pavlovsky, who fell out with Putin after helping to engineer his last election – suggests that he cannot control it in detail.

It’s a scary picture.

What’s scarier is that, if you change the names, it applies to the relationships among the plutocrats, the GOP apparatchiki, and the world of the Murdochized press, the Koch-driven think-tanks, and Red Blogistan.

Orwell was right: there are historical moments when insisting that 2+ 2 = 4 is a radical political act.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

10 thoughts on “Tangled-web Dep’t”

  1. duh

    so quick to forget the US media frenzy of conspiricies over previous Malasian disaster

    no more evil and rabid than our elites


    1. I do not see the relationship between the farcical coverage by American cable "news" networks and the sort of alternative reality that Mark's describing. Not saying you don't have a point, I'm just saying that I don't see it and would you please elaborate.

  2. There's a somewhat analogous meme on the left. It takes the form of "Well, the US lied with respect to Iraq, so it must (or perhaps, may) be lying about this." Admittedly, not as widespread.

    Then there's the "This wouldn't have happened if Obama had just been tougher." Of course, that reached its logical conclusion when Sen. Graham faulted the President because "One, he didn’t call Putin the thug that he is." See here: http://bit.ly/1rx7Nos Of course, upon hearing that, Putin broke down in tears.

    1. Well, in a manner of speaking, I do believe that this crisis in the Ukraine wouldn't have unfolded as it did if Obama had been tougher. Not tougher on Putin but tougher on the financial sector here and in London which acts as a powerful Fifth Column on behalf of the Russian oligarchs who are in the process of looting a thousand years of accumulated wealth and caching it in London, New York and Paris. The world would be a better place today if Obama and Brown had dealt with the bankers appropriately when it mattered.

      1. Being tough on bankers in general wouldn't make any difference on this issue. The one thing that would do so specifically is if banks in the U.K. (where the overwhelming amount of Russian oligarch money goes with regards to the countries in question) were not allowed to do business with the oligarchs. Exactly how Obama is supposed to force U.K. regulators to get tough with them or force the E.U. to impose tougher sanctions eludes me.

  3. And here we thought nuclear weapons were the uncontrollable force we were heedlessly playing with.

  4. I don't think the Russian scenarios are any crazier than the ones that were floated by CNN in the weeks following the bizarre disappearance of the first Malaysian place.

    1. My vague recollection of what I heard about CNN's endless coverage of that tragedy is that they entertained an endless multitude of increasingly crazy theories, quite possibly up to and including the supernatural. That's about as crazy as it comes, so you're technically correct.

      Still, I think there is an important moral difference here, a question of the interests at play, and the likely consequences. CNN was deeply wrong to put on a weeks-long clown show of anything-goes newsertainment, instead of serious coverage. They did this in the hopes of profits rather than in pursuit of or even merely in keeping faith with journalism, and this was deeply wrong of them. Still, it's quite a different thing to deliberately propagate lies and to use false propaganda to stir up nationalist hatreds. Even if the Russian broadcasters were doing this merely to keep their hold on their audience and so make money, rather than from a sincere desire for regional war, I think it's worse than allowing unhinged lunatics airtime to blame little green Martians.

      1. From the post: Russian mass media is now dominated by an extreme-nationalist lunatic fringe

        But US mass media…..
        How exactly would you describe Fox News?
        Not nearly as crazy as Russian mass media?
        I'm so relieved.

  5. Mark,

    I don’t wish to appear churlish but your statement that Vladimir Putin is “caught in a trap of his own making” seems to imply that he is now suffering or soon will be suffering because of his foolishness. While I actually agree with your analysis of how the alternative reality was created in Russia (and has been created here, too) and the way in which it warps reality, I don’t see anybody that matters in Putin’s Russia suffering even the slightest inconvenience because they have become trapped in this “alternative reality”. There will be no sanctions targeting the Russian oligarchs unless the United States and Europe can rein in an their avaricious financial sectors, which means that there almost certainly will not be meaningful sanctions.

    In the absence of sanctions targeting the oligarchs, what does it matter that Putin is “caught in a trap of his own making”?

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