“I am not a spy”
Five words I never, ever thought I would have cause to say.
Sometimes I think in metadata.
No one like me can help it. And just in metadata terms, I cross-hatch at a whole lot of points that necessarily place me in a fairly narrow pool. But I don’t need to assume, because last summer I was made aware that I am “selected.”
It almost sounds flattering. Instead, it makes me concerned that my friends and allies around the world might get hurt or compromised by their proximity to me. It makes me afraid to communicate with them because I know that could put them at risk, and these are courageous people who have already put themselves at risk and don’t need me adding to it.
Even though I am not a spy.
It’s hard to believe that only a year and a half has passed since I was asked to review an enormous amount of Putin media – stretching back to his Munich speech nearly a decade ago – causing me to became extraordinarily concerned at how intently “we” were ignoring Russia and Putin. The media never mentioned Russia. No one did, except for the occasional jab at him shirtless on horseback or his repugnant repression and aggression toward gays and women.
And until I spent that month or so watching and listening to Putin so much that I couldn’t turn his voice off in my head even as I went to sleep, I hadn’t noticed that we were ignoring him. Because you don’t notice that. And now, for anyone without that “X” of demarcation in place and time, I understand that me simply stating the opinion that we were ignoring him and Russia probably carries little weight. And for me to go one step farther and say that it was purposeful must seem quite thin, indeed.
However, there is no way for anyone, even an American with no knowledge of Russia or Putin, to take even a small sampling of Putin over the last decade, translated into English – as much of it is – and not be fully convinced that to not cover Putin as anything but a caricatured villain could be nothing but purposeful. Because he has been making a case to the world at large during that time, and it is a damning one, because it is true.
Let me repeat that. The case that Putin has been making in any and every forum possible, is damning. And it is damning because
it is true.
So when Russia, who I understood we were fighting in proxy-wars across the Middle East – as, of course, did every Russian and Middle East scholar – finally came rushing back into the headlines in the way that it did, it was scary.
Most Russia experts were both dismissive and concerned about the sudden turn and propagandist tone of the media following the election. For anyone still harboring even a shred of trust in our supposed “news” outlets before the Democratic primaries, after them, we had no doubts about just how venal and untrustworthy our sources of “news” were. They proved it with their shameful and duplicitous “coverage” of the election. They were not, and have not been actual “news” for a long time.
And as they now continuously – and rightly, by the way – point out in referring to Donald Trump, once you’ve lost your credibility, it’s a bitch to get it back.
With hindsight, I recently decided to go back and watch some of the coverage I was too disgusted to watch before, beginning around the time of the inauguration, and it wasn’t just bias and anger on my part that made it seem so over-the-top propagandistic.
It really was bad. The only reason that it appears better now is that they aren’t forcing a story, they’re covering a story. Sort of, at least. Of course, they’re ignoring really important things and fanning flames that need not be fanned, but nonetheless, there is “there” there.
But even that requires some context. From the start both media and politicians alike acted with a ridiculous amount of self-righteousness for a country that has been overthrowing leaders, rigging elections and staging bloody coups since at least the mid-20th century. But of course, one need not go back that far. Our fingerprints are all over the death and destruction in the Middle East. We overthrew Saddam Hussein because we wanted to.
Which leads me back to where I started.
First, a disclaimer. Although I think the demonization of Russia for succeeding in doing what we do all the time in other countries is hypocritical bullshit, that does not translate, in any way, to Americans helping, approving of, or having knowledge of any foreign government or non-foreign actor seeking to act in any way contrary to the best interests of our country and its institutions, fucked up though they may be. And I have no doubt at this point, from my own sources and the overwhelming barrage of public evidence, that that is exactly what happened in this case.
So, we are through ignoring Putin, but appear more determined than ever not to understand the situation, and understanding the situation is vital.
As usual, instead of taking on all the data points to make my case, I will choose just one big, bold target that most Americans actually know about, at least in passing.
I remember him making this speech live, and I remember it so well because I happened to be online when it began streaming – in Russian with no translation – and remember my ex demanding to know what the hell Putin was saying, and demanding it of me.
(He had a PoliSci degree from Boston College with a focus on Russia. Yeah, totally useless, I know. Nevertheless, I guess it explains why we were both too riveted to leave it and go in search of the same speech, live, with a proper translator.)
So that’s how I ended up frantically attempting to translate a speech by Putin that the U.S. would “cover,” but not really. Because the meat of the speech was directed right at America.
The whole point, really, of the speech – which can be read in full at a million sites by anyone –
was an indictment of America.
It was Putin, saying
“Who in the hell are you, America, to condemn us for this?”
(I don’t think we have an answer for that. If we have one, I’ve yet to hear it.)
Putin went down a laundry list of American wrongs. American arrogance. American aggression. And unlike some other times in history, he didn’t need to make any of them up. He didn’t need to inflate the facts. The facts were damning enough on their own.
So, now, with a few years having passed, and with our wondrous and free internet of information, surely all this is easily found by just going to Wikipedia, right?
No, not really. This is as close as the English Wikipedia article comes:
Putin condemned the West’s reaction to the events in the Crimea and sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian politicians. Russian President expressed gratitude to the people of China, praised the restraint of India. Appealed to the U.S. freedom-loving people, stressing that freedom of the Crimean population is the same value. Referring to the fact that not all allies sympathized with Germany in 1989, it merged with the German Democratic Republic, Putin said that while the USSR supported the Germans sincere desire for national unity. The President expressed confidence that German citizens support the aspirations of the Russian world to restore the unity of ‘Crimea will remain Russian and Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar. It will be home to the representatives of all the peoples living there. But he will never Bandera‘.
Putin assured that Russia will not seek confrontation with the West and the East, and stressed that Russia and Ukraine — are one people. Ukraine will continue to live millions of Russian citizens, which means that Russia will always defend their interests.
Putin’s speech lasted 45 minutes. During the speech, Putin used the term “natsional-predateli” (“national-traitors”) which is a calque from the German term Nationalverräter. The refusal to accept the new Ukrainian government he explained in the unlawful events on Euromaidan: Groups “wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and pogroms. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.” Nevertheless, he expressed appreciation to those protesting peacefully against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty.
So, as a non-Russia hating, radical, subversive hacker whose formal education was in Chemistry, speaks the wrong languages, thinks Israel commits war crimes and that America does as well, is embedded in the center of the proving grounds of the Military Industrial Complex and whose entire life was spent under the tutelage of a father that essentially made the Surveillance State possible, I just want to say, for the record:
I am not a spy.
Translated speech, starting part way into the “fuck you, America” section, because it’s pretty much all “fuck you, America.” I just trimmed off some of the windup.