Living in wacko-land

A chance encounter with a Twitter post got me following links on the internet today as I filled in time between classes. I know that there’s a lot of truly rotten stuff out there, and every now and again I write some piece denouncing some example or other. But on the whole, I try and stay clear of it. Still, immersing myself in all this was rather interesting, so I thought that I would share the results.

The Tweet which got me started was this one from Toronto-based Ukrainian-Canadian ‘political analyst’ Ariana Gic, who writes occasional columns for outlets like the Atlantic Council. I’m always rather sceptical of ‘independent analysts’ who seem to lack an institutional base, and am frankly amazed that one can making a living that way, but apparently one can. Anyway, this is what Ms Gic had to tell us yesterday.


I don’t think that I need to discuss this, as I’m sure you can all see the point without further commentary, but it’s perhaps useful to add the fact that the officer commanding Soviet forces in Kiev until his death in combat on 20 September 1941 wasn’t an evil ‘Moskal’ but a Ukrainian, General Mikhail Kirponos. But that’s by the by. Not knowing anything about Ms Gic, I decided to see what else she has written. And then, following the links from what I found, I ended up discovering what a bunch of others have written recently too. Here’s some of the results:

1) The World Cup ‘revealed Russian chauvinism.’ According to a piece by Ariana Gic in the EUObserver, the World Cup displayed the nasty nationalism prevalent in the Russian population. This is a favourite theme of Ms Gic, who is keen that we should all know that Ukraine’s (and the West’s) real enemy is not Putin or his ‘regime’ but the Russian people. ‘Kremlin propaganda tapped into existing Russian exceptionalism, imperialism, chauvinism, & hatred of Ukrainians,’ she tells us on Twitter, adding that we must fight the ‘lie of the good Russians’.

2) Ms Gic’s Twitter account connected me to that of another Canadian activist, Marcus Kolga. A man of, I think, Latvian descent, Kolga played a prominent role in the lobbying which produced the Canadian Magnitsky Act. According one of his latest Tweets:

Interference in Canada’s 2015 election confirmed & there are constant attempts by Kremlin to undermine Canadian democracy, alliances + policy. Not simply a 2019 election interference problem but attack on democracy.

I read the Canadian newspapers every day and have yet to see any indication of Russian interference in our 2015 election. But never mind. Kolga tells us it’s ‘confirmed’! Pursuing him a bit further, I discovered a bunch of articles he’s written for publications like the Toronto Sun. In one of these he informs us that the Russian annexation of Crimea was just like the Soviet annexations of the Baltic States in 1940 and that Vladimir Putin is involved in ‘relentless attempts to deny the Soviet occupation and repression of these nations.’ This is odd, as I’ve never seen any such attempt. But I’m just an academic who’s written a couple of peer-reviewed articles about Putin’s speeches. What do I know?

Kolga will be one of the panelists at a seminar held by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute here on Ottawa on Thursday. The blurb for the seminar tells us:

Russia uses hybrid or asymmetric tactics to advance its goals in Eastern Europe and beyond. … An important element is its use of disinformation and offensive cyber activities. Russian websites have already tried to spread vicious rumours about NATO troops in the Baltics. Closer to home they have spread rumours about the family history of Canada’s foreign minister and have worked to manipulate aspects of Baltic history in an effort to marginalize their security concerns. Kremlin meddling was clearly a factor in the US, French and German elections and Canada can expect the same in future elections. … To shed light on this issue, MLI is hosting a panel event that will bring together some of the leading thinkers on the strategic threat posed by Russia.

It’s nice to see that this well-balanced seminar hasn’t predetermined the issue of the Russian ‘threat’. I have better things to do than spend a couple of hours listening to how terrible it is to ‘spread rumours [sic] about the family history of Canada’s foreign minister.’ I won’t be attending.

3) After a diversion into the territory of Mr Kolga, Ms Gic next directed me to something by Paul Goble, whose work I generally avoid. In a recent article for Euromaidan Press, Goble claims that in Donbass, ‘Moscow is replacing local people with Russians.’ Citing ‘US-based Russian journalist Ksenia Kirillova,’ Goble tells us that locals are being arrested and ‘replaced by new arrivals’ from Russia. ‘Most of them are coming from Vorkuta and Irkutsk’, says Goble, adding that

Kirillova does not say, but it is clear from her interviews that the “DNR” officials backed by Moscow are interested in promoting the departure of the older residents and their replacement with more malleable and thus reliable Russians from distant regions of the Russian Federation. 

Ariana Gic comments that Goble’s story tells us that Russia is trying to ‘forcibly change the demographics of the local population in occupied Ukraine’. This amounts to ‘ethnic cleansing, and a war crime under Art 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention,’ she says. Think about this for a moment. Just how many Russians would you have to import from Vorkuta and Irkutsk in order to reconfigure the demographics of Donbass? And just how how many Russians do you imagine are going to want to move to a war zone with an almost non-existent economy? To quote John McEnroe, ‘You cannot be serious.’

4) After pursuing these links a bit more, I finally, and I know not how, ended up on a page full of Twitter postings by Andreas Umland, which in turn directed me to a gem of an article by Paul Knott in the New European, entitled ‘Meet the Most Dangerous Man in the World.’ And who is the ‘most dangerous man in the world’? Alexander Dugin, of course. Knott notes that those who have studied Dugin, like Marlene Laruelle of The George Washington University, consider his influence exaggerated. But facts and scholarly analysis be damned! Knott knows better. ‘Dugin is heavily promoted by the Kremlin-controlled Russian media and has strong ties to the military,’ he tells us, adding that Vladimir Putin ‘is in thrall to him.’ ‘The substantial influence Dugin exerts over ultra-powerful people like Putin and, indirectly, Trump, makes him a frightening figure,’ says Knott. Dugin as the puppet master of Donald Trump? Is that what we’ve come to now? Knott was a British diplomat for 20 years. It makes you wonder about how they do their recruiting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Reading all this, one feels like one is living in wacko-land. And it’s just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. One of the organizations Ms Gic writes for is ‘Stop Fake’. If only!

20 thoughts on “Living in wacko-land”

  1. Reading the description for the seminar at UOttawa reminds me of some lecture we hosted last year (or maybe two years ago?): How to spot a Russian troll. Education or indoctrination? You decide.
    Sure, scholarship in our niche is going to get political at times, but I can’t help but be disappointed by recent developments…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “he Tweet which got me started was this one from Toronto-based Ukrainian-Canadian ‘political analyst’ Ariana Gic, who writes occasional columns for outlets like the Atlantic Council. I’m always rather sceptical of ‘independent analysts’ who seem to lack an institutional base, and am frankly amazed that one can making a living that way, but apparently one can. “

    Тю! Not even Oleh “Смачна Кава” Ponomar’ 🙂

    “1) The World Cup ‘revealed Russian chauvinism.’ According to a piece by Ariana Gic in the EUObserver, the World Cup displayed the nasty nationalism prevalent in the Russian population.”

    Bah! Still no match to Oleh Ponomar’s predicition that the West will boycott the World Cup in Russia!

    [He still bans people who remind him of his failed predictions]

    “Goble tells us that locals are being arrested and ‘replaced by new arrivals’ from Russia. ‘Most of them are coming from Vorkuta and Irkutsk’”

    Lies! Only Buryatia! Only hardcore!

    “And who is the ‘most dangerous man in the world’? Alexander Dugin, of course”

    Take that, Elon Musk!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ‘It makes you wonder about how they do their recruiting in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.’

    This the same organisation where staff privately opined that Iraqi Christians brought their persecution upon themselves by ‘moving there and trying to convert everybody’. You can’t see through these chaps, because there’s nothing else to see.

    Britain was a mistake. So was Canada.


  4. Diaspora lunatics are a bit of a problem. These people are raised on myths (a mixture of distortion built around a kernel of truth) which have become a core of their identity. These people become a leading force for supporting conflicts in their ancestral homelands, and distort policy in their countries. Anything coming from the more lunatic fringe is so bizarre that any serious policymaker should ignore it. However politicians tend to appease ethnic lobbies.

    If the Russian government was smart it would cultivate its own diaspora, just like Israel or Armenia

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s a disaster when diaspora groups influence politics in a “home” country they left years perhaps generations ago.

      The fierce Israeli lobby in the USA leads to the fanatical support of what has become an apartheid state.

      Armenia is a interesting example – the diaspora want Armenia to become part of the USA western alignment just like Ukraine. They want the country to ignore the realities on the ground, ie that turkey and Azerbaijan are its neighbours. They want it to ignore the economic realities of who are Armenia trades with.

      Diaspora groups influencing politics in a country they have left – leads to chaos.

      Why don’t these groups integrate like others groups are required to do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Different immigrants react differently to their new home. There is also a different response between immigrant generations. I can speak from the perspective as a Briton of Russian parentage. Who would I support when England Play Russia at Football? ( Russia), would I support England when they play another country?yes. I am saddened and angry about the relations between the two, and I blame Britain 90%.

        Diaspora grandchildren and later generations, who have no direct memory of their ancestral home are most prone to misty eyed fantasies and toxic grievances about ancient historical events (which may be greatly exaggerated) . This is particularly evident if they live within a closed or partially closed community when myths get reinforced and form part of their identity. The Canadian Ukrops seem particularly prone to this but they are far from unique

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “If the Russian government was smart it would cultivate its own diaspora, just like Israel or Armenia”

      And here lies the rub – there is no Russian Diaspora per se in the West.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting article by Anatoly Karlin

        1. White Russian post revolutionary exiles – posh, conservative, formerly anti communist , but what now?
        2. 1960’s to 1970’s – disproportionately Jewish – liberal – a significant portion are hostile to Russia
        3. 1990’s egghead emigres – includes academics, some are liberal and some are conservative, most maintained positive links
        4. Natasha Gold digger – not a very flattering bunch
        5. 2000’s professional – wide variety of views – some liberal some nationalist, maintain links

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Anyway, this is what Ms Gic had to tell us yesterday.”

    Hey! I know how to play this game. You post some randon pic, write completely unrelated description, add #Вехи and – profit! Some people really believe it.

    Let me show you:

    ^Ol’ga Buzova. At the premier of her video clip «Мало Половин», Moscow, Southern Butovo, Cafe “Vstrecha”, 2017.

    Or this:

    ^Vladimir Vysotsky and Victor Tsoi near famous Leningrad rock-club “Kamchatka”, 1980, #Вехи

    P.S. You won’t believe, how much people (commenters) really believed this:


    1. Translation of the last piece:

      “”At the international olympiad in mathematics, a modest girl from the province Sasha Serova quickly solved the triple integral of the polynomial, but our media will never report about it – Buzova and Volochkova are more to their liking. Let’s correct this injustice “MAXIMUM REPOST!!!” “

      In Russia there is a doube entendre already present in this message, for Russian word for “polynomial” is “трёхчлен” (literally – “three-member”).

      People in general are ignorant enough to believe anything. Suddenly, talking heads discovered that and now scream about “pandemic of fake news”. I’m sorry, if the people are not tought to use their own head (quite deliberately), why anyone is surprised? How can anyone demand honesty from either providers or consumers of the “wacko-land content”, if the people in general want to continue their joyful march to the sollipsism land?


      1. “I’ll have to try out the double entendre on my Russian friends and gauge their reaction, but in scientific papers многочлен is the standard name for polynomial”

        And in movies starring Sasha Serova, ah, “polynomial” is also pretty much standard 😉


  6. It seems to me that there are at least three requirements for a diaspora to have political influence:
    1. It should be coherent.
    2. In countries, like Canada, with a first-past-the-post electoral system, it should be geographically concentrated. This makes individual electoral constituencies dependent on the diaspora vote.
    3. It should have a story which fits with what politicians in the country want to hear.

    None of those apply in the case of the Russian diaspora.It will, therefore, remain politically powerless.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As far as split nationalities go, being half Russian half German I tend to:

    Support Russia against Germany if they play football.
    Support Germany against Russia playing Hockey.
    Basically, underdog bonus decides. Russian patriots may, following the perfomance in the world cup, claim that underdog bonus no longer applies to football matches between Russia and Germany, however, I would caution that the champion of the last World cup basically always fails hard in the next one.

    Support either of them against third nations in any sport.

    The Russian-Germans (Russlanddeutsche) in Germany may eventually get into some influence, as they are a bit more concentrated, Germany is not first past the post, and a lot more people in Germany are receptive to having normal relations with Russia then in the USA.

    There are also fewer people who believe the whacko bullshit. I do talk politics on occassion, the only person who was german, with whom I talked about politics and who had a strongly negative opinion of Putin was a guy who believed Putin is a second Emperor Wilhelm II, who, motivated partly by revenge for the injustices of the post cold war era, wishes for Russia to gain her place in the sun. I disagree with that pov. for a number of reasons, but it is still more nuanced then the cloud cuckoo stuff.

    As an aside, German transatlanticists used to be even more russophobe then the Americans, which I think it because they perceive a danger of the people no longer buying their product, but basically the anglo saxon world is now in cloud cuckoo land with levels of Russophobia far above 9000.

    I would actually state that there are several different strata of Germans who are amendable to Russia.

    1: People with some military background. Basically noone in the German army wants to fight Russia.

    2: People who have visited Russia (which is a far larger proportion in Germany then in the USA)

    3: We krauts tend to be a bit more hostile to rank hypocrisy then the Anglo Saxons (doesnt stop us from being hypocrites nearly all the time obviously, but even loyal Merkelites have a hard time not rolling their eyes at all this “Russian interference stuff” the Americans are complaing about).

    4: Conservative and religious people who may not quite have a home in the German political landscape.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “MLI is hosting a panel event that will bring together some of the leading thinkers on the strategic threat posed by Russia.” According to the Hill Times (September 27), “In Ottawa, the Macdonald-Laurier Institute is hosting a panel discussion on the challenge Russia poses to North American and European security. Guest speakers include Jānis Garisons, Latvia’s state secretary of defence, and Prof. Tim Nichols of the U.S. Naval War College. (10 a.m. at 323 Chapel St.).” Latvia is engaged in the rehabilitation of fascism, defended by the Canadian Forces. The Second Fleet of the U.S. Navy, recently formed to counter the alleged “Russian submarine threat” in the North Atlantic and the Arctic oceans, just held a massive exercise off the coast of Nova Scotia. It was spearheaded by the Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group – yes, strike  group – completely blacked out by the media. Far from being “defensive,” the exercise rehearsed the rapid movement of troops and war materiel to Europe in the manner of the Cold War. A “balanced” panel to be sure. A “panel” in Ottawa makes the news; an exercise in offensive war preparations involving 6,500 troops, two aircraft carriers, guided missile destroyers, and nine US fighter squadrons held partly in Canadian territorial waters and the harbour of Halifax does not. 

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Paul, I think it’s wise not to want to go much deeper into the post-Soviet pastime of Ukrainian nationalism, which is somewhat more than merely visible in Ukrainian communities throughout the English-speaking world. It is rabidly anti-Russian—as you intimate. But it also thrives on conspiracy theories and rumors that race from community to community becoming vastly distorted as they go.

    The movement is tinged with fascism and, not surprisingly, antisemitism—indeed, it seems to have given birth to a competition over who has suffered more, the Jews of the holocaust or the Ukrainians under Stalin’s rule. Given that this competition is decided on body-count, it’s considered outrageously unfair that holocaust victims get copious recognition while Stalin’s starvation victims get none—a rationale that tips all too easily into antisemitism, given the number and nature of historical examples of the Jewish-Ukrainian relationship that get dragged into the competition.

    Now, combine Ukrainian nationalism in Canada with a generous dose of Canadian monkey-see, monkey-doism vis-à-vis our American neighbours, and what you apparently get is a Canadian Magnitsky Act and a Russiagate-style assault on Canadian democracy—upon direct orders from Putin, of course.

    How do I know about Ukrainian nationalism? Through observation. On my mother’s side, I am part of a Ukrainian-Canadian family (which can be a bit like “Living in Wacko-land” at times). I had an aunt and uncle who, to fill up the free time created by retirement, decided to return to their roots. A vacation visit to Ukraine and reconnection with the Ukrainian Orthodox church of their childhood gave them access to new friends and the new narratives and fantasies that fuel Ukrainian nationalism. Conversations with them became tinged with a measure of hysteria I would never have thought them capable of.

    Personally, I think the movement is dangerous—especially given that it is well represented among members of the Ukrainian-Canadian lobby in Ottawa.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I had NO DOUBT the World Cup would proceed as expected in Russia, and what I experienced there (I saw the #FRAARG game in Kazan, and was also there when Russia defeated Spain in the R16 and saw the spontaneous celebration that erupted on Bauman Street after Igor Akinfeev stood tall in the penalty shootout) actually exceeded my own expectations! Football/soccer is too powerful and too strong an entity by itself to hijack politically compared to the Olympic games!

    Liked by 1 person

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