Twice Doomed

What’s up with The Spectator magazine? As I mentioned in my last post, on Thursday they published a piece by Andrew Foxall entitled ‘Covid-19 is testing Putin’s regime’. And then, on Friday, just one day later, out comes another article, this time by Owen Matthews, with the headline ‘Can Putin survive the coronavirus stress test?’ Really? How many different versions of the same story does the Spectator plan to publish?

Matthews has been on my radar since he produced this piece, just a few days after I had written this one. Perhaps I’m a bit petty, but I was somewhat peeved by the striking similarities. Anyway, Matthews is a fully signed up member of the ‘the Putin regime is doomed’ club, as you can see by the Speccie front cover below from the time of World Cup two years ago. ‘Russia is crumbling’, he told us, which is odd because Russia looked quite good during the World Cup, at least to me and just about everyone else who attended. But it’s always the beginning of the end for Matthews, apparently. The annexation of Crimea? A huge blunder, he said – it would cost a fortune, Putin’s paymasters wouldn’t tolerate it, and it ‘will be the downfall of Putin’. And so on, and so forth.


The strange thing is that I remember reading an article by Matthews a month or two ago in which he admitted to having regularly predicted Putin’s downfall, and to having regularly got it wrong. But, rather than change direction, he seems to have decided to double down, perhaps on the principle that even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And so it is that he proceeds to tell us all the same things that Andrew Foxall told us, just in a few more words.

‘Putin has created a kleptocracy in Russia’, says Foxall; ‘Putin’s Russia is characterised by wholesale theft’, says Matthews. ‘As coronavirus has destroyed the global economy, it has destroyed the demand for oil with it. Russia relies on sales of oil and gas for 40 per cent of its revenues’, Foxall tells us. The ‘regime faces a double whammy. Not only have oil prices fallen to levels not seen since the early Yeltsin years, but Russia’s harsh corona lockdown is also set to devastate the small- and medium businesses’, reiterates Matthews, making sure we also know that, ‘oil and gas still account for more than half of Russian exports.’ ‘Putin has backed into the shadows’, claims Foxall; Putin has ‘disappeared from the scene’, adds Matthews. ‘The pandemic  is tarnishing Putin’s aura of invicibility’, Foxall informs us, noting that Putin’s ‘approval ratings have fallen’; ‘there are already signs of discontent’, adds Matthews. It’s ‘the biggest crisis of [Putin’s] two decades in power,’ concludes Foxall; ‘the Putin system faces a stress test every bit as radical as that which brought down Mikhail Gorbachev’, says Matthews.

I suspect a lack of communication between those who edit the Spectator’s online content (in which Foxall’s piece appeared), and those who edit the printed edition (in which, it seems, Matthews’ appeared, though I don’t have a copy). But still, do we really have to hear this twice? Wasn’t once enough? It’s a striking example, in my opinion, of the extreme lack of depth and originality of thinking about Russia, in which what is taken as sophistication is to spout clichés and repeat the same old thing over and over again. The Spectator’s been running for almost 200 years now. I think it’s seen better days.


10 thoughts on “Twice Doomed”

  1. “Really? How many different versions of the same story does the Spectator plan to publish?”


    It’s the pile on method of trying to shock and awe, with carpet bombing babble and little, if any op-ed rebuttal.

    The Sean Hannity termed New York Toil Paper Times has done this on (among other topics) Russia as well, with yours truly demolishing the drivel they suggest as good journalism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Did this hack mention that Putin had to cancel Victory Day due to the Coronavirus? More evidence that the Regime is crumbling before our very eyes…
    Here, I’ll write the headlines for him: “What Hitler couldn’t do, a tiny little virus…(yada yada)…”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Professor,

    These writers can earn a good living bashing Russia. It doesn’t matter if they are wrong. They get paid to highlight the negative, ignore anything positive in order to ensure the British public has a negative view of Russia.

    The World Cup was a perfect example – they had news stories and television programmes telling the viewers what a terrible place Russia was and how racist it is (England has black and mixed race players). The Skripal issue was also useful in building a negative picture.

    They wanted the World Cup to fail

    The BBC and all the British media’s job seems to be to spread anti Russian propaganda, so if you want to earn a good living – become a Russia expert – knowledge is not required.

    It is also a fact that the government actually funds journalist to write this kind of article via organisations like “Integrity Initiative”

    (I’m not saying Mr Matthews is one of these journalists)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. George Orwell’s Wartime Diary, 17 Dec 1943:

    “ONE way of feeling infallible is not to keep a diary. Looking back through the diary I kept in 1940 and 1941 I find that I was usually wrong when it was possible to be wrong. Yet I was not so wrong as the Military Experts. Experts of various schools were telling us in 1939 that the Maginot Line was impregnable, and that the Russo-German Pact had put an end to Hitler’s eastwards expansion; in early 1940 they were telling us that the days of tank warfare were over; in mid 1940 they were telling us that the Germans would invade Britain forthwith; in mid 1941 that the Red army would fold up in six weeks; in December 1941, that Japan would collapse after ninety days; in July 1942, that Egypt was lost and so on, more or less indefinitely.

    Where now are the men who told us those things? Still on the job, drawing fat salaries. Instead of the unsinkable battleship we have the unsinkable Military Expert . .”


  5. A fine example of Schroedingers Russia: both simultaneously about to take over the World by military invasion whilst collapsing under the weight of its own corruption and bankruptcy. It is an illness incessantly on display in the British press most often the Guardian. It is laughable, it’s almost as if we’re to ignore the last 20 years of history and how Putin has run rings round every western leader that has been and gone. He’s outplayed them all, Russia is in the ascendancy and one of the best placed countries to survive least damaged from the oncoming covid economic collapse. British elites are only slightly less incompetent and befuddled than their US brethren. Both being utterly bat shit clueless, they’re like two drowning people trying to cling to each other but only aiding the process of oncoming death.


  6. Professor

    Look at the success you can achieve writing stories about Russia

    “.,,,,,A series of articles about Russia from The New York Times winning the Pulitzer Prize 2020”

    The Russian Embassy in the United States responded to the award by describing the articles in question as “an excellent collection of undiluted Russophobic fabrications that can be studied as a guide for creating false facts.”

    The set of eight articles investigating Russia’s alleged interference in Libya, Syria, and the Central African Republic (CAR), as well as the poisoning of Bulgarian businessman Emelyan Gebrev, were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting, “for exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime.”

    Reporting or repeating propaganda ?

    Were any of these stories true ? Or propaganda to fit the “Putin is bad” narrative


    1. I noticed or heard this too.
      Two, three, four things come to mind. Notice this is a more a limited personal spontaneous assocation.

      1) didn’t the New York Times get several prices, not least Judith Miller (with James Risen) in the category Explanatory Reporing in 2002?

      2) I recall a four part documentary series on ARTE about the NYT in the age of Trump. It must have been one of the first documentary or series of documentaries, I opted not to watch to the end, since I couldn’t rid myself of the odd feeling it could be part of a larger PR campaign. …

      3) once again the NYT gets a couple of rewards, four, if I get matters right: The Russia related series gets the price under the category of International Reporting. No special credit for one or the other journalists. Teamwork.

      For a set of enthralling stories, reported at great risk, exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime.

      4) in 2011, I think it was, I stumbled across a highly interesting website devoted to journalistic studies. Tracing hypes and topics and framing on the US ground… Maybe I am not interested enough, maybe they deliberately get less attention on the web. And only at that time they got more, thus I could become aware of their work. I seem to unable to find the site again, once it surfaces on my mind … US studies ain journalism: Around 2001/2002/2003 I had another one of such positive encounters in the field of journalistic studies and/or published articles in that field. The author more or less discussed objectivity pr the ‘opinion is free, facts are sacred’ ideal. …


  7. I’ve been wondering, what this whole turbo-charged situation reminds me. Then yesterday, right before falling asleep, one apt and rather hilarious parallel hit.

    Soooo… miracle didn’t happen. Yeah, what a shocker. A lot of your typical suspects (“a bipartisan consensus” of neo-cons/libs) thought that’s the right time for Mukirika to come to “Lead The Word” (translation: The West), as some unwholesome cross between Superman, Cap’tn America and Buddy Jesus. I remember reading several completely superficially unconnected articles over these past 2 month, where various professional grant-suckers from the appropriate Diaspora communities, were emploring the US of A to Do Something. Each and every one of them wrote about their pet issues, but all articles had the same part – instead of offering a strategy of how to achieve their heart’s desire, all of them grant-suckers wrote: “The USA must force/use diplomatic leverage on [Enter the name of the Regional Bad Guy] to make this happen”. They are direct product of the unfiltered Western propaganda. No wonder that the “secularism” is overtaking the West – its inhabitants, both resident and newcoming are really worshipping the USA, as some sort of all-powerful deity, which can grant them their hearts’ desire!

    Like I said – miracle didn’t happen. It was refreshing to see this clusterfuck taking place all across “the West”. Just as wild animals, birds and fishies are returning to their habitat (and Mishiko Saakashvili returns to the politics as well), the Nature returns to its usual mode of interstate relations: “everyone for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost”.

    Even the US of A is not immune to that. After much braggadocio, both the punditocracy and “the public” (translation: self-important consumers of pundits propaganda) are right now in the Stage 4 – “Bargaining”. They are not ready yet to admit that the Bad Stuff will affect the Empire and the way the Imperial citizens in hard way – so they try to downplay it, while shouting: “Oh, look! These Bad Guys are having it much worse than we!”. Helps with coping, while the general numbness steady but surely overcomes them inch by inch.

    But objective reality is such, that the Flagship of the West will have to curb its appetites – a lot. Downsizing is inevitable in many spherese, the question – in which ones? Also – to what degree? Could you allow my pet project keep running on half-arsed budget? Please? Pretty please? Pretty please with gluten-free sugar-free ersatz on the top?

    And so, yesterday, before “switching off” to my sleep mode, it just came to me, what this set-up looks like. It reminded me of the timeless classic of Glenngarry, Glenn Ross. I have no trouble imagining a following scene (starring a “handler from the Firm”) taking the place all across garrison-offices of the Empire:

    In such situation (and, no, this doesn’t count as spoiler ;)) you are bound to simulate activity, fake productivity and sabotage your fellow Imperial servants, all in order to remain the one on the retainers’ list, when the dust settles down. This, I think, explains the flurry of articles (a good number of them – paid for, of course), some of which explains how it would be a bad idea to downsize their particular department or field of activity (including the pathetic “look, we are useful during the pandemic… somehow!”), to nearly equal number of the articles telling how gutting the expenses here, here and here is a must. And, of course, you have bottom feeders from the propaganda front, who are trying to rake up the “kill count”, by delivering a much needed soma for the Enlightened Masses, and then whimpering – “please, don’t downsize us”.


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