Navalny’s Underpants

In my latest piece for RT (which you can read here), I poke fun at the latest allegations concerning the poisoning of Alexei Navalny which appeared in this weekend’s copy of The Sunday Times.

I think that I should make it clear, if it isn’t from reading my article, that I am not making fun of Navalny, nor mocking the idea that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. Rather, I’m mocking some particularly bad journalism, and my point is that articles like that in The Sunday Times actually help the Russian government and its supporters deny that anything untoward happened in the Navalny case. Moreover, this is part of a more general phenomenon in which exaggerated and sometime quite bizarre reporting about Russia by the Western press has the effect of persuading people that everything they read is made-up nonsense, and so makes them prone to conspiracy theories.

The problems with the Sunday Times article go far beyond the few things I pointed out in my piece for RT. I consider it a very poor piece of work. And that’s a shame, as there are serious questions which the Russian government needs to answer about the Navalny case. Today, for instance, Bellingcat has published an investigation purporting to show that various agents of the Russian security service, the FSB, have been following Navalny for years, and that some of these agents have medical and chemical warfare training and have been in contact with a scientist with an interest in organophosphate chemicals.

I’m not in a position to verify Bellingcat’s claims, nor the various assumptions which lie behind them. But I don’t think that you can dismiss them out of hand. They are certainly a much more serious attempt to point the finger of blame at the Kremlin than what The Sunday Times produced. The thing is, though, that you can just imagine Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mariia Zakharova, confronted by a question about the Bellingcat report, cracking a joke about Navalny’s underpants and the ever growing number of supposed attempts on his life, saying that the West’s story keeps changing, and using that to undermine any attempts to claim that there is indeed something worth investigating.

In short, bad journalism has consequences. It needs to be called out. At the same time, though, I would urge readers not to imagine that because some of the claims in the press are ridiculous, everything is. Something smells super fishy in the Navalny case, and it’s not just his underpants.

26 thoughts on “Navalny’s Underpants”

  1. This post basically asks: where is the beef. And to believe anything that Bellingcat issues is about as harebrained as believing anything the CIA, NSA, or the MI# UK agencies publish. In unambiguous German: DRECK

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes sir. Aaron Mate called out Belllingcat on a Syrian matter.

      On the subject of a constructive calling out, that has some relationship with Russia:

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You kinda contradict yourself here, Professor. You poke fun at an article that alleged another poisoning attempt, then call to seriously engage with an article that alleged a *yet another* poisoning attempt, one so incompetent it hit his wife instead of him and still failed to do anything but make her mildly ill.

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    1. The bits of the Bellingcat investigation claiming possible other murder attempts are the weakest part, and not very convincing. More significant, though, are the claims to have identified the FSB agents who followed Navalny around. I think it’s quite fair to imagine that the FSB did always follow him everywhere, so if these identifications are correct, it raises some questions.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “I think it’s quite fair to imagine that the FSB did always follow him everywhere”

    Considering how almost every European nation and the USA deal with its dissidents – that any internal spy – ahh security agency – will follow any of those at any and sometimes all the time is a given. The FSB is likely no exception.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “I think that I should make it clear, if it isn’t from reading my article, that I am not making fun of Navalny, nor mocking the idea that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok.”

    And we belive you, Professor! Of course we do 😉

    But, unfortunately, in the “Beautiful Russia of the Future” (rus. Прекрасная Россия Будущего), promised by the purére and prophet of the combat-net hamsters, you will be lustrated anyway, Professor. Just like various journos had to apologize and change their articles, if they dare to write anything but the gushing adoration pieces about Oppositionfuhrer. The latest example, btw, had a joutnalist of the US Gov funded RFE/RL Olevsky fired. Imagine what Young Sisyanist Guard could do to you!

    In the “Beautiful Russia of the Future” ™ disclaimers won’t be enough, Professor. Only by paying and repenting (repenting and paying) could you *possibly* avoid the inevitable lustrations, as someone, who collaborated with the Bloody Regime ™.

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  5. Professor,

    If you believe he was poisoned once,
    Why not believe he was poisoned twice?

    The whole story is absolute rubbish.

    Wonder who will be the next fake Novichok victim

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Okay, Professor, I take it upon myself to parse your RT article and count the number of bad puns:
    1.) “sees the bottom fall out of Western narrative…”
    2.) “a mere 100 words of the 4,000 word total. As well as being brief…”
    3.) “if the underwear story smells a little off….
    4.) “the bottom has fallen out of the Germans’ story…” [hey, you already used that one, but okay…]
    5.) “It stretches the elastic of the imagination…” [not bad!]
    6.) “whole Navalny story is a giant load of pants…” [that one not subtle at all!]

    🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Okay, and I just gotta say this too, in regard to the Rasputin crack:

    1.) Historical Russian figures may have resorted to poison occasionally, but then who didn’t? Two words: Lucretia Borza. Therefore, it is simple Russophobia (not to mention racist) to imply that Russians are particularly prone to poisoning people.

    2.) In any case, I think I read somewhere that it was the English secret service who organized Rasputin’s assassination. Using poison, bullets, knives, you name it.
    Why would the English government want Rasputin dead? Because he was the only guy in the Tsar’s cabinet who was actually giving the monarch good advice about the war! Namely, to not do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Paul, I do greatly admire your drive to expose nonsense, so it’s a bit surprising that with regards to the whole “Novichok saga”, you won’t just say that there is no obvious connection between Novichok and the Russian government. Nowadays, there is no more reason to implicate Russia when Novichok is used than there is to implicate Germany when sarin is used.

    The official (as opposed to tabloid) story line simply doesn’t make sense. I am just going to mention a few of the most obvious things.

    First. Structural formulae of the so-called “Novichok” agents are posted all over the internet. These are not very complex structures, and it doesn’t take too much expertise to come up with a viable scheme to synthesize those (you’ll definitely need at least an M.Sc. in OrgChemistry, possibly a PhD, but that’s not rear). To say that only specialized government labs could make those compounds is simply ridiculous. Moreover, it is widely known that one of the original developers has lived outside Russia for decades, so claims of Russia’s exclusive expertise can’t be taken seriously.
    Second. These compounds are 5 to 8 times more lethal than VX. It takes 5-10 mg of VX to kill a 70 kg human male. So to kill with “Novichoks”, it would take the amount roughly equivalent to 3 grains of sugar. Let’s ponder for a minute how inept would-be poisoners have to be to fail, again and again, with an agent that potent.
    Third. It doesn’t take much literature research to discover that organophosphorus nerve agents generally act very fast and have an extremely steep dose-response curve (meaning the dose where you see any response at all is not much smaller than the dose where lethality is 100%). So unless you purposefully use a special slow-release carrier, they should kill efficiently within minutes. In other words, it would be rather difficult to make someone sick without killing them.

    Finally. For a moment, try to think like a spook ordered to eliminate someone. You choose to poison. So why on earth would you choose an agent that could impicate your country/government? VX is super efficient and much easier to make. It killed Kim Jong-Nam. Ok, you reason you’ll have an even better chance with something an order of magnitude more potent.
    So why do you fail… again… and AGAIN!?

    So yeah, I do agree – something DOES smell super fishy here.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The thing is, though, that you can just imagine Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mariia Zakharova, confronted by a question about the Bellingcat report, cracking a joke about Navalny’s underpants and the ever growing number of supposed attempts on his life, saying that the West’s story keeps changing, and using that to undermine any attempts to claim that there is indeed something worth investigating.

    Paul. Basically I agree.

    But then, Bellingcrat confronts us grassroot-liberals vs “neoliberals” (the globalist liberals vs the national liberals of the late 19th century?) with a lot of puzzling paradoxes. Curiously analogous to “Trump’s fake news”? … The right high jacking an old narrative of the left, or the OLD WISDOM of the limits of objectivity? The ideal illusion: facts vs opinion inside the standard news values pyramid? …

    In a nutshell: So Russia’s transit “shock therapy” aka “creative destruction” aka “instant capitalism” aka “big bang” rapid vs gradual reform (* that never happened) left open another gateway post “instant capitalism” and “second stage reform” ( Ioannis Glinavos, Neoliberalism and the Law in Post Communist Transition: The Evolving Role of Law in Russia’s Transition to Capitalism, 2010) in our new data driven brave new world? A gateway allowing open and leaked source warriors to find the relevant bits of the puzzle to prove the dominant Western narrative? Only proving the Western narrative?

    It’s interesting for me, within my own limited news awareness universe that Bellingcrat by now formed an alliance with probably still the top-selling German political magazine. And yes, I deeply disliked the approach of the magazine to the fall of the wall, or post 1989 approach to Eastern Germany. Bellingcrat could hardly find a better distributor in Germany. This alone for me is a source of suspicion. And yes, I acknowledge that they already surfaced quite dominantly as “British Research Institute” in our “State News”, as it is called on the right (ignorant of German media laws and/or their post 1945 genesis) or our public news channels as British Research Institute in news about Syria and the Ukraine. … Those little icons on the left of our screens that surfaced then, signaling the source have gone by now. Just as Bellingcrat in that context. Not that our news concerning “facts or opinion” on Russia got any better.

    (* that never happened) I do have one of your sentences from an earlier post in mind, but am too lazy to look it up. … obviously in my own East German neighborhood gradual reform would have been a lot better then the neoliberal rapid solution.

    Wishing you, your family and all your readers the very, very best Christmas and approaching Happy New Year.

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    1. I once was a pupil in some type of post grad education for all those useless arts and/or philology students. They only taught us two fields, economics and law.

      Economics was the harder branch for me, interest wise. Helped me to understand the relevant equations in place, not least the power of leveraged capital investment though. Pretty easy equation… Which may have been the point to educate us economically useless. Or the more so among us.

      Law was much more interesting, and just as us humans much more complex. Although: In that context witnesses seem the weakest possible link it feels.

      You aren’t even a little bit interested who the man Navalny called is? Inside the larger anti-Navalny conspiracy. How close to the alleged action/plot? His first call worked? How did he know whom to call? … The exact exchange tells us what exactly?

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  10. Either the Bellingcat article is a complete and deliberate falsification, or Navalny was poisoned by order of the Kremlin.

    It cannot be the case where none of the statements are correct. Prof Robinson’s attempt at finding a middle ground by casting doubts and aspersions is logically untenable.

    Like

    1. Either or?

      It cannot be the case where none of the statements are correct. Prof Robinson’s attempt at finding a middle ground by casting doubts and aspersions is logically untenable.

      Yes, the middle ground and where one should move over to whatever partisan side, is an interesting topic on its own indeed. Put another way, it may also be much more boring than whatever feeding-the-heat partisan perspective. No?

      *******
      But back to either or: Paul the balancer vs Bellingcat in this case. If I may?

      I am lazy sometimes. You too? But is there a direct link beyond indirect evidence suggesting that Navalny was/may have been watched via flight data?

      What’s the evidence that the Russian vs the services elsewhere weren’t satisfied with collecting intelligence only? No further evidence needed? Inside is outside? Russia is Russia?:
      https://www.buzzfeed.com/heidiblake/from-russia-with-blood-14-suspected-hits-on-british-soil

      Like

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