On Weaponizing cats and vaccines

It’s Christmas time, so it must be silly season.

Several years ago, the Moon in Alabama blog produced a long list of things that Russia and Vladimir Putin have been said to have ‘weaponized’. There are too many to mention them all, but they include such things as immigrants, robotic cockroaches, the weather, Photoshop, and language. A later updated list added items such as humour, incompetence, and giant squids. Today, we can now introduce a new member to the weaponized family: cats.

Yes, it wouldn’t be the internet without cats. Russian president Vladimir Putin no doubt likes them ‘white and fluffy‘.

‘White and fluffy’

Anyway, it turns out that cats are Russia’s latest weapon in the war for international hearts and minds. According to Michael Cole, author of an article entitled ‘December in Russia: A Special Breed of Disinformation’, the Russians have discovered that it’s ‘important to craft a likeable, if not loveable, image of yourself that people who find all that political talk rather mundane can get on board with.’ And so they’ve turned to cats.

Cole’s evidence: Russians building the bridge linking Crimea to mainland Russia adopted a cat they called ‘Mostik’ as their mascot. As Cole says:

Whether it’s meeting up with the Crimean baseball team, celebrating the New Year or hanging out with his old friends on the building site, Mostik is certainly a much cuter and cuddlier face of illegal annexation than the one we’re used to reading about on Western news sites. These days he’s rarely photographed without a trusty press pass around his neck, helping him to get all the latest inside scoops on the kind of feel-good stories that distract from some of the harsher realities of life on the occupied peninsula. No wonder Vladimir Putin was happy to let Mostik cross the completed bridge ahead of him on the day of the official opening ceremony back in May 2018.

Mostik

Cats as a ‘distraction’ from the ‘harsher realities’ of life in Crimea?? Those Russians are fiends! If only Ukraine had thought of that, we’d have been saved a lot of trouble.

Beyond Mostik, Cole can only produce one other example of the Kremlin’s supposed cat obsession – references to the unfortunate fate of Sergei Skripal’s cat, whom the British police left to die of dehydration and starvation after its owner was poisoned. Despite that, though, he concludes that, ‘cats are fast becoming Vladimir Putin’s political animals of choice.’

I’m assuming that Cole’s piece is meant to be slightly tongue in cheek. The problem is that one never knows nowadays. But definitely not joking is British journalist Sara Hurst, who drops the following bombshell in her latest article this week.

When I heard the news that AstraZeneca was going to work with Russia’s Gamaleya Centre to test combinations of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine and the Sputnik V vaccine, I was devastated. I felt betrayed by a prestigious scientific team that was supposed to be winning over the vaccine skeptics. … I have been in the Oxford trial, a joint project with AstraZeneca to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, since early June. I’ve had two doses of either the vaccine or the placebo. I was very enthusiastic to help develop a safe and effective vaccine. … But in response to the collaboration with the Russians, I have withdrawn from the trial. 

Come again, Sara. You what?? You quit the trial because the British researchers involved want to work with the Russians to produce a better vaccine? How does that make sense? Isn’t making a better vaccine something we should all want?

Not if it involves Russia, apparently. You see, Sara says that when it comes to vaccines, she ‘wanted to help create a genuine one’, and Russia’s Sputnik-V isn’t. It’s an ‘informational painkiller for the soul’, which she suspects doesn’t work. In any case, it’s wrong to take anything from Russia. There are ‘ethical issues of collaborating in any way with Putin’s murderous regime.’ ‘I am furious that instead of working to bring more of Putin’s killers to justice, some in the West apparently want to reward him,’ says Ms Hurst.

So she doesn’t like the Russian government. I’m fine with that. Many of the criticisms directed against it are entirely fair. But we’re talking about a major international health crisis here. The United Kingdom has just gone into full scale lockdown, and much of the rest of the world has blocked travellers from the UK from entering their countries. The UK needs an effective vaccine. Trying to block it is absurd.

Ms Hurst says that she doesn’t understand AstraZeneca’s decision to team up with the Russians. ‘I think they just see an opportunity to save money by perhaps giving people the Oxford vaccine after a dose of Sputnik. But I don’t really know what they’re up to,’ she says.

But she’s a journalist. It’s her job to check these things, and it’s not hard to find out the logic behind the British decision. Both the Oxford and Sputnik-V vaccines involve two injections, but the British found that if both doses were of equal strength, the vaccine was less effective. This could be because the first was in some way creating some sort of immunity to the second. And from this, researchers drew the conclusion that it might be better to use two different vectors for the two injections, i.e. first Oxford then Sputnik, or vice versa.

Will that work? I don’t know. Nor does AstraZeneca. But it’s worth a shot. Why not do some trials and see what happens? If it doesn’t help, there’s nothing lost. But if it has some positive results, then lives will be saved, and we can all return to normality a little earlier. What could possible be wrong with that?

AstraZeneca’s decision has nothing to do with ‘rewarding’ Putin. It’s a medical decision, pure and simple. And it makes a lot of sense. But no, we must not, says Sara Hurst, make the ‘mistake time and time again to trust Putin.’

I can’t remember how many times I’ve read that Russia is promoting anti-vaccination disinformation. But here we see how anti-vax propaganda is quite all right if it’s directed against Russia. As I said, it’s silly season indeed.

25 thoughts on “On Weaponizing cats and vaccines”

  1. Factoid. Russia has more cat owners than any other country in the world. Mostik would play well to a domestic audience perhaps.

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    1. I for one am happy that the mental Ukrainization of the Misty Albion is making seven-leagues strides! Verily, verily, I say unto you – the world will become either Ukrainian, or depopulated. Або мова, або геть! SUGS!

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    1. The conversation sounded genuine to me. Although Navalny said that the FSB guy had ‘confessed’, this wasn’t exactly true – it was clear from the conversation that he was somewhat on the sidelines of the operation and didn’t know a lot of the details. That’s why it seemed genuine to me – if you were faking it, you’d have put in some more directly damning detail. As it is, it is still damning, but in a more indirect way – it’s not someone saying that he poisoned Navalny, but someone implying that he knows people who did. The only problem I have is with the underpants story – it doesn’t fit with the Germans saying that the poison was on the bottle (in fact, the FSB guy says that there was nothing on the bottle). That said, this could be due to the fact that he wasn’t directly involved and so doesn’t know what really happened.

      To me, the argument that the FSB were involved in the poisoning is certainly not proven, but is significantly strengthened, by this recording. I consider it very possible. For that reason, I kind of regret my RT piece on Navalny, as I fear it could be misinterpreted as deflection (which was not its intention, as I hope I made clear). Given that, I plan to stay away from the Navalny poisoning from now on.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Just two questions, Professor.

        1) How did the traces of the “stuff”, applied to the inner seams of Navalny’s panties to the groin area, end up on the bottle?

        2) Does your cultural exposure and knowledge of the colloquial Russain allow you to understand the phenomenon/practice of сажать на бутылку?

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  2. In case there is anyone on this blog not familiar with our “white and fluffy” cultural trove. Here’s the oldest joke every Russian child knows.
    A bunny meets a frog and asks, “Frog, why are you so green and slimy?” The frog says, “Can’t you see? I am ill. In fact, I am white and fluffy!”
    So our president’s humor is also – what’s the word? – multilayered.
    Happy Silly Season!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Белая и пушистая = “white and fluffy” – I believe this Russian expression originally meant for LAMBS, not cats.
    Everybody knows that lambs are sweet and Christ-like, whereas cats are evil!
    Well, maybe not evil, but certainly cunning and calculating, possibly even cynical…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. According to disctionary, it comes from a joke.

      A frog was asked, “why are you so green and slimy”?

      “I’m just ill”, she answered, “but actually I’m white and fluffy”!

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  4. “If only Ukraine had thought of that, we’d have been saved a lot of trouble.”

    They’ve tried. But, as you can see, these cats defected:

    “Despite that, though, he concludes that, ‘cats are fast becoming Vladimir Putin’s political animals of choice.’”

    What? No mention of Amur the Tiger? Bah! This shill is not only lame, he’s lazy and unfit to do propaganda properly!

    “When I heard the news that AstraZeneca was going to work with Russia’s Gamaleya Centre to test combinations of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine and the Sputnik V vaccine, I was devastated. I felt betrayed by a prestigious scientific team that was supposed to be winning over the vaccine skeptics…I was very enthusiastic to help develop a safe and effective vaccine. … But in response to the collaboration with the Russians, I have withdrawn from the trial. ”

    […]

    Коля, звони в полицию!
    […]

    Hussars – silence! Don’t laugh!

    […]

    “There are ‘ethical issues of collaborating in any way with Putin’s murderous regime.’”

    Mrs. Hurst and other loyal subjects of Her Majesty are free to ask for vaccine from the thoroughly handshakable and internationally recognized leader of Byalarus – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.

    P.S. Serious though, I think that primitivisation of the worldview to the level of some primeaval solipsism that overtook the “civilized world” long time ago is just… lamentable.

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  5. Sara Hurst posted BS at Guardian forums that yours truly initiated.

    In any event, Michael Cole and Hurst aren’t sillier than numbers 17 and 18 at this coddled venue:

    https://russialist.org/russia-news-information-johnsons-russia-list-contents-links-jrl-2020-229-friday-18-december-2020/

    David Johnson doubled down by featuring one of the two (hypothesizing about the Kiev regime using drones against Crimea) at the JRL (Johnson’s Russia List) homepage.

    The other one at issue is about the incoming Biden admin trying to get involved in the Armenian-Azeri dispute by bypassing Russia. Geopolitical stupidity and/or comedy perhaps for both pieces.

    Russian support for Armenia has certain limits. Russia doesn’t formally dispute Nagorno-Karabakh being a part of Azerbaijan. The Russian government had some reason to not be so supportive of the Armenian prime minister, while not seeking bad relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey.

    Along with a majority pro-Russian population, Crimea has a sizeable Russian military presence. It’d quite foolish for the Kiev regime to use drones against Russian forces in Crimea, which Russia steadfastly views as Russian territory.

    As for seeking to limit Russian influence, Russia is very much a great power in its near abroad. With Juan Guaido and the Syrian Kurds in mind, there’s also the matter of US government advocacy having limits abroad. Azerbaijan, Armenia and to some extent Turkey, realize that the Western powers can tire of committing to a given far away part of the world. It’s a much different story when discussing a major power in its near abroad.

    On the subject of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, this piece is more insightful than the aforementioned JRL promoted pieces:

    https://www.eurasiareview.com/19112020-armenian-azeri-dispute-offers-another-russia-bashing-opportunity-oped/

    Kudos to InoSMI for running this article unlike JRL:

    https://inosmi.ru/politic/20201209/248708936.html

    The ongoing non-criticism of establishment phony, crony baloney JRL, is a lingering example of what’s wrong with the coverage of Russia related matters.

    Hurst and Cole are relative small potatoes.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like to come back to the Navalny underpants. It was Putin who by all accounts was pushing for the transfer of Navalny to Germany.

    That indicates that he must really have believed there would be no evidence found for a poisoning, as in any other scenario he would have had to know that Germany would find evidence if it was there.

    This makes it likely that someone without approval by the highest authority – Putin – went rogue and actually tried to poison Navalny – not necessarily to kill him, but as a warning.
    Which could mean whoever was responsible was actually trying to either smear Putin and his government or to by this action indicate that Putin had lost influence and/or trust of some secret agency with the goal weaken his power.

    And from what I have read from other sources about the political streams in Russia:
    is it likely that either a group aiming to establish closer ties with the USA – maybe supported by the expat billionaires – or a more antagonistic group actually seeking confrontation with NATO, however not necessarily a military one but one that aims for pinpoint aggressions against former members of the USSR and calling them home to the motherland could be behind such a move, a move to replace Putin in any case?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The other option: it just was a dumbfuck idea of some agents to please Putin? I cannot imagine that Putin having ordered such a move would be stupid enough to hand the evidence to the NATO powers…

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  7. Wait until they find out about the new Russian cartoon which is even more deadly than Masha and the Bear, around which I recall there was controversy since someone was saying that it made the horrible Russian regime more humanlike or something. The new horror is ‘Three cats’, or ‘Kid-e-cats’ in English. My children prefer it to Masha and the Bear and are too far gone… It has been translated into so many languages (they have a dedicated channel in Polish on youtube), that it’s too late to fight back and it’s busy creating goodwill for Mordor since 2017. The normally careful Polish let themselves be invaded without a fight by their mortal enemy. This is a way more deadly weaponization of cats than Mostik.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kid-E-Cats

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    1. Good satire. Anyway, seeing images of the show online gives me Peppa Pig vibes. I wonder what Caddicarus (who has voiced his distaste of Peppa Pig in some of his videos) thinks of Kid-E-Cats.

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  8. Ah, well, yes the cats. Why not make a comment I might once again regret?

    The cat’s changing images over the centuries. The witch and the cat? Shakespeare and cats. Possible material historical context in time and space? Beyond Egypt?

    Personally I seemed to be more a dog person before I met Friedrich or Fritz the cat. No, not Robert Crump’s Fritz the Cat but the really tiny black and white tomcat with a white spot on his nose, a bib, and white shoes, or better yet, white gaiters. If a late friend’s sister had vaccinated him just as her own cats, I wouldn’t have been forced to watch him growing steadily weaker … Cat’s AID they called it then.

    ******
    But yes, more generally curious to what extent our media too is obsessed with Putin’s PR images while hardly showing any awareness or interest on the production of those on their own home ground.

    I caught a glimpse of Putin as ice hockey player on our own public channel, with a commentary claiming 30.000.000 million Russians live below the poverty line. Statistical comparability worldwide? How many in China, Iran and/or the US? Britain? Greece? …

    But I saw Moscow still has no snow yet, we don’t have much either slightly more West.

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