Critique of Putin-Criticism

January 3, 2015 § Leave a comment

This is a rapid near-verbatim translation of today’s blog post (in Swedish).

Disclaimer: There’s an intellectual Catch-22 embedded in this post, inasmuch I propose that Putin’s agenda is to undermine public trust in western media. By criticizing western media such as I do, for wilfully or involuntarily furthering Putin’s agenda, I effectively undermine trust in the same. Thus, I too further Putin’s agenda and become precisely the useful idiot I suggest others are. This disclaimer then, is to acknowledge the dilemma and to ask the viewer to make a distinction between criticism of media and criticism of rational thought. Whatever you believe is up to you. And no, I’m not a supporter of Team Putin.

Critique of criticism, or, what really is rational thought?

Today in Dagens Nyheter 3 January 2015 we are presented with a premium interview (in Swedish) of Andrei Illarionov written by the paper’s Russia correspondent Michael Winiarski. The interview, ostensibly centered on Illarionov’s criticism of Russian president Vladimir Putin, strikes many chords – but what is that tune we’re hearing in the background? Let us deconstruct:

Ingressen etablerar tolkningsdimensionen

The summary

Intro: a summary, providing the gist of the article. A presentation of Andrei Illarionov. He is legitimized thus: ”advisor for six years” (sounds like a lot, sounds important), ”but today he is a ruthless Putin critic” (note the ”but” – a legitimizing reservation that communicates a shift in allegiance, a newly won insight. ”Ruthless”, a legitimizing value that we can trust because we all think Putin is such a bad boy).

Establishing credentials. Pile 'em on!

Establishing credentials. Pile ’em on!

Preamble, para 1-8: continued legitimization of Illarionov. We are served a background history designed to inspire trust in Illarionovs criticism of Putin: whatever he says hereafter is thus established as credible, because he, ostensibly, has the trustworthy track record of an eloping dissident. That Illarionov ”managed to predict” the doomed politics of Putin and its effects also serves to create a sensation of credibility. Do note Illarionov’s caveat: he does not comment on personal aspects of Putin (yeah, right) or his relation to him (already established). This caveat releases him from responsibility – everything he says may be true but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so: it is all illusion and speculation. The reader is now properly prepared to accept everything Illarionov says as being the bona fide truth. Do you buy this? Yes/No?

The interview itself follows. It is chock full of neat tones and groovy chords – soundbites that you can use for headlines and use as confirmation of such as we already know or have suspected for some time. A lot of it, most in fact, is ye olde cupboard scraps and repetition of established and unassailable facts, regurgitated and spiced up to appear new and exciting. I have chosen a few selected sentences below as being particularly interesting.

”I don’t think Putin has read Hitler’s message, but he [Putin] instinctively recreates something that was said 75 years prior.”

Does Illarionov, who has stood closer to Putin than most, really mean that Putin is a rethorical and political prodigy, a kind of idiot savant who, with extraordinary capability, channels history and instinctively recreates a virtually identical diplomatic sentence with absolute pitch?

Of course not. Even Illarionov cannot be so naive. Every word from Putin’s lips is naturally weighed on a golden scale: every sublime threat and positional stake is, naturally, the result of extremely careful consideration, born and bred out of the very same KGB tradition he so perfectly epitomizes. There is nothing unplanned, spontaneous or instinctive in Putin’s actions: it is utterly calculated. Thus Illarionov’s statement, ostensibly innocent, does emit the very same degree of calculation as is indicative of him whom he markets as ”instinctive”.

”It appears as if the western powers are actually more keen to appear decisive before a domestic audience than to change the aggressor’s behavior.”

This (in my stunted translation), is a recurring Russian narrative, here promoted by Illarionov: the West is weak and only react as much as required to remain in power, the West is only trying to salvage what may and cannot be expected to act forcefully and decisively (as Putin). This is classic subversion. Putin wants nothing more of the West than for it to act hawkishly and warlike – such as he and the propaganda he orchestrates says they do. Putin needs an actively warmongering opponent, not one who shies away from confrontation, aikido-style, and lets the opponent defeat himself by losing his balance into oblivion. Illarionov, the hawk, whips us into demanding warlike measures, to criticize our governments for not being hawkish enough. Is this reasonable? No – and here’s the repartee:

”As an economist, I can say that sanctions are not particularly effective, even if the latest batch may have had a certain impact.”

Whoohoo! The economist Illarionov declares the sanctions (and, supposedly, the petropolitical weapon) a failure, the same sanctions that have plunged the Ruble and the MICEX straight down into S&P’s junk category, the sanctions that have all but caused Russia to collapse, and says that they are ”not particularly effective”. In other words, we should immediately suspend the sanctions and engage in more warlike actions. Hey, we know that the sanctions are working, we just need to apply them for a few more months, maybe ratchet them up a notch or two… but Illarionov says that they are useless. Whom are we to believe here? Who’s agenda is Illarionov furthering?

”But that he left Brisbane early was due to a psychological collapse, caused by an unexpectedly cold reception from all the world leaders.”

As a connaisseur of Putin, Illarionov gives a decidedly poor impression. Would Putin, this empathy-bereft, coldly calculating KGB snake, exhibit human feelings and collapse psychologically as an effect of the G20’s adult mobbing? It is a grave miscalculation of the factors that propelled Putin to Brisbane at all, and a grave misjudgement of why he was invited in the first place. Everything Putin did in Brisbane was planned and orchestrated. Nervous breakdown? Come on – this is the least logical explanation, and Illarionov’s credibility is thereby just as shot.

To conclude: the melody that keeps jangling throughout the article, is that Putin is a political prodigy; he is super-strong (remember, he rides bears and flies with geese) and wonderful (except that he’s a rather beastly person for reasons that are not denied by Illarionov); the Western powers are lame invertebrates; the sanctions are worthless and should immediately be lifted in favour of more active war.

This is what Winiarski and Dagens Nyheter communicate.

Are they aware of this?

What do you believe?


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