Nothing is True, and Everything is Possible

Peter Pomerantsev is an ethnic Russian who was born in Kiev, under the USSR. He grew up in England. When he moved to Moscow as an adult, he fell in love with Moscow’s wild and intense euphoria where “anything goes.”

At first, he is drawn in by Moscow’s chaos, with its fresh and gaudy wealth, wild parties and intense personalities. He embraces the world of Moscow’s extremes, working for a network called TNT, producing shows with titles like “How to Marry a Millionaire.” Yet he soon sees the dark side of the madness — the violence, the emptiness and, ultimately, the lack of control average Russians have over their own fate. Russians’ ability to adapt to their environment no longer seems admirable. _NYT

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible   by Peter Pomerantsev

Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev

Pomerantsev returned to Russia as a “reality TV” producer, learning in the process that reality is not fit for Russian TV.

“Reality” is scripted by the dark forces inside the Kremlin. Fake opposition parties engage in fake opposition to those who rule, a fake justice system goes through the motions of the legal process, and the fake television news shapes what Russia’s 143 million citizens are allowed to see…

… Putin has now fully established control over the media. A vast majority of Russians still get most of their information from television, and the three major channels are either owned directly by the Kremlin or by state-owned companies. Each week, a Kremlin official directs their coverage. Major newspapers have been cowed. __NYT

The story of Russian propaganda — as told by an ethnic Russian from inside the Russian TV industry — can make for compelling reading, particularly for westerners who are just becoming acquainted with “Russia Today,” “Russian Insider,” and other Russian media outlets. But for those who truly want to understand what things are like inside Russia today, they should read further . . .

Pomerantsev… is all too believable in the bad news he brings us from Russia. His reporter’s straightforward and unlimited curiosity, his willingness to plow and harrow the widest fields for facts, and his exacting descriptive details give him credibility. Plus, what he tells us is so incredible. As reporters say, “You just can’t make these things up.”

… Russia’s mortality rate is horrific. According 2012 World Health Organization statistics, a fifteen-year-old Russian male has a life expectancy that’s three years less than a fifteen-year-old Haitian boy’s.

The life expectancy of a fifteen-year old Russian female is sixty-one, three years less than in Cambodia.

Russians die from cardiovascular disease and from accidents, murder, and suicide. They smoke, they drink, they despair.

Russia’s great wealth is based on extraction of oil and gas. Even so, the value of Russia’s exports in 2013 barely exceeded Belgium’s. And energy prices are falling.

The likelihood of the economy being transformed from extractive to knowledge-based is slim in a country rife with slogans like “How can you believe in anything?” and “Everything is PR.”

“Long-term economic progress,” says Eberstadt, “depends on improving productivity through new knowledge . . . Patent awards and application provide a crude but telling picture . . . Consider applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty . . . Russia comes in No. 21—after Austria—racking up less that 0.6 percent of the world’s total. The population of Russia is more than fifteen times that of Austria. Russia’s ‘yield’ of patents per university graduate is vastly lower than Austria’s—thirty-five times lower. By this particular metric Russia is only fractionally better placed than Gabon.” _PJ O’Rourke in World Affairs Journal

There is much more of interest in O’Rourke’s review above. He describes multiple ways in which the long-standing rot infesting Russia today, manifests itself across the country. The closer one gets to centres of power in Russia, the more intense the rot.

Putin’s unbelievable stupidity in having opened up another front of war in Ukraine is only now slowly coming to light. Multiple hotspots for Russia’s army — across the Caucasus and into Eastern Europe — hover near the flashpoint. The Russian army is a Potemkin force waiting to be exposed. Russia does not have enough healthy sons to sacrifice to Putin’s ambitious hubris.

Russia’s Problems Go Deeper than Drinking

If one digs beneath the shite shoveled out by Russian Propaganda Inc., the scope of Russia’s devastating demographic crises reveals itself. Despite what you may have heard from grad students Karlin and Adomanis, Russia’s demographic crisis is still on — and drinking is not the primary culprit after all.

Yes, vodka and its relatives make an appreciable contribution to the high rates of cardiovascular, violent, and accidental deaths—but not nearly enough to explain the demographic catastrophe. There are even studies that appear to show that Russian drinkers live longer than Russian non-drinkers. Parsons discusses these studies in some detail, and with good reason: it begins to suggest the true culprit. She theorizes that drinking is, for what its worth, an instrument of adapting to the harsh reality and sense of worthlessness that would otherwise make one want to curl up and die. _The Dying Russians in NY Books

People who are depressed — living constantly in despair — die much earlier than other people, whether they drink alcohol or not. There is something deeply toxic about despair, which poisons all the cells of the body — particularly those in the pre-frontal regions of the brain. Despair poisons the will, leading to an early dementia, a wide range of bodily diseases, and death. Helpless despair.

Down and Out in Russia Mercatornet

Down and Out in Russia

When judging Putin’s actions and when assessing Russian propaganda, one must remember the thing that allows the corrupt criminals and ex-KGB functionaries to remain on top — the abject helplessness and despair that fills the hearts of ordinary Russians who cannot leave.

When viewed in that light, the ordinary Russian girls who study and train for years in order to become well-paid prostitutes and mistresses in Moscow, are pursuing a rational course. It is a course which will give them a certain amount of control over their lives for as long as they remain physically young and attractive.

It would be comforting to be able to believe that Russia would magically “snap back” into a reasonably happy and healthy society, with citizens who had many opportunities for self-development, and hope for the future. Perhaps if someone other than Putin were to take charge . . . . ? But no, the fatal strain has run too deeply inside the heart of Russia, for far too long. Corruption above, fatal despair below, violent turmoil in between.

Like the human race, Russians cannot be saved en masse. But large numbers of Russians are worth saving, all the same. In order to do that, one must reach beneath the Potemkin facade of Russian propaganda and grad student smoke screens to the tragic truth below. That is what must be worked with if we are ever to see a more satisfactory result: the oxymoron — a happier Russia that lives in peace with its sovereign neighbors.

Worldwide Homicide Rates

Worldwide Homicide Rates

Global suicide rates on left vs. global homicide rates on right.

Low oil prices cast a deeper pall over the motherland

This entry was posted in Propaganda, Putin, Russia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Nothing is True, and Everything is Possible

    • alfin2101 says:

      Exposure for Germany and Europe, is serious. We know that Russia can default without apology, as she steals without apology on a routine basis. Particular international energy companies are also at serious risk.

      The most serious threat other than nuclear, is the “dumbing down” effect Russian propaganda has on those who take it seriously. The second most serious threat other than nuclear, is the intentional destabilising actions inside other countries which Russian agents have practised and perfected since the old KGB days. (eg, exacerbating divisions between different populations within a sovereign nation) The third most serious threat other than nuclear, may be the economic contagion of which Robb writes.

      While most Russia observers state confidently that Russia will not use nukes in an effort to “level the playing field in case of a disastrous loss,” I am not so certain of the current Russian leadership. They appear to be “stuck on stupid.”

      Speaking of economic contagion, we should know that the risk from a China failure is orders of magnitude worse than from a Russia failure in terms of international exposure. Russia’s economy is roughly the size of Spain’s.

  1. Craig says:

    How utterly sad. I remember thinking as a kid back during the cold war what a wonderful world it would be to have the true potential of the Russian/Soviet people (and their satellites) unleashed into the world. Imagine two Silicon Valleys, two Hollywoods, two MITs, two Mayo Clinics, two Apple Computers so on and so forth. To think that 25 years after the cold war the picture posted in this article sums up what’s happened to the Russian people is almost beyond belief. We won the war I guess… What we need is a Marshall Plan for Russia. The patient is sick and Dr. Putin has made it so much worse. We complain about cronyism here in the West, Putin and his cohorts take the cake. Life under communism must look good now to the sober Russians.

    • alfin2101 says:

      Don’t be too sad. Russian agents are working on ways to foment violent unrest in your home town, and mine. Russian hackers are devising ways to crash power grids and entire economic systems via cyber-attacks. Russian agitprop groups work with western protest groups to disrupt energy projects and other critical infrastructure development. According to ex-USSR and ex-Russian agents, suitcase-sized nukes have been smuggled into western cities with the aim of creating synchronised mass confusion should the need arise. etc. etc. etc.

Comments are closed.