Caitlin Johnstone

It’s not just that whale, Russia is coming to get us (apparently)

Russia

Last week, Russia roped a whale into the world of underwater espionage. This week, they’re weaponising laughter. And puppies!

 

 

Headlines were blaring the word “Russian” again the other day because the mass media narrative managers found yet another reason for Westerners to feel terrified of the icy potato patch that we’d barely ever thought about prior to 2016. I’d like to talk about the Kremlin’s latest horrifying horrific addition to its fearsome doomsday artillery, the Beluga Whale. That, and it affords me an opportunity to recap a few of the other incredibly frightening and terrifying tactics that those strange Cyrillic-scribbling demons of the east are employing to undermine truth, justice and the American way. Just to make sure we’re all good and scared like we’re supposed to be.

 

1. Whales

Headlines and TV news segments from virtually all mainstream outlets were falling all over themselves the other day to report the fact that some Norwegians found a tame beluga whale with a harness on it, and “experts” attest that the animal may have been part of a covert espionage program for the Russian navy.

While there is no indication that this spying cetacean has been trained in the arts of sonar election meddling or shooting Novichok from its blowhole, the Guardian helpfully informs us that the harness was labelled “Equipment of St. Petersburg”, and was equipped to hold “a camera or weapon”.

“Marine experts in Norway believe they have stumbled upon a white whale that was trained by the Russian navy as part of a programme to use underwater mammals as a special ops force,” the Guardian reports.

The Norwegian tabloid Verdens Gang—which picked up on the discovery well before the breathless, English headlines began gracing us with their presence—is a teensy bit less Ian Fleming-esque in its reporting on the matter: the harness is equipped for a GoPro camera. The words “Equipment of St. Petersburg” are written in English.

“Why is the Russian military writing ‘Equipment of St. Petersburg’ in English on the garments of its aquatic special ops forces”, you may ask? If there were indeed a secret beluga espionage squad assembled by Russian intelligence services, would they not perhaps avoid writing the home address of the whales on their harnesses altogether, and maybe, you know, not let them run free in the wild?

And to that I would say, stop asking so many questions. That’s just what Putin wants.

 

2. Crickets

A report seeded throughout the mainstream media by anonymous intelligence officials last September claimed that US government workers in Cuba had suffered concussion-like brain damage after hearing strange noises in homes and hotels with the most likely culprit being “sophisticated microwaves or another type of electromagnetic weapon” from Russia. A recording of one such highly sophisticated attack was analysed by scientists and turned out to be the mating call of the male indies short-tailed cricket. Neurologists and other brain specialists have challenged the claim that any US government workers suffered any neurological damage of any kind, saying test results on the alleged victims were misinterpreted.

The actual story, when stripped of hyperventilating Russia panic, is that some government workers once heard some horny crickets in Cuba.

*cough*

 

3. Puppies

Ye gads, is nothing sacred? Is there any weapon these monsters won’t use to transform the west into a giant, globe-spanning Mordor?

That’s right, in 2017 puppies became one of the many, many things we’ve been instructed to fear in the hands of our vodka-swilling enemy to the east, with mass media outlets reporting that a Facebook group for animal lovers was one of the sinister, diabolical tactics employed by St. Petersburg’s notorious Internet Research Agency. As the Moon of Alabama blog has explained, the only evidence we’ve seen so far actually indicates that the Internet Research Agency’s operations in America served no purpose other than to attract eyeballs for money. As journalist Aaron Maté wrote of the highly publicised Russian Facebook meddling, “Far from being a sophisticated propaganda campaign, it was small, amateurish, and mostly unrelated to the 2016 election.”

The late, great Robert Parry, one of the earliest and most outspoken critics of the Russiagate narrative, covered this one for Consortium News in an article he authored a few months before his untimely passing:

As Mike Isaac and Scott Shane of The New York Timesreported in Tuesday’s editions, “The Russians who posed as Americans on Facebook last year tried on quite an array of disguises. … There was even a Facebook group for animal lovers with memes of adorable puppies that spread across the site with the help of paid ads.”

Now, there are a lot of controversial issues in America, but I don’t think any of us would put puppies near the top of the list. Isaac and Shane reported that there were also supposedly Russia-linked groups advocating gay rights, gun rights and black civil rights, although precisely how these divergent groups were “linked” to Russia or the Kremlin was never fully explained. (Facebook declined to offer details.)

At this point, a professional journalist might begin to pose some very hard questions to the sources, who presumably include many partisan Democrats and their political allies hyping the evil-Russia narrative. It would be time for some lectures to the sources about the consequences for taking reporters on a wild ride in conspiracy land.

Yet, instead of starting to question the overall premise of this “scandal,” journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, etc. keep making excuses for the nuttiness. The explanation for the puppy ads was that the nefarious Russians might be probing to discover Americans who might later be susceptible to propaganda.

“The goal of the dog lovers’ page was more obscure,” Isaac and Shane acknowledged. “But some analysts suggested a possible motive: to build a large following before gradually introducing political content. Without viewing the entire feed from the page, now closed by Facebook, it is impossible to say whether the Russian operators tried such tactics.”

 

4. Pokémon

Yes, Pokémon.

This Russia hysteria has been a long, wild ride, and sometimes it’s honestly felt like they’re just experimenting on us. Like they’ve been testing the limits of how ridiculous they can make this thing and still get mainstream Americans to swallow it. Like the establishment propagandists are all sitting around in a room smoking blunts and making bets with each other all, “I’m telling you, we can sell a Pokémon GO Kremlin conspiracy.”

“Do it!”

“No way. There’s no way they’ll go for it.”

“Yeah well you said that about the puppy dogs!”

And then they release their latest experiment in social manipulation and place bets on how many disgruntled Hillary voters they can get retweeting it saying, “God dammit, I knew that Jigglypuff looked suspicious!”

The October 2017 CNN report which sparked off a full day of shrieking “OMG THEY’RE EVEN USING PIKACHU TO ATTACK OUR DEMOCRACY” headlines was titled “Exclusive: Even Pokémon Go used by extensive Russian-linked meddling effort”, and it reported that Russia had extended its “tentacles” into the popular video game for the purpose of election meddling. Apparently the Internet Research Agency attempted to hold a contest using the game to highlight police brutality against unarmed black men, which of course is something that only an evil autocracy would ever do.

Not until the fifteenth paragraph of the article did we see the information which undercut all the frantic arm flailing about Russians destroying democracy and warping our children’s fragile little minds:

CNN has not found any evidence that any Pokémon Go users attempted to enter the contest, or whether any of the Amazon Gift Cards that were promised were ever awarded — or, indeed, whether the people who designed the contest ever had any intention of awarding the prizes.

Mmm hmm.

 

5. Laughter

Late last year the BBC published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about yet another addition to the Kremlin’s horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy. The article’s author, ironically titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)” by the BBC, argues that Russia has suddenly discovered laughter as a way to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” the article explained, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers.

Is it perhaps possible that Russian media have begun mocking the west a lot more because westerners have made themselves much easier to make fun of? Could it perhaps be the fact that western mass media have been doing absolutely insane things like constantly selling us the idea that the Kremlin could be lurking behind anything in our world, even really innocuous-looking things like puppy dogs, Pokémon and whales? Could we perhaps be finding ourselves at the butt end of jokes now because in 2016 our society went bat shit, pants-on-head, screaming-at-passing-motor-vehicles insane?

Nahhh. Couldn’t be. It’s the Russians who’ve gone mad.

 

Caitlin Johnstone

Caitlin Johnstone is a Melbourne-based journalist who specialises in American politics, finance and foreign affairs. You can find her on Twitter at @caitoz Her website at https://caitlinjohnstone.com/ Or on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/caitlinjohnstone Her new book ' Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers' is now available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.com/Woke-Field-Guide-Utopia-Preppers/dp/064823455X/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

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