The danger in creating a myth does not lie in the creation itself, but in the phenomena of people taking real life actions based on the premise of mythology. Whether it is Europeans or white Americans colonising Palestine based on concepts of a divine right or a drugged out member of Al-Qaeda who is so mentally incapacitated that he believes that blowing himself up among a group of civilians will bring him eternal happiness, the dangerous consequences of taking action based on a myth can be potent. Of course there are many harmless myths such as believing the earth is flat which ultimately do not cause anyone harm unless a commercial airline pilot decided to “prove” the earth was flat in midflight, something which thus far has not happened.
While everyone has their favourite myths to target as sources of ridicule, sadly many if not most groups also have their favourite myths that they believe to be true. One of the most famous myths in recent years and one that continues to circulate in western mainstream media is that the Russian government is actively trying to subvert the political and social order of North America and Europe. This myth has expanded to add that western born men and women who either personally or professionally tend to agree with the editorial line of Russian state owned media like RT more than the editorial line of western state owned media like the BBC, NPR or France-24 are either “Putin agents” or the “Kremlin’s useful idiots”.
While such a narrative is comically absurd, some western mainstream media journalists appear to actually believe it and so too do many western mainstream media viewers (much though the viewership i on the whole). But what is more troubling is that some alt-media professionals and their activist comrades have actually taken the myth to heart, embraced it as a positive moniker and actually believe that people in the Russian government listen to what they say with fervent excitement or even care what they say, simply because they were occasionally slightly eloquent in their alleged “defence” of Russia’s general Syria policy since 2015.
The Russian government does not care what you in alt-media say or what you think for the following reasons:
1. You’re not rich enough to invest in Russia and in any case sanctions would likely prohibit this unless you were in the position to gain Russian citizenship, something that even many ethnic Russians in places like Donbass, Latvia and Georgia have a hard time doing.
2. Russian policy is not guided by how many self-identifying western dissidents share positive memes about Vladimir Putin on their social media, it is in fact guided by geopolitical considerations that have far more to do with international transport corridors, maritime ports, the price of energy and other commodities and trading agreements. While some may find this hard to believe, the aforementioned items have far more to do with how the Russian superpower shapes its foreign policy than your home made drawing of Putin and Assad slaying a cartoon dragon whose chest is painted with the US, Saudi and “Israeli” flag.
3. Russia uses its state owned media to do exactly what western state owned media does: They seek to portray a narrative that explains Russia’s position in a manner that is easily digestible for the given target audience. In otherwords, RT is telling you what to think, you are not telling RT what to think. The exact same thing is true of state owned outlets like the BBC who brainwash a minority gullible Russians into thinking the Russian government is far more sinister than it looks and that the west is somehow a land where the streets are paved in gold and not a single injustice has ever happened.
4. Russian media will often interview eloquent individuals who can either agree with the official Russian narrative in a rational way or disagree with it in a rational way. This is a fairly standard method in state-owned mass media and long predates the creation of RT. The fact that RT typically has a more open mind about such things than western media is likely due to the fact that the Russian narrative is more consistent with the facts than the western one. This means that while RT is highly likely to be more ethical than its western rivals, the purpose and mission of such outlets is the same. Just because you’re on RT or the BBC does not make you a government adviser of the respective states who own the outlet.
A Victory Day Reality Check
As if orchestrated by a professor of sociology, the loyalty of many alt-media professionals and activists to their own mythology was tested when a major shibboleth was rocked on the 9th of May. During Russia’s Victory Day Parade and Immortal Regiment, two events which occur on the most sacred day in the Russian and pan-former Soviet national calendar, Vladimir Putin’s guest of honour, as described by the Russian government itself, was none other than “Israeli” leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the alt-media myth, by opposing the general trajectory of both western sociological trends (not an entirely true statement but at best a half-truth with many regional variables) and by opposing hegemonic US neo-imperialism (true much of the time, especially when it comes to rhetoric), Russia must therefore be opposed to everything that the broader anti-imperialist, anti-Zionist and anti-neoliberal alt-media is opposed to.
When the “Israeli” leader marched next to the Russian President on the most sacred day in Russia, side-by-side, it made it clear that the myth simply is not true.
While some are engaging in exercises of mental contortionism in order to convince themselves and others that Putin really doesn’t like “Israel” and just invited the most notorious “Israeli” leader in history to Victory Day in Moscow in order to show how Putin doesn’t in fact like “Israel”, the less far-gone elements of alt-media have come out with incredibly harsh criticisms of Russia.
Of course, criticising a state or a government is perfectly normal, but considering how just days ago many of these same people were filling up Facebook and Twitter with pro-Putin memes, the transformation of Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde is quite a sight to see.
This proves two things:
1. It proves (for the three people who still don’t get it) that alt-media professionals and online activists have no payed-up loyalty to the Russian government
and (much more importantly)
2. Such people have no manners, no decorum, no perspective and no real respect for Russia.
If there is one day not to insult Russia or Russians, that day is the 9th of May, the day where the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the veterans and martyrs of the Great Patriotic War pay tribute to the victory over fascism that the Soviet Union achieved at the expense of over 26 million souls.
In this sense, while Benjamin Netanyahu is far more violent than the average alt-media figure, the truth is that he was far more respectful to Russia on Russia’s most important day. In the world of informational war, such things matter.
Soft power versus fanaticism
If alt-media fanatics sought to take ownership of the myth they seem to have internalised as though it were fact, they could and should have analysed the soft power tactics of various successful governments and media outlets throughout the world and realise that you don’t win people over by insulting them on or just after their most sacred public occasion.
While Benjamin Netanyahu’s visibly respectful presence at Victory Day may have won over some Russians who either are not aware of or might temporarily forget that Netanyahu’s policies are monstrous and violent, the alt-media professionals and activists who are now insulting Russia, are revealing themselves to be fanatical, dogmatic, ready to jump to conclusions and abrasive. In this sense, Netanyahu has outclassed alt-media however well meaning some alt-media activists are and irrespective of the fact that any informed individual can list the crimes Netanyahu has committed against Palestine and other Arab states.
For the record, when it comes to Russian politics, the party I personally favour is the opposition Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and I have made my multiple criticisms of the Russian government widely known. But when it comes to criticising Russia on or around the 9th of May, only someone who hates Russia or is woefully ignorant would do such a thing at such a time. Even the unhinged members of Russia’s obscure and obscurantist liberal opposition know better and that’s saying a great deal.
Furthermore, for those who have been less critical of Russian policy than I am, the overnight about face because of a clear exercise in geopolitical diplomacy and soft power projection, it is quite farcical. There is also an instructive element to the face. It has shown that alt-media pundits have been exposed as knowing as little about Russia when they support it as they do when they detest Russia and insult the Russian sacrifice of 1941-1945.
At this point, maybe it would be nice for mainstream media to try and regain its lost credibility by stating that the “Putin trolls” they were disparaging are really just a group of fanatics who are as loyal to their impractical cause as the mainstream media editors are to their cause. Of course this won’t happen, but the rhetorical meaning is clear enough.
What is more important for genuinely independent thinkers who reject the dogmas of both left and right alt and mainstream, is to understand that for many in alt-media, the infatuation with Russia had nothing to do with dignity, respect, shared historical experiences or fraternal feelings, it was merely a marriage of convenience that Russia itself was never a part of. In other words, it was masturbation disguised as a marriage of convenience. Of course there are exceptions and as always, these exceptions prove the rule, while also proving that there are in fact sources out there who reject alt and msm dogmas and are therefore worth considering assuming one wants real information and informed analysis rather than an intellectual pat on the back.
Finally, if alt-media wanted to get their collective act together and try and influence the Russian policy makers to think more like them, insulting Russia on and around the 9th of May is not the way to do it. For the average Russian man and woman who does not have burning passions about the Middle East, they will see that the “Israeli” leader walked with visible dignity on the 9th of May while the alt-media warriors who claim to and in some cases do take the high ground in Middle East politics, have stooped to the lowest of the low in their treatment of Russian symbolism and culture. In other words, alt-media has insulted Russia the way that al-Qaeda and others have insulted Syria.
Congratulations alt-media, you are your own worst enemies!