Since the summer of 2016, the United States has been progressively losing its mind over Russia. To many people under a constant media assault, the problem seems like it’s one thing – evil Russian intervention in western politics – but in fact, it’s something entirely different. Of course, that’s what happens with mental illness: you think things are one way when they are not. But it can happen to nations, too, or at least large numbers of people. In our case, we are seeing the development of a kind of national psychosis.
But unlike most mental illness, this one has been deliberately foisted upon us. In truth, it’s a reaction, a rather effective defensive reaction in the form of a counter attack. I don’t know if it’s fair to say it’s working. It’s working to an extent, but it’s certainly strong.
Call it Russia Derangement Syndrome.
Many people have commented on Trump Derangement Syndrome. That’s a real thing, for sure. We saw it on election night, among the huge numbers of people who simply lost it, crying uncontrollably, screaming, burning cars, and breaking windows. We saw it in the teary faces of news anchors like CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, or Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, or … good god, Keith Olbermann. Olbermann, especially, seems to have just lost his mind over Trump’s election.
Is Trump polarizing? Well, he is in the sense that he sees what side his political base is on and he works it in a straight partisan fashion. For most of the history of American politics, politics have been polarized. Even American Presidents have a long history of arguing with the opposing party. What’s more unusual is the degree to which Trump takes on the opposition. This Queens trash talker isn’t exactly … Presidential.
But Trump isn’t the only polarizing element of western politics these days. There is no question that the establishment media, with the exception of Fox and some of the tabloid press, have gone after Trump so openly, so spectacularly, that, well, it’s been either breathtaking or shocking depending on your point of view. Either way, it’s unprecedented. Trump knows this and the result is that everyone is going at it bare-knuckle style. Over the last two years, he’s been turned into Hitler 2.0 by the media and it’s not surprising that his election caused millions of people simply to wail openly in the streets. You would think it’s 1860 and the nation is about to go to civil war. People have ended friendships and broken connections with family members. It’s one thing to demonize politicians you don’t like – that happens to every politician – but demonizing the supporters, well, that takes us into a much more dangerous territory.
That’s Trump Derangement syndrome. Then there is Russia Derangement Syndrome. This is something with a much longer pedigree, you might say about 500 years. That’s about how long western nations have obsessively feared the Russians. Shortly before his death in 1521, the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, noting the great new power of the East, said: “The grandeur of Russia is becoming dangerous.” Europeans have always been afraid of Russia, except when they needed them to fight for them, like against Napoleon. Then the Russians were okay. Americans traditionally didn’t care about Russia one way or the other until the U.S. became a world power after the First World War a hundred years ago. Then they began to care. They sent a military force along with other Europeans to invade and try to defeat the Communist revolutionaries. That didn’t work. They refused to recognize the Soviet government until the 1930s. Then came Hitler and we needed the Russians again. Then came the Cold War and they became the omnipresent enemy, the archetypal Other of American politics.
Then the Cold War ended, or seemed to end, in 1991. there were Americans who really didn’t know what to do with themselves. For years they had been spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a war machine, and now this was thrown into question because there was no longer had a viable bogeyman. Thank goodness for Saddam Hussein. Thank goodness for Muammar Gaddafi. Let’s not forget the North Koreans. But mostly, thank goodness for Vladimir Putin.
It was great for Americans during the 90s. The Russian national drunk, Boris Yeltsin, handed over everything that wasn’t nailed down to every international corporation offering the cash. There was a firesale during that time, and that firesale was called Russia. Russian standards of living collapsed, even life expectancy. Many emigrated to the West. But the Americans loved it. They even proudly made sure to arrange the 1996 Russian election for their man in Moscow. Hell, even Time magazine proudly wrote about this for its July 15, 1996 edition with the cover headline of “Yanks to the Rescue: The Secret Story of How American Advisors Helped Yeltsin Win.”
As we see in American news media, it’s perfectly fine when Americans rig elections, because we are helping Democracy and making the world freer. You really do hear this, at least when commentators are pushed to the wall and challenged on the long history of American election meddling.
It’s not hard to see why American neocons need a dangerous Russia. And it’s not that the Russians have never been scary. Just ask the people who lived under Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev. But it’s also true that to the extent that Russia isn’t dangerous, lies work every bit as well to justify the budget.
The current demonization of Russia and Putin stems from the aftermath of the U.S.-NATO destruction of Libya in 2011. At that time, Putin was Prime Minister of Russia, not President. Russian law doesn’t allow for more than two consecutive Presidential terms at a time, so Putin’s protege Dmitry Medvedev was President. You might call this a formality that allowed for the strong man to stay in power, and you would be pretty much correct. Except that the prime minister doesn’t have foreign policy control of the country; that’s the President’s job. Despite being Putin’s protege, Medvedev was certainly more western-leaning than his mentor, and it was during this time that Russia allowed the UN to pass security council resolution 1973 to authorize “all necessary measures” to protect civilians in Libya. Putin vehemently disagreed but was powerless at the time to stop this. The result was the creation of an edifice of lies about Libya promoted by the usual cheerleaders: Obama, Hillary, McCain, Cameron, Sarkozy. Fake youtube and twitter accounts claiming atrocities, and lots of western media ass-kissing. The standard US regime change tactics.
By all accounts, Putin was furious over the U.S. duplicity of this action. They got Gaddafi to dismantle his nuclear and chemical weapons programs, and then took him out. You might say after he had lost the ability to defend himself against the West. Of course, Putin would be furious. The U.S. and its allies effectively destroyed the wealthiest nation in Africa, sparking a massive stream of homeless migrants into Europe that has lasted to this day. After Putin became President of Russia again in 2012, he clearly took a much more realistic view of the U.S., an unforgivable sin.
In the fall of 2013, Putin decided he would not allow the U.S. to do to Syria what it did to Libya. In a stunning, near-miraculous diplomatic maneuver, he prevented the U.S. from bombing Syria in the fall of 2013 with a diplomatic solution to a crisis fundamentally engineered by the U.S. That was unforgivable. After the CIA orchestrated a coup of Ukraine in early 2014, installing a pro-West, pro-EU, pro-NATO, pro-Monsanto government, Putin waited. The people of Crimea held a referendum and overwhelmingly made their choice to rejoin Russia, and Putin gladly accepted the chance to bring Crimea—historically Russian for centuries—back into the fold. That was unforgivable. How dare he, shrieked Kerry, Obama, and the rest of the western establishment. (Despite the near unanimous and evidence-free opinion from Western media that the 2014 Crimean vote was rigged, Crimeans voted overwhelmingly in favor of Putin during the 2018 Presidential election.)
By this point, the U.S. and its allies were pissed. During the summer of 2014, they accused Russia, without evidence of course, of shooting down MH-17 over Ukrainian airspace. It’s interesting that Putin was apparently very close to that airspace at nearly the same time, as he was returning from a BRICS summit. You would never know this if you relied on the straightjacket of western news. But you have to wonder if someone was trying to shoot him down and that was the real cause of MH17’s crash. Anyway, the Russians were immediately blamed because, well, they’re Russians.
And Putin continued to thwart the U.S. Like during the fall of 2015 when he provided active military support to the beleaguered Syrian government. The Syrians at that time were hanging by a thread, about to fall to the Islamic State, which (surprisingly or not-so-surprisingly) had been aided and abetted by the U.S. all along. Russia’s intervention (which was at the request of the Syrian government) saved the Syrians from going under. Yet another unforgivable sin.
Then came the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, which brought Russia Derangement Syndrome to the next level of insanity. The story isn’t hard to follow, at least you would think. During the summer of 2016, Wikileaks released files detailing corrupt, unethical, and possibly illegal actions by the Democratic National Committee that favored one of its candidates over another. That is, Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Clearly, Bernie was the more popular candidate, and Hillary the more corporate and empire friendly. The DNC of course wasn’t supposed to undermine one candidate in favor of another, and it all came out. In fact, it still seems that the most likely source of these leaked emails appears to have been former DNC staffer Seth Rich, who was murdered shortly after the leaks came out. No, that’s not suspicious at all, nor the obsessive attempts by mainstream media to debunk the story. Wikileaks itself appears to have supported the idea that Rich was the source, as do many analysts to this day. It seems that Rich had been a Bernie supporter who was angry at the DNC’s pro-Hillary policy.
Anyway, the response by Hillary’s people, and the DNC itself, was brilliant. “Russia did it!” That is, turn the narrative from what the DNC did, to claiming they were hacked by the Russians, who in turn weaponized Wikileaks. It was brilliant also because it struck two birds with one stone. Wikileaks, after all, had been hated by the U.S. establishment for a long time.
Never mind that zero evidence was ever produced showing that the DNC leak was done by Russians. The establishment media went along with this nonsense because they did not want to see Bernie Sanders become President, and they most certainly did want to see Hillary Clinton become President.
Putin did it!
Then came Trump.
It was obvious that Trump was not supposed to win the election. Then he did. Say whaaaaat? The Russian smearing started even before he won, but good god did it ever become airborne after. Russia hacked our election! Olbermann completely lost his mind for all the world to see. Morgan Freeman did promos for reprehensible neocons to defend our democracy. And for the first time that I can surely remember, Democrats lost their sanity over Russia. Hey, that’s the Republicans’ job, dammit!
It’s so clear, so obvious, what has happened. The Democrats have formed an alliance with the rightest of the right-wing neocons to demonize Russia and thereby further demonize the one man they truly hate: Donald Trump.
The Russian scandals – or what is stupidly labeled as such by the western establishment – have continued unabated. Now we have the poisoning case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Have you noticed that, once again, not a shred of evidence has been offered that the Russians did it? Just like the incessant claim that Russia hacked the U.S. election, which has now quietly gone away for some strange reason. Blaming Russia for almost literally anything has become the norm. It was already a meme well over a year ago.
A lot of this has to do with the doubling down effect as a way to attack Trump. Connect Trump somehow to Russia, which was questionable but once you start down that road you are pretty much committed. I have always believed that a portion of the attack on Russia is simply a convenience for those who oppose Trump. The real reason for Trump’s enmity with the establishment, at least as a candidate, was that he criticized the two pillars of the American establishment’s global policy. First, he criticized neoliberal globalization, which — despite its economic benefits to some people — has brought hardship and even misery to others. Call them the left-behinds. Ralph Nader had the exact same message twenty years ago. This isn’t a right-wing or left-wing issue.
Second, Trump criticized neoconservative empire-building. The kind espoused by Dick Cheney, Hillary Clinton, and the entire U.S. establishment. America’s job is to lead the world, to remake the world, and to bomb you into democracy if you resist.
Candidate Trump’s opposition to these policies were unforgivable sins. As a result, the establishment had to take him down in any way possible. Obviously, they go for the vulnerable areas. If you sound like a twelve-year-old trash talker, well that just makes it easy. Incidentally, President Trump has by now completely gone full-blown neocon anyway, just proving the truth that empire building and nation destruction is in the genetic code of the United States. Even so, he now still seems to be committed to a nationalist, anti-neoliberal economic policy, so the establishment will continue to consider it open season on him.
Trump Derangement Syndrome will eventually pass, to be replaced by derangement over the next man or woman who needs to be taken down. Meanwhile, Russia Derangement Syndrome will not go away until Russia itself becomes compliant, as in the days of Yeltsin.
But having an evil Russia around is rather convenient. If there were no evil Putin in the world, he would have to be invented.
Oh wait, he was.
March 19, 2018