The West – its governments and its governments’ scribes – are obsessed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Obsessed” is probably too weak a word to describe the years of impassioned coverage, airy speculation and downright nonsense. He is the world’s leading cover boy: military hats, Lenin poses, imperial crowns, scary red eyes, strait-jackets, clown hats; anything and everything. He’s the avatar of Stalin, he’s the avatar of the Tsars, he’s the Joker, he’s Cthulhu, he’s Voldemort, he’s Satan. He’s the palimpsest for the New World Order’s nightmares. Putin is always messing with our minds. He weaponises information, misinformation and sexual assault accusations. Childrens’ cartoons, fishsticks, Pokemon and Yellow Vests, “Putin’s warships” are lurking when they aren’t stalking; “Putin’s warplanes” penetrate European airspace; “Putin’s tanks”, massing in 2016, massing in 2018, still massing. His empire of rogue states grows. All Putin, all the time.
In an especially imbecile display in 2015, Western reporters (unable to find his website) thinking he hadn’t been seen for several days started a contest of speculation about coups, death, wars, plastic surgery, secret births and other nonsense; when he “re-appeared”, the story went down the Memory Hole.
For some reason, Americans personalise everything. In meetings with US intelligence agencies I was always fascinated how they would reduce every complicated reality to a single individual. But it isn’t Saddam, or Assad, or Qaddafi, or Osama, or Aidid, or Milosevic, or Maduro, or Castro or any of the other villains-of-the-day, it’s a whole country: these people got to the top for good reasons. Removing the boss makes some difference but never all the difference. They go but they never leave a Washington-friendly country behind and Washington does it all over again somewhere else. This peculiar blindness drives Putin Derangement Syndrome and has infected everybody else.
But Putin is much worse than the others. The other enemies had relatively weak countries but Russia could obliterate the USA. But worse, Putin’s team has steadily become more powerful and more influential. And worst of all, he’s still there: huffing and puffing has not blown him down, sanctions strengthen the economy and there is nothing to suggest he won’t be succeeded by someone who carries on the same policies. It’s a whole country, not just one man.
Except that he’s short and can’t hide it. He’s a megalomaniac because he’s short; he’s trying to prove his bigness; napoleon complex says some shrink. Just another in a long list of crackpot “expert” opinions. From a list I complied in 2015: Asperger’s Syndrome, cancer of the spinal cord, personality disorders, gayness, Parkinson’s Disease, psychopath, people don't like him so animals have to, sinister, lonely life, fears his own people, envious of Obama. Remember the “gunslinger walk”? Oh, in case you hadn’t heard, he was in the KGB and that explains everything: “Once a KGB man, always a KGB man”. Nothing is too absurd.
But laughing has passed – Putin Derangement Syndrome has become dangerous.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton lost a sure-fire election to Donald Trump and, looking for an excuse, jumped on the Russia claim. Putin Derangement Syndrome was ramped up to a much more dangerous level. War-level dangerous.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said President Donald Trump’s administration is doing nothing to stop Russians from interfering in the 2018 election cycle, comparing the lack of action on the part of the president to the 9/11 and Pearl Harbor attacks that killed thousands of Americans.
A popular actor made a video to tell us we were at war. “Warfare” says Haley, “act of war” said John McCain, could be says Cheney, 911 says Clinton, disappointed CIA guy agrees, Pearl Harbor says Nadler. Diplomatic expulsions and sanctions and more sanctions. These are much more serious than gassy op-eds about Putin’s gait or fish weights, these are actions: actions have consequences. Moscow doesn’t find war talk very funny.
That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [9 November 2016] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument. (From Shattered, quoted here.)
In What Happened, Clinton also says Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for Trump was driven by his own anti-women sentiment, stacking the deck against her: “What Putin wanted to do was...influence our election, and he’s not exactly fond of strong women, so you add that together and that’s pretty much what it means.” At press events for her memoir, Clinton continues to warn Americans against Russia’s power over Trump and the country. “The Russians aren’t done. This is an ongoing threat, and that is one of the reasons why I wrote the book and one of the reasons I’m talking about it,” she said on Sunday at Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival. (Newsweek)
Her claim is, to put it mildly, unproven; the so-called “all 17 agencies” report notwithstanding. (The first premise that it was hacked is here disproved: downloaded by someone in the building). Her accusation moved Putin Derangement Syndrome away from the realm of mere craziness into war talk. Taking the hint, Western politicians, under attack for their lacklustre performances, were happy to push the blame onto Putin. He’s attacking democracy! Western media weighed in until it became completely accepted by some people that anything that spoiled the happy complacency of the Western world must be a result of Putin’s interference: gilets jaunes, “assistance provided to far-right and anti-establishment parties”, he’s the poster boy of the dreaded populism, his populist tentacles reach Hungary and Italy. And the next thing we knew, Putin was mucking around in everybody’s votes: Brexit; Catalonia; Netherlands; Germany; Sweden; Italy; EU in particular and Europe in general; Mexico; Canada. Newsweek gives a helpful list. Sometimes he loses elections: Germany, Ukraine but he goes on, unstopping. But his greatest triumph was said to have been in the US election: he “won” because Donald Trump was his willing puppet.
(None of these “experts” ever seem to wonder why Putin’s influence, so decisive far away, is so ineffective in Ukraine or Georgia. But then, it’s not actually a rational, fact-based belief, is it?)
The entire ramshackle construction is collapsing: if Mueller says there was no collusion then even the last ditch believers will have to accept it: Robert Mueller Prayer Candles are out of stock, time to toss the other tchotchkes, it wasn’t a Mueller Christmas after all. Clinton’s fabrication had two parts to it: 1) Putin interfered/determined the election 2) in collusion with Trump. When the second part is blown up, so must the first be. And then what will happen to all the loyal little allies crying “ours were interfered with too”!? The two halves of the story had the same authors and the same purpose: if one dies, so must the other. Now that Trump is secured from the obstruction charges that hung there as long as Mueller was in session, he is free to declassify the background documents that will show the origin, mechanics, authors and extent of the conspiracy. And he has said he will. In the process, both halves of the story will be destroyed: they’re both lies.
(For those who now realise there is something they have to catch up on: Conrad Black has a good exposition of the overall conspiracy and here is a quick round-up of the mechanics of the conspiracy. This may show its very beginning, three years ago).
Will the exposure of the plot and the plotters end the war-talk stage of Putin Derangement Syndrome? In a rational world, it would (but can its believers be embarrassed by the exposure of their credulity? Can they be made to think it all over again from the beginning?). It is true that Russia stands in the way of the neocons and liberal interventionists who have been guiding Washington this century, but that hardly means that Putin is the enemy of the American people. Because, properly considered, it’s the neocons/liberal interventionists and their endless wars burning up lives, money and good will that are the enemies of Americans; in that respect Putin (unintentionally) stands with the true best interests of the American people. But the propaganda is so strong and the hysteria so unrestrained, that anyone who suggests that blocking the war party is in the best interests of Americans would be run out of town on a rail. (As the attacks on Tulsi Gabbard show.) The USA is far down the rabbit hole.
(Although I should say US elites: a Rasmussen poll shows that slightly more Americans think Clinton colluded with a foreign power than think Trump did. Considering the news coverage of the last two and a half years, that’s a very interesting finding.)
So, the sad conclusion is that Putin Derangement Syndrome will probably endure and the best we can hope for is that it is dialled down a bit and the “act of war” nonsense is quietly forgotten. Derangement was strong before the interference/collusion lie and it will exist as long as Putin does: the war party is too invested in personalities ever to realise that it’s Russia, not its president, that’s the obstacle. Let alone ever understand that much of what Moscow does is a pushback against Washington’s aggression.
“What the hell? I worked so hard on this - if I wasn’t colluding with the Trump campaign, who the hell was I colluding with?” said the dumbfounded Russian president, growing increasingly angry as he scrolled through his email inbox and recounted his numerous efforts at covert communication with individuals who he had thought were high-ranking Trump officials, but now he suspected were bots or anonymous internet trolls.”