MOSCOW—Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 has already shined a spotlight on the Russian public’s somewhat, um, unique views. Russian media are running with conspiracy theories: that MH17 was shot down by NATO to spark a conflict with Russia, that MH17 wasn’t full of innocent civilians but week-old corpses, or that MH17 was shot down because it was mistaken for Vladimir Putin’s personal jet (as if anti-aircraft missiles weren’t aimed with radar but with a really large pair of binoculars). The only theory missing is the right one: that Russian-backed separatists accidentally shot down the plane when they mistook it for a Ukrainian military transport.Read the rest here.
This may seem like the entertaining sideshow to a tragedy, but actually it’s just a window into a hugely dangerous problem. I recently moved to Moscow, and it’s hard to miss the extent to which Russian society exists in an alternate universe. Even well-educated, sophisticated people who have traveled widely in Europe and North America will frequently voice opinions that, in an American context, would place them alongside people wearing tinfoil hats. Russia is not living in the reality-based community.
The cited example of the common Russian take on Syria is unfortunate, since it is almost certainly more accurate than the naive views held by most Westerners. That said, Russia does have a long history of xenophobia and subscribing to weird versions of history or conspiracy theories to explain or refute inconvenient facts. But then again are they that different from us?
Consider the huge numbers of Americans who subscribe to bizarre conspiracy theories. 9-11 Truthers make up a much larger number than most people want to admit here, overwhelmingly from the ranks of the moonbat left. And of course there are the far right's version in the form of Birthers. Setting aside politics we still see incredible numbers of people who think FDR engineered Pearl Harbor although pretty much all reputable historians ridicule the idea. The number of people who are convinced that Jack Kennedy was murdered as part of some elaborate plot has been slowly declining, but still remains embarrassingly high, despite the mountain of evidence pointing to Oswald coupled with the complete lack of credible evidence of conspiracy, and the exposure of most of the early purveyors of these theories as cranks and con-men. Shall we discuss how many Americans think the moon-shot was faked, or that professional wrestling is real?
So, are the Russians a little overly fond of alternative realities? Yep. But that appears to be a point that we have in common.