Thursday, July 24, 2014

Russia: Conspiracy theories and a doubtful grip on reality

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.

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.
Read the rest here.

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.


August said...

I doubt it was NATO, but I do think this was orchestrated by Kiev. They've got the incentive, whether they did it, or somehow confused the Eastern Ukrainians. The Eastern Ukrainians are apparently trying to defend their cities from fighter jets.
There's also an incentive for our government to encourage Europe to stop buying gas from Russia and start buying it from American companies.
If they keep publishing blatant lies in the mainstream, we will all end up holding alternative views.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Civilian airliners getting shot down in warzones by amped-up combatants is really nothing new. We've done it ourselves. Combine not-terribly-bright troops with "smart" weaponry that aims itself and these tragedies are unsurprising. That's why competent pilots steer their aircraft around, not over, war zones.

We have military advisers in the Ukraine and are doubtless opening the checkbook for Kiev. This is beginning to have a 'Gulf of Tonkin', 'Lusitania', 'WMD' air about it.

One hundred years ago, the superpowers were blundering around the globe, rattling their sabers and doing stupid things.

Also - it's interesting what's NOT outrageous or newsworthy these days. A Sunni caliphate has casually taken over eastern Syria and much of Iraq and is generally acting with complete impunity.

August said...

If Kurdistan really does go independent, it will signify a change in Western strategy. A small state that is essentially a client to the multinationals, probably with these multinational mercenary operations providing asset security. They'll move towards carving up the Middle East like Israel/Gaza/Westbank because it is useful for the elites.
The caliphate is useful for these purposes- like Hamas and their myopic missile firing tendencies is for manipulating the Israeli voting public.

Virgil Petrisor said...

What I find somewhat amusing is that the article says it is unlikely that the plane were mistaken for Putin's personal jet (because missiles are aimed with radar), but likely that it would have been mistaken for a military transport (because...).