You may have heard that in the latest round of rigged elections in Russia, the government stopped even trying to pretend that it cares about what the people want as was the bargain of managed democracy after the fall of the USSR. According to this bargain, the people debate and vote on handpicked candidates, then the Kremlin says some very nice things about democracy, freedom, and the right to being heard at the polls, and promptly does whatever it wants behind closed doors until the next election. But as videos and stories of a widespread campaign of fraud by United Russia officials made it to the news, both Medvedev and Putin descended into a stream of insults and derision in response to those exasperated that the duo would so transparently change places come election day. Massive protests erupted in Moscow, and the Kremlin went into damage control mode, trying to insinuate that the U.S. State Department is fostering global unrest, including recent protests in Moscow. And their authoritative sources include British "political scientist" David Icke. Yes, that David Icke.
Really, if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes on state-run Russian television, I would’ve laughed at the notion of a conspiracy theorist who believes that the world is ran by mystical reptilian aliens from Tau Ceti who landed on our poor little planet thousands of years ago, mated with humans, and now call themselves the Illuminati, being presented as a political scientist and consulted on current events by a former superpower. But there he was, expanding on his notions of nefarious cabals steering global politics from the shadows. One could see the editors quickly cutting the part where he explained that the cabals in question were extraterrestrial, and as quickly as possibly, talking about an unidentified group of Yugoslavian youths who taught the tactics of proper non-violent protests in Egypt and several other nations, receiving attention from the U.S. State Department, as well as a game simulating how to trigger regime change by controlling mass protests. Wow. Talk about some bad propaganda. When your experts in political science are either paranoid pundits who haven’t met a single conspiracy theory they didn’t love at first sight, and you’re referring to video games training people for revolt on the command of a foreign power to defend your hide, you’ve reached a new low.
Of course like all good lies, there is a grain of truth in some of these accusations. There really is a group that teaches people techniques for non-violent protest created by two young Serbians who originally helped form an organization known as Otpor, which means pushback or resistance in Russian. Originally, Otpor was an expression of distaste with the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and after the former authoritarian was deposed, it morphed into a political party. But two of its members formed CANVAS, an activist collective intended to help those living under authoritarian leaders learn non-violent, PR-friendly protest strategies. After a small number of young, social media-savvy protesters in Cairo mentioned meeting with CANVAS, authoritarians very quickly began to fan rumors of CANVAS being a U.S. project, highlighting that its members have been in contact with the State Department and had some praise for their work in the United States. In reality, their positive press is somewhat meaningless since there are a lot of things of which the United States publicly approves but does not really follow. But having that connection is enough to give random conspiracy theorists some red meat to weave into their tales of New World Order international subterfuge, and with the right editing and a somewhat respectable, flattering title, viola, the Kremlin got some "experts" with evidence for subterfuge.
In reality, the protests we see today are not really coordinated past Facebook pages and calls on Twitter, and the role of CANVAS, while noble in purpose and hopefully with good effect, is limited to small meetings with a limited number of activists who were already looking for a protest movement to join. Authoritarians can go on and point their finder to whomever they like and drag out every other conspiracy theorist under the sun while a pundit on their payroll declares them to be world class 23rd degree black belts in political science, but there’s really no need to go to such lengths when it’s quite obvious that their subjects are simply fed up with their tired and old machinations. If anything, it’s downright insulting to insinuate that in a wired country of highly politically versed people who are deeply cynical about politics, the powers that resort to essentially saying that all those who see past their games and want to call them out on it are simply not smart or savvy enough to organize an occasional protest, especially after they catch the ruling party with it’s arms buried up to the elbow in the ballot box on video and post it on YouTube for the entire world to see. Actually, strike that. It’s downright pathetic.
[ illustration by Vesgnev ]