Conspiracy enthusiasts – all hands on deck!
He ruffled too many feathers, made too many powerful enemies, and when the media painted him as a fifth columnist and a traitor, he didn’t crawl on his knees begging forgiveness but carried on with his head held high. That’s not how you win over friends at the Kremlin; they dislike people who walk upright.
A member of the Russian parliament from the Communist Party, Comrade Obukhov, has officially stated that the assassination of Boris Nemtsov is nothing like those of Kirov and Kennedy.
That almost sounds nostalgic: they don’t shoot ’em like they used to. He should know, since both Kirov and Kennedy had been gunned down by communists. But it could also be sour grapes.
Russia’s authoritarianism hasn’t been the same ever since the Party had lost its license to kill, but there’s still a chance the glory days may come back.
Like certain species capable of regenerating missing body parts, Putin’s Russia is now miraculously regenerating its previously lost militarism, territories, and spheres of influence.
The first to regenerate was the KGB and the Kremlin-run media propaganda, along with the barnacles of old political jokes that seem to have regained their edge.
In one such joke, spirits of Caesar, Napoleon, and Alexander the Great are watching a military parade in Moscow and fantasize about conquering the world if they had Russian tanks, planes, and missiles. Then Napoleon says, “And if I also had the Russian media, the world would have never learned about my defeat at Waterloo.”
In Russia the government-controlled pen has always been mightier than its weapon systems. A de facto vassal of the KGB, the Soviet media faithfully served as a weapon in Moscow’s defensive and offensive strategies. It was used to attack perceived domestic or international enemies, as well as to release chaff of disinformation that swamped radar screens and impeded detection of targets. An ex-KGB colonel with experience in information warfare, Putin began his reign by overtaking Russia’s newly independent press and weaponizing its content.
Today’s coverage of Boris Nemtsov’s assassination is a fair example. Far from being silent about it, the Kremlin-run media is abuzz with seemingly chaotic theories:
- This was a provocation by foreign special services (a media euphemism mostly reserved for the CIA). First proposed by Putin, it immediately became the official working theory of the investigation. The enemy’s goal is believed to be the destabilization of Russia and making Putin look like a thug (or, on the contrary, an incompetent fool unable to control the situation).
- Ukrainian intelligence hired Chechen rebels to kill Nemtsov (who was the best friend Ukraine could ever hope to have in Russia).
- Nemtsov was paid by Ukrainian oligarchs to destabilize Russia; he failed and they eliminated him to cover their tracks.
- Nemtsov’s business partners rubbed him out for embezzling their money (he had no business partners and wasn’t actively involved in any businesses).
- Nemtsov was killed by his own colleagues inside the anti-Putin opposition as a result of a power struggle, or possibly over the money coming from overseas sponsors.
- That night he got involved in a bar brawl with random gangsters, who followed him from the restaurant and shot him in the back.
- Islamic terrorists affiliated with ISIS killed Nemtsov for his vocal support of Charlie Hebdo.
- Bon vivant Nemtsov broke many hearts by dating a gorgeous young model from Kiev; it was a crime of passion.
Tellingly absent from this is the single and most obvious theory the entire world is mulling over: the Kremlin connection. But if the Kremlin-run media mentions Putin in that context, it’s only as a trusted leader who has promised to hunt down the thugs and bring stability to the troubled nation. Attacks on Russia’s president by the Western media and domestic opposition (Garry Kasparov, Alexei Navalny, etc.) only prove to the average media consumer that this was a provocation aimed at attacking Putin. Back to Theory One above.
Although the mission may seem accomplished, the media’s work isn’t over. Expect more narratives of varying plausibility that will crush any residual sympathy for the deceased and establish him as a brawling playboy with a predictably low life expectancy. If anyone is to blame, it’s Nemtsov himself.
A similar template was activated when Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam crashed over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, with all evidence suggesting a strike by a surface-to-air-missile launched by a Moscow-controlled military unit (the final report by the Dutch Safety Board is expected in August, 2015).
The initially stunned denial of facts was followed by an immediate allegation of a conspiracy to blow up Putin’s plane, soon accompanied by a motherload of competing theories, all of them clearing Russia of any wrongdoing.
The scenarios were getting curioser and curioser, until the entire media landscape began to resemble a psychedelic scene from the last remake of Alice in Wonderland, with Johnny Depp as a lovable Russian president helping to end the reign of terror in the neighboring Ukraine. Once again, tellingly missing from that script was the Kremlin’s involvement, along with any feelings of shame or empathy:
- According to initial reports, heroic pro-Russian militia shot down a Ukrainian military transport plane; any rumors about a downed Malaysian airliner must be a hostile provocation (was there seriously a plan to clean up the crash site and pretend nothing ever happened?)
- The Ukrainians were planning to assassinate Putin by shooting down his presidential aircraft but got their planes mixed up. The proof was in the photograph of Putin’s plane that looked somewhat similar to the Malaysian jet, even though Putin was nowhere near Ukraine that day.
- The bloodthirsty Ukrainian junta wanted to murder passengers on a Russian airline, but instead they killed 298 foreign citizens. The SBU (Ukrainian National Security Service) covered their tracks by killing the crew of the Buk missile system.
- Ukrainian air traffic controllers deliberately redirected the Malaysian jet towards the war zone and lowered its altitude, as part of Kiev’s plan to make Russia look bad.
- A Ukrainian fighter jet attacked Flight MH17 from behind, first spraying it with bullets and then turning around and launching a heat-seeking missile. This was proven by a satellite photo and an admission by a Ukrainian pilot, both of which turned out to be fake.
- A Spanish air traffic controller claimed he saw two Ukrainian fighter jets closely following the Malaysian Boeing (a report later withdrawn as false).
- An anonymous defector from Ukraine, speaking with a proper Russian accent, claims that on the day of the tragedy he witnessed a takeoff of a Ukrainian military jet carrying air-to-air missiles. The jet later returned without the missiles as the visibly shaken pilot said, “It was the wrong plane.”
- Flight MH17 contained dead bodies that had been soaked in formaldehyde and smelled of decomposition within minutes of the crash. Most bodies were naked, with yellowed skin and no blood inside. The luggage was full of winter clothes even though it was summer. It was obvious that the bodies had come from a different Malaysian plane, which had been shot down by Americans and hidden away on a US Air Force base. The Americans then secretly transported the preserved bodies to Amsterdam, loaded them onto the Boeing, and sent it on an unmanned flight over eastern Ukraine in a plot to frame Russian separatists. This elaborate conspiracy reveals how desperate the Western governments have become to undermine Russia’s reputation as a peaceful power.
Are Russian journalists really such a bunch of unruly and idle gossipers? That could be the case if they also weren’t so disciplined in executing the same maneuver every time Putin gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Then, just like werewolves on a full moon losing their humanity, “serious” pro-Kremlin journalists and editors suddenly drop their respectable personae and start acting like conspiracy-obsessed lunatics.
As a result, according to a survey conducted by the Levada Center a week after the crash, 80% of Russians believed that the Boeing was shot down by the Ukrainian military with only 3% blaming the Kremlin-controlled separatists. These numbers are still true today and won’t change anytime soon. Expect a similar result with the coverage of Boris Nemtsov’s murder, including the same lack of shame or empathy for the victim.
Who killed Boris Nemtsov
In his book “America on Six Rubles a Day,” Yakov Smirnoff wrote that in Soviet Russia, they didn’t report plane crashes. They would instead build an airfield around the crash site and announce that the plane landed ahead of schedule. A more subtle approach is to make one doubt his own judgment with a rapid succession of simultaneous contradictory narratives, even if they merely project the Kremlin’s own methods.
Appearing as equal dots on the public radar, all these nonsensical chaff theories begin to compete for equal space and attention with the objective reality.
For as long as the mystery continues, manufactured absurdities will be debated on equal terms with facts, trivializing the crime, dishonoring the victim, eroding the public trust, and minimizing the moral and emotional impact.
Additionally, since finding the truth is a zero-sum game, every new deliberate nonsense diminishes the probability and legitimacy of the one and only theory that with any luck will be proven to be true.
With enough strategically directed chaff, the public will begin to connect the dots into a preordained scheme, discerning subjective phantom images that with time will solidify into the objective political reality verifiable by public opinion surveys.
According to sociologists of the Levada Center, Russia’s public opinion is shaped largely by the government-run media, with more than one half of the respondents admitting they couldn’t form opinions independently.
Thus, what the surveys are actually measuring is the effectiveness of the government propaganda, since the only visible reality in today’s Russia is what’s being projected from government-controlled TV screens, to which the nation is perilously addicted.
In yet another survey, 86% of Russians get their news from television (as opposed to 52% in the U.S.). Compare this to Vladimir Putin’s most recent 86% approval rating and the picture doesn’t get any clearer.
In contrast, and for the same reason, Boris Nemtsov’s most recent rating was about 1%. The more Putin tightened his control of the media, the less air time Nemtsov was getting, until TV producers stopped inviting him at all.
Judging by his earlier TV appearances, Nemtsov was an excellent debater. He was witty, photogenic, quick on his feet, and capable of outdebating a roomful of opponents. That alone was enough to make him a persona non grata: the pro-Putin crowd would rather debate a less threatening, tongue-tied rube closer to their level.
If he was still mentioned on TV, it was usually with negative connotation. Nemtsov’s uncompromising stand on transparency and limiting the government powers earned him a similar media treatment the Tea Party is getting at America’s major networks.
It came to a point that after his death, TV producers couldn’t find any recent footage of him on any of their shows prior to the 1990s. There was, however, plenty of recent footage of him getting arrested at opposition rallies.
In a country where 86% of the population get their news from TV and about as many trust what they see, that is a political death sentence. Putin’s advocates are now using Nemtsov’s alleged lack of popularity as evidence that Putin had no motive to kill: why risk a scandal over some marginal loudmouth who could never become his rival?
The problem with that argument is that Putin doesn’t reside in the same parallel universe that the loyal TV producers have constructed on his behalf for the masses. He lives in the real world of hard facts, and in that real world Nemtsov had inflicted more damage than any other opponent by publishing well-documented reports about government corruption and graft on the highest levels, including the President himself. A former deputy prime minister, Nemtsov still had his sources and knew where to look.
Nemtsov’s friend and opposition activist, Ilya Yashin, has made it known that when Nemtsov’s apartment was searched as part of the murder investigation, the FSB confiscated his computer. The hard disk contained an unfinished report exposing Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, including the movement of troops and weapons – something the Kremlin continues to deny. The actual documents, however, were hidden away in a different location. The opposition claims it is in possession of these documents and promises to complete and publish the report in the near future.
It would seem that Putin predicted this murder exactly three years ago in a campaign speech, saying that his enemies were going to whack one of their own, creating a “sacral victim” in a provocation aimed at destabilizing the country. Last week the Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin repeated Putin’s language almost word for word: “the killing could be a political provocation in which Mr. Nemtsov was used as a sacral victim, killed to discredit the government.”
But in 1997, when the Russian media was still free and politicians competed on their merits, Nemtsov had a real chance to be Russia’s next president with 29% of the voters choosing him over four other candidates, whose numbers were lower.
His fight against corruption, however, had earned him enemies among two most powerful oligarchs at the time, Gusinsky and Berezovsky. They used their power to bring Nemtsov down and instead began to elevate Vladimir Putin, who they believed would be more pliable.
Since then Gusinsky has lost most of his clout and Berezovsky hung himself in 2013 in London after thirteen years of exile and one unsuccessful assassination attempt. His suicide, however, remains an open verdict, especially given the violent death of his former closest associate and harsh Putin’s critic, Alexander Litvinenko, who in 2006 was poisoned with radioactive Polonium 210 by a Russian FSB officer on the orders most likely coming from Putin.
At the time the Russian media deployed a familiar chaff maneuver. Among other things, it accused Berezovsky of orchestrating the murder with the goal of framing and discrediting the Russian government. But Berezovsky filed a UK libel suit against Russian State Television and won. The Kremlin-run media still continued to harass him until his death, including the English-language RT, in an effort to clear Putin’s name.
Today, with Putin pledging his personal involvement in the investigation of the murder of his harsh critic Boris Nemtsov who was shot in full view of the Kremlin, and with the Russian media in full chaff mode, prepare for another mindboggling trip through the looking glass.
The chaff vs. the people
In the meantime, opposition leader and former World Chess Champion, Garry Kasparov, speculates that even if Putin didn’t order the hit, he is nonetheless responsible for the climate of hatred which he has fostered and is now using to strengthen his dictatorial powers.
Putin’s fingerprints may not be found on the Makarov pistol, but they’re still all over the Kremlin-orchestrated witch hunts, harassments, paranoia, and media brainwashing, which eventually had gotten imprinted in someone’s murderous mind as a moral license to kill.
“Rubbish,” argues another opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, adding that the climate of hatred has existed in Russia since 2007, but lately the Kremlin has taken this a step further and created storm-trooper type organizations like Antimaidan and others, where young thugs are encouraged to use violence against Putin’s opponents.
This new development changes a lot of things for the opposition in Russia.
All things considered, whoever the executioners turn out to be, they had silent support of the government, the militants, the nationalists, the corrupt officials, and the millions of brainwashed TV viewers, whom the news of Nemtsov’s death made feel warm, content, and secure.
The answer to the question “Who killed Boris Nemtsov?” is this: “His own country did.”
The new Russia no longer has room for people like Nemtsov. He was simply pushed from the game board to give room for more chaff. Media chaff, military chaff, human chaff – artificial and phony chaff is replacing real people and may well be the emblem of a new era, whose beginning will forever be marked on the calendar as the day Boris Nemtsov was shot in the shadow of the Kremlin.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The Peoples Cube and American Thinker. In the video above Putin said that during the election campaign provocateurs can “bang” someone famous people to blame the authorities. About this Feb. 29, 2012 RIA Novosti reported.