Submitted by David Krouse, who is writing from Los Angeles, where there are mandatory shutdowns and orders at both the municipal and state level. Krouse tells us L.A. has hoarding and food shortages, skyrocketing gun sales, mass unemployment, but no rent forgiveness. Landlords cannot evict, however, at this time. The following is his opinion on the Coronavirus and reaction.
Russia has made significant strategic gains in world affairs in the past week. While American attention has been diverted and distracted over the Covid-19 virus, the Kremlin has been making moves to secure itself as world power while disrupting democracy in Europe and America.
Economic Warfare And Strategic Engagement
It started on March 16, 2020, with the US Justice Department dismissing charges against Russian oligarchs charged in the Mueller report with meddling in the 2016 election. But it didn’t end there.
Any number of predictions have been made about the economic impact that Covid-19 reactions and panic is causing with NBC News and CNN predicting job loss in the millions. I myself have been laid-off from three jobs due to mandatory closures.
We don’t know exactly how accurate these predictions will be and how much of it is sensationalized headlining. What we do know is that Russia will largely be unaffected. On March 20, 2020, The New York Times reported “Thanks to Sanctions, Russia is Cushioned from Virus’s Economic Shocks.”
Having been dislodged from the Global Economy in 2014, Russia can afford to promote economic turmoil and global panic without too much economic blowback. Anyone familiar with Russian history shouldn’t be surprised. For centuries Russia continued to use the Julian calendar until 1920, while the rest of the world moved over to the Gregorian calendar and Russia saw the Great Schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches centuries before the Protestant Reformation. Living in isolation, while the rest of the world tore itself to pieces is standard operating mode. And both Russia and Saudi Arabia, neither historic or recent friends of the US, have been flooding the markets with oil at depressed prices that Forbes reports could “destroy the American shale industry” in the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, according to The Financial Times, while other countries are slashing rates to combat the economic impact of shuttering the largest economies in the world, Russia’s Central bank is holding its rates steady to protect the Ruble. This isn’t entirely a new idea. Margaret Thatcher took similar measures to protect the Pound during the 1980s, resulting in it being one of the most stable and valuable currencies today.
Russia has taken an even further step to shore up its own currency by announcing a ban on cryptocurrencies.
Military-wise, Russia hasn’t been idle either. Despite other countries going into complete lockdown, medusa.com reports that the “Russian Defense Ministry proceeds with semiannual national draft despite coronavirus pandemic.”
Stars and Stripes reported March 20, 2020, that Russia is deploying what it describes as “a next-generation radar to its military enclave in Kaliningrad” which according to the article “is wedged between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, [and] will put almost all of continental Europe and the United Kingdom within its range.”
Europe isn’t the only area Russia has focused its attention. On March 5, 2020, Russia and Turkey signed a ceasefire and have agreed to joint Russian-Syrian patrols along Syria’s M4 highway. And while the US has evacuated its Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide, The Russia Times reports that Russian Covid=19 tests kits have been delivered to over 13 countries, a number of which are former Soviet territories. Italy and the European Union were not among the 13 countries. They also quote Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova with announcing Russia is somehow with no shortage of testing kits while other countries lag behind.
On March 18, 2020, news outlets reported accusations from the European External Action Service that the Kremlin was exploiting and spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 virus pandemic to cause panic and a weakening of faith in the West. These accusations were reported on by The Telegraph, Reuters, The Independent, The Hill, Russian Times, Sky News, BBC, Business Insider Nordic and The New York Times. They were given further credibility when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed China, Russia and Iran for spreading false information via social media on March 20, 2020.
I myself have personally seen posts on Facebook citing a friend’s friend or family member who “works in the medical community” cited as a source advising people the pandemic is serious and to ignore the stats numbers. I have also seen posts on Facebook suggesting that Italy was choosing to leave people suffering the virus to die without medical treatment and cited as an example of “socialized medicine.” There is also a level of rage by against anyone who has the will to disbelieve the apocalyptic narrative being pushed.
“News” is shared indiscriminately at a break-neck speed, but headlines more than not sensationalize and selectively cite facts that encourage panic. One of the most prominent examples of this is the repeated headline regarding the total number of confirmed cases that is updated and increased every few days. This is both misleading and dishonest as it is the total of confirmed cases since the first case was confirmed months ago and NOT the number of active cases currently. At the time of this writing, the website “WorldoMeter,” which is itself only an algorithm whose numbers differ at times with the US Center for Disease Control, shows that in China there total 81,008 cases. Of these however 71,740 have recovered, 3,255 have died and there are currently only 6,013 active cases. The website also cites that of the total number of cases worldwide which it places at 276,518 that 91,954 have recovered globally, 11,417 are dead and 165,234 are in mild condition.
Only 7,913 people worldwide (as of this writing) are in Serious/Critical condition. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
That is quite a departure from the narrative that has been spread that it is an unstoppable virus with over a quarter of a million cases, spreading fast. It hasn’t helped that officials in the US Democrat Party and Mainstream Media outlets have poured gasoline on the fire with unbelievable claims.
Former Obama Administration official Andy Slavitt Tweeted :
“Currently experts expect over 1 million deaths in the U.S. since the virus was not contained and we cannot even test for it. The original sin is Trump’s months-long denial and dismantling of public health and response infrastructure.
This will be recorded as a major preventable public health disaster. I will try to relate what I learned from a long day of calls about what is happening.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom did one better when he claimed that he expected 25.5 million in California alone to contract Covid-19, in the next eight weeks.
The National Enquirer in grocery stores and pharmacies across the country headlined the exaggerated claim “Coronavirus Will Infect 100M Americans With 7M Deaths!” The story they published hysterically compared Covid-19 to the Spanish Flu of 1918, suggesting that Prince William’s children may have been exposed and quote a Dr. Stuart Fischer warning “We are on the verge of a pandemic that could kill millions!”
snopes.com has already exposed multiple media outlets citing Health Experts Predicting a sixty-five million death toll as circulating fake news.
All of this plays into the known attempts mentioned in the European Union report regarding Russian misinformation. The main strategy, according to journalists who have seen the document, is not to develop their own lies but simply amplify those of others. The Guardian reported March 28, 2020:
“Rather than authoring disinformation, Russian sources were amplifying theories that had originated elsewhere, such as China, Iran or the US far right, the researchers said.”
History of Propaganda
That Russia would choose to pursue this tactic should surprise no-one familiar with the history and role propaganda has played in Russian politics. While free press and journalism has been a vital aspect of the American political system, propaganda has always been a part of the Russian Government regardless of who holds power.
During the Tsarist era, the Okhrana orchestrated a series of propaganda campaigns against targeted groups. The most famous was the now-discredited The Protocols of the Elders of Zion claiming to be a secret plan for Jewish global domination. At the time the largest Jewish population in the world was living in the Russian Empire and the political purpose served to unify the Russian populace against a perceived external threat bent on destroying Holy Russia. After the Russian Revolution, The Protocols were spread throughout Europe and the United States, by White Russians determined to drum up support against the Bolshevik Regime. It wasn’t until the early 1920s that they were exposed as a forgery. By then a series of violent massacres occurred throughout Russia leaving thousands of Jews dead.
During WWI, propaganda was the main weapon of choice of both Imperial Germany against Russia and the Revolutionary Movement against the Tsarist Government. The most famous example being the “Dark Forces” campaign. With military defeats totaling one million Russian men dead in 1915, Tsar Nicholas II for the front leaving control of the Government in the hands of his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna. Alexandra Feodorovna quickly became the target of a malicious propaganda campaign that accused her of being a traitor and head of an international conspiracy working with Germany to defeat Russia. The more specific accusations were claims that she had access to Russian military maps and a secret radio station that she was using to send military secrets to the Kaiser in Berlin. Another widely circulated claim was that Alexandra Feodorovna was drugging Nicholas II, while planning a coup to force him to abdicate, declare herself regent and betray the Allies by signing a separate peace with Germany, giving them extensive Russian territory.
War losses, the stress placed on a Russian infrastructure unprepared for the First World War, combined with carefully directed propaganda led to the February Revolution. Within months, Vladimir Lenin arrived in Russia with millions in gold, from the German Imperial Government, and began his own Revolution. Taking control of the country, Lenin quickly signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovik betraying the allies and establishing a separate peace that surrendered Russian territory to Germany. The very thing the Revolution was supposed to save Russia from, it became the cause of.
During the Soviet Era (1921 – 1991) Propaganda became the primary means of Communist penetration in the West. At the United Nations in 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt leading the US Delegation engaged in the first major Cold War showdown with the Soviet Union over the Declaration of Human Rights. In her speech “The Struggle for the Rights of Man” at Sorbonne, Paris on Sept 28, 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt pushed back against attempts by the Soviet Union to convert UN agencies into Soviet Propaganda machines.
Less commonly reported is that Joseph Stalin ordered the assassination of American Cowboy and Movie Star John Wayne due to his popularity and outspoken anti-communist rhetoric that hurt Soviet image management in the West.
In 1964, Phyllis Schlafly, then First Vice-President of the National Federation of Republican Women and Rear Admiral US Navy Chester War published The Gravediggers documenting how American Defense Policy “Experts” were sabotaging US National Defense by buying into Soviet propaganda about Nuclear disarmament. The most effective form of Soviet propaganda in the simplified form being “Better Red than Dead.” In other words, Americans desiring to denuclearize the world were playing into Soviet strategy by pushing for disarmament the same way that the world had after World War I that ultimately left Western Democracies unable able to defend themselves against the Third Reich in 1939.
Probably the most dramatic public propaganda battle occurred at the United Nations in 1983, when US Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick exposed the Soviet Regime for lying to the world about shooting down civilian airliner KAL-007 after it accidentally strayed into Soviet airspace and was minutes away from exiting. Kirkpatrick later detailed in multiple books, op-eds and essays Soviet attempts to delegitimize the United States and Western Europe. The most famous of these “U.N. Mugging Fails” published March 31, 1983, in The New York Times describes the process :
“The United States was the intended victim of what has become an all-too-familiar scenario that features one victim, many attackers, a great deal of verbal violence and a large number of indifferent and/or intimidated onlookers.
In these carefully staged productions, the Security Council serves as the stage, the presence of the world press ensures an audience, the solidarity of the ”blocs” provides a long procession of speakers to echo, elaborate and expand on the original accusations. The goal is isolation and humiliation of the victim – creation of the impression that ”world opinion” is united in condemnation of the targeted nation. The enterprise more closely resembles a mugging than either a political debate or an effort at problem-solving.”
Post Soviet Era
The dissolution of the Soviet Union has not ushered in an era of Press Freedom or decline in Russian propaganda. Vladimir Putin retains tight control over what is said within Russia and has not changed his tactics without. In 2002, the Olympics were rocked when it became public knowledge that Russian skaters Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze only won first place due to pressure from Russian mafia figures.
A year later, Jeane Kirkpatrick leading the US delegation at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva publicly denounced attempts, encouraged by Russia, to condemn the U.S. led invasion of Iraq. The Council on Foreign Relations has since revealed the strong financial motive Russia had in opposing overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime. The UN Economic Sanctions that crippled Iraq, allowed for an Oil-for-Food Program in the name of humanitarianism. During the War, it was revealed this was less a humanitarian program than embezzlement that Russia strongly benefited from :
“Thirty percent of the oil vouchers were issued to beneficiaries in Russia, including individual officials in the president’s office, the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian Communist Party, members of the Russian parliament, and the oil firms Lukoil, Gazprom, Zarubezhneft, Sibneft, Rosneft, and Tatneft.”
The Moscow Times reported last year that Russia was listed 149th out of 180 countries in the world for Press Freedom.
The most dramatic and now mostly forgotten reminder remains the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, author of Putin’s Russia and A Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia. On October 7, 2006, Politskovskaya’s body was found in the elevator of her apartment having been shot four times at point-blank range.
The most recent attempts during the “hacking” of the US elections in 2016 are ample evidence that this continues to be a major tactic.
Target Audience – 60s Me Generation
In employing propaganda as a strategy, Russia has benefited from an American audience that is uncritical, unthinking, prone to over-reaction and apocalyptic mentality. The Baby Boomer Generation has proven a valuable asset in the panic over Covid-19. Over the past twenty years, there have been a number of public health scares including SARS, West Nile Virus, H1N1, Bird Flu, Ebola, MERS to name a few. All of them have been deadly to elderly and immune compromised populations, yet none of them produced the level of reaction, response and Global lockdowns we have seen world-wide in just a few days.
The reason is that only in the past ten years have Boomers aged to the point that they are now a significant portion of the impacted group. The oldest Baby Boomer born in 1946 is now 74 years old. Ten years ago, when the oldest Baby boomer was 64, we saw no mass reaction to disrupt public life dominated by the Baby Boomers despite the fact that many of these diseases placed WWII and the Silent Generation at risk. In fact, the last time we witnessed the mass panic reaction on the current scale was in the late 1990s during the impending Y2K crisis. Toilet paper shortages, hoarding and panic crossed the globe in reaction to a potential crisis that might disrupt the Baby Boomers world.
Since the Baby Boomers became influential in American life in the mid-1960s, apocalyptic thinking has been a core aspect of their psychology and consumption patterns. In 1965, Barry McGuire released his hit single that became a Generational Anthem “Eve of Destruction” with the sneering chorus :
“But you tell me over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”
This was followed by the publication of 1970 Bestseller The Late Great Planet Earth predicting the coming apocalypse and theatrical release of A Thief in the Night, the first of many Rapture and Tribulation movies. The non-religious and “scientific” community was no less apocalyptic in their thinking, with predictions of “Global Cooling” and an impending ice-age threatening humanity.
The genesis of this thinking was identified by Christopher Lasch, a history professor at the University of Rochester, in his 1979 bestseller The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations. Lasch warned due to a variety of factors, the Baby Boomers personality and character were fundamentally different from their parents and more prone to narcissism than neurosis. In the chapter “The Shattered Faith in the Regeneration of Life” Lasch warned:
“This irrational terror of old age and death is closely associated with the emerging of the narcissistic personality as the dominant type of personality structure in contemporary society. Because the narcissist has so few inner resources, he looks to others to validate his sense of self . . . Narcissism emerges as the typical form of character structure in a society that has lost interest in the future.”
The Baby Boomers have reacted to any disruption to their lives with vengeful and often irrational behavior translated into public policy. The worst aspect of this has been Generational Warfare against their own children.
During the Clinton years, the first Baby Boomer administration, mass incarceration and draconian laws became a signature aspect of American life. The 1994 Crime Bill was defended in 1996 by Hillary Clinton with her attacks on Millennials and generational hate :
“We also have to have an organized effort against gangs, just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob. We need to take these people on, they are often connected to big drug cartels, they are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids who are called superpredators. No conscience. No empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way but first we have to bring them to heel. And the president has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere. In addition to that, he has appointed a new drug czar.”
The New York Times since reported that “the super-predator threat” was another false epidemic with violence in children declining not increasing. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/07/us/politics/killing-on-bus-recalls-superpredator-threat-of-90s.html
In 1999, a now cached CNN article describes the preparations made by the State of California against the impending Y2K crisis, including stationing “Some 1,700 National Guard troops” outside of San Francisco.
In an article posted last year observer.com poked fun at the Y2K crisis and recalled the many Survival Guides that Baby Boomers eagerly and fearfully bought.
The list of boomer driven panics goes on and on and the Covid-19 virus, with amplification from Russia, is one of them. Already Donald Trump has declared himself “a wartime President” with support from fellow baby boomer and longtime critic Whoopi Goldberg, in her position as moderator of The View. It doesn’t help that last year The New York Times claimed The View was “the most important political tv show in America.”
We have already seen even during a so-called world emergency pandemic, self-glorifying articles are still being published about the 60s Me Generation. In the past ten days, Newsweek dissed the WWII Generation and boldly ran “Ok, Millennial: Boomers Are the Greatest Generation in History” in an attempt to put down Millennials, at the expense of their own parents who defeated Fascism.
The Baby Boomers are the perfect target audience for propaganda and incredibly reliable in their reactions to anything that might disrupt their lives. It also explains why some Baby Boomers are being accused with not taking the Virus seriously at all. The common denominator between crisis and complacency remains the Baby Boomers. It doesn’t take a social scientist to figure this out – it only takes a glance at history since 1968.
Donald Trump is not a war-time President and this is not a war. It’s a virus, like all the others and one that tens of thousands have already recovered from and the majority of active cases only have mild symptoms. Millions have not died and are not going to die.
Jeane Kirkpatrick famously warned in a speech in 1988, “Russia is playing chess, while we are playing Monopoly. The only question is whether they will checkmate us before we bankrupt them.” Russia is no longer the Soviet Union it is true, but it is also not the Parliamentary Democracy that was meant to take its place. Under Vladimir Putin it has transformed into an Authoritarian Dictatorship headed in the direction of a NeoFascist State. Putin has shown no signs of wishing to return to the Soviet era, but he has encouraged ultra-nationalist attitude and sentiment.
Based on current events it would appear that Vladimir Putin, in his bid to concentrate more power in his own hands, has learned from Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the power of indirect economic wars. If the Covid-19 panic in America continues, he may very well end up with Boardwalk and Park Place.