As you can imagine, the last few days have been a roller coaster ride on the Russian internet. The first reaction to the downing of MH-17 was panic. They were trying to shoot down Putin’s plane! Two doubles took off from Amsterdam at the same time, one filled with corpses who all had new passports and totally new Facebook pages! The second wave of the pro-Putinists was despair – “It is all over now! The only thing standing between us and slavery to Western interests is our beloved Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin!” Complete fantasy, but that’s how the propaganda ministry… I mean, RT… works: shaping facts to fit the needs and desires of the Russian government… specifically, those of Vladimir Putin.
Now, already, it seems that they are quickly realizing that “everything has changed.” The anti-Putin journalists and posters are becoming much more courageous than they have been in recent months about opposing Putin directly. Here is a piece from Slon.ru, the Russian version of Salon:
The nighttime address to the nation was something unprecedented, and even more unprecedented was its content, in the sense that there was no content in this speech at all. Why did Putin call up his press service, cameramen, make-up artists, and internet site workers and many others at 2 in the morning? Just to repeat once more that there would have been no tragedy if there hadn’t been any war in the Donbass, to call for peace negotiations and inviting ICAO aviation experts to the site of the crash? Couldn’t these two and a half points waited until the morning?
They have a point. Putin held a news conference, in which he denied that Russia had supplied the separatists with a BUK missile system “or any other weapons,” and suggested that the Ukrainian government is the prime suspect in the crash. Air Force Lieutenant General Igor Makushev said that Russian radar detected the presence of Ukrainian fighter jets close to the Malaysian flight, suggesting that one of them may have shot down the airliner. Unfortunately for Russia, the scant evidence available doesn’t appear to support its fighter jet theory. Photographs of wreckage riddled with holes have begun surfacing on social media, and experts say that suggests the plane was targeted by a missile that exploded nearby. After analyzing photos taken by New York Times reporters, IHS Jane’s, a defense consultancy, concluded that the damage was consistent with that caused by a BUK system. The missiles are designed to explode below a target, increasing the likelihood that a fast-moving Western military aircraft will be damaged even if it avoids a direct hit.
The pro-Putin people have seen their arguments fall to pieces against the reality of the situation. Putin is being portrayed as in a total panic, with reason. The anti-Putin forces are worried about what he might do in such a state, but he is no longer being seen as the man in control. It makes the entire spectacle riveting to watch. What happens when a tsar’s propaganda becomes completely untenable in a internet media world? What he can get away with at home is not as possible when your proxies in the pro-Russian rebels take down a plane from the civilized world. That video statement from Putin in the early hours of the morning betrays his knowledge that events have run out of his control, and that he’s quickly losing ground and face. The body language, the deflected gaze, the nervousness… this is no longer a predator, or if it is, it’s one who is finding himself losing control of the pack. A tsar never had to do this, or felt compelled to do this. He’s hanging by a thread, and we should take some pleasure in watching him struggle.
All of which makes me appreciate the deliberative nature of Obama’s response. Putin is blustering, lying, and using the crudest of means to impose his will on Ukraine. Obama is just slowly raising the costs… and those just got a lot more onerous for Russia. Today, the Europeans finally approved of a host of new sanctions, yet to be implemented. That may give Putin some room to climb down. But it won’t be easy, and it won’t leave him as powerful as before. That look on Putin’s face? It’s called rattled.
And this is the man that the Republican Party has been falling all over themselves to worship and fawn over? I mean, we knew that they had poor taste in role models, but this is a whole new level of poor decisions. I wish them luck wiping off the copious amounts of egg on their faces.
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