The American and Western media have been fawning in their coverage of the Occupy movement, but for please-get-a-room Tiger Beat coverage they cannot hold a candle to the “News” Organization Formerly Known As Russia Today, which now goes by the more innocuous moniker RT: Gee, I wonder why they dropped the explicit Russia reference. ‘Tis a puzzler.
RT is a creature of the Russian government, part of its widespread information operations. It is widely recognized as a means by which the Russian government peddles outlandish, anti-Western, and particularly anti-American conspiracy theories; a haven for loons and wackos; a fine inheritor of the “in America they lynch negroes” school of journalism.
And RT’s current obsession is Occupy. You can test your gag reflexes by Googling “Russia Today OWS” and following a few links to RT stories about the Occupy movement. RT could be OWS’s press agent: maybe it is. This piece–done very early in the OWS protests–is gruesomely representative.
So just why would Russia Today–pardon me, RT–be so enamored with Occupy? Do I need to draw you a map?
Vladimir Putin and the siloviki who run Russia are unrepentant Cold Warriors who harbor intense resentment at the fall of the Soviet Union: they ache for revenge, or at least a replay. They were weaned on anti-Americanism, and subsist on it as they move into their senior years. Putin and his most important minions were intelligence operatives who spent their formative years in dirty operations against the US. It is in their DNA.
Putin’s intense hatred for the US seethes below the surface, and quite frequently bubbles over in tirades against the country. Indeed, just today he ranted about the “arrogant powers.”
Of late, much of his vitriol has been directed precisely at the American financial system, which he refers to using a word often applied to enemies of the state during Soviet times–parasitical. It is quite clear that he blames the western financial crisis for inflicting the existential economic plight that has plagued Russia since 2008.
So OWS and Putin/siloviki are a match made in heaven. Both share a common enemy, and a common diagnosis of what is wrong in the world. No surprise, then, that Putin is marshalling Russia’s propaganda apparatus to flack for OWS.
For those of a certain age, and who have a passing familiarity with the way the world worked before 1991, might also wonder what other Russian support is flowing to elements within OWS. OWS, and the sheltering media fog that blankets it, brings to mind the various peace movements of the Cold War era, perhaps most notably the Nuclear Freeze movement. Said movement was thoroughly penetrated by the Soviets and their allied intelligence services. No, not everyone who marched was a commie: very few were, in fact. But more than a few leading lights were Soviet assets. Given the coalitional, fragmented nature of Occupy, it would strain credulity to believe that something similar is not going on today. There are useful idiots and Leninist vanguards. That’s the way these things work, and they no doubt work that way in Occupy.
Interestingly, RT is a favorite source for the conspiratorial/paranoid tribes of the polygot assemblage that claims the libertarian label. This is an interesting historical phenomenon in itself: these tribes can trace their lineage to agrarian populists, Jacksonian anti-bankers, Jeffersonian agrarians, and Anti-Federalists. They believe that finance is antithetical to liberty. Hence their affinity for OWS–and RT.
Another favorite of these folks is the Zero Hedge website. I have often mentioned that Zero Hedge is aptly named. One hedges to reduce variance, and the extreme variability of the content on ZH makes it plain that they don’t hedge at all.
The site links quickly to breaking finance stories from major news sources, reports data on prices from sometimes obscure markets in response to breaking news, and often excerpts research from reputable analysts and firms. Hence, ZH can be useful as a de facto news aggregator.
When it comes to the editorial content spewed out under the pseudonym “Tyler Durden,” however—oi. What a farrago of paranoid, conspiratorial nonsense. ZH is obsessed with HFT—and utterly warped and delusional in its ravings on the subject. Ditto for derivatives. And the Fed. And especially Goldman and Wall Street generally. Look, I’ve been critical of all of the above at times, but ZH coverage of them is unhinged and indiscriminate.
ZH’s editorial line on the US and European economies parallels almost exactly that of RT. Moreover, although ZH is unsparing in its criticism of virtually every Western government leader, it never whispers the slightest word of reproach about Vladimir Putin or Russia. Indeed, a tweet mentioning that fact almost immediately drew a response from ZH: a link to a ZH piece spouting a common line of Russian propaganda argument about the superior fiscal foundation of Russia as compared to the US.
And like RT, ZH could be an OWS echo chamber.
Apropos the certain-kind-of-libertarian-RT-ZH nexus, a certain commenter on this site has been linking to ZH with some regularity in the comments, all with the intent of mocking my supposed shilling for The Banks and The Man. A friend of mine remarked on this the other day, which led to a conversation about ZH generally. We were trying to make sense of it, when a thought struck me: ZH is like a Soviet-bloc influence operation. These operations would plant disinformation in publications around the world. Most of the publications were obscure, often in Third World countries. The disinformation would be mixed in with legitimate reporting. The goal of these operations was to put disinformation into circulation via more obscure publications, knowing that more reputable publications higher up the media food chain would frequently pick up the planted stories and run them. Some of the stories would work their way to the very top of the food chain, winding up in publications like the NYT and the WaPo and particularly in major European newspapers.
That comports perfectly with the ZH MO. Provocative and poorly sourced allegations with a particular slant are scattered among legitimate news and data. The solid news stories attract eyeballs that also views the agitprop. And some of the ZH material has made it up the media food chain.
And it is also the RT MO. RT is well-known for sprinkling its more outlandish “reporting” and commentary in a stream of legitimate news stories told in a relatively straightforward way.
So what is ZH, exactly? Its creator is Daniel Ivandjiiski, a native of Bulgaria. Daniel has a very dodgy past, including losing a job and his securities license for insider trading. None of this is hard to find out: it was covered in a New York Magazine piece that ran soon after ZH first gained notoriety. Mr. Ivandjiiski’s checkered past perhaps explains his clearcut antipathy for Wall Street. But there may be more to it than that.
In light of my flash analogy of ZH to a Soviet disinformation operation, what is really interesting is the background of Daniel Ivandjiiski’s father. Ivandjiiski pere (Kassimir) was a Bulgarian “journalist” and “envoy” during the Cold War. A member of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Trade, in the COMECON and EU departments. A journalist. A “special envoy” (hence presumably with very useful diplomatic cover) in every proxy war in Central Asia and Africa in the 1970s and 1980s.
That is an intel operative’s CV with probability 1. Probability 1. Every one of those jobs was a classic cover. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever—none—that Mr. Divandjiiski senior was a member of the Bulgarian Committee for State Security (Държавна сигурност or DS for short)—the Bulgarian equivalent of the KGB. And remember that Bulgarian DS was the USSR KGB’s most reliable allied service during the Cold War. It carried out wet work in western countries, notably the “umbrella murder” of Georgi Markov in London. It was linked to the plot to assassinate the Pope; although in the topsy-turvy world of intelligence, it is also alleged that the CIA fabricated the case against the DS. Regardless of the truth about the links to the attempt on John Paul II, it was a very, very, very nasty operation. (The African stops in Ivandjiiski’s resume makes it highly likely that his path intersected that of another charmer, Igor Sechin, who was a “translator” in Africa.)
Perhaps it is just coincidence that the son of an obvious Warsaw Pact intelligence service agent with the “journalistic” and “diplomatic” background commonly used in influence and disinformation operations starts a website that employs classic influence and disinformation methods, and spouts an editorial line dripping with vitriol and hostility for American (and Western European) financial institutions and governments: a line that follows that of RT quite closely. Perhaps. But if it is, it is a fascinating one, no? (It amazes me that although Kassimir’s background has been discussed in the context of Zero Hedge, I cannot find anyone in an English language source making the obvious connection with Bulgarian, and hence Soviet, intelligence. It is as plain as the nose on one’s face.)
So it is clear that there is a strong correlation between OWS, RT, and ZH. Of course, correlation does not imply causation. A and B can be correlated not because A causes B, or vice versa, but because a common cause C influences both. It is evident that this is at work here. Occupy, RT, and ZH are all strongly committed to the longstanding leftist anti-capitalist critique. That’s something they clearly have in common.
But a common agenda and a common ideology create the basis for more explicit cooperation and coordination. With respect to Occupy, there is historical precedent for this. With respect to ZH, there are even more reasons to wonder. The employment of classic information operation methods are one. But the biggest reason is the one degree of separation between the creator of ZH and an obvious Warsaw Pact intelligence operative. I acknowledge the possibility of coincidence, but that pushes it pretty far.
So if you see a graph from Bloomberg on Italian bond yields or an excerpt from a brokerage report, you can believe it. Anything else should be treated with extreme caution, and with an understanding of what ZH does, what its methods resemble, and especially its pedigree–literally.