Streetwise Professor

November 7, 2011

Peas in a Pod: Occupy, RT, and Zero Hedge

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 5:34 pm

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.

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72 Comments »

  1. Sublime (if I may on a first name basis)-my entire point is that a good cross section of Russian society does not read your site. The majority of Russians do not live in Moscow and do not even have Internet access (maybe it is close now). The majority of Russians are fully engaged in far less theoretical pursuits.

    As for the traitor implication I was referring to-

    Shokolad:бла-бла-бла… пока от варваров у ворот уже нельзя будет легко отмахнуться…бла-бла-бла-There see the American establishment opinion of his fellow citizens. (note: the бла-бла-бла is used in Russia to denote endless BS)

    My point still stands-you have no clue about the ordinary Russian nor his thoughts on Putin. You have only visions and beliefs in this regard.

    I read only the first page of comments and I think there were only 26 comments on that page.

    Comment by pahoben — November 10, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  2. Mr X-to clarify

    I agree that the UK has become a place like where evil libertarians go when they die.

    Comment by pahoben — November 10, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

  3. The majority of Russians do not live in Moscow and do not even have Internet access (maybe it is close now).

    The first point is irrelevant because Inosmi commentators are not geographically constrained within Moscow. And give or take, about half do have Internet access.

    So it’s a reasonable enough cross-section of society.

    It’s funny-Russians I know can’t tell the difference between US and British accents.

    How many Americans would be able to tell the difference between the Russian and Ukrainian languages? 😉

    Shokolad:бла-бла-бла… пока от варваров у ворот уже нельзя будет легко отмахнуться…бла-бла-бла-There see the American establishment opinion of his fellow citizens. (note: the бла-бла-бла is used in Russia to denote endless BS)

    I’m afraid you got this precisely back ass-wards. I used the term “barbarians at the gates”, and the above commentator, not understanding that it was meant in sarcasm, said, “There, see how the American establishment treats its fellow citizens on Wall Street.” (Вот как американский истеблишиент относится к своим согражданам на Wall Street) I.e., implying that because I adore the billionaires so much, I consider the 99% to be barbarians at the gates. Which describes me perfectly… LOL.

    Meaning that far from taking me to be a traitor, he actually took me for a member of the Establishment (The Man, so to speak), shilling for my masters at Wall Street.

    I read only the first page of comments and I think there were only 26 comments on that page.

    I don’t know how your Internet settings are set up, but when I view that page it shows there are 96 comments and they are all on the same page.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 10, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  4. … but when I view that page it shows there are 96 comments and they are all on the same page.

    And yet if you actually count them there are only 25, go figure… You’re dumber than InoSMI commenters, and that’s really, really dumb. The comments on InoSMI are threaded, and the default view is collapsed.

    Comment by peter — November 11, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  5. So comments that are replies to other comments are not counted, O Really Wise One?

    Unfortunately, pretty much every comments counting system (WordPress, Disqus, etc) begs to differ with you.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 11, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  6. So comments that are replies to other comments are not counted, O Really Wise One?

    Ох. You cannot be this obtuse, can you? Okay, I’ll explain again. Slowly.

    “Comments that are replies to other comments” are counted, but you don’t see them when the page opens — they are hidden (collapsed) by default. For instance, in our case the counter says 96 comments, but you can only see the 25 top-level comments. To see follow-up comments, you have to click on the words “Раскрыть ветку” under the respective top-level comment. Are you still with me?

    Comment by peter — November 11, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  7. Well, if you absolutely insist on getting humiliated even further…

    Pahoben originally said “I think there were only 26 comments on that page.”

    That is patently wrong, because there are 96 comments on that page. That three quarters of them are collapsed, just like the links on the Blogroll at my blog, does NOT mean that they are not on that page.

    What would be accurate is to say something along the lines that there are 26 “primary” or “top level” comments. That was not however something that pahoben clarified.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 11, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  8. … three quarters of them are collapsed…

    Good good, we’re almost there. Now that we finally seem to be on the same page, let me ask you this. When you wrote that “when I view that page it shows there are 96 comments and they are all on the same page”, why didn’t you mention that “three quarters of them are collapsed”? Let’s make it multiple choice:

    a) I didn’t know that at the moment, thanks peter for elucidating me.

    b) I did know, but I didn’t connect the (two) dots. Stupid me.

    Comment by peter — November 11, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

  9. c) It is blindingly obvious to me, and I assume anybody else who is minimally literate, that Inosmi comments are threaded, and collapsed by default.

    I was under the impression that either pahoben’s browser displayed it differently to mine for whatever reason (his mention of the “first page” of the comments was especially puzzling, as Inosmi comments are always contained within one and only one page), or that he was intentionally misleading and prevaricating.

    Now your turn. Do you ever get tired of trolling?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 11, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

  10. So I gather your answer is b): you did know, but were “under the impression”. Unfortunately, this answer is inconsistent with your totally nonsensical comment #77 above. Once again, I can see two explanations:

    1. You’re lying, as usual. The honest answer is a).

    2. You’re a chaotic idiot, there’s no use looking for any coherent logic in your responses.

    Which is it, junior?

    Comment by peter — November 12, 2011 @ 5:22 am

  11. To update a popular expression: Don’t argue with a troll, for he would try to drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

    I have no interest in continuing to respond to your prevarications, which would in any case be obvious to any poor soul reading through this thread. Goodbye.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 12, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  12. “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.”

    Ahh, you mean like reading WSJ, NYT or watching CNN, Fox, MSNBC, BBC when it comes to anything dealing with Russia or Orthodox Christians…gotcha, but that’s ok, because, see, its all from the West and well, double standards aren’t something the West pays much attention to when it and its talking heads are the hypocrites.

    Just so we all know where we stand.

    By the way, smart guy, why does CNN go by CNN or MSNBC by MSNBC or the BBC not mention British? This is about as stupid an argument as one can make about RT going RT rather then Russia Today.

    Comment by Stanislav Mishin — November 12, 2011 @ 3:55 pm

  13. “And Russians, on the whole, are masters at believing their own bullshit.”

    @Tim

    There are few people who are as delusional as Americans, as well as about as well informed as most third worlders.

    Almost every Russian has a cell phone (there are actually more sim card subscriptions then people, as many have more than 1), most have some internet by phone as well as at home or through dozens of internet cafes and tons of free wifi zones, in most cafes and restaurants. Russians are much more aware of what’s going on in the world then Americans of what’s going on in their own city. There is Russia24, a 24h news service, there are news services on almost all the channels. Each political party has its own paper and its own channel. When I go to a newstand, I don’t get the American (and I bloody well know what I speak of on both accounts) choice of one local paper, the NYT and WSJ, I get a choice of 20+ newspapers.

    So believe all the bullshit you like, its how most Yanks sleep at night, that or swallow tons of meds…the most doped up nation in the world.

    Comment by Stanislav Mishin — November 12, 2011 @ 4:17 pm

  14. *****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.*****

    God forbid we review all the evil that the US and NATO have done and the nations they’ve ruined (not to mention their own) and the millions murdered while committing war crime after war crime…nah, it must be just that those Russians are evil, that’s it….seems your mindset is that of either a 12 year old or a 62 year old, in both cases unable to grasp the reality of the world. Welp, last time I read your tripe and that is about all it is.

    Comment by Stanislav Mishin — November 12, 2011 @ 4:21 pm

  15. BTW, I appeared at RT today to talk about the Occupy movement in the US.

    You may still be able to see it at http://rt.com/on-air/

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 12, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

  16. Wow. A Kremlin stooge appeared at Kremlin agitprop outlet. What an extraordinary event.

    Comment by Ivan — November 13, 2011 @ 4:57 am

  17. So Ivan, how’s that Russian recession going that you were talking about a month ago?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — November 13, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  18. I can only comment on Zero Hedge, but as a fairly regular reader, Tyler Durden’s economics seem a confusing mix of conspiracy theory and bureaucratic ineptitude with a wistful longing for free markets. Ineptitude often wins out, but is often presented in a jumble that makes even conjoining posts mutually exclusive. To some extent, that is ok; the primary reason for the site’s popularity is pent-up frustration that the present system is structurally inviable in the long term, not ideological purity.

    His monetary theory seems similarly jumbled. But only a determined ideologue like Krugman would insist that crony capitalism driven by 30-40 times banking leverage and money printing that will inevitably require 20%+ of world GDP just to roll over government principal is not hurtling towards a cliff that will demand excruciating simplification.

    However as in all things, Occam’s Razor would suggest he is much more likely an imperfect integrator than a Soviet plant. Every sane person that has ever visited the real fallen Iron Curtain knows their economies are driven now by a Mafia style mentality which is adopted even by many local private ‘entrepreneurs’ in every small town and village. That our own federal government is to a great extent also a captured enterprise is also true. Midst the muddle, one of the enduring laments of Zero Hedge is that this is the case for too many of our world governments, including Russia. I must agree.

    Comment by Jim — November 18, 2011 @ 9:37 am

  19. SWP, let’s get one thing straight. The Bulgarians weren’t identical to the Soviets. They were meaner.

    Other than that, interesting food for thought.

    Comment by MamaImp — March 23, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  20. […] As a result, around 2013 Russia started to gain much more prominence as “our” enemy. This is about when I started to see the “Wikileaks is a Russian operation” and “ZeroHedge is Russian propaganda” memes, although there are archives of this theory from as early as 2011–Streetwise Professor: Peas in a PoD: Occupy, RT, and Zero Hedge. […]

    Pingback by Guest Post: A Quick History of the Russia Conspiracy Hysteria | evolutionistx — May 18, 2017 @ 11:07 pm

  21. […] of Business di Bauer dell’Università di Houston. Investiga da anni su ZH e Ivandjiiski. Nel 2011: “La linea editoriale di ZH sulle economie statunitensi e europee è quasi esattamente  […]

    Pingback by Russia non raccontata: Putin e le milizie del Patriarca – MAKTUB — November 2, 2017 @ 5:16 am

  22. “who harbor intense resentment at the fall of the Soviet Union”
    You’re a grade-A imbecile if you actually think this is what motivates Russia-US conflict. Putin does have an internet propaganda machine that works both inward and outward, but for reasons that can be found in a polsci textbook.

    Comment by Conflict of Powers — November 7, 2017 @ 3:53 pm

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