NOT the Fundraiser Post…in case you were wondering.
Sometimes I forget there are certain topics we don’t “do” at Gates of Vienna. They aren’t hot buttons everywhere, but on this website they function as such due to the uncommon makeup of our readership.
One such verboten topic is Russia. Don’t.go.there. Ever. It causes heartburn and intellectual indigestion. I apologize to anyone who was upset by my opinions.
…But it was those wonderful strong iconic images of Soviet Russia’s heyday that sent me over the edge. I forgot about the especially strong feelings that mentions of Mother Russia generate here at Gates of Vienna — and always have. Russia the Bear. Russia the Momma Bear. Russia, that tertium quid: not wholly European but certainly not Asian either; she exists on some other plane and those images evoke her enduring place in the American mind. Just as some iconic images of America work on those who live outside the U.S.
In the case of the USSR in particular, we move to the shaky ground of equivocation, since much of America’s clumsy “handling” of both the USSR before it dissolved and the fluid situation of Russia today have left much to be desired. Who trusts anything coming from either side? Whoever came up with that clumsy, bizarre “Reset” button Hillary Clinton delivered to Putin is just the most glaring example of our many missteps.
Do I think America has acted stupidly when it comes to Russia, whatever iteration we’re discussing? Indeed I do. There has been a century-long sotto voce humint war — sometimes sinking into such deep hatreds that it becomes a “wet war” — between the West and Russia, with America ‘leading’ the subterranean battle for the West, often rushing in wearing pig farmer’s muddy boots.
One case shows how far American citizens have come, though: when Edward Snowden ‘defected’ to Russia after leaking a bunch of not-so-secret confidential materials, the intense storm which followed in his wake passed over quickly. It’s not that Americans didn’t care about what he did, it’s that what he revealed about our government is so much worse. Thomas Jefferson was right when he advised us to avoid spying because we’d always do it so badly in comparison with other countries who’d been at it for centuries before America was even a gleam in history’s eye.
What exactly did Snowden reveal? Well, enough to make a lot of American companies rilly, rilly angry. Here’s a list of the top ten from last June, drawn from a Mashable list:
|1.||Secret court orders allow NSA to sweep up Americans’ phone records.|
|2.||PRISM — which turned out to be not-so-bad.|
|3.||Britain’s version of the NSA taps fiber optic cables around the world.|
|4.||NSA spies on foreign countries and world leaders (looking at you, Mad Merkel).|
|5.||XKeyscore, the program that sees everything.|
|6.||NSA efforts to crack encryption and undermine Internet security.|
|7.||NSA elite hacking team techniques revealed (yes, the team called TAO).|
|8.||NSA cracks Google and Yahoo data center links.|
|9.||NSA collects text messages.|
|10.||SA intercepts all phone calls in two countries (which two? See their logo for MYSTIC).
Well, it’s a short walk from WikiLeaks to Snowden’s revelations to the Panama Papers. These are all variations on a perp walk for the corrupt cronies across the world (yes, Putin’s cash is there, but I don’t know about the Chinese). Each new revelation uncovers levels of governmental, corporate and individual corruption. What is the total effect on the average person? How do we maintain our own sense of integrity or refrain from becoming cynics?
We’re working on it, all of us.