Look around: the tectonic plates of geo-politics and geo-finance are shifting – shifting radically away from an increasingly flailing West.
The inflection has begun. It has been messaged by the Financial Times (FT) and The Economist – the two media that so faithfully transmit any ‘replacement narrative’ to the globalist sherpas (those who carry the baggage up the mountain, on behalf of the mounted nabobs).
The Economist leads with interviews with Zelensky, General Zaluzhny and Ukraine’s military field commander, General Syrsky. All three are interviewed – interviewed in The Economist, no less. Such a thing does not occur by happenstance. It is messaging intended to convey the Ruling Class’ new narrative to the ‘golden billion’ (who will all read and absorb it).
On the surface, it is possible to read The Economist piece as a plea for more money and many more weapons. But the underlying messaging is clear: “Anyone who underestimates Russia is heading for defeat”. The Russian force mobilisation was a success; there is no problem with Russian morale; and Russia is preparing a huge winter offensive that will start soon. Russia has huge reserve forces (of up to 1.2 million men); whereas Ukraine now has 200,000 who are militarily trained for conflict. The ‘writing is on the wall’, in other words. Ukraine cannot win.
It is appended with a huge shopping list of sought-after weapons. But the shopping list is ‘pie in the sky’; the West simply does not have them in inventory. Period.
The FT’s ‘Big Read’, by contrast, is a venting of deep western anger at those Russian ‘reformist’ siloviki technocrats who, instead of breaking with Putin over the SMO, instead shamefully enabled the Russian economy to survive western sanctions. The message uttered – through clenched teeth – is that Russia’s economy has successfully survived western sanctions.
Leading US military strategist, Col. Douglas Macgregor, here expands on the messaging: Even the provision of seven or eight Patriot missiles is “no escalation”. It will have at best – ‘marginal impact’ on the Ukraine battlescape; it is mere window dressing. Scott Ritter, in discussion with Judge Neapolitano, believes that The Economist interviews reveal the West pushing aside Zelensky – as Zaluzhny administers his large dose of reality (that will be shocking to many sherpa loyalists). The Economist interview emphasis thus was unmistakably on General Zaluzhny, with Zelensky pointedly de-emphasised – which Ritter suggests indicates that Washington wishes to ‘switch leadership horses’. Another ‘message’?
Just to be clear, General Zaluzhny once said he considers himself a disciple of Russian General Gerasimov, the Chief of General Staff. Zaluzhny reportedly is familiar with the latter’s writings. In brief, Zaluzhny is known in Moscow as a professional soldier (albeit one committed to the Ukrainian nationalist cause).
So, is the West preparing its narrative to cut from this unwinnable conflict –Ukraine – and to move on?
Is this feasible? Is the West not too deeply invested narratively in the ‘Bleed Russia’ storyline; Putin must not be allowed to win; for that to happen? No, it can happen. Look what occurred in Afghanistan: A huge and profitable boondoggle was wound up within days. And just over a year later, on its anniversary, the Kabul débacle is scarcely noted in the Western press.
Media headlines moved on seamlessly from Afghanistan to Ukraine, scarcely with a backwards glance. And already, a diversionary ‘tethered goat’ is being prepared to grab compliant western MSM attention, as the Ukraine meme is quietly shelved, and Serbia’s ‘aggression’ against Kosovo becomes the new ‘aggression’.
Serbia may strike the western Ruling Class as ‘low-hanging fruit’ with which NATO could burnish its tarnished image (post-Afghanistan and Ukraine). Simply put, Serbia daily is being threatened by EU and US officials: Join with Europe in sanctioning Russia; recognize formally Kosovan independence; abandon the Serbs who have lived in Kosovo for centuries; join the EU and NATO – as a part of an anti-Russian bloc; and ‘no’, all those past legal accords have no import, and will be ignored.
The crux? The clear majority of Serbians favour Russia. It is doubtful any government in Belgrade could survive complying with such ultimata – yet Serbia is in a vulnerable situation. It is an island surrounded by NATO and EU states. The government in Belgrade is proposing to send 1000 Serbian police to Kosovo to protect the rights of the local Serbian population, but NATO may want to use this as a pretext to show off its military muscle.
The main question is: Will Ukraine find its ‘soft landing’? Surely ‘Collective Biden’ might prefer that. A ‘soft landing’ however, seems improbable. The Grand Old Duke of York did not march 10,000 men up to the top of the hill, only to march them down again (as the old song goes). And Putin has not mobilised 380,000 men (including volunteers), only ‘to march them ‘down again’. The breach with the EU and the US is profound. Chancellor Scholtz saying that when Russia has withdrawn from Ukraine, Germany may deign to take its gas and oil again, is pure delusion. To say there is no trust is an understatement. That said, Moscow will want to manage matters in such a way that does not trigger a direct NATO conflict with Russia.
But … can the West, which has been so deep in denial about both the incredible economic and military transformation that has occurred in Russia since 1998, and in such vehement denial too, of the capacities of the Russian military, simply slide effortlessly into another narrative? Yes, easily. The neocons never look back; they never apologise. They move to the next project …
Huge effort has been expended on constructing the ‘Russia-as-paper-tiger’ narrative – even if this has meant intelligence services saying things about Russian performance in Ukraine that were patently absurd and false. Professor Mike Vlahos and Col. Macgregor in their three-part debate on Ukraine and the role of the US military in this conflict, keep returning to their theme of the unprecedented quality of ‘denial and deceit’ that has characterised this conflict. Why did the professional intelligence authorities of the West lie – and lie so childishly?
The two strategists express their surprise that some of their professional colleagues seemed to have believed in the ‘denial narrative’ (i.e. that today’s Russia is no different to the Soviet Union, and that it would take only one big puff and the Russian house would again blow down) – despite the accumulation of conflicting evidence available to these colleagues.
There has been clearly an ecstatic quality to this latest narrative: That WW2 and the Soviet implosion (in the western narrative), had set off a complete tectonic cultural victory. It represented an unalloyed reaffirmation of American culture and financial might, and gave credence to the ‘End to History’, such that the American model inevitably would subsume the world.
So, is that it? Was the collapse of a resurrected Russia simply seen in this vein? An easy win, bringing in its wake a further ecstatic triumph? Was this so self-evident to these ‘true-believers’ that they did not even bother to do due diligence?
Why did this ‘denial narrative’ become so compelling to so many Europeans as well as Americans? Why did so many believe the Ukrainian obvious PR fabrications? Vlahos and Macgregor found this both puzzling and a worrying flaw to rational western decision-making. And one that substantially contributed to growing US military dysfunctionality.
The two discussants were heavily focussed on the PR aspect (at one point Ukraine had no less than 150 PR institutions working on its behalf). But we are in a different ball-game today.
PR and Orwell’s Ministry of Truth are passé. Over. Gone.
“The mental unity of crowds”
“I’m not a media adviser, says Nevo Cohen, the adviser credited by Israel’s new National Security Minister, Ben-Gvir, for his Far Right victory in the recent Israeli elections; “I’m a strategic adviser … Once it was possible to win campaigns as a PR person. Today, it isn’t good enough …The media is an important tool in the campaign manager’s toolbox, but I deal with mass consciousness, and that’s a completely different arsenal of tools. You can easily notice an election campaign run by somebody from the advertising world”. (Emphasis added.)
Vlahos and Macgregor analysed the unaccountable divorce between two war realities that just did not touch at any point. However, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University, Mattias Desmet, has approached the disparity issue from a psychological perspective.
One fine morning in November 2017, Professor Desmet, staying at a friend’s cottage in the Ardennes, was seized with a sudden intuition : “[…] I was gripped by the palpable and acute awareness of a new totalitarianism that had left its seed and made the fabric of society stiffen”. His observations after three years’ research led him to write his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism.
Many have written on the subject of totalitarianism – from Hannah Arendt to Gustav Le Bon (inter alii) – but Desmet’s approach differed in that he was intent on explaining the psychological background to mass denial of self-evident realities (by scientists and experts, as much as anyone).
He identified certain “primitive psychological mechanisms” which needed to be present for a distributed narrative to evolve into an insidious ‘mass formation’ that destroys an individual’s ethical self-awareness and robs them of their ability to think critically.
The primary condition was for there to be a segment of population lacking community bonds or meaning in their lives, and being further afflicted by ‘free-floating anxiety and discontent’, which leans towards aggressivity (i.e. by generalised feelings that ‘the system’ and economy are ‘rigged’ unfairly, against them).
Essentially then, mass movements attract people because they seem to offer hope to forlorn and dysfunctional beings.
Into this mental state, a narrative can be ‘dissolved’, suggesting a particular cause to the free-floating anxiety – and a means to deal with it (i.e. such as ‘Russia threatens our global advantage, our identity and values, and were it to be destroyed, the old system and values will right itself’).
The explanatory narrative gives an immediate sense of connection and of offering engagement in a ‘heroic project’; meaning thus is restored, even if that meaning be absurd, in relation to reality. The feeling of connectivity is akin to what occurs in crowd psychology. In the soul of crowds, Gustave Le Bon believed, “conscious personality vanishes” (True Believer, 2013); individuality fades away, and is absorbed by “the mental unity of the crowds” –eventually resembling a “meeting of imbeciles” capable of the “most bloodthirsty acts”.
But perhaps most disquieting, Eric Hoffer found another kind of individual who is attracted to mass movements– in fact, whose participation is often necessary for such movements to thrive. “What Eric Hoffer found, and what has often been overlooked by many sociologists and certainly by the general public, is that mass movements attract what we now call the psychopathic personality – in essence predators: individuals who are content in causing great harm, who perhaps are even sadistic, and yet aren’t bothered in the least by what they do”.
Mass movements that see war as part of their solution attract, and even need, psychopaths. Paradoxically, the willingness to desire the destruction (say, of all Russians), garners more respect from fellow true-believers and is connected to another paradoxical element: What binds the mass formation movements is the need to sacrifice (i.e. in the climate change movement, the sacrifice of industrialisation, travel, lifestyles, fossil fuels – and economic well being).
“The Fear programme, now an accepted part of the armoury of democratic politics”
Gustav Le Bon noted how such mass formations were exploited by the authorities, using fear to enforce compliance. And this week, Janet Daley, writing in the The Telegraph, warns:
“The critical lesson that has been indelibly absorbed by people in power, and those who advise them, is that fear works. There is, it turns out, almost nothing that a population will not sacrifice if they are systematically, relentlessly frightened.
“The Covid phenomenon has provided an invaluable training session in public mind-control techniques: the formula was refined – with the assistance of sophisticated advertising and opinion-forming advice – to an astonishingly successful blend of mass anxiety (your life is in danger) and moral coercion (you are putting other people’s lives in danger).
“But it was not just the endless repetition of that message that accomplished the almost universal, and quite unexpected, compliance. It was the comprehensive suppression of dissent even when it came from expert sources – and the prohibition on argument even when it was accompanied by counter-evidence – that really did the trick.
“If the laws of the land do not permit you to stamp out all such deviant opinions, you can simply orchestrate an avalanche of opprobrium and disrepute on those who express them so that their professional reputations are undermined. But that is yesterday’s battle. Covid – as a historic event – is over. Let’s talk about how the Fear programme, now an accepted part of the armoury of democratic politics, is likely to work in the present and future. As it happens, there is what looks like a remarkably similar model of anxiety-plus-moral-blackmail being applied to the matter of climate change. Note: these observations have no bearing on whether or not there is a true “climate crisis”. What I want to consider [rather] is how the policies that are being formulated to address it are being framed…
We can recognise clearly these tools precisely deployed by the West in the case of Ukraine, too.
Will such ‘tools of mass consciousness’ give the ‘golden billion’ their psychopathic victory over humanity?
Look around: the tectonic plates of geo-politics and geo-finance are shifting – shifting radically away from an increasingly flailing West. These are structural (mechanical forces of physical dynamics) over which the tools of mass consciousness ultimately have but limited sway. Moscow well understands these shifts that are underway – and knows how to amplify them.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.