There is so much I can resonate with here which explains my increasing discomfort with Duran and other commenters.
I think there is a problem with only seeing things through the lens of geopolitics.
Riley comes with a concern that I share, with the covid vaccine genocide that is totally missing from the narratives of western alternative narratives. He is also living in Moscow and so is perhaps seeing things from the inside.
“I have absolutely no problem with people reading Russian state media, or following Western pundits who share views that very closely align with what you might find on RT (I read and consult these sources almost every day), but you are doing yourself a tremendous disservice by not diversifying your information diet to include views from Russia that aren’t endorsed (or paid for) by the Russian government.”
I think we can all agree that non-Russians should decide which Russians are allowed to talk about Russia. That’s just common sense, folks.
For almost two years now, I have attempted to delicately point out that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile narratives promoted by Western “pro-Russia” alternative media, with what leading patriotic voices, activists, independent outlets, Telegram channels, and even politicians, in Russia, are saying about their own country.
To help demonstrate this curious phenomenon, this blog makes use of a wide range of Russian sources, which report extremely relevant developments in their country that never seem to get any attention in the Western alternative press.
Sometimes I refer to sources far to the left of Nakanune, and sometimes I share right-wing perspectives that blast past Katyusha. But, in general, Edward Slavsquat operates in the Nakanune-Katyusha range of Russia-related news and analysis.
What’s interesting is that both ends of this ideological spectrum express the same concerns about the current trajectory of the Russian Federation.
An incomplete list would include:
- The ascendency and apparent untouchability of an ineffectual, greedy, corrupt elite who are smitten by the West, and/or are trying to constantly appease Russia’s unapologetic enemies.
- Appalling, health-destroying medical tyranny, carried out at the instructions of the WHO, which is being forced on the Russian people.
- Economic policies that benefit 100 obscenely wealthy oligarchs (who stash large portions of their vast fortunes abroad), and continue to provide “the Nazi Satanic West” with basically whatever it needs, resource-wise (grain deals, gas and ammonia flowing across Ukraine, uranium for the United States, etc., etc., etc.).
- The Bank of Russia’s horrific anti-Russia policies, including the deployment of a CBDC.
- A very serious demographic crisis, which the government refuses to address in any meaningful way. (Katyusha just wrote about this, actually.)
- A ruthless campaign of digitalization, which is specifically targeting children.
- Moscow’s embrace of “Sustainable Development Goals”, and various other globalist initiatives. Too many to name, really.
- Rampant neoliberalism, in general.
And so forth. Those are just the first grievances that bubbled to the top of my noodle, but there are many, many other hot-button issues that are meticulously detailed in Russia’s independent media space.
I should also point out that while both Nakanune and Katyusha are pro-SMO, they harbor no illusions about “everything going according to plan”. But we won’t go down that rabbit hole today.
Basically from the first day I started this blog, I have been attacked by Western “pro-Russia” alternative media for having the audacity to highlight how Russians discuss Russia.
I have been accused of being a 5th columnist, a 6th columnist, a traitor and a turncoat; all sorts of comical, childish insults and accusations have been hurled at me by anonymous cowards, and Kremlin fan fiction writers who make $5,000/month on Patreon. (Meanwhile, I was booted from PayPal.)
All of this because I committed the unforgivable sin of relaying to English-language readers what Russians (who share the same fears and concerns about Our Brave New World as you do!) are saying about developments in their own homeland.
I’m not asking for your sympathy. The thesis of this blog post is not “boo-hoo, some people on the internet are angry at me, and don’t like me, please feel bad for me”—no, that’s not the problem here.
The problem is that Western alternative media’s coverage of Russia rarely deviates from Russian government talking points, which represent only a small (and often widely mocked) subsection of political, economic, and geopolitical discourse inside Russia.
The very idea of relying on the Russian government to get your information about what is happening inside Russia is, frankly, a bit naïve. The same is true of any country: Would it make sense to get all of your news about Germany from Deutsche Welle? Or consult Voice of America to stay “informed” about the United States?
I would say that’s probably not a very good idea.
With Russia, things are admittedly more complicated.
Firstly, because of a massive and unrelenting Western mainstream propaganda war against Moscow, many disaffected Westerners are instinctively suspicious of any information that doesn’t reinforce their belief that Moscow will save them from the slimly clutches of international banking cartels, Davos-trained lunatics, global health authorities, and other species of space lizard.
Secondly, there are undoubtedly many Westerners who understand their governments are constantly lying about Russia, but just don’t know where to get a more nuanced picture of this often maligned, misunderstood country. And so they find solace in the alternative media’s far more sane coverage of the Washington vs. Moscow clown show.
Problem is, alternative media rarely covers what is happening inside Russia, and when it does, it usually gets everything wrong—sometimes because these outlets and pundits are just misinformed, and sometimes because they are knowingly lying, either out-right or by omission.
I have absolutely no problem with people reading Russian state media, or following Western pundits who share views that very closely align with what you might find on RT (I read and consult these sources almost every day), but you are doing yourself a tremendous disservice by not diversifying your information diet to include views from Russia that aren’t endorsed (or paid for) by the Russian government.
You are doing yourself a double-bad disservice if you think these “alternative views” (views from Russia that aren’t sponsored by the Russian government) are somehow treacherous or untrustworthy by default.
(If you need help getting started on this info-adventure, I made a short guide. You will find a colorful variety of Russian outlets and Telegram channels that span the ideological spectrum. The guide is actually far from comprehensive—but it will help you start your journey into this fascinating media-land.)
This brings us to the term “6th columnist”, which was popularized by The Saker (Rest in Blog Peace).
What is a 6th columnist? The Saker explained in April 2020:
There came a moment when the western curators of the Russian 5th column realized that calling Putin names in the western press, or publicly accusing him of being a “bloody despot” and a “KGB killer” might work with the gullible and brainwashed western audience, but it got absolutely no traction whatsoever in Russia.
And then, somebody, somewhere (I don’t know who, or where) came up with an truly brilliant idea: accusing Putin of not being a patriot and declare that he is a puppet in the hands of the AngloZionist Empire. This was nothing short of brilliant, I have to admit that.
I suppose this definition is open to interpretation, but to me it seems we are being told that completely valid criticisms of the Russian government, made by Russians, are actually not valid, but rather part of a devious plot to undermine Putin’s authority and omnipotence.
To Saker’s credit, at the end of his lecture he identified several aspects of Russia’s sociopolitical system that are in need of improvement.
Whatever his true intentions were by introducing his readers to the “6th columnist” menace, what ended up happening is that anyone who criticized the Russian government from a nationalist, patriotic, or just anti-space-lizard-in-general perspective, was branded a devilish 6th columnist.
Saker also liked to use the term “troll”. Even the mildest criticisms of Russian policy were decreed the dangerous ramblings of (possibly CIA-funded) Trolls.
Unfortunately, the consequences of this puzzling line of reasoning remain with us to the present day.
Here’s a recent example from June 2:
The article is from a website called Global South, which is curated by Amarynth, an anonymous former volunteer at Saker’s blog. As you’ve probably ascertained, I am the “Edward fellow”.
The brief post offers the reader a curious juxtaposition: On the one hand, we have Scott Ritter, who after finishing a chaperoned tour of Russia, concluded that everything was going swimmingly over there.
On the other hand is this “Gringo” Edward, who is working around the clock to sow seeds of doubt:
Compare with this gringo, saying the exact opposite [of Ritter]: https://edwardslavsquat.substack.com/p/russias-neoliberal-elites-are-thriving
He continually nibbles away at the edges of Russian society and as long as he can leave somewhat of a negative message, portraying that Russia on some level is just like the West, then he is content. He has been going on like this since mid-Covid [this was an edit after I protested a previous word choice, more on that soon — Edward] and it appears that nobody wants to employ him as a journalist any longer. If you have no interest in his Russian neoliberal elites, take a look at his list of essays. https://substack.com/@edwardslavsquat
This rather unflattering characterization of my work displeased me. So I used the website’s contact form to express my objections:
Re: Your story about “this fellow Edward”
My name is Riley Waggaman. I blog under the moniker “Edward Slavsquat”.
I am writing in reference to a story you published: “Comparisons: Scott Ritter (after his Russian trip) and a fellow called Edward”.
First off, I appreciate you linking to my blog, and the interview I published with Moscow State University professor Karine Bechet-Golovko. This certainly allows inquiring readers to investigate the content of my blog for themselves. Unfortunately, your article didn’t do a very good job of explaining the content you linked to.
“Compare with this gringo”—I lived in Russia for nearly a decade, and my son has a Russian passport. I worked for PressTV and RT (for nearly four years), before quitting because I objected to Moscow’s handling of COVID, which had an absolutely disastrous effect. A natural population decline of over 1 million people in just 2021 alone. Russians are naturally upset about this. My blog has attempted to give them a voice in the English-language media space. Should I not do this?
The claim that I have been “portraying that Russia on some level is just like the West … since before Covid” is complete nonsense.
First of all, my blog simply highlights policies that are destructive to the Russian people and Russian [national] security, and all of these claims are backed by prominent patriotic voices inside Russia. Yes, many of these policies are similar or identical to what we see in the West. And?
Secondly, my blog was launched in October 2021—well after the start of the COVID “pandemic”. I would appreciate a correction.
Also, I don’t understand your objection to Karine Bechet-Golovko’s observations, which she was more than qualified to make. If you are familiar with her work, you’d know that she is deeply invested in advocating for policies that benefit the Russian people, and strongly opposes neoliberal elements still festering in the Russian government. You didn’t explain your objections, and I’m not sure what Scott Ritter’s trip to Russia proves that counters these claims.
As a general observation, your post didn’t come off as an attempt to inform, but rather as a puzzling attempt to discredit voices who are simply relaying what patriotic Russians are saying about the situation in their own country. Should we ignore these voices?
I would very much appreciate a timely answer, and l look forward to your response.
Amarynth responded within a few hours, and I would just like to stress before typing further that I very much appreciate this, and also, after exchanging a few emails, I consider him to be far more reasonable, and well-intentioned, than most of the media-types I interact with.
However, it’s clear there are still some profound differences in how we approach our Russia-related reporting.
I was originally going to share our entire exchange, but I actually don’t think it’s necessary. (He is free to do so if he wants to—I am not at all opposed.)
What I would like to highlight though is how he opened his response to my message:
I asked our readers to compare the attitude of Scott, to the attitude in your writings.
Here are two older articles, both written by Andrei Raevski, about the Russian 6th column. I believe you will find in those two everything that you ask for.
These are older, the site is now frozen and there are no more images. But the message is still clear. An erstwhile 6th column is operative and that is of critical importance. This is the litmus test that I apply in terms of Russian ‘voices’.
To conclude on the voices that you highlight, not the professor specifically, it was tone and attitude that I illustrated, are largely 6th column voices in my view. Sorry about the gringo – it sounded better than Westerner or heavens forbid, Anglo-Saxon. Gringo is a common word for us and no harm is intended.
Enough already. Perhaps we can bridge this gap. I changed the factual bit to ‘since mid-Covid’.
The 6th columnists strike again.
What bothered me the most about this response is that he did not provide a single example of which “6th columnists” I promote on my blog. Katyusha? Nakanune? The dozens of other Russian outlets and activists I cite? Are they all “6th columnists”?
You can’t just label anyone who challenges your worldview as a “6th columnist.” That’s not how it’s supposed to work. (Or is it?)
In a follow-up email, Amarynth stressed he was not my enemy, and I also do value his offer of trying to “bridge this gap” between us.
I readily accept—but this 6th columnist stuff has to end. Today. Right now.
At any rate, I wish him well. (And please, anyone reading this—this is not an invitation to pile on him. Check out his website, you will probably find it interesting and useful.)
Sadly, such exchanges are becoming increasingly rare in the “alt media” ecosystem.
Just one example…
My friend and colleague Iain Davis likes to cause all kinds of mischief on Twitter. I don’t know why he does it, but I salute him.
In April he engaged in some friendly banter with an anchor at RT. Iain observed that many of the terrifying developments in the West were also occurring in Russia—CBDCs, as one example.
She replied that CBDCs were “mostly a western concern” and that many non-Westerners don’t have the “privilege” to worry about such things:
I don’t think you realize people who barely have electricity could have two shits about CBDC. Not that it’s not a vital issue but it’s not everyone’s top issue and it’s mostly a western concern because of that privilege.
I added my 10 kopecks, against my better judgement.
As you can see, I shared a link from a very prominent, well-respected conservative media outlet in Russia (Katyusha), showing that, in fact, Russians are concerned about CBDCs.
In response, I was told there is no such thing as “independent media” in Russia, and that by suggesting so, I probably worked for the BBC.
It is not necessary to comment further.
(I want to state, again, for the record, that I am not trying to single-out or shame anyone. This problem is UBIQUITOUS. This isn’t even the most extreme example.)
I am tired of typing and want to smoke hookah and listen to JS Bach, so let’s wrap this up.
When Westerners decry the scary “6th columnists” in Russia, or have aneurisms when it’s pointed out that patriotic Russians are saying things about their own country that are strictly haram in Western “pro-Russia” alternative media, what they’re claiming—as far as I can tell—is this:
Independent-minded Russians don’t get to have a say in how their own country is talked about and understood in the West. That job is strictly reserved for Westerners, who often have no idea what they’re talking about.
This makes no sense to me.