Freethought Almanac

Lighting a candle in toxic air.

Russians Invade Italy!


July 23

Дорогой Борис,

I see you have sent me a video of the Russian Army invading Italy with Italian masterpieces of opera in choral style. You point out that in this way, Russian agents secretly distribute militaristic ideas among all nations. Seeing the grateful Italian audience applaud this propaganda, supposedly intended to express solidarity against the pandemic gripping the world, sends a chill down my spine!

I completely agree that surreptitiously inserting the Russian Army Choir into a public performance in Italy is an ingenious, dastardly plot to undermine peaceful Western society with dangerous and novel militaristic ideas. The USA would never think of military adventures without Russian encouragement, after all.

And don’t they look good in those uniforms?

Congratulations! You have become a satirist in the English language, deserving of the company of Aristophanes, Juvenal, Chaucer, Molière, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Gogol, Mark Twain, Bierce, Bulgakov, Orwell, Tom Lehrer, George Carlin, and Douglas Adams!

On my end of the spectrum, color me skeptical. I didn’t believe the original “Russiagate” conspiracy theory, a structure of evidence-free US intelligence community assertions that eventually collapsed for lack of backing. But the Russiagators do not give up so easily. Now they have a new Russia-did-it conspiracy theory: The New York Times claims that Russia secretly offered Afghan militants bounties to kill US troops. For proof, the good journalists at the Times offered: unnamed intelligence officials, who said, in effect, “Trust us. Have we ever lied to you before?”

Mind you, as David Swanson pointed out, the Times “does not claim that any payments were made. It does not claim that any troops were killed. It does not claim that any impact was had on anything. It does not name its sources... It does not offer any justification for not naming them.”

Furthermore, “It does not provide the context of all the years the U.S. government spent arming and funding Afghans to kill Russians, nor all the more recent years during which the U.S. military has been both the enemy of the Taliban and its top funding source (or at least second to opium). It promotes the ridiculous and debunked Russiagate notion that Trump is too kind to Russia.”

And, of course, the Times does not connect a “Russian bounty” with the killing of any particular US soldier. But I would go one step further: Even if true, paying people to kill other people is what we used to call war. If the mainstream news wants to counteract Der Orangeführer’s accusation of “Fake News,” why do that make it so easy for him in the first place?

Journalist Aaron Maté writes that “the real ‘Bounty’ in Afghanistan” is the “war hawks and profiteers [who] get to exploit the latest round of Russiagating to prolong the 19-year war. Weapons makers owe NYT, WP, MSNBC, & CNN especially some of that bounty money.”

I don’t “Cotton”* to ideas such as that the Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) was engineered and unleashed on the world by China. In fact, the structure of SARS-CoV2 is similar to those of viruses known to infect bats and pangolins. Yes, the claim is that China released the virus on the US—after China itself suffered the consequences of the virus just a few weeks earlier! If you think that makes sense, you probably think Fox broadcasts News.

But if you accept science and logic, you should consider the alternative theory: that it was not a “Chinese Virus”: that it carries all the hallmarks of a naturally developing virus and none of a human-engineered one; that it migrated via animal-to-animal-to-human transmission; and that with a death rate of about 1%-4%, it is not very efficient at killing. A real Dr. Evil could have done way better!

Yes, while the US is tearing the world apart with violence, threats and sanctions, Russia’s small example of coronavirus camaraderie seems oddly peaceful behavior from an enemy. Failing in all other criticisms of this good example, perhaps Russia’s detractors will say those good-looking Russian choristers are showing by example that not practicing social distancing, during a pandemic featuring an aerosol-borne virus, is behavior to emulate?

Ваш друг,


*Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) “Chinese Virus” conspiracy theorist and US Senator.

LETTER TO BORIS is an occasional feature of this blog in which I try to explain to Boris, to the best of my understanding and ability, American culture, current events and the American language. Boris, a former Russian national, who grew up under the Soviet Union, is real, but Boris is not his name. Also, I do not claim to read, write or speak with competence any language but English.

NB: Дорогой = My dear [friend]; Ваш друг = Your friend. “Der Orangeführer” is my peculiar sobriquet for the 45th president.

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Our Fearless Leader.

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