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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Commissars of the Internet: Part I, Installment 3

Today we bring you the third of four installments in Part I of the "Commissars of the Internet" series, an original LR translation which exposes how the Kremlin is attempting to take control of the Internet by the use of crude thuggery. On Monday, we read the author's introduction to the subject of "Internet Brigades." Yesterday, we learned the details about their organization and activities.

Here is Part I, Installment 3: Ideology and Tactics of the "Brigade"

Commissars of the Internet
The FSB at the Computer

Anna Polyanskaya, Andrei Krivov & Ivan Lomko
Gulag
September 16, 2006

(continued from Tuesday)

Ideology and Tactics of the Brigades


Views of the USSR

The Brigade’s views of the Soviet past are, as a rule, apologist, although not always, and there exits here a certain separation of opinions. Many brigadniki warmly recall the Soviet period and worship the Soviet past in all its attributes, from the everyday to the official (often in terms from the Soviet-era propaganda piece “Short Course on the History of the USSR”, even when according to his “legend” the writer is a young man who has been living in the West for a long time). Often they publicly dream of the reestablishment of the USSR to its previous – or even better, expanded – borders. At the same time, they actively rehabilitate the Communist leaders, including Lenin, Stalin, Beria, Brezhnev and Andropov, as well as the totalitarian ideals of the Soviet period. The only idea from Communism that is completely excluded is the idea of Internationalism, which is replaced with a deep-seated nationalist-“patriotism”. This is often accompanied by a false substitution, in which the idea of the Motherland is associated exclusively with the authorities, and the Fatherland with the ruling regime. Devotion to leaders and totalitarian organizations like the KGB is taken as a patriotic position, while taking any position opposed to the regime is considered a betrayal of the Motherland and a form of Russophobia.

Typical of the Brigade are constant attempts to present in a positive and rosy light the entire Soviet period of Russian history, on the basis of the propaganda clichés of that period, consciously minimizing the number of those who died in repressions, blaming all the crimes of the Bolsheviks on Jews and/or foreign enemies, and glorifying the imperial nature of the Soviet Union.

Low cultural level and typical language

Despite the apparent variety of participants from the Brigade, the majority of them have approximately the same (very low) level of culture. The large majority of brigadniki have a poor command of the Russian language, making countless stylistic, spelling and grammatical errors, and as a result it can sometimes be difficult for them to hide behind their various pseudo/nicknames. At the same time, many of them are wonderfully familiar with ideological clichés, beginning with those from the Soviet period and ending with the most modern. It is very strange, for example, to hear on the Internet an aphorism from Comrade Zhdanov of 15 years before: “On whose mill is he pouring water?” It is, however, used by the Brigade frequently and seriously, without the slightest hint of parody.

Incidentally, brigadniki in all forums have obvious problems with humor, and their own jokes always have a barracks/toilet quality to them, dealing exclusively with defecation, homosexuality, prostitution, pornography and similar “low” aspects of life. A typical shop-worn joke of the Brigade we have encountered several dozen times is, “Stop looking for the KGB under the bed!” Here’s a typical example of the Brigade’s “humor”, thrown at a female opponent: “Make your skirt a little longer-ly, so your balls don’t show.”

Many members of the Brigade on liberal web-forums use very telling malapropisms (written without a trace of irony), like “dlin’she” (TN: roughly: “longer-ly”), “vsledom”, “navrode”, “zamesto”, and so forth.

Along with the obscene abuse, which members of the Brigade use everywhere they go, all of these warped words and turns of phrase suggest a specific culture and educational level of the Brigade that is absolutely not characteristic of the majority of Internet users.

“Foreigners” in the Brigade

Many of the brigadniki claim they live in or are presently staying in foreign countries – the U.S., Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, etc. The Brigade will always use this as a device for telling about “the horrors of life in the West and advantages of life in Putin’s Russia”. On some sites it is possible to determine the country in which a user’s ISP is located (by the unique IP-code of each computer), and when the codes actually do show the server as being in the country where he claims to be, they are sometimes clearly proxy servers (intermediate systems). Curiously enough, it is exactly these “foreigners” who turn out to be the most aggressive and determined brigadniki, and the fiercest proponents of the USSR, KGB and Putin. These individuals love to describe the “nightmarish” realities of life in “their” western countries, the poverty and oppression there, the violations of their human rights, all in contrast to the simply wonderful conditions in Putin’s Russia. In their stories they always ignore the positive sides of life in the West, and they prevaricate a lot.

Brigadniki and liberals living in the exact same town can have arguments about the cost of goods and services that at times are fairly ridiculous. One gets the impression that they are living not only in different cities, but on different planets.

Individual work on opponents

As soon as an opposition-minded liberal arrives on a forum, expressing a position that makes them a clear “ideological enemy”, he is immediately cornered and subjected to “active measures” by the unified web-brigade. Without provocation, the opponent is piled on with abuse or vicious “arguments” of the sort that the average person cannot adequately react to. As a result, the liberal either answers sharply, causing a scandal and getting himself labeled a “boor” by the rest of the brigade, or else he starts to make arguments against the obvious absurdities, to which his opponents pay no attention, but simply ridicule him and put forth other similar arguments. This sort of action goes exactly according to the scenario described in the famous novel by Shukshin, “Slashed!”

The Brigade will always and invariably try to hound collectively any stubborn liberal on the forum, for example by having one member of the brigade write about the ideological inaccuracies and mistakes of the novice, while a second swears obscenities at the opponent, a third accuses the liberal of being crazy, a forth threatens him with reprisals and murder, etc. Then a fifth member will write complaints to the site administrator about any sharp counter-attack by the injured party, absolutely ignoring that this was simply an emotional lapse in reaction to a barrage of collective hounding. One gets the impression that the aim of the Brigade is to drive out any novice-liberal, having beaten out of him any enthusiasm for posting on the forum. If the liberal stubbornly refuses to leave, a specific arsenal of means in used against him, right up to collective complaints to the site administrator by all members of the brigade, or even backstage pressure on the administrator, with the aim of getting the opponent banned from the forum. During these periods, massive virus attacks may appear on the computer of the persistent liberal.

Accusations that opponents are working for “enemies”

In cases where opponents of the Brigade use forums to criticize Putin, discuss the suppression of free speech and democracy in Russia, call for an end to the war in Chechnya or show disloyalty to the agencies of state security, the brigade immediately begins to accuse them of taking money from B. Berezovskiy, the CIA, MOSSAD, Saudi Arabia, Zionists, Masons, [Chechen rebel spokesman] Movlada Udugov, etc. The brigadniki present the issue as being that any critic of the FSB or Russian policy in Chechnya is an enemy of the State, a Russophobe, and therefore his only reason for participating in political discussions is to earn a salary from the enemy. A variant is to try and smear the opponent with uniformly angry invectives about “emigrant-traitors of the Motherland, lecturing from abroad true Russian patriots for dirty money”.

By this logic, all of humanity has been so overcome by love for the VChK-FSB and Putin’s regime that extinguishing this powerful feeling could only be done by a huge amount of money. Logic, however, is rare in the postings of Brigade members. More likely, the brigadniki’s obsessive accusations about opponents taking money for being on the Internet says more about their own reasons and motives for being there, among an intelligent class of people that is alien and foreign to them, on liberal forums they find loathsome.

Frequent changes of pseudonyms (nicknames)

Brigadniki tend to change their pseudo/nicknames frequently. One and the same author will often write on a forum under a variety of pseudonyms, sometimes imitating a dialogue with himself, giving support to himself and showing the “massiveness” of support for his point of view. When changing nicknames, the author will take on the name of a different person, sometimes even a person of a different sex, forgetting that he still has exactly the same patterns of expression, phraseology, level of Russian language, ideological positions and arguments. Because of their low level of culture and tendency to use specific verbal clichés, it is not hard to pick out several nicknames belonging to a single brigadnik author.

Informational noise and fraudulent use of nicknames

On unmoderated forums the Brigade may stifle sharp political discussions that are undesirable for the authorities through the use of enormous volumes of meaningless messages on different themes -- what has come to be called a “flood”. Often these texts are pornographic or anti-Semitic in nature, and are repeated dozens or even hundreds of times in a row. Sometimes the brigade will use the name and address of an opponent with a liberal reputation to write a massive series of abusive or obscene postings. It is worth noting that this method is practically never used against the Brigade itself -- in other words, the liberal-opponents do not consider themselves capable of stealing other people’s names and addresses.

Political spectrum of the Brigade – “Principle of the common crest”

Permanent members of the Brigade of any popular web-forum may present themselves as followers of one or another party or movement, from anywhere on the Russian political spectrum, except the genuinely liberal part. On every forum there is always a nationalist-anti-Semite, a Communist, a representative of “United Russia” (Yedinaya Rossiya), and several individuals claiming they voted for Yavlinskiy, but were disappointed because of his insufficient loyalty to Putin. Among the others on the forum, there will always be someone with extremely leftist views, passionately idealizing the West, the U.S., and capitalism, but at the same time never criticizing Putin and his regime, which is somewhat illogical for the typical “lefty”.

Views of members of the Brigade will supposedly diverge on unimportant tactical issues, but they are unwaveringly united on the key and basic issues: absolute loyalty to Putin and the FSB; the “flowering” of Russia under their leadership; the harmfulness of democracy advocates and the period of perestroika; the necessity of continuing the Chechen war without negotiations, to the point of shooting the last Chechen; hatred of human rights workers, freedom of speech, and democratic/liberal values. We call this political positioning of the Brigade the “principle of the common crest.”

Any new person, of any political persuasion, who happens to wander onto the forum, will fall between the representative-teeth of this crest. All of members of the Brigade claiming to hold views close to those of the new person will claim their convictions particularly close to his, but will go on to correct the novice taking into account of the steadfast values of the Brigade. Anyone who dares to criticize Putin, the FSB, or the war in Chechnya risks receiving unpleasant notes from the Brigade, from individuals claiming to be on both the “left” and “right”, from the “guileless fascist/simpleton” to the “refined patriot/ex-Yabloko member”.

The Communist, the measured Statist-Liberal, the Yavlinskiy supporter; the person with a troubled fate; the one who has reexamined his beliefs; the modest and rational mother of seven from somewhere in Florida, who has nonetheless always been loyal to the Russian authorities; the guileless innocent from the common folk; the anti-Semite; the intellectual; the “former dissident and Siberian prisoner”, now dreaming of hanging the human rights workers from the lampposts – these are the Brigade’s usual types on web forums. But every single one of them absolutely and unwaveringly honors Putin and the FSB, as well as the “active measures” of the authorities. On all other points the brigadniki may have some minimal differences, sometimes forming the basis for an imitation of a discussion amongst themselves. If an opponent becomes stubborn in sticking up for their beliefs, the Brigade will collectively apply more refined methods for pressuring him.

Criminal means

Squabbles, provocations, foul abuse – all these are part of the normal life on the Web for members of the Brigade. They have special methods for dealing with women of opposing views who dare to argue with the postings of the brigadniki. In this case they throw out countless names of body parts and sex organs, point to the opponent’s lack of sex partners, to her monstrosity, old age, obesity, being a prostitute, etc. Here, for example, is a typical and relatively inoffensive remark:

“The GB – this is State Security. It’s a noble mission. Security is always very good. To live in a state of danger is bad - with this, one cannot argue. And to look after the security of the State is an entirely good and very important and necessary mission. And if someone from this “GB” were to wind up between someone’s legs because they wouldn’t shut up, it would serve them right. Too bad they wouldn’t kill her. That species doesn’t even worry about whether they look responsible. Obviously, for such repulsive behavior the GB takes reprisals on them. They should take more. You, Anastasia, are a dinosaur. And you should go extinct.”

And here is another typical appearance by a member of the Brigade:

“You, you little retard -- are you having an orgasm right in front of the monitor, or what? You can’t do it any other way, can you? Haven’t got a man? But then who do you need, you fool. You just prattle away from morning to night. Some sort of little companionship for you. You lick up your own poison (or more exactly, your dissatisfaction). Go get yourself a man and get jerked off like you should, you’ll feel better and it will broaden you mind, although the last is doubtful.”

And so on, and so forth, dozens and hundreds of similar postings under various nicknames. Oddly, after about two weeks of filling up the forum with similar postings, the majority of which we cannot quote here for reasons of decency, this group of authors, having conspired to hound their female opponent, will usually write a collective letter to the site administrator complaining about how they, self-proclaimed “intelligent regular readers” of the site, were viciously badgered by exactly the same female participant of the discussion who was the object of these types postings.

Most of the actual female participants of a discussion are not able to hold up for long under such a collective onslaught by the Brigade, and they eventually quit the discussion.

Intentional diversion of pointed discussions

Members of the brigade are well-versed in the use of simple techniques used by thieves (“look at the bird!”) to distract the attention of the “objective” with the aim of subsequently robbing him (in the current case, diverting the discussion into the wilderness). People who are not familiar with the criminal world easily fall for this trick, to the great joy of the entire Brigade. Among other members of the discussion -- other than the brigadniki -- conduct of this sort is practically never encountered.

The trick consists of having one of the Brigade members throw out an obviously false thesis, forcing the opponent to research and look for sources to refute the falsehood. For example, the claim that Ramon Mercader, the murderer of Trotskiy, never had any relationship with the OGPU-NKVD. After showing the person who presented this idea dozens of references showing that Mercader received the Hero of the Soviet Union award and was interred in the USSR, the person is nonetheless not the slightest bit embarrassed, on the contrary, he goes on to claim that the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot never had any connection with Communism. After receiving references refuting this as well, the person next claims that not a single person was killed in Prague in 1968 by Soviet tanks. Next will come his claim that the total casualties of the Stalinist repressions numbered less than one million people, and the rest were fabricated by liberals. After receiving factual refutations of every one of his false claims, a month later the brigadnik will repeat them all anew, in exactly the same order and same way. This sort of trick works especially well when the brigadnik presents “concrete information” about, say, life in the USA: “A movie ticket there costs $20.” Real residents of the USA will join in on the discussion, along with other brigadniki who supposedly live there. And so the discussion will go on for a whole day about the cost of movie tickets.

Or a claim like this will be presented: “Putin does not have and never did have any relationship to the KGB – he was just a Specialist in the Army.” It will not help to present links to the site “putin.ru”, nor to the official biography of the Russian President, nor to his personal interviews. The author of this sort of “dezinformatsiya” (“dezi”) will answer all refutations with only more filthy abuse of the person who dared to argue with him, and will all the more stubbornly repeat his “dezi”.

For example, one woman, a permanent member of one forum’s Brigade collective, who presented herself as a resident of Ireland, but regularly called for people to “pray to Putin”, reports on limitations on Jews that supposedly exist in England:

“What the Tsarist authorities did many years ago with boundaries on Jewish settlements and restrictions on the education of Jews, in our good country England they still do to this day. No, they’re allowed to study. They just have to pay. And they can hardly be employed in a government job. They can only go into business and pay taxes. Mercy. For this reason there are Jews here, but no Jewish question. There is also no anti-Semitism. But just imagine then how the Jews would start selling off England, like our “New Russians”, stuffing their pockets and bowing to Tony Blair. They’re smart, these English.”

We’ll leave this passage to the conscience of the “fellow-countrymen” of Lord Disraeli. Again, it’s not important here what exactly is written, only that it leads the discussion away from dangerous themes, best of all – overseas.

TOMORROW: THE BRIGADES IN ACTION

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