In my upcoming book “Confessions of a Kremlin Troll” I’ll be profiling many of the top journalists and analysts who’ve come to be labeled either trolls or “Putin Fanboys” by detractors. Much has been written and spoken of about their roles in today’s crisis, the term “fake news” having been brought to the forefront by the new American president. Underneath the allegations and the mystique though, there’s a common thread that binds us so-called Russia sympathizers. Here’s a short preview of the larger work to come.
At the height of the Ukraine conflict over Euromaidan Kiev, sympathetic actors created all manner of shareable media intended to sway opinion to the NATO, EU, or American side of the conflict. On both sides of the crisis, two-bit operators joined in with bigger players in a kind of trench warfare of words and video. Those referred to as Kremlin Troll’s studies analyzed and researched anything in the digital world in order to ferret out a hint of a lie. The same was true for what we called NATO trolls. People like Eliot Higgens (better known as Bellingcat) emerged from under Petro Poroshenko’s, BBC’s, and the greater NATO alliance banner as “trusted sources” of anti-Russia intel. The fake and real video, a massive war on words, and support from familiar anti-Putin players produced a veritable army of social media and digital propagandists. Why today there are even anti-Kremlin Trolls operating out in the open in support of NATO! And Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales even talks to them on Twitter! I’ve known Jimmy a decade now and had no clue he could be in the thread just before the full launch of his new news entity Wiki Tribune. Small world…. and this is about to get interesting.
— Kremlin Trolls CI (@KremlinTrolls) April 28, 2017
On the other side of the fence, a more organically arrayed army of pro-Russians took issue with the fantastical claims and clear misrepresentations of the Kiev junta. For most of us, the dead and dismembered kids in eastern Ukraine were ample proof the NATO side of the story was tilted. After all, not even BBC could manufacture a photo of civilian casualties outside the Donbass. Then there were the refugees, so few of whom fled to Kiev. And so on. But my purpose here is to introduce this “common thread” of which I speak.
There’s no more ardent or famous pro-Russian (Kremlin Troll) than a man who goes by the pseudonym “The Saker”. The publisher behind Vineyard of the Saker has become a kind of urban legend, and especially since Ukraine exploded. I’m very proud to announce his willingness to contribute his “troll” story for this book. And the excerpt below addresses that “thread” I speak of perfectly. Like almost all the pro-Russian media people I’ve spoken to these last three or four years, The Saker (aka Andrei Raevsky) gives the intimate details in the book of his rise as a sort of Kremlin superhero. This excerpt tells us his love for Putin’s Russia started out as a stormy romance.
Fate brought me to Russia in 1993 when I saw the carnage of meted out by the “democratic” Eltsin regime against thousands of Russians in Moscow (many more than what the official press reported). I also saw the Red Flags and Stalin portraits around the parliament building. My disgust by then was total. And when the Eltsin regime decided to bring Dudaev’s Chechnia to heel triggering yet another needless bloodbath, that disgust turned into despair. Then came the stolen elections of 1996 and the murder of General Lebed. At that point I remember thinking “Russia is dead”.
Ravesky, who is really Russian (White Russian to be more precise) after all, hated what Russia was becoming back in the 1990s. So the point of commonality I’ve so far found in almost every Kremlin Troll is this reversal of ideas and beliefs. As an America who great up believing the “Ruskies” were out to destroy us by hook or crook, and as a military man trained to kill such enemies, my own predilection was similarly purposeful. I expect Andrei will not chastise me for characterizing such epiphanies as “dire hopefulness”, or at worst pure dreams of a peaceful emerging world. As fuzzy and idealistic as this sounds, America friends and collaborators with Russia ends in a fairy tale world for some like me. Dreams-capes and Vladimir Putin’s “Third Way” aside, the common thread in all activists is hope.
It’s ironic and tragic that human beings who want to avoid the ongoing bloodbath have to fight in a continual bloodletting. The words we sling about so often turn into arrows, and especially the lies. Look at Syria for another instance. In 2011 there was no mention of the Obama administration giving arms to rebels against Assad. Then it came out and few even cared. I watched British politician George Galloway in a video segment where he lashes out on account of Obama’s throwing America in with our worst enemies Al Qaeda. Galloway, like many others, was gobsmacked by the apathy of the American people. Obama put us in league with the people of Osama bin Laden and there was hardly a whisper of dissent! But again, this is another story.
In my book, readers will see up close and personal a group of normal people who took on the mightiest media machine humanity has ever known – and a group that won out for the most part. Confessions of a Kremlin Troll is not about Phil Butler the number one Putin fanboy, it’s about the good and bad reality of fierce activism in the digital age – and – a lot of huge surprises!