We continue to live in an utterly polarised media landscape. The West, according to Russia, has become obsessed with hyping up war… (exhibit A)
While the Western media has become obsessed with building the narrative that Russia will use a false flag (yes, that favourite of the Alex Jones universe) to justify war (Exhibit B):
Or as CNN specifically reports on Monday:
And the United States says that’s exactly what this is: make-believe violence. It says Russia is plotting to stage a fake attack, and shoot a gory propaganda video of it, as a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine. The clip would frame the Ukrainian military — and by extension, their NATO allies — for an attack on Russian-speaking people.
In my opinion it’s all turning into a multi-level geopolitical Columbo episode.
By which I mean it’s the perfect framing for a Kobayashi Maru situation, the ultimate chess move which your opponent simply cannot win. To win, the cornered party would have to literally change the rules of engagement.
In the current state of affairs the entity being faced with the Kobayashi Maru is Russia.
This is easy to see. If Russian speakers are legitimately attacked by Ukrainian entities, it’s unlikely anyone will now believe them. That leaves them in a situation where they either don’t react, and allow the West/Ukrainians to trash them — looking weak and admitting failure. Or they do react, and get accused of “well they would say that wouldn’t they!”
The “pre-casting” of the false flag itself is the strategy in play.
And I would argue it’s the continuous appearance of the “pre-casted” Kobayashi Maru situation in high stake geopolitical confrontations all over the place in recent years, which is the most suspicious thing of all.
The go to high-profile “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario of recent time, of course, was Covid lockdown. The death toll associated with not acting was so heavily pre-casted that if authorities didn’t act, and deaths piled up anyway, they would risk political annihilation because they had been forewarned. If they did act and the deaths still came, the narrative, meanwhile, would always be switched to “well it would have been so much worse if we had done nothing.” If the death count was low, meanwhile, no-one could ever be sure (without another control group that didn’t lockdown) if it was because of lockdown or because the disease itself had been overhyped.
Either way, the argument to sit back and do nothing — a.k.a wait and see while gathering data in a composed and considered manner — was immediately off the table.
One other recent example of the Kobayashi Maru was the Nov 2020 US election. It was so heavily pre-casted that if Trump lost, he would claim the election was rigged (as well as the method he would claim), that if it really was rigged*, Trump would have found himself in an impossible situation. If he backed off and said nothing, he would be admitting failure. If he called it rigged, he wouldn’t be believed by anyone.
(*To be clear I’m not suggesting I believe the election was rigged, I’m suggesting that the way the media is structured right now, I would have to dedicate more time than I have to figure out the truth, and thus most likely default to the Occam’s razor view, which is that Trump is lying. Which is itself a gameable reaction.)
This is why I compare things to a Columbo episode. Very often in the series the murderer’s strategy is to double bluff authorities. Rather than just framing someone else for the murder they’re about to commit, they pre-cast that the framed individual will claim they were framed when they stand accused of the crime. The strategy also involves the psychopathic murderer befriending the investigative detective, Columbo, and helping him find the “evidence” that can corroborate that the framed individual really did commit the crime. “Oh look, isn’t it odd that the nephew of the deceased left a burning cigarette at the scene?”
But the murderer usually underestimates Columbo, and his tendency to deploy entrapment techniques of his own to expose the true murderer.
All that said, in the current landscape of total info confusion I think it’s super important for journalists, writers and commentators to be up front about their own agendas, expertise and knowledge.
My disclosure is this: Like most people, I genuinely have no clue what’s going on. I am also not a deep-rooted geopolitical expert. My analysis is mostly amateur, based on a lay perspective derived from being a continuous news and information processor. That really is what I bring to the table. Unlike most people, it’s my job to read, watch and analyse the news all the time. It’s also my job to look for pockets of info that might have been overlooked by the crowd.
Until now that’s mostly been centred on finance and markets. But geopolitics affects finance and markets, so I’ve vicariously developed a periphery expertise, which compared to the total lay person is probably pretty informed. But it’s important to stress that I’m not an expert.
That said, because I am market/finance led, my only agenda is to figure out what is really going on without any emotive charging of the situation.
The other thing I bring to the table, of course, is that I am Polish. In the current geopolitical situation that implies a bias. I would, however, argue that the bias is not a bad one, since a) it’s geographically relevant and b) the Poles have always been in the middle ground in European power struggles. If you want an objective view on anything, it probably makes sense to trust the people sandwiched between the two biggest geopolitical forces in the world. Or as Norman Davies put it, those who live in “God’s playground“.
Even so, it’s important for readers and commentators to push back against any bollocks I might accidentally communicate. It’s how we will all learn and become experts together. I very much welcome your push back. I am enlightened by it. All I ask is be nice about it. Because if you are (and most of my readers are indeed delightfully lovely and respectful) you’re more likely to extract a concession. And a concession = a credit in my book that we can both sign off on. (And it’s up to you if we mint it on the blockchain.)