Putin Creates His Own Reality

The Russian leader continues to deny any wrongdoing:

Putin’s government also held a news conference [yesterday], in which it denied that Russia had supplied the separatists with a BUK missile system “or any other weapons,” and suggested that the Ukrainian government is the prime suspect in the crash. Air Force Lieutenant General Igor Makushev said that Russian radar detected the presence of Ukrainian fighter jets close to the Malaysian flight, suggesting that one of them may have shot down the airliner.

Margaret Hartmann unspins Russia’s spin:

Unfortunately for Russia, the scant evidence available doesn’t appear to support its fighter-jet theory. Photographs of wreckage riddled with holes have begun surfacing on social media, and experts say that suggests the plane was targeted by a missile that exploded nearby. After analyzing photos taken by New York Times reporters, IHS Jane’s, a defense consultancy, concluded that the damage was consistent with that caused by a Buk system. The missiles are designed to explode below a target, increasing the likelihood that a fast-moving Western military aircraft will be damaged even if it avoids a direct hit.

Which makes the entire spectacle riveting. What happens when a Tsar’s propaganda becomes completely untenable in a porous media world? What he can get away with at home is not as possible when your drunken proxies take down a plane from the civilized world? Watching that video statement from Putin in the early hours of the morning gave me some solace. Just look at the body language, the deflected gaze, the nervousness:

A Tsar never had to do this, or felt compelled to. He’s hanging by a thread, and we should take some pleasure in watching him struggle. Alex Altman examines Russia Today’s absurdist coverage:

In the aftermath of the crash last week, the RT machine kicked into overdrive, churning out a steady stream of strange reports. In an effort to implicitly assign blame on the Ukrainians, it noted the proximity of Putin’s own plane. It quoted a Russian defense ministry source asking why a Ukrainian air force jet was detected nearby. And it quoted another anonymous Russian official, who volunteered the juicy claim that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile was operational in the vicinity at the time of the incident. This is how RT works, explains [former RT employee Sara] Firth: by arranging facts to fit a fantasy.

Kirchick piles on:

A particularly egregious example was the most recent episode of the inaptly named Truthseeker, a program devoted to conspiracy theories. Titled “Genocide in Eastern Ukraine,” the 14-minute segment accused the Ukrainian government of conducting a crime on par with the 1994 Rwandan genocide (which claimed anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million victims), which, for good measure, the host accused the United States of sponsoring. The Ukrainian government (“the most far-right wing government on the face of the Earth,” a description that far better suits the current Russian regime), whose leaders“repeat Hitler’s genocidal oath,”is “bombing wheat fields to ensure there’s famine,” a perverse claim in light of the Soviet-orchestrated Holodomor, the killing by starvation that took the lives of millions of Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933. The segment featured an interview with crank “historian” William Engdahl, a regular columnist for the virulently anti-Semitic website Veterans Today, where he has suggested that terrorist bombings in Russia earlier this year were conducted by Israel in retribution “for Putin’s role in winning Obama away from war against Syria last fall and openly seeking a diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear problem.”

Such ravings are par for the course on RT, but what happened afterwards surprised observers who have grown accustomed to the network’s practice of throwing out an endless stream of indefensible allegations in hopes that some of them will stick in the media ecosystem. Two days after the program aired, RT announced via Twitter that it had removed the episode from its website due to “uncorroborated info.” If this were to be the new standard by which RT determines what material to air, it would have no choice but to shut down altogether.