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Trolls not Elves: a Putinesque Christmas

Monday, March 30th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — a factory for words — ugh! ]
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Troll factory

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In American folklore, a Christmas elf is a diminutive creature (elf) that lives with Santa Claus in the North Pole and acts as his helper.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty has a fasacinating account in which One Professional Russian Troll Tells All. I’m gonna quote that piece extensively without putting it in blockquotes, since it has blockquotes, italics and illustrations of its own. Between the double asterisks immediately below and the double asterisks following them, then, you won’t find my words but those of RFE/RL, drawn in two gobbits from their piece.

Here’s the skinny on how it works, followed by the part that really caught my interest, dealing (obliquely) as it does with the Putin and the Patriarch theme.

**

RFE/RL: So what did your department do?

Burkhard: Our department commented on posts. Every city and village in Russia has its own municipal website with its own comments forum. People would write something on the forum — some kind of news — and our task was to comment on it. We did it by dividing into teams of three. One of us would be the “villain,” the person who disagrees with the forum and criticizes the authorities, in order to bring a feeling of authenticity to what we’re doing. The other two enter into a debate with him — “No, you’re not right; everything here is totally correct.” One of them should provide some kind of graphic or image that fits in the context, and the other has to post a link to some content that supports his argument. You see? Villain, picture, link.

[ .. ]

RFE/RL: Does the Villain have a role in such assignments?
 
Burkhard:
If something is pro-Putin, the Villain will have doubts. For example, for Orthodox Christmas, Putin went to Mass at an ordinary village church outside Voronezh and there was sweetness and light all around. A story gets posted along the lines of, "How wonderful, how marvelous, how great, what an amazing man he is." But the Villain disagrees: "OK, come on, Putin went to Voronezh to boost his popularity with the public." To which we answer, "What's the matter with you, what popularity are you talking about? Yes, he's popular, but he doesn't need popularity, he just wants to meet with ordinary people." That's a funny example.

Next Assignment

Topic: Build a positive attitude toward the domestic policies of Vladimir Putin; the president personally celebrated Christmas with ordinary Russians.
 
Keywords: president rf, putin news, putin policies, christmas, vladimir putin
 
Again, the assignment begins with a post published on a LiveJournal account. The post about Putin is prefaced by a fragment from a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva, "It's a sin to soar over a golden-domed chapel and not to pray in it," which in this context seems to take on a double meaning. 

Christmas unites!
 
The blessed holiday of the Nativity is upon us. And on such a miraculous day, which unites all citizens of Russia — no matter whether you're a believer or, as they say, "unchurched" — on the way to the Lord, the Russian president VP was, as always, with the people! Where else but in the provinces, far away from the urban hustle and bustle, is it possible to really experience this holy day? So this year Vladimir Putin visited the village church in honor of the Holy Virgin, located near Voronezh in the village of Otradnoye. And on such a holiday, one of the main holidays in Russia (and in the entire Christian church), at such a difficult time the president was with the people and congratulated all the clerics and faithful parishioners!

On the Barnaul forum, the Link Troll kicks things off with praise and a link to a December 31 vesti.ru article, Putin Congratulates Obama And Reminds Him Of The Principles Of Mutual Respect.

"Great article! By the way, the president of Russia, also congratulated the American president, the German chancellor, and other Western politicians on New Year's Eve. He's to be commended for expressing his peaceful intentions and conducting normal policy — something that's hard to get from Barack Obama."

The Villain Troll appears incensed:

"And what did you find that was so totally amazing in his Christmas message??? I don't understand!!! Vladimir Putin is an ordinary person!! So what if he's the president?? If I get on TV and wish everyone a nice Christmas, will you write a nice article about me too??? Finally we've found something to talk about!"

The Picture Troll posts a photo of Putin at the church and retorts:

"This is idiotic! Putin is our president. And it's really great that he went to a village church to congratulate everyone on the holiday. Christmas is a miracle. I envy the congregation. I would have loved to have been there on that great holiday."

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Elsewhere, on the Yekaterinburg forum, the Villain Troll attacks Putin's Christmas appearance as a stunt aimed at distracting the public from the country's massive economic woes:

"Give your neighbor a sack of buckwheat this year!! Now that's a good deed!!! Vladimir Putin represents everything that awaits us in the future!! He just went to pray for his ass and ask for forgiveness. He's driven the country straight to hell, and now what can he do??? Pray, and that's it!"

The Picture Troll issues a stern reprimand, illustrated with a bucolic photo from the scene:

"Good lord, your language! Christmas is a blessed holiday, and here you are swearing. It's not worth it. There's enough buckwheat for everyone, our country will survive the anti-Russian sanctions, no problem. So I congratulate everyone on a blessed holiday and wish everyone peace and goodness. Especially YOU!"

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And thus the troika spends the day sweeping through 35 forums. 

**

Oh, well — or Ah, hell:

SPEC social media manipulation UK US

Sources:

  • British army creates team of Facebook warriors
  • Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
  • And as JM Berger and Jonathan Morgan have exhaustively documented, terrorists do it too.

    Sunday surprise: of night and knowledge

    Sunday, March 29th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — a tale of two Londons — on night walkabout and by cab — don’t miss the foxes! ]
    .

    night fare

    **

    Let’s start with intellectual dexterity:

    To achieve the required standard to be licensed as an “All London” taxi driver you will need a thorough knowledge, primarily, of the area within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. You will need to know: all the streets; housing estates; parks and open spaces; government offices and departments; financial and commercial centres; diplomatic premises; town halls; registry offices; hospitals; places of worship; sports stadiums and leisure centres; airline offices; stations; hotels; clubs; theatres; cinemas; museums; art galleries; schools; colleges and universities; police stations and headquarters buildings; civil, criminal and coroner’s courts; prisons; and places of interest to tourists. In fact, anywhere a taxi passenger might ask to be taken.

    before taking the dark turn, yes, sinister:

    In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights, London seems an alien city, especially if you are walking through it alone.

    In the more sequestered streets – once the pubs are closed, and at a distance from the 24-hour convenience stores – the sodium gleam of the street lamps, or the flickering striplight from a sleepy minicab stand, offers little consolation. There are alleys and street corners and shop entrances where the darkness appears to collect in a solid mass. There are secluded squares where, to take a haunting line from a poem by Shelley, night makes “a weird sound of its own stillness”. There are buildings, monuments and statues that, at a distance, and in the absence of people, pulsate mysteriously in the sepulchral light. There are foxes that slope and trot across the road as you interrupt their attempts to pillage scraps from upended bins.

    And, from time to time, there are the faintly sinister silhouettes of other solitary individuals – as threatened by your presence, no doubt, as you are by theirs.

    **

    Sources:

  • Hansom Cab

  • The Knowledge
  • Nightwalking
  • HM Govt goes DoubleQuote in the Wild

    Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — simple juxtaposition, a high-powered communications heuristic ]
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    Her Majesty’s Government (FCO) puts out what in my terminology is a DoubleQuote in the Wild:

    Luke Coffey thinks it’s “brilliant” and wishes the US Department of State did likewise.

    **

    The “Pithy, simple, factual” part of the DQ is its direct juxtaposition of one text or image with another, inviting, allowing, begging tbe mind to make the appropriate leap from one to the other.

    That leap can in fact be, as here, from “before” to “after” — but there are other leaps, other forms it can take:

  • question and answer
  • cause and effect
  • microcosm and macrocosm
  • form and function
  • reality (imitating) art
  • verbal and visual
  • sacred and secular
  • and many more. At times, as here, DoubleQuotes can be used to make a point, at times to raise questions — to compare and contrast, or to elicit and formulate analogies and metaphors.

    **

    DoubleQuotes are found at the intersection between two ideas —

    koestler-model

    — which is also the locus of significant creativity. The practice of building DQs is therefore practice in creativity, while DQs themselves are a powerful means of expressing creative insight.

    **

    HMG, WTG!

    Birmingham, a little light relief in tough times

    Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — all tweets guaranteed safe for the workplace ]
    .

    Steven Emerson made the mistaken claim on Fox News that Birmingham is an all-Muslim enclave — and has withdrawn his claim and apologized fulsomely in the aftermath. While Emerson is not an “expert” I’d follow or trust, I have to admit I’ve enjoyed some of the humo[u]r his claim brought forth under the #FoxNewsFacts hashtag. Here are my personal favorites:

    Qibla:

    For the record, that’s the Mecca bingo hall on Kingstanding Circle, Birmingham.

    Hijab:

    Hudud:

    Isn’t that Henry V she’s beheading?

    Keffiyeh:

    An English game

    Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron — image and Sotheby’s cataloguing via Michael Robinson ]
    .

    Carl Jung told his friend Sir Laurens van der Post:

    One of the most striking testimonies to the quality of the English spirit is the English love of sport and games in a classical sense and their genius for inventing games.

    **

    Exempli gratia:

    Pooh Stcks

    **

    Catalog entry:

    Shepard, E.H.
    “FOR A LONG TIME THEY LOOKED AT THE RIVER BENEATH THEM…”

    Illustration for Chapter six of ‘The House at Pooh Corner,’ the episode “in which Pooh invents a new game and Eeyore joins in.” The game is ‘Poohsticks.’ Sold this morning: £314,500 (US$492,727)

    Shepard, Ernest H. (10 December 1879 – 24 March 1976)
    188 by 148mm, original ink drawing,
    signed “EHShepard” lower left.

    **

    For those who don’t know the game, here’s the relevant excerpt from The House at Pooh Corner:

    Pooh had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river. ‘Bother,’ said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

    ‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’ And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was – that he had – well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that’s what he was. Instead of the other way round.

    And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’


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