Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Empire of Stupid: Old Map Hoax Taken Seriously

When the tabloid media in Serbia - controlled by foreign conglomerates or oligarchs loyal to whatever quisling government happens to be in charge (since every parliamentary party has been suborned, it doesn't make much difference) - print unverified rumors and fanciful flights of wishful thinking, that's par for the course. A group of satirists even mocked this a few years back, by planting patently false stories written in such a way that they sounded plausible (think The Onion here), but wouldn't hold up to elementary fact-checking. But whether due to laziness or wishful thinking, the press never bothered to check, running the stories because they fit their confirmation bias.

So it says volumes about Foreign Policy - very much a voice of the DC establishment - that it chose to run a serious analysis of a complete and utter hoax, and a stale one at that. On June 4, FP contributor Frank Jacobs wrote about "what Russia could look like in 2035 if Putin gets his wish," referring to a map of Europe allegedly created by "Russian experts."

There is just one tiny little problem: the whole thing is a fabrication. Moreover, it's an old one: the story of it broke in Serbia in January 2013 (here is the state television, taking it at face value), and the map itself appeared in the summer of 2012 in the Russian tabloid "Express Gazeta." But that is not where it originated.

Far from being an actual analysis of the GRU or the KGB or some top-level Moscow institute or even Putin himself (because "everybody knows" Vladimir Vladimirovich is a superhuman mastermind who personally does everything in a country of some 150 million, right?), the map was produced by a Ukrainian web magazine "Obozrevatel", with the author identified as "Pavlo Nikonenko."

Serbian freelance journalist Nikola Zivkovic, who lives in Berlin and knows both German and Russian, did some digging (link in Serbian) when the map story broke in Serbia, and found that Nikonenko (if that is his real name) and his website have a track record decidedly anti-Russian and pro-NATO. Moreover, while Nikonenko claims his map is based on GRU and Russian research, he doesn't cite any actual references, or proof to back it up.

Nikonenko's map 
Furthermore, if this were a Russian map - which it is not - why would it envision an expansion of Croatia, or Greater Albania, or parts of Bulgaria joining Turkey, Hungary expanding into Romania, or Germany re-taking East Prussia and Silesia from Poland? None of that makes any sense whatsoever. The borders drawn are crude, and the whole thing looks like it was photoshopped using the Romanian online game "eRepublik" as the template (see here for sample image).

It ought to be intuitively obvious to a casual observer that this map is a hoax, and a crude one at that. But it fits the narrative of the Empire's demonization of Russia, so Foreign Policy takes it at face value. I wouldn't be surprised if Jennifer Psaki features it at a State Department briefing any day now.

What that says about the intelligence and integrity of Imperial journalists, or policymakers, I'll let you figure out yourselves.

No comments: