Adam Curtis on Vladislav Surkov: Perception Politics and Dark Gnosis

Adam Curtis

Charlie and I discussing the Russian Vladislav Surkov who is behind the constrution of misperception politics of Putin. Also a link to small youtube vid by Curtis on Surkov. I’ve always felt that much of the crackpot narratives of conspiracy theory are the shadow mirror of our fears and trepidations not seen through the eyes of the liberal academic elite, but rather the world of reactionary thought-forms that permeate the illeterate and destitute who we’ve castigated and maligned. One need only study this whole strange almost science fictional world of thought to understand how deeply entrenched we are in a Counter World of the Christian, Muslim, and Hebraic monotheisms which seem like shadow vipers to continue controlling major chunks of the populace.

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What Surkov represents is the ability to create the illusion of change – (Mis)Perception Politics, to stage conflict, to create oppositions that seem to undermine the politics and social structure, but are in themselves tools in the hand of power without even knowing it. The notion that Surkov has funded both extreme Left and Right Wing movements in Russia as subterfuge, to keep people guessing, to undermine peoples sense of reality. To allow Putin to seem the saviour figure to balance both sides of the opposition.

In his Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia Peter Pomerantsev describes Surkov us:

Though we are expecting Vladislav Surkov, the man known as the “Kremlin demiurge,” who has “privatized the Russian political system,” to enter from the front of the university auditorium, he surprises us all by striding in from the back. He’s got his famous Cheshire Cat smile on. He’s wearing a white shirt and a leather jacket that is part Joy Division and part 1930s commissar. He walks straight to the stage in front of an audience of PhD students, professors, journalists, and politicians.

 “I am the author, or one of the authors, of the new Russian system,” he tells us by way of introduction. “My portfolio at the Kremlin and in government has included ideology, media, political parties, religion, modernization, innovation, foreign relations, and . . . ” here he pauses and smiles, “modern art.” He offers to not make a speech, instead welcoming the audience to pose questions and have an open discussion. After the first question he talks for almost forty-five minutes, leaving hardly any time for questions after all. It’s his political system in miniature: democratic rhetoric and undemocratic intent.

As former deputy head of the presidential administration, later deputy prime minister and then assistant to the President on foreign affairs, Surkov has directed Russian society like one great reality show. He claps once and a new political party appears. He claps again and creates Nashi, the Russian equivalent of the Hitler Youth, who are trained for street battles with potential prodemocracy supporters and burn books by unpatriotic writers on Red Square. As deputy head of the administration he would meet once a week with the heads of the television channels in his Kremlin office, instructing them on whom to attack and whom to defend, who is allowed on TV and who is banned, how the President is to be presented, and the very language and categories the country thinks and feels in. The Ostankino TV presenters, instructed by Surkov, pluck a theme (oligarchs, America, the Middle East) and speak for twenty minutes, hinting, nudging, winking, insinuating though rarely ever saying anything directly, repeating words like “them” and “the enemy” endlessly until they are imprinted on the mind. They repeat the great mantras of the era: the President is the President of “stability,” the antithesis to the era of “confusion and twilight” in the 1990s. “Stability”—the word is repeated again and again in a myriad seemingly irrelevant contexts until it echoes and tolls like a great bell and seems to mean everything good; anyone who opposes the President is an enemy of the great God of “stability.” “Effective manager,” a term quarried from Western corporate speak, is transmuted into a term to venerate the President as the most “effective manager” of all. “Effective” becomes the raison d’être for everything: Stalin was an “effective manager” who had to make sacrifices for the sake of being “effective.” The words trickle into the streets: “Our relationship is not effective” lovers tell each other when they break up. “Effective,” “stability”: no one can quite define what they actually mean, and as the city transforms and surges, everyone senses things are the very opposite of stable, and certainly nothing is “effective,” but the way Surkov and his puppets use them the words have taken on a life of their own and act like falling axes over anyone who is in any way disloyal.1

 Reading the mantra of “Stability” I was reminded of the new vision for America at Trumpland U.S.A.: “We’re going to make America Great Again!” Then I ask: But, for who?

Years ago, all the so called Color Revolutions in the Balkans were done the same way from powers behind the scenes in America: funding both Left and Right wing oppositional parties who sought to bring down the old rearguard Communists regiemes, etc. We know that George Soros and even the Koch Brothers helped fiance many of these Color Revolutions, etc. Our on Left and Right Establishment working together behind the scenes to topple regimes for profit, and Mitchell’s The Color Revolutions.

As Lincoln A. Mitchell explains in The Color Revolutions, it has since become clear that these protests were as much reflections of continuity as they were moments of radical change. Not only did these movements do little to spur democratic change in other post-Soviet states, but their impact on Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan themselves was quite different from what was initially expected. In fact, Mitchell suggests, the Color Revolutions are best understood as phases in each nation’s long post-Communist transition: significant events, to be sure, but far short of true revolutions.

The Color Revolutions explores the causes and consequences of all three Color Revolutions—the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan—identifying both common themes and national variations. Mitchell’s analysis also addresses the role of American democracy promotion programs, the responses of nondemocratic regimes to the Color Revolutions, the impact of these events on U.S.-Russian relations, and the failed “revolutions” in Azerbaijan and Belarus in 2005 and 2006.

Sreeram Chaulia’s article Democratisation, NGOs and “colour revolutions”  is worth reading.

Adam Curtis on Surkov:


  1. Peter Pomerantsev. Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (Kindle Locations 981-985). Perseus Books, LLC. Kindle Edition.

A Stick Figure World: Politics as Rotten Cartoons

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Politicians are stick figures in a rotten cartoon factory, one that produces the State as pure anti-hero. But where are our super-heroes? And, one must add: Where is the door out of this cracker-jack box?

More and more the irony of this year’s election is bringing out the truth that we live in a post-democratic society here in the good old U.S.A.. At home and abroad America is taking a dive, demoralized we’ve become the stock and trade joke of the early 21st Century. A government that would rather bail out the Plutocrats than its own citizens no longer deserves anything but derision and satire. Yet, this isn’t the end of it, citizens will need to do more than laugh in the months and years ahead.

Satire has a rich and varied history. Juvenal, the Roman satirist, lived under the dreaded Domitian and wrote of his life as an administrator (bureaucrat). He wrote of the corruption of society in the city of Rome and the follies and brutalities of mankind. In the first Satire, Juvenal declares that vice, crime, and the misuse of wealth have reached such a peak that it is impossible not to write satire, but that, since it is dangerous to attack powerful men in their lifetime, he will take his examples from the dead. He does not maintain this principle, for sometimes he mentions living contemporaries; but it provides a useful insurance policy against retaliation, and it implies that Rome has been evil for many generations.

Of his satires it is Satire 7 that depicts the poverty and wretchedness of the Roman intellectuals who cannot find decent rewards for their labours. In the eighth, Juvenal attacks the cult of hereditary nobility. One of his grandest poems is the 10th, which examines the ambitions of mankind—wealth, power, glory, long life, and personal beauty—and shows that they all lead to disappointment or danger: what mankind should pray for is “a sound mind in a sound body, and a brave heart.”

Today Juvenal would probably be labeled a moralist and reactionary in some ways, yet he was able to give us a pattern and set of tropes that guide much of our critical arsenal today. Satire was to expose the darkness hiding in plain site, the underbelly of our political and social worlds, and those minions of power and fame that hollow out the core of a nation’s life. We live in an age that is beyond satire, a time when the very meaning of satire no longer goes far enough to shape the truth. For our age has no truth, ours is nihilism defined; a time when men and women play at playing on the stage of media worlds that have become nothing more than the One-Dimensional sounding boards of their vein narcissism. The cardboard characters that strut the stage of our late spectacle no longer define life, but instead define the cultural death squads of a future without hope. Our despair is not that we want find the Good, but that the Good has already become our Evil. Ours is the age of Cartoons, a time when the scripts that politicians follow are mere facades for the idiocy of a post-mediatocracy that presents the spectacle as the only show in town.

The destiny of such a Mediatocracy living in the gap between satire and farce is that it has suborned the real into a cartoon village world where pundits and citizens alike gaze on in stupefaction as the leaders play out an end game that has no future, only a present full of derision and vanity. No longer the days when we could hope for real change, reality has exited the stage and left us with this charade of wonderland. The apocalypse will not come by way of strange days, but rather with the whimper of a citizenry who allowed cartoon gods to rule over them.

Warren Ellis on the Silence of the Net

Spider Jerusalem by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan – Warren Ellis (author) and Darick Robertson (artist)

from Warren Ellis’s Moring, Computer:

It’s quiet.  My internet generation has a ton of (aching, bruised) muscle memory for communicating and reading in several windows and apps across a couple of devices simultaneously.  The new silence has my muscles twitching, yelling that we’re being lazy, but it’s just because nothing’s happening and nobody is talking.  I read a thing the other day saying that the drop-off in new Twitter users is down to the fact that it’s now so loud that it’s lonely.


I still have the Twitter blip on my sidebar with its little blue-bird sitting there in mid-flight like a speed bump on the undermind of the net. What once seemed a desperate  line of flight into a mad world of interesting topics, daily blips in a networld full of activism and sparks, has given way to the new colonization by the alien machines of corporate ad-verts, and the mindless frogs of the new PC capture systems of soft fascism… a place where the new trolls are the language police who seek out and destroy all speech patterns beyond the confines of the control networks “dictionary of political correctness”. Now begins the downslide of unfreedom and the silencing of fun and satire… and, forget the comic patter – we’ve gone serious in our electronic caves, lost our resilience (another overused simulator).

The living have closed the doors in silence, while the autobots of the new electronic tyranny have martialed a selfie extravaganza and blip culture of stupidity to replace the once hoped for intelligence of the net. The net criers who form coalitions against Twitter thievery of jokes or quotes. Weird science news with scattered tales of biotrans makeovers meant as dehumanist fragments of a minor episode to be caught on YouTube. Fractured displays of former hauntologies – remembering the mindscapes of a tributary childhood where thoughcontrol was just another horror book rather than the latest DARPA initiative. No we’re overloaded with gadgets and lightblip ads that speak of memory enhancement therapies and designer drugs to wile away the mindless days of our lost lives among the wires.

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