Had we listened to far-right conspiracy voices, the end of the world was taking place in Russia. The only thing is, that it was not.
Over the past two weeks we were hounded daily for tidbits from many such outlets for photos, videos, and any juicy bit of gossip about the supposed palace coup that had taken place over the past almost two weeks. We were told that mysterious trucks were rolling into Moscow into the dead of night, and that an unusual number of military helicopters were circling over Moscow.
When we reminded one California-based Internet sensation that thousands of trucks roll into places like Los Angeles and New York in the wee hours, the respondent screamed that we were out of touch. Perhaps that purported Internet conspiracy “expert” should have taken a closer look in the mirror.
There were trucks to be sure. Moscow is Europe’s second largest city, and like most mega cities, there are some restrictions on large truck traffic in daytime hours. There was also a large circus leaving town, and goodness, circus equipment is hauled by (gasp!) trucks.
The conspiracy forces quickly produced Twitter photos of large trucks parked near Red Square. Setting aside the all-too-logical question of why a palace coup would need the presence of large over-the-road trucks, we calmly reminded those inquirers that Red Square is being prepared for the first year anniversary celebration of the annexation of Crimea. Such preparations need equipment that is typically hauled on–you guessed it–large trucks.
Along with the helicopter tales, there was hysteria over the alleged presence of massive riot police formations all over Moscow. There they were, on YouTube! But, while they were on YouTube, where were they in Moscow? We watched some of the YouTube videos, and noticed that those riot police were outfitted in winter gear. While true that Moscow is not in the Caribbean, “Spring has sprung” as the expression goes, and temperatures of late have ranged from the high 40s to low 50s (Fahrenheit for American readers).
To be sure, the Kremlin brought some of this upon themselves. Where else, but in a dictatorship, would the absence of a leader generate such angst among citizens, and delirium by outsiders? In the USA, there would be street celebrations if Barrack Obama went missing. The American security services would scour every known golf course in the developed world. Heck, they might even search the fairways of third world backwaters like Hawaii in their quest. But, were most Western leaders truly missing for good, such would be cause to break open a six-pack and throw a rack of ribs on the grill.
Voices of those who know more than us ordinary mortals, warned that the USA was responsible. They had read the tea leaves of doom, and analyzed Russian media sources for clues to back up their wild claims. Mind you, most of these experts have never even traveled to Russia, let alone speak or read Russian. Ignorance, in the world of conspiracy kooks, is the resume of an expert. Nevertheless, World War III was upon us.
The Kremlin press office did not help their own case when distributing dated photos and video images of meetings that took place in earlier years. Reporters who had been on the beat in Russia quickly spotted those for what they were.
For some reason, the Kremlin propaganda creators must believe that the Russian mindset cannot handle truth. Those in power seem so prone to “spin,” that even something so simple as back pain, or flu, or the birth of a bastard love child, apparently needs to be spun to the public. That is just as unhealthy as the insane blather of the conspiracy theorists.
Newsflash to the Kremlin spinmeisters: you did not help yourselves, and while that is the deeply rooted nature of your boss, sometimes you must resist his urges. He is not infallible, even when it comes to PR.
Newsflash to the conspiracy theorists: Putin has been resurrected. Wherever he was, and whatever he was doing, he is not dead. Nor does it seem that he has been shackled by those in the Kremlin shadows. He appeared, as expected, for his scheduled meeting with the President of Kyrgyzstan in Saint Petersburg.
As for his own explanation, Mr. Putin had only this to say: “It would be boring without gossip.”