By Dmitry Orlov
Highly Unlikely Conspiracies
A year and a half ago the British PM
Theresa May stunned the world by
introducing into international relations
a new, rather casual standard of
proof—“highly likely”—in regard to the
very strange case of the Sergei Skripal
poisoning. It is part of a technique
that is applied as follows. Make an
unsubstantiated accusation of some party
being “highly likely” to have committed
a certain crime. Demand that the accused
party confess to the crime, disclose all
relevant information and agree to pay
reparation. If this demand is not met,
It is “highly likely,” the British government claimed, that a couple of Russian tourists secretly employed by a nonexistent Russian government agency called “GRU” smeared some poison gas on the doorknob of the front door of the house occupied by Sergei Skripal, a former Russian officer who had been caught spying, did time in Russia and was released in a spy swap deal. This heinous act of smearing poison gas on the doorknob occurred after Skripal had left his house, never to return. So badly was the doorknob contaminated with poison gas that the entire roof of the building had to be replaced.
The name of the poison gas in question, called “Novichok,” was borrowed from a British television series. “Novichok” (which is Russian for “newbie”) was imputed to had been designed by the Russians (the Soviets, actually) who had once made it in a factory outside of Russia that was subsequently destroyed by the United States. Russia (as opposed to the USSR) never had a chemical weapons program (or so said international inspectors) but the British still do, and have kept samples of “Novichok” at a facility just down the road from where these events took place. They used their samples in order to identify the gas that was smeared on the doorknob, declaring it to be very pure.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in great distress on a park bench and were rushed to a hospital with the help of the UK’s chief army nurse who just happened to have been strolling by just then. Although “Novichok” was designed to kill thousands of soldiers on a battlefield, it failed to kill Skripal or his daughter, whom the British have been keeping prisoner at a secret location ever since that event. Yulia appeared in a single staged interview where she read out a Russian translation of an obviously English script that had been handed to her and bore signs of a tracheotomy (which is pretty damned useless on somebody who has been paralyzed by a nerve agent).
This takes care of means and opportunity, but what about the motive? Well, clearly, Putin ordered this retired former spy to be murdered by a couple of bumbling tourists on a hookers and weed tour of London who took a side trip to look at a cathedral using an exotic poison gas in order to make sure that the FIFA World Cup championship, which Russia was hosting and which was just about to start, would go off without any international embarrassment. It is rather untraditional to assassinate spies exchanged in a spy swap because it undermines future spy swaps, but Putin, being a former spymaster himself, probably wouldn’t have known that and nobody at the mythical “GRU” knew either.
In any case, it is “highly likely” that this is exactly how and why all of this happened, and if you don’t believe that then you are a conspiracy theorist and your conspiracy theories need to be subjected to a thorough, lavishly funded debunking campaign. Elements of this campaign include accusing you of lack of patriotism and of aiding and abetting the enemy, paying “experts” to browbeat you with their superior acumen and knowledge (including secret knowledge to which you are not privy because of national security concerns) and feeding you false information as bait in order to discredit you once you take the bait and try to run with it.
The highly likely outcome is that you will end up making yourself look ridiculous. You are highly likely to come to be seen as a deranged person who quests for some exotic truth but doesn’t realize the far more basic truth of what’s good for you: keeping your head down, your mouth shut, and just going with the flow. After all, what’s more important, telling the truth or getting rich? “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” is a frequent rejoinder. And, as everyone knows, getting rich usually involves telling a lie or two or three and looking the other way when others do the same. If you refuse to play ball, your career and life prospects dim appreciably. It may be honorable and noble to quest after the truth but, chances are, your wife and children won’t thank your for it—just ask Julian Assange.
Nevertheless, most people who have a functioning neuron or two between the ears find it rather humiliating, demeaning and generally unsatisfying to settle for a load of bullshit like the preposterous Skripal saga outlined above. To avoid such negative emotions, we need a mechanism for defeating the process by which we are force-fed lies that doesn’t involve any sort of quixotic, self-defeating quest for the ultimate truth.
Are You Tired Of The Lies And Non-Stop Propaganda?