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Russian Government Airs "Documentary" Promoting 9/11 Denialism:

Cathy Young has an interesting post describing a recent "documentary" aired on Russian state television promoting claims that the US government itself orchestrated the 9/11 attack against the World Trade Center. Obviously, under Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule, state television would not air such a program if it didn't suit the government's purposes for them to do so. That the Russian government now seeks to promote such extreme anti-Americanism among its people is disturbing to say the least.

At the same time, a measure of perspective is in order. A recent World Public Opinion survey shows that 57% of Russians know that Al Qaeda perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, while 15% believe that it was the US government and 2% cite Israel (a lower figure than I would have expected in light of Russia's history of anti-Semitism). These numbers are similar to results from Western European nations such as France (63% blaming Al Qaeda, 8% the US), Germany (64% and 23%), Italy (56% and 15%), and Britain (57% and 5%). Thus, 9/11 denialism is not (yet) significantly more common in Russia than in Western Europe. For my earlier analysis of this survey and its implications, see here.

If I had to guess, I would say that the Russian government's decision to air the denialist film has more to do with shoring up public support for the regime by directing public ire at an external enemy than with an active desire to provoke a confrontation with the US. With oil prices falling, the Russian economy is likely to suffer and the regime's grip on power become less firm. Putin and his henchmen may believe they need to ramp up their propaganda efforts by appealing to Russian nationalism even more than before. It is notable that, in a segment appearing right after the film, at the end of the movie, state network commentators claimed Russia was the world's only hope to resist America's "predatory" power, a message calculated to warm the hearts of Russian nationalists.

Unfortunately, history shows that such cynical stoking of the fires of extreme nationalism and anti-Americanism can easily get out of control. Most likely, Putin's objective in spreading this disinformation is merely to strengthen domestic support for his regime. But some of the millions of viewers will actually believe the claptrap on the show and possibly act on it when and if extreme nationalists get their hands on power in the future.

Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
And to think Bush looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul.
9.30.2008 7:34pm
Nunzio:
I don't see how this helps Putin or Russian nationalism. If the U.S. did this to its own citizens, what would deter the U.S. from doing this to Russia? The threat of nuclear war?
9.30.2008 7:39pm
Ilya Somin:
I don't see how this helps Putin or Russian nationalism. If the U.S. did this to its own citizens, what would deter the U.S. from doing this to Russia? The threat of nuclear war?

It helps Putin and the nationalists because it directs public anger at an external enemy that only the regime can protect Russia against and that only a "strong" and united Russia can stand up to.
9.30.2008 7:41pm
Sarcastro (www):
[denialism? I'm pretty sure 9-11 occurred, and wasn't just filmed on a sound stage on mars like the moon landing was.]
9.30.2008 7:45pm
Nate in Alice:
Ily, subject to Murphy's law:


"Russia's history anti-semitism"


Probably a little karmic payback for referring to this as a "documntary".
9.30.2008 7:59pm
Steve:
I remember studying the Soviet Union in school, and thinking how terrible it was that Russian kids my age would be forced to swallow propaganda from the government, and wouldn't even know they were being lied to about stuff. Thank goodness we won the Cold War so it doesn't have to be like that any more.
9.30.2008 7:59pm
Nunzio:
But Ilya, it makes the U.S. look insane and evil. When I was a kid, I went through a period of anxiety that the Soviets were going to bomb us or attack us at any time after watching that ABC made-for-TV movie, "The Day After."

I was relieved to learn about Mutually Assured Destruction and that the Soviet leaders were practical.

How do these folks think Putin or Russia would protect them from a US that would kill thousands of its own citizens? A country that would do this wouldn't invade Russia by land in the winter. It would do something far worse.
9.30.2008 8:02pm
wolfefan (mail):
Hey Nate -

It looks like "Muphry's Law" got you too...
9.30.2008 8:17pm
Dave N (mail):
And to think Bush looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul.
And McCain looked into his eyes and saw the letters "K, G, and B."
9.30.2008 8:54pm
Toby:
Plays into moral equivalence in Georgia...
9.30.2008 9:01pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
Who cares what Russia thinks? We've already got Somin and the Volokhs.
9.30.2008 9:13pm
Katl L (mail):
More people right on Al qaeda than in the Uk. Yes, more of then vbelive in an insider work but still
9.30.2008 9:31pm
Nunzio:
Maybe the Russian government could finally let us know who killed JFK as well.
9.30.2008 9:41pm
Joshua:
It is worth noting that Russia is undergoing a demographic collapse similar to that of Western Europe. Perhaps a secondary aim of this propaganda bit is to dissuade any more of Russia's youth for emigrating westward.
9.30.2008 9:43pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
If I had to guess, I would say that the Russian government's decision to air the denialist "documentary" has more to do with shoring up public support for the regime by directing public ire at an external enemy...

9/11 hit the U.S. and didn't touch Russia, so blaming it on the U.S. government is not going to make Russians angry at the U.S. or regard them as an enemy.

What it does do is attack the credibility of the U.S. as a moral adversary of Russia.

Bear in mind that the Russian opposition has been assisted by by U.S.-based NGOs, major U.S. media regularly criticize or expose the Putin regime, and that most Russians do not understand there is anything in the U.S. that is not state-controlled.

If the U.S. government is evil and murders its own citizens, that reputation smears off on the Wall Street Journal (which has published op-eds by chess champion turned political activist Gary Kasparov, or the Heritage Foundation, which has a Moscow office.

This may seem a rather indirect approach, but the KGB used such maneuvers regularly, and Putin is an veteran Chekist.
9.30.2008 9:52pm
Cornellian (mail):
"Denialism"?
9.30.2008 10:13pm
elim:
isn't it also suffering economically, with the price of oil going down and foreign capital fleeing due to Putin's conduct?
9.30.2008 11:26pm
neurodoc:
[denialism? I'm pretty sure 9-11 occurred, and wasn't just filmed on a sound stage on mars like the moon landing was.]
I thought that Sarcastro used brackets to signal he wasn't being sarcastic, that he really meant what he was saying and wished to be taken seriously. Now, I have no idea what he intends when expressing himself either with or without brackets, so think it easiest and best never to pay him any attention.
10.1.2008 12:41am
Bill McGonigle (www):
Are there any interesting points in the piece or is it all '9/11-truther' retreads?

If somebody were to have interesting information, it wouldn't be surprising for that to be the KGB Russian Intelligence.
10.1.2008 1:12am
Uthaw:
Since the Russian secret services blew up apartment buildings in Russia in order to provide a pretext for the second Chechen war, it is only natural that they would believe the US government orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
10.1.2008 6:31am
sputnik (mail):
Russian history of anti-semitism is not something which distinguish them from Germany's Poland's France's et al similar history.
But your prejudice against Russia( no doubt the parents influence) is noticeable....and not only in that post...

btw, Jews always played the great role in the history of post revolution Russia and USSR( much more percentage-wise to their actual population numbers).
10.1.2008 8:50am
ejo:
perhaps we could put in a call to james wolcott over at vanity fair-he wrote how putin's actions are simply resistance to american hegemony. putin is actually the good guy, don't you know.
10.1.2008 10:48am
Economics are not my strong point:
neurodoc, his brackets mean that he was asking a legit question. That question is that choice of the word "denialism". Nobody denies that the event of 9-11 occurred. They deny the government/sane society's account of what happened. Holocaust deniers argue that the event never even occurred.
10.1.2008 12:37pm
TomH (mail):
'Denialism' is a philosphy in Egypt - F. Nietzche
10.1.2008 1:39pm
EIDE_Interface (mail):
Did you hear the one where McCain said he looked into Putin's eyes and saw "K, G and B"? Did you hear that one yet?

*rolls eyes*

BTW, did you know John Kerry went to Vietnam?
10.1.2008 1:43pm
Smokey:
Will someone please explain to Putin that it is impossible to keep a secret of this magnitude? If the U.S. orchestrated planeloads of civilians along with willing suicidal passengers to fly into the WTC and the Pentagon, the secret would have been out in about three microseconds...

...oh, wait. I'm trying to make sense to the folks who believe that the U.S. government was behind 9-11.

Carry on.
10.2.2008 12:50pm
Mark F. (mail):
But Ilya, it makes the U.S. look insane and evil.

The U.S. government is evil. Bush didn't plan 9/11, but he exploited it to restrict civil liberties, torture people, expand his power and get involved in the Iraq War crime. The truth is bad enough without wacky conspiracy theories.
10.2.2008 4:35pm