12 April 2018
Denial, Accusation, Distraction.
By Neil Tidmarsh
Do you remember the Bad Kid at school? No, not the hero Bad Kid, who made you laugh and cheer because he had the courage to do all the things you wanted to do but were too scared or too sensible to try, and who was brave enough to stick two fingers up to Authority, and who said – if he was caught – “Yes, I did it. So what? What are you going to do about it? Cane me? Give me lines? Put me in detention? Go ahead. Doesn’t bother me.”
No, I mean the sneaky, mean, vindictive Bad Kid, the one who got up everybody’s noses because he nicked things from their bags or lockers behind their backs, and cheated in exams, and copied their work, and broke other peoples’ stuff just for fun or spite, and bullied the little kids, and picked on the odd-balls, and ganged up with the other mean kids. Yes, that one. All that was bad enough, of course, but do you remember the really annoying thing about him? It was the way he reacted when he was accused and confronted: “It wasn’t me! It was you! I’m not the Bad Kid, you are! It was you, and him, and her! And never mind that, what about last week when so-and-so did such-and-such? What about that, eh? It’s not fair! You’re just trying to get me into trouble! It’s always me, isn’t it! No one listens to me!”
Deny, counter-accuse, distract. He was a master of it, wasn’t he? It made your head spin. It confused you, it sowed doubts in your own mind. He was so convincing, he seemed to believe his own lies, you began to wonder if they weren’t lies after all… but then again you couldn’t have been mistaken… or could you? A smokescreen of confusion and doubt. It was infuriating, but so expertly done that you could almost admire him for it.
It was his best weapon, wasn’t it? That simple policy of DAD. Deny, Accuse, Distract. Denial + Accusation + Distraction = Confusion + Doubt.
And there were some absolutely brilliant examples of DAD in the headlines this week.
With all the world pointing the finger at Russia about the Novichok attack on the Skripals in Salisbury, what does the Kremlin say? Not me, gov. Not us. No way.
With all the world pointing the finger at Russia’s client Assad for the barbaric chemical weapons attack on Douma which killed at least forty people, Russia’s ambassador to the UN denied that there had been any such attack, calling it “fake news”; the Russian military said that its officers on the ground had found no sign of a chemical attack and its doctors in the hospitals had found no victims of chemical poisoning; the Syrian regime denied that an attack had taken place; Iran said that it was just a “conspiracy” against its ally Assad.
Russia’s ambassador to the UN said that the chemical attack was in fact the work of Syrian rebels trained by the USA. Yes, that’s the same ambassador who said that there had been no attack. Instant confusion. Brilliant. He was backed up by the Russian foreign ministry (again, contradicting the Russian military – see above – more confusion) which said that it had recently issued at least three warnings that rebels were planning a chemical attack which they would blame on Assad, to give the West an excuse for attacking his forces. “It wasn’t us! It was him, and her, and you!”
The Russian foreign minister is himself a master of the counter-accusation, of the ‘get your aggro in first’, of the “I’m not the Bad Kid, you are!”. Last month, the world sent a record number of Russian diplomats/spies back to Moscow in protest against the assassination attempt on the Skripols; it seems that many countries (having recently had their security and stability threatened by Russian cyber-attacks and by Russian penetration of social media with fake news and propaganda) are now willing to believe that Russia has cast away all decency and is resorting to open lies and blatant misinformation. And the Russian foreign minister’s reaction? To say that the Western countries, not Russia, “have cast away all decency, they are resorting to open lies, blatant misinformation”; to claim that it is the West, not Russia, which has abandoned the rules, the decency, which were observed even at the height of the Cold War.
Last night Russia blocked a UN security council resolution demanding a full investigation into the Douma attack. Only one country – Bolivia – supported Russia’s veto; even China abstained. And that Russian ambassador’s reaction to the resolution? With other countries accusing his country’s ally of carrying out an illegal military venture, and urging it to come to its senses, and warning it that it will be responsible for the consequences, he responded with the blatant counter-Accusation to those same countries; “If you decide to carry out an illegal military venture, and we hope you’ll come to your senses, you’ll have to bear responsibility for it yourselves.”
After Russia blocked that UN security council resolution, the Russian ambassador claimed its authors “never wanted the resolution to pass.” What? What? Then why on earth did they propose it in the first place? “They will use it (i.e. the veto) to justify the use of force against Syria” the ambassador explained. What? Ah! Right! Cunning! But hang on – who’s being cunning? Them, or you? Distraction, doubt, confusion. Brilliant.
And of course the attempts at Distraction following the Skripol attack are almost too tedious to list: what happened to the Skripol’s pets? Has Yulia left hospital for a safe house – or has she been abducted? And anyway, what about the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 – the British are withholding information about that – and what about the political asylum the UK gave to Boris Berezovsky who died mysteriously in 2013 – the British are withholding information about that, too – perhaps Litvinenko was killed by Berezovsky? etc etc.
In his annual State Of The Nation address last month, President Putin complained “Nobody listened to us. Listen now!” Well, the world has always listened to Russia – that isn’t the problem. The problem is that the world is confused by what it hears and doesn’t know exactly what to believe. Of course, that may be precisely what Russia intends – a smokescreen of confusion and doubt. Its tactic of maskirovka (the art of confusing, misleading and deceiving the enemy – see Maskirovka, Shaw Sheet, 18 February 2016), so thoroughly developed by its military, appears to have been adopted by its politicians and diplomats.
But does Russia appreciate that maskirovka is a double-edged sword? After all, the mean Bad Kid had to shout louder and louder to make himself heard, until in the end no-one believed him at all, no-one even listened to him.
“It wasn’t me! It was you! I’m not the Bad Kid, you are! It was you, and him, and her! And never mind that, what about last week when so-and-so did such and such? What about that, eh? It’s not fair! You’re just trying to get me into trouble!”