Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Cold who came in from the Spies

Joshua Cold, that is.

Via whatdoesitmean.

Most sentient people rationally accept that the U.S. media routinely disseminates misleading stories and outright falsehoods in the most authoritative tones. But it’s nonetheless valuable to examine particularly egregious case studies to see how that works. In that spirit, let’s take yesterday’s numerous, breathless reports trumpeting the “BREAKING” news that “Edward Snowden now wants to come home!” and is “now negotiating the terms of his return!”....
Greenwald's story is over 2,330 words long. That would be nearly eight typewritten pages. It is entirely about how these allegations, if you want to call them that, because they sound harmless enough, are not false, but not breaking news either, since Eduardo has been saying he wants to come home and working with lawyers ever since he arrived in Hong Kong. That is an "egregious case" of "typical media deceit" (neat trick being egregious and typical at the same time, too), and it takes more words for Greenwald to expose it than Hemingway needed for "Up in Michigan". I would guess that most sentient people have not even asked themselves how authoritative are the tones with which the US media routinely disseminate their stories and falsehoods, let alone accepted the fact, rationally or otherwise. Worldwide, most sentient people don't follow the US media at all.

But the story (at least as I saw it, very calmly and concisely reported by Alexandra Odynova in the New York Times) is not really all that breathless, misleading, or outright. (You get a little more breathlessness from the Daily News, but not all that much, considering.) Though they missed the part I would have liked to read, which you can get some idea from poking around (thanks, Google Translate!) in the Russian press.

It seems (per Moskovsky Komsomol'ets) that Edward Snowden's Russian lawyer, Anatoly G. Kucherena, has published the book he was writing, and to which Oliver Stone has acquired the film rights, a "psychological thriller" entitled Time of the Octopus (Vremya Spruta), about an American informator called "Joshua Cold" (whence my headline) who spends three weeks in confinement in the international transit area of Sheremet'evo Airport, waiting for the Russian authorities to decide whether or not to give him political asylum. It's the first volume of a trilogy. MK's headline—"Kucherena reveals Snowden's secrets in the book"—might be just a tad breathless or misleading in its own right, but if this means Snowden is regarded in Russia as an informator, that's definitely kind of interesting news to me (Kucherena's Russian Wikipedia bio refers to Eduardo as an ex-CIA agent/бывший сотрудник ЦРУ Эдвард Сноуден, which I believe is a little less than half-true according to the record and not at all true according to my own paranoid theory that he's still working for them; and it doesn't mention NSA).

The narrator of Time of the Octopus, in an excerpt presented in Argumenty i Fakty, as translated by Dr. Google and me:
He was generally incredibly lucky—from the very beginning of his law career his "principals" (because this is how he referred to his clients) were invariably the heroes of some incredible adventures: a successful media mogul, who was arrested while trying to take, from under the Xerox machine, a box containing about a million dollars from the government residence; a former Minister of Justice, whose photographs taken inside the sauna in the company of naked girls once filled all the Russian tabloids; the wife of the opposition general—a deputy in the Russian parliament, who was very conveniently, according to investigators, shot with her husband's pistol just on the eve of a carefully prepared military coup—such scenes would be enough for a dozen "thrillers".
According to, Kucharena told a press conference that "some of the facts in it are true." Komsomol'skaya Pravda reports that Kucharena was impelled to write it because he felt "literally impregnated with [Snowden's] emotional state". He has not discussed with Snowden the possibility of an honorarium (гонорар) or share in royalties, but will make a contribution from whatever money he makes to the charitable foundation he has established to support Snowden in his Russian life. It strikes me as more than likely that Oliver Stone will not be making a lot of use of The Time of the Octopus, which frankly sounds pretty dire as literature, and base his film almost entirely on the nonfiction treatment by Luke Harding—perhaps he bought Kucharena's book as a delicate way of making his own contribution to the Snowden funds, which I don't mean to suggest is a bad thing. (Then again, a Gazeta headline of January 29 2014 reads, "Head of US intelligence service to leave post after Snowden 'revelations'", but the story is about the head of the British GCHQ. Most sentient people rationally accept.)

But I'm not finding any reason why Greenwald should be getting so upset. He seems right in saying that the lede in the US press—that Eduardo has engaged in some legal discussions of the possibility of coming home—is not much of a lede. Kucherena thought so too, according to RT, for slightly more interesting reasons, that he was nevertheless able to convey in a couple of sentences:
On Tuesday Snowden’s Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told a news conference that his client has started working with a team of US and German lawyers trying to arrange a way for Snowden to return to the United States. Many in the media took this to mean that Snowden’s homecoming was imminent. Kucherena clarified his statements on Wednesday.

“Some reporters must have misinterpreted what I said during my press conference and jumped to the wrong conclusion that my client was about to go home already,” Kucherena told the Los Angeles Times. “This is not happening until the US government stops politicizing Edward's case and offers him a fair and unbiased trial.”
Something that occurs in almost none of the Russian papers (including RT's Russian edition) is the mention of those lawyers—especially the German ones. Greenwald doesn't mention them either. (PolitRussia did, quoting Kucherena verbatim: "It's a group of American lawyers, Germans, and people from the Russian side that I'm working with/Есть группа американских адвокатов, немецких и с российской стороны я занимаюсь" but it's really rare.) Is that it? Is Eduardo really thinking about moving to Berlin?

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, late 1950s, via PolitRussia.

PolitRussia reported yesterday that Snowden actually wants to move to Switzerland (the CIA stationed him in Geneva at one point and he has fond memories of the place). I'm sorry, but they really did. I've noticed how every time I try to write about Eduardo and/or Greenwald and/or the NSA I'm unable to keep a straight face, but it's not my fault. The gods who are working up this chain of events are being silly. Once I came up with the "Cold who came in from the..." there was no turning back, no matter how stupid it got.

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