There’s a good deal of discussion, both in mainstream and in alt media, of how/why the Arkady Babchenko event unfolded in the ludicrous way it has.
The Ukrainian government narrative is (currently) claiming the SBU faked AB’s death in order to entrap some real (Russian) assassins who really wanted him dead, and it was all part of a cunning plan.
They’re light on detail about exactly how taking pics of Bab pretending to be dead helped with the general effort, but maybe they’ll fill in all those blanks soon.
Others, including RFE, are telling us the very bad fake death pic was released on a Facebook page with ties to Washington.
But beyond the Byzantine imbroglio, I think there’s another question no one is asking. –
What if Arkady hadn’t turned up, looking sheepish at that presser?
What if he hadn’t turned up ever? What if he’d decided he couldn’t face the humiliation, or what if his SBU handlers decided it might be better if he just continued to be dead and skipped off the map somewhere with a few hundred grand and nice new ID.
We need to never forget that while Arkady was busy hiding in his closet (or whatever he did for the hours he was supposed to be dead), his demise was the reality for all of us. Sold to us, not just with narrative consistency, but with apparent hard evidence and circumstantial confirmation.
There was the blood-soaked “corpse” photo:
There was the sketch of the perp:
There was the Twitter parade of blue-tick public mourners.
A very very familiar roll-out we have all seen many times was taking shape. There were predictable articles, by predictable people, saying predictable things. By next month Luke Harding would have had a new book out called something like “Death in Broad Daylight: how the Kremlin silenced Arkady Babchenko.”
Its cover would feature Babchenko’s completely fake murder pic with a target superimposed and a semi-opaque red halftone background of Putin’s face. It would be on the NYT bestseller list for the next two years and make Luke another little fortune.
There would soon be an “Arkady Babchenko” street in Washington. A “posthumous” Pulitzer would have been his within a year or two.
Arkady Babchenko memorial plaques would spawn like tribbles. Navalny and his twenty-seven supporters would carry those tragically misty and sepia pics of our boy (which miraculously appeared within hours of his “death”) on all their “rallies”. By 2019 Katherine Bigelow would have made the movie (based on Luke’s book), and it would be a dead cert at the 2020 Oscars.
But it would have been no more true than it is now, would it? It would simply be an undiscovered rather than a discovered lie. A mesh of words, woven thick by repetition, giving shape to an absence – of evidence, of investigation, of reality, of everything.
If he hadn’t turned up alive, Arkady dead would have become the thing most people called “truth.” Like “United 93”, and similar collective myths, the legend of his martyrdom would have taken on all the trappings of solid reality. No one – none of us – would think to question it. And anyone who did would be dismissed as a lunatic.
The most important and abiding point about the non-death of Arkady Babchenko, beyond all the spin and damage control and narrative-boosting we are inevitably going to see over the next days and weeks, is that, at its deepest level, consensual reality is a fragile thing that can very easily have nothing to do with truth or fact or actual reality. The point is that the people who are paid to fact check official narratives didn’t do it, and would never have done it. They were simply sold a line and bought it, uninterrogated, uninvestigated, unwrapped.
And this is what they do every day. With every item of “news” they lay before us.
Look at the illusion of depth and veracity they gave this lie, simply by reporting it. See how easily they were fooled and went on to fool us. See how little it occurred to any of us, even those who make a habit of interrogating narratives, to ask whether or not it really happened.
Think about how easily that basic question was trampled and crushed into oblivion. How effortlessly a few public statements and a very very questionable pic became the collective “truth” for all of us. Look at how the debate was already being positioned. How the issue was going to be “who did it?” not “was it even done?”
The real problem this highlights is not just that the derogation of journalistic duty to fact-check and second-source is now the norm. We already know this. It’s been too apparent for too long.
The real problem is that this derogation helps to create the reality we all live in. Even those of us who deplore it. If for whatever reason Arkady had sloped off to Hawaii in a bad wig, today we would all be debating who may have killed him. Unwittingly hostage to a flimsy lie.
This is an uncomfortable truth we need to recognise. Because it’s often the questions that seem most unnecessary, absurd, offensive, even insane that actually most need to be asked.
We are already being dissuaded from learning this most valuable lesson. The journos who were so recently burned are already backstopping against it. They aren’t focusing on why the lie happened, they are focusing on how “the enemy” (the Russians, the alt-media, the whole evil circus of “other”) are “exploiting” it. How they will now have an “excuse” to suggest any future such deaths might also be fake.
The drive is to make it ridiculous to learn from experience or to cite precedence. We are already being persuaded only idiots would think future deaths might be fake based on the fact past deaths were fake.
No matter how much data there might be for fakery we must never accept it as a legitimate possibility. No matter how many Doumas may happen, no matter how many Babchenkos come back from the dead, no matter how many incidents of fakery are outed, or “explained” in unsatisfactory terms, we must never learn from experience. We can discuss why the victims of the latest atrocity died, but not the possibility they might not have died at all?
Is this really good enough? I don’t think so.
Next time we are flooded with the apparently shocking narrative of violent death, how many of us will be brave or crazy enough to dare to ask – “did this death even happen?”?
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