As we come to the end of the year, our minds inevitably turn to the past, as we try to sum it up, but also to get some hints about the future. To do it more scientifically, however, this year I decided to contact the Spirits of the Past, Present and Future, and put some questions to them directly.
But where does one find them? The first step was obvious – the spirit of the past has to reside with the Paper of Record, also known as NYT. Luckily for me, a former Yale student of mine has been with the paper for quite some time, so he introduced me to his boss, the Spirit of the Past.
Sure enough, after a slight wait at the corner office, I see a disheveled, bespectacled New Yorker rushing in and apologizing for the delay caused by the slow subway ride from Brooklyn.
– Well, he said, – there are several venues that we explore. Primarily we focus on endless Russian abuses. Stalin, Communism, Corrupt Soviet System, Anti-Semitism, Intolerance, Nationalism, gay-bashing, Holodomor. That stuff is forever popular with our readers. We have very talented reporters working very hard at minimizing Russian contributions to anything, be it art, or WWII, or space programs. Russians never excel at anything, except violence and bigotry, of course.
In other words, it would be more of the same, but only more shrill and less nuanced.
– Yes, that’s the spirit of the age, and since this spirit controls the present, it controls the past.
– Thanks for reminding us of that great maxim and for your lucid and well-articulated explanation. We are onto our next assignment, can you point us in the direction of Spirit of the Present?
– The Spirit of the Present is hard to locate as he has a double assignment with the State Department and the Atlantic Council. Here is his number; make sure you mention that you got it from me. He’s been a bit paranoid lately.
After a short introduction, the Spirit of the Present – a dashing looking gentleman, who spoke with a slightly noticeable Oxford accent – explains to us how the present is shaped. His task is to make sure that today’s journalism is nothing but embedding. And it takes not just “being in bed” with assorted sex workers of tender age, or with corporation boards. No. Embedding is a complex concept that embraces various degrees. The more embedded you are, the higher is your position on the information ladder.
– As the Spirit of the Present, I am embedded with all NATO militaries and security agencies, all embassies, all major news bureaus in all major countries. No one who is embedded only once is allowed to write on the present. You have to bed, sorry, to get embedded, with at least several agencies, before you become a trusted source. Like White Helmets, or Belingcat, or The Institute for Statecraft, or The Integrity Initiative. These guys have at least 007 degrees of embedding. The fist step, of course, is British M-agencies. That’s where the word “M-bedded” comes from. Americans and other English speakers all over the world have been trained to trust news delivered with a British accent. Besides, we, denizens of Foggy Albion, have a very illustrious tradition of knowing everything there is to know about the world, as opposed to the denizens of Foggy Bottom, who only think that they know something.
Consequently, it is these, shall we call them, the Generals of Embedding, who conduct the choir of all lower embedders, who in turn, sing the Song of the Present. They sing it loud and clear, making sure that all other random or dissonant voices are drowned within the powerful crescendo of main topics, known for their acronym: Factual, Analytical, Kremlin-free Elucidations. The topics that we shape today are obviously the key issues that face mankind: overthrow of assorted governments in Latin America; creating total chaos in Middle East; implying that there is no alternative to predatory capitalism and its side-kick, corporate, CIA-protected democracy; diverting the attention of the readers with selected panic attacks—Greta was our recent success; exposing failures of the Chinese Ruling Party; creating spectacles, like those of Impeachment or Brexit; and last but not least, harassing Russians at every opportunity, while finding their hand behind any and every Western failure.
– That was highly informative. Thank you, Sir, and I appreciate you candor. What you’ve described is a tall order, of course. But on the other hand, there is nothing that people with an Oxford accent and two years of internship at the Economist can’t do. And how do I get to the Spirit of the Future?
– Oh, for that, you have to go to Langley near Washington. They have a special department of secret operations that creates the future. I hear they are now working on a new war, but you’ll have to ask him directly; I don’t venture into the future, since we haven’t discovered the way to embed it yet.
Luckily, with two recommendations from the Spirits of the Past and Present, the Spirit of The Future, who looked like a Midwestern over-weight farmer, was rather friendly.
– Future is here, he said, pointing to the walls of his secret lab. Here we control what stories get promoted on the net; what countries are ready for regime change; what politicians or issues get preferential treatment and so on.
– Excuse me, Mr. Spirit of the Future, but ain’t you playing the role of god? Not just a liberal tyrant, as the Spirit of the Present, but the actual deity.
– Oh, no. We are not worried about that. Don’t forget that it is us who bring the issues of religion into discussion. We can highlight and exacerbate religious conflicts, as we’ve been doing recently all over the world from Iraq and Libya to Ukraine and Montenegro, or turn it down. W can give voice or we can silence any dissident movement as we are organizing regime changes. If you want to call me god, you may, but we simply can’t afford listening to some transcendental deity and his obscure teachings. The house that we’ve built is too important for that.
– So what’s in store for us in the next year?
– Well, we’ll make Trump win, but we’ll make him so helpless and weak, that he’ll be more than happy to do what he is told. There will be more sanctions around the world, more bullying, more exploitation, more hysterical behavior among Trump’s opponents, more fear-mongering, more genders in need of urgent protection from the dinosaurs who still believe in males or females only. And, last but not least. The next world-peace prize would be awarded to the Obama-Hillary team for setting up a trap and imprisoning Julian Assange – that dangerous heretic and disturber of peace. In the future, dissent is going to be less and less tolerated. We have a special lab, headed by the team of Swedish scientists with Greta at the helm: they are going to prove that Dissent pollutes the atmosphere eighty-seven times more than Obedience. So more and more dissenters will be be captured and recycled into into progressive people of the future, the ones who internalize the latest PC dogmas, embrace all neoliberal state policies, but who – in reward for their model behavior – are allowed to violently protest Evil Trump every week-end. That’s our model citizen of the future: a pussyhatter who pays taxes, supports military interventions, and recycles and consume his own compost after it’s been subjected to thermo-treatment at the local Whole Foods store. And, I believe our hard work at creating such a creature is already paying off!
Vladimir Golstein, a former associate professor at Yale University, is currently Chair of the Department of Slavic Studies at Brown University.
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