From My Christmas Conversation with Spirits of the Past, Present, and Future

Vladimir Golstein

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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richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 1, 2020 2:08 AM

Here in Australia, as the country burns down and our Prime Monster, our bunyip Bolsonaro, sinces secret Hosannas to his Pentecostal God, and eagerly anticipates the End Times and Eternal Flames, delivered as we speak, for the Ungodly. We have a whole cabal of fanatic Russophobes. They are known as the Mainstream Media and any less than hysterical hatred of Russia and Devil Putin is NOT tolerated. One of the best, a true transgender amalgam of Rachel Madcow, Masha Gessen and and Ukronazi you care to mention, is called Matt Bevan, and he has a podcast called ‘Russia If You’re Listening, which sets almost insuperable records for deranged mendacity, disinformation and raw hatred. Give it a go, particularly if you enjoy hysterical laughter with your projectile vomiting. The tome of arrogant contempt, coming from a nonentity, is priceless.

richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 1, 2020 2:12 AM

‘ ,,..sings secret Hosannas..’

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Jan 1, 2020 3:42 AM

Bevan is one of the presenters of the weekday breakfast programme on the ABC’s Corbyn-hating Radio National. Shortly before the UK election, he informed us that “a lot of people don’t like Jeremy Corbyn” – a breach of the ABC’s code of practice, which supposedly prevents staff from editorialising on air.

But what’s one more breach of the code among the countless breaches in this propagandising radio channel’s “coverage” of UK politics? Speakers lined up to comment on the UK election? All Blairites:

Alastair (dodgy dossier) Campbell;
John McTernan (former director of political operations for Blair);
Nick Rowley (former Blair adviser);
Steve Fielding (author of a 2003 book on the “making’ of New Labour);
and Blair himself.

Speakers lined up to defend the Labour leadership?

A big fat ZERO.

This is the corruption of journalism on an epic scale funded by the public purse.

richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 1, 2020 9:26 PM

Philip Adams and his UK ‘correspondent’ Ian ‘Rhyming Slang’ Dunt, simply spewed hatred at Corbyn as an ‘antisemite’ for months. Adams boasts of his groveling philosemitism, which is probably why his ever more Rightwing show never mentions the Palestinians any more. But any Rightwing, Likudnik, Zionist is welcome, as Adams unfurls his tongue and licks the proffered posteriors with practised enthusiasm. Somehow he manages to forget his other Jewish ‘friends’ like Miriam Margolyes who utterly reject any semblance of truth in the Corbyn smears. It takes a real ….. to pick the worst in any community to slobber over.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Jan 1, 2020 10:58 PM

Philip Adams is part of the problem, not the solution. He’s been ensconced in his own nightly radio programme for so long that he’s become totally comfortable with the establishment he used to spurn. It’s Radio National’s inflexible practice to deny a microphone to the many Jewish voices who reject the ‘UK Labour is anti-Semitic’ fabrication. The ABC’s (routinely violated) Code of Practice requires that a diversity of views on any topic be presented and one perspective not favoured over another. Try reminding your average ABC presstitute of that.

richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 3, 2020 5:53 AM

In the first few years after he replaced Richard Ackland, Adams interviewed people like Chomsky, Said, P.Sainath, Vandana Shiva etc. After the Howardisation of 1996, he quickly adopted to the new ideological order, and moved easily and greasily, ever further Right, Funnily enough, although he has worked for Murdoch for forty odd years, Murdoch’s premier hate-rag, attacked Adams as ‘Leftwing’ (hilarious!) and Adams just copped the abuse. It tells you something about this shit-hole of a failed society that Adams is universally regarded as ‘Leftist’.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Jan 3, 2020 10:10 AM

Just as when the ABC hands its microphones to its little club of Blairite/neoliberals, it thinks (or pretends) that it is broadcasting the views of the UK ‘left’.

When Howard and his mealy-mouthed Minister Allston began attacking the ABC, I (and a lot of others) got active in Friends of the ABC to try to save the organisation. Obviously, we failed.

richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 4, 2020 5:51 AM

Long, long, long, not worth the effort. If the ABC fell into a sink-hole tomorrow, taking all its Howardites, Murdochites and IPA toy-boys with it, I’d be ecstatic.

Dec 31, 2019 10:43 PM

Gawd! I almost guffawed coffee onto my screen I was laughing so hard! Nice you can find humor in all this Vlad. I guess it beats actually taking these elitist morons seriously.

Dec 31, 2019 10:44 PM
Reply to  Gall

By the way Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2019 3:48 PM

Kinda glad I am getting on in years ,the future does not look much better than the present or the past for that matter. LOL
Best wishes to all for the New Year .

Frank Speaker
Frank Speaker
Dec 31, 2019 2:06 PM

Sadly, in 2020 the MIC Fascists will continue to stamp upon the face of humanity, bringing more war and destruction against those who don’t go along with them.

They’ll encroach nearer and nearer to Russia and China, another year closer to a hot war, even by mistake. The Cold War almost saw accidental nuclear conflict due to technical glitches. That threat has not gone away and is even greater now in my opinion.

As I write it’s feasible that such a scenario is developing right now and we won’t make it until dinner time tonight nor “celebrate” the New Year. Sorry, but I cannot be too optimistic about 2020.

Dec 31, 2019 2:35 PM
Reply to  Frank Speaker

And it’s one, two, three what are we fighting for?

Don’t ask me I don’t give a damn!

Next stop is Vietnam!

Whoopi we’re all going to die!


Dec 31, 2019 4:41 PM

Nellie McKay recently updated this song in the Jimmy Dore show


austrian peter
austrian peter
Dec 31, 2019 10:26 PM

Good one MOU:

Happy New Year

Dec 31, 2019 1:15 PM

с новым годом!
As the hope and fears come together this night wishing you all a happy and fruitful new year!
“New Year” to be the first oxymoron of 2020, Vladimir. New Year, now the same as the old!
2019 the year of the pig where the exposés of the deep state continue to make their way into the public consciousness. Where the truth slayers – the MSM, have proved that the bought and paid for content is not really working with more people turning off from CNN, MSNBC, Fox news, The Grauniad etc.

Capricornia Man
Capricornia Man
Jan 1, 2020 1:43 AM
Reply to  Tutisicecream

And turning off from the BBC and the ABC…in fact, boycotting the whole corporate media –
an action which would improve the world to an incalculable extent.

Dec 31, 2019 1:00 PM

“..known for their acronym: Factual, Analytical”

That would have been short & sweet enough!

A beautiful & concise xmas carol for the turning of the second wasted decade of the century, by Vladimir.

The concept of society being dead because the socialism that defined it is derided is a big bite – that hasn’t gone down our gullets yet.

The TINA age is preserved only by a willingly subverted political class, it’s slavering media minions and when that fails by outright cheating & brute force.

A call to arms to protect and serve only works once in a lifetime – the current one has been overplayed by a decade, so not likely to be bought again.

Removing the illusion of democratic choice and CHANGE – the reversion to Baronial control becomes as shiningly obvious as the emperors new cloths!

All the people will not be fooled ALL the time.

Prepare for revolt.

Happy New Year Y’all.

Dec 31, 2019 12:51 PM

Speaking of weirdoes from Yale, we have an excellent example of just how out of touch they are with Dr. Bandy X. Lee assuming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can forcibly sign government orders to have Trump evaluated in a 72 hour Secure Forensic Psychiatry Unit. This is a Yale Ph.D. tenured in Forensic Psychiatry at the most prestigious university in the world incorrectly assuming that USA Psychiatrists can waive the Constitution & rights paradigm by decree. This is one of the highest paid academic Psychiatrists within academia in the USA that has no semblance of understanding of USA jurisprudence whatsoever erroneously assuming that the Constitutional Rights paradigm can be abrogated by the bureaucratic class as long as Yale faculty approve.


richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 1, 2020 2:20 AM

So loony that it is simply delicious. Let’s submit all the Washington psychopaths to sanity tests, and see who’s left. It reminds me of The Bedsitting Room, and the closest remaining ‘heir’ of the Royal Family, Mrs Ethel Shroake, the late Queen’s former charwoman, becoming Queen . Perhaps a janitor will inherit the Offal Orifice.

Dec 31, 2019 11:36 AM

Two really good seasonal articles from Vladimir. Very well written and amusing. Edward Curtin also wrote a really good one here recently.

Well let’s hope 2020 is the year narratives continue to collapse. The OPCW narrative will collapse in a heap – thanks to the whistleblowers and Syria Working Group- and more recently Peter Hitchens and the ex Newsweek journo.

The world perhaps slightly safer, reducing the not long back, daily risk of the White Helmets and their chemistry sets causing more pretexts for conflict.

Scott Lucas, E Higgins, Oliver Kamm, J Ensor, L Loveluck,De Giovani, the foreign news desk at the Guardian, and many more – it all looks like 2020 will be a difficult year. These narraritive managers of death should be thrown in jail for the lives lost in Syria and endangering humanity through their dangerous lies. Tick tock.

richard le sarc
richard le sarc
Jan 1, 2020 2:21 AM
Reply to  Loverat

Dream on-lovely reveries, but not going to happen, alas.

George Mc
George Mc
Dec 31, 2019 10:10 AM

It occurs to me that ironically while Americans have always – and correctly – chided Brits for being incurably nostalgic over their antediluvian empire, America seems headed the same way. The Spirit of The Past alluded to above is simply recycling tedious old tropes which are receding further and further into an increasingly murky and dubious past. Nasty Russians, nasty Germans etc. all stacked up against that saintly “American exceptionalism”. But as the generations go on and on, more and more are wondering what all the fuss is about. Who are these Russky bears with their “commie” ambitions? Who was that funny little man with the moustache waving his hand around and spitting what sound like swear words? And – more to the point – what does any of this archaic bollocks have to do with how much everyone is getting shafted right now?

The fact is that America – which is a ridiculous adolescent cartoon culture – is nothing at all without the spectre of some ultimate evil. All the helpful stage villains have gone. And those towel heads with their booming desert deity were never convincing even from the start. They now need something like Orson Wells’s radio staging of War of the Worlds that caused a mass panic – but repeated over an over. The Martians! Quick! Sign them up!

Dec 31, 2019 10:49 PM
Reply to  George Mc

I recommend this excellent book that blows the myth of American Exceptionalism and Innocence: