More blood for oil!

Illegal invasions by imperialist armies are fine, so long they’re committed by Russia plus the commo

Tblisi or not Tblisi

The Beatles assured us in their crap 1968 song ‘Back in the USSR’ that Georgia was on their mind. Oddly though, you don’t hear Paul McCartney commenting much on South Ossetia nowadays.

The war in the Caucuses has inflamed the passions of bellicose and half-witted bloggers from here to Vladikavkaz. Fortunately, a few are actually worth reading. Donald Rayfield on Open Democracy did readers a service by lending context to a conflict that to many outsiders, appears baffling. Noting Russian priming of the area through the issuing of passports, and integration into state welfare, Rayfield dubbed Russian tactics “salami slicing,” explaining that it:

“…amounted to a covert process of assimilating first the population, and then the actual country, into the Russian federation.”

Russian claims of ethnic cleansing were set out on Russia Today - watch out for analyst Evgeny Khruschev informing viewers that they “probably have a short attention span”. While any Georgian crimes against the rebel region seemed hard to verify, the First Post’s Shaun Walker reported that:

“On Tuesday, as the war came to a close, there were reports of massacres in Georgian villages inside the conflict zone Ossetian militias checking the ethnicity of residents and treating all Georgians to a bullet in the head.”

It seems that whatever the perceived or actual crimes by Georgia against its Ossetian citizens, Georgians are paying a weighty price.

Meanwhile Voices from Russia pointed out that many well-respected democracies, including, er, China and Iran, backed Russia’s actions. But Cicero’s Songs, a blog that assiduously monitors developments in the former USSR, observed that Russia will face consequences for its aggression:

“Planned joint exercises have been cancelled, and Russia's exclusion from the G8 appears all but inevitable. As the fighting continues, those who have advocated a softly-softly approach to Russia- such as Germany- are reluctantly facing the need for a tough response.”

The role of the US (and yes folks, if you want to keep your narrative simple to the point of pig-headed myopia, even Israel) have come under scrutiny from bloggers. Meanwhile, John Rees of the Respect party (SWP faction) appeared on BBC Radio 2 to remind Britain that illegal invasions by imperialist armies are fine, so long they’re committed by Russia.

As the week came to an end, the invading tanks remained in Georgia; while in Britain, so-called socialists met to work out how to apportion blame solely to America. Just for the Trots, let’s freshen up the old slogans. All together now:
More blood for oil!
Don’t stop the war!
Putin, Medvedev, FSB – How many kids can you kill for me?

What have we learned this Week?

The Stop the War Coalition blog helpfully explained that Russia was upset because its “interests” were “directly challenged” – which is why it was forced to drive its military might into the heart of a sovereign neighbour, displacing swathes of the country’s population. Some of us might not have realised before that economic and strategic concerns were a legitimate premise for such violent incursions – thanks to STWC for clarifying.

Across the Pond

The Dalai Lama. Mahmoud Abbas. Elvis Presley. What do they have in common? Alongside social security in the US – they are all 73 (except Elvis, who is definitely dead). Roosevelt’s reforms were celebrating their birthday this week, as noted by many bloggers. John Quinterno’s finger was firmly on the Progressive Pulse, as he blogged a passionate defence of American welfare, while accepting that the system could do with a tweak:

“Most importantly, the system is financed in a regressive way that that imposes a heavier responsibility on low-income wage earners.”

A lesson in fiscal fairness that ought to resonate on this side of the Atlantic.

Videos of the Week

Katie Melua, the doe-eyed Georgian songstress who left Tblisi as an eight year-old, recently sang ‘If the Lights go Out’. In the country of her birth, they now have.

This song was written by Mike Batt, who also gave us ‘Heartlands’, the Conservative party’s theme for the 2001 election - perhaps the most pointless piece of the music ever composed.

Quote of the Week

“Surely a no-brainer for every anti-imperialist in town“?

Gauche’s Paul Anderson rattles the Georgia hornet’s nest.

Paul Evans is a freelance journalist, and formerly worked for an MP. He lives in London, but maintains his Somerset roots by drinking cider.
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The internet dictionary: what is a Milkshake Duck?

Milkshake ducking is now more common than ever.

The whole internet loves Milkshake Duck, a lovely duck that drinks milkshakes! Oh, apologies. We regret to inform you that the duck is a racist.

This is the gist of a joke tweet that first went viral in June 2016. It parodies a common occurrence online – of someone becoming wildly popular before being exposed as capital-B Bad. Milkshake Ducks are internet stars who quickly fall out of favour because of their offensive actions. There is no actual milkshake-drinking duck, but there are plenty of Milkshake Ducks. Ken Bone was one, and so was the Chewbacca Mask Lady. You become a Milkshake Duck (noun) after you are milkshake ducked (verb) by the internet.

Bone, who went viral for asking a question in a 2016 US presidential debate, was shunned after five days of fame when sleuths discovered his old comments on the forum Reddit. In them, he seemed to express approval for the 2014 leak of the actress Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photos and suggested that the shooting of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012 had been “justified”. The Chewbacca Mask Lady – a woman who went viral for a sweet video in which she laughingly wore a mask of the Star Wars character – was maligned after she began earning money for her fame while claiming God had made her go viral for “His glory”.

Milkshake ducking is now more common than ever. It embodies the ephemerality of internet fame and, like “fake news”, reveals our propensity to share things without scrutinising them first.

But the trend also exposes the internet’s inherent Schadenfreude. It is one thing for an online star to expose themselves as unworthy of attention because of their present-day actions and another for people to trawl through their online comments to find something they said in 2007, which they may no longer agree with in 2017.

For now, the whole internet loves milkshake ducking. We regret to inform you that it still doesn’t involve milkshakes. Or ducks.

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear