The author is a prominent American social critic, blogger, and podcaster, and one of our all-time favorite pessimists. We carry his articles regularly on RI. His writing on Russia-gate has been highly entertaining.
He is one of the better-known thinkers The New Yorker has dubbed 'The Dystopians' in an excellent 2009 profile, along with the brilliant Dmitry Orlov, another regular contributor to RI (archive). These theorists believe that modern society is headed for a jarring and painful crack-up.
You can find his popular fiction and novels on this subject, here. To get a sense of how entertaining he is, watch this 2004 TED talk about the cruel misery of American urban design - it is one of the most-viewed on TED. Here is a recent audio interview with him which gives a good overview of his work.
I don’t know about you, but for a couple of days there I expected to wake up to the sight of mushroom clouds billowing across the horizon, all our exceptional hopes, wishes, troubles, and cares as a nation gone up in a vapor of smoking plastic. I think it was the Defense Secretary, nickname “Mad Dog,” who put the kibosh on the latest neocon temper tantrum against Bashar “The Animal” al-Assad. General Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that the US was, er, “still looking for evidence” of an alleged poison gas attack against civilians in Douma, Syria.
That phrase “still looking for evidence” sounds like an elliptical way of saying we have no idea what, if anything, might have actually happened over there, just possibly even nothing at all. The Russians were busy looking for evidence on the ground in and around Douma, and they claimed to have found nothing — no traces of poison gas, no corpses, no gassing victims in the local hospital — and put out a call for international inspectors to come have a look. No reply on that from our side. Which does raise the question: are we even interested in the truth?
Maybe not. Also apparently not in the strange case of the poisoned Skripals that preceded the incident (or not) at Douma, and which touched off an expulsion orgy of Russian Diplomats among the US and our allies. Sergei Skripal, a Russian/British double-agent who had been exchanged to Britain in a spy-swap, fell ill along with his daughter, Yulia, on a park bench after lunching in quaint old Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK. The supposed weapon in that case, Novichok, an advanced neurotoxin that kills instantly, was found on the doorknob of the Skripal house, and yet the couple made it downtown, enjoyed a leisurely meal, and took a post-luncheon stroll. Casual observers did note that Salisbury is only a ten-minute drive from the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, where military poisons are stored and evaluated, and after two weeks of idle chatter, scientists there released a galling report that they could not determine the origin of whatever knocked out the Skripals.
In any case, it didn’t kill them. Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital this week and is, apparently, some sort of hostage of the British government. You’d suppose that in a free country, Yulia might be interested in talking to the press, and certainly vice-versa, but she is incommunicado and was whisked away under guard to some mysterious hideaway. Sergei, we’re told, is coming out of it, too, in his hospital room, and seems to have nothing to say, either. There was chatter in the US media that the Skripals might be sent here under some sort of US witness protection program. It looks like the US and Britain are running out of rugs to sweep stuff under.
So, now, the Russians and Syrians have had plenty of time to scramble their airplanes and move personnel around the landscape to await another US smackdown, and the Russians have promised to shoot down our missiles with some spooky new technology, and it looks like our side is blinking. Do we have any idea whether the Russians actually can shoot down our offensive missiles? Maybe we don’t want to know. We surely don’t want the world to know. It would be — how you say? — bad optics.
Of course, this latest uproar over the Douma poison gas incident coincided with the first day at work of National Security Advisor John Bolton, a reputed devotee of military monkey business. But it’s possible that even Mr. Bolton is embarrassed by these crude shenanigans, which just preceded his return to influence on the political scene. If he has any influence at all, perhaps he might use it to suggest that the President of the United States just shut the fuck up for a while.