The last time I lied to the public, I was 19 years old and I was on the verge of exclusion from my Moscow University. Civil defense, compulsory subject, I skipped all the seminars and now I wanted to exclude from the Communist youth Union and expelled.
But they gave me another chance to prove that I was still a good Communist. I had to carry out political information. It was in 1983 when a Soviet interceptor shot down a civilian Boeing 747 of Korean airlines, which was in Soviet airspace. About this I had politically to “inform” fellow students. A dozen students who much rather would have gone home, listened as I justify the killing of 269 people.
When the warden sits in the last row…
I was told that the CIA manipulated the Boeing, so he crossed the Soviet border. The US deliberately went to the death of civilians, to test our air defense. It was a conspiracy theory, which today is true of the Kremlin. In 2014, when he was shot down the civil Boeing, this time over Donbas, was again the fault of the conspirators. Ukrainians allegedly shot down the plane to blame the crime on Russia.
Such a lie coming from my country or not, is around the world millions of supporters who believe in conspiracy theories. In 1983 antiimperialistas some leftists believed that a us warship shot down a Korean Boeing. On the far right then there was a theory that the real target was the Congresswoman, critic of communism, who died on Board the ill-fated Boeing. This was joined by the voices that claimed that some passengers survived or were eaten by giant crabs.
Nonsense conspiracy itself — not left or right, but when he came from the left, he beat us in the Soviet Union especially hard. We felt betrayed, helpless to lie when she believed in the West. There was no one forced to listen to the Secretary of the party, state security service, no one was arrested because he was reading the wrong book. Neither the school, nor at University, nor during a meeting at the enterprise there was no need to explain that for all the evil in the world responsible imperialists. What you need to be to do something like this voluntarily? This question we asked and had no idea about the free world and its limitations.
When the West German townsfolk said something the host lies, we are talking about it, they didn’t ask us. And we don’t need it. This “we” then was a minority in the Soviet bloc, which soon became so strong that it brought the Soviet structure to collapse. Dissidents, like Alexander Solzhenitsyn or Vaclav Havel, wanted to “live in truth”. Lies in the debate they did not enter.
The conspiracy virus is contagious. The one who talks of conspiracy theories that inevitably changes the tone on tone resentful know-it-alls who so masterfully own Ken Jebsen (Ken Jebsen) or Jurgen elzesser (Jürgen Elsässer). With the same imperceptible flicker and I spent his “political information”: we know who’s behind this. I was pretending to be on the Board position and the range of those satellites that were supposed to explore “our” defense forces. Space satellite just flew past there, which of course was just a coincidence.
When I show the lie in all its parts, I almost did not believe it. But my listeners yawned.
You would think that citizens of dictatorships are especially prone to conspiratorial lies. We’ve had it wrong. We did not need any incantations to accept the power of the party and state security. Fiction about UFOs in socialism was nothing more than a deviation from reality that will be evident to all. Everyone even joked about the fact that in the party newspaper “Pravda” was just a lie, and on TV is a lie.
Really undeniable was the Soviet war in Afghanistan, which is almost never told in the news. On this war I would send after deductions, as soon as I would lose my deferment as a student. Nobody wanted it, even our party curator, who during the “political classes” read the detective, sitting in the last row. “See you in a week” — said goodbye then curator. This meant that I haven’t earned exemption from military service.
Life in a dictatorial party — true conspiracy theory. One of the unpleasant consequences is that we then looked at the whole world through the glasses of conspiracy, always imagined the machinations of the KGB and its useful idiots. It was true, the KGB did exist and idiots too. Only the KGB had nothing to most of them.
Who globalization go to bed?
Limitations of my freedom are difficult tangible. What is the name of neoliberalism, globalization with whom you go to bed? Some people think heavier to withstand these faceless forces than clear and honest the pressure that we have experienced under socialism. The alternative was the same: to analyze the power market with Marx or the power of discourse from Foucault. Today the alternative is this: to believe in the simple power of a conspiracy of the Bilderberg or the secret elite that suppresses free discourse.
It seems that such alternatives can imagine just such a world, which is ruled by an authoritarian elite, or a financial clique, or the Politburo. If not, then they helplessly suffer until they invent a new healing conspiracy. The secret dictatorship of the super-rich or a world conspiracy of Jews or the liberal elite. Regardless, it is the left or right, the illusion is always authoritarian. They are in a row behind the Trumps and Putin, because you can’t bear the uncertainty of freedom. Voluntary subjects in search of a leader.
As an involuntary citizen of the Communist leader I had to act as if I take alternative facts seriously. In a similar situation today are those who are forced to communicate with supporters of conspiracy theories on the events of 11 September 2001, or “climate skeptics”. They always have the best facts, even if we are talking about scientific knowledge. For example, scientists studying the climate are lying, because they are manipulating some kind of elite, end of discussion. Wonderful the decision of the Bonn Republic to talk with each other — today is not helping. And three decades ago they would have sent me to discuss Afghanistan.
On my second lesson “political information” the curator didn’t come. When I began to tell my students looked out the window, but I soon saw more and more eyes that suspiciously looked at me. Then the Secretary of Komsomol jumped up from his seat and left. He quickly returned with the curator of the party who sat down again in the last row. He looked at the Board where I drew the circle, sphere and a thin cylinder. Unidentified flying objects are found in such forms, said I, as it happened recently in our Petrozavodsk. The curator interrupted my observations about UFOs. “Political information” is over, he said, everyone can go. Secretary of the Komsomol was furious that I didn’t take seriously his political faith. I perceive, answered I, as well as the history of the downed aircraft.
The curator, of course, it was clear that I made fun of the official theory, but the scandal it was not needed. In the end they sent me to Afghanistan, and my classmates no longer sent to “political information”. Our Soviet Union, which was the epitome of conspiracy theories, in his later years was not so deadly like hot fantasies today who believe in conspiracy theories.
Boris Chumackiy was born in 1965 in Moscow, lives and works as a publicist in Berlin. In 2016, he published his book of essays “the New citizen. Populism, postmodernism, Putin” and the novel “Stubborn”.