Zoich: When The Authorities Create Their Own Opposition (and Glenn Greenwald/’Advanced Psychology?’)

What do Olympic mascots have to do with security?

When the Olympics take place in Russia, Land of the Spies(tm) — everything relates to security!

In this case, the Olympic mascot competition is a wonderful little microcosm of classic covert political tradecraft.

The mascot in question was a furry blue frog named Zoich, with whirling Olympic-ring eyes and an Imperial crown. The Hypnotoad of mascots if you will, and by far one of the most popular.

After all, the “drug nightmare of a frog” seemed the ideal symbol to Russia’s political opposition, the urban protest-hipster’s perfect pal. The opposition embraced the frog… for a while.

Then it was revealed that the frog actually was an official candidate. The Russian bureaucracy had paid a well-known artist to create him, giving him complete creative control “as long as it went viral.” (the artist had intended to pull a prank on the State.)

In any case, the opposition was heartbroken, and Zoich was dead to them.

Of course, there was never any real chance the “wrench in the well-oiled machine” would be the official mascot. (The winner was a snowboarding leopard — Putin’s a huge fan of leopards.)

Still, it’s a fascinating illustration of how these things can work. As Outside magazine put it…

“When Putin successfully reclaimed the presidency in 2012, with 64 percent of the vote, election observers noted that, despite allegations of ballot “irregularities,” fraud wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the government controlled who got to run in the first place. The real opposition wasn’t even on the ballot.”

If you’re looking for ‘advanced psychological attacks,’ Glenn Greenwald might be a good place to start…

To the Financial Times, he says “I am going to return [to the US] on principle, some time within the next year.”

This is not the first time he’s said something like this to the press, though previously it was a little less definite. As it happens, I recently found an odd book that described how to execute a surreptitious attack that would produce exactly this kind of opinion/conviction shift. (no drugs or hardware needed!) More when I have time.

Either way visiting the US as one of the two (or three) Snowden Document People is in my opinion a perfectly insane idea.

Even if:
– he doesn’t end up getting arrested,
– and I’m wrong — either in this case or interpreting some other less concrete indications I’ve seen — and nobody’s messed with him yet (he’s kind of a MASSIVE target for this kind of stuff, tho Snowden’s probably been advising him well)…

…the field of ‘advanced psychology’ offers plenty of more severe covert and surreptitious attacks on high-value targets when you control the territory.
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/221d11c4-93db-11e3-a0e1-00144feab7de.html#axzz2tQpzXGUv

http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/europe/russia/The-Zoich-Olympics.html

http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/02/story-zoich-sochis-bizarro-protest-mascot-created-moscow/357680/

“At first, Zoich seemed to be a wrench in the well-oiled machine of Sochi’s mascot selection. As it turns out, he was a cog. In 2010, the Russian Olympic Committee secretly commissioned Zoich’s maker to do something “viral” for the games, in order to attract younger voters to their online mascot selection competition. Well-known Russian artist Yegor Zhgun agreed to take the deal with Russian officials in exchange for payment and a promise of complete creative control. Just as long as it caught on. […]

In a blog post explaining Zoich’s creation after the contest, Zhgun indicated that he intended to subvert the intentions of his employers: “to be able to goof around to play a joke on official State’s business was really appealing to me (I wish they came with such requests on daily basis.)” But whatever his intentions, Zoich was actually a boon for the Russian officials he intended to prank: Zoich is a fake, sanctioned “opposition” candidate. Although you can debate about whether the frog exceeded the expectations of Russian officials — it is often tempting to overstate the Russian government’s omniscience — Zoich had the end effect of drawing momentum away from the many authentically created opposition mascots. The joke, a bad one, was actually on the opposition. […]

But the trickery behind his origins paralleled the fate of the opposition movement that embraced him. Outside explains:

When Putin successfully reclaimed the presidency in 2012, with 64 percent of the vote, election observers noted that, despite allegations of ballot “irregularities,” fraud wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the government controlled who got to run in the first place. The real opposition wasn’t even on the ballot.

Unlike the other protest mascot candidates (including a saw — a reference to a Russian idiom for financial government corruption — and a vodka bottle, which is pretty self-explanatory), the Russian Olympic Committee now owns the rights to Zoich, and even reportedly considered selling souvenirs of the frog. When it was revealed by the artist and Russian officials that the Olympic Committee was behind Zoich all along, many of those who latched on to him as a symbol of protest were heartbroken. Zoich was dead to them.

As for Russia’s official Sochi mascot, that pretty much went as planned. A “cool” snowboarding leopard won the competition — the mascot, of course, favored by Vladimir Putin, who really loves leopards. The leopard’s co-mascots are a bear (President Dmitry Medvedev’s favorite), and a rabbit.”

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