JUST WHEN you thought the sparkle was going out of Christmas 2020, along comes a hoary old presence to spread cheer and loathing throughout the free (sic) world.
It’s Novichok time again. The weapons grade gift that never stops giving to spooks and credulous journalists everywhere.
What? A conveniently Russian-sounding nerve agent. Supposedly 5-8 times more deadly than ghosts of chemical warfare past, such as sarin or ricin.
When? Any time our increasingly indistinguishable security establishment and corporate/state media feel the need to trigger an epidemic of biologically-driven pearl-clutching among the citizenry.
Where? On knobs!
Yes, knobs. First it was on a door knob in Salisbury, England, Eastern USA, in a “botched attempt to kill” Sergei Skripal. And now, snigger, on an actual knob knob, in a Russian man’s pants, in a “botched attempt to kill” the politician Alexei Navalny.
Are you beginning to see some patterns here?
Novichok is so super-amazingly deadly that it has so far allegedly killed not six, not five, not four, not three, not two but ONE out of the six people who allegedly got it on their skin. And since the one who did die collapsed with symptoms identical to a drug overdose, during a spate of such deaths in the region, a coroner’s inquest would probably help clear up whether Novichok was to blame rather than contaminated heroin – or fentanyl, which Wiltshire police were warning people about at the time.
Except there STILL hasn’t been a completed inquest into the only alleged Novichok death to-date. Rule 8 of the Coroners (Inquest) Rules 2013, by the way, requires coroners to complete an inquest within six months of the date on which the coroner is made aware of the death, or as soon as practically possible. It’s a long time since 2018.
Despite Novichok’s abysmal track record, though, it seems the Kremlin’s crack team of nasty-substance spreaders just can’t let it go.
You’d think that a hit squad whose superpower is slipping super-poisons undetectably into suitcases or underwear drawers might choose something properly dangerous and fast-acting. Like maybe a pin dipped in venom from a box jellyfish or a funnel web spider.
Either of those natural toxins is 35 times more deadly than sarin. And since a pinprick-sized droplet of sarin will kill a human in about an hour, according to the WHO, then “five to eight times more deadly” Novichok should be able to fell a victim like Navalny in the time it would take him to walk from a departure gate to a seat on a plane. Assuming he changed into his poisoned pants in the departure lounge I guess.
But true to form, it didn’t. I’d be thinking about asking for my money back by now.
So. Knobs. Pants. A deadly nerve agent that is serially non-deadly. Somehow our mainstream news media still lap all this up as incontrovertible proof that Putin’s Russia poses an imminent threat to our way of life. You know, our way of life that includes our government actually causing tens of thousands of projected deaths in the UK through its response to coronavirus. Who needs Novichok when SAGE advice is far deadlier?
“Suckers” is the answer to the rhetorical question I was about to ask. They take us for pliant, uncritical, trusting and easy-to-scare suckers. “They” being the undifferentiated blob that is the corporate media and the state security establishment. (Or, in the cases of Hamish de Bretton-Gordon and the BBC, the corporate security establishment and the state media).
We’re expected to believe that Russia was supposedly all-powerful enough to decide the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election. Yet at the same time its preferred method of attracting international opprobrium is a substance I suppose we must henceforth call ‘knobby-chok’. A poison both nightmarishly potent AND spectacularly ineffective – even in the hands of the FSB’s most ruthless knob-sprayers and underwear infiltrators.
We can believe this because our security apparatus is complemented by brilliant “citizen investigators” like …
Hang on, I’ll start that one again. By brillant citizen investigators like Bellingcat.
That’s the Bellingcat agency which is the author and worldwide distributor of the Knobby-chokked knickers exposé story. The Bellingcat that is not in any way deeply in bed with the Atlantic Council, the UK Foreign Office and a whole bunch of other bodies whose primary focus seems to be keeping Cold War 2.0 simmering nicely.
Trust me, I’m a Photoshopper
You can tell Bellingcat is trustworthy because the firm wasn’t set up by someone with a giveaway elite-cum-spook surname with, say, a ‘de’ or ‘le’ in the midde of it. No, it was founded by Elliot Higgins, the man who apparently inspired the title of Dylan’s song, Sad-Eyed Loner of the Midlands (I might be wrong about that one).
Don’t bother looking for objective background on Higgins via Google, by the way. You’ll find only links to Bellingcat and hagiographic profiles of Higgins in media like the Guardian (of course) and the BBC (of course). I had to use DuckDuckGo.com to track down some more-sceptical articles I’d noted two years ago.
Though to be fair, not every mainstream journalist has fallen under Higgins’ inexplicable spell. Mary Dejevsky wrote in the Independent:
It [Bellingcat] has never, so far as I am aware, reached any conclusion – whether on the downing of the Malaysian plane over eastern Ukraine, or chemical weapons use in Syria, or now, with the Skripals – that is in any way inconvenient to the UK or US authorities.
Quite. And it never will. Higgins carries a huge деревянные щепки* on his shoulder regarding anything Russian.
Maybe he never got over flunking that media studies course (who even knew such a thing was possible?).
Or maybe – and this is where the FSB might be having some fun at Higgins’ expense with this whole preposterous Knobby-chok underpants ‘phone sting’ thing – he doesn’t like being reminded of the mysterious shadows in which his career moved before he became an international investigative hero.
When he served freedom and democracy as payments officer at a women’s underwear company. When he was, in his own words: “… more interested in lingerie than asylum seekers”.
Words he will now be reminded of every time someone references Bellingcat and its scoop – so far unverified (but you knew that) – concerning a phone call between Navalny and one of the alleged FSB team that crept in, poisoned his pants (or not), and crept out again. Then crept back later to “remove traces of the poison” (from which pants, we wonder, and what with – Cyrillic Bang?) so that Navalny’s people couldn’t take them away and get them tested.
And wait a minute. If his people couldn’t take his clobber away for tests, why go to the fiendishly risky length of attempting to remove the massively-deadly Knobby-chok from it? Surely they’d be safer chucking it straight into a nuclear reactor or an active volcano or whatever actually neutralises Knobby-chok (aside from English drizzle).
Let’s face it, why would anyone come up with such an unlikely scenario as ineffectually-poisoned pants unless it gave them an underwear-related opportunity to pull Bellingcat’s plonker?
It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that, when Navalny phoned up the agent who, after all, had been following him closely for weeks or months, the agent recognised his voice at once. He fed Navalny a riff on Y-fronts, knowing it would go straight to Bellingcat and then into the media: to the great amusement of spooky types on both sides (and so many of them are on both sides) who’re in on the joke about Higgins’ humble beginnings in undercover – sorry, undergarment – work.
Kind of the ultimate wedgie don’t you think?.