Sat, Jul

A Story We Tell Ourselves: Following the Money Home



SAY WHAT? - Bewailing that "war crimes are happening right now," fake newscaster and master of profanity Jonathan Pie - the creation of British comic actor Tom Walker - has lambasted a "gutless" UK, and by extension many Western democracies, for enabling Putin's atrocities in Ukraine by long and blindly doing business with him - in the U.K.'s case, by becoming "the money laundering capitol of the world" for billionaire Russian oligarchs. Having made a name for himself as a television journalist who often takes  withering detours to rail about political hypocrisy in foul-mouthed tirades, Pie filmed a furious New York Times op-ed to decry sketchy U.K. loopholes - "Welcome to Londongrad" - that have encouraged Russian billionaires, many with direct links to the Kremlin, to hide their money there. They've bought ritzy real estate - many thousands of homes bought by anonymous billionaires through off-shore companies - soccer clubs, vodka companies, newspapers, yachts. "Rinsing dirty money clean" is "the only industry we have left," he says. "For 20 years, Putin's been using our own greed against us."

Controversially, Pie first found success working with RT, formerly Russia Today, which is owned by the Russian state and serves up agit-prop for Putin; he concedes he was "perhaps a little naive," and severed ties with them in 2016. Today, he's appalled seeing Putin brutally "punishing civilians for choosing democracy," excoriating both him and his accomplices. "He's a mass-murdering psychopath, but a mass-murdering psychopath we can do business with," he says bitterly. "So what does that make us? Gutless." "Shame on him, but shame on us," he goes on. "What's the point of democracy and freedom from tyranny if we welcome money earned through tyranny?" America, of course, can and should ask ourselves the same question: See Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, etc etc. Thus does Western, capitalist, so-called democracy become "a charade, a thin veneer behind which is hidden all the money we can stuff in our pockets...a story we tell ourselves to make us feel safe and moral, when in fact we are neither." Meanwhile, the oligarchs keep losing their stuff - $600 million?! - and the Ukrainians keep fighting for their lives.

(Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: [email protected])