People of Ukraine: Beware the Swedish Gang of Pee-Pee, Turd, and Nixon the Nose

One Russian TV host has had a vision of the awful fate that awaits Ukraine if it moves toward the European Union. It's a picture of Western decadence, and it can be glimpsed in a Swedish public television show that tries to teach children about their bodily functions.

The show is called "Biss och Kajs" -- a play on the Swedish words for pee and poop -- and on Sunday, the Russian news anchor Dmitriy Kiselev delivered a bizarre tirade against the program, denouncing it as a representation of "European values in all their glory."

With hundreds of thousands of protesters in the streets of Kiev to protest their government's decision to reject an association agreement with the European Union, the government-backed Russian media turned to propaganda to maintain the Kremlin's  influence in Ukraine, a former Soviet satellite state that Russian President Vladimir Putin would very much like to keep in Moscow's orbit.

To that end, Kiselev held up Stream of Pee and Turd-- a pair of characters on Biss och Kays -- as examples of a culture that has more or less sanctioned a "sharp rise in child abortions," where "early sex is the norm - from the age of nine", and where "it is not surprising that child impotence starts at 12."

This, Kiselev -- and Moscow -- intone is the future in store for Ukraine once it embraces "Europe" and rejects its Russian heritage.

As they debate whether to join the European Union or a Russian controlled-customs union, the Ukrainian people face a difficult choice for their country's future. As Moscow is spinning it, Kiev can put its fate into the hands of a largely all-powerful tsar, Putin, who will provide economic stability and military security for many years to come or choose to embrace a morally depraved Europe.

On Sunday, Kiselev, notorious for his rants and anti-European outlook, put a face to put to the vague concept of the "European community." It includes Nixon the Nose, one of the show's muppet characters who urges kids to shower lest they smell bad. It also features Franz the Foot who sings about how he takes a "love leap" every time he sees himself in the mirror. As the cherry on top, it also features a so-called "butt orchestra," which is more or less exactly what it sounds like, a group of butt-shaped back-up singers. It's exactly as strange as you'd expect a socialist children's show devoted to giving kids a positive self-image and good hygiene. (Let's not dwell on the fact that Swedish public television thinks this is something they need to devote resources to.)

Kiselev called the show "weird," and he's probably not far off in that assessment. American children get their public television potty training from the Sesame Street song "Potty Time," which contrary to its Swedish counterpart is far from literal. ("It's where you sit to do what you gotta do do do.")

But Kiselev didn't stop there and claimed that he actually wasn't surprised by the Swedish debauchery. Childhood sex, abortions, and impotence are just a "new challenge for the progressive Swedes."

From there, the 18-minute segment descended into a predictable spiral of pure crazy. Apparently "Vilnius 2013" -- the summit where Ukraine was supposed to sign the association agreement with the European Union -- is exactly like the 1938 agreement in Munich where Great Britain and France agreed to Hitler's annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland region. "The only difference is that today's goal is to deprive Russia of its allies, and tear Ukraine away." No surprise there.

After checking off the mandatory Munich reference, Kiselev reached further back into European history to prove an anti-Russian conspiracy -- to the 1709 battle of Poltava, of the important, if obscure, Great Northern War between Russia and an alliance of northern European countries. Despite the fact that Russian won the battle against the Swedes, marking the beginning of an era of Russian domination and Swedish decline, Kiselev sees the Vilnius deal with Ukraine -- headed by some of the same countries that fought against Russia in the Great Northern War, Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden -- as a "thirst of revenge for Poltava."

The only thing missing for Kiselev was a bloodthirsty general in the slightly belated retaliatory battle. In Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister, he found the perfect candidate. Bildt, one of the masterminds of the EU's partnership plans with Ukraine, traces his lineage to a number of prominent Scandinavian political and military leaders, which the Russian anchor duly noted. To add some contemporary flair to his historical conjectures, Kiselev also accused Bildt himself of being a CIA agent during his youth.

This, then, is the great Western bogeyman Russia's propagandists have cooked up: a poop-related children's show, blathering about Munich, and something about a long-forgotten battle. It all carries a whiff of desperation.


Here’s How the British Government Is Planning to Come After the Guardian

Every day, the National Security Agency's massive surveillance apparatus hoovers up nearly 5 billion records drawn from the location data of cell phones around the world. That's according to the Washington Post's latest installment in their coverage of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Snowden saga has taken a very different turn. On Tuesday, Alan Rusbridger, the affable, rumpled editor of the Guardian appeared before a Parliamentary committee to testify about his paper's articles based on the Snowden documents. Wednesday's article in the Post about the NSA's collection of geolocation data is one of the most aggressive articles since the Snowden documents began appearing in public. The article details specific tactics used by the NSA in utilizing cell phone data and exposes several innovative methods used by the agency in tracking its targets. It also reveals that Americans' geolocation data are often "incidentally" hoovered up as well. Despite all this, it is all but unimaginable that Marty Baron, the editor of the Post, would be dragged before Congress and made to testify about his editorial decisions.

When he was asked on Tuesday whether he loves "this country," Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian's affable, rumpled editor scoffed at the question. "We live in a democracy. Most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country," he said. "But yes, we are patriots, and one of the things that we are patriotic about is the nature of a democracy, and the nature of a free press, and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things."

Rusbridger was speaking before a Parliamentary hearing on the stories his paper and others have run about the documents provided by Edward Snowden. Those articles have shed unprecedented light on the massive data collection and surveillance tools employed by the National Security Agency and its allied agencies. Critics of Snowden and the papers who have run stories based on those documents have repeatedly argued that they pose a dangerous threat to national security and expose intelligence practices that they say have prevented another major terrorist attack like those of Sept. 11, 2001. On Wednesday, the Washington Post published the latest installment in their coverage of the Snowden leaks when they revealed that the NSA is gathering nearly 5 billion records every day on the location of cell phones around the world.

On Tuesday, the British government and its allies in Parliament made clear to just what lengths they may be willing to go in order to prevent additional such stories from being published. While they aren't about to admit it outright, that response is based on large part on a doctrine known as prior restraint, aimed at suppressing material before it is published.

That's a doctrine that's been largely discredited and outlawed in the United States. The same can't be said for the United Kingdom.

"Prior restraint, legally, can work two ways," Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project, told Foreign Policy. "The first is preventing a journalist from publishing. The second is by criminally prosecuting a journalist after the publishing, because it has a chilling effect. And this hearing is an example of this kind of prior restraint." On Tuesday, it emerged directly after his testimony that Rusbridger and the journalists of the Guardian are facing a possible investigation for terrorism offenses over how they handled the trove of some 58,000 documents that they obtained from Snowden, the former NSA contractor.

Ever since the Supreme Court ruling in the Pentagon Papers case prevented the Nixon administration from blocking the New York Times and the Washington Post from publishing the government's damning account of the Vietnam war, the idea that the U.S. government would ever step in to stop a newspaper from running an article has become a nearly inviolable principle of American media law. The government can certainly request that papers not publish sensitive stories, but they cannot legally compel them to do so.

But the brewing fight between the Guardian and the British government is showing that prior restraint is far from dead in the British Isles. While British courts still have powers of prior restraint, rather than charging the journalists outright for publishing classified material, British prosecutors may come after the Guardian for sharing its non-redacted files with the New York Times. Communicating information about British intelligence and security officials is considered a crime under the Terrorism Act. "It isn't only about what you've published, it's about what you've communicated," said Michael Ellis, a conservative member of Parliament. "That is what amounts, or can amount, to a criminal offence."

The fact that Rusbridger faced a line of questioning about how information was stored and transferred was evidence that a potential prosecution would focus on technical grounds, according to Radack. "Substantively it's absurd for them to go after a journalist for the actual publishing," she said.

Ever since the initial publication of the Snowden documents, the Guardian has been under pressure from the government, said Rusbridger. Using an angle grinder and a drill, Guardian were in July forced by the British government to destroy the MacBook Pro that held the paper's copies of the Snowden files. And it has been subject to myriad pressures to halt publication of further details. "They include prior restraint, they include a senior Whitehall official coming to see me to say: 'There has been enough debate now,'" Rusbridger said. "They include MPs calling for the police to prosecute the editor."

But according to Rusbridger, intimidating journalists would do nothing to stop the release of secret information -- it will only make those disclosures less discriminating. "These days whistleblowers are spoiled for choice. They don't, in fact, need to 'go' anywhere: they can simply publish themselves," Rusbridger wrote last month in the New York Review of Books. What journalists offer, he argued, is a way for a large trove of information to be published thoughtfully and responsibly, for maximum impact and with minimum damage to legitimate national security interests.

On Tuesday, Rusbridger detailed the ways that the Guardian has exercised caution in their handling of the Snowden files. They have consulted with government agencies ranging from the White House, to the FBI, to Britain's GCHQ, and to the Home Cabinet more than 100 times for the 26 documents the paper has published over the past six months. He also noted that the Defense Advisory Notice system, the British body responsible for flagging damage done to national security, told him that nothing in those stories put British lives at risk. More pointedly, he said that the paper refused to look at the trove as a source for outside of Snowden's original intent. Stories about U.S. and British actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rusbridger said, were considered included off limits because they strayed beyond the scope of an over-reaching surveillance state that the leak had intended to expose.

The most pressing security problem isn't that there are journalists that are willing to publish leaks, but rather that the lack of meaningful oversight of the surveillance state creates the will to leak it in the first place, argued Rusbridger in his closing remarks. "As long as you've got people amongst those hundreds of thousands of people who are so troubled that they're going to leak these public," he said, "then you've got no security."

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