‘Kompromat’ is powerful regardless of whether it is true, Portnikov says

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon)

Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump (Credit: AP/Andrew Harnik/Nati Harnik/Photo montage by Salon) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics

The Bolsheviks liked to say that Marxism-Leninism was powerful because it was true; but Ukrainian commentator Vitaly Portnikov points out that compromising information – in Russian “kompromat” – is powerful regardless of whether it is true, a reality that has been lost in many discussions about the current examples of it loosed upon the world.

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

Vitaly Portnikov, Ukrainian political analyst and writer

He asserts that “in the present-day world, the importance of compromising information is not in its genuineness but in that it confirms already existing suspicions.” Even those who doubt it will assume that there is no smoke without fire and that while many things such “kompromat” asserts are not true, at least some are.

That is what happened last summer and fall in the case of Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server, Portnikov says. “The majority of Americans who wanted to ‘punish’ her for the use of a private email for government correspondence very poorly understood the consequences of this use, not imagined or possible, but real.”

“But,” the Ukrainian analyst says, “Donald Trump very well understood this narrow-minded perception and used it to remarkable effect. He started a trend, which hadn’t existed, that a serious and self-respecting politician may use methods from the arsenal of marginal figures,” something his opponents gradually picked up upon concerning his sexist views on women.

However, these were only “the first blossoms” of something that was going to come into full flower with the passage of time. They made use of a situation in which real but boring facts “could not change the opinion of those who live in the world of comic strips” and who are quite content to remain there.

But if during the election campaign, Trump was the one who presented himself as the hero of these comics, now, after the election, and as a result of the kompromat being spread about him, Trump “is being forced to play the role” not of hero but of villain, a role he probably couldn’t imagine and certainly doesn’t like.

What has happened, Portnikov continues, is “what typically occurs in history: to triumph over an enemy who violates the rules, one must adopt his methods of struggle, improve upon them, and direct them against the competition with redoubled energy.”

President Barack Obama said farewell to Americans with a beautiful speech and with tears in his eyes, “but this already doesn’t work” in a world where comics rather than facts are the basis of opinion. And the story that overwhelmed his speech was the compromising story about Donald Trump and prostitutes in Moscow.

The story was so salacious that no one had to believe that it was all true in order to accept much of what was contained therein, as confirmation of his views, if he started with a negative view of the president-elect. Even if most or all of it is disproved, such an individual will say that something nonetheless was there. After all, “we read it on the Internet.”

But there is a more serious consequence: Trump is now the victim of the very same method he employed against Hillary Clinton with success last year.

And indeed, Portnikov says, it is time to talk about “the Trump effect” given that this effect “will now work against the president elect,” again regardless of whether what is being said is true or not.

In the near future, this may “really mean a crisis and the loss of power. Right now, the story with the kompromat means only one thing: any conciliatory steps of the Trump Administration toward the Kremlin will be viewed as a confirmation of the compromising information.”

And that will then lead to the notion that “Trump is a KGB agent” and that those who doubt that are “even more so.” In fact, if Trump does not behave tougher than Obama has, there are many who will make that argument against him, suggesting that this all means he is “a traitor to the national interests” of the US and that “a traitor cannot be US president.

It is possible that Trump is beginning to understand this. His key aides certainly do, as can be seen from their testimony during confirmation hearings. And that means that “if the Trump effect continues to operate, there will be an entirely new Trump coming to the White House … a Trump who will learn the art of political survival in the era of the Trump effect.”


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • veth

    Russians have nothing to be proud of, so they use dirty tricks.

  • veth

    На Луганщині невідомі вирізали 20 російських солдатів

    Всі поранення нанесені холодною зброєю. Двоє росіян вижили, але в критичному стані.

    В ніч на 8 січня невідомі в районі Луганська напали на розквартированих російських військовослужбовців в/ч 88612 «Саратовський навчальний центр бойового застосування ракетних військ і артилерії Сухопутних військ».

    Про це повідомляють Патріоти України з посиланням на блогера Алекса Нойта.

    «Г-н н. п. Луганськ. В районі розквартирування невідомими особами скоєно напад на фахівців в/ч 88612 (*Саратовський навчальний центр бойового застосування ракетних військ і артилерії Сухопутних військ). «200» – 18, «300» – 2 (обидва в критичному стані) ТМН – 2. Всі нанесені поранення холодною зброєю. Обставини події уточнюються», – написав блогер.

    Нагадаємо, це не перший випадок, коли невідомі холоднокровно вбивають окупантів, застосовуючи холодну зброю. Читайте більше тут: http://zik.ua/news/2017/01/15/na_luganshchyni_nevidomi_vyrizaly_20_rosiyskyh_soldativ_1025609

    ENJOY………….

  • Tony

    I am wondering who might be behind really these leaks and for what purpose?

    Regardless of if these allegations are true of not, I can see a few possibilities:

    Who: putin, russian government though not necessarily sanctioned by putin, US based political opponents of trump
    Purpose: Blackmail to ensure loyalty, Create controversy and increase divisions within US thereby making it weaker, usual political mudslinging.

    If russians are involved, I think its important to get people on both sides of the political divide to agree that russia should not be allowed to mess in US internal affairs and that doing so carries a heavy cost.

    If its internal US politics at work, then its poetic justice that trump tastes his own “fake news” medicine but indeed news should be more factual and less conspiracy/tabloid style, and not just when you’re the new incumbent.

    • Turtler

      The long and short of it is that we can be pretty sure it was rehashed, baseless opposition research (and low grade at that, Bob Woodward -no right winger or hardline water carrier for the GOP)- took one look over the leaked dossier and dismissed it as utter trash. And it is, because it’s unverifiable, unverified, and incredibly beyond suspension of disbelief.

      There’s a reason why this heap of junk was lying around for half a year because nobody would touch it until Buzzfeed and CNN. So it almost certainly was compiled by a press company that made its’ money before giving an intentionally misleading report on behalf of Planned Parenthood. http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-sordid-history-of-the-firm-behind-the-trump-russia-dossier/article/2006254

      Though you do explain handily about the reasons for Russian hacking and agitprop. I do know RT butt kissed Putin while at the same time shilling for this fringe Calexit freak.

      “If russians are involved, I think its important to get people on both
      sides of the political divide to agree that russia should not be
      allowed to mess in US internal affairs ”

      Don’t kid yourself, Russia will mess in US internal affairs again. That is simply how the great game of politics works, and that gets worse with the nature of a totalitarian, expansionist regime.

      They’ve been doing it for close to a century and I doubt they can be stopped outright. But they can be rendered ineffective and subject to reprisals.

      “If its internal US politics at work, then its poetic justice that trump tastes his own “fake news” medicine”

      Oh please.

      “Fake News” was primarily a dishonest meme foisted by so called “mainstream” or “respectable” news outlets to try and demonize and disregard their grassroots competitors on the right (primarily the right) and center and left while also excusing pervasive bias, dishonesty, and frankly epic complacency.

      That doesn’t mean the blogs, youtubers, and the like can’t indeed be providers of “Fake News.” They are. But that was never the point, because so can the so called “Reliable” News media. And that was shown like a hammer by the election.

      And the fact that Buzzfeed and CNN fell face first into this cow pie shows.

      “but indeed news should be more factual and less conspiracy/tabloid style, and not just when you’re the new incumbent.”

      The problem is Trump and the MSM are not on talking terms, and that’s been shown handily. And secondly, the conspiracy theory nonsense is nothing if not bipartisan, if not more. Pro-left, Pro Right, Pro-Republican Trump, Anti-Trump Republican, etc.

      And finally, there’s the damning issue that sometimes, there is valid reasons for the conspiracy theory stuff. For instance, Comey listing how Hillary Clinton committed several felonies and then declared that “no reasonable prosecutor” would persecute. Voter fraud in Detroit. Putin taking steps to destabilize internal politics.

      • Alex George

        Yes, yes, but most people believe it is true, and with good reason – they are getting to know Trump

        • Turtler

          A stupid falsehood is still a stupid falsehood, even if people believe it is true. And even if there was far better reason to believe it than this trash.

          After all, even Hitler was saying the truth when he said his troops were not responsible for Katyn.

          • Alex George

            True enough.

    • Alex George

      The article posits an interesting idea, but in this case I don’t think its the case:

      Sure the Russians could spread a story that they have blackmailed Trump, and with some people that might wokr as well as actual blackmail.

      But the simple reality is that Trump loves Putin, truly, madly, deeply, as they say. And that is what gives these stories credence – Trump is acting entirely as if they were true.

  • Turtler

    “That is what happened last summer and fall in the case of Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server, Portnikov says. “The majority of Americans who wanted to ‘punish’ her for the use of a private email for government correspondence very poorly understood
    the consequences of this use, not imagined or possible, but real.””

    Right, let’s pretend this is less important than it really was. Let’s pretend there was absolutely nothing else at play, such as proven dishonesty about factors as far afield as Benghazi and the DNC primary. Let’s pretend that Bernie Sanders (who I am not a fan of but deserved NOTHING like how he was treated) was basically shafted in a rigged primary.

    Let’s ignore all of this.

    ““But,” the Ukrainian analyst says, “Donald Trump very well understood
    this narrow-minded perception and used it to remarkable effect.”

    Narrow minded perception.

    The problem with this condescending pap is that the more you understand- the wider your minded-perception- the worse it gets.

    “He started a trend, which hadn’t existed, that a serious and self-respecting politician may use methods from the arsenal of marginal figures,” ”

    SERIOUSLY MATE?

    Are we going to pretend that Cindy Sheehan did not exist? David Duke? Etc?

    “something his opponents gradually picked up upon concerning his sexist views on women.”

    Citation needed.

    “However, these were only “the first blossoms” of something that was
    going to come into full flower with the passage of time. They made use
    of a situation in which real but boring facts “could not change the
    opinion of those who live in the world of comic strips” and who are
    quite content to remain there.”

    Seriously mate, stop embarrassing yourself. I’ve been to Putin’s Russia years ago. It was not the First Flowering.

    And the idea that notion Hillary’s campaign of lies, deceit, and in some cases murderous negligence was “narrow-minded” is stupid.

    “But if during the election campaign, Trump was the one who presented
    himself as the hero of these comics, now, after the election, and as a
    result of the kompromat being spread about him, Trump “is being
    forced to play the role” not of hero but of villain, a role he probably
    couldn’t imagine and certainly doesn’t like.”

    Citation Needed, hack.

    “President Barack Obama said farewell to Americans with a beautiful
    speech and with tears in his eyes, “but this already doesn’t work” in a
    world where comics rather than facts are the basis of opinion. And the
    story that overwhelmed his speech was the compromising story about Donald Trump and prostitutes in Moscow.”

    A: Compromising story for CNN, Buzzfeed, and a certain PR company perhaps. I suppose we’re going to ignore the bipartisan consensus- put forth by Woodward of all people- that these dossiers were cripe?

    B: I suppose we’re going to ignore how Obama himself helped take a part in this? Sea Levels receeding, anybody? We are the ones we’ve been waiting for? Anything about this?

    “The story was so salacious that no one had to believe that it was all
    true in order to accept much of what was contained therein, as
    confirmation of his views, if he started with a negative view of the president-elect.”

    Which is a sign of ignorance. Much like those who unquestionably peddle the “Clinton Death List.”

    “Even if most or all of it is disproved, such an individual will say that something nonetheless was there. After all, “we read it on the Internet.””

    Is this going to be Portnikov’s excuse for such utterly shoddy, one sided, and indefensible coverage?

    “And indeed, Portnikov says, it is time to talk about “the Trump effect”
    given that this effect “will now work against the president elect,”
    again regardless of whether what is being said is true or not.”

    Except it’s been working against him for well over a year, especially as a hostile news media has hammered him with EVERYTHING including claims that he is the next coming of Fascism while glossing over the pertinent issues about things like that.

    “In the near future, this may “really mean a crisis and the loss of power. Right now, the story with the kompromat means only one thing: any conciliatory steps of the Trump
    Administration toward the Kremlin will be viewed as a confirmation of
    the compromising information.””

    Only if these claims survived the initial scrutiny. Which they Haven’t. At all.

    “And that will then lead to the notion that “Trump is a KGB agent” and that those who doubt that are “even more so.” In fact, if Trump does not behave tougher than Obama has, there are many who will make that argument against him, suggesting that this all
    means he is “a traitor to the national interests” of the US and that “a traitor cannot be US president.””

    Indeed.

    “It is possible that Trump is beginning to understand this. His key
    aides certainly do, as can be seen from their testimony during
    confirmation hearings. And that means that “if the Trump effect
    continues to operate, there will be an entirely new Trump coming to the
    White House … a Trump who will learn the art of political survival in
    the era of the Trump effect.””

    The problem is that it was never the “Trump Effect”, though the overt demonization of him that happened throughout the campaign is a radical take of it. It hit Bush. It hit even Obama (who had the benefit of a more or less compliant press that overlooked damning admissions like Gruber’s interview).

    Trump was never my first choice. He was not even my fifth. But this article is a poorly veiled attempt to blame him for something even he does not deserve responsibility for: the incredibly viscous conspiracy theorists that has been mainstream for a long time.

    Repeat after me: “Bush Lied People Died!”

    • Alex George

      But what does this have to do with the issue?

      Trump is acting like someone that the Russians have successfully blackmailed.

      • Turtler

        “But what does this have to do with the issue??

        it has to do with the fact that vilifying people who know enough about Hillary Ciinton’s dishonesty and the impact of that email server is stupid, no matter how much you dislike Trump.

        I say the exact same thing to the other camp, those who ignore how Trump has talked blatantly out of both sides of his mouth because Hilalry.

        “Trump is acting like someone that the Russians have successfully blackmailed.”

        Whether or not that’s the case, it certainly isn’t because of this toss. Even if it were true, it is too dismal to be used as credible blackmail unless they had all but audio or video.

        And honestly? I’m not so sure he is, or at least not that every person blackmailed behaves in a certain way.

        Part of this might be wishful thinking regarding Trump, but I have studied enough cases of Russian blackmail over the centuries to know that it is fairly rare for someone to come out so overtly in favor of the Kremlin as Trump has (though that might be worse than him having to be blackmailed for it).

        The preferred MO was to compromise someone in middle management or higher (but not the top) and have them pass things along below it.

        Take for instance Alfred Redl, for example, one of the most devastating double agents in history. The guy was the head of Austro-Hungarian military intelligence and a flaming gay who was caught and blackmailed by the Tsar’s guys. So they kept quiet about a secret that would send him away for a long time and plied him with plenty of booze and alcohol on the sly, and he went on overtly with business as usual why giving his new masters everything he could get his hands on. Right up to planning operations against the Russians himself and then leaking the info.

        What finally did him in was a combination of spending so wild it couldn’t be explained by legitimate sources and being caught after retirement by his successor picking something up from a contact. But by that time he had basically trashed the entire Habsburg security and military apparatus from the top down.

        To be sure, he was a spook and Trump is not (except in the metaphorical fashion), but it gives you an idea about how this sort of thing usually works.

        • Alex George

          I actually agree with much of what you say. I think the real reason Trump makes so many comments and follows policies which are supportive of Putin, is because that’s his inclination. Trump would be much happier as a Russian President than a US one. He genuinely likes the way Putin does things, the opulence, the disregard for rules, the lack of restraints, the corruption etc.

          The problem is that many people will find it too revolting to believe he holds those views, and hence his actions are far more easily explainable by blackmail in the public mind

          Now mind you, I do not doubt that the Russians have a lot on Trump, and on each member of his family who has been to Russia. True to form in Soviet days, .they would have offered them whatever they wanted, and filmed the lot in lurid detail.

          But what do they do with it? It has perhaps dawned on them by now that America has little potential left to be shocked at Trump’s personal life anymore. What would do it? A fivesome with two Chechen dwarfs, a Buryat girl and a horse perhaps? Most people just wouldn’t be surprised and not take much notice.

          Trump may yet get impeached, I would never rule that out, but it won’t be because of any Russian s*x tape IMO. The only other thing he cares about is getitng re-elected in four years’ time, and I cannot see Russian blackmail making much difference there either.

          Putin had better try friendship – catch more flies with honey

          • Turtler

            “I actually agree with much of what you say.”

            Fair enough.

            “I think the real reason Trump makes so many comments and follows policies which are supportive of Putin, is because that’s his inclination. Trump would be much happier as a Russian President than a US one.”

            Interesting idea, and I can’t say it doesn’t work. But as it stands, I’m not sure his ego could stand being limited to Russia.

            “He genuinely likes the way Putin does things, the opulence, the disregard for rules, the lack of restraints, the corruption etc.”

            I can see some of that with Trump, but if there is one thing that has struck me it is the fact that he seems to have the kind of personal attachments and cares I have never seen with Putin. To be sure, the day Trump gets nominated for canonization is the day I lose faith in organized churches; he at least philandered previously, he majorly oversells, he has a temper issue, and ego issue, and a superiority complex. But the relationship he has with his family and children- even after taking a sledgehammer to the bonds of matrimony- is something I really haven’t seen with Putin, like ever.

            To be sure, that isn’t to say he would not have the blood of a despot in him, after all Stalin loved his daughter and adopted son. But it is something I noticed

            “The problem is that many people will find it too revolting to believe he holds those views, and hence his actions are far more easily explainable by blackmail in the public mind”

            Well that and the desire to find an explanation- any explanation- for Hillary’s defeat that can shift the blame off it.

            I will say that Trump praises strongmen in a way I cannot trust, and so caution is warranted.

            “Now mind you, I do not doubt that the Russians have a lot on Trump, and on each member of his family who has been to Russia. True to form in Soviet days, .they would have offered them whatever they wanted, and filmed the lot in lurid detail.”

            Sure, assuming they could film it there. After all, even the debauched can get clever.

            I figure the intel the Russians have on the Trump family is more on the form of intelligence, data, and various scraps that can’t be held over their head directly as blackmail, but can be leafed through for information and maybe a guide to find oppertunities for blackmail.

            ‘But what do they do with it? It has perhaps dawned on them by now that America has little potential left to be shocked at Trump’s personal life anymore. What would do it? A fivesome with two Chechen dwarfs, a Buryat girl and a horse perhaps? Most people just wouldn’t be surprised and not take much notice.”

            That also comes to mind; sexual proclivities might have tipped the election if released at the time, but I think in office they’d have to get something dangerous and political, like the stuff that came out of the DNC and Hillary’s server through Wikileaks. Whether or not they have that on Trump is something I don’t venture to guess, but I’d be damned if they are not looking for it.

            “Trump may yet get impeached, I would never rule that out, but it won’t be because of any Russian s*x tape IMO. ”

            Likewise, hence why I figure it would be something else.

            “The only other thing he cares about is getitng re-elected in four years’ time, and I cannot see Russian blackmail making much difference there either.”

            I’m not so sure I would say that, for the aforementioned reasons. Not because I think he is an exemplar of morality or isn’t a massively ambitious egotist, but again because he at least seems to be capable of the kind of love, compassion, and the like on a personal level that I have never seen from Putin, even factoring in how Russians emote less.

            Now, that doesn’t mean he always *uses* it, and frankly a lot of the smears and personal attacks he’s done in this campaign alone- let alone over the years- are repugnant. But if I have to take a choice between an egotistical boar and a psychopath, I’ll take the boar.

            Though as before, I could be misreading this massively.

            “Putin had better try friendship – catch more flies with honey”

            I can imagine that, the problem I see is…well… Putin.

            Putin’s been stabbing every US administration to take office for years in the back. Whether Dubya, Obama, or now Trump every one of them has come into office hoping to work with Putin and every single one of them has left office in the middle of conflict with him, to be replaced by somebody who falls for the same issue. It’s nice to blame the other domestic party for a failure in diplomacy, but diplomacy can’t work if you are confronted with a polonium psycho with a driving need to be number one and a love for humiliating Western leaders.

            That’s what I think will be the crux of the issue. That sooner or later Putin will try to show Trump who is number one, and I doubt Trump will like that very much. Even if he would rather have been born in Russia, i don’t see him casually letting the actual leader of Russia trying to take him down a peg without repercussions.

      • Quartermaster

        It does not appear he is acting as you claim.

        • Alex George

          In some ways that is true, but see below for my real point