Before doing so, Illarionov offers the following “four disclaimers.” He doesn’t dispute the right of the British people to vote as they see fit. He isn’t too worried about the common future of England and Wales. His ideas about the future have no precise timetable. And what he is offering, he specifies, is “not a prediction but rather an irresponsible presentation of an unreal variant of one of the impossible scenarios of the fantastic development of a completely unthinkable and absolutely unpredictable future.”
Sometimes, of course, this will be exposed; but the work is “so total that individual failures will not be able to have an essential impact on the results” the Kremlin seeks, Malgin says, adding ominously that this is the way “the third world war” is being fought, even if one side refuses to acknowledge that fact.
Kirill Martynov, the political editor of Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta, offers an explanation for why Putin is being so successful in this effort because he appears to understand something that many in the West do not: the way in which the Internet revolution has spread contempt for all elites and expert opinion.
In recent years, he says, “there have been many arguments about what changes the Internet promises us,” especially in the wake of the impact of Twitter on the Arab Spring and the supposedly “liberating potential of new media.” But, he continues, “only now are we beginning to understand how these changes work in fact.”
“It is possible that the main thing that the Internet teaches people is distrust in their own elites,” he argues, noting that “it is difficult to imagine the Trump phenomenon of the ‘incorrect’ voting on Brexit in an era of television” alone. But the Internet in both cases has done its destructive work.
“Now in the new media, we see experts much closer up and in more detail than ever before,” Martynov says. “We observe representatives of the establishment as living people who make mistakes, say stupid things and are laughable.” As a result, “voters in the West no longer want to subordinate themselves to the directives of ‘the empty suits.’”
And that in turn means, he concludes, that “a revision of the social contract in the entire world awaits us.” Such a process will entail many “risks,” including “the collapse of old political alliances and the coming to power of populists.” Those who are banking on this like Putin may thus win particularly if those he wants to defeat do not recognize the challenge.