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Quotes from a bookshop, what people read, what

people believe, and the Guardian


Antony Penaud
August 25, 2015

Introduction
The subhead of a recent Guardian article1 is Conspiracies abound in the Dom
Knigi stores non-fiction section, but what is truly unknown is the extent to
which Russians believe what is written.
But the article that follows doesnt prove anything: it consists of a few
quotes from some books, a couple of comments by a political analyst, and no
attempt is made to prove that Russians believe those quotes.
Imagine a journalist walking into Waterstones in London, quoting a few
carefully chosen books, and then claiming that this is what British people believe.
In this essay we reproduce some polls conducted in different countries about
different conspiracies, list the current best selling books, and discuss the Guardian
article.

Plan
1. Conspiracies (polls and comments)
2. What do Russians, Brits and Americans read?
Conclusion
Appendix A. Conspiracies in the Ukraine crisis
Appendix B. The first main quote in the Guardian article (Starikov)
Appendix C. The second main quote in the Guardian article (Prokopenko)
antonypenaud@yahoo.fr
1 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/14/hitler-was-an-anglo-american-stoogethe-tall-tales-in-a-moscow-bookshop

Conspiracies

1.1

Some polls

9/11 (2008) Lets look at the results of a poll2 conducted in 2008 in different
countries re 9/11. The question was Who do you think was behind the 9/11
attacks?.
Below we only report the percentages for a few countries of interest (we include
the country that gives the maximum percentages for each of the first three answers).

Turkey
Ukraine
Italy
Russia
GB
France
Germany
Egypt

AQ
39
42
56
57
57
63
64
16

US
36
15
15
15
5
8
23
12

Israel
3
1
1
2
1
0
1
43

other perpetrator
1
5
7
6
12
7
2
11

dont know
21
39
21
19
26
23
9
18

9/11 (2011) According to a BBC poll conducted in 20113 , 14% of people


questioned in the UK and 15% in the US did not believe the official explanation
that al-Qaeda was responsible, and instead believed the US government was
involved in a wider conspiracy. Among 16 to 24-year-olds that belief rises to
around one in four.
France Following the DSK (Strauss-Kahn) scandal, a poll was conducted in
France4 : 57% believed it was a conspiracy. Note that as far as we know the poll
didnt specify what their theory was.
UK According to a 2013 yougov poll5 , 38% of Brits believe Dianas death was
not an accident (41% believe it was an accident, 21% dont know).
US Public Pollicy Polling conducted some polls in the US in 20136 : it came
out that
51% of voters say a larger conspiracy was at work in the JFK assassination
7% of voters think the moon landing was faked
5% of voters believe that Paul McCartney actually died in 1966
2 https

: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinionp ollsa bout9 /11c onspiracyt heories


3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14572054

4 http : //archives lepost.huf f ingtonpost.f r/article/2011/05/18/2498419 sk le


d
sondage qui f out la trouille.html
5 https://yougov.co.uk/news/2013/09/17/38-brits-princess-dianas-death-was-notaccident/
6 http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2013/04/conspiracy-theory-poll-results-.html

6% of voters believe Osama bin Laden is still alive


15% of voters think the medical industry and the pharmaceutical industry invent new diseases to make money
28% of voters believe secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring
to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government, or New
World Order .
While some of these high numbers might be partly caused by mistrust of the media or of the government (Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq war), some clearly false
conspiracies have been actually generated by the media and the government:
28% of voters believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Finance We tried to find some polls about finance related conspiracies (creation of money, central banks, Goldman Sachs), but unfortunately couldnt find
any.

1.2

Le Monde Diplomatique article

Le Monde Diplomatique had a very long article about conspiracies in June


2015. For non subscribers, Robert Fisk mentioned the article at length in The
Independent7 .
1.2.1

True false flags

Fisk: that inestimable French journal Le Monde Diplomatique this month


carries a wodge of articles under the title Did you say conspiracy?, painfully
dissecting how many false-flag stories turned out to be true.
Theres the Mukden incident, for example, a 1931 Chinese attack on imperial Japan which turned out to be a Japanese attack on China and led to the
Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the Rape of Nanking, et al.
Then theres the 1933 burning of the Reichstag which might have been started
by the Nazis rather than the communists;
the successful and real CIA-MI5 plot to overthrow Irans elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, in which bombs were supposedly planted by (yet
again) communists;
Israels 1954 Operation Susannah in which Israeli-organised attacks on UK and
US buildings in Cairo were blamed on Egyptian nationalists;
and the 1964 Tonkin incident, when America reported totally imaginary North
Vietnamese attacks on a US warship, which led to the very real launching of
the Vietnam War.
Interestingly, Latin America provides even more proof of real US plots: Guatemala,
Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Nicaragua, Cuba, you name it.
The French monthly also carries a very fair critique of those who believe
George W and his chums engineered the 9/11 attacks as if a US president who
7 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/america-siding-with-terrorists-likealnusra-its-not-a-conspiracy-theory-10319370.html

screwed up everything he ever did in the Middle East was capable of bringing
down the World Trade Centre and of the Arab worlds obsession with Western
conspiracies that allow dictators and nations to duck their own responsibility
for terrible events.
1.2.2

Disqualifying critical thought

Le Monde Diplomatique: The accusation [of conspiracy] enjoys success in the


media, where it often aims to disqualify critical thought.

1.3

Comments

Below are the conclusions we draw:


Russia doesnt stand out in the only available poll in which we can compare
countries.
It seems that beliefs in conspiracies are a global phenomenon.
People tend to blame unfriendly countries (or political opponents) rather than
allies.
Some false-flag stories turn out to be true.
The accusation enjoys success in the media, where it often aims to disqualify
critical thought.
Scepticism and rational thinking being the ideal to reach, we too often observe the two following extremes:
Irrational questioning (eg people who believe that McCartney died in 1966 or
that Elvis is alive).
No questioning (eg people who believed unquestionably the propaganda in the
run up to the Iraq war).
The second category also includes journalists (eg David Rose8 from the
Guardians sister paper, see Nick Daviess book Flat Earth News for a comprehensive examination of propaganda before the Iraq war, and much more about
journalism).

What Russians, Brits and Americans read

The lists below correspond to the best selling books on a particular week (or on
an even shorter time period for the amazon lists).
A recently released book might be high in the list but might not stay in the list
for very long. But still, there is some information in these lists, and we give the
number of days (or weeks) the book has been in the list when they are available.
8 As

far as we understand he has, unlike others, become much more sceptical now.

2.1

Russians

Since the Guardian specifically mentioned the bookstore Dom Knigi on Novy
Arbat, we checked on their website what books were selling best. Here is what
we found on 22 August 2015:
1. a thriller by Boris Akunin.
2. a sci fi book based on a video game (Metro 2035).
3. Secret Garden by Scottish author Johana Besford (a book of illustration that
has been a worldwide bestseller).
4. A book by John Green, an American author of young adult fiction according to wikipedia.
5. A book by Primakov (PM in the late 90s who died recently).
6. A book by Jojo Moyes, a British journalist and romance novelist.
7. The Civil code.
8. 1984 by George Orwell.
9. A book by Polyakova (she seems to write about fitness but also fiction).
10. Another book by Jojo Moyes.
The above list is for all categories and we couldnt find more granular information.
We also checked the list for Moskva9 , the other large Moscow bookshop. The
list is this time a top 100 and contains all categories.
There was at number 12 Power, Starikovs new book (new entry in the top
100). Note that at number 16 was a book by Stephen Fry (not a new entry).
We found a website10 that combined the sales of 11 bookshops (it is not
clear which bookshops) to generate rankings. That top 100 for non fiction that
was dated 05 August 2015 (the approximate date at which the Guardian article
was written) did not contain any book by Starikov. The top 10 was quite close
to the Dom Knigi top 10, apart from a book on Salinger by Beigbeder which
was at number 2. Stephen Fry was at number 13.

2.2

Brits

We asked Waterstones on Piccadilly if they published a chart and they said no.
So, to have an idea of what Brits read we checked the non fiction bestsellers on
amazon.co.uk. This is how it looked like on 20 August 2015:
1 River of Time by Jon Swain, 1 day in the top 100
2 The Scandalous Lady W by Hallie Rubenhold, 1 day in the top 100
3 17 Carnations: The Windsors, The Nazis and The Cover-Up by Andrew Morton, 126 days in the top 100.
9 http://www.moscowbooks.ru/catalog/bestsellers.asp
10 http://pro-books.ru/raiting/nehud

Note that in the US that book is called 17 Carnations: The Windsors, The
Nazis and The Biggest Cover-Up in History, the title was probably toned down
for the UK.

2.3
2.3.1

Americans
Amazon

On amazon.com, the chart for all books best sellers was (on 20 August 2015):
1 The Rabbit who want to fall asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin
2 It is about Islam: Exposing the Truth by Glenn Beck
According to Wikipedia, Beck is a host on Fox News, his critics contend he
promotes conspiracy theories and employs incendiary rhetoric for ratings and
he once said There is more proof for the resurrection of Jesus than man-made
climate change..
A huffingtonpost article called The Top 9 Glenn Beck Conspiracy Theories11 includes his view that there was a cover-up regarding a Saudi national
at the Boston bombing.
2.3.2

NYT

The number 1 (for the week of 23 August when it was a new entry and for
the week 30 August too) of the NYT best sellers in the hardback non fiction
category is a book called Plunder and Deceit, by Mark Levin.
The NYT description of the book is The talk-radio host urges young Americans to resist the statist masterminds who he says are burdening them with
debt, inferior education and illegal immigration..
In February 2015, he said in his talk show: You know what Obamas doing
today? He is building the Iranian Islamo-nazi caliphate.12

2.4

Number of copies sold

According to Wikipedia, Starikov has written 14 books. Most books have been
printed at around 5,000 copies (it is not clear how many were sold). The one
that was most printed was printed at 40,000.
In 2010, Glenn Beck had sold 5 million copies of his books in the US13 .
11 http : //www.huf f ingtonpost.com/bob cesca/the top 9 glenn beck
cons b 3361097.html
12 http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/mark-levin-obama-building-iranianislamo-nazi-caliphate.
13 http://www.dailyfinance.com/2010/06/29/glenn-beck-the-publishing-industrys-biggesthope/ In the Guardian article a bookseller says hes not sure that Russians read more
conspiracies than Americans, but the Guardian dismisses him as playing down the influence
of these books

Levin has sold over 1 million copies of his book Liberty and Tiranny (see
Wikipedia).

Conclusion
A Guardian article states some conspiracies and claims that Russians believe
them, on the grounds that some books could be found in bookstores.
We have studied some polls on conspiracy theories and in those polls Russia
doesnt stand out. We have found that some conspiracy theories are popular in
the US, UK and France, but we have no reason to believe that their popularity
is restricted to those countries.
We have looked at the current bestselling books in Russia, the UK and the
US and found that some conspiracy related books sold well in the US, and also
in the UK. Unlike the Guardian, we do not mock the entire population of these
countries nor do we assume that the buyers of these books believe all that is in
them.
One of the two most outlandish conspiracies mocked by the Guardian
turns out to be true (the Prokopenko quote, see the BBC article quoted in Appendix C).
This poorly argumented Guardian article, which is more interested in demonising Russians than in trying to inform its readers, is - sadly - just one of
many that one can read in Western media nowadays.

Appendix A: Conspiracies in the Ukraine crisis


The Ukraine crisis offers a good example of what we observed in the 9/11 polls
per country: people tend to blame their political opponent.

The Maidan snipers


In a leaked conversation14 between Catherine Ashton (Vice-President of the EU
and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
for the EU) and Urmas Paet15 (Minister of Foreign Affairs for Estonia), Paet
said And second, what was quite disturbing, this same Olga [Bogomolets, a
doctor who helped the wounded] told as well that all the evidence shows that
the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and
then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people
from both sides (...) And its really disturbing that the new coalition they dont
want to investigate what exactly happened, so that there is now stronger and
stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovich, but it
was somebody from the new coalition..
The German TV channel ARD was one of the few Western media not ignoring (or mocking16 ) it. They screened their independent investigation about
what happened that day and their conclusion was in line with the leaked conversation.
One year after the events the BBC also casted doubt about the official version17 ,
and a late 2014 Reuters investigation exposed serious flaws in the Ukrainian
probe18 .
Research by Ottawa academic Ivan Katchanovski19 was largely ignored by
Western media. However, re MH17, blogger Eliot Higins was quoted by most
Western media as a serious expert despite the fact he had no expertise and was
described by Postol (MIT Professor of Science, Technology, and International
Security) in these terms: As far as his analysis, its so lacking any analytical
foundation its clear he has no idea what hes talking about.20
14 The

conversation was leaked on 6 March. It can be found on youtube.


Ashton and Paet went to Kiev to support the protests.
16 Some media at first didnt report the leaked conversation. When they finally reported it
(possibly because of its large spread on social media), they mocked it.
17 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-31359021
18 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/10/us-ukraine-killings-probe-special-reportidUSKCN0HZ0UH20141010
19 http://uottawa.academia.edu/IvanKatchanovski
20 The Postol quote is in relation to his blogs on Syria. His blogs on MH17 have also
been criticised by professionals: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/expert-criticizesallegations-of-russian-mh17-manipulation-a-1037125.html
15 Both

Yats is the guy


In the infamous f*ck the EU leaked conversation between Nuland (Assistant
Secretary of State) and Pyatt (US Ambassador to Ukraine), the two officials
discussed who should be in the next Ukrainian governement21 .
In particular Nuland said that Klitshko shouldnt go into government and that
Yats is the guy.
When a new government was formed shortly after this conversation, Klitshko
didnt go into government and Yatsenyuk became Prime Minister.

MH17
Here the natural scenario is that the airplane was shot down by rebels by accident.
However some US intelligence veterans are not convinced and have written an
open letter to Obama asking to release evidence, if he had any22 .
Regardless of who shot the airplane down, we know that the rebels had shot
down a Ukrainian military plane flying at a high altitude a few days before the
MH17 tragedy.
One could therefore argue that the people responsible for keeping sending airliners (without the passengers knowing) in the rebel-held area should share
responsibility.
MH370 On CNN, Jeff Wise, a private pilot and science writer explained
that Putin had ordered Russian special forces to hijack Malaysia Airlines flight
MH370 and fly it to a spaceport in Kazakhstan. Maybe he wanted to demonstrate to the United States, which had imposed the first punitive sanctions on
Russia the day before, that he could hurt the West and its allies anywhere in
the world, he wrote in New York Magazine. Maybe what he was really after
were the secrets of one of the planes passengers. Maybe there was something
strategically crucial in the hold. Or maybe he wanted the plane to show up
unexpectedly somewhere someday, packed with explosives. Theres no way to
know.23 .

Nemtsov
In this case the conspiracy became the natural theory for Western media and
no effort was spared to find Putin some motives: Nemtsov was presented like a
popular politician when only 1% of Russians trusted him24 , and it was claimed
that Nemtsov was about to release a report (about the involvement of Russian
21 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32695098
22 https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/22/obama-should-release-mh-17-intel/
23 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/flight-mh370-wreckage-the-14conspiracy-theories-that-could-explain-where-the-plane-isand-what-happened-to-it10425327.html
24 http://www.levada.ru/07-02-2014/uznavaemost-oppozitsionnykh-politikov

troops in Ukraine) that would damage Putin immensely. It didnt cross the
mind of these journalists that his collaborators would be in possession of the
report too. Nemtsovs collaborators released the report a couple of months after
Nemtsovs murder25 , and it had no impact on Putins approval ratings.

25 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-32705610

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Appendix B: The Starikov quote


Lets now have a closer look at the two quotes that are the most shocking for
the Guardian.

The quote
Washington and London need fools to fight for them, because they dont like
to fight themselves. This is why they brought Adolf Hitler to power in Germany
in 1933. You need the person who will start the war, who will not flinch from
committing crimes and shedding blood. . . Its the same today. They need a
madman who will start a new world war in order to save the dollar..

Comments
Washington and London need fools to fight for them
In a 1998 interview, Brzezinski (US National Security Advisor in 1980) said
According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began
during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec
1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. That
secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Soviets
into the Afghan trap(...). The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border,
I wrote to President Carter, essentially We now have the opportunity of giving
to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War.26 .
This is why they brought Adolf Hitler to power in Germany in 1933
We have found online a Starikov article related to this view27 .
OSCE The article starts with A recent resolution by the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE declared that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany held
equal roles in unleashing WWII.
When reading this we first thought that Starikov made up that OSCE declaration. But we checked, and it is true: the OSCE did make such a resolution
in the Summer of 2009 (was this rather late resolution connected to diplomatic
tensions following the 2008 Georgian war?).
In all cases we share Starikovs indignation on this. We could ask ourselves
many questions: was Versailles too harsh (see Keynes)? Should Germany have
been dismantled like Austria-Hungary? Should France and Britain have started
a war earlier? Should the Allies have gone to Berlin in 1918 (some in the German Army felt they hadnt lost the war since the Allies didnt enter Germany
26 http

: //dgibbs.f aculty.arizona.edu/brzezinskii nterview


27 http://www.sott.net/article/298259-The-Americans-who-funded-Hitler-Nazis-German-

economic-miracle-and-World-War-II

11

and that they had therefore been stabbed in the back, others like Chevenement see the 1918 German armistice as a tactical pause28 )? Was appeasement
(Munich) a good idea (note that Poland and Hungary also annexed territories
after Munich)? Was it wise for France and Britain to refuse a peace treaty
with the Soviet Union in 1939 (and therefore pushing Stalin to do a pact with
Germany)29 ?
These questions are valid questions, but France, Britain and other countries are
not responsible for Germany starting WW2.
Conspiracy Back to Starikov: his article is indeed conspirationist (e.g. he
claims that the 1929 crisis was unleashed to ensure that the Nazis would rise to
power!).
In 2004 the Guardian ran an article called How Bushs grandfather helped
Hitlers rise to power30 . But claiming that the people who funded the Nazis
did so on orders of foreign governments so that Germany starts a war against
the Soviet Union is a conspiracy theory on more than one level.
Tit for tat? Would Starikov have written all this if the OSCE hadnt made
that declaration (this OSCE declaration is part of a trend that blames Russia
for much: many Western media now insinuate that Russia started the 2008
Georgian war when a 2009 EU report blamed Georgia31 , and Ukrainian PM
Yatseniuk declared in early 2015 we all remember very well the Soviet invasion
of Ukraine and Germany)?
We could see Starikovs conspiracy theory as a tit for tat (conscious or not?)
response: ridiculous claims blaming Moscow are countered by ridiculous claims
blaming Washington and London.
One should however note the difference: Starikov is only a writer, while the
OSCE is an official European organisation.
They need a madman who will start a new world war in order to
save the dollar.
Ron Paul Paul32 (former US congressman): In November 2000 Saddam
Hussein demanded Euros for his oil. His arrogance was a threat to the dollar;
his lack of any military might was never a threat. At the first cabinet meeting
with the new administration in 2001, as reported by Treasury Secretary Paul
ONeill, the major topic was how we would get rid of Saddam Hussein - though
there was no evidence whatsoever he posed a threat to us. This deep concern
for Saddam Hussein surprised and shocked ONeill.
28 http://www.chevenement.fr/1914-2014/
29 For

example http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=3875

30 http://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar
31 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/6247620/EU-blamesGeorgia-for-starting-war-with-Russia.html
32 https : //www.lewrockwell.com/2006/02/ron paul/why the us hates iraq
iran and venezuela/

12

It now is common knowledge that the immediate reaction of the administration after 9/11 revolved around how they could connect Saddam Hussein to the
attacks, to justify an invasion and overthrow of his government. Even with no
evidence of any connection to 9/11, or evidence of weapons of mass destruction,
public and congressional support was generated through distortions and flat out
misrepresentation of the facts to justify overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
There was no public talk of removing Saddam Hussein because of his attack
on the integrity of the dollar as a reserve currency by selling oil in Euros. Many
believe this was the real reason for our obsession with Iraq. I doubt it was the
only reason, but it may well have played a significant role in our motivation to
wage war. Within a very short period after the military victory, all Iraqi oil
sales were carried out in dollars. The Euro was abandoned.
Although Ron Pauls view is more nuanced than Starikov (Paul doesnt think
it was the only factor), he claims that many share the same view as Starikov.
Our point is to show that some US politicians have a view close to Starikov on
this.

Causes? Note also that arguing (like many politicians and journalists) as if
morality was the sole factor when deciding for an intervention is absurd (see
Chomsky, but also realists like Mearscheimer for example).
There are clearly different factors when deciding for an intervention, and one
would be very naive to believe that economic factors (eg oil and gas) have little
importance.
Finally, the will of the BRICS to change the world financial system has been
a source of tension between Russia and the US for some time.

13

Appendix C: The Prokopenko quote


The second quote is described in the Guardian as even more outlandish.

The quote
Recent scientific studies have shown that females will soon be able to take
the male role in reproduction, with no external interference. The first cases of
self-fertilisation have already been registered. Biologists say that without men,
women will not die out immediately, but will instead slowly change their form,
in a reverse process of evolution(...)..

Comments
From a recent BBC article33 : Ten years ago, Japanese researchers unveiled a
mouse that had two mothers but no father (...) Should several female komodo
dragons wash up on a virgin island, theyll be able produce males and kick
start a brand new colony. Likewise, parthenogenesis in sharks came to light
after several incidents in which lone females kept in aquariums inexplicably fell
pregnant.. The BBC article speculates that the same could apply to humans,
but that it wouldnt be a good idea because of the lack of genetic diversity it
would generate in future generations.
Reference The Guardian mocks Prokopenko for his lack of external reference, when a simple google search would have found the BBC article.
An innocent error? Furthermore, the Guardian totally transforms Prokopenkos
quote, saying mockingly that women have evolved to be capable of reproducing
without the need of sperm. Prokopenko doesnt say that at all, he says the
first cases of self-fertilisation have already been registred: he is not talking
about humans nor is he saying it has occured by evolution (it has happened
in the laboratory). Besides, Prokopenko saying females will soon be able to
take the male role in reproduction clearly implies that it hasnt happened (and
Prokopenko refers to other animals, not humans).
The Guardian concludes with patronising comments about Russian people:
distortion of facts and demonisation of Russians is the recipe for many of its
articles.

33 http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140530-do-we-need-sex-to-reproduce

14