Trump Masks, Warhol And The Temptations Of Instagram

A Trump of selfies
A Trump of selfies
Jeff Israely

PARIS — As the editor of what we call a "digital magazine," I must make lots of choices on any given day as the various streams of news — real and fake and often just pointless — criss-cross on my computer and smartphone screens. Save this, swipe that, assign this, ignore that.

Just one of countless outfits trying to make some sense of the world, and make a living along the way, Worldcrunch is at its best when we spot something worthwhile in a foreign language and get it out there for readers in English. Just in the past few days, we've had both topical and tropical beach stories, written in Italian and French, that I'd dare to say is summer reading that can make you smarter.

We are also generally at our best when we have a moment to reflect on the world around us, rather than join the headless-chicken race to keep up with the very latest breaking news — and the Internet itself. Still, old news editors sometimes can't help themselves. And so there I was yesterday morning in front of a news report on the La Stampa website: Two bank robber brothers in northern Italy were pulling off ATM heists, using Donald Trump latex masks to hide their faces from security cameras.

Even if we saw it first, that hardly matters

The race was on: Within an hour or two we had produced what those of us in the digital news business call a "social video." Check it out on Instagram. Or don't. Or check it out in on a million other corners of the Internet. Even if we saw it first, that hardly matters if the herd comes storming in afterward. Or better, and simply, it hardly matters.

How — and how much — we all talk about the American president is itself a phenomenon worth watching. That Donald Trump has apparently no qualms in making a mockery of objective truth and a free press is a serious problem in its own right, and also a trap for those of us who must report on it. But what does it mean that bank robbers wearing Trump masks trick an aging editor into dreaming of Instagram fame? We can't blame the Donald for that.

This brings me to a story flickering across my screen this morning. The aging (much older!) rock star Alice Cooper has dug up an authentic Andy Warhol worth millions that he'd placed in storage in the 1970s. The silk screen is of a photograph of an electric chair in blood-red relief, an image as relevant and vibrant as ever, destined no doubt to be hung some day on a museum wall. Even 40 years ago, it was perfect for Instagram.

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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