Does Jonathan Chait know about Basil, I wonder?
If, like me, you were impressed by the magisterial comprehensiveness of a chart that accompanied New York’s cover story, in which Chait outlined his theory that President Trump has been an agent of the Russian government since 1987, you might assume that he cannot have missed this crucial personage and is sitting on the info until more becomes clear.
Noble as his intentions might seem, I am not so sure that the revelations can wait this long. Allow me, in the interest of national security, to rehearse the facts. On April 5, 2013, more than two years before he announced his candidacy for the presidency, Donald Trump made a cryptic reply to a tweet from an account with the handle @_Mickey_Mouse. “Thanks Basil,” the then-businessman wrote. Unfortunately the tweet to which our future president was responding seems to have disappeared, along with any information about the account’s provenance. Whoever this “Basil” was, he seems to have covered his tracks exceedingly well.
But not well enough. Consider the clues that remain in plain sight. “Basil” is, of course, a Westernized version of “Vasily,” one of the most common Russian male first names. St. Basil, who has given his name to the cathedral that is the single most iconic piece of Russian architecture, is also the patron saint of Russia and a popular symbol of reactionary nationalism. A Kremlin operative, of course, would be careful not to select a Twitter handle easily associated with his employer; he would pick something anodyne and American-sounding. What could answer better to these descriptions than a cartoon character who helped to win World War II? If only, you might be thinking, Trump himself were more careful, he would have avoided using this operative’s actual codename in a public forum.
But this is a misapprehension. If there is anything we have learned about the pattern of Trump-Russia collusion and the antics of the coterie of online nationalists, white supremacists, anime Nazis, and 4chan memers, it is that they cannot resist making their little in-jokes and dropping seemingly clever references into their communications. Consider the wider significance of the date of Trump’s tweet. On April 5, in the Year of Our Lord 1242, the great Russian general Alexander Nevsky defeated the Teutonic Knights at Lake Pepius in the famous Battle of the Ice, an event of enormous significance for nationalists who see the knights as representative of a proto-liberal globalizing tendency already present in the European culture of the Middle Ages.
But why that day in 2013, of all years? What is the significance of that gap of some 771 years? Please. To the uninitiated layman this no doubt seems baffling. To someone who understands the tech-obsessed culture of online neoreactionary pranksters, it is an obvious (and somewhat amusing) throwback. As any programmer knows, 771 is the code page used in DOS to produce text in the Russian alphabet. It is, in other words, a retro racist joke, the kind …read more
Source:: The Week – Politics