From a largely reliable and mainly convincing source, The Orthosphere has learned that it is at least highly likely – or otherwise only a little bit unlikely – that Russia might or might not have manipulated last November’s American presidential election, in the outcome of which Donald Trump emerged as the surprise electoral winner. The facts of the story (and once again, the likelihood of their possibility is relatively quite high) are no less than astonishing. They take us back as far as the Cold War or more precisely to the year 1980 when the nation that we today call Russia was the dominant polity of what was then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR. Although the precise details of how Russia intervened in – or “hacked” – the recent competition to become chief executive of the USA might appear like something out of a Tom Clancy novel, we assure our readers that those details are true, or more or less true, or not altogether incredible, and that they in no big way, and not even in any small way, constitute “fake news” although they might, under certain conditions, explain the emergence of “fake news” during the first one hundred days of President Trump’s administration.
THE BACKGROUND. It is a little-known and only slightly disputed fact that a subterranean channel, running parallel to the St. Lawrence River, formerly connected the Atlantic Ocean with the Great Lakes. Whereas Western intelligence knew nothing of this channel, it is believed that its existence did become known to Soviet intelligence. It is believed furthermore that knowledge thereof led to the formulation of a bold plan: Send elements of the Soviet Navy surreptitiously into the heartland of America, to be able to spring into action on command. This agenda was dubbed by planners as Project Borscht. In 1980, in the twilight years of the Brezhnev regime, a secret subcommittee of the Party Central Committee is believed to have selected then Captain Feliks Danielovich Feliksov (born 1954) to take command of the Lira-class nuclear attack submarine Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky (keel laid in Admiralty Shipyard, Leningrad, in June 1972; commissioned into the Atlantic Flotilla in December 1979) and to infiltrate his vessel through the subterranean channel into Lake Ontario, there to conceal his presence and await further orders. Captain Feliksov accomplished his primary mission, but a complication occurred. Shortly after his passage, the subterranean channel collapsed due to a seismic event, trapping the submarine in the lake.
We use the name Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky for convenience. When commissioned the vessel bore the name of Party Chairman Malenkov, which was subsequently changed to Party Chairman Andropov, and then again to Party Chairman Chernenko. In the immediate post-Soviet period, the ship was renamed once again, as Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky, and has retained that name for twenty-seven years. Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky has served longer than any other submarine in the Russian Navy, the Naval Command having decommissioned and scrapped all other Lira-class units, except one, no longer in service but preserved as a floating historical display. The vessel’s namesake Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky (1848 – 1909) served as Admiral of the Baltic Fleet under Czar Nicholas II. After the destruction of the Pacific Squadron by the Japanese at its anchorage in Port Arthur in 1904, Rozdestvensky reorganized the Baltic Squadron as the Second Pacific Squadron and steamed around the world on an eight-month voyage. On arriving in the Tsushima Straits and in a time-span of about ninety minutes the Second Pacific Squadron lost most of its ships when the Japanese Main Battle Fleet under the command of Admiral Heihachiro Togo succeeded in crossing Rozdestvensky’s “T.”
Former Captain Feliksov, now Admiral-Kommandant Feliksov of the Great Lakes Submarine Detachment of the Russian Atlantic Flotilla, has explained to the Orthosphere how Russian Naval Headquarters believes that Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky is a more illustrious name than Party Chairman Chernenko, and in any case none of those Party Chairmen is any longer relevant. Rozhdestvensky although wounded in the battle survived it and was later exonerated by the Czar and commended for his bravery in action. As for Feliksov himself, not only is he a many times decorated long-serving officer of the submarine corps; he is also a fully trained psychological warfare and intelligence-espionage expert. Once the actual military value of submarine Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky declined due to the shelf-life of its main munitions, its mission became one of exerting influence over the American polity in various ways.
THE STORY. In Upstate New York, at an undisclosed location, the Orthosphere’s own Professor Richard Cocks has spent many hours interviewing Admiral Feliksov for the record. These interviews have taken place, for the most part, on the unused third floor of a well-known, early Nineteenth-Century civic building that now functions as a tavern and restaurant in a small but vibrant city on the southern Lake Ontario shore. When the submarine undergoes repairs in a secret location, the crew often barracks in the aforesaid structure. All crew members of Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky speak English and most of them can pass as American. Many of them are familiar figures the public houses of Upstate New York and most are pillars of the community. Feliksov began the discussion by revealing to Professor Cocks the extent – truly astonishing – of Russian “hacking” capability, which is based, as the admiral explains, both on technical and parapsychic achievements not yet matched by Western intelligence agencies.
Admiral Feliksov: During the era of the Soviet Union, Russian scientific research, in an attempt to avoid so-called bourgeois thinking, embraced alternative paradigms. Not many of these turned out to be productive, but Leon Theremin’s Interocitor Theory, which to this day the West considers to be pseudo-science, made headway in our country. Interociter technology, incorporating certain principles discovered prior to Theremin by Nicolas Tesla, can provide an actual interface between an electromagnetic mechanism and the neuronal network that grounds the human mind. Interocitor technology has numerous other applications – as a telecommunications device, aircraft autopilot, road-construction machine, and directed-energy weapon – but it has mainly proven its usefulness in espionage and propaganda. When Naval Command conceived Operation Borscht, it saw to the equipment of Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky with the latest Interocitor technology from the Theremin Institute. We believed that such equipment would be vital to our mission. And so it proved.
The Orthosphere: When did you and your crew first attempt to influence American politics or culture? Was it immediately on infiltrating the lake or did you lie low for a time so as to assess your situation once a return journey had become impossible?
Admiral Feliksov: Our plan always looked to the long term. No one had ever undertaken anything like it before, so we naturally entered an extended period of nuanced experimentation, simply to determine the parameters of our capability, while staying hidden. Even so, we began right away. It might amuse you how small our initial effort was – how trivial, as you might say.
The Orthosphere: We would like to know the details.
Admiral Feliksov: Da, da! In the Soviet era, we Russians were fascinated by American popular culture and somewhat jealous of it – discussions or pronouncements critical of the Communist regime were not tolerated and could get a person in real trouble. In America in those days criticism of the status quo was untouchable. The people were free. Anyone who could do so in Russia watched American television and movies and listened to American music, clandestinely. We were very much amused by the sketch-comedy television program Saturday Night Live, which had begun airing in 1975. Naval Headquarters, acting on behalf of the Central Committee in Moscow, asked us to sabotage Saturday Night Live by making it less funny and less genuinely satirical. Accomplishing this end would entail two second-degree results of a positive character from the Soviet point of view. It would demoralize the large SNL audience and, if completed properly, would damage the institution of comedy by politicizing it and making it unfunny.
The Orthosphere: How did you proceed?
Admiral Feliksov: By 1980, when we entered the lake, the two most brilliant lights of SNL, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, had already left the cast. We used the Interocitor to assess the general psychic situation at NBC and discovered by means of a component called the vanitometer that the show’s creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, was in a state of clinical fatigue and that his associate producer, a talentless sycophant with an uncorrelated high-ambition reading on our sensors, was convinced that she could do a better job than her boss, “because I am a woman,” as she thought to herself. We opened a channel through her hypothalamus into her parietal lobe. Normally, the Interocitor’s intensifier disc is positioned eighteen degrees clockwise from its default twelve-o’clock position, but because this was more or less a test, we set the intensity at nineteen degrees and a half.
The Orthosphere: And what then?
Admiral Feliksov: In a marathon preparatory session, we had members of the crew tape-record books and articles by the noteworthy academic-feminist writers of the day – Andrea Dworkin, Luce Irigaray, and Hélène Cixous. We began playing these taped recordings through the Interocitor’s cathermin tube, which, transmitting them at low volume to the target, inflated the associate producer’s self-image and encouraged her to go behind Michaels’ back directly to NBC president Fred Silverman. To make a long story short, Michaels lost his job, the assistant producer became the producer, and she replaced the remaining original cast with the likes of Charles Rocket, Ann Risley, and Joe Piscopo. Oh – and Gilbert Gottfried! It was an amazing success for our trial-run, but looking back on it I must say that it was a sad day for comedy. Later, we were responsible for Charles in Charge, Webster, Golden Girls, and The Facts of Life, with a young George Clooney. I feel that I owe America an apology, especially where it concerns George Clooney. We did, however, influence Seinfeld, the least politically correct TV show in the last twenty-five years. That might mitigate our mischief just a bit.
The Orthosphere: How did the collapse of the Soviet Union affect your mission?
Admiral Feliksov: This is complicated to tell. When we entered the lake, we had with us what is called a political officer – actually a Communist Party spy and internal propagandist – who bored us intolerably and made our lives miserable. One summer late-evening in 1983, when we surfaced to let the crew stroll on deck to breathe fresh air, my lieutenant-commander called the political officer’s attention to some apparent anti-regime graffiti that had been scrawled on the forward escape hatch. These graffiti included explicit scurrilous remarks about a high-ranking party member in Leningrad, as well as telephone numbers and pornographic depictions. While the political officer was intently copying these remarks and images by hand in his notebook, our lookout spotted a Canadian Coast Guard vessel heading in our direction. I ordered a crash dive. The political officer, absorbed in his investigation, failed to heed the alarm, a fact that we noticed only once we had submerged. He was picked up by the Canadians, was immediately claimed by the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, which repatriated him. What became of him afterwards, we have no idea.
The Orthosphere: Free from direct political interference, your lives must have become somewhat easier.
Admiral Feliksov: Yes, Glasnost and Perestroika, initiated by Gorbachev, and the concomitant military detente with the West, made things easier for us. Not having a chekist constantly watching us, we took steps unilaterally, for example, to disarm the submarine. We made a clandestine deal with an American nuclear power plant in Upstate New York on the lake to receive and reprocess the fissionable materials in our arsenal of warheads, we sank our torpedoes and cruise-missiles in the deepest part of the lake, and we installed in the now-empty spaces a sauna, a wet-bar, and an indoor tennis court that doubles as a theater. Not so long ago we staged a Gilbert-and-Sullivan in that venue – Pirates of Penzansky. From our earliest presence in the lake, landing parties from the submarine went ashore regularly to replenish our food, water, and other necessities. Eventually, a few crew members signed up for night-classes in community colleges near the lake shore, sought employment, and began integrating their Russian naval service with a second life, so to speak, on American soil. Some even married American wives, bought homes, and had children. My own wife is American, from Oswego. I drive a Chevrolet Impala, our son attended American schools, and I currently subscribe to Net-Flix and Amazon Prime.
The Orthosphere: And when the collapse of Communism occurred?
Admiral Feliksov: They seem to have forgotten about us for a while. By the early 1990s, we felt increasingly friendly toward America and its people and we grew anxious over certain social and cultural symptoms that were becoming noticeable. We decided to freelance our mission in order both to help America and, in so doing, to help the Rodina, our newly independent Russian homeland. By this time, we were extremely skilled in our operations. Consistent with keeping ourselves secret, we intervened frequently to manipulate American politics and culture, to stave off what we saw as the potential for the Sovietization of the United States. We wanted, among other things, to keep the worst people out of your government. We have not always succeeded, as in the case of your previous president to the new one, but we believe that we have mostly averted the worst scenarios.
The Orthosphere: Looking at the list of your accomplishments, I see that you and your crew were responsible for Howard Dean’s infamous scream.
Admiral Feliksov: Da, da! That is right although this was not a major operation. We were re-calibrating the Interocitor. Usually the bead-condenser operates at an indium setting of plus-four, but we believed that we could increase our abilities by tuning the same condenser to an indium setting of plus-five-point-five. Our re-calibration schedule happened to coincide with the Democratic Party’s Iowa Caucuses in the summer of 2004. Now Interocitation allows immediate mind-to-mind contact of which the broadcaster is aware but the receiver unaware, except perhaps as a slightly disgruntled feeling, often experienced as nagging self-doubt or the onset of a conniption-fit. We can influence large groups of people by setting up a standing scalar wave in a particular area and coding it with a continuously broadcasting subliminal message. We can influence individuals, probing deeply into their subconscious and reprogramming them in different ways. The vanitometer, of which I have previously spoken, is useful in this regard. Incidentally we prefer the phrase mind-to-mind over the phrase brain-to-brain because the latter is a formula of physical reductionism, which we reject on philosophical grounds.
The Orthosphere: Can you furnish us with further technical details about your so-called hacking procedure?
Admiral Feliksov: Once again we established contact with the target’s parietal lobe, concentrating specifically on the suprachiasmatic nucleus. When we had a lock, we simply rotated the rheostat, increasing the voltage until the scream hit a high C and then we decreased the voltage abruptly, with a little wobble at the end. The target had no idea that the impulse to vocalize originated externally. It seemed to him both natural and appropriate. To the audience, however, it seemed bizarre and slightly crazy. Our little experiment entailed the unplanned consequence of ending Dean’s just-barely-begun campaign. Much of our work at that time consisted in experimentation – how to expand or deepen our targeting. In addition to Dean’s scream, we are responsible for the contents of most so-called academic journals since 1996, the year Alan Sokal punked Social Text. Standing scalar waves in the offices of the university presses guarantee that the gatekeepers of academic propriety see gibberish as philosophy and vice versa. In recent weeks we have been playing around with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, inducing a good deal of oscillator feed-through. It amuses us to watch Maxine oscillate.
The Orthosphere: We should talk about the 2016 American presidential election. Is it true that the officers and crewmen of the submarine Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky really hacked the election in favor of now-President Trump?
Admiral Feliksov: Russian Naval Headquarters re-established contact with us in 1999, when President Putin assumed office for the first time. I booked a flight out of the Kingston, Ontario, and returned to Moscow for debriefing. I met personally with Putin, who recognized that our presence in the lake was still advantageous, not only to Russia, but to America. As you know, Putin trained as a counter-intelligence officer. I believe that he had natural sympathy both for our mission, which he re-validated, and for our situation. He also has natural sympathy for America and, while adhering to what we call deniable plausibility in this respect, does what he can to protect actual Americans. As were we, with our long-term close-up view, Putin was alarmed by the drift of American liberals toward the worst sort of puritanical totalitarianism, which liberals themselves mendaciously call progress, and their increasing insouciance about subterfuge in and sabotage of institutions.
The Orthosphere: What is your view, and what again is Mr. Putin’s view, of Mrs. Clinton?
Admiral Feliksov: Our views are convergent. We both think that Hillary Clinton is a genuinely nice person if by “genuinely nice person” you mean someone whose capacity for self-adulation makes Dane Cook or Alex Baldwin look like a Cistercian perfectissimus of humility. We both think that Hillary Clinton is an extraordinarily honest politician if by “extraordinarily honest politician” you mean someone whose lust for power makes Attila the Hun look like the Swedish mother in I Remember Mama. In Russia we have a joke about Hillary Clinton. An Archangel is escorting Dzerzhinsky, Lenin, and Stalin into Hell, which consists in a long cave-like corridor with iron cell-doors along one wall. The Archangel opens the first cell, revealing a decrepit one-hundred-year-old prostitute. The Archangel says to Dzerzhinsky, “Felix Edmundovich, in your lifetime you have sinned.” He kicks Dzerzhinsky into the cell and slams shut the door. The Archangel opens the second cell, revealing a decrepit one-thousand-year-old prostitute. The Archangel says to Lenin, “Vladimir Illyich, in your lifetime you have sinned.” He kicks Lenin into the cell and slams shut the door. The Archangel then opens the third cell, revealing the wife of former president William Jefferson Clinton, she who lately served as Barack Hussein Obama’s Secretary of State, and lately as a senator from New York State. The Archangel kicks Stalin into the cell, saying sternly, “Hillary Rodham Clinton, in your lifetime you have sinned,” and he slams shut the door.
The Orthosphere: So you were alarmed?
Admiral Feliksov: Mrs. Clinton registers off the scale on the vanitometer and again on the device that we call the bullshitimeter. Six months out from Election Day, we undertook operations. This time our scope would be wider than ever but we would also hack into the electorate more deeply than ever – while maintaining deniable plausibility, of course. Our hacking operation went very deep, right down to the level of millions of individual minds. We were even able to hack the minds of American college humanities professors in the voting booth seconds before pulling the lever. In one second, such a person was a rabid Clintonite, but in the next second, accompanied by a slight tingling sensation in the amygdala, the same person would become an ardent Trumpskyite despite himself. And he pulled the Trump lever. Afterwards, he would become his insipid self again, read an article in the Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, and retain no memory of the episode. However, I would not wish to exaggerate this particular achievement. The mind of the American college humanities professor is easy to hack.
The Orthosphere: College humanities professors can be hacked? Wouldn’t they be the most strongly convicted in their Leftist-progressive notions?
Admiral Feliksov: Psychologically speaking, their convictions are rigid, not strong. Strength can bend, but rigidity is prone to breakage. We use the Dialectic of Materialism, to which we are immune, as a carrier wave of the Interocitor signal, but many times we find that the American college humanities professor’s mind is, to borrow a term from his own favorite postmodern gazette, always-already hacked by various ideological memes, picked up in graduate school, that are only slight variants on the Dialectic of Materialism, itself. The Dialectic of Materialism is indeed the amplitude modifier of the American college humanities professor mentality, because to the degree that you think yourself reducible to an historically contingent epistème, or to the means of production, and that all truth is relative or subjective, a self-deconstructing contradiction in the term, you will have rendered yourself more permeable to the rhetoric of manipulation than a Vladivostok drunkard is to bathtub Vodka. That reminds me, by the way, of another Hillary Clinton joke that circulates in Russia.
The Orthosphere: We would like to hear that joke. And, after you have told it, would you answer whether Trump would have won without your assistance?
Admiral Feliksov: Da, da! It is three years into Hillary’s first term as president and everything has become scarce. A miles-long line circles several times around a government liquor store in Arlington, Virginia. A man who has stood the line for hours suddenly starts to swear and gesticulate. He tells his fellow standees that he has had enough, that he will go home, fetch his hunting rifle, and shoot Hillary Clinton, after which he storms away. An hour later he returns looking sheepish. He meekly begs his friends to admit him once more in the line. “Well,” one of them asks, “did you shoot President Hillary?” The man replies, “No, that line was three times longer than this one!” I’ll tell you one joke more: What would have been the most permanent feature of the American economy under a Hillary presidency? The answer is – temporary shortages! I kid you, of course, but supposing we cannot kid one another, who can we kid? As for Trump’s prospect, he never really needed us, but we provided, as you might say, a certain corrective nudge that gave to his self-made success an extra-piquant flavor. We have also deliberately exacerbated post-election Trump Derangement Syndrome – again mostly just for the fun of it. We can claim responsibility, for example, for Nancy Pelosi’s obsession with the alphabetical order of nations.
The Orthosphere: What lies in the future for submarine Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky?
Admiral Feliksov: It is harder and harder for us to refuel our reactor. We are considering converting Zhinovi Rozhdestvensky into a suite of condominiums in one of the marinas along the southern shore of the lake – Alexandria Bay, Oswego, or Sodus Point, but definitely not Pultneyville. We hate Pultneyville. Or perhaps we will open a dinner-theater. Our galley puts out excellent shashlik, and our traveling production of Pirates of Penzansky got excellent reviews in rural Ontario Province. Furthermore, we have applied to the US Patent Office for North American rights to Interocitor technology, in respect of which we ourselves have made numerous refinements. And we are negotiating with HBO for a serial drama to be based on a fictionalized version of our deniably plausible true story. Many of the crew-members have passed retirement age and have businesses and lives of their own on land, to which they would like to give full attention. My Chief Petty Officer, for example, owns a limousine-service in Oswego, New York, which he has named after himself: Yuri Pikup-Andropoff’s. Another crew member owns a chain of espresso bars, in which musicians play balalaika music, under the name of Nicolai Rinse-the-Coffee-Cup. Alphabetically, America is first! We are doing well. There is no need to worry.
The Orthosphere: Thank you, Admiral, for your candor. Is there anything else?
Admiral Feliksov: Yes, I have a question for you.
The Orthosphere: And what is that?
Admiral Feliksov: How do you get a Social Justice Warrior out of a bathtub?
The Orthosphere: Please tell me.
Admiral Feliksov: You turn on the water!
Richard Cocks Adds a Note about the Interview. The Admiral seemed in good spirits throughout my interactions with him. His prolonged exile from the Mother Land seems to have been made bearable by the meaning his mission has provided him and his compatriots, together with his successful integration into local American life. One could almost imagine he is not Russian at all, until in his cups his Russian accent emerges once more and he rages against the pusillanimous and untenable existence of Pultneyville and revels in the ease with which the American electorate can be manipulated and cajoled. The general state of agitation makes them easier to influence since many of them have no settled convictions and thus no bulwark by which to steady themselves – enthusiastically running headlong straight into the latest outrage suggested to them with the help of the Interociter. Unable to focus on any one thing for long they make neither headway nor sense.
Location photography: Richard Cocks.
Special Photography: Denne Sollenne.