Meet Jen Psaki, former spokeswoman for President Barack Obama, current spokeswoman for Secretary of State John Kerry, and — suddenly — subject of the Kremlin's latest favorite meme.
According to a report in state newspaper Rossisskaya Gazeta on Thursday, Russians have begun to use Psaki's name as shorthand for a "rating of stupidity and incompetence."
Hmm. Where did that come from?
It dates back to last month, when, during a press conference, Psaki criticized the phenomenon of "carousel voting" at a separatist referendum in eastern Ukraine, before admitting that she didn't know what the term meant.
Pro-Putin bloggers with links to the Kremlin immediately seized on the comments and made a hero out of AP reporter Matt Lee, whose question revealed the fact that Psaki used a term she did not know.
And then, on Sunday night, jazz-handed Kremlin propaganda chief Dmitry Kiselyov dedicated an entire segment of his show to "Psaking," which he claimed is a "new buzzword that has appeared on the spaces of the global internet."
“People say [Psaking] when someone makes a dogmatic statement about something they don’t understand, mixes facts up, and then doesn’t apologize," Kiselyov said.
Kiselyov went on to say that "Psaking" was a metaphor for "low-quality American diplomacy" and unpicked Obama's criticism of Russia in a major foreign policy address at West Point last month.
Obama and the U.S. suffer from "paraphrenia," Kiselyov said — "the combination of delusions of grandeur and persecution."
There's just one problem: The meme doesn't really seem to be catching on. Most of the few hundred Google results for Russian-language word searches are references in Russian media to the supposed phenomenon.
Much of the online campaign around the meme, like this video posted by pro-Kremlin blogger and former lawmaker Konstantin Rykov, is infantile and nonsensical in a manner that recalls the handiwork of pro-Putin trolls.
None of the memes on Twitter have more than a few hundred retweets at most. The 26 groups on Russian social network VK dedicated to Psaki are mostly empty.
That hasn't stopped Russian media from reveling in the apparently forced meme. Several newspapers, including top-selling tabloid Komomolskaya Pravda, even reported on "rumors" that Psaki had been fired for her supposed incompetence.
Psaki's office told BuzzFeed that the meme is "yet another in a long line of desperate attacks to counter efforts by senior U.S. officials to speak the truth about Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its ongoing involvement in eastern Ukraine."
Max Seddon is a correspondent for BuzzFeed World based in Berlin. He has reported from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and across the ex-Soviet Union and Europe. His secure PGP fingerprint is 6642 80FB 4059 E3F7 BEBE 94A5 242A E424 92E0 7B71
Contact Max Seddon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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