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I had great fun observing the fallout over Depardieu’s “defection” to Russia. The reason for the apostrophes is of course because it had nothing to do with it. It was Depardieu trolling Hollande and the French “Socialists”, and Putin trolling Westerners and his own homegrown “democratic journalists.” (Or maybe not? In any case, I for one have a difficult time comprehending why anyone would care so much.) This trolling was both entertaining and successful, because it elicited so, so much beautiful rage and loathing from all our favorite quarters.

The Western press

Predictable enough, coverage of this on the right-wing sites like the Wall Street Journal was schizophrenic. After all the writers and readers have to decide on who they hate more: Socialist France or Putin’s Russia? Of course the faux-left/neoliberal press like Le Monde and The Guardian had no such problems. They went stark raving apoplectic:

Gérard Depardieu isn’t enough to change Russia’s image by our good friend Andrew Ryvkin: “The actor may be taking Russian citizenship, but convincing citizens life is better than in the west is a difficult PR exercise” – I hardly think that was ever the point.

Gérard Depardieu joins very small club of adoptive Russian citizens, by Howard Amos: “Few foreigners seek Russian citizenship and even fewer are granted it, with the tide generally going in the opposite direction.” Ah, the (completely discredited) Sixth Wave of Emigration trope. What makes this especially funny is that 300k-400k Brits leave Britain every year, whereas the equivalent figure for Russia (with more than 2x the population) is slightly above 100,000 this year.

But best of all was the Guardian’s caption competition to the above photo. Here are some of the Guardian picks:

Après moi le beluga…?

Gerard announces the closure of several Parisian Boulangeries.

The hilarity of this is that the Guardian is a major mouthpiece for “fat acceptance”; indeed, it is not atypical for its contributors to write inanities like this: “While obese is a medical term, fat is the language of the bully. It’s not a word doctors should use.”

While I certainly have no problem with making fun of fat apologists and their enablers, but what’s hilarious is that the Guardian CiF is notoriously censorious and would have surely deleted those comments had they been directed at anyone the Guardian likes for violating its “community standards.”

Western democratic journalists

Unfortunately even many otherwise reasonable people were ridiculously outraged.

https://twitter.com/theivanovreport/status/286916844370161665

https://twitter.com/theivanovreport/status/287202688507195393

Mark Adomanis started out well:

https://twitter.com/MarkAdomanis/status/286972111665377280

But then he too went weird.

As the details of his newly minted Russian citizenship Depardieu has (justifiably!) been roundly condemned by right, left, center, and everywhere in between.

https://twitter.com/MarkAdomanis/status/288338539287044096

Quite a change from this in 2010, no?: “All of the US-run freedom indices aren’t merely slanted (that’s to be expected) but usually also have some truly weird crap thrown in the mix.” ;)

Russian liberals

Via politrash, who noted that writing this much have torn the democratic journalist in question (Gleb Razdolnov) to pieces: Please Answer, Depardieu!… (Open Letter)

A must-read for anyone interested in Russian liberal psychology. Go to your Google Translate.

And Depardieu knows all the correct things to say to troll and wind them up even further.

In a class of its own: Julia Ioffe

Gerard Depardieu’s Russian Citizenship Is a Passport to a Westerner’s Playground for TNR.

Days earlier, Putin, by presidential fiat, had extended Russian citizenship to Depardieu, who recently declared that he would abandon his native France, allegedly because of high taxes: Russia’s flat 13 percent tax rate looked a lot better than Francois Hollande’s now defunct proposal to raise taxes to 75 percent for those making over 1 million euros.

Minor point, perhaps, but NOT defunct.

The inaugural trip to Mordovia, observers noted, was a strange choice given what the republic is generally known for: penal colonies. The Mordovian economy subsists almost entirely on these alone; roads are merely strings connecting the colonies, some of which date back to Stalin. Most visitors to Mordovia are likely to see not yodeling singers in colorful frocks, but a depressed region where the free population seems split into two camps: the prison guards, and the day drinkers.

I have no doubt that Depardieu didn’t see and will not see this side of Mordovia, nor will he have met with the region’s most famous inmate, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, of the band Pussy Riot.

The state of Oklahoma, generally known for the Trail of Tears. Southern Poland, generally known for Auschwitz. Nanking, generally known for its rape. Any others you can think of?

Nor will Depardieu see Russia as it exists for 99.9 percent of his now fellow countrymen. As Putin’s pet, he will be shielded from the collapsing infrastructure and a ramshackle poverty inexplicable for a country that pumps more oil than Saudi Arabia. He will never have to go to a poorly trained, overworked, and underpaid Russian doctor who would likely misdiagnose him anyway. He will never get caught in the teeth of the corrupt justice system; he won’t be extorted for bribes, whether or not he runs afoul of the law.

So specifically Russian. But the best is yet to come:

Of course, this can be said of any wealthy Russian, or any celebrity anywhere in the world. The difference here is the orientalism of such Western men—and they are always, always men—who decamp to Russia and praise the place for its freedom and simplicity. The women, they say, are more beautiful and better (read: more sparsely) dressed, more deferential to men (especially men with money), and always aim to please, sexually.

Because ugly, badly dressed, rude, frigid, and – incidentally – worse paid relative to men is a far superior lifestyle?

Without examining why Russian women might be like this, Western expats use these qualities as evidence for a quietly long-held view that feminism is the crude weapon of the ugly Western woman.

Well…

The whirl-a-gig unpredictability of the place rarely stops being fun because it’s never entirely real. In these men’s eyes, it is not lawlessness; it is freedom from annoying rules.

In my years living in Moscow, I have come across many such Western men. In Moscow, their wealth gives them the kind of reality-bending leverage that it couldn’t in New York, London, or Paris. In Moscow, their wealth—and, in Depardieu’s case, fame—made them brilliant and sexually attractive, especially to the leggy, barely legal girls from the provinces; in those Western cities, their money merely made them rich.

Okay, I think she’s basically confirmed my theory from an older post:

One thing that really stands out is that it is female Jews who dislike Russia more than anything, at least among Western journalists. As this post has already pushed well beyond all respectable limits of political correctness, I might as well go the full nine yards and outline my theory of why that is the case. In my view, the reasons are ultimately psycho-sexual. Male Jews nowadays have it good in Russia, with many Slavic girls attracted to their wealth, intelligence and impeccable charm (if not their looks). But the position of Jewesses is the inverse. They find it hard to compete with those same Slavic chicks who tend to be both hotter and much more feminine than them; nor, like Jewish guys, can they compensate with intelligence, since it is considered far less important for women. This state of affairs leads to sexual frustration and permanent singledom (pump and dump affairs don’t count of course), which in turn gives rise to the angry radical feminism and lesbianism that oozes out of this piece by Anna Nemtsova bemoaning Russia’s “useless bachelors”. Such attitudes further increase male aversion to them, thus reinforcing their vicious cycle of singledom. And the resulting frustration indelibly seeps into their work…

Basically in Russia, Ioffe is surrounded by massively superior competition to what she’d find in her hometown, massively diminishing her relative attractiveness and male attention/commitment. This is understandably hard on the ego. In that respect, Washington DC is the polar opposite of what she’d have found in Russia.

So, no wonder that Ioffe has been so angry during her time in Russia and bugged out of the place much sooner rather than later. Why else would she spend so much column space ruing the far superior sexual choice available to expats in Russia?

I mean there’s nothing wrong with her disliking Russia for that, it’s a perfectly understandable and natural reaction. People are drawn to places where they enjoy more attention, respect, and sexual market value. That is why it is “always” male expats that enjoy the place as she points out. Whereas an American female journalist might hook up with some Latino lothario in Brazil, in Moscow she’d have to settle for beetroot-stained runts in vests and tracksuit pants.

But at least the foreign expats she is so so evidently butthurt about are, by her own admission, honest about their motivations. They want to keep 75%-13%=62% of their money, not have their cars periodically torched by “youths”, and have the freedom to look over a girl without going to jail for it.

Update: Ioffe’s reply to this post

Ouch this must have struck a nerve with her!

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Here is the article, by Nick Cohen. And below are the two comments (one by myself) that were censored. I have corrected a few grammatical points in this post.

They were eventually restored, wonder of wonders, but only after two days – and therefore all interest – had passed, and after I had sent an email of complaint to the Guardian CiF moderation team.

As already noted, on the Guardian, while comment is free, some comments are freer than others.

SublimeOblivion:

Let us look at this rationally and by the numbers.

(1) How can Karpov afford this? This is doubtless a question that will be examined in great deal in the actual trial. It is not necessarily, of course, his own money. One explanation is that the Russian government is funding it if it thinks there is a high chance that a British court would find Browder’s claims to be libel. After all, it is its reputation that has been hardest than anyone else’s in this entire sordid affair. Another alternative is that the lawyers that Mr. Cohen castigates think the defendant has a good case and are prepared to work on a no win – no claim basis. Both alternatives were suggested by a British lawyer friend of mine with experience in libel cases (no not the ones in the article).

(2) Likewise the question of how Karpov could afford a one million dollar flat will also be examined in detail given the heart of Browder’s allegations is that Karpov and his buddies murdered Magnitsky to prevent him from reporting on Karpov’s own corruption. Needless to say that this is a question of vital interest that is well worth spending public taxpayer money on because in addition to its legal aspects it has also had wide-ranging political and diplomatic ramifications (although, this being a libel case, that would not be the case anyway, as it will be the losing party that will also have to pay any court costs).

(3) Some people are complaining that it is political and it is wrong to let foreign let alone Russian criminals “abuse” the British legal system to suppress Browder’s right free speech. The reality however is that it was always going to be political because of the political nature of Browder’s activities, which were to lobby for the Magnitsky Act and similar legislation in other parliaments. If however one of the key alleged figurants turns out to be demonstrably innocent, that in turn will put major question marks over the rest of Browder’s narrative. To the contrary, if the court finds that the libel claim is baseless, then that will provide some degree of legitimacy to the Magnitsky Act, something which it desperately needs (because the persons it sanctions have not turned up there by way of a legal process, but on the say-so of Browder – who, needless to say, has his own private motives for doing so).

As such, the only people who should logically oppose this case are those who are not interested in helping establish the truth, but either want to fight a new cold war (on which Mr. Cohen qualifies, I imagine) or protect characters like Karpov, whose activities have been undeniably shady, from scrutiny.

Beckow:

Good summary, but I don’t have the same faith in UK courts as many here. Courts are reluctant to go against policy of their country. If no evidence is shown against Karpov, they might avoid embarrassing UK/US Congress, by dismissing it on some technicality or muddling the verdict. That’s the way it usually happens, but it is worth the entertainment.

Regarding Karpov’s money – there are plenty of people in E.Europe who own expensive real estate, but are cash-poor. After 1990, flats/houses were given to may who lived in them and as real estate sky-rocketed, they became wealthy overnight. Could be that Karpov’s mom is one of them. It also matters very little if Karpov is rich or not, it proves nothing. As it would prove nothing in the West.

And finally, as a matter of possible curiosity, the email I sent:

Dear CiF Moderators,

I am the user “SublimeOblivion”. As I have been forwarded to this email by Matt Seaton, could you please explain why my comment at 06 January 2013 10:54 PM to this article by Nick Cohen was deleted?

It did not break any of the Guardian’s “community guidelines” that I could possible see. I did not insult anyone, and my reply was a great deal more restrained than any number of others I can point out there. I did not even disagree with one of Cohen’s main points which was that Karpov’s ability to afford expensive lawyers was suspicious (although of course as I understand, in theory CiF does not censor comments for mere disagreement anyway).

As Rozina said in the last comment to that article as of right now (which I hope you will not likewise delete):

Also I wonder why previous comments by Sublime Oblivion, Beckow, myself and others were moderated. SO’s comment looked reasonable and he questioned Karpov’s ability to pay his legal costs. If there are certain things posters are not allowed to mention because they concern details of the court case, then either the original article should have included a warning that any comments referring to facts about Karpov and Browdler which will be part of the trial’s scope may be subject to moderation, or the article should not have invited comments at all.

I would appreciate it if you could send a copy of my comment with the part that was objectionable in particular marked out so that I can avoid repeating any such mistake in the future.

Finally, I would also like to note the deep irony of a comment being deleted to an article that complains of libel lawyers and Russian litigants purportedly infringing on the right to free speech of British citizens. It would be interesting and deeply appreciated to hear a comment on this too.

Thanks and Best,
Anatoly.

The reply:

Hello,

Thanks for getting in touch.

On review I have decided to reinstate your comment (please see: http://discussion.guardian.co.uk/comment-permalink/20433454).

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Kind regards

CIF Moderation Team

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Latest results are getting in that Putin got 63.8%. That a second round would be avoided was never really in serious doubt for the past month, nonetheless the election would still be important from several other perspectives, such as the level of falsifications (in particular, in comparison with 2011), and the relative performance of Zhirinovsky, Mironov, and Prokhorov.

I’m afraid there was still substantial fraud, greater than the 2%-3% I predicted (relative to 5%-7% in the Duma elections). The FOM exit poll gave Putin 59.3% (80,000 respondents, 81 regions), the VCIOM exit poll gave him 58.3% (159,000 respondents, 63 regions). That is a 5% point discrepancy that is too big to explain by their margins of error. In particular, the results from large parts of the North Caucasus remain as hopelessly ridiculous as ever.

That said, there were improvements, especially in Moscow. Putin got 48.7% there. This is close to, if still higher, than the 45.1% recorded in Golos observer protocols. The Citizen Observer initiative says he got 47%. (Recall that United Russia, which always lags Putin by 10%-15%, got 46.6% in Moscow in 2011, whereas Putin got only 2% points higher; this is further, if indirect, evidence of mass falsifications in 2011).

The Golos observer protocols gave Putin 54.7% nationwide. The average of observer protocols from all election monitoring organization gave Putin 50.7%, with some giving him less than 50% (one example is Navalny’s RosVybory project, which gave him a mere 49.0%). Overall, I trust the exit polls more. They are more accurate than observer protocols for sampling reasons. Exit polls try to cover the whole country, and FOM/VCIOM largely succeed. Observers are more concentrated in the more central, accessible areas, where Putin is less popular than average. Furthermore, observers in this election took special care to focus more on stations where there was evidence of fraud in 2011. As such, the effects of “bad apple” stations figure more prominently in their figures.

I prefer exit polls, post-elections polls, and statistical evidence. Grainy videos on YouTube where it’s impossible to work out what is happening, photos of lines of buses or big groups of “carousels” going about stuffing for Putin, etc are next to worthless. Speaking of those carousels, note that Moscow is a city of about 12 million. 75% are eligible to vote, and there was 60% turnout. This means there were about 5 million voters on March 4, 2012. You need tens of thousands of carousel workers and hundreds of buses (50,000 people, 1,000 packed buses = 1% for Putin) just to make the slightest uptick in the figures in support of Putin who has an unchallenged lead anyway.

In the courts, its been shown that whereas witness testimony is the type of evidence that is most frequently believed in by jurors, it is also the least objectively reliable. Same for these anecdotes about carousels and coerced voting. I view all evidence on these lines with great skepticism and recommend readers do the same.

Prokhorov did far better, getting more than 7%, than I expected, in significant part thanks to Moscow where even beat Zyuganov with almost 20%. Far more tellingly, perhaps, he only got 6% in Norilsk, where he is well-known as the owner of the nickel combine and main employer. Perhaps too well-known.

I was disappointed to see Mironov flopping, not even eking out 4%. Also a bit surprised, as I though he did very well in the TV debates. I guess most Russians disagree.

Overall, Western coverage hasn’t been quite as hysterical as in 2011, though if past experience is any guide things can change quickly for the worse (best example: First day coverage of the Ossetian war was actually fairly objective, only later becoming a propaganda fest in support of Saakashvili’s aggression).

Other things of note:

  • Putin crying
  • FEMEN booby protest. PS. A documentary on them.
  • Ballot stuffing in progress in Daghestan. The results at that station were annulled, but the 91% turnout and 93% Putin vote in that region indicates this was far from a isolated case.
  • Komsomolskaya Pravda: Караул! Лови фальсификаторов! An account of how the liberals have portrayed several things as falsifications (with “video evidence”) but which in fact were nothing of the sort. E.g., supposed “ballot stuffer” in Vladivostok was testing the machines before the start of the voting as required by regulation.
  • Georgia TV blasts Russia for fraud. Because Saakashvili is such a great democratist.
  • In case anyone was wondering why the Guardian censors users who support Putin and criticize its journalists, Luke Harding has the answer: “Many thanks for your comments! For those wondering why some have been deleted here’s Miriam Elder’s piece on Kremlin internet trolls.”
  • Mark Galeotti tweets: “Disgraceful! None of polling stations I’ve yet visited feature wheelbarrows of fake ballots, etc. Can’t they put on a show for a guest?”
  • On Mark Chapman’s blog, kievite calculates that US funds Russian opposition movement to tune of $500 million a year.
  • Alex Mercouris notes that the web cams were a genial idea.
  • The Wall Street Journalist (let me remind you, a plagiarist institution) resorts to outright, mendacious LYING to support its anti-Putin agenda: “Supporters were bused into Moscow to boost Mr. Putin’s vote in the capital, where his support has been below 20% in polls.” This is completely, utterly wrong. VCIOM predicted Putin 43.7% there; FOM, 45.0%. The real result was 47.0%, within the margins of error of both polls. Say one thing for the WSJ, though, they don’t censor my opinion there (unlike The Guardian).
  • CNN: “”The point of an election is that the outcome should be uncertain. This was not the case in Russia,” said Tonino Picula, the head of an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).” – Erm, that’s not the point of an election at all, Mr. Picula.
  • Eminently satisfying to see Russia Today give Luke Harding, Miriam Elder, and Shawn Walker well-deserved drubbings for their smearing, lying ways.
  • Also courtesy of Moscow Exile I found this old post by Vadim Nikitin about Luke Harding’s plagiarism, which apparently extended well beyond riffing off the eXile and Kevin O’Flynn.
(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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In a recent editorial, The Guardian complained about the expulsion of their Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding. All the usual Russia tropes were brought up in explanation, including its “shrinking space for a free press.”

But Harding’s “crowning offense”, at least according to the Guardian’s “guess”, was “his association with this paper’s story on what the WikiLeaks material revealed about the views of foreign diplomats and others on the nature of the Russian system as it has evolved, or rather, devolved, under Vladimir Putin.”

By this time, most of my “guesses” were revolving around the question of WTF are the Guardian Editors smoking. Not very diplomatic, true, so I limited myself to just pointing out that their arguments are specious, and why (unfortunately failed to screenshot my response). But the gist of it went something along these lines…

1. As shown by a simple Googling, Luke Harding is a professional plagiarist, ripping off from the eXile. It’s well documented and we have to wonder what he’s doing as a journalist in the first place. And that’s not going into the observation that most of Harding’s “real” journalism consists of dogged Russia-bashing – and that countries like the US also bans journalists it dislikes from entering. No outcry from the Guardian there!

2. The Guardian’s argument that Russia banned Luke Harding for his Wikileaks stories is simply absurd on too many levels. For a start, there are literally thousands of articles – both from Western journalists in Russia and Russian journalists writing for Russian newspapers – covering the cables in which US diplomats blow off about Russia being a “mafia state.” All you need to confirm this is a 30-second search of Russian Google News, but I guess that is too much real work for an accomplished specialist in plagiarism and sensationalism.

3. Frankly, boohoo! And good riddance.

As it turned out, good riddance to me too. The Guardian is more than happy to dish it out, but can’t take the heat itself. Of the first 50 comments on that Editorial – located in the section Comment Is Free, of all places – some 11 have been censored because they don’t “abide by [The Guardian's] community standards.”

That’s more than 20% censorship, including all of the truly critical views. Comment is free indeed. But I “guess” that some comments are freer than others.

UPDATE #1

To John Haskell’s question, “Are we then to conclude that Harding was denied entry to Russia because he ripped off the Exile?”

AK – If I had to “guess” – just as the Guardian does – then I’d say someone took a look at Harding’s articles for his past years in Russia, noticed they were full of negative spin, fact distortion and outright propaganda (e.g. this, making out the South Ossetia War as a “cruel” Russian invasion of Georgia), and hence the ban.

Harding is perhaps unfortunate that it befell him (after all Ed Lucas can still travel there freely), but “guessing” that it was due to his Wikileaks coverage – if it was hundreds of other Western and Russian journalists would also be expelled or in jail – is mendacious.

UPDATE #2

Response to Sean Russia Blog’s “The Hard Lessons of the Harding Affair.”

Some paranoias die hard. Some day, though I can’t imagine that it will be anytime soon, the Russian government will have enough self-confidence in themselves and their system to see that the best way to deal with irritants is to ignore them, or better yet defuse them through positive recognition. This is after all what mature liberal democracies do, and as Gramsci taught, consent is always more effective than force.

AK - If you consider the US a “mature liberal democracy”, then Russia is already playing to form. I don’t follow these news closely, but just in 2004, according to the CPJ, “nine foreign journalists were detained and denied entry because they did not have visas.” A Google search reveals that in 2010 a Colombian and a Palestinian journalist were denied entry, whose coverage went against American interests.

Think the Guardian’s Britain is any better? Off the top of my head, they denied entry to right-wing radio personality Michael Savage. While I despise his views, and agree with the Foreign Office opinion that some of it is “hate speech”, why are the Russians not allowed to consider Luke Harding’s anti-Russian diatribes to be also hate speech?

PS. Despite the whataboutism here – justified, I think, because of the double standards the same countries that criticize Russia display – I actually agree with you that barring Luke Harding is more trouble than its worth. That said, now that the milk has been spilled, Russia might as well refrain from backpedaling.

UPDATE #3

So it appears Russia has allowed Luke Harding to come back. Meanwhile, I remain censored by the Guardian.

Guardian = less respect for free speech than the Kremlin.

EDIT: This post has been translated into Russian at Inosmi.Ru (Цензура в The Guardian: некоторые комментарии свободнее других). Thanks guys – you rock!

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.