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In terms of content, the Weisses of this world are a dime a dozen. So why “expose” yet another neocon propagandist?

Because he is also very nasty, and very dangerous – as Richard Silverstein’s comprehensive profile of Michael D. Weiss, just published at The Unz Review, convincingly argues.

So far as (functional) psychopathy goes, he really is one of a kind in the world of journalism.

And if pushing kompromat up the Google rankings makes at least a few people think twice before associating with him too closely, then the effort will be worth it.

michael-weiss-with-jihadists

Weiss in his element.

I. The Making of a Neocon

The first thing one notices about Weiss is that he is a neocon propagandist.

Yes, to be sure, in 90%+ of cases, the two things are tautological. But Weiss really knows how to take it to the n-th level.

https://twitter.com/akarlin88/status/652993280133599232/

Despite knowing neither Russian nor Arabic nor Farsi, he has somehow – by somehow, I mean sponsorship by such doyens of the Pozocracy such as #NeverTrumper PNAC neocon Bill Kristol, exiled Russian crook Khodorkovsky, and Bill Browder – become an authoritative MSM voice on Russia, Syria, Iran, the war in Donbass, and many other geopolitical topics.

Here is a primer on Weiss from Mark Ames’ Pando profile of Peter Pomerantsev, a close associate of his:

During the late Bush years, Weiss worked for the neocon organ of Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard; afterwards, Weiss headed up a neocon PR project, “Just Journalism,” which policed the English-language press for any journalism critical of Israel in the wake of its brutal war on Gaza in 2008-9. Then, as Syria descended into civil war, Weiss became one of the leading neocon warmongers pushing for America to invade Syria. Perhaps most troubling of all when it comes to Pomerantsev’s credibility — Weiss played a lead role in promoting the career of one of the most notorious academic frauds of our time, Elizabeth O’Bagy, the fake Syria “expert” whom Weiss teamed up with to argue for war in Syria. Apparently after O’Bagy was exposed as a fraud with no Syria credentials, Weiss skulked away, only to reappear with a new co-author—Peter Pomeranstev—and a new beat: Putin’s Russia. [The War Nerd wrote this excellent article on Elizabeth O'Bagy's strange & sleazy story.]

When he isn’t appearing on the Clinton News Network as an “expert” to tell everyone about Putin joining ISIS before appearing at academic conferences to wax lyrical about how Russia is a “post-modern dictatorship” where there is “no truth,” Weiss somehow finds the time to serve as editor of both The Daily Beast and The Interpreter.

The Interpreter is a blog dedicated to translating articles from the Russian media (read: Novaya Gazeta, Echo of Moscow, and other almost exclusively anti-Putin outlets), which has recently come under the auspices of the US state-controlled media organization the BBG (Broadcasting Board of Governors), whose main project remains that Cold War era mastadon, RFERL (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). The RFERL is an organization so dedicated to Western values of free speech that they fired a strongly anti-Putin journalist, Andrey Babitsky, for having the temerity to report on Ukrainian war crimes.

It is in this context, in his capacity as editor of The Interpreter, that I had my first run-in with Michael Weiss.

II. The Russian Spectrum

At the time, I had set up and was trying to find financing for The Russian Spectrum (TRS), a project that aimed to make translations from the Russian press available to the Anglosphere (in other words, a kind of English-language Inosmi, a RIA project to make “free” Western media available for the delectation of information-deprived and Kremlin-brainwashed Russians (if one that has had rather unintended consequences).

If you look at the TRS archives, you will see translations from a variety of sources both pro- and anti-Putin, with the latter including Latynina, Kashin, Lev Gudkov, Yavlinsky, etc: http://akarlin.com/qualia/translation/

Though my skepticism of the Russian liberal movement is hardly a secret, my aim was to keep TRS broadly ideologically neutral by representing all points of view.

At the time I was interested in exploring avenues of cooperation with other projects that were interested in doing stuff similar to what I was doing, and as yet unaware of the extent to which Michael Weiss was… special, I wrote him the following email:

Dear Michael Weiss/Interpreter Staff,

It is great to see you making translations of the Russian press available for a wider audience. Regardless of one’s political views, that is an unquestionably positive and effective means of fostering more informed views and dialog on Russian politics and society.

As it happens, I have a similar project at The Russian Spectrum (though it is more narrowly focused just on the translation activity)….

Since we share a common interest in presenting “English Inosmi” services, I would like to propose a partnership or cooperation agreement to avoid needlessly duplicating work and expanding the range of translated pieces we both offer. …

Thank you for your consideration. I look forwards to hearing from you on what you think of this.

He refused, as I suspected he would, as was of course his complete right, and I treated the matter as done – until I got involved in a Twitter spat with him several months later.

During this “argument,” Weiss claimed that I was running around “begging favors” from him and threatened to publish my letter, gloating in the prospect of mr being discredited amongst my “Putinist chums.” So I was like, LOL, go ahead. Apparently, the idea that not all people operate by Bolshevik principles – of which neoconservatism is an outgrowth – must have been quite foreign to him.

The banal reality is that my inroads into “Putinist” circles are in fact rather modest, so the harm he could have done by divulging these private communications was in any case negligible. And that was on the mistaken assumption that Weiss’ projections were correct – which they weren’t. The reality is that many “Putinist” institutions are in fact quite pluralist; RIA during its existence was an outright bednest of liberalism, and even “KGB TV” (aka RT) once took the decidedly unwise step of inviting Weiss to participate in one of their shows:

However, as would soon become clear, my experience with Weiss was not an isolated one. Doxxing, blackmail, and character assassination are central tools in his “journalistic” repertoire.

And those tools are not limited to big people like Putin and Trump, and big organizations like RT, that can roll with the punches and strike back.

III. Conservative Friends of Russia

In 2012, there was an effort by elements of the UK Conservative Party to improve relations with Russia under the umbrella of the short-lived Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR) organization.

According to an acquaintance who was involved with CFoR at the time, Weiss sent an email to CFoR’s office posing as an investigative “journalist” – but essentially demanding that they either come out in support of the Magnitsky Act, or get destroyed in the media.

The guy who was allegedly financing Weiss’ Russia project at the Henry Jackson Society at that time? None other than Bill Browder – the main sponsor of the Magnitsky Act.

Incidentally, since then, it’s become increasingly clear that Browder’s motives were far murkier – and more mercenary – than implied by the simple morality tale of justice for Magnitsky pushed by the Act’s sponsors. And he has expended a lot of effort – mostly successful – to gag a documentary film by (the anti-Putin liberal) Andrey Nekrasov, which made Browder out to be a liar:

Browder has thwarted Nekrasov’s previous attempts to show the film with threats of legal action. The first time, he intervened at the last minute to stop Nekrasov, with Blu-ray disc in hand, from showing it to an audience of European Union parliamentarians at the their headquarters in Brussels… Nekrasov told that his experience dealing with Browder “has been a bit depressing, to be frank.”

“What I discovered is how easy it is — if you have a lot of money — to basically gag somebody,” Nekrasov said.

In any case, CFoR apparently refused to accede to Weiss’ offer that could not be refused, and a defamation campaign by him and others in his circle, such as Sergey Cristo – the guy behind the Guardian plagiarist hack Luke Harding’s attack piece on CFoR – ensued. The specific allegations raised by Weiss were rather comprehensively rebutted by CFoR’s head Richard Royal; most amusingly, the “glowing biographies of Vladimir Putin” that were supposedly distributed at a CFoR event were, according to my source, actually copies of Richard Sakwa’s The Crisis of Russian Democracy – one of the most diligently researched and densely footnoted academic works on the Russian political system in the English language. In no conceivable universe could it be considered a Putin hagiography.

“[Weiss] lies and lies and is very aggressive,” concluded my source.

Unfortunately, as Patrick Armstrong pointed out, there are far more questions than can be answered – or to quote the famous Internet meme, “the amount of energy necessary to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it” – and so the CFoR came under immense political pressure and had to Shut Down (though it later reappeared as the Westminster Russia Forum, and played a key role in the campaign to reward medals to British veterans who participated in the Arctic Convoy missions in World War 2).

IV. Sundry Other Episodes

I never bothered actively following Weiss, even back when I was on Twitter. That said, at least three additional episodes of his misadventures came to my attention (at the very least I found them on my timeline while researching this article).

(1) Doxxing the “pro-Assad” and “pro-Putin” troll @LibertyLynx.

The irony is that @LibertyLynx is absolutely nothing of the sort; she has, in fact, along with comrade-in-arms Craig Pirrong (aka Streetwise Professor) been consistently and in the past – virulently – anti-Putin. Moreover, she and I have something of a “history” and thus I can’t be said to have any particularly compelling reasons to take her side. That said, in the past 1-2 years she appears to have moderated in this regard, having come to be unnerved by rampant neocon warmongery and hypocrisy (including in Syria).

This appears to have upset Michael Weiss very much, inciting him and his Interpreter associate the mentally deranged Catherine Fitzpatrick (she literally believes using open-source software like WordPress is “technocommunism” and therefore theft) to advance the conspiracy theory that @LibertyLynx was in fact a sockpuppet of Craig Pirrong and/or Rachel Marsden (!). Conveniently, Weiss made sure to delete those allegations of his before posting the doxx of @LibertyLynx.

(2) Insinuating that Maram Susli, aka @Partisangirl – an Assad supporter, as is perfectly her right as an emigre Syrian woman, and by extension one of the foremost proponents of secularism in Syria on social media – was a terrorist suspect under surveillance by Australian intelligence.

This is coming from a guy who regularly pals about with moderate jihadists(TM):

(3) There is also an extensive account from Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald about his run-ins with Weiss and his Interpreter associate James Miller.

Later in 2014, I wrote a couple of op-eds for RT on and Ben Judah. Both centred on erroneous, factually deviant articles they had written. At no point did I cast aspersions on their private lives, the very thought would have been abhorrent. Around this time, Weiss, a close associate of that pair, began to make obnoxious tweets of a personal nature, directed at me. Miller then emailed me a list of questions, which essentially asked me to “prove you are not a spy” and tagged Weiss on the correspondence. I later sent Weiss a few similar posers so he’d see how ludicrous it was.

Then a “hit piece” appeared on the Interpreter blog, written by James Miller and the same Robert Schultz, making all kinds of wild allegations. The whole thing was so ludicrous that nobody with a brain could possibly have taken it seriously. It essentially alleged that I was a Russian spy who had lied about my background. It also slandered the same ex of mine, calling her a “porn star” and was obsessed with the fact that I changed the spelling of my name for work reasons.

It gets a lot worse:

Right on cue, the Twitter attacks resumed. Then the phone calls started up again. One ‘gentleman’ phoned the local newspaper in the town where I grew up looking for information about me. I last wrote for them in 1998. Someone then called my mother, at home, asking questions. This made me extremely angry because my mother was very sick at the time and it greatly distressed her. She, sadly, died a few months later. I’m not sure what these scumbags were hoping to achieve by harassing my poor mum.

These are the people whom American taxpayers effectively employ following The Interpreter’s partnership with RFERL.

V. We Have Yet to Hit Bottom

Go read Richard Silverstein’s profile of Michael Weiss.

All the above was just the tip of the iceberg.

There are good reasons to believe Weiss is substantially responsible for an American citizen wrongly ending up in an Iranian jail in his zeal to torpedo the US-Iranian nuclear deal.

Here are the most important bits:

Another puzzling, problematic author Weiss brought to the magazine was “Alex Shirazi” (a pseudonym). Until he published his first piece in July 2015 (a month after Weiss took on his new editorial role) under a joint byline with Weiss, there is no online record that “Shirazi” ever existed.

In preparation for his second [Daily Beast] article, “Shirazi” first approached Iranian-American oil executive Siamak Namazi, while the latter was visiting Iran in June 2015. At that time, the “journalist” did not reveal his real identity to his subject. He e-mailed a list of questions he wished Namazi to answer about the supposed financial benefits the Iranian regime offered his family.

The nature of the questions alarmed Namazi and members of his family Shirazi also contacted. As a result, they contacted Shirazi’s editor, Weiss, requesting that he review the questions himself, suggesting that they were unfair and even libelous. Weiss declined to intervene, so Namazi escalated his concerns to managing editor, John Avlon. He warned the Daily Beast executive that such an article was likely to harm both him and his family. All this was to no avail.

Within a week of receiving Shirazi’s inquiry, Namazi was stopped at the airport by Iranian security officials and refused permission to leave the country. Several months later, in September, DB published Shirazi’s profile, and within a month Namazi was in the notorious Evin Prison. This raises the strong probability that Iranian hardliners were monitoring either Shirazi or Namazi’s e-mail accounts, and that the questions and implicit accusations raised in the messages were exploited by Iranian intelligence officers to implicate Namazi.

Who is Siamak Namazi? His good friend, Reza Marashi, wrote this appreciation of him in Huffington Post:

He helped run a world-renowned consulting firm – staffed predominantly with Iranian-born citizens – that facilitated badly-needed foreign investment from blue-chip multinational corporations.

Neither money nor power was ever a driving force behind Siamak’s work. It was the indigenous development of his motherland that motivated him. Siamak wanted Iran to live up to its vast potential, and he was at the forefront of teaching international best practices and standards in business and management to scores of young Iranians. The pride on his face was always evident when his employees would move on to successful careers across a variety of fields in Iran.

…As U.S. sanctions were causing medical supply shortages in Iran, he independently researched and published what became the authoritative literature on the subject. I was in the audience when he presented his findings in Washington DC. As Siamak began to describe the disastrous impact of sanctions on innocent Iranians, he choked up, paused for a moment, composed himself, and then proceeded to finish his presentation. That’s how much he loves the country that is currently keeping him in prison.

To reinforce the ominousness of the charges against Namazi, the graphic art accompanying the DB article consisted of a series of shady-looking Arab militants sporting beards, long hair, a turban and sunglasses. The image is a cross between an Arab playboy and an ISIS fighter. No one in Iran dresses this way…

The main contention implicit in the headline was itself wrong on several counts. Neither Siamak nor his family are “behind” the so-called “Iran Lobby.” Nor is the Iranian-American NGO attacked in the article, the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) “America’s Iran Lobby.”

A common smear tactic of DC Beltway neoconservatives and the Iranian cult group, Mujahadeen e Khalq (MEK) has been to label NIAC a stooge of the Iranian regime. In reality, NIAC is a completely independent, nonpartisan organization.

Ironically, Aipac, a group heartily supported by those like Eli Lake, Kenneth Timmerman and Weiss who’ve attacked NIAC, is far more of a slavish booster of the Israeli regime than NIAC is of the Iranian regime.

Among Iranian-Americans, there has been a great deal of speculation about “Shirazi’s” real identity. A number of them have noted that shortly before his DB article was published a very similar post appeared in a Farsi-language blog written by a former Iranian journalist and activist, Nikahang Kowsar.

Iranians I spoke with believe Kowsar hates the Iranian regime so much, he hopes the hardliners will come to power. Then, it will be that much easier to promote a western attack on Iran that would topple the regime. So in a terribly perverse way, his interests coincide with those of the hardliners.

In the course of interviewing Iranian sources for this profile, one told me that the author “Shirazi” approached him with questions about the Namazi family. In the course of the e mails that went back and forth, “Shirazi” slipped up and forgot to use his fake e mail address. Instead, he used his real email address and name: Nikahang Kowsar.

The most profound irony of the entire episode is that a group of neocon polemicists, in an attempt to defame NIAC, have used the Namazi family as a sacrificial goat. The parallel force on the Iranian side, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other hardliners, have exploited this struggle for their own purposes. …

It’s also ironic that both Kowsar and the Iranian hardliners detest NIAC, and for similar reasons. They each detest the nuclear agreement as they detest any rapprochement in relations between Iran and the west. Inside Iran, the extremists even call NIAC and figures like Siamak “infiltrators.”

Perhaps the ultimate irony of this affair is that Michael Weiss and his neocon comrades, in their desperation to sabotage U.S.-Iran relations have made common cause with the most hardline and vicious of Iran’s clerical regime. They make for very strange bedfellows.

VI.

Or maybe not so strange after all. Birds of a feather flock together, and the totalitarian sees another totalitarian from afar.

We are not merely dealing with an eloquent and well-connected ideologue. This is a psychopath who views the world through a Manichean prism, in which you are either with him or you are subhuman scum, to be smeared into oblivion even if your disagreements with him are ultimately quite modest, as with @LibertyLynx, or tricked and utilized for the Great Cause should the opportunity present itself (as with the hapless idealist Namazi).

As James Carden pointed out in an investigative essay in The Nation, his attitude towards the media is profoundly McCarthyite:

The authors call for the creation of an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation” that would furnish news organizations and bloggers with the “analytical tools with which to define forms of communication.” While they throw in an obligatory caveat that “top-down censorship should be avoided” (exactly how is left unexplained), they nonetheless endorse what amounts to a media blacklist. “Vigorous debate and disagreement is of course to be encouraged,” the authors write, “but media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”

What qualifies as “conscious deception” is also left undefined, but it isn’t difficult to surmise. Organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be “excluded from the community.” Weiss, for instance, has asserted repeatedly that Russia is to blame for the July 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. But would a news organization like, say, The Atlantic or Der Spiegel be “excluded from the community” for writing about a German intelligence report that indicated the missile in question did not come from Russia? Would journalists like Robert Parry be blacklisted for questioning the mainstream account of the tragedy? Would scholars like the University of Ottawa’s Paul Robinson be banned from appearing on op-ed pages and cable-news programs for challenging the notion that there is, in the words of Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, “no civil war in Ukraine,” but rather a war “started and waged by Russia”?

Weiss and Pomerantsev accuse the Kremlin of “making deception equivalent to argumentation and the deliberate misuse of facts as legitimate as rational persuasion.” Maybe so. But these tactics are hardly unique to the Kremlin. In December, a group of Kiev parliamentarians presented photographs to the Senate Armed Services Committee purporting to show Russian troops and tanks invading eastern Ukraine. Subsequent reports revealed that the images had been taken during the Russian-Georgian war in 2008. Did the Interpreter denounce the Ukrainian delegation for trying to pass off doctored photos? No. Its warnings about disinformation cut only one way.

Incidentally, Pomeranstev, a close associate of Weiss and the rest of the yuppie neocon circle (Ben Judah, Ioffe, Applebaum, etc), in a recent report co-authored with Edward Lucas, argues for equating pro-Russian views with those of radical Islam:

A third proposal in this report is perhaps even more bizarre. Citing efforts to deradicalize Islamic militants, Lucas and Pomerantsev write that, ‘Similar initiatives should be undertaken with radicalized, pro-Kremlin supporters, those on the far left and the far right, and Russian speakers.’ Are they suggesting anti-brainwashing programs for people who watch RT or read Russia Insider? I really don’t know what to make of this.

You’ve made it this far down this article? Report to your nearest soma dispensation station immediately, citizen!

What are the ideological roots of Weiss’ totalitarian instincts?

Weiss lists as his special heroes Karl Marx, Irving Howe (a bit of a clash there between the founder of Communism and an ardent anti-Communist), and George Orwell. Among the surprising things this future neocon endorses is “socialized healthcare.”

How… Orwellian.

The Soviet dissident Sergey Dovlatov’s aphorism is rarely more appropriate: “After communists, most of all I hate anti-communists.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Journalism, Kompromat, Michael Weiss 
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What a coincidence according to Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, a journalist who has been been one of the more outspoken ones in demanding intervention against Assad, that a billionaire businessman with a global hotel chain would have ever wished to explore business opportunities in Russia.

Trump’s Long Romance With Russia:

In a 1997 New Yorker profile, Trump talked about his trips to Russia to explore having the Trump Organization take part in skyscraper and hotel development projects in Moscow, including the reconstruction of the Moskva and Rossiya Hotels.

“That’s a very big project; I think it’s the largest hotel in the world,” Trump told Russian politician Alexander Ivanovich Lebed at the time. “And we’re working with the local government, the mayor of Moscow and the mayor’s people. So far, they’ve been very responsive.”

Why practically nobody else was doing that after the end of Communism.

Negotiations over the two hotels eventually fizzled, but in 2008 the Trump Organization was at it again, announcing it planned to build elite residences and hotels in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi, and license the Trump brand for other projects. Donald Trump Jr., the candidate’s son, made the announcement in a speech at the 2008 “Real Estate in Russia” conference.

You know who else’s son was looking after the family’s business interests in Putin’s Russia?

Mitt Romney’s. From the NYT in 2012:

But while in Moscow, Mr. Romney told a Russian known to be able to deliver messages to Mr. Putin that despite the campaign rhetoric, his father wants good relations if he becomes president, according to a person informed about the conversation.

Matt Romney traveled to Moscow with Gary B. Sabin, the chairman and chief executive of Excel Trust, which is based in San Diego. Greg Davis, the firm’s vice president of capital markets and communications, said the trip was unrelated to the campaign.

“It is a harmless trip,” Mr. Davis said. “It was a trip that has been planned for some time. Any travel they’ve done on behalf of Excel is strictly on the private side. It would have nothing to do with anything governmental.”

Excel is a real estate investment trust that focuses on shopping centers largely in states from California to Florida and up to Pennsylvania. By distributing 90 percent or more of its taxable income in the form of a dividend, it helps investors avoid double taxation under the law, Mr. Davis said.

But I don’t recall any of the neocons to say nothing of Rogin having to say anything about that. Isn’t that a curious.

Or maybe not. In yet another striking coincidence, on the website of the Emergency Committee for Israel, Josh Rogin is listed seventh on the “leaderboard” of journalists who have earned the most “political capital” (howsoever they measure that).

I suppose some romances are more kosher than others.

 
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In the past few days there has been a sort of alt-singularity as Putin and Trump exchanged compliments, as one might think befits mature heads of powerful states (one actual, one potential). Naturally, one of these men has been taking a lot of heat for it from all the empty suit punditry and the Cuck-in-Chief himself:

Far from apologizing and backing down, Trump has instead doubled down. This is really encouraging, because it suggest that his opposition to invade/invite the world is borne of genuine convictions, and that increasing numbers of Americans are beginning to wake up to the scams the elites run on them. And of course it doesn’t hurt that the facts are solidly, incontrovertibly on Trump’s side, regardless of how much the presstitutes might hate it.

(1)

Putin’s approval rating, from National Review:

Donald Trump: Well, he is a strong leader! What am I gonna say, he’s a weak leader? He’s making mincemeat out of our president. He’s a strong leader. You would like me to call him a weak leader. He’s a strong leader, and I’m not gonna be politically correct. He’s got an 80 percent approval rating done by pollsters, from I understand this country, okay? So it’s not even done by his pollsters, he’s very popular within Russia!

That is correct. A Gallup survey conducted in 2014 showed Putin with an approval rating of 83%. The latest poll from the (liberal-leaning) Levada Center gives him 85%. A recent study by four American political scientists confirm his genuinely high level of support at around 80% or more.

(2)

No evidence Putin kills journalists, from Breitbart:

Stephanopoulos said, “Here’s what Mitt Romney tweeted, ‘there’s an important distinction, thug Putin kills journalists and opponents our presidents kill terrorists and enemy combatants.”

Trump said, “Does he know for a fact? It’s possible that he does. I don’t think it’s been proven. I’m not trying to be –”

Stephanopoulos interjected, “Allegations he was behind,” then Trump continued, “Sure, there are allegations. I have read those allegations over the years. But nobody’s proven that he’s killed anybody … If he has killed reporters, that’s terrible. He’s always denied it. He’s never been proven that he’s killed anybody. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty at least in our country. He’s not proven that he’s killed reporters.” …

Trump answered, “I’m not saying anything. I’m saying when you say a man killed reporters I’d like you to prove it.I have never seen any information or any proof that he killed reporters, George, you’re just saying, he killed reporters. You and other people killed reporters. I don’t know that. I haven’t seen it. If he did it’s despicable. It’s horrible. You’re making these accusations, I don’t see any proof. By the way, he totally denied that he killed reports are. He totally denied it.”

This particularly enraged Establishment commentators, but once again Trump is completely right and cannot be stumped. There is absolutely no evidence that Putin ordered the assassination of a single journalist.

Moreover, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists – hardly a bastion of Putin apologists – journalist murders have plummeted in Russia under the reign of the Dark Lord of the Kremlin relative to the “free” and “democratic” 1990s when the US was best buddies with Russia, or at least the oligarchs pillaging it, and for that matter whacking any journalists who dared report on their activities.

Literally MORE Russian journalists were murdered for their reporting under 8 years of Yeltsin than 15 years under Putin.

cpj-journalists-killed-in-russia-1992-to-2015

Note also the following:

(1) Russia has a lot of journalists – according to UN data, it has twice the number of newspaper journalists as the US (despite having half the population). Adjusted for per capita rates, Russian journalists have always been far safer than any number of “democratic” countries that get on with the US such as Brazil, Mexico, India, Colombia. Even in the 1990s. And this is despite the fact that under Putin, the CPJ has been actively trying to tie any murder of a Russian journalist it feasibly could to his or her professional activity, even where such connections are questionable or altogether non-existent. According to a 2008 analysis by blogger Fedia Kriukov, considerably more than 50% of the Russian journalists the CPJ claims were killed for their professional activities – that is, angering business interests, local authorities, etc. – actually turned out to be wholly or partially falsified. Note that Putin doesn’t even begin to enter into this.

(2) As of this year, Russia imprisons only one journalist. It usually veers in the 0-1 range. Although even one is too much, but within the 1-3 range that even developed Western countries occasionally stray into. That consistently includes Israel; Italy in 2013; and for that matter, the US itself in 2013, though for some reason, the CPJ doesn’t count Barret Brown. (Another curious exception is Ukraine and the case of Ruslan Kotsaba, who is in prison and almost a year on still awaiting trial for calling the war in the Donbass a civil war and expressing his opposition to conscription). In contrast, Erdogan’s Turkey imprisons 14 journalists (an improvement from 40 in 2013). Of course that minor matter didn’t stop Jeb Bush from enthusiastically affirming his support for them when the Turks knocked a Russian warplane out of the sky for an accidental infringement of their territory for a few seconds.

On Russia as on most other things Trump steers a blazing path through Establishment lies. If he or his aides read Steve Sailer, as seems to be within the realm of possibility, it is perhaps not an entirely empty fancy of mine that they might have skimmed over a bit of my stuff as well.

 
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Here is the CPJ:

New York, September 16, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores a decree signed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today which, according to a copy viewed by CPJ, bans at least 41 international journalists and bloggers from Ukraine for one year. The journalists and bloggers were among 388 people named as representing an “actual or potential threat to national interests, national security, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” according to news reports… The 34 journalists and seven bloggers named in the ban come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The decree, which was published on the presidential website, does not explain what press coverage Ukrainian authorities deem as a threat to national security. Three BBC journalists including Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg were banned.

Irish journalist Bryan MacDonald has the most comprehensive writeup at RT.

In total, around 400 new persons and 100 Russian enterprises – though not including Poroshenko’s Roshen chocolate factory in Lipetsk – have been sanctioned and barred from entering the country.

Apart from various Russian politicians and celebrities like Kobzon, the list also includes tons of Western journalists, European politicians, and an American businessman.

steven-rosenberg-evil-kremlin-agent-who-wants-to-destroy-ukraine

The standard reason apparently given to all or most of them (can’t be bothered reading the whole thing) is “creating an actual and/or potential threat to national interests, national security, and the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” “promotion of terrorist activities and/or violation of the rights and freedoms of people and citizens, the interests of the state,” the “destruction of jobs” (so now we know who’s responsible for Ukraine’s descent into Gabon: Russian journalists like the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg!), and various other grave sins.

Now in my opinion all states have the right to exercise control over their sovereign banners. Russia itself has started denying visas to particularly hostile journalists. The US has a habit of denying visas to “unfriendly” journalists, especially uppity leftist Latin American and Palestinian ones, though for some reason that gets much less attention than Russian bans in the Western media. Australian feminists don’t want controversial foreign citizens teaching game to their less seductively successful menfolk. More power to them! And, likewise, Ukraine as a state – even if not a particularly civilized one that serves any useful purpose – has the right to ban whosoever it so wants.

It’s not like there aren’t multitudes of real human rights violations happening in Ukraine, anyway. There are literally thousands of political prisoners, including journalists like Ruslan Kotsaba whose only crime was to verbally oppose conscription. And those are the lucky ones: Some, like Oles Buzina, have been murdered outright by Neo-Nazi death squads who enjoy implicit backing from the regime. None of this has really drawn any attention let alone condemnation from prominent Western journalists and politicians, so one can hardly expect them to protest mere visa bans directed against the Russian aggressors.

Expect that these visa bans also happened to affect Western journalists, including three journalists at the BBC. While the BBC is relatively impartial, even going so far as to question the official narrative on the Euromaidan massacre, there is no questios that its general sympathies lie with the Maidan and that a significant percentage of their journalists are overtly hostile to Russia. They also banned two Spanish journalists. Unfortunately, they are unlikely to have visited Ukraine anyway, since they are currently missing in Syria and presumed captured by ISIS. Nonetheless, even from Islamic State captivity, they manage to continue to exercise a threat to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and employment statistics of Ukraine. Most impressive!

This is all far worse than just scummy conduct. When even your sympathizers are either criticizing you or plotting how to best spin the story so as to not to have the regime come off in too bad of a light – indeed, when just a few hours later you have to backtrack and let the BBC journalists (though apparently not anyone else) continue visiting Ukraine after all just – it’s a downright PR disaster.

Which really says something about the quality of Ukrainian decision-making, because in the current Cold War 2 atmosphere the propaganda war is entirely Kiev’s to lose.

There are two factors that help explain this. First, for all its fervent portrayal of itself as a European state, and its cargo cult like destruction of Soviet monuments and renaming of Communist themed streets (at the expense of local people – you’re welcome!), Ukraine remains a deeply and innately sovok state. Hence the stereotypically Soviet like methods that Ukraine uses to “affirm” its European identity. Would any country that knew itself to be a real European state, as opposed to Gabon-with-snow, use such cack-handed methods? Probably not. With people as with nation-states, it is those most loudly proclaiming themselves to be anti-sovoks who tend to be the most sovok of them all.

Second, it points to the dearth of human capital in Ukrainian state agencies. Now bureaucrats in Ukraine or for that matter Russia have never been worth writing home about, but in post-Maidan Ukraine we really appear to be approaching some kind of rock bottom. I suspect the SBU folks charged with compiling this list, after coming up with some obvious and “legitimate” candidates, could not be bothered with further research and just started assigning people at random based on them fulfilling some basic criterion, e.g. keyword searches indicating that they had once said something remotely uncharitable about Ukraine.

But I for one am not an uncharitable person, so I would like to do my small part to help them out: I propose they include me in any future sanctions, as well as the bloggers and journalists under the “Ukraine” tab on my blog’s sidebar. That’s eight people, or 2% of any future 400-person quota. You would at least save yourselves some embarassment, and nobody will really be materially affected by this – the only country on the Pontic steppe that I at any rate would conceivably visit while the junta remains in power is Novorossiya, and a Ukraine visa ban would be something I’d be otherwise happy to put on my CV.

Any svidomy-leaning readers – please feel free to forwards this to the SBU. No need for MVD head Anton Gerashchenko to bother identifying me by IP!

 
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For those who missed this affair, the aptly urled Russian website bs-life.ru (Business Life) published a secret Kremlin directive to compensate the relatives of 2,000 Russian military KIA and 3,200 WIA .

Alarm bells should have rung from the start.

Looks like the very epitome of a serious professional website dedicated to investigative journalism.

Looks like the very epitome of a serious professional website dedicated to investigative journalism.

Start with the website. The design runs on a free, mass-use Joomla magazine template. I daresay most functional one-author blogs look nicer. WHOIS lists no contacts, the owner being identified as a “private person.” Until it became “famous” in the past few days, it did not register in Alexa’s top 100,000 global websites (for comparison, Unz.com is 53,764 on the list, and Russia Insider, launched less than a year ago, is at 27,585). That a site built in one day for $10 sometime in 2011 would be the one to acquire a leak of such seminal importance seems unlikely to say the least.

The figures also don’t pass the face validity test. Both UAF and NAF casualties are estimated around 2,500 to date, though they are likely substantial underestimates. Even so this would imply that the actual Russian Army accounted for a substantal portion, perhaps the majority, of the Novorossiyan military deaths. Considering its massive preponderance in training and equipment over Ukraine such ratios would be implausible even if it was doing the regular fighting. In actuality, the only time that we can be reasonably sure it got involved was in the Ilovaysk battle, in which the Ukrainian forces suffered a crushing defeat. The 2:3 ratio of killed to wounded is also utterly implausible for any modern army. That’s the kind of ratios you had in pre-antibiotics wars. In WW2, the ratio was 1:3. In modern wars, it’s at least 1:5.

These are some basic investigative and logical questions that any journalist writing about this should have been asking.

In their defense, though, Novy Region, the Ukrainian news site that first republished the story, is engaged in a propaganda war against Russia, as is 90%+ of the Ukrainian media. That is understandable.

And in their defense, neither Paul Goble nor Paul Roderick Gregory, the two Anglosphere pundits who did most to “break” this story in the West, can be considered legitimate journalists. Both are glorified bloggers, much like myself.

Goble’s primary schtick consists in recycling stories from marginal anti-Kremlin commentators and “laundering” them for mass citation in the Western MSM. This is a role for which he is eminently qualified by his long years of service in the CIA, RFERL, the State Department, and various democracy promoting NGOs (quadruple-sic!). As I wrote in an expose on him five years ago: “If one fine day some random Tatar blogger on LiveJournal decides to restore the Qasim Khanate, we’ll certainly hear about it on his blog… and guess what, we do!” His piece “uncovering” Russia’s military casualties for Euromaidan Press, his latest gig, is just his latest and unusually successful laundry day.

I don’t really know much about Gregory, apart from him being an economist who loves the 1%, blogs for Forbes, and really, really dislikes Putin and Russia (including up to and beyond the point of conspiracy theories). I suspect he got the story from Paul Goble since his post was published 11 hours after Goble’s and it is unlikely that they were both monitoring Novy Region, let alone BS-Life.

The real question is how come a whole range of Western media outlets reprinted these claims more or less unquestioningly, including: NBC, The Times, The Independent, IB Times.

Incidentally, The Independent is (was?) considered to be a pro-Russian paper, on account of it being owned by a Russian oligarch (as if Russian oligarchs ever cared about anything beyond their wallets). It’s coverage was singularly incompetent (see bolded), not a surprise perhaps considering the author also writes for VICE and BuzzFeed. And for some reason the Indy expects people to pay for its wisdom.

Whilst Russia continues to deny that its troops are fighting in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, a respected news site in Russia seemingly inadvertently published secret figures that detail deaths and causalities of forces on the ground.

In fairness, some journalists were properly skeptical of this from the start, such as Leonid Bershidsky, who is likely the best (i.e. least ideological, most fact based) anti-Putin journalist writing at a high profile venue today.

A couple days later, this rumor was taken apart by RT, by revealing the elementary fact that there was no such publication as Business Life. Then the whole affair was comprehensively debunked by Ruslan Leviev (in Russian and translation), a liberal Russian journalist who has actively hunted for traces of Russian military involvement in Donbass. He uncovered that the site was a simple phone number phishing website whose owner went so far as to use stolen identities to keep the scam going.

And some Western journalists such as the AFP’s Dmitry Zaks were very, very sad to see the truth come out.

I said they needn’t worry too much. As is all too typical in this conflict, it is the sensationalist, headlines-generating news items that make the biggest impact. Reddit is probably the single biggest political discussion forum in the West, where upvotes are directly linked to visibility.

Let’s do a quick quantification using the number of upvotes at /r/WorldNews as a proxy:

BS + Reality +
Paul Goble 1129 RT 2
Forbes 374 Ruslan Leviev 0
NBC 219
Independent 28
TOTAL 1750 TOTAL 2

What can one say?

Well, first… Kremlin bots! Olgino trolls! Where the hell are you?!?

Second – the rather mundane observation the vast majority of people who only read the articles on /r/WorldNews – without delving into the comments, which at least in this case strip away the BS quite effectively – would come away reinforced in their impression that Russia is directly involved militarily in Ukraine on a large scale, is getting its ass kicked, and that popular opinion will turn against Putin sooner or later at which point the usual color revolution textbook would be pulled out. This is not an isolated case. It’s just the banal reality of information war. The people who “ordered” this story and then laundered it into the MSM don’t care that it was quickly exposed and that it thus has a short shelf life. It still dominated the Ukraine headlines for a couple of days, so it’s mission accomplished so far as they’re concerned. Only a tiny percentage will maintain interest long enough to see it debunked. So far as the rest are concerned the only effect is to reinforce the dominant narrative and the audience for that is primarily Western.

This is all rather obvious, of course, but even – especially – obvious truths still have to be repeated every so often.

 
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The Guardian’s Shaun Walker reports on the latest activities of Andrey Babitsky, the anti-Putin journalist who was fired from RFERL close to a year ago amidst a conspiracy of silence.

In an office just off Lenin Square in Donetsk, a small group of journalists is plotting the launch of a new television channel, to be based in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. In the polarised media climate around the conflict in east Ukraine, it is no surprise that a new channel is being set up in the Russia-backed statelet. More surprising is the journalist leading it: Andrei Babitsky, who for years was accused by many in Russia of being a traitor to his country.

Here is my full article on Babitsky’s account of his work and departure from RFERL, including translations from an interview he did with a Czech newspaper (the single biggest exposure his case had in the Western MSM).

TL;DR – Working with RFERL since 1989. Feted as an anti-Putin hero journalist for explaining how Chechens decapitating Russian POWs on camera isn’t sadism but a way of making the war more palpable. Emigrated to Prague, where RFERL has its HQ, permanently in 2000. Continued traveling to Russia occasionally, most notably for taking an interview with the terrorist Shamil Basayev – he of Beslan school siege fame – in 2005. Consistent in his support for local autonomy and self-determination, he was okay with Crimea’s reincorporation into Russia, for which he was suspended without pay from RFERL. Soon afterwards, he uncovered evidence of Aidar war crimes in Donbass, which he videod and sent back to RFERL HQ. Was almost immediately fired from RFERL.

Virtually no mention of a Russian journalist being fired from an American state-owned media organization in the Western media, apart from a single interview in a Czech newspaper several months after the fact. Compare and contrast with the days long furor in the Western MSM when an American journalist resigned from a Russian state media outlet live on air. If this isn’t evidence of the Western media being controlled – it doesn’t have to be direct – then I don’t know what is. At any rate, Babitsky evidently agreed:

“I think the situation has changed a lot since the conflict sprung up between Russia and the west. And to a significant extent, Radio Liberty, which for a long time was a journalistic organisation, has become a propaganda instrument,” Babitsky claimed in an interview in Donetsk recently.

Which is why he is now setting up a TV channel in Donetsk.

He described his new project as an “independent internal channel which will fill a new niche”. It will be called Dialogue and the idea is to hold discussions between Donetsk and the rest of Ukraine.

“We want to move away from the language of hate, to use more analysis, and to try to bring in voices from the other side of the lines,” said Babitsky. He insisted the channel was not affiliated with state structures in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and said the modest funding had come from local businessmen. He plans to hire around six people to get the channel up and running within a month.

“Humans should remain human in any circumstances, and that is difficult to achieve in times of war. Hatred towards the enemy twists human feelings and we need to hear calm voices.”

It is worth pointing out that Guardianista sentiment towards Babitsky is about 75% negative, accusing him of being a Putinbot and a turncloak. Here is probably the best comment there, from one “Shatford Shatford”, an amusing blend of gay fever and Putin Derangement Syndrome (the latter displayed here in the implication that his claws reach all the way to Prague):

He was given a choice:

Either you shut up and start saying you love Putin or we a) jail you for 30 years; b) gun you down in the street and blame it on homosexuals; or c) repossess the homes of all your family members and kill their pets.

Sometimes people just aren’t willing to sacrifice everything for their ideals. Not everyone is Thomas Moore.

Babitsky is no friend of Putin or even of Russia. Nor, as it now turns out, is he an uncritical friend of the West either, as Boomerang Babitsky has come flying back to make a plant square on their face.

As for his own journey, Babitsky said there is nothing surprising about someone who was once considered a traitor by many Russians now espousing pro-Kremlin views.

“At that time I felt for the Chechens, because I thought that if these people want to live by their own traditions and move away from Russia then they should be able to. Probably we should have listened to those moods and not killed so many people,” he said.

“It’s the same here. I think Russia is playing a significant role here, but the reasons are not to be found in Russia, they are internal. This is a civil war, where the interests of two parts of Ukraine that consider themselves linked to two cultural traditions are clashing with each other.”

He is simple a man for whom his own principles come first. For all too many, especially those Westerners who view themselves as being invariably on the side of the Light, Truth, Progress, and Independent Media, the very notion is well nigh inconceivable.

 
Russian Opposition Journalist Andrey Babitsky Discovers Western Freedom of Speech
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babitsky

Andrey Babitsky was the quintessential Russian democratic journalist.

A correspondent for the US government funded Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe (RFERL) since 1989, his star began to shine at the start of the Second Chechen War in 1999, when he was embedded amongst the rebel fighters in Grozny. He took a harshly anti-Russian line, writing the following about a summarily executed Russian POW:

It must be said that the Chechens don’t cut the throats of [Russian] soldiers because they are sadists inclined to treat them with brutality, but because in this manner they can make the war more visceral and visible to the public opinion, to explain that there really is a war and that war is cruel and terrifying.

He was detained by the Russian military when attempting to leave Grozny in January 2000. US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright personally appealed for his release in a visit to Moscow. In an ironic twist, he was freed, but to the Chechens, in exchange for several Russian POWs. His Chechen friends kept him locked up in a cellar until finally releasing him with a forged passport the following month.

Babitsky would continue being a thorn in the feet of Russian security forces thereafter, his biggest coup being an interview for ABC News with Shamil Basayev in 2005, the man who organized the 2002 Nord-Ost Theater Siege, the Beslan school massacre, and numerous other terrorist atrocities before his assassination in 2006. Needless to say, Russia’s siloviki weren’t fond of him either. Apart from the murky events of 2000, he was again temporarily detained in 2004, delaying him from going to North Ossetia to report on the Beslan crisis.

The rest of his reporting appears to have been much in the same general vein. He condemned “Russian aggression” against Georgia in 2008. He railed against Russian state media propaganda. The blog La Russophobe, a now defunct but once one of the most widely read Russia blogs in the Anglosphere, whose content was exactly what it said on the tin, habitually reprinted Babitsky’s scribblings and called him a “hero journalist.” Since 2009, he has been heading RFERL’s “Echo of the Caucasus” section.

Which makes recent revelations that he was fired from RFERL in 2014 rather… interesting.

Why? His troubles with the editors began with an article on his Russian language blog from March 2014. Just its first sentence, really. It has since been deleted, but the Internet remembers:

This is not about Crimea – on this question, I’m fully agreed with Vladimir Putin’s main thesis, that Russia has the absolute right to take the peninsula’s population under its protection. I am aware that a significant number of my colleagues don’t share this viewpoint. After the President’s speech, I am now a supposedly correct, officially approved citizen, while those who are disagree with Russia’s actions in Ukraine have become national traitors.

That’s it. The rest of the essay is his standard spiel about Russia’s never ending descent into authoritarianism and the persecution and denigration of dissidents. He affirms the absolute right to free speech, and expresses great concern for the fate of the 10% of people who disagree with Crimea’s incorporation into Russia when the other 90% so passionately supports it in an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and demonizing rhetoric.

As it soon turned out, he might as well have been talking about himself.

A week later, Babitsky was removed from his position as chief editor of Echo of the Caucasus, and suspended from work for one month without reimbursement. The decision was condemned by Mario Corti, a former director of RFERL who had also ran into terminal disagreements with the senior American management and resigned in disgust. Although he stressed that he disagreed with Babitsky’s position on Crimea, he notes that the overall article was “harshly critical of Vladimir Putin,” and affirmed that opinion in a commentary is “legitimate journalism” and that his demotion goes counter to RFERL’s standing as a “paragon of free speech.”

Babitsky was reinstated as a journalist following his one month suspension, but was quietly dismissed in September 2014 after a stint as a war correspondent in the Donbass. He left without much fanfare, unlike, say, Liz Wahl, whose theatric resignation from and denunciation of RT live on air was carefully choreographed in advance with neocon waterboy and professional troll James Kirchick. Possibly Babitsky didn’t want to risk his Czech residency permit – RFERL is headquartered in Prague – until his daughter finished school. In any case, it was only a few days ago that we finally got access to the juicy details of his departure when he gave an interview to the Czech daily Lidové noviny (here is a Russian translation).

First off, here is a full annunciation of his views on Crimea, which basically reduces to an absolute but in his case principled stand on questions of self-determination and national sovereignty:

LN: Crimea became important to you in another sense: You were forced to leave RFERL after 25 years of working for them on account of your attitudes towards the annexation?

AB: One of my blog posts contained some words supporting Putin’s decision to incorporate Crimea into Russia. The rest of the content was critical towards Putin and Russia. For instance, I condemned the fact that it has became acceptable in Russia to call those who disagree with the peninsula’s incorporation into Russia – traitors to the Motherland. About Crimea itself and its incorporation into Russia there was just one sentence.

LN: Considering that you worked for an American, government-sponsored radio station, wasn’t it at the very least shortsighted to support Crimea’s annexation?

AB: We worked in Chechnya for many years, and even then I was completely certain – if there is some minority, some part of the population, that considers that its rights are in conflict with their host country’s territorial integrity, then there must be a divorce. This oppressed group, if its interests are harmed, has the full right to an independent existence, according to its own rules. As a journalist I supported this right, both when this concerned Chechens, and today in the case of Crimea, and also the Donbass.

LN: [You were fired] because your opinion on Crimea’s annexation differed from your employer’s?

AB: I have a special relationship with Crimea. We have a house there. My wife is a native of Crimea, and her parents – former military – still live there. We go there every summer. So I know that many Crimeans have always regarded Ukraine as a foreign state. Crimeans never felt at home there. They were annoyed by Ukrainization policies. They had the Ukrainian language forced upon them in place of Russian. Ever since its independence, Kiev has carried out an incorrect national policy towards minorities, first and foremost, in regards to the Russian one. During this time period a lot of insults accrued, and people felt it was injust and feared that in the future things would become even worse.

LN: Worse after the arrival of the new Ukrainian leadership?

AB: Crimeans’ feelings are informed by experience: Once again nobody knows what the hell’s happening in Kiev, and what awaits us. The reaction that followed was, in my view, completely normal and even legal. You see the hand of Putin everywhere, but in Crimea people simply revolted in defense of their rights. Just as, in your opinion, did the residents of Kiev. You, like the rest of my Western colleagues, like to argue that in Kiev people were genuinely fighting for their rights and freedoms, while in Crimea and Donbass it is all a conspiracy behind which stand Putin and the Russian secret services. But this isn’t true. The entire peninsula was overtaken in horror by what awaited it, so the separation was an unequivocal reaction to the threat that Euromaidan represented to Crimeans. Doesn’t Crimea have the same right to rebel against injustice and suppression as the Maidan?

LN: [Every minority might have a right to sovereignty], but surely not with support from big neighbors who use not only propaganda but also real weapons to grab territories. A free referendum is one thing, anything else is an incitement of separatism.

AB: Wait a second. Several weeks back the organization GfK Ukraine, a German sociological company – not Russian – published a telling study, according to which 93% of Crimeans are happy with their incorporation into Russia. 93! I do not view Crimea’s incorporation, unlike several of my Western colleagues, as the resurrection of the USSR. To the contrary, it is but a continuation of that entity’s collapse. It is the Soviet regime that created weird, unnatural, and historically unfounded borders, and divided them up into different oblasts and republics that were wholly artificial. …

This didn’t go over well with his Czech interviewer. Babitsky might be a pro-Western liberal who had spent his entire life struggle for “your freedom and ours”… but how dare he put loyalty towards liberalism in front of loyalty to pro-Westernism?

As the interview goes on, the questions gradually become more loaded and hostile. At first, he attempts to respond reasonably, but eventually gives up.

LN: It’s improbable how you, a person who was nearly killed by Vladimir Putin’s regime, and forced into exile, have today become a supporter of Putin…

But Putin isn’t Russia! Russia – it is history and rich tradition. Pushkin is Russia. Apart from that, it must be said that Russia today resembles a European country to a much greater extent than does Ukraine. Yes, Russia has its nationalists, but that is a problems of deviants. But in Ukraine, nationalism has become a state doctrine. Nationalism, be it Ukrainian or Georgian, leads to Hitlerian Nazism. Russia is a multinational country, where nationalism doesn’t have a future.

LN: Is there anything at all in Russia that deserves your criticism?

AB: It still has many Soviet aspects. First and foremost, a very difficult situation in respect to free media, with free access to information. Anti-Western sentiments are growing, there is a lot of belief in extreme conspiracy theories, restrictions on civil rights, and so on. But in Ukraine the situation is worse in all respects.

LN: So Crimea, according to you, ran away from those Ukrainian nationalists into the warm embrace of big, good, traditional Russia. Just as if it came from Russian state TV…

AB: Crimea escaped the bloody drama that Donbass didn’t. There were 20,000 Ukrainian soldiers on the peninsula, if some fool in Kiev had given the order, the conversation would have been overtaken by heavy artillery, and Crimea would have been completely destroyed.

LN: Czechs are always drawn to the Sudetenland comparison. Do you also believe that back then the German minority should have battled for its rights?

AB: This was, first of all, an act of external aggression. You didn’t persecute Germans. Or did you also wish to make them Czechs, like Ukrainians were doing in to Russians in Crimea? In Crimea, it was completely different. A big conflict was decades in the making. People were becoming cardinally disillusioned. And as soon as the revolution engulfed Kiev, they started fearing further restrictions on the usage of the Russian language and the promotion of Ukrainian… and not only this. You see, there is also historical experience to consider. My mother was born in Kiev. Seventeen members of our family were killed during the war by Ukrainian nationalists.

LN: I am not the only one with serious doubts that Russians’ rights in Crimea were likewise restricted under the regime of the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

AB: Do you trust me as a journalist? If so, think about it – in the past ten years I have been to Crimea thirteen times, I spent every summer there, and it is from this position that I tell you: Go to hell with your doubts.

But interesting as this all is, the Crimea sentence wasn’t what he was fired from RFERL for.

He was fired by a US government funded media outlet for exposing possible Neo-Nazi atrocities.

LN: Fear about the consequences of the Maidan were mostly spread by Russian media. Surely you, as a journalist, know the power of information…

AB: When I was still working at RFERL, I asked the managers to send me to Donbass. I went there and worked as I usually do in a warzone. On September 2, 2014, I filmed the exhumation of four corpses: Two civilians, and two insurgents. According to the locals – not the militias, but ordinary residents of Novosvetlovka – these people had been executed by Ukrainian volunteers from the Aidar batallion. I didn’t provide any commentary on this, just filmed it and sent it to the Moldovan division of RFERL. The video was published online. After this, the nationalists in the Ukrainian division of RFERL became hysterical. There was a big scandal. All this, just because I had published a video, which only recorded what I saw with my own eyes, without any additional commentary.

LN: But sometimes the specific selection of facts, presented without context, can create a cardinally false version of events…

AB: The video was deleted. On September 26, I returned to Prague. I was invited to the office and was told that my position has been removed. RFERL has clearly and definitively become nothing more than an instrument of American propaganda.

Who could have imagined it?

Now don’t get me wrong. RFERL is funded by the US government, so in principle, the US government can dictate how it uses its resources (although ideally, if not in practice, subject to electoral accountability and journalistic ethics). If that involves kicking out journalists whose opinions and reporting overstay their welcome, then so be it. After all, virtually all state-sponsored international media, in some capacity or other, serve the interests of their sponsors: Al Jazeera – Al Jazeera, the BBC, CCTV, France 24, Deutschewelle, and… RT.

But it is primarily the Western media organization that tend to have the chutzpah to deny this and instead claim an altruistic and universal dedication to truth, objectivity, free speech, and fluffy pink rabbits. Maybe it’s just a case of people talking on about that what they don’t have. RT at least is honest enough to admit its blatant pro-Russia biases. As its director Margarita Simonyan put it, “There is no objectivity – only approximations of the truth by as many different voices as possible.” This brutal honesty annoys the Western establishment real bad, because they view their social arrangements and global hegemony as a revealed truth, and anything that even so much as suggests that it may be just one of many truths is equivalent to heresy, and calls upon the rage of the chiliastic monotheist in battle with other faiths. Hence the vilification of RT, and even calls for it to be banned, with several investigations against it already launched by the UK’s Ofcom media watchdog.

RFERL is, in this respect, the quintessential Western MSM outlet. Not only does it supposedly strive for objectivity, but it even has a quotation from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as its motto (Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”). That’s even better than The Guardian’s “comment is free”!

But RFERL’s response to concrete questions about its treatment of Andrey Babitsky and their commitment to his freedom of opinion and expression is… a bit more laconic.

Namely, zero, zip, zilch, nada.

I made an inquiry to Brian Whitmore, a blogger at The Power Vertical, RFERL’s Russia blog. No reply, though I had interacted with him on several occasions in the past. Okay, so I’m a Putin lackey, and RFERL is possibly keen to avoid “exploitation by the pro-Kremlin media in Russia.” Why not, then, answer Ben Aris, a journalist who supported the Maidan?

The answer is as simple as it is cynical.

The Moor has done his duty, the Moor can go. In the big scheme of things, it is just a minor iteration of what happened to Solzhenitsyn after he rejected neoliberal capitalism, or Gorbachev after he came out in support of Russia’s incorporation of Crimea. It’s either their way, all the way, or the highway.

But don’t mention this, or we’ll hound you out of our mutual agreement societies too, because you’re biased and hate freedom.

 
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One of the most common tropes against Russia is that critical (independent, democratic, etc) journalists there are dying like flies, presumably because of the “culture of impunity” created by Putin or even on his express orders. It is rarely mentioned that the statistical chances of a Russian journalist dying by homicide is an order of magnitude lower than in several countries widely recognized to be “democratic” such as Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, and the Philippines, or that – unlike Turkey or Israel (!) – Russia does not imprison any journalists on account of their professional work. To this end, I compiled a “Journalism Security Index” to get a more objective picture than the politicized rankings produced by outfits like Freedom House that put Russia on par with Zimbabwe.

As usual in these situations, a few graphs are worth thousands of words.

The graph above shows the numbers of journalists killed in Russia for every year since 1992 as compared with other “democratic” countries like Brazil, Mexico, India, and Colombia. As one can see, the situation has improved greatly in the past three years, with only one journalist (in Dagestan) getting killed in 2011; meanwhile, the situation in Mexico has deteriorated to levels unseen in Russia since the early 1990′s. Does this mean that Felipe Calderón is the next Stalin? Or is it that he is just faced with a drugs war that is rapidly spiraling out of control?

However, even this likely overstates the risks to Russian journalists, because there are simply a great many of them. According to the latest UN data, there were 102,300 newspaper journalists in Russia, far more than in Brazil (6,914) or India (16,079), and while data for the other two does not exist, I will assume that there are as many journalists per capita in Colombia (so 1,670) and three times as many in Mexico (13,027) as in Brazil. You can adjust the latter two figures within the bounds of plausibility but as you will see, this would not make a cardinal difference. So let’s start calculating annual homicides per 100,000 newspaper journalists (latest figure) – a rough but valid proxy for the general level of journalistic peril in any given country.

Wow! You can’t see anything past Colombia! Let’s remove it.

So once you make some necessary adjustments for respective journalist populations, it emerges that Russian journalists have been relatively safe compared to other democratic countries throughout virtually its entire post-Soviet history. They are now safer by orders of magnitude. (The dip in Brazil’s and Mexico’s rates in 2012 are artificial as only half the year has passed).

Finally, homicides per 100,000 journalists are compared with the population as a whole. As one can see from the above graph, Russian journalists were always safer than the average Russian citizen, and are now safer by an order of magnitude. Only one Russian journalist was killed in 2010 and 2011 for a rate of about 0.5/100,000 per year, relative to an overall homicide rate of slightly less than 10/100,000. The average journalist is far less likely to have criminal or binge drinking proclivities than the average citizen (factors that account for the overwhelming bulk of homicides in Russia) so it is right and proper that their homicide rate should also be well below the national average.

The same cannot be said of the other countries we are comparing Russian journalists to. In 2010, the homicide rate in Mexico was 18/100,000 (vs. 77/100,000 for journalists), in Brazil it was 25/100,000 (vs. 14/100,000 for journalists in 2010, but soaring to 87/100,000 in 2011), and in India it was 3.4/100,000 (vs. 12/100,000 for journalists).

It need hardly be mentioned at this point that for most of the “democratic” Yeltsin period, life was riskier for Russian journalists than under “authoritarian” Putin and his “stooge” Medvedev. There were 41 journalists killed in Russia from 1992-1999, compared to 30 from 2000-2008, and 6 from 2009-today (of which 5 occurred in 2009). Does this then mean that Yeltsin, not Putin, was the real Stalin? Of course not. The journalist killings in the 1990′s were a product of the chaos and lawlessness of that time, much like the narco-related killings decimating the ranks of Colombian, Brazilian, and Mexican journalists today. As one can see from the graph above, killings of Russian journalists have always been substantially correlated with the overall homicide rate; the latter began to sustainably decline from the mid-2000′s, and from 2009, journalist killings appear to have followed suit.

Why then does Russia have one of the lousiest reputations for journalist killings in the world, whereas a purely statistical analysis implies that it is in fact now extremely safe relative to several other “democratic” countries like Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and Colombia, and does not imprison any journalists unlike Turkey or Israel?

Ultimately, I think it has much to do with the unhinged hostility of the Western media to Russia. Case in point, let’s look at The Guardian’s coverage.

When a journalist is killed in Mexico or Brazil, it is reported placidly and matter of factly, the newspaper restricting itself to: Names and identities (four journos from Veracruz; Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes); possible culprits (“the work of the cartels”; “accusing local officials of corruption”); some basic context, e.g. quantity of other journalist killings in the recent past. And apart from a final sentence or two noting that “corruption means it is often difficult to define where the authorities stop and organised crime begins”, that is pretty much the harshest judgment they make.

Now turn to the Guardian’s coverage of the sole Russian journalist killed in the past three years – Khadzhimurad Kamalov, in Dagestan, 2011. The difference begins with the titles. What used to be “Four Mexican journalists murdered in last week” or Brazilian journalist and girlfriend kidnapped and murdered” now becomes “Truth is being murdered in Putin’s bloody Russia.” And it continues in the same vein, with rhetoric being substituted for facts: “Crimes against freedom bathed in slothful impunity”; “Inside Moscow, rulers who pay lip service to human rights parade only an indifference that makes them complicit in these crimes” (is Calderón or Dilma Rousseff complicit in journalist killings in their countries?); “How many more, Mr Putin? How long are we supposed to mourn fellow journalists who died trying to tell us, and their fellow Russians, what a slack, slimy, savage state you run?”

No further comment is necessary.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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I recently had the dubious pleasure of engaging in an extended Twitter exchange with Peter Savodnik. Peter is a consummately credentialed journalist based in New York. He is also a classical representative of the well-paid prostitute class otherwise known as Independent Western Journalists in polite (i.e. doublethink) society, as well as of that emigre clique which delights in smearing their former homeland at every opportunity (as with Julia Ioffe, Miriam Elder, etc). So nicely does he encapsulate the dinner suit-wearing, respectability-laden double standards, Western chauvinism, ingrained authoritarianism, and deep vein of conspiratorial paranoia that characterizes Western Independent Journalism that I think it useful to lay out our conversation in full.

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/191952240007843842]

Because protesting sky-high education costs and corporate corruption is so much more morally repugnant than defiling one of a country’s most sacred places.

[tweet https://twitter.com/streetwiseprof/status/191955790771388416]

I noticed Mr. Savodnik’s ranting against Occupy thanks to the approving reply from Streetwise Professor, a Russia blogger. SWP (Craig Pirrong) is a well-known neocon, Russophobe and anti-civil liberties fanatic (who masquerades as a small government classical liberal), who has a rabid gaggle of groupies following his rock-star avatar around on the interwebs (e.g. @LibertyLynx, @catfitz, etc).

The depth of his derangement is demonstrated by his loathing for Wikipedia, which he views as some kind of Communist conspiracy (no kidding, his fan Catherine Fitzpatrick, who apart from her hobby of trolling non-Russophobe blogs also writes blog posts with titles such as What is Technocommunism and the Internet of Things? condemning open-source. Also the reason why she chooses to pay for TypePad, instead of using the free – and much superior – WordPress platform for her blog).

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/191965291742375937]

So I guess by Savodnik logic given crackdowns in Belarus, the Meetings in Russia also look baseless and absurd? Time to expose that fool, methinks.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192046123320483840]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192108181902737409]

Actually according to my link only 5 of the journalists, or 7% of them, where arrested while “while participating in protests or civil disobedience related to Occupy events.” The rest where arrested while covering them – a perfectly valid journalistic activity. Yasha Levine in particular has a harrowing account (via blog posts) of his experiences in LA country jail – where he picked up a Third World skin disease – and his consequent legal troubles, which demonstrates that the justice system hates independent journalism every bit as much as the police does.

But note, in particular, Savodnik’s diversion of the conversation to Politkovskaya, a journalist murder in Russia SIX YEARS ago. He for one doesn’t seem to have troubles with whataboutism, of the “But in American they lynch Negroes” kind for which non-Russophobes like myself are frequently accused of – including by Sadovnik himself. But the Politkovskaya case has no relevance to the conversation – the issue is Peter Savodnik’s reference to press freedom violations in foreign countries to support repression of his ideological enemies in the West. I do not like hypocrisy, and I call him out on it.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192113326753456128]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192114961227591683]

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192118355212242944]

And now the you-work-for-the-KGB canard comes out, reliable as ever coming from liberasts! My eternal response to that – what a pity the paycheck always seems to get stuck in the mail…

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192115447397756928]

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192135905794990081]

Had this exchange occurred at the Guardian, in its Orwellian-named “Comments are Free” section, at this point I’d have been unpersoned by the plagiarist hack Luke Harding for being a Kremlin troll.

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192120397309812736]

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192128656489971712]

Now I take his argument to its logical conclusion, i.e. absurdity, now using Brazil (which is actually, when looked at from the POV of concrete statistics as opposed to Russophobic democraticist rhetoric, is far more dangerous for journalists than Russia) to “justify” Obama pressuring Yemen to imprison the critical journalist Abdulelah Hider Shaea. Because that is the kind of mental acrobatics that Savodnik utilizes to wield the Politkovskaya case against Occupy.

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192129054546210816]

[tweet https://twitter.com/AnatolyKarlin/status/192129334616657920]

Predictably enough, shattered by the exposure of his true authoritarian leanings and patent double standards on free speech, Peter Savodnik goes off the deep end, ranting about the KGB, FSB, and “agents of an authoritarian regime that kills people.”

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192123874656272384]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192131039529934849]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192131393122349056]

Funny he says that, as it is Savodnik himself who has a reactionary hatred for ordinary Russian people and wants to disenfranchise them (see below). Projecting a bit much, Mr. Democratic Journalist?

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/192131677156409344]

I’m sure that Peter Savodnik is not the worst of the lot. Any number of other, far more mendacious characters come to mind who are outstanding on the issue of their hypocrisy as regards Russia, RT, the US, and Wikileaks – Luke Harding (a Russophobe fanatic who blames Assange for releasing the unedited Wikileaks cables when it was actually HE HIMSELF, with David Hearst, who was responsible for publishing the passwords to them); Konstantin von Eggert; the SWP hive; Miriam Elder; fuck it, virtually the entirety of the Western mainstream media.

But what this conservation with Peter Savodnik is useful for is representing that general mendacity in brief, distilled, easily digestible (and disgusting) form.

Exposes of Luke Harding and Von Eggert to follow.

Addendum. Thanks to Minka in the comments for letting us know that Sadovnik also espouses extreme neoliberal Latynina-like views on the Russian majority of Putin voters (“peasants”), who should not be allowed to vote.

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/176603211245957120]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/176619216445779968]

In fact it’s pretty clear Savodnik loathes the Russian people as a pack of uncultured peasants for not voting like Savodnik would. The gall!

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/183188645828767744]

[tweet https://twitter.com/petersavodnik/status/183138599733178370]

For our freedom and mine… Right? I think it’s pretty clear that it is Sadovnik who is living in the 19th century, what with his reactionary hatred of ordinary people.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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The Press Freedom Index issues by Reporters Without Borders is a good starting point for assessing journalistic freedoms in global comparative perspective. However, much like all attempts to measure democracy or Transparency International’s assessment of corruption perception, their methodology relies on tallying a number of intangibles that cannot be objectively estimated: Censorship, self-censorship, legal framework, independence. These can barely be quantified and are in any case subject to a wide degree of interpretation based on one’s ideological proclivities; for instance, just how do you go about estimating the degree of self-censorship?

I have decided to strip out these elements and focus only on indicators that can be objectively measured, i.e. the numbers of killed and imprisoned journalists set against the size of the national journalistic pool. Using figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists, I tally the numbers of journalist murders from the past three years – to reflect the fact that journalist killings can have a chilling effect years into the future – and the numbers of imprisoned journalists imprisoned now multiplied by six, so that their aggregate weighting is twice that of journalist killings. The reason I do that is because truly authoritarian regimes typically have a tight clampdown on monopoly violence, including on the various independent criminal elements (e.g. drug cartels, rogue intelligence officers); as such, direct killings of journalists tends to be rare. On the other hand, due to the threat of imprisonment and other harassment, independent journalism is severely circumscribed if at all existent. But instead of just going with this figure, I further adjust it to the size of the national journalist pool, because – for obvious reasons – a few journalist killings in a country the size of India is tragic, but nonetheless qualitatively different from the same number of killings in a country with a far smaller population like Honduras where there is a far bigger chance those journalists would know each other. The resulting figure is the Journalism Security Index; a narrower (but far more objective) measure than the Press Freedom Index, which – by necessity – relies on fallible expert judgments on unquantifiable measures such as self-censorship and journalistic independence.

Scroll down to the bottom to see the full results of the Journalism Security Index 2012.

Some of the rankings will come as a surprise to many people, so let me address those. First, we see a few countries where press freedoms are certainly heavily circumscribed, such as Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Vietnam, get perfect scores. This reveals the major weakness of the index – it measures not so much press freedom as journalistic security (hence its name). Second, and tied in with this, it only measures the most severe things that can happen to a journalism, i.e. killing or imprisonment. It has no way of accounting for things such as Hungary’s new media laws, the rumored weekly meetings of Russia’s federal TV channel heads with Kremlin officials, or the 42 journalists and counting arrested at Occupy events in the US. Suffice to say that a score of zero on the JSI most certainly does not mean said country is an oasis of press freedom.

This is also not to mention that the CPJ has a fairly rigorous methodology for listing a journalist as imprisoned – it has to be political. For instance, while Turkey “only” has 7 journalists listed as imprisoned, other estimates put the number at more than 70. However, according to Yavuz Baydar, a similar methodology may give a figure of 17 imprisoned journalists in the UK for their part in the News of the World phone hacking scandal. Obviously, a line has to be drawn somewhere.

Third, there may be surprise that Russia is ranked somewhere in the middle, whereas it is near the bottom on most other indices of press freedom. The explanation is fairly simple. Russia does not currently have any imprisoned journalists by the CPJ’s reckoning, and whereas a total of four journalist deaths are recorded for the years 2009-2011, this is both a significant decrease on earlier years and not a catastrophic situation when set against its 143 million strong population (see Gordon Hahn’s Repression of Journalism in Russia in Comparative Perspective from December 2009) or – to be even fairer – the vast size of its journalistic pool, which at 102,300 newspaper journalists is the largest in the world.

On the converse, countries such as Bahrain, Syria, and Afghanistan do really badly because even a small number of journalist killings and imprisonments translate into very high scores because of the hugely circumscribed size of the journalistic pools in those countries. Some may dispute that Israel’s ranking is absurdly low. If so, please take it up with the CPJ. It lists 7 imprisoned journalists; now of them, 3 are under Hamas arrest, so I subtracted them from the Israeli total and gave them to Palestine. Nonetheless, that still leaves 4 Palestinian journalists that are under Israeli imprisonment, all of them without charge.

(In contrast, the sole Russian journalist listed as imprisoned in recent years was one Boris Stomakhin for “inciting hatred” and “making public calls for extremist activity”, writing things such as, “Let tens of new Chechen snipers take their positions in the mountain ridges and the city ruins and let hundreds, thousands of aggressors fall under righteous bullets! No mercy! Death to the Russian occupiers! … The Chechens have the full moral right to bomb everything they want in Russia.” One may dispute the ethics of imprisoning someone for what is, in the end, still an opinion; but one has to note that prosecutions take place in the UK (Samina Malik) and the US (Jubair Ahmad) for essentially equivalent activities).

Whereas countries like Brazil and Mexico have essentially free media, they are – as are Russia and much of the rest of the former Soviet republics – terrorized by the generally high background violence of their societies. In the former, this issue is particularly problematic, as Brazil has a much lower aggregate press pool than Russia; therefore, its three murders in the past three years exert more of a relative effect than Russia’s four.

Please make sure to note the caveats and methodological clarifications that follow below the following table.

Journalism Security Index 2012

Country Impr. Kill. #pop. JSI(p) #journ. JSI
1= Algeria 0 0 37.1 0.0 2,041 0.0
1= Argentina 0 0 40.1 0.0 1,444 0.0
1= Armenia 0 0 3.3 0.0 2,363 0.0
1= Australia 0 0 22.8 0.0 5,416 0.0
1= Bangladesh 0 0 142.3 0.0 2,846 0.0
1= Canada 0 0 34.6 0.0 5,000 0.0
1= Cuba 0 0 11.2 0.0 3,425 0.0
1= France 0 0 65.4 0.0 5,441 0.0
1= Georgia 0 0 4.5 0.0 3,222 0.0
1= Germany 0 0 81.8 0.0 26,000 0.0
1= Hungary 0 0 10.0 0.0 8,661 0.0
1= Italy 0 0 60.8 0.0 8,866 0.0
1= Japan 0 0 127.7 0.0 20,315 0.0
1= Korea 0 0 48.6 0.0 4,034 0.0
1= Poland 0 0 38.1 0.0 32,995 0.0
1= Portugal 0 0 10.6 0.0 4,071 0.0
1= Qatar 0 0 1.7 0.0 136 0.0
1= Saudi Arabia 0 0 27.1 0.0 2,168 0.0
1= Spain 0 0 46.2 0.0 6,745 0.0
1= Sweden 0 0 9.5 0.0 5,392 0.0
1= Ukraine 0 0 45.7 0.0 32,721 0.0
1= UK 0 0 62.3 0.0 13,437 0.0
1= USA 0 0 312.9 0.0 54,134 0.0
1= Vietnam 0 0 87.8 0.0 5,444 0.0
25 Russia 0 4 142.9 0.3 102,300 0.4
26 India 0 1 1,210.2 0.0 16,079 0.6
27 Belarus 0 1 9.5 1.1 6,802 1.5
28 Kazakhstan 1 1 16.7 4.2 11,957 1.7
29 Indonesia 0 4 237.6 0.2 13,634 2.9
30 Azerbaijan 1 1 9.1 7.7 6,516 3.1
31 China 27 0 1,339.7 1.2 82,849 3.3
32 Brazil 0 3 192.4 0.2 6,914 4.3
33 Thailand 1 3 65.9 1.4 7,644 5.2
34 Greece 0 1 10.8 0.9 1,577 6.3
35 Nigeria 0 4 48.3 0.8 6,148 6.5
36 Mexico 0 9 112.3 0.8 13,027 6.9
37 Uzbekistan 5 0 28.0 10.7 6,580 7.6
38 Kyrgyzstan 1 0 5.5 10.9 1,295 7.7
39 Israel 4 1 7.8 32.1 5,585 9.0
40 Peru 0 1 29.8 0.3 1,073 9.3
41 Venezuela 0 1 26.8 0.4 965 10.4
42 Turkey 8 1 74.7 6.6 8,652 10.4
43 Morocco 2 0 32.5 3.7 1,782 11.2
44 Colombia 0 2 46.4 0.4 1,670 12.0
45 Sudan 4 0 30.9 7.8 3,064 13.1
46 Egypt 2 2 81.5 1.7 2,608 15.3
47 Tunisia 0 1 10.7 0.9 589 17.0
48 Myanmar 12 0 48.3 14.9 2,898 41.4
49 Pakistan 0 15 178.6 0.8 3,572 42.0
50 Ethiopia 7 0 82.1 5.1 1,642 42.6
51 Palestine 3 0 4.2 42.9 700 42.9
52 Iran 42 1 76.1 33.2 8,828 48.7
53 Yemen 2 2 23.8 5.9 476 84.0
54 Philippines 0 37 94.0 3.9 4,000 92.5
55 Afghanistan 0 6 24.5 2.4 490 122.4
56 Iraq 0 14 32.1 4.4 1,027 136.3
57 Syria 8 2 21.4 23.4 685 146.0
58 Libya 1 5 6.4 17.2 205 293.0
59 Bahrain 1 2 1.2 66.7 96 312.5
60 Eritrea 28 0 5.4 311.1 108 2592.6

Methodological clarifications: Impr. figures taken from CPJ‘s 2011 Prison Census; Kill. figures taken from CPJ’s numbers of killed journalists from 2009 to 2011; #pop. taken from Wikipedia’s list of official statistics on national populations; #journ. taken from UN data on the numbers of journalists per country.

JSI(p) is the Journalism Security Index calculated only relative to the population; it is more accurate, in narrow terms, than the JSI calculated relative to numbers of journalists (see below why), but suffers from the fact that it underestimates the risks of working in very populous and poor countries where journalists are low as a share of the population and even a few killings can have a chilling effect on their general community.

JSI is the official Journalism Security Index, calculated by (1) tallying the numbers of journalist murders from 2009-2011 and the numbers of imprisoned journalists imprisoned in 2011 multiplied by six so that the aggregate weighting of every imprisoned journalist is twice that of a killed journalist, (2) dividing by the numbers of newspaper journalists in that country, and (3) multiplying that figure by 10,000 to get convenient numbers for the index.

There are two very important caveats to be made about the UN data on journalists. First, it only measures the numbers of newspaper journalists, not the total number of journalists and media workers. As such, it should be viewed as a rough proxy. In some regions, newspapers have a much higher profile relative to TV (e.g. East-Central Europe, Russia, Scandinavia); in others, it is the opposite (e.g. Latin America). Adjusting for this would, for example, narrow the gap between in the JSI between Russia and Brazil. Second, far from all countries have data; many of them are fairly important ones in terms of press freedom issues (e.g. Iran, Israel, Mexico, Bahrain). To fix this, I just extrapolated the per capita figures from other countries with similar literacy and socio-cultural profiles, e.g. I equalized Iran and Mexico with Turkey; Israel and Belarus with Russia; Bahrain with Qatar, and calculated their numbers of journalists by multiplying their population by their estimated journalists per capita figures. Needless to say, this is an extremely inexact method, and may be off by several factors. For that reason, countries with no concrete data from the UN source are marked in italics; note that for them, the JSI may be off by several factors (though most likely not by an order of magnitude).

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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The next installment of our Watching the Russia Watchers series at S/O features an interview with Peter Lavelle, the main political analyst at the Russia Today TV network, host of its CrossTalk debate show and Untimely Thoughts blogger. (He also has a Wikipedia page!) Peter is opposed to Western media hegemony, considering it neither fair nor useful, and firmly believes that global media should feature a diversity of voices from all cultural traditions; as such, the rise of alternate forums such as Al Jazeera and Russia Today are a boon for media consumers everywhere. Peter Lavelle actualizes this philosophy in his own CrossTalk program, in which controversial topics from France’s burqa ban to the collapse of Soviet Amerika are discussed: agree with him or not, one can certainly never get bored listening. The serious Russia watcher is recommended to join his “Untimely Thoughts” – Expert Discussion Group on Russia.

Peter Lavelle: In His Own Words…

What first sparked your interest in journalism and Russia, and how did the twain meet?

The reason I started to write about Russia – circa 1999 – came about for two reasons. First, having an education in Eastern European and Russian history gave me a reason to write about where I lived. I didn’t like much of what the commentariat was writing on contemporary Russia. The second reason was to earn some money, which later led to needing to make a living.

I came to Russia to live in late 1997. I was employed as an equity analyst at what was then called Alfa Capital. I was lured to Russia by my former boss (an American) I worked with in Poland. I never wanted to move to Russia – actually I must say I was rather adverse to Russia, having lived in eastern Europe for about 12 years. As a result of the financial crisis of 1998, I was given a generous severance package. This allowed me to stay in Russia for a while without worrying too much about money. In spring of 2000 I started to work for a small Russian bank. The money wasn’t great, but at least the bank organized and paid for my visa. Plus, I had time to write now and then. It was at this time I discovered the JRL – Johnson’s Russia List. I have been hooked on (even an addict to) Russia watching ever since.

So you ask “how did the twain meet?” I was furious with what some journalists passed off as serious analysis and commentary on Russia and I was given opportunities to express myself as a corrective to what I thought was awful journalism. The synthesis is me today (and not just regarding Russia).

My first stop was the Russia Journal. It wasn’t much of a newspaper, but I sure did write a lot for it and really enjoyed it. Then UPI’s former Moscow bureau chief asked me to come on board as a stringer – I was thrilled. That was the first time I called myself a journalist.

Later, I wrote for Asia Times Online and – yes! – for Radio FreeEurope/Radio Liberty. Being published in “Current History” was also a special benchmark for me as a journalist.

This was also the first time I started butting heads with the commentariat. I would like to point out that this is way before I had anything to do with Russian state (funded) media. Please remember my Untimely Thoughts newsletter was going full blast during all of this.

And for all those interested: I started to work at RIAN (2005) becauseI was tired of the “slave wages” UPI was paying and for problems associated with getting a new visa. Thus, I had very practical reasons to make this move.

It is simply not true I went to RIAN (later RT) due to “ideological” motivations. I had already settled in Russia and wanted to stay settled. My journalism in front of a camera today differs little from the journalism I practiced in print years before RT came into existence.

What were your best and worst experiences as a Russia journalist?

The highlight of my career to date in journalism, in which I include television, was covering Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008. I was in the news studio hour after hour, day in and day out. I lived on cigarettes and coffee, and with very little sleep. Watching such a story from the start and unfold was exhilarating. I am proud to say RT did an excellent job and that we at RT got the story right from the beginning when other news outlets either got it wrong or played catch-up (following RT’s lead of course!).

Having my own television program (aired three times a week) remains a great highlight. I dreamed (or day dreamed) of having such an opportunity at a very early age watching the Sunday political chat shows in the US. So dreams can come true, I suppose.

What is my worst experience? This will surprise you: not getting paid for my work. I have lost count of the number of articles I wrote without being compensated when I was still in print journalism. Today I can write for media outlets without asking for compensation – a wonderful position to be in.

I would like to also mention that while not directly under the category of “worst experience” I can say an on-going “unpleasant experience” is being called “Putin’s mouth piece” or the “Kremlin’s tool.” I speak my mind, I have always done this. Anyone acquainted with my long lost friend – my Untimely Thoughts newsletter – knows I have changed very little over the years. Television has not changed me; it has only allowed me to amplify my worldview.

Who are the best Russia commentators? Who are the worst?

Who are the best? There are some really great ones – ones that come to mind immediately: Patrick Armstrong, Vlad Sobell, Thomas Graham, Eugene Ivanov, Dale Herspring, Stephen Cohen, Paul Sauders, Dmitry Sims, Anatol Lieven, Mary Dejevsky, and Chris Weafer (and of course you Anatoly!).

Who are the worst? I think it is pointless to answer this question. Among the commentariat there is a small cottage industry that regularly condemns me – everyone reading this interview knows who I am referring to. To this day not one aspersion said or written about me warrants my reply. These are small minded people and most of them are journalists because they lack the ability and talent to do anything else. These are the worst kind of people – they get along by going along. When it comes to writing about Russia, the majority of them don’t have the guts to stand alone and speak up.

What is your favourite place in Russia? Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet, but would love to visit?

I love and hate Moscow! Moscow is my home so I make the best of it. Because of my CrossTalk program, I very rarely travel anymore. In fact, I have seen very little of this vast country. I have visited various cities between Moscow and St Petersburg and down south as far as Chechnya. By my own admission, I should be better travelled after so many years. I am still hoping to make it to Vladivostok.

If you could recommend one book about Russia, what would it be?

Martin Malia’s “Russia under Western Eyes” [AK: Click to buy] – I can’t remember how many times I have read this great tome, but each time I do I learn something new to reflect upon.

Do you think today’s Russian media environment is better than in 1999? The late 1980′s? Are Russian journalists freer or safer than they were before?

Comparing Russian media of the 80’s to the 90s to the 00s is not very constructive. The ending of Soviet era censorship was a great moment for Russians and Russian society. Some embraced honest and professional journalism; others practiced this trade with regrettable irresponsibility.

The way I look at Russia’s media transition – and the journey is long from over – is through the prism of business models. In the 80s the state’s monopoly had to be broken and eventually was. In the 90s the oligarchs divided up among themselves huge media empires – none ofwhich had any interest in real journalism or the social good. These media empires were political tools that terribly damaged journalism as a trade, profession, the political environment and even the world of business.

Since about 2000 (circa Putin), media in Russia is very much a business and a very profitable one at that! Today media caters more to audience interests and tastes – mostly entertainment (particularly when it comes to television). Is this good? Does this make a better society? Are people well enough informed? On the whole I don’t see Russian media being all that different from other media markets in the world. Russians – like their global counterparts – are well enough informed about their environment to make rational decisions about their lives. There is plenty of diversity, though one has to make an effort to satisfy interests beyond Russia’s mainstream.

As for the safety of journalists in Russia: this is a very painful and even shameful state of affairs. The police and judiciary need to do much more for journalists. Their inability to prosecute those behind high profile murders hurts journalism as a profession and public trust in state authorities.

Also, I want to point out that journalists are killed more likely because of “kompromat” being investigated or written about someone else’s money – not politics in its normative sense. In Russia money is everything – politics is a sideshow that amuses Russia’s hopelessly retarded liberal intelligentsia.

On balance, do you think Putinism was good or bad for Russia? (Try not to sit on the fence here).

I don’t like the term “Putinism.” There is no such “ism.” Russia is going through what I call the “post-soviet purgatory” – and doing well at that by my estimation, considering the other post-soviet states.

Vladimir Putin is the best thing to happen to Russia in its modern history – he is a rational person and a true patriot. Because of Putin, Russians are freer and richer now than any time since the Russian state came into existence centuries ago. Putin saved the Russian state from thieving oligarchs and their highly paid western advisors. Putin reconstructed the Russian state, was behind the creation of a middle class, and Russia’s dignified turn to the world stage. And he rightfully fought terrorism in the Caucasus when the West hoped for the slow and painful collapse of the Russian state in the wake of the Soviet collapse.

Putin is also the indirect creation of western hubris and the gross irresponsibility of Russia’s self-hating cappuccino-drinking liberals. Russia doesn’t need to be lectured by an outrageously hypocritical West, especially American posturing. Putin is the antithesis of Western hypocrisy and history will be very kind to him. Russians give him a lot of credit and he deserves it.

How will Russia-West relations be affected by Obama’s “reset” policy and Medvedev’s new emphasis on modernization? Which was the main party responsible for their deterioration in the first place?

The so-called “re-set” is a media strategy and in a sense a fraud – it has nothing to do with reality or political facts on the ground. Washington caved to reality – the American empire is collapsing. To slow the inevitable, Washington needs Moscow’s help. Out of self-interest Russia is willing to engage Obama. Pragmatic Russia today is helping Soviet Amerika out of a mess of its own making.

Most of the world’s problems can’t be resolved without Russia’s involvement – Washington now acknowledges this. Moscow does not give a hoot about Obama or the US. What Moscow does care about is how the world will evolve as the US deals with its own and much needed, but rarely spoken about, perestroika. The US is in decline and Russia (along with the emerging world) is readying itself for the inevitable paradigm shift.

Lastly, Russia and the US are not enemies, but they are competitors at times. Competition is good for both countries – even when dealing with common problems facing the world.

If you could advise the Russian government to do one thing it isn’t already doing, what would it be?

The Russian government claims it is fighting corruption (and there are signs of this), but it is not doing nearly enough. If Russia is to modernize itself to be competitive in the global marketplace, then it must to do more to fight this cancer. If this is not done, then history will pass Russia by.

HARD Talk* with Peter Lavelle

ANATOLY KARLIN: You are a fierce critic of US policy towards the Muslim world, and its enabling of Israeli expansionism and sidelining of dissenters like Robert Fisk and Norman Finkelstein. First, could you please expound on the similarities between Russophobia and Islamophobia? Second, why are Israeli policies towards the Palestinians / Hamas worse than Russia’s towards the Chechens / Caucasus Emirate?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUz14bvK4A8&w=480&h=385]

PETER LAVELLE: First of all, I don’t like the terms Russophobia and Islamophobia – both terms are emotive and lack precision. That said, it is obvious that Russia and Islam today serve as the West’s “other” – meaning both are feared because they are different and will not submit. It is the highest form of hubris on the part of the West to believe (even demand) that everyone in the world should be like the West. The fact is many in the world simply don’t want this. They want good education, health care, prosperity, etc., but not necessarily Western values and certainly not Western (read: American) militarism. This really annoys the West, particularly poorly educated and poorly informed Americans.

Russia sees itself as its own unique civilization. This may or may not be true, but many Russians seem to think so. Islam is obviously a civilization different from the West. Islam is experiencing a resurgence and a great deal of this resurgence is the rejection that Muslims must become more like American, Europeans, etc. I blame Western mainstream media for misleading Western audiences about Islam and the Muslim world. Tragically this is part of the grossly one-sided reporting when it comes to Israel and Greater Middle East politics.

Russia is terribly misinterpreted and misunderstood in the West. Russia is presented as the loser in the Cold War and thus should act as a defeated power. Russia refuses to do this. This infuriates many in the West. The fact is Russia and Russians liberated themselves from communism! According to the Western discourse regarding history, Russia is not repenting for the past, thus it still must be the enemy. The good news is Russia is a political fact on the ground and the West has no choice but to do business with it.

You ask: why are Israeli policies towards the Palestinians / Hamas worse than Russia’s towards the Chechens / Caucasus Emirate? You are asking me to compare apples with cement bricks!

The Israelis threw the Palestinians off their land and deny them their own state. Chechens have their republic within the Russian Federation, which is generously supported by the federal government.

Palestinians are less than second class citizens in Palestine, Chechens have the same rights as any other Russian citizen. Israel is a zionist state; Russia is a secular state protecting the religious rights of all citizens. Hamas was democratically elected; the Caucasus Emirate was not elected by anyone.

I could easily go on. As you can see I don’t see there is much of a comparison.

ANATOLY KARLIN: In my question to you about Russia-US relations, you claim the “American empire is collapsing” and allude to “Soviet Amerika” (that’s even the title of one your Crosstalk programs). Now it’s no secret that the United States has its share of problems: an overstretched military, awning budget deficits, etc. Nonetheless, we need some perspective. The US economy is still much larger than that of its nearest competitor, China (which has lots of bad loans and will be devastated if it were to pull the plug on its prime export market). The Eurozone may already be on the verge of unraveling. As for Russia, its GDP is an order of magnitude smaller than America’s.

So is it then reasonable to speculate about the collapse of Pax Americana, considering its current strength and the problems afflicting potential rivals? If it does collapse, which country or bloc will take its place, if any? Finally, have you heard of Dmitry Orlov’s idea of “the Collapse Gap” between the USSR and America today?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usiu_EefUow&w=480&h=385]

PETER LAVELLE: Yes, I have come across Orlov’s work and remain skeptical – he simply wants to the US to collapse. Everything you point out in your question is correct about the US. But you left out one important issue – the current weakness of America’s democracy. There is no political will in America to live within the country’s means. No one wants to sacrifice – and so many want too much without paying for it. This cannot last much longer – a couple of decades at best. America simply cannot maintain a global empire and prosperity at home. The only card up America’s sleeve is the dollar at the moment, but there is every indication that it will be replaced by a basket of currencies by mid-century.

Who will lead in the wake of America’s inevitable retreat? Hopefully the world will truly become multi-polar. Such a world is better for all of humanity. Multipolarity is better suited to dealing with issues such as climate change, food and energy security, non-proliferation, dealing with HIV/AIDs, etc. Today the world has to wait on all these issues because the US is very often the greatest barrier to positive change in world.

ANATOLY KARLIN: You say that you’re not a paid shill because you are quite sincere in your beliefs: you’re not “the man who $old his homeland”, as alleged by Russia Today’s (RT) former Tbilisi correspondant William Dunbar**. That may be so.

Nonetheless, many observers believe you and RT are hardly free of the same biases that you claim pervade the Western MSM. Though accusing you of being a “latter-day Lord Haw Haw” is surely extreme (as well as a reductio ad hitlerum), the perception definitely exists that what you call “challenging the Western media hegemony” is really just a euphemism for pushing Kremlin spin on unwitting Westerners.

First, do you think this is a valid argument? (If you use the “whataboutism” response, e.g. but the Western media is controlled too!, explain why you think that justifies Russia doing the same.) Second, if you still insist that you’re not beholden to the Kremlin, could you make three criticisms of the Medvedev-Putin tandem?

PETER LAVELLE: I knew William Dunbar and know a few of the details connected to his departure from RT. He is entitled to his opinion, though they are not opinions I agree with. Indeed, he does claim I am “the man who $old his homeland.” This only informs me that he knows little about me and my opinions.

So I will answer my critics on the compensation issue. Yes, I live a comfortable life in Moscow as far as a journalist is concerned, but that is not saying much these days! I am compensated because my work is hard, presenting truly alternative viewpoints, and promoting the station – no different from other television professionals around the world.

What does it mean to sell out one’s homeland? I am American and proud of it. Being American allows me to dissent – and I dissent all the time! RT allows me to do this when most western media outlets could never dream of giving a journalist so much free space. My program CrossTalk is my creation and I am very thankful RT management supports me. I decide the program’s topics and approve guests. I inform my boss what I am doing; I don’t ask for permission.

I don’t care what some disgruntled RT employee has to say about me. The same applies to others in the commentariat because their lack of talent or success. How often these days do I openly attack my critics? The answer is that I don’t. I am attacked and vilified because of my employer, but not my message. That is cheap.

I do not speak for RT – I can only speak for myself and my work at the television station. And let me make it clear – I don’t alway like every story RT broadcasts. At the same time I will defend the station’s commitment to being different. Again being honest – some RT reports are a bit over the top. But this is a good thing in the end – we ask our audience one basic thing: Question More. We may not always get it right, but our intention is spot on.

As far as Kremlin spin-doctoring is concerned, all I can say that this assumption is laughable. I come across this accusation all the time, but after working at RT for almost 5 years I still don’t see the evidence. Does RT present the government’s point of view? Yes, of course it does (and many other viewpoints as well). But is this “Kremlin spin-doctoring”? Obviously Russia’s political elite views the world differently from let’s say the US. Why should anyone be surprised by this? Also, anyone who has watched RT will tell you that the station is not only about politics. How can non-political stories be “Kremlin spin-doctoring”? RT wants to be and is competitive. This is because it is consciously different from its competitors.

RT doesn’t do the same. It is part of my job to watch the competition. I watch CNN, BBC, and Al Jazeera. CNN and BBC are wildly one-sided on most global issues compared to RT. Where I work you can come across opinions never heard by RT’s competitors. I give Al Jazeera very high points for its coverage of the Greater Middle East (though not its Russia coverage). Thus, I have no need to use the “whataboutism” argument.

You want me to prove that I am not the Kremlin’s slave and live to talk about it! I welcome this opportunity. You asked for 3 examples, well I will give you 10. Over the past 10 years Russia’s leading politicians haven’t done enough regarding:

  1. Corruption at all levels.
  2. Support of the older generation (pensions).
  3. Repair of and construction of new infrastructure.
  4. Support of small and medium size businesses.
  5. Development of political parties.
  6. Promotion of civil society’s role in solving social problems.
  7. Over reliance on the oil and natural gas sectors.
  8. Introduction of a volunteer-only military and military reform in general.
  9. Finding justice in so-called high-profile murders.
  10. The lack of competition in the marketplace.

I could easily go on. Russia has a lot of problems, no different from ALL OTHER countries in the world.

ANATOLY KARLIN: Global warming [deniers / skeptics] (delete as needed) like Alex Jones, Piers Corbyn and Chris Monckton – all with fairly minimal scientific credentials – get prominent coverage at RT. The entire topic of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is treated as a debate in which either side has yet to prove its case.

However, in the real world, there is a consensus: in a 2004 study, Naomi Oreskes concluded that 75% of papers backed the AGW view, while none directly dissented from it. (And the latest studies are almost always more pessimistic about the magnitude of future warming than “previously expected”.) Given the sheer amount of evidence in favor of AGW, it seems strange to put a hereditary aristocrat who calls his opponents “Hitler Youth” and organizes witch hunts on the same pedestal as climate scientists. Even though more Americans believe in creationism than in evolution, news channels don’t normally give equal weight to both sides in that “debate”, do they?

So I’m at a loss how to explain this. Does RT want to get the scoop on the Western media, even at the cost of its own credibility? Or were you guys told to spin up Climategate because global warming is expected to benefit Russia? Or do you really believe that the AGW “debate” is still far from “settled”?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAvpH-dOP5A&w=480&h=385]

PETER LAVELLE: Again you are asking me to speak for RT – I am not RT’s spokesperson. And to be frank, I find your “Or were you guys told to spin up Climategate…” insulting. The fact is many of our viewers are interested in climate change. RT follows its viewers.

Nonetheless, I am glad you ask about AGW. I have done two programs on the subject – a topic I want to learn more about. I have no problem having Piers Corbryn and Chris Monckton on my program. Could you debate them? My other guests were actually quite keen to debate them. Let me be clear about something: RT gets credibility because it gives air time to different voices. And you are right, there really is no debate on American television. That can’t be said about my CrossTalk program and RT. Speaking about different voices: I may be one of the most prominent backers of dissent in the world of television today! I am proud of that.

ANATOLY KARLIN: Thank you for answering four very HARD questions. I’ll go easy on the last one. As you told us earlier in the interview, you dreamed of having your own TV program from an early age. Your wish came true. There are many who share your dream. Some of them might even be reading this interview! What advice would you give them on becoming a made man or woman in journalism? (The mafia reference isn’t entirely whimsical: from a distance, the profession does appear distinctly cliquish.)

PETER LAVELLE: This is the hardest question of all. All I can say is if you really want to be a journalist (including a TV journalist) you have to make a huge commitment. The competition is enormous and at times talented. Be different because you really are – not because being different might sell. Start blogging and pitching your material. Be prepared for rejection – many times over before things start to happen. Stay away from attacking individuals – staying with your convictions will be enough. Don’t try to become famous, that will come with hard work and honest and fair beliefs. Be willing to learn from others. And lastly stay away from journalists – a caste of people who, for the most part, aren’t worth even having a cup of coffee with.

Back to the Future

Many Russia watchers don’t like to put their money where they mouth is. Though I’m sure you’re not the type, feel free to confirm it by making a few falsifiable predictions about Russia’s future. After a few years, we’ll see if you were worth listening to.

Ok, Peter Lavelle’s predictions:

  • The current tandem will rule for the foreseable future – which is a good thing.
  • The next election cycle will go smoothly – parliamentary and presidential. Fingers crossed Russia’s political parties will mature some.
  • Russia will continue to recover and grow during the on-going global slump. If the US and Europe experience another turn-down, Russia will be spared.
  • Over the next few years, Russia and its eastern European neighbors will continue a robust process of reconciliation.
  • Russia will have to step in to play a greater role in the Greater Middle East as Washington is anything but a fair broker.
  • Russia will not continue down the path of pressuring Iran regarding Tehran’s nuclear program – Russia-US relations again will be strained (though nothing like during the Bush years).
  • Russia will continue to expand its influence in the Western Hemisphere, though not as a direct competitor to the US.
  • NATO will start to seriously listen to Russia (as most European capitals will pretend they have never heard of Saak!).
  • Mainstream western media will continue to get Russia wrong — that is an easy preduction!
  • Eventually, Putin will be blamed for the oil spill in the Gulf and creating the HIV/AIDS virus.

Do you plan to revive your Untimely Thoughts blog? Could you throw us a bone about any other projects you may have in the works?

What about the future? I am having a new website created to mirror my CrossTalk program. There, I intend to return to blogging in a big way in September.

Anatoly, thanks for the interview!

And thank you too, Peter, for a brilliant interview that gives fans and critics alike a lot to chew on!

If you wish me to interview you or another Russia watcher, feel free to contact me.

* A note on HARD Talk: My job as an interviewer is be a contrarian and even a “devil’s advocate” of sorts; to air common, common-sense or germane criticisms of the interviewee’s arguments and worldview, REGARDLESS of what my opinions might or might not be. (For instance, though I criticized Peter Lavelle’s views on the collapse of “Soviet Amerika”, I’ve made the same arguments on this very site: e.g. see here, here). I hope this clarifies things for the angry person who wrote me the email accusing me of Russophobia (LOL) in my HARD Talk with A Good Treaty.

** UPDATE August 14, 2010: William Dunbar has since deleted his only comment at that Facebook Group, which is reproduced below:

William Dunbar: hi, i just resigned from RT because i was being censored about georgia, i was the tbilisi correspondent. i have to say this is among the best groups i have ever seen on facebook. peter used to have a profile, i guess he left because it was another example of the double standards of the biased western media… or maybe putin prefers myspace

After I contacted him, Dunbar said that 1) he never alleged that Peter Lavelle is ““the man who $old his homeland” and that he left the Facebook group after reading this interview, 2) the last sentence is an inside joke between Dunbar and Lavelle that is “light hearted and not had absolutely nothing to do with how much Peter may or may not be paid”, and 3) he thinks that Peter Lavelle “is a true believer”, albeit his “commentary is objectionable, prejudiced and misleading.”

(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.