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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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As far as I understand, Michael D. Weiss is one of those neocons who loves Guantanamo but has a special soft spot in his heart for those Muslims who happen to be fighting Russia or some other state that the US doesn’t like much. When he isn’t chumming it up with his jihadist pals in Syria (see below), he performs his role as the chief editor of The Interpreter – in theory, an “online journal dedicated primarily to translating media from the Russian press and blogosphere into English”; in practice, a publication that would be more aptly named The Interpreter of Novaya Gazeta, considered the open slant in its choice of which articles to translate and its consistently anti-Putin, pro-Western interventionist editorials.

michael-weiss-with-jihadists

Nonetheless, all translations are good. They are inherently neutral. This is why I wrote a letter to Weiss with a cooperation proposal, whose essence was to save both The Russian Spectrum and The Interpreter duplicating work while increasing the size of the content that we both offer. I did not think Weiss would accept and he failed to surprise to the upside. Which of course he was perfectly within his rights to decline. You’ll see no complaints whatsoever from me on that point.

But he wouldn’t let it go – and in fact later, started insisting that I was running around begging favors and threatening to publish my letter as he believed it would discredit me amongst my “Putinist chums” (which he eventually did). The conversations that resulted were not only illustrative of the neocon-Bolshevik like mentality of these people, but are also rather hilarious. It is for this reason that I’ve gathered them all together for the delectation of DR readers.

Note – There is nothing here that is not accessible to the public.

(1) It started when @CollenWinthrop posted the following episode:

1) On July 10th, while Edward Snowden was roving about the transit area of a Moscow Airport, Time Magazine’s Simon Shuster wrote an article that argued that Snowden “was taken soon after his arrival — if not immediately — to a secure location run by some arm of the Russian government.” On top of that, Shuster writes that Snowden was likely drugged by Russian officials so he can tell them what they want to know. Here is the article: http://world.time.com/2013/07/10/snowden-in-moscow-what-are-russian-authorities-doing-with-the-nsa-whistleblower/

2) Michael Weiss (the Russophobic psychopath of The Interpreter and Now Lebanon) promoted the article on his Twitter account:

{BTW, @shustry‘s report on what has likely happened to young Edward in Moscow is a must-read}

3) The article got bashed as propaganda and lies by many of the people on Time’s website and Shuster lambasted on his Twitter account, as a reply to Weiss’ acclaim:

{@michaeldweiss Thanks! the breadth of responses to this story has been amazing. From livid condemnation to your kind words. Both appreciated}

4) To which Weiss replied:

{@shustry Fuck ‘em. You know how the Cheka operates and you live there. Your stuff is consistently excellent.}

5) “Fuck ‘em”???????? Weiss is such an asshole. He cannot stand the truth, he prefers to fuck the truth instead.

(2) Conversation Number 1:

‏Anatoly Karlin @akarlin88
Account of how zhurnalizd @shustry neocon Bolshevik @michaeldweiss operate: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rlnqop via @ColleenWinthrop
5:01 PM – 3 Aug 13

{Okay, not polite on my part. But honestly – that is not how Russia discussions work there, including (especially) those involving Weiss.}

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @michaeldweiss @ColleenWinthrop Russian hate is a paycheck to Weiss. His baby is Israel.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Anatoly, you should relay the story of how you asked me for a publishing agreement.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop It was a cooperation proposal, not a request for a publishing agreement. Please don’t lie. First.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Second, I don’t divulge personal correspondence in public.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop You asked to share our material. I can produce the email publicly if you like.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry @colleenwinthrop Though I wouldn’t want to embarrass you in front of your friends who might find this very odd indeed.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 @shustry No, you insult people and then hypocritically ask them for professional favors. At least you’ve a comic instinct.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss @shustry @ColleenWinthrop Go ahead LOL. There is nothing damning or even controversial there whatsoever.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I was not asking you for a favor. And you are just about the last person who should be whining about online insults (wah wah)

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 Who’s whining? I enjoyed it thoroughly.

(3) Conversation Number 2:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88
Just to clarify: My proposal to @Interpreter_Mag was a *sharing* agreement (so as to avoid duplicating effort). Nothing more, nothing less.
6:15 PM – 3 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 “A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page”. Partners = slightly more, actually.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss I view it as a glorified blogroll, personally – e.g. http://russianmind.com/content/partners …. Partners pages = more visitors, SEO for all.

4) Conversation Number 3:

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
.@michaeldweiss refused. More power to him. Will create more work for both @Interpreter_Mag & @RussianSpectrum, but ultimately irrelvant.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Strange that you’d seek to collaborate with neocon Bolsheviks, no? Thought Putinists were made of tougher stuff.
6:20 PM – 3 Aug 13

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 3 Aug
@michaeldweiss That is because you are a with-us-or-against-us Bolshevik. That is why it seems so strange to you.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 3 Aug
@akarlin88 :) I like your last few defensive tweets. Don’t worry, your chums won’t hold it against you. They can’t afford to.

(5) Conversation Number #4 (a month later, in response to a satirical tweet by Mark Adomanis)

Mark Adomanis ‏@MarkAdomanis
“WE NEED TO INTERVENE IN SYRIA BECAUSE THE JIHADISTS ARE SAD” – actual foreign policy analysts
7:36 PM – 31 Aug 13

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis Who is saying that?

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard Add @michaeldweiss to that list. Jihadists, AIPAC, Likudites, Bilderbergers. Sad days pic.twitter.com/JWrIANajN0

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
lolwut @RussianTruth1 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Imbeciles of the world, unite!

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
Is russia ever going to stop being just a soul sucking abomination? @michaeldweiss

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg What’s interesting to me is that Booz Allen keeps hiring accidents waiting to happen. Surely that is a conspiracy worth scrutiny.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss The same Booz Allen employee who demanded Russia send Snowden packing? http://darussophile.com/2013/06/25/mark-adomanis-do-as-us-officials-say-or-else/ … @SolJewEgg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Anatoly, privyet. Unfortunately, we are still not seeking a content-sharing agreement. Feel free to apply again next year. Xoxo.

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
@michaeldweiss Stop trolling or publish the email as you said you would. Go ahead – everyone is waiting with baited breath.

Nick Nipclose ‏@NickNipclose 31 Aug
@Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss @SolJewEgg There’s no excuse for Chechen jihadism, they chose to support Islamist filth no one forced them.

… {discussion by other participants on Chechnya}

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg 31 Aug
@NickNipclose @Karlsson111 @michaeldweiss Russia’s brutal repression didn’t help anyone

… {more Chechnya discussion… check the link to Twitter convo if you’re really interested}

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
Oh noes @michaeldweiss BLOCKED me. wah wah wah. Whatever shall I do now?!? cc @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg @hannahgarrard

Sol Robinson ‏@SolJewEgg
Lol russian propagandist. @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @hannahgarrard

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss 31 Aug
@SolJewEgg Karlin is my aspiring professional partner. Hell hath no fury like a Putinist scorned.

Hannah Garrard ‏@hannahgarrard 31 Aug
@akarlin88 Join the club. I got blocked by him for criticising Al-Qaida. @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @RussianTruth1 @SolJewEgg

Russian Truth ‏@RussianTruth1 31 Aug
@hannahgarrard @akarlin88 @michaeldweiss @MarkAdomanis @SolJewEgg For criticizing Al Qaeda? Did he take it personally?!

(6) The publication of my email (1, 2, 3, 4)

Anatoly Karlin ‏@akarlin88 31 Aug
I see @michaeldweiss continues to twist the contents of my email to him in public. This leaves me with no option but to publish it myself.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Don’t worry, Anatoly. I shall publish it now.

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
‏@michaeldweiss Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to (cont) http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

michaeldweiss ‏@michaeldweiss
@akarlin88 Here you go, sweetpea. Happy blogging: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1rm7dhg

(7) The damning email that will meant so much more to me than to him – in which case, why was Michael Weiss the one ranting on about it the entire time?

Anatoly Karlin’s request to partner with The Interpreter — evidently this meant more to him than it did to us:

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). Also, to allay any concerns, it was not created to compete with The Interpreter (I had first publicly written of my intention to do such a project last September, that is, way before The Interpreter’s launch date).

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.

Here are two proposals for your consideration:

(1) A sharing agreement in which we agree to republish a number (e.g. 5?) of translations per week from each other’s site. The original translators will, of course, be credited on both sites.

(2) A mutual listing of each other as partners on a partners or links page.

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

Best,
Anatoly Karlin.

Hope you’ve had fun reading through this and made it through without an aneurysm! ;)

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Everybody in the Western media seems to have forgotten Pussy Riot. Well, not forgotten, they still wheel them out every so often as symbols of the repressiveness of the Putin regime – but news of actual developments in the affair have come to a standstill. Which is a pity, because they undermine the commonly accepted narrative about what it was in the first place.

I am talking, of course, about the estrangement of Pussy Riot from their original trio of lawyers – Mark Feygin, Nikolay Polozov, and Violetta Volkova. This began approximately when they Pussy Riot lost their case and got sent off to jail, which led them to switch lawyers. Their new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, managed to get Samutsevich (one of the Pussies) released by arguing that she was not an active participant in the “performance.” Khrunova continues to represent the other two who are still in jail. Here is pretty much the only article you will find out about this in the Western media. (Funny that it’s in The Independent, and not in the Guardian, which was otherwise Pussy Riot’s most fiery supporter).

Then Mark Feygin, via his wife’s company, tried to register the Pussy Riot brand. Pussy Riot claims that he did not have their permission to do so and that it was an attempt to cash in on the case. Feygin denies this, saying that he did have permission and that his intentions were to prevent OTHERS from unscrupulously profiting off the name. He says the newspapers smeared him. In any case this is a moot point anyway, as Russia’s patent office denied them their trademark anyway; but this was just one of a series of wedges that would alienate the lawyers from the Pussies.

Things moved up into critical mode when Samutsevich asked Russia’s bar association to consider Volkova’s status as a lawyer, and now, to dismiss her. This prompted a furious, vitriolic, and frankly stunning reaction from the lawyers:

Mark Feygin: Samutsevich again requested the Association to disbar Violetta Volkova!

Mark Feygin: Without a doubt, we are dealing with a RAT here!

Mark Feygin: As regards Samutsevich, I still can’t forget that Big Mac which Violetta brought to her in her pre-trial detention… How could one be such an ungrateful rat?

(AK: A whole BIG MAC? How *generous* of her!)

Also, in response to a commentator, who tweeted:

Marina Marinina: Have you ever noticed that if a person looks ugly on the outside, she’s also probably ugly on the inside?

Mark Feygin: Yep, I noticed. https://twitter.com/mark_feygin/status/322046597955457025/photo/1

(AK: Funny, that. Marina Marinina hardly strikes me as a star in the looks department. Let alone Volkova LOL).

Nikolay Polozov: The regime eggs on Samutsevich to debar Volkova on the threshold of her defense of Udaltsov in soon forthcoming trials. The rat earns her keep.

Violetta Volkova, replying to a commentator: I can only say one thing – Samutsevich could not have written this complaint by herself. She was helped a lot – but this is just my private opinion.

Elsewhere by the pattern of her re-Tweets she makes it quite clear that she agrees with the theory that Samutsevich is a rat, though she does not use the actual word herself unlike her two colleagues.

There are two ways of looking at this.

(1) From the lawyers’ side:

Mark Feygin: In Russia, we all know that Samutsevich agreed with the Kremlin. So let her go

That, and now she is working on their orders, trying to discredit their work.

(2) From (what I assume to be) Samutsevich’s, and perhaps the other two’s, side:

Feygin and Co. are not so much lawyers as political activists posing as lawyers, whose primary concern is not so much the welfare of their clients (e.g. keeping them out of prison) as smearing egg all over the Kremlin’s face. This explains the decision to switch them for Irina Khrunova and the general acrimony between them since.

Frankly, with their online behavior, I think the lawyers have – if anything – lent more credence to #2. Calling out a former client of yours as a “rat” is extremely unprofessional, something you might see in a “Lawyers from Hell” episode. Who on Earth would want to be represented by them in the future? When you know that if you have issues with their defense strategy and professional ethics you will be subjected to an online barrage of smears from them and their liberal opposition groupies?

I know who! The professional revolutionaries like Udaltsov, who would gladly go to jail if it made the “regime” look bad. And what then would that make the lawyers? It would make them their professional enablers.

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

The Western press

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

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

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

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

Après moi le beluga…?

Gerard announces the closure of several Parisian Boulangeries.

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

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

Western democratic journalists

Unfortunately even many otherwise reasonable people were ridiculously outraged.

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

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

Mark Adomanis started out well:

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

But then he too went weird.

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

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

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

Russian liberals

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

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

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

In a class of its own: Julia Ioffe

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

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

Minor point, perhaps, but NOT defunct.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update: Ioffe’s reply to this post

Ouch this must have struck a nerve with her!

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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By the usual standards of Guardian reporting on Russia, this one by GQ Russia editor Andrew Ryvkin is… well, about par for the course.

Citing a recent PwC report that Russia will overtake Germany to become Europe’s biggest economy in 2030, he asks, “Should we believe them?

Well, the PwC is just repeating predictions made almost a decade earlier by Goldman Sachs, which has thus far proved very accurate on the growing prominence of the BRICs in general, and of Russia in particular (regardless of repeated attempts to kick it out of that grouping, against the judgment of Jim O’Neill, the inventor of the BRICs concept himself).

So in effect Ryvkin is asking us whether we should trust a range of organizations with a great predictive record on the issue to the uninformed ravings of a Guardian hack.

Forget Russia’s very reasonable and respectable growth rates compared to the other Central-East European countries. According to Ryvkin, Russia’s downfall will be because it is “politics”, and not “strict economic policies”, that “rule these wintry lands.” What is the primary example he uses to demonstrate this?

One should also have sedatives close to hand while reviewing the figures. Russia has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and is barely making an effort to hide it. For instance, one of the Sochi 2014 Olympic projects – a 50 km road – costs nearly $8bn.

This meme was popularized by Julio Ioffe in the Western press on Russia back in 2010. It has also long since been long debunked, including on this very blog – although it continues to float around as a cliche among Russian liberal and journalist circles.

The only problem with looking at Russia through this failed state prism, without bothering to corroborate sources, is that in no sense can the Adler-Krasnaya Polyana route be described as just a “roadway”. Intended to be completed within 3 years in an area with a poorly developed infrastructure, this so-called “road” also includes a high-speed railway, more than 50 bridges, and 27km of tunnels over mountainous, ecologically-fragile terrain!

Then there’s this bizarre statement: “Germany, is currently associated with its policy of austerity, Russia is known for precisely the opposite.” That’s certainly news to me, as Russia has run balanced budgets for the past 2 years* – in stark contrast to, well, pretty much the rest of the developed world (including Germany for that matter).

And here you’re inevitably faced with a question: how would the Russian government act if it became a leading European economy and faced a crisis like the one in we have now in the eurozone, considering that this government has allowed the construction of a $160m/km road?

That is an extraordinarily remote possibility, seeing as Russia has fiscal unity and no significant sovereign debt (i.e. the lack of which define the European crisis). The very question is not only based on a faulty premise (the so-called “caviar road”) but essentially meaningless.

After some of the usual moralizing and content-free platitudes about the absence of Russian democracy, as well as the further extremely bizarre idea that the Chinese economy is not politicized like Russia’s**, Ryvkin wanders back on track with the usual spiel about how Russia is Nigeria with snow.

Here’s a question: who would want a Russian-made car, when even Russians don’t want them? Another one: who wants to fly Russian aeroplanes, when even in Russia people choose to fly on a Boeing or Airbus? But these huge industries still exist, resembling Frankenstein’s monsters of Soviet industrial might, brought to life by heavy injections of oil money and created by businesses that ultimately cannot produce a competitive product.

It goes against almost every aspect of economic, market-oriented logic, but it has nothing to do with the economy, because it aims to keep the workforce loyal to the government and project an image of a neo-Soviet industrial power. So is securing votes at the cost of your country’s economic development today a strategy worthy of someone who is going to lead the European economy in seventeen years? Is the strategy even smart?

Back in the world of hard facts and statistics, Russian car production was at 2.0 million units in 2011 (increasing by a further 15% in 2012) compared to 1.2 million units in 2000. Many foreign automakers have moved manufacturing into Russia, but that one presupposes is a good thing; that indigenous Russian brands haven’t done as well doesn’t mean much (which British brands are doing well apart from Rolls Royce?). There are few countries in which automobiles are a major export staple – incidentally, China with which Ryvkin incessantly compares Russia with isn’t one of them – and there is no good reason to expect Russia to become a major exporter of cars under any government, be it Putin’s or “even [a 10-year-old] (as long as he was smart enough not to stop the flow of oil and gas).”

That is because hydrocarbons are Russia’s comparative advantage, a concept which likewise explains why say Australia and Norway do not export much manufactured goods either. Ironically, the surest way to solve this “resource dependency” would be to get Ryvkin’s 10 year old President to ACTUALLY stop the flow of oil and gas.

That is also the reason why Ryvkin doesn’t work as an analyst at PwC but writes articles for the Guardian.

* Actually latest estimates show that 2012 had a deficit of 0.02% of GDP, but that’s of course basically a rounding error.

** Where to even begin here? For a start, consider the fact that the HQ’s of all the major Chinese companies have a “red machine” with a telephone link to Party functionaries

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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In one of his regular columns for mafia state news agency RIA Novosti he wrote (h/t Mercouris):

Valentina, an acquaintance of mine, is a third year Moscow University student. She told me recently: ‘Whenever I or my friends and college mates hear ‘Georgia’, the reaction is nearly universally positive – food, people, culture and now democracy! The Georgians succeeded where our rulers failed”. The Kremlin may well hear more from Saakashvili – and Georgia’s growing fan-base in Russia itself.

But wait! This sounds… remarkably similar to a Facebook conversation with one Valentina Filippenko on Eggert’s wall. (She is a student at the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University, presumably another democratic journalist in the making). Except that “food, people, culture and now democracy!” or even “nearly universally positive” (≠ “Georgia’s image becoming more and more positive”) don’t figure anywhere in her comment. This is what she actually said, in translation:

You know, I’m noticing in my “youth” circles: The connotative coloring of Georgia is becoming ever more positive – this the Kremlin and United Russia will find hard to deal with.

Now it’s more likely than not, I suppose, that Ms. Filippenko would not disagree with Eggert’s apparent amplification of what she actually said. Still, unless she further expounded on this topic to Eggert on the telephone, one has to conclude that he is guilty of the same thing that ruined Johann Hari’s career.

PS. In case Eggert deletes this:

Note also another gem, in the third section. One journalist Ramil Gataullin comments, “Saakashvili above all entered history as a killer of Russian peacekeepers.” In reply, Sergey Medvedev, a professor of Economics at the (neoliberal) School of Higher Economics replied, “Russian peacekeepers got lost in the mountains and ended up in the wrong territory…)) Konstantin, excellent commentary.”

Needless to say, it was Medvedev who got most of the Likes on Eggert’s page, not Gataullin.

Little surprises me from these people, but still, even I am taken aback by this degree of loathing for their country. They really do think it excellent that Saakashvili bombarded the barracks of their own soldiers and killed some of them. To them, Kasparov and his ilk meeting Saakashvili in solidarity immediately after the war wasn’t a cause for disenchantment; it was taking a heroic stand against the Kremlin! It’s not like I care about their views that much, they are of course entitled to them, but what’s hilarious is that these liberals genuinely can’t figure out why they are considered revolting by much of the rest of the country.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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There is a term on Runet, popularized by the satirical “dissident” Lev Sharansky, called “democratic journalist.” Of course, this term is every bit as satirical as its main propagator. In the Russian context, it denotes a journalist who is obsessed with free speech, human rights, democracy, the whole turkey. But they are “obsessed” with them in a rather peculiar way. Namely, when Russia violates these things in some way, real or imagined, they raise a loud howls of protest that reverberate around the globe: Formal condemnations, calls for the persecutors to be banned from Western countries and their financial accounts frozen, trade sanctions against Russia, etc, etc. But when the West does things that are just as bad or even worse, they are either silent on it, or blame the victims themselves (there are of course many exceptions… but then they are not “democratic journalists” in the first place). Those who call them out on their hypocrisy are assailed with the strawman label of “whataboutism.” To these people, the world is built on Manichean principles: There are enemy states, whose victims are “worthy” and deserve unalloyed attention (e.g. Pussy Riot, Iranian protesters); and then there is the West – that is, the US and its allies – which can do no real wrong, and as such, their victims (e.g. Assange, Bahraini protesters) are “unworthy”.

A case in point: In 2010, an RT crew was arrested and detained for 32 hours for covering protests against Fort Benning, the infamous School of the Americas with a dark reputation around its training of Latin American right-wing paramilitaries. With the honorable exception of Ilya Yashin and Boris Nemtsov, Russia’s liberals took a rather different view. For instance, in the comments section to their blogs, one user wrote, “So that democracy can survive in civilized countries, they have to limit the activities of agents of influence of barbaric fascist regimes on their own territory.” This was not a lone voice; to the contrary, at least half the comments reflected similar sentiments. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who used to sit on President Medvedev’s Council on Human Rights blamed the RT journalists themselves for their own arrests (incidentally that Council, before it was recently – and in my opinion none too soon – restaffed under Putin, also spent much of 2011 compiling a 400 page report on the purported unfairness of Khodorkovsky’s conviction; one would think there were more things worthy of their attention in the evil empire than the fate of a major crook who probably ordered contract murders, and whose conviction was maintained multiple times by the ECHR, but that’s just me).

This phenomenon of “democratic journalists” is however best illustrated by the Russian liberal intelligentsia’s reaction to Wikileaks and Cablegate – which is to say, parroting the US Establishment and their Western colleagues, they started to disparage, loathe, smear, hate on, mock, and condemn Julian Assange. One of these “democratic journalists” is Peter Savodnik. Yet another is Konstantin von Eggert. In his vitriolic, froth-on-the-mouth reactions to Assange’s plight; in his attacks on his critics; in his privileged position in the Russian media (which we are meant to believe is controlled by Putin), he represents all of the hypocrisy of your stereotypical Russian liberal. If there was a holotype specimen for “democratic journalist” he’d be an excellent candidate for it.

As far as I’m aware, Eggert first made his views known in 2010. The title says it all: “The tabloid freedom of Wikileaks.” But first note at the onset that it was published in English at RIA Novosti, the official Russian news agency. Personally, I do not decry that Eggert is employed there. First, it would be hypocritical of me, as I write for Al Jazeera and get money from them for articles that are hardly in line with official Qatari foreign policy (though at this point I should note that Eggert does have a problem with me writing for Al Jazeera, or any MSM outlet for that matter). Second, whenever somebody claims that the Kremlin controls the Russian media, one can simply point to Eggert’s scribblings for its main news agency. So in this regard, Eggert in his own way serves the Kremlin; though not, I think, in quite the way he imagines it.

Assange thinks of himself a some kind of Internet-age messiah, but in fact his worldview is not much different of your average salon leftie from Harvard or Islington, ever ready to believe any smear about the United States and to apologize for any tyrant, as long as the latter claims to be a socialist and dislikes the US. … The “bien pensants” of the Western left think that their governments are wicked – despite leading prosperous and protected lives under those same governments.

Apparently, he is a radical leftist and committed anti-American, stubbornly unwilling to realize how free he really is (to be financially embargoed and effectively imprisoned on trumped up charges for years on end?):

Somehow, I do not expect many cables from the Burmese Foreign Ministry (or Myanmar if you like it) or minutes from North Korea’s Politburo meetings to be revealed any time soon by Wikileaks.

Note that despite being an ardent critic of whataboutism, like many democratic journalists, Konstantin von Eggert feels free to liberally engage in it himself when the occasion calls for it. How dare Assange expose Western dirty laundry without first doing the same for dozens of other nasty regimes? To (very) loosely paraphrase Miriam Elder, another democratic journalist: “It’s unclear what Eggert, or his sponsors, would prefer. That Assange avoid leaking stuff about Western countries until he spills all the beans on Iran, Syria, Burma, North Korea, China, and Russia too?” (Contrary to what Western democratic journalists wrote at the beginning of the saga, of those Russia at least is NOT going to kill Assange for revealing stuff about it).

***

But the shit really started hitting the fan when news emerged that RT (Russia Today) was teaming up with Assange to product a ten-part series of interviews with the world’s movers and shakers, he went on an all-out offensive, publishing a new round of hit pieces at Kommersant (January 26, 2012) and Russian Forbes (January 27, 2012). Let’s start with the latter:

After the news that RT is going to use the services of Julian Assange, I got a phone call from a Reuters correspondent. She asked me whether I knew whether the Kremlin would pay the Wikileaks founder for his program. I don’t have a clue of course. But with RT, this weird Australian might as well work for free. For his alliance with the main organ of Russian state propaganda on the world stage – is an alliance of kindred spirits.

After this, he goes on to criticize RT for its “conspirological” bias, by “interviewing marginal people” and catering to Westerners who are “marginal” and for whom “The Guardian and The New York Times are too leftist.” Is this guy for real? In what universe is The Guardian and the NYT leftist? But I guess to a neocon of his calibre anything that marginally deviates from the US party line is automatically leftist. Furthermore:

… As a rule, [these conspirological audiences] really don’t like Israel. For natural reasons, for Jews are frequently the heroes of various conspiracy theories. For these audiences, RT frequently invites “fighters against Zionism” from the ranks of rather paranoid Western researchers, such as Norman Finkelstein. He is a hero of multiple scandals and for all intents and purposes denies Israel its right to existence.

A bit of background on Norman Finkelstein. True, he does not like the Israeli state, perhaps irrationally so (much in the way that Eggert himself doesn’t like RT, or Wikileaks, or – for that matter – Russia). Unlike Eggert, however, who is given a privileged position in the Russian media, Norman Finkelstein has been hounded out of academia for his views, detained and expelled from from Israel at the airport (recall the uproar when Luke Harding was expelled from Russia for overstaying his visa?), and – the mark of Cain in America – has been branded an anti-Semite, which permanently blacklists him from the US media. Here is another view of him, from Peter Lavelle:

Norman Finkelstein is a hate figure for many of those who know of him in America and for many in the worldwide Jewish community. He is another person who is blacklisted by Western mainstream media for speaking his mind and revealing the frauds of others.

A child of Holocaust survivors – Finkelstein’s father was on a death march in Auschwitz and his mother was a survivor of the Majdanek death camp – he challenges anyone who tries to use his deceased parents’ memory for geopolitical advantage when invoking the Nazi genocide against the Jews.

I understand where Finkelstein is coming from. I lived in Poland for 12 years and visited every Nazi death camp. To this day I am left speechless by how the human condition can succumb to evil. Thankfully we have Norman Finkelstein to remind us that honoring the memory of the Holocaust does not automatically mean supporting Israel and Washington. As someone aware of how ideologies literally destroy people, Finkelstein is worth listening to when it comes of the suffering of the Palestinian people.

When prominent US politicians like Romney say there can be no peace with congenitally violent Palestinians – and are backed up on this in the op-eds of major American papers such as the WSJ – contrary voices like Finkelstein’s are clearly needed for a balanced debate. Konstantin von Eggert, however, would do his best to suppress it; and condemns RT for giving Finkelstein the freedom of speech he does not enjoy in America.

They say, that Assange will interview for RT famous people. I suspect they will mainly be opponents of America and the West, both internal and external. Ahmadinejad and Huge Chavez, Bashar Assad and Evo Morales, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon, Slavoj Zizek and Robert Fisk…

There is little more left to say here. In the Kremlin-controlled Russian media (according to this democratic journalist, let us not forget, the Russian elites “rule like Stalin and live like Abramovich”), Konstantin von Eggert is basically waging a McCarthyite campaign (“enemies internal and external”???) against supposed Kremlin (China, North Korea, etc) friends. What kind of idiot totalitarianism that allows this does Russia run anyway? (This is sarcastic, of course; I genuinely love the fact that Eggert gets the opportunity to write these things in the Russian media, both in itself (a free media is good) and for mercenary reasons (one can always cite him to the various hacks who claim otherwise). Now as for smearing the child of Holocaust survivors as anti-Semitic, or in bracketing people like Robert Fisk and Assad in the same category of miscreants, I will not dwell on that… I leave it on Eggert’s conscience (if he has any).

There is a paradox that a person around whom is constructed the aura of a global fighter for free information, not sits in one dugout with employees of an organ of state propaganda. On the principle of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

The hypocrisy is oozing out of his every slimey pore. The stench is so nauseating that even the readers of this fairly pro-Western publication, Russian Forbes, call him out on it. Here is one representative comment by alexz105:

Ah, Kostya, Kostya. If you can’t do the job – don’t take it. A fine advert you make for Forbes. The all-encompassing usage and constantly repeated of this juicy little word “marginals” reminds one of the rhetoric about the Weismann-Morganists [AK: Practitioners of "bourgeois" genetics, persecuted under Stalinism]. You’re a sovok bast shoe, even if you do have a “von” in your name.

To which Eggert replied with anti-Semitic accusations.

All as I thought. No relevant comments. Banal fighters with the “Jewish conspiracy” soloing. And, as expected, they mention the “von” thing. … You have nothing to say. It’s boring – noone to argue with.

And so on in the most dismal vein. The commentators started to identify themselves with the “marginals” to piss Eggert off. To which Eggert responded by correcting their spelling mistakes. Now I don’t often agree with La Russophobe (LOL), but she’s right that when have to resort to pointing out spelling or grammar mistakes to attack your critic, you’ve probably already lost the argument.

***

This is a fascinating case study, and there is plenty more to come. Stay tuned. The next part will deal with Eggert’s articles for Kommersant smearing Assange with rape, lying about his release of the unredacted Cables, and repeating the “he’s anti-American!” In fact, I’m half of a mind to translate this gem in full and reprint it my book as evidence of Russian media diversity (I mean he can’t complain, right? I will be making more people aware of his work. I’ll be doing him a favor!). There may also be a third part dealing with his personal attacks on me and other critics of his work.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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I recently noticed with some amusement that despite the free, prominent advertising given to hack Luke Harding’s book “Mafia State” on The Guardian, to date it has garnered only 6 reviews on Amazon UK and 3 reviews on Amazon US.

(Neither was his book on Wikileaks with David Leigh much more successful either. It got 11 reviews, of which almost half gave one star. Not so surprising considering their sordid and deeply dishonest conduct towards Assange).

However, Alex Mercouris noticed a most curious thing.

Interesting. Notice that one of the reviewers called “D.P. McGowan” says that Harding repeats says that “Kremlin paid bloggers” are “trying to discredit” Harding’s journalism and his book. Sound familiar?

It does indeed, doesn’t it?

But what makes this (London-based, like The Guardian) “D.P. McGowan” fellow, who gave Harding 5 stars, all the more suspicious is that he has just two reviews to his name on Amazon. Both are for Harding’s book Mafia State in its UK and US editions.

Furthermore, he was not the only commentator to leave praise for the book with only one Amazon review to his/her name. Same goes for “CalliopeArtana” (5 stars) and “Sheila” (4 stars).

Four out of the nine Amazon reviews that Harding’s book got gave it glowing praise and came from commentators with no other reviews on that site.

Is Luke Harding pulling a Figes on us?

(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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Everything’s going badly in Russia. Medvedev’s reforms are failing. The economy isn’t growing. It is moving from authoritarianism to totalitarianism (in stark contrast to civilized Western countries), and the motto “We cannot live like this any longer!” once again becomes an article of faith in the land – or well, at least among “the blogs on LiveJournal” and “the sites of the top independent and opposition groups” (who are of course totally representative of Russian public opinion). Citizens are fleeing the country like rats from a sinking ship.

Anyhow, unlike Eugene Ivanov who argues that media coverage of Russia has improved of late, I think the Western punditocracy remains every bit as wrong, idiotic and venal on Russia as it always was, and in this post I’ll use the recent WSJ article “Why Are They Leaving?” by Julian Evans as my foil (it’s illustrated with soc-realist posters of the worker and collective farm girl harkening back to the Soviet era; excusez-moi for crashing the party, but WTF do they have to do with anything in a story about Russian emigration of all things???).

“Russia’s small but educated middle-class is deserting the mother country in search of opportunities and freedoms elsewhere…” Thus from the get go the author makes the strong impression – and one that is decisively reinforced throughout the rest of the article – that Russia has a big emigration problem that is draining it of brains and talent. But let’s consult the statistics (as opposed to anecdotal evidence and online polls at Novaya Gazeta asking Russians whether they want to emigrate; yes, Mr. Evans cites the online readership of a paper written by liberal ideologues in support of his argument). Too bad for Mr. Evans, the statistics reveal his article for the sham it really is.

First off the bat, it is worth pointing out that Russia has a positive net migration rate. Far more people are going in than going out. This I’m sure will come as a shock to mindless consumers of Western media – conditioned as they are to think of Russia as a bleak wasteland full of starving nuclear scientists, hot girls wanting to score with rich British guys, and crooks desperate to park their ill-gotten assets into a Swiss bank account and get a second citizenship – but it is true nonetheless. Now granted this very minor factoid isn’t of direct relevance to the article, which is after all concerned about the disillusionment of Russia’s middle class and its growing flight abroad; nonetheless, failing to mention this inconvenient fact that many people in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine are willing to go Russia not even once is misleading and hints at an agenda.

But the far more damning evidence is that even as regards those “civilized” countries that Russians have traditionally been emigrating to – the biggest recipient nations of Russians post-1991 were Germany, the US, and Israel – the flow of Russian emigrants had all but dried up by 2008. The overall net numbers of Russian emigrants to the world outside the post-Soviet space has been shrinking steadily from 1999, when it was at -72,000, falling to -26,000 in 2005 and just a few thousands by the late 2000′s. According to the Rosstat figures, from 2000 to 2010, the migration balance improved as follows for the five biggest host countries for Russian emigrants during that decade: Germany from -38,700 to -1,100; the US from -4,300 to -807; Israel from -7,900 to -133; Finland from -1,100 to -339; and Canada from -800 to -387. In the first four months of 2011, the migration balance actually turned positive relative to Germany and Israel (as it has already been for several years with another developed country, Greece). The graph below illustrates these trends.

[Click to enlarge. Stats for 2011 are annualized based on Jan-Apr.]

Julian Evans can cite any number of anecdotes he wants about how Russian businessmen are fleeing to Venezuela because “there are more opportunities to develop there”, or about the “young educated people” (because, of course, youth and education are synonymous with wanting to leave Russia) and “strongest and most gifted people” (quoting liberal ideologue Dmitry Oreshkin at Novaya Gazeta, 62.5% of whose online readership want to leave Russia) who can’t wait to set off for Notting Hill because of the “insecurity of property rights” in Russia. But his elitist fetish with the middle classes (that supposedly hate Putin’s Russia) blinds him and by extension his readers to the larger reality, which is that emigration is very small and continues to decrease into this year. The actual statistics flatly contradict his ramblings, and as such Julian Evans remains about as credible as… well, the same hack who six years ago was expounding on the “green Stalinist light” in Gleb Pavlovsky’s office.

Now you may at this point want to rejoinder… but AK, aren’t you a big fan of opinion polls? Didn’t you just a few days ago try to use them to argue that Russian elections aren’t rigged? And don’t Levada’s opinion polls indicate that quite a lot of Russians really do want to emigrate – 22% of them as of May 2011, up from 13% in 2009 – thus confirming Evans’ and Oreshkin’s arguments? Well, just as there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, there are opinion polls, and then there are opinion polls. Some signify more than others. For instance, in the aftermath of Bush’s election win in 2004, some Americans loudly declared they were fed up with it all and were ready to hop over the border to Canada… but when the time came to walk the walk (as opposed to talk the talk), the migration flows to Canada didn’t change in any perceptible way. That’s because just being fed up with domestic politics – that is what Evans alleges is the main reason for the “educated middle-class deserting the mother country” – is, in most cases, a frivolous reason for making a life-changing decision such as emigration, and while many might think about it in their idle moments very few follow through on it.

If you don’t believe me, let’s return to the opinion polls again. Back in 2006, The Daily Mail reported that 13% of Britons wanted to leave the UK in the near future (as you may know there has NOT been a massive flood of British hordes out of the island since, my own case and that of random drunken revelers in Prague regardless). By 2010 this figure had leaped up to 33% – higher than the percentage of Russians saying they want to leave now, BTW (and that’s despite those awesome “rule of law” and “civilized values” things that Russian liberals like to harp on about when it comes to any Anglo-Saxon country) – but nonetheless, we still see no mass exodus from Albion. Why the discrepancy? Return to that Levada poll and look at the breakdown of answers more closely. 22% of Russians may be thinking of leaving, but only 1% are actually packing their bags.

And this brings us into what should be the main starting point of any discussion about the future of Russian emigration: why would they want to? All this currently fashionable twaddle about property rights or rule of law being a major driver isn’t convincing; it’s certainly no worse than it was in previous years, and if anything is showing signs of improvement. Why would the middle-class (which is as happy as any other social group with Putin) decide to take a hike right now? Let’s be serious. In previous years, there were only two main groups of emigrants: (1) the vast majority were ethnic minorities, such as Jews and Volga Germans, returning to their national homelands; (2) educated professionals from academia who were earning breadcrumbs from Russian academic institutions with no opportunities for original research. Almost all those who would ever emigrate from the first group have already done so (see the vast decrease in emigration to Israel and Germany). Meanwhile, anybody who has been following the issue will know that the salaries of state workers have been increasing at rapid rates in recent years, including those of academics; true, the increases were from a very low base and absolute salaries remain far lower than in fully developed countries, however if the emigration statistics are anything to go by (and with the help of Russia’s lower relative prices) salaries have now reached a level that allows for a rough balance between immigrants and emigrants. In other words, the situation with Russian academia vis-à-vis the world now largely resembles that those prevailing between developed nations – scientists are free to have scientific exchanges, but with the vast majority of researchers returning to their home countries after a stay of several months or years.

PS. More details here: Гуд бай, Америка: Эмиграция из России в США достигла минимума.

Also see Nikolai Starikov’s Как создаются либеральные мифы for an account of how liberals used misquotes to create the impression that Russia is facing a second emigration wave.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Standing up to Putin.

Standing up to Putin.

Over the years, I have come across my fair share of liars and incompetents writing about Russia in major Western media outlets. But rarely have I encountered such heights of self-righteous arrogance and clownish, pathetic ignorance as Edward McMillan-Scott displays in his latest screed for The Guardian: “David Cameron must stand up to Putin“, where he uses Elena Bonner’s recent death to argue for a harder line against Russia.

Time to go grenade fishing again, i.e. fisking Russophobe articles – it’s as easy as it is ultimately pointless. As I’m banned from the Guardian‘s pond (for drawing attention to its mendacity and plagiarism) it will have to take place on my own blog.

Assume we’re discussing, let’s pick a totally random scenario, a British humanitarian intervention in 2014 to liberate Venezuela’s oil reserves oppressed citizenry from Hugo Chavez’s dictatorial regime. (Somewhat implausible true, as Britain will have the aircraft carriers but not the planes, but let’s indulge ourselves a bit). Activists are planning protests in London. Then an MP in the Duma’s ruling party, Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, writing on the necessity of standing up to Cameron for a national Russian newspaper, argues that only George Osborne will decide whether there will be kettling and preemptive arrests of demonstrators. Now considering that Osborne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for economic and fiscal matters, would you retain much respect for the paper or Mr. Ivanov after this?

Because this is precisely analogous to what Edward McMillan-Scott writes: “Russia’s justice minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, is the puppet who will announce this week whether or not the Putin regime will allow any opposition parties to put up candidates in December’s parliamentary elections and the presidential poll next March.” As anyone who knows anything about Russian politics can tell you, Anatoly Serdyukov is the Defense Minister and has nothing to do whatsoever with approving opposition candidates.

A secondary, very minor point, but kind of relevant to the article, is that the “liberal group led by former premier Mikhail Kasyanov”, i.e. the PARNAS Gang of Four, has no public support (c. 2% approval) and is currently blocked because some of its signatures were falsified. Now if the true Russian opposition, the Communists (c. 20% approval), were to be blocked, now that would be a major cataclysm that would truly transform Russia into a one-party regime. (However, that would no doubt sit just fine with Mr. McMillan-Scott, given his approval for Elena Bonner’s thug-like support for Yeltsin’s shelling of elected representatives of the people in 1993).

“However, since the beginning of the Putin era in 2000 the slide towards autocracy has accelerated.” This is a common trope of the Russophobes, and a pretty hilarious one at that. In their world, Russia is always sliding into the neo-Soviet Union or some such. It was sliding there in 2000 (KGB, Putin, Chechnya). It was sliding in 2003 (Khodorkovsky: true Western democracies only imprison poor people, dammit!). It was sliding in 2006 (Litvinenko). It was sliding in 2008 (Georgia, New Cold War!). It continues sliding to this day (Medvedev, puppet of Putin). When will it finally get there? If Mr. McMillan-Scott can participate in a conference at “Metropol Hotel just off Red Square” where he and other members of the liberal mutual admiration society spend their time uttering platitudes about human rights and condemning “European leaders’ comments on the regime as the sort of mumbo-jumbo used by magicians” it must be sliding awfully slow.

Then he approving cites the efforts of US senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain on introducing a “resolution calling on Russia to register opposition political parties, allow free media, respect freedom of assembly and permit international and domestic monitors for the coming elections.” The idea that cold warrior John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who pushes for the introduction of Chinese-style censorship onto the US Internet, are motivated by their concern for human rights in Russia is utterly bizarre; not when they both so feverishly work to further undermine human rights (and deny any that do happen) in the US, Israel, and other Western countries. But as Eugene Ivanov notes, it is also a gross violation of national sovereignty that will be laughed off into utter irrelevance by any minimally self-respecting country: “Nice! The only thing that the future resolution is missing is obliging President Medvedev to have all his orders and decrees first approved by the Lieberman’s and McCain’s offices.”

In the next paragraph, McMillan-Scott recommends more EU/Russia cooperation – but only under the condition of “ending “politically motivated court decisions” against various figures, most recently Mikhail Khodorkovsky, removing curbs on press freedom, pulling its troops out of Georgia and allowing gay parades.” Let me note that in one of the above conditions, he will be going against a court opinion of a core EU institution, the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that there is no evidence Khodorkovsky’s arrest and trial were politically motivated.

As for gay prides, the decisions of some municipal authorities, e.g. Moscow’s, to ban them is of course a bad thing; but one that does not come under the purview of the federal administration. Under that logic, some EU countries like Latvia have had cities banning gay pride parades as late as 2009. I don’t remember McMillan-Scott condemning them or urging them to be kicked out of European institutions, but then again – as is common for people of his ilk – human rights abuses only happen in non-Western countries, especially those that reject Western imperialism.

There is no point even in addressing the Georgia issue, in which Russian troops and Ossetian civilians were ruthlessly attacked in the dead of night (especially coming as it does from a country that has fought two interventionist wars of its own choosing in Iraq and Libya in the past decade). Likewise with the media, where in Britain if you want to watch TV at all, you have to pay taxes to support the British Brainwashing Corporation, otherwise known as the BBC, whose head was sacked in 2004 for arguing that the government “sexed up” the case for the Iraq War.

But the pièce de résistance is yet to come. The small stewed cherry to the incarnadine whipped cream and compote: “The Arab spring, which has sprinkled its magic as far as China, has had no reflection in Russia. We were told that this was because Putin had so distorted the Russian economy that incomes continued to rise in a false boom.” Well, that’s certainly news to me. The 6% annual growth rates of the last decade (as reported by any international economic organization), the skyscrapers going up in Russian cities, the fast proliferating cars, computers and aifonchiki – they must have all been a mirage; Putinist distortions; products of our collective delusions. Alternatively, we can accept reality and wish Britain the same “distortions” that Putin inflicted on Russia – they would be clear improvements over its economic stagnation and a fiscal deficit topping 13% of GDP.

Mr. McMillan-Scott rounds up by making one final appeal for Britain to speak truth bullshit he makes up to power (not that the strategy has met with much success of late). Consider the number of mistakes, outright lies or inaccuracies he manages to make in the mere 855 words of his article. Consider also that the UK (like Russia) also commits innumerable human rights violations, abroad as well as at home, and that (unlike Russia) it increasingly resembles an economic basket-case with no growth, declining North Sea hydrocarbon reserves and unsustainable finances. Now you be the judge of the wisdom of McMillan-Scott’s recommendations.

Yeps, that’s right. For nowadays whenever fools like him try to do stand-up, to Putin or anyone else, they fall flat on their faces to general laughter.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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So you know how the Western commentariat carries on about how Russia Today fawns over the Kremlin and propagates anti-Western propaganda, while shamelessly peddling itself as a paragon of universal truth and uncompromising objectivity? Welcome to the next installment in the never-ending annals of Western media hypocrisy, brought to you courtesy of Dorothée Olliéric, hack zhurnalizdka extraordinaire of state TV station France 2.

On the morning of August 10, at the height of the Great Russian Heatwave, Olliéric contacted Alexandre Latsa, a Moscow-based French blogger*, through Facebook. “I’m in Moscow again for a few days,” she said, “I’m looking to interview someone on the failure of the Putin system in this crisis, if possible a blogger who goes to the real news away from Russian state TV, etc”. After a few hours, in response to Latsa’s queries, she clarified that the interview’s purpose would be to link the news on the wildfires and deaths to “explain the failure of Putin’s system” and on how to get access to information in a country where the state “says nothing, hides everything”. She concluded by asking Latsa if he or a Russian friend could participate in an interview.

In the late evening, she asked Latsa if he had received her message and asked him if he could do an interview the next morning on the subject of “bloggers who are looking for true information to report on the crisis and on the failures of the Putin system”. After failing to get a response after a little more than an hour, a seemingly flustered Olliéric wrote, “Well then Alexandre, no longer responding to France 2???”

You can find Latsa’s answer to Olliéric in French, Russian and English at his post France2 – Франс 2 и Я… In my view, this fictionalized response from Olliéric, written by one of the commentators, just about sums it all up: “I’m too lazy and incompetent to do my dirty work myself, so I’m looking for someone who is silly enough to do my dirty work for me and lowly enough to distort the facts to please my editor… If I fail to cook the story his boss wants, I’ll fail to sell it to my editor. And if my stories fail to sell with my editor at France 2, I’ll be outta my job faster than you can say independent western media“.

In the event, the presenter Olliéric had to do most of the cooking herself. On the next day, the day that Latsa’s interview may have been, she was “semi-obsessively repeating the assertion that Putin’s system failed” and (falsely) claiming that the Kremlin wasn’t accepting international aid.**

As I noted in my own post on Russia’s torrid summer, the main reason for the savage wildfires was the unprecedented magnitude of the heatwave, which may have been the most severe to hit Central Eastern Europe in 15,000 years! Barring findings to the contrary by objective researchers – as opposed to the hack journalism purveyed by Dorothée Olliéric or Julia Ioffe (who even found a way to blame the poor Mongols!) – it is not unreasonable to posit that, in general, the Russian state made the best it could out of a bad situation.

Yes, I know. There were many cases of of unresponsive authorities, of information censorship, of outright corruption in saving the homes of rich dacha owners before state property. But consider this from another angle. Why did more than three times fewer Russians die of wildfires than did Australians in their (milder) Black Saturday bushfires last year?

Ultimately, even most Russians themselves – the people, you know, who actually had to live with the wildfires – would disagree with the stories peddled by the Western media about them. The two most attributed causes of the wildfires, according to an opinion poll by Levada, were the unprecedented severity of the heatwave and the Soviet-era policies of draining the peat bogs. And, contrary to the many proclamations floating about last month that the regime’s popularity was crumbling in the heat, the latest approval ratings indicate that the wildfires made nary a dent in the tandem’s political fortunes.

* And latter-day Walter Duranty, if Ukrainian nationalists are to be believed. ;)

** For more on the rigorous standards of French coverage of Russia’s wildfires, see also Le Figaro et la Russie… ou comment des grévistes de la faim sont choisis pour illustrer la canicule.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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paul-goble Mark Adomanis, who recently burst into the Russia-watching blogosphere like a fluffy pink grenade, has a series on “Who is the world’s worst Russia analyst”? (So far Stephen Blank and Leon Aron are in the running). Personally, I think that Ed Lucas would “win” hands down. However, since he’s already been exposed and discredited on this blog, – and I don’t have the time or will to flog dead horses – let’s instead take a closer look at Paul Goble, the oft-cited “Eurasia expert” whose output seems to consist entirely of recycling stories from marginal Russian commentators about the country’s imminent demographic apocalypse, breakup along ethnic lines, and takeover by Muslims. 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!

Sure, he might be a fact-challenged Russophobe propagandist who worked for the CIA, Radio Liberty, and “democracy-promoting” NGO’s. Yes, he has extensive professional links to the Baltic nations and Azerbaijan. True, he is essentially an agent of a latter-day Promethean Project, the interwar Polish strategy to preempt the reemergence of a Eurasian empire by stirring up ethnic separatism in the Soviet space, a project now pursued by Washington and its proxies. That is all understandable and commendable – he serves US geopolitical aims, and geopolitics is profoundly amoral, so what’s the problem? Why am I writing a hit piece on Paul Goble? Simple. The utter hypocrisy and double standards I encountered in his Jan 2010 ‘No Ordinary Year’ for Azerbaijan article, in which the guy who incessantly condemns Russia’s human rights, takes to advising Western countries to refrain from reprimanding authoritarian Azerbaijan because the “level of anger about such criticism is so great” that it could lead to a “rebalancing of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy away from the West”. Or translated from quackademic neocon-speak into English, “They might be bastards – though nowhere near as bastardly as the Russians, I mean they even pay me my salary!, – but they are our bastards!”

Ali Novruzov, an Azeri human rights blogger, condemns this duplicity, characterizing Goble’s viewpoint as: “Don’t criticize Azerbaijan, no matter how many Emins and Adnans are beaten and jailed, how many grams of heroin are found in shoes of Eynulla Fatullayev, how many villages like Benaniyar is ransacked by government militia and its residents detained en mass, shut up you, Amnesty International and State Department, otherwise Azerbaijan will get angry, turn away from you and befriend Russia”.

He certainly has reason to be concerned. Even Freedom House, a “democracy measuring” organization that gives freedom cookies for being friendly with the US (bonus points if you have oil) and takes them away for being “anti-Western”, rates Azerbaijan as “unfree”, on the same level as despised Russia. Given that Azerbaijan hits the Full House in that it is 1) relatively pro-Western, 2) oil-rich, and 3) nestled in a crucial geopolitical region, there is cause to suspect that it would perform a lot worse on any objective analysis of political freedoms. We don’t even have to suspect this, we can just head over to Polity IV, – a vast research project that attempts to quantify levels of democratization in different countries since World War 2 – and observe that Azerbaijan scored -7 in 2008, on a scale from -10 to 10. This makes it a formal “autocracy”, the same as China (-6) or Iran (-7), – and far worse than its neighbors Russia (5), Armenia (5) or Georgia (6). No wonder, since unlike in Russia there is not even the simulacrum of political competition, and the Presidency is passed down along hereditary lines.

However, as alluded to at the beginning, hypocrisy, double standards, and Western chauvinism aren’t Goble’s only talents – they’re just the ones that roused my ire enough to write this piece. The fact of the matter is that article after article, Goble demonstrates the most fact-challenged, non-sequiturial, inane claptrap – and manages to get himself cited and listened to by major institutions which determine Western policy towards the region. Debunking his drivel is thus in any case long overdue.

1. Let’s start with this article (October 2008) on how the financial crisis was supposed to “compound” Russia’s demographic decline. It conveniently illustrates Goble’s OM – seek out the most sensational (and wrong) opinions in the Russian language media and reproduce them in his articles. By adding his label/name to them, they become citable to the rest of the Cold Warrior clique and even some respectable institutions that are ignorant of Goble’s incompetence and bias.

The financial crisis in the Russian Federation has pushed up the already high rates of mortality from heart and circulatory diseases there to third world levels, according to medical experts.

This sentence is wrong on so many levels. First, in Third World countries, mortality from heart/circulatory diseases is typically LOWER than in industrialized nations (since there are few older people and the population continues dying from infectious diseases, particularly amongst younger ages). Second, Russia has had one of the world’s highest levels of mortality from heart/circulatory diseases SINCE AT LEAST the 1980’s – it is NOT a recent development, as implied by Goble! Third, how the financial crisis figured into this I have absolutely no idea, since it only began to affect most Russians in October (the same month Goble’s article was written), and at which time the latest Russian demographic statistics only covered AUGUST 2008!

Yevgeny Chazov, one of Russia’s senior specialists on heart disease, told a Duma hearing that as a result of the difficult psycho-social circumstances and stresses from instability in the country, 1.3 million people – 56 percent of the total number of deaths there – now die from heart disease.

As has been the case FOR THE PAST 60 YEARS – i.e., a pattern of mortality heavily tilted towards heart disease – ever since the epidemiological revolution from 1930-50. And instability has been a feature of Russian life for the PAST 20 YEARS. Chazov was misquoted, or is a dummy; Goble, in any case, is certainly a dummy.

But if many speakers blamed the financial crisis or personal behavioral choices like smoking or alcohol consumption, one, Aleksandr Baranov, the vice president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, was prepared to blame the Russian government. Medical science knows how to lower mortality, he said, but we haven received an order from the powers that be.

There is a lot of investment in newly-equipped hospitals and clinics since 2007, and positive results are already showing. The current situation is far better than under Yeltsin or the early Putin years, when healthcare and social spending in general were cut and neglected, back when Russia’s robber barons wallowed in their ill-begotten billions with Western connivance. Baranov either lives under a rock, or wants to score rhetorical points. The financial crisis is irrelevant. Excessive alcohol consumption is what causes 1/3 of all Russia’s deaths. Reducing it is should be by far the #1 priority of any harm reduction strategy for Russia, and the “powers that be” have indeed recognized this and launched an anti-alcohol campaign. Nor surprisingly, Goble fails to mention any of this.

Finally, and most importantly, REAL LIFE HAS PROVED GOBLE TOTALLY, 200% WRONG. Contrary to the vision of demographic doom he peddled, deaths from cardio-vascular disease fell by 4.6% in 2009. Furthermore, RUSSIA SAW ITS FIRST POPULATION INCREASE IN 15 YEARS! And Goble’s predictable response to his utter failure at prediction?… “Russia’s Population Stabilization Only Temporary“.

2. Now let’s move on to the more general theme of Goble’s thesis on Russia – as an imperialistic country in rapid decline (demographic, cultural, etc), afflicted by an imminent, sub-Saharan scale AIDS epidemic, it will break up along its ethnic faultlines (Tatars, Bashkirs, Finno-Ugric peoples, Caucasians) and become majority Muslim by 2050. For instance, see a 2006 briefing he gave to Radio Liberty, which they summarized thus:

But Russia’s Muslims are bucking that trend. The fertility rate for Tatars living in Moscow, for example, is six children per woman, Goble said, while the Chechen and Ingush communities are averaging 10 children per woman. And hundreds of thousands of Muslims from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have been flocking to Russia in search of work. Since 1989, Russia’s Muslim population has increased by 40 percent to about 25 million. By 2015, Muslims will make up a majority of Russia’s conscript army, and by 2020 a fifth of the population. “If nothing changes, in 30 years people of Muslim descent will definitely outnumber ethnic Russians,” Goble said.

Goble’s comments to RFERL made their way into the wider commentariat in 2006-07, such as this article in SFGate, Daniel Pipes, and certain plain demented Russophobe bloggers.

Unfortunately for Russophobes, Islamophobes, and Islamists alike (quite an adorable grouping, isn’t it?!), Goble’s projections are complete twaddle. In 2005, the year before Goble started spouting off about Russia’s Islamification, the homeland of Russia’s Tatars, Tatarstan (1.26), had a LOWER total fertility rate than the Russian average (1.29)! Where did Goble get the figure of 6 women per children amongst Tatar women in Moscow? Stormfront Russia?!

Likewise, the figure of 10 children per women amongst Muscovite Ingush and Chechen women is risible and should be laughed off by anyone with the smallest knowledge of demographic history. Not only did Ingushetia (1.56) and Chechnya (2.91) themselves have far lower figures in 2005, a total fertility rate of 10 children per woman HASN’T BEEN OBSERVED IN PRACTICALLY ANY COMMUNITY, EVER!! (Even in PRE-INDUSTRIAL times, the fertility rate typically flunctuated between 4-8 children per woman, depending on factors like urbanization and food affordability. The idea that it could be 10, or anyone near that number, in a modern metropolis, is ludicrous in the extreme).

As for the Muslim-takeover-by-2050ish claim, this is the usual bogus fallacy of linear extrapolation of the worst-case trends with total, cavalier disregard for positive trends (e.g., the convergence of ethnic Russian and Muslim fertility rates) and current day facts (e.g., that ethnic Russians still make up nearly 80% of the population, WHEREAS ONLY 4-6% OF THE POPULATION CONSIDER THEMSELVES TO BE MUSLIMS in opinion polls; that the fertility rates of the biggest Muslim ethnicities, Tatars and Bashkirs, is little different from the national average; and that Russia’s Muslims are far less religious than their counterparts in the Middle East and Western Europe alike).

In fact, sometimes I wonder if Goble really works for the CIA/Azerbaijan, or Russian Slavophile nationalists. He is certainly willing to cite the propaganda of the latter when it suits his purposes.

3. Now what about the imminent AIDS apocalypse, that will further decimate the ranks of Russia’s vodka-swilling, impotent hordes, making them too sick and too few to prevent Russia from disintegrating “into as many as 30 pieces by the middle of this century” (March 2009)? In his ominous-sounding article February 2009 article Russia’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic Enters New and More Dangerous Phase, Goble wrote:

In his briefing yesterday, Onishchenko did not provide much context for the numbers he reported. But in an interview with “Nauka i zhizn’,” Boris Denisov, a demographer at Moscow State University, suggested that figures like those Onishchenko provides are more disturbing than the public health chief in fact suggested (www.nkj.ru/archive/articles/15097/). …

The Moscow State researcher pointed to three aspects of the situation which suggest Russia has reached the tipping point regarding HIV/AIDS and that the epidemic is likely to result in an increasingly large number of deaths, something that will have a serious impact on the over-all demographic picture of that country.

First and foremost, 63 percent of the new cases in the Russian Federation last year were the result of sexual contact rather than intravenous drug use, a pattern that means the disease has now passed into the general population where it may spread more slowly but could potentially touch far more people and where an increasing share of its victims will be women.

This Eurasia “expert” can’t even copy from his Russian sources correctly. If you look at the source Goble cites, what Denisov actually said was that 63% of new FEMALE infections came from sexual contact in 2007, whereas 34% of OVERALL new infections came from heterosexual contact. If he’s so wrong on such basic facts, why should we have to listen to anything he says on Russia’s AIDS problem?

4. And it goes on and on. One of his most amusing/ridiculous articles was about how Putin was starving his miserable subjects (December 2009):

After seeing an improvement in caloric consumption since the 1990s, Russians are again consuming an average of only 2550 calories a day, an amount comparable to the amount provided by the diet given German POWs in Soviet camps at the end of 1941 and one that casts a shadow on that country’s demographic future. …

“According to the estimates of international experts,” the Russian leader said in striking language, “if the population goes hungry for two or more generations, a situation that in fact is quite characteristic for a large group of countries, then processes of physiological and intellectual degradation at the genetic level arise.”

What a load of claptrap even by Goble’s dismal standards. First, the recommended caloric intake for not very active adult men is around 2500 and around 2000 for adult women. Averaging it and taking into account children and the elderly, and the optimal for a nation where most people do office jobs is around 2100-2200 calories. In this respect Russia is far better off at its quoted 2550 calories, than the US is at 3700.

This is not to deny that there are problems. During crisis-wracked 2009, some 10% of Russians had difficulty buying food – slightly up from 9% in 2008, but massively down from the glorious prosperity of 1998-99, when some 36% of Russians could barely afford this privilege. (Incidentally, in the “free” Ukraine of 2009, the hungry indigent made up 35% of the population – i.e., the same as Russia ten years ago!).

But it gets worse. I simply have no words to describe the sheer inanity of the comparison between 2009 Russia and 1941 German POW’s. Really – how the fuck can he even take himself seriously after writing shit like this? Unless he means to say that during the 1990′s, when Russia’s economic policies were directed by a neoliberal cabal from Washington and many people really did go hungry, Yeltsin’s government treated Russians worse than Stalin treated soldiers who were fighting a war of extermination against Russians. So is Goble also a crypto-Stalinist, or just an asinine idiot?

(Not that Medvedev is the sharpest tool in the box either, if he actually spewed that insane drivel about genetic degradation. Since most of humanity has spent 99.9%+ of its entire history at near-subsistence levels of food consumption, why the hell isn’t everyone intellectually degraded like Goble or Medvedev?)

And the same shit goes on and on, Goble’s never-ending Groundhog Den’. All of Russia’s negatives are made apocalyptic, all its positives made into negatives.

Two examples of the latter. Take his befuddling assertion that the “Russian Federation will be more profoundly and negatively affected by global warming over the next 40 years than will any other country”. Come again? Sure the melting of Siberian permafrost might collapse a few buildings and fuck up some gas pipelines, but ALL serious analyses of global warming suggest that Russia will suffer FAR LESS than almost all other nations in a warmer world, and may even make big bank under moderate warming as its agriculture expands into Siberia, new energy and mineral deposits become accessible, and the Arctic becomes the world’s major trade region.

Second example. Medvedev declared a need for modernization and more accountability, and guess what – Russia is therefore a failing, decrepit state about to embark on perestroika 2.0! Ok, if you want (superficial) historical comparisons for Putvedev’s Russia, you could justify making it with Stolypin’s reforms, with Peter the Great’s “revolution from above”, even with the “Great Break” of 1929 if you’re feeling really bold and unafraid of being accused of reducing everything in Russian politics to Stalin. But the late 1980′s = today = WTF? Back then, the Soviet state truly was in a profound state of “imperial overstretch”, its citizens were disillusioned, and its mounting fiscal obligations were outrunning the resources and foreign currency at its disposal. Today’s Russia is a confident, rising Power, its elites are united, and a firm and consistent majority of Russians uphold the Putin system of illiberal statism (and if anything the main complaint you will hear from them is not that there is too much illiberality and statism, but too little!). Given such a tectonic shift in the very foundations of the Russian state during the past two decades, such vapid analogizing is superficial in the extreme, and indicative of an ideological decrepitude amongst the neocons that is every bit as profound as the one which afflicted the late Soviet Union.

So what is Goble’s game? He seems to be genuine in his bizarre beliefs – for instance, in an interview shortly after the 2008 South Ossetia War, he stated that Russia’s “illegal” violation of Georgia’s borders is “not in the interest of continued existence of the Russian Federation”, which will lead to “a more authoritarian and hence a more unstable and poor Russia in the future”. (Of course, how letting regional upstarts like Saakashvili rip off chunks from Russia’s southern underbelly would HELP the continued existence of the Russian Federation is not at all clear). Nonetheless, this kind of analysis seems highly favored by the lowest common denominator in the Russia-watching world – Paul Goble is, at least according to the number of tags assigned to him (“43 topics” at the time of this article’s writing), is the most popular outside authority at the infamous hate blog La Russophobe. He is also highly regarded at his former place of employment, the corrupt Radio Liberty.

Why? All these institutions are, in some way, and whether they realize it or not, pursuing a script first written in 1918 Poland – the Promethean Project to break up Russia and forever forestall its reemergence. What few of them realize is that 1) they are utterly ineffectual in this endeavor, and 2) their overt Russophobia, and close association with Russia’s “liberal” West-worshiping ass-lickers, ACTUALLY REINFORCES THE VERY SIEGE MENTALITY that the Kremlin shares with ordinary Russians. In other words, the lies and double standards espoused by people like Goble strengthen the very same “retrogressive” tendencies in Russia that they profess to loathe.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Though hard to imagine, the Washington Post – or Pravda on the Potomac, as Eugene Ivanov quite rightly labels it – surpassed even its own sordid standards for Russia coverage, in the form of the latest op-ed from George F. Will in Potemkin Country. Time to go grenade fishing again, I guess.

America’s “progressive” president has some peculiarly retro policies. Domestically, his reactionary liberalism is exemplified by his policy of No Auto Company Left Behind, with its intimated hope that depopulated Detroit, where cattle could graze, can somehow return to something like the 1950s. Abroad, he seems to yearn for the 1970s, when the Soviet Union was rampant and coping with it supposedly depended on arms control.

I suppose turning the US into a deindustrialized failed empire and possibly post-nuclear wasteland is a great idea. Maybe not.

Actually, what was needed was not the chimera of arms control but Ronald Reagan’s renewal of the arms race that helped break the Soviet regime. The stately minuet of arms negotiations helped sustain U.S. public support for the parallel weapons spending.

The Soviet Union broke because of the internal failures of its planned economy and stymied social and national aspirations. He is right that the arms race helped tip it over, but so did many other factors such as rising social obligations, collapsing oil prices and technological stagnation. However, with the US budget deficit soaring into banana republic territory of 10%+ of GDP, conceivably for years to come, now is no time to start a new arms race – not unless George F. Will is a traitor who wants to see the US go the way of the USSR.

Significant arms agreements are generally impossible until they are unimportant. Significant agreements are those that substantially alter an adversarial dynamic between rival powers. But arms agreements never do. During the Cold War, for example, arms negotiations were another arena of great-power competition rather than an amelioration of that competition.

Since both the US and the USSR accumulated more than enough nuclear weapons to guarantee destruction of each other in a full exchange by the 1970′s, there was no point to further expansion – might as well use the resources for other purposes. Another aim was to strike up a rapport to create trust and lower the chances of an accidental nuclear war, which ever since the MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) era has been a much greater risk than a planned Armageddon. No agreements on conventional forces were signed during the Cold War that I know of, and they entailed much greater expenditure than nukes.

The Soviet Union was a Third World nation with First World missiles. It had, as Russia still has, an essentially hunter-gatherer economy, based on extraction industries — oil, gas, minerals, furs. Other than vodka, for what manufactured good would you look to Russia? Caviar? It is extracted from the fish that manufacture it.

The smarmy attitude aside, the reason Russia exports few manufactured goods is that its comparative economic advantage lies in exporting hydrocarbons, which appreciates the ruble and makes its manufactured goods unattractive; currently, its industrial base is focused on import substitution, i.e. manufacturing in Russia what is currently imported. Nonetheless, it is the world’s joint-first (with the US) exporter of military hardware and is currently introducing products like the Sukhoi SuperJet which enjoy high chances of international success.

Today, in a world bristling with new threats, the president suggests addressing an old one — Russia’s nuclear arsenal. It remains potentially dangerous, particularly if a portion of it falls into nonstate hands. But what is the future of the backward and backsliding kleptocratic thugocracy that is Vladimir Putin’s Russia?

Props for “kleptocratic thugocracy” – a great new addition to the Russophobe rhetorical arsenal, though granted much less dangerous than Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Even in the 1990′s the fear of loose nukes from the Soviet Union was a largely phantom one, and now it’s just ridiculous.

Putin — ignore the human Potemkin village (Dmitry Medvedev) who currently occupies the presidential office — must be amazed and amused that America’s president wants to treat Russia as a great power. Obama should instead study pertinent demographic trends.

Nicholas Eberstadt’s essay “Drunken Nation” in the current World Affairs quarterly notes that Russia is experiencing “a relentless, unremitting, and perhaps unstoppable depopulation.” Previous episodes of depopulation — 1917-23, 1933-34, 1941-46 — were the results of civil war, Stalin’s war on the “kulaks” and collectivization of agriculture, and World War II, respectively. But today’s depopulation is occurring in normal — for Russia — social and political circumstances. Normal conditions include a subreplacement fertility rate, sharply declining enrollment rates for primary school pupils, perhaps more than 7 percent of children abandoned by their parents to orphanages or government care or life as “street children.” Furthermore, “mind-numbing, stupefying binge drinking of hard spirits” — including poisonously impure home brews — “is an accepted norm in Russia and greatly increases the danger of fatal injury through falls, traffic accidents, violent confrontations, homicide, suicide, and so on.” Male life expectancy is lower under Putin than it was a half-century ago under Khrushchev.

I refuted Eberstadt and demonstrated the bankruptcy of most current “thinking” on Russian demographic trends multiple times in this blog. First, low working-age male life expectancy is tragic but not crippling – it has no direct effect on fertility, disproportionately affects poorer, badly-educated people and partially relieves pressure on pensions. It may lower productivity, but cannot check the growth of a vital civilization – America was known as the Alcoholic Republic in the great early days of its founding.

Second, he ignores that the total fertility rate has been steadily creeping up from 1.3 children per woman in 2006, to around 1.5 as of 2008 – and there is plenty of evidence this is a sustainable trend. Similarly, no mention is made of the mortality decline from 2005 and of its ambitious health plans to 2020.

Third, Russia’s net primary school enrollment stands at 90.9%, compared with 91.6% in the US and similar figures in most eastern European nations like Lithuania (89.4%) or the Czech Republic (92.5%). That the likes of Bolivia (94.9%) and Indonesia (95.5%) claim to have significantly better numbers than any of these obviously far-better educated nations should give us an insight into the usefulness of this indicator as a gauge of human capital.

Martin Walker of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, writing in the Wilson Quarterly (“The World’s New Numbers”), notes that Russia’s declining fertility is magnified by “a phenomenon so extreme that it has given rise to an ominous new term — hypermortality.” Because of rampant HIV/AIDS, extreme drug-resistant tuberculosis, alcoholism and the deteriorating health-care system, a U.N. report says “mortality in Russia is three to five times higher for men and twice as high for women” as in other countries at a comparable stage of development. The report, Walker says, “predicts that within little more than a decade the working-age population will be shrinking by up to 1 million people annually.” Be that as it may, “Russia is suffering a demographic decline on a scale that is normally associated with the effects of a major war.”

The main concern Walker cites in The World’s New Numbers is that it would be hard to maintain economic growth in a country “whose young male work force looks set to decrease by ­half”, and as such voices a familiar argument that Russia does not belong in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) quartet of key emerging markets. Yet according to the World Bank, the proportion of the population aged 65+ will increase from 12% to 18% in Russia by 2025, and the latter figure is actually equal to Estonia’s percentage today! – whose current problems are certainly not centered around entitlements spending.

As Walker himself agrees in his article, this is “more of a labor-market challenge than a demographic crisis”. My own dependency ratio projections are far from cataclysmic. The notion of a Russian AIDS Apocalypse is a myth, because according to the international research program Knowledge for Action in HIV/AIDS in Russia, all the pessimistic models assume “the epidemic would be essentially heterosexual in nature and follow trends observed in sub-Saharan Africa”, which is “not borne out by current surveillance data from Russia” or indeed basic common sense.

According to projections by the United Nations Population Division, Russia’s population, which was around 143 million four years ago, might be as high as 136 million or as low as 121 million in 2025, and as low as 115 million in 2030.

Yet another fallacy of linear extrapolation, of which some folks never tire. In 1914, France had a population of 40mn to Germany’s 65mn, had much lower fertility rates and its General Staff looked with trepidation at the future. Today, it has a population of 61mn and is one of the few European countries with replacement-level fertility levels, whereas Germany has a population of 82m which is projected to fall to 70mn by 2050.

Marx envisioned the “withering away” of the state under mature communism. Instead, Eberstadt writes, the world may be witnessing the withering away of Russia, where Marxism was supposed to be the future that works. Russia, he writes, “has pioneered a unique new profile of mass debilitation and foreshortened life previously unknown in all of human history.”

“History,” he concludes, “offers no examples of a society that has demonstrated sustained material advance in the face of long-term population decline.” Demography is not by itself destiny, but it is more real than an arms control “process” that merely expresses the liberal hope of taming the world by wrapping it snugly in parchment.

Not only is this article profoundly ignorant and bigoted, but it also very poorly written – I’ve pretty much lost track of what George F. Will is supposed to be arguing about. Oh yeah, the arms control thing. Then again, you can’t expect much in the way of reason and logic from a global warming denier.

As for myself, I’m just happy I spent less time writing this up than my Kasparov the Bolshevik article. A popular Russian proverb has it that a fool can ask more questions than ten wise men could answer, so no wonder this is a favored strategy of Russophobes everywhere, as pointed out by Patrick Armstrong. Now if only somebody could invent the computer AI version of a grenade-launcher…

(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.