Monthly Archives: November 2013

But there is X in America too!

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Hello dear reader! Welcome to the Russia Without Bullshit Handy Guide to “But there is X in America too”, which is designed to teach you when it is and isn’t appropriate to make this popular Russophile argument.  If you’ve ever seen a negative news story about Russia, say about corruption, you should be well familiar with this argument.  Since the topic of this particular hypothetical news story is corruption, the argument would go, “But there is corruption in America too!”  Typically this is a bad argument, but believe it or not there are times when it actually is appropriate. Knowing when to use this argument can mean the difference between looking like a critical thinker or an ignorant Russia fan-boy.

Q. Why is the “But there is X in America too” argument usually a bad one?

A. There are a number of reasons. Sometimes it is a matter of scale and thus the comparison is incorrect. For example, corruption does indeed exist in the United States, but not on the scale that it does in Russia.  The average person may experience or witness acts of corruption(typically involving police) on a weekly or even daily basis in Russia.  The subject is an integral part of the popular discourse and pop culture.  An even better example can be cited when it comes to wealth inequality.  In America we are now familiar with the fact that the top one percent controls something between 40-43% of the wealth in the US, a staggering gap in wealth distribution for an industrialized nation.  On the other hand, in Russia it was recently reported by Credit Suisse Bank that 35% of Russia’s wealth is controlled by 110 people, as in individuals. Neither scenario is good, quite the opposite, but if we were discussing the issue of Russia’s wealth inequality it would not make sense to compare it to the United States because in Russia the issue is objectively worse.

The argument also tends to fail because it is so often irrelevant.  If we pretended that corruption is the same in the US and Russia, that fact would be of no value to either Russians or Americans suffering from corruption.  In fact, any self-styled “patriot” seeking to cover up this fact about their nation would basically be playing a role in perpetuating this state of affairs. When we look at history we often see that the greatest leaders and reformers were those who looked at their country, saw far too many problems for their liking, and then did something about it.  Now imagine Ataturk, just to use one example, if he thought like the average Team Russia fan-boy? When confronted with the backwardness of the fallen Ottoman Empire, Team Turkey Ataturk vehemently argues that Serbia, Albania, and Greece are quite backward too!  If that analogy doesn’t work for you, I’ll let you read Arthur Schopenauer’s words on the matter.

“The cheapest sort of pride is national pride; for if a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; otherwise he would not have recourse to those which he shares with so many millions of his fellowmen. The man who is endowed with important personal qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what respects his own nation falls short, since their failings will be constantly before his eyes. But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”

Keep in mind that he was referring to national pride, whereas many people guilty of using the “But in America there is X too” argument aren’t even Russian.  National pride is at least somewhat understandable. Having national pride in a nation which is not yours and to which you have the slightest connection(if any) is simply insanity.  Stop using this argument.

 Q. Okay, then when is it alright to use this argument?

A. There actually are appropriate occasions to use this argument, but in order to understand when we must consider why the argument most likely arose.  In recent decades, the Western for-profit press has become increasingly dependent on official sources.  If the president’s spokesperson says something, that’s what gets reported as truth.  Remember the run up to the war in Iraq?  Remember how Iraq’s denial of possessing WMDs was practically mocked by the American press?  Who could believe the foreign minister of a third-rate dictatorship when the President of the United States and all his cabinet were insisting that the weapons must exist?  The excellent documentary Iraq: Uncovered brilliantly immortalizes the media’s praise for Colin Powell’s speech on Iraqi WMDs at the United Nations, which turned out to be nothing but bullshit.

Now you think they would learn but one needs to remember that journalists don’t get to pick stories or decide how to report them. Editors have control over that.  Moreover, if a journalist reports a story in such a way that offends a particular official, there is a risk of losing access to that official in the future and thus losing legitimacy in the eyes of the public as a media source with access.  The end result is that official government statements are rarely questioned.

As if that weren’t bad enough, you’ve also got the pundits, the insta-experts on every possible issue.  Most mainstream pundits in the American press subscribe in one form or another to the ideology known as American exceptionalism.  On one side you’ll have liberals or “progressives” who admit that America has made “mistakes” but that it generally champions human rights, and on the other hand there is a conservative side which refuses to apologize for anything in America history. In fact the very mention of some wrong-doing by the United States, at any period in history, provokes vicious counter-attacks from this quarter. Any comparison of any other atrocity, real or imagined, is condemned as “moral equivalency”, that is to say that for some unknown or arbitrary reason, America’s atrocities should never be compared with those of any other nation for any purpose.

Once you take these two factors into account, shitty reporting and shitty punditry, it’s easy to understand why you’ll often see streams of articles which attack Russia for things that the US does regularly, or sometimes even more so.  Russia gets condemned for “invading” Georgia while America’s invasion and conquest of Iraq is, at worst, portrayed as a mistake, and that only after the war dragged on for several years and the media realized that public opinion had turned against it. Russia gets slapped with the Magnitsky Act which is supposed to punish the officials of regimes who violate human rights, yet we all know that no CIA torturer, no Saudi prince, and no Israeli military officer would ever have reason to lose sleep over the possibility of having their American assets frozen.  Russia increasing military spending is portrayed as an ominous sign, while the insanely high American “defense” budget is rarely questioned in the American media.  If you should get the opportunity to actually talk to one of these news-makers, their reactions can be quite infuriating, for they respond to accusations of bias with either furious counter-attacks or they act as though they are totally oblivious to your words.

So in short, if you see stories about Russia with similar attacks like that, then a comparison to the US(or other nations) is relevant. Obviously everything depends on the specific story and your argument, of course.

Q. Can you provide me with some hypothetical examples, so that I can avoid looking like a moron online?

A. Sure! Read below.

INAPPROPRIATE USAGE:   There is a story about child abuse in Russian orphanages, a serious social problem.  You make the argument that child abuse happens to foster kids in America too. You are wrong because the situation in Russian orphanages is far worse and in the US there are at least thousands of dedicated, well-trained workers who do what they can with the paltry budgets they usually have to protect kids from abuse.  You are not some kind of “Russian patriot” for distracting attention away from this social issue.  If anything you’re actually part of the problem, because you’re claiming that something which should be addressed and fought against doesn’t exist or is at most unimportant because another country has some problems.  You’re basically like a guy who looks at a wound that’s gushing blood and declaring that there is no wound and everything is fine.  And if you’ve never actually researched the subject or even worse, never actually even set foot in Russia, you’re a fucking idiot, end of story.

APPROPRIATE USAGE:  There is a story about how Putin is a bad man because he supports dictators like Assad of Syria.  Here it would be apt to point out that the United States and other Western countries have clearly had no objection to backing dictators, including those who were far more brutal than Assad.  We need not look into the distant past to find examples of such support.  In 2009 the US gave tacit support and recognition to the coup d’etat in the Honduras.  While the US condemned Libya and Syria’s reaction to “Arab Spring” revolts, military intervention was never even considered in Bahrain, Egypt, or Tunisia.  In fact Bahrain was barely mentioned at all.

Hopefully these helpful tips will increase your critical thinking skills and help you look like less of an idiot for taking up the banner of a foreign country without any concrete reason!

All in

Back in 2008 I was on a date with one of my exes shortly after the conclusion of the Russian-Georgian war. She asked me whose side I was on and I began by saying how, on one hand, Russia was in the right since Georgia broke a ceasefire and launched an offensive into South Ossetia. Georgia seemed more than happy to throw the USSR into the dustbin of history when it came to secceeding (a right theoretically afforded to union republics by the Soviet constitution), and yet at the same time they seemed to rely on the USSR’s supposedly illegitimate laws when it came to denying the right of self-determination to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which had been “Autonomous” entities within the Georgian union republic(Georgian SSR).  On the other hand, it was and still is clear that Russia has no concern or the self-determination of South Ossetia or Abkhazia, and as is usually the case the motivation on both sides is rooted in economics and investment.  After my long, thought out response, my date asked me if I could simply answer “Russia or Georgia.” I told her that I can never answer such questions in a simple manner.

I try not to inject too much of my own ideology into this blog, but I make no apologies for the fact that I am a dialectical thinker and I absolutely despise bourgeois society’s love of metaphysics.  We see this shining through in many areas of life, most notably academia, politics, and journalism.  Every day we are bombarded with various opinions or even “theories” which ring true so long as we consider only what their advocates want us to, always in a vacuum which ignores things like historical context, comparisons, or various circumstances.  In economics we are told that the system is fair and just via economic models which abstract away inconvenient historical and social conditions.  In politics we are encouraged to hate certain regimes or countries without comparing them to other nations.  For regimes which are legitimately authoritarian we are encouraged not to consider the outside circumstances which give rise to such a regime.  Even with unquestionably evil regimes like Nazi Germany, we’re supposed to pretend that its rise was the sole fault of a hateful little corporal named Hitler and a handful of like-minded villains.  Questions of class, capitalism, imperialism, and the origins of the racial theory which Hitler took to murderous conclusions must not be asked, otherwise we would understand that Nazism was not some unique animal known as “totalitarianism” but rather just one group of capitalists’ solution to the problem of maintaining power in the face of a rising, militant working class.

To be honest I really can’t understand what coherent argument can be made for not considering things dialectically, outside of certain scenarios where quick action and mental shortcuts prove necessary.  Can one truly give a coherent argument as to why people should construct opinions on major issues without trying to consider every possible angle and the contradictions inherent in the topic being discussed?  I’m not really sure there is a good reason to say, “Hey! Let’s not consider these other circumstances or sides to the issue!” This is not to say that every issue has merit on both sides.  Dialectics in this case means looking at the contradictory features of a particular issue or thing, and considering it in relation to everything else rather than in a vacuum.  Obviously since according to this worldview everything is in interaction or relation to everything else, and everything is likewise in a state of change, we cannot literally consider every little factor when trying to get to the essence of something, but obviously it makes sense to factor in as many variables as reasonably possible.  Right. Enough philosophical talk.

The point is that this mode of thinking, where you consider the conflicting sides of an issue, is horrible if you want to write about Russia.  I have more than once alluded to the fact that this blog will no doubt piss off most of its readers.  Many of them will make their decision based on one post. If that post happens to contradict Team West’s media about Russia, liberals will write me off as a “pro-Kremlin” hack, possibly in the pay of the Russian government.  If I’m making fun of Western Russopiles, Team Russia(which seems to mostly consist of Americans) will write me off as a Western liberal degenerate.  I’m even quite certain that in the past I have written things which at first appealed to readers of either faction, only to earn their scorn as they read the whole thing.  Typically what happens is that my fan/opponent says that I’m “quite reasonable for a Russophile/liberal/Judeo-Bolshevik/neo-conservative redneck.” What “reasonable” means in this case is that a certain number of the things I wrote or said correspond with their views on the topic, and therefore those specific things are “reasonable.”

The bottom line is this- When you write about Russia, it’s usually all in.  You’re either La Russophobe or RT’s Tim Kirby, with nothing in between.  Any report about Russia which is slightly negative, even for light-hearted humorous purposes, is construed by Team Russia as a dastardly attack on Holy Mother Russia by the evil American Information Warriors. Meanwhile positive reports about Russia are attacked by liberals as Kremlin propaganda.  This is why I realized long ago that I have no chance at being a professional journalist in Russia, though this is mitigated by the fact that I never really had such a desire.   As the reader can see on this blog, I give Russia, even its president, credit where I think it is due, but on the other hand I refuse to engage in apologetics on behalf of the regime.  I may be missing out on a lucrative opportunity but fuck it; I’ve never been able to handle cognitive dissonance very well.

For the reader who wants news about Russia which doesn’t challenge his or her preconceived notions about the country, there are plenty of sources for you.  If you like sensational “scary Russia” stories you’ve got The Guardian or The Moscow Times. If you prefer to hear that Russia is rising while the US is on the verge of collapse any minute now(it’s been for at least the past twenty years), you’ve got the bloggers at RT.

Russian Delusional Disorder

Russian Delusional Disorder is a condition where the sufferer, usually a non-Russian living in their home country, experiences bizarre delusions about Russia.  While little is known about the disorder, it has been determined that exposure to Russia either in person or on the internet is definitely a causal factor.  Some researchers believe that the main factor which ends up triggering the disorder is a short, touristic trip to Russia, often between the victim’s teenage years and early 20’s.

Symptoms include:

-Making inaccurate comparisons between Russia and the USA

-Expressing great praise for Vladimir Putin

-One’s only positive experience with a female was with a Russian woman, who was most likely simply being polite to a foreigner

-Falling in love with any Russian female over the slightest interaction

-Lecturing others on things you know nothing about(e.g. Russia)

-Bizarre right-wing comments demanding that Russians carry out the ridiculously authoritarian actions which are beyond the pale in your home country

Sufferers are often detected when they post comments on various news sites.  The following are examples of statements made by various individuals who are afflicted to differing degrees.

“Yes. I Fully Agree and believe this. I love this Leader.”

For some reason this sufferer lists his location, including his city and state, in every comment he makes on a certain Russian English-language publication’s social network page.  While he is in the USA, his state and city have been removed from the quote.  As the reader may have guessed, the beloved “leader” is none other than Vladimir Putin. Why he would have any reason to love Putin and not, say, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan is beyond unknown to science.  Let there be no doubt, Putin really doesn’t do much of anything. He spends his time in endless photo opportunities and publicity stunts.  He gets credit for laws which he approved yet didn’t dream up, which is actually bad for Putin since said laws are written by complete retards.  It has been hypothesized that sufferers who love Putin, despite claiming skepticism in the Western media, actually fall for the Putin hype hook, line, and sinker.

“Pathetic traitors, they will regret leaving a rising Russia for a falling America.”

This individual, possibly a teenage gamer based on observations of his Facebook profile, is referring to Russian gays and lesbians who were reportedly seeking asylum in the West and specifically the United States.  Like many sufferers of the disorder, he takes it upon himself to decide who is a traitor to Russia.  The very Spenglerian view that Russia is rising while the US is heading for collapse is common among sufferers.  The afflicted are typically unmoved by the fact that this theory was first advanced around 1918, and that it regained popularity in the early 90’s(around the time of the “culture wars), thus making it well over twenty years old in recent times.  This alone would not mean much were it not for the fact that throughout this time, the United States has still maintained higher living standards than Russia.

“PUTIN 2016 !!!!”

Again we see another outburst of requited love for Vladimir Putin.

And finally, though it may have nothing to do with Russian Delusional Disorder, the following quote did appear in the comments section of a Russian English-language publication.  The person’s name has been removed from the citation.

I am warning your newspaper that i, currently the last male Merovingian, descendant of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, descendant of Napoleon Bonaparte and Betsy Balcombe, will reveal this truth, secret of the Temple and of the highest graded Freemasons, because the U.S. government owes me 25 million dollars for a deal made with the Executive Office of the President of the United States which included the tip leading to the execution of Osama bin Laden. Regards, (NAME WITHHELD).

Thus far researchers have not been able to make anything of this.

 

 

 

 

 

A Critique of…Nah. Never mind.

So this being a blog about poor journalism on Russia and all, I figured I should write an expose of the Moscow Times comments section troll blogger known as La Russophobe.  But then I remembered that nobody gives a shit about La Russophobe.  Saved me a whole twenty minutes!  

 

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