Typically The Guardian is the epicenter of horrendous “journalism” about Russia, from the works wannabe secret agent Luke Harding to the recent Inception style rantings of Shaun Walker. Still, it’s easy to forget that The Guardian’s Russia coverage is not exactly a black hole of idiocy from which no intelligence can escape. On this occasion I am referring to this piece by Marc Bennetts.
I’m posting this because lately I’ve been in discussion with a friend about racism against Russians and I plan to write a long series about the topic. Recently the topic was broached after journalists in Sochi began tweeting about all the deficiencies in their hotels, something I recently wrote about. Thus far many discussions among my Russia-based colleagues and friends revolve around how legitimate the complaints are. Some we all agree on, others some of us see as frivolous(such as toilets which can’t flush toilet paper), and still some complaints seem to have been made out of sheer malice or spite.
My position, if not fully clarified in my article on the subject, is that while some mean-spiritedness is surely driving the media coverage on Sochi, to some degree the ruling clique in the Russian government has nobody else to blame. Since 2013 Putin and co. have embarked upon a flag-waving, jingoistic offensive. While his supporters complain about “the West” supposedly lecturing Russia, Putin himself has in the same time period engaged in quite a bit of lecturing. More relevant to this topic, the Putin fan club, both Russian and non-Russian, have been proclaiming that Russia is a rising power which certainly doesn’t have any significant problems compared to the West, which is bound to collapse any day now because of tolerance and gays(yes, I have heard people actually make this claim). These Olympic games are a fifty-one billion dollar showpiece to that same world, and you can’t start crying when they beginning pointing out flaws, however nit-picky they may be. When you stand up with a flag in each hand, waving your dick in the face of the world, you’d better expect a harsh backlash. I feel the same way about the American Bible Belt, a place where some people are happy to lecture you about the evils of your degenerate East/West coast cities and the virtue of their humble, God-fearing “small towns.” You start pointing out their low wages, poor workplace safety, or high teen pregnancy rates, and suddenly they metaphorically wrinkle up their little noses and start to cry like a schoolyard bully who gets his ass handed to him by a new kid. What’s good for America is good for Russia, in this respect.
That being said, I have never denied the bias in the Western media when it comes to reporting on Russia, though the real reason for it has nothing to do with the paranoid fantasy of an “information war.” Shitty reporting and obvious bias only fuels the information warriors’ delusions, and that is precisely what the author of this particular Guardian article so eloquently points out.
On the topic of racism against Russians, I plan to do a much longer, serialized piece in the next few weeks. The catalyst for that work, and the pivot point for many of the aforementioned discussions between my friends and I, was this rather brilliant, original work entitled “Meanwhile, in Russia: Buzzfeed, Russia and the west.”