So apparently utterly unqualified armchair pundit Johan Kylander has an advocate in the US. This, dear readers, is why we have things like the anti-vaccine movement and the 9/11 Truthers- people “doing their own research” on the internet, carefully seeking out only those sources that fully conform to their preconceived worldview, with no understanding of politics, journalism, or history.
So-called “Random Pundit” apparently took issue with my recent article on Mr. Kylander. Here’s an excerpt:
“In many cases, to use a lead sentence in a recent post, the opposing tweeter’s or blogger’s ignorance is castigated on the basis that he or she is in a “goddamned La-z-Boy recliner.”
To be fair, Random Pundit probably didn’t read my recent article about armchair experts, which was more about pro-Kremlin bloggers as such people tend to be. On the other hand, most of those armchair experts at least have some experience in Russia. Kylander admitted to not understanding Russian or Ukrainian and never having been to Ukraine. I’m really sorry to all you Junior Internet Detectives and Spies out there, but this is kind of important.
Getting back to the point, Random seems to perhaps unwittingly imply that my criticism is based on distance from the subject; it doesn’t. If I were living in the States, most of what I write about Russia would be just as valid. The only thing I would lose is the man-on-the-street view, but I could get a pretty decent idea of that via Russia’s social networks. Why would I still have that edge? Because I speak Russian, because I know where to get the info, and my experience tells me who can be trusted and who can’t.
Moving on, Random Pundit says this:
“Mr. Kylander may not have much street cred – he also admits to having “spent far too much time in the past indulging in online air combat simulations.” But whether he fits the mold of the eager young freelance journalist entering the warzone – of which there are many – or not, his opinions should ultimately get an audience, and matter, depending on whether they have any merit.”
Just a few minor corrections there. Mr. Kylander has zero street cred, and his opinions do not have merit. Nobody is denying him the right to make them or have an audience, but the world would be a much better place if people who don’t know what they are talking about would either be a bit more relaxed in pronouncing judgments on those who do, or at least put in the effort to inform themselves and thus increase their credibility.
If Kylander were a journalist in Ukraine, his arguments would at least be worth considering as he would be criticizing his peers. If there is no journalist working alongside those who end up on his list making similar criticisms, that speaks volumes about the credibility of Kylander’s condemnations.
Another post by Random Pundit explains why he has an affinity for Kylander. Apparently he has a problem with journalists who refer to the separatist forces as “rebels,” as opposed to Russian forces. In this article he quotes Kylander:
“The standard interpretation of “rebel” turns your mind to romantic guerilla warriors rising against an oppressive central power: Che Guevara, Pancho Villa, Guiseppe Garibaldi, Spartacus et al – or popular culture rebel icons such as James Dean, Robin Hood and Marlon Brando. It’s easy to like the rebel: he’s an underdog fighting for the people, for justice, for freedom. The Russian “rebels” have NOTHING in common with that concept or such role models.”
Kylander is playing word games here. He brings up rebel figures who are generally seen in a positive light. I could just as easily provide not-so-righteous examples of rebels such as the Confederate States of America, the Spanish nationalists, the Austrian branch of the NSDAP, the Croatian Ustase whose name actually means “rebel” or “insurgent,” and of course, the Islamic State. I do not for a moment question Kylander’s concern about the connotation the word rebel can have, but popular perceptions aren’t relevant in specialized fields like journalism and politics. The indisputable fact that the insurgency in the Donbass is indeed a Russian-supported and Russian-financed project does not change the fact that it is by definition, a rebellion. Many historical rebellions were sponsored and or organized by state actors.
Random Pundit seems to take issue with journalists who use the term rebels as opposed to flat out calling them Russian invaders. The problem is, however, is that regardless of whether or not they are little more than dupes of Russia’s external propaganda projects, there is local support in the DNR and LNR held territory. If these people weren’t giving at least their passive support to the self-installed authorities, this whole project would have collapsed some time ago. It’s hard to estimate exactly how much of the separatist forces consists of Russian army personnel, Russian volunteer mercenaries, and local supporters, but I can tell you who doesn’t have any idea whatsoever- Johan Kylander.
Moreover, if you’re going to get angry at people calling these people rebels, take a look at how the OSCE refers to them. They’re not calling them all Russians. Numerous world leaders, while making accusations about Russian involvement still refer to the separatists as rebels or at least not Russian forces. What some people apparently fail to understand is that referring to the separatists as rebels is not mutually exclusive with pointing out that their rebellion is heavily supported, and I think at this point we can safely say entirely financed and supplied, by Russia.
Getting back to Kylander, if I have “vilified,” him as Random Pundit suggests, it is only because I have seen his type too many times before. These are the people who without any background knowledge or any conceivably logical motive, decide to take up the torch for one side in a conflict and attack anyone who dares question the narrative they decided to support. What is worse, these people have no real stake in the game.
Tonight I’m expecting a new Munich to take place in Moscow. I’m hoping I’m wrong, but there’s a good chance we’ll be left with another frozen conflict in Ukraine and Putin will once again get to prance around as this great statesmen who outsmarted the bumbling West. After all this time these European and American morons haven’t managed to figure out a type of personality that most of us clearly understood by the end of high school if not shortly thereafter. I suspect Kylander will soon get over the “rape” of Ukraine and eventually start blogging about some other conflict he knows nothing about in a country he’s never been to.
As for me, I don’t want to get too personal, but what I consider the loss of Ukraine is a bit more severe for me. I would go so far as it has caused a sort of existential crisis in my life, not only dashing hopes for Ukraine but also those for Russia. It actually makes a great deal of my most passionate, personal work utterly and permanently irrelevant. That Swedish meatball loses nothing from Ukraine, while I lose part of my heritage and my identity. So yeah, Ukraine going to hell in a handbasket kind of effects me. .
In his defense, Random Pundit seems far more objective to me than Kylander, but he’s still a blind man led by another blind man who also happens to be deaf. Journalists are supposed to let people speak for themselves. Some of those who were tarred as pro-Russian have in fact provided irrefutable proof of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, especially by interviewing “rebel” leaders like the Russian Igor Girkin. Random confuses journalism that doesn’t support his preconceived notions as “sloppiness.” I suggest he take up the issue with his leaders and the OSCE before getting angry at journalists just because they occasionally point out that there are actually locals who support the insurgency in one way or another. If people like Christopher Miller or Oliver Carroll were deliberately concealing the Russian presence or labeling actual Russian personnel as local rebels, he would have a point, but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
UPDATE: I just want to say that after some extended Twitter back and forth with Random Pundit, I find him to be pretty reasonable. Too bad I can’t say the same for the Swede.