Alright so this is the first post since the horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris. As an avid user of Twitter, I got tipped off to the attacks almost immediately, but I figured it would be prudent to wait for reactions before pontificating on the matter. Naturally many of the reactions on social media were similar, rants against “The Muslims” vs. equally ignorant, patronizing rants about how this has “nothing to do with Islam.” I guess false dichotomies aren’t limited discourse about Russia it seems.
Aaaaanyway… Reactions to the terror in Russia were pretty predictable. I say predictable because I was at the French embassy to get interviews with Russians laying flowers in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, and then we all saw what the Russian media did almost immediately after that. It was the same thing this time. Russian politicians express sympathy and condolences while their media attacks the victim country, even as it claims it wants to improve relations. Now I want to make one thing extremely clear. Nobody should assume that those Russians who expressed sympathy for France are hypocrites; they are not representatives of their government or media. The hypocrisy is on the part of Russian politicians and pundits who talk out both sides of their mouths on this and pretty much every other issue. For a good rundown of what Russia’s media and leaders have been saying behind France’s back, check out this column by Julia Ioffe. Though I must deduct 1 million points from her for using the “From Russia with X” cliche. Shame.
Now onto my thoughts. Any time something like this happens, you can basically play a game of bingo with people’s idiotic responses. What I’ve decided to do is give a listicle-style summary of all the idiotic things I’ve heard in response to this terrorist attack. Enjoy:
Why does everyone care so much about Paris? Ukrainian soldiers are dying on the front line right now!
I am sad to report that it does seem fighting is still going on along the front in Ukraine. That being said, some Ukrainians and Ukraine supporters clearly know nothing about how to attract international sympathy and support. See the key word in these two situations is “soldiers.” As regrettable as it is, Ukraine is involved in a war, the largest since the Yugoslav Wars of Secession in the 1990’s. People are expected to die in wars, especially the soldiers who fight in them. Paris hasn’t seen war more or less since the end of summer 1944.
Keep in mind people were dying in Chechnya and Dagestan around the time of 9/11. Maybe everyone should have shut up and focused on that part of the world instead of New York, huh?
France is paying a price for its tolerance!
This is some of that ill-will Ioffe was writing about- Russian pundits, the very next day, attacking France for its immigration policies and “tolerance,” which is a dirty word in Russia. Let’s break this down for a second. Without any moral judgement whatsoever, which nation is more “tolerant” to Muslims? In France, I believe they still ban the wearing of religious symbols in schools (feel free to correct me in the comments). France has a very strict ban on any kind of anti-blasphemy law, which is why Charlie Hebdo was able to step on the toes of any religion as it pleased. Obviously the intolerant fanatics who attacked the publication’s editorial board weren’t to happy about that. Russia on the other hand, is most accommodating to Muslims, including those who would kill someone for defaming the prophet. In Russia, caricatures of Mohammed and other religious figures have been formally banned for years now, long before the massacre in Paris. In response to that attack, state-funded Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov held a million-man rally in support of the Prophet Mohammed, whereas a single man standing on Manezh square holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign was arrested. As far as I know, France forbids polygamy. Russia on the other hand, tolerates it.
As for immigration, Russia’s laws are indeed strict, but that hasn’t stopped countless individuals from Muslim Central Asian countries from working and living in Russia and its capital, though they are a ready source of bribes for Russia’s cops. There has been a reduction in Central Asian immigrant in Russia recently, but this is due to the economic crisis. I should also point out that Moscow has to close streets to accommodate worshipers at its mosques, whereas I’m guessing Paris has no need for this as it probably has far more mosques. So while Paris may have more mosques, these don’t inconvenience anyone, unlike in Moscow where the mayor bans building of new mosques and thus creates traffic problems instead.
Russia’s pundits and ideologues love to lecture far more successful nations about concepts they don’t understand, such as tolerance. For France to actually take Russia’s advice then, they’d have to first choose one very short man and make him virtual president for life. Then all major media outlets should be consolidated under state control, owned by his friends or friends of friends. Increasingly tightening regulations can be used to keep the rest of the media in order. Then some of France’s biggest industries should be partially nationalized, with the new president’s friends taking over their administration. They should be allowed to siphon money from the companies profits instead of passing the revenue onto the public. Meanwhile France should choose one of the most radical Muslims on its territory and give him a province to run on his own. He will not be bound by French laws and will be more or less able to act as an independent ruler while he receives numerous state awards as well as billions of euros from the French national budget.
That, France, is how you deal with terrorism the Russian way!*
*Country may still have some terrorism. Results will vary.
Assad is the real reason for ISIS!
Okay no. Just no. Look, Assad is bad, but this argument is simply infantile. The invasion of Iraq and the failure to build any kind of functioning state apart from Kurdistan (which was already de facto independent in 2003) are the root causes of ISIS. If Assad goes, ISIS isn’t going to stop fighting. Sunnis aren’t going to desert ISIS, Al Nusra, and all those other unsavory groups just because Assad leaves. After all, there are in fact moderate, non-jihadist groups that Sunnis could join now, or they could just leave like so many other Syrians have done so far.
The fact is that everyone fucked the dog on Syria. Everyone.
The Russians are bombing civilian targets!
Hey guess what. And did you hear about France’s recent retaliatory strikes against ISIS in Raqqa? Yeah, about that. This isn’t whataboutery; it’s simple military science. Bombs explode and throw fragments all over the place at high speeds, specifically speeds that make it possible for them to penetrate your flesh, shatter your bones, and sever limbs. The rocket or bomb may be “precision guided,” but the shock waves, the rapidly expanding hot gasses, and the fragments they propel are not. Ironically in this sense, the US’ drone strikes are actually one of the most humane forms of war even in spite of the civilian casualties they have wrought.
Why aren’t people talking about the destruction of the Russian airliner in the same way they are about Paris?
First of all, note that I personally changed the picture and header message on this blog about two days after I returned to Russia (I was unable to do so while abroad). I think this is a valid question, but I have to remind people that the Russian government still hasn’t come out and declared the destruction of Metrojet and its 224 passengers to be an act of terrorism.* Why? I suspect cowardice.
They beat their chests about how they were going to destroy ISIS, even though most of their airstrikes in Syria have been against nearly everybody but ISIS. Not known for being any more logical than the Russian government, ISIS picked up the gauntlet, made some threats, and then claimed credit for the downed airliner. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a kickass, consequence-free war in which Russia plays the hero that saves the world from ISIS. Now Russians are being reminded of the horrors of the 90’s and 2000’s, with its Nord-Ost, Beslan, and various bombings in public places.
Worse still, Russia doesn’t possess the military power sufficient to wage a massive retaliatory strike. After 9/11, the US responded by promptly kicking the shit out of the Taliban and taking over Afghanistan. As idiotic as it was, it then conquered Iraq. There’s a certain relevance in this for Russia because Putin’s base, the vatniks, are much like American conservatives and soccer-moms in the wake of 9/11. They don’t really know what’s going on, but they’re afraid, and they want someone to just do something. Bombing and invading keeps them satisfied to some degree, and in the case of the US that was enough to get Bush reelected in spite of his failure to find Bin Laden or the fact that his WMDs in Iraq never materialized. Russia can’t do anything like this, which brings me to the next stupid idea…
The world should join Russia in the fight against ISIS!
This is another attempt by Russia’s leadership to cajole the West into letting them off the hook for Ukraine. It’s also another attempt to pretend to be friendly while the domestic media continues to stir up anti-Western hatred every night. As I mention in the previous point, Russia doesn’t really have the capacity to make any major decisive moves against ISIS, so one wonders exactly what Russia wants the West to do in Syria. My guess is that they might invite a large Western intervention, which their media will condemn at home. Meanwhile, they’ll claim credit for the defeat of ISIS. These people are incredibly predictable. Just think of the absolute most dishonest, tasteless thing anyone can do, and go one bar lower. Now you know their next move.
So there you have it, my take on some of the major points I’ve seen in response to this tragedy in Paris. Now you can go back to Facebook and continue blocking those friends and family members who post messages like: “DEPORT ALL ARABS!”
*As of the morning of 17 November, the FSB has announced that the downing of Metrojet was an act of terrorism. http://www.interfax.ru/russia/479712