Have you ever met That Guy? Maybe you met him in high school. Maybe it was in college or in the military. I think you know That Guy. There are many That Guys but this particular That Guy is the individual who always explains his failures by way of some glitch, fluke, or foul play on the part of his opponent. He would have won that sparring match, but his opponent used an “illegal move.” He would have beaten you at that video game, but he didn’t expect you to choose that map, the one he never plays. He would have gone home with that girl, but the mass media brainwashes young women so they don’t appreciate his qualities. In childhood and adolescence it’s to be expected. In early adulthood it’s a personality flaw. Past the early twenties- it’s pathological.
It’s not that we don’t fail due to circumstances beyond our control; this happens far more often than a lot of people would like to admit. But when evaluating those failures, it’s always best to start with oneself and work your way out from there. Furthermore, there’s no reason why a failure can’t be a combination of one’s actions plus external factors. And of course there are those times when you give it your best, but it’s just not your day. You admit it and you move on.
Unless you’re Russia, apparently.
For those of you who haven’t heard, Sergei Lazarev, who was a apparently a favorite to win Europe’s worst disaster since WWII, AKA Eurovision, was beaten by Crimean Tatar singer Jamala from Ukraine. So far the reaction in the Russian media has been akin to what you might expect if Russia somehow lost its seat on the UN Security Council.
Almost immediately there were conspiracy theories and ad hoc explanations as to how this tragedy unfolded. The “information war” against Russia was invoked. It was implied that the Europeans may have chosen Ukraine so as to suck up to the United States, because as we all know, European countries don’t have sovereignty and their people are incapable of having opinions of their own. All in all it was a weekend laugh riot on Twitter, as we broke out the popcorn and enjoyed watching the colorful explosions of buttrage.
Now in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I don’t give a damn about Eurovision. Russia, for some reason, seriously does. They care about it in spite of the fact that they hate Europe. It seems to go something like this: “You Europeans are a bunch of limp-wristed Sodomites who let marauding Muslim immigrants take over your worthless, US-controlled puppet states…but you’d better support us in your super gay song contest, the one where the winner gets to host said super gay song contest the following year!” In fact, they care so much that they seem to have spent so much time whining about their defeat in Eurovision that they totally forgot Moscow’s CSKA basketball team won the European league final on Sunday.
And this all brings us back to the topic of That Guy. Sunday’s sour grapes storm was classic That Guy behavior. Nor was it the first time. The FIFA investigations were alleged to be a conspiracy to take Russia’s World Cup away. During the Winter Olympics in 2010, a colleague of mine said students had told him that Evgeni Plushenko was denied the gold medal for figure skating thanks to “biased Canadian judges” who conspired to give the gold to…the United States. In 2014, the US cheated the Russian hockey team out of a victory because…Okay actually even I kind of have to agree with that one.
By now the reader should see the general pattern. Lose a song contest? It’s a conspiracy! Information war! The rules were changed to favor Ukraine, possibly at the personal request of Obama! In any case it doesn’t matter because Ukraine can’t afford to host the next Eurovision contest! HA HA! Honestly if I woke up this morning to find that Russia’s Investigative Committee had opened a case to determine whether or not the Eurovision voting was legitimate I would not have been surprised in the least. I would not be surprised at all if they opened an investigation into the lyrics of Jamala’s song, “1944” and determined that the lyrics contain “extremism.” This is “normal” in today’s Russia.
And the funny thing is that in a way, Russia’s media might be right. People might have a bias against Russia. Surveys have found that much of the world holds a negative opinion about Russia in spite of millions of dollars spent on “soft power” around the globe. Sometimes that bias might end up hurting someone who really has nothing to do with the actions of the regime. Sergei Lazarev, who seems like a decent enough guy and who apparently took the loss like an adult, could possibly be an example of that collateral damage. But if this is the case, maybe the average Russian citizen who buys in to this worldwide anti-Russian conspiracy might want to dig a little deeper and learn about why this bias exists.
Here’s one tip, for example. When ordinary Russians, politicians, and media figures call Europe and the Sodom and Gomorrah, when they falsely claim that Western countries don’t really have free speech, when they support and endorse far right-wing fringe parties, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy cranks in those Western countries- Westerners find out about it. Even the ones that barely follow Russia news (AKA the majority of Westerners), they sure as hell find out when Russia implies it can nuke their countries. I also imagine a lot of Europeans aren’t thrilled when figures such as Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov imply that their governments’ failure to go along with whatever Russia wants them to do indicates that they are nothing but puppets of the United States. And maybe they are a little put off by massive tantrums every time something doesn’t go the Kremlin’s way.
The parallels with That Guy are striking. And it’s hard to deal with because many times That Guy is a friend, and he’s got some decent qualities. So it is with Russia. What you need to do, if you really value that friendship, is to hit That Guy with a dose of ice cold reality.
“Look, That Guy, you lost because you don’t train enough. You need to work harder. I can help you.”
“That Guy, the reason girls don’t want to date you is because you come off sounding needy and self-entitled, and you don’t display what you’re willing to bring to the table in a relationship.”
“That Guy, relax. You did your best, but you lost this time. You don’t always have to have an explanation.”
Of course it’s a lot easier to sit down with That Guy and have a heart-to-heart than an entire country, but hopefully more Russians will reflect on Sunday’s eruption of rage and feel embarrassed. There’s nothing wrong with it- embarrassment means you have dignity. Go with it. Putin’s regime is reducing a once-proud country to the stage of childhood and people ought to be outraged at that.
Just a final note for the record. I was invited to a Eurovision viewing party held in a cinema and since beer was available, I naturally went along. One young man in the audience was wearing a Ukrainian flag over his shoulders. Later, when Jamala’s song was announced, there was loud applause. Some people were actually singing along with her.
On one hand, these young people demonstrated far more maturity than some of Russia’s top state media personalities, as well as the fact that the Kremlin’s hate machine cannot control everyone.
On the other hand, they like Eurovision, but that’s another matter entirely.