It's been a big week for wacko Russians in the blogosphere, and that means a bad one for all the rest of us. First the insane Konstantin of Russian Blog accuses the Boston Globe of lying, and now the equally-if-not-more insane Yuri of Russia Blog accuses the Wall Street Journal of lying (Yuri, being perhaps somewhat more personally refined than Konstantin -- and perhaps slightly better schooled in the ways of propaganda and deception -- chooses “this is a straight falsehood” over “this is a lie” – but La Russophobe almost prefers Konstantin’s more blunt approach which, if equally propagandistic, is at least proudly so). Apparently, the only one telling the truth in the world today is the crazed Russian nationalist.
La Russophobe hadn't intended to ever dirty her hands again with the composer who publishes Russia Blog and feels his musical knowledge entitles him to pontificate about politics (Mamchur regularly publishes the obscene propaganda of Russopsycho Mike Averko), but now a reader has brought to her attention that Russia Blog has published something so extreme, ignorant, dishonest and offensive that she is left with no choice but to bend low and scrape this excrement off the cyber-sidewalk, for the benefit of innocent bystanders that Yuri Mamchur's fecal matter might befoul.
A few days ago, as reported by Jurist, the legal news outlet of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, "President" Vladimir Putin signed a new law on "extremism. " As Radio Free Europe reported, the bill had been passed by Russia's "parliament" earlier in the month.
This bill is an outrageous step backwards for Russia and has been condemned by all thinking people across the globe. As Jurist reports, the G-8 leaders who convened in Moscow pointedly tried to dissuade Putin from signing the bill.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the bill, saying: "This measure is reminiscent of the kind of catchall laws that were used in Soviet times to control the media. Those in power can now label any journalist an 'extremist' and effectively stifle critical reporting. The law could result in three years' imprisonment for journalists and potential shutdown of their publications." The World Association of Newspapers (WAN represents 18,000 newspapers; its membership includes 73 national newspaper associations, newspapers and newspaper executives in 102 countries, 11 news agencies and nine regional and world-wide press groups) called for the rejection of the bill. It stated:
In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, WAN and the WEF said the law would "further undermine the role of the press to inform the public and lead to even greater self-censorship than already exists." The Paris-based organisations said the vague language of the law "would allow public officials to interpret the law as they please and effectively target their critics."As the St. Petersburg Times reports, "even Central Election Commission chief Alexander Veshnyakov criticized the expanded definition of extremism contained in the law." Yuri Mamchur himself admits that the everyone from the Carnegie Foundation to Mikhail Gorbachev has come out in opposition to this disgusting Neo-Soviet attack on civil liberties. Dimitry Babich of Russia profile calls the bill "a dangerous cocktail for democracy." Masha Gessen of the Moscow Times states: "At a restaurant, one of my friends told a Putin joke. Rather, she whispered it. 'Why are you talking like that?' asked another friend. 'The new law on extremism,' she responded, and proceeded to whisper the joke. President Putin signed the bill on extremism into law on Friday evening. It is a venerable post-Soviet tradition, signing controversial legislation on Friday evenings to avoid media coverage. There is virtually no media left, but the habit apparently lives on. In accordance with an even older custom, the Soviet tradition of making an outlaw of every citizen, the new law makes it possible to punish anyone -- including people who tell Putin jokes in public."
The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, approved the "Law on Fighting Extremist Activity" on 8 July. It now must be considered by the upper house, the Federation Council, before being signed into law by President Putin.
In enacted, the law would broaden the definition of extremism to include media criticism of public officials and provide for imprisonment of up to three years for journalists and the suspension or closure of their publications.
In its letter to Mr Putin, WAN reminded the President of his remarks supporting press freedom made at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Moscow last month. WAN said that passage of the new law "would constitute a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression."
The letter said:
"We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications in 102 countries, to express our serious concern at proposed legislation that provides for up to three years in jail for journalists who criticise public officials and categorises them as ’extremists’.
According to reports, on 28 June the lower house of parliament approved amendments to the Law on Fighting Extremist Activity in a first reading. If enacted, the law would broaden the definition of extremism to include media criticism of public officials and provide for imprisonment of up to three years for journalists and the suspension or closure of their publication. If the bill is passed in two further readings, it would be submitted to the upper house.
"Amendments to Article 1 of the law broaden the definition of extremist activity to include ’public slander directed toward figures fulfilling the state duties of the Russian Federation’, as well as ’interfering with the legal duties of organs of state authorities’.
"We are seriously concerned that this legislation, if enacted, would further undermine the role of the press to inform the public and lead to even greater self-censorship than already exists. We are also concerned that the vague language used would allow public officials to interpret the law as they please and effectively target their critics.
"We respectfully remind you that you told our Congress that ’our people made a conscious choice in favour of democracy. Freedom of the media remains one of the most important guarantees of this choice’.
"We respectfully remind you that, if passed, this law would constitute a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression, which is guaranteed by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration states: ’Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media, regardless of frontiers.’
We respectfully call on you to do everything possible to ensure that the proposed legislation is withdrawn and to ensure that in future your country fully observes international standards of freedom of expression."
But Mamchur? He loves the new law, and according to him anyone who disagrees is a benighted moron, probably ought to be taken out and shot. Basically, the only one who knows anything about Russia it seems is dear Yuri, and anyone who gets his news from any other source needs to be institutionalized and medicated.
Mamchur, commenting on (yet one more) critical story about the bill in the Wall Street Journal by reporter Alan Cummison, states that "given the state of Russian society and the widespread violence we have seen in the streets and the army, I believe that [the bill] may be necessary to prevent a revival of fascism in Russia. Russians do not want to see their country repeat the mistakes of the Weimar Republic in Germany, which in the name of democracy tolerated people who openly vowed to destroy the constitutional order." Cummison, like a host of others (the Boston Globe for example), merely recognized facts everyone already knows when he stated that "approval of the measure on Friday is a fresh rebuke to Western leaders and civic groups who leaned on Mr. Putin at a Group of Eight conference in St. Petersburg this month to stop squeezing opposition parties and freedom of speech. Analysts say Mr. Putin's decision to sign the law is a harbinger for an even greater clampdown on Russian society." Mamchur finds this outrageously inaccurate.
He demonstrates his expertise in the matter by beginning his insane diatribe against what his crazed "mind" sees as the ignorant fools at the Journal, one of the the world's most well-respected newspapers, thusly: "My first response upon reading the title was 'I haven’t heard of such a law or a bill being passed!'" Apparently, if composer Yuri hasn't heard of it, that means it doesn't exist -- or at least, it's not worth knowing about.
Mamchur claims that the Journal made a number of fact errors in reporting on the law, with the first one being "the name of the bill." Oddly, though, nowhere in Mamchur's screed does he say what name the Journal gave the bill.
Mamchur then claims that a person can only be prosecuted under the bill for accusing a public official of being a terrorist without evidence, not for any old reason the Kremlin cares to dream up. Even if this were true, Mamchur seems to live in some alternative universe where Russian courts are not corrupt and the Kremlin cannot call anyone it likes a "terrorist" (Brezhenev certainly thought of Solzhenitsyn and Sakharov this way).
But in fact this is an outrageous and utterly false characterization of the bill, made by someone with no legal training, relying on no authority other than his own "analysis," who is clearly very antagonistic to ignorant Westerners who presume to know what is going on in Russia without asking Mamchur himself (Mamchur haughtily writes at one point: "any Russians will find the sixth paragraph of the WSJ article funny, because it quotes the opinion of a washed-up politician who currently makes his living starring in Pizza Hut commercials" -- referring to Mikhail Gorbachev). There is nothing in the bill which limits its application to those accusing officials of being terrorists; as noted above, the bill applies to any action which results in "interfering with the legal duties of organs of state authorities," a phrase so broad it could apply to virtually anything.
Mamchur wouldn't have embarrassed himself so badly if he'd just read a bit more widely than the intimate circle of Russian propagandists he keeps. As the St. Petersburg Times report noted above states: "Leonid Gozman, deputy chairman of the Union of Right Forces, said Putin’s decision to ignore the criticism and approve the amendments was part of a 'dangerous trend. Almost any sort of political activity could be construed to fit the expanded definition of extremism, as was the case with ‘Trotskyism’ and ‘anti-Soviet activity’ in the Soviet era,' Gozman said." The SPT also reported: "'It’s obviously a crackdown,' said Dmitry Oreshkin, head of the Mercator think-tank. Oreshkin said it was no coincidence that the Duma was considering Kremlin-sponsored changes to the country’s election laws immediately after broadening the definition of extremism. While this new one-two punch provides Putin with a powerful new weapon against possible rivals, Oreshkin said the president would not rush to use it. The new laws will be triggered as necessary,' Oreshkin said. " Mamchur totally ignores all this coverage, as if the Wall Street Journal was out on a crazed limb all alone. As is often the case with wacko Russian nationalists like Mamchur, it's they who are way out there, alone.
Mamchur then goes completely berzerk, a really classic Russian nationalist meltdown. He states: "Calling the Governor of Texas a terrorist probably won’t lead to violence, but deliberately slandering a state official in a country with over 50 nationalities, during a time of rising racial and Islamic fascist sentiment can cause more harm than the ordinary American can imagine." Apparently, Mamchur thinks that Moscow is significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than Texas and that Texas does not suffer from "rising sentiment" of aggression between ethnic and racial groups (all that stuff about building a giant wall on the Texas border, making English the official language, and so forth apparently somehow eluded Mamchur's keen mind). He thinks not only that nobody in the West knows a thing about Russia, but that he knows all there is to know about America. In other words, Mamchur is not from this planet.
But that's not the worst of it. Mamchur then rants: "The second paragraph of the WSJ article says that 'Putin’s decision to sign the law is a harbinger for an even greater clampdown on Russian society…' The WSJ writer forgets, that this bill was written by the Duma (Parliament), approved by the Federal Assembly (Senate) and only then signed by Putin, who currently enjoys a 70% approval rating according to public opinion polling in Russia." So, according to Mamchur, any action taken by the Kremlin is right since the Kremlin is popular. If it wants to rebuild the gulag archipelago, nobody can say a word. He doesn't care to mention that the "Senate" of Russia is not elected but hand-picked by Putin. He doesn't care to notice that the Duma is nothing but a rubber stamp. Or, and this is really scary, maybe he really thinks Russia's legislature is legitimate.
Think it can't get more insane? You'd be wrong. Next comes this jaw-dropper: "In paragraph three, Lilia Shevtsova, a political analyst for the Carnegie Foundation in Moscow, says that 'He [Putin] is signing a law that erases all ability to criticize the authorities and to have any real discussion in the media…' Our response is: this is not true. Please read more about the number of private media outlets in Russia and keep in mind that hundreds of newspapers and online news outlets daily call Putin names and argue that he is too soft a leader." Hmm . . . is that the royal "our" Mr. Mamchur (certainly nobody else's name appears at the bottom of the post)? Did he really say that the existence of newspapers criticizing Putin for being too proves that Russia has freedom of expression? Yes, unbelievably, that's just what he said. Did he just forget that the vast majority of Russians get their news from TV, which never utters a critical peep about Grandpa Putin? La Russophobe doesn't think so.
And there is more, much more. Mamchur goes on to claim that Chechnya is currently "stable and peaceful" (see La Russophobe sidebar list of articles showing how absurd this claim is if you can still see through your tears of laughter) and that it's perfectly OK for the Kremlin to tell newspapers to think up a new name for the Bolshevik party because that name isn't official registered (since the Kremlin does not allow it to register) and to censor the party because it's leader uses foul language in his novels.
Mamchur concludes with this gibberish: "As a Russian, I think it is more prudent to act sooner rather than later, while the economy and approval rating of the Kremlin are still high. Russia’s oil-fueled prosperity may actually be turning back the forces of desperation and hatred: in the last two years the per capita income of Russians has increased by one-third. Old babushkas who fought Hitler’s army, and young Russian businessmen, who want to develop their backward Russian regions have no problem with this bill. They want peace and stability on the streets so that Russians and foreigners alike can feel safe working and investing in Russia."
So let's see now. Russians would have become fascists when their income was $200 per month, but now that it has skyrocketed up to $300 they'll turn away from that idea. All Russians want is "peace and stability" just like the Russians who lived under Stalin and the Germans who lived under Hitler, so if they create a Neo-Soviet Union that implodes in a few decades just like the original, that's their business and none of anybody else's.