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Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Mailbag: Burger on Lavelle

Letters, we get letters, we get lots of cards and letters every day!

La Russophobe has received and is pleased to publish the following letter from reader/contributor Professor Ethan Burger of Georgetown University regarding her recent post about Peter Lavelle (look for another installment from Professor Burger, this time regarding corruption in the Russian arbitrazh courts, in the coming days):


I think La Russophobe has been unfair to Peter Lavelle as some of the comments to the piece about him. It is one thing to attack one's views, it is quite another to attack a person. He has been willing to publish views inconsistent with his own. He views force those who disagree with him to be more intellectually vigorous.

We are all products of our experience, for example, when Jerry Hough was hired to update Merle Fainsod's "How Russia is Ruled" he produced "How the Soviet Union is Governed." Hough, unlike the emigres and middle class academics who dominated Soviet studies, grew up in a lower-income household. His critique of Soviet Society was unique.He recognized the importance of interest group politics and put the Totalitarian Model. Although I do not share all of Mr. Hough's views his writings at least triggered debate in what had been a stale field.

Peter has shown the courage to publish on-line two items I wrote on, when the mainstream press would not raise questions as to President Yushchenko's first Prime Minister (Yulia Timoshenko) who I regard as at best morally challenged. He also co-authored one piece that supported political change to make the country a more democratic state. I do get annoyed when some of his discussion groups pro-Putin agitprop-types make unsubstantiated statements, but they should ignored or shown to be wrong. We must not lose sight of the fact that former Italian Berlusconi and Jacque Chirac may have been engaged in corrupt activities, that the western press with certain exceptions are not independent, and it is no crime for a country to pursue its foreign policy interests. Finally, I have found some of Peter's commentaries insightful. He is a contrarian who enjoys going against the convention wisdom, but he has sought to maintain a level civility in his discussion group.


Ethan S. Burger
Here is La Russophobe’s response to Professor Burger:
Dear Professor Burger:

Thank you for your comments about our post Mr. Peter Lavelle. We certainly agree that if he has had the good judgment to publish your thoughtful and scholarly analysis of the Russian question, then he can't be all bad.

However, we must question the depth of his commitment to publishing "views inconsistent with his own." If you think it is a profound one, we suggest you write something praising this blog, submit it to him for publication and see what happens. As an aside, we assume you are not suggesting that Mr. Lavelle disagreed with your views on Yulia Timoshenko, a leading Russophobe in the Ukraine. To the contrary, we believe that Mr. Lavelle, a hard-core Russophile from way back (as we understand it, he's now employed by government-owned propaganda mouthpiece Russia Today), would have been only too delighted to publish any material criticizing her and therefore undermining the Ukraine's efforts to free itself from the yoke of Russian oppression. We might also mention, just for the record, our view that though Ms. Timoshenko may very well be tainted by various types of corruption, its hardly likely that she's as dirty as convicted criminal Victor Yanukovich, her Russophile adversary for control over the future of the Ukraine. As between the two, we'd take Yulia in a heartbeat.

We heartily agree with your observation that personal abuse should be avoided. That's why we found it particularly offensive to be the target of unprovoked recent personal abuse from Mr. Lavelle, someone we haven't said a word about for months and have mentioned only once in our whole history, and several of his readers in a e-mail communication to which we were not even made privy. We trust you will express your displeasure at Mr. Lavelle's unfair and inaccurate comments about this blog, which has also had the good judgment to publish your writings, to him. We look forward to reading it when he publishes it on his venue (that is, if he still has one).

More important than the issue of personal abuse, however, is the question of accuracy. Quite simply, Mr. Lavelle was lying (or experiencing a fit of delusional egomania) when he claimed to be a "favorite target" of this blog. What's more, only an utter fool could think he could get away with making such statements about this blog without receiving the type of response we provided, so if Mr. Lavelle is half as clever as you suggest he knew full well what he was letting himself in for. The statements of Mr. Lavelle's correspondent about David McDuff were still more outrageous and lacking in factual basis. Part of the reason for our existence is to impose a stiff sanction on those who enter the blogosphere making statements as factually irresponsible as those offered by Mr. Lavelle's little clique. Such people must know that a permanent web page will be created documenting their nefarious deeds that will follow them to the end of their days.

Don't get us wrong. We'd be the last ones in the world to disdain free thinkers and contrarians, and we generally ignore Mr. Lavelle because he's such an insignificant little flyspeck where the blogosphere (or anything else for that matter) is concerned (and besides, he's almost indescribably boring). In fact, the only reason we mentioned him is that he mentioned us first. But we don't think Mr. Lavelle fairly reports on what's going in in Russia today. We think he minimizes or ignores the bad and maximizes or fabricates the good, and we think that helps push Russia down the road to destruction (however marginally). Therefore, we can't stand him. If he's associating with Russia Today, that's beneath contempt. Maybe, we feel, his publishing occasional criticism of Russia is just a way of sugarcoating his propaganda for the unwary (that is, if he's really doing it, and we're not aware of any such publications). Mr. Lavelle may well think this blog maximizes the bad and minimizes the good, and thereby harms Russia. He has the right to his opinion, but he doesn't have the right to tell outrageous lies about us, and if he does he'll receive our censure in the strongest terms we can enunciate. If he can't stand the heat, he should stay out of our kitchen.

Sincerely yours,

La Russophobe
Further comments from readers regarding this issue are always welcome.


CharlieG said...

Jeremy Putney/Kim Zigfield/Oliver Bronson/whoever your real name is,

You brag here about creating a page to document misstatements or falsehoods others make "for all time", but your website is riddled with falsehoods about me and many others.

You know very well that I never said that I do not fact check posts, only that I couldn't possibly fact check every single reader comment on Russia Blog, but you deliberately distorted what I actually said into some sort of confession. You were banned from our site for hurling abuse and insults at anyone who disagreed with you and pestering us with pointless trivia, expecting immediate replies, and general megalomania.

You talk about neo-Soviet Union, while shouting, "Confess! Russophile, confess!" You mindlessly put people either into categories of Russophobes or Russophiles and traffic in ridiculous stereotypes. You would praise the New York Times coverage of Russia while not noting that one day it says Russia is subsidizing Lushenko with cheap gas and the next day it says Russia is engaging in energy imperialism for charging Belarus more for gas, never stopping to question the absurdity of it.

You curse Russians as racist while admitting to being predjudiced against almost all Russians as an ethnicity.

You are not a person with good intentions and unlike the people you attack, you don't use your real name, while claiming to be more responsible for what you write than people who stake their reputations on what they write.

Charles Ganske

guzhevnikov said...

mr berger: lavelle expresses the opinions of his masters at russian today. i'm not sure if you understand censorship or self-censorship. perhaps you've never worked for a one-party state. he seems like a good guy and at times i'm sure he wishes he could just say what he wants.