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Monday, May 22, 2006

All the Newsweek that's Unfit to Print

Writing in Newsweek magazine, Fareed Zakaria has this to say about why Russians are allowing the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union (with commentary by La Russophobe):

Russia today is a strange mixture of freedom and unfreedom. Why? Well, for the average Russian per capita GDP has gone from $600 to $4,500 during Putin's reign, much, though not all of which, is related to oil prices. In other words, Fareed, the first thing you said means absolutely nothing because of the second thing you said. Russia would have much the same situation no matter who was governing it because of the accident of high world oil prices. So, um, why'd you say the first thing? The poverty rolls have fallen from 42 million to 26 million. What if they fell because the Kremlin legislated a new definition of "poverty" that said 16 million people who used to be poor are now rich, even though their incomes stayed the same? Would Fareed care to tell us the current income level of those 16 million? No, as it happens he wouldn't. What if the Kremlin were run by a proud KGB spy who simply fudged the data? Would Fareed care to address that subject? Not hardly. College graduates have increased by 50 percent. Could that be because it became much easier to buy a diploma as professors continued to be paid $200 per month, and because Putin's bloody, barbaric war in Chechnya has left sham diplomas as the only alternative to cruel battlefield horror? Fareed won't say. A middle class has emerged in Russia's cities. Notice that Fareed doesn't care to say how many people make up a "class"? Gee, I wonder why. The country publishes 90,000 books a year, espousing all political views. Fareed, I hate to burst your bubble, but the USSR published lots of books too. Would Fareed care to mention that the Kremlin banned a major high school history text because it criticized Putin? No, as it happens he wouldn't. Polls in Russia show that people still rate democracy as something they like and value. But in the wake of the 1990s, they value more urgently conditions that will allow them to lead decent civic and economic lives. Polls in Russia also show that Russians think it's more important to sell weapons to Iran than to worry about global security. Is it possible to lead a "decent civic life" when governed by a proud KGB spy? If so, Fareed doesn't care to say how. What provisions are Russians making for the protection of racial minorities? Farred is mum on that one too. Is it really possible that Fareed, a dark-skinned person, could write a column about Russians leading "decent civil lives" without mentioning the recent spate of racial violence that has terrified Russia's minorities? You wouldn't think so, but it turns out it is. Most importantly, if economic life is so important to Russians, why are the allowing the Kremlin to hoard billions of petrodollars and make massive increases in the defense budget? Again, Fareed hasn't a clue.

For more critique of Fareed's drivel, see Sharp & Sound's piece as well as Newsweek's blog link page, which cites La Russphobe.

PS: When did some sort of mention of source material go out of fashion at Newsweek? There isn't the slightest hint in Fareed's piece about where he got his statistics from. Quite shockingly unprofessional. For instance, Russia's college graduation rate before Putin took power was 26%. If it has increased by 50% since then, it is now 39%, which would place it head of the United Kingdom and first in the world among major nations. Is that really what Fareed meant to say? If so, what is the source of his data? Fareed doesn't say, and so far La Russophobe has not been able to find out. Input from helpful readers would be appreciated.


Anonymous said...

and for even more criticism, see Tolblogs:

cheers from Sharp&Sound,

La Russophobe said...

Evgeny: Thanks for the very interesting link! The author puts it well when he states that Zakaria "does understand the flaws of democracy, but he refuses to accept that there is no such things as benign, benevolent, and responsible autocratic regime, which he so much prescribes for most of the Third World. This dangerously puts him on the brink of becoming just another one dictators’ apologist."

La Russophobe might prefer to be a bit more blunt: Fareed is a coward, just the kind that enables dicatorship to murder millions.