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Sunday, June 04, 2006

David Johnson's "Credentials" as a "Russia Expert" and Conflict of Interest

Seeing as how David Johnson has raised the issue of credentials, asking whether one of LR's readers is "good enough" to provide him with information about Russia's recent history of race violence, and seeing as how La Russophobe has seen this as an attempt to avoid a request to publish material about race violence in Russia on the JRL website, La Russophobe feels this is an appropriate time to review the credentials of Mr. Johnson himself, a so-called leading expert on Russia. Here are some of the more salient points of his biography that La Russophobe has unearthed so far:

He doesn't speak Russian.

He's never lived in Russia.

He's not listed in Wikipedia.

He's a "Senior Staff Member" at the Center for Defense Information. His CDI biography states:

David Johnson joined CDI at its founding in 1972. He was the Chief of Research at the Center and is now the editor of the CDI Russia Weekly, an electronic newsletter on contemporary Russia, and editor of the Johnson’s Russia List. Mr. Johnson is co-editor of Current Issues in U.S. Defense Policy and has published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the The New York Times, Newsday, National Catholic Reporter, World-View, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Washington Post. He has traveled frequently in the former Soviet Union and also visited China. Mr. Johnson has prepared many issues of CDI’s publication The Defense Monitor and episodes of CDI’s America’s Defense Monitor television program on a wide range of military and foreign policy issues. Prior to joining CDI, Mr. Johnson served on the staff of Congressman Michael Harrington (D-MA) with the House Armed Services Committee. He served as a military analyst for the Friends Committee on National Legislation and graduated from Brandeis University. He has done graduate work in Chinese and Russian studies at Harvard University.

Let's review these alleged accomplishments, shall we?

Although the bio claims that Johnson "is now the editor of the CDI Russia Weekly, an electronic newsletter on contemporary Russia," in fact the CDI website currently states: "The CDI Russia Weekly no longer is published. Readers wishing to receive Johnson's Russia List should contact David Johnson at The JRL generally comes out one or more times per day. In the absence of the CDI Russia Weekly, those who wish to receive just one issue per week of the JRL should request that in their inquiry. JRL excerpts still are available at Thank you for your continued interest." Seems like keeping the bio up to date is not a major priority at CDI. Why is it no longer published? Seems like CDI is not interested in saying.

The newspaper publication claims appear highly dubious to say the least. To say the most, they are Averkian (so it is perhaps, then not entirely surprising that the comments of Mike Averko sometimes appear on the JRL). Searching for "David Johnson" as an author in the archives of the New York Times and Washington Post does not produce any hits for articles published in those papers by David Johnson of CDI. La Russophobe wrote the managing editor of the Post and asked whether Johnson had ever "published" and she got this response:

David Johnson of the Center for Defense Information did appear in the Washington Post. His website is probably referring to the Letter to the Editor that he submitted. Here is a citation to it:

... democracy in Russia. DAVID JOHNSON
Research Director Center for Defense Information Washington ...
10/11/1993 (Mon) Section/Page: Op/Ed/A30 Length: 8 in.

Wow. This is Mike Averko stuff: Johnson claims to have been "published" in the Washington Post because they printed a letter to the editor? Lame. Not exactly big-time Russia expert type of thing, now is it? Same is quite possibly true at the Times and Newsday, La Russophobe has letters in to check. Has he ever had something on any op-ed page of a major paper about Russia? La Russophobe has not found any. Meanwhile, kudos to the Washington Post for being the first to respond to her inquiry. Sharp folks there.

Has he ever published a book about Russia, or taught courses in the subject? It would not appear so.

As for the educational claims, regarding Harvard University, note that the key phrase is "done graduate work" and not "earned a Master's degree" or "earned a PhD." La Russphobe can't help but wonder why not. She's checking into that, as well as into what Johnson got his BA at Brandeis in, will report back to readers.

Unlike Johnson, Congressman Michael Harrington has a Wikipedia entry, but it is merely a cut-and-paste job from the offical Congressional biography entry, and carries a warning lable from Wiki's editors that such is insufficient to constitute a reliable entry in its pages. Apparently Mr. Johnson didn't feel there was much of a need to write an entry (nor did anyone else), and the entry fails to indicate any significant achievement of the congressman during his four terms in office (he got in the first time by means of a special election to fill the seat of somebody who unexpectedly kicked the bucket). La Russophobe hasn't yet discovered any, and would be happy to hear about them from knowledgeable readers. Meanwhile, it seems to her that a Democratic congressman from the People's Republic of Massachussets is likely to be at least somewhat, shall we say, "understanding" of the "special needs" of the USSR.

In 2004, Johnson attended a meeting of Western Russia watchers sponsored by the Kremlin, which paid for their travel and accomodation in a naked propaganda scheme. The group came to be known as the "Valdai Discussion Club." La Russophobe has not yet been able to discover a disclosure by Johnson of the details of any potential conflict of interest thus created, and would be happy to be directed to such by knowledgeable readers. He attended a second such meeting last year, see him here posing proudly with his pal Vladimir and answering questions for Washington Profile. This is what Johnson had to say about Putin, stars in his eyes: "Putin is an impressive person with enormous energy. He knows a lot about many subjects. I think in some way he is sensitive to the points of view of these foreigners, who he thanked for their long-term interest in Russia. " There's more, much more, of the same nauseating dreck in the interview. Is it just a coincidence that Johnson is reluctant to highlight race crimes in Russia on his website, or to do much of anything else to directly challenge the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union, after his trips to hobnob with the Neo-Soviet bigwigs? The reader must be the judge. As for La Russophobe, she feels genuinely ill reading the sycophantic drivel Johnson spouted in Washington Profile, and cannot help but be unnervingly reminded of what Neville Chamberlain said after he met with Hitler.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ай, Моська, знать она сильна, коль лает на слона!