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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Russians

Here's a powerful statement by Alexei, the Russian publisher of the Russian Dilettante blog:

I have always argued that most Russians are simply too uneducated to make qualified decisions outside their private lives, and that the ruling elites have no interest in educating the masses. I am consistent in this.
Now, if La Russophobe were to make a statement like that, she'd be accused by the Russophile wackos of being a "racist" or a "bigot," wouldn't she?

When describing widespread Russian ignorance (isn't it ironic that Russians project themselves to foreigners as a highly educated, erudite population, especially compared to Americans?), Alexei adopts a tone of irony and sarcasm. La Russophobe asked Alexei whether he didn't think this tended to undercut his message somewhat, making it seem that pursuing the education of the Russian people was a matter for joking, an impossibility. He responded:
My irony, in case you did not notice, is a simple device to conceal pain and dispair -- a device necessary in this postmodern age, when expressions like "saving your country" can only earn you ridicule.
Indeed, La Russophobe does often call upon Russians to take action to save their country, and the response is quite often ridicule. Apparently Alexei has himself been victimized by this treatment once too often and, like many Russians, has given up trying. Thank goodness for the indomitable fortitude of La Russophobe.

Alexei is certainly right in saying that the Kremlin doesn't want an educated population in Russia. That's why it keeps the salaries of teachers so low, preventing talented young people from entering the profession. That's why it censors textbooks and controls curriculum. If Russians received a real education, then they'd become free thinkers, and free thinkers are much more difficult for the Kremlin to control. For the same reason, the Kremlin likes to keep the Russian population suffering from all manner of sickness, which further weakens critical powers.

But how does the Kremlin manage to convince Russians that, despite actually being ignorant, they are clever and well-educated? That's quite a trick, isn't it? Truly, the one area where Russia leads the world is propaganda.

Alexei himself is even a victim. For instance, in a recent post he claims that reporting by the Associated Press about the Kondopoga race riots was "misleading." Alexei (who La Russophobe believes is a Slavic Russian) makes the general charge that "liberal Western media are picturing the riots as an unprovoked attack on defenseless immigrants." Yet, in his post he doesn't make reference to one single specific statement made by the AP reporter which was allegedly inaccurate or misleading. This is the style of the Soviet propagandist, and Alexei has been victimized by it, though he may not even be aware of the crime.

And it gets worse. Alexei then seeks to tell us the "real story" of what happened at Konodopoga. How does he do it? What are his sources, superior to the Associated Press? Well, let Alexei tell you in his own words:
Using Russian online sources, including internet forumes and postings, I have tried to understand what actually happened in Kondopoga in the late August and early September of 2006.Can you believe it?
Alexei chooses to rely upon anonymous blogs written by Slavic Russians he not only doesn't know but whom he can't verify were ever anywhere near Kondopoga, much less firsthand witnesses to the events there. Even if they're not simply lying, they could be basing their statements on what they see on state-controlled, propagandizing Russian TV. But Alexei doesn't even warn his readers about this possiblity, he takes theirs statements as gospel (and doens't even link readers to the posts so they can read them for themselves).

Based on reading Russian blogs, Alexei comes up with this amazing statement:
About a hundred young men left the town square and, heated by alcohol, rushed to set fire to the restaurant where it all started, owned by a "Caucasus ethnic." (Likely not a Chechen. A telling detail though -- a few years ago, the owner's son shot a Russian girl and walked free.)
So, Alexei says that in fact the Slavs of Kondopoga were not guilty of an "unprovoked attack on defenseless immigrants" but rather were defending themselves from a cruel murderer of children. The only thing is, there isn't one single shred of documentation for this claim to be found on Alexei's website, not even the simple identity of the blog writer who said it. The Russian blogosphere is full of racist websites and all forms of racist propaganda, and it is a classic form of Russian igorance, the kind Alexei decried, to repeat a statement like this with no warning as to how reliable it is. Shame on you, Alexei!

And for the final show of ignorance, what did Alexei do when La Russophobe called him on this behavior? He just refused to speak to her anymore about it, and plunged his head further into the sands of ignorance. In other words, yet another classic Soviet response.

This is the way it depressingly goes in Russia. Even when you have a Russian who gets it half right, he inevitably manages to get the other half twice as wrong, negating progress. For this reason century after century Russian government looks oddly similar and the nation continues its downward spiral. And when occasionally someone comes forward to get up in their faces about it (Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitisyn) they are inevitably shouted down, imprisoned, exiled or simply killed.

And so it goes in Russia.

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