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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

With Friends Like These, Russia is Doomed for Sure (With Enemies Like These, U.S. Bound for Glory)

Let's talk about the eXile, the self-proclaimed "alternative" news source for information in English within Russia.

The eXile hates the Moscow Times. In La Russophobe's opinion, whatever faults the Times may have, any single issue from its archives is worth all the eXile issues that ever have been and ever will be published. If the eXile ceased to exist tomorrow, nobody would be the less for it and nobody would care (just the same can be said for the MT's late column by the maniacal Chris Floyd). What's more, the eXile is a profit-making institution, and one of the main ways it seeks to make profit is by helping poor, lonley, pathetic guys like Mr. Ames to hook up with poor impoverished Russian women by featuring advertisements from wedding brokers like this one. In other words, with a certain amount of cynicism (say, the amount Mr. Ames has), you could say Mr. Ames is a pimp.

On the other hand, one must say two things in the eXile's defense. First, it's a quintessentially Russian institution. By that we mean that it's a huge bucket of slop, but every so often if you fish around carefully you can pull out a diamond in the rough. Second, it's being operated at Ground Zero in Russia, and the authors are risking something by publishing some of the things they do. Granted, it's the same kind of risk taken by the morons who film those Jackass movies, not a risk run by courageous patriots out of love for humanity. But after all, risk is risk. For this reason, La Russophobe has a link to the eXile's website. By no means should this link be construed as an endorsement of the site or the publication as a whole, and given what follows there is no way of telling how long she'll be able to justify it.

So, with this in mind, it's time to take the eXile to task. Let's see if they can take it as well as they dish it out (which is rather badly, so it's quite a low standard even the kiddies at eXile should be able to meet).

A new item in the eXile by editor Mark Ames (pictured above) starts like this:

Bush's America has gone from the world's bitch-slappers to the world's bitch-niggaz. That means that even resurgent Russia is causing Americans a serious case of Putin-Envy.
Mr. Ames is a wonderfully educated and erudite fellow, isn't he? You can hardly help but credit every word that follows after a brilliant introduction like that. And at the same time he's so cool and hip, isn't he? Isn't it amazing how he can pull off both of them at the same time? It really makes you stop and wonder what sort of vast right-wing conspiracy is at work for such a genius to have been denied a Pulitzer Prize for so long.

Note to Mr. Ames: Not that you care, but I now think of you as maybe a racist mysogenist, and I have no doubt that many others do as well. If you don't mind leaving that out there, so be it. But maybe you'd like to reconsider and correct this impression in the future?

What proof does Mr. Ames offer his readers of America's newfound jealousy of Russia? It's the article from Newsweek magazine previously published by La Russophobe entitled "Why Russia is Really Weak." There's not a shred of truth in it, Mr. Ames says, and the only reason it appeared in Newsweek was that Americans are consumed by a frenzied jealousy of wonderful Russia and that Newsweek is the helpless pawn of the Republican party and the religious right.

Mr. Ames refers to the authors of the Newsweek article thusly: "Rajan Menon and Alexander Motyl -- a pair of academic beigeocrats with appropriate ethnic names." Beigeocrat is the term Mr. Ames uses for someone who doesn't speak in obsenities . A person who punctuates with four-letter-words like Mr. Ames is a Rainbowcrat, I guess. You know, the kind of rainbows you see when you've sniffed just a tad too much glue. A white-skinned person with a name like "Ames" might worry about sounding racist by using a phrase like "appropriate ethnic names" but luckily for Mr. Ames he is in Russia, so his main concern is probably whether he sounds racist enough.

You see, dear reader, it's like this: Mr. Ames isn't ever going to get published in Newsweek magazine. In fact, he isn't ever going to get published anywhere that matters (and even if he were he'd be instantly forgotten), and that's all that matters to him. He fancies himself a "writer" and he's just sure that he's cleverer than everybody else on the face of the earth, so it really burns him up that nobody with an actual circulation (other than Playboy) will publish him and guzzle down his wisdom like Russians guzzle vodka, but to better effect. He's not going to write the great American novel, or the great Russian novel, in fact not even the great Moldovan post card. In the end, after he found it he just couldn't cut it in America, or any decent country for that matter, he ended up in Russia -- where it's easy for him to feel superior to just about everybody, but after a while that just isn't very satisfying when you've got an ego the size of Mongolia. So then it's time to start spitting crazed poison.

Oh, and quite a lot of poison, too. 4,194 words worth of it. The article in Newsweek that he was responding to was well under 700 words (666 to be exact -- clear proof to somebody like Mr. Ames that it was written by the Devil, I guess). So in other words, Mr. Ames needed more than six words to respond to each one of Newsweek's -- and yet he criticizes Newsweek for needing to insert the word "really" in the title. You spend enough time in Russia drinking the water and listening to the television, and this is what is bound to happen to your "brain."

And you tend to gloss over silly little things like facts when you're "writing" in this state. So, for instance, Mr. Ames fails to let his readers know that Dr. Menon is Monroe J. Rathbone Professor of International relations at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. He has a PhD from the University of Illinois and a resume of publications as long as your arm (click through on his name for his resume). And likewise he fails to tell his readers (if such there be) that Dr. Motyl holds a PhD from Columbia University and is Professor of Political Science, and Deputy Director of the Division of Global Affairs, and co-director of the Central and East European Studies Program at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Of course, while you're not mentioning facts like those, you also don't mention your own educational credentials -- or lack thereof. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Ames "attended the University of California." But it doesn't say he graduated, or what he studied. He then "played in a short-lived punk band" while he "'lived in poverty and spitefulness with a Czech girlfriend in a suburban California nursing home." Impressive stuff, is it not? Especially compared to the good doctors. Certainly more than enough credentials to opine on Russia's economic condition.

Knowing this, you probably wouldn't have to read through all 4,000+ words "written" by Mr. Ames (as if anyone could, or would) in order to confirm there was no need to read even one of them before concluding that the man (well, very little boy) is really quite insane.

In fact, you probably realized as soon as you saw the opening sentence of Mr. Ames' "work" that the only thing he got right in his crazed diatribe was the importance of jealousy. But not whether America was "jealous" of Russia's $300/month incomes, or its 55 year male adult lifespan, or its universal conscription (and horrific military hazing), or its ongoing war in Chechnya, or its declining population, or its pandemic race violence, or its aid to Hamas and Hezbollah. Because, of course, jealousy of those things doesn't exist. Rather, of course, we're speaking of Mr. Ames' puny, pathetic jealousy of Newsweek, and all the significant publications of the world that dared to refuse him their pages for the dissemination of his brilliance.

If you read Mr. Ames, here's a few of the "facts" you'll learn:
  • Anyone who reads the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post or the New York Times is a moron. Only those who read the eXile have intellligence.
  • The fact that the Journal, the Post, the Times and Newsweek, to say nothing of not one but two PhDs, agree with each other and disagree with Mr. Ames proves how smart Mr. Ames is.
  • Russia won the war in Chechnya.
  • It's just fine to refer to America as "a nation of Bible-thumping, pious militarists" but if you refer to Russia as "weak" this means "it's okay to hate Russia and to despise it for being weak, because that's all the bastards deserve" (isn't it wonderful how Mr. Ames leads by example?).
  • The Newsweek article by two PhDs is "pathetic" and guilty of "schoolyard-taunting" by including the word "really" in the title but Mr. Ames' article, full of devastating insights like "Fuck no, bitch!" is a work of mature genius.
La Russophobe is informed that David Johnson edited Mr. Ames' piece to remove all the outrageous, childish profanity ("so it can get through spam filters"), while leaving in of course the racist-sounding statement about the professors' names, and then ran it in Johnson's Russia List (the entire boldfaced lead-in appearing at the top of this page was deleted). Sadly, La Russophobe isn't even a little bit surprised. Good old Dave apparently has plenty of time to run any defense of the Putin autocracy he can find (he's got plenty of payback obligations after all the octopus he devoured at Valdai), and meanwhile no time at all to put any coverage of racism in Russia on his website. Hopefully, at least a few readers of the JRL will find time to write Dave and object to the circulation of this pornographic slurry of excrement as part of a so-called serious attempt to "understand" Russia -- and maybe even ask a few questions about how the Valdai Experience has colored the judgment of the JRL, increasingly superfluous in the Internet Age. You know, like how it is that a person who doesn't speak Russian and has never lived in the country manages to edit such a publication. And maybe one or two will even find time to write Mr. Ames and ask how he can possibly allow his "writing" to be published on the JRL by David, one of the world's leading beigeocrats if ever there was one. Not even a little hypocritical? Doesn't Mr. Ames show himself as an Uncle Tomski among the Rainbowcrats?

On the other hand, if Ames is the best (or any) criticism of Drs. Menon & Motyl, they're surely due for a Nobel Prize. And if he's the best friend Russia's got, the poor country is even more doomed than La Russophobe dared to imagine. Maybe that was the point the JRL was trying to make by publishing this drivel. As if.

So now you, dear reader have a choice. You've got a lump of cash in your pocket, and you have to bet it. You can bet on the version of the world etched by Drs. Menon & Motyl (and by La Russophobe every day of the week), or you can bet on the finger painting by Comrade Ames. Think of it like this: You're going to be transported 100 years into the future and dropped into either Russia or the United States, to take up a position in society chosen purely at random, and live in that position for the rest of your life. Which country will you choose?

It's up to you.

In closing, it should be pointed out that La Russophobe has not shied away from making tough criticism of academic analysis of Russia, and it's certainly worthwhile to at least consider the views of someone who is at Ground Zero in Russia, so La Russophobe would be the last one to judge the eXile too harshly. Still, when La Russophobe looks back on her recent criticism of Dr. Stuart Malawer of George Mason University, she feels there is a marked contrast with the eXile's screed. First, Malawer is at least as much of a "beigeocrat" as Menon and Motyl -- yet for some reason the eXile has no problem with Malawer's pro-Russian beigeocracy. Second, La Russophobe didn't need to rely on the cheap, shoddy obscenity that permeates the eXile piece. Third, La Russophobe's analysis is no longer than that of Dr. Malawer. Fourth, her analysis is permeated with hyperlinks to source material contradicting Dr. Malawer. The eXile offers readers virtually no information of this kind, just the wild-eyed views of its author. Fifth, there is nothing in La Russophobe's analysis that disparages higher learning, for which La Russophobe has nothing but the highest respect. The eXile seems to feel that anyone who actually reads books and does research should be shipped of to a gulag.

Still, though, the eXile's tirade is so pathetic, so devoid of meaningful content and so self-indulgently puerile that it actually gives La Russophobe pause. It can't be denied that the eXile's tone was vaguely present in the Malawer piece, and the association is embarrassing. Even though La Russophobe had every right to be outraged at the gross misrepresentations contained in the Malawer piece and to express that outrage, and even though she showed remarkable restraint compared to the eXile's example, maybe she went a bit too far with the tone and not quite far enough in acknowledging Malawer's credentials. She will bear this in mind for future reference. She will not become an eXile. And if the eXile itself can't get a grip, she'll have no choice but to delist them. So it just goes to show that you can learn something even from an idiot.

Shame on you, boys. Get a grip!

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