Over the years, I have come across my fair share of liars and incompetents writing about Russia in major Western media outlets. But rarely have I encountered such heights of self-righteous arrogance and clownish, pathetic ignorance as Edward McMillan-Scott displays in his latest screed for The Guardian: “David Cameron must stand up to Putin“, where he uses Elena Bonner’s recent death to argue for a harder line against Russia.
Time to go grenade fishing again, i.e. fisking Russophobe articles – it’s as easy as it is ultimately pointless. As I’m banned from the Guardian‘s pond (for drawing attention to its mendacity and plagiarism) it will have to take place on my own blog.
Assume we’re discussing, let’s pick a totally random scenario, a British humanitarian intervention in 2014 to liberate Venezuela’s oil reserves oppressed citizenry from Hugo Chavez’s dictatorial regime. (Somewhat implausible true, as Britain will have the aircraft carriers but not the planes, but let’s indulge ourselves a bit). Activists are planning protests in London. Then an MP in the Duma’s ruling party, Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, writing on the necessity of standing up to Cameron for a national Russian newspaper, argues that only George Osborne will decide whether there will be kettling and preemptive arrests of demonstrators. Now considering that Osborne is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for economic and fiscal matters, would you retain much respect for the paper or Mr. Ivanov after this?
Because this is precisely analogous to what Edward McMillan-Scott writes: “Russia’s justice minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, is the puppet who will announce this week whether or not the Putin regime will allow any opposition parties to put up candidates in December’s parliamentary elections and the presidential poll next March.” As anyone who knows anything about Russian politics can tell you, Anatoly Serdyukov is the Defense Minister and has nothing to do whatsoever with approving opposition candidates.
A secondary, very minor point, but kind of relevant to the article, is that the “liberal group led by former premier Mikhail Kasyanov”, i.e. the PARNAS Gang of Four, has no public support (c. 2% approval) and is currently blocked because some of its signatures were falsified. Now if the true Russian opposition, the Communists (c. 20% approval), were to be blocked, now that would be a major cataclysm that would truly transform Russia into a one-party regime. (However, that would no doubt sit just fine with Mr. McMillan-Scott, given his approval for Elena Bonner’s thug-like support for Yeltsin’s shelling of elected representatives of the people in 1993).
“However, since the beginning of the Putin era in 2000 the slide towards autocracy has accelerated.” This is a common trope of the Russophobes, and a pretty hilarious one at that. In their world, Russia is always sliding into the neo-Soviet Union or some such. It was sliding there in 2000 (KGB, Putin, Chechnya). It was sliding in 2003 (Khodorkovsky: true Western democracies only imprison poor people, dammit!). It was sliding in 2006 (Litvinenko). It was sliding in 2008 (Georgia, New Cold War!). It continues sliding to this day (Medvedev, puppet of Putin). When will it finally get there? If Mr. McMillan-Scott can participate in a conference at “Metropol Hotel just off Red Square” where he and other members of the liberal mutual admiration society spend their time uttering platitudes about human rights and condemning “European leaders’ comments on the regime as the sort of mumbo-jumbo used by magicians” it must be sliding awfully slow.
Then he approving cites the efforts of US senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain on introducing a “resolution calling on Russia to register opposition political parties, allow free media, respect freedom of assembly and permit international and domestic monitors for the coming elections.” The idea that cold warrior John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who pushes for the introduction of Chinese-style censorship onto the US Internet, are motivated by their concern for human rights in Russia is utterly bizarre; not when they both so feverishly work to further undermine human rights (and deny any that do happen) in the US, Israel, and other Western countries. But as Eugene Ivanov notes, it is also a gross violation of national sovereignty that will be laughed off into utter irrelevance by any minimally self-respecting country: “Nice! The only thing that the future resolution is missing is obliging President Medvedev to have all his orders and decrees first approved by the Lieberman’s and McCain’s offices.”
In the next paragraph, McMillan-Scott recommends more EU/Russia cooperation – but only under the condition of “ending “politically motivated court decisions” against various figures, most recently Mikhail Khodorkovsky, removing curbs on press freedom, pulling its troops out of Georgia and allowing gay parades.” Let me note that in one of the above conditions, he will be going against a court opinion of a core EU institution, the European Court of Human Rights, which recently ruled that there is no evidence Khodorkovsky’s arrest and trial were politically motivated.
As for gay prides, the decisions of some municipal authorities, e.g. Moscow’s, to ban them is of course a bad thing; but one that does not come under the purview of the federal administration. Under that logic, some EU countries like Latvia have had cities banning gay pride parades as late as 2009. I don’t remember McMillan-Scott condemning them or urging them to be kicked out of European institutions, but then again – as is common for people of his ilk – human rights abuses only happen in non-Western countries, especially those that reject Western imperialism.
There is no point even in addressing the Georgia issue, in which Russian troops and Ossetian civilians were ruthlessly attacked in the dead of night (especially coming as it does from a country that has fought two interventionist wars of its own choosing in Iraq and Libya in the past decade). Likewise with the media, where in Britain if you want to watch TV at all, you have to pay taxes to support the British Brainwashing Corporation, otherwise known as the BBC, whose head was sacked in 2004 for arguing that the government “sexed up” the case for the Iraq War.
But the pièce de résistance is yet to come. The small stewed cherry to the incarnadine whipped cream and compote: “The Arab spring, which has sprinkled its magic as far as China, has had no reflection in Russia. We were told that this was because Putin had so distorted the Russian economy that incomes continued to rise in a false boom.” Well, that’s certainly news to me. The 6% annual growth rates of the last decade (as reported by any international economic organization), the skyscrapers going up in Russian cities, the fast proliferating cars, computers and aifonchiki – they must have all been a mirage; Putinist distortions; products of our collective delusions. Alternatively, we can accept reality and wish Britain the same “distortions” that Putin inflicted on Russia – they would be clear improvements over its economic stagnation and a fiscal deficit topping 13% of GDP.
Mr. McMillan-Scott rounds up by making one final appeal for Britain to speak truth bullshit he makes up to power (not that the strategy has met with much success of late). Consider the number of mistakes, outright lies or inaccuracies he manages to make in the mere 855 words of his article. Consider also that the UK (like Russia) also commits innumerable human rights violations, abroad as well as at home, and that (unlike Russia) it increasingly resembles an economic basket-case with no growth, declining North Sea hydrocarbon reserves and unsustainable finances. Now you be the judge of the wisdom of McMillan-Scott’s recommendations.
Yeps, that’s right. For nowadays whenever fools like him try to do stand-up, to Putin or anyone else, they fall flat on their faces to general laughter.