Sunday, February 22, 2015

The NY Times Hosts a Week of Putin Bashing by Jewish Ex-pats

The media is full of "Russia = Bad" signaling. It has been loaded with columns from the likes of Anne Applebaum, Masha Gessen, George Soros, and a lot of writers that I would never see in church on Sunday. Adding fuel to the American Jews hate Russia conspiracy theory, Gary Shteyngart penned an essay in the NY Times magazine about watching Russian TV for a week. There is a beauty to this in that we see the thede concept exemplified as suddenly Gary, who as a Columbia University professors, would probably pshaw at bourgeois American television to signal his elite status, will now mock Russian television as an inferior product and propaganda system. Switch him back to analyzing American television, and he would be bashing anything Americana or connected to Fox News. His essay is remarkable in its lack of self awareness as he watches Russian tv in the Four Seasons for a week, creating a running diary of sorts. This is an attempt at comedy, but it fails in an epic fashion since it is a word diarrhea of derision. This shall be a running diary of his running diary.

Shteyngart starts by mocking a Russian parody of the Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst. This is prog snark at its best. He mocks how the show is a bit honky tonk, the Russian MC of the show is assumed to be gay, an ultranationalist politician is the Russian Michele Bachmann, gangs of Russians are attacking gays calling themselves Occupy Pedophilia, and that evil Russians are not tolerant. His friend still in Russia warns him that Russian television is a "biohazard". This is an amazing lack of self awareness. Tolerance would be allowing Wurst to perform in the show. Glorification is having shim be the Austrian entry and then the winner of the entire exhibition. The Russians are the evil ones to not immediately hug, kiss and praise the newest oddity (trans*). Slipping in the odd comparison of a male Russian ultranationalist to Michele bachmann is a pretty funny one since first, Bachmann is no longer an active politician and second, American progressive political space is so pussified that he can only think of Michele Bachmann as a comparison. She was anti-immigration and barely allowed onstage to talk about it, and she is a woman. The bonus is that Shteyngart is calling Russian television a biohazard with no hedging at all that all television is a biohazard.

Day 1

Shteyngart starts with jokes on the Russian style of presenting and performing music. This takes a quick detour for him to bring the focus on the essay back to himself and mention bar mitzvahs in Queens and Brooklyn from his teenage years. He is an immigrant folks! Pay attention to his unique life experience! He cites the 432 Park Avenue tower and the potential for Russian purchasers of million dollar units. Ah yes, the oligarchs. What he avoids saying is that it is us Americans who are accepting their greenbacks to keep our bubble alive. Money laundering takes on national security importance in 2015 America.

There is then a switch into discussing the Sochi Olympics, and the geopolitical brouhaha of 2014. He mentions Ukraine, Crimea and oil. The Ukrainians had a pro-European revolution. That statement itself is propaganda. We know from the leaked Victoria Nuland (hmm, another American Jew) phone call that it was a US orchestrated coup after Yanukovych turned to Russia for a simple economic deal. Shteyngart cites the rise of propaganda as the oil price drops. He obviously is not a viewer of the nightly news in America or CNBC (no one watches CNBC). What is so different? Unemployment is down in the US to what 6%, yet why are there still nearly 50 million on food stamps and 9 million on SSDI? Why are wages stagnant if the labor market is to tight? The US news tells em the recovery is in year 6. Is American press not just the same state propaganda?

Day 2

The kernal of difference between this transplant and the subject of his derision might be best encapsulated in this little piece he chooses to insert in the diary. "'Love of homeland is one of the most powerful, elevating feelings,' Putin declared, with his patented affectless-yet-deadly seriousness." As a kid, I loved how Reagan spoke on camera, where he used his actor's charm to lure viewers in, and Putin is a head of state speaking. Some seriousness should be expected, but maybe Shteyngart is too use to our effete C-in-C speaking in cheesy clichés. The selection of the phrase contrasts with the American elite who switch between shame, embarrassment and hatred of their homeland. It also is a little insight into Russian born, American immigrant writer Shteyngart's point of view. As a conversation narcissist, he cannot prevent himself from injecting his crappy existence into the flavoring of this essay.

A rundown of the news points out the attractive, dead eyed men and women of the newscasts. Ah yes, these are so different from American news anchors. Shteyngart mentions the Putin tone that these anchors speak in as a way of speaking best captured as "out of my mouth comes unimpeachable manly truth". Manly truth. Definitely has connotations, but since it is from Putin, it is an evil. This is how the American left has neutered their male politicians and pundits. One cannot even speak in a manly tone. He does mention the ruble collapse and "gradual pauperization of his subjects". This is an odd mention and lacking self-awareness as Russia's middle class has slowly grown and become strong since Putin has taken power. The Russian Gini coefficient is actually better than America's, which is amazing because America is a much more diverse economy compared to Russian natural resources dependent economy. He finishes this day's diary entry by nitpicking the Russian propaganda point of neo-Nazis being in the Ukrainian government, which would have some credibility if not for the American left's equation of anything to the right of the National Review as mouth breathing Nazi Klansmen as a means to smear political opponents.

Day 3

We get a rundown of his little walk outside his "cage" at the Four Seasons. He eventually gets back to Russian tv to mention a news report, citing some violence in Kiev. He then snarks about the Russians waiting a whole minute before making a Nazi reference. Once again, tea partiers, Nixon, any Republican US presidential candidate since 1972, white gun owners, you name it, the American press has made a fine living out of painting anyone Nazis or invoking the name of Hitler. We have Godwin's Law for a reason, Shteyngart. Pot meet kettle, both of an Ashkenazi craftsman.

An interesting thing, yes there is one, is his mention of a Russian rom-com that is chaste. Like why aren't they showing the sex scenes, brah? This is a nice passage I will cut and paste.

I’m noticing a trend of movies about Russians in their mid-30s who are not yet married, a phenomenon confounding to most Russians who prefer to marry, have 1.61 children and then divorce early in life (according to the United Nations, Russia consistently has one of the highest divorce rates). Like most Russian rom-coms, the movie seems overly long, wordy and ridiculously chaste. Even a mild kiss fades out before anything can happen under the sheets.

Has he seen the garbage Hollywood churns out? Does he understand the American marriage market? Mid-30s not yet married might as well describe every Jennifer Ansiton, Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson rom-com character despite a nation that marries at 26, has 2.1 kids and gets divorced 40% of the time. America is an equally hypersexualized nation and culture that will refuse to show the freaky under the sheets stuff in a rom-com and keep things to kisses onscreen. This seems inserted more for Shteyngart to stab at the Orthodox Church. A "new conservatism" that is butting heads with the "progressive notions the Soviet Union instilled". Those beautiful progressive notions that were instilled with a bloody revolution and savage killing of millions of Russians. Wonder what group was overrepresented with that Revolution and social reform in the old USSR. That was when Russia was good, not now with their nationalist stance.

Day 4

More derision at Russian news citing Nazi references. Since Shteyngart didnt come to the US until the late '70s, he missed McGovern campaigning in 1972 and calling Nixon and his administration a Nazi and Klansmen despite expanding affirmative action. He mocks a women shown who calls herself ordinary and can shoot a gun and catch ducks. I guess Russian rednecks are open targets for derision. he follows this up with a lunch with writer Anya Ulinich and professor Olga Gershenson. SIGNAL: writer and professor means good, educated Russians so trust them! There is another signal here, but you must look a bit deeper. A Russian friend of mine in college said, "If the name ends in -ich and it is not the patronymic, it's a Jew". You're not going to believe this but Anya and Olga are two more Russian Jews living in America. Guess what? They blame Putin for bad stuff happening! Oh man, I know, totally out of left field. The one positive that they all say about the Russian television programs: a man and woman clad in leather dancing and appearing to have "leather intercourse" is an "amazing" and "kind of cool" ballet. Approve the weird! USA, USA, USA!

Day 5

He has a psychiatrist. The shrink visits him. The entire diary entry for Day 5 is his little session with the shrink. "Hi, this is Stereotypes Incorporated calling? This is a worn out cliché that might qualify for a hate crime in certain jurisdictions." The narcissist brings it all back to him and his struggle. The amazing lack of self awareness is on display as he does not notice with all the American movies on Russian tv he is writing about and basic propaganda, that it is the same over here. Same garbage. I wish I could say this is fictional, but there is a picture of him with his shrink.

Day 6

True or not, there is comedy to his mentioning all of his drinking. Very Russian. Nice touch. The one thing I find unbelievable is the Four Seasons room service lady has a Russian name. She isn't Central American? Surprised. He notes a Maury Povich style paternity test show, but he is so out of touch he calls it a Jerry Springer style show despite Maury taking over as the Jewish daytime talk show host who rides a gimmick into the ground. Oh the agony of watching Russian state TV! He is spared by breaking his rules and cheating (stereotype much?) by going to progressive Russian news site (Slon) that his friends (good Russians) "subsist" on that he calls the "Slates and Salons of Russia". That is damning by what he considers great praise. Who are the good Russian who read Slon? Why they are mirror images of the good American who read Slate and Salon here, "mainly younger and urbane". Russia must have SWPLs, too, wearing horn rimmed glasses and hating their country. Yes, because cultural leadership by SWPLs and hipsters has worked wonders for the west for 50 years.

Day 7

Celebrating Orthodox Christmas is beginning on Russian state TV. he will not be celebrating. Neither will his new visitor, Russian born novelist and journalist, Keith Gessen. Is he? No, it can't be another. It is Masha Gessen's brother! We have another Russian Jewish American immigrant to add to the essay for Putin bashing. That makes it 5 for 5 in this essay. Is it too late to start up that "American Jewish Conspiracy to Destroy Putin and Russia" website? Gold, Jerry! He remarks how the Russian news does not feel like the news but "a message sent to you by the Kremlin". Keith, can I call you Keith, what amount of American coordination between the Obama White House and the American media does there need to be before you say the same thing here? Gessen and Shteyngart discuss a wild rebel commander, Batman, who was killed by other rebel leaders or Russian for being too out of control. Weird how the Ukrainians are not doing that with their neo-Nazi buddies.

There is another passage that is beautiful in it's lack of self-awareness. The writing is well done, and is nice to see from a professor.

Putin stands there, the centerpiece of his tableau, a contented man. Therein lies the brilliance of Russian television and why watching a week of it has been so painful. Unless you’re a true believer, its endless din just reminds you of how alone you are in another man’s designs. That man is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. These are his channels, his shows, his dreams and his faith.


Shteyngart is confident of the 2015 Channel 1 news being seen as horrible as old Soviet news documentaries. He cannot bear to put the American product under the same microscope. Loving one's nation, traditional approaches to family life and other hick sentiments are more the historical norm than glorifying gays, pushing BDSM and whatever it is that Shteyngart and all of his guests' cousins in Hollywood and NYC are pushing on America. What is even weirder is the insinuation that the Russians are secretly gay themselves, which I thought was bad taste humor and homophobic when don in America. This essay is a failure at comedy. It does not work. It is very Daily Show in its attempt where it shows you the "other", points and laughs at it, expecting you to laugh along as it is the "other" and therefore dumb, crude and stupid. he is part fo the ruling class, and it is his right and privilege to point and laugh. 


Anonymous said...

Russian Jews in NYC hate Putin with the same passion they loved Stalin.

seriously said...

thank you for having a pair.

Toddy Cat said...

Moldbug once referred to this type of journalism as "Speaking Power to Truth".

Anonymous said...

We know from the leaked Victoria Nuland (hmm, another American Jew) phone call that it was a US orchestrated coup after Yanukovych turned to Russia for a simple economic deal.

You are attaching an awful lot of importance to a phone call. You might not think much of Ukrainians but I assure you they are not only fully human (they can exercise agency) but they know more about their own country and Russian militarism than snarky American Putinistas.

Russian Jews in NYC hate Putin with the same passion they loved Stalin

Russian Jews in Russia don't feel the same way.

Toddy Cat said...

I have all the sympathy in the world for the Ukrainians, Anon, especially after what Stalin did to them, but if Ukes think that American liberals are their friends, they're nuts. American liberals cared nothing about Ukrainians when good old "Uncle Joe" was starving them, they cared nothing about them when Khrushchev was shooting them, and they don't care anything about them now. Ukrainians will be chewed up and spit out when they have served their purpose, stabbed in the back like Diem, like Chiang, like Batista, like the Kurds. Putin is no better, but he'll stab you in the front...

nikcrit said...

Putin is no better, but he'll stab you in the front...

True dat, however inconvenient said truth might be.

Mr Glendale said...

>> Russian Jews in NYC hate Putin with the same passion they loved Stalin

> Russian Jews in Russia don't feel the same way

... and not all American Jews hate Putin ... and not all blacks voted for Obama ... and not all Nazis committed genocide ... What's your point?