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Western racism and the stereotyping of Russians

The ugly stereotyping of Russians which has become pervasive in the West, is the last remaining acceptable form of Western racism. Like all forms of racism, it is however offensive, dehumanising and dangerous.

Alexander Mercouris

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In a world of political correctness one form of ethnic stereotyping in the West remains not merely tolerated but even fashionable. This is the ethnic stereotyping of Russians.

Russians are nowadays regularly represented in the West in certain characteristic ways. 

Russian men are brutish, sullen, slovenly, often drunk, and always cruel.  They speak in thick heavy accents.  They dress badly, are dishonest, violent and greedy.  They treat women oafishly.  Their taste is comically terrible.  If they are rich they are corrupt; “Russia” and “corruption” being two words which Westerners have conflated with each other.  Typical Russian men are thieves, hitmen or crooks, an honest Russian businessman (an “oligarch”) being a contradiction in terms.

During the Cold War the Western stereotype image of Russian women was that they were fat, masculine and ugly.  It came with a measure of condescension.  Russian women typically were represented as peasants, street cleaners or tractor drivers.

Today the Western stereotypical image of Russian women is that they are beautiful.  However this is not something to be celebrated.  On the contrary it is something to be feared or at least to be on one’s guard against. 

Where Russian women during the Cold War were thought of as plain and dull but ultimately honest, today they are represented as materialistic, money-focused, tacky, manipulative, promiscuous, under-dressed and amoral.  They are femmes fatales out to gull unsuspecting innocent Westerners of their secrets, their morals, and (of course) their money.  Typically they are spies, prostitutes or gangsters’ molls.

Russians, both male and female, are according to these stereotypes axiomatically dishonest. The ease with which the Western public accepted the entirely unproven claims of Russian cheating during the recent Olympic doping scandal without giving the Russians the slightest benefit of the doubt is a good example of this.  

The supporters of the demand for a blanket ban on Russian athletes competing in the Rio Olympics did not feel the need to justify their claim that the Russians should be denied the presumption of innocence.  Since the Western stereotype of Russians is that they are axiomatically dishonest there was no pressure on them to do this.

Russians are also at one and the same time – and despite the obvious contradiction – both diabolically cunning and rather stupid.  They are also completely incompetent and inefficient.  Nonetheless they are scary because they are so aggressive and so violent.

The one quality Westerns do typically allow Russians is bravery.  Russia’s record of victory in war makes it impossible to do otherwise.  However this Russian bravery is not thought of as being the same as Western courage.  Rather it is the product of Russians’ underlying stupidity and aggressiveness and their supposedly characteristically Russian obsession with money and power.  

As might be expected of such people Russians in the Western imagination spend their ill-gotten gains in the most dreadfully hedonistic way: on yachts, luxuries, partying and promiscuous sex.  If Moscow today unlike during the Cold War is famous for its nightlife this is not something to be celebrated – as it is for example in the case of Berlin – but is all of a piece with the supposedly gross appetites of Russians, making it somehow sinister.

Russia itself is of course all that might be expected of a country which produces such terrible people. 

It is violent, corrupt and brutal, ruled over by a government as violent, corrupt and brutal as the people over whom it rules.  Like the people it is scarily aggressive, diabolically cunning but also somehow stupid and inefficient.  As a result, though it is threatening and dangerous, it is also overweening and in the end somehow absurd. 

Needless to say the leader of such a country must be a macho thug, who typically poses topless on a horse.  Ruthless” is perhaps the most common word used to describe him.  He is a gangster – violent, amoral, corrupt, cunning and ruthless – like the people he leads.

That this Western stereotype of Russia and Russians is so far detached from reality that I find it impossible to relate any part of it to the truth should not need to be said. 

For the record, Russia – or at least those parts of Russia which I have visited – has impressed me as extremely law-abiding and orderly, with Russians coming across as family-centred, tolerant, law abiding, well educated and very cultured – the latter to an often touchingly self-conscious degree.  Standards of personal and public honesty are in my experience actually very high, in the case of the straightforward directness of some Russians, unsettlingly high. 

As for Putin himself, on the only two occasions I have seen him in person, what struck me most about him other than his very highly developed sense of humour and his obvious intelligence was his old fashioned courtesy – a quality mentioned even by Obama in the gargantuan interview he recently gave to The Atlantic.  This largely unreported but obviously deeply ingrained habit of courtesy is something which immediately distances Putin from the stereotypical image most Westerners have of him.

In saying all this I of course do not deny Russia’s many problems.  Nor have I any wish to present Russians as better than they are.  However since this is an article about the negative stereotyping of Russia and of Russians it is the positive about them I have chosen to dwell on.

Negative stereotypes about various ethnicities of the kind that now circulate about Russia and about Russians have of course a long history in European and Western culture.  As recently as the 1970s stereotypical representations of various ethnicities such as Germans, people from the Caribbean, Indians and Pakistanis from the subcontinent, Irish and even Jews, were a stock feature of British comedy.  

They have now thankfully completely disappeared, having come to be seen – quite rightly – as  racist and deeply offensive of the people they stereotype.  British comedy is far the better for their absence.

One glaring exception however remains. 

Negative stereotyping of Russia and of Russians has not only not disappeared; it has grown far more common and become much worse.  Indeed it is now pervasive, repeated endlessly in Western films, on television, in the media, and in endless numbers of thrillers, graphic novels and pulp fiction stories.  It is so pervasive that no Westerner can avoid it, and very few can resist its influence.

What makes it much worse is that there is no objection to it.  Where at a time of Jihadist terrorism and violence negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims in the West is rightly and strongly condemned as Islamophobia, negative stereotyping of Russians goes by entirely unremarked.

This is the situation which clearly lies behind the strong reaction in Russia to the recent video release “Party like a Russian” by the British singer Robbie Williams. 

The video is in fact capable of more than one interpretation.  In my opinion it is not intended to be a mockery of Russians in general.  Rather it looks to me like a dig at a specific type of Russian: the corrupt Russian oligarch who has fled to Britain after stealing money from Russia.  

That this is the sort of Russian the video is intended to reference is in my opinion shown by the fact that the video is filmed in what is visibly a large English country house – one of the Tudor or Jacobean era – exactly the sort of opulent country residence favoured by a certain type of fugitive Russian oligarch who has fled to Britain to escape the Russian authorities and has found refuge here.  

In my opinion the lyrics of the song also bear out this interpretation.  They too seem to refer to someone who has fled Russia with his ill-gotten gains to enjoy the high life in the West under the West’s protection.

“It takes a certain type of man with a certain reputation

To alleviate the cash from a whole nation

…..

I put a bank inside a car, inside a plane, inside a boat

It takes half the western world just to keep my ship afloat”

(bold italics added)

If that is right then the video is actually intended – despite the unfortunate misuse of some Russian themes eg. the references to Rasputin, Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights, the 1917 Revolution, and the clothes obviously copied from the Russian ballet – to be sympathetic to the Russian people rather than hostile to them.

However given the massive negative stereotyping of Russia and of Russians – and the obvious overlap between the character depicted in the video and some of the stereotypical characteristics so often attributed in the West to Russians – I can completely understand why many people in Russia do not see the video that way, and have taken strong offence to it.  

Indeed the overlap is so strong that there are many people in the West who actually agree with them, and who approve of the video precisely because they see it as hostile to Russians and to President Putin in particular.

Which brings me to something else.  What the episode of the video shows is that when people in Russia – for completely understandable reasons – complain that they are being stereotyped, there is no rush in the West to reassure or support them, just as there is never any outcry when other more clearly negative stereotypical representations of Russians appear. 

The tidal wave of condemnation which reliably takes place whenever ugly stereotypical representations of (say) Jews, Muslims or Irish appear, in the case of Russians never happens.

Consider the response of the British newspaper The Guardian – that stalwart liberal defender of political correctness and anti-racism – to Russian protests about the Robbie Williams video

The Guardian’s response was neither to condemn the video, nor to discuss it in any meaningful way, nor to acknowledge why Russians might see it as offensive – as it surely would have done in the case of any other popular music video about any other ethnicity.  Instead it commissioned a single shortish article from the Russian journalist Natalia Antonova.  This it must be said starts promisingly enough

“Tired of political correctness, debates on cultural appropriation and being shamed over racist jokes on Twitter? Don’t worry. There is still an entire country you can safely stereotype – and it’s Russia, of course.

Although it has resulted in some controversy, Robbie Williams’s Party Like a Russian is not likely to negatively impact his career, spark a protest, or cause Robbie to be no-platformed should he suddenly feel the burning need to speak at an academic conference. It’s just a song about those crazy Russians, with their vodka-soaked escapades and curious penchant for putting dolls inside other dolls. Everybody knows that stereotyping Russians is a harmless bit of fun – and if you have a problem with it, you’re an oversensitive loser who can’t take a joke.

The idea that there are “good” and “bad” stereotypes is not new and, as Yale University professor Marijeta Bozovic has noted, there is something odd about the way in which tired cultural cliches are “smilingly tolerated by cosmopolitan elites when directed at Slavs in the 21st century”.”

The force of these entirely proper words is then however completely lost when Antonova claims that the video is actually correct after all.  Russians do party wildly – why Antonova has done it herself!  So really there is nothing to complain about!

Racial stereotyping is always something to complain about.  It is dehumanising, intolerant and ugly.  It is racist and profoundly offensive of its target.  This is so whenever it is used to mock or label any ethnicity or national or cultural group.  Russians are not an exception. 

A society that indulges in it, and which tolerates those who do, forfeits its claim to anti-racism and interracial tolerance.  The fact that it is treating just one ethnic group – Russians – in this way, denying them the moral and legal protection which it accords others, in no way diminishes its racism and intolerance.   It emphasises it. 

At a time of heightened international tension between the West and Russia the dehumanisation of Russians inherent in this sort of stereotyping also has multiple other negative consequences.

Firstly, it can only work against achieving understanding.   What understanding can there be between the West and those the West chooses to see as gangsters and savages?  

In the process it lowers the threshold where violence against Russians becomes acceptable.  This has been the invariable pattern of Western racism in the past against any group or ethnicity which it targets.  There is no reason to think that against Russians it will be any different.  

In doing so however it increases the danger of war.  Unlike other groups targeted by Western racism in the past, Russians have the capacity to resist and hit back, and their history shows that like all other peoples if pushed to extremes they will do so.

It is in the West’s own interests therefore to bring this ugly habit of stereotyping Russians to a stop.  This is one example – by no means the only one but certainly one of the more pressing – where the principles the West likes to proclaim – in this case of anti-racism – and its own interests fully coincide.

For that to happen however the stereotyping of Russians – like the stereotyping of all other cultures and ethnicities – must be condemned and identified as the straightforward racism that it of course is.

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It’s Back to the Iran-Contra Days Under Trump

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela.

Strategic Culture Foundation

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Authored by Wayne Madsen, via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Showing that he is adopting the neoconservative playbook every day he remains in office, Donald Trump handed the neocons a major win when he appointed Iran-contra scandal felon Elliott Abrams as his special envoy on Venezuela. Abrams pleaded guilty in 1991 to two counts of withholding information on the secret sale of US weapons for cash to help illegally supply weapons to the Nicaraguan right-wing contras, who were battling against the government of President Daniel Ortega. Abrams would have headed to a federal prison, but President George H. W. Bush, an unindicted co-conspirator in the scandal, issued pardons to Abrams and his five fellow conspirators – former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and former Central Intelligence Agency officials Alan Fiers, Duane “Dewey” Clarridge, and Clair George – on Christmas Eve 1991, during the final weeks of Bush’s lame duck administration.

Abrams escaped being charged with more serious crimes by Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh because he cut a last-minute deal with federal prosecutors. Trump, who has made no secret of his disdain for cooperating federal witnesses, would have normally called Abrams a “rat,” a gangster term meaning informant. The man who helped engineer the pardons for Abrams and his five convicted friends was none other than Bush’s Attorney General, William Barr, who has just been sworn in as Trump’s Attorney General. Trump, who is always decrying the presence of the “deep state” that thwarts his very move, has become the chief guardian of that entity.

During a recent hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, newly-minted congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, reminded her colleagues and the world about the sordid background of Abrams.

Omar zeroed in on Abrams’s criminal history:

“Mr. Abrams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair, for which you were later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush. I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful.”

Abrams, as is the nature of neocons, refused to respond to Omar and cited her comments as “personal attacks.”

Abrams’s and his fellow criminals’ use of mercenaries and “death squads” to conduct secret wars in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s has made a re-entrance under Trump. Abrams was brought on board by neocons like National Security Adviser John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to oversee a US military build-up in Colombia, said to be 5000 US troops, to support Venezuelan paramilitary and military efforts to topple President Nicolas Maduro. Abrams and Bolton are also believed to have retained the services of another unindicted conspirator in the Iran-contra affair, Michael Ledeen, a colleague of the disgraced and convicted former Trump National Security Adviser, retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Ledeen and Flynn co-authored a book titled, “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies.” The book contains nothing more than the standard neocon tripe one might expect from the likes of Ledeen.

An official investigation of the Iran-contra scandal by the late Republican Senator John Tower of Texas concluded that Abrams’s and Ledeen’s friend, Iranian-Jewish middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar, a long-time Mossad asset and well-known prevaricator, was extremely instrumental in establishing the back-channel arms deals with Iran. Ghorbanifar has long been on the CIA “burn list” as an untrustworthy charlatan, along with others in the Middle East of similar sketchy credentials, including the Iraq’s Ahmad Chalabi, Syria’s Farid “Frank” Ghadry, and Lebanon’s Samir “Sami” Geagea. These individuals, however, were warmly embraced by neocons like Abrams and his associates.

Abrams, whose links with Israeli intelligence has always been a point of consternation with US counter-intelligence officials, is part of an old cabal of right-wing anti-Soviet Democrats who coalesced around Senator Henry Jackson in the 1970s. Along with Abrams, this group of war hawks included Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, William Kristol, Douglas Feith, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Abram Shulsky, and Paul Wolfowitz. Later, this group would have its fingerprints on major US foreign policy debacles, ranging from Nicaragua and Grenada to Lebanon, Iraq, and Libya. Later, in December 2000, these neocons managed to convince president-elect George W. Bush of the need to “democratize” the Middle East. That policy would later bring not democracy but disaster to the Arab Middle East and North Africa.

Abrams and his cronies will not stop with Venezuela. They have old scores to settle with Nicaraguan President Ortega. The initiation of “regime change” operations in Nicaragua, supported by the CIA and the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami, have been ongoing for more than a year.

The Trump administration has already achieved a regime change victory of sorts in El Salvador. Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, who was expelled from the formerly-ruling left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) party and joined the right-wing GANA party, was recently elected president of El Salvador. Bukele has quickly re-aligned his country’s policies with those of the Trump administration. Bukele has referred to President Maduro of Venezuela as a “dictator.” He has also criticized the former FMLN government’s recognition of China and severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan. It will be interesting to see how a sycophant like Bukele will politically survive as Trump continues to call hapless asylum-seeking migrants from his country, who seek residency in the United States, “rapists, gang monsters, murderers, and drug smugglers.”

Another country heading for a US-installed “banana republic” dictator is Haiti. President Jovenal Moise has seen rioting in the streets of Port-au-Prince as the US State Department removed all “non-essential” personnel from the country. Moise, whose country has received $2 billion in oil relief from Venezuela, to help offset rising fuel prices, has continued to support the Maduro government. However, at the US-run and neo-colonial artifice, the Organization of American States (OAS), Moise’s envoys have been under tremendous pressure to cut ties with Venezuela and recognize the US puppet Juan Guaido as Venezuelan president. Moise’s refusal to do so resulted in armed gangs hitting the streets of Port-au-Prince demanding Moise’s resignation. It is the same neocon “regime change” playbook being used in Venezuela and Nicaragua.

There will be similar attempts to replace pro-Maduro governments in his remaining allies in the region. These include Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Abrams was also brought in as an adviser on Middle East policy in the George W. Bush administration. The carnage of Iraq is a stark testament to his record. In 2005, it was reported that two key Bush White House officials – Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams – gave a “wink and a nod” for the assassinations by Israeli-paid operatives of three key Lebanese political figures seeking a rapprochement with Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah – Member of Parliament Elie Hobeika, former Lebanese Communist Party chief George Hawi, and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In 2008, a United Nations panel headed by former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare later concluded Hariri was assassinated by a “criminal network” and not by either Syrian and Lebanese intelligence or Lebanese Hezbollah as proffered by Abrams and his friends in Washington.

Representative Omar was spot on in questioning why Abrams, whose name is as disgraced as his two fellow conspirators – Oliver North and John Poindexter – whose criminal convictions were overturned on appeal, is working for the Trump administration on Venezuela. The answer is that the neocons, who can sense, like raptors, Trump’s political weakness, have filled the vacuum left by top-level vacancies in the administration.

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Putin: If mid-range missiles deployed in Europe, Russia will station arms to strike decision centers

Putin: If US deploys mid-range missiles in Europe, Russia will be forced to respond.

RT

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Via RT…


If the US deploys intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Moscow will respond by stationing weapons aimed not only against missiles themselves, but also at command and control centers, from which a launch order would come.

The warning came from President Vladimir Putin, who announced Russia’s planned actions after the US withdraws from the INF Treaty – a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow which banned both sides form having ground-based cruise and ballistic missiles and developing relevant technology.

The US is set to unilaterally withdraw from the treaty in six months, which opens the possibility of once again deploying these missiles in Europe. Russia would see that as a major threat and respond with its own deployments, Putin said.

Intermediate-range missiles were banned and removed from Europe because they would leave a very short window of opportunity for the other side to decide whether to fire in retaliation after detecting a launch – mere minutes. This poses the threat of an accidental nuclear exchange triggered by a false launch warning, with the officer in charge having no time to double check.

“Russia will be forced to create and deploy weapon systems, which can be used not only against the territories from which this direct threat would be projected, but also against those territories where decision centers are located, from which an order to use those weapons against us may come.” The Russian president, who was delivering a keynote address to the Russian parliament on Wednesday, did not elaborate on whether any counter-deployment would only target US command-and-control sites in Europe or would also include targets on American soil.

He did say the Russian weapon system in terms of flight times and other specifications would “correspond” to those targeting Russia.

“We know how to do it and we will implement those plans without a delay once the relevant threats against us materialize,”he said.

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Labour MP split is a cheap and final ploy to derail BREXIT (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 179.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss a small group of UK Labour MPs decision to quit the party and sit as Independent MPs in the house of commons.

Their excuse for leaving Labour was directed at leader Jeremy Corbyn for presiding over an “institutionally anti-Semitic” party. The real reason they are leaving Labour is because they are staunch remain MPs and are hoping to derail Brexit.

The seven Labour MPs quitting the party to become ‘The Independent Group’, are Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey.

RT reports that Luciana Berger, the MP for Liverpool Wavertree took to the stage first, to claim that she could not stay in the party any more because it had become “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, a prominent ‘People’s Vote’ advocate appealed to all MPs, not just Labour, to join their group, as the current parties are part of the problem, not the solution.

He argued that “It is time we dumped this country’s old fashioned politics.” Umunna claimed the UK needed a political party “fit for the hear and now” and the “first step in leaving the tribal politics behind.”

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Via RT

Twitter has been rocked by the sudden departure of seven Labour MPs to form their own Independent Group, with party supporters feverishly debating whether the move is better for the party, or a wake-up call to Jeremy Corbyn.

Former shadow cabinet minister Chuka Umunna along with MPs Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey have all jumped ship in the biggest Labour Party split since 1981, when the so-called “gang of four” left to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

In a press conference, Umunna stated that the established parties “cannot be the change because they have become the problem” arguing that it is “time we dumped this country’s old-fashioned politics.”

Jewish MP Luciana Berger said she was “embarrassed and ashamed” at what the Labour Party had become and criticized her former party for becoming “sickeningly institutionally racist.”

“I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation. I look forward to a future serving with colleagues who respect each other,” she added.

Reaction to the news online has been a mixture of shock and dismay, to outright derision. Some Labour supporters were quick to delight in the departures, suggesting the party will be stronger without detractors undermining it from within.

Others though said it was time for Jeremy Corbyn to take the criticism seriously.

Meanwhile, some Twitter users commented on Young Labour’s somewhat barbed response to the situation.

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