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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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Is this man the puppet master of Ukraine’s new president or an overhyped bogeyman?

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

RT

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Via RT…


It doesn’t actually matter if Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Igor Kolomoisky is the real power behind Volodymyr Zelensky – the president elect has to get rid of the oligarch if he is to make a break with the country’s corrupt past.

The plots, deceits and conflicts of interest in Ukrainian politics are so transparent and hyperbolic, that to say that novice politician Zelensky was a protégé of his long-time employer was not something that required months of local investigative journalism – it was just out there.

Zelensky’s comedy troupe has been on Kolomoisky’s top-rated channel for the past eight years, and his media asset spent every possible resource promoting the contender against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, a personal enemy of the tycoon, who hasn’t even risked entering Ukraine in the past months.

Similarly, the millions and the nous needed to run a presidential campaign in a country of nearly 50 million people had to come from somewhere, and Kolomoisky’s lieutenants were said to be in all key posts. The two issued half-hearted denials that one was a frontman for the other, insisting that they were business partners with a cordial working relationship, but voters had to take their word for it.

Now that the supposed scheme has paid off with Zelensky’s spectacular victory in Sunday’s run-off, Ukrainian voters are asking: what does Kolomoisky want now, and will he be allowed to run the show?

‘One-of-a-kind chancer’

Born in 1963, in a family of two Jewish engineers, Kolomoisky is the type of businessman that was once the staple of the post-Soviet public sphere, but represents a dying breed.

That is, he is not an entrepreneur in the established Western sense at all – he did not go from a Soviet bloc apartment to Lake Geneva villas by inventing a new product, or even setting up an efficient business structure in an existing field.

Rather he is an opportunist who got wealthy by skilfully reading trends as the Soviet economy opened up – selling Western-made computers in the late 1980s – and later when independent Ukraine transitioned to a market economy and Kolomoisky managed to get his hands on a large amount of privatisation vouchers that put many of the juiciest local metals and energy concerns into his hands, which he then modernised.

What he possesses is a chutzpah and unscrupulousness that is rare even among his peers. Vladimir Putin once called him a “one-of-a-kind chancer” who managed to “swindle [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich himself.” In the perma-chaos of Ukrainian law and politics, where all moves are always on the table, his tactical acumen has got him ahead.

Kolomoisky’s lifeblood is connections and power rather than any pure profit on the balance sheet, though no one actually knows how that would read, as the Privat Group he part-owns is reported to own over 100 businesses in dozens of Ukrainian spheres through a complex network of offshore companies and obscure intermediaries (“There is no Privat Group, it is a media confection,” the oligarch himself says, straight-faced.)

Unsurprisingly, he has been dabbling in politics for decades, particularly following the first Orange Revolution in 2004. Though the vehicles for his support have not been noted for a particular ideological consistency – in reportedly backing Viktor Yushchenko, then Yulia Tymoshenko, he was merely putting his millions on what he thought would be a winning horse.

Grasp exceeds reach

But at some point in the post-Maidan euphoria, Kolomoisky’s narcissism got the better of him, and he accepted a post as the governor of his home region of Dnepropetrovsk, in 2014.

The qualities that might have made him a tolerable rogue on TV, began to grate in a more official role. From his penchant for using the political arena to settle his business disputes, to creating his own paramilitary force by sponsoring anti-Russian battalions out of his own pocket, to his somewhat charmless habit of grilling and threatening to put in prison those less powerful than him in fits of pique (“You wait for me out here like a wife for a cheating husband,” begins a viral expletive-strewn rant against an overwhelmed Radio Free Europe reporter).

There is a temptation here for a comparison with a Donald Trump given a developing country to play with, but for all of the shenanigans, his ideological views have always been relatively straightforward. Despite his Russia-loathing patriotism, not even his fans know what Kolomoisky stands for.

The oligarch fell out with fellow billionaire Poroshenko in early 2015, following a battle over the control of a large oil transport company between the state and the governor. The following year, his Privat Bank, which at one point handled one in four financial transactions in the country was nationalized, though the government said that Kolomoisky had turned it into a mere shell by giving $5 billion of its savings to Privat Group companies.

Other significant assets were seized, the government took to London to launch a case against his international companies, and though never banished, Kolomoisky himself decided it would be safer if he spent as long as necessary jetting between his adopted homes in Switzerland and Tel Aviv, with the occasional trip to London for the foreseeable future.

But the adventurer falls – and rises again. The London case has been dropped due to lack of jurisdiction, and only last week a ruling came shockingly overturning the three-year-old nationalization of Privat Bank.

Smiling to himself, Kolomoisky would be within his rights to think that he has never had it so good.

Own man

Zelensky must disabuse him of that notion.

It doesn’t matter that they are friends. Or what handshake agreements they made beforehand. Or that he travelled to Geneva and Tel-Aviv 13 times in the past two years. Or what kompromat Kolomoisky may or may not have on him. It doesn’t matter that his head of security is the man who, for years, guarded the oligarch, and that he may quite genuinely fear for his own safety (it’s not like nothing bad has ever happened to Ukrainian presidents).

Volodymyr Zelensky is now the leader of a large country, with the backing of 13.5 million voters. It is to them that he promised a break with past bribery, graft and cronyism. Even by tolerating one man – and one who makes Poroshenko look wholesome – next to him, he discredits all of that. He will have the support of the people if he pits himself against the puppet master – no one would have elected Kolomoisky in his stead.

Whether the oligarch is told to stay away, whether Ukraine enables the financial fraud investigation into him that has been opened by the FBI, or if he is just treated to the letter of the law, all will be good enough. This is the first and main test, and millions who were prepared to accept the legal fiction of the independent candidate two months ago, will now want to see reality to match. Zelensky’s TV president protagonist in Servant of the People – also broadcast by Kolomoisky’s channel, obviously, would never have compromised like that.

What hinges on this is not just the fate of Zelensky’s presidency, but the chance for Ukraine to restore battered faith in its democracy shaken by a succession of compromised failures at the helm.

Igor Ogorodnev

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Roger Waters – The People’s Champion for Freedom

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there.

Richard Galustian

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Submitted by Richard Galustian 

Roger Waters is one of Britain’s most successful and talented musicians and composers but more importantly is an outstanding champion for freedom in the world, beyond compare to any other artist turned political activist.

By way of background, he co-founded the rock band Pink Floyd in 1965.

A landmark turning point of his political activism occurred in 1990, when Waters staged probably the largest rock concert in history, ‘The Wall – Live in Berlin’, with an attendance of nearly half a million people.

In more recent years Waters famously narrated the 2016 documentary ‘The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States’ about the insidious influence of Zionist Israel to shape American public opinion.

Waters has been an outspoken critic of America’s Neocons and particularly Donald Trump and his policies.

In 2017, Waters condemned Trump’s plan to build a wall separating the United States and Mexico, saying that his band’s iconic famous song, ‘The Wall’ is as he put it “very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions.”

In February 2019, Waters showed his support for the Venezuelan Maduro government and continues to be totally against US regime change plans there, or any place else for that matter.

Here below is a must see recent Roger Waters interview, via satellite from New York, where he speaks brilliantly, succinctly and honestly, unlike no other celebrity, about FREEDOM and the related issues of the day.

The only other artist turned activist, but purely for human rights reasons, as she is apolitical, is the incredible Carla Ortiz.

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ISIS Says Behind Sri Lanka Bombings; Was ‘Retaliation’ For New Zealand Mosque Massacre

ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. 

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Via Zerohedge…


Shortly after the death toll from Sunday’s Easter bombings in Sri Lanka climbed above the 300 mark, ISIS validated the Sri Lankan government’s suspicions that a domestic jihadi organization had help from an international terror network while planning the bombings were validated when ISIS took credit for the attacks.

The claim was made via a report from ISIS’s Amaq news agency. Though the group has lost almost all of the territory that was once part of its transnational caliphate, ISIS now boasts cells across the Muslim world, including in North Africa and elsewhere. Before ISIS took credit for the attack, a Sri Lankan official revealed that Sunday’s attacks were intended as retaliation for the killing of 50 Muslims during last month’s mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.

However, the Sri Lankan government didn’t offer any evidence for that claim, or the claim that Sunday’s attacks were planned by two Islamic groups (though that now appears to have been substantiated by ISIS’s claim of responsibility). The group is believed to have worked with the National Tawheed Jamaath, according to the NYT.

“The preliminary investigations have revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch,” State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene told the Parliament.

Meanwhile, the number of suspects arrested in connection with the attacks had increased to 40 from 24 as of Tuesday. The government had declared a national emergency that allowed it sweeping powers to interrogate and detain suspects.

On Monday, the FBI pledged to send agents to Sri Lanka and provide laboratory support for the investigation.

As the death toll in Sri Lanka climbs, the attack is cementing its position as the deadliest terror attack in the region.

  • 321 (as of now): Sri Lanka bombings, 2019
  • 257 Mumbai attacks, 1993
  • 189 Mumbai train blasts, 2006 166 Mumbai attacks, 2008
  • 151 APS/Peshawar school attack, 2014
  • 149 Mastung/Balochistan election rally attack, 2018

Meanwhile, funeral services for some of the bombing victims began on Tuesday.

Even before ISIS took credit for the attack, analysts told the Washington Post that its unprecedented violence suggested that a well-financed international organization was likely involved.

The bombings on Sunday, however, came with little precedent. Sri Lanka may have endured a ghastly civil war and suicide bombings in the past – some credit the Tamil Tigers with pioneering the tactic – but nothing of this scale. Analysts were stunned by the apparent level of coordination behind the strikes, which occurred around the same time on both sides of the country, and suggested the attacks carried the hallmarks of a more international plot.

“Sri Lanka has never seen this sort of attack – coordinated, multiple, high-casualty – ever before, even with the Tamil Tigers during the course of a brutal civil war,” Alan Keenan, a Sri Lanka expert at the International Crisis Group, told the Financial Times. “I’m not really convinced this is a Sri Lankan thing. I think the dynamics are global, not driven by some indigenous debate. It seems to me to be a different kind of ballgame.”

Hinting at possible ISIS involvement, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a Monday press conference that “radical Islamic terror” remained a threat even after ISIS’s defeats in Syria.

Of course, ISIS’s claim couldn’t be confirmed and the group has been  known to make “opportunistic” claims in the past, according to WaPo. The extremist group said the attacks were targeting Christians and “coalition countries” and were carried out by fighters from its organization.

Speculation that the government had advanced warning of the attacks, but failed to act amid a power struggle between the country’s president and prime minister, unnerved citizens and contributed to a brewing backlash. Following the bombings, schools and mass had been canceled until at least Monday, with masses called off “until further notice.”

 

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