Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reporting from Russia

Another headline: Putin ally tells Americans: vote Trump or face nuclear war. A headline calculated to get your back up, no?

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a flamboyant veteran lawmaker known for his fiery rhetoric, told Reuters in an interview that Trump was the only person able to de-escalate dangerous tensions between Moscow and Washington.

That's way less dramatic, and a lot less impertinent.

But for still more information, it might help to check somebody who knows the players a little better: a Czech string theorist.

You know, he is a boss of a nationalist party in Russia – one of the four parties in the Parliament. No self-declared anti-Putin party has made it to the Russian Parliament. So Reuters calls him "a Putin ally". It's a very problematic label, of course, because he is still leading a different party that competes with Putin's. Putin is mainly an old-fashioned conservative politician not too different from Helmut Kohl and many others. Zhirinovsky is the head of a highly idiosyncratic nationalist party. To say that they're "the same" means to show the lack of understanding for Politics 101.

Also, I've been watching Zhirinovsky for some 25 years. He's been a part-time clown. All of his famous propositions that have made it to the media were tainted by some conspiracy theories or immense exaggeration – and, I believe that in many cases, intentional humor (which is a good thing in Russia because they usually have a shortage of it). In some cases, I could feel a sympathy with the "core" of his proclamations. Sometimes, I disagreed. But I don't remember that his propositions could have been considered as accurate, trustworthy predictions or realistic plans.

Is Lubos more accurate? Maybe. He's been a bit of a Putin apologist: sometimes even a lot of an apologist. He wasted a lot of bits arguing that Russians didn't shoot down Flight 17 when obviously they did and were seen high-tailing it out of there. He's worth paying attention to, though.

Physics had some visitors from Poland back when Solidarity was making headlines. They read emails from back home, and told us that even the best US papers generally missed the point of the events they reported on. A local may have a bias in his views, but he probably knows the situation better than foreign reporters.

Some years back Rantburg had a Greek commenter who often had very contrary views about the EU. The Greeks had dictatorship and near civil-war within living memory, and it would hardly be surprising if they thought that, on the whole, even a suffocating central government was better than what they'd had on their own. I was sorry when he dropped off the site. I didn't have to agree with his take, but it was good to have somebody near the scene who understood other aspects of what was going on.


Mark Reiff said...

I'm not surprised that the press misses the point on foreign affairs. Is the press ever capable of getting the point, on anything? The only question for most articles are when it's intentional vs. incompetence.

james said...

What happened to Lara Logan suggests that the misunderstandings are often unintentional. I don't think she'd have risked attending the demonstration if she had any idea that the narrative was wrong. (I'm glad she got out alive.)