exile.ru

by Chris Bertram on October 26, 2006

Lately, I’ve been getting less and less from reading blogs and, more generally, stuff on the internet. But there have been some exceptions, and one of the most exceptional has been exile.ru , the paper put out by various exapts in Russia (where they are beyond libel and defamation laws). Notable in the most recent issue is the kicking that Mark Ames gives to the American journalistic profession as a whole , and Anne Applebaum in particular, in the light of their reaction to the Politkovskaya assassination. I’ve also become a regular reader of Gary war nerd Brecher and of John Dolan’s book reviews . You should go there too. They’re good, if nasty.

{ 98 comments }

1

Amanda 10.26.06 at 3:16 am

Hmmm, yeah. When I lived in Moscow they had some good stuff but you had to inch your way through the undergraduate rubbish to get to it. Mostly I decided it was not worth the effort.

2

James 10.26.06 at 5:09 am

Well, that’s the advantage of reading on t’net – you can seek out the good stuff easily – which basically means Dolan and sometimes Brecher. Ames is occasionally interesting, but always has an edge of ridiculousness – like this statement –

Why isn’t there a single American willing to risk almost certain death, the way Politkovskaya did, in the pursuit of truth and humanity?

ignoring the fact that eighty-odd reporters, including many Americans, were murdered in Iraq in the last few years, many of them doing exactly the kind of investigative journalism he claims the Western press doesn’t do.

Honestly, if I wanted to hear a drunken middle-aged lecher of an expat rant, I can hear it in person in any bar in Beijing.

I love Dolan’s book reviews, though, in all their bitter glory and bizarre IRA-worship. He also inspired me to update an old joke.

What’s the definition of an lapsed Catholic?
Doesn’t believe in hell, knows he’s going there.

What’s the definition of a lapsed Irish-American Catholic.
Doesn’t believe in hell, knows he’s going there, and it’s all the fault of the Brits.

He’s got my single favourite opening line ever, though –

In honour of the Exile’s special issue on the Congo, I’m devoting this week’s column to that other great Central African tragedy; the poetic career of Ben Okri.

Plus he totally called Frey.

3

Doug M. 10.26.06 at 5:11 am

The Exile used to be pretty good, but now it mostly sucks. (The War Nerd excepted. The War Nerd is brilliant.)

It used to be a bunch of bitter, alienated twentysomethings finding comfort in the sleaze and vice of fin-de-siecle Russia. Now it’s a bunch of stale, pudgy thirtysomethings who’ve gone native in a really creepy way.

Mark Ames? He’s basically a Russian nationalist now. /Everything/ bad that happens in Russia gets immediately flipped into a condemnation of Western hypocrisy.

The article you liked so much, Chris, is exactly typical of the Ames ouevre. It starts with three paragraphs about the murder of Politovskaya. (Three /inaccurate/ paragraphs, done in Ames’ standard Hunter Thompson wannabe style: “one of those horrible events which trigger the worst in everyone, when all the wrong lessons are drawn, and all the spite and savagery explode.” Well, no, Mark… it was an event which triggered exactly nothing, at least in Russia; the usual liberals showed up for the funeral, and the rest of the country shrugged and moved on.) Then we have — let me count here — thirty one paragraphs raving about Western hypocrisy.

Now, much of what Ames says is true. But it loses most of its punch when you realize it’s being written, not as a critique of the West, but as a defense of modern Russia… contract killings of journalists, and all. /See, Russia’s not nearly so bad!/ It’s like reading a thoughtful critique of Trotskyism written by a Spanish fascist: even if it’s true, the lip still curls.

Don’t believe me? Okay, skim the pages of the Exile. In the last three weeks, over 2,000 ethnic Georgians have been rounded up off the streets of Moscow. Several hundred have been deported; hundreds more are being held without trial. At least one internee has died. This began after a Moscow bombing in August that killed 12 central Asians and injured many more, and a pogrom — there’s no other word — in September that sent hundreds of non-Russians fleeing in terror from the northern town of Kondologa while mobs burned their businesses and looted their homes.

You won’t find a word about this in the Exile, because the Exile wants to stay in business. They may be “beyond libel and defamation laws”, Chris, but they’re definitely not beyond the reach of the Moscow police. So they’ll run snarky articles about the excesses of young oligarchs — everybody does that; the press in Moscow is allowed freedom within limits — but they steer clear, /well/ clear of anything that might seriously offend the current administration. And that includes condemning or even discussing the current wave of racist violence.

The only thing more disgusting than xenophobic authoritarian nationalists is an apologist for them.

— This is not to say that Ames is without value as a writer. Not at all. His recent front-page article about finding and fucking nine $50 whores in a single night? Serious stuff.

But reading a savage critique of Western journalistic hypocrisy from someone who so carefully tailors his coat to the wind from Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Palace? Doesn’t work for me. YMMV.

Doug M.

4

Chris Bertram 10.26.06 at 5:26 am

Well I see what you mean about Ames, Doug, and most of the stuff I’ve liked has been Brecher and Dolan. OTOH, the blogosphere is full of xenophobic authoritarian nationalists and apologists for them. Some of them even think of themselves as libertarian and teach in US law schools!

5

koshem 10.26.06 at 5:35 am

Ames sounds way too hysterical. The editorial headline is, at least, baffling. Exile sounds as just another hate source we have plenty of.

6

abb1 10.26.06 at 5:45 am

Mark Ames? He’s basically a Russian nationalist now.

Doug, this is absurd.

You should email them your comment, let them answer it in their [sic!] section.

7

engels 10.26.06 at 6:14 am

That’s quite a rant you’ve got going there, Doug. Ames’ piece was written as a “defense” of “contract killings of journalists”? WTF? And suppose that you were right – as you claim in the second half of your comment – that Ames can’t criticise Putin for fear of the militsiya (and the fact that he begins the article by calling him a “regular asshole” does really seem to support your case): how would this make him a “Russian nationalist” and an “apologist” for Putin? I thought that Ames’ piece was over-the-top but compared to you he seems rather measured.

8

abb1 10.26.06 at 7:23 am

But ‘hysterical’ and ‘over-the-top’ is the whole point, that’s his style. That’s the response to Ann Coulter – except, of course, it doesn’t pay that well and doesn’t get you invited to the Hardball.

Try this one: http://www.exile.ru/2004-November-13/moscow_babylon.html.html

9

Doug M. 10.26.06 at 8:29 am

“Doug, this is absurd.”

[thumps head] Oh, it’s absurd! Why couldn’t I see that?

Yah, the author of “America’s Pathetic Putin-Envy” couldn’t possibly be any sort of Russian nationalist.

“They’re nervous… for the obvious reason that Russia is actually getting much stronger. As we know, the American way to react to unpleasant turns in events is to simply deny they’re happening, and then to posit their opposite, and leave it at that.

“Russia wasn’t supposed to get stronger, certainly not on its own, without the West’s help. It just doesn’t make sense. Moreover, it’s somehow cosmologically wrong that Russia should become stronger right at the time when American power is in a freefall. That just ain’t right…so therefore, the authors offer a solution: cup your ears, close your eyes, and scream, “Russia is really weak! Russia is really weak!” and it’ll all go away, like a bad dream…

“Why the gloating and hatred? What bothers all of these journalists and opinion-makers more than anything is the fact that Russia is “confident,” even “overconfident”–a word that they come back to over and over… The nerve of Russia to both reject the US, to get back on its feet without our help (indeed in spite of what we’ve done here), and then, to top it all off, to publicly display confidence!”

Now, if that were written by a Russian, you wouldn’t hesitate to say, hm, sounds like a Russian nationalist to me. But in Ames’ case it must be absurd, because… why, exactly?

Because he isn’t Russian? Dude, it’s called going native. It happens to expats everywhere, all the time. And Ames has been in Moscow for ten years… he’s not leaving any time soon. He pretty much *is* Russian now.

Let me flip briefly through Ames’ recent stuff… oh, here’s a good one. Russia has recently forced most foreign NGOs to shut down or suspend activities while they go through a lengthy, bogus “licensing” procedure. This is aimed in particular at NGOs like Soros’ Open Society Foundation, but it extends to pretty much all pesky foreigners who might cause trouble for Russia’s increasingly authoritarian government… everyone from the EU reps to Doctors Without Borders.

Ames’ response? He picks one NGO — Freedom House — that’s closely associated with oldtime Cold Warriors and Russophobes. And he holds it up as a real, significant threat to… well, to Russia.

He rants about this for a couple of thousand words. They have Jeanne Kirkpatrick on their board! They supported the Chechens! They’re a tool of neocon imperialists!

“So the McDonald’s of NGOs is run by avowed US imperialists and who repeatedly and aggressively attack Russia as “fascist” and push to challenge and isolate Russia, which they see as much of a threat to American hegemony as Islamofascism. And then they whine about human rights when the Russian government moves to curb their activities on Russian soil.”

And at the end, as a throwaway line, he spends a single sentence worrying that Putin’s ban — while certainly understandable, curbing those bad guys’ activities in the defense of Russian soil — might affect a few good *Russian* NGOs.

And that’s it.

“and the fact that he begins the article by calling him a “regular asshole” does really seem to support your case”

Engels, Putin doesn’t care about being called names. Like I said, the Moscow press is allowed a certain leeway, and degenerate foreigners who write in English are allowed a bit more. Ames and friends regularly say stuff like this.

What they don’t do is criticize Putin, or his government, in any way that would really annoy them. And they leap to their defense against any and all criticism from the West.

Check out, frex, his recent review of “Kremlin Rising” — a book by two WaPo journalists, formerly resident in Moscow, which is highly critical of Putin. Ames finds it “an incredibly powerful work of anti-Putin, anti-Russian propaganda that is intellectually sleazy and appallingly deceitful, yet extremely influential… most of their readers want to believe that Russia is innately evil, precisely because they never became as subservient and manageable as the Czechs.”

Ah, anti-Putin, anti-Russian… and the Czechs, of course. Whenever Ames wants to make an example of a sleazy little country that’s sold out and utterly prostituted itself to the West, it’s always the Czechs. Man, he hates those Czechs. Oddly, it’s never the Hungarians or the Romanians… see my earlier point on Russian nationalists. Nothing drives Russian nationalists crazier than fellow Slavs who despise Russians.

Anyway. Hey, here’s an exercise. Surf the Ames ouevre, and see if you can find a single *foreign* criticism of Putin that he agrees with.

He’s got something like a hundred thousand words online; shouldn’t be hard.

I’ll wait.

Doug M.

10

sean 10.26.06 at 8:35 am

I tend to visit the exile almost exclusively for War Nerd. Though his last two have been somewhat disappointing, his pieces on historical wards (e.g. the Battle of Celaya) are treat. If you have an afternoon to kill sometime, dive into the archives.

11

vanya 10.26.06 at 8:39 am

If you are a regular reader of “Gary Brecher” and John Dolan you should be aware that they are probably one and the same person. Rumor and circumstantial evidence indicate that Dolan writes the “war nerd” columns.

12

engels 10.26.06 at 9:02 am

Here Comes The Silogarchy
Understanding the Yukos Affair from the Surface Down

by Mark Ames

http://www.exile.ru/178/178050001.html

bq. Now, looking back [on Putin’s attack on Vladimir Gusinsky], it’s time to admit the truth: in effect, the Western media and the PR handlers were right. Putin’s intention at the time wasn’t to destroy free speech — but the effect of Putin’s crackdown was essentially what the Western press, and all the analysts on Gusinsky’s payroll, and all the Putinophobes said it would be. Today, Russian television is so tightly controlled that, with the occasional exception of NTV, it makes even American television seem halfway independent.

[…]

bq. I think that the academic, Olga Kryshtanovskaya’s analysis says it best: “In the absence of a strong political opposition, businessmen are one of the few forces capable of resisting the onset of a neo-authoritarianism. Russia has handed big business the unusual role of providing some form of checks and balances.”

bq. She published that on July 2nd. On July 3rd, Platon Lebedev was arrested, and Khodorkovsky and the big business lobby he led were essentially destroyed.

bq. As bad as it was having to rely on big business for freedom, without them, it’s going to be worse.

13

abb1 10.26.06 at 9:07 am

Nah, even when he writes about Russia, it’s all about America, Doug. Here:

bq. After all these years abroad, I’m long past the point of getting angry over mere American moral/geopolitical hypocrisy. It’s just one of those unpleasant facts in life that I have to deal with, like my ass hair.

bq. The truth is I want to see Russia succeed. I need it to succeed. Like a lot of disaffected Westerners, I want another option in this world, something different from — and outside the reach of — what America has become. That is why I moved to Russia in the first place; that is why I’ve returned after every leave of absence.

http://www.exile.ru/2005-January-27/playing_with_the_pensioners.html

14

Chris Bertram 10.26.06 at 9:19 am

engels, abb1, and anyone else who want to indent quotes …. the latest incarnation of wordpress doesn’t seem to handle the blockquote tag very well so that only you first para gets indented. As an alternative you could use the textile “bq.” tag, that is those two letters followed by a period, just before each para. Should work.

15

Matt 10.26.06 at 10:01 am

The eXile hasn’t been as good since Matt Tabbie left (his ‘gorilla journalism’ pieces were wonderful, as was the press review), and since Limonov stopped writing for them. Ames, not so good. (Krazy Kevin’s Kino Korner was also good.) My general advice is that abb1 knows shit about the situation in Russia, though, so don’t take his word for any of it. (I’m writing from there now. It’s true that the majority here didn’t care about Politkovskya. They are all too happy eating news coverage that makes fox news look objective.)

16

abb1 10.26.06 at 10:13 am

Matt, where did I say anything about ‘the situation in Russia’? I haven’t been there for about 15 years or so. You da man.

17

sglover 10.26.06 at 10:14 am

That’s quite a rant you’ve got going there, Doug. Ames’ piece was written as a “defense” of “contract killings of journalists”? WTF? And suppose that you were right – as you claim in the second half of your comment – that Ames can’t criticise Putin for fear of the militsiya (and the fact that he begins the article by calling him a “regular asshole” does really seem to support your case): how would this make him a “Russian nationalist” and an “apologist” for Putin? I thought that Ames’ piece was over-the-top but compared to you he seems rather measured.

Calling Putin names is a lot less daring than it seems, particularly in an English language paper that few Russians are going to bother to read (there is no Russian language edition of The Exile, correct?) I don’t believe that authorities in the former Soviet zone give a damn one way or the other about name-calling, grumbling, or other forms of “free speech”. They only call out the dogs when pesky journalists begin investigating, and turning up unsavory relationships and sleazy deals.

I’ve been reading Ames’ paper (via the web) for years, and while I still enjoy it, gotta say that I’ve become more and more ambivalent about it over that time, and lately downright disappointed. True, the War Nerd’s always worth checking. But I always used get a laugh out of the Denis Salnikov New Russian parody, and now he’s gone. Rudnitsky’s done some really interesting (in a heartbreaking kind of way) reporting about life outside of Moscow — but he doesn’t seem to be doing much of that any more.

Call it prudish, but what’s really bothering me is how Ames and the boys seem to go about their whoremongering. It’s not the whoring that bothers me so much as the way they delight in ridiculing the whores themselves. Since I kinda doubt that these women went into the trade because it’s such a glamorous, edgy way of life, it makes it kinda hard to believe the Exile’s being sincere when it rants about, say, the declining living standards of Russian pensioners.

18

Chris Williams 10.26.06 at 10:41 am

I didn’t think that the whoremongering style was so bad, given of course that it’s quite hard to write this up in the style of Albert Schweitzer. I ended up thinking that Ames actually despises himself more than he despises the hookers.

Ames’ best stuff is written in the States – frex his great Wal-Mart rant:
http://www.exile.ru/169/169010101.html

19

foolishmortal 10.26.06 at 10:43 am

Yeah, the way sglover puts it, I buy that. I think it could be a general principle: “A man treats his country as he treats his whores”.

Also, I had no idea War Nerd was so popular. I’d always thought of him as a guilty secret, but I guess not. Where’s the evidence of the Dolan==Brecher hypothesis? Brecher’s Fresno has always seemed quite credible to me, and neither of them is that great a writer.

20

Chris Williams 10.26.06 at 10:45 am

PS. Classic Dolan line:
“You have to hand it to the Tories. If you don’t, they’ll take it from you.”

21

James 10.26.06 at 10:50 am

Dolan’s praised Brecher in glowing terms a couple of times, and he doesn’t strike me as either hypocritical or self-aggrandising. They occasionally make similar points, but I think that’s simply because Dolan reads Brecher, and vice versa.

22

abb1 10.26.06 at 12:53 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Brecher

A Dec. 14, 2005 Buffalo Beast review of eXile editor John Dolan’s novel Pleasant Hell states that “a faithful eXile reader [would] have to be as dense as young John Dolan not to realize you’re reading about the birth of ‘Gary Brecher,’ nome [sic] de guerre of the famed ‘War Nerd’.” In the memoir, Dolan writes of obsessively studying military history and Jane’s manuals while binging on junk food in the basement of a UC Berkeley library building in the mid-seventies.

Also, one should note that in an 2001 eXile article, “Cleanse the World”, John Dolan openly admits being a ‘war-nerd’: “Oh, my poor naive war-nerd brothers, how could you ever have dreamed that Bush…”.

The image representing Brecher at the top of each War Nerd column is that of Roger Edvardsen of the Norwegian rhythm & blues band Ehem.

23

abb1 10.26.06 at 1:05 pm

Ha, life imitating art:

On June 24, 2006, Newsday columnist James Pinkerton appeared on Fox News and referenced Gary Brecher’s analysis of the alleged Haditha massacre, in which he took the view that, in any war, Haditha-like events are to a great degree unavoidable, as a position held by a distinct “minority” of commentators, but nevertheless “correct”.

24

jamie k 10.26.06 at 1:22 pm

Well since we’re doing Ames’ greatest hits, this one was stupendous:

http://www.exile.ru/2004-November-13/moscow_babylon.html.html

Chris W: didn’t you think that Ames was, in fact, the war nerd?

25

Russell Arben Fox 10.26.06 at 1:42 pm

The Wal-Mart piece by Ames that Chris mentions is really quite a tour-de-force. Scott Martens brought it to my attention way back when; it really shaped my own thinking about the necessity of populism to any progressive future in America….if only because imagining a left without such would leave you with….well, with Ames:

The Left is an elite. Let’s admit it. From bourgeois liberals like Ehrenreich to Hard Leftists like the anti-globalization activists or even us at the eXile (though I’m never really sure how deep our Leftism runs.) Take Debbie, the data entry processor whom I replaced at NPC. I don’t ever want to be like her. Or around her, if I can help it. Or the tens of millions like her. Like many Kentuckians I met, she loathed Clinton for being a two-timer and respected Bush for being “real.” This is as good a reason as any to stay away from the disenfranchised. As Talking Heads bravely sang, “I wouldn’t live the way those people do / I wouldn’t live there if you paid me to!”

….The People are gullible and foolish in political matters and go by what they believe is their gut instinct….So those of us who identify with the left, the Hard Left, better start facing an uncomfortable fact: not only are we an elite, but we don’t like the People and they don’t like us. And this is where we turn to Russia and its idea of elite. Mercifully, Russian elitism is much more simple, straightforward and free of hypocrisy and delusion than its American counterpart.

….The Russian liberal intelligentsia elite twice destoyed Russia in the name of abstractions like revolution and democracy; the American liberal elite has never come close to seriously threatening the right-wing oligarchical elite, but they have oscillated between periods of limiting the oligarchy’s power and the other extreme where they are today, ceding all ground but a few harmless reservations in universities and the odd newspaper column….Like Stalin’s saboteurs, the American Right’s “liberal elite” is blamed for everything that can and does go wrong. The feeble Left plays its part well, still trying to reason things out and work incrementally. Unlike Russia’s elite, America’s liberal elite is completely deluded about who they are and what the American people have become. So I’ll say it again: stop pretending that you’re not elite. Instead, try and be MORE elitist than you really are. It’s the only way you’ll ever get respect.

It is, really, a wonderfully and weirdly compelling, completely anti-democratic, borderline fascist piece, utterly and totally contemptuous of all those stupid little Wal-Mart shoppers out there (citizens, voters, workers, human beings, whatever, screw ’em all) who fail to understand that the system is abusing them and that their consciousness has been warped by false, pathetic, cultural trinkets which the right-wing (or the Jews, or the Christians, or the Bushes, or whomever) dangles in front of their faces. What’s needed is an oligarchy, dammit! Or, as Scott put it somewhat more mildly (and to be fair, he wasn’t so much endorsing Ames as just trying to take him seriously), maybe “there is no hope for a populism that isn’t a sack of bullshit….[maybe] there really no hope for anything better than a kinder, gentler, less exploitive, less manipulative ruling class.” (One that would presumably include Ames himself, of course, though I doubt he could pull off that “kinder” part.)

Ames was probably my most persuasive exposure yet to how easily a rootless, angry leftism can spoil into something profoundly indulgent and nihilistic. The right-wing has plenty of pathologies, but eXile demonstrates that the left has some of its own as well.

26

ali 10.26.06 at 1:51 pm

http://www.exile.ru/2005-July-28/victor_hanson.html

War Nerd in his frontal assault on VDH’s puffed up patriotism:

Since I never even finished my AA degree, I took that kind of personally. I guess it’s my fault for not getting into Yale on pure merit like Bush did. That column got me so furious I daydreamed about driving down Highway 99 to Hanson’s farm and setting all his orchards and vineyards on fire. I kept thinking of what the Spartans said when one of their neighbors threatened them: “Your cicadas will chirp from the ground,” meaning, “We’ll burn your fucking olive orchards if you mouth off again.”

27

abb1 10.26.06 at 1:54 pm

Nothing’s wrong with nihilism, it’s a perfectly logical point of view. And it’s neither left of right. So, why not just consider his angle and without unnecessary emotions; is it not an interesing read?

28

engels 10.26.06 at 2:10 pm

FWIW I’m not trying to defend Ames in general or play down the press situation in Russia. I didn’t especially like the linked article either. I thought #3 was way over-the-top, that’s all.

Sglover – I wasn’t trying to say that genuine criticism of Putin is possible in Russia, only that the fact that it isn’t doesn’t seem to me to make Ames a defender of modern Russia, an apologist for Putin, a Russian nationalist, etc, etc.

And in #9 Doug challenged me to find a single article where Ames endorses a Western criticism of Putin. I think #12 fits the bill.

29

Russell Arben Fox 10.26.06 at 2:28 pm

Abb1,

“Nothing’s wrong with nihilism, it’s a perfectly logical point of view. And it’s neither left of right. So, why not just consider his angle and without unnecessary emotions; is it not an interesing read?”

Well, I didn’t call his essay illogical, did I? In fact, I called it “wonderfully and weirdly compelling.” It’s also a wildly dehumanizing and despressing way to envision society, but that’s Ames’s lookout, I guess.

30

abb1 10.26.06 at 3:22 pm

Clearly, he despises this one particular society. And can you blame him? Millions of people felt bitterly disappointed in the American experiment during the last few years, especially in the fall of 2004. It’s perfectly understandable, perfectly normal.

31

sglover 10.26.06 at 3:37 pm

Sglover – I wasn’t trying to say that genuine criticism of Putin is possible in Russia, only that the fact that it isn’t doesn’t seem to me to make Ames a defender of modern Russia, an apologist for Putin, a Russian nationalist, etc, etc.

Point taken. I may have been unclear myself. I don’t think that Ames is a Putin acolyte. But I don’t expect him to challenge the regime in any way that really matters, either.

Clearly, he despises this one particular society. And can you blame him? Millions of people felt bitterly disappointed in the American experiment during the last few years, especially in the fall of 2004. It’s perfectly understandable, perfectly normal.

Ummmmm….. Having traveled (a little) in the former Soviet zone, I gotta say — Yeah, the 2004 election was pretty goddam disappointing. And there isn’t a day that goes by that I can’t point to a some contradiction between American ideals and American reality. But I’ll still take those shortfalls over the naked indifference to vast human suffering that I saw every day over there. The racial and ethnic tensions we have here are nothing compared to the intricate hate and suspicion structures that infest the former USSR.

32

abb1 10.26.06 at 4:08 pm

But I’ll still take those shortfalls over the naked indifference…

Well, if selfrighteousness, hypocrisy is what irritates you most, then perhaps naked indifference might just feel refreshing and healthy. That’s not necessarily how I feel, but nevertheless.

33

Ian 10.26.06 at 4:57 pm

Credit where credit’s due: unlike his obvious model Hunter S Thompson, Ames has never sold out. A decade after Fear and Loathing, Thompson was appearing as guest clown on TV chat shows and star-f*cking Muhammad Ali. But Ames has stayed right on message: drugs, whores and crypto-fascism. (The Exile has some good book reviews? Yeah, and Playboy has some good articles.)

Trouble is, the drugs, whores and crypto-fascism groove gets pretty boring pretty fast. And it’s slightly weird to see this stuff get CT approval just because an ageing fratboy nihilist lashes out at a centre-right columnist among his targets du jour. If Ames gives Anne Appelbaum a kicking, then my respect for Appelbaum goes up a couple of notches.

34

Russell Arben Fox 10.26.06 at 5:19 pm

“But Ames has stayed right on message: drugs, whores and crypto-fascism.”

And if what Doug has to say has any truth to it, not always so crypto.

“If Ames gives Anne Appelbaum a kicking, then my respect for Appelbaum goes up a couple of notches.”

My thoughts exactly, Ian.

35

Christopher M 10.26.06 at 6:46 pm

The guy makes up in style the points he loses for consistency:

From “Gas Middle America”:

bq. Middle American Christians not only hate man and life, but most of all, they hate America. In fact, no one hates America more than the hardcore Evangelical Christians, which is to say, the South and Midwest.

From “Elite versus Elitny”:

bq. …because the Right loves America, genuinely so as far as I can tell. The Right identifies itself with America. The Right has always had an easier time sounding like convinced patriots….

36

MQ 10.26.06 at 7:23 pm

Ames has one shtick, pretty much. It’s interesting and new the first few times you experience it, but he’s running on fumes now. The most talented people there were Matt Taibbi (now gone on to greater things as the political columnist for Rolling Stone), and John Dolan, aka the War Nerd (they are pretty much definitely the same person). Dolan is a superb writer who ought to get a lot more attention and opportunities than he does.

37

blah 10.26.06 at 7:28 pm

Ames is not a nihilist, he is a misanthrope. There is a big difference between the two.

38

MQ 10.26.06 at 7:37 pm

Yeah, Ames is a misanthrope. It’s Dolan who is the nihilist. Actually, that Wal-Mart article of Ames’ really is brilliant, until the feeble closing at the end.

If you like the Exile, you should go out and buy Dolan’s book, “Pleasant Hell”. It’s quite good, if rather painful to read because it’s the autobiography of a horribly bashful and misguided young nerd. I hope he does a sequel.

39

John Emerson 10.26.06 at 8:47 pm

Ames’ criticisms of Applebaum looked about right to me. Politkovskaya did investigative journalism in and about a nation in which doing investigative journalism is dangerous. Applebaum is an establishment apologist in one of those rare nations nation in which establishment apologists are rewarded very well. I don’t know enough to judge what Ames says about Applebaum’s Polish ideologue/politico husband, but if his story is accurate it doesn’t look that good for Applebaum.

This is all pretty much independent of what I think about Ames, unless he was flat lying (which no one has said so far). I certainly didn’t come away from his piece thinking at all that he was doing apologetics for Putin or for Russia.

40

sglover 10.26.06 at 10:04 pm

… if his story is accurate it doesn’t look that good for Applebaum.

Well, yeah, but really, Applebaum’s about as easy a target as one could want. I suppose her bank account and cocktail circuit access have risen exponentially since she started her Post Op-Ed gig, but it’s done shit for her long-term reputation. Even by the standards of a Krauthammer, or a Cohen, or a Broder, or a Samuelson, she’s cranked out an astonishing quantity of disingenuous tripe.

41

Donald Johnson 10.26.06 at 10:11 pm

“If Ames gives Anne Appelbaum a kicking, then my respect for Appelbaum goes up a couple of notches.”
My thoughts exactly, Ian.

That’s totally illogical, of course Ames could be completely right about Applebaum and most of the American press (he exaggerates slightly) without having a worldview you’d want to endorse yourself.

He is partly right about the far left, I think. People like Chomsky spend their lives writing exposes of the worst crimes of American foreign policy under the assumption that ordinary Americans would be shocked and outraged if they knew what was done in their name. As best I can tell, some would and some wouldn’t. The Bush Administration isn’t nearly as bloodthirsty as some of its supporters.

42

Ian 10.26.06 at 10:22 pm

John Emerson – Ames’ comments about Appelbaum were sophomore mudslinging. A tendentiously silly (to put it kindly) reading of her comment about unsolved murder cases under Putin. A sneer that a book taking the moral high ground on the Gulag was written by someone living in Washington DC. (She should be living in Vorkuta?) And, finally, hard evidence that Appelbaum is an anti-Semitic skinhead. No, wait – that Appelbaum’s husband is a member of a government which, holding its nose, has gone into coalition with an anti-Semitic party. OK, that’s good enough.

There’s a case to be made against Appelbaum. But not this one.

43

Russell Arben Fox 10.26.06 at 10:44 pm

For what it’s worth, I really don’t know where most of the criticisms of Applebaum as an “establishment apologist” are coming from. I mean, I suppose they may be accurate, but as it’s been a long time since I’ve regularly read her journalism (I just don’t get around to reading the WP much these days; I haven’t been keeping up with George Will either, tragically), I genuinely don’t know. My opinion of Applebaum was formed from her terrific original run with the “Foreigners” column at Slate, circa 2000-2002, as well as her book Gulag, which is first-rate. If she’s gone neocon since then, I suppose I must confess that I missed it.

44

engels 10.26.06 at 10:45 pm

A sneer that a book taking the moral high ground on the Gulag was written by someone living in Washington DC. (She should be living in Vorkuta?)

I think the point was that we might all be better off if Applebaum and people like her would also take an interest in their own gulags once in a while.

45

Donald Johnson 10.26.06 at 10:47 pm

The sneer about Applebaum and the American press is simply that they prefer to write about the crimes of their country’s enemies–Ames compared it to some Russian nationalist writing a book about America’s treatment of the Native Americans.

There are some American reporters (Seymour Hersh for one and there are a few others) who don’t fit into Ames’s box, but for the most part, he’s right.

46

Ian 10.26.06 at 10:56 pm

Engels – if that was the point, it sounds like yet another variation on the “Yes but they’ve completely ignored Darfur” ploy. As for my point, it was about Ames, not Appelbaum. If establishment apologists are to be dissected effectively, you need more than the semi-literate sub-gonzo scattergun.

47

radek 10.26.06 at 11:06 pm

Yeah the exile is a guilty pleasure (sorta like an occasional Derbyshire column, when he’s not talking immigration or homosexuality). I generally agree that Dolan and the War Nerd are the main reason to read it and that Ames can get annoying a lot of times – he pretty much despises every country which might have a beef with Russian policy, legitimate or not. And then the whole whore thing is just stupid. On other hand I know someone who knows him who says he’s actually much nicer in person then you’d expect. War Nerd’s analysis of Iraq (and other wars as well) is probably the best and most accurate I’ve read anywhere. My favorite column of his though is the one where there actually is a good guy:
http://www.exile.ru/2004-October-15/war_nerd.html

48

Doug M. 10.26.06 at 11:31 pm

Engels — you’re right. #12 does have Ames agreeing with a western critique of Putin. So it’s happened at least once.

That said, I think my original point still holds: Ames and the rest of the Exile crowd know where the line is, and are careful not to step over it.

If that sounds a bit speculative, all I can say is that I live in the former Soviet Union. So this is all very familiar… I can pick up the paper every morning and see the same processes at work.

Doug M.

49

Doug M. 10.27.06 at 12:01 am

“Ames was probably my most persuasive exposure yet to how easily a rootless, angry leftism can spoil into something profoundly indulgent and nihilistic.”

Russell, I think that’s… maybe two thirds right.

Rootless, angry anything-ism can turn indulgent and nihilistic; this isn’t a particular problem of the Left.

If there’s anything particularly leftist about Ames, I suppose it would be his contempt for the materialism and credulity of the masses. “How can they be so stupid as to fall for such obvious lies!” Which morphs easily into “How worthless they are! They deserve whatever happens to them!”

But while this is a pathology found more on the Left than the Right, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly typical, or even common. It’s something you encounter most frequently among a certain sort of overeducated, disappointed intellectual.

In Ames’ case, note that he was a complete failure in the US — despite having a degree from a top school, he spent his twenties in a series of no-hope low-wage jobs all over the country. Russia, on the other hand, has provided him with success, money, a modest sort of fame, an audience to listen to him, and an endless supply of easy sex, cheap booze, and drugs. Is it surprising that he shows festering resentment of America and Americans, combined with a weird mix of love and contempt for Russia?

— Here’s a prediction. Ten years from now, if there is still an Exile, Ames will still be editor-in-chief. But while this would be the best job in the world at thirty, and still pretty good at forty, at fifty it will be… well, kind of sad. And Ames is bright enough to realize this. So his stuff will be increasingly over-the-top and spittle-flecked.

I kinda hope I’m wrong, because there’s a mildly interesting voice in there. I guess we’ll see.

Doug M.

50

abb1 10.27.06 at 2:37 am

Re: Applebaum: this is the killer paragraph, as far as I’m concerned:

Indeed, one thing that has always filled Applebaum with rage is wondering why Russians don’t take her seriously (a question she poses as more abstract — ie, why don’t Russians care about the Gulags as much as Anne does?). Here’s why: Can you imagine how much moral authority a right-wing Russian journalist’s book about the American genocide of Indians would have in America? Answer: about as much as Anne’s book has in Russia. None.

In fact, in the Soviet times, there were a number of establishment ‘writers’ and ‘journalists’ there specializing exclusively in Western (for the most part American) evils and vices: racism, poverty, police brutality, inequality, alienation, etc.

Those are all real vices, no question about that, and most of what they were writing was true; but – without a doubt – every friggin one of those ‘journalists’ was a hack, an establishment whore.

This is crystal-clear to everyone, even to the pro-Applebaum folks here, correct? If so, how can you not see that Applebaum is exactly the same?

51

Steve Sailer 10.27.06 at 3:09 am

Here’s my 2003 interview with the War Nerd:

http://www.isteve.com/2003_QA_with_War_Nerd_Gary_Brecher.htm

52

abb1 10.27.06 at 3:28 am

Ames is not a nihilist, he is a misanthrope. There is a big difference between the two.

Yes, there is. Nihilism is a phiosophy and misanthropy is a disposition, attitude. You can be both, I don’t see a contradiction.

53

Doug M. 10.27.06 at 3:31 am

“If so, how can you not see that Applebaum is exactly the same?”

Well, for starters, _Gulag_ was researched and written a decade after the end of the Cold War.

Turn it around. Say that a modern Russian historian were to write an excellent history of, say, American slavery. Would you promptly conclude that she was a hack or a whore?

So.

Doug M.

54

abb1 10.27.06 at 4:26 am

Historian writing a history book I wouldn’t mind. Journalism I wouldn’t mind. But I would find it unseemly (not that I really care) if a modern Russian journalist was constantly and endlessly moralizing about American life, current events and recent history.

55

John Emerson 10.27.06 at 5:01 am

“Ames and the rest of the Exile crowd know where the line is, and are careful not to step over it.”

Probably right. Applebaum certainly knows where the American line is, and presumably the Polish line too. One significant difference is that Ames’s persona is “sleazeball”, whereas Applebaum affects high-mindedness and courage.

I think the thing that set Ames off was Applebaum’s tacit appropriation of Politkovskaya’s mantle — “We brave journalists who write about Russian dictators” [no, not a quote] — when Applebaum’s journalism cost he nothing but invitations to Chomskyite parties. Of course, tacit self-identification is a hard case to prove, but Applebaum’s easy self-righteousness and he obliviousness to American ills make her seem far unlike Politkovskaya.

56

Chris Williams 10.27.06 at 5:37 am

Jamie K – after concluding that Brecher was too good to be true, I thought that he was Ames. But all the evidence points to Dolan.

One thing that does still leave me guilty about the exile is the sexual politics. I note that the comments thread here has been a bloke thing. Yet Dolan’s obit of Andrea Dworkin was worth a read:
http://www.exile.ru/2005-April-22/exterminate_the_men.html

“Feminists more comfortable in the meanstream had some very strange comments on her. Elaine Showalter, a sleek Princeton gender commissar, said, “I don’t wish Andrea Dworkin any harm, but I doubt that many women will get up at 4 am to watch her funeral.”

If you know anything about the verbal habits of upper-echelon academics, this is easy to translate: “Die, you bitch! Shut up and die so I can dance on your XL grave!””

57

Doug M. 10.27.06 at 5:49 am

So we’ve gone from “hack” and “whore” to merely “unseemly”. Well, whatever.

John Emerson, I hold no brief for Applebaum, but I note that she spent several years as a young journalist in pre-ceasefire Belfast. Not Chechnya by a long stretch, but not the cocktail circuit either.

I don’t think much of Applebaum today; she strikes me as the WaPo’s token moderate conservative (and token woman… their op ed page is a mostly girl-free zone). But I don’t see her “affecting high-mindedness and courage”, either. Or at least no more than any other op-ed talking head.

Anyway: the thread has drifted far from Politovskaya. Something to keep in mind: she’s dead, nobody will replace her, and her killers will never, ever be caught.

I mentioned that I live in the former Soviet Union. A few weeks ago, a tax official was blown up in my town. It was a shaped charge; it took him out without killing the other passengers in the car. (Which included his young son.) No arrests have been made; nor are any expected; nor is anyone particularly upset about this.

ISTM there’s plenty of material for Ames’ vast indignation a lot closer to home than Anne Applebaum.

Doug M.

58

Chris Williams 10.27.06 at 6:03 am

I dunno, Doug – I’m sure it seems different from your point of view, but from mine (reader of broadsheet newspaper, like 5% of UK pop; follower of European news) I get my sense of Russia’s lawlessness and authoritarianism from the exile, not from the mainstream press. Ames might not be crossing Putin’s lines [I can’t blame him for this], but he’s still telling me a lot more than I’d know otherwise.

And in a weird way, the whoremongering is also important for this. Ames’s conversation (was it perfunctory? Hard to say) with some poor love who’s left her kid behind in the sticks does rather a lot to point out the underside to Moscow Babylon.

59

abb1 10.27.06 at 6:05 am

I got the impression that Politkovskaya has now become a martyr and saint to be used as a weapon by the pro-western part of the intelligenzia there. There was, apparently, a creepy incident last Sunday where a young journalist was publicly bullied and humiliated simply for mentioning Politkovskaya without the proper awe. The incident involves Yevgenia Albats (the bully) and Anna Arutiunian (the bullied). Perhaps Doug and Matt could give us the details.

60

abb1 10.27.06 at 6:14 am

OK, maybe not ‘pro-western’, Arutiunian is also pro-western, but rather ‘pro-western-wingnut’

61

Doug M. 10.27.06 at 7:08 am

I don’t know the incident in question. But I note that Yevgenia Albats was a friend of Politovskaya, and is still on anyone’s short list of journalists likely to die like Politovskaya.

Albats, like Politovskaya, has recieved so many death threats that she has a file full of them. It’s hard to say why she’s still alive, but I’d guess there are three reasons: 1) she’s got a lot of high-profile connections to Western media, such as the New York Times and the Guardian, which may give her some protection; 2) in the last few years she’s backed off noticeably — she’s still a gadfly but is a lot less aggressive than she used to be; and 3) she’s been really damn lucky.

As for Politovskaya being a “martyr and saint to be used as a weapon” — bitter laughter. 80% of Russians never heard of Politovskaya; and of those who have heard of her, half hated her guts as a traitor. At least half.

Key point about Russia: liberalism is dinky and feeble. Nobody cares about dead journalists. They don’t become martyrs or weapons. They just become dead.

Doug M.

62

Russell Arben Fox 10.27.06 at 7:11 am

Doug,

“But while this is a pathology found more on the Left than the Right, I wouldn’t say it’s exactly typical, or even common. It’s something you encounter most frequently among a certain sort of overeducated, disappointed intellectual.”

I agree. I didn’t mean to suggest that this pathology was typical or endemic; and you’re right that it can appear on the Right as well. David Horowitz, anyone?

All,

So, it appears that the emerging consensus on Applebaum is that she can be legitimately and negatively compared to Politkovskaya primarily because she exhibits the same sins as most of the punditocracy, sins which Politkovskaya manifestly did not share. Is this right? Or is there something more to the case against Applebaum as a particularly corrupt and/or neocon-nut columnist? Because, as I said above, I’ve missed any statements or actions of hers which would support such.

63

Chris Bertram 10.27.06 at 7:29 am

I guess Applebaum gets singled out mainly because that NYP piece especially upset Ames. Since no-one else has provided it, here

http://www.exile.ru/2004-September-04/book_review.html

is the link to Dolan’s review of Applebaum’s _Gulag_ . It starts much friendlier to AA than Ames is, but gets pretty hostile towards the end.

Btw, the remark at 33 above

it’s slightly weird to see this stuff get CT approval

is crap. There’s no such thing as “CT approval” and in various posts in the past I’ve commended people as diverse as Steve Earle, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Richard Wagner just because there’s something about what they do/did that does something for me. YMMV, but just because I say “read/listen to this” doesn’t mean I approve of everything about the author. You should all read Celine, btw.

64

abb1 10.27.06 at 8:12 am

Nobody cares about dead journalists. They don’t become martyrs or weapons.

They do become martyrs (or traitors) in certain circles: intelligentsia, political activists, etc. I think extreme dedication and martyrdom are pretty typical for Russian activists, this is how things get done there – when they get done.

Some say that building institutions is way more important than individual heroism, yet people like Albats (all due respect) seem to prefer the stardom/martyrdom approach; and this is where the Politkovskaya story gets to be used as a weapon. “We need more selfless heroes” vs. “we need better institutions”.

65

John Emerson 10.27.06 at 9:39 am

I’d say Belfast is a pretty lame comparison (no offense intended to the various terrorist groups there.)

66

sglover 10.27.06 at 9:50 am

Some say that building institutions is way more important than individual heroism, yet people like Albats (all due respect) seem to prefer the stardom/martyrdom approach; and this is where the Politkovskaya story gets to be used as a weapon. “We need more selfless heroes” vs. “we need better institutions”.

Ummmm…. Have you ever been there? Know the history of the place at all? You make it sound like these people wake up and ask themselves, “What shall it be today? Join Oxfam, or act like a Dostoyevsky character?” There just aren’t a helluva lot of non-state institutions to “build” in Russia. Their society is even more atomized than America. In that social vacuum, institution building can only begin — maybe — if a few people like Politkovskaya are willing to take brave individual action.

67

abb1 10.27.06 at 10:08 am

Fair enough, we have a difference of opinions here.

68

engels 10.27.06 at 10:29 am

Or is there something more to the case against Applebaum as a particularly corrupt and/or neocon-nut columnist?

Well, Russell, during the recent fracas between Amnesty International and George W. Bush, over Amnesty’s no doubt mean and hurtful use of the word “Gulag” to describe America’s large-scale network of secret prisons and torture centres, on the one hand, and Bush’s approval of said Gulag on the other, she weighed in firmly on the side of your illustrious president, even going so far as to call Amnesty an “anti-American” organisation which had forfeit its claims to “neutrality” and “credibility”. I think it’s rather hard for anyone who cares about human rights to take her as seriously after that.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/07/AR2005060701497.html

69

Russell Arben Fox 10.27.06 at 12:58 pm

Ok, I checked out the column, engels.

In the past few days, not only has Amnesty’s secretary general, Irene Khan, called the U.S. prison for enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “the gulag of our times,” but Amnesty’s U.S. director, William Schulz, has agreed that U.S. prisons for enemy combatants are “similar at least in character, if not in size, to what happened in the gulag.” In an interview, Schulz also said that foreign governments should prosecute U.S. officials, as if they were the equivalent of the Soviet Union’s criminal leadership….Amnesty, by misusing language, by discarding its former neutrality, and by handing the administration an easy way to brush off ridiculous accusations, also deprives itself of what should be its best ally. The United States, as the world’s largest and most powerful democracy, remains, for all its flaws, the world’s best hope for the promotion of human rights. If Amnesty still believes in its stated mission, its leaders should push American democratic institutions to influence U.S. policy for the good of the world, and not attack the American government for the satisfaction of their own political faction.

I’ll agree that this is pretty overboard. A bit of intense rhetoric from Amnesty International, and she flies into full bore “America-is-the-best-hope-of-the-world” mode. Still, she’s not the first person I’ve seen lose it when a term and/or event they’ve invested a lot of their work in–in this case, the history of the gulag–gets appropriated into different contexts. A little bit of Googling could easily produce, I’m sure, dozens of Holocaust survivors and civil rights march veterans who hate seeing “their” terminology ever used by anyone else. (Which is not an excuse, just context.)

I am appalled by this administration’s detention practices and interrogation policies, by the lack of a legal mechanism to judge the guilt of alleged terrorists, and by the absence of any outside investigation into reports of prison abuse. But I loathe these things precisely because the United States is not the Soviet Union, because our detention centers are not intrinsic to our political system, and because they are therefore not “similar in character” to the gulag at all. Most of all, though, I hate them because they are counterproductive. Like the Cold War, the war on terrorism is an ideological war, one that we will “win” when our opponents give up and join us, just like the East Germans who streamed over the Berlin Wall. But if the young people of the Arab world are to reject radical Islam and climb that wall, they will have to admire what they see on the other side.

Okay, so she’s pretty clearly not a human rights absolutist; she’s looking at things through a nationalist/culturalist lens, calling Bush’s tolerance of detention and torture bad because it’s “unAmerican” or bad for the West, or some such thing. Whether she’s right that it’s unAmerican is, unfortunately, a debatable point (and so much the worse for America), but in any case I’ll agree: saying that a potentially completely arbitrary system of detention is pragmatically a bad policy isn’t anywhere near good enough. At the same time, though, I’m not sure that means it’s fair to say she doesn’t care about human rights at all. Still, you’ve made your point; thanks for the link.

70

blah 10.27.06 at 1:11 pm

For me, the key passage from Ames’ column was this one:

Most Russians I know reacted somewhere between indifference and mild disgust at the murder. But if you read the Russian internet, you’d realize that Putin came off as a weepy liberal: a good part of the “active” community only wished that Politkovskaya had been killed far more slowly, much sooner, and that they could have perhaps been part of the hit team who did it. Nice, really fucking nice.

On the other side — the side that matters far more to me — was the West. Unlike Putin, the Western media wasted no time in seizing Politkovskaya’s corpse for their own purposes, parading it around and milking it for every ounce it was worth.

It strikes me as exceedingly odd that he thinks the Western reaction to Politkovskaya’s murder matters more than the Russian reaction.

It would be like me saying, for instance, that the American reaction to the anthrax murders mattered less than what some journalist in Russia had to say about them. Just plain odd.

To be honest, I really wouldn’t care that much what some Russian said about it, and would expect that whatever he did say would be for some domestic policitical purpose.

71

abb1 10.27.06 at 1:21 pm

He says that it matters more to him, not that it matters more.

72

blah 10.27.06 at 1:25 pm

He says that it matters more to him, not that it matters more.

That doesn’t make it any less odd.

73

engels 10.27.06 at 1:26 pm

abb1’s right, and also I thought it seemed obvious that Ames cares more about America because he still considers himself to be an American. I really can’t see why people like Blah and Doug can’t understand this, or if they do, why they won’t believe it.

Russell – I think that Applebaum certainly does care about human rights violations. Unfortunately, like many other good patriots in America, the USSR and Putin’s Russia, she seems to care about them much more when they are committed by the other side.

74

blah 10.27.06 at 1:49 pm

If he cared more about America, then he wouldn’t be writing about a topic – Politkovskaya’s murder – that most Americans couldn’t care less about and that will have aboslutely no impact on American policy.

If the murder matters at all, then it matters because of the effect it will have on Russia.

And why does Ames so comically splutter about “whipping up national hatred”? There is no campaign to whip up national hatred against Russia – in comparison to the real campaign to whip up hatred against Iran – and the vast majority of Americans could care less about Russia at this point. Only someone who cares more about Russia would make this mistake.

75

MQ 10.27.06 at 4:16 pm

The Dolan review of Appelbaum’s book on the Gulags is very good, and I thought the most telling paragraph was this one:

“The crimes of history are optional. We mix, match and discard according to taste and convenience. It’s useful for Applebaum’s Tory backers to remember Stalin’s crimes because they can still use them to bash anyone who might want to beef up the National Health system with higher taxes. “Today an extra 1% VAT on my Jag convertible, tomorrow Kolyma!” is a very familiar war cry from these crusaders for human rights. Other massacres are dim stats, to be dredged up when necessary. ..and so it goes, with a huge number of tangential mental associations determining which of the billions of corpses clogging the earth will be dug up and flung at one’s opponents at any particular moment.”

A very good piece of writing on the rhetorical uses of “human rights”. I could really care less what someone writes at this late date about the Nazis or about Stalin. I’m much more interested in their position on today’s abuses by a government they are actually in a position to influence. That’s what tells you how much they actually care about human rights.

I think Ames’ going on about “hatred against Russia” is very specifically targeted at what he feels is the caricaturing of Russia in the elite inside-the-beltway opinion community (e.g. the WashPo and thinktanks). We’ve seen over the past few years that this group has substantial ability to affect U.S. foreign policy.

76

John Emerson 10.27.06 at 6:16 pm

Still, she’s not the first person I’ve seen lose it when a term and/or event they’ve invested a lot of their work in—in this case, the history of the gulag—gets appropriated into different contexts. A little bit of Googling could easily produce, I’m sure, dozens of Holocaust survivors and civil rights march veterans who hate seeing “their” terminology ever used by anyone else.

The historian’s investment in the gulag was different in kind that the gulag survivor’s investment. I rule this comparison null too, just like th Belfast one. I’m the comparison police today, I guess.

77

nolo commentre 10.27.06 at 6:46 pm

“Applebaum is an establishment apologist in one of those rare nations nation in which establishment apologists are rewarded very well.” (39)

“I think the point was that we might all be better off if Applebaum and people like her would also take an interest in their own gulags once in a while.” (44)

“Probably right. Applebaum certainly knows where the American line is, and presumably the Polish line too.” (55)

“It’s useful for Applebaum’s Tory backers to remember Stalin’s crimes because they can still use them to bash anyone who might want to beef up the National Health system with higher taxes.” (75)

Just noticing a theme here in the criticism of Applebaum. And then it turns out that in the one link she condemns the Bush administration while at the same condemning the comparison of Guantanamo with the Gulag. As if the reaction of a real person being taken off the train to Siberia to be put on the plane to Cuba wouldn’t be: joy.

78

engels 10.27.06 at 7:37 pm

Nolo Commentre – Read the pieces linked here. You don’t appear to have a clue what you are talking about. The idea that anyone being shipped off to Guantamo Bay for indefinite detention might experience “joy” is quite offensive. And we all know that Applebaum says she is against the American Gulag. Try reading the comments again to see what people are actually arguing about before assuming that people haven’t read their own links.

79

Ian 10.27.06 at 11:47 pm

Chris Bertram at comment 63: Btw, the remark at 33 above – “it’s slightly weird to see this stuff get CT approval” – is crap. There’s no such thing as CT approval…

As the person who made the remark, I retract it. It was sloppy. I should have said something like “it’s slightly weird to see one of CT’s members write approvingly of elements of a publication that likes to flirt with ultra-right hate politics.” Sloppiness admitted, how does it compare with the distortions and guilt-by-association routine in the Exile article that Chris cites approvingly?

Chris adds: “You should all read Celine, btw.” Is there an equivalence in achievement between Celine and the Exile? If Mark Ames ever writes a novel one tenth as good as Voyage au bout de la nuit, I’ll concede the point.

80

Chris Bertram 10.28.06 at 3:29 am

ffs. “a publication that likes to flirt with ultra-right hate politics”.

You make it sound as if the exile flirts with the Russian equivalent of the Klan or the British National Party. It doesn’t.

81

abb1 10.28.06 at 5:47 am

Yeah, he sure has a lot of hatred, but I don’t think there are any ‘hate politics’ in there.

82

Chris Williams 10.28.06 at 6:57 am

Well, next time a bunch of US-supported mercenaries force me into a shipping container in central Afghanistan, as CIA operatives look on, I’ll remember to be actively joyful. You’ve certainly cleared that one up for me, nolo. Ta.

83

Danny 10.28.06 at 11:43 am

You make it sound as if the exile flirts with the Russian equivalent of the Klan or the British National Party. It doesn’t.

Don’t they? Edward Limonov, the head of the Russian National Bolshevik party is a regular columnist for the paper. Every page in the site features an ad for the NBP at the bottom of the page.

(This party and/or Exile’s association with that party, may be a big joke or a way to epater the bourgeoisie, though I don’t find nazi symbols all that funny).

84

Chris Bertram 10.28.06 at 12:20 pm

Thanks Danny. Looks like I was _seriously_ mistaken about that. My guess is that the epater les bourgeois explanation is right, but even if so, that association supports the view of Ames put by Doug M. above. mea culpa.

85

engels 10.28.06 at 1:53 pm

Again, I don’t carry any brief for Ames – I’ve only ever read a couple of his pieces myself – but it would seem to be logically impossible for him to be both a slavish defender of Putin and an admirer of the NBP. Each these charges is also distinct from another one that has been floated on this thread – that he’s a spineless sellout who “tailors his coat to the wind” from the Kremlin. So which is it?

86

engels 10.28.06 at 2:01 pm

To make that clearer: “slavish defender of Putin” should have been something like “fanatical Putin worshipper”

87

josh 10.28.06 at 4:02 pm

Engels — while admiration for Putin and support for the NBP may seem logically impossible, it doesn’t mean that it’s an inaccurate characterisation of Ames’s views — unless one assumes that Ames’s politics are strictly logical. I see no reason to suppose that, though. It does seem like he’s motivated both by a desire to epater le bourgeois, as suggested, and a general contempt for liberals and Westernizers in Russia; and these commitments seem entirely consonant with both defending Putin against (liberal and Western) critics, and at least flirting with support for the NBP.
Whether Ames is a ‘sellout’ is another matter. That the political axe(s) he has grind coincide with the interests of the authorities in his adopted country may be pure coincidence.

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John Emerson 10.28.06 at 4:43 pm

Well, I think that we should also consider that Ames, like The Exile itself, is self-identified as a scurrilous journalist / provocateur / comedian, qhereas Applebaum is in charge of packaging the received wisdom for the semi-educated elite, and affects moral seriousness into the bargain.

And if Ames is s a political hack himself, that’s just a version of the “you’re just as bad” defense, and in doesn’t really help Applebaum. Applebaum’s own silences certainly should looked at.

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abb1 10.28.06 at 4:55 pm

…unless one assumes that Ames’s politics are strictly logical. I see no reason to suppose that, though.

Right, instead one should suppose that he is commie/nazi/Putin-admirer. Makes sense. Except, I suspect he’s also a closeted satanist.

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engels 10.29.06 at 2:28 am

Ok, I just spent a little while googling this. As far as I can see, Ames and the Exile do indeed seem to be sympathetic to Edward Limonov and his ultra-nationalist National Bolshevik Party (which has been banned from electoral registration in Russia). I can’t see that this is any kind of joke: apart from the fact that Limonov used to write for them regularly, they have written various pieces in support of him, like these, the first two of which are by Ames.

http://www.exile.ru/2002-October-17/feature_story.html
http://www.freezerbox.com/archive/article.php?id=189
http://www.exile.ru/2003-July-10/limonov_for_dummies.html

The last begins by saying “Edward Limonov is a great writer and a heroic figure.”

It seems to follow from this that Ames can not be called an apologist for Putin, and I haven’t yet seen any evidence for this claim. (The “Putin envy” piece which Doug mentioned is not actually pro-Putin, despite its title.) On the other hand, Doug may well have been right to describe him as “basically a Russian nationalist”. If all this is true, then I would have to agree with the general thrust of his original comment.

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abb1 10.29.06 at 4:46 am

Nah, Limonov is a clown and nothing but a clown.

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abb1 10.29.06 at 4:58 am

Besides, if you read his (Limonov’s) clownish nonsense, it doesn’t sound like he is a Russian nationalist; he despises most of the Russians and dreaming about designer nation consisting only of young Evel-Knievels of any ethnicity or nationality. Charlie Manson is his hero and role model.

There’s nothing in it, it’s no different than Madonna’s adoption.

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abb1 10.29.06 at 5:22 am

From wiki:

Based on an article published in Limonka under Limonov’s byline, the government accused Limonov of planning to raise an army to invade Kazakhstan.

Being jealous of Borat, you see.

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Danny 10.29.06 at 7:21 am

Apparently Limonov was an associate of Zhirinovsky, leader of the third largest party in Russia (he was his Shadow Security minister) but broke with him because of Zhirinovsky’s over the top style. Which one is the bigger clown, Zhirinovsky or Limonov, I cannot judge – among fascists this was never an important distinction.

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engels 10.30.06 at 5:00 am

Besides, if you read his (Limonov’s) clownish nonsense, it doesn’t sound like he is a Russian nationalist…

There’s nothing in it, it’s no different than Madonna’s adoption.

Except that Madonna was never filmed firing off a machine gun into Sarajevo at the suggestion of Radovan Karadžić.

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abb1 10.30.06 at 5:36 am

Right, in 1992 Bosnian Muslims were his enemies, and in 2005 – Limonov: Each Year I Get Closer to Islam:

And then I am already 63 years old and whatever [sic] you want it or not you become wiser, it is just a necessity. And therefore each year I get closer to Islam as a wise religion.

It’s all nonsense.

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engels 10.31.06 at 8:31 am

It’s all nonsense.

No, it’s not, actually. If you don’t believe me you can just search for news reports about it. (BTW possibly opportunistic stuff which Limonov may have said 13 years later would not begin to cast doubt on these.) Debating how close Ames is, politically, to Limonov is possible, as is arguing about Limonov is a fascist. Debating whether Limonov fought with the Serbs (and Karadzic) against the Bosniaks, or whether the NBP are Russian nationalists (and very extreme ones) is, IIRC, not.

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engels 10.31.06 at 10:12 am

An article about fascism in Russia which is very critical of Limonov.

http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/nazi_russia_3511.jsp

Islamophobia and xenophobia are on the rise particularly with nationalist groups such as the National-Bolshevik Party, which also calls for the elimination of gays and lesbians. An unlikely mixture of Nazi and Stalinist rhetoric with anarchist notions thrown in, the National-Bolshevik Party seeks to recreate a Russian empire along czarist lines; it is hostile to ethnic minorities and foreigners, critical of Vladimir Putin, and calls for direct action, usually pranks and stunts, to protest political and social issues. Its most notorious action was on 2 August 2004, when it occupied the ministry of health in Moscow to protest against the cancellation of Soviet-era benefits for pensioners and others; this government decision made many Russians angry and provided the group with an opportunity for a public display of their party flags, which look uncannily like Nazi flags except that a hammer and sickle has been substituted for the swastika as a black image in a white circle on a field of red (figure 4).

Despite the rhetoric of the National-Bolshevik Party, it is not politically possible to combine Nazism and communism, even in its deformed and degenerated Stalinist form. …

Limonov denounces the Russian revolution of 1917 as a “Jewish coup d’état” but admires the “green revolution” of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the Ba’athist coup of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran – all reactionary movements based on either military dictatorship or clerical rule. In his stint as a sniper for the Serbian army, Limonov admired the “ethnic cleansing” of non-Serbs in Serbian areas. His goal is to extend the borders of Russia into the former Soviet republics, producing a greater-Russia that would dominate non-ethnic Russians with a military dictator in place of a czar, a condition of oppressive rule Lenin famously referred to as “a prison-house of peoples.” Ultimately Limonov and the National-Bolshevik Party would like to supercede the United States as the dominant world imperialist power.

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