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Wednesday, February 26, 2003


Another hateful and under-informed eruption from the lovely Diane E. of Letter From Gotham. I reproduce a sizeable portion here:
Russia is disgusting. In a way, they are worse than France and Germany. Both France and Germany can at least say they give their citizens a decent lifestyle. Russia's a mess, a failed state, run by fascists and gangsters. The only way a Russian can make a decent living is by emigrating.

They slaughtered thousands of Chechens, and claim that Chechnya is part of Russia, when it is not. In their desperation, the Chechens have foolishly accepted help from the Saudis, and I imagine this connection has, sadly, opened up their ranks to terrorists from al Qaida. The attack on the theater was, of course, unforgiveable [sic]. I guess when you are desperate, your judgement [again, sic] is clouded, and the Saudis have a knack of insinuating themselves into every corner of the Muslim globe.
The second paragraph is truly remarkable. Diane, no fan of 'root cause' analysis of Muslim grievance (much less Islamofascist terrorism) against the U.S. and its friends, doesn't feel the need to foreclose all avenues of inquiry by hollering that they "hate our freedoms." If only she admitted to herself that some anti-Bush and anti-Sharon animus was intelligible as something other than crypto- or overt anti-Semitism.

Which is very much beside the point, chiefly because the likelihood of such an admission is so remote. It would presuppose learning and understanding, both scarce quantities at Letter From Gotham. Diane, her recent entry suggests, is oblivious to the fact that those who allegedly "claim that Chechnya is part of Russia" gave the region de facto autonomy in 1996, that the Chechens would subsequently attack Dagestan, and would begin kidnapping across several Russian territories, most spectacularly in the instance of General Shpigun, the Russian internal affairs representative snatched from Grozny airport on arrival for talks with the Maskhadov government.

A military campaign against Chechnya is certainly unlikely to rectify the whatever inspired the preceding. It does nothing to correct the retrograde social formations prevailing in Chechnya, the infrastructural devastation of the country, the near absence of an economy, the "heroic" nationalism degenerated to a dangerous mania, and the squalor unrivalled outside of Afghanistan. Again, these are complex problems of a sort not suitable to Diane's atrophied and bigoted mind. She invokes Chechnya solely as a gambit to bash Russia.

In many ways Diane is carrying on the Sovietologists' project of inventing narratives that don't bear sustained or even perfunctory scrutiny. What inform both the Sovietology of yore and Diane's outburst are smugness and a refusal to engage both historical fact and the humanity of ones purported object of study. That the current campaign in Chechnya is anything but a war of imperial acquisition is patent to anybody reading a newspaper - even an American one - with regularity. Whatever enthusiasm there is in Russia for military intervention, and public opinion research has suggested that there isn't much, is more an artifact of Russian fear of the gangsterism Diane accuses the Russian government of. In the Russian mind, Chechens and other dark, Muslim people (handily called "blacks") are commonly assumed to be criminals. Russia is a "failed state" in Diane's estimation. "The only way a Russian can make a decent living is by emigrating," she continues, though those unable to effect an emigration often resort to crime in an effort to secure one of the ever lessening number of crumbs falling from the table. Russian bigotry often conflates Chechen "blacks" with criminals, and postulates the necessity of a collective punishment. I would have thought that the same Diane who flees in terror when a black youth enters her subway car would have felt some measure of simpatico with the Russians on this score.

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