Enhanced Russia Bashing at The New York Times (I)
Michael AVERKO | 07.06.2016 | WORLD / Americas

Enhanced Russia Bashing at The New York Times (I)

Last month, the so-called “paper of record”, ran a barrage of one-sidedly dubious anti-Russian leaning commentary, which I suspect might’ve broken its monthly record. It has been said that The New York Times serves as a good indicator of what a certain wing of the American political establishment favors. When it comes to Russia, the Republican and Democratic establishments have been top heavy with biases against that country. Covering a range of Russia related topics, the following is an overview of some NYT articles from last month.    

Andrew Higgins’ May 30 piece “Effort to Expose Russia’s Troll Army Draws Vicious Retaliation”, makes a slick passing acknowledgement of other troll instances, while concentrating on the (as presented) negative occurrences involving pro-Russian activism. Fat chance that there will be a NYT article which primarily focuses on anti-Russian troll activity. One reason for this situation might’ve to do with elements at “the paper of record” favoring anti-Russian sentiment. Anti-Russian troll manner covers several categories, including the simplistically inaccurate categorization of “genocide denier”, relating to how many Russians and Serbs (among some others) view Srebrenica to other wartime areas of mass killing. (On that and some other issues, I’ve a clear conscience.)

His subjectivity notwithstanding, Peter Baker’s May 28 article “The Rise of Donald Trump Tracks Growing Debate Over Global Fascism”, raises some legitimate enough talking points. On the matter of fascistic qualities, Baker steers clear of the editorial process, which has essentially censored valid counters to his preferences. He uncritically references neocon Robert Kagan, who (with his wife Victoria Nuland) doesn’t seem so distraught at the level of violence experienced by counter-Euromaidan individuals within Kiev regime controlled Ukraine.

In his article, Baker (who has previously covered Russia for a considerable period) provides a hyperlinked reference to a piece by his NYT colleague Jonathan Weisman. Along with at least one other source, Weisman’s May 26 article “The Nazi Tweets of Trump ‘God Emperor’”, misrepresents what Melania Trump said about Julia Ioffe. M. Trump isn’t a journalist and English isn’t her native language. It can be reasonably deduced that M. Trump believes that in a divisive way, Ioffe, has a penchant for bringing out the worst elements in society.

If quoted accurately, M. Trump could’ve chosen her words more carefully. Her US Republican presidential candidate husband Donald, is a lifelong New Yorker and longtime supporter of Israel. His daughter (from his first marriage) Ivanka, is a converted Orthodox Jew, whose husband is of that denomination. Donald and Ivanka seem to maintain a close relationship. Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz characterized Ioffe’s piece on M. Trump as a hit job. M. Trump has a basis for disliking Ioffe. It appears a stretch to suggest that M. Trump is anti-Jewish.    

Meantime, it can be rationally argued that Ioffe comes across as being more of a bigot than what M. Trump can be reasonably accused of on that score. As a high profile English language journalist for several years, Ioffe well understands the kind of semantics she has utilized. One of several examples is her October 13, 2013 New Republic article “Russians Still Love Pogroms”, written when she was an editor at that venue. As if there aren’t non-bigoted Russians, in addition to anti-Russian bigots, who spew disparagingly inaccurate stereotypes.

This past April 29, Russia Insider had a feature titled “Julia Ioffe: Russians Are Like, You Know, Really Antisemitic”, followed with the byline “A pathological Russophobe, this New Yorker writer never misses a chance to tell us how awful Russians are...”. The thread discussion at the aforementioned Russia Insider posting, is a blend of some intelligently valid comments against Ioffe and the level of stupid bigotry that Ioffe (IMO) has expressed herself.

In her suggestive depiction of Russians being collectively on the bigoted side, she ignores the numerous examples to the contrary. I’ve run into a good share of earnestly minded people of Russian Orthodox Christian and/or Jewish backgrounds, as well as others, who (put mildly) oppose her caricaturing. This particular viewpoint gets downplayed, or omitted altogether in “the paper of record”, as Ioffe is lauded by some as a hero journalist.

Ioffe said that following shortly after her piece on M. Trump: “The irony is that today, when I was getting all of this horrible anti-Semitic shit that I’ve only ever seen in Russia, I was reminded that 26 years ago today my family came to the US from Russia. We left Russia because we were fleeing anti-Semitism. It’s been a rude shock to everyone.”

Such is her ignorance. Circa the Cold War period in the US, talk radio host Alan Berg, was murdered for reasons connected with his Jewish background and provocatively stated liberal views. Before and since Berg’s murder, some Jewish-American organizations and individual Jews have attested to experiencing anti-Jewish behavior in one form or the other in the US. It’s nevertheless inaccurate to collectively label that nation as anti-Jewish.

For economic and some other reasons, life in the USSR had a certain unpleasantness for many, regardless of their ethno-religious background. In post-Soviet Russia, there’ve been numerous changes for the better, with definite room for improvement. It’s disingenuous to suggest differently.

Moscow is now said to be the city with the largest expat Israeli population, numbering around 80,000. In Russia, prominent TV host Vladimir Solovyov periodically notes his Jewish background. He’s well appreciated by many patriotically minded Russians. Likewise, Russian-Jewish analyst Yevgeny Satanovsky, is accorded respect in his Russian national TV appearances. There’re numerous other examples in Russia, which include the stature of the famous Ukrainian born Jewish singer Iosif Kobzon.  

In its short history, post-Soviet Russia, has had more than one prime minister of known Jewish origin. In the 200 plus years history of the US, how many people of Jewish background have served as American president and vice president?

During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Ioffe described the Russian teen figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya as “flat-chested”. I sense that Ioffe would’ve problems in the US market if she were to describe a popular American teen female prodigy as such. (If this example is considered nit picking, let’s see Ioffe characterize a popular American teen phenom in the same manner.)

Whatever the ethnicity and locale, the bigoted anti-Jewish comments directed at Ioffe, serve to divert attention away from the valid criticism of her. The past tragic history of the Jews, combined with a noticeable Jewish mass media and academic presence, form a staunchly influential opposition to contemporary anti-Jewish bigotry.  

In conjunction with that last thought, one senses that Baker, Weisman and numerous others at The NYT (as well as some other major US mass media outlets), have selective blinders when it comes to intolerant remarks. Of late, The NYT has definitely ratcheted up the promotion of negatively inaccurate perceptions about Russia/Russians – something unclear to numerous people – some of whom have a high level of formal education.

(To be continued…)

Tags: Russia  US