Izvestia crosses into Der Stürmer territory

You may recall the Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov, the notoriously anti-Semitic, Stalinist ultranationalist who has of late migrated from the margins of Russian public life to the officially approved mainstream. He caused something of a stir back in March when he opined on Russian state TV that the Jews were “bringing a second Holocaust on themselves” by backing the Maidan revolution in Ukraine (prompting the host of the program to remark that “they brought on the first one, too”).

Well, now he’s at it again, this time in the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, with a surreal article about the common struggle of Donetsk and Gaza as “hero cities, martyr cities, twin cities”–“two stumbling blocks in the path of universal evil.”

Universal evil, apparently, has a rather specific character:

Netanyahu and his spiritual brother Kolomoisky, both stiff-necked, merciless, obsessed with a monstrous messianic idea, are incinerating mosques and churches, hospitals and maternity wards.

It’s rather remarkable that Prokhanov pairs Netanyahu with Kolomoisky–not a head of state but merely a regional governor, and not even the governor of the Donetsk region, who plays no role in the anti-insurgent operation. Why not Petro Poroshenko, the President of Ukraine, or Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Prime Minister? What do Netanyahu and Kolomoisky have in common? If you’re thinking “they’re both Jews,” you’re correct: Kolomoisky is the most prominent openly Jewish Ukrainian politician. (Actually, Yatsenyuk has a partly Jewish background, but he identifies as a Christian and downplays his Jewish origins.)  A later paragraph does mention Poroshenko, but again in conjunction with Kolomoisky, whom Prokhanov evidently regards as the real leader of post-Maidan Ukraine.

The rest of the article is a bizarre ode to “the heroes of Hamas and the warriors of Donbass,” concluding with a gloriously demented vision of “the day when the people of Gaza and the people of Donbass reunite at a victory celebration, clasp each other in a fraternal embrace, and glorify God’s truth in their verses and songs.” There’s even a mention of red and white roses. But what’s most remarkable about this rhapsody is the virtually undisguised stench of anti-Semitism in an article published in a leading, quasi-official Russian newspaper. Apparently, “Jew-haters of the world, unite!” is an acceptable slogan in today’s Russia.

 

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Welcome to Putin’s Russia, land of the tinfoil hats

According to Russian historian Boris Sokolov, writing for Grani.ru (an independent website that has been blocked in Russia since March by orders of the prosecutor’s office for allegedly promoting “extremism”), the other day Russia’s TV-1–the country’s main channel–marked the anniversary of World War I with a documentary titled “Alternative Version: The First Shot of World War I.”

Its thesis: Archduke Ferdinand’s real assassin was not Gavrilo Princip but a British sniper, a Freemason acting on behest of the international masonic conspiracy which had set out to start a world war in order to gain world domination. Later on, the same masonic conspiracy engineered the Russian Revolution so that Russia would not emerge as one of the war’s victors.

Who knew that the old adage about lunatics running the asylum could come true quite so literally?

 

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How not to respond to Women Against Feminism

Just to make it clear: I’m not a part of Women Against Feminism. I’m on the fence about whether the term “feminism” can be reclaimed, but that’s a question for another time. (In case you missed it: here’s my Time.com article on the subject.)

But some of the responses to WAF just make me roll my eyes.

Here’s an example:

First of all: a recurring theme on the Women Against Feminism site is that feminism fought important battles in the past, but those battles have been won and feminism has morphed into something counterproductive. Whether that view is right or wrong, to say that today’s fourth wave (or whichever wave it is) feminists are entitled to women’s allegiance because of the rights previous generation of feminists have won for women is, as my friend Brian Carnell has observed on Twitter, a bit like saying that blacks must be forever loyal to the Republican Party because it was instrumental in ending slavery.

Secondly: while it is certainly true that women pre-feminism generally faced far greater obstacles than men of the same class when it came to intellectual pursuits, the idea that women (at least in the West) were barred from expressing opinions and denied all voice is preposterous. Christine de Pizan wrote books, including ones that defended women against misogynist caricatures, all the way back in the 14th-15th Centuries. There were plenty of other women writers, including popular pamphleteers, whose work long predates anything like an organized feminist movement. In fact, if women had been denied the right to have and publish their opinions, how could (first-wave) feminism even have happened? Mary Wollstonecraft and Olympe de Gouges, two women who can probably be justly called feminist pioneers, both published their work at the end of the 18th Century. (Both, it should be noted, had written and published extensively on other subjects before turning to advocacy of women’s rights.) Feminists certainly did not make it possible for them to get published and reach large audiences.

It is true, however, that women authors–particularly ones who wrote on feminist topics–were often singled out for ridicule and disparagement. They could be mocked as ignorant and stupid, or derided as mere conduits for men’s ideas (because, after all, women couldn’t possibly have the brains to come up with intelligent arguments!), or slandered as immodest and unchaste…

… which is exactly what some feminists are now doing to Women Against Feminism.

 

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Russia: strange bedfellows, stranger degrees of separation

Remember Alexander Dugin, the Kremlin’s crazy (like a fox) ultranationalist guru? The one who sees Russia as the bulwark of “Eurasian” civilization, locked in eternal conflict with “Atlanticist” powers, and the country destined to lead global resistance to “Western liberal hegemony” which seeks to force its values of “the free market, free trade, liberalism, parliamentarian democracy, human rights, and absolute individualism” on other cultures? Alexander “Fascism has never been properly tried” Dugin? The favorite Russian of American white supremacists? (I wrote about him here, here, and here.)

Alexander Dugin speaks at a rally in Moscow yesterday urging a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The banner over his head says “FOR RUSSIA-IN-DONETSK!” and “RUSSIANS FOR RUSSIANS!” Photo by @EvgenyFeldman.

Well.

It turns out that I kinda, sorta know Mr. Dugin’s ex-wife and the mother of one of his children.

But wait.

It gets better.

Dugin’s ex, Evgeniya (Genya) Debryanskaya, is a pioneering Russian LGBT activist who also has a long history of activism in the pro-democracy movement. She co-founded Russia’s first gay rights advocacy group, the Association of Sexual Minorities, in 1990; she was also a co-founder of the Russian Libertarian Party and was involved in the Democratic Union, the small party led by Valeria Novodvorskaya (the remarkable Russian pro-freedom activist who died last month, and about whose life and work I wrote here). I met Genya in 1990 on a trip to Moscow, while doing interviews for an article on women in Russian politics. I think we met twice. The second time, she gave me a letter to her American girlfriend to mail in the US, not wanting to entrust it to the Soviet postal service. (She also asked to borrow $50, promising to repay it on her upcoming trip to America. “She’ll never pay it back,” said a Russian friend who knew her. “Consider it your donation to the Russian gay rights movement.” The friend was right.)

I’m not sure exactly when Debryanskaya and Dugin were married, but they have a son born in 1985, named Arthur at birth and christened as Dmitry in the Russian Orthodox Church. (Amusingly, Dugin’s bio on his website gives the date of his son’s birth but makes no mention of the mother’s identity; the only marriage mentioned in the bio is his second marriage, in 1987, to philosophy professor Natalia Melentieva, with whom he has a daughter.)

Debryanskaya later drifted away from politics, though she was arrested at a gay rights protest in Moscow in May 2006. (According to an article in the Russian edition of Newsweek, she and her fellow protesters shared a police van with several counterprotesters from Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Union, who were also arrested; when one of the “Eurasian” boys began to grumble about having to “ride together with these stinking fags,” Genya rendered him speechless him by mentioning that Dugin was her former husband.)

But here’s the latest twist. When I tried to find out what Debryanskaya has been up to lately, I was stunned to learn that she has caught the ultanationalist bug, big-time.

In March, she wrote on her Facebook page, “If Vladimir Putin returns Crimea to Russia, he will write his name into HISTORY, thus justifying his third presidential term. If not, he will be remembered as the head of a gang of corrupt scumbags and a destroyer of freedom.” While it appears that she later deleted this post, her page is filled with exhortations to fight “fascism” in Ukraine (on April 16, she shared a post asserting that “Russia today has turned out to be the sole  guarantor of resistance to fascism”; a May 3 post laments, “Putin would need a couple of days to drive all this fascist scum to the other side of the Dnieper, so what are we waiting for?”). She has even reposted a TV interview with Dugin.

Gays for homophobic nationalists?

To quote from the Slavophiles’ favorite 19th Century poem by Fyodor Tyutchev: “You can’t grasp Russia with the mind.”

 

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More on “affirmative consent” laws and why they are a really dumb idea

So I have a new Reason.com piece up about the pending California bill that would require colleges to use an “affirmative consent” standard in adjudicating sexual assault complaints and I have my critics on Twitter (see here and here).

One of the arguments is that “affirmative consent” would be a useful standard in cases where someone is coerced into unwanted sex and doesn’t say no because s/he is paralyzed by fear.

Here’s why I think “affirmative consent” is entirely useless in such cases.

(1) If a man has sex with a woman who is paralyzed by fear (I’ll just use the “conventional” male perpetrator/female victim scenario here, since this is what the laws are clearly targeting), he knows perfectly well that she’s not a consenting partner. He’s a sexual predator, not a clueless guy making an innocent mistake. If he’s brought up on charges of sexual assault, there is nothing whatsoever to stop him from lying and saying that she said yes. It’s going to be a completely unprovable he said/she said case.

(2) If a woman is too intimidated to say no to unwanted sex, she can also be easily intimidated into saying yes under “ask first” rules. Some years ago, I got a large stack of documents from a guy who wanted me to write about his case claiming to be a man wrongfully jailed for rape. One of the points he stressed in his letter was that he actually asked the woman if she wanted to have sex and she said yes. However, when I reviewed the documents, it became pretty clear that this verbal exchange took place in a situation where the woman had very good cause to feel threatened (I forget the details–this was some 15 years ago). So the emphasis on expressed consent can actually be bad for victims if takes the focus off questions of force and threat.

One of my Twitter critics says that affirmative consent laws won’t compel anyone to accuse anyone else of rape. No, they won’t. But they can coerce a lot of people into unwanted and awkward “communication” about sex. And yes, in some cases they can encourage a person who has had an unsatisfying or emotionally traumatic sexual experience (e.g. sex followed by rejection) to reframe it as sexual assault in their own mind afterward.

The bottom line? As long as there is no force, threat, or incapacitation, the government has no business dictating to adults how to have sex. Period.

 

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Want to see some real fascism?

The other day, I wrote an article on the question of the “neofascist peril” in Ukraine and in Russia.

Well, here’s an interesting sidebar, or postscript, as it were.

This is a video of a song by Zhanna (Jeanne) Bichevskaya, “Kulikovo Field,” which she performed on Russia’s TV1 (the main, state-run TV channel). I’m not sure about the date of the broadcast (the video was uploaded in 2010). The title refers to the location of a 1380 battle between Russian forces and the armies of the Golden Horde, which began Russia’s liberation from Mongol rule.

The lyrics speak for themselves. Here’s my verse translation, which alters a few words here and there for rhythm and alliterative rhyme but is very close to the original.

By the way, note the bolded stanza.  As one Russian blogger quipped, the Turks and the Israelis should be getting nervous.

Our ancestors remembers, our grandfathers remember,
And our Church remembers, in the Almighty’s name,
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Through the morning mist here come the holy banners,
Soon, the rage of combat will shake the very earth.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.
The field of Russian Glory, the field of Russian battle,
The field of Russian life that triumphs over death.

But how is it, brothers, that so low we’ve fallen?
Russia’s groaning under black oppressive hordes.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.
Then it’s time for Russians to take up their weapons,
Then it’s time for Russians again to draw their swords.

The anti-world is starting great new conflagrations,
Once again, our Moscow is ravaged by their fires.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.
And there are new Europes menacing our homeland,
And new Khans who threaten, and the new Khazars.

But our Holy Russia will be free and mighty;
Let the Devil tremble at this Russian might!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!
Once again, the rightful Tsar will lead his army,
Kulikovo Field will be our common fight!

Then, the praying voices will arise and triumph,
Russia’s hour of glory will thunder through the world.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.
In the Savior’s name will stand the Holy Army,
A new Kulikovo for us has been foretold.

In the hour of reckoning, we will frown in anger,
And will sweep the vampires from our country’s path.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death.
There will be no camps then, there will be no prisons—
All of Russia’s enemies will be put to death!

We will track the enemy and we will destroy him,
Tear them all to pieces, may the Lord be praised.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Russia will reclaim her Russian Sevastopol,
And Crimea will be Russian once again,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem,
We’ll retake the Bosphorus, our Constantinople,
And the sacred city of Jerusalem!

And, defying masons and all other villains,
Those who toward the Christians seethe with vicious hate,
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.
We’ll regain the memory of Kulikovo Field–and
We will be united by this holy place.

Anywhere I go and anywhere I travel,
In my Christian heart, my country’s fields I bear.
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!
Kulikovo Field, the victory of Russia,
Kulikovo Field, forever Russian land!

(For those unfamiliar with Russian code words: the “new Khazars” are Jews.)

No, Bichevskaya does not speak for the Russian government, but it’s noteworthy that she is the recipient of several awards from the Russian Orthodox Church. She was a guest on Soyuz, the Church’s TV channel, last December.

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March 25, 2014 · 7:55 pm

Odessa humor for our time

Odessa, a port city in Ukraine–mainly Russian-speaking but very multi-ethnic–has a long tradition of unique, quirky (primarily Jewish) local humor; there’s a whole genre of Odessa folklore including jokes and humorous songs.  One sample of it in response to current events has made the rounds recently — a video clip (subtitled in English) in which Odessa residents call Putin and ask him to go home.  (I tried inserting it here but it didn’t work for some reason.)

And now, a new Odessa joke I saw on Facebook today (in Russian).

Two friends run into each other in the street.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Shhh…. I’m trying not to speak Russian in public.”

“What, are you scared the Ukrainians might beat you up?”

“Naah, I’m scared the Russians might decide to come and rescue me.”

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