Monthly Archives: August 2014

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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