teisipäev, august 07, 2007

Let's Change the Topic, Shall We?


As a denizen of the Interweb, I have spent more time than I would like to admit battling Russian nationalists, Kommisars of the Net if you will, who are ready to spring into action at the drop of the name 'Estonia', or to deflect all criticism of Russia by pointing to Estonia in order to fight over Baltic citizenship policies, rather whether or not next year's presidential election in Russia will be free and fair (it won't).

After talking to these gentlemen and ladies at length, I thought I would provide you all with a tutorial on how to flip their arguments on their head, and move the discussion into territory so foreign to them, they will find themselves actually agreeing with you because they have no idea what you are talking about.

I have decided to divide the lessons I have learned into three handy points that may help anyone who cares about the future of this country engage publicly and confidently parry any thrusts from Stalinist apologists in the electronic public space.


Talking Point A: 1918 is the Year One

Estonians have tried so many times to get Russian nationalists to 'see their perspective' on World War II. This only encourages them to commence with a smear campaign linking Estonia to Nazism. In fact, this is a major effort of the Russian Foreign Ministry as part of its effort to weaken Estonia's attempt to undue the Soviet criminalization of resistance to Bolshevist power. They call it rewriting history. We all know that if Estonia really rewrote its history, the 'revision' would be much less depressing.

The answer is not to attempt to fight back, but rather to draw all arguments back to the Treaty of Tartu, and Estonia's declaration of independence in 1918.All arguments -- about citizenship, about legal continuity, about Russia's policies towards Estonia should continuously reference 1918.

Why is this helpful? For one, Russian nationalists are World War II buffs, but I have found that they know very little about the founding of the communist state in 1917-1920. They know the Great Patriotic War like the back of their hand, but they are sketchy on the power struggles of the teens and 20s. This was a time when Lenin sent Adolph Joffe to sign Bolshevist Russia's first foreign treaty with Estonia. It was a time when Leon Trotsky was managing red forces.

All of these characters -- Trotsky, Lenin, Joffe -- were communist intellectuals. The nuances of Soviet politics at that time are totally lost on the black and white version of the Great Patriotic War dished out every year by Putin. The idea of these political characters passionately debating the future of Russia is anathema to the Russian Federation of today. I mean when was the last time Putin name-dropped Leon Trotsky?

1918 also works because it stresses, above all, Estonian independence. There are no Estonians in Finnish uniforms, or Estonians in German uniforms -- just Estonians in Estonian uniforms. It also underscores Estonia's connections to Finland and Britain. The fact that Estonians fought Germans too, decreases the 'anti-Russian' tone of the debate. It's all about Estonian independence in 1918. There's no way they can argue with that because, quite honestly, it's too boring for them. Finally, the constant referencing of 1918 also makes Estonia look unique. When is the last time a foreign minister got up and babbled on about the war, no, not that war, the one before that war? Who can get worked up over 1918 in 2007? No one.

Talking Point B: Go on the Offensive on Minority Issues.

No matter what the discussion is about it will always touch on the fact that some Estonian residents don't have citizenship. Here it is important to know your facts, above all, that only 8.5 percent lack citizenship and decreasing. But I find the best to shut up this criticism is to agree.

Yes, it is unfortunate that there are stateless people in Estonia. Yes, Estonia is working hard to decrease the number of stateless people in Estonia. Yes, you would be very happy if there were more ethnic Russians involved in the political process. Yes, you would be ecstatic if tomorrow all the stateless people in Estonia magically naturalized

They'll reference the Amnesty Report. Point out that no report has criticized Estonia's unilingual state policy. None. Say that Amnesty has a right to make a report, and that Estonia is a democracy where such reports will be discussed and, if warranted, their decisions will be implemented.

The rightwing Estonian approach is to attack Amnesty or Rene Van der Linden or whomever. This doesn't work. The best approach is to reassert that Estonia is a democracy and that it welcomes international reports like those of Amnesty International. And Estonia very well can choose not to do anything Amnesty says. It's just the polite, PR way, of dealing with criticism.

Talking Point C: Estonia as part of the Nordic Space

As with discussions about 1918, Russian nationalists don't know jack about Nordic politics. They perhaps have no clue who Carl Bildt or Tarja Halonen or Anders Fogh Rasmussen are. As far as they know, Estonia is just some random, little Eastern European country where they hate Russians and love fascism.

One rhetorical trick I like to use is to constantly draw Estonia into the Nordic space and Russia's relations with those countries. Constantly link Estonia to Sweden and Finland. As discussed in an earlier post, Estonia really does have strong links to these countries. I mean -- other than one portly Aruban -- Swedes have been the only foreigners to represent Estonia in Eurovision -- twice.

Oh whatever, convincing you all doesn't matter. What matters is that the constant linkage to the Nordic economy -- which conveys a sense of stability from Tierra del Fuego to the Bering Straights -- changes the dynamic of the discussion. Estonia is no longer small and vulnerable and backwards. It's a player of one of the most elite economies in the world. And it's no longer a question over one country they know little about, it's a question about a lot of countries they know little about.

The more Russian nationalists are forced to think of Estonia as an extension of Sweden and Finland, the less apparent their route of attack will be. Because Estonia is 'near abroad' (meaning they can do with it whatever they damn well please) and Finland is just 'abroad' (meaning they know little of it). Constantly drawing Estonia into a paradigm where it is part of the 'abroad' and no longer the 'near abroad' will confuse your opponent. Talk about "we here in the nordic countries" and they won't have anything to say.

The point is to get them to shut up. By talking about 1918, stunning them by appearing to agree on the minority issues debate, and talking about Finland all the time, you just might achieve this very desirable result.

51 kommentaari:

Andres Sehr ütles ...

This assumes that the person you are arguing with is rational and is willing to listen to what you have to say which is usually not the case.

Giustino ütles ...

This assumes that the person you are arguing with is rational and is willing to listen to what you have to say which is usually not the case.

Actually it assumes the opposite -- that they are your typical illogical Russian nationalist. They so badly want to use their Kremlin talking points, yet with a little factual disinformation, it might be possible to constantly block that debate from occuring.

W. Shedd ütles ...

At the very least, it disarms what little information they had to begin with ...

margus ütles ...

Giustino,
do you think debunking Russian chauvinists is a profitable goal or do you do it for the kicks?

Giustino ütles ...

Other people are reading those forums, and the Kremlin noise machine is loud. Someone has to tell them off. The world wouldn't be right without it.

I'd like to see the Estonian government get up and talk ad nauseum about 1918, rather than all this occupation stuff. Talking about 1918 makes Estonia look strong, diplomatically suave, tiny, but tough.

Talking about the occupation makes Estonia look like a constant victim at the mercy of Russia.

in upstate NY ütles ...

"Talking about the occupation makes Estonia look like a constant victim at the mercy of Russia."

I think your American heritage is showing. That is constantly what Americans here are talking about, and why the US is in Iraq.

Estonia, through sheer stubbornness (truly a national character), has managed to prevail. I will never forget Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes interviewing Estonians in the 1970's. He just shook his head in disbelief when the noored (at that time) would talk of a new Vaba Eesti. "Delusional" was what was clearly going through his head.

And look where Estonia is today.

In looking back, however, Estonian heritage is littered with victimhood, as every Estonian national is painfully aware of.

Ivo ütles ...

On stressing the importance of 1918--I did this in a seemingly rational debate in Orkut's community of Russian speakers. I don't know if my "opponent" was more rational than usual or less rational than usual, but here's what he commented on my post, in which I reminded him of the declaration of independence (February 1918), the denouncing of the Brest Treaty by SU (November 1918), the War of Freedom (in 1918-1920), and Tartu Peace Treaty (1920): "From all historical facts you have taken the year 1920 as the most comfortable for Estonia and ride on that! In 1920 Soviet Union, not yet recognised by any other country, recognises the existence of the Republic of Estonia, not yet recognised by any other country! It seems a little naive to take this one treaty as the basis of the relations between the two countries." (My free translation from Russian.) So when the Russians want, they just claim that the treaty was null and void, just as they claimed the Brest Treaty was null and void. This is one more reason to be strong in this point. So thanks for pointing it out once more!

Giustino ütles ...

So when the Russians want, they just claim that the treaty was null and void, just as they claimed the Brest Treaty was null and void. This is one more reason to be strong in this point. So thanks for pointing it out once more!

Ah, but they also signed the treaty with Finland in 1920. See, once you draw them back into the Nordic dialogue, they're screwed. ;)

plasma-jack ütles ...

And look where Estonia is today.
<
I checked. We are in Iraq. So, hooray for Mr Maliki and Mr Hakim who surely will help the goodness prevail over the evilness. Just like Mr Hussein did his best in the 70-s when he still was a good guy and when Estonia was still occupied. Funny thing, the history is.

(for people interested in Iraq, try googleing al-hakim bush white house to see why this guy is important. and then simply google "aziz al-hakim" to see why it's scary)

Wait, I'm totally off topic. Although Iraq was mentioned before, you were talking about Estonian history of the 1920-s. But wait, again... Wasn't it good old Laidoner (the cool guy who rided his horse over our democracy and then helped to sell our nation to Soviets and now has a neat statue in Viljandi for doing that) who, being an expert for the League of Nations, helped to draw the borders of Iraq in 1920-s?

Funny thing, the history is, indeed.

plasma-jack ütles ...

but on topic. One option is start talking about Jews - for example, how come that the Holocaust memorial was built here only in 1994?
And the other, more subtle trick. "We don't hate Russians. Hey, Khodorkovksy and Berezovsky are Russians, we don't hate them." Now there a good chance to hear those "antifascists" using terms like "filthy Jews" (: Basically, there's only one group that your average Russian nationalists hates more than fascists - the Jews.

space_maze ütles ...

Yeah, the anti-semetism of Russian nationalists is kind of .. amusing, if I may use such a term for such disgusting behaviour. I have literally seen Russian nationalists accuse Estonians of being "zionist nazis" - hah. Nazis for the obvious reasons, zionists for Mart Laar's admiration of Milton Friedman, for good relations with Israel, for NATO membership (and apparenlty NATO has loads to do with Jews .. or .. er .. something ..) .. Estonia is just screwed all over.

space_maze ütles ...

I actually think that Jews might be another point to bring up, commonly, when trying to expose Russian nationalists for what they are.

Mention Estonia's good relations with Israel.

The cultural autonomy Jews had in Estonia before it was dissolved by the Soviet Union.

Or just find ANY damned excuse to get them going on the Jews.

It won't make you win any arguments, but as has been said, that's not the point. Making them look stupid is. Making them look like stupid hypocrites .. even better!

martintg ütles ...

You can also point out that the Soviets and Nazis were allies when Estonia was occupied and annexed in 1940, and that Nazi Germany was the only country that shared the Soviet view, and the current Russian view, that the annexation was legitimate.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Similar conclusions I have drawn since I started to learn more about the Great War, WWI. The Germans have forgotten that they were not trusted, not even in the 30ies,when Estonia was celebrating Victory Day. Victory over the Germans of course and not during WWI but in Independence War that had followed. I also agree with historians who argue there is no understanding of WWII without knowing WWI. There are many posts and photos (estland blog) about the obscure military state of Ober Ost established by the Germans in Russia. One of the most succesful units battling the Germans were the Latvian rifflemen, both the Red and the non Red ones.
WWI and WWI has to be seen as one. Why? In the East Japan and Russia and China tried to take over Korea for example, before 1914. When Estonia was struggling for independence in 1919, the Japanese already had beaten the Russians, occupied Korea and surpressed an uprising 1919 by the Koreans hoping for independence, it was bloody but the protesters were almoust peaceful. It did not help the Koreans, nobody paid attention when the "Völkerbund" was founded. And Wilson made hopes for supporting independence movements.The big powers, Germany, Sovietunion and Japan were already preparing the next round in the long perspective during the 20ies and 30ies, the Japanese were faster they entered China in 1937 and the first Million of people bacame victims, but not counted as WWII. Next round Spain in the 30ies, the civil war has something to do with the Germans and the Sovietunion which was battling the Kulacks in their own society, but not only them. The mess was created by these powers in the meantime. Germany, Sovietunion, Japan.

Puu ütles ...

Anyone see the New York Times today. There is an interesting video feed on Nashis.

Puu ütles ...

I think calling someone a fascist at this point has an alterior motive. It's like when you are in a fistfight and someone says " Your zipper is open" and if you are stupid enough to look you will get hit in the head.

Puu ütles ...

So yes, please change to topic. How about talking about the mid boggling array of kohukesed to be found in the average estonian supermarket. Or Estonian cinema, or lydia koidula or Ursula... Do you know about Ursula they are a good band... How about some other Estonian Bands...Discuss Estonian bands tendency to have songs called neeger...

Giustino ütles ...

zionists for Mart Laar's admiration of Milton Friedman

Everyone knows his real name is Marty Laar.

margus ütles ...

Giustino,
I see you're serious about this.

If there's any substantial impact to be made then debating with the 'illogical Russian nationalist' can only be a personal amusement or an illustration. Distracting or confusing will not change their views because admitting being wrong about a status-issue is like a guy letting his goodies be cut off.

Another approach would be to try to convince the political elite of Western European countries that Russia is not trustworthy. Throwing facts at them won't do the trick because they can always obtain all the facts they don't need and those who really care know enough already. Those that don't care are either cynical opportunists or hardcore socialists. The socialists won't change their minds because the SU was morally superior to any society no matter how many 'mistakes' were made. Also, Russians in Estonia are less numerous and poorer, therefore they should have more rights.

One thing that can have an effect is to ridicule them in public, constantly. I mean, that should be easy. But of course, politicians get away with a lot.

One more approach is to try to educate the larger public which, to my mind, is a worthy goal in itself, bound to have at least some sucess. The impact would be difficult to estimate because the average Joe can't do much harm to Estonia if he doesn't know these things and won't become a truth crusader if he does.
Most crucial would be influence to politicians as voters in large numbers, but that can only happen in time.

Another issue is form. Facts are the essence but facts alone are not the juice. Facts need a human face. 'Hammering' historical chronology bores people. Facts can be denied or misinterpreted. Pointing to the truth through simple concepts and examples can be more effective than throwing the naked truth in the face, especially with those who are hypocrites or don't like certain words. No essays, no science papers, instead Nashi camp footage, Putin quotes, 'fun' facts, interviews etc.

1918 is irrelevant to foreigners and in this case. States have made and broken treaties all the time; Chechens had a nation-state, Kurds didn't. So what? Nothing justifies terror regime and persecution.

Sure looks like a lecture by now but please take it as a complementary viewpoint.

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Mait ütles ...

I've been following your argument on Lucas' blog - quite rare to see one of the comissaries to concede a point.

Good debate/argument is like good sex, both parties working towards a positive outcome. Too bad the common variety of them comissaries subscribes to masturbatory philosophy when it comes to debating.

Frank ütles ...

"Another approach would be to try to convince the political elite of Western European countries that Russia is not trustworthy."

From a German perspective (that means living in Germany) this approach seems necessary but frustration-prone. The majority of German politicians who go for the majority of voters seems to be afraid to send any other message than "everything´s pretty at the Eastern front ...". He who is ready to focus on the shortcomings and threats connected to nowadays Russia will be considered a pain-in-the-neck, a know-it-all and the like. He who deals out pleasantries about Russia and styles himself as friend of the Russian movers and shakers installed in power (Kohl-Yeltsin, Schroeder-Putin) has more appeal. Generally speaking you get the impression there is a deep-rooted longing for a conflict-free relationship with Russia. The underlying motifs for this phenomenon are obscure. Self-protection in the sense of repression behaviour due to the aftermath of WW II may be one explanation (Germans just learn to see and discuss themselves also as victims of the war, this used to be politically incorrect and is still so in many ways), the idea to boost the own importance and to step out of the U.S. guardianship might be another one. Chancelloress Merkel might be considered as a circumspective exception to the rule, but she is also the first notable German leader who grew up under Warsaw Pact country conditions and has some first hand experience in living under the Russian umbrella.

Could be, the "political elite of Western European countries" just lacks that first hand experience and even more so some imagination.
(Chechnya ...)

Could also be "the political elite" is not your synonym for those elected into government.

space_maze ütles ...

If there's any substantial impact to be made then debating with the 'illogical Russian nationalist' can only be a personal amusement or an illustration. Distracting or confusing will not change their views because admitting being wrong about a status-issue is like a guy letting his goodies be cut off.

Changing their views isn't why "we" must continue fighting against these guys though. That's a battle that can't be won.

The reason "we" need to fight them is because generally, there will be other people watching, that don't even know Estonia exists, or if they do, know jack about it. If noone contests the Russian nationalists, various onviewers won't know how full of crap the things they are saying are, and might actually believe some of them.

margus ütles ...

to frank: yes, I forgot, a politician usually has to have elections in mind and even the most righteousness in heart has to be Machiavelli's apprentice.

It sounds quite eery to me that the guilt burden is still so big in Germany. Makes me think that Germany might 'encourage' Russia to become exactly what they regret because 'we are wrong and they are right'.

By political elite I meant the ones elected but those, of course, have to be 'funded'.

to space_maze: we should fight but there are limits to it's effectiveness. I mean, people do know that Russia is not a pleasant place and that bad shit happens there and from there and that the press is not free. People who believe in Russian media are either deprived, incapacitated or deceiving themselves. Forcing counterpropaganda down peoples throats is futile in a world that is saturated with meaningless news bulletins that everyone forgets right away, that don't get checked for facts. We have Google, we have Wikipedia. People who care and are sensible and not paranoid about 'being surrounded' will find the real thing. We just have to make sure that these sources are interconnected, extensive and accurate. People who don't care won't damage us just from some whim.

Popularising truth is great but there are things more important. Yet, debating a commissary seems a good way to practice dealing with people.

Giustino ütles ...

I see the debate at Lucas' blog as more of a think tank environment. They are throwing out their arguments, and we are countering them.

Ed reads it, digests it, and maybe uses some of it in his articles. The 'political elite' reads what Ed writes and uses it in their speeches or policy decisions.

I mean T H Ilves cited Lucas' article when questioned about the Amnesty Report. That's how the whole thing works. Think of Internet heads as rhetorical foot soldiers.

That's how it has been working in America too. It's no secret that I have read Daily Kos for years and have been heavily inspired by it.

The Internet has liberated the discourse to an extreme extent. It's up to us to use it effectively.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

I still know the time when there was no dicussion about Estonia, pre independence pre internet. When I arrived Estonia 1991 for the first time with a German visa I did not know if the only friend I knew via snail mail would come to the harbor. In a telegram I had explained roughly that I will wear a green baseball cap. Back in Germany, they sympathized with the Sovietunion idea and I was a nationalist arguing for Estonia. Things had changed a bit, right? And the internet makes a difference. Remember, when occasionaly journalists were arriving from Moskva covering Estonia while asking people in Russian language. Producing the news for the politicians back home in the western countries. That's why I like the internet. This time will hopefully never come back.

Blogaddict ütles ...

I've seen you guys wrestling with Russians at Edward Lucas' blog. Nice job, especially when you take on some guys who are very eloquent and get them in their intellectual groin each time. I just love it, love it, love it. Thanks for doing it. :-)

Ray D. Noper ütles ...

One thing I have done previously that seems to have burst some veins in Russian nationalists' brains are hinting that Estonia should apologize for not supporting White Guard when they almost had Petrograd. Usually that shuts them up.
I only remembered it again recently and tried to use it, let's sit down and watch the carnage and acid-spitting now...

Andres Sehr ütles ...

Justin, keep up your defense on the Estonian cause for another 10-20 years and you may find yourself with a Presidential medal someday. :)

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

Point two, B. Amnesty International (International Helsinki Federation, Human Rights Watch, you name it) also made a (half book size) report on Russia, discussing mass-murders in Chechnya, killings of journalists, intimidation of oppositioners, nazis stily killings of Caucasians. Russia is great country, World leading superpower. For Estonia the right patch would be to follow Russia, to go ahead would mean making fool of ourselves. Therefore as part of inernational community we should concentrate on global issues such as acts of genocide, murders in Russa, Darfur and so on, and once we solve these major issues we should go to cosmetic things like stand-alone AI's report on taxi drivers in Tallinn facing threat of losing job because of Language Inspectorate.

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

Alright. But the killing argument is this one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Court_of_Human_Rights_cases_on_Occupation_of_Baltic_States

And is it as important as it sounds?
Yep. Here is a Russian internet search using following keywords: "international court", "occupation", "Baltics".
http://www.google.com/search?num=20&hl=en&c2coff=1&q=%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B6%D0%B4%D1%83%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B4%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9+%D1%81%D1%83%D0%B4+%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BA%D1%83%D0%BF%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F+%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%BB%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BA%D0%B8
It provides wealth of references to various articles, analyst opinions and documents in the Russian web claiming that no international court confirmed occupation thaefore there wasn't one. Widely believed argument. For example proclamation of infamous Nochnoj Dozor, including held in custody Linter: http://www.pomnim.com/frm/viewtopic.php?t=665

Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Estonia in World Media (Rus) ütles ...

The reason why I gave google search link in cyrillic is that I don't see all of arguments, as given by the author, even though all of them great working too well for the intended purpose, in my perhaps different experience on those for whom they are intended.

karLos ütles ...

If noone contests the Russian nationalists, various onviewers won't know how full of crap the things they are saying are, and might actually believe some of them.

i think we need to give the innocent interwebber a little credit. take a look at a few itar-tass reports (without prior knowledge of russia's dismal press freedom rankings) and any smart individual shall still see straight through them as the complete trashy rubbishy bias that they are.

the russian media does not have a good reputation. those that believe what they read there are really only asking to be duped.

Nothing is Free ütles ...

Karlos,

Totally true. Russkie news are rubbish. Itar-Tass is 100% perfect sample of what to expect from the rest. I, for one, get all my information from the Economonist and the Wall Street Journal. Top publications.

andres kahar ütles ...

Totally true. Russkie news are rubbish. Itar-Tass is 100% perfect sample of what to expect from the rest. I, for one, get all my information from the Economonist and the Wall Street Journal. Top publications.

Always be careful when trying to impress intellectuals and chicks by dropping publication titles.

The Economonist is now a fringe rag, nearly defunct. It was started in the mid-1990s by a clutch of Economist writers who were devout and ideologic followers of HP Owen and Milton Friedman. It was a weird mix of int'l finance reporting and pseudo-philosophical essays about everyone being one and connected. Eventually, most Economonist staffers were kidnapped under cover of night and sent to the Economist Intelligence Unit in Vienna for reeducation.

As for The Wall Street Journal, you're citing another questionable publication. It's been reduced to rough Aussie drinking songs about shielas, train robberies, hangings and the latest mergers & acquisitions round the world. Pretty low-brow stuff, to be sure.

Don't feel badly, though. I went through my undergrad years proudly declaring myself a loyal reader of Swank. I mean, doesn't everyone want to be swank? You can imagine my delayed embarrassment when I finally came across a back-issue in the curtained section of a used bookstore...

Laur Kiik ütles ...

great reading.

i was just in Russia and had many tough discussions about the Estonia-Russia politics and history. sometimes, the absurdness of the stuff i heard blew me away. of course, sometimes there were good points in the peoples' talks also (for just one example, some Russian Estonians near Sochi claimed they get all the 'shit' for what the 'proud' Estonian state, far, far away does).

anyway, good points. i intend to use these in the future.

Puu ütles ...

What Estonia really needs is this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lNFRLrP014&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Flittlegreenfootballs%2Ecom%2Fweblog%2F

Puu ütles ...

Sorry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lNFRLrP014&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Flittlegreenfootballs%2Ecom%2Fweblog%2F

Nothing is Free ütles ...

Dear "andres kahar",

The Economist is an excellent paper. The honorable Edward Lucas writes for the Economist. The WJ represents cutting edge business thinking. I also forgot to mention the Washington Post. A most excellent conservative information source.
P.S.
And where do you get your news and analysis from? The red Guardian? Pinko liberal Daily Kos? Bleeding heart Huffington Post??

Giustino ütles ...

And where do you get your news and analysis from? The red Guardian? Pinko liberal Daily Kos? Bleeding heart Huffington Post??

I find that the WSJ human interest stories are quite good, but that the conservative leaning politics are a bit grating.

The WSJ engages in contrarian conservative politicking. For example, in New York everyone knew current Gov. Spitzer was going to win, and if Spitzer was a Republican, the WSJ would have backed him 100 percent.

But because he ran as a Democrat the WSJ tried, and failed, to do a hatchet job on him. That's what I mean. They were the last publication to admit that DeLay had some ethical problems, for example.

Can you trust a news source with so much of an agenda? They are working for the 'team' because they are the 'team', not because they really listen to what the other guy says.

That being said, they are light years ahead of the base New York press -- like the Post or Daily News -- which is just awful to read. Sometimes I am not sure if I am in New York or Israel when I read it because they devote so much coverage to Israel.

I personally think The Economist is much better. They are 'conservative' I guess, but in Europe 'conservative' could also be seen as progressive. The US went through its anti-New Deal renaissance in the 1980s under Reagan. Clinton (welfare reform) didn't stray from the script, despite dumb culture war issues (gays in the military -- like they haven't always been in the military).

But in Sweden or France, guys like Reinfeldt or Sarkozy are genuine 'progressives' in that they are trying to reform systems that have been running on social democracy for 50 years. Plus they don't play as much to stupid culture war issues.

US politics is so bogged down in the nuances of Christianity and gays and abortion -- it's no wonder we are in Iraq with no clear way out.

And yes, I do read Daily Kos. I find it a great source of information. Sure there are nutty people there, but people are nutty, and if there's a progressive faction in American politics today, it certainly isn't on the right, except maybe for my Ron Paul-loving associates.

Plus Daily Kos has no pretentions. I have found most conservative news sources and fora/blogs to be full of smug, self-serving language and 'well, look at how smart we are. did I mention that conservatives love money and wearing ties?'

I prefer a more 'liberal' website where I can say anything I want and not have to kiss the ass of Saint Reagan every five minutes.

Giustino ütles ...

sometimes, the absurdness of the stuff i heard blew me away.

It's not just Estonia. Remember that. Russia can't get along with many countries, like the UK for instance.

They are so drunk on this vision of themselves attaining 'great power' that they are already begining to squander their opportunities.

They just can't resist bullying weaker countries now that they've got their mojo back.

A smart Russian politician would come to Tallinn, lay a wreath at memorials for deportees, and basically show that Russia has 'turned over a new leaf' -- that would suck all the wind out of Reform and Isamaa's sails -- Estonian parties that thrive on the fear of an aggressive Russia.

But no, the Stalinist apologists want to row with the Brits and the Americans and the Poles and the Estonians and the Georgians and basically everyone except Hungary (who it needs to kill Nabucco).

Remember, the men that accepted Estonia in 1920 were great thinkers. Lenin, Trotsky, Joffe -- they might have been Bolsheviks but they still wrote books, books that people still read in university philosophy courses to this day.

The Putin-Lavrov generation doesn't write books. They probably don't read them much either. They just want money and power. They are the political face of oligarchy and they need enemies to appear powerful.

The wisest Estonian choice should be to simply step aside and let them row with France and Germany. Because if Russia can't toy with Estonia, it will inevitably move on to bigger fish, like Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

Their desire to 'be great' and fuck with people is so strong, that I am sure any of the diplomatic shine they put on EU-Russian relations would wear thin quite quickly the moment they can't toy with Estonia and Georgia anymore.

margus ütles ...

Remember, the men that accepted Estonia in 1920 were great thinkers. Lenin, Trotsky, Joffe -- they might have been Bolsheviks but they still wrote books, books that people still read in university philosophy courses to this day.

Kudos to you, G, but you have got to be kidding on this one. Lenin had no regard to human life, no regard to nationality. Everything was dispensable in the face of the imminent world revolution. Estonian government was a capitalist suppressor like the others an the SU had to make hypocritical concessions in their moment of weakness.

And their political system failed and they were wrong, remember?

I wish Putin really was a cynical power-hungry businessman that could be bargained with but I think it's clear he believes himself what he says.

The wisest Estonian choice should be to simply step aside and let them row with France and Germany. Because if Russia can't toy with Estonia, it will inevitably move on to bigger fish, like Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

Putin can 'toy' with his imaginary Estonia freely as long as the Russian populace is cut off from reality. Russia's stance toward Estonia doesn't depend on Estonia's actions because the Kremlin always wants more and their demands have always been ridiculous, the concept of compromise is just leverage. There is no way to 'step aside' either.

They won't row with France or Germany because those can't be isolated and such a row would have grave economic consequences.

Giustino ütles ...

Kudos to you, G, but you have got to be kidding on this one. Lenin had no regard to human life, no regard to nationality. Everything was dispensable in the face of the imminent world revolution ...

Considering a nominally Marxist state survived in Russia for 70 years, one could say that Brest-Litovsk was the right deal for the communists.

Considering that the dissolution of the USSR was led by the Baltics that were occupied in 1940, foreshadowed by the Hungarian Uprising and the Prague Springue and the Solidarnos movement, one could say that expanding to Eastern Europe was a very bad idea.

They may have been weak and they may have been mass murderers but they still had some brains.
And their political system failed and they were wrong, remember?

There is no way to 'step aside' either.

First it was the Bronze Soldier, now he's gone. Then the SS memorial. Now the Erna raid. What else will the Estonian government give as a gift to the Russian propaganda organs?

I watched this happen with Latvia four years ago. Every day it seemed there was some hysterical note sounded by the kremlin about Latvia. But now Latvia and Russia are relative friends.

Perhaps Ilves is right, perhaps Estonia is the 'flavor of the month.' But I think the US-Russia rivalry over those missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic is a good excuse for the Franco-German motor and the Kremlin not to argue.

Take the US out of the equation, and Russia will still be looking for battles to prove its 'greatness'. This logically leads to a quarrel with Europe.

Europe is saying things that Russia doesn't like. The German foreign ministry says that the Erna raids "foster international cooperation."
But Russia ignores Sarkozy's comments on Chechnya or Merkel's concerns about political demonstrations.

How long will they ignore that? How do you think Putin will get along with Gordon Brown and Nic Sarkozy? How well does he get along with anyone in Europe?

andres kahar ütles ...

Nothing is Free said...
Dear "andres kahar",

The Economist is an excellent paper. The honorable Edward Lucas writes for the Economist. The WJ represents cutting edge business thinking. I also forgot to mention the Washington Post. A most excellent conservative information source.
P.S.
And where do you get your news and analysis from? The red Guardian? Pinko liberal Daily Kos? Bleeding heart Huffington Post??


"Nothing is Free,"

You can remove the quoties from my name: I'm writing and trading under my real one.

Wow. Seeing as how your reading list is so ideologically determined, I suspect you'd do well to skip reading papers altogether, thus saving time for certain activities you might've missed in your kerchiefed adolescence. In the intelligence world, your reading habits might be described as stovepiping. Oh well, that's in style these days.

A few random comments, all in good fun:

I agree: The Economist is a fine paper. And, incidentally, I've got personal reasons for feeling that way. Probably safely labelled neolib; but some libertarian undercurrents as well. The Economonist: failed experiment.

Yes, I've heard of Edward Lucas, a few years ago even. Fine writer. First time I've seen him with a title though. In that case, shouldn't it be "Honourable"? That's ok -- you're making such an honorable effort.

Yeah, I'd take Huffington over Krauthammer any day: wittier and more politically sound. Better looking, too.

Guardian: good paper. Are they printing it in red again? I usually read it online. Damn, that means hardcopy will stain my canary trousers.

I suspect my fave publication list would be closer to G's than yours.
But that's ok.

Incidentally, do you wear a bow tie with muttonchops?

margus ütles ...

First it was the Bronze Soldier, now he's gone. Then the SS memorial. Now the Erna raid. What else will the Estonian government give as a gift to the Russian propaganda organs?

Take all that away, what are you left with? Human rights violations of non-citizens and we can't fix that because there is none. They can always fall back on that. First Erna raid was in '94 and don't the SS-men also gather every year? Why was the Bronze soldier suddenly so popular last year and this year? I mean, wow, even elementary school children chanting 'Russia, Russia'.

Don't assume that middle ground is always the truth.

One thing I didn't mention before: if you're going to do the good deed of educating unsuspecting bystanders about Estonian history, there should be a way to consolidate the effort. I was thinking, a sophisticated reference tool on the web that can lead different people to sources they consider authority. It would be a single place that everyone can link to and that provides answers to questions that have been asked before.

I don't think it's that much worth it but you would take on the commissaries one by one, so what do you think?

Agu-Enrik Ubailves ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Giustino ütles ...

Don't assume that middle ground is always the truth.

There are ways of doing things. Marko Mihkelson's 'angry young man up against the world' routine is one way.

Ilves' 'you are our compatriots and we (sniff) can't do it without you' is another.

IRL -- Velliste, Aaviksoo, and *especially* Laar -- is a party of WWII buffs.

They probably both believe the same things as the other parties. They just express them differently.

plasma-jack ütles ...

You forgot Ansip's way - "Man, I'm looking great in this suit." I think he is developing the Parts syndrome.

Jens-Olaf ütles ...

Btw, having many contacts to the French side the WWI or Great War stuff is more important. If you ever would visit the graveyards in northeastern France it is overwhelming. Even by size, they are part of a whole landscape.