If you look up an organization called “The Discovery Institute” on Wikipedia you will find that it is identified as “a conservative Christian think tank” founded in 1990 and devoted to the teaching of intelligent design (according to Wiki “An overwhelming majority of the scientific community views intelligent design as pseudoscience“).
Discovery Institute describes itself, however, as “a nonpartisan public policy think tank conducting research on technology, science and culture, economics and foreign affairs.” It was founded by one Bruce Chapman, currently its president. Its website currently offers vistors the chance to sign a petition called “Stand up for Science” by boldly declaring: “I agree that teachers should equip students to critically analyze evolutionary theory by presenting them with the scientific evidence both for and against Darwinian evolution.” According to Wiki, DI refuses to divulge its financial contributors because it fears they will be harrassed for providing support.
Harrassed? Why harassed? Wikipedia explains. It states that DI has regularly been called on the carpet for intellectual dishonesty:
At the foundation of most criticism of the Discovery Institute is the charge that the institute and its Center for Science and Culture intentionally misrepresent or omit many important facts in promoting their agenda- essentially a charge of intellectual dishonesty, in the form of misleading impressions created by the use of rhetoric, intentional ambiguity, and misrepresented evidence. It is alleged that its goal is to lead an unwary public to reach certain conclusions, and that many have been deceived as a result. Its critics, such as Eugenie Scott, Robert Pennock, Richard Dawkins and Barbara Forrest, claim that the Discovery Institute knowingly misquotes scientists and other experts, deceptively omits contextual text through ellipsis, and makes unsupported amplifications of relationships and credentials. A wide spectrum of critics level this charge; from educators, scientists and the Smithsonian Institute to individuals who oppose the teaching of creationism along science on ideological grounds. Specific objections with examples are listed at the Center for Science and Culture article.
Would it surprise you then, knowing all this, gentle reader, to find out that DI’s “Director of Foreign Policy” is a 24-year-old Russian “composer” with an undergraduate degree from a Russian “Tax Academy” whose parents were Soviet aparachiks? Would it surprise you that said “Director of Foreign Policy” – Mr. Yuri Mamchur, who operates Russia Blog – twists facts to suit his ideology? Perhaps not. What might surprise you, however, is that Mamchur is using DI’s own tactics to undermine conservatism itself, which ought to be (and is) vigorously opposing the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union, which Mamchur by contrast does everything he can to facilitate.
On Mr. Mamchur’s personal website, where he tries to sell his music, it states: “I turned 24 on January 8, 2006. Right now I’m working as a Director of Foreign Policy at the Discovery Institute. Part of my job is the RussiaBlog (www.RussiaBlog.org), which provides commentary and dialogue on a lot of interesting stuff about modern day Russia.” This means, of course, that the Discovery Institute is responsible for the gibberish Mamchur spouts on that blog, it’s their handiwork. On his personal website he breathlessly says of his work: “It is challenging to compose, practice and record along with a full-time job, but I’m hoping to get it all done.” Indeed. Thank GOD for the vigor of youth. Maybe Yuri will also get the chance to be a fireman and an astronaut!
The DI website sets forth Yuri’s qualifications as follows: “Yuri is also a PhD candidate and graduate of the Russian Tax Academy School of Law in Moscow. During his studies (and following) he served as the Director of International Relations for the Sodeystvie Fund, the oldest charitable foundation in the Former Soviet Union.” It further states: “His parents, who still live in the city, both held high ranking positions in the former Soviet government (his father was a speechwriter and spokesman for the defense ministry). After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Mamchur family worked through the challenges facing Russia’s new democracy and succeeded in post-Soviet society. For the past six years, Yuri has traveled between Moscow and US and immersed himself in American culture. Yuri took classes at Georgetown University; he volunteers with Tacoma YMCA and teaches piano to young students in his free time.”
So let’s see now: Yuri is the ripe old age of twenty-four. He has an unspecified undergraduate degree from a Russian institution called the “Tax Academy School of Law.” And this qualifies him as an expert on foreign policy (actually, as the manager of other experts)? Hard to see how, but perhaps the voice of God was whispering in the ears of the folks at DI when they hired Yuri. Do you dare to imagine the qualifications of the folks they rejected? An image of the three stooges leaps to mind. Can you imagine who Yuri’s subordinants might be? Perhaps a kindergarten class somewhere. Is he an accountant? A tax lawyer? Neither seems to imply an educational program that would ground him in foreign policy. Certainly, he’s never actually made any himself. Where exactly is he currently seeking his PhD? Don’t ask, dear reader, don’t ask. La Russophobe tried to ask Discovery Institute’s director of media relations Robert Crowther by e-mail, but got no response.
If you Google the “Tax Academy School of Law,” you will find out exactly nothing about it. In fact, you will get only three hits for that exact phrase on Google, and all three will be for Yuri’s biography (which, conveniently, does not provide any links or further information about his alma mater). This is a matter of significant concern, since even people casually familiar with Russia know that it is full of unlicensed, fly-by-night educational institutions whose diplomas are not worth the paper they are printed on. Director Mamchur, and DI, ought to come forward with more detailed information about this school (La Russophobe asked Mr. Crowther but, so far, has received no response).
As for the phrase “worked through the challenges facing Russia’s new democracy and succeeded in post-Soviet society,” La Russophobe can only leave that to the reader’s imagination? Sounds kind of like Boris Berezovsky, though, doesn’t it?
The consequences of all this are emminently foreseeable: screwball propaganda. If, for example, you looked to Mr. Mamchur to learn what the most important facts are in regard to the recent bombing of the Cherkizovo outdoor market in Moscow, which killed a dozen or so people and has been reported as a racist escalation, then here’s what you learned in Yahoo Yuri’s own words (an outraged reader has brought them to La Russophobe‘s attention):
1. “This explosion is the first terrorist violence Moscow has suffered in many months.”
2. “If not for the vigilance of ordinary citizens, many more people would have been killed when the bomb exploded.”
3. “Ultranationalism is on the rise in Russia. It is not supported by the government, but it is hard to control because it grows up like a poisonous mushroom from the grassroots.”
4. “While Moscow and other major cities are boasting wealth and new luxuries, the rest of the Russian nation is just trying to survive. The fast tempo of recent economic growth has not been enough to trickle down and meet the expectations of these forgotten Russians.”
5. “Immigrants, who come from former Soviet republics, are sometimes more successful than many native Russians. Immigrants from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Abkhazia tend to be very well represented by their respective mafias in major Russian cities, and these organizations control most of the public markets and other businesses.”
Does all that sound suspicously, and eerily, like Soviet propaganda to you, dear reader, being spouted from spawn of Soviet aparachiks? Does it unnerve you somewhat to hear that Moscow had been a paradise of harmony recently until this shocking event that nobody could control, especially not the government, an event that was dramatically minimized by the heroic efforts of Russians, and that it only happened in the first place because Russians are so poor and destitute, innocent victims of circumstances? Does it sound even more eerily like racist apology or even propaganda to accuse dark-skinned victims of violence of being associated with the mafia and of amassing disproportionate wealth in an article purportedly about race violence against them? Do you then notice with increased suspicion how lily white Mr. Mamchur himself is (he’s the smiling caucasian pictured at left)? Can you imagine how Martin Luther King would have reacted if someone had wanted to discuss black crime rates while he was talking about KKK lynchings?
A Russia Blog reader called Comrade Mamchur on the carpet for these outrageous statements. Here is Director Mamchur’s response in full:
Georgian and Armenian mafias have been the strongest mafias in Russia since early nineties. As a kid I personally witnessed three grenades thrown at potato trucks of native Russian farmers coming to public markets and not willing to pay the “fee”. Owning a business in Moscow working with Ukraine I had to deal with the problem myself. The wealth of the minorities is very obvious, and I personally know many successful families of Georgian and Armenian roots owning multi-million dollar estates in Russia and outside of the country; their kitchen aids and drivers are native Russians. Two drivers I’ve known were named Yuri, in their mid fifties with families they were supporting through having these jobs. I do not blame Russian “minorities” for being successful, I think it’s great to create wealth and employ people, no matter what ethnicity or origin you are. I do blame Russians for the lack of entrepreneurship, and lawmakers and police for taking bribes and allowing the mafias to operate their businesses. If you click on one of the links of the post, you will read RussiaBlog’s earlier article speaking of Putin calling for law and order in relation to this topic. Russian government and Parliament have a lot of ethnic minorities. There are very few truly black Russian citizens, and an idea of them running for a seat is intriguing, but barely possible due to their low representation in Russia and every day occupations – they usually work for foreign businesses, or after receiving education go abroad. Few months ago one of Russian TV stations ran a report about a bright black student who is helping a small town administration run successful agricultural business in the region – he is very well respected person in local community. I personally take offense in being blamed for being a part of the racist problem. “Russians like you” sounds offensive and not language-appropriate for this blog. Lenard, your ideology, attacks, inability to read proper links and writing style remind me a lot of our former commenter Kim Zigfeld, who was banned from this site. I love being challenged, and I usually respond with evidence and respect, however I can’t make it my everyday job to re-post the links and information which can be easily found through RussiaBlog’s search , Google/Yahoo search engines and general education on the topics.
So, it appears that not only did 24-year-old Yuri run a charitable institution in Russia, but he also “ran a business.” My, how impressive. What kind of business and where did he get the capital to launch it? Don’t ask, dear reader, don’t ask. What exactly did Director Mamchur mean when he referred to “native Russians” as opposed to dark-skinned people? Can’t native Russians be dark-skinned? Actually, no they can’t, not in the eyes of a Slavic Russian. Isn’t there just a little bit of hypocrisy in Yuri complaining about the phrase “Russians like you” while spewing forth “native Russians” with impunity? Do you sense a bit of classic racist resentment on “Director” Mamchur’s part when he thinks about Slavic “native” Russians being ordered about by dark-skinned people?
And what was Director Mamchur smoking when he wrote that “Russian government and Parliament have a lot of ethnic minorities.” Does he really think he can bamboozle his audience with such audicious, unsupported whoppers? Has he ever watched the Duma on TV? Would it it have been too much trouble to name TWO high-ranking members of Putin’s cabinet, people with real power, who are dark-skinned? If the Russian government were really full of dark-skinned people, would there be wanton race violence in Russia’s streets (see the story below for just one example)? Wouldn’t there be a host of dark-skinned politicans publicly crusading against it, a veritable army of Russian Martin Luther kings? But such considerations do not concern the Neo-Soviet propagandist.
La Russophobe must say, she’s flattered by the comparison to the commenter, and hopes she’s doing half as well rooting out Neo-Soviet racism. It’s quite revealing that, when asked to support his factual statements by a commenter, Screwball Yuri tells readers to go look it up themselves because he can’t be bothered to document his facts, and then lauches a personal attack on those who dare to question him, telling them to go to hell. Instead of going there, the reader brought these concerns to La Russophobe (granted, quite similar destinations in Yahoo Yuri’s mind, as well as that of all crazed Russophiles everywhere), so let’s deal with them, shall we? Interesting, too, is it not dear reader, that although Yuri (who is lying blatantly, as La Russophobe has already explained in detail) claims Ms. Zigfeld was “banned” from his site, her lengthy posts about Maria Sharapova and Victor Yanukovich, as well as the dozens of comments they generated, are still proudly on offer at Russia Blog? La Russophobe takes this opportunity to once again ask Yahoo Yuri to remove these posts from his blog, since they are obviously infectious bacteria dangerous to the health of his readers. La Russophobe is certainly embarassed to have her content associated with Russia Blog, which she didn’t adequately check out after stumbling across on the Internet, and she apologizes for this lapse. Therefore, she feels it is her responsibility to warn readers about the dangerous content at every opportunity.
You may remember, gentle reader, that when last we met Mr. Mamchur he was brazenly misrepresenting to readers about the new Russian law on “extremism.” Mamchur accused the Wall Street Journal of mischaracterizing the new law as an assault on democracy. He totally ignored reams of reporting from other respected sources coming to the same conclusion, characterizing the Journal as somehow going out on a limb, and grievously mischaracterized the content of the extremism law as well. After we launched our salvo exposing his hypocrisy and inaccuracy, and also in response to reader outrage about Russia Blog’s dishonesty on this point (and others), Mamchur backed off his ridiculous claims and, to his credit it seemed, even apologized. It turned out that he had really been engaged in an attempt to attack on the prestigious Carnegie Foundation, a competitor of his own Discovery Institute for think-tank donation dollars, and had launched his attack veiled as a criticism on the Western newspapers that relied, foolishly in Mamchur’s view, on Carnegie instead of himself. This came out, however, not in an actual post correcting his original misstatements, or in a comment to the Wall Street Journal post, but buried in the comments section of a post about a child sex ring which itself had come under attack as misleading. Unfortunately, as can be seen in his discussion of the market bombing, Yahoo Yuri is none the wiser for the experience. Actually, given the Discovery Institute’s questionable relationship with the truth, it could be that Director Yuri would get himself in trouble with his employers if he actually offered a reasonable facsimile of it on his blog.
Ultimately, Mamchur is not only advancing Neo-Soviet propaganda but also giving the blogosphere a bad name (and conservative Christians too, for that matter). Mamchur’s posts are regularly devoid of citation to factual evidence and source material, and when it is produced it is often proved bogus. In fact, as readers of this blog already know, La Russophobe herself, previously a contributor to Russia Blog, disengaged from the site for the very reason that its publishers had such a loose attitude towards substantiation of facts (and Yuri then, as previously reported her on La Russophobe, lied about the reason for her departure, as he does again in his statement above). The site even goes so far as to regularly publish the rantings of Russophile nutjob Mike Averko, allowing him to mislead readers as to his credentials.
Such was most certainly the case when Mamchur claimed, as noted above, that it was being widely reported in Russia that a child sex ring had been uncovered in Siberia and that the Western press were irresponsibly ignoring the story. Mamchur claimed that the failure of Western news outlets to report the event showed how confused they were about Russia and discredited their reporting on the rise of the Neo-Soviet dictatorship, whereas he himself was providing the real skinny. He ran a post about the story without a single reference to his source material, and when readers demanded it it turned out that he was relying purely on local papers whose accounts were highly questionable (as everyone except Yuri knows perfectly well, the pages of most Russian newspapers are for sale to the highest bidder), certainly not a basis for instantaneous Western reporting on the allegations.
In La Russophobe’s view, Mamchur’s approach on the child sex story was classic Soviet propaganda. He wanted to divert attention from the extremism law and other attempts to probe and challenge the Kremlin’s authoritarian crackdown, so he tried to interest world media in something else, something that the Kremlin could actually use to justify further authoritarian crackdowns in the name of law and order. It’s actually quite clever in its way, or at least it was twenty years ago. Hopefully the world is just a bit too sophisticated for this stuff now.
It’s time to take a firm stand against this kind of shameless propaganda and sham credentials and stamp it out, both for the blogosphere’s sake and for Russia’s. We can’t possibly hope to make any strides towards democracy in Russia if we can’t stop neo-Soviet propaganda tactics abroad. The ones who should be most furious at Mamchur’s activity are conservatives, and especially Christian conservatives. Right now, Vladimir Putin is enagaged in a brutal crackdown on democracy, including foreign Christians, and he is providing massive amounts of military aid to American foes like Venezuela, Iran and Hezbollah. Real conservatives ranging from Charles Grassley to John McCain are rallying against the rise of the Neo-Soviet Union, while pseudo-conservative Mamchur is spewing forth propaganda to prop it up. Liberals, of course, should be no less committed to ending dictatorship in Russia, and will find Mamchur’s ties to intelligent design revolting. Everyone, including moderates of every stripe, should spurn Mamchur’s free and easy relationship with the facts, which is an attitude that seems to permeate the Discovery Institute according to many commentators.