Schmemann Lays Another Rotten Egg

We continue to see Serge Schmemann of the International Herald Tribune’s editorial page, whom we’ve previously exposed on this blog, as one of the most idiotic and vacuous Russia commentators on the planet. Either that or he’s just pure evil, and for the life of us we can’t figure out which. His most recent opus, published on the pathetic pages of the New York Times, proves our point. On top of being really shockingly badly written, its full of the lamest contradictions and most woeful display of ignorance you can imagine. It’s actually hart to tell whether its intended as propaganda or merely as a display of total incompetence. Here it is in full, with our running commentary:

There are chilling echoes of the Soviet past in Russia’s current political game: President Vladimir Putin’s secretive style; his K.G.B. background; the enormous, autocratic power he wields; and if there’s a power struggle going on in the Kremlin (Mr. Putin’s term ends early next year), no outsider has been let in on it.

Sounds good. But it’s a classic propaganda tactic. Admit your adversary’s position, then distort it beyond all recognition. Now watch it happen.

Anyone who followed the serial transitions of the final act of the Soviet Union — Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko-Gorbachev — must also be struck by the differences. No Soviet leader ever left office voluntarily. Most simply died, and the two who did not — Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev — were forced out. The older the leaders got in the post-Khrushchev era, the more collective and ritualized their leadership became. The increasingly frequent state funerals followed an identical script: from the designated mourners filing under the black-draped chandeliers of the Hall of Columns to the phrasing of the commentaries.

And the point is? Putin hasn’t left office by any means. He’s staying on as Prime Minister. Does his blockhead really think that the new “president” will be able to give him orders? Not even a toadstool would believe that.

If there is a precedent, it is from the more recent past when Boris Yeltsin handpicked an obscure loyalist, Vladimir Putin, to succeed him. That only covers the passing of the keys to the president’s office. Mr. Yeltsin was happily out the door as soon as Mr. Putin walked in, while Mr. Putin plans only to change the sign on his door, from president to prime minister.

But he just said Putin was leaving voluntarily unlike the Soviets, didn’t he?

Where “Soviet” does apply is in how Russians are watching the changes at the top. For that, it’s useful to roll back to Stalin’s death in 1953. In those days, most Russians had known nothing in their lives other than the terror, the war and the all-embracing personality cult of the Brilliant Genius of Humanity. So thoroughly was Stalin identified with every Soviet’s worst fears and greatest hopes, that the announcement of his death set off a great panic. Millions of bewildered and frightened people rushed into the streets; untold hundreds were crushed to death. Then came the shock of Khrushchev’s campaign to debunk Stalin. So, by the time Khrushchev was chucked out for the sin of voluntarism, his surviving Politburo comrades — and many in the nation — were ready to elevate order (“poryadok”) to the level of an obsession. Under Leonid Brezhnev, the public face of the leadership became a carefully choreographed and unvarying ritual of fixed appearances, statements and funerals intended to demonstrate unvarying unanimity and order in the Kremlin. In the West, studying the Communist facade for minute variations or cracks became the science of Kremlinology, which kept a generation of diplomats, spies and journalists gainfully employed.

Isn’t “Kremlinology” exactly what is going on now? Didn’t he start out by admitting that there could be a power struggle going on behind the Kremlin walls, as is widely reported, that nobody knows anything about? Notice how he doesn’t even mention the widely reported rumors about Putin’s personal fortune? That’s either naked evil talking, or indescribable incompetence.

EDITORIAL NOTE TO THE NYT: There is absolutely no reason for the word “(“poryadok”)” to be in the text, and it’s highly confusing because you don’t even explain it’s a Russian word. A child could see this. It appears to be some sort of twisted attempt to prove what an expert your writer is. It proves the opposite.

EDITORIAL NOTE TO THE NYT: Nobody has the slightest idea what he means by “voluntarism.” He’s babbling gibberish it’s your job not to publish. See, this is why your stock price and readership are plummeting. Get a clue, you apes. This is so lame, it’s embarrassing.

I covered all the transitions from Mr. Brezhnev to the end, and each time, I was impressed by the lack of alarm in the streets. Sure, there was curiosity about the new guy, but until the end — until Mr. Gorbachev — there was no suspense, no power vacuum, no struggle, no reason to worry. The radio would announce the death of the incumbent and the head of the funeral commission, who was then anointed general secretary. There was little hope that the new mummy would be much better than the last, but you knew that life would go on.

Wouldn’t another word for “lack of alarm” be “cowardice” and/or “collaboration? Wonder why Mr. Schmemann chooses the former rather than the latter. “You knew that life would go on”??? But it DIDN’T. THE SOVIET UNION PERISHED, YOU DIMWIT. Is he suggesting that it’s just fine by today’s population, decimated and disappearing, if Russia meets the same fate? What a blockhead! No wonder the New York Times stock price has plunged so dramatically!

Now, after another period of disruption, order and continuity are again at a premium. That accounts for a lot of Mr. Putin’s popularity, and a lot of the satisfaction that has greeted his endorsement of Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. That may also explain why there was so little public dismay at Mr. Medvedev’s immediate announcement that, once elected, he would name Mr. Putin the prime minister.

Cowardice and collaboration would also explain it, wouldn’t they? Notice how he doesn’t even consider that possibility, not even for a moment? This is a perfect encapsulation of the Times standards of “journalism.”

From our vantage point in the West, it is dismaying that so many Russians are prepared to overlook how Mr. Putin has achieved that order — repressing the opposition, dominating national television, restoring the curtain of secrecy around the Kremlin. It’s not the old Iron Curtain. Russians today certainly have far more personal freedom than they had in the U.S.S.R. And there will be a vote, or at least the facade of one.

Pure propaganda. Russians had more freedom under Lenin than under Stalin. In fact, there was a time when STALIN wasn’t Stalin. The point was that warning bells were sounded under Lenin, as they are being sounded now, and nothing was done to stop Stalin from happening, just as nothing is being done now to stop Putin from escalating. Is this venal little “man” really suggesting that we should wait until Putin has built the gulags and murdered millions before we feel anything more than “dismay”?

Did we miss something? Didn’t they have “facade” elections in the USSR too? Didn’t this turnip-brained yahoo just brag above covering them? And now he’s saying that facade elections differentiate Russia from the USSR, which apparently didn’t have them?

One key tactic of Soviet propaganda was to be obtuse and infuriating that you drive your adversary crazy. It seems this guy has mastered that tactic — or else he’s just a doofus.

4 responses to “Schmemann Lays Another Rotten Egg

  1. do you really not know what ‘volunatrism’ means in the context of khrushchev? if you dont’ know, you’re an imbecile and ignorant of basic facts of soviet history. if you do know what it means, you’re even more despicable because you are faking ignorance to appeal to your idiot readership

  2. To LR

    So why does Serge Schmemann work for the New York Times and not you? Take a break, count to ten and broaden your mind.


    Take a break, count to ten and broaden your mind, because:

    (1) He does NOT work for the Times, you moron. He works for the International Herald Tribune.

    (2) If we follow your logic, then the fact that we operate the most powerful Russia blog on the planet whilst you operate no Russia blog at all disqualifies you from speaking.

    Hmm… maybe you are right after all. So, shut up already.

  4. Dear Larussophobe,

    Your points are interesting but the anger in your “editorial comments” exaggerates the issues.

    Where does your anger for Schmemann and his father come from?

    As a reporter and author S. Schmemann has honestly reported his perception of events. Why do you characterize him as “evil” just because you may disagree with him?

    As a priest and as a theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann sought to explain the faith not just from the “Russian” perspective but from the broader perspective of the Orthodox Church of “the World”. Not from the insular “Russian-Church-In-Exile” perspective that cannot effectively spread the faith to “non-Russians”.

    Why do you find it necessary to denigrate the father and the son to make your point, to express your own opinion/perspective?

    Is your opinion/perspective the only valid one?

    If I misspelled “Schmemann” or “Orthodox” would you call me stupid?

    If I said that there is hope for Russia and that we should seek to cooperate with them on some level, would you call me “evil”?

    There is much potential for “good” in Russia. How about focusing on the “good” at least as much as on the “evil”?

    Sincerely, Nikolai

    PS. My opinion: a small man pushes his “opponent” into the mud and climbs on his back to proclaim his own greatness; a real man can be secure in his own worth and can express his own opinion without trashing his opponent.

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