Monday, April 10, 2006

Same tune, different lyrics
This morning I made a side trip on my way to work to pick up some coffee. Like all good liberals, my car radio is tuned to an NPR station for drive-time news. As I turned onto the main drag through our neighborhood, Renee Montagne introduced a new story: "Hate Crimes Threaten Multi-Ethnic Russia" by Gregory Feifer.

The story was interesting and disturbing in its own right, but I was laughing by the time I reached the coffee stand. It was as if they had taken everything David Neiwert has written over the last three years, distilled it down to a five minute story, and changed all of the names from American to Russian. Hate crimes against brown-skinned foreigners are on the rise. The authorities are reluctant to call them hate-crimes. Foreign university students no longer feel welcome in the country. The national leader pays lip service to tolerance, but profits from the hate-mongering. Politicians are using minorities as scapegoats for their own failures of economic policy. Slogans and rhetoric that just a few years ago were considered unacceptably extremist are now working their way into mainstream political discourse.

The part that made me laugh was Feifer describing a list of the 100 enemies of the Russian people being circulated by Zhirnovski's Liberal Democratic party as one of the more alarming signs of dangerous extremism. From his description, the list is still anonymous and being passed hand to hand in informal copies, more like an old samizdat manuscript or an e-mail rant. The top name on the list is a woman human rights advocate who embarrasses the government by shining the light of truth on their failures.

If that is a sign of hatred threatening the very fabric of their multi-ethnic society, what does it mean that in the United States a list of the 100 enemies of the American people gets a contract from one of our most prestigious publishing houses complete with hardback, paperback, and audiobook editions, publicity and a multi-city author's tour? Over here the top name on the list is an overweight documentarian who emabarasses the government by shining the light of humor on their failures.

Maybe Regnery Press should open up a Russian language branch.

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