'Whataboutism' returns to Russia

After five years of writing about corruption, human rights abuses, the murder of journalists and electoral fraud, I have finally learned the Kremlin's true weak spot: dry-cleaning.
On Tuesday, I wrote a column about the horrors of getting dry-cleaning done in Moscow. It was a cathartic expression of the frustration that comes from living in a city where the most menial tasks are often infused with the paper-pushing, stamp-stamping and time-wasting so loved byRussia's bureaucracy.
Many people were not amused, it turns out. Among them was Dmitry Peskov, longtime aide and spokesman to Vladimir Putin.
"I am sorry to hear about Miriam Elder's experience at the dry cleaners, in which she lost her receipt and so had an hour of her time 'stolen' in providing the necessary personal details to retrieve her woollies," Peskov wrote in a letter to this newspaper. "But I am also amazed that this anecdote can be passed off as any sort of insight into the state of Russia today."
Peskov went on to write that cutting red tape was a high priority for the government. And then the kicker: "Let me remind British readers of the thousands of hours that are 'stolen' from Russian citizens when they complete the UK's visa application forms, which are a whopping 10 pages. The time, money, effort and inconvenience that Russians face in obtaining UK visas put Ms Elder's ordeal into perspective."
Those wishing to understand the link between handing in dry-cleaning and applying for a UK visa would do well to look up "whataboutism". The term emerged at the height of the Cold War, used to describe a favourite tactic of Soviet propagandists. An article in a US or UK paper calls out the Soviet government for locking up dissidents? Well then, a Soviet paper responds: "What about the US campaign against the Black Panthers?" The practice is alive and well in modern Russia. Western papers upping their coverage of the protest movement against Putin's regime? Russia Today starts in with "What about the Occupy movement?"
Dry cleaning? Huh.  These Russians can be so sensitive.


Popular posts from this blog

The plot against the President

While blocking pipeline for US , Biden backs one for Taliban

Sharpie ballots in Arizona discarded?