Environmental Ethics
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Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- May 8, 2017



Dear Dr. Maddow,

Last week (May 3), in your "exposure" of “Sib-Energo Group,” you embarked on still another exercise in guilt by association and "six degrees of separation." Then followed that familiar FOX-ism, “is it not possible that...?” I could stand about five minutes of this, whereupon I bailed out.

On the previous day, you gave us a list of "mysterious" murders in Russia, darkly suggesting that Putin was responsible for many (most? all? ) of them. Among those victims cited was the late Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitali Churkin, widely admired by his western UN colleagues, including Samantha Power. Now why would Putin order Churkin's assassination when he could simple fire him?  And why would Putin want to fire Churkin, much less kill him?  What evidence do you have that Putin was dissatisfied with Churkin's performance? If none, why include him in your list?

One of the seven diplomats on the list was Andrey Karlov, the ambassador to Turkey. Are you suggesting that Putin might have ordered his assassination? Did Putin somehow recruit the 22 year old Ankara policeman who shot Karlov? C’mon, gimme a break!

Recently, President Obama remarked that "nothing happens in Russia that Vladimir Putin does not know about." You and your MSNBC colleagues seem to take Obama's absurd remark a step further. For MSNBC, it seems, nothing happens in Russia for which Putin is not responsible.

Yours is a one-dimensional view of Russia, and that dimension is Vladimir Putin. Are you not aware that there are five major competing political parties in Russia? True, Putin has all of them variably under his thumb, but not entirely. (Something like the two major US parties under the control of the Wall Street banksters and the corporate oligarchs). In Russia, there is a myriad of competing factions, some of them quite violent, others peaceful: Islamic separatists (e.g. Chechins), Orthodox "Old Believers," Monarchists, Communists (the second largest political party, next to Putin's "United Russia"), Oligarchs, and of course liberal reformers such as your admirable friend, Vladimir Kara-Murza. (May his tribe increase!).

Then there is another faction, never mentioned in the mainstream media: these are the outlaw Putin advocates that Putin would desperately like to do without. Something like our "citizen militias." I asked a dissenting friend in St. Petersburg, "aren't you worried that Putin's FSB will come after you?" "Not at all," he replies, "but I am worried about ‘Putin's avengers.’" Perhaps those “avengers” are comparable to Henry II’s drinking buddies. (“Who will rid me of his meddlesome priest?”). Or perhaps, they are totally out of Putin’s control. We don’t know, including you, Dr. Maddow.

So there you are: a rogues gallery of potential assassins. Yet to you and your colleagues, there is only one plausible villain: one V. V. Putin.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, during the eight years of the Yeltsin Presidency, forty journalists were murdered. Coincidently, the same number were murdered during the sixteen years of Putin's regime. That comes to half the rate of murders during Putin's rule compared to that of Yeltsin.  Both statistics are outrageous, of course. No civilized country should tolerate this. But placing the blame of most (some? all?) of those recent murders on Putin without supporting evidence? That's a stretch.

I am not a casual observer of the Russian/US conflict. My profession (philosophy professor) has taken me to Russia seven times, where I was invited to deliver lectures at the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow and at universities in St. Petersburg, Saratov, Novgorod and Ulan-Ude. I remain in frequent contact with several Russian friends.

I am no admirer of Vladimir V. Putin. A friend in Russia, a research scientist, sent me an email (as a foreign correspondence, no doubt read by the FSB) in which he described Putin as a "thug," and his government as a "mafioso." Last I heard, my friend is still free to go about his business. From what I have heard from friends in Russia, I am inclined to agree with my scientist friend: The Russian government is corrupt from the top down. Putin has grown wealthy from his office. This in contrast to many of our politicians who have the simple decency to receive the payoffs for their “public service” (i.e., bribes) after they leave office, when they become lobbyists and corporate executives for their congressional "sponsors."

If, as you report, the Putin regime is in fact corrupt and brutal,, then I grieve for my Russian friends. But this is the Russians' problem, not ours, and it is the responsibility of the Russian people to remedy their domestic political abuses, as they did in August, 1991, and doubtless will do again. And if you took a course or tutorial in Russian history while you were at Oxford, you would know that the Russian people do not take kindly to hostile foreign interference. When threatened from abroad, they, like us, typically unite behind their leader, even a ruthless tyrant like Josef Stalin. You are doing the Russian people no favor by providing Putin with a foreign villain. Your brand of relentless propaganda only serves to tighten Putin’s grip on Russia. 

If we genuinely desire to weaken that grip, we should practice what Dr. Jay Haley calls "The Power Tactics of Jesus Christ" which I (an atheist) find very compelling. Let's put an end to useless provocations which serve no purpose except to increase hostilities. Remove the missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, which alarm the Russians as much as the Soviet missiles in Cuba alarmed us in 1962. No more NATO maneuvers in the Baltic republics, where two years ago German artillery in Estonia was deployed within range of St. Petersburg, where, seventy five years ago, a million Soviet citizens starved during the Nazi blockade. No more NATO war games on the Polish plain, across which the Wehrmacht marched on their way to Russia, killing more than 25 million Soviet citizens -- one sixth of the Soviet population.

What is the point of all this Russophobia? What do our military geniuses expect to gain from all this belligerence? How often has such behavior in past history led to war?

Let us instead, replace hostility with patience and tolerance -- with unprovoked acts of respect and human kindness. Putin himself did as much when, last New Year's eve, he declined to respond to the US expulsion of Russian diplomats with a retaliatory expulsion of Americans from Moscow. Instead, he invited the children of the American diplomats to a party in the Kremlin. This was a shrewd move by Putin, motivated less by Christian benevolence than by a successful attempt to embarrass us.

Let us attempt to understand the Russians' point of view, without necessarily agreeing with it. Let us recognize and deal with their concerns, and invite them to do the same with ours. You have no idea how positively the Russians would respond to respectful and amicable gestures on our part. As I have discovered personally, there is a vast fund of good-will in Russia toward Americans, suppressed today but available for renewal if we in the West and the US encourage it.

I will not in this space elaborate upon the issue of the alleged “hacking of our election by the Russians,” since I have done so elsewhere at some length. There I have concluded (a) that the alleged hacking has not been proven (as ex-CIA chief James Clapper has admitted), (b) that even if the attempt was made, it probably did not affect the outcome of the election, and (c) that the Democrats have seized upon the alleged “Russian hacking” as an excuse for their loss in November and as a crowbar with which to whack Donald Trump, and perchance to pry him from his office. Endless  media repetition of the alleged “fact” of the Russian interference has apparently convinced a majority of Americans that this is so. But it has not altered the evidence, or lack of same. The media frenzy over the “Russian hacking” parallels the “proof” (by repetition) that Saddam Hussein had WMDs that he intended to use against us, along with the unanimous editorial endorsement of Colin Powell’s false testimony before the UN Security Council. (“Anyone unconvinced is either a fool or a Frenchman.” Richard Cohen, WaPo). And so we went to war at the cost of four thousand American, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and the birth of ISIS.

It is universally acknowledged today that the Bush/Cheney administration, Colin Powell, and the MSM lied us into that catastrophic blunder. And yet today the American public and the mainstream media have apparently learned nothing whatever from that experience. The American public and its media are once again the victims of group-think, gullible as ever, as together we march confidently toward the precipice.

“Fool me once...”

I have been a faithful viewer of TRMS for several years. However, when this Russian obsession took over, I decided to drop TRMS from my viewing schedule. Yet I seem drawn to it like a motorist driving past a car wreck. Now I feel that I must watch it for the "Russia bashing' which, Aaron Maté of "The Intercept" calculates, has recently taken up more than half of your programming time. In my frustrated rage, I feel that I must respond to your outrageous distortions and provocations, which I have done with numerous internet essays originating on my personal website and republished elsewhere (including, in one case, in Russia).

I close by repeating my questions from my past letter to you:

a) What do you expect to accomplish with these relentless attacks on Russia?

b) Your motives aside, where do you suppose these attacks by you and most of your MSNBC colleagues are leading the US, Russia and the world?

Is this not the sort of behavior that, history teaches us, typically leads to war?

I am reminded of a quotation from Bertrand Russell's 1952 Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "We hate [the Russians] because they do not allow liberty. This we feel so strongly that we have decided to imitate them."


Ernest Partridge, Ph.D
Editor: The Online Gadfly




Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .