AN OPEN LETTER TO RACHEL MADDOW
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
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
oligarches). 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.
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 Yeltsin's presidency compared to Putin's. 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
I am no admirer of Vladimir V. Putin. A
friend in Russia, a research scientist, sent me an email (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”
after they leave office, as lobbyists and corporate executives.
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 it, 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
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
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
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
Co-Editor: The Crisis Papers