Sunday, October 15, 2006

POLITKOVSKAYA AND THE REICHSTAG FIRE – CONSPIRACY THEORIES ARISE

In Pravda.ru, October 9th, Nikolai Nevsky presents the theory that those who ordered the assassination of journalist Anna Politkovskaya were neither Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov nor the current Russian administration.

(It should perhaps be noted that PRAVDA On-line is an internet publication whose only affiliation with the conservative/populist/Communist paper Pravda is that the staff of both publications are for a large part former employees of the Soviet party organ Pravda, closed in 1991 by Yeltsin. The two 'resurrected' publications have followed different paths, and should not be confused with each other – Pravda.ru doesn't seem to be so politically rigid.)

Is the assassination to any gain for Ramzan Kadyrov and his followers, Nevsky asks. Surely, Politkovskaya had been one of his harshest critics, and has brought to light many atrocities commited by Kadyrov personally and by his private army (the "kadyrovtsy"). But objectively speaking, Nevsky writes, since the liberal press and world media are now "letting all dogs out on him", his aspiration to become President could become a very questionable matter. Whether he would have ordered it himself or someone in his circle did it – Kreml would "throw him to the deepest end of the Siberian ores" for doing that kind of thing.

Nevsky views as even more ridiculous the claims that people from the Russian administration would have given Putin such a "birthday present" (the assassination took place on President Putin's birthday). This "present" has complicated Russian inner and foreign politics to a high degree. For both Putin and Kadyrov the assassination of Politkovskaya has brought a heap of problems, he writes. And anyway, how could she actually have bothered them, had she still been alive? Politkovskaya worked for a small newspaper (biweekly Novaya Gazeta has an edition of about 670,000 copies, which is quite small for Russia), and was much more famous outside her country. In Russia, few people besides the category of "urban oppositional foreign-oriented intellectuals" actually care much about her articles.

So, Nevsky asks, who could actually have gotten any gains from this assassination?

"Let's recall the Reichstag fire"! An event that occurred when the new German chancellor Adolf Hitler was in dire need of something that would eliminate the Communists, Social Democrats and other "mobs of enemies of the nation". The fire in the building, set by the Communist van der Lubbe, became an attack signal for the NSDAP and partly justified the following Nazi repressions in the eyes of Germans and the international community.
Already after WWII it became clear that it had been a provocation by the Nazi special services, who had set up the psychologically unstable van der Lubbe. "What did the National Socialists get from the Reichstag fire?", Nevsky asks. "Everything they wanted – the absolute power over Germany. What did the Communists get? Repressions and concentration camps."

So, what did the Kremlin get from the assassination of Politkovskaya? Demonstrations of the opposition (for instance, "The Other Russia" and organisations affiliated with it) in the centre of Moscow and other cities under the slogan "The murderous regime killed Anna!", a "mass anti-Putin campaign" in the liberal and international press, "a reincarnation of the concept of 'the evil empire'". Nothing good came of it for the Kremlin.

But what did the opposition get? "Virtually everything it could ever have dreamed of", Nevsky writes. They got a symbol for "the heroic struggle against a totalitarian regime", and in the near future "we will most likely witness a political canonization of the late journalist, who will involuntarily become a banner of the opposition".
Now, Nevsky writes, they can proceed to preparing a "Maidan" - in analogy with Ukraine, where the accusations of Kuchma for the assassination of the journalist Gongadze became "one of the main detonators" of the Orange Revolution. "Now, let's try to recall –", Nevsky writes, "the accusations at Kuchma remained without proof, but who cares about that now?"

According to Nevsky, the media are now trying to create a conception in the global opinion of Politkovskaya's assassination as something conducted at the order of Kadyrov, for whose actions Putin is ultimately responsible both morally and legally. The analogies with the case of Gongadze are "so obvious that they can't be ignored, and such a suspicious repetition involuntarily leads to the thought of a beforehand planned provocation with the aim of destabilizing Russia".

The oppositional press was very quick to point out "the fascist regime" as guilty, Nevsky writes, and they might well have been prepared for this kind of event beforehand, waiting for the opportunity to start toppling the regime, Ukraine-style. Nevsky realises that this might sound a bit far-fetched, and promptly points out that "this is no conspiracy theory – this is the ordinary, routine practise of subversive operations against objectionable regimes".

He puts the light on Boris Abramovych [Berezovsky], whose financial and organizational participation in the Orange Revolution is well-known. (As a matter of fact, Berezovsky and Gorbachev own most of the shares of the 'independent' Novaya Gazeta. Editor Sergei Roy tells about the degree of freedom in the Russian press here.) "Operations with the goal of removing objectionable individuals are nothing new to him", Nevsky writes. Berezovsky once asked former head of Yeltsin's guard Korzhakov to kill Vladimir Gusinsky, and Nevsky also connects Berezovsky to the affairs with Ivan Rybkin and Elena Masyuk.

Nevsky, who says he has all respect for Politkovskaya, draws a picture of her as an "ideal victim", a pawn in the game of "scoundrels".
Politkovskaya fit excellently into this position: she was a "personal enemy" of Kadyrov, exposer of the crimes of members of the federal army in Chechnya, a famous journalist (especially outside of Russia), laureate of many international prizes ("not without the help of US funds like NDI and the very same Berezovsky", Nevsky points out).
"And as a matter of fact", he continues, for these scoundrels "to lose this pawn is not so harsh, since the level of Politkovskaya's publicist talents – regardless of all admiration she received – could not be compared with [Yuliya] Latynina, who actually possesses certain literary skills." (Hmm, "of course", a female journalist can only be compared with another female journalist … But it should be pointed out that Nevsky doesn't seem to be any particular fan of Latynina – in this article he "unveils" several of Latynina's "lies" – among them her claim that the new Russian child allowance will create a new class of women who make babies in order to get money to buy booze, "equivalent of the Arab quarters in Paris suburbs" – !!???)

Nevsky then quotes Kirill Frolov, expert of the NGO "Institute of SNG Countries", who claims that "with this assassination in the beginning of the pre-election season 2006-2008, war has been declared on the Russian leaders and the very administration by those who don't like the course on the national and governmental revival of Russia led by president Putin."

And Nevsky concludes his 6-page article with the words: "It seems war has indeed been declared on us, and on Saturday [October 7th, the day Politkovskaya was killed] its first shots rang out. If this is not a "Reichstag fire", i.e. a signal to start a global propaganda campaign against Russia with the aim of destabilization – then what is it?"

Indeed, what is it? Suggestions about US-backed NGO's sorting under National Endowment for Democracy, such as Renaissance Foundation, National Democratic Institute and their likes, pulling strings in the recent (more or less successful) "revolutions" in Ukraine, Georgia and other former Soviet bloc countries have been made every now and then. I accounted for an article with that theme on Ukraine earlier. It has also been suggested that Russia could be another target of this kind of activities.

Are these suggestions just conspiracy theories? You be the judge.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Dear Ms. Rice,

I believe that you, as opposed to your president, cannot be too simpleminded to not understand what the truth is. But you are concealing and distorting the truth.

You spoke today of the terrible deeds of the HisbAllah fighters, who are firing Katyusha rockets into Israeli territory, reaching cities as relatively far into the country as Haifa. At least 34 Israelis have been killed, half of them civilians. This is indeed very sad news.
But what of the at least 319 Lebanese that have been killed by the Israeli army - most of them civilians, one third of them, according to the UN, children? For these people and their families, it seems, you have far less sympathy, if any at all. You didn't even mention them today.

To you, an "immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense". Indeed, last wednesday it was reported that your administration intends to give the Israeli army 'free hands' for about a week before it would start calling for a ceasefire.
Surely a ceasefire wouldn't make any sense to someone who is only able to solve problems by means of force, not dialogue.

Speaking of problems, how are things going in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two rather troublesome 'projects' of your administration? "Afghanistan close to anarchy", "Iraq falls near to the abyss of civil war", "Iraq is disintegrating as ethnic cleansing takes hold" ... what should one make of all this?
Could it be that chaos and civil war was the original intent of your administration when these wars were launched? That not only the talk about Al-Qaida connections and weapons of mass destruction was deceit, but also the talk about 'installing democracy'?

That your government would have lied about yet another issue wouldn't surprise me the least. But I do hope that your administration is not as cynical and hateful of human life as to intentionally have pushed (so far) two nations into chaos and civil war.

Alas, since you will not for one moment tell the truth, all I can do is guess.

Friday, January 27, 2006

FULL METAL ALCHEMIST: THE CONQUEROR OF SHAMBALA - IDEOLOGICALLY AMBIGUOUS

I'm a big fan of the anime series Full Metal Alchemist, and an even bigger fan of the manga by Arakawa Hiromu that the anime is based on. Thus, it was with great excitement that I started to watch the recently made movie, which is basically a sequel to the anime. However, my expectations were not quite met.

The film begins as the two alchemist brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric have been separated from each other – Alphonse is still in their old world, with no memories about what happened after he lost his body, while Edward is in the world 'on the other side', which is very similar to our own world in the 1930's. They are both trying to find a way back to each other again; Alphonse by pursuing alchemy, and Edward, finding that he cannot use alchemy in this other world, by studying rocket science.

Not only does the film seem to be made with a rather small budget – the animation is not exactly the best I've ever seen - but the script has some problems, as well.

Amidst the racism and xenophobia of the time, Edward helps out a Gypsy girl called Noa. The film clearly sympathises with her plight, but at the same time it is plagued by strange stereotypes.

Though they are from Germany, Noa and the other Gypsies seem to be highly influenced by Spanish Gypsy culture – they sing songs that have some kind of Spanish/Latino sound, and Noa dances something resembling flamenco. This 'Spanish' connection is a rather common stereotype when depicting "Gypsies". Here are two more examples of this from the collection of images of Gypsies in the media by Ian Hancock for his book The Pariah Syndrome.

Also, when Noa expresses the wish to have a country of her own where she wouldn't be persecuted, Edward is astonished and says something like "I thought it was your *pride* to always be on the move!", echoing another common stereotype. Read about this in the section "Anti-Gypsyism" in The Pariah Syndrome.

This film doesn't limit itself to stereotypes about Gypsies. There is also a sequence where an acquaintance of Edward, a Jewish film maker, speaks about Japan, and says that it's "a nation of only one tribe". I had severe difficulties trying to figure out whether his character was intentionally made to be misinformed, or whether the script really was communicating Japanese nationalist propaganda - because what he said is a damned lie.

At the very least one could remember the Ainu, Koreans and Burakumin (though the latter are a social, caste-like minority, not an ethnical one), but there are also smaller groups of different ethnicities that have been around in Japan at least 100 years, such as Jews and Russians. (Here is a general article about minorities in Japan.)

Then again, the film delivers a message that goes something like this: once you come to a foreign place/country/world, you can't stay indifferent to it. You have to take it into your heart like your own country. Edward won't let this new world down, and the people he has gotten to know and made friends with there, just because it's not his 'own' world. That's a sympathetic thought, especially if you read it from the perspective of emigrants who come to a new country. It's their country, as well - simply because they are there.

The Conqueror of Shambala is on one hand against Nazism and racism, and for friendship between different ethnicities and worlds. But on the other hand, it is not free from racist stereotypes and nationalist propaganda. It's not the best of movies, but it might be interesting as an example of how these subjects work in Japanese mass culture.