Wednesday, December 01, 2004

John Laughland - no laughing matter 

Sick of Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, and all the other tired old faces selling old tired ideas? Want a fresh new talent who's also always consistently wrong on just about every major issue of the day? Meet John Laughland, a prolific opinion writer and a trustee of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, a noble-sounding organization which "monitors human rights and democracy" in Western European and post-Soviet states. For the BHHRG, monitoring human rights and democracy seems to consist of waiting what the United States and Great Britain are saying, and then saying the opposite.

Not surprisingly, "the BHHRG observers did not see evidence of government-organized fraud nor of suppression of opposition media" during the Ukrainian elections. The BHHRG observers must have been just about the only Western observers not to see it. Remind me not to ask the Group for help if I ever misplace my car keys.

And so, John Laughland goes to bat not only defending the integrity of the Ukrainian electoral process but also siding with the post-communist oligarchs. For example, did you know that
"enormous rallies have been held in Kiev in support of the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovich, but they are rarely shown on our TV screens: if their existence is admitted, Yanukovich supporters are denigrated as having been 'bussed in'. The demonstrations in favour of Viktor Yushchenko have laser lights, plasma screens, sophisticated sound systems, rock concerts, tents to camp in and huge quantities of orange clothing; yet we happily dupe ourselves that they are spontaneous."
It's all a conspiracy, presumably by rock promoters and manufacturers of orange clothing. Of course it's only the authorities which should have the monopoly over "enormous rallies" (and laser lights); God forbid that the opposition should actually be well organized. And
"we are told that a 96 per cent turnout in Donetsk, the home town of Viktor Yanukovich, is proof of electoral fraud. But apparently turnouts of more than 80 per cent in areas that support Viktor Yushchenko are not."
I don't know, why don't we ask the government-controlled electoral commission which was supervising the election across the whole country. And how could Laughland possibly forget to smear the whole pro-democracy movement because some Ukrainian far-right and anti-Semitic groups and politicians also don't like the current government. It has been a standard communist tactic throughout the Cold War to portray all Eastern European emigre groups as unreconstructed fascists and Nazi collaborators. I'm glad that Laughland is still with the program (indeed it's so much fun, that John can't help himself but to also smear Michael Ledeen with the same brush - because as we all know, if you study fascism, you must be a fascist sympathizer yourself).

"Our tendency to paint political fantasies onto countries such as Ukraine that are tabula rasa for us, and to present the West as a fairy godmother swooping in to save the day, is not only a way to salve a guilty conscience about our own political shortcomings; it also blinds us to the reality of continued brazen Western intervention in the democratic politics of other countries," Laughland concludes.

Silly us. How dare we intervene in the democratic politics of other countries. Like Zimbabwe, for example. You see, according to Laughland, the West cannot criticize the sad joke that was the Zimbabwean elections because similar abuses are being condoned elsewhere around the world. Typical argument goes something like this: "Another charge levelled at Zimbabwe is government control of the media. But this did not bother the [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] at the Montenegrin parliamentary elections in 1998." Possibly because in addition to complete media monopoly, Zimbabwean authorities were also killing and imprisoning opposition politicians and supporters, intimidating voters with armed militias and stuffing ballot boxes.

But why stop at Zimbabwe?
"We should treat with skepticism the claims made for the numbers of deaths - 30,000 or 50,000 are the figures being bandied about - when we know that similar statistics proved very wrong in Kosovo and Iraq. The Sudanese government says that the death toll in Darfur, since the beginning of the conflict in 2003, is not greater than 1,200 on all sides. And why is such attention devoted to Sudan when, in neighboring Congo, the death rate from the war there is estimated to be some 2 or 3 million, a tragedy equaled only by the silence with which it is treated in our media?
But hey, how do we know that the death toll in Congo is really 2 or 3 million? Maybe it's also "1,200 on all sides" - according to the official government figures, of course. And yes, you guessed it - the West is only interested in Sudan because of oil. Which is why the West intervened militarily in Darfur. Oh... it hasn't? Anyway, Congo is far richer in natural resources than Sudan and no one's interested. Go figure those weird Westerners.

And so it goes. Another week, another dictator will be defended, because if your own society is always in the wrong, well, that can only mean its opponents must be always be right. Next stop: North Korea, its misunderstood leader and the adoring population. Grass for dinner, anyone?


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