The Early Days of a Better Nation

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Future and it Works

The Scottish Nationalist/Stalinist (now there's a surprise) poet Hugh MacDiarmid famously and foolishly said he would kill a million men for one glorious lyric. What he should have said, if he had really got this communism thing clear in his head, was that a million glorious lyrics were not worth the life of one man. (Arguable, given the Glory that was Greece and all that, but a lever and a place to stand.) Millions of former Soviet citizens have starved, frozen, died in fratricidal national and civil wars, or drunk themselves to death as a result of the counter-revolution, but it has produced some glorious gonzo journalism. This article is in extremely bad taste. It also contains some painful truths:

There are basically two kinds of censorship, but most people only notice the harmless kind that involves trying to hide naughty words or pictures once they’re already out there in plain sight. This kind of censorship is what brought down the Soviets. It just doesn’t work, and ain’t worth the trouble of trying. It just ends up as a joke.
The other sort of censorship is harder to spot and much more cruel. It’s a matter of which stories get told or noticed in the first place, rather than fussing about the language in which they get told. Put it this way: how many things happened yesterday? and how many of those things made the nightly news? For starters, you probably didn’t. Yup, if you’re reading the eXile, it’s a good bet that nothing you did or ever will do made the news.

Your story is just too depressing. To make the news, your story has to be one of the consoling lies that a culture, any culture, tells itself to make the ordinary suckers’ lives seem bearable to them. If your bike is rearended at a stoplight and you spend the rest of your life tetraplegic, it’s not going to be on the news. It’s a big story to you, and it’s the kind of story total strangers enjoy hearing, if only out of morbid curiosity, but it won’t make the news. It’s too true. It’s not an exception.
Try keeping track of the stories you see featuring 'ordinary people' and you’ll discover that they’re all lies: Illiterate nobodies get rich. Terminal cancer case is spontaneously cured. Parakeet and cat become best friends. Behind all these like the breath of the grave whisper the simple, censored facts: the poor stay poor. Millions of terminal cancer patients die on schedule. The cat grabs the parakeet first chance it gets, and kills it slowly, torturing it with great pleasure.

When a culture really wants to censor the horrible truth, it takes these stories and puts them together into an 'inspirational' movie. And that movie is called Forrest Gump.
Read this this too. Oh, and this:
I have just discovered why nearly 80% of Russians support censorship of the free press. The reason is Elena Tregubova, and everything that Elena Tregubova represents — which is to say, the liberal free press of the 1990s.
The first half of Tregubova's book relates the peak years of the "Young-Reformers"-led Yelstin regime in 1996-8, and its subsequent collapse following the financial crisis. For Tregubova and her class, this was the Golden Age. Idle factories, mass poverty, the premature deaths of millions of Russians and the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of assets play no role in her magical world. What mattered for her was that she mattered; she had access to the most eksklusivnie circles, cities and goods. She's kind of like a gory Russian version of Marlo Thomas’ That Girl, bright-eyed, young and beautiful and the apple of every elite Russian male's eye (or so she believes), all the while crunching over the bones of Yeltsin's victims as she zips from one elitny tusovka to the next.


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