Welcome to the thunderdome: Being critical of Russian Olympic criticisms
The Olympics, ring malfunction aside, have been pretty great at the time of this writing. The opening ceremony was extremely well-done, full of simple metaphors that showcased how the Russian authorities want to present their history, even if their actual history was somewhat different.
Still, the Olympics are a celebration, and no one has ever faulted the United States for omitting, say, the Trail of Tears from one of our gaudy extravaganzas. I have tried to ignore a lot of the politics and ego-battling of the bigwigs and persons of power involved in the games and instead tried to focus on the sublime performances in figure skating and hockey (I love blades on ice) by people like Yazuru Hanyu and T.J. Oshie.
But the persistent current of ridiculously critical American media coverage about Russia’s politics and authority has irked me. From the slightly xenophobic hockey coverage, something that hockey culture’s been guilty of for years, stigmatizing Russian players as “lazy” and “selfish,” using the same type of coded language that rightfully pissed Richard Sherman off at the Super Bowl, to the overindulgence in media coverage towards any athlete who does something even remotely critical, the U.S. media has found a commonly objectionable target and just ran roughshod on the whole country of Russia.
Now, I will be the first to say that Russia’s official stance on gay rights is plain awful, a disgusting state-sponsored bigotry. It is backward, and there are plenty of other things about Russian society that are awful and in need of fixing, like the shady death of former American journalist Paul Klebnikov, the mysterious poisoning deaths of vocal critics of Putin’s government, the jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the insane disparity of wealth, the widespread corruption, the hard-line stances towards breakaway regions in the Caucasus and much more. All of these topics are perfectly legitimate.
But if the media wants to be this probing, then why can’t they be this probing towards, I don’t know, the United States government?
Russia has disparate levels of wealth? Well, is it any worse than our one-percenters controlling vast swaths of the country’s wealth, investments and property?
Russia has widespread corruption? Name me one high-profile banker that’s been indicted for the planned worldwide fraud that went on in the last ten years. As reported by Matt Taibbi in this month’s issue of “Rolling Stone,” banks have been systematically jacking up prices of commodities like aluminum and nickel by buying up large portions of the supply. Add this malfeasance to the LIBOR scandal, price-fixing in the currency markets and, well, I’ll stop there. There have been too many billion and trillion dollar scandals that have gone unprosecuted to list.
And I do not want to even go into this country’s record on gay rights.
Seriously, I have no problem with the media asking these questions. I just wish our media had the gumption to ask them of our own people. Looking smug while investigating something already with a negative reputation in this country, Russia and its people, is just the worse kind of faux-intelligent news reporting.