“In the Breast of Mother Russia Speaks a Kind and Loving Heart”

Rich white Americans have so much fun. Here they are thrilling to the duo of Phil Donahue and Vladimir Pozner in Nantucket this past spring.

This is Russian soft-powerism of the highest order. It is strange (or is it?) that Pozner somehow thinks (or does he?) that he went from being a Soviet “propagandist” (as he admits in this conversation) to being a real “journalist” in the post-Soviet era.

And it is amazing that the otherwise skeptical and cranky Donahue has bought into this self-flattery. It is one thing to be more critical of the actions and policies of one’s own government: that is how it should be for any intelligent person anywhere, and especially for Americans, whose country bears more responsibility than most other countries for the world’s current saggy, miserable, often vicious shape. But here Donahue plays second fiddle to the virtuoso Pozner, who by the end of the talk seemingly has everyone in the tent convinced, especially his old TV buddy and the event’s moderator, that the US also bears sole responsibility for the current hyper-reactionary regime in Russia. Pozner accomplishes this with a spiel seamlessly woven from home truths, sentimental journeyings, and charmingly delivered lies or fudges: for example, about how everyone in the Soviet Union were true believers except for a miniscule and thus meaningless dissident movement or that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US and the West engaged only in relentless humiliation of the new “democractic” Russia under Yeltsin.

As Russia’s hook-line-and-sinker self-submersion into extreme right-wing nationalist hysteria continues, expect more of this kind of song and dance from certain Russian liberal and leftist intellectuals. The thought that Putinism 3.0 is entirely their own fault (if only because they have signally omitted to do almost anything about it) or that not all societies in the world today are equally bleak pits of the blackest political reaction, is nearly unbearable to them. Hence, their frantic need to revive the Cold War paradigm or, via Brahminical critiques of its alleged illicit and opportunistic resurgence on both sides of the old divide, their equally frantic attempts to imagine that the choice between the “free” West and the “internationalist” Soviet bloc back then, during the real Cold War, is somehow comparable to a choice nowadays between a bloody mess with occasional breaks in the clouds and a system that already long ago had no redeeming features whatsoever and seems hell-bent on getting much, much worse very quickly.

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The first “spacebridge” or “citizens summit,” between Leningrad and Seattle in 1985, moderated by Vladimir Pozner and Phil Donahue:


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