Monday, November 17, 2008

Mark Ames on Russia

Interesting interview of Mark Ames, the author of an article on the American media framing of the Russian-Georgian conflict in The Nation, on the subject of the Russian-Georgian conflict, Russia-American relations and topics in Russia's sphere.

I talked about the conflict previously, pointing to a NY Times article which showed that the way the media framed the conflict was totally wrong. But as Ames said, the NY Times was one of the worst offender on pro Georgia bias during the conflict. There is a strong lobby in the United States that wishes to portray Russia as irrational, dangerous and a threat to world stability; they are trying, and largely succeeding, to impose their narrative on the mainstream of American politics. This is dangerous because they tell only one side of the story, they totally misunderstand Russia internal politics and they ignore or don't understand long term demographic trends which will limit Russia to being only a regional power. As Ames says in the interview, Russians are extremely sensitive to how the west see them and very angry when they think they are being treated unfairly. So the narrative could become a self-fulfilling prophecy; if the west treat Russia as if they were the "bad guys", they will start acting like it out of a lack of confidence in the west.

Here's an analogy. In psychiatry there is a defense mechanism called projective identification, which is often unconsciously used by people with borderline personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder. It is a mechanism whereas person A project an emotion on person B and will unconsciously act to make person B feel and act that way to confirm his own mistaken belief. Here is an example. If a patient is angry because his doctor is going on a vacation and he feels abandoned (that would be typical of a borderline personality disorder who are also prone to attempt suicide), he will project his anger to the doctor; he does not recognize that he is angry, he believes that it's the doctor who is angry. Then he will say, upon leaving the office, "See you after your vacations doc... if I don't kill myself". The goal is to make the doctor angry to confirm his own pathological belief. This allows the patient to avoid taking a look at himself, he can blame others instead.

This is a similar kind of behavior we are seeing in regard to USA relation with Russia. If you look at it from Russia's point of view, its relationship with the USA has been far from positive since Yelstin such as the disastrous western backed privatization, NATO expansion after promising not to do it, messing with Serbia and Kosovo without Russian support, support of Putin enemies in former Soviet Union Republics, some of whom have been in the Russian Empire for 4 centuries and Bush backing off the ABM treaty among many others humiliations. Yet the Russian point of view is never mentioned in the mainstream media, all we hear about is a totalitarian and irrational dictator bent on destroying its neighbours. Let's stop the projective identification. Go listen to Ames.

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