Counterpoint

This is my response to the email I received from “La Russophobe,” whose blog I commented on recently. I have to say that this is the most I ever want to become involved with “blog politics.” I’m not particularly interested in explaining and defending my viewpoints at great depth; I really just express them for my own benefit (putting things in writing can clarify your thinking quite a bit) and to show what page I’m on, rather than to engage in any intensive dialectic.

That said, this letter does serve largely as a defense of my previous position.

I have taken minor liberties in editing this version for publication.


La Russophobe,
I want to thank you for your thoughtful response to my blog post. You raise a large number of interesting points—in fact, so many that I’m sure that I’ll fail to address some of them, for which I apologize. First of all, I apologize for any offense taken at my post. Inasmuch as I ever descend into ad hominem criticism, you are right to point out my hypocrisy.

Now, as to why I criticize your style. By no means am I coming down against there being variety of rhetorical styles. I am, however, stating why I believe that your particular style, as it has been used throughout the centuries, is less effective than others. My belief is that the use of what you might call “fiery rhetoric” is not conducive to a substantive discussion of the facts. This is not to say that in your posts you do not discuss facts, but rather that it is difficult for me, at least, and I suppose other readers to focus on the core of your arguments because the language is so impassioned. This is part of why I believe that the United States presidential debates are so frustratingly shallow—because the “winner” is whichever candidate can score a rhetorical knockout, rather than the one who presents the most compelling ideas. This is why I seemingly come down in support of Yuri’s blog and his style. When I read his writing, I feel like I’m able to glean valuable insight by learning about a Russian’s perspective on his own country. When I read your writing, I simply feel angry! In my mind you do a disservice to your own work by using attack-style language because it provokes an emotional response that overwhelms the value of your logical argument.

This brings up something else. What is the goal of your blog? Your stated purpose is “recording the rise (and hopefully fall) of the Neo-Soviet Union.” I am sorry that you have already concluded that Russia is indeed a “Neo-Soviet Union”—an evil state akin to that built by Lenin and Stalin and their successors. While I agree that it is possible that such a situation will come about, I also believe that by deciding that it has already, you actually make it more likely that it will; a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your rhetorical style, as I discussed above, seems aimed at provoking anger, fear, and even hate, which is certainly counter-productive. By provoking fear and hate towards Russia, you make it more likely that Western citizens will call upon their leaders to take an unnecessarily hard line with Russia, which will cause a Russian response and (perhaps) a chain reaction of policies leading to “Cold War 2.” Is that really what you want? Or would you prefer to discuss Russia in a way that causes readers to understand — without engendering fear or hate? In my view, that is what the goal of all Westerners should be concerning Russia. Provoking a negative reaction to Russia may score ratings, but please consider that there are far more important things in this world than the popularity of any blog.

Finally, I’m just in this for fun, really. It’s an interest of mine. I’m going to be taking a Russian class in the fall, my brother was a missionary in Samara, many of my friends have studied Russian and will be studying in Russia soon. I’m not looking to be a professional lobbyist or anything, but simply to expand my understanding of that country and throw my thoughts out here and there. Also, I’m studying linguistics, which could explain my fascination with your style of writing, or even with your pseudonym (which seems to be an interesting combination of both Greek and Romantic language elements.) I feel like Yuri’s coverage of the child sex exploitation issue was insightful (see his article, Boys For Sale: Russia’s Forgotten Children—a nice tip of the hat to that great musical of the 1960’s, Oliver,) providing a window on Russia that should give Westerners pause. I don’t feel like Yuri posted that information to distract people from what was discussed in the Wall Street Journal article, but to show that the true tragedy of Russia is, and has always been, human rather than political. It’s similar to dissident videos coming out of North Korea that instead of focusing on the glitz of Pyongyang or the intrigue of the nuclear weapons program that attract so much Western media attention, focus on images of little orphan boys, homeless, scrounging scraps of food out of the mud, or of refugees telling of cannibalism in the face of crippling famine and governmental apathy.

I hope that this gives you a better idea of my views on things. I intend to post both your letter and my response to my blog (though it may take me a day or two to get around to it—it’s the end of a term here at school and I’ve got to go out of town soon) although I’d prefer we keep any further discussion private at least initially. Thanks again for your thoughtfulness and for the time you’ve taken to read my response. I hope that we leave as friends, agreeing to disagree but glad for the open exchange of ideas.

Take care, and best wishes,
Josh

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