Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bernard-Henri Lévy [groan] and Russia

Bernard-Henri Lévy, "France's most celebrated (and easily the world’s most overrated) public intellectual" (Glenn Greenwald), is sharing his wisdom with us once again in The New Moscowteers Huffington Post 10/28/2015.

I've really got to get moving on setting up that "Bernard-Henri Lévy, please just shut the f**k up" Facebook page!

Bernard-Henri Lévy combines David "Bobo" Brooks' shallowness with Maureen Dowd's clueless and and the chronic warmongering whining of a Commentary columnist. "Across Europe, apologists for Russia and Russian policy have coalesced into what amounts to a fifth column."

Oh, yeah, BHL, the Putinists are going to be marching on Berlin, Paris and Rome any day now!

This is a column characteristic of BHL's chronic warmongering. It also provides a useful example of something Max Horkheimer wrote in his Eclipse of Reason (1947), when he was describing the way words in advanced societies operating on instrumental logic acquire a new kind of magic function:

At the same time, language takes its revenge, as it were, by reverting to its magic stage. As in the days of magic, each word is regarded as a dangerous force that might destroy society and for which the speaker must
be held responsible. Correspondingly, the pursuit of truth, under social control, is curtailed. The difference between thinking and acting is held void. Thus every thought is regarded as an act; every reflection is a thesis, and every thesis is a watchword. Everyone is called on the carpet for what he says or does not say. [my emphasis]
In desribing how to detect the sinister members of his imagined "Party of Putin," BHL writes, "They are, for starters, those who, regardless of party, have had nothing critical to say about the full state reception that Russian President Vladimir Putin just staged at the Kremlin for that multi-recidivist enemy of the West, and more importantly, butcher of his own people, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."

Most people, most of the days of most of their lives, don't make a habit of denouncing state receptions among leaders of foreign countries. Most such receptions occur, as a matter of fact, to the blissful disregard of even those who may have heard about them. And those who do pay some attention to them, and who are not war-worshipers like neocons and their "humanitarian intervention" counterparts, are probably aware that state visits are routine parts of international diplomacy. And in the case of heads of state involved in a horrible civil conflict, sane citizens might hope one of those international diplomatic social events would lead to a peaceful settlement of a horrible civil war.

Not BHL, who considers a visit by Assad to Putin in Moscow self-evidently evil, and he wants to call on the carpet anyone who is not actively expressing support for that dubious opinion. And he starts in with this without wasting time or space to even briefly state why citizens of Europe should consider the visit such a hideous thing.

Of course, BHL is just following standard neocon practice of recycling Cold War anti-Communist propaganda in the context of anti-Islamism and anti-Russian positions. Despite some expressions of admiration for Putin's brand of Christian-tinted authoritarianism from some rightwing European groups, there is no "Party of Putin" in the EU outside the imagination of BHL and like minded propagandists. (Probably someone has identified some tiny sect or other there overtly calls itself Putinist in Romania or Hungary or somewhere.)

At least in the days of the Soviet Union, there were Communist Parties outside the Warsaw Pact who professed to view the Soviet Communist Party as a leading model to some degree or other. BHL is just blowing smoke here.

Obviously, Russia has foreign policy positions that trouble Western leaders. They also have a large nuclear arsenal that any responsible Western leader will always take full account. There are differences of opinion on policy approaches toward Russia, whether it's in Ukraine or Georgia or the Middle East.

This is where it would be conventionally appropriate to say that such differences in opinion are legitimate. But the real point is the BHL is trying to de-legitimize anything but the warmongering perspective. And, like the hardline Cold Warriors of not so long ago, BHL brushes off the notion that Russia's leadership may see anything important in foreign policy other than being the enemy of the West:

Yet the Party of Putin prefers not to see how seemingly discrete events are components of a Kremlin strategy of revenge, humiliation and, at the very least, destabilization aimed at Europe. But you need to be almost willfully blind to miss this big picture, because Putin's tactics -- to pounce on the slightest breach or sign of weakness in Europe in order to sow division -- have been remarkably consistent.
In the real world, Russia has taken a stand against NATO and EU expansion in Georgia and Ukraine. Whether or not that is legitimate or illegitimate in varying degrees, it takes some propagandist imagination to see in that the present-day equivalent of the 1950s maps showing the Red Menace spreading ominously across Europe with melodramatic music in the background.

If we were to summarize BHL's column in a blogosphere short version, it would be: "Anybody who isn't hysterical like me over Russia is a Putin-loving poo-poo head."

BHL, please just STFU.

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