Western Media – Don’t Forget: Russia is a Backwards Hellhole (Satire)

These people outside of Red Square are contemplating a mass suicide right now.
These people outside of Red Square are contemplating a mass suicide right now.

Everyone knows that westerners have a short attention span these days.  So, just in case you, dear western reader or viewer, may have forgotten since yesterday, here’s another daily reminder:  Russia is a backwards hellhole.

Got it?

Nothing good ever happens there.  Not ever.

Everyone is miserable beyond belief.  Everyone.

Don't let those coy smiles fool you; these ladies are so miserable, they can't even frown anymore.
Don’t let those coy smiles fool you; these ladies are so miserable, they can’t even frown anymore.

Except maybe president Putin, as he frolics with his 365 different girlfriends and counts his billions of stolen rubles that he keeps stashed in the underground bunker of his opulent mansion at an undisclosed location.

This was my thought as I read Boyd Tonkins’ review of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second Hand Time, a book that reportedly follows 10 families in the post-Soviet era.

I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the book, but the portrayal by Tonkins in his review (titled “The Hopeless Wasteland of Modern Russia”) pretty much fits the now hackneyed caricature of Russia presented in the corporate western media.

Russians in St. Petersburg...going off to get drunk.
Russians in St. Petersburg…going off to get drunk.

I couldn’t help but wonder how a book might portray the U.S. to a foreign audience if it followed this same formula:  only talk about the worst aspects of life in the U.S., magnify it greatly, add in some cheesy melodrama and soap suds, and repeat ad nauseum.

Perhaps it would look something like this:  half of the population has committed suicide and the other half would probably like to; Obama is personally responsible for every bad thing that happens in every corner of the U.S., from sea to shining sea; 90% of Americans are currently drowning their sorrows in methamphetamine or Oxycontin; every single person of color is killed by the police; everyone is homeless; all Americans, to show how noble and philosophical they are in their misery, go around quoting Theodore Dreiser and James Baldwin.

Some choice quotes from long-suffering Americans may include:

“You can’t buy democracy with loads of corporate cash…you needed free elections and we didn’t have them.”

“Yes, we stood in line for Black Friday at WalMart…but it was America and we loved it.”

“Hillary the Democrat is our shortest joke.”

“From the genocide of the Native Americans and slavery to recent massacres in Iraq and Libya, blood soaks the pages.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone whitewash any country’s history or leadership.  However, most Americans – if the shoe were on the other foot – would probably get tired of seeing their country, despite its many faults, constantly talked about only in this light, with no nuance, no complexity and no context.  This would be especially true if the one engaging in this kind of depiction had such a hard time seeing the mote in their own eye and spent more time haranguing about someone else’s supposed faults than they did fixing their own myriad problems.

But I guess that’s the benefit of being exceptional and indispensable.

(To read the original review by Boyd Tonkins that inspired this satirical post, go to http://www.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/the-hopeless-wasteland-of-modern-russia/)

2 thoughts on “Western Media – Don’t Forget: Russia is a Backwards Hellhole (Satire)”

  1. Hi, Natalie! You probably already read some of my comments on Russia Review.

    Speaking about “true picture” of Russia – or the US – recently I stumbled upon one video. AFAIK, your Russian is pretty good (not that there is much of it within). The author of this YouTube channel – St. Pete’s native Pavel “Pepper” Petrov is a tour guide and what we call a “krayeved” (local history specialist) of his own city and, to a lesser degree, of Moscow as well.

    Besides his short clips about Nevsky Prospect houses and various important things in the past that transpired within, he actually became famous in RuNet for his project “Россия – чужой взгляд”, where he analyses the portrayal of Russia and Russians by the foreign media – movies, tv-series, books, documentaries, animation, etc.

    He is well balanced, i.e. gets yelled at in equal measure both by the so-called “Russian liberals” and by “zaputintsy”/”vatniks” as well. This and last year he travelled to the US (Boston, NY, DC, Mayami, Philadelphia) and uploaded a video about his life here. And for the first time he actually had something negative to say about the States:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0V11xvMF_U

    The part most shocking to me? [13:16] Philadelphia. You know, there is still this lingering myth in Russia that the West is some sort of the Blessed Valinor ™ populated by beautiful Elfs – as opposed to our totalitarian Mordor populated by Orks. I mean – the power of propaganda is amazing thing! Even I, who a have friend living and studying in Philly with whom I semi-regularly talk over Skype – even he never really said anything about city’s problems, so I, naively, assumed that “everything is fine”, or at least, better than in Russia. Turns out you don’t even need to resort to Decaying Detroit trope to find any “dirt” on the American Dream.

  2. Hi, Lyttenburgh. Yes, I remember seeing you in the comments section of Russia Reviewed – and I think perhaps Irrusianality as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    I recall talking to some civil society workers in Krasnodar when I was there last October. One lady did work with the prison system and was telling some sad stories, one involving a teenager who had been wrongly charged, but they couldn’t get him out of prison. In an attempt to show solidarity and to give some perspective, I told her about some of the organizations in the U.S. that work on those very same problems. Her response indicated that she didn’t quite believe me. She thought because we were America and had this famous constitution that things like that just didn’t happen here.

    I had a few other encounters with Russians that reflected that they really seem to believe the Hollywood image that the streets are paved with gold here and everyone is happy, healthy, prosperous and free. I notice they do really seem to like Hollywood movies there – I saw the Iron Man movie advertised. Maybe that is part of the problem.

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