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Putinfreude Watch

A reader sends in a story about how NBC’s Richard Engel tried to demonstrate how open to hackers foreigners visiting Sochi are — but neglected to mention that he (Engel) consciously downloaded a hostile Android app, which opened his phone up to hacking. NBC disputes the complaint, but I don’t find their explanation convincing.

Here’s another Putinfreude piece, this one from Washington Post sportswriter Sally Jenkins, co-author of a book with the lying liar Lance Armstrong, in which she calls the Sochi Olympics a — wait for it — “Potemkin village”  constructed by Putin to hide the fact that Russia is poor, corrupt, and badly screwed up. Excerpt:

The view from the train — a new high-speed double-decker that should shame Amtrak — shows a different, un-insulated Russia.

Grey cinder-block apartments alternate with dilapidated cottages, corrugated tin roofs and outhouses. Images flash by. Thickets of white birch trees and broad frozen rivers, black branches like lead pencil sketches. A World War II tank, surrounded by a small fence in the middle of nowhere. A young couple walking on a path atop a knoll, she in furs, standing and watching the train. Rail crossings littered by husks of old trains with cracked windows, and huge pallets of cinder blocks and timber. Clusters of workmen warming themselves around fires of fat logs. Villages in snowy monochrome save for glints of magnificently colorful churches, robins-egg blue cathedrals topped by gold onion domes. Dark spikes of pines and parchment-tinted grasses jutting through hard-crusted snow, white fog that makes the sky indistinguishable from the ground, so there is no visible horizon.

This was a country that was very, very poor in 1917, when the Tsar was overthrown, and which suffered under totalitarian communist dictatorship until 1991, a government that impoverished nearly everyone, and destroyed civil society. After communism fell, Russia and its republics went through a decade of chaos and lawlessness, out of which it didn’t begin to emerge until Putin was elected in 2000, and began to act like an authoritarian. Of course Russia is poor and messed up. Who on earth could have imagined that it was a paradise? China has been on a much more politically stable and economically prosperous course than Russia, but it too has terrible poverty, corruption, authoritarianism, and injustice. Did American sportswriters use their visit to cover the Beijing Olympics to pass sweeping judgment on the supposed fraudulence of the Chinese government and its accomplishments?

Look, I’m not defending Putin’s government here, but I am saying that this Sally Jenkins piece reads like the kind of thing Pravda correspondents would write back in the Cold War. You know the pieces, the ones in which a Soviet journalist would report that behind the façade of American prosperity was the real America, a place of poverty, misery, prejudice, inequality, etc.


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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