Streetwise Professor

January 19, 2011

Defensively Doubling Down on Stupid

Filed under: Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 11:21 am

Monday, stung by criticism of his question about the link between violence and freedom in America, Itar-TASS correspondent Andrei Sitov wrote an email defending himself and his question.  In so doing, he doubled down–on stupidity, yes, but also on chutzpah and hypocrisy.

After a swipe at the right to bear arms (a point I’ll return to), Sitov proceeds:

But, as one of them wrote to me, other “more fundamental” freedoms such as the freedom of speech have nothing to do with the case.

If that is so why was America’s first reaction to the Arizona killings a soul-searching debate on the limits of political rhetoric?

Because hyper-partisan fanatics (yeah, that means you, Krugman) fixated on the idea that vast swathes of America are seething with hate and prone to political violence immediately jumped to the conclusion that political rhetoric just had to have something to do with it.  The only real question is the extent to which this was a knee jerk reaction by the obsessed, or a cynical effort to take political advantage from a tragedy.

Why did Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik, who is overseeing the investigation point at the “atmosphere of hatred and bigotry” in the national political discourse which in his view may have influenced the attacker? “That may be free speech, – he said, – but it’s not without consequences”.

See the above.  Moreover, Dupnik has proven himself, beyond cavil, to be a hack who was talking out of his a**, with absolutely no basis whatsoever for his remarks.  Anybody who cites Dupnik as a legitimate authority is an utter fool.

Why did President Obama himself deplore the “sharp polarization” of the discourse and urge his countrymen to talk with each other “in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds”?

Funny how reducing sharp polarization of discourse would just happen to have the effect of reducing criticism of Obama.

Sitov continues:

Americans have a proud tradition of individualism. Human rights are a core value here; there is almost a “cult of personality” ­ of the personal rights and freedoms of eevery US citizen.

Sitov obviously has no clue about just what a “cult of personality” is.  Which is amazing beyond belief, given that he was born in the country that perfected the entire concept, and lives in a country that perpetuates it to this day.

But the true (black) comic gold comes near the end:

Questioning authorities is an important function of the press. I am trying to do my job raising subjects which I feel are important. But I ask questions to get answers, not to start an argument. I always accurately report on those answers. And I obviously never presume to tell the Americans how they should run their own affairs.

Questioning authority?  Stop it man, you’re killing me; maybe you should replace Ricky Gervais on next year’s Golden Globes.  Do you “question authority” back in Russia?  Have you called out Putin or Sechin?  And just what happens to reporters who really question authority in Russia?  Do they get answers?  Seldom.  Do they get a 9mm round in the head, or a savage beating, or a push out a window?  It happens.

Sitov continues to push the empirically unsupported claim about the trade-off between freedom and violence:

Imagine what would happen if rights and freedoms in the US were suddenly severely restricted.  There would probably be much less random violence in the streets.  But the government of the people and by the people chooses not to impose such restrictions. Freedoms continue. So do tragedies. It’s a matter of political choice.

But again, a look at his own country would reveal a place with far less freedom, and far more violence.  Indeed, the violence is far greater than reported in the official statistics that I quoted in my earlier post on Sitov.  Consider this from the MT:

The number of crimes in the country has grown drastically over the past decade, new research shows, debunking optimistic but unconvincing reports to the contrary favored by law enforcement agencies.

A total of 3 million crimes were registered nationwide in 2009, according to official statistics, but the real number of crimes committed that year — including unreported ones — stood at 26 million and will reach 30 million by 2020, according to a research group with the General Prosecutor’s Office Academy.

. . . .

Official statistics show a drop in the number of murders — from 34,200 in 2001 to 18,200 in 2009 — but they only reflect the number of criminal cases that were opened, the study said.

Taking into account reported murders where no cases were opened, the figure would stand at 46,200 for 2009, the group said. But even this figure appears incomplete, considering there were 77,900 unidentified dead bodies found that year and another 48,500 people were reported missing.

Words fail.  Surely, some of these additional corpses were victims of accidents, drug overdoses, drinking while swimming, etc., but surely too a good fraction of them were murder victims.  Just taking into account the numbers in which murder cases were not opened, but apparently should have been, Russia’s murder rate is 2.5 times the official rate, which itself is about 3 times the US rate, meaning that the real rate is 7.5 times the US rate–and perhaps far more.*

To put things in perspective, multiplying the  official rate of about 15 by 2.5 gives a rate of 37.5 for the entire country.  The highest murder rate in the US is in New Orleans, at 50, followed by Richmond, CA at 46, St. Louis and Detroit at 40, and then a handful of cities in the 30s and 20s.  So the entire country of Russia is about as dangerous as the most lethal cities in the US.

And of course, since murders and other violent crimes are overwhelmingly concentrated in those cities, the murder rate in most of the rest of the US is miniscule.  And note that Americans in those other places with miniscule murder rates have the same freedoms–including the right to bear arms, which they exercise to an extent that flabbergasts Sitov and most other Europeans–that Sitov asserts are inextricably linked with violence and mayhem.

In contrast, Russians do not have the same rights, and notably don’t have the same gun rights as Americans, but from Smolensk to Murmansk they are murdered and subject to other violent crimes at rates that beggar belief.

In other words, Sitov’s theory–which he is sticking to doggedly–is complete bunk.

In his email, Sitov whines that he, like other foreign journalists, are routinely overlooked in White House press briefings.  I can’t speak to the issue of other foreign journalists, but in Sitov’s case, with his stubborn asininity, is it any wonder?  Indeed, those ignoring him are doing him–and Russia–a favor.

* In studies of crime, murder statistics are usually considered more reliable than data on other crimes (such as burglary or even rape) that must be self-reported, because it’s hard to overlook a dead body.  Apparently Russian police have found a way around that little problem.  Want better murder statistics?  No problem!  Just ignore them.  It makes one wonder what other statistics are suspect.

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31 Comments »

  1. The real fun part is watching all those Putin’s little Goebbelses end up in the West as soon as they manage to put together enough money explaining how bad the West is. Almost as funny as Luzhkov applying for a residence permit in Latvia.

    Comment by Ivan — January 19, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  2. His real name is Shitoff (?????). Seriously.

    Comment by peter — January 19, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  3. @Peter–TFF.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 19, 2011 @ 5:19 pm

  4. If one takes into account that blacks are overrepresented in crime statistics, then Shitov doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

    Comment by So? — January 19, 2011 @ 8:22 pm

  5. A new gutter.

    Only lowlifes make fun of other peoples’ names.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 19, 2011 @ 11:36 pm

  6. Only lowlifes make fun of other peoples’ names.

    You have some childhood issues you want to share, perhaps?

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 20, 2011 @ 5:38 am

  7. Well, he may be a fine reporter but sending a guy with a name like this to an English-speaking country is not the smartest idea. Just think of a Chinese journalist in Russia whose name is Hui.

    Mr. Vagin’s wife would also have some problems in US.

    Comment by LL — January 20, 2011 @ 6:40 am

  8. The murder rates in my town, Richmond, and nearby city Oakland, CA are on the decline. I do so hate seeing our name in print here. And, your stats seem to be off in general here. Richmond is sixth in the nation now, not 2nd. According to the FBI crime stats for 2010, here’s how it breaks out:
    1. St. Louis, MO
    2. Camden, NJ
    3. Detroit, MI
    4. Flint, MI
    5. Oakland, CA
    6. Richmond, CA

    Reference this article for more:
    http://gawker.com/5695776/the-25-most-dangerous-cities-in-the-us-are-mostly-nice-places

    Comment by Justine — January 20, 2011 @ 9:11 am

  9. You have some childhood issues you want to share, perhaps?

    Not really. But it seems your “childhood issues” have persisted well into adulthood.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 20, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  10. “Just think of a Chinese journalist in Russia whose name is Hui.”

    Speaking of which, China’s ambassador in Moscow is His Excellency Li Hui. He seems to be doing OK in his job.

    Comment by E. Henry Thripshaw — January 20, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

  11. Justine–

    My numbers were from 2009 which I came across via Google. Not smearing anybody’s town. I split time between Houston and St. Louis, and note that SL is now at the top of the list, and I included St. Louis in my list in the post, so it’s not like I was playing favorites–or disfavorites. Not something to be proud of, surely, but it is what it is. And the rate in Richmond in ’09 was what it was.

    The point is that whatever the rankings are in a particular, the national Russian murder rate, if statistics were kept properly, is about the same highest murder rates in the US.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 20, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

  12. I’d also be careful about concluding “in decline” on the basis of a one-year change. Especially with a relatively small sample size (Richmond has only about 100K people) you’d expect considerable fluctuation from year to year.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 20, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  13. But it seems your “childhood issues” have persisted well into adulthood.

    Either you know something about my childhood, or you’re speaking shite. I’ll leave it to others to deduce which it is. Past form may also be used as a guide.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 21, 2011 @ 3:41 am

  14. So, in other words, Sitov lashed out with a torrent of lies against America at a moment of dark tragedy for the country because his ego was wounded.

    Uh, OK. How very, very Russian indeed.

    Meanwhile, how often does Vladimir Putin’s press secretary recognize an American reporter employed by, say, Voice of America, at one of his press conferences? Does Putin’s press secretary EVER EVEN HOLD press conferences where he is subjected to a battery of questions before rolling cameras from foreign journalists?

    Comment by La Russophobe — January 21, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  15. The dead comprised five men and three women: a businessman, family members and employees, said the official.

    Sound like suicides to me.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 22, 2011 @ 2:09 am

  16. Russian propaganda is the best in the world.
    In Russia the case against Bout is presented as a case of a legitimate businessman doing legitimate business.

    They say: If Bout can be found guilty of selling weapons to Columbia because those weapons could be used to kill the US servicemen, then the US can be found guilty of selling weapons to Georgia because those weapons could be used to kill Russian military.

    In reality the case against Bout can be compared to a hypothetical case against an American who was selling weapons to Chechen rebels. An American would have been tried, convicted and jailed in Russia for selling weapons to rebels. That is illegal in Russia, and rightly so.

    The Bout case is not a case of a legitimate sale of weapons to a country.
    The Bout case is about illegitimate sale of weapons to a terrorist organization, just like in a hypothetical case against an American selling weapons to Chechen rebels.

    The fact that Bout has committed the crime against Columbia, and not against the US, is a mute point.
    The US has a right – and possibly an obligation – to help Columbia in prosecuting those who supply weapons to terrorist organizations.

    I hope that the prosecution will make it clear to the world what is the difference between a legitimate sale of arms to the government of the country and an illegitimate sale of arms to any terrorist group of that country.

    In comparison with Russian propaganda Nazi propaganda was innocent.

    Comment by Michael Vilkin — January 22, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

  17. Either you know something about my childhood, or you’re speaking shite. I’ll leave it to others to deduce which it is.

    You’re the one who saw it fit to broach the topic of my childhood, asswipe.

    And indeed, making fun of peoples names – as you, peter and swp seem to enjoy – is a popular schoolyard pastime.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 23, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

  18. A decent person would never be called Shitov. ??????????? ???????? ??????? ?? ???????.

    Comment by LL — January 23, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  19. The level of the discussion was set and is stubbornly being kept that way by Mr Shitov himself, schoolyard level being just the next level above. Of course, S.O. has nothing to object on the actual topic, hence this red herring. If it were not that, he would surely find a misplaced coma to focus on.

    Comment by Ivan — January 24, 2011 @ 1:30 am

  20. Rather more than a miscplaced comma, actually.

    For a start, this whole post is a massive exercise in the whataboutism that SWP constantly derides in Russians, but can’t seem to recognize in himself.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 24, 2011 @ 3:19 am

  21. Such a shame that SO lets his childhood issues cloud his judgement, but what can we expect from such an intellectual pygmy as himself.

    Anyway, it is not “whataboutism”, whataboutism would be “Why is Russia conducting ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia and South Ossetia” to which idiots like SO reply, “oh but what about the lynching of blacks in the deep south 30 years ago”

    This is a direct comparison between the horrifically high murder rate in the fascist state that is Russia, and the much lower murder rate in the USA (and pretty much everywhere else that is a democracy), and how Shitov lied about it.

    Comment by Andrew — January 24, 2011 @ 4:33 am

  22. S.O.,

    this post is a rather trivial exercise in exposing massive stupidity of the Russian propaganda tools. It is an example of using actual easily available data to refute the tool’s unsubstantiated claim. That the tool’s own country readily provides a good data sample to refute the tool’s claim is rather ironic and descriptive of the tool’s intellect, but it is irrelevant for the logic of the argument.

    Comment by Ivan — January 24, 2011 @ 5:44 am

  23. You’re the one who saw it fit to broach the topic of my childhood, asswipe.

    Yes, but whereas I merely raised a question, you saw fit to claim knowledge which you did not possess. As per fucking usual.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 24, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  24. Yes, but whereas I merely raised a question, you saw fit to claim knowledge which you did not possess.

    And I qualified my OBSERVATION – not claimed knowledge – with “it seems“.

    @Ivan,

    Questioning authority? Stop it man, you’re killing me; maybe you should replace Ricky Gervais on next year’s Golden Globes. Do you “question authority” back in Russia? Have you called out Putin or Sechin? And just what happens to reporters who really question authority in Russia? Do they get answers? Seldom. Do they get a 9mm round in the head, or a savage beating, or a push out a window? It happens.

    So if you don’t “call out Putin or Sechin” – and assuming SWP is right in his lazy assumption about Sitov – then you’re automatically ineligible to question US authorities?

    In that case, what right do the neocon blowhards who populate the editorial pages of the Western MSM have to criticize Russian authorities, when they worship the metastasizing and increasingly unconstrained US national security state? Hey, two can play at the whataboutism game.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 24, 2011 @ 4:20 pm

  25. S.O.,

    missing the point, as per usual. The “questioning authority” part is just to good an illustration to miss of how much of a tool that tool really is. Let me put it in prospective for you.

    An American, boasting of American freedoms, says:
    – Look, if I want to, I can come in front of the White House and shout that Reagan is a son of a bitch.
    To which a Russian replies:
    – So, what? I, too, can come to the Red Square and shout that Reagan is a son of a bitch.

    That was a Reagan-era joke.

    Now, a Russian state propaganda tool whose full job description is “suck up to the authorities long and hard, then repeat” is trying to portray himself as “questioning authority”.

    That was actual news.

    If Shitov and you don’t find this plain hilarious, that’s probably just a medical consequence of you shared line of work.

    Comment by Ivan — January 25, 2011 @ 12:47 am

  26. It would be “plain hilarious” if that joke reflected reality.

    It might have once upon a time, but certainly not <a href="”>nowadays.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 25, 2011 @ 2:33 am

  27. Clearly, the Russian names like Shitoff and Vagina prove how stupid and immature Russians are. People like that should not come to the mature country like America, where the local people like LL, Peter and Tim will rightfully and maturely make fun of their names on an hourly basis and will derive the immense pleasure out of it, praising themselves for maturity and linguistic cleverness and sophistication.

    The Slovenian biathlete named Fak (pronounced “fuk”) should also be advised to stay away from races here in USA.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — January 26, 2011 @ 11:24 am

  28. And I qualified my OBSERVATION – not claimed knowledge – with “it seems“

    Erm, no. You said:

    “But it seems your “childhood issues” have persisted well into adulthood.”

    You are only qualifying whether my childhood issues have persisted into adulthood, but you are claiming unqualified knowledge of my childhood issues.

    Comment by Tim Newman — January 26, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  29. “The Slovenian biathlete named Fak (pronounced “fuk”) should also be advised to stay away from races here in USA.”

    Furthermore, the works of Immanuel Kant should be removed from American libraries, as the proper pronunciation of his surname rhymes with “hunt.”

    Comment by E. Henry Thripshaw — January 27, 2011 @ 4:46 am

  30. So does the British prononciation of the word “can’t”.

    The Italian female skier Arianna Follis (pronounced like “phollus”) should also beware. She may also be sued for false and fallacious advertising.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — January 27, 2011 @ 7:17 am

  31. This reminds me of my mom’s saying: “We eat what we can, what we can not – we can”.

    Comment by Ostap Bender — January 27, 2011 @ 7:20 am

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