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.
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.