The Education Of Kathleen Parker (The Values Gap-4)

I feel sorry for Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post.  As an American media person, she grew up and matured with two basic assumptions in mind:  

  1. It 's a sacred duty of every U.S. journalist to lecture the rest of the world on freedom, liberties, democracy and the superiority of American "values."
  2. No damned foreigner, much less a freaking foreign journalist, can doubt or, worse, question any of the above. 

Ms. Parker's cozy world was violently shattered last Thursday by a "bracing…annoying, laughable and obnoxious" Andrei Sitov, a journalist representing Russia's ITAR-TASS news agency (a "state-run" as an ever attentive to detail Parker hastened to add).  During a routine media briefing at the White House, Sitov created what Parker has described as a "Cold War-ish moment."  What happened?  Well, Sitov dared to challenge the White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' account of the Tuscon shooting which the latter characterized as "the deranged actions of a madman."  

Parker was outraged with Sitov.  She first called his inquiry "ill-timed" on the ground that exactly at the same time, a funeral procedure for one of the victims of the shooting was taking place in Tuscon.  (This is a strange accusation: the timing of the media brief was chosen by the White House press office, not by Sitov).  She then proceeded with lecturing Sitov on the perils of being a journalist in Russia "where journalists and bloggers are frequently maimed or killed for speaking up."  (Here, Parker demonstrated some peculiar logic.  She refused to speculate on the motives of the Tuscon shooter because an investigation of his actions was still going on.  Yet, despite the fact that the investigation of the Oleg Kashin case, which Parker refers to when trying to shut up Sitov, is also still going on, and no suspects have so far been identified, Parker already knows that Kashin has been attacked for criticizing "a local governor."  What a divine perceptive mind is this of Parker's!)  Parker concluded her sermon with pointing out dryly that Sitov certainly feels safe living in Washington, DC.  (Well, as everyone knows, there are places in the national capital which Sitov, and Parker, for that matter, would never visit.) 

I perfectly understand why Parker suddenly forgot about the freedom of expression she's been so fond of until last Thursday and went on assaulting Sitov: the Russian did hit a nerve.  What Parker, Gibbs and Gibbs' boss, President Obama, are trying to do by talking about a "deranged mind" as the reason for the Tuscon shooting, is a desperate attempt to apply heavy make-up on the face of an American democracy carrying a huge black eye.  One doesn't have to be a political scientist to understand that democracy is a two-way channel of communication between citizens and the state.  Democracy doesn't work when the state sends police with clubs to disperse protesting citizens (of which Parker & Co. are never shy of pointing out).  Yet democracy doesn't work, either, when citizens begin shooting their elected state representatives.  Sure, there are plenty of "deranged minds" in this country, as mounting cases of mass shootings keep reminding us.  But "deranged minds" usually choose different targets: high schools, colleges, churches, and offices.  But when someone shoots a Congresswoman at work, it's something else.  An act of a "deranged mind"?  Give me a break!  It's a political murder, and it's happening in the United States of America. 

When it comes to violent crime in Russia, including politically motivated, the U.S. media never hesitates to quickly distribute the blame.  Parker's fellow Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for example, routinely blames Russia's Prime Minister Putin for every murder committed around the globe.  Others are more sophisticated: they prefer talking about the "atmosphere of violence" that the Russian leadership has supposedly created.  Perhaps.  But then, there is every reason to ask the following question: who's responsible for the "atmosphere of violence" that had allowed the Columbine High and Virginia Tech massacres to take place?  President Clinton?  President Bush?  Who's responsible for the increasingly militant ("Don't retreat, reload!") undertone of the U.S. political dialog?  President Obama?  Congressional Republicans?  Conservative talk shows?  Ultraliberal nuts?  Former half-governor of Alaska (or was she governor of Wasilla?) Sarah Palin?  Who?  The "deranged mind" of Jared Lee Loughner?

The sooner we as a nation answer this question, the better.  Castigating Andrei Sitov is a poor substitute for the job. 

I applaud Mr. Sitov for asking "inconvenient" questions and encourage him to continue (if, of course, he keeps his White House accreditation).  There is no shortage of probing questions about American "values": Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, CIA secret prisons, extrajudicial killings of U.S. citizens — to name just a few "sexy" topics.  Unfortunately, Mr. Sitov's friend, Robert Gibbs, will soon be gone.  But there will be others following the "bracing, annoying, laughable and obnoxious" Russian.  Count Kathleen Parker among them.  

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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28 Responses to The Education Of Kathleen Parker (The Values Gap-4)

  1. Mark says:

    Yes, I’m kind of disappointed in Ms. Parker, because I’ve seen some excellent work from her, and I admired her courage in jumping ship from the SS Worst President In History when his rhetoric about success in Iraq began to take on the distinctive fragrance of Camembert. She took a lot of venom from conservatives for that, who suggested she might as well have just stabbed Bush in the back, but I liked her work before that even if I didn’t care for her politics, and speaking what I regard as truth on the subject of Bush made me like her more.
    I’m glad I didn’t actually see this performance, because quite a few Americans already seem patriotic to the point of nuttiness to me. I would have added one more. There’s nothing wrong with honest and substantiated criticism, and most Americans would agree the country is in a bad way compared with what it was 10-15 years ago – they’re just having a problem putting the blame where it rightfully belongs. But even at that, Sitov is only saying what the president is saying, and he is cutting conservatives a huge break by studiously avoiding – actually, refuting – any blaming of Palin.
    Palin and her nuthouse more-guns-more-guns-more-more-more crowd might not be directly to blame for this, because a good deal of evidence suggests Loughner was seriously disturbed and may not have been able to reason like the average person. But he also had no gun-related incidents prior to this. There was no shortage of alarmed comment, going back months, that feared the inflammatory rhetoric would inspire violence by someone just like Loughner. What was Palin’s reaction? Turn up the heat.
    If the best she and her sycophants could come up with to explain the crosshairs superimposed over key states in her advertising is that they are actually “surveyor’s symbols”, it suggests their damage control has reached a low-water mark.

  2. Hi Eugene:
    You give an excellent 2 point summation on the arrogant and ignorant bubble factor, which appears to cloud a good number.
    On another front, the duo were recently featured at a New America-Foreign gathering.

  3. Eugene says:

    Hi Mark,
    My problem with this particular Parker’s piece is that instead of listening to what Sitov was saying — and then either agreeing with him or arguing against — she went into avoidable (however very predictable) anti-Russian rant (“Sam durak!”, as a Russian would say) accusing Sitov for what he can’t be blamed (Kashin beating etc.). Imagine for a sec Parker going to Moscow and asking during a briefing about the Kashin case, for which a Russian rep would answer: Shut up, they shoot people in Tuscon.
    I suspect that President Obama has somewhat different views of the reasons of shooting than those he articulated during the memorial service. And that’s fine: he’s got a difficult job to do. And we all know that he must “look presidential”, which he did. That’s why, IMHO, the shooting marks the end of any presidential aspirations for Sarah Palin. Not because of her views (or lack thereof), but because she didn’t look “presidential.” She’ll have this “blood label” on her forever.
    As for Loughner, sure, he’s a mentally disturbed person, as I would consider anyone shooting another human being (if not at war). But here is a twist: talks already abound that Loughner’s potential insanity defense won’t fly because of the meticulous character of his preparations. Don’t you see a contradiction here: a “deranged mind” meticulously preparing a murder?

  4. Eugene says:

    Thanks Mike,
    I have no problem with the Soldatov-Borogan tandem: they state their positions in rather clear way, which you may like or not. I didn’t, and I pointed to what I considered shortcomings in their arguments.
    The problem is always the same: we find people in Russia whose opinions we like and then we idolize them — without giving the mike to their opponents. Which, I suspect, was exactly what was happening during the NA event.

  5. Your assumption is correct Eugene.
    I’m all for a Rex Ryan like challenge to the status quo. (Pardon if I’ve confused you with someone else expressing a liking for the NFL and sorry if you’re a fan of the Patriots.)
    The establishment can be quite discriminatory on who does and doesn’t play.

  6. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Your mentioning Rex Ryan THIS morning was cruel…:)

  7. AP says:

    Paranoid schizophrenics/stalkers are not always disorganized and can often be quite meticulous in their planning. The case of the stalking and stabbing of the actress Theresa Saldana by a Scottish schizophrenic who saw her in a movie in Scotland, placed her in the center of his delusional system, came to America, and over a period of several months subsequently tracked her down in the pre-internet age using a private investigator and DMV records before stabbing her 10 times outside her apartment. After watching the movie he believed the actress was at the heart of a government conspiracy against him.
    The insanity defence in criminal cases is not necessarily the same as insanity in a medical sense.
    While it is possible that the political rhetoric may have conributed to the particular choice of victim for Loughner this is unknown and unknowable, and it is just as likely that he would have simply chosen some different target.

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Dear AP,
    Thanks much for your insightful comment and a great story (wasn’t aware of the case you refer to).
    I basically agree with you. My problem is that no one, as far as I know, has evaluated the mental state of the shooter. Yet everyone, including the president, has already labeled him as a “deranged mind.” I wouldn’t of course call it a pressure on the investigation (in the classic sense), but I feel that many people would love to see the shooter as a LONELY NUTS (i.e.acting ALONE and being NUTS). That could absolve us from answering some of the tough questions I posed in my post.
    I know, it sounds almost like a conspiracy theory, but you should know that Russians just love them:)
    Best Regards,

  9. Mark says:

    Hi, Eugene; there’s some interesting perspective on Loughner and the shootings here;
    and in its associated links. B&R is a really good U.S. political site, although you’ll probably find a bit of a leftist slant.
    Loughner was indeed disturbed, but as the links suggest, that does not exonerate hate media from blame. There was a great deal more specific rhetoric than “Don’t Retreat; Reload”.
    I doubt this issue will mark the end of Sarah Palin’s presidential aspirations, because she’s already demonstrated that she hears what she wants to hear, but I never thought she had a hope of winning anyway.

  10. Russian???) says:

    Russian commets…) Наслаждайтесь)

  11. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for the link. This line “Hate is a billion dollar industry” is awesome!
    Sure, as I replied to AP, I have no doubt that Loughner was “disturbed.” Yet the intensity with which some folks here are trying to make it the ONLY reason for the shooting is disturbing in itself. I guess, as every billion dollar industry, The Hate Inc. has its own lobby…
    As for the governor of Wasilla, I agree with you. My point, I guess, was slightly different. Whether or not she believes in her ability to be elected (I suspect, she doesn’t), the presidential talk is what makes her marketable. Any doubts in her capability to run will hurt her earnings. And that’s what might happen now. We’ll see.

  12. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Спасибо Вам, Russian???!
    Переводом не очень доволен, бывали на этом узле и лучше. А вот комментарии, как всегда, не разачаровали: очень грамотно некоторые ребята излагают.
    Всего Вам доброго,

  13. Sorry about that Eugene.
    Ryan is great when he’s on your side and winning.
    Here in NY, some of the spin includes a great respect for Belichek, while also noting how at times, he makes questionable moves, that would put a less successful coach on hot rocks.

  14. Russian???) says:

    Евгений. Подождите немного, и комментарии не заставят себя ждать… Право слово)) Перевод совсем не плох… А ребята сейчас подтянутся))

  15. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    The shooter at Tucson could be deranged, but even in madness there is some logic left. A deranged European can believe to be Napoleon, a deranged Japanese can believe to be Miyamoto Musashi (a famous samurai). Deranged or not, in my opinion it doesn’t change the moral responsibility of those who created the “atmosphere of violence”. Because, those making “hate speech” should know very well that there are deranged people that can take them seriously.

  16. Forgive me for not initially noting that Parker engaged in “whataboutism” – a term whose origins on Russian issues might be orginially traced to Edward Lucas – who directs it against folks thinking along my lines.
    Never mind the track record of Lucas and some of the people he tends to agree with.
    I’m in the spirit Eugene:

  17. Oops!
    Sorry for the blip of something picked up at that link after the lead chant.

  18. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Spot on! Especially in a country flooded with guns, including America’s favorite hunting rifle: AK-47.
    Thanks for your comment.

  19. Leo says:

    I think you are too hard on Obama, damage control is his job in situations like these. As for Parker’s piece in WaPo – Sitov or no Sitov – some (although contradictory) wisdom can be found there. First, as lesser known Beketov’s (editor of Khimki Pravda) case shows Russia’s journalists do get maimed in conflict with authorities, especially when large profits are involved. Second, Parker’s “chip on your shoulder” defence against criticism is characteristic of those with a weaker hand. I guess the notion of US decline is starting to sink in with American punditry. Not sure if it is a good thing.
    All the best,

  20. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Sure, Obama told all right things everyone expected from him and did that in a surprisingly warm and engaging manner. The question though is: whether he believes himself in this “deranged mind” concept?
    But here is a scandalous thought. In my opinion, Obama is pressing the FBI into the “deranged mind” explanation of the shooter’s behavior hinting that no one needs a real motive which, by accident, may invole attending Tea Party meetings, downloading from their websites, etc. etc. Is it different from what Putin did during his call-in when he hinted that K&L should be found guilty?
    Best Regards,

  21. Leo says:

    There is a fundamental difference – Tuscon shooting was a one-off event, while K&L’s imprisonment is a continuous phenomenon. The former can be safely ascribed to the “lone deranger” because it will soon be forgotten. The latter will not disappear as long as K&L are in jail alive. For this reason Putin’s opinion on the two gents clearly works against him.
    And following your comment on on the previous thread – some of the oligarchs are ambitious industrialists whose long term investment could help Russia move up the value chain. With K&L in jail and well-publicized Yukos’ fate such ambitions are realized elsewhere. Because any long term investment in Russia continues to be risky, politics or no politics.
    Best wishes,

  22. Igor says:

    Hi, Eugene.
    IMHO you showed well whose mind was “deranged” in this particular incident 🙂
    As to why they are so casual about killing people, you may want to read this
    and then the second part & especially – his testimony (linked).

  23. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Hi Leo,
    I’m not sure I agree with you. I hope the Tuscon shooting is a one-off event (however, the number of death threats against members of Congress almost doubled last year), but it won’t be “forgotten” for as long as former half-governor of Alaska is around toying with a presidential run. BTW, were Columbine and Virginia Tech forgotten?
    It’s the K&L trial that is real one-off. The rest of the oligarchs began taking Putin (and his rules of engagement) seriously, obviating any need to imprison anyone else.
    As for investment risk of doing business in Russia: BOTH (the risk and the trial) are result of the lack of independent judiciary. It’s not like the trial directly affects the risk.
    And I see no reason to explain ALL Russia’s negatives by the trial. Life is more complicated there and can’t be reduced to the relations between K&L and the state, no matter what we’re told here.

  24. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Igor,
    The testimony looks a bit old (1999-2000?) but still very current.
    Well, this wasn’t my intention to talk violence per se. My concern was about attempts to trash Sitov. Or, putting it differently: I was talking about First Amendment, not the Second:)

  25. Igor says:

    Eugene, “yes”, of course – the link was about the questions in the last paragraph of the text & basically answers the same question “who is to blame”.
    In fact (IMHO) your last comment highlights the importance of redundancy (well-known in biological systems btw 🙂 as a way to make a system stable. Here meaning that one needs more than one mechanism to guarantee “democracy”.

  26. Eugene says:

    Right, and not to believe that “free elections” (whatever that means) and “democracy” are the same.

  27. Igor says:

    yes, and I would have also included the “democracy” in “whatever that means” 🙂
    Interestingly, in the case you described in your post, it seems the Second Amendment had been a far more effective in protecting the right to express a minority opinion than was the First.

  28. Eugene says:

    You’re right: of all the means to solve problems in this country, our favorite now is the “Second Amendment Remedies” (a.k.a. “Don’t retreat, reload!”):)

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