Is Russia Like Nazi Germany? No, Russia Is Like America

Russian FederationRussian FederationIs a 15-year-old figure skater like a Nazi war criminal? For posing such a question, one Russian journalist is under heavy fire from both politicians and the media in his country, who consider such an analogy incredibly offensive. While it's a trope in American media to compare contemporary Russia to Nazi Germany, in this case a more apt comparison would be between Russia and the U.S., since both use the banner of political correctness to curtail free speech.

In a meditation on the Sochi Olympics and the political dangers of nationalistic fervor, Viktor Shenderovich compared Russia's revelry in Yulia Lipnistkaya, the youngest gold medalist in the history of Olympic ladies' singles figure skating, to Nazi Germany's celebration of the “young, smiling, handsome” Hans Welke, an Olympic shot put champion who later became a war criminal.

NewsRu.com described Shenderovich's statement as “unethical.” Parliamentary members from across party lines have demanded an apology from him and the publisher for the hurtful article. A high ranking official suggested Shenderovich stop sullying the nation's language and history. At least one member of Putin's United Russia party member accused the the journalist of being a "fascist." Even the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights called Shenderovich's comparison inaccurate and insulting.

The journalist and the publisher initially refused to apologize, lest they lend credence to the claims that they are unethical fascists. But, the pressure was too great and Shenderovich caved yesterday. He isn't going to the gulags, but he is effectively ostracized. 

How different is this from the way the U.S. handles taboo proclamations?

Take the controversy around Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson. After saying things that many Americans find offensive and inaccurate, people called him a bigot and demanded he be removed from TV. At the time, Reason contributor Cathy Young suggested that “while censuring unpopular speech through social ostracism and economic boycott may not be un-libertarian, it’s deeply illiberal and contrary to the spirit of tolerance that makes society flourish.”

Many censorship advocates in America and other western nations assure they only want to dissuade speech that is offensive, obscene, hurtful, insensitive, non-inclusive, demeaning, dangerous, harmful to children (doesn't that sound eerily like a Russian cop-out?) subversive, and blasphemous.

Another Reason contributor, Jonathan Rauch, previously noted that when “indirect, bureaucratic prohibitions” on speech are codified, they are usually “fuzzy” about what counts as a federal crime.

These days, the U.S. isn't exactly winning gold medals for upholding First Amendment rights. It just dropped another 13 places in the World Press Freedom Index.

Free speech has consequences, usually limited to the speaker. Bullying and marginalizing people over unpopular-yet-harmless statements has consequences, too. These consequences are not limited to the speaker nor are the tactics exclusive to foreign nations.

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  • sarcasmic||

    Tolerant people do not tolerate intolerance.

  • Killaz||

    Only PC can ugly up something as beautiful as figure skating.

  • Jesus H. Christ||

    Someone said something stupid, and other people are complaining about it. What's wrong with that?

  • Killaz||

    At least no one is getting nailed to a cross right? Sorry, if its too soon.

  • Almanian!||

    *sound of a hammer banging a nail*

    Huh? Huh? You remember that! Yeah - it's the Roman Centurian who nailed you to the cross - come on down and see Jesus again!

    /Sam Kinison

  • Killaz||

    /Sam Kinison I loved that guy.

  • Almanian!||

    "This is why he never got married....off over a weekend....doesn't come home for three days. 'Where've YOU been?' 'Well - not that it's important - BUT I WAS DEAD!!!'"

  • Invisible Finger||

    Viktor Shenderovich compared Russia's revelry in Yulia Lipnistkaya, the youngest gold medalist in the history of Olympic ladies' singles figure skating, to Nazi Germany's celebration of the “young, smiling, handsome” Hans Welke, an Olympic shot put champion who later became a war criminal.

    Sounds like this journalist picked a bad time to finally be aware that the Olympics is nothing but idiotic jingoism.

  • Lyle||

    Our government is murdering journalists Zenon? I would agree there's no need to compare Russia to Nazi Germany, because Russia is the same old Russia.

  • Lyle||

    And yes, I agree, that plenty of Americans want to control what other Americans say and think.

    Phil Robertson is a good example.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    A&E is a private company. They had every right to fire Robertson, just like Food Network had the right to fire Paula Dean and CBS had the right to fire Don Imus. No I don't believe in conspiracy theories that revolve around sexual orientation.

  • ||

    Is Shenderovich dead? No.

    Have many journalists been killed in Russia? Yes.

    Was that fact outside of the scope of a blog post about a man who is not dead but was marginalized by tactics similar to those used in America? I'd argue so.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Excuse me "Zenon", you wrote

    While it's a trope in American media to compare contemporary Russia to Nazi Germany, in this case a more apt comparison would be between Russia and the U.S., since both use the banner of political correctness to curtail free speech.

    You're making a very general statement there. And of course, there is criticism of offensive statements in every country on earth that has a functioning media, so why are you singling out the US and Russia here?

    LOL. Reason's new blog writer fits right in with the other douchenozzles they've hired over the past few years.

  • Jon Lester||

    I don't pretend to know for a fact that journalist murders were perpetrated by government order. Some of Putin's fellow Siloviki (former KGB guys) and similar elements, and/or organized crime figures, may well have acted on their own initiative.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    And the US government had absolutely nothing to do with the Duck Dynasty guy's "marginalization", which consisted of getting a wagging finger of shame from his employer and some free publicity.

  • Agammamon||

    . . . At least one member of Putin's United Russia party member accused the the journalist of being a "fascist."

    Game recognizes game, right?

  • Zeb||

    Meh. Russia is like Russia. I think it's a big and powerful enough place to be its own thing.

    And why shouldn't Nazi Germany or Russia celebrate their Olympic champions? I mean, it goes without saying that Nazis were horrible monsters, but that doesn't mean that everything they did was evil. It all seems silly to me, but I don't really do patriotism or nationalistic fervor.

  • Killaz||

    No one does it with quite the bat shit crazy fervor that we do it with though. The reading of the Declaration of Independence before the Superbowl where Buzz Aldrin goes off script in the middle of it to jabber about honoring the the troops with a weird smile fixated on his face was very uncomfortable to watch.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Buzz Aldrin was in the Olympics?

  • Killaz||

    I like your style. Never let the plain text of something get in the way of how you choose to read it. Damn the qualifiers, to hell with connotation, full speed ahead!

  • CampingInYourPark||

    That's a very ironic "answer"

  • Killaz||

    Only if Zeb wasn't sincere about but I don't really do patriotism or nationalistic fervor. I'm betting he was though.

  • Killaz||

    I was thinking how that contrasted with Robert Frost reading a poem at JFKs inaugural. If you have seen that, all politics aside, it was poignant and dignified, no smugness and nothing taken for granted.

  • Acosmist||

    You don't seem aware of any other countries if you think we're on top in jingoism.

  • creech||

    The incessant hyping of American athletes like White and Davis, who subsequently fail to live up to the hype, makes the small portion of the Olympics that I've watched almost unbearable. It's almost to the point where one hopes the USA medal total crashes. Let's revel in great athletic performance by those of any country, if it's talent one admires, instead of slavishly hanging on the every doing of some American we'll never meet and whose sport we only care about every four years. There, I feel better and ready to go fire up the f***ing snow blower again.

  • waffles||

    USA USA USA

  • Calidissident||

    I'll admire accomplishments of an athlete from any country, but sports is my outlet for instinctive tribalism, so I'll still root for Americans. Although I don't really watch much of the Winter Olympics.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    Agreed, though Usain Bolt is a jackass -- he's not getting admired for shit.

  • anarch||

    offensive, obscene, hurtful, insensitive, non-inclusive, demeaning, dangerous, harmful to children (doesn't that sound eerily like a Russian cop-out?) subversive, and blasphemous

    Also sounds eerily like reason.com's legal counsel.

  • Paul.||

    These days, the U.S. isn't exactly winning gold medals for upholding First Amendment rights. It just dropped another 13 places in the World Press Freedom Index

    Measured by an organization that pushes for more government control of media. Be careful what you wish for.

  • Winston||

    TOP MEN will insure that the media will report on all the Bad Stuff they are doing.

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    If the US is worse for press freedom than 25% of the world, then the world's in pretty good shape. There is no prior restraint on what anyone can print or publish, extremely limited areas of punishment for printing or publishing something the govt doesn't like. Special privileges and positive rights like keeping sources anonymous are not legitimately part of the freedom of the press.

    It's a similar mountain-out-of-a-molehill effect as Amnesty Intl falls into. They'll put a rant against Texas executing a guy who raped and murdered a child on the front page of their site, while putting some African dictator having a hated minority rounded up and macheteed to death in the jungle in some backwater page.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Kind of ironic since, like censoring free speech, all rogue governments have the death penalty. The African dictator is in, well, Africa. That shouldn't concern Americans.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    In the Russian example, so long as they're not threatening government censorship, it's just an example of vigorous public debate. Of course, the context of Putin's Russian, and the involvement of so many members of the governing party, makes me suspect that some govt censorship is coming.

    But the government didn't censor Robertson. Some people threatened not to watch his program or buy from its sponsors, and some others seem to have rallied in his support as against his employer. Balancing the support they lost from Robertson's remarks against the support they lost for suspending him, his employer reinstated him.

    Shocking, I know.

  • ||

    Neither has been directly censored - that's the point. They are derided in public for saying politically incorrect things until they appear to be totally on the fringe.

    You don't need to directly censor if you can just shout "fascist" or "bigot" until someone apologizes.

    As I quote Young, it's not un-libertarian. But nor is it a "vigorous public debate." It is illiberal.

  • Swiss Servator, Befehl!||

    "They are derided in public for saying politically incorrect things until they appear to be totally on the fringe."

    Are you saying that is what happened to Robertson?

  • Tulpa (LAOL-VA)||

    You don't need to directly censor if you can just shout "fascist" or "bigot" until someone apologizes.

    I don't think you understand the purpose of "direct censorship" (aka censorship). Censorship aims to control information and ideas.

    If a magazine in China published an interview with a TV personality who said the Tienanmen Square protests were great, and they should just let Taiwan go off and be independent, and free Tibet while they're at it, and a bunch of Chinese public figures accused him of being unpatriotic until he apologized, is the PRC government going to consider that just as good as never allowing the interview to be published at all?

  • Drake||

    Russia is like the U.S. - Pissing away their freedom with personality cults, laziness, and indifference.

  • Almanian!||

    USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

  • Killaz||

    Libertarians hate 'USA! USA! USA!' because it isn't 'ME! ME! ME!'. /tony

  • Swiss Servator, Befehl!||

    Heh. Well played.

  • Killaz||

    Thanks. If I didn't put it out there, one of the trolls would eventually come up with it.

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