Misinformation About Russia In The Mainstream Media by Prosperity Capital Management

Also see Mattias Westman, founding partner at Prosperity Capital Management on the Sino – Russian Axis

A hack job

Having invested into Russia and the Former Soviet Union for twenty years, it is fair to say that we have learnt to treat much of what the mainstream media writes and says about the region with considerable and justifiable suspicion. Many, if not most, newspapers publish uninformed articles on Russia and, usually, we take no heed. Sometimes, outright misinformation and/or manipulated data are put forward and, generally, we let it slide. We know well that it is not unusual for Russia to be used to score political points and that is of minor concern to us as, more often than not, we do not have a dog in that particular fight.

Russia
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Russia

With that said, whilst we do not intend to make an overly regular occurance of it, from time-to-time we come across articles that are so egregious that they warrant being made an example of to highlight the stark gap between reality and perception with respect to Russia and the Former Soviet Union.

Three-times Pulitzer Prize awarded, foreign affairs writer, Mr Thomas L. Friedman’s recent Op-Ed piece in The New York Times epitomises hack writing in our humble opinon and we would like to take the time to correct the misinformation put forward on Russia – deliberately ignoring the article’s focus on the US Presdential Election and its aimed discrediting of Mr Donald Trump.

Mattias Westman

Founder

Donald Trump’s Putin Crush

Thomas L. Friedman

The New York Times, 14 September 2016

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

When it comes to rebutting Donald Trump’s idiotic observation that Vladimir Putin is a strong leader — “far more than our president has been a leader” — it is hard to top the assessment of Russian-born Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion, which The Times’s Andrew Higgins quoted in his story from Moscow: “Vladimir Putin is a strong leader in the same way that arsenic is a strong drink. Praising a brutal K.G.B. dictator, especially as preferable to a democratically elected U.S. president, whether you like Obama or hate him, is despicable and dangerous.”

Mattias Westman, Prosperity

Whilst much of this is hyperbole and largely the author sharing his political views, it is at least reasonable to comment on the description of Putin as a “brutal K.G.B. dictator”. Last Sunday, Russia held her parliamentary elections, in which all parties were allowed to participate. The various parties debated one another on television for hours and there are no indications of serious voter fraud. Russia has many oppositionally-minded newspapers, radio stations and even one television channel. The internet is entirely unencumbered. One could go on and on. Whilst Russia is certainly not a perfect democracy, to refer to it as a dictatorship – brutal or otherwise – is simply ludicrious and highlights that, Friedman, does not have any idea of what he is speaking about.

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

Indeed, Kasparov’s point cuts to the core of what is so scary about a Trump presidency: Trump is what The Economist has called “the leading exponent of ‘post-truth’ politics — a reliance on assertions that ‘feel true’ but have no basis in fact,” and, sadly, “his brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.” When politics becomes “like pro-wrestling,” society pays a huge cost, The Economist added, because any complex explanation of any problem is dismissed as experts just trying “to bamboozle everyone else.”

Mattias Westman, Prosperity

Here, the glasshouse, so to speak, is being placed into serious danger…as we will see later.

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

So Trump just skips from blaming Mexican immigrants for high murder rates, to President Obama for inventing ISIS, to China for creating the concept of global warming, to thousands of Muslims in New Jersey for celebrating 9/11, to Obama for really having been born in Kenya, to an I.R.S. audit for preventing him from showing us his tax returns — which would probably show that he paid no taxes.

Every word of it is a lie that most in his own party won’t call out. Can you imagine the damage Trump could do to the fabric of our democracy if he had the White House pulpit from which to preach his post-truth politics — how it would filter down into public discourse at large and infect every policy debate?

“Donald Trump has not only brought haters into the mainstream, he has normalized hate for a much broader swathe of the population who were perhaps already disaffected but had their grievances and latent prejudices held in check by social norms,” observed Josh Marshall, publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com, in his blog on Saturday. “This isn’t some minor point or critique. It’s a fundamental part of what is at stake in this election, what makes it different from Obama v. Romney. … This election has become a battle to combat the moral and civic cancer Trump has [been] injecting into the body politic.”

Mattias Westman, Prosperity

These three paragraphs relate to US politics which, for the purpose of this commentary, does not concern us.

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

Think about the ridiculous trope Trump has been peddling, that if only Obama were as “strong” as Putin. Well, if he were, here are some of the benefits America would enjoy:

Mattias Westman, Prosperity

Ok, let’s get started…

Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

A 2015 report in The Moscow Times noted that “life expectancy in Russia has been growing several times slower than in the rest of the world for the past 20 years, according to a research by the U.S.-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.” That coincides almost exactly with Putin’s leadership of the country. The article explained, “During the period of 1930-2013 [life expectancy] only grew by 1.8 years in Russia, while the global average number increased by 6.2 years, pushing Russia out of the top 100 countries with the highest life expectancy and placing it in 108th position — between Iraq and North Korea.”

Mattias Westman, Prosperity

This is very interesting. Firstly, I hold some doubt that a country’s leader has such a direct influence over the life expectancy of that country’s population, but if one accepts this as a given, then perhaps one can at least try to determine when such influence would start to be felt. Here, Friedman is suggesting that a decade before coming to power would be reasonable. I would argue that it is more realistic that the earliest juncture would be around two years after coming to power. These sorts of things generally carry considerable inertia and, as such, it is unlikely that the effect of a leader’s hand would be felt immediately and I would be happy to take any bet that it is not felt ten years prior to the leader taking office. One may wonders why Friedman chose to use the ‘ten years before number’. If one measures the change in life expectancy in

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