Saturday, 27 February 2010

Consuming the Exile

Despite reading this, and regularly visiting The Exiledonline, I am no wiser as to what is actually happening there.

Yet if this is an epitaph it is a very disturbing one.

For those who don’t know, The Exile is a low budget/ semi-professional magazine set up by some highly intelligent and gifted young Americans.It is a fascinating publication which is deeply cynical about politics, both American and Russian as well as highly entertaining.

However, this brush with the MSM just puts a plastic shroud over the most vibrant and energetic of American publications. Hunter S Thompson said that people criticised his journalism for being ‘subjective’ but that you could only subjectively understand people like Nixon. The Exile demonstrates the same thing with post-Soviet Russia. And the subjective realities of life under Yeltsin were never of much interest to neo-liberals.

Ames and Taibbi never hesitated to criticise the faults of Putin’s government (when actually living in Russia). But they also recognised the hypocrisy of the American media’s adoption of Russian dissidents like Anna Politkovskaya.

Yet this Vanity Fair article has no concept of anything but the dumbest clichés, and gleefully describes their publication as ‘Anti-Putin’.

This is one of the worst low brow clichés imaginable. Basically, Putin was someone who stood up to American imperialism without having a strong ideology. Up to a point this gave idiotic neo-liberals a broader canvas: they could compare Putin to Hitler as well as Stalin.

However, when Putin stubbornly refused to open any gulags or concentration camps. The bugger didn’t even embark on radical renationalisations or do much to help the poor. At least that would permit the ‘thin edge of the wedge’/’boiling the frog’ idiotic reasoning so beloved of neo-liberals: the government starts by helping the poor then goes on to torture and imprison.

Of course, to my knowledge the millions of Americans without health insurance didn’t actually stop Americans from tormenting naked Iraqis with Alsatians, but then I’m drifting off the point here. Vladimir Putin’s very flaws (his lack of concern for the poor) actually made him MORE DIFFICULT to attack for neo-liberals in the plastic bubble of neo-liberalism.

And that is precisely the world that James Verini lives in. There is no mention on Mark Ames’s superb attacks on the hypocrisy of neo-liberalism or of their support for Russia during the Georgian conflict.

The Exile is a wonderful publication because it highlights the paradox of modern liberalism. In the early 90s Fukyama declared the 'end of history' meaning that liberal democracy as now universally accepted, though it looks more feeble every year. There are those liberals (like Christopher Hitchens) who think that liberalism should be fought for with other people's blood and those liberals who thinks that political interfering to support liberal values would be useless and counterproductive even if the West had the moral authority and popularity to do so.

It is precisely because The Exile is in the later category that the only contact it has with the MSM leaves a stunted colourless impression of what it actually is.


  1. I have a mixed attitude to the eXile. On the one hand the exposes and reporting were good. On the other hand, associating themselves with people like Eduard Limonov or their excesses with prostitutes and drugs, essentially glorifying them is not something I particularly support.

    There were some great articles, the war nerd, John Dolan as well. His take on Hitchens and George Orwell was great. After all Christopher Hitchens is just a washed up Brit who wouln't get a decent media job here so goes to America where all you need is an English accent and a strong opinion to be regarded as a master polemicist, talent optional. Seriously, Americans are often so gullible.
    the opening paraphraph...
    "Christopher Hitchens is out to save America. He's brought the cross of St. George-Orwell, that is-along on the crusade. He's everywhere in the American media lately, lending his accent and vast self-importance to the cause of Freedom."

  2. @NK
    I certainly don’t agree or approve of everything the Exile publishes. But they are free of the hypocrisy of mainstream Western Liberalism. And, like Limonov, they have cojones (as does Garry Kasparov incidentally, even though I dislike his politics). My point was that Vanity Fair was just trying to fit their mad escapades and intelligent political discussion into the stuffy cliches about 'Putin/ Putinism'.

    Limonov is at least an amusing writer and a ‘colourful’ figure. Our friend Hitch got owned within minutes when he attempted to walk the walk. It aint as easy as it looks to Western liberals.

  3. I'm sory but I disagree with you about Limonov. Limonov is repulsive. Even people like Garry Kasparov associates himself with him. Kasparov might get publicity in the west but he is rightly reviled in Russia for associating himself with Limonov. He is one of avery select people I would advoacting reopening the gulags for, the others include the oligrachs and people like Berezovskiy.

    Indeed it is a strange phenomenon where the Kremlin can't imprison people like Limonov because western NGOs and meadia will complain about human rights, yet this man is a potential Adolf Hitler. Western 'liberals' will use anyone to beat Russia with a stick over, even defending people with fascist tendencies like Limonov.

    Here is a video of Limonov firing a machine gun into the ruins of Sarajevo in the 1990s satnding next to Radovan Karadzic, now sitting in a cell in the Hague

  4. @NK
    I don't know much about Limonov's politics; even from what I do know I find it hard to tell if he's a weird satirist (when I first saw his party's flag I thought it was a joke) or a genuine nutter.

    Still, I feel so fed up with the hypocrisy of Western war-mongering liberals who write with a tone of moral superiority from the safety of their own countries that I do feel a modicum of respect for people like Kasparov and Limonov who actually demonstrate in the streets of a violent country no matter how much I dislike their politics.

  5. I remember I was in Moscow some years ago, I woke up early, depressed and tired and picked up a copy of eXile in a cafe and my mood suddenly changed 360 degrees. eXile saved my life! :-))

    I wish I could have the same experience here in London.

  6. @Leos
    Thanks for your comment; i've never read the print edition but it would be one of the few publications I'd have no qualms about buying.

    I think you highlight an interesting contradiction: The Exile is a publication full of challengingly intelligent and amusing articles that are exhilarating to read. However, I think most MSM publications are not about making people feel good but making them feel good ABOUT THEMSELVES. Therefore they are full of mind-numbing cliches and human interest stories.

    Whilst appealing to the inner smug git isn't an especially lucrative angle, it is lucrative enough and is also something that the powers that be are happy to subsidise.