Chris Floyd Sacked from Moscow Times - After Ten Years
by Richard Kastelein
This is a personal message from me. Chris can speak for himself, and I'm sure he will when the time is right, but I just wanted to let everyone know that today, after more than a decade of working with The Moscow Times, Chris Floyd was 'let go' by the new editor, who said Floyd's column no longer fits in with the paper's plans.
So that's it. After 10 years of the "Global Eye" column, and 12 years overall with the paper, it's over. After August 11, Floyd will no longer be published in the Moscow Times or, presumably, The St. Petersburg Times, which picked up the Moscow column each week.
He will, however, continue to publish his writings here at Empire Burlesque.
Feel free to write the editors at email@example.com on their decision to end the work of a dissident American columnist who has held the beam firmly on the Bush Imperium since 2000.
This came at a very strange time - since, we published the Third Edition of Empire Burlesque - High Crimes and Low Comedy in the Bush Imperium earlier this morning.
- this book that will be available on amazon.com later this month.
It's been a rollercoaster of a day.
Moskva Slezam Ne Verit": 0n Leaving the Moscow Times
Written by Chris Floyd ��
I wasn't going to address the issue of my being sacked from The Moscow Times until later, if at all. I'm not so vain as to think that the disappearance of the "Global Eye" is a matter of the slightest importance� in the life of the world, however much it might affect me personally. But I've gotten so many messages of support and concern about the matter in the last 24 hours that it would seem churlish to put off some kind of response. I've also had further communication from the paper explaining more fully the reasoning behind the move, which was at first conveyed only in a terse, two-sentence email.
Anyone who reads this blog knows my extreme distaste for injecting personal matters into it. You won't find my favorite recipes or reports on how I spent last weekend or cutesy pictures of my cat here. But a blog post seemed the quickest and easiest way of dealing with the subject and reaching those who might be interested, so I hope you will forgive this indulgence. I don't want to take space away from far more vital matters, so the rest of this story can be found after the jump.
First, I want to say that I don't think the sacking was politically motivated, although that would be a natural assumption, given its controversial subject matter. But you must remember that the Moscow Times was publishing the column and its heated denunciations of the Bush Regime even in the first days after the 9/11 attacks, when practically the entire global media had rallied to Bush's standard. The week after the strike, in an article printed in the Times and sent out on its website, I blasted the dictatorial powers that Congress handed Bush in the panicky aftermath:
The Congressional lambkins of course believe that Bush will not abuse these powers. And no doubt he and his Praetorians will show the same tender concern for liberty, legality and constitutional authority they displayed last year when they sent hired thugs to break up the vote recount in Miami, then successfully urged the Supreme Court to strip Congress of its clearly defined constitutional responsibility to resolve disputed elections, thereby shutting down the vote and transforming callow Octavian into the manly Augustus who rules today.
Poor lambkins, so trusting. But what else can they do? What can any of us do? We must all now trust that this man who can't hold his liquor will be able to hold near-absolute power without getting drunk on it. We must trust that he will somehow ignore the counsels of the conservative faithful who have heretofore molded his thinking and guided all his actions.
For these wise guides have been busy defining just who is a terrorist � and a terrorist sympathizer. In newspapers, on radio and television, in weighty journals, they're naming and shaming the guilty. The list is long: Anyone who criticizes the president in this time of crisis. Anyone who has ever criticized him before. Anyone who gives information to the American people about what has happened to them and what is being done in their name � including a conservative senator like Orrin Hatch, who was publicly slapped down by the White House for speaking without permission. Anyone who suggests that there may be a complicated historical context to the tragedy, one in which America is not entirely without a tincture of culpability for helping create the scenario that belched forth this hell.
All of these constitute a "fifth column," an "internal enemy," a "corps of traitors," we are told by Bush's patrons and mentors. Every day, they pour this poison into Caesar's ear � but we must trust that he's not listening. We must trust that although he has always believed and embraced their Talibanic precepts before, he will now, miraculously, discard them.
We must trust that Caesar will only sip at the cup of power that's been given him, just enough to rouse his spirits without disordering his senses. For it's entirely up to him now; Congress has abandoned its ancient duty to represent the people. If he decides you're a terrorist � you are. If he decides you helped them � you did. Vengeance is his; he will repay. Don't you feel safer already?
This was published 10 days after the attack. I'm sure there were few media outlets in the world printing this kind of criticism at that time; certainly not English-language media, and certainly not mainstream, for-profit newspapers aimed at a general readership --- a readership that contained a large proportion of American businesspeople and U.S. military and diplomatic personnel: not exactly preaching to the radical choir.
The paper continued to run my dissident pieces throughout the Bush Imperium, despite receiving protests from the American embassy and tons of hate mail --- in the Empire's palmy early days --- condemning the paper for publishing such "traitorous filth," such "lunatic ravings" and so forth. They never asked me to change anything (except for the occasional typo or bit of mangled syntax), never censored anything; I wrote exactly what I wanted to write, denouncing the murderous Bush gang in forthright terms week after week.
If the powers-that-be at the paper disliked the column's politics, they would have axed it long ago. Today, with the bloodsoaked hell that Bush has wrought evident to all the world, the column is not even that controversial. I say that Bush is a corrupt, murderous, tyrannical idiot --- who disagrees with that these days, except for his hardcore base and the ever-sycophantic Beltway media mavens? So it would be strange for those powers-that-be --- who after all hired the new editor who canned the column --- to suddenly take against it now.
Of course, stranger things have happened. I don't know the new editor, who has been with the paper for several years, but arrived after the time when I was actually working in Moscow. I don't know his politics or his character; I don't know his motivations. But having sent that first, abrupt note announcing my dismissal, he did follow up with a further explanation --- prompted, I think, by all the messages he got from the many readers out there who were disappointed or angry at the news. (And I have to say again, I really appreciate all this support. It means a great deal.)
And the explanation he offers jibes with what I'd been hearing about the direction the paper is taking, and from people who were involved in the discussions about the column. The editor writes that the move is part of many changes at the paper designed to intensify the focus of its reporting and commentary on Russia and the former Soviet states. I don't think it's a breach of confidence if I quote from his email, because� it echoes what he said a few weeks ago in an MT story announcing his promotion:
"The Moscow Times over the years has been focusing more and more on its Russia coverage. That means we have been expanding the news and business sections and downsizing the world and world business sections. The opinion pages, which once regularly carried international commentaries, now are focused almost exclusively on Russia and the CIS.
"The newspaper, as you probably recall, was founded to provide local and international news in English to people in Moscow who felt cut off from the rest of the world. That was in 1992. These days, cable TV, international newspapers and the Internet fill the niche for international news and commentary in Moscow. In such a situation, I feel the best use of our resources is to do what we do best: cover Russia."
That sounds reasonable. I knew this was the general trend of things. I suppose I thought that the longevity of the column, and what I'd been told was its popularity, would have perhaps saved it, that it might have been seen as an integral part of the paper,
i.e., "this voice is part of the MT, it's been here for years, it's part of what gives the paper its distinct identity," or something like that. In any case, the column was expressly commissioned years ago to provide an eye on the outside world; and it's certainly true that the need for such an eye is much lesser now, and that the column has little or nothing to do with specifically Russian issues. So if the focus is to be exclusively on Russia and environs, then the column is indeed out of place there. If there is anything else behind the editor's decision, I have no evidence of it.
As I said, for me personally this is a blow, if no great loss to the world. Fortunately, I began blogging some time ago precisely because I wanted to have another outlet in case the column was ever axed. Then Rich Kastelein came along out of the blue and offered to transform my little Blogger buggy into the sleek and powerful open-source machine it is today. He has provided a marvelous outlet --- one that we'll be expanding soon, with a news service and other mod cons, again, all at his instigation and inspiration.
As the movie title quoted above says, "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears." So yes, I'm somewhat sad a bout losing this last link to my time in Moscow, where I spent some of my best years, and where I met my wife, and my best friend. And I'm sorry I don't have a venue in the print world; I am at heart an old newspaperman, having first seen my work in newsprint some 28 years ago. (So if anybody out there has some contacts amongst editors and publishers, someone who might be looking for a columnist, pass the word that you know one who's footloose and fancy free these days.) But Rich and I have got so many irons in the fire that there will be little time for looking back, in anger or regret, and no time at all for those tears that Moscow doesn't believe in, or need.
Again, thanks very much to everyone who wrote to me, or to the Moscow Times , about the situation. I guess you never know how many friends you have until your barn burns down. Thanks for bringing around those buckets of support. And stick around to see what we build up from the ruins.
This is the guy who fired Floyd.
"Really, Mr McChesney!"
By Philby Burgess ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
I've avoided certain easy targets in the Moscow expat press till now. It's a matter of pride, I suppose, a dimly-remembered childhood rule that one doesn't kick cripples. This reluctance to attack the easy target led me to exempt Andrew McChesney, whose columns grace every Thursday edition of the Moscow Times, from my embittered analyses of my fellow journalists' efforts.
Most expats in Moscow share my former view that McChesney is harmless. He's a laughingstock, but most of the mockery is good-natured. His columns are trite, somewhat simple-minded --- but until this week, I'd have to say that McChesney did try to avoid the swaggering assumption of Western superiority which is the besetting sin of the expat press in Russia.
Until this Thursday, his columns were harmless strolls through familiar Moscow terrain: a trip to the grocery store or some other everyday destination, in the course of which McChesney learns a lesson of some sort from one of his many "friends," Kolya or Vasya or Tanya. The lessons, though silly, were kindly --- like the one in which McChesney, irritated at a rude sales clerk, was reminded by Kolya or Tolya that until recently, Muscovites had nothing to shop for.
That's the benign McChesney I knew and tolerated: thick as two posts, but a decent old spaniel, after all. There's worse in this world, God knows.
That's why it was such a shock to hear McChesney talking, in his most recent column (5 December 2002) about grasping Russian sluts and-ahem!-"oral sex." It was rather like hearing an epicene curate or Leftie start talking dirt about TV starlets.
McChesney's column wore its newfound smuttiness on its sleeve, or rather title: "For Love, Money or Oral Sex." The topic, as you can probably guess, was that pub-blatherer's favourite: the way those desperate Russian women will do ANYTHING --- and I mean anything, mate --- to grab a Westerner.
It's an old story. You've probably told some version of it yourself --- if not here in the expat pubs of Moscow (where they know you too well to believe it), then during your visits home, where your old friends, dying by inches in dull jobs and grim marriages, will suspend their disbelief simply to be able to believe that somewhere, somehow, there must be a wilder, more decadent world. But I have to say, I never expected to hear such coarseness from our Mr McChesney.
Yet there it was in his most recent effort, McChesney boasting about his encounter with
"...Ira, a stunning 22-year-old brunette with a shy smile and gentle voice. She flattered me, offering to give me Russian lessons just minutes after we got acquainted. I readily accepted. Our first lesson was in her small bedroom at her parents' apartment. It consisted of my reciting the Russian alphabet and her inching closer and closer. When I reached 'ya,' she reached for my pants."
That's as far as poor Ira got, McChesney explains: "I got a new job and threw myself into long workdays. I told Ira I wanted to postpone the lessons until I got settled in at work."
Poor Ira. These Westerners aren't as easy to catch as they look, Ira. Don't blame yourself. You chose yourself a very tough target, Ira. If only you'd read McChesney's columns --- they've always been as chaste as a pastor's newsletter. McChesney is a man with lots of friends but nothing resembling a romantic interest. Unless, of course, one jumps to the conclusion that all those "friends," the interchangeable Kolyas and Dimas who play interlocutors in his columns, are friends in the raised-eyebrow sense. In which case, it's a pity McChesney can't simply say that he resisted these advances because he's gay, rather than implying that his resistance to the "stunning" Russian women who threw themselves at him was due to his high-mindedness.
It also would make a much better, funnier and more interesting anecdote. Alas, McChesney lacks the sort of courage needed to be a raw, funny wreck (a la eXile). Instead, he falls into the nastiest sort of Russian-woman generalisation. After telling his tale of the sexually-aggressive Ira, he lets another of his "friends," this time a Tanya, draw the moral of the story:
"'You need to be careful of Russian women,' Tanya told me. 'There's a type who only wants to get out of Russia.' A couple years after Ira, I met Olga, who was, coincidentally, a stunning blonde with a shy smile and gentle voice. She was being abandoned after living for a couple of years with an American, who was returning home. Rejection was apparently nothing new --- she had previously lived with a Brit. Undeterred, within a few months Olga started dating another American. They quickly married."
This strikes me as much nastier than it need have been. It's clear enough that no Russian woman, be she an Ira or an Ol'ga, was going to get very far with the chaste (or discreet) Mr McChesney. But there's an unpleasant gloating here, familiar but no less distasteful for that. That line "She was being abandoned after living for a couple of years with an American..." sounds like a curate's attempt to speak a pimp's language. The sneering "Undeterred" manages to make it very clear to the reader that Ol'ga was a heartless whore without saying so.
No, Mr McChesney, I'm afraid your exemption from mockery lapsed the day you decided to sneer at poor Ira and Ol'ga. They wanted the protection of a powerful Western man; do you really find this so difficult to grasp? After all, Mr McChesney, are you not yourself one a bit of a Ringo-the weak link, who gets by only thanks to a good deal of help from his friends? I can attest, from direct experience, that the good-natured jokes about McChesney become distinctly less indulgent when the joker is an MT staffer drinking herself into a rage at the thought of how much more than herself the modestly-endowed Mr McChesney is earning. Explanations for McChesney's singular good fortune range from "dumb luck" to various darker insinuations-all no doubt cruel and unfair, but no more so than McChesney's casual implication that Russians who marry Westerners are cunning whores.
At any rate, the prevailing story among journos is that you, Mr McChesney, keep your august position of deputy editor at the Moscow Times not thanks to your very modest abilities but because you bask in the protection of powerful Western friends. It doesn't feel so strange to be a protege after all, does it? What's one "e" more or less in the "protege" business?
McChesney should extend professional courtesy, if nothing else, to the Iras and the Ol'gas who, like him, have found Western men to protect them. But then the protection of powerful Westerners always strikes those of us who have had it from birth as natural or even well-earned. It's not at all like what those dirty Russian sluts are after-is it, Mr McChesney?