THE END OF THE EXILE?
The crackdown on Russian media is a familiar story. Certainly, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and particularly the Washington Post are quick to hurl charges of authoritarianism, autocracy, even Stalinism at the Kremlin and Putin whenever free speech in Russia is threatened. So why haven’t all those influential mainstream newspapers reported on the silencing of Moscow’s English-language alt-newspaper
The eXile was forced to shut down June 11 after a surprise on-site audit by the Russian authorities. There are different theories as to why those authorities moved against the paper at this time. Some believe the crackdown was connected to the newspaper’s regular columnist,
, a radical opposition leader, or to an ongoing clan war in the Kremlin that the paper had been reporting on. But the explanation is less important than the silence of the American media.
Launched in 1997, the tabloid rocked Moscow’s expat community with a mix of gonzo-style journalism, meticulous reporting, hard-hitting political analysis, quirky columns and sophomoric, often scatological humor. There was also a seriousness of purpose. Co-founders
, now a correspondent for Rolling Stone, and
scrutinized and exposed what they saw as inaccurate and ideologically slanted reporting by US correspondents in Moscow, especially their apologias for the misery caused by the US-backed shock-therapy reforms in the Boris Yeltsin years. The eXile‘s annual “Worst Foreign Correspondent in Moscow” contest was dreaded by many–and cheered by a few, including this magazine. (For an example of their keen press criticism, see Taibbi and Ames’s “The Journal‘s Russia Scandal” in the October 4, 1999, issue of The Nation.) The eXile was an equal-opportunity critic, contemptuous as well of US academics who took the same line.
Could the reason for the strange silence of the US press about The eXile‘s fate be that the Moscow paper relentlessly attacked many of these same outlets for adhering to Washington’s line after the end of the Soviet Union? The outcry in other countries is telling. For more than a week, The eXile‘s closing has been a prominent story in Germany’s Der Spiegel, in a leading Dutch magazine and paper, and in one of Hungary’s daily papers. It has even been reported in Russia’s “unfree” media.
I asked Ames, The eXile‘s chief editor in recent years, why he thinks the US mainstream media did not respond quickly. “It doesn’t fit their simple propaganda,” Ames told me. “Putin is an oppressor–except when he oppresses something that the American mainstream media doesn’t approve of either. Americans have proven that it’s not oppression or censorship they oppose–it’s opposition to America that they oppose. We’ve angered most of the Western press corps for eleven straight years by constantly calling them on their hypocrisy and idiocy, so the last thing they want to do is give us an honorable send-off, despite all their pieties about ‘supporting free speech that you disagree with.’ It’s censorship by silence, the most lethal of all, and it really sickens all of us to see it.”
The day we went to press, the Wall Street Journal finally ran a story about The eXile‘s closing. Meanwhile, abandoned by almost all of their fellow American journalists, the eXile editors have launched a fundraiser on their website (exile.ru) in an effort to keep an online edition afloat. KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL
My first encounter with
‘s generosity was in 1975. I had come to Washington as an intern with the
Indochina Resource Center
, a key group in the opposition to the Vietnam War. Stewart, who died June 12, was funding it. In my first week on the job, I spent an afternoon stuffing envelopes for another critical group, the
Coalition to Stop Funding the War
; Stewart gave the coalition its first grant. As I moved around Washington, I watched Stewart’s visionary funding speed up the end of an immoral war. Since then, I have revisited the room in which I was stuffing envelopes hundreds of times; the conference room of the building Stewart purchased decades ago and opened to the progressive community: 122 Maryland Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court. Hundreds of progressive gatherings enliven that space each year.
Five years ago, as I joined the board of another bold creation of Stewart’s (
Fund for Constitutional Government
Institute for Policy Studies
told me about the critical role Stewart had played in coaxing some members of Congress into the impeachment of
. I walked into my first board meeting, and there was Stewart in a bright-orange shirt and pants, eagerly exhorting the board to embrace the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The Fund’s ever strategic director,
, was attempting to steer the discussion back to the agenda, but Stewart would have nothing to do with it. The President and Vice President had violated the Constitution, and the Constitution called for their impeachment. JOHN CAVANAGH
A TRADE TURNABOUT?
In his recent interview with
sends mixed signals about US trade policy. Asked by the business journal about his primary-season declarations that NAFTA was “devastating” and “a big mistake”–as well as his suggestion that he’d use an opt-out clause as “a hammer” to force changes that would be more favorable to workers and farmers–Obama replied, “Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified…. Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself.” Obama also told Fortune that he no longer believes in unilaterally reopening NAFTA and earned praise from the magazine for “toning down his populist rhetoric.” If he keeps this up, Obama will also receive a thank-you note from
, a militant supporter of free trade, a position that ought to hurt him in states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where surveys show widespread anti-free-trade sentiment. Only if Obama goes soft on trade issues will McCain have a serious chance to win over these disgruntled working-class voters. Unfortunately, Obama seems to be doing just that. It’s a mistake Democrats like
have made in the past. JOHN NICHOLS