featured, Guardian Watch, Kit

Owen Jones: Tough on meanness, tough on the causes of meanness

by Kit

A response to the Guardian article Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch by Owen Jones

In his latest piece on Vladimir Putin, Owen Jones demonstrates the weakness of the politically left-of-centre press in the UK – and indeed the Western world as a whole. A certain kind of chinless, sweater-vested, well-meaningness that achieves nothing but smugness and twitter shares. In this article – here – he sets out a political platform that is, in essence, tough on meanness and tough on the causes of meanness.

In its own way it is more insidious than the out-spoken right-wing nonsense of Trump or Farage. Let’s be friendly, he says. Let’s all get along. Everybody should be allowed to do whatever they want…

…and you should go to jail for saying otherwise.

His point is simple – Putin is bad and the left should not apologise for him – and he makes it pretty effectively. He just has to repeat massive geopolitical lies, whilst propping up his own public image as “the guy at the Guardian you wish your daughter would date”.

Let’s dive right in, shall we? The headline:

Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch.

Well, it’s direct at least. But seems to only demonstrate that Mr Jones doesn’t know what “oligarch” means. (Hint, it doesn’t mean “nasty man” Owen). The definition is very simple, and none of it applies to Putin who is not a business magnate and has never worked in anything but government. An Oligarchy is:

…a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people might be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, religious or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next…

Russia is actually a democracy, though you’d be forgiven for not realising this if you only ever read the Guardian, and Putin is an elected head of state – and a popular one at that. Not an autocrat. Not an oligarch. You can’t force a lie to become true simply through repetition. Interestingly enough, according to researchers at Princeton (that well-known den of pro-Kremlin spies): the USA actually IS an oligarchy. But I digress.

A rightwing authoritarian leader who attacks civil liberties, stigmatises lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, indulges in chauvinistic nationalism, is in bed with rapacious oligarchs and who is admired by the European and American hard right.

My word, the inaccuracies come thick and fast don’t they?

Rightwing? In what sense? Economically speaking Putin would actually be considered rather left-wing in the UK or US. When was the last time a British government re-nationalised an industry? Russia has a far more socialist economy than we do. Is he right-wing racially? No. There’s no racial discrimination in Russian government. Russia has dozens of ethnic minorities, all protected under law unlike – and I’m just pulling a random example out of the air here – ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Stigmatises LGBT people? Oh, this is about THAT law isn’t it? The propaganda law. The law which forbids the “promotion of non-traditional sexual practices to children”. Yup, that sounds pretty brutal. I mean, just listen to the guy talk here or read his statements here, he’s obviously a raging homophobe.

NB. For anybody interested there’s a breakdown of the Russian law written by a gay American lawyer here, and good discussion of it on the No Agenda show (about 10 minutes in).

Putin is “in bed” with rapacious oligarchs? The Russian government, under Putin, does business with all sorts of oligarchs. Like Berezovsky, who moved to London after Putin was elected. Or Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was stripped of his assets and arrested for fraud. Or Sergei Pugachev, who is currently on the run after being prosecuted for embezzling. When Putin stripped the oil-based oligarchs’ control of Russia’s energy reserves, who was he in bed with then? When he re-nationalised those industries and poured the money into re-building Russian infrastructure…at which oligarch’s behest was that? We live in a country where Google, Vodafone, Amazon et al regularly dodge billions of pounds worth of taxes, with no repercussions, can we really afford to start throwing stones about government corruption? Is there any chance, at all, Cameron would permit the arrest of British bankster?

Jones, of course, does have a point – the involvement of billionaires in politics is dangerous, and possibly insidious. I mean you’d never see George Soros pulling political levers in the West, and God knows no big business ever gave money to Clinton, Blair, Cameron or anybody else. It’s not like there’s an oligarch running for President of America right now…

As for who Putin is “admired by”, it doesn’t signify. A man does not choose his admirers. A weak argument from a weak writer.

Now BBC One’s Panorama has broadcast allegations that the Russian leader has secretly amassed a vast fortune….a British public inquiry concluded that ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was likely to have been murdered at the personal behest of Putin….but we know that some of those critical of the government – like Anna Politkovskaya, who courageously opposed Putin’s war in Chechnya…”

Yes, with the recent (farcical) Litvinenko ruling, Russia-bashing is back in vogue. Well done Owen, it seems your moral outrage has peaked at the time most likely to get you thousands of shares on facebook. Lucky you.

There’s a common thread in all of the above accusations – there’s no evidence to back up any of them. In the case of Litvinenko, the court actually ignored evidence he was poisoned BEFORE November 1st in order to make their narrative fit together (see the video published earlier this week), and as for the BBC’s ludicrous Panorama episode, well, let’s just say it’s getting its own article.

Jones’ portrayal of the Second Chechen War as “Putin’s war”, and his later use of the phrase “[Putin’s] savage war in Chechnya”, are both quite interesting. Firstly it suggests an ignorance of military history on Owen’s part (not surprising considering his ignorance of economics, legislation and even the basic meaning of words) – the Second Chechen War was started as a result of theinvasion of Dagestan. In August 1999 Dagestan, a federal republic, was invaded by the “Islamic International Brigade”, this is their flag, it may look a little familiar. Just imagine it emblazoned on the hood of a brand new Toyota:

Remind you of anything?

Remind you of anything?

In response to an invasion by Islamic insurgents, Russia sent in the army – I’m not sure if Owen considers this savage, or not – and pushed the invaders back into the neighbouring republic, Chechnya. The constant, low-level insurgency in Chechnya then spilled over into all out war. The Russian and Chechen authorities on the one side, and Chechen rebels, IIB and Mujahideen on the other. Yes, THAT Mujahideen. The “Islamic extremists are fine as long as they are killing Russians” model, so successfully set up in Afghanistan in 1979 and deployed in Syria last year, was used in Chechnya too.

Is war bad? Obviously. Did the people of Chechnya suffer? Immeasurably. But to lay that at the Kremlin’s door, as if Chechnya were a vanity project of the Russian leadership, is so terribly dishonest that you wonder how Jones can sleep at night.

To then compare Chechnya and Crimea, as Jones does here:

…the west’s attitude towards Putin is hypocritical. When Putin prosecuted his savage war in Chechnya, there was none of the western outrage later meted out when the Russians annexed the Crimea.

Is to step sideways into madness. Putting aside the pathetic parroting of the “annexation” meme, I’m curious to know how much outrage defending your country from Islamic insurgents should merit, and – indeed – what course of action Owen would recommend in place of “savage” self-defence. I suppose the Western press is just of the opinion that, if an army turn up at your border, you don’t ask who they are or why they are blowing up your buildings, and you certainly don’t shoot back, you just let them in and apologise for the mess.

When you look at it that way, both the refugee crisis and the condemnation of Assad suddenly make a lot more sense.

We should express our solidarity with Russia’s embattled democrats and leftists. We don’t have to choose between critiquing our own foreign policy and opposing unjust foreign governments. In a sense, critics of western foreign policy have more of a responsibility to speak out. While supporters of, for example, the Iraq calamity can be more easily batted away by Putin apologists, nobody can accuse people like me of hypocritically failing to critique western foreign policy.

Once again, Owen, Russia’s “democrats” are in charge. They were democratically elected, they are very popular. I know Western definitions of democracy are shifting at the moment, but there’s nothing intrinsically more fair about being ruled by a government nobody voted for, it doesn’t mean the system works. And Russia’s “leftists”? The communist party is the second biggest presence in the Duma. They are the majority of Putin’s opposition – a role usually attributed to political no-names likes Nemstov or Navalny, in a British press that increasingly has little to no interest in physical realities.

There’s nothing alternative or liberal here, not really. Beneath the veneer of liking immigrants and the rainbow-facebook picture and sorting out his recycling Owen Jones is very much on The Right Sside. Our side. He’s against wars, but obviously OUR wars are better than THEIR wars. It doesn’t matter to him that, for several years now, Russia has been the only thing between America and the global chaos they’ve been trying to incite, it doesn’t matter that Washington continues to pursue policies that require Russian good-sense and judgment to avoid World War III.

He still, somehow, maintains the moral authority of the west. Its God-given right to dictate terms, and its duty to lead the world. He doesn’t question the Empire, only gently corrects it. We should all help the poor refugees, but let’s not think too hard about the policies of deliberate destabilization that lead us to this crisis. We should all resist ISIS, but let’s not publish (or even read) the reams of evidence that show ISIS is being funded by NATO allies and equipped by America.

Everything is basically fine, we should just be a bit nicer. At least we’re not Russians.

This whole article could have been written by Luke Harding, or Shaun Walker or Michael White or Jonathan Jones – it shows only that the spectrum of acceptable opinions narrows more and more each day, and that modern journalism is a lot like early model Fords – “Any colour you want, as long as Putin is the bad guy”. It is a laundry list of myths and bullshit and hot air. Sound and fury, signifying less than nothing. It could have any picture in the by-line, it just so happens it has the pasty pre-pubescent looking one. The accompanying apologetic subtext is the only thing that sets it apart. “I’m one of the gang!”, the weedy kid pipes up. “I’m cool too!”.

At least when Shaun Walker copies and pastes opinions from the GCHQ approved list, he doesn’t pretend it’s for anything other than money.

And here, it seems, we come to the crux of the point: In the above paragraph “people like me”, would perhaps better phrased as “People, like me!”. In short, Owen Jones prizes his perceived role as “the good guy” too much to question the official narrative of the Western press. Safeguarding his reputation as supporter of all things pleasant, he likes being invited to talk at LGBT rallies, and getting handshakes and being nice.

We get it Owen, you’re nice. You’re not good, you’re not right, you’re just nice.


  1. Seamus says

    Jones is a left-branded celebrity for the neoliberal age. His pretence at having a northern working-class background is belied by his being brought up in Bramhall – the most expensive Tory enclave in the country, north of Watford.

  2. I surely do like to see a good whuppin’ and this is a good one expertly administered. Splendid job, Kit.

  3. To the author: Do you actually realise that the journalist does not write the title, that is done by an editor. So to berate Jones for the title of a piece shoots yourself in the foot.

    “Let’s dive right in, shall we? The headline:

    Putin is a human rights abusing oligarch."
    • You may have a point, if the headline was at all contradicted by the content of the article – but since all Jones does is reassert those statements in the body of the text it’s safe to say he agrees with the flawed headline. Evenf if he didn’t write it himself – which he may well have done anyway.

  4. Excellent reply to Owen. Shame, I thought Owen is clever…
    People are sooooo ignorant, they do not want to see where the destruction and danger for all of us is coming from. What has happen to Native Indians, Africans, Indians, Aborigines, Iraqis, Libyans, Syrians… rapidly is coming to Americans, British, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and other Europeans who were involved in destructions of other nations and People. New Americans and many Europeans didn’t object the distraction of other People, their children and their countries, now, fascism and slavery is knocking on their doors.
    President Putin is very, very clever, ethical, moral, spiritual man and brilliant leader of a GREAT Russia and Great Russian People. Western, sunset, ideology a.k.a New World Order will never win. RUSSIA WINS, WE ALL WIN! East, sunrise, will win.

  5. Thesweetantithesis says

    I really enjoy this website and value the information it provides.

    Having a go at Jones’ looks or styling hom as the ‘weedy kid’ devalues the critique. Don’t do it.


  6. Alex says

    I was expecting this article to contrast his characterisation of Putin as ‘expansionist’ snigger and an oligarch (because only Russians can be oligarchs!) with his recent slobbering over Obama. Instead you took the unfortunate route of actually trying to pretend Putin isn’t a corrupt reactionary neoliberal. He’s certinaly not the uniquely evil bogeyman the BBC wants you to think he is, and obviously the hypocritical sanctimony from war criminals in the UK and U.S. is laughable but to suggest that he’s not right wing either is just ridiculous. As much as liberal left concern troll ‘Assad must go!’ types like Owen Jones are despicable you’re near falling into the trap of being the kind of binary leftist little Owen, Peter Tatchell etc. want to pretend all anti-imperialists are.

    • Vlad didn`t get where he is today by being a PC Diversity Luvvie. he had to trip the light fantastic around the Mayor of St.Petersberg, the KGB-Spetsnaz-Mafia -moonlighting scuffles in Moscow and Yeltsin and his Oligarch Bottom-Feeders. Yeltsin fed young green conscripts to Chechnya to be massacred and tortured by the Islamic Independence Fighters. Putin gave the Warlords Payback; Grosny became Stalingrad. Putin has a good laugh when Obama and Cameron puff themselves up and utter dire threats.

    • One of the reasons I like Russia is its right wing culture that appears on a more modulated form in the Kremlin. Russia has a traditional Christian heritage that permeates public life.

      However, Putin is a conservative in the Burkean sense of that word (NOT the Cameron sense). He built Russia from the ruins of the nineties by integrating elements of Tsarist authoritarianism (clampdowns on fissiparous protests), Western representative democracy (United Russia rules by overwhelming consent of the governed), socialism (Oil wealth is nationalism), classical liberal economics (low taxes non-oil corporations), and traditionalism (emphasis on traditional Christian morality).

      Moral of the story. You can’t fit Putin and the Russian political disposition in general into neat little boxes of ‘anti-imperialist leftist.’ His economic leftism is subsidiary to his sovereigntism and moderate nationalism, which would place him on the right of the political spectrum. The average Russian’s view on social issues would make the average Western liberal blanch….

  7. Eric_B says

    How old are you anyway Ellie? I would have said about 40, judging from your video?

    So you understand what it’s like to have children. And as such, you should be more relaxed.

  8. Eric_B says

    Oh and by the way Ellie, your presentation is garbled incoherent shit.

    I guess that’s why not even the Russophobic loonies like Radio Free Europe or The Atlantic Council have picked it up and paid you a few dollars.

    Pretty embarassing. Fatboy Eliot Higgins has done much better than that, with no degree at all.

    You need to up your game.

  9. Eric_B says

    Ellie Knott
    February 1, 2016
    “some Russian guy”? he’s the leader of Crimea. It’s not my fault you’re completely ignorant of everything you’re foaming at the mouth about.

    The point being made, you muppet, was that you yourself attempted to deflect discussion by pointing to something else while accusing others of doing so.

  10. michaelk says

    The ‘problem’ with Russia and Putin isn’t really about the list of ‘transgressions’ Jones waves around so energetically, western countries have excellent relations with states all over the world, who crush human rights, are deeply corrupt, have fake democratic elections, imprison dissidents, control the media, invade their neighbours, occupy territory, slaughter civilians… of an scale that dwarfs the alleged ‘crimes’ committed by Russia. We turn a blind eye to much, if it’s in our interests to do so. Our moral outrage is highly selective, and at the same time we pretend our values are universal. Indeed we’re so charged by our ‘universal values’ and love of human rights, that we actually send armies to the other side of the world to topple states that transgress. We are, it would appear, virtuous to a fault, and we don’t even get thanked by the people we release from their chains.

    Russia’s ‘problem’ is linked to its behaviour or Putin, or their elections, (which are arguably more democratic than those that take place in the UK, where a party with 35% of the votes is ‘magically’ turned into a government with a substantial majority in parliament, allowing it to rule with close to dictatorial power against the express wishes and votes of the majority of the electorate), the reason is because Russia is too independent, too ‘free’, and has the strength to say ‘No!’ to Washington and pursue its own interests even if they clash with those of Washington. That’s Russia’s ‘cardinal sin’ the will to follow a course that is at odds with Washington.

  11. michaelk says

    I saw Owen Jones on the television the other day. He seems, superficially at least, very sure of himself… indeed. Gosh, I thought, if only I understood the contradictions and complexities of the world so… clearly. What struck me though, was the perculiar idea he seemed to have in his head that the UK government and its ministers, didn’t really comprehend the consequences, how incredibly damaging, their own policies were for the lives of ordinary people. This seems to be a fundamental liberal/left conceit and applies to both domestic and foreign policy. Our politicians are only human and make mistakes… like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and poor, poor, Libya. Countries, apparently destroyed, by ‘mistake.’ Despite the terrible and horrific consequences of these ‘mistakes’, they seem to get repeated, over and over and over… ‘accidentally’… on purpose, deliberate ‘mistakes’ that virtually wipe countries off the map.

    The problem for journalists like Jones, is that if the politicians in power, whether they are of the red or blue variety, don’t give a damn about the consequences of their policies and actions in relation to the lives of ordinary people, that ordinary people simply don’t matter, not in the UK or overseas, that the mass destruction and suffering is deliberate policy, then, if one was a leftist, that Jones says he is, one would have to radically re-evalutate the nature of UK democracy, because, if the country is run by politicians who resemble a criminal conspiracy akin to the Mafia, people prepared to use violence of various kinds to fulfill their sectarian policies and narrow interests; then how can we describe society as a democracy?

  12. Paolo says

    By the way, as an ex (modded) CiFer, this is a great article. The absurdity of the mainstream western position is very nicely framed (not that this is hard to do but nevertheless).
    Sometimes i worry about the young generation of journalists, they seem so eager, i get a kind of “tommorow belongs to me” kind of vibe, dressed up as goodwill to all men or humanitarianism of course (how on earth does that work?).

  13. Sorry, just seems like some of the people commenting aspire to be on the Kremlin’s pay roll.

    • Paolo says

      Do you actually ever post more than one line? I assume your PHD consisted of a one line quip. Well done (pulling that off).
      Oh how education standards have plummeted.
      I shall now cease to feed you.

    • Eric_B says

      If you can’t reply to any arguments then you’re not much of a PhD candidate, are you?

  14. Young Owen is a disingenuous lad. Always has been. He’s no Seumas Milne by any stretch of his imagination.

  15. Seamus Padraig says

    I would like to congratulate Off-Guardian as well as the author of this piece, Kit. I think 61 comments (and still going!) is a record at this site. And above I see, not one, but TWO neocon trolls: Louis Proyect and Ellie Knott. Well done, Off-Graun! After barely a year in business, the neocons are starting to notice you–and they are starting to feel threatened. Just when they succeeded in taking over virtually all of the MSM, they are astonished to discover that, thanks to the internet, their propaganda is actually LESS effective than before… and they are starting to panic. You don’t believe me? Take it from Anne Applebaum:


  16. Thank you for your article.
    I too was outraged at the pathetic attempt to present utter bullshit as journalism worthy of a national newspaper.

  17. I enjoyed this, Kit. I too was disgusted with his Grauniad piece and the next day wrote an open letter to him on my blogsite – http://steelcityscribblings.uk/wp/2016/01/27/open-letter-to-owen-jones-on-putin/ One of the readers of that letter sent me the link to your piece. I’ll be back for more.

    I tweeted Owen Jones to alert him to my letter. He hasn’t got back to me; with a sizeable a fan base he perhaps feels little need to answer criticisms to the left of his rather smug views. But speaking of that fan base, it is truly dismaying – and strikingly reminsicent of the cold war on the USSR – how otherwise intelligent people can be so easily fooled by preposterous narratives.

  18. Rob Tisinai says

    My god, what a stupid ill-informed article.

    • Rob,

      Care to go into more detail? I’d love to see links if you have them. This website is about promoting truth in journalism, so if you see any factual inaccuracies please feel free to point them out.

      • Russia is not a democracy. It hasn’t had free and fair elections since the early 1990s. Opposition has been stifled if not arrested.

        • Based on what? There was no evidence of electoral fraud, every independent poll predicted Putin would win the 2012 election with about 55% of the vote, and he won with slightly more than that. Every poll of the Russian public since then has shown that Putin is popular with the Russian people.

          Who should have won the election, in your view? Who was cheated?

            • Eric_B says

              Is Freedom House a US NGO? it appears to be advocating for ‘US leadership’.

              We advocate for U.S. leadership and collaboration with like-minded governments to vigorously oppose dictators and oppression. We amplify the voices of those struggling for freedom in repressive societies and counter authoritarian efforts to weaken international scrutiny of their regimes.

            • Eric_B says

              Crimea was never legitimately part of Ukraine.

              After a violent coup supported by the US and EU in Kiev which put extreme nationalist Ukrainians supported by armed bandit groups in charge, Crimeans opted to return to Russia after a referendum was held.

              Whether Kiev or the US and its other puppets like that or not is immaterial.

              If I were Crimean I’d be thanking my lucky stars I’d escaped from the Mad Max style failed state of Ukraine.

                • Ellie Knott,

                  Please don’t simply call people names, it is not conducive to rational discussion. It’s perfectly possible to believe that the majority of Crimeans were more than happy to be part of Russia without being a paid stooge. There is a wealth of evidence to support this belief, including polls carried out by the Ukrainian government since the referendum.

                  Secondly, and this is just a personal bug-bear of mine, google the word “troll”, look up what it means and then stop using it incorrectly.

                • Ellie, as moderator I ‘approved’ and replied to your comment on my own post on Owen Jones’s article:

                  I always ‘approve’ comments unless they break rules any sensible moderator will uphold – sexism, racism, ad hominem attack etc etc. I’m now wondering, from your to my mind juvenile one liners, peppered with gratuitous terms like “crazy” and “kremlin troll”, whether I should have bothered.

            • Can’t wait for your crackpot ideas on the annexation of Kosovo (done without a referendum)

                • Paolo says

                  I see, when all arguments are lost just call everyone a troll. Are you on some NATO stipendium or something? Do they teach you this at whatever crackpot college you studied at?

                  • Funnily enough, I’ve never come anywhere near NATO at my crackpot doctoral school, London school of economics, and my doctoral fieldwork in Crimea.

                • Paolo says

                  Wow, the LSE has certainly slipped (or has it). So I assume you are one of these people advocating the “opening up” of Ukraine and Russia (and we all know what that means in the neoliberal mindset). Why cant Crimea decide for itself what it wants without busybodys like yourself obviously interferring?

                • Eric_B says

                  yet when above I asked about Freedom House’s credibility you brought up some Russian guy.

                  so you’d agree your comment was irrelevent too.

                  • “some Russian guy”? he’s the leader of Crimea. It’s not my fault you’re completely ignorant of everything you’re foaming at the mouth about.

        • Paolo says

          Russia was led down the garden path by US advisors in the early 90s, the result was a gangster state under Yeltsin, something the US appeared to actively advocate, much like the chaos they have been creating in the middle east and now Ukraine. Putin was able to regain some semblence of stability in the country something the cititzens are grateful for. Unfortunately the west seams rather unhappy that order has been restored as they were doing good business and making vast sums of money in the chaos that Yeltsin helped create. As a result they have been abusing the idea of NGOs using the form to forment dissent and sponsor phoney opposition. People like you Ellie Knott are the useful idiots that seem totally unable to see the larger picture, the naive fools that were used to boost the propaganda that enabled the coup in Ukraine and cost countless lives. Your ignorance costs lives. Sometimes even apathy is better than eager zealous stupidity even if it does believe it is doing good.
          And Rob Tisinal, my god what a stupid vaccuous comment you posted. Why bother if you have nothing to say? Why?

        • And if voting brought democracy in the UK we’d ban voting

          And you might want to check out at least 2 doctored US Presidential elections..The worlds so called Greatest democracy LOL Sieg heil more appropriate than god bless America

  19. Also, here’s an interview with the performance artist you find so distasteful:


    Like many people such as Ai Wei-Wei, they carry out acts that violate the norms of bourgeois society. It all goes back to Dadism. It really amazes me that people like you can view yourself as radicals when you are obviously so comfortable with repression in Russia directed at gays, artists, protestors, etc. No wonder Trump and Putin have a mutual admiration society going.

  20. The Sarin gas attacks were provably carried out by the rebels, not out of bloodthirst but in order to demonise the Syrian government in the press. It is called a false flag, and it has a long history. Google it.

    Of course. Everything is a false flag. That is how conspiracy theorists operate. It is the methodology of Global Research, Inforwars, and your website. Ever since March 2011, every filthy deed of the Baathists that gets particularly bad press is explained as a “false flag”. When snipers began firing on peaceful protestors, there were members of Assad’s amen corner who claimed that they were Mossad agents. It is not surprising that many 911 truthers are avid supporters of the Baathist dictatorship. This is really crude stuff but I suppose if you have no background in Marxism, it is what you are forced to rely on.

    • That is more straw-man arguing, it holds no water and means nothing. Not “everything” is a false flag, but the chemical attacks at Ghouta were linked to the rebels. That this attack occurred just a short while after Obama’s famous “red line” announcement points to a pretty clear explanation. For a professed communist you don’t seem that familiar with a famous Lenin quote: “Who stands to gain?”

      Your repeated use of ad hominem arguments and generalities in place of particulars make it seem like you are more interested in sounding off than having a discussion.

      I’ll ask you straight out: What exactly is your problem with this article? If there are factual inaccuracies feel free to point them out. If you disagree with my assessment of Jones’ motivations and/or personality, please say. That is what these comments are for. Once again, this article is the Owen Jones, Russia’s representation in the Western media and weakness of British journalism. If you have anything to add on these subjects…go ahead.

      However, if you’re only interested in insulting the readers, commenters or authors, or making wildly unfair and inaccurate speculations on the motives of our website, please do so elsewhere. This is a place for conversation about real issues, not mud-slinging and hot air.

      • Francis says

        I admire your wilingness to wrestle with pigs, but Shaw was right.

      • I have been talking about real issues. It is you who is evading them. You claim that there are no laws against gays in Russia. I refer you to a documentary that shows how thugs are using violence against gay people with impunity. The cops turn a blind eye to their violence just like cops in the Deep South used to allow crimes against Black people to take place. And what is your response? None. Your problem is that you fashion yourself a press critic when your standards are ten times lower than the Guardian. The thing that amazes me is how the Putinite left has the same authoritarian mindset as the Americans who flocked to Reagan and now Trump, the muscular nationalist counterparts of Putin. This love affair with bare-chested men on horseback is really quite a strange business to understand, maybe even beyond Krafft-Ebbing if he were still alive.

  21. What other reasons could there have been for a war on Chechnya?!

    The same reasons that urged Lenin to wage a campaign from his sickbed against Stalin. The problem is Great Russian Chauvinism, which Putin symbolizes today. No wonder Putin denounced Lenin the other day. You people have obviously found something attractive about this oligarch that escapes me.

    • I’m afraid your post confuses me.

      Chechnya and Dagestan were attacked by the IIB and Mujahideen fighters, they are antecedents of Al-Qaida and ISIS. What should the Russian response have been, in your view?

      I fail to see where chauvanism comes into it, Russian or otherwise.

      Read the article more thoroughly, Putin is not an oligarch.

      • Bobby says

        “The English-speaking and western media have borrowed the term Russian oligarch (a near-synonym of the term “business oligarch” or “business magnate”) from Russian parlance to describe the huge, fast-acquired wealth of some businessmen of the former Soviet republics”

        You could have chosen that definition for your article.

        Not Putin?

        • Bobby, no, not Putin.

          He is not a business magnate, and has no fortune. If you have evidence to the contrary I suggest you forward it to either the Guardian or the BBC, because they’ve been looking for years and still have to cling to “some guy said so” as their “proof”.

          If this topic interests you, you’ll be pleased to hear there is an article planned on Putin’s wealth and origin of that meme for the near future.

    • bevin says

      Putin appears to be very far from the Great Russian Chauvinist that Lenin, quite properly feared. Putin is a nationalist but that, especially in Russia, is a very different thing, as anyone who understands how the Red Army prevailed will know.
      The problem, Louis is that you haven’t had a fresh idea for decades. Or perhaps it is that, like any true believer, whenever one arises you smack it down horrified that it might not conform with the Holy Writ as interpreted by Tony Cliff’s current Bishop on Earth.
      Your attitude towards imperialism, for example, is to stick to the ridiculous axiom “Neither Washington nor Moscow” long after it served its purpose of excusing a sect of “revolutionaries” from defending the Korean people at a time when McCarthy was nipping careers in the bud all over the anglophone world.
      The political reality is that imperialism is in a profound crisis as it attempts to seal its hegemony into a global dominion.
      And you? You insist that it is not just enough that the Empire’s opponents struggle against this totalitarian impulse but that they articulate, precisely the right reasons for doing so. It is not sufficient that the war against Libya that you justified should be opposed, you insist that it matters that it should be opposed for one reason rather than dozens of others. Some of which, no doubt are mistaken while others are merely original.
      This isn’t Leninism, it is nothing more than intellectual snobbery of the sort which has made sectarians, such as yourself, not just apologists for Empire but accomplices in repression.
      What, after all, brought you here?
      Did you come to defend Owen Jones? Not at all, you hold no brief for him. You didn’t come to denounce Putin either- that’s a job you can trust your mainstream allies with.
      You came to attack Jones’s critics on the ground that they were uncritical of Putin. Or, to put it very simply, you came here to disrupt a discussion in which you have no real interest. And, of course, to show off by throwing around claims which indicate, to the naive, that you are a scholar with an encyclopediac knowledge of the socialist movement.
      In the mean time Putin defends the remnants of Russia from a host of enemies, salafists, Wall Street, fascist revanchism, fifth columnists eager for a new round of the plunder that Yeltsin presided over and the Empire’s satellites. And you join in: you are like a man walking away from a pogrom explaining that you weren’t objecting to Jews but to the capitalist in the ghetto.

  22. Notwithstanding other analyses, it strikes me that there’s an awful lot of dick-waving going on in here…….

  23. beovox says

    Kit’s straight privilege is obviously clouding his judgement.

    • Bernie says

      Kit has delivered an important deconstruction of Owen Jones’ gobby leftism and feeble journalism. Last year Jones said he wept tears after seeing the film Pride, not realising at all that he would have been the sort of annoying gay political know-all who would never have fitted in to the broad-based Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners campaign. Indeed, it’s worth remembering that Jones inherited the Morning Star/Communist Party of Great Britain gene from his hard-line mum and dad. Mark Ashton, one of the driving energies behind LGSM campaigning, was utterly opposed to pro-Soviet tankies like the Joneses who would always complain loudly when the CPGB’s new anti-tankie anti-Morning Star weekly paper, 7 Days, started including features on gay and lesbian issues (some written by Mark Ashton). Too hung up on their narrow workerist leftism, Owen Jones-type political wonks never fitted in to the gloriously radical 1970s Gay Lib scene either. It was arrogant Labourites, like Owen, who actually opposed us holding gay lib discos in Brighton cos they were ‘political’ or too camp and outrageous. Of course, he likes to see himself as an ‘activist’ journalist, but it’s a sedentary Google-Guardian activism that is usually disconnected from reality – and from history. Can imagine him turning up to a Gay Liberation Front disco at the Royal Albion Hotel in Brighton and spending the night in a corner lecturing some queen on the working class, while all we wanted to do was drag up and dance!

    • beovox, I’m afraid years of operating on the internet has rather dulled my sense of sarcasm.

      Are you being serious, or not?

  24. JJA says

    The Guardian is a complete joke with its hysteric daily quota of anti-Putin articles. Not a single article pointing out even a tiny pinprick amongst all the gaping holes in the Litvinenko report, – plus the ludicrous Luke Harding is soon publishing a Putin dun it book on the case, as showcased in the Guardian’s preview of 2016 events!
    They are all much of a much ness, Putin bad and corrupt, Russia aggressive and imperialistic and corrupt, gaybashing etc. etc. None of the articles actually deliver facts, all simply repeat earlier allegations.
    They remind me of jehova’s witnesses who knock at your door. They ‘prove’ their case by presenting some publication. When you point out it was written by them, they produce another document supporting the first. When you point out that that was also written by them, they either produce a 3rd publication or you simply ask them to drop the pamphlets straight in your recycling box by the door, at which point the penny drops and they go away.
    I went away from the Guardian a long time ago. It is such a sad shadow of its former glory.

    • Francis says

      The Guardian are now like Jehovah’s Witnesses? Lol. That deserves to be a simile with legs. 🙂

  25. Amer Hudson says

    A very accurate summary of this self-virtuous windbag.

  26. Ralph Reed says

    One strong rationale for demonizing Putin is to discipline academia as the US military is ideologically purged. Promotions in the officer corps is dependent on post-secondary degrees. The Cold War wouldn’t have ended so gracefully, in the context of what might have happened, without some trust and respect between the Soviet and US militaries. Subsequent confidence building and co-operative measure only enhanced this bilateral rapport.

    After America’s’ adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan the US had a broken force and Russia didn’t take advantage. These days one can imagine the envy and respect the upper echelons in the groaningly topheavy US military have for Russia’s successful campaign in Syria kindles.

    This is very dangerous to the oligarchic structure of the US because as it teeters toward failed state status the military gains more autonomy and importance. The greatest fear is Pentagon supported international intervention during state collapse where the oligarchy is disciplined. This is why Obama has tried to micromanage intervention, prosecuted dissenters, and of course gay and women’s rights are another good way to try to weaken military institutions in the short term. The natural, and only partner in the case of disaster, is Russia. The ruling class is split on this necessity but not on the need to hold the population in thrall with fake geopolitical hysteria and culturally divisive tactics.

    This is why the effete press campaign is fixated on “Putin.”

    • Yeah, the “effete” press. Also, don’t go near those male ballet dancers. You might catch something.

      • Ralph Reed says

        Effete in the sense of affected morality, sophistication. Not “effeminate.”

  27. 70% of Russians old enough to vote, vote for Putin. Not because he is a Saint like Obama and Cameron, because Putins corruption is miniscule compared to Yeltsins Corruption. When Yeltsin was campaigning for re-election, the KGB arrested one of his gofers carrying a suitcase containing $1 Million Cash into Yeltsins Party HQ. The next day the KGB Colonel was fired, and all charges dropped and money returned. ON Yeltsins watch $6 Billion of Aid Money from the IMF disappeared, never to be seen again. Pensioners pensions werent paid; Police stopped motorists for bribes; Ex-Spetsnaz Soldiers moonlighted for Moscow Mafias; Billions of Roubles went to Swiss Banks. Yeltsins Russia was called "The Wild East". This was Putins finishing school. Yetsin and the Oligarchs looted the Soviet State Assets, Putin made them toe the line or end up in the Gulag. Obama and his Wall St bosses would love to have Russia`s Oil.

  28. Ed Clarke says

    First saw Owen on Question Time after Israel massacre on Gaza in summer 2014
    I thought at the time this youngster was in the league of great orators in exposing truth of the scale of the horror of what Israel had done.
    Now this WOW this is like Corbyn launching Trident with a bottle of bubbly!!
    This weak specimen has gone from hero to zero, this change has all the earmarks of a visit from the NWO mafioso.
    Where is this going full invasion of Syria, bringing on confrontation with Russia, I would not kick this little shits arse, have to much respect for my sense of smell.

  29. michaelk says

    My russian family despised and were ashamed of Russia when Yeltsin was in power. He seemed to symbolize everything that was wrong with Russian society. At first, when Putin came to power they were sceptical about him too, they thought the country was heading for total disaster and total disintegration, falling apart, weak, and open to a virtual foreign ‘invasion’ as Russia turned into a balkanized failed state, but on a massive scale. On the other hand they, being Russians, knew its history, culture and people and how tough they were and had faced similar situations before. So they believed and hoped that something would happen, someone, or some group would step into the breach and defend Russia. That ‘group’ was symbolized by Putin, all that was left of the state apparatus that still functioned, elements in the military and more importantly, the security services, who understood what was happening and what the stakes were. Right at the very edge of the cliff the slide over the side was stopped and reversed and the state consolidated what was left. Not that they like everything Putin has done, far from it, but they understand and appreciate his achievements, which rank him as one of Russia’s greatest ever leaders. That why they like Putin and why the overwhelming majority of Russians support him too.
    , is
    Jones chooses to ignore all of this. His ignorance and arrogance, what a potent mix, about Russia, is extraordinary; but that’s a ‘qualification’ these days for writing about Russia in our media. It’s just terrible, this Jones guy telling people what to think about Russia, when he knows next to nothing himself. One would think he’d be a little more humble and circumspect, but no, with him it’s the the opposite, the less knowledge he has the more he thinks he understands.

  30. You people are a joke, especially on the gays. Putin refers to the fact that there is no law against homosexuality in Russia but everybody knows that the same kind of impunity extends to skinhead gangs that prey on gays as shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-dDd4dtOFM

    I also suspect that none of you responsible for this wretched website have much grounding in Marxism and base yourself on the crude anti-imperialism of places like Disinformation Clearing House and Infowars. But if you ever want to read a Marxist analysis of the Chechen wars, I recommend Tony Wood’s piece in the Nov.-Dec. 2004 NLR:

    “According to the Russian analysts Dmitri Trenin and Aleksei Malashenko, preparations for war in Chechnya were ‘well under way’ as early as 1998. [37] The pretext this time was provided by Basaev’s August 1999 incursion into Dagestan, which marked an attempt to expand the influence of Islamists who had already established micro-imamates there, and ultimately to unite Chechnya with Dagestan and form an independent Islamic state. [38] Although Basaev was quickly expelled from Dagestan, a series of explosions in apartment buildings in Buinaksk, Volgodonsk and Moscow in late August and September—FSB collusion has repeatedly, and plausibly, been alleged—prepared domestic opinion for the ‘counter-terrorist operation’ that began at the end of September.”

    • Your ‘Marxist analysis’ is neither Marxist nor says anything of substance. It names two Russian analysts view that war on Chechnya were ‘well under way’ a year before it happened! Most likely explanation is the knowledge that the Islamist movement was mobilising for an attack and so counter measure was being prepared. What other reasons could there have been for a war on Chechnya?! Was there a socialist or democratic revolution brewing?! Like in Libya and in Syria?! And of course the Islamists DID attack Dagestan in 1999 (!) and continued with terrorist activities thereafter! So the counter measures by the state had been rightly and intelligently put in place. Yet, you claim that the terrorist acts are “ALLEGED” to have been with “FSB collusion”! Problem is allegations don’t make analyses!

    • bevin says

      Proyect has been proclaiming the Syrian Proletarian Revolution and the Liberation of Libya and any other imperialist projects for the past few years. He talks a good fight when it comes to marxism but the notion that the spirit of the great revolutionary inspires the CIA thugs and wahhabi led mercenaries who are chopping off heads in Syria would be funny if it weren’t so obscene.

      • Not really. 90 percent of what I write about Libya and Syria was designed to correct the sort of lying that is found routinely on this website, Dissident Voice, Moon of Alabama, Disinformation Clearing House, etc. In fact I was opposed to a NFZ in Libya and oppose one in Syria today. What galls me is the filthy lies “anti-imperialists” tell to defend their cause. For example, there were ten thousand articles claiming that Gaddafi was targeted for being opposed to Africom when five minutes on the Africom website would turn up a number of articles indicating a chummy relationship with the Libyan high military command. I don’t care if you people get wet in the pants when you see a picture of a bare-chested Putin, just lay off the lies.

        • Louisproyect,

          If you could specifiy the “lies” you have problems with, and provide evidence to back up your assertions, that would be great. Otherwise, at least refrain from the rather vulgar ad homs. They don’t achieve anything.

            • Nobody but you mentioned Africom. Nobody mentioned it, so nobody lied about it. That’s called a straw man argument – you set up a target and then attacked it.

              Again, there’s no call for your rudeness.

              • Kit, I said that 90 percent of my blog articles about Libya and Syria were to correct the lies propagated by the Putinite left. after I was characterized as a supporter of a “great proletarian revolution” in Syria when I never said anything like that was remotely possible. When you asked me what kind of lies I was referring to, I pointed to Africom. I might as well have referred you to sarin gas, which you people blame the rebels for. All you really do is trawl the Internet for any news report you can find that blames Turkey. This is typical of the Putinite left. If Turkey was committed to the overthrow of Assad to the point of backing Nusra, ISIS and any other jihadist group, isn’t it strange that there has not been a single sarin gas attack after the one in East Ghouta? For groups that are so savage and bloodthirsty, you’d think that they would go hog wild firing sarin-gas missiles into Damascus. The point is that such groups lack the infrastructure to produce the gas in such quantities and the technical expertise to deliver it. There is a herd mentality at work here that is totally pathetic. Whatever comes up–sarin gas, Madaya, barrel bombs–you function like the press agency of Bashar al-Assad’s government. For all of your fulminations against the Guardian, they print people who share your vulgar anti-imperialist analysis like Seumas Milne. I suppose you won’t be happy until the Guardian is 24/7 Seumas Milne. Is it possible that you are closeted totalitarians who would love the British press to look more like RT.com?

                • The Sarin gas attacks were provably carried out by the rebels, not out of bloodthirst but in order to demonise the Syrian government in the press. It is called a false flag, and it has a long history. Google it. Turkey has been shown to be supporting ISIS, either through cover, equipment or purchasing oil. This is an established fact. However, this is an article about Russia in the Western media, if you wish to debate the war in Syria, I suggest you find another story to comment on.

                  RT.com is a news network that receives funding from the government of its country, much like the BBC and thousands of other news networks around the globe. That you dismiss it as somehow inferior betrays an agenda.

    • Davide says

      louisproyect – now you’re reaching, since there is absolutely nothing marxist or anti-imperialist about that article, and being published in the New Left Review does not make it marxist (since NLR is not a marxist publication). You will find nothing in marxist thought which advocates theocracy as a form of government, nor bourgeois nationalism, nor Balkanization.

  31. bevin says

    Jones was a very good example of what Lenin meant by a useful idiot. But in these troubled times the half life of such creatures is very short: before we really got to know him, and his cuddly,former Militant, parents, he had become a full fledged loudspeaker for the Empire.
    And Putin, like him or not, is the Empire’s most committed opponent. He has to be, because Russia has only one choice besides resisting the Empire which is to surrender to it.
    As to the oligarchs: it is their stolen money, the other side of the coin of poverty in Russia, which keeps the biggest fencing and money laundering operation-and the oldest one- in history, the City of London, booming.

  32. Brilliant. I wanted to like Owen, but he’s proved over the last few years that he is no more than controlled opposition.
    When I commented on his Facebook page that US were using salafist proxies to bring down Assad, he called me a conspiracy theorist. LOL

  33. Owen typifies the average sixth-former rebelling against his parents to demonstrate his independence to his friends. Before he gets his pocket money, not after. He still gets pocket money though, because his Mum and Dad are very liberal guardians. Now brush your hair, Owen. He’s a very nice boy indeed.

  34. Seamus Padraig says

    ‘And Russia’s “leftists”? The communist party is the second biggest presence in the Duma.’

    Owen was probably thinking of that weirdo who nailed his own scrotum to Red Square!

    • Davide says

      Those are the “leftists” the Guardian loves, the ones who make no political point, but cause a sensation.

    • Yeah, all these people including Pussy Riot with their “weird” behavior, especially being disrespectful to the Russian Orthodoxy. So outside the norms of polite society.

      It never fails to amaze me how you “anti-imperialists” attach yourself to Putin’s conservative mores the same way that fraternity boys in Division One Football Schools like Notre Dame kept posters of Ronald Reagan on their wall in the 1980s.

      • I don’t think disliking the idea of nailing your testicles to the ground, or disapproving of orgy-like protests in a church make you “conservative”. And I don’t especially want to live in a world where that is the case.

        Besides which, the point was about sensation over intelligent argument.

        • Orgy-like protests in church? Is that your idea of what Pussy Riot was doing?

          Doesn’t look like an “orgy” to me. Maybe you should find some other source of info on Russia other than RT.com. The idea of sending people to prison for performing punk rock in a church without prior approval sounds repressive to me. Two years for playing guitars and singing protests songs without permission? If that is the kind of society that you identify with, you are welcome to it.

      • meanwhile back at the gulag-pussy riot protested against the Russian orthodox archbishops recommending Russians to vote for Putin. quid pro quo for Putin helping with restoring orthodox cathedrals and churches that were damaged in the Soviet era. Russian and American politics are very similar-its what gets the job done whatever it takes. Putin sees his foreign policy job as stopping Wall St gobbling up the Middle East and Central Asian Oil Fields and Real Estate. Wall St are on all-out attack economically and politically China-Brazil-Venezuela-Iran-Ecuador-Malaysia and of course Russia.

      • Davide says

        louisproyect – I think there’s plenty of middle ground between considering nailing your testicles to a door a highly meaningful form of protest and being conservative.

        What I was referring to with my comment is that the Guardian gives plenty of attention to stunts pulled by people who are presumably liberals, though in what sense it’s still unclear, because they don’t say anything that’s particularly leftist. They just say they don’t like Putin, which aligns nicely with the position of both the Guardian and NATO leaders. Meanwhile, the Guardian pillories and undermines Jeremy Corbyn and so far as I’ve seen has chosen to ignore the rise of Bernie Sanders in the United States, who now stands only a few points behind Hilary Clinton. Not to mention, I would be fascinated to read the Guardian’s reaction to someone nailing a part of his or her body to MI6 headquarters or throwing a black metal concert at Westminster Abbey.

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