Since the initial press hysteria over the Skripal case, the major political parties of the UK have been clambering over each other in an effort to scale the highest peak of moral high ground. Every paper, pundit and career minded MP only too eager to denounce the inherent badness of Russia, and everything Russia-related.
RT was attacked again – despite having literally nothing to do with the Skripal case – and threatened with having its broadcasting license revoked, whilst the Tories and Labour argued over who appeared on the channel the most. The “liberal” press, and even some Labour MPs who should know better, went on the attack over “dirty Russian money” in the Tory party.
Just as in the US, with the ludicrous “Russia-gate” investigation, any kind of connection to Russia was treated as an automatic taint, and MPs and journalists alike rushed to wash themselves clean and make it clear they were the most anti-Russian.
The pro-Corbyn Left missed the mark to greatest degree, overly keen to smash their “soft on Putin” image, and get their kicks in on the Tories, they decided to take aim at Tory donors and their “dirty Russian money”.
This culminated in Owen Jones’ ridiculous video (above), tooling around the capital and pointing out what properties are (or might be) owned by Russians, and are therefore bad.
He also talks to Luke Harding quite a bit, which is never a good idea.
There’s a lot of problems with both this campaign in general, and this video in the specific. They can be boiled down to three categories.
Attacking something, or someone, simply because of their race or nationality is racism. Pure and simple. Chris Bryant MP talking about the problems with Russia, pointing out buildings in Kensington that might be owned by Russians as they play the Soviet national anthem is just Russophobic nonsense.
This video is racist, and the motivations behind it are racist, and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.
If you think this is an overstatement, then imagine a Labour MP and some journalists driving around London in a bus and pointing out every building owned by a Jewish millionaire, set to the Israeli national anthem. What would the press reaction to that be?
The video is stupid, outside of the racism – which is always based in stupidity – it simply has no idea how things work. It seems nobody involved in the making of it has the even the most basic understanding of human rights, the Russian political system, international finance or simple economics.
For starters – although the video claims to be a “tour of Russian linked properties”…we never get to see any. Instead people point at buildings and say Russians MIGHT own them, or Luke tells us that the properties are bought through secret brokers and off-shore accounts so we’ll never know exactly who owns what. All rather an anti-climax, after they played the Russian national anthem at the beginning.
I mean, certainly it’s true that some Russian people own some property in London, and – yes – that particular house COULD be one of the properties concerned….or it could not.
To redress the racism balance here – we should point out that it’s possible for a Russian person to own a house in London without being a crook, a sentiment noticeably absent from the video.
Further, there’s no analysis of WHY this “dirty money” is in London. Owen Jones, in his only cogent thought in 6 minutes of video, asks a Russian “anti-corruption campaigner” (translation: exiled banker):
Why do so many Russian oligarchs come to London?”
What follows is a couple of jokes about the climate and the scenery…and a frank admission that goes totally over Owen’s head:
There is a service industry of bankers, property estate agents, lawyers who can service you…”
Why do oligarchs prefer to London to Moscow?
It’s a simple question with a simple answer – Britain is soft on financial corruption. It is one of the money laundering centres of the WORLD. Because we don’t make millionaires pay taxes, we don’t charge people with embezzlement and we don’t ask inconvenient questions. We have a weak, soft economy that NEEDS money brought in from overseas – no matter how it was acquired – in order to limp along in any kind of vaguely functional way.
That’s a British problem, not a Russian problem.
Russian oligarchs are more comfortable in London than Moscow. The video never stops to ask what this means.
Luke Harding – always just a few heartbeats away from a total paranoid breakdown – talks about the oligarchs being “squeezed out or put in jail” by Putin’s government, but never makes the obvious point that maybe THAT is why they all live in London now, and do nothing but talk about how evil Putin is.
Two ex-bankers are interviewed – Roman Borisovich and Vladimir Ashurkov – they are credited as “anti-corruption” campaigners, with no reference to their personal wealth, how they acquired it, or why they left the country.
The oligarchs in London have been kicked out of Russia for corruption, and taken their ill-gotten fortunes with them. Most of them hate Putin, and would do anything to undermine his government. This very simple reality is never addressed in the video.
This leads us to the greatest stupidity – the idea that Russian money leaving London and going back Russia would somehow “punish” Putin’s “regime”. It would not. Capital flight is a problem for countries all over the world, retaining Russian wealth in Russian banks would BOOST the Russian economy through investment and taxation. That this very simple logic is apparently beyond Owen Jones and Luke Harding is not surprising.
…but that the two ex-bankers they interview don’t mention it either is very odd. It’s almost as if there’s an undeclared reasoning here.
Perhaps they believe that putting pressure on the ill-gotten assets of Russian oligarchs will result in greater support for a coup or color revolution back home. It’s hard to see that working out, but it’s also impossible to believe that two millionaire ex-bankers don’t know what capital flight is, or that it’s a bad thing.
As previously mentioned – London is FULL of “dirty money” from all over the world. Saudi Arabian princes, Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, South American drug barons, Texan oil magnates, the Queen…there’s no end to the unsavoury types who keep their loot locked up in Kensington, Chelsea and SoHo.
Earlier this year the Guardian ran full-page ads praising the Saudi Arabian crown prince as a “reformer”. They were paid to do this, by a government with an almost cartoonishly bad human rights record. George Soros – who made his fortune tanking the pound – is regularly allowed column inches to spread his agenda.
Selective moral outrage has long been a problem for the “liberal” west, as is plainly demonstrated by the outrage over Salisbury, compared to the pin-drop silence as Israel gun down Palestinians in Gaza and Saudi Arabia drop bombs on buses full of school-children in Yemen.
(The bombs are made and sold by the UK and US. Theresa May’s husband has financial ties to arms companies, and therefore makes money every time a British bomb kills a Yemeni civilian. There are no videos about that on the Guardian.)
The more specific hypocrisy here belongs to Owen Jones, he made this video about “dirty Russian money”, and at the same time he wrote this article, headlined:
Hungary’s war on democracy is a war on democracy everywhere”
You see, Victor Orban – Hungary’s Prime Minister – is trying to chase billionaire backed NGOs out of Hungary, to stop billionaires influencing Hungarian elections. This is racist, because George Soros is jewish.
Britain needs to stamp down on Russian’s owning houses and going to school here, this is not racist because Russian’s are evil and we’re a democracy.
To the untrained eye, this campaign to take on “dirty Russian money”, could look like a racist exercise designed to punish people simply for being Russian. That’s the worst message you can take from this video – the best message we can take is that we need to object to billionaires influencing democracy…but only when they’re on the other side.