Boy have Americans done a great service in showing the Russian savages how much better our culture is than their old, evil, oppressive Soviet culture. During those Cold War years we were feeling mighty superior to the "Orwellian" Soviets for suppressing anything they found offensive, while we, God Bless Us, had built our culture on the very concept of tolerance and free speech.
Free speech for everyone, that is, except when it offends you.
Last week, yet another "Burn the eXile!" scandal erupted, first touched off by an anonymous letter to the Johnson's Russia List, an internet forum for thousands of Russia-oriented scholars and journalists the world-over. The anonymous letter-which, incidentally, most local Western correspondents believe was written by a certain colleague of theirs who has come under heavy criticism in these pages-claimed that the eXile should be banned from the JRL because, based on out-of-context quotes from twerp-O-matic Johnny Chen's last club review, the newspaper has gone rape-mad:
"The Exile's editorial stance, which both condones and celebrates rape, needs to be brought to the attention of the readers of the Johnson list and needs to be considered when deciding whether or not to include their submissions any longer," the anonymous poison pen claimed, using the convenient veil of anonymity. The letter was clearly written by an American, in American prose, the product of a brain not merely washed, but scrubbed, pressed, and bleached in the factory tubs of political correctness.
Russian readers might be confused by the inanity of it all, but brace yourselves for the real shocker. Professor Michael McFaul-henceforth referred to as Dr. McFaulwell-of Stanford University, basing his stance purely on the anonymous letter, raised her one by announcing his immediate vote for censoring the eXile:
"I was appalled by the quote from Johnny Chen's article in Exile sent by 'anonymous' to your list. The Exile writers and editors occasionally have some interesting insights about Russia. I am glad that Exile has the right the publish its views both here and in Russia, but must such a valuable publication as the Johnson List dupe so low as to propagate the ideas and promote the reputations of people who celebrate rape? Why dont you suggest that Exile set up their own list. Those who want to support the open propagation of violence against women can then subscribe to this list, and spare the rest of us from having to tacitly condone these views by subscribing to your list."
Dr. McFaulwell then apparently leaned hard on Johnson to impose a blanket censorship ban on the eXile, even using his position as a heavy hitter in the Carnegie Foundation and a board member of another Johnson project that Carnegie is helping to fund to pressure Johnson to comply-at least, that's how we interpreted subsequent email exchanges. For our Russian readers, we want to emphasize again that THIS IS NOT MADE UP. Americans-First Amendment-proud Americans-were REALLY having this debate. A Stanford Professor tried to have us censored and banned from an internet list based on an anonymous poison letter. Of course, the fact that Dr. McFaulwell is both a former USAID consultant and a regular contributor to The Moscow Times might help put his ketamine-logic and eerie, Zhdanov-esque reaction into perspective, but it still doesn't say much about Americans setting a fine example when it comes to showing Russians about tolerance and free speech.
The next day, scores of postings were sent to Johnson urging him not to listen to Dr. McFaulwell, and to keep publishing the eXile. Supporters included several foreign correspondents, academics, a representative from the Kennan Institute, and two outspoken feminists, CBS News's Beth Knobel, and Masha Gessen-that's right, Masha Gessen. We have to tip our hats to you for your principled courage on that one, Masha, after all the shit you've taken from us. Perhaps your experience as both a Russian and American has made you a little more tolerant than pampered uber-geeks like Dr. McFaulwell.
On a minor note, a nerd-infested internet list for Americans-without-lives-in-Moscow also ran the anonymous letter, which provoked half-literate community service dropouts to post their own version of a baloney-sandwich lynch mob. One woman wrote, "My husband has begged me to stop reading the Exile, as it only raises my bloodpressure [...] They are an embarrassment to me as an American in Russia." Fair enough. But not far enough for Ian Schier-whose name we will print because he posted to the list a private e-mail sent to him by Matt Taibbi. Schier courageously wrote, "I'm afraid that a warning of a boycott of advertisers may be in order. As it is, I had thought about placing an advertisement in the Exile and have decided not to do so. There is a fine line between acceptable humor and unacceptable insults, and the Exile crosses it far too many times." Interestingly, we remember the ad Ian wanted to place. We've still got a copy. It goes: "I am: a middlebrow tub of lard Jew with stained underwear. You are: still alive. Let's get together at my place and watch old 'Friends' re-runs! Email me for a fun time at firstname.lastname@example.org." Ian complained that he hadn't received a personal insult since elementary school. We're sorry to hear that kids avoided you in junior high and high school, but we'll make up for lost time, Ian.
So there you have it, Russians. All that malarkey we Americans told you about tolerance and free speech? We didn't REALLY mean it. What are you, fools or something? Ha-ha-ha!
This July 4th is dedicated to all those Americans who have gone public in calling for the eXile to be censored and boycotted. It's an eXile Fourth of July and what better way for an eXile to act than to act as… well, an eXhole! As for us, we're offering to all those offended by Johnny Chen's article-and to the community at-large-a human sacrifice of sorts. See, in order to make Chen feel the pain that he inflicted on others, we arranged for him to be gang-raped by the cast of Ian Schier's favorite television sitcom, "Friends." And as you'll see in the comix strip to your left, there's a warm, happy, Spielbergian moral to it all.
And if that's not enough, you can even win a "Death Porn" T-shirt if you send us a photograph of yourself defacing or burning the eXile in your own special way. After all, what does an American stand for, if not the pursuit of liberty, justice… and the right to burn anything he or she disagrees with?!
Sculpted At Birth?