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    Tuesday, May 1, 2007

    In praise of the eXile

    One of the oddest truths about reporting in Russia is that we - the Western press corps - often found ourselves outdone by a satirical local rag called the eXile.

    Put together by a bunch of expats who have found a home in Moscow, the eXile blends sometimes hilarious, sometimes revolting features on living debaucherously in the Russian capital.

    That wasn't the part that impressed the rest of us hacks. What did was the political reporting tucked in between the pages of "Death Porn" and "Whore-r Stories." Unlike much of the rest of what was produced by the Western journalists living in Moscow, the eXile doesn't buy the simple State Department narrative of "Russia intrinsically bad, West trying to save it."

    Reporters like the eXile's Mark Ames see the "struggle for democracy" across the former Soviet Union for what it is: an arm-wrestle between the neo-cons in the White House and the neo-authoritarians in the Kremlin. Both sides say they're interested in the prosperity and freedom of the Russian people, in reality both are cynically pursuing their own, largely commercially oriented, agendas.

    For a different perspective, check out the eXile's takes on the recent protests in Moscow and the ongoing standoff in Ukraine. Weed through the silly, self-indulgent bits and you'll get to a lot of nuggets that The Economist tends to brush by in its telling of the same tales.

    And to head off the criticism that the eXile (like me) is too gentle on the current Kremlin, it's worth noting that they once ran a multi-page feature that was titled something like "99 ways that Putin's Russia is like Weimar Germany." I can't find it online anymore, but it was one of those pieces where you started out laughing, then got deeply unsettled as you considered the substance underpinning the humour.


    La Russophobe said...

    It's pretty telling that when you reach for an example of their quality output it's something you can't even find, much less remember exactly. Maybe it's disappeared because, as you've failed to point out, eXile publisher Mark Ames has gone to work for state-sponsored propaganda campaign Russia Today. That's a story the eXile failed to report!

    If you're suggesting that today's eXile regularly contains hard criticism of anti-democracy moves by the Kremlin, I think you're deeply mistaken, and your failure to link to any is a strong indication I'm right. The eXile spends far more time attacking George Bush than Vladimir Putin, has ridiculously shoddy ethical and professional standards, finances itself by marketing Russian women to foreigners as mail-order brides, and has absolutely nothing new.

    The articles you cite are pro-Kremlin, attacking the bona fides of the pro-democracy forces. It's fine to attack them, but where is the eXile's coverage of other people who are doing it the "right" way as they see it? Nowhere to be found. And none of their criticism is knew, it's appeared lots of places in the blogosphere including on La Russphobe.

    markmac said...

    Ames working for Russia Today?? Sad indeed. That's a caveat I certainly should have added.

    (I was unaware because I don't watch Russia Today. Nor does anyone I know.)