FINAL: Vote For Best Title

And the final results are:

Putin Derangement Syndrome 14
Dark Lord of the Kremlin 27
No preference / can’t decide which I hate more 13

Surprised to see such a clear lead for DLK… thought it’d be closer to a tie. But it’s my favorite too, so Dark Lord of the Kremlin it will be.

Thanks to all for participating in the polls to decide on the name of the book.

Vote On The Title!

Feel free to suggest the appropriate title/subtitle combination for the book, or to propose new ones.

EDIT 9/11: And the final results are:

Putinophobia 3
Putin Derangement Syndrome 10
Through Western Eyes 7
When the Truth Doesn’t Matter 7
Kremlin Maligned 0
False Truths 1
Potemkin Russia 2
Manufactured Russophobia 4
If It’s About Russia, It’s True 8
Black-Washing Russia 4
Russia NOT for Dummies 5
Dark Lord of the Kremlin 11
Other 4

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Books I Will Be (re-)Reading While Writing My Own

It’s already a pretty big list, so I won’t be taking nominations for more. I hope to write reviews of all of them as they’re (re)read.

  • The Return (Daniel Treisman) – the best Russian politics books out there. 5/5
  • Armageddon Averted (Stephen Kotkin) – TBR (to be read)
  • Putin (Chris Hutchins, Alexander Korobko) – TBR, but has to be good as it quotes me.
  • Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives (Stephen Cohen) – 5/5
  • Virtual Politics (Andrew Wilson) – too much PoMo, but solid. 4/5
  • Drug, Sex and Libel in the New Moscow (Mark Ames, Matt Taibbi, Edward Limonov) – TBR, for the lulz.
  • From the First Person (Putin) – all Western journalists would benefit from reading this series of telling interviews. 5/5
  • The Oligarchs (David E. Hoffman) – TBR
  • Popular literature with satires of politics/economics including Metro 2033 and works by Pelevin.
  • The New Cold War (Edward Lucas) – to remind myself of hack enemy talking points. 1/5
  • Vekhi (anthology) – key book from 1909 that informs current Kremlin ideology.
  • Putin’s Comeback (Chen Xiaomeng) – TBR, can’t say I’ll read all or even most of it, as it exists only in Chinese and my Chinese isn’t that good, but it will sure make a refreshing change from Western harping.

Obviously these are just the books, I’ll be looking over tons of papers and news articles too.

Strategic Direction Of Da Russophile

I feel that my blogging in terms of influencing the discourse on Russia has leveled off into something resembling a plateau. I now write the occasional op-ed; appear every so often in magazines, research articles, and even books; and the blog itself attracts about 500 daily visitors. But truth is I am barely making a dint relative to the likes of Harding or Lucas.

To this end I am embarking on two big projects that will consume the bulk of my creative efforts for at least the next year.

(1) I am writing a book with the preliminary title PUTIN DERANGEMENT SYNDROME: How Western Journalists Are Fueling A New Cold War Against Russia. (I’m not 100% happy with it and will welcome alternate suggestions).

As I have argued for close to 5 years now, Western media coverage of Russia tends to be woefully biased, frequently malicious, and – most unforgivably – factually wrong. This does not mean there is nothing to criticize about Russia and Russians and I will not refrain from doing so in the book. However, said criticisms must be grounded in statistical data, an appreciation of the viewpoints of ordinary Russians, and a judicious comparative perspective (which is NOT equivalent to “moral relativism” or “whataboutism” as many hardcore Russophobes claim).

In 1926, Will Rogers said, “Russia is a country that no matter what you say about it, it’s true.” It is high time to make this way of thinking obsolete.

The book will be divided into about a dozen chapters, covering all aspects of Russia which are either heavily misrepresented, or around which there exist powerful misconceptions. Here is a short sample list of such “Russia tropes”:

  • “Dying Russia”
  • The Manichean view of Russian politics
  • “If This Happened in Russia”
  • Putin the fascist, Stalinist, neo-Tsarist, kleptocratic mafia thug
  • Stagnation
  • Pariah state
  • The strange obsession with “Kremlin TV”, i.e. Russia Today
  • How big bad Russia raped plucky democratic Georgia

In addition to my own original work, the book will also feature guest articles from various political and legal experts, as well as original translations from the “unfree” Russian media. By revealing the lies and misrepresentations on which so much Western commentary on Russia is rooted, the book will hopefully serve as a catalyst for rethinking and concrete change. Ведь так больше жить нельзя.

(2) As blog readers will recall, back in May I attended a Washington conference, chaired by  Edward Lozansky, devoted to brainstorming ways to improve Russia’s dismal image abroad. Several fruitful suggestions came out of the meeting, one of which has already been brought into being: The site US-Russia.org.

My own modest contribution was a site devoted to translating the Russian media into English, a reverse-Inosmi if you will. Its preliminary name is RUSSIA VOICES.

There are several core structural features that make Western coverage of Russia as bad as it is. One of these is that there are more questions than can be answered; as argued by Patrick Armstrong, it takes 10x longer to write a rebuttal to a lying article, than the lying article itself (and claims of Kremlin-paid bloggers to the contrary, – I wish! – we don’t have a hundredth of either the resources or the media exposure of the Lucas and Harding types). Other such features include the “propaganda model” and exiled oligarch funding of anti-Putin kompromat. These are systemic forces that need a systemic response.

Should it become a significant feature of the media landscape, RUSSIA VOICES will accomplish three major things:

  1. Improve perceptions of Russian media in general (i.e., not Zimbabwe).
  2. Improve perceptions of Russia in general (i.e., complex array of liberal, Kremlin, statist, patriot, nationalist, & leftist forces; NOT a Manichean struggle between Padawan Navalny and Darth Putler).
  3. Publicize Russian voices on global affairs (e.g. Syria).

After all, what would YOU, as a media consumer, rather read about: Top Russian sci-fi novelist Sergey Lukyanenko’s thoughts on the Russian elections, or Miriam Elder on how Putin stole her dry-cleaning ticket?

Exactly. And I am sure the same goes for many academics, students, expats, businesspeople, and intelligent open-minded laymen. RUSSIA VOICES will translate from all sides of the ideological spectrum, be they pro-Kremlin or anti-Kremlin; Western media consumers will then have the freedom to independently judge exactly how “unfree” is the Russian media (and Russia in general) for themselves.

The only problem is that unlike the book, RUSSIA VOICES will require not insubstantial funding to get off the ground. Translators gotta be paid. I will be working on this issue in the next several months.

Blogging here will not come to a stop, nor at the other site. But intensity probably will fall off a bit.

Open Thread #1

This Open Thread is permanently glued to the front page. Anything goes as long as it’s connected in some way to Russia (if not then use the Open Thread at AKarlin). From now on all off-topic comments should be posted here, as I will no longer hesitate about deleting them from other posts.

My Readers Are Indeed Social Contrarians

Though I do wonder about those six people who voted “none of the above” in my poll of attitudes towards the 10 odd theories that figure prominently in the Karlinist Weltanschauung… with all due respect, but what are you guys doing on this blog then? 🙂

The vast majority agree with Peak Oil, Limits to Growth, Intelligence Theory, and Human Biodiversity. The first three are not surprising, as they have been covered extensively since the blog’s inception, but I am somewhat surprised about the popularity of HBD – after all, I’m only an (open) convert to it fairly recently.

Slightly fewer agree with the precepts of AGW, Game, and 80/20 principle & Parkinson’s Law. Again, this is fairly surprising to me. After all, AGW is socially accepted nowadays; the exceptions are easier to list (e.g. American conservatives), whereas Peak Oil and Limits to Growth are still very controversial concepts with opponents from both sides of the ideological spectrum. “Game” gets an impressively good showing, though this kinda makes sense – it is almost intractably linked with HBD, since by accepting fundamental race differences, doing likewise for gender is a no-brainer. The 80/20 Principle & Parkinson’s Law is admittedly vague, but in essence it is meant to encapsulate the arguments contained within Tim Ferriss’ The Four Hour Workweek, i.e. that there are structural reasons for why organizations and their employees are very inefficient, and that there exist ways for committed individuals to break that cycle through shortcuts like “muses” (location-independent revenue streams) and geoarbitrage. I highly recommend readers look into these theories because just as with Game for dudes, they have the potential to massively improve life quality.

Only very modest support is voiced for Transhumanism and Technological Singularity, and understandable thing because (1) few people are deeply aware of them, even committed netizens, and (2) they are in ostensible contradiction to core AK themes like Limits to Growth and Peak Oil. But there is no contradiction. My longstanding view has been that IF global civilization manages to avoid collapse or severe degradation in the dangerous mid-century period, when pressures from energy shortages and climate change are likely to heat their peak, then transformative technological change is very likely to occur based on reasonable projections from current trends. Lifespan has already been successfully multiplied by several factors in laboratory mice by genetic tinkering, and it is surely only a matter of time before it these methods can be upscaled to large mammals including humans. Technological singularity is a more iffy possibility, despite Ray Kurzweil’s best attempts to argue for its imminent inevitability, but regardless I am of the opinion that the mind can be simulated on silicon substrates, that “mind uploading” is theoretically possible and may be achievable in practice sooner rather than later because of the exponential nature of growth of computing power, and that even if these exotic possibilities don’t materialize this century it may not be that big of an issue thanks to massively extended longevity.

Low carb diets (paleo, caveman) have by far the lowest approval rating. So I should definitely write a bit more on that. I think the arguments of their proponents are logical, humans simply have not had time to evolve to eat complex grains let alone have them constitute the bulk of their diet. Doing so leads to obesity, diabetes, and a host of other chronic ailments that plight rich country populations. As such I think the standard “food pyramid” advice peddled by nutritionists is bunk and even criminal taking into account the mounting evidence against it.

Are You A Social Contrarian?

I’m curious to hear what my readers think of the various concepts and theories that frequently come up on this blog, and of the key assumptions underlying the Karlinist Weltanschauung.

social-contrarian-poll-akarlin

Very quick n’ dirty summaries of terms and their discontents:

Peak oil: Oil is limited in quantity, and at some point its production will inevitably decline – with severe repercussions for the economy; but can also be shorthand for more general problems of declining EROEI and resource depletion. Mainstream conservatives, polluters, big business hate it; Serious People usually dismiss it.

AGW: The world is warming, and human activities are largely responsible for it. Mainstream conservatives, polluters, big business hate it.

Limits to growth: Unsustainable trends in resource consumption and pollution set the world up for a severe socio-economic collapse in the 21st century. Serious People usually dismiss it; mainstream conservatives hate it.

Intelligence theory: Individual life outcomes are significantly dependent on IQ (i.e. wealth, risk of criminality, etc), while the rate of development significantly depends on the national level of human capital. Universal taboo.

HBD: A significant proportion of the differences between human groups (or races) can be attributed to differences in genotypes, which express themselves in areas such as IQ, physical abilities, character, etc. Universal super-taboo.

Game: Chicks respect alphas and despise betas; nice guys don’t get laid. At the macro level, the combination of female hypergamy and sexual revolution has led to a kind of “soft polygamy” in the US. Great for alphas, but life for sexless betas is ever more hellish. Universal taboo.

Low-carb diet: The typical US high carb diet has greatly contributed to huge obesity rates; paleo, Atkins, 4HB-type diets are the way to go. Lazy fat people who want to rationalize and excuse their own obesity tend to hate it, as do many vegetarians with their misplaced empathy.

80/20 principle/Parkinson’s Law: You accomplish 80% of things in 20% of the time, but unfortunately work expands to fill up all the time available for it – but it is possible to find one’s way out of limbo (e.g. muses/location-independent revenue streams; aggressive outsourcing; mini-retirements). Lazy people / office plankton who worship their jobs and don’t want to take a risk make fun of and dismiss this.

Transhumanism: Human enhancements, e.g. cognitive (ranging from nootropics to chip implants if the technology appears for it) and especially longevity (e.g. SENS). Technophobes are against this, i.e. most people.

Technological singularity: This quote by John Good encapsulated it: “The first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.” Technophobes are against this, i.e. most people.

Who Reads This Blog Anyway? A History Of S/O In Graphs

As you’re all aware, on April 1st 2012, more than 3 years of blogging at http://www.sublimeoblivion.com/ (S/O) came to an end. For the majority of that period – to be precise from May 13th, 2009, to March 31st, 2013 – I had an account with Google Analytics that provided me with very detailed states about the blog: Where visitors came from, how long they stayed for, what they shared on Facebook, etc.

On some occasions, the stats are exactly what one would expect. Other times, they are unexpected and fascinating. For instance, more people from India visited the blog than from Russia, one of its main subject matters. The Kremlin Stooge was my third biggest referral source of all time, even though he only came on the scene in July 2010 (thanks Mark!). Almost ONE THIRD of all-time visitors landed on a single post!

As I’m going to lose this data as soon as I find a new use for the old domain, I decided to save it all and lay out the interesting bits in this post. I hope I’m not the only one who will find this “meta-blogging” interesting.

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Welcome Back!

Dear readers,

As you’re probably aware, the site was down for much of the past week. The lowdown is that the old blog, Sublime Oblivion, was infected by a nasty pharma hack that destroyed its SEO ratings. There was however a silver lining, in that it allowed me to carry out a reorganization that I’ve desired for quite some time.

In addition to blogging about Russia, I also wrote about a variety of other topics: China, geopolitics, sustainability, futurism, the causes of economic growth, book reviews, etc. I have separated these two divergent vectors. The Russia stuff now has its own dedicated domain at http://akarlin.com/; in a way, this is a back to the future kind of thing, as Da Russophile was the original name of my blog back in 2008. Everything else, for now, will remain here, at http://akarlin.com/. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds.

The old domain, and the Sublime Oblivion brand in general, I intend to reserve for my future fiction (including an eponymous fantasy series). Arctic Progress, which was also affected by the pharma hack, will get a new start and a new look in the coming months, but will remain at the same location.

None of the old material was lost. However, in my transition to WordPress.com, the image attachments to the old posts were all lost, nor is it possible to FTP them in. That is why the images have all gone. As there are 1,000 odd of them, re-attaching them all will take quite some time, but rest assured it will be done.

Blogging will resume now. Thank you all for your understanding!

The Top 10 Russia Blogs In 2011

So it’s that time of year again… when I update the list of awesomest Russia blogs. But first, let’s have your voice. Let it never be said that S/O doesn’t support democracy!

[AK Edit: Regrettably, all opinion polls didn’t survive the transition]

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