You Never Want To Go The Full Duranty

Our Eye Candy du Jour is described at the Getty Images site as "British-born journalist Walter Duranty (1884 - 1957), the Moscow correspondent for the New York Times, reading a copy of 'Pravda', circa 1925."

Kevin D. Williamson thinks Tucker Carlson's rapturous descriptions of Moscow are the latest example of The Full Duranty.

Carlson, who is doing a fantastic impersonation of Walter Duranty—the disgraced New York Times correspondent who treated American readers to tales of the glory of life in Joseph Stalin’s Russia—reports that the experience of seeing how clean and orderly Moscow is was “radicalizing” for him. I suppose that everything in the ordinary world looks a little dingy after La Jolla Country Day School and that Swiss boarding school that expelled him. And American cities can be pretty awful, it is true, a consequence of Americans’ general contempt for public spaces. Many American tourists have had the experience of being shocked and shamed by how spruce and lovely things are in Amsterdam, for example—but not as many have seen the housing projects and sprawl beyond the parts of the city tourists frequent. The difference is real, but it is easy to exaggerate, too: You could spend a fortnight in London without seeing the city’s unlovely side, but the same is true of Philadelphia and Dallas.

The irony of the Putinism and near-Putinism we see on the contemporary right—one of the ironies, anyway—is that Moscow represents precisely what they believe (wrongly, for the most part) Washington to be: an imperial city in which a coddled, politically connected, decadent urban elite enrich themselves through official influence and off-the-books relationships while scouring the countryside for young men to recruit into their vicious wars of imperialism and conquest. Of course the “Russian girls” [Michael Brendan Dougherty] encounters in Manhattan boutiques do not have a lot to say about that: If they know, they may not be inclined to say, and if they are inclined to say, they are—or should be—terrified to do so. That’s what terror states do: They terrorize.

They are also pretty good at faking things. Duranty fell for it, because he wanted to fall for it. Progressive hero Lincoln Steffens, too, who famously observed of the Soviet Union: “I have seen the future, and it works.”

David Harsanyi is also rough on Sucker Tucker: Tucker Carlson Is Wrong About Moscow - and the United States.

At the World Government Summit, Tucker Carlson told a gathering of world leaders that Moscow “was so much nicer than any city” in the United States. “It’s radicalizing for an American to go to Moscow,” Tucker went on. “I didn’t know that. I’ve learned it this week, to Singapore, to Tokyo, to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, because these cities, no matter how we’re told they’re run and on what principles they’re run, are wonderful places to live that don’t have rampant inflation.”

If you’re wealthy, I imagine, Moscow is pretty great. This is true of most European cities. When you’re an American tourist, you tend to stay in clean and beautiful city centers, eat at the best spots, and wander around the most attractive areas of town. In Europe, you get to see onion domes that were built by serfs dotting the skyline. I’m sure it’s neat.

It is also true that if you’re an average person, Moscow is awful. The average Muscovite is most likely to live in some grim outlying apartment complex, many of which were built during the Soviet era. That’s if they’re lucky. Many Russians live in Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, and Ufa.

Where's Omsk? Easy, comrade: it's 638 kilometers west of Novosibirsk, 1563 kilometers east of Chelyabinsk. You can't miss it. Even if you want to.

Charles C. W. Cooke is equally emphatic; key paragraph: Give Me Any American City over Moscow Any Day.

Carlson says that Moscow is “clean” and “safe.” When I was there, it was neither. Moscow has a chronic homeless problem — at night, you see people warming themselves by lighting fires inside discarded oil drums — and it is teeming with petty crime. I saw an old lady pushed down a flight of stone steps by a beggar, I saw a black teenager punched for no obvious reason (although we know why), and my father and I were mugged on that ornate subway that naive visitors always gush about. It is true that none of this would have happened to us if we’d been there to interview Vladmir Putin, but that’s rather the point, isn’t it? When you’re a guest of the government — especially of a totalitarian government — you’re treated to the full girlfriend experience.

And, did I mention Omsk? Jay Nordlinger mentions it too, in Political Pilgrims and Problems.

When Western Putinistas go to Russia, they usually go to Moscow or St. Petersburg — one of the two western cities. The two most European of all Russian cities. From 2017 to 2019, Karin Kneissl was the foreign minister of Austria. She worked in the populist-Right government of Sebastian Kurz. Now she’s working for Putin more directly. (Kurz works for Peter Thiel.) She lives in St. Petersburg.

Interesting she is not living in, say, Omsk.

You know who lives in Omsk? Vladimir Kara-Murza. He is a political prisoner. He is kept in isolation at IK-7, one of the harshest prisons in the Russian system.

You can read about Kara-Murza on Wikipedia. He's no Tucker Carlson.

Also of note:

  • There's still a couple weeks to go. But even so, Jeff Maurer goes out on a limb: I Don't Think it Really Matters How the New York Times Covers Trump and Biden in February.

    If any Democrat thinks that Biden’s age isn’t going to be talked about ad-nauseum, they should disillusion themselves of that fantasy right now. It will be talked about constantly. My people — late night comedy writers — will use “he’s old” as our go-to Biden reference, because it’s gettable and it’s true. And, sure: You can point out that Trump is also old (true), was never mentally fit for the presidency (right again!), and that his policy ineptitude is more troubling than his general incompetence (three for three!). That should be part of the conversation; I’ll be one of the people arguing that those concerns outweigh concerns about Biden’s age. But imagining that we’ll get through this campaign without voters thinking about Biden’s age is like imagining that you can raise a child to adulthood and have them still believe in Santa.

    A small subset of the country is peeing their pants in anticipation of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will kick of the IndyCar season on March 10. Those people are probably on Reddit boards right now debating the merits of the new hybrid powertrains and arguing about whether Josef Newgarden can return to top form. The remaining 99.7% of us don’t care. We might turn on the Indy 500 for a few laps in…May? July? Somewhere in there. For sure, the maximum amount of time we will spend thinking about IndyCar this year is roughly an hour. That’s how most swing voters experience politics. And that’s why I don’t think a few Times articles on a sure-to-be-covered issue nine months before the election really matter much at all.

    That's St. Petersburg, Florida, not Russia.

  • On the LFOD Watch. The Christian Science Monitor covers some relevant action up in scenic Littleton: A small town, public art, and the First Amendment.

    In front of the library on Main Street in this northern New Hampshire town is a bronze Pollyanna statue, smiling with her arms flung wide. Pollyanna’s carefree days may be numbered. If the residents of Littleton vote to limit public art, as one Board of Selectmen member has suggested, the statue will have to be removed. There’s no middle ground: Either all art or none would be allowed on government property.

    There’s no particular objection to Pollyanna herself. A few blocks away are the three paintings that sparked the debate over whether to limit public art. Tucked just off Main Street on the side of a building are three boarded-up windows – now painted with nature scenes. The project was sponsored by a local organization, North Country Pride. Fearing future art with overt LGBTQ+ themes, one member of the three-person select board raised objections to the painted panels late last summer, sparking a debate that has dragged on.

    The (inevitable) LFOD reference:

    Littleton, a town of about 6,000 people, has a vibrant Main Street with local businesses, a music festival in the summer, and skiing in the winter. Unlike that of many small towns, the population is growing younger. Most residents shake their heads at the suggestion of limiting public art, particularly in the “Live Free or Die” state. Some suggest the crux of the issue is really a newcomer-versus-old-guard clash.

    The "public art" point is probably valid, but it's worth mentioning that those folks up north can get pretty nasty about private art too. We talked about the travails of Leavitt’s Country Bakery in Conway last year, and (according to the Institute for Justice, the legal case there is "pending".

  • The University Near Here makes the College Fix. And they have a good summary: Amid $14 million in budget cuts, UNH closes art museum, keeps DEI administrators.

    As it grapples with slashing $14 million from its annual budget, the University of New Hampshire recently shuttered its Museum of Art and announced it’s laying off 75 faculty and staff members to balance the books.

    However the university has yet to publicly identify cuts into personnel dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion, which reportedly costs an estimated $1 million-plus in annual salaries.

    My impression is that there's a lot of discussion going on out of the public eye.