Where Do They Find These People?

I’m sure it has something to do with fearing censorship or something like that, but I’m increasingly coming to the conclusion that major Op-Ed pages should probably employ some form of fact-checking or other scrutiny to what their columnists submit, and simply refuse to print them in the event of truly egregious error. The latest column from Anne Applebaum in, where else, the Washington Post, is one of the more obvious arguments in favor. It includes this truly jaw dropping “analysis:”

The Russian state’s open hostility toward not only Georgia but also Ukraine and the Baltic states is, in this sense, partly ideological. Genuine elections have taken place in those countries; people who have not been preselected by a ruling oligarchy do sometimes gain wealth or power. Georgia’s Rose Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution even involved street demonstrations that helped unseat more oligarchic regimes. Thus it is not pure nationalism, or mere traditional great-power arrogance, that makes the Russian leadership disdainful of Georgia and Ukraine: It is also, at some level, fear that similar voter revolutions could someday challenge Russia’s leaders, too.

The problem here is 2 fold; for startes there’s the obvious point that Applebaum is just spinning yarn about Putin’s motivation from whole cloth. There’s no particular reason to think Putin has a strong ideological disdain for democracy, he’s simply a powermonger. He wants to maximize his, and Russia’s, strategic leverage and that’s that. But secondly, there’s the factual matter that Georgia isn’t a particularly liberal democracy. In fact, other than varying levels of functionality in their technical democracies, there’s little cultural or ideological difference between Georgia and Russia, which should be pretty self-evident given their close proximity and interwoven history.

There’s no great ideological struggle here, it’s a territorial dispute involving problematic provinces, and any writer trying to puff it up as such is dangerously and irresponsibly blowing smoke to make themselves “sound smart.” Op-Ed pages really should crack down on this sort of thing, and demand more seriousness from people afforded the priviledge of their column space.