Guess who wrote this:
While there are no Starbucks or Crate and Barrels in Baku, the city’s 2-million-plus residents experience a life radically more American than Saudi. Soviet aesthetics and mannerisms still dominate, yet materialism rears its Bulgari-ed head.
“Tropic Thunder” and “Hellboy II” play in the local multiplex down the promenade from Cafe Mozart, where foreigners and natives take in ample beer, cappuccino and Wi-Fi to the wee hours. Unfinished high-rises punctuate Baku’s dusty skyline, while Mercedes and Range Rovers compete with Russian Ladas on her hilly roads.
The smell of oil is in the air.
This is Andrew Brietbart, writing in The Washington Times. His report is remarkable for reasons beyond this excerpt, which is noteworthy for it’s sheer generic-ness (that could describe almost any city in the West… even some in Saudi Arabia). No, it’s remarkable because of the sheer number of admissions of ignorance:
- “Early last Monday, I landed in the capital city of Baku knowing little more than the country’s Wikipedia entry.” (He then proceeds to paraphrase that Wikipedia entry.)
- “I soon joined forces with one Dutch and seven American journalists on a “fact-finding” trip sponsored by the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy.”
- “(Should I know something about Nagorno-Karabakh? I recall similar ugly pangs in the ’90s as Bosnia-Herzegovina began to become an American problem. I was actually relieved they got my name wrong.)”
- “Independent war correspondent Michael J. Totten and National Review’s Rob Long joined me one night in a discussion on an hourlong news program. The topic? Nagorno-Karabakh. Out of necessity, we changed the subject to journalism.”
- “Azerbaijan is an under-praised ally of the United States, having granted the U.S. military access to Iraq via its vital airspace, and it has 150 troops assisting coalition forces guarding the Haditha Dam.” (Look at an actual map from, say, that Wikipedia page, and you’ll see you’d have to fly over Iran to get there.)
- “Every time I was given more information, I felt less informed.”
And why bother doing any research at all about a place before you go? This amounts to, “Baku is wealthy, Azerbaijan has oil, and my hosts told me a lot about their country.” And he got paid to write this dreck (in the Washington Times, but still). And Michael Totten links to it! If this is all Totten’s reporting amounts to, I am going to seriously reconsider my respect for him.