Dropping the Affect

by Joshua Foust on 5/16/2011 · 3 comments

I double dare you to make sense of this:

In spite of Tunisia and Egypt, those “happy” days of total power are still alive and kicking all across the world, from North Korea to Myanmar, from Saudi Arabia to Central Asia.

Early last month, Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev won another election by the Kim Jong-ilesque margin of 95.5 per cent of the vote. There was virtually no previous political debate, because – no irony involved – all three of his rivals wanted him to win.

Nazarbayev, 70, is in power in Kazakhstan since the country’s foundation in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Snow Leopard was not an Apple operating system in the first place; it’s how the Nazarbayev system has been selling Kazakhstan to the wider world. The idea is for the country to become an Asian tiger. There are no Kazakh tigers, but a few remaining snow leopards. Thus the Nazarbayev promise that, “by 2030, Kazakhstan will become the central Asian snow leopard”.

Now, confronted with the Great 2011 Arab Revolt, Nazarbayev said that what the snow leopard needs is “stability” above all. Translation: snow leopards don’t need to feel the scent of jasmine. Moreover, the prime leopard is virtually assured to die in his throne.

Maybe from the top?

  • It’s ridiculous to compare Kazakhstan’s political and social climate to Egypt and North Korea (just as its ridiculous to compare the genuine misery of those countries under tyrants with the general apathy under Nazarbayev).
  • Nazarbayev didn’t win a 95.5% margin in the election. That was the turnout. He won by a 91% margin. Sounds semantic, but getting basics is important if you’re making an argument like this.
  • Apple was marketing the Snow Leopard update to the tech community in 2008, and released it in August of 2009. Applying “snow leopard” to Kazakhstan, best I can tell, appears to be the work of Russian political scientist Yuriy Solozobov, not Nazarbayev. And in either case, it wasn’t until November of 2009—months after the Apple OSX release, and a year after Cupertino announced it—that Nazarbayev called 2010 the “year of the snow leopard.” That whole quippy point is just wrong.
  • Nazarbayev has been talking about stability long before he suddenly rescheduled the election for April on the last day in January. There’s no connection between his election machinations and the Arab Spring.

Good God and that’s just the first five paragraphs. In the title for his piece, Pepe Escobar refers to “Pipelineistan,” which is the rhetorical construct for his book and also insultingly stupid. His piece, which tries to imply that Kazakhstan is on the verge of a revolution just like Egypt’s but cannot muster a single shred of evidence to support it, instead spends most of its time meandering about oil wealth and Saudi Arabia and Nazarbayev’s many vanity monuments. In other words there is no point to this piece, only affect. How sad.

If the name Pepe Escobar sounds familiar, it might be because you remember his writing a piece for the Asia Times in August of 2001, where he said Osama bin Laden is a “minor character.” “The” Al Qaeda, as Escobar described it, was “split, and in tatters.”

Less than a month later, September 11 happened. So, maybe everyone should take his “analysis” with just a few grains of salt in the future, yes? And maybe Aljazeera English could hire a freaking copy editor to even briefly make sure his facts are straight.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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steve May 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm

copy editors don’t check facts. they correct spelling errors, etc. fact checkers correct facts, and one of the downsides of “old media” going the way of the dinosaur is the vanishing of fact-checkers. how many web news sources do you suppose employ more than one fact checker?

Paul May 17, 2011 at 7:44 am

Escobar is best seen as engaging in hyperbolic rhetoric appealing to those who see everything as a Western conspiracy, than writing proper journalism. To engage his “arguments” with facts is to miss the point. Facts don’t matter to populists.

adam-kesher May 20, 2011 at 2:02 am

This time the figures were as Pepe says, 95,5 for Nazarbayev, 91 turnout

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