In US, headlines write themselves: Cold War imagery resurrected in Sochi bashing

by 1389 on February 13, 2014

in 1389 (blog admin), Cold War, mainstream media, Russia

I applaud the artful twist on the ‘In Soviet Russia’ meme, capturing the fact that the US is still fighting the Cold War – but now on the side of Communism.

RT has the story:

1980 and 2014 magazine covers, both with menacing Russian bear caricatures

The campaign to boycott the Sochi Olympic Games in the Western media appears to be thriving on almost the same imagery was used three decades ago, at the peak of the Cold War, to project fears of the USSR ahead of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

For months leading up to the biggest sport event of the year widespread calls to boycott the 2014 Sochi Olympics saturated the Western media and social networks.

With numerous online and offline boycotts, protests and petitions around the world it led to a number of world’s leaders not attending the opening ceremony of Sochi Olympic Games. Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and David Cameron chose to ignore the festivities, a move criticized by Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee.

Sports should not be “used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests,” Bach said at the games’ opening, praising those world leaders who did visit the ceremony.

The Sochi 2014 Olympics have become a catalyst for anyone dissatisfied with Russia’s internal or external policies to exercise their wittiness with sharp caricatures, overblowing certain problems to catastrophic proportions.

In such a manner, legislation that outlaws propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors has been presented to the international community as a full-scale crackdown on the gay community in a potentially dangerous place for Olympic Games visitors.

The only gay bar in Sochi was eventually “mobbed by foreign journalists eager to capture how the local gays live now that Russia… is internationally known for hating gays,” New Republic wrote. Having interviewed several people inside the bar the author of the article came to the conclusion that “the only people who bother them, it seemed, were the foreign journalists.”

1980 and 2014 illustrations, both with handcuffs

Andrew Craig, author of several books on news coverage in America, sees nothing surprising in the way foreign correspondents have been desperately seeking persecuted Russian gays.

That’s a classic case that happens all over the place when reporters think they know what the story is and all they are trying to do is to find someone to attach a name and a face to a story that’s almost written in a reporter’s or editor’s head,” Craig told RT.

However, the LGBT theme has become pretty much the only fresh idea in the Olympics-bashing campaign, while most of the others seem to be based on Cold War era stereotypes. Handcuffs, barbed wire and malicious-looking bears have migrated from the magazine covers of 34 years ago to those of 2014.

EU 2014 boycott poster with Russian helicopter; Newsweek 1980 cover with Soviet tank

Western phobia of Moscow’s military might was prevalent in 1980’s, when it was inspired by the USSR’s presence in Afghanistan. And the same phobia seems to still exist in the 21st century, despite Russia not being engaged in any military conflict.

Meanwhile, the US is currently engaged in military conflict in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but there are no calls to exclude the US from participating in or hosting the Olympics or any other athletic events on that account.

Double standard much?

2014 poster with Sochi cops frisking torch bearer; 1980 poster with Brezhnev showing Sakharov handcuffed in the background

The fall of the Berlin Wall has left the world without a major symbol of totalitarian oppression. The substitute, however, seems to have been found in the image of the Kremlin wall.

2014 boycott poster with wall of the Kremlin; 1980 boycott poster with what appears to be the Berlin Wall

Another idea, that’s not particularly fresh is drawing parallels between the Nazi Germany, the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. This is nothing short of an insult for millions of Russians whose grandparents sacrificed their lives to battle fascism.

Gay boycott poster from 2014 and anarchist boycott poster from 1980, both showing swastikas

Barb-wired Olympic rings have dominated caricatures both in the past and present. In the Soviet Union it was used as an effective tool to call attention to a relative lack of freedoms in the ‘totalitarian Soviet system’. For the new Russia, it has been mostly used to signify the increased security measures implemented for the safety of the Games’ athletes and visitors.

French 1980 Olympics boycott poster with jackbooted Misha the Bear mascot

Olympic rings in the form of handcuffs have, in both 1980 and 2014, been used to symbolize the lack of human rights in the USSR and modern-day Russia.

Even Russians who are critical of the government have found this old-school smear campaign upsetting and irritating. A collection of old magazine covers has recently appeared in a Global Identification blog, prompting an outpouring of negative comments.

These are familiar themes both to the public but also to the owners and also many of the old-time reporters,” Andrew Craig told RT. “So people fall into a comfortable pattern that actually extends back many decades. People just took the old magazine covers and said ‘Let’s just update it for this Olympics.’”

The 1980 Games’ boycott was of course nothing enjoyable. In the long run, however, it’s been mostly forgotten inside Russia, which cherishes the warmest memories of the first Olympics it hosted.

Video here.

John Meinhold has a response:

Sports should not be “used as a stage for political dissent or for trying to score points in internal or external political contests.” —Thomas Bach (President, International Olympic Committee)

Dear Sir:

As a US citizen and military veteran I want to say I am ashamed of the relentless and disgusting bashing that has taken place in recent weeks in the press over the Sochi Games, and, in particular, the nastiness directed at the Russian people.

There is a significant paradox that has not been noted. President Jimmy Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But, how ironic that the United States later on, also invaded Afghanistan, and is still waging war there! Why did the International Olympic Committee not debate whether the US should be allowed to attend the Sochi Games while they are waging war in Afghanistan?

Is there international double standards? As the old adage goes: “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.”

Incidentally, my late father was rescued by Russian forces during World War II after his B-24 bomber was shot down over Hungary. This American knows the brave history of Russia (30 million killed in WWII) and our mutual struggle and victory over fascism. I hope you will think about this while you read the following article.

My prayers are with Russia.

John Meinhold, OD

(former USAF Major and son of CMSgt Robert Meinhold (MIA in 1945, awarded Presidential Unit Citation and 5 Air Medals)

Also see:

  • Breitbart: The Failed Carter Boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics
    My own comment on that article: “Zbigniew Brzezinski wasn’t a hater of communism per se – he was and is a hater of Slavic Orthodox Christianity in Russia, Serbia, and elsewhere. He is a blight on the face of the world.”

    If Brzezinski truly hated communism, he would be resisting its current rise in the US.

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