I love it when the adults show up and demand some accountability from the young punks at Registan. That doesn't happen very often -- almost never, as far as I can see from some of the archives -- but when it does, it sure is appreciated. Michael Hancock-Parmer's colleague (supervisor?) from the University of Indiana showed up to comment on his long post on Zhanaozen.
Before that, the conversation had deteriorated to some anonymous bird asking whether Joshua Foust or MHP worked for Chevron -- those sort of gotchas are never the point about these people. They need always and everywhere to be debated purely on the merits and not on the suspicions of what or whom is backing them. That is, it's good if people take a whack at those murky backgrounds sometimes, but it is generally a lose/lose. It's much better to call out the lapses in knowledge, the wrong claims of facts, the tendentious and specious argument-mongering, the protectivist tap-dancing around regimes and so on.
Prof. Anderson basically scores MHP for dragging their university into drama (that's what you get if you tangle not only with The Exiled but Registan); for writing a long and poorly constructed post; for being snarky to people in the comments; and for possibly having only the selfish and emotional motive of only helping his friend Foust -- oh, and not making clear what is real vested interest might be in Foust.
It's too bad she didn't get to the substance of the argument, but fortunately, another poster before her, "Minty," got right to the point, on something I hadn't really thought about -- and that's the put-down implied in lumping Elena Kostyuchenko together with the notion of "Odna Baba Skazala," implying she was just jotting down the rumour mill. To some extent I dealt with this in my long parsing of his awful post, but I'm glad she brought it up.
The fact is, the expression -- which I've heard for 30 years or more -- isn't only in the form Одна Бабка Сказала. It can be Одна Баба Сказала as well -- both are present in the Russian lexicon. Just Google either and you'll easily prove this (as it is spoken in Russia; it is spoken in Russian in other post-Soviet republics, too but maybe takes different forms). This phrase is not a context that means "broad" ("whore" is going too far for "Baba" in any event); it's a context more leaning towards "granny" whether "Baba" or "Babka" is used. Don't forget that in provincial colloquial Russian, it's common to say "Baba Volya" for "Grandmother Volya," not necessarily "Babushka" and never "Babka". So the commenters are right: this is not "some woman said" but a folkoric representation of the rumour mill.
Furthermore, OBS (it's sometimes jokingly referred to by just those initials as if it is a radio station, like VOA) does *not* mean newspapers, it's the grapevine. It's the babushki talking to each other in the courtyards, it's the rumour mill. For him to compare the work of an investigative journalist from an independent highly reputable newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, to Odna Baba Skazala is not only insulting, it's ignorant. Nobody uses it in that fashion.
Only somebody tendentiously and maliciously trying to take down a reporter in order to protect an official version of events would do that. Or, if we are to believe it, only someone emotionally going to any lengths merely to defend his friend, who in turn was protective of the Nazarbayev narrative, and was called out on it by Mark Ames. There's just no way you can characterize the news-gathering and rendering of Korkel's story by Elena as OBS. It's wrong. Not with the efforts she went to sort through different narratives, and not with the thorough level of detail she supplied.
On social media when these pretendious academics show up and question basic ordinary news-writing and news-gathering functions, they only make themselves look stupid. Their science here looks like faux science or sciencism -- they really lose sight of the forest of the trees. This may be anecdotal but I really see an increasing problem -- as we saw from Dr. Katy Pearson today on Twitter -- of sciencism from people like these annoying academics on Registan in rejecting ordinary levels of news and news meaning, and insisting on a deep "scientific" subtext to every communication or unit of knowledge -- utterly distorting basic sense in the process.
I'll reiterate here the crucial translation errors I found in MHP's piece -- it really does change the meaning if you describe Kokel as someone pushing through a crowd, and pushing against the falling wounded, and being such in the thick of things that a dead person toppled at her feet (the wrong translation) and as I corrected it, hanging back (she had a child with her, but they had uncertainly started in the direction of the child's mother; she was marching in some kind of line ahead of them with striking workers), and seeing how people dragged the wounded back to the rear of the event, and lay the dead bodies at her feet -- very different feel.
Blogging doesn't necessarily communicate a story or help improve writing. If anything, I know famous published writers who swear that their abstention from Facebook and Twitter is what makes them great writers.
I personally am not interested in being in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Somebody else can do that. I personally am much more interested in *thinking and discussing with others to come to some comprehension* and I think with the explosion of information and connections in our time, whataever academia offers, social media discussions are really the only way of comprehending the firehose of news.
I don't mind if MHP's writing is baggy and unfocused and raggedy. I do mind, however, if he deliberately hides the main point of the story: that an investigative journalist found a knowledgeable witness that she decided was credible. No, worse than hides it, impugns it merely out of spite and spleen, merely because that's the same point that frankly Mark Ames made, although he was a total ass in making it, and got it wrong as far as conflating Elena's source Kokel with Elena as a reporter.