Pros and Kons

Illusions in the Motherland

March 22, 2010

While advertisements on behalf of British Columbia attempt to remind television viewers of the Vancouver Olympics, public attention has moved on. Though this may come at the disappointment of hockey-crazed Canadians, the faded spotlight could not come more quickly for Russia. But as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia will find it difficult to close the door on the glimpse Vancouver has provided of a fake superpower with an ego problem.

You can read about Russia’s resurgence each time Vladimir Putin makes a headline or a Russian billionaire purchases a sports team in the West. In the past year, I have debated the point with anyone who unwittingly mentions the apparent trend in my presence—from basketball fans to Harvard professors. I was most shaken by a discussion with the British journalist Alex Dryden a few months ago while interning for New York City’s National Public Radio station. While Dryden’s pseudo-fictional insights in "Red to Black" merit their own reading (know, at least, that Dryden uses a pseudonym to avoid prosecution by the Russian government), Dryden is just one of the more eloquent voices arguing that Russian authoritarianism never left the Kremlin.

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Haitian Aid, Don’t Fade Away

March 01, 2010

Quick to the tragic scene in Haiti this past January, Anderson Cooper, CNN’s go-to anchor for covering calamities, found himself overwhelmed. “We all know what’s going to happen in a week or two. People are just going to lose interest in this as a story. They’re going to stop watching.” Cooper, who uttered this aside to his companion for the earthquake’s coverage, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, spoke with a fatalism borne of long experience reporting on global disasters. Yet as Haiti’s reconstruction efforts continue, the world has a chance to prove Cooper wrong.

A month ago, donations for Haiti’s earthquake victims passed the half-billion-dollar mark, and many Americans continued that support through the Hope for Haiti telethon and coverage during major sports events featuring players of Haitian background, such as professional basketball games and the Super Bowl. According to a Pew Research Center poll on Feb. 3, two weeks after Cooper’s remark, Americans still followed ongoing efforts in Haiti more than any other news story, with no other issue receiving even half as many viewers. Now, the numbers tell a different story. Events in Haiti are now the fifth-most-followed topic—and even then the coverage is not about reconstruction, but instead about the controversy involving American missionaries.

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