Insolent, Arrogant, Incompetent, Awesome

Perhaps something was lost in translation. Or maybe Russian journalists are simply accustomed to telling people what they really think of them so long as said people are (a) not Vladimir Putin and (b) located somewhere on the other side of the earth. There’s no doubt about it – our Prime Minister has been comprehensively slagged off. In Cyrillic script, no less.

Perhaps something was lost in translation.  Or maybe Russian journalists are simply accustomed to telling people what they really think of them so long as said people are (a) not Vladimir Putin and (b) located somewhere on the other side of the earth.  There’s no doubt about it – our Prime Minister has been comprehensively slagged off.  In Cyrillic script, no less.

Mr. Abbott was accused by Russian newspaper Pravda of ‘insolence, arrogance and incompetence’.  It’s heady stuff.  Some nations might go completely berserk in response to so energetic an attempt to disparage their leader.  Not Australia.  Even the most cursory glance at online comments showed many people were either falling over themselves to agree or were concerned that Pravda didn’t go quite far enough.  It’s as if people assumed that news of the planned seven dollar Medicare co-payment had finally reached the Kremlin and that this was the inevitable denouncement.  If we didn’t previously confuse Russia, our response to their transcontinental sledging has guaranteed their on-going befuddlement.

We’re strange in that respect.  The right to give our elected officials absolute hell is dear to us.  Indeed, lampooning politicians is something of a national sport – it would be unpatriotic not to.  We have the absolute freedom to needle anyone in public office.  We’re lucky in that regard.  In Russia, however, that kind of carry on can earn you a permanent holiday in a Siberian Gulag or the ultimate short straw of being Vladimir Putin’s horse.  (It’s a little known fact that the Russian oligarch’s favourite quadruped is a former dissident journalist dressed as a horse.  Google the footage.  That’s why the horse has a mullet.)  Pity the folks in the Russian newspaper industry – they probably think they’ve struck a chord.  How wrong they are.  Fact is, our freedom to criticize the living bejesus out of anyone we like is lost on the folks at Pravda.  Maybe this experience will teach them something about us.

However, the lessons arising from this fiasco are not confined to the Northern hemisphere.  To anyone who heard Pravda’s slurs and thought about grabbing the nearest virtual pitchfork and joining in, dig a little deeper.  Not content with merely giving Mr. Abbott a whack, Pravda went further.  Much further.  In fact, the same editorial went on to accuse all of us of having a ‘colonial chip’ on our collective shoulder.  Fair enough, I suppose.  It also referred to NATO as a terrorist organization.  So far, so weird.  Even if that outlandish claim garnered only a general shrug of the shoulders, it was then that Pravda really went for broke.  According to Russia’s leading daily newspaper and premier greyhound racing form guide, we like to ‘crawl up the anatomy’ of our American friends.  That is, if we aren’t already too busy sucking up to our colonial masters in England.  That, dear Pravda, is a bridge too far.  In fact, the words of a former PM spring to mind: fair suck of the sauce bottle.

Now it’s clear to me.  They’re not just having a crack at our Prime Minister.  They’re having a red hot go at all of us.  Suddenly a shirt front doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.  Sure, there’s an awkward touch of, ‘You. Me. Carpark. Now’ about it.  But sometimes you’ve got to make a point.  So while Tony Abbott is sizing up his Russian counterpart, I’d like to say a few things to Pravda.

First of all, no one should attack our elected officials except us.  It’s one thing for those of us who live here to tip a bucket on our Prime Minister, but it’s an egregious violation of our sovereign right to sink the slipper when foreign newspapers start to get in on the act.  In fact, it’s a blatant attempt to cut our national lunch and I, for one, won’t stand for it.  If I want to refer to Mr. Abbott as a coconut husk with a pair of ears tied on, it’s my right as an Australian to do so.  Pravda, on the other hand, should back off.

It’s also worth remembering how this thing got started.  In an interview with ABC, the Prime Minister dared suggest that Russia should co-operate with the MH17 investigation.  There are plenty of times when our officials cause us to be embarrassed.  It’s part of the job description.  But not this time.  This time he was, as it happens, speaking for all of us. 

We have another great tradition.  Whenever someone calls us names, we adopt those insults and wear them as badges of honour.  We should proudly claim Pravda’s slings and arrows as our own.  So yes, we’re insolent.  Yes, we’re arrogant.  And YES, we’re incompetent (although you try assembling a flat-pack bookcase with nothing but pictures for instructions and an ‘Allan key’ as see how you get on).

Maybe I’m upset over nothing.  After all, it’s Pravda.  I can always cancel my subscription.  If we’d been attacked by the Australian Women’s Weekly or even Best Bets, that would be a worry.  But Pravda?  I don’t think so.  According to the Internet, which is always right about these things, Pravda is the mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin.  I, for one, am relieved.  Now that his mouthpiece has been located, it can’t be too long before they find his shirt.  Here’s hoping.

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