Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 30, 2016

A useful concept

Sometimes an idea is tied to one place or one political culture. But there are times when the concept can be applied to many examples. That might explain why the phrase "Potemkin Village" appeared half a dozen times in the news this month.

Back in they day when Catherine the Great ruled Russia, her country seized Crimea (sound familiar?). In 1783, Catherine toured the newly acquired territory to see what it was like. She traveled on a riverboat and her general (and lover) Grigory Potemkin was in charge of arrangements.

The usual tale goes that along the banks of the river, General Potemkin had soldiers and peasants build false front houses and shops in front of peasant villages (to hide them). They recruited (rounded up?) local peasants and their livestock to populate the fake villages and welcome the Tsarina as she floated down the river. Therefore, she'd come away from her inspection with an image of a prosperous Crimea and an adoring population.

Even though the stories were exaggerated by General Potemkin's rivals and enemies, his name became solidly associated with deceptive presentations of desired, but unachieved accomplishments.

I have often suggested that the Soviet Union and later Russia were, in many ways, large scale Potemkin Villages. Claiming communism and democracy while achieving neither. These days academics and journalists label many things as Potemkin Villages. It's a useful concept. Watch for it.

How would you use this idea to describe China? Iran? Nigeria? Mexico? Russia? the UK?

War President Obama Sends More U.S. Troops to Iraq
President Obama ordered another 615 U.S. troops to Iraq Wednesday as the Middle Eastern nation’s army prepares to take Mosul back from ISIS…

The troop level is inadequate for the task, says Sebastian Gorka, the vice president and professor of Strategy and Irregular Warfare at the Institute of World Politics...

Right now, the U.S. talks of a coalition of 62 nations. Gorka flatly denied that.

"There is no 62-nation coalition," said Gorka. "Obama's coalition is a Potemkin village."…

No, Donald, the Fed Isn’t Manipulating the Economy for Political Gain
n Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump reiterated a charge he’s been making on the campaign trail: that Janet Yellen, the chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is manipulating the economy to make it look better than it is, to help get Hillary Clinton elected. Whether you agree with the Fed’s policies or not, it’s an accusation that is way off base and, when you think it through, doesn’t actually make much sense…

So the Fed is keeping interest rates low because the U.S. economy — faced with a weak global economy — isn’t as strong as we might expect or desire and is walking on fragile ground. One can debate whether ultra-low rates really make things better or worse, but that’s the rationale for its actions (or inaction). There is no Potemkin village here, just caution not to make a shaky situation worse. And if the Fed’s low rates actually are making a sluggish economy “better” than it otherwise would be — as Trump charges — well, that’s the whole point of monetary policy. No?…

NCTA Scraps Annual Cable Trade Show After 65 Years
It’s the end of an era for cable TV: The industry’s biggest trade group… said today that it will stop sponsoring INTX, the annual gathering that was a must-go for industry moguls for decades when it was known as the Cable Show.

“We are now exploring new and better ways to tell our story, to gather our community, to advance our growth and present our vision of the future,” CEO Michael Powell, the former FCC chairman, said in a blog post about the 65-year-old confab…

[T]he annual gathering began to look like a Potemkin village as cable matured and consolidated. With major decisions in the hands of two industry giants — Comcast and Charter — and most operators looking to cut channels, there was no need for a showcase for new programmers and technology makers who want a foothold in the business…

Colin Powell and the Potemkin election system
… The disastrous results of Colin Powell’s lies live on today as does the media’s white washing Powell’s legacy. The media has gleefully repeated Powell’s attacks on #Donald Trump calling him “a national disgrace” and an “international pariah.” America’s Potemkin village elections, constructed to give the appearance of democracy while protecting the politicians, will go on. The only uncertainty is whether the American people will continue to buy the lie.

How to Profit From the Folly of Donald Trump's Best Friend Vladimir Putin
… Russia is like a Potemkin village that's mostly facade with hollow substance, while Putin's macho posturing masks the inherent weaknesses of his misrule. Below, we show you how to profit from the day of reckoning. The best way to make money is to be a contrarian and see the story behind the story. And the Russian story right now is rotten to the core…

In Debate, Trump Showed America He’s a Sputtering, Incoherent Egomaniac
Perhaps if Trump ran publicly held companies, ones that are responsible to stockholders and relatively independent boards of directors, he would not have evolved into the enormously self-satisfied specimen he is. But for the most part, Trump holds all the power in his business empire – if indeed it is an empire, not a Potemkin village

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At 11:00 AM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Kevin Weekley who teaches at Grand Junction High School in Colorado found another example (that didn't show up in my web search) and asked rhetorically if I "wouldn’t want you to be accused of liberal bias now, would you?"

This comes from a blog, American Thinker, and was written by Arnold Cusmariu.

The Potemkin Village candidacy of Hillary Clinton

"So, all this dust being kicked up by the MSM amounts to a sort of Potemkin Village, the façade the Soviets developed back in the thirties to deceive outsiders into believing that life in the workers’ paradise was just grand. It should come as no surprise, of course, to see the Democrat Party borrowing from the Soviet propaganda tool chest.

"Will it work? It depends. The Trump campaign should counter by pointing out the obvious, again and again. Clinton is a total phony. There is no there there. It’s all smoke and mirrors. She’s being propped up by the machine known as the MSM, now aided and abetted by pollsters spinning their statistical wheels until the “right” answer is cooked up..."


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