Misappropriation of Decency and Valor

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4 Responses

  1. As somebody who spent time in a university Soviet Studies program only to have the Soviet Union collapse, I am glad to support a site that will keep alive the spirit of the resistance to Communist oppression. That struggle shouldn't just be trivia cluttering up my brain 20+ years later.

    If it sticks it to Brett Kimberlin a bit, so much the better.

  2. Mike says:

    We can surely all get on board with the idea that Brett Kimberlin's attempt to co-opt the Velvet Revolution is itself revolting.

    But the weirdly off-topic rant at the top of the OriginalVelvetRevolution page, about an (uncited) Boston Globe article on the future of MBTA congestion woes – it does make this other guy seem like a bit of a nut himself.

  3. Patrick says:

    I quite liked the train rant, but I suspect that one's reaction to it depends on whether one thinks it's important to make the trains run on time.

    It's probably for the best that you avoid that site.

  4. Andrew Roth says:

    The bloggers at the Original Velvet Revolution appear to be well-intentioned, but I'm afraid that they're cranks whose needlessly strident tone reduces their credibility and effect. It's really unfortunate.

    A blog explicitly devoted to Czech and Slovak history is frankly a stupid place for a rant about an American transit system, but these guys do worse than go off topic. Their claim that Kimberlin served a relatively short sentence in "relative comfort" in the federal prison system is technically true but specious and authoritarian. Wittingly or not, they're perpetuating the "Club Fed" urban legend, which verges on libel against federal prisoners.

    My reason for saying this is that every credible account I've seen describes federal prison conditions as austere and martial at best, so insisting that federal prisoners are coddled in "country club prisons" ignores the extraordinary temperament that federal prisoners need to survive in what sound like hellish conditions. This isn't to say that they're all fine chaps, but it's extremely dishonest to sanitize the conditions to which they have been subjected. This sort of specious misrepresentation plays right into the hands of the worst sort of authoritarians and prison slavers.

    In my opinion, advocating for harsher prison conditions in an already harsh system is particularly noxious when it is done in the name of anti-communist revolutionaries. The parallels between the US prison system and the Soviet Gulag aren't precise, but they exist and are legitimate to raise. For one thing, we have taken over from the former USSR as the world's greatest per capita jailer.

    It is shameful and evil to let American prisons off the hook just because they're less brutal than some foreign prison or other. Relativism is pernicious in prison oversight because it excuses all sorts of conditions and behaviors that are unconscionable to a civilized people. There are absolute standards that a civilized prison system must meet, and very few American prisons meet these standards. The differences aren't between the good and the bad, but between the bad and the worse, with sadly rare exceptions.

    This sort of relativistic sadism is one of the biggest obstacles to prison reform in the US. The public discourse is dominated by asshats who complain that the better run, more humane prisons in this country don't do enough to brutalize their inmates. This is how we end up with bitter complaints about inmate recreation facilities, the insinuation being that a foosball table is an opulent luxury, and jokes about prison rape.

    The one thing that the Original Velvet Revolution crew did right was to include a link to the ADX Florence Admissions and Orientation Booklet. Every American should read at least one A&O booklet in order to get a sense of actual conditions in our federal prisons.

    On the other hand, extolling ADX Florence in the name of Vaclav Havel and company is absurd. It would be hilarious if it weren't so appalling.