Eliot Borenstein: “The Saker and Unz Review”

File Image of Laptop Computer, Tables and Mobile Device, adapted from image at energy.gov

Subject: The Saker and Unz Review
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2021
From: Eliot Borenstein <eb7@nyu.edu>

Dear David,

As you know, I’ve been an avid reader of Johnson’s List for over two decades, and I really appreciate all that you do. But I continue to be puzzled by your editorial policy.

While I understand and applaud the desire to go beyond the American orthodoxies about Russian politics, I do wonder how you decide what is and what is not beyond the pale. Obviously, you cannot and do not publish every Russian-related piece that finds its way to your screen, or the list would be too long to be useful.

And I also see the value in publishing translations of the writings of extremists and xenophobes in the Russian media and blogosphere, since this helps get a better picture of what is actually going on.

But why provide another platform for English-language xenophobes who write about Russia?

In today’s list, you included excerpts from a piece by The Saker on the Biden administration. The Saker appears frequently in Johnson’s List, for reasons that I cannot fathom. Even in the excerpt, he makes a casual reference to the “AngloZionists.’ Who are the AngloZionists? This is not an antisemitic dogwhistle, it’s an antisemitic cowbell. I am not arguing that criticizing Zionism is tantamount to antisemitism. To be clear: I have no interest in defending Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government nor do I feel that BDS is a trojan horse for antisemitism. But the Saker’s constant invocation of Zionism to characterize the sinister forces of Western liberalism and globalization is nothing new, and it has nothing to do with Zionism as such.

What it does have to do with is made clear in the larger article from which you published excerpts. At one point, he writes: “the Biden Admin is a “who’s who” of Jewish and Ukrainian extremists (some combo!).” This is a typical move by the Saker, to point out the presence of Jews as a sign of something sinister going on. Moreover, this article is published on the Unz Review (https://www.unz.com/tsaker/with-biden-in-the-white-house-the-kremlin-now-needs-to-change-gear), a website that has a whole section devoted to defending the white race from Black people and exposing the evil plots of Jews. In this particular article’s comments section, the main argument is about whether or not the Saker is going too easy on the Jews who are ruining the world. Of course, the Saker is not responsible for the comments section, but this is the ecosystem in which he thrives. Removing the reference to the Jews in this particular post makes his article less offensive, which is actually misleading, and a disservice to the readers.

So why reprint him? Is it just because he writes about Russia? I’m sure The Daily Stormer has posts about Russia, too — why not include them?


Eliot Borenstein
Collegiate Professor
Senior Academic Convenor for the Global Network
Professor, Russian & Slavic Studies
New York University