FYI - past nominees have included "the Syrian solider" (2013), "the Russian solider" (2014), "the Russian Airmen in Syria, Major-General Qasem Soleimani and Alexander Zakharchenko" (2015), "the American basket of deplorables" (2016) and "all those who gave their lives for Syria" (2017).
(Now please pretend like you hear a dramatic drum-roll.....)
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2018 "Saker man of the year" award jointly goes to: (in alphabetical order)
The American "Dissidents": Stephen Cohen, Bonnie Faulkner, Paul Craig Roberts and Ron Unz
Here are the reasons for my choice:
For all the empty talk about freedom of speech, diversity, pluralism and the like, the sad truth is that the USA is not a democracy, but a rather authoritarian plutocracy with strongly expressed elements of a totalitarian regime. True, nobody (that I know of) got sent to a labor camp (yet!) or shot in a cellar (yet!) for daring to speak up to power, but we must also remember the joke which says that "a totalitarian regime is one that commands you to 'shut up!' whereas a liberal democracy simply says 'keep talking!'." There is much truth to this. As an experienced anti-Soviet activist who opposed and fought against the Soviet regime, I can attest that it was much less effective at stifling dissent than the US regime. Furthermore, I am also sure that the Soviet regime had far more popular support than the current US plutocracy.
[Sidebar: it is important to note here that with a few very important, and now sadly forgotten, exceptions (such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Igor Ogurtsov, Leonid Borodin and a few others), the vast majority of the so-called "Soviet dissidents" were not Russian patriots at all and many of them were, in fact, rabid russophobes. Furthermore, both the West and the Soviet regime treated the Russian patriotic opponents (they should not be called or associated with "dissidents") much worse than the russophobes. In the West, Russian patriots were called "authoritarian monarchists" and, of course, "anti-Semites" while the pro-West dissidents were given full support on Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, the BBC Russian Service and the rest of the western propaganda outlets. As for the Soviet regime, it is also interesting to see how it differentiated between patriotic opponents and the pro-western, russophobic, "dissidents": the former typically got harsh sentences under Article 70 of the Penal Code of the RSFSR (Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda - 3 to 10 years) whereas the latter typically got sentenced under the much more lenient Article 190 (Distribution of knowingly false fabrications, discrediting the Soviet state and social system - up to 3 years). Finally, a lot of money was given to the russophobes, while the anti-Soviet patriots could only count on the help of the rather small patriotic Russian anti-Soviet resistance inside the USSR and abroad (including yours truly). It is even sadder that nowadays in Russia the Russian patriotic anti-Soviet opponents are either forgotten or, worse, assimilated to the russophobes by people who have never read much of Solzhenitsym or Ogurtsov or Borodin, but who categorically state that "show me an anti-Soviet activist and I will show you a russophobe" (which, by that definition, would also include me...). I understand that this is the inevitable "return of the historical pendulum" after decades when the anti-Soviet propaganda vastly exaggerated the evils of the Soviet regime (whose evils were very real, but not nearly as immense and evil as mistakenly accepted by the anti-Soviet activists, very much including myself, to my great regret). Right now the pendulum is way too far out towards quasi total whitewashing the evils and crimes of the Soviet regime, but with time it will reach some kind of fact-based equilibrium, at which point the anti-Soviet patriotic opponents will be recognized for what they really were and not lumped together with the russophobic dissidents]The truth is that the level of education, including political education, was FAR HIGHER in the USSR than today in the USA and that the Soviet propaganda machine was (comparatively) rather benign and wholly ineffective and clumsy when compared to the multi-billion dollar AngloZionist propaganda machine of the Empire. The Soviet official ideology, by the way, was much more pluralistic and the Soviet media much more diverse than the western corporate media (I know, I used to read both for a living for a few years). So, as a result, while western dissidents don't get physically oppressed (at least not yet!!) their struggle is, in some ways, much harder and a much more lonely one. We can see that in the life of my four nominees (again, in alphabetical order):
Professor Stephen Cohen
Already during the Cold War, Professor Cohen was a (then recognized and hailed) world class expert on the Soviet Union and a respected voice of reason. The liberals especially loved him for his views. When Putin came to power, however, Stephen Cohen did not fall into the russophobic trap of the US liberals and he dared to speak up openly, taking a position diametrically opposed to that of many of his (now former) supporters. For that he was vilified, copiously insulted, and called stuff like "Putin's American Apologist", "Putin's Pal", a "Desperate Putin Apologist", and even a "Pathetic Putin Dupe"! This goes to show that while the English language does not yet (yet!) have the equivalent of the "wonderful" German expression "Putinversteher", the level of intellectual intolerance of the US liberals is just as rabid as the one of their German colleagues. The exact same phenomenon happened with Alexander Solzhenitsyn who initially was the West's darling for criticizing the Soviet regime, but as soon as his critique turned to the West, he was immediately shunned and vilified (by the exact same folks who are now smearing and vilifying Professor Cohen, by the way).
Bonnie has been a hero of mine for many years already. Her show Guns and Butter was one of the most interesting and original radio shows ever and for a lone while it was truly the flagship of the Pacifica Public Radio Networks. Bonnie, one of the very best interviewers of our times, regularly invited fascinating and unique guests and conducted wonderful, open-ended, and absolutely fascinating interviews with them. Then Bonnie committed her first "crime": she dared to doubt the official 9/11 fairy tale. This *almost* got her banned the first time around. Then Bonnie did something even "worse" - she did not buy into the entire official "Putin is a monster" cum "the Russians did it" fairly tale. Even worse, crime of crimes, Bonnie has now been officially labeled a "Holocaust denier" by KPFA General Manager. For all these "crimes" her show was simply terminated (until Ron Unz decided to host it on the Unz Review!). The most sickening part of it all is that Bonnie got censored by those who desperately try to impersonate some kind of "progressive" movement whereas in reality they are just your garden variety intolerant russophobic Trotskyists hiding under a new cloak of pseudo-liberalism.
Paul Craig Roberts
Yet another story of a "fall from grace" - this time from the conservative Right who used to admire Roberts for his conservative values until he too dared to challenge the official narrative about Putin and Russia and, instead, denounced every step taken by the leaders of the Empire which bring our planet closer to a global nuclear war. Like Cassandra, Roberts has been an indefatigable voice in the (quasi total) "desert" warning us of the immense danger which is facing us all as a result of the sick messianic and imperialist ideology of the leaders of the AngloZionist Empire. For that he has been ridiculed and insulted, but none of that hateful ad hominem propaganda has succeeded in silencing him. Roberts clearly fears nobody and his voice remains one of the most powerful ones in our peace movement.
Ron Unz's struggle for the future of the USA (because that is exactly what this is) is not as centered on Russia as Stephen Cohen's or Paul Craig Roberts' one, but like Bonnie Faulkner Ron Unz dedicated his talent and life to preserving true, as opposed to fictional, free speech in the USA. The Unz Review has now become the de-facto leader of free speech in the USA hosting a who's who of political dissidents, opponents of the Empire and assorted "crimethinkers" (including yours truly) and a very wide spectrum of anti-Empire views ranging from paleo-libertarians (like Ilana Mercer), to what I would call a paleo-progressives (like Michael Hudson), to paleo-conservatives like (Pat Buchanan) to anti-Zionists (like Norman Finkelstein) and many, many, others. Not only that, but Ron has embarked on an amazingly courageous and most interesting series of articles entitled "American Pravda" in which Ron Unz exposed more sacred cows and unspoken taboos than any other public figure in recent memory. I highly recommend that you read every single one of these amazing texts and see for yourself how intellectual honesty and courage can be combined to achieve what I think will be recognized as a truly historical feat for intellectual freedom.
Better than just dissidents: "children of God"!
Stephen Cohen, Bonnie Faulkner, Paul Craig Roberts and Ron Unz are all true heroes whose struggles all have one thing in common: they are all struggles for peace. Thus, the words of Christ "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt 5:9) fully apply to them all. They are also shining examples of what I call "the other West", a West which far from constantly binging on messianic hubris (like the all the "official" intellectuals across the political spectrum do), seeks to make the USA a normal, healthy, sane country in which intellectual freedom and freedom of speech are not just vapid slogans. Cohen, Faulkner, Roberts and Unz do not necessarily share the same views, and neither do I necessarily always agree with everything they might say, but that commonality of purpose, their common desire to achieve true freedom through peace and their immense personal courage is what, I think, unites them and makes them ideal models and examples of a much larger, if hidden, reality: there are a lot of people who struggle for freedom and peace in the USA and elsewhere. The four that are selected are all shining examples of this "other West", but they are also the trip of a much bigger iceberg of resistance to empire, beginning with the beautiful 9/11 Truth movement but also many, many other "resisters" (I think of Ron Paul, Chris Hedges and even, possibly, Tulsi Gabbard).
Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Even in our post-Christian world (which actually looks very much like Sodom and Gomorrah did), most of us probably remember how Abraham begged God not to destroy the righteous with the wicked (Gen 18:23). Cohen, Faulkner, Roberts and Unz are very good examples of the kind of righteous people for the sake of which we can hope that God will spare the West, and the rest of the world, from destruction (which is where the Neocons are going to bring us unless we stop them). Cohen and Roberts are rather well known in the Runet (Russian Internet), Faulkner and Unz less so, but I hope that with time they will all be remembered and recognized as people who did not just look away or remain silent, but who followed their conscience and took action.
I want to conclude here with a beautiful poem written by Bobby Sands which, I think, applies to all those today whose righteousness and courage might well earn us God's mercy.
There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.
It was born when time did not exist,
And it grew up out of life,
It cut down evil's strangling vines,
Like a slashing searing knife.
It lit fires when fires were not,
And burnt the mind of man,
Tempering leadened hearts to steel,
From the time that time began.
It wept by the waters of Babylon,
And when all men were a loss,
It screeched in writhing agony,
And it hung bleeding from the Cross.
It died in Rome by lion and sword,
And in defiant cruel array,
When the deathly word was 'Spartacus'
Along the Appian Way.
It marched with Wat the Tyler's poor,
And frightened lord and king,
And it was emblazoned in their deathly stare,
As e'er a living thing.
It smiled in holy innocence,
Before conquistadors of old,
So meek and tame and unaware,
Of the deathly power of gold.
It burst forth through pitiful Paris streets,
And stormed the old Bastille,
And marched upon the serpent's head,
And crushed it 'neath its heel.
It died in blood on Buffalo Plains,
And starved by moons of rain,
Its heart was buried in Wounded Knee,
But it will come to rise again.
It screamed aloud by Kerry lakes,
As it was knelt upon the ground,
And it died in great defiance,
As they coldly shot it down.
It is found in every light of hope,
It knows no bounds nor space
It has risen in red and black and white,
It is there in every race.
It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants' eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high,
It comes searing 'cross the skies.
It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is 'the undauntable thought', my friend,
That thought that says 'I'm right!'
poem by Bobby Sands (1954-1981)