You say you want a revolution, well you know, we all want to change the world…
What happened yesterday in Minsk? What happened? This is an interesting question. It was not like it was unexpected. In fact it was probably the most expected thing in the world. Milinkevich himself called for this protest over a week ago, calling through his bull horn that the revolution was to take place on the 25th and that everybody should come. And sure enough everybody came, especially those guys in blue with the shields, helmets and batons.
So the protest camp was wiped out last night and 200 people were arrested. The western news has portrayed the event as a massacre and about how Lukashenka and Belarus should be ashamed of itself for using such unmitigated force to suppress peaceful protestors simply trying to have their say. The Belarusian press responded by saying that these “idiots” in the tents were there saying something that was completely unnecessary and unwanted and even went so far as to try and prove with images taken from the protestors that they were drunks and sexual deviants and used the images of the protest for their own propaganda.
So really, what is the story here?
I had a friend visiting here during the elections and the protests named Mike Schwirtz. Mike Schwirtz is the author of the “Indolent Youth” blog. I helped Mike Schwirtz get out here through a travel agency. We got him his voucher, which was not any big deal. I mean, we did not help him come out to be a part of the elections; we got him his papers because he asked us to help get him his papers and he paid for the service. We met via e-mail as fellow bloggers and he called on the ad for Yad Yisroel’s Jewish Travel that you see at right.
I want to talk more about Mike Schwirtz and the episode of getting him out here, but I don’t think I am going to have time today to do this. But for sure I am going to write about it because aside from being yet another image from the Minsk protests, it is also funny as hell.
But in any respect Mike was there for the protests. He didn’t really come out to protest but rather to see them and to write about them and so he was there in the pits earlier in the week. I had some really good conversations about this week’s events with him and he had a very straightforward perspective on all of it and basically, it went something like this:
During the so-called orange revolution down in Ukraine, at the time of the vote a tent city was erected in their Freedom Square in Kiev. This emplacement was there to draw some media attention and to scream about their pro-western desires. This tent city protest had some effect on that election and therefore was seen as something to be expected to take place here by the Lukashenka regime for the Belarusian elections. We know this because both sides made a big deal of a large shipment of camping gear being pulled from a train by border police on the way to Minsk.
But in any case and all intentions aside, this Belarusian tent camp had nothing near the effect that that Kiev situation did. The reason for this is simple: Yushchenko, the eventual winner of the Ukrainian elections was actually elected by the people in Ukraine even without the tent protest. I mean Yushchenko won the vote the first time, the old school communists called for a re-vote, Yushchenko graciously said “Please, let’s do it again”, and he won again. This election was not due to the protests specifically. If they aided one or two percent, or even if they helped 5 percent, this is remarkable. But in any case, calling a simple election victory a revolution because the elections went to an opposition force is really a load of stinky, horse doo doo propaganda. It’s a bit showy, it’s talky and it is so far from reality that it amounts to an insult to the Ukrainian people- who by the way have not been happy with the results of said revolution.
But propaganda does sway and therefore this tent business was something that Lukashenka absolutely did not want. As we all know, the president shut down opposition media, he disallowed the candidates to have any real time to speak; he harassed them, made life difficult for them and arrested their people. All of this is the truth and everyone knows this.
However, this is NOT the same situation as it was in Ukraine. In Ukraine Yushchenko won the vote and here, Lukashenka not only won, but he won by an indecent amount, a ludicrous margin. Of course the west is claiming that the vote was rigged and that it was unfair. But I ask you: Can’t you see that the reality is that Lukashenka is wanted here by a great majority of Belarusians? There were OSCE observers at the polls, they saw everything and in the end their complaints were as empty as Bush’s IRS attack on the Belarusian president. They were minor in general; they did not claim to have seen large scale ballot stuffing, what they saw was that people came into the poling places and voted for Lukashenka. People walked into the poling booths, had the piece of paper with the names of the five candidates on them (four plus “none of the above”), and they voted for the president. And they did no in obscene numbers.
But now the western media is screaming about how all of this is wrong, it’s terrible, it’s rigged, etc AND THEN WE GO STRAIGHT TO THE CAMPS! There must be a “revolution”, there must be some imitation of Ukraine, right? Milinkevich in his ZUBR inspired blue “jeans” scarf and all is out there calling himself a populist and a friend of the people, he got a lot of press and a lot of respect in the west, but unfortunately in this case there were absolutely no grounds for this protest. There was nothing anywhere that said that this was necessary or that Milinkevich was every really wanted by Belarus in any real way. And in fact, during the whole week that they were out there in the tents, it wasn’t just Belarusian television that was calling them degenerates, alcoholics and using their images for state propaganda, the fact of the matter is that they simply drew no real support from the people of Belarus. People did not come and join them en mass, work did not stop, their numbers did not grow and basically they did nothing but make a lonely spectacle of themselves. This is exactly why Lukashenka let them stay out on the street, starving and cold for the week; they had nothing.
But in any case Milinkevich opened his mouth a week ago, he said that the revolution was going to be on the 25th, it was going to start here and the police said Ok, this is going to be the day that we take the field. And sure enough it was a rout, everyone got wiped out and the lot of them was taken in. They were wiped out like they were nothing. Everyone knew that they could be wiped out at any minute, and sure enough they were. End of story.
Is this really proof of the regime’s harshness? No, it is not. What this is proof of is that trying to sway a vote that is not in your favor is impossible. If you have a fifty-fifty vote, if you have 49-51 vote, even if you have a 45-55 vote, perhaps you might get a few people to change their minds and push things in the other direction. In those situations you can go out and protest saying how important this is, how emotional you are about this and how important it all is. BUT YOU ARE NOT GOING TO SWAY AN 82.6 TO 6 VOTE. This is not going to happen and to even try is to make people look like complete fools and this is how that street protest is being seen in Belarus.
And so in my opinion and acknowledging first hand reports from Mike Schwirtz, I think that the events from Minsk this last week did nothing but fulfill the west’s hunger for anti-dictator news. I do not think that they did anything for the country, and I must add that from someone who is at least an honorary Belarusian, what I wanted this week is what I am 100% sure that everyone or at least 82.6 percents of the people wanted after these last few months of stress from the elections, and that was to simply go back to work and let things return to normal. Please let this crap finally go past us and let’s return to more important things. Everybody has things to do, everyone is preparing for planting season, and everybody is busy getting started on their spring cleaning. This protest was nothing but a lot of empty noise, it was a waste of money and in the end, those guys in the tents got exactly what they wanted: They got their names in the paper and a criminal record in Belarus over a war they had lost before it even began.