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Hate Russia or Move to Siberia!

The childish "debate" about Russia

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Well, if Russia is so great, why don't you go and live there?

This is a question that will be thrown your way sooner or later (probably sooner) if you say or write anything about Russia which doesn't make all 17 million square kilometers of the place sound like Mordor.

<figcaption>Two options: 1. Hate Russia 2. Move to Russia. Pick one!</figcaption>
Two options: 1. Hate Russia 2. Move to Russia. Pick one!

In fact, after the ubiquitous "How much is Putin paying you to write that?" it's probably the second-most common go-to question from the mindlessly obedient anti-Russia crowd.

I see it popping up rather frequently in comment sections under articles relating to Russia or Ukraine. Somebody makes a point in Russia's defense and an intellectually lacking commenter will come along and throw it out:

Well if Russia's so great, why don't you go and live there?

They usually -- not always -- but usually, follow it up with something like this:

Yeah, see, I didn't think so!

It doesn't even necessarily have to be a wholehearted endorsement of Putin and his policies for this response to be elicited. It could just be something even mildly skeptical of Washington's policies that unleashes upon you a tirade of advice about where you should be making your home.

This kind of simplistic argument fails on a few different levels.

Firstly, it's just flawed reasoning. This commenter's logic is telling them that if the person who is defending Russia's position either doesn't live there or doesn't particularly want to live there, then that automatically voids everything that person has to say. Their logic is telling them: well, if this person won't go to live there, then clearly he is tacitly admitting that the place is an uninhabitable hellhole.

The logic is flawed because in the real world, beyond the cesspit of humanity that is the comments sections on so many websites, it's entirely possible and reasonable to support one country's policies over another country's without actually wanting to pack up your things to go and live there. For example, one could abhor Washington's policy on Cuba, but still understandably prefer to live in the United States.

Responding to that political position with well if Cuba is so great, why don't you go and live in Havana then...would rightly be recognized by most people as a weak and empty argument that brings nothing of substance to the debate and appeals only to the lowest common denominator.

There is also an implied assumption in the question, that the person defending Russia's stance doesn't already or never would live there, when in reality, that could be far from the case.

Further, there are myriad reasons why a person would choose to live in say, the United States over Russia, or vice versa. And mostly, those reasons have very little to do with politics.

The best response I've seen to this useless question is on this comment thread. The why don't you go live there bomb was thrown, and another commenter returned fire with this:

Stupid argument, I would rather live in Tel Aviv than Gaza, doesn’t mean I support Israel over Palestine.

The purpose of including the above comment for comparison is clearly not to draw a parallel between living in Russia and living in Gaza. It's simply to point out the absolute absurdity of using this where would you rather live question in geopolitical debates.

And yet it's always possible to detect a certain smugness from those who attempt to do it. It's almost as if they gleefully believe they've found the trump card first: Ha, see, didn't think so! *debate over*

In reality, though, it's an argument that is only ever used by those with nothing more substantial to add to the conversation.

Russia's case in particular is interesting, because unlike, say, Gaza, the house of horrors image has, to quite a large extent, actually been manufactured and encouraged by mainstream media.

If it was just a silly argument confined to use by the intellectually lacking, it wouldn't be such a problem. Unfortunately, though, overall coverage of Russia in the West has allowed this Mordor image to develop, to the point where your average Westerner is beginning to look on the border between Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe as something akin to going 'beyond The Wall' in Game of Thrones.

But that's a whole other conversation.

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