US columnist takes on Vladimir Putin over controversial article... or not

Danielle Ryan
Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ
US columnist takes on Vladimir Putin over controversial article... or not
I can't understand why, but some people think columnists and op-ed writers are an egotistical bunch. Bizarre, I know. Personally, I think some just give the rest of us a bad name, but then, I’m biased.

Anyway, regardless of personality traits, we always enjoy it when one of our pieces gets a little extra attention. It's good to be in the spotlight sometimes, isn’t it?

We also tend to like when what we say hits a nerve. Otherwise, well, what’s the point? Plus, then there’s the amusing hate mail to ignore or respond to as we please. That can be especially fun when you troll the senders by replying as though you haven’t read their message. For example, I often respond to emails about what a horrendous human I am with a quick “Dear Whoever — thanks for your message, glad you enjoyed my article!”

It drives them crazy. Just think. They took time out of their busy day specifically to send an email they hoped would make you feel bad — and then you had the audacity not even to care. Must be infuriating.

Anyway, imagine if you were an American columnist who wrote something so provocative that Vladimir Putin personally responded?
Well, that’s what New York Daily News columnist Gersh Kuntzman thinks happened to him this week. Except, unfortunately for Kuntzman and his rather massive ego, that didn’t actually happen at all.

If you haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick recap.

In response to the assassination of Russia’s Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, Kuntzman called his death “justice” for Russia’s involvement in the Syrian war. He also equated Karlov to the Nazi ambassador to France in 1938 and compared radical Islamists to the Jews. Not only that, but he suggested Karlov’s assassin — a “freedom fighter” he called him — would perhaps be vindicated by history. When challenged about taking the side of a self-professed jihadi who assassinated a diplomat at an art gallery, Kuntzman evaded the question. What a surprise.

Instead, he penned another piece, doubling down on his initial bout of stupidity and making himself sound even more idiotic than he already had — which was quite an accomplishment, to be honest.

“Vladimir Putin is demanding an apology from me,” he writes.

He tweeted the same thing, too; that Putin himself had demanded an apology from him for the original article. Now, any readers not clued in on this must have been thinking they were about to get a really juicy story from him.

Sadly for them — and him, it seems — he was just using Putin’s name as clickbait.

Because Putin never demanded any apology from him. What did happen was that Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, who is very vocal on Facebook, posted a note saying the ministry would request an apology from the New York Daily News for calling an act of terror against Russia “justice” served.

So, sorry Gersh, but that’s really not the same thing. I know you were enjoying the feeling of being in a big public fight with Putin — it probably made you feel very important for an hour or two — but I suspect he’s not losing much sleep over you.

If you really want a response, you could try penning a few more articles about him and see where that gets you. You’ll just have to line up behind the hundreds of other columnists that have taken to incessant Russia bashing as a career move. I mean, you’ve already seen the attention it gets you — and there’s definitely money in it.

Maybe you could even get a visa to Russia, overstay it, and then claim you were deported for being the intrepid journalist that you are? I hear that’s a popular move these days.

As for the Russian Foreign Ministry requesting an apology? Seems fair enough to me. Kuntzman’s terrorist-excusing original article was so grossly lacking in basic human decency that there could be little debate about it — and naturally, it incensed any reader with a shred of humanity in them. This is evidenced by the dozens of American readers Kuntzman admitted had also sent him angry emails. Oddly, however, he thinks this marks a “disturbing trend” because how dare Americans ever take the side of Russia on anything!

One can only imagine the outrage if a Russian newspaper attempted to justify the assassination of an American diplomat as retaliation for military aggression. If a US diplomat were videotaped killing puppies for fun, no American newspaper would call his death justified. Suddenly, there’d be a slew of op-eds about how puppies hate freedom, and they had to go.

Kuntzman himself has refused to backtrack, but he did attempt to redeem himself — albeit awkwardly and nonsensically — at the end of his second article by claiming he “condemns violence in all forms” which is rather odd, given his impassioned defense of a terrorist.

Go figure.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.