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February 6, 2014

Heaping Shit on the Russians: Danger of a Low Bar?

Sochi toilet tweetvia Greg Wyshynski @wyshynski - editor of the Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports. 100k followers

Screen Shot 2014 02 06 at 12 51 18 PMvia @cathalkelly – Columnist -Toronto Star

If we’re plunging headfirst into a crass visual meme, I think it’s instructive.

Sure there is plenty to despise about Putin, the gay ban, Russian corruption and repression … and, apparently now, the resultant state of Olympic accommodations. That said, the base extent of that explosion of media hate is impressive, and concerning. Perhaps it’s the human rights outrage of the homosexual ban that has pushed the media over the edge, driving reporters and other observers to seek out the dirtiest visual Russian laundry and “out” the Russians from the (water) closet of moral decrepitude.

That said, the most popular snapshot/visual analogy relayed from Sochi upon the landing of the Western media, more than the missing lightbulbs and door handles, has featured the toilet bowl or urinal (etc., etc.). And no surprise.

Olympic loo

Like a lot of people, I’m sure, I got a kick out of the photo tweeted a few weeks ago by Steve Rosenberg of the BBC. The double bowl achieved a wide editorial impact using irony, almost whimsy, to surface thoughtless construction and the gay ban). This has a whole different tone though.

If invective is your intent and all gloves (and more primary articles) are off, any five-year-old could confirm it’s the icon for heaping shit on the Russians. I’m not saying I’m surprised but I do think it’s laden. I’m afraid it lowers the bar so far, it sets the ground work for two weeks of potshots. As if an early warning — we’re seeing how fast the already lightening quick media sphere has been in reposting unauthenticated and inaccurate images as the meme skyrocketed.

Slate specifically produced these examples, one by an author-journalist who should clearly know better.

Slate fake Sochi toilet pix 1

Slate fake Sochi toilet pix 2

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the missing manhole covers, the roaming wild dogs and every other messed-up thing that’s symptomatic over there. At the same time, though, the more blood we have in our eye, the more it prevents us from seeing more clearly, more in context.

  • bks3bks

    Nothing says Ugly American like the American sports reporters in Russia. More proof that Twitter is Evil.
    –bks

  • acm

    I was in Greece a decade ago, and they also had the “put the paper in the basket” level of plumbing. At least most of the baskets had lids (that you stepped to open)!

    Honestly, horror at strange plumbing has been a trope of travel diaries/reporting for a long, long time. I’ve snapped photos of some of the “footprint”-style facilities myself, and stepping into plastic slippers in Japanese public toilets is also interesting. It’s simultaneously a naive reaction by the Ugly American to all things Foreign, and also a simple expression of the basic human squeamishness about bodily functions and resulting judgement passed on folks who do things differently in that department. A sort of dancing around taboos . . .

    • David

      I saw similar signs (and bins) in Sao Paulo back in the 1990s. Symptomatic of a city that grew faster than its sewer system’s capacity. Not a big deal then – or now.

  • Pingback: First-world problems or real problems? Western journalists are whining about Sochi Olympics hotels (updated) | dvafoto

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