Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Two stories on a Russian theme

Frequent visitors here will I know how often I give op-ed writers on The Times a hard time for PC-inspired nonsense. Today, however, Hugo Rifkind recounts an amusing story in his piece: "Russia lost Eurovision but won the mind games".
"My absolute favourite anecdote about modern Russia comes from the British author, Edward Docx. At a dinner with the cream of Russian literary society, he happened to mention that the panel of the Man Booker Prize of 2011 was headed by Dame Stella Rimington, the former director-general of MI5.

"Docx recalled: “They guffaw ‘Oh, the West! Oh, England! Oh, hypocrisy! You mean,’ they splutter, ‘that the winner of your most famous literary prize is judged by the security services?’ ” Startled, Docx protested that Dame Stella was retired now, and wrote thrillers herself. Sure, his hosts chortled. Like Vladimir Putin is retired from the KGB! And the more Docx blushed and stammered, the more they laughed and laughed."

From Wikipedia:
"Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (also known as KAL007) was a scheduled Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage. On September 1, 1983, the airliner serving the flight was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor, near Moneron Island west of Sakhalin in the Sea of Japan.

"The interceptor's pilot was Major Gennadi Osipovich. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Larry McDonald, a Representative from Georgia in the United States House of Representatives.

"The aircraft was en route from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul when it flew through Soviet prohibited airspace around the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission."
I was thirty two when this happened, and it was a big, scary deal. In the story which follows (comment #24 from here) you should recall that the SAC is the US Strategic Air Command, their nuclear bomber force.
"I was in college when KAL 007 happened; we were all shocked but it was pretty clear it was a mistake. But a few weeks later, I was in my room listening to the college radio station (it was a really good station BTW) when the Emergency Broadcast System activated; I figured it was the standard test of the system, but when the alert tones stopped, instead of the typical “this is only a test” statement I heard “Attention: Please stand by for an official statement from Washington D.C.”…my pulse spiked and I immediately jumped to the window to look in the general direction of the SAC base about 30 miles away, then just as quickly tore my eyes away from the window and shut the curtain – after all, you really don’t want to be looking at the bomb when it goes off.

"After a few seconds, my rational mind began to assert itself, thinking “this has got to be a mistake.” And after another few seconds, the message on the radio cut off, the DJ said, “Woops, I’m probably in big trouble now,” and the standard “this is only a test” recording came on. I decided that escaping near-certain nuclear annihilation was worthy of a shot of whiskey, even at 10am; fortunately my first class that day was after lunch.

"The DJ was right; I never heard him on the station again."

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