Splainer

Tuesday, May 25 2021


Dive In

It’s very important to remember that there’s all kinds of professional domains out there with interesting languages and logics and frameworks that don’t go manspreading all around the world. Pilots have a fully developed way of looking at the reality. You don’t hear a pilot saying, ‘I’ve been successful with my flying hours for Delta, I think public schools in Rwanda should follow my frameworks as a pilot.’ You don’t hear a public school teacher say, ‘I’ve won ‘Teacher of the Year’ four times in a row in Sacramento. I, therefore, have thoughts about how Amazon warehouses should be run.’... But somehow, when people have a relatively trivial amount of success in the commercial world, somehow, they feel like manspreading all the way over to charity and nonprofits and to the arts. They suddenly know about everything... right. And, we have to stop this lane-changing. Never get in a car with a plutocrat. They do not know how to stay in their lane.

That’s journalist Anand Giridhardas making a scathing point about the many CEOs, biz tycoons and startup founders who spout gyaan about all issues under the sun—under the happy assumption that corporate success makes them an expert on literally everything. Looking at you: Anand Mahindra.

Big Story

The outrageous hijacking of Ryanair

The TLDR: A flight from Athens to Lithuania was hijacked and forced to land in Minsk. The hijackers were not some terrorist organisation but the government of Belarus—which intercepted a commercial flight in order to arrest a dissident journalist. Most of the world is expectedly furious at this brazen disregard for international law… except, of course, Russia.

 

Tell me about the hijacking

  • The Ryanair flight was headed from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania—and was flying over Belarus. 
  • Belarusian air traffic controllers informed its pilots of “a potential security threat on board” and directed the plane to land in Minsk.
  • A MiG-29 fighter jet escorted the plane to the Minsk airport. The order to divert the plane came directly from President Alexander Lukashenko who gave an “unequivocal order” to “make the plane do a U-turn and land.”
  • The passengers were taken off the plane and subjected to a body search.
  • But two of them—a journalist named Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega—were taken away by security officials. 
  • The flight was then allowed to leave after seven hours. Also left behind: at least four members of the Belarus secret service KGB—who appear to have been on board.
  • A tragic point to note: The flight was intercepted just two minutes before it would have left Belarus’ airspace—and just as pilots were preparing to land in Vilnius. 
  • See an image of the diverted flight path below:

 

A premeditated move: Before boarding the flight, Protasevich texted friends:

 

“Lol, it seems that the [security services] were following me at the airport… And even tried to photograph my documents. It’s not certain. But in any case that’s some suspicious shit.”

 

What Belarus claims: Authorities said they had received a bomb threat from Hamas that read: 

 

“We, the soldiers of Hamas, demand that Israel ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. We demand that the European Union withdraw its support for Israel in this war...There is a bomb on that plane. If you do not comply with our demands, the bomb will explode over Vilnius on May 23.”

 

Hamas was strongly denied the claim, saying it does not “resort to such methods.” Belarus also insists that the pilot chose to divert to Minsk even though Vilnius was the nearest airport.

 

But who is this journalist?

The 26-year old has been protesting against the government ever since he was a teenager—and was kicked out of university for his activities. He fled the country in 2019—and now lives in exile with his Russian partner in Lithuania. Protasevich was the founder and now former editor of a prominent dissident channel on Telegram called Nexta—which helped coordinate massive, months-long opposition protests that followed Lukashenko’s sixth (and rigged) presidential election in August last year:

 

“Anyone could anonymously contribute text messages, photos or videos to the channel–making it the most effective tool for hundreds of thousands of protesters rallying throughout Belarus and facing riot police who beat up, detained and tortured them. Armed with the Nexta feed, they could learn on the go whether police were approaching them. They could flee and regroup, find out where their detained friends were being taken and what was happening to them.”

 

Outlawed ‘terrorist’: In October, a court in Minsk labeled Nexta as “extremist” and listed its staffers as “terrorists” —which, of course, includes Protasevich. 

 

Point to note: As the flight readied to land in Minsk, Protasevich clearly knew what awaited him, telling the crew, “Don’t do this, they will kill me, I am a refugee,” His family has expressed concern that he will be tortured. FYI: Terrorist offences may carry the death penalty in Belarus, where capital punishment remains legal. The other charges against him carry a 12-year prison sentence. And recently, one of the other dissidents died under suspicious circumstances in jail. 

 

Also this: After his arrest, an exhausted Protasevich appeared in the state television channel and said:

 

“My treatment from officers has been maximally correct and according to the law. Also, I am continuing to cooperate with the investigation and to give a guilt confession to the charge of organizing mass disorder in the city of Minsk.”

 

So Belarus is a dictatorship?

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In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • Sexual harassment at a Chennai school
  • Delhi police raids Twitter
  • NFT insanity, continued…
  • Sexually transmitted food poisoning?

 

A list of intriguing things

  • The hottest trend in menswear: Dress like a messy house painter
  • Ever watched a spider actually weave its web?
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