Some comments from Obama on Russia:
When the interviewer asks him [Trump], ‘why do you support this guy [Putin]?’ He says, ‘He is a strong guy. Look, he’s got an 82 percent poll rating.’ Well, yes, Saddam Hussein had a 90 percent poll rating. If you control the media and you’ve taken away everybody’s civil liberties, and you jail dissidents, that’s what happens. [RT]
This is a fake narrative. At times the Western political and media classes genuinely appear to believe their toxic narratives about Russia. This web site has commented multiple times that they appear to be in a state of delusion. However; this is so blatant that it must be a conscious lie. After all, it is the election season.
Saddam Hussein organised an election at one point and claimed a very high result. This is probably what Obama is referring to. No one really took that seriously. Not even Saddam Hussein. In contrast Russia holds elections for the Presidency and state and regional parliaments, which are generally regarded by observers as being in the main open and fair. Total difference. Then the myth about ‘Putin’ controlling the media. It is true that most of the TV stations in Russia are owned either by the state or by people ‘with links to the Kremlin’. However; it is not the case that these stations put out endless propaganda. Just read, for example, life.ru. (Owned by ‘someone close to the Kremlin’). The stories on international relations are far more objective than the hysteria in the Western press. They tend to simply say “someone said this and this was the reply”. The same stories in the West are almost always wrapped up in an anti-Russia editorial packaging. Anyone can verify this. The press media enjoys a more differentiated ownership with a substantial part in private hands.  Plenty of Western media is available in Russia – including the BBC in Russian. At any event Russians wanting to read the Western media can simply read e.g. the Guardian and run it through Google Translate. The idea that the Kremlin ‘controls the media’ is a pure lie. The idea that Russians are supportive of Putin because they are subject to state propaganda, is also a pure lie. In making this claim Obama shows the true Western liberal contempt for democracy. He devalues the wishes and ideas of millions of ordinary Russians who openly and quite without coercion support Putin who they see as a strong leader. These fictions are part of the standard Western liberal brain-washing of their own populations. This is done partly as a warm-up for a regime change op, and partly to distract them from the problems at home.
The Western media is almost entirely owned by Western finance capital and a few very wealthy individuals and can thus be said to be controlled by capital. Yet we never hear from Western liberals that the media in the West is “controlled by a few wealthy individuals and investment funds”. Arguably ownership by the state is a better state of affairs; in theory the state may manage the media with the interests of the country in mind. Private, capitalist, media will inevitably work to further the aims of unelected, unaccountable, private capital.
The ‘jailing of dissidents’ is probably a reference to Russia’s anti-extremists laws. These laws target a) people who support terrorism financially or vocally and b) people who make speeches which are socially divisive. The UK, for example, has similar laws – both on publishing material promoting terrorism and on hate speech. The whole irony here is that Russia is in the process of developing – and, just like the West, is adopting legislative arrangements to maintain a civil society. Yes; the laws don’t look exactly the same. They may even be a little more authoritarian in some respects. – Russia (like for example Singapore) does have a slightly more authoritarian tendency in state management of the population. It is insane to expect / demand that every country in the world look like a mirror image of your country. Nor, again, is this democratic.
Finally; this author recently spent a month in Russia. He didn’t notice a single sign of state oppression. He was able to access the Internet freely (on a very good broadband connection). He was able to discuss, openly, sensitive matters such as the nascent independence movement in the Republic of Tartestan. He discussed the ‘annexation’ of Crimea with Russians and found that Russians supported this move – either out of passion and real belief together with an understanding of history which would put most Western journalists to shame (a working class person) or out of rational and considered analysis (a University professor – who said it was ‘a forced annexation’). Russians don’t support their government’s position on Crimea because of a ‘controlled media’.
Obama’s narrative line is 100% false. This is testable. But this line is taken as self-evidently true and endlessly repeated throughout the Western media. Whose media is controlled? Which population is being brain-washed?
1. This WikiPedia article which is totally in line with the Western narrative about press freedom in Russia nonetheless concedes that private owneship in the press is still high.